Begging The Question
Friday, March 17, 2006
I'm done. Out. Finshed. Somebody else gets to cut down the nets. My basketball season is over. The best I can hope for is a clip in the "One Shining Moment" montage.
The final set of first-round games was a fitting end to a very exciting and intriguing first two days of tournament action. I was pretty much totally wrong about my predictions. Texas won against Penn, but had all they wanted from the Fighting Quakers. North Carolina fans had to hold their breath in a squeaker over Murray State. I didn't see either of those being anywhere near as close. Kentucky and UAB had the kind of close toss-up game I expected, but Kentucky showed more fortitude than I thought they had, and hung on.
And of course, I was way, way off with my pick of Kansas stepping over Bradley on its way to the Final Four. The Braves had all the answers for Kansas tonight. How long will it be before people start comparing Bill Self to Bob Huggins, who ran up gaudy regular season records at Cincinnati, only to crap out early in tournament after tournament? This is two years in a row Kansas has been upset in the first round. I don't think Self should get saddled with a new-Huggins label, yet. After all, few people expected this young team to win the Big 12. But something isn't clicking for the Jayhawks.
I know the feeling. My bracket is utterly demolished. And this year's TourneyBlogging hasn't gone as well as I'd hoped, either. My thinking was flawed in game after game. I think I spent too much time pronouncing what "should" happen, based on the paper matchups, and not enough thinking about the kind of crazy things that always seem to happen in March. I don't think anyone was relying on my "insight," but it's disheartening to be so wrong so much.
And, I'm kind of burned out. I've written about 8500 words these past few days, and I feel like I haven't done anything else. I feel like I have been covering the games more than enjoying them. I think I spent too much time taking notes and typing. And, not that I expected this to become a roundtable discussion group (and even though I got some nice comments and I'm sure at least a few of you read all of it), but I don't think I'm entirely satisfied with the product. So, I'm dropping out. A first-round upset. I'm just going to sit back and relax and enjoy the rest of the tournament. Other than the Duke game, of course, I'm looking forward to the late game tomorrow, Indiana-Gonzaga. On Sunday, I'm most interested in seeing UConn-Kentucky, Georgetown-Ohio State, and Villanova-Arizona. But I'm sure some other games will surprise me.
I hope you all enjoyed the first round of the tournament as much as I did. Thanks for putting up with the basketblogging. Things will be back to normal around here in a few days.
The Michigan State shooting slump persisted (42% for the game), and George Mason stayed hot (60%), and amazingly, outrebounded the Spartans, putting it all together for a very surprising upset. Very few people saw this one coming. I think MSU underachieved all year long, and acted like they could just flip the switch when tourney time came. But it's not that easy, and they could never get in the right rhythm. Taking nothing away from Mason, but Michigan State has to be disappointed in its season now. Not a good showing from the Big Ten, thanks to Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Spartans.
With about 11 minutes left, UConn was down to Albany 50-38. The final was 72-59. Okay, so maybe some teams can flip the switch. I've seen some commentators suggesting that these near-misses actually help a team by scaring it or waking it up or whatever. The usual examples are 1995 UCLA (needed a Tyus Edney coast-to-coast buzzer-beating drive to beat Missouri early on) and 2003 Maryland (needed a buzzer-beater to beat UNCW in the first round). Both those teams went on to win the championship, and the 2000 Florida team had a scare early and made it to the finals. So, yeah, it happens. But these are just a few examples. I haven't seen any rigorous study, to see if championship teams usually have close early-round games, or if teams who have close games go deeper than first-round blowout winners, but I doubt either one is true. Don't buy it until you see some facts.
NC State had a nice finish to hold off Cal and score another NCAA win for Herb Sendek. Assuming North Carolina wins tonight (and I am), the ACC will be 4-0. I expect Texas to whip Penn, too. CBS did a good job lining things up so it had UNC, Texas, Kansas, and Kentucky playing the prime time game on Friday night. Take that, NBC's "Las Vegas"!
The more I look into it, the better a game I think Kansas-Bradley will be. I thought Bradley was the most questionable bid out of the MVC, but they're a pretty good team with some great frontcourt talent. I imagine they'll try to pound it inside on Kansas. These Jayhawks are talented, well-coached, and peaking at the right time (their win over Texas last week in the Big 12 title game was fantastic), and I'm picking them to beat Villanova and UCLA and make it to the Final Four. But they're also young. They seem a little out of sorts early on, turning it over a few times. So who knows.
I expect Kentucky-UAB to be a great game. I picked the Blazers to win, mainly because Kentucky just hasn't been that good this year, and a lot of the same UAB players are still around from their 2004 upset of Kentucky in the tournament. And UAB beat LSU last year. They're no fluke. I wouldn't be surprised to see Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo pull it out for Kentucky, but beyond those two, UK is no great shakes. A UAB win won't be an upset. An interesting subplot is how long Tubby Smith will be at Kentucky, whether they win tonight or not. Who knows -- maybe this will be an audition for UAB coach Mike Anderson, who will certainly be a candidate for several major conference openings this offseason.
I'll have a wrap-up later. Let's hope the first round stays exciting and closes with a bang, and not four blowouts!
Clearly, I'm a moron. I expected Michigan State and UConn to cruise to easy victories. Neither is having a simple time of it about halfway through their games. Michigan State has falled victim to the Dayton rims and is shooting poorly (46% to George Mason's 57%). I think Tom Izzo will adjust at halftime -- I think he's as good a March coach as there is -- and the Spartan defense will prevent Mason from going on runs like it did at the end of the first half.
