I don't know why this struck me as funny, but it made me laugh for a solid two minutes.
I was flipping through channels tonight, Michigan playing in the NIT came up, Courtney Sims was at the free throw line, and this was the graphic they ran below him as he shot:
Courtney Sims - Career NIT Stats (10 Games)
That killed me. Pretty much sums up the Tommy Amaker era at Michigan, doesn't it?
Why the hell can't Michigan get players? Aren't they one of the elite programs in the nation? Or do I only think that because I grew up with the Fab 5?
(Credit where credit is due: title to this post provided by the always clever yet conspicuously quiet Zero.)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I don't know why this struck me as funny, but it made me laugh for a solid two minutes.
humbly submitted by point 23 on Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The question here is, How?
Ideally, we'd take the thing out behind the woodshed, or if we wanted to keep the dog analogies going, we could just let Ron Artest take care of it for a week or two. (Is "behind the woodshed a dog saying? I always picture a dog being beaten when I hear someone say that...is it a wood saying? If that's the case, shouldn't it be "in" the woodshed? Someone clear this up.) Either way, the play-in game isn't going anywhere, so we are just going to have to work with what we have, kind of like Khalid El-Amin.
Why does the play-in game suck? Well, it's two teams that aren't very good playing each other in prime time on ESPN. It just feels bizarre. If two 16 seeds are playing, I need to see them on ESPN2 in a 2,000 seat gym decked out in school colors with arguably cute co-eds showing off their painted stomachs and hammered frat kids screaming into a camera that may or may not be on.
The teams are good, sure, but the quality of play is underwhelming; two days after watching the championship games of the ACC, the Big XII, the Big Ten and the SEC, we are suddenly watching what is probably the worst "best" team in the nation and whatever traditionally black school is getting screwed this year by the NCAA, the racists.
Not to mention that the team who actually does win has virtually no shot at being competitive in the real first round because they just played two days ago and had a brutal travel schedule. Niagara had a 4 am wake up call to catch a plane the night before staying up until 2 am to do their own laundry, for God's sake.
Plus, as Dan Shanoff points out, the game suffers from a nearly impossible to overcome lack of credibility...no one watches, no one cares who wins, no one includes it in their bracket. It is a dead man walking.
The idea getting thrown around right now, and it is a terrific one, is to throw the last two at-large teams into the play-in game and let them battle it out. This is a phenomenal idea, for a few reasons.
I am all for the humiliation of the fourth place team from the SEC West and the fifth place team from a truly horrendous Big 10, and this is the perfect way to do it. (Something tells me that if this system ever was implemented, the selection committee would suddenly find it in their hearts to award two more mid-majors automatic bids so that one could eliminate the other and the winner could get annihilated in the next round. Just a hunch.) Plus, this game will highlight just how bad the committee does every year at filling those last two spots (I am convinced they get 63 teams figured out, then play Pin the Tail on the Donkey for those last two bids. While drunk.)
The idea is awesome at heart, but it is a little short-sighted, I think. Say we do stick the last two at-larges in the play-in game - this year, it would probably be Arkansas and Illinois. Well, as fun as that would be, the winner has to play Kansas. How is that fair to Kansas? They are a No. 1 seed and need to be rewarded like one. You can't punish Kansas for having a terrific season.
So what do we do? Well, why not just stick the winner back into the bracket as a 12 seed? Whichever 5 seed they are matched up with was going to have to play a 12 seed, anyways. Where's the harm? I'm sure there would be some fight among the 5 seeds to get that game, but that's a small price to pay.
This benefits everyone, I think. The small school that actually earned an automatic bid gets to experience going to The Big Dance and playing on the first day instead of being shipped to Dayton to play in a game most people couldn't care less about (I don't know why Dayton is so geeked about hosting this thing, but, hey: thanks). The big guys who only got in because Gary Walter said so have to actually earn their way in. The 1 seed who needs rewarded for their season still gets to play a traditional 16 seed. Ratings for the game would probably go up, too - more people follow one BCS school than Niagar and FAMU combined. I really don't see a down side here.
I wonder how schools from the power conferences will react to the "hey, this is still the first round....really, it is" bullshit logic that the NCAA throws out every year to the play-in game participants. My guess? Not well. Those coaches would throw a hissy-fit; Bruce Weber would have already been on PTI and Sports Center more than Jim Boehiem crying about what an unfair travesty this is.
If the NCAA insists on keeping two tiny schools in the play-in game, at least play the damn thing on CBS. The only reason the play-in game was even created was so CBS would have one more enticing first round match up (which is kinda of crazy; people are watching regardless of who is playing, at least during the first weekend). So if CBS wants to air the first round, then they are airing all of the first round.
And make Jim Nantz and Billy Packer call the game, too. What would be more entertaining: hearing Jim Nantz try to cheese up the game with as many over-the-top one-liners as possible ("And the water falls in Niagara will run purple tonight!") or listening to Billy Packer try to keep the contempt out of his voice - and fail miserably - as he criticized every tiny decision?
Might be a push.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
How many years has the committee been picking the tournament? Since '85, I think? Somewhere around there, right? Well, ever since then, I am sure, the committee has screwed it up. There is just no way to correctly pick the 65 best teams. It can't be done. When you have the head of your committee hailing from Princeton and you can't figure it out, I think that means it is impossible. We need to think of something else.
Look, you can make convincing arguments for any of the teams that got left out. Drexel won at Syracuse, at Creighton and at Villanova for Digger's sake but went just 1-5 against the top three teams in the CAA and finished fourth. In the CAA. See what I'm saying?
