The Wright Stache Inspiration from The Wright Stache on Vimeo.
Our first baseball post of the Spring! So this is what it sounds like when doves cry. Here is a video emploring David Wright to grow a mustache in order to prevent another New York collapse in September. It even has its own website, thewrightstache.com. While the theory is solid, I'll take solid bullpen play over facial hair anyday.
Via Big League Stew
Tuesday, March 31
Monday, March 30
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I'm a 60 Minutes junky, but I actually missed it last night because...well let's just say I was out chasing secular pursuits, but in case you missed it as well here is in the interview with Steve Kroft. It's an interesting take on how Bron-Bron views life as a whole and how basketball is a tool for what he wants to accomplish outside of sports. I think the questions asked were a little too on the softball side when it came to his place in the NBA, but overall a good watch.
So what you will about not liking one or more of these fellows, college coaches collecting hefty paychecks for the ad, or the fact that you don't like Lars because he helped shut down Napster, this commercial is pure gold. My favorite is definitely Pitino; look at the way he holds that drumset steady while he slides in, dude's a pro and his playing style is...unique.
Just a quick rundown of what the old dudes in socks brought to the table:
8 National Championships
27 Final Fours
Friday, March 27
I would totally rock that Bulls leather jacket if I had one. Also if you want us to buy the premise that these two kids rock at basketball and can dunk from the free throw line and can move like that while wearing a shirt tucked into jeans, shouldn't you at least make sure he can dribble the ball without using both hands at the same time?
It is a tough question, and the answers to such questions are not always found by listening to Joe Esposito. Many are saying yes, and I tend to agree, but before the Zags take on top-seeded North Carolina tonight, let's look at their history going dating back to the run to the Elite 8 that began it all in 1999, SHALL WE?!!
This was the last season of the Dan Monson era in Spokane, but it may be the most memorable run the Zags had and it was the one that put them on the map. The team was 22-6 going into the tournament where they were a 10 seed. They destroyed Minnesota in the first round and apparently the Gophers were so impressed they would hire Monson to coach them the next year. They then beat Stanford who was ranked 7th in the country and the number 2 seed in the West Region. The Sweet 16 game against the 6 seed Florida was one of the most memorable for the ending and the Gus Johnson call.
The slipper stopped fittin in the Elite 8 against UCONN. The game was close, and I remember being a Husky fan sweating it out as the Zags fought to the end but lost 67-62 win. In terms of distance in the tournament, this team was the best. No other Gonzaga team has ever reached the Elite 8, and they came close to pulling the George Mason 7 years early.
This team was led by Quentin Hall, the gritty point guard from the Bahamas. The other starters were Richie Frahm, Casey Calvary, Jeremy Eaton, and one of my all-time name guys, Matt Santangelo. Calvary had the tip-in against Florida and would go on to be a second team all-Wooden player as a senior in 2001.
Mark Few took over for Monson this season and few could argue that he built upon the foundation that Monson laid. See what I did there? Frahm, Calvary, and Santagelo all returned from the previous year and the Zags again were a ten seed. They began their pre-conference tradition of playing tough teams, including that year #1 Cincinnati, #19 Temple, and beating #11 UCLA. They finished 22-8 and they made another run in the tourney. Beating Louisville and 2 seed St. John's before finally bowing out to Purdue in the Sweet 16.
Other contributors to the team were Axel Dench from Austrailia, Ryan Floyd, and Mike Nilson. The team was still considered cinderellas at this point, but it was the springboard for the future continued success of the program.
Following the act of the two previous teams would be difficult for the Zags, but with Blake Stepp coming in as a freshman and contributing and the arrival of Dan Dickau from Canada, the Zags had one of their most formidable teams ever.
At this point, Gonzaga did not have the reputation they did now and had to win the West Coast Conference tournament in order to get to the big dance. Since they did not have any marquee wins out of conference, they were a 12 seed despite their 24-6 record. Once again the Zags proved their proficiency as they beat the 5 seed Virginia and then leveled Indiana State to make their 3rd consecutive Sweet 16. Once again they could not advance as they lost to Michigan State by 15. The Zags had proven they could play with the big boys and the momentum began continued to build.