Connecticut, meanwhile, looks a lot like Duke did early against Southern, especially the way they both turned the ball over in bunches, leading to easy buckets for the Albany Great Danes. I think UConn will be fine, even if can't hold on to the ball any better, but I think ultimately they'll get more in sync on offense and walk away with this one, similar to the way Duke ended its game. It makes me wonder if UConn is a little rusty after a long layoff. Plus, UConn has been bad this year about playing only good enough to win, playing down to the level of its competition. They can play their B game and beat Albany, but this tendency is why I didn't pick UConn to win out in a one-and-done tournament.
Pitt-Kent is going according to Hoyle. If Kent State doesn't start getting a lot hotter, the Panthers are just going to let Aaron Gray assert his will. I think Pitt-Kansas should be a great game if the Jayhawks advance. The Cal-NCSU game is about like I expected, too, kind of close, with neither team looking particularly outstanding. The Bears are more of an inside-outside team, while State likes to shoot from outside. So far, State's hitting enough to hang in there. I like the State player Cameron Bennerman, because his name reminds me of the Pearl Jam song "Betterman," and I find myself singing "Can't find a Bennerman" during their games.
It should be pretty clear by now that I'm not exactly analyzing these games, per se. I mean, I'm not giving anyone on ESPN anything to worry about. This is more about my impressions of the games. I don't overload on stats, but sometimes get curious enough to look something up. I consider this blogging adventure more akin to what it would be like to sit around with some basketball fans during the tournament. This is the kind of stuff I would be thinking about.
The late afternoon games haven't been as exciting as those two close early afternoon games. West Virginia is shooting well enough to keep some distance between itself and Southern Illinois. Memphis was close with Oral Roberts early on, but hit some threes to pull away around halftime. Later on in the game, it's about a ten-point margin. Villanova and Monmouth looked like they were playing without a shot clock -- it was 10-6 at the under-8:00 timeout and 27-16 at the half. Nova seems to be crusing along now. Northern Iowa and Georgetown played a good game that was close until the end, when Georgetown had enough to hang on. NIU went something like 0-for-the-half, and that helped.
A few assorted thoughts.
The NIU-Georgetown game is the kind of game I love seeing in the tournament. I love the buzzer beaters and upsets and all that. But this game was more like a Sweet Sixteen matchup between two quality teams. The Panthers were cold for a long stretch the second half, but they run a good offensive scheme and had plenty of open looks. Dayton's arena, though, has notoriously tight rims (I don't have a cite for that, but it's something I've observed for years), so maybe they just weren't getting the bounces. Plus, Gus Johnson was doing the play-by-play for this game, and very few announcers get excited and yell as well as Gus.
Even though NIU and, it appears, SIU are going to lose today, and Bradley will probably lose tonight, I think the MVC deserved the four bids they got. Those teams can play with anyone, even if they can't quite pull off an upset here. They weren't expected to win these games, so I'm not going to hold it against them that they didn't. I'd like to see more regular-season games between MVC teams and major conference powers. The fact that most of the big boys won't play the MVC crew shows that they know how good the MVC is. Maryland is supposedly in negotiations with Missouri State for a series of games, and I hope that plan comes together. People who only watch college basketball during the tournament might not know anything about the Missouri Valley Conference, but I've watched a lot of basketball this year, and the three MVC teams who got at-large bids are certainly among the 34 best at-large teams.
Speaking of 34 at-large teams, the NCAA's insistence on keeping that number of at-large bids in the Dance, combined with the automatic bids for the 31 conferences, is the reason for the weird "play-in game" played on Tuesday night. Monmouth beat Hampton to advance into the 64-team bracket. It was all nice and neat when there were only 30 conferences. I'm okay with the play-in game, even if it is a bit awkward. It would be fun to see the last two at-large candidates play to see who got in, but the NCAA will never go for that.
A couple of thoughts about the play-in game. First, it counts as an official tournament game, of course, so there are several minor conference teams with NCAA tournament victories on their records. I think that's a neat bonus -- even if they get routed when they move on to play a 1-seed, the team's NCAA record is 1-1, better than the 0-1 teams who lose their first round games. Second, the tournament used to have more games like this back when it has 48 teams and several higher seeds had byes. So it's not unheard of. Plus, one day, sooner or later, some conference somewhere will split in two, and we'll have 32 conferences, and most likely need another "play-in game" to accomodate a 66-team field. Finally, though, since there was a subregional in Dayton (the site of Tuesday's play-in game), I think it would have made sense to leave Monmouth there to minimize travel expenses. Of course, I guess New Jersey-based Monmouth went home before going to its game today in Philadelphia, so maybe that's a wash here.
Oh, one other thing the play-in game made me think of. My Dad is one of those fans who thinks the NCAA should just let everyone in the tournament, all 300-some teams. My response is that all the teams do have a chance to get in the tournament -- because their conferences all give automatic bids to their winners. (This is the main reason why the Big East tournament should have all 16 teams in it.) But the biggest reason that many teams won't ever be in the tournament is that filling out a bracket for millions of office pools would take an advanced degree in quantum physics and a solid week of penciling and erasing.
Memphis finally got some breathing room against Oral Roberts after hitting some threes. The three-point shot can either be the great equalizer, by keeping a lower-seeded team in a game, or the difference-maker, by allowing a good-shooting team to pull away in a hurry. But at a minimum, it means no lead is safe, and it's given mid-major teams (often stocked with deadeye shots and a dearth of great post players) a puncher's chance.
I wonder how big the crowds will be on Sunday in Dallas, with Arkansas and Tulsa's Oral Roberts ousted. There was a decent Memphis contingent there, but fans from Arkansas and ORU were there in force -- mostly to cheer against Memphis. In general, though, I think the NCAA's "pod system," an attempt to minimize travel and giver higher seeds a chance to play closer to home, has been a success.