It just depends what you prefer to look at. If you value road wins, maybe Drexel gets in. Maybe conference strength is more important. If so, Drexel has no shot. Complete body of work? Well, that looks heavily at how you do in your conference tournament, and that was the one and only reason Arkansas got in. Stanford got in because it played the entire Pac 10 schedule, I guess, and got 10 wins.
The bottom line is that there are just too many teams in college basketball and too many different ways to look at those teams to come up with any definitive solution (and if the word "expansion" was about to cross your lips, don't let it).
So since it clearly can't be done, can't we just let Joe Lunardi seed the field? He gets really close every year anyways, and he's better than some anonymous committee who lies about what is really going on anyways (seriously, they are just as biased as anyone else and they definitely look at how many teams from each conference get in.) Plus, who's gonna get mad at Joe?
So: scrap the committee and just let Joey Brackets tell everyone who they are playing. Done and done.
(For what it's worth, Illinois, Stanford and Arkansas suck and I am picking against them in the first round regardless of the match up strictly on principle. Florida St., Drexel and Appalachian St., in that order, got screwed. And yes, I know full well this just sealed Elite 8 runs from all three of them.)
Before we get to the brackets, I thought this was interesting: The Point 23 Readership nailed all four No. 1 seeds. So, if you voted: props. If you voted and were wrong: some props. If you didn't vote: well then you don't have the right to complain. Do your civic duty!
Immediate thoughts about the brackets:
How the hell is Florida The Overall No. 1 Seed? And since they are The Overall No. 1 Seed, shouldn't they get the winner of the play-in game? Isn't that the whole point of being The Overall No. 1 Seed? I'll tell you what, though: if I was Florida, I would be scared of that second round match up with Arizona. Zona played like pre-All-Star Game LeBron, but it has the talent to pull of that upset. And frankly, nothing would make me happier.
Does anyone like Joakim Noah? Anyone? Raise your hand if you do...no? Didn't think so. He is...what's the word I am looking for...obnoxious? Punk? Brat? Douchebag? Taking the swipe at the KU cheerleader was immature and childish and trying to take the ball away from the Vandy coach made him look like a spoiled seven-year-old complaining that he didn't get enough gifts at his birthday party. Throw in the hair, the wispy facial hair and the man dress...I just don't see anything likable there, do you? And after his "no one respects us" speech after the SEC title game, I absolutely cannot wait until Florida gets bounced from the tournament. The sooner, the better.
Butler vs. Old Dominion in the 5-12 match up...I swear the committee just hates mid-majors and does everything in their power to eliminate as many of them as fast as possible, or not include them at all.
Notre Dame better bring its A game against Winthrop. That's all I'm saying.
Oregon and Georgia Tech are two teams who could catch fire and knock Wisconsin out of The Dance. If either of those back courts gets it going, Wisconsin won't be able to put enough points on the board.
But really, all I'm hoping for out of this region is an early elimination for the Gators. That's all.
If I hadn't been told otherwise, I would guess that Kansas was The Overall No. 1 Seed. They get the play-in game, have the second-easiest 8/9 game, and then, if the seeds hold, will play the highest ranked mid-major. They might have to end up playing UCLA in San Jose, though...that might not be totally fair. If Kansas somehow manages to choke this year, well...at least Bill Self won't have to think of a new post-game locker room talk.
Illinois should be humiliated coming from the Big Ten and going in as a 12-seed. That's ridiculous. And I love how the selection committee further humiliates them by placing them right next to Souther Illinois. Hey, Illinois, you know that little school in your same state? Yea, 8 seeds higher. Tough break. I almost hope Illinois pulls the first round upset just so they get embarrassed by their in-state brother.
How about a potential second round game between Duke and Pitt in the second round with the winner maybe meeting Kansas. Whoever was in charge of the West Region must have a thing for well known choke artists.
(Quick aside: I forgot why I love Kenny Mayne on Sports Center. "The women's selection show will be tomorrow - hey, women are people, too.")
UCLA vs Indiana in the second round...are you as excited for all the historical montages as I am?
Alright, anyone who doesn't think this is the toughest region is either a moron or Billy Packer (and probably both). If UNC is going to make the Final Four, look what they will likely have to go through: Michigan St or Marquette, then Texas, then Georgetown. Good God.
All season long I have been able to watch Kevin Durant with this kind of detached joy: I could sit back, watch him annihilate team after team and shake my head at the ease he did it with. Then I could go right back to thinking about UNC cutting down the nets. Now there is a very real possibility Durant will be playing against the Heels, and, to be honest, I am petrified. I thought I appreciated how good he was all year, but nuh uh. He is terrifying to think about.
Nightmares aside, that game should be entertaining, yes? Two teams who have no interest at all in stopping anyone; defense is a temporary annoyance they have to go through just to get the ball back. The two most electrifying freshman point guards in the nation (my apologies to Mike Conley, Jr. and Scottie Reynolds). Two pure, pretty shooter in Ellington and Abrams. Two lottery picks in Durant and Wright. The Mask has to be the difference in that game. Man, I'm scared.
I don't even care about any other teams. Let's just move on.
This region sucks. Seriously, can we make some trades with the East? Even things up a bit?
BYU/Xavier for the right to lose to Ohio St...Texas A&M vs. Memphis should be fun, though. Yes, I am totally dismissing Nevada. I don't care about this region at all.