Dickau and Stepp returned and two key additions infused into the lineup. Corey Violette and Ronny Turiaf gave the Zags more balance and an inside presence. Zach Gourde also improved in this his junior season. Dickau averaged 21 ppg and had a season high of 39. In the regular season they went 29-3 with their only losses to #3 Illinois, Marquette and Pepperdine. They earned a 6 seed and figured to make a deep run in the tournament. However, this time they were on the wrong end of the upset. Wyoming beat the Zags 73-66 in probably the most dissapointing of their tournament history. This team is at the very least a finalist for their all-time best team and it was a tough way for Dickau to go out.
Blake Stepped up (I'm on fiya!) for the Zags this year and so did Turiaf, averaging 18 and 15.6 ppg respectively. The 7 losses they suffered and the failure to win the WCC tournament were considered horrible for their new standards. This led to them getting the always tough 9 seed in the tournament. They beat Cincinnati in the first round and then lost to Arizona in heartbreaking fashion. A double overtime loss to the 1 seed 96-95 in which Stepp had a shot to win but it went just off the rim. This would start a string of dissapointing tourney runs for Gonzaga.
Once again the Zags came back with a dynamite squad. Two freshmen arrived that would eventually go down as two of the best players in the school's history. Adam Morrison and Derek Ravio combined with Stepp, Violette, as seniors and an experienced Ronny Turiaf. Ravio did not quite emerge yet on this team, which may have hindered them, but Stepp, Violette, Morrison, and Turiaf all averaged in double figures.
The team lost to St. Joe's to open the year, but beat #3 Mizzou and won 21 consecutive games during the season. The team was 27-2 and a 2 seed going into the tournament. Many (including myself) thought this would be the year the Zags finally made it. They however tripped up in the second round by Nevada. Well tripped up is an understatement they got handled 91-72.
The team lost Stepp, but Ravio would fill the void as a sophmore and Morrison began to assert himself. J.P Batista and David Pendergraft also joined the squad. With Turiaf down low and Morrison averaging 19 per game, the Zags again had a great season. They beat Washington, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma State in pre-conference and earned a 3 seed in the tournament. After dispatching Winthrop though, they fell to Texas Tech by 2. It was a tough loss to swallow and the Zags saw another season fall short and would then lose Turiaf to graduation.
Morrison became the unquestioned leader and All-American for the Zags. They had impressive wins over Maryland and Michigan State in triple overtime in Maui, followed by tough losses to UCONN, Washington, and Memphis but railed off 16 straight wins to get a 3 seed in the tourney. They squeaked by Xavier and Indiana to reach their first Sweet 16 since 2001. In of course a memorable affair the Zags had a 17 point lead but let UCLA comeback and the game ended with UCLA overwhelmed, Gus Johnson screaming, and Morrison in tears. Witness the insanity:
It was another crushing defeat and Morrison would leave for the NBA shortly after the season ended (to the delight of Bobcats fans everywhere!). Ravio would lead the team the next year and the stars of this year's team would continue to develop but in the next two seasons the Zags struggled to find an identity and lost in consecutive years in the first round of the tournament, the latter a loss to Steph Curry and Davidson last year.
The Zags started 7-0 this year, but after an overtime loss to UCONN in Seattle they faltered. They fell to Memphis at home by 18, but after that finished off an undefeated season in the WCC and won the conference tournament by blowing out St. Mary's. The team is experienced and all the players who suffered through the previous two seasons: Pargo, Downs, Heytfelt, and Boldin are now much more matured. Pargo has moved off the point in the offense, Boldin has handled a lot more and Heytfelt has been terrific of late. Sophmore Austin Daye has also been a big contributor. The Zags have 6 players averaging 9 ppg or more, so this is probably the most balanced attack they have ever had.