I'm not thrilled about any of the early evening games. I picked NC State to beat Cal, so I'll be watching that one. State hit a wall a few weeks ago, though, and they don't have Julius Hodge, who sparked their run last year. I guess my pick was based more on NC State's history of doing just enough to keep Herb Sendek's job, and my sense that the Pac 10 was down this year. Still, it's a coin flip. UConn-Albany ought to be a blowout. Kent State is the best of the MAC, but their biggest nonconference win was over Butler. Pitt and their massive center Aaron Gray should be able to handle a Golden Flashes squad without a lot of height.
I think George Mason-Michigan State would have been a great game if GMU was at full strength. But the Patriots are missing one of their best players, Tony Skinn, who was suspended for whacking an opponent in the 'nads during the CAA tournament. I thought Hofstra should have been in over Mason, and the fact that Mason got in and its AD is on the selection committee didn't help those conspiracy theories.
Lastly, I kept chuckling whenever the announcers would refer to Oral Roberts by its initials, ORU. It reminded me of that great exchange from the movie Rushmore: "I like your nurse's uniform, guy." "These are O.R. scrubs." "Oh, are they?" So I imagine something like "We're from ORU." "Oh, are you?"
Iowa and Northwestern State played the kind of grinding, low-scoring game I expected from Arizona-Wisconsin. Until the end, that is. What a thrilling finish, capped off my an amazing shot by the Demons to pull off the huge upset! As they say in Natchitoches, Louisiana, "Fork 'em, Demons!"
And Bucknell and Arkansas followed that with another down-to-the-wire finish. As I said before, I thought it was a toss-up, and Bucknell pulled it out by four. They hit a ton of threes, a tactic that will keep them in any game -- as long as those shots are falling. I was impressed with the way Arkansas hung in there right to the end. And I have to say it, the Hogs got hosed at the end. Down two with about ten seconds left, Arkansas had two good looks inside the paint. On the second, the Arkansas player (Ronnie Brewer, I thnk) was blatantly hacked and lost the ball. I think the refs swallowed the whistle. Bucknell still could have won (they would have had the lead with the Razorbacks on the line, and probably would have gotten the ball back with overtime being the worst case), but I think there should have been a foul call there. It's one thing to have bodies banging and not calling a body-contact foul, but a reach-in swat that gets all arm and no ball (at least on first viewing of the replay) is usually called. This will be a bitter pill for the Arkansas fans who showed up in Dallas to swallow.
In the other early afternoon games, Ohio State finally put away a very persistent Davidson team. The Buckeyes were pretty cold early on, but went inside and relied on their star, Terrence Dials. I figured Davidson would give OSU a tussle, so it doesn't really make me nervous about picking the Buckeyes to go so far. Arizona got hot and ran away from Wisconsin. The Badgers just didn't have the offensive firepower to keep up.
The late afternoon games have two of the ones I've been looking forward to (Georgetown-Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois-West Virginia), as well as the potentially intriguing Memphis-Oral Roberts game and the Villanova-Monmouth game that should be a breeze for 'Nova. West Virginia is a heck of a fun team to watch, if only to hear the announcers mention Kevin Pittsnogle and Joe Herber (pronounced like "Heir-bear"). But they're beatable if they're not shooting well, and the Salukis hold opponents to just over 4 threes a game. It should be a really compelling contrast in styles. Northern Iowa is up on Georgetown early, so I'm going to go watch that. If the two Missouri Valley teams (Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois) win today, I think that will quiet all the conference's critics, at least until Selection Sunday 2007.
I've already talked about some of today's games below when I discussed my bracket picks, so here are just a few quick hits before the games tip off for Day 2 of the NCAA tournament.
I think we could potentially see upsets in all four of the early games. Two of them -- Bucknell over Arkansas and Wisconsin over Arizona -- would only be 9-over-8 upsets, but still, it would be a heck of a way to kick things off. I picked Wisconsin because Arizona is missing Hassan Adams and has been surprisingly inconsistent in a middling Pac 10 this year. Wisconsin is a very poor road team but is rugged. It was basically a toss-up, though, and will probably be an ugly, low-scoring game. Bucknell isn't going to surprise anyone this year, unlike its defeat of Kansas last year, and Arkansas played better competition in the SEC and won a few road games late in the season. So, in another tossup, I took the Razorbacks. I watched Bucknell play at Duke this year, and I just don't see them pulling of the giant-killing routine again. I don't know what to make of Iowa. It seems like every year they make a deep run in the Big Ten tournament, but it doesn't seem to carry over to the Big Dance. Plus, the Alford-to-Indiana chatter must be distracting. Northwestern State ("Fork 'em, Demons!") beat Oklahoma State this year and won't be awed of a major conference opponent. Still, I don't think they have the talent to upend the Hawkeyes. I have to wonder if some Iowa fans wouldn't mind that, if it ushered Alford out the door and back home to Indiana. They've never loved him as much as the Hoosier Nation has, and never will.
I picked Ohio State to make it to the final game, although that was based more on my sense of the matchups I saw rather than an overall feeling of the Buckeyes' greatness. I think they're vulnerable, and an early loss wouldn't stun me. Davidson is a disciplined club that plays a strong schedule, and is capable of pulling an upset. Davidson has long been a hotbed of coaching acumen -- Terry Holland and Lefty Dreisell worked there -- and Bob McKillop is an excellent coach. I would expect and hope that NC State takes a long look at him if and when they finally get rid of Herb Sendek. (Note: I don't think they should fire Sendek, but I think it will happen sooner than later. State won't ever be happy till they get another larger than life character of a coach like the two who led them to national titles, Everett Case and Jim Valvano.) So, Davidson will give Ohio State a scare, I think, but OSU should pull away late.