Oh, you didn't think I was gonna give 'em away this early now, did you? Just a quick comment: every analyst I've seen has no one lower than a two-seed in the Final Four. Very difficult jobs you guys have, eh?
The only analyst I trust? Joey Brackets. Give him the keys to the committee!
We'll get to thoughts on The Bracket shortly - UNC has a damn-near impossible road; Arkansas, Illinois and Stanford are a joke - but I wanted to draw your attention to the first ever Point 23 March Madness Officeless Pool.
It's been up in the left hand corner for a little while now, but now that the brackets are finally out, its go time. Sign up, tell a friend, whatever. Should be a good time.
As far as prizes go, well...this ain't ESPN. The best I can do is offer you your very own free post on Point 23, but if that doesn't appeal to you, well...I don't know. Think of something and let me know and I'll try my darndest to make it happen.
I have no idea how to link to this thing on ESPN. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So just pay attention real quick: once you get to the ESPN Men's Tournament Challenge Home Page, you have to create your entry. Think of a creative name while you are at it. Once you've created an entry, you have to "Join a Group." Search for "Point 23" or "Point 23 Officeless Pool." It should come up.
If you managed to get to this page, then you should do just fine figuring that out. I mean, I did it. That was basically for my mom.
Alright, that's it. Make sure they're in by Thursday afternoon. I'm curious to see just how many people actually read this site.
Let's have some fun out there.
ESPN gets us fired up with its Gym Gems of the Year, ending with Ty Lawson flexing and screaming into the camera after burying Duke. Man...combination of excitement and jealousness. Love that stuff.
Alright, down to business: Mike Patrick gives the intro as two random 12-year-olds walk down a board walk with seagulls everywhere. I don't get it. At least we know its Patrick and Vitale, though. Shouldn't have expected anything less, but you can always hope. If he mentions Dicky V getting into the HOF, I'm going to throw something heavy at the TV.
They are showing Sidney Lowe's run through the ACC tourney in '83. That's crazy you used to have to win your conference tourney to get into the NCAA Tournament.
Again: Mike Patrick makes me thankful I don't have HDTV.
Dick says an NC St. win would be the greatest acheievement in ACC Tourney history. Quite the statement, Dick.
Talking points I don't want to hear about but I know we will: Hansbrough wears a face mask, Engin Atsur is hurt, Sidey Lowe wears an ugly coat. I'll go with Atsur's hammy winning, but the mask could be an upset.
And The Mask gets us started with a pretty fadeaway. Fells answers with a contested three. I hate him, I'm pretty sure.
Roy is rocking a Carolina Blue jacket. I don't know how I feel about this.
6-3 early after my man Ty finds B Wright for a wide open dunk. Fells hits another friggin' 3. It's official: I hate him. But Ellington answers, 8-6, good guys.
Now Costner hits a three...this is stupid. At least UNC is contesting them.
The Mask rotates over and takes a charge...seems fine. Back after the break.
Aaaaaaand we're back. Fells misses his second three. Keep shooting, Fells, keep shooting.
OH MY GOD. Doris Burke informs us that Ty Lawson "popped something" during warm ups. She fails to tell us where this pop came from, however...Ty seems fine, pushes the ball up court for an easy layup. Whew. Frickin' Costner hits another three!, 14-12, Ugly Guys.
(There was this t-shirt I always wanted that had The Good, The Bad and The Ugly written on it with accompanying pictures of UNC, Duke and NC St. Loved that shirt.)
Costner pushes the lead to 18-12. That's fine. NC St. just can't sustain this. They just can't. I'm excited for the 11-0 run the open the second half, puncuated by Reyshawn Terry taking off from the foul line. Speaking of Terry, he just buried a three: 18-15, Good Guys.
Let me say this: I love Marcus Ginyard. What a rebound he just pulled down. He'll be at the line for two when we get back
Do you think it is really that great at Buffalo Wild Wings? I've never been there, but apparently it is like Cheers on steroids. I'm thinking they are exaggerating a little bit.
Things I am unsure about, Part II: Doris Burke. I don't know if I hate her or really, really like her.
Oh, Carolina is pressing! Good call, Roy. NC St. barely gets it across the line before missing a shot...Why does Bobby Frasor try to play like Ty Lawson. Just do you, Bobby. Just do you.
here we go with the subs again. I understand subbing the hell out of NC St...but let's mix and match the starters, eh? Do we really need to play Frasor, Wes Miller and Ginyard at the same time?
NC St. is trying to spread UNC out and penetrate, but Atsur is unwatchably slow. He looks like Byron Leftwhich on Madden.
Holy shit: Gavin Grant just shot from the corner and it hit the side of the backboard. He should probably be subbed for. Third steal in a row for the Heels and Ellington finishes at the other end. 23-21, Good Guys. The Red Coats call a timeout.
Lawson beats everyone up court and finds Thompson for another lay up. Has anyone ever considered trying to stop Lawson in the back court? Ya know, putt your fastest guy in the back court, make or miss, make him change directions once or twice instead of giving him a beeline to the basket and a plethora of passing angle? I'm not saying you are gonna stop him, but you might slow him down, which is something. It's worth a try, I think.
The Red Coats are really struggling against this UNC pressure. I can't get over how slow they are. This 5 guys stand around the perimeter and try to beat people off the dribble thing is probably a bad idea.
Costner just got away with a double dribble and scored. Unreal. Vitale: "I got one eye and I saw that!" His name is Dick, he has one eye...there's a joke in there somewhere. You make it.