But are they the best team they have ever had? I suppose it depends on the criteria. If you use how deep they go in the tournament as the mark, then the 1999 team that got it started would be the choice as they are the only Gonzaga team to go that far. If star players are the choice, then it would be a tough call between the Dickau/Stepp teams, the Morrison/Turiaf teams, and the Morrison team of 05-06. Mark Few deserves an incredible amount of credit by taking what Monson sparked in 1999 and turning that into a perennial basketball power. There were rumblings though that Few could not get Gonzaga over the hump in the tourney, especially after some of the early exits. Goodson saved their bacon against Western Kentucky, but the Zags will need their best effort of all-time to get to the Final Four. Their challenge tonight against North Carolina will require all their parts to be working in rhythm together and the shots going down. If they pull the unlikely tonight, either Oklahoma or Syracuse will be waiting. If they make it to Detroit there is no question they will be labeled as the Zags best team ever, but since that probably will not happen, the answer to the question is open to interpretation.
Since I cannot leave it at that if I were forced to choose, right now I would say the 2003-2004 team with Stepp, Turiaf, and the young Morrison was the best squad they sent out on the court. That team had definite Final Four potential, they just seemed to get crushed under the weight of the expectations. This current incarnation of Gonzaga has a chance to change my mind this weekend.
Special props to Statsheet for help with the info.
UCONN 72, Purdue 60
They got Thabeet, they got Thabeet, they got Thabeet, yeah they got him. Hasheem has been oft criticized for a variety of deficiencies in his game; he is too soft, he has bad hands, no touch around the goal, does not make himself available for entry passes. The 7'3" center from Tanzania who has only been playing basketball for about 5 years put together a 15 point, 15 rebound effort against a feisty Boilermaker team, including 8 points in a row to begin the second half and a thunderous dunk that made it look like he was playing on a Fischer-Price goal. The Huskies jumped ahead early, but their shooting was not all that impressive and a lot of that had to do with Purdue. Jeff Adrien looked nothing like the confident jump-shooter we saw in the early rounds, going 1 for 9. Stanley Robinson's double double should also not be lost in the shuffle, although his jump shot was weak as he airballed one 18 footer. UCONN will have to play better if they want to survive Missouri, but it was a big win for everyone involved at UCONN after the events of the last couple days.
Pitt 60, Xavier 55
Xavier just seems to be the hard luck kids of the tournament. I feel bad for these players, but shooting 32.8% will not get it done. It almost did and if it were not for the jeuvos of Levance Fields, Pitt was looking at another dissapointing tournament. This has been the script we have seen out of the Panthers in recent years but Field, Blair and Young refuse to let this team go down, scoring 71.6% of the team's points. They will have to bring forth their best effort against Villanova though, who may be the hottest team in the country.
Missouri 102, Memphis 91
"They beat us at our own game." That is all you need to know about Mizzou's impressive effort. It was given by Memphis coach John Calipari after the game. If you went strictly by eyeball test, Missouri would be 1-A to Nova's 1 in terms of teams playing well. Missouri came out and basically did the things Memphis does well and beat them over the head with it. Mizzou was the sexy pick to come out of this region and they have not dissapointed. There were not that many turnovers (14 for Memphis, 12 for Missouri) and both teams shot over 50%. Memphis's glaring bad spot was their 3-15 effort behind the arc, and the fact that their defense had no answer for Missouri's shooting or J.T. Tiller. If the Tigers can keep things this chaotic and high-paced against UCONN, they will probably move on to Detroit.
Villanova 77, Duke 54
Duke has fallen before in the Sweet 16 in recent history, but they have not been dominated the way they were last night. It seemed as if the teams were operating on two different planes; Nova the powerhouse from the power conference playing suffocating defense and penetrating at will and Duke the less athletic team from some mid-major conference who was outgunned from the start. Even people who pretend to think they know about college basketball were saying "Duke needs to knock down the outside shots to be effective, if not they have no chance." No chance, that's what they had. 26.7% shooting and just 5-27 from deep. It is hard for me to say any other team is playing as well as the Wildcats are right now on both ends of the court. If Blue Devil fans are looking for a bright spot, they did get one more free-throw attempt than Villanova.
Thursday, March 26
To have this discussion, we must first acknowledge that TO is, at least in part, a creation of the media. There are inherent differences between the two players. TO has craved the spotlight, while Julius shies away from it. TO has been vocally disruptive and publicly criticized his coaches and fellow players alike. Peppers has never caused such problems, again shying away from the spotlight to the point of being called a loner by his fellow teammates. Terrell wanted more money from the Eagles, while Julius turned down a contract to be the highest paid defensive player in the league. So how can it be possible that two so diametrically opposed players possibly be similar? Let's take a look.