I'm looking forward to all four of those games. Also today, I'm excited to see West Virginia-Southern Illinois, Georgetown-Northern Iowa, Kansas-Bradley, and Kentucky-UAB. I'll talk more about those later. I'm also curious to see how Memphis reacts to all the Oral Roberts bandwagoning going on this week in Dallas. I have 9-seed UAB over 8-seed Kentucky and 10-seed NC State over 7-seed Cal in my bracket, but no major upsets. Northern Iowa, a 10-seed, could beat a cooled-off Georgetown, though, and the 11-seed Salukis of Southern Illinois are more than capable of beating 6-seed West Virginia if the Mountaineers' threes aren't falling. I don't think either will happen, but yesterday's action showed it's not good advice to rely on my prognostications. Anyway, let's get these games going. I'll have more later in the afternoon.
Yes, I just quoted the Steve Miller Band, but it was the first "question" song that came to mind.
Anyway, the point is that I'm still entertaining questions. Here's the original post looking for questions, and here is the first set of answers in case you missed it under all that basketball blogging. I've gotten a few additional questions since, but I'd like to gather more before I run another answer post. So please keep sending in questions so I have enough for a decent post. I'll probably run with it after the weekend. Thanks for playing along with BTQ Interactive.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Some good games in the evening session. Naturally, I was pleased about Duke's win. They were even nice enough to keep it close long enough to prevent CBS from switching away until very late. Seriously, congrats to Southern for a great season under some very trying circumstances -- they couldn't play a home game until January 6 thanks to Katrina. They're a solid, smart, well-coached bunch, and I have a feeling they'll be dominating the SWAC for a while. Tonight, though, they just couldn't contain Duke's big men, and J.J. Redick had a typically outstanding performance. I know the competition will get tougher for Duke from here out, but I like the way they're playing. GW either woke up and got real, or totally shot its wad, when it had to come back from 18 down to beat Wilmington in a very exciting game. Of course, I'm hoping it's the latter. The Duke game finished very late thanks to the lengthy preceeding game. I hope the Devils get some sleep tonight.
And one competitor they won't be facing is Syracuse. I knew they would finally cool off, but I didn't think it would be this soon. Nothing against Texas A&M, but if Gerry MacNamara had been even mediocre instead of horrid, Syracuse would have won. I was curious to see how LSU would match up against Syracuse's zone defense, but we'll never know. I don't know much about A&M, so I'll have to look into the Aggies before their game Saturday.
Air Force was probably the team that took the most flak for its spot in the Dance. The Falcons lost tonight to Illinois, but I don't subscribe to that school of thought that says they therefore didn't "justify" its inclusion. First, their reward was a low seed and a tough first-round opponent. So people expect miracles in order for the AFA to deserve its bid? Second, it's really all about matchups and pairings. Air Force runs a Princeton offsense, and a lot of teams won't do well against that. Illinois is a very good team that got knocked off a few times in Big Ten play, but has a lot of talent left from its national runner-up finish last year. Bruce Weber is a good coach, and I think Northwestern in their conference still runs a Princeton, so they may have seen it some this year. So, ultimately, maybe another team would have given Illinois a better game, but that doesn't necessarily mean Air Force didn't belong.
Indiana won a really exciting game against San Diego State, so the Mike Davis era continues a bit longer. Robert Vaden hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. I was really impressed with Vaden's composure. He caught a deflection and realized he was alone and had an open look. A lot of players would have flung the ball at the rim in excitement, knowing the clock was under 5 seconds. But Vaden knew he had enough time to gather himself, square himself to the basket, and calmly drain the shot. Not quite as epic as Keith Smart's game-winning jumper for the Hoosiers in the 1987 title game, but a smart play that deserved mention.
Not a smart play: Gonzaga's Adam Morrison smacking himself in the head with the basketball and his fist last in the Zags' nail-biter against Xavier. Morrison gets a lot of love from the tv people, but I think he's something of a trash-talking punk. I don't think it's too classy to call other players "losers" in public, even if he didn't say everything his opponents say he did. Tonight, I thought it was odd that Morrison seemed to need to pump himself up at the end of the game -- as if being in the tournament, and/or his team needing him to win the game, wasn't enough. And he certainly appeared to be jawing to the Xavier players on the foul line in the waning seconds. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense to talk trash when you're the 3-seed and barely beating a 14-seed who just got in thanks to a slew of upsets in the woeful Atlantic 10 tournament. A 3-seed like Gonzaga ought to be embarrassed to squeak by a 14-seed like Xavier. Instead, Adam Morrison acts like a jackass.
Finally, Washington and Utah State played a game that is the opposite of a barn-burner, whatever that would be. A barn-raising, I suppose. Yeah, that sounds about right -- that game looked like Amish basketball.
Taking a peek at Ace's bracket pool after one full day of games, Mr. Poon picked 15 of the 16 games correctly. Wow! E. McPan is currently in last place, but it's still early -- anything can happen! I'm tied for first in my other pool, but it's still early -- anything can happen!
Whew. That's a lot of blogging for one day. Something over 4500 words. I won't pad my stats to get to an even 5000. Plus, I'm going to try to do this all over again tomorrow. Today was a great day of basketball, but I think tomorrow's games look to be even better. I'll have more to say later on. Thanks for hanging in, folks.
Well, Nevada and Winthrop losing hurt my bracket. As usual, I'm out of it early. Oh well, now I can just sit back and enjoy the games. And there have been some enjoyable ones. I thought the Marquette-Alabama game was the most exciting game of the late afternoon session once Montana pulled away from Nevada. I was very impressed by the Grizzlies.
To me, the tournament feels like it's very upsetting, even though it's been relatively chalky so far. I guess it's because so many high seeds have had close calls. (In the early evening session, it looks like Gonzaga is going to be the next example of that, and LSU has taken a long time to build a lead on Iona, Jim Valvano's former stomping grounds.) With Pacific and Winthrop coming so close to major upsets, it feels like that upset magic is in the air, but the lightning bolt hasn't struck yet.