Brandon Wright is so long. Soooooo long. He his that little lefty hook, but Atsur responds with a 3. 28-27, Ugly Guys.
Atsur can't even go by Lawson using a double ball screen. He is redefining the word slow. We're tied at 30 after Mr Smooth, Wayne Ellington hits a three from the corner.
Nice hustle play by Thompson to keep the play alive - I can't believe he even gets time, but whatever - that ends with Brandon Wright getting eye level with the rim and just crushing the ball through the net. I took a break from typing to pump my fist.
On the court right now: Frasor, Miller, Thompson, Green and Hansbrough. That's a terrible, terrible line up Roy, and you know it. One starter, no one on the perimeter that can create their own shot...tied at 32 as we go to commercial.
Have you seen this "How do you measure wealth" commercial, where this rich CEO throws on the worst pink bunny suit ever to play with those kids? he's the head of a huge company and he can't get a better bunny suit than that? And he wears it over his suit? The pink bunny suit from A Christmas Story is better than that.
Hansbrough just got triple teamed. Because there's no reason not to with this stupid line up on the court. Green scores, though. He looks like a malnourished Julius Peppers. Wes Miller from his sweet spot - 9 feet behind the stripe on the right wing. I love Wes Miller! 37-32, Good Guys.
Miller again from the corner! I love Wes Miller! This line up is awesome. They should start.
Carolina is so good at closing out halves. They had like a 14 point swing against Florida St. the other day. Kevin Costner hits two freebies. Roy took Wes out! What the hell, Roy?!?! Starters back in for the final minute. Good idea, I guess.
UNC goes into the locker room up 8. First 5 minutes of the second half will decide this game. If UNC keeps it at 8 or pushes it, this game is over. If NC St. hangs around, they have a chance. Just a chance, though. Back after halftime.
Half time highlights: We have Rick Majerus and Steve Lavin. They are solid, no complaints. I like Brenna and Gottlieb better, though. I love Gottlieb. Karl Ravech just said "Well, its easy to finger Kevin Durant..." which made me laugh because those are the kind of things I think are funny.
Alright, here we go. No. 1 seed on the line for North Carolina. NIT bid on the line for NC State. The game clock didn't start. I'm telling you, there is something the matter with the clocks in college basketball. They are more unreliable than Ron Artest.
Lawson comes out in the second half rocking a 7:1 assist to TO ratio for the ACC Tourney and some tape around his left wrist. Wonder if that is what popped? Hansbrough makes two free throws - that mask is killing him; he's gotta scrap it and just hope nothing happens - and Ellington scores in transition. UNC is up 12. Don't sub yet, Roy. Leave the starters in, let them push this out, please. Well, Wes can play. But that's it.
Oh what a play by my man Ty Lawson. Goes baseline and finished with a hanging reverse lay-up. With the kiss! Where's Bill Raftery when you need him? Time out, Ugly Guys.
Why the hell would the Southland Tournament schedule thier game for Selection Sunday? Who is going to watch that when they can choose from the ACC and SEC title games? or the Big 12 and Big 10? That's just dumb, that's what that is. Billy Packer thinks it is a good idea though.
The Atsur slurping has been kept to a tolerable minimum and references to The Coat and to the Mask have been surprisingly limited, too. I have to say, Vitale and Patrick have been listenable to. Vitale just harps on the same damn things all the time: "Look at NC St.! They can't score quickly! They just can't! It isn't they style! Their game!" Listen, we get it, alright? Say something else, Dick.
Vitale is obsessed with body language. He can tell who is winning a tennis match just by observing body language. He's got a keen eye, that Vitale. And I meant that literally: he just has one eye. He told us so.
Vitale: "I don't know if people realize - well, if they are watching the game they would - but Wes Miller hit two huge threes." Good observation. Lawson blitzes to the tin in transition: UNC up 56-43, 13 minutes left.
Hey, did you know that no team has ever won 4 games ina row to win the ACC tourney? They hadn't mentioned it yet, Good to know.
3 hours 39 minutes and 10 seconds until the brackets are revealed. Just thought you should know.
NC St cuts it to nine after Hansbrough gets nailed for an offensive foul away from the ball. Lose the damn mask! My girlfriend just informs me that she is somehow more attracted to Hansbrough with the mask on. Yea...lose the mask.
Mike Patrick says "sen ARE ee oh" instead of "sen AIR ehh oh." I don't know why I mentioned that. Lead down to 8, by the way. NC St. in a zone, but Wright jumps over everyone and scores. He is freakin' automatic. I love him.
Costner shot a three and started back peddling down court like it was in, but it was a huge brick. good for ya, Kevin. Oh Ellington with a gorgoeus pull up three. He has 14 and the lead back up to 11. Make that 9. Little Jack Horner hits a wide open J. UNC gives up more uncontested shots than anyone in the nation.
Hansbrough hits one of those patented one-handed turn around/ fall aways, gets fouled and jacks Costner in the jaw all in one fluid motion. Good trip down the court all around.
Horner from the same spot. Like...who is guarding him? When he is just wandering around doing nothing, is he curious what his man is up to? I know I've said this before.
Roy is screaming his head off. That's what I like to see.
Costner gets a break away dunk as Vitale launches into his "Keep the dream alive!" spiel, referencing everyone from Jimmy V to Sidney Lowe. I hate him. Ginyard gets drilled and no foul is called. Atsur rims out a runner. That was huge. Costner hits Hansbrough as hard as he can and Costner is the onelaying on the ground, all dazed and confused. Hansbrough is a friggin' ox.