TO's time in San Francisco was not always pleasant, but he did deliver on the playing field. In many ways, the rift between himself and the organization began after he scored two touchdowns in Dallas and celebrated on the star. The next season he set a career high in receptions with 100 and was instrumental in the team's comeback win in the playoffs against the Giants (9 catches, 177 yds, 2 TD) while having a contentious relationship with then coach Steve Mariucci and QB Jeff Garcia. The following season he and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had a verbal disagreement on the sidelines and the Owens and the Niners agreed to part company.
Despite having none of the public discord surrounding Owens, Peppers last season was of the mind that he did not want to return to the Carolina Panthers. He recorded 14.5 sacks, a tremendous total, but without maximum effort. He recorded a third of those in two games against the woeful Raiders and Lions (3 and 2 respectively) and he also recorded sacks against the Vikings and the Chiefs, two teams in the bottom third of the league in sacks allowed. So, 7 of his 14.5 sacks came in four games against three of the worst teams in the league and one who had just made a quarterback change to the immobile Gus Frerotte. Peppers also recorded a sack for 0 yards lost, but did incur an unnecessary roughness penalty on the same play (a net of +7 yards for the offense) and one against the Falcons in the final two minutes with the Panthers up 15. All of this is not to bag on Peppers, but to point out that the total number of sacks is not representative of number 90's play. He was without a doubt, a tremendous difference maker in the first game against the Saints, but beyond that he could often be found playing to not get hurt, skirting around piles, and arriving just in time for tackles to be made by other players, as he recorded three or fewer tackles in twelve of the team's games last year. The image of him playing pattycake with Adrian Peterson's back instead of tackling the hulking beast of a running back will not soon be forgotten (and served as the inspiration for this poster).
While TO was not happy with the situation in San Francisco, he continued to produce at a high level. With Peppers not happy with his situation, he did not bring the off the field attention that Owens did, but his performance was not as good either. Perhaps a most telling stat, in the playoff game against the Giants Terrell's touchdowns tied Julius's mark for career playoff sacks (eight games) with two.
When TO's troubles with Philadelphia started it was not about philosophy, but about money. He was not being paid on par with the upper echelon receivers as most of his $49 million contract was back-loaded. Peppers has never had this problem, as twice the Panthers have offered him monster contracts, both of which he turned down. The similarities, however, rise out of contract disputes. After the Eagles made the Super Bowl and with TO returning quicker than anyone thought possible to play (well) in the game, Owens hired Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus, one of the most publicly disliked agents has experience representing over 100 clients in the NFL. During the '05 season, Owens and Rosenhaus were a distraction to the team, culminating with the suspension of TO after seven games. It should be noted that he had over 750 yards receiving and 6 Touchdowns already and Owens was to make $4.5 million dollars for that season. The Eagles ultimately released Owens when faced with paying him a $5 million roster bonus.
For Julius, the drama began almost as soon as this 08-09 season ended. There was the awkward Pro Bowl interview where he dodged questions about his future in Carolina and his agent throwing down the gauntlet, "Julius is ready to move on and play for another team." The agent, Carl Carey, represents (and has represented) only one client in the NFL, Peppers. Carey stated there were no circumstances under which he wanted to return to the Panthers. Peppers in a written statement made it clear he felt he could do more elsewhere, "At this point in my NFL career, I am seeking new challenges that will allow me to grow, develop and reach my personal potential on the football field." He's expressed interest in playing in a 3-4 scheme as a linebacker, an unprecedented move for a man of his size.