Another reason the tournament seems topsy-turvy may be the fact that mid-major teams like Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wichita State (the Shockers) have beaten major-conference teams, Oklahoma and Seton Hall, respectively. But note that Wichita was seeded higher than the Hall, and UW-Mil. has a lot of the same players back from their impressive run last year under Bruce Pearl. Plus, the Sooners and Pirates have been streaky at best and flaky at worst. Seton Hall, remember, lost to UConn and Duke by something like a combined 100 points. The regular season champion of a conference as strong as the MVC was correctly expected to beat them. And while Milwaukee's win was nominally an upset, a lot of people were picking it (including me, so it must have been a no-brainer), and Oklahoma hadn't done anything to wow be in the Big 12 this year.
The evening games I'm most looking forward to (aside from Duke's) are George Washington-UNC Wilmington, San Diego State-Indiana, and I guess Syracuse-Texas A&M. GW's ticked at its seed, and distracted by that, but can't look past the Seahawks. The core of this team was on the court a few years ago when eventual national champ Maryland needed a buzzer beater to avoid a huge first-round upset to UNCW. And the CAA is a tough little conference -- every game is a scrap in that one. GW's chances depend on Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and early on it doesn't look like he's 100%. And Wilmington is not scared at all, and shooting the lights out. I picked the Seahawks, and while that hot shooting worries me if they play Duke, I don't think they can shoot that well twice in a row.
Indiana and the Mike Davis saga has just been a soap opera for years now. I like Davis, even though I think he's a little nuts and very impolitic at times (and so I wouldn't want him coaching my team), but everyone involved will be better off once his tenure there is over. That may come tonight if IU isn't careful against SDSU. Steve Fisher's success there is a great story. It was Davis's success as an interim coach after Indiana fired Bobby Knight that got him the job, and the same was true of Fisher at Michigan. I picked the Hoosiers to win. Some people think A&M will beat Syracuse, but I think MacNamara and the Orange are still going to be hot enough to win. I know Syracuse has been streaky (getting demolished by DePaul a few weeks ago is a bad sign), but A&M hasn't beaten teams as strong as Syracuse has. So I picked the 'Cuse.
One thing I always like about the tournament is hearing those announcing teams at all the subregionals. Iain Eagle and Jim Spannarkal are always fun to listen to. I guess we'll get Screamin' Gus Johnson and Bill "Mantaman!" Raftery tomorrow. I like the Dick Enberg/Jay Bilas combo. Enberg is smooth and very competent as a play-by-play man, and Bilas gives great color. Bilas is usually an ESPN employee, but CBS borrows him for the tournament. They wanted to do the same thing with Dick Vitale, but ESPN felt that Vitale was their "signature voice" for college basketball and didn't want to dilute that.
I really think ESPN will eventually outbid CBS for the tournament's tv rights, so I think Vitale will have his chance to call a Final Four one day. ESPN must present such a tempting package to the NCAA now that they have ESPN U. The "worldwide leader in sports" could broadcast every game live somewhere on its system. Maybe the NCAA doesn't want that, but I know fans do.
Speaking of multiple networks, I discovered something neat that may help your tournament-watching experience. For most of the sessions, my local CBS affiliate is showing one game on its over-the-air analog broadcast channel and a different game on its High Definition channel. I don't have an HD tv, so the picture is letterboxed and, obviously, not hi-def (although it is often clearer than the regular CBS channel). It's not perfect, but it's nice to be able to see another game on the tv and not have to call it up on my computer, on those occasions when the media player is working. Naturally, if you have HD tv, you've probably already figured this out, but it might be news to the non-HD set. Check your cable guide to see if those high-numbered channels you never watch are showing a different game. Weirdest aspect of this: when I'm watching game #2 on the HD channel, and they go to commercial, the closed captions often show up for yet a third game! So I can read along with that one while I wait for video to return. Hm. Maybe I'm spending a little too much time with my tv this weekend.
I'll have to sort that out later. On to the evening games!
Boston College hung on in double overtime to beat back a pesky Pacific squad. An exciting game. I saw some BC players huffing late in the game, so I have to wonder if they're worn out and struggling for air in the mountains out west. Playing an up-and-down game like this (BC prefers a slow-down, halfcourt game) at altitude can't help. Plus, the crowd was on Pacific's side, I thought, and that will probably be the case if BC plays Nevada too.
I was watching Tennessee-Winthrop online, but the player got glitchy. I don't know if that's my computer or high demand on the bandwidth. I'll try later when I don't have my blogging window open. This year, CSTV is showing the games online for free. Last year I had to pay $15, but it was worth it for no waiting and reliable quality. I have a feeling the surge will die down when office workers go home. I hope so. Sometimes free's not everything it's cracked up to be.
News item: Cox Arena in San Diego was evacuated before this afternoon's games after a bomb-sniffing dog alerted on a suspicious package, apparently in a hot dog cart.
The question in the subject line is a joke, but I'm sure people are already ranting about Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski's new national commercial. Last year it was for American Express; now it's Chevrolet. (Note: Rick "Don't call me Wagoneer" Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors, is a Duke alum, so who else would they use?!) I think this is a non-issue, and all the fans who get upset by it would change their tune if their team's coach had an ad. In fact, most do, except they're usually not national ads. I do recall Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim appearing with former player Carmelo Anthony in a sneaker ad, though. And at least Coach K isn't doing a reality show like his old coach, Bobby Knight. Bottom line: Get over it.
However, I will say that by this time Sunday I'll be as sick of it as anyone, simply because we have to watch the same seven commercials throughout the tournament, it seems. I'll try to find a way to blame it on nervous networks trying to curry favor with the FCC by making it look more attractive to join the Army and ride a Hummer. Oh, that's right -- Coach K, a graduate of West Point, was a captain in the Army! It all fits together! So do what I do -- ignore the commercials and run to the kitchen during timeouts.