Oh, here we go: reruns of Gerald Henderson's cheap shot. Vitale says the refs made a good call, but Henderson didn't do it with intent. Can anyone just believe he did it on purpose? Is that too much of a leap for anybody?!?! The lead is back to eight, by the way with a little over seven minutes left. I'm just a little uncomfortable.
Down to 6. Gulp. Hansbrough draws a foul, and by "draws" I mean "the refs made a call up because he's Tyler Hansbrough." Lead back to 8. Under 7 minutes. Make that 6...nice back door pass from Atsur. I don't think Ginyard shooting a contested three is what UNC had in mind.
I'm going to have to label to one as "questionable." Grant gets a generous continuation call, and one, lead down to three, 68-65. UNC goes to Hansbrough again. He has an entire team hanging on him and he draws another foul. It's all because of that mask, I'm telling you.
Gavin Grant pulls another shot out of his ass and Hansbrough walks. 70-67, Heels. Wolfpack ball. Fells hits a ridiculous shot but then Reyshawn Terry shoots way too quickly and drills it. What a huge shot. Terry wanted that ball, too - he's got balls the size of cantaloupes. Oh and Terry again! What an athletic finish around the rim, plus the foul. Let's recheck those balls: yep, just as I suspected - watermelon size. 75-69, Good Guys, thanks to Reyshawn Terry and his fruit. 4:25 left.
There is under 4 minutes left in an uncomfortably close ACC title game and Doris Burke is rattling off names of the production crew and giving thanks. There's a better time for this, Doris. Like, never.
Reyshawn just drilled a ridiculous, contested pull up three. Unreal. Where the hell has this been the last four years? Costner comes back down, draws a foul and scores. UNC up four with Costner at the line for one when we come back.
78-75 with 3 minutes left after Costner knocks down the free throw.
Lawson and Wright take turns rimming out shots from a foot away apiece. Cripes. I can't feel my legs. Cosnter just walked but they didn't call it. NC St. throws up an airball to make up for it. UNC misses, so does NC St. UNC ball, three point lead, 1:28 left. Time out Good Guys. I am seeing three screens right now. I hope Roy says something really good right now, because if NC St. pulls this off, it is not only bad for bubble teams everywhere, it is bad for basketball as a sport. I really believe that.
Ellington called for a foul with one tick left on the shot clock. It was a, um...good call. They use the old "you got him with the body" excuse. Ellington calmly knocks down both. 80-75, one minute left. Atsur bricks a three and Lawson is fouled in the scramble for the rebound.
Knocks down one. Knocks down two. 82-75. 56.4 left. Patrick and Vitale launch into the whole "threes-or-points" debate...as usual, the announcer says they should jack threes and the basketball guy says just take points. This happens without fail at the end of every relatively close game.
Sweet Mary Mother of God. Wright fouls Costner and Costner scores. Lead to 4. NC St. puts Hansbrough at the line. Hansbrough pushed the lead to six.
Back to this whole "threes vs. points" debate: you take what the D gives you. You aren't making a comeback when you are down by six just by trading 3's for 2's, anyways. You would need to make threes on six consecutive possessions just to tie. That ain't happening. You need to get at least one, probably two turnovers or stops, and they need to miss the front end of a one-and-one. So you just take the points. It isn't about you scoring as much as it is about them not scoring.
NC St. gets a quick bucket and then fouls Lawson. Ty short arms the first one. Not good. Makes the other one. 5 point lead, 30 seconds. Carolina gets a stop and you can see beads of sweat running down Sidney Lowe's bald dome. Lead to 7.
Ty Lawson caps it with a break away dunk. That was awesome. He had to slow up and get his steps down and everything, but he got it. That was awesome.
Aaaaaaaaaaand NC St.'s season is over. Can't say I feel bad for them at all. There's something endearing about watching an opponent you loathe go down to one knee and cry.
UNC gets its first conference title and probably locked up a No. 1 seed. Good day.
Today is Selection Sunday. (YES.)
It goes without saying that there is a lot to love about today (but let's say them anyways): Joe Lunardi is the most important person in the sport universe for a day, we get to label one region "the group of death" and Billy Packer will say something that is so obviously incorrect that all the nation can do is shake its collective head.
But maybe, just maybe, the most underrated aspect is that Selection Sunday serves as Dick Vitale's yearly swan song. He'll get to rant and rave about only seven teams getting in from the ACC - "I'd like to see what would happen if some of these mid-majors had to play in the ACC! What would happen then?! Answer me that, Mr. Fowler!" But after today, Vitale won't be in the booth for several, much more quieter months. You can take those earplugs out now.
There's still four games left to be played - and they're some good 'uns - but let's recap Championship Week before we get into that. Quickly...
Best Individual Performance: Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth. Just an unbelievable series of events to close out George Mason: he rips a GMU player just over half court and then takes it the other way and scores, then he rips another GMU player in the back court and scores again, then hits a ridiculous floater in the lane, then grabs the game-sealing rebound and nails the free throws after he was fouled. Nine straight points to ice last season's Cinderella. It was the best Championship Week performance since Gerry McNamara.
Random Thing Throughout the Week For Which I Can Come Up With No Explanation. The terrible clockwork around the nation. It seemed like every game that came down to the wire came hand in hand with a clock faux pas, too, culminating with yesterday's insane Mid-American title game, where the officials thought the clock started too late so they decided to put some additional time on the clock, which made sense to Billy Packer and no one else. Let's just hand this job over to the robots and be done with it.