The 2005 season for the Eagles was terribly disappointing, going 6-10 after reaching the Super Bowl the year before. With so much focus and energy being spent on their malcontent receiver, the team floundered. As we look ahead at the 09-10 season, the Panthers could be very much in the same boat (minus the Super Bowl trip the year prior). With Carl Carey acting as his agent, Peppers has refused to sign the one-year tender offer of the Carolina Panthers, resulting in the team being unable to negotiate trades with other teams. Odd considering his stance when asked about the prospect of the team using the franchise tag on him earlier this off-season, "If they decide to use the tag on me, the first thing that I'll be doing is requesting a trade." Under the auspices of playing hardball, his refusal to sign the tender is the one thing preventing that from happening. Where TO's cap number was less than $5 million for the '05 season, Peppers's will be almost $17 million. Just by applying the franchise tag, the team has been handicapped in it's ability to sign free agents or even re-sign their own. While TO's displeasure has often been accompanied by public outbursts and off the field drama, he's never had nearly the negative on-the-field presence that Peppers and his audacious contract will next season. With NFL writers around the league now of the opinion that Peppers won't be going anywhere and with his agent more than willing to accept such a large commission (while screwing up a much larger deal opportunity for Peppers), the Panthers will effectively be stuck in a holding pattern for a year, while their star Steve Smith gets a year older and their young stars Jon Beason and DeAngelo Williams get a year closer to free agency and there's no guarantee that the team won't be in the same situation next off-season.
There's little doubt that TO's outlandish behavior far outweighs the non-existent negatives of Julius Peppers off the field, but on it Owens has never crippled a franchise the way Julius will this off-season. If Julius is unhappy he will not produce the way TO did when he was upset with a situation and Panthers fans have seen that over the last two seasons. While Peppers will never have the three ring circus following him the way Terrell did, Owens and his management have never crippled a franchise the way Peppers and his clueless agent are poised to, if he continues to refuse to sign the tender offer. The worst part is neither side is getting what they want and it's solely do to Carl Carey's ineptitude as an agent that this seemingly ludicrous comparison is even plausible.
7:07 PM Purdue vs. Connecticut
Boilermakers would probably get a Husky toasted.
7:27 PM Xavier vs. Pittsburgh
Can Musketeers be harmful to Panthers if ingested?
9:37 PM Missouri vs. Memphis
Tiger vs. Tiger, who will uppercut first?
9:57 PM Villanova vs. Duke
Wildcats have no concept of Devils and Demons.
Wednesday, March 25
The Charlotte Observer has announced 82 job cuts and pay cuts for the rest of the staff. Unfortunately, many of those affected work in the newsroom. The vicious cycle facing newspapers is simple to understand, but hard to stop. In today's media environment, they receive reduced advertising leading to fewer employs leading to lower quality which results in... lower advertising (and subscriptions). This announcement comes just one week after the Raleigh News and Observer announced cuts of their own. In just seven days, two of North Carolina's largest newspapers have had their workforce reduced by fifteen and eleven percent, respectively.
While we've had fun with the local fishwrap before, I love newspapers. There's something special about having all the box scores on one page and that's something the current landscape of the internet doesn't allow. With most of the TV stations tied directly into the leagues they're supposed to be covering, newspapers should have filled the role (now being filled by Yahoo!) of being the watch dog. Sadly, most haven't and many have also failed miserably in making the transition to the internet for various reasons. Newspapers are important and while their medium may be changing, the people of this country should be better served by having them around. I for one, and hoping for many more great pieces out of the Observer, like this one by Rick Bonnell about Raymond Felton.
By now, you no doubt have heard about the story. Yahoo Sports unviels a lengthy and detailed investigation into rules violations committed by Connecticut basketball in relation to their recruitment of Nate Miles, a player who was expelled last fall from UConn for trouble with the law. Hard to defend the Huskies on this one; it appears they have been caught with phone records to back up the charges. How timely of Yahoo to unveil this on the eve of the Sweet 16 match-up against Purdue. I would not be surprised to see UConn come out flat due to the story, but that is really up to the players who had nothing to do with this.
Calhoun has been the subject of praise and disdain in his tenure at Connecticut. He built the program literally out of nothing into one of the premeire programs in the sport, but his salty attitude and what some would call sketchy recruiting practices had landed him scrutiny from those who do not care for him. Earlier this season he got into a verbal exchange with
a reporter some jackass in a postgame press conference about his million dollar salary. He has never faced any kind of challenge like this where the facts seem laid out in plain sight. The critcism from the detractors will be overwhelming now.