A couple more thoughts on bracket business before we get into the heart of today's schedule. As of now, the games have tipped off (sing it with me: "The ball is tipped...", and mid-majors Wichita State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee are playing well. I picked both to win. UPDATE: Both did win. I, therefore, am a genius. And Pacific is in a tight one with Boston College, who had to tip off at altitude in Salt Lake City at 10:40 a.m. local time after a grueling ACC tournament last week. (That tough tornaround, the travel, and the altitude where why I picked Nevada to beat BC.)
I meant to say in my last entry that I wasn't going to get into my feelings on the selection committee's choices. I disagreed with a few, but I wasn't too upset about them. The seeding of the field raised some more questions, but again, nothing too significant. For those who disagree about the selections, one commentator I read just before the bracket was filled noted that, late in the process, the committee is mostly looking for reasons to exclude teams, not include them. So that may offer a different perspective on why certain teams didn't make it. But I can probably be indifferent about it because I'm not too invested in any of the bubble teams who missed out.
Still, I have come to the conclusion that it's crap that the committee doesn't take in to account "story lines" or projected matchups when it lays out the pairings. And this is leaving aside any allegations of corruption among committee members. But some of these "coincidences" simply strain credulity. One: South Alabama and its coach John Pelphrey have to play Pelphrey's best friend and former boss Billy Donovan and his Florida team. Two: Meanwhile, the Belmont Bruins are paired against the UCLA Bruins ("Haha, good luck to the CBS announcers calling that game!"). Not to mention all the story line games that might come in the second round. I know that, no matter who is playing, we'd be able to come up with some connection or soundbite. But these kind of cutesy coincidences happen too often to be pure chance.
Now, saying that some extracurricular considerations go into the selection process might make me sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I'm not. I don't think the committee is trying to rig the tournament. And sometimes there are good explanations for potentially conspiratorial situations. Apparently, some UNC partisans are suggesting that the committee favored Duke by placing the Devils, but not the Tar Heels, in Greensboro. This after they were both in Charlotte last year, and the more numerous UNC fans booed the Dukies. Two responses. First, if favoritism is the reason for this placement, it's a new policy. In 1998, the committee shipped 1-seed Duke to Kentucky's Rupp Arena for first- and second-round games, even though (a) Kentucky fans hate, hate, hate Duke (and bought tickets just to come boo), and (b) Kentucky was the 2-seed in Duke's region, and the fact that they would probably be playing a week later upped the fans' ire. In fact, UK and Duke did play a compelling regional final in St. Petersburg that year, which Kentucky won after an amazing comeback, en route to their second title in three years.
(One would think that dagger to Duke would finally put to rest the Wildcats' never-ending resentment over "the Laettner game," but alas, no; such hope is futile. Note also that UK beat Duke in the 1966 Final Four -- for the right to play Texas Western in that historic final -- and in the championship game in 1978, when the Goose got loose and Duke's coach got a technical foul for arguing calls. So I would argue that, historically speaking, Kentucky has nothing to complain about in its tournament tussles with Duke.)
Anyway, sorry for the digression. The other response I have to the conspiracy theory here is that the reason UNC is in Dayton instead of Greensboro is that Greensboro is the closest subregional site for Tennessee, which has a higher seed than Carolina, and thus, under the committee's policies, deserves better treatment. Of course, committed conspiracy theorists will just say that the committee awarded UT an undeserved 2-seed so it could implement this pro-Duke scenario. One thing I always look forward to in March is the creativity of the Duke haters! They never let the facts get in their way!
Finally, I'll say that I can sort of almost defend Tennessee's seed by assuming the committee rewarded it for winning something -- the SEC East, and playing a nonconference schedule including Texas and Memphis, whereas Carolina hasn't won anything and whose best nonconference games were against Illinois and disappointing Kentucky and Arizona teams. If anything, one could make a good argument that Boston College deserved a better seed than UNC, having beaten the Heels twice this season. My point is just that these seedings and conspiratorial what-ifs never happen in a vacuum -- a whole lot of dominoes would have to fall if the committee were really trying to hand this thing to Duke and screw Carolina in the process. UNC should focus on a tough Dayton subregional, and a very capable Michigan State team. Whining about shoulda-beens is an easy recipe for an early loss. I'm looking in your direction, George Washington.
Welcome to BTQ's second annual TourneyBlog! I'm very excited about the 2006 NCAA Division I men's basketball national championship tournament. I have come down with the March Madness, so I'll be looking for your get well cards soon. Like last year, I'll be extensively blogging about the first weekend of the tournament, which for me is like Christmas, New Year's, my birthday, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. Unless Duke loses, and then it's like being in an airport on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
I'll have more to say about the bracket and matchups as we go along, but in this post I'll offer a quick overview. I've entered two bracket contests, one with some college friends and one via Ace's post below. I picked Duke to win it all in both of them. My loyalty to alma mater dear goes at least that far. I think if they get by LSU and their new Shaq, Glen "Big Baby" Davis (listed at 6'9", 310), they should make the Final Four. I think Syracuse can't stay hot long enough to beat LSU and Duke, if they get that far at all. I think I would almost rather have Syracuse stay hot enough to beat LSU, then have their run fizzle against Duke. Still, I like Duke with a few days to prepare for either of those teams. I'm concerned about Duke's big men wearing down if forced to bang against Davis and then Texas's frontcourt, but I think an occasionally inconsistent West By God Virginia team will get by an occasionally inconsistent Texas team.