Most Annoying Running Gimmick. Sidney Lowe and his ridiculous red sports coat. Look, man...that thing is hideous. It just is. You look ridiculous on the sidelines. Take the damn thing off; it makes you look like the Kool-Aid Guy. What the hell happens when NC St. pulls off the upset, sneaks into the tourney and draws a first round match up with Tennessee? Bruce Pearl with his day-glo orange suit vs. Sidney and his stop sign jacket. My eyes are bleeding.
Worst Coaching Move of the Week. Down by one with well over 30 seconds left, Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan inexplicably decides to hold the ball for the last shot. I'm pretty sure he's the first coach ever to try this tactic, and his team put on a clinic demonstrating the very bad and very obvious down side to this strategy: they turned the ball over but there was no time left to foul, so they lost without ever getting a shot off. Apparetnly, Lonergan did a terrific job this season for Vermont, but this is indefensible.
TV Personality That I Currently Enjoy But Who May Be Heading Down a Dangerous Path. Tom Brennan on ESPN's Midnight Madness. I love the guy - especially when he's paired with Gottlieb, but he is starting to say some goofy things and make weird references; basically, he realized that he's there for a little comedic relief and he's starting too force it. But just a little, every once in a while. Nothing to get worked up about. He's still great. But then I caught an old clip of Dick Vitale and you couldn't even tell it was Dickie V. Vitale has gotten so caught up in his own shtick that he's not even a real person anymore. I'm just praying Brenna stays as far away from that road as possible.
Best Tournament. Just like every year: the Big East. Those games in Madison Square Garden just feel big time, even if the games aren't th best. I still wish the teams were the same as they used to be, but there's no way any tournament can top playing in the Garden. The ACC was fun in Greensborough, but they looked like they were playing on a generic create-a-court in St. Pete's. Too bad.
Dunk of the Week. Hands down, Marqus Blakely of Vermont on some poor sap from Albany. Blakely broke into the open court, dribbled with his head down like he was Clyde Drexler, took off about a step sooner than I thought he was going to, palmed the ball above his head like the Brand Jordan logo and spread his legs (the better to put his nuts in the defender's face) before absolutely hammering it on some tall dude who was trying to take a charge and was probably just as caught off guard as everyone else watching it. Blakely even threw in a little Pippen-over-Ewing-straddle-the-guy-I-just-humiliated-as-he-lays-on-the-ground for good measure. MJ still only gave him a 7 on his scorecard, though.
Alright, let's preview todays game's. Quickly...
UNC vs. NC State. The most important question here is, Who will be calling the game? If it's Vitale and Patrick, Ill wanna hang myself and if it is Jimmy Dykes again, I will wanna hang myself. It is going to be horrific no matter what, but I'd just like to know going in.
Oh, and this game isn't going to be close. NC St.'s 4th game in 4 days against the deepest team in the country who hasn't even had to try hard yet in the tournament? Blow out.
Texas vs. Kansas. Last time these two played, Durant went off, but then got hurt. If he stays healthy, I say Texas pulls the upset. You know what I hope happens tomorrow in this game? When it is close at the end, Rick Barnes actually runs a freakin play for Durant and gives him the ball. I think it would work better than DJ Augustine dribbled the air out of the ball and then taking a bad 15-footer. That play doesn't seem to work, Rick.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin. You know what? I think Greg Oden is kind of a dork. After his one tip dunk he held his outstretched hands in the air like a nerd and the other time he like blew a kiss or something. Nothing wrong with that, I guess...just seems like something a dork would do. he's playing like a monster right now, though, screaming and stuff and dunking every miss. Ohio State will take care of Wisconsin and wrap up a one-seed.
But you know what would be great? If Ohio St lost but still got a one-seed because the game is scheduled so late that the selection committee can't factor it into their decision. That would be enjoyable for me.
Florida vs. Arkansas. I freakin' hate Florida. But I hate when undeserving teams get into the Dance...is Arkansas a lock? If Arkansas is going to get in anyways, I hope they win. If they aren't gonna make it, I hope they lose. Simple as that. I'll settle for this: Florida wins, but Joakim Noah's pony tail gets stuck in the net, ripped off and he has to shave his head. Yea. Florida will win.
There's your previews...come back around 1:00 tomorrow for the UNC/ NC St. game, which I will be live-blogging. So watch the game and then during the commercials you can read about what you just watched. Fun. And if I get one comment - just one - during the UNC live-blog, then I am live-blogging Kansas/Texas at 3:00.
Make it happen.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Here's the list:
1. Mike Patrick
2. Dick Vitale
3. Jimmy Dykes
He is killing me. I can't take him anymore. It's like ESPN did some thorough research on exactly how to get under my skin, ran that data through exhaustive simulations, drew some conclusions, ramped them up another ten notches and the result was Jimmy Dykes.
Where the hell did this guy come from? He wasn't around last year, was he? If he was, I wasn't aware (trust me, I'd remember) and if he was doing lower-profile games, and The World Wide leader actually promoted him, then they have a monkey and a dog calling the Big Sky championship game right now.
It's like Dykes went to just enough coaching clinics to be annoying as all hell. He beats these obscure coaching tidbits into the ground, like a defender getting his hands "ball level" or how the shooter squared up off his inside foot. Its not that he's wrong, necessarily, its that these are often (read: always) the most trivial part about the series of events that just transpired. I really think he pops in "Jim Boehim Teaches YOU the 2-3 Zone" before a broadcast, writes down the first three of four things Jim says and then forces those three of four things into every godamn possible situation, regardless of its relevancy.