The story of this kid seems to be one that encompasses the entire dark side of college basketball. He had academic and personal problems, he had vampires all around him "advising" him, there were respected people in basketball that did their part to stay away from him, and he eventually self-imploded. As a lifelong fan of Connecticut basketball it is a dark day and I am not even going to try to spin this until we here from the NCAA or Calhoun. If one were trying to force themselves to see the intentions in this, it would be the UConn staff was trying to get this kid on the right track while improving their team at the same time and then cut him loose after he got arrested, but the story indicates the Huskies have continued to recruit him even after Miles landed in a JC in Idaho.
The two cases that came to mind when reading this story were USC and Oklahoma. USC because Yahoo reported on the Reggie Bush scandal and the "advisor" involved with OJ Mayo which has subsequently been swept neatly under the rug and Oklahoma because of the improper phone calls made by former coach Kelvin Sampson. What will happen in this case? We will certainly discuss this story more as it develops and I'm certain will cover it on the Shackleford Files this week. Link to the story below.
UConn violated NCAA rules [Yahoo Sports]
No matter where Seth Curry travels in the world of college basketball, he will always be known as Stephen Curry's little brother. But perhaps Seth seeks a bigger spot in the limelight as he will be transferring from Liberty University. Liberty recently lost to James Madison in the quarterfinals of the CIT tournament by 23 points. Curry was the Big South Freshman of the Year as he led the nation in scoring for freshmen with 20.2 points per game. Curry made it apparent in his statement that school's position in the Big South played a role.
"This is a difficult decision that I have reached after close consultation with my family and others close to me, and it is based on my desire to develop as an athlete to the fullest of my potential and take advantage of new opportunities that may be available to me in a higher-rated conference, Curry said in a statement released by the school."
I am unsure exactly what he means here. His brother became a household name by lifting Davidson from the Southern Conference into the national spotlight. Prior to last year's Elite 8 run by the Wildcats, Davidson had never won a tournament game. The Big South has hardly been a powerhouse the last two years, with bid-winner Radford getting dismantled by North Carolina in the first round of this year's tournament. Two years ago however, Winthrop had been ranked in the top 25 and defeated Notre Dame in their first round match-up. Winthrop lost their core of players to graduation and the coach that led them to that in in Greg Marshall who is now at Wichita State.
It appears Curry does not want to get into the position of his brother; the hard toil at a mid-major just to possibly not get into the tournament. Seth may realize that the easier road is to go to a major conference -probably the ACC- and be seen on a consistent basis and have easier access to the NCAA tournament. You cannot blame him for that, but now the pressure will only intensify on him whereever he goes. It is amazing that schools passed on Seth to being with after seeing what Stephen did, and in many ways Stephen's success should have made Seth's choice of school as open as possible. In the end, the Big South loses a player who was destined to become the face of the league and another school will add what could potentially be a superstar.
Tuesday, March 24
Tom Brady took to his knee at the hands of Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, the NFL is changing things for the upcoming season. According to the Boston Globe:
"...the league's Competition Committee adopted a clarification of the current rule on hits to a quarterback in the knee area or below. The clarification specifically prohibits a defender on the ground who hasn't been blocked or fouled directly into the quarterback from lunging or diving at the quarterback's lower legs."
I know Catfish is a proponent of limiting the protection that QBs get under the rules, but I think this is a more important rule that the hand glancing the helmet so I have to throw a flag rule. Blows to the head with a single hand lame, protecting quarterback's plant leg good. Carson Palmer has to be sitting around wondering "why this is a rule just now, happened to me in 2005 when I got von Oelhoffened."
Brady rule: Steps taken to protect QBs' knees [Boston Globe]
A wise man once said, "You can't know where you are going, if you don't know where you've been." With highly anticipated match-ups in front of us in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, we take a look back at what transpired last year in this edition of YDKB. Come on people, it was only a year ago, has the internet and instant cable news channels fried your brain that much that you cannot recollect what transpired 12 months ago? Try to fire up those few neurons in your head that have not been toasted by your cell phone, PDA, news tickers, and Hannah Storm and take our quiz. As always feel free to post your score and await tremendous prizes that are both incredible and phantasmic. The test begins after the break....