I think the Oakland bracket is the one that will bust everybody's office pools. The teams in there are just hard to figure. I mean, lots of people are picking the 16-seed Oral Roberts to beat 1-seed Memphis! Criminy, talk about a bracket buster! I'm really looking forward to a Kansas-Pitt game in round 2. I have Kansas emerging from this region, but I don't feel great about it. Memphis and UCLA are both capable of making a run. I'd bet money against Gonzaga doing so. I just think Kansas has been steadily improving all season, and Bill Self is a good coach with more tournament experience than Howland at UCLA. And Memphis hasn't played a decent team since January, I don't think.
Two items about the Oakland region. First, ESPN's "national bracket" is a collection of users' picks, showing which teams are picked by the most people. Naturally, it follows the seeds almost completely. This is sort of a refutation of the "wisdom of crowds" notion, I think. Part of that may be due to the crowd being given the seed information in advance, rather than picking semi-blindly. But there's no reason to rely on the national bracket, because you might as well be just chalking your bracket. (Note to non-sports-fan readers: Saying that things will go "according to chalk" or "by the chalk" or some such just means the higher seeds will win, that things will go as we would expect based on seeds alone. The "national bracket" is a very chalky bracket.) A big exception is Gonzaga, that national darling, the overrated underdog. I suppose that's partly due to the ESPN machine, but also due to lack of confidence in, or knowledge of, Memphis and UCLA, the seeds above Gonzaga. Anyway, Gonzaga has reached "prove it" status for me. I'm not picking them to go very far until I see they can really do it. That team struggled this year, especially on defense, and aside from the brilliant game in Hawaii against Michigan State (in November!), they haven't played well away from home. All sizzle, no steak.
The other item is Oral Roberts. I don't think they will win against Memphis, but I would love to see it. The school is named, of course, after the televangelist, and its home court bears the slogan "Expect a Miracle." Every time I hear about them, I'm reminded of an old "Saturday Night Live" skit when Oral Roberts made the declaration that God had told him that He would kill Oral if Oral's loyal viewers didn't come up with $8 million. In the skit, Phil Hartman played Oral, and host Charlton Heston was God (natch). God showed up one day to call Oral home, flooding his office with bright white light. Trembling in fear, Oral begged for more time and whimpered, "Our Father, who art in my office...." I know it's nutty, but that's what Oral Roberts's basketball team reminds me of.
I have North Carolina coming out of the DC region. I think UConn is the most talented team in the country, but not necessarily the best, and capable of a let-down. UNC may be too inexperienced for that kind of run, though. And Michigan State could certainly take them out on Sunday. I'm also picking Winthrop to beat Tennessee. Winthrop is the best 15-seed ever, and Tennessee deserves a 2-seed only in Bizarro World. Tennessee peaked after they beat Kentucky, which is to be expected, since for those guys in the SEC, beating Kentucky is the highlight of any season. Their season was made then, and they haven't had the same drive since. I think UAB will ruin CBS's hopes of a UConn-UK game this weekend. UConn is the safe bet here, but I have my doubts about them. Still, this bracket will probably be my undoing.
The Tennessee-Winthrop game is my only big upset pick for the first round. I know I should have picked more 11- and 12-seeds to win, but few of the underdogs really stood out for me. I do have some higher seeds losing in the second round and sweet sixteen, though, and I have a 3-seed and 4-seed in the Final Four. A lot of people suggest picking the bracket backwards, starting from your expected champion and working to the first round. I think that's bad advice because they don't play the tournament backwards. Fatigue and momentum aggregate. Teams that could stop you lose and clear your path. I always take every game as it comes, pick who I think will win, and move on from there. So overall, I know my bracket should have had more upsets (both because those are the key to winning your pool and because there are always some, somewhere), but when faced with the games, I just couldn't pick upsets for upsets' sake.
I have Ohio State winning the Minneapolis region over Villanova. I'm taking a chance on Nevada and Nick Fazekas beating a really gritty Boston College team, so I have Villanova advancing to the regional final. But BC would beat Nova, and I think that would be a great game. Florida is improving at the right time, and I think they'll have to face Milwaukee instead of Oklahoma, but I think Ohio State is a solid club that will pull it out. It would not surprise me at all if we get Ohio State-UNC games in the Final Four both this year and next (both have fantastic recruiting classes coming in next season).
So, I think both my brackets have Duke, Kansas, UNC, and Ohio State in the Final Four, with Duke beating Ohio State for the title. My women's bracket -- I signed up via Blondie's invite -- has Duke beating North Carolina for that championship. (UNC's Ivory Latta is the embodiment of everything I hate about UNC.) Clearly, my heart picked these brackets, although my head tells me both teams have good chances. In a coldly rational, unfeeling world, I would probably have to admit that UConn is the best bet in the men's draw, and UNC in the women's. But I couldn't live with myself if I actually picked that to happen, even if it won me something. Go read Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer if you want to understand why I'm so invested.
Okay, those are my picks, immortalized forever for your ridicule when they don't pan out. Enjoy the games! I'll have more following the afternoon session.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I appreciate the folks who have already tossed out a few questions in response to my latest post. As I expected, THL got many more questions than I did (her answers are here and here), so she had nothing to fear from me swiping the idea. Anyway, here are the answers to the questions I have so far. But please keep asking! There's no deadline!
1. Fitz-Hume: So are you going to post your story about the San Diego airport or not?
Yes. Some time. Just not yet. Maybe I'll wait until the ten-year anniversary of that occasion. But thanks for the chiding. Jackass.
2. TP: Duke just won the ACC tourney and the Big Dance is about to begin. How can you have nothing to crow talk about?
First, I'll have plenty of tourney talk this weekend. Second, I'm not a big fan of "crow talk." Third, while I'm certainly very happy with the way Duke played in the ACC tournament (which I thought was chock-full of excellent games), I'm focused on another championship right now.