Jimmy loves nothing more than how fast or slow a team is playing. He is obsessed with teams that take most of their shots with less than 15 seconds on the shot clock, and he advises every team he comes across to do just that. He is obsessed with how slow a team is playing; nothing is more crucial than the pace of the game.
Perhaps the only thing that compares with his love of shots with less than 15 seconds on the shot clock is his love affair with terrible analogies. He has such beauties on his resume as "Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around young man!" when a VT player performed a spinning dunk. Along those same lines, he will force ESPN to run at least one graphic will a terrible pun on it combined with a nickname I know he gave himself. Something like "Jimmy D's Alchemy" or "Jimmy D's Airport." (Don't ask.)
Perhaps his greatest moment was when he combined his affinity for teams going to fast with his special adoration for god-awful analogies when VMI (I think it was VMI, could be wrong) started to take too many quick shots and saw its chance at Cinderella-status slipping away. "Right now, VMI's pumpkin carriage is going a little too fast!" Maybe the worst part is that he draws Brad Nessler into this gimmick but Nessler is even worse than Jimmy D at this.
Oddly enough, from what I can tell, he positively loves NC State. Probably because he loves "character" guy who have "committed" to a program which are code words for "sucks" and "5-11 in conference." Also, he has a man-crush on Egin Atsur that makes Dickie V's obsession with Duke look cute.
But analogies and man crushes aside, his coach-speak just makes my skin crawl. I can't take it. I can't decide whether he really knows what he is talking about and is just terrible at deciding what the most important aspect of every play is or if he just doesn't know what the hell is going on and is doing a horrendous job at covering that up. Maybe, somehow, both.
But maybe the most damning thing about him was he backed up Billy Packer's stance on the Gerald Henderson "foul" today. That, I am pretty damn sure, is indefensible.
I really need to live-blog the next game he does. If he is calling NC State's game tomorrow, consider it done.
(Update: Turns out, NC St. plays this evening, when I am unavailable. Shame, really, since there's no way SC St. beats Virginia. Maybe Jimmy will announce BYU vs. Gonzaga in the first round. Something tells me he would like that matchup.)
Monday, March 05, 2007
Technically, Championship Week started on Friday when Penn wrapped up the Ivy League regular season title, but things got underway in earnest this past Saturday. Since then, twelve teams, I think, have punched their tickets to the dance, mostly the small one-bid conferences, but some top-flight mid-majors got their invites, too (Creighton, Gonzaga). For the most part, the games have been overwhelmingly exciting. Championship Week has been must-see TV.
So, if you were to say that Championship Week was off to a screaming success, what would you be? You would be incorrect, that is what you would be. Championship Week peaked when Penn beat the hell out of Yale on Friday and it has been all down hill since and if the past is any indicator, things are only going to get worse.
I hate Championship Week. Well, not the Week itself; I'm glued to my TV. I just hate what it stands for. It is a stupid way to put 65 teams in a bracket (amazingly, it is even stupider that there are 65 spots to fill, but that's for another time). The best thing you can about it is that it does not discriminate. Quite the opposite: it screws the big conferences, the mid-majors and the small conferences, so I guess it has that going for it.
I was watching Winthrop and VMI kick off Championship Week Saturday afternoon. The two small schools were going at it for the Big South title. VMI is - well, was - the highest scoring team in the nation; they are the NCAA's best attempt at mimicking the Phoenix Suns. During the game, they broke the single season record for steals; both VMI and Winthrop were getting out in transition, knocking down shots. Neither team could build a lead, really, and after both teams made clutch plays down the stretch, Winthrop survived after the country's leading scorer came up short on a last-second three. Can't ask for much more than that in a basketball game, I don't think.
Well, it was excruciating to sit through. For me, anyways. All I could think about was how Winthrop shouldn't even have to be playing this game and if they, for some fluke reason, should happen to lose it, the Selection Committee will probably screw them out of at at-large birth. It has to have been the hardest I've cheered all season for a team I really didn't care about. I wasn't even happy for them after they won. I was just relieved.
Think about the circumstances behind this game: Winthrop ran through the Big South this year, going 14-0. They beat every team in the league, including VMI, twice. VMI, on the other hand, was 14-19 and finished sixth in the league. Sixth. But for some reason they were given the chance to play the team that positively owned the entire conference all year with the chance to go to the NCAA Tournament as the prize in a one-and-done format, in which anything can happen and anything almost did.
My question is simple: why are they allowed to do this?
Does the regular season count for anything? Do we really need a 14-game schedule just to seed teams for a three-day single elimination tournament? Because that is really all the regular season is worth under this set-up. The regular season has no bearing on determining who the best team from the Big South is. None. A three-day, single-elimination tournament will tell us that.
The Big South was the most glaring example - an undefeated team being forced to play a sixth (sixth!) place team - but Championship Week has been full of scenarios that never should have happened. Look at some of these:
Davidson was 17-1 in the Southern Conference and beat the College of Charleston twice, but they had to beat them a third time to prove they were the better team. Belmont finished two games back of East Tennessee State in the standings, but will go to the tournament because they beat ETSU on Saturday. Same with Austin Peay: they beat Eastern Kentucky twice and finished first in the league, but EKU will be playing in March and Peay will not. Creighton hadn't beaten Southern Illinois since 2003, yet they got a chance to play them with a bid on the line. Central Connecticut State was 2-0 against Sacred Heart in the regular season. The Sun Belt conference was gracious enough to provide us with a thrilling 4-seed vs. 5-seed matchup that no one outside of North Texas or wherever Arkansas St. is located cared about. The list goes on and on.
By my count, through a dozen tournaments, a team was forced to play another team it had beaten twice during the regular season for a third time to prove it was the better team. Four one seeds have lost in the conference title game; two other one-seed didn't even make the finals.
So what's my point? I want to see the best teams in the field of 65. That's all. Really and truly: that is all I want. And the best way to do that is to give the automatic birth to the winner of the regular season. It isn't even arguable that the regular season champ is the best team in the conference. They just are. The winner of a three-day, one-and-done tourney is...well, I don't know what they are, but they certainly aren't the best team.
Listen, I know ESPN and the conferences will never do away with Championship Week. The payday is too enticing for these little conferences. I get this. I just wish they would think for a second: what is more enticing for a small conference: having your title game on ESPN or making some noise in the Big Dance?
I would say making noise in the Big Dance is more important. Look at the MVC. Where the hell where they six years ago? But they consistently got their best teams into the tournament, made noise while they were in there, and now that conference gets regular season games televised fairly often. Well, what is the best way to make noise in the NCAA Tourney? By getting your best team in. How do you do that? By sending your regular season champ.
Wouldn't you rather defer the small paycheck now for the bigger, more consistent ones later own the road?
Think about the Big South: Winthrop has lost four games all year - at UNC, at Wisconsin, at Texas A&M and at Maryland. That's it. Hell, that might be the Final Four, and those were their only four losses. But they almost didn't even make the dance because these tiny conferences insist having these tournaments that no one even watches.
Seriously, in the grand scheme of things, no one watches the smaller conferences play. Yea, you get the real avid basketball fan and the random guy flippin' around with his hand down his pants - oh, basketball is on...who the hell is Austin Pee? - but no one really watches. Go into the office tomorrow and ask anyone who won the Belmont-ETSU game. No one has any idea (in fact, if you can find two people who know what ETSU stands for, I'd like to shake your hand; I'll never, ever forget what ETSU stands for, but that is for entirely different reasons...if you wanna know, ask, I'll tell ya) because they didn't watch. All they are good for is the opening round montage on CBS and storming the court highlights on ESPN. That's it.
The only conference who does it right is the Ivy League, but they don't even give out scholarships so clearly they aren't even taking basketball that seriously, which is a shame. (Like my boy JP said: "Hey, the smartest schools in the country do it the right way. Go figure.")
Maybe I just empathize with the players too much. These guys work their ass off all year, they earn it on the court for months, and then some team that sucked all year gets to play them on a neutral court to go to the dance. That just doesn't sit right with me. Those lower seeds don't deserve that chance. It just isn't right. Really, it isn't. Can someone pass me a Kleenex, please?
But it just isn't the little schools who get screwed. When some 11-17 school that sucks gets in, that means another team is getting bumped out. All levels are affected. Whoever is sitting at 65 on the bubble is gone.
Plus, when some BCS-school McNamara's a tournament because it is busting its ass tryin to save its season against seven teams who have already sewn up bids, it screws the rest of college basketball, too.
No good comes out of it. Yea, it is exciting for the Week, but no one even remembers in a week. Yea, it is smaller schools one big payday, but I think they are being short-sighted. I just want the 65 best teams in The Dance. That's all.
Would I give up championship week to make that happen? Yea, I would. Wow. Even I can't believe I said that. But I would.
Friday, March 02, 2007
I am pretty sure this doesn't make any sense, but I was just thinking: what if basketball was played like football and football was played like basketball?
Told ya it didn't make any sense. But what I mean is what what if instead of having fast breaks and transition and stuff, NBA teams huddled up before each play, called a set play, said "ready, break!" and then slapped hands and then tried to execute it against a defense that had made substitutions based on the personnel that the offense decided to put on the floor?
Would that be fun to watch? Would scoring go up or down?
I don't think that would be fun to watch at all and scoring would probably plummet. What a stupid idea. Think of a new, different one.
First off, transition and fast breaks are the best part about basketball. Everyone knows this. even Mike Patrick and Duke doesn't even like to fast break that much. There's a reason the Suns are called "exciting" and "fun" while the Spurs are often times referred to as "boring as shit." Second off, defenses would be able to scout teams much better stop them much more easily. I think the only group of people excited about this would be obsessive compulsive coaches who would be geeked that they get to call a play every 30 seconds.
OK, so that doesn't make sense. Well, how ' bout if there were no huddles in football? What if teams could just run whatever play they wanted without the bossy coach yelling at them and telling them what to do all the time?
This might be even stupider than basketball being played as football. No one would have any idea what was going on! Receivers would be running all over the place - I bet they would all go deep; receivers seem to like to do that from what I have seen of their kind - but the quarterback would probably have no idea where they were going and end up getting sacked because the offensive line would think it was a run. But it would never be a run because, I mean, if you were the quarterback and you could do whatever you wanted, why would you ever hand it off? Plus, the one time you tried to hand it off, the running back would probably go to the left when you thought he was going to the right and then you would never trust him again. Also, I think concussions would go up.
What a waste of time this was.
Wait! What if they played basketball or football like baseball? Actually, never mind. Just think how stupid everyone would look in those baseball caps.