The East Regional took place in [No cheating] and featured the North Carolina Tar Heels as the one seed who easily beat the Washington State Cougars who are coached by [Go WISCOGBAY]. In the other game, a 2-3 matchup pitted Louisville against [Pearl necklace?] with Pitino's squad advancing.
In the Midwest, the stadium known as [Easy one] was the site of the regional and now will host the Final Four this year. Kansas embarassed Villanova by double digits and in the other game, Stephen Curry and Davidson continued their run by downing [No cheating] while NBA star [No cheating] watched on the sidelines in admiration.
In the South, many were unhappy with the fact that [No cheating] was getting to play in Reliant Stadium even though they were the 2 seed. The homefield advantage worked for them as they dispatched Stanford and the [Not Pete Sauer] twins. The game in this regional was not close either as one seed [No cheating] handled Michigan State 92-74.
The West Sweet 16 featured top seed UCLA downing 12 seed underdog [No cheating]. Freshman big man [No cheating] had a double-double of 29 and 14 to lead the Bruins. The other game was Xavier, led by head coach [He's still there], taking on West Virginia who had just knocked off [Happy Catfish] in the second round. The Musketeers won in overtime on the heels of two big three pointers by [No cheating] who is a star on this year's Sweet 16 Xavier team.
The conferences with the most Sweet 16 teams last year was [No cheating] and the [No cheating]. Cinderella Davidson respresented the [No cheating] conference.
Ok pencils down, before you scroll down to the answers, relive the magic with the one shining moment homage from the end of last year's tourney. Needs more jersey popping.
2. Tony Bennett
4. Ford Field
6. LeBron James
10. Western Kentucky
11. Kevin Love
12. Sean Miller
14. B.J. Raymond
15. Big East
16. Pac Ten
0-2: Thinking of the wrong Sweet 16...perve.
3-6: Use the monkey-dart technique to choose brackets.
7-9: Think Vitale went out on a limb this year.
10-13: Value the president's brackets over his economic plan.
14-16: You were hitting the boss button last week.
17: Really, who doesn't miss Billy Packer right now?
Monday, March 23
We discussed Julius at the end of our most recent podcast, but shockingly others still feel the need to comment as well.
Bill Belichick has an interesting message for Julius Peppers and his "agent" Carl Carey, "If a player wants to be in a position to be traded, the best thing for him to do is sign the tender, be under contract, go to the team and say, ‘I don't want to be here.' Trade me and here's where I want to go." In simpler terms, "Sign the bleeping tender." That's what Matt Cassell did and he's already relocated and got a nice place picked out in Kansas City. (NFL.com with audio of Belichick interview)
Both ESPN's John Clayton and the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei are now of the belief that 90 will still be in a Panthers uniform next season. Say it with me now, "Noooooooooooo!"
The Steelers have no interest according to defensive line coach John Mitchell, “We have the 32nd pick in the draft,” he says, “and we wouldn’t take him.” (Rocky Mount Telegram)
Carl Carey spoke with Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald last week and again he appears ready to stick it to the Panthers (after publicly declaring they didn't want to do so), "While Julius is interested in the Patriots and a few other teams in the league, he is comfortable with the position he’s in right now," Carey said. "In the event we are unable to reach an agreement (with another team), Julius will be among the highest paid defensive players next season, and we will be comfortable with that. Were not in a position where we have to act hastily." And Julius won't be in a position to play hard... again.
No line can better sum up an article written on Thursday for The New Republic. A Duke graduate, Seyward Darby, asserts that "there is a nasty strain of bigotry emanating" from anti-Duke fans because of the repeated references to their players being gay. Ms. Darby adds a few concessions, but with all the conviction of someone who begins a sentence with, "No offense, but..."
To help make Ms. Darby's case, the famous picture of a sign reading, "JJ is Redickulous" next to a Maryland fan holding a smaller sign that read, "-ly gay" is used, but she brackets her arguments with passages from Will Blythe's book about the Carolina-Duke rivalry, which suggests that she's aiming full on at Tar Heel fans for