3. PG: Do you ever wish you'd gone into something other than law? If so, what?
It seems odd to contemplate it now, because I really feel like law suits me. Looking back, though, it wasn't inevitable. I always liked the idea of teaching. If I had been committed to that, I would have gone to grad school. I worked for an academic publishing company for a while, and considered sticking with that. I think I would have made a good editor. And I could see myself getting into politics, in a policy role, not running for office. I've always been interested in politics (when I was a kid, schoolmates said I reminded them of Alex P. Keaton), but never very politically active, and I don't think I have the sort of indefatigable charisma needed to run for office. I'd do better as the behind-the-scenes wonk.
4. PG again: What is your favorite family memory?
Good question, but a tough one for me to answer. For one thing, my memory gets hazy. For another, I think I had an overall happy youth, so it's hard to point to any abnormally happy times, since most days were pretty good. And, my parents divorced when I was youngish, so my memories with them are mostly separate. The first thing that comes to mind, though, is a vacation we took once that was something of an historical tour. We went to battlefields, monuments, historic buildings and cities, etc. Nothing worth making a book out of, like Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, but a good time.
5. PG with this: Where does one get the best pornography?
According to Fitz-Hume, "the internet." Okay, I owed him that one. Seriously, though, isn't this like asking "Where does one get the best food?" It's too broad a concept. No one goes into the adult video store and says to the clerk, "I would like some pornography, please...to go." It's all about specialization. This reminds me of Patton Oswalt's hilarious bit about fetish magazines. From a review: "He notes that we all have deep, dark sexual turn-ons that we would never reveal even to our closest partners. Hence, he continues, what's amazing about pornography is that there's a magazine devoted just to that turn on. This means that the thing you think of as the most deviant, exotic, exciting thing in the world is someone's stupid job. So he goes into the mind of the guy who works at this magazine: saying goodbye to the kids in the morning, yelling at his staff, fretting over layout designs, and so on." I love his line, channelling the hardworking editor: "My great-grandfather had a dream when he founded 'Piss Drinker' magazine!" Sorry for that image, but that's what happens -- you have to wade through all that stuff devoted to everyone else's bizarre fantasy to get to yours, which is dullsville to them. Or at least that's what Fitz told me.
UPDATE: I was trying to be flip and funny there, but reading this in the light of day makes me wonder if my attempt at sarcasm was successful. I should note that I was joking, and I picked on Fitz because he's probably the most un-porn person I know. Sorry to him if that wasn't clear.
6. Coob: I'd like to know what your fav and least fav classes were in law school.
The classes I enjoyed going to the most, and understood the best, were Con Law, Con Crim Pro, Evidence, and Fed Courts. (Perhaps not coicidentally, I work on that stuff every day now.) I also really enjoyed my Admin Law, Conflicts, and Federal Tax classes, but I didn't understand those as well, and I had a lot of fun in my seminars. A few others are close behind -- actually, I liked most of my classes a lot. If I had to pick just one favorite, I'd have to go with Con Law. The candidates for least favorite would be Contracts, Property, Employment Discrimination (I like the subject matter, but didn't like the professor), and Wills and Trusts. Actually, those are the only ones I really disliked. Maybe there were a couple others I was sort of blah about, but those four were significantly worse. To pick just one least favorite, I guess I'll say Property. The others were at least marginally interesting to me on occasion, except for Wills and Trusts, but the professor was enjoyable, so it was tolerable.
Okay, so that's the first batch of answers, but I hope it isn't the last. Please keep asking questions! I'll be doing some basketblogging over the weekend, but will be happy -- nay, eager! -- to field questions, too. Thanks to this group for participating.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Due to various circumstances somewhat beyond my control, I'm completely bereft of anything to write about these days. So I thought I would
Well, have at it. Consider it an experiment in how different the questions I get are from THL's. The obvious disclaimers: Please be reasonable, please respect my anonymity and privacy, and naturally, I'll reserve the right to beg off answering certain questions.
But I'm curious about what you're curious about, so clue me in and I'll try to do the same. Thanks, all!
Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Announcing the resurgence of the annual tradition known and anxiously awaited by all. No, I'm not talking about the return of the sundress. I'm talking about the Annual THFB NCAA Tournament Contest. Sure, THFB is dead and gone, but that doesn't have to stop this yearly devotional to the gods of chance and madness!
How do you play? Why, gosh, I'm glad you asked. Follow this here link to the front page:
You should be requested to enter in a group and password. Well, I've got those for you too:
Group: Electric Boogaloo
Electric Boogaloo?!? Well, this is a sequel.
What's at stake? Well, pride of course. That's not enough? Well first, maybe you have a gambling problem. Second, I bet if we asked him real sweet like, Milbarge would throw in a guest posting stint here at BTQ to the winner. After all, he's letting in all kinds of riff-raff these days.
So come one, come all. To the best free entertainment you've experience since...well, you clicked on the link to come to BTQ.
Sugar, Mr. Poon?
Stay of Execution
S.W. Va. Law Blog
Begging to Differ
Prettier Than Napoleon
The Yin Blog
Crime & Federalism
Is That Legal?
Frolics & Detours
Naked Drinking Coffee
WSJ Law Blog
Don't Let's Start
Stuart Buck Legal Fiction
Election Law Blog
Legal Theory Blog
Legal Ethics Forum
Ernie the Attorney
Bag & Baggage
Crim Prof Blog
White Collar Crime Tax Prof Blog
Grits for Breakfast
All Deliberate Speed
Adventures of Chester
College Basketball Blog
College Football News
Indiana Law Blog
Field of Schemes
Toothpaste for Dinner
Pathetic Geek Stories
Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas
The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.
Furthermore, I reserve (and exercise) the right to edit or delete comments without provocation or warning. And just so we're clear, the third-party comments on this blog do not represent my views, nor does the existence of a comments section imply that said comments are endorsed by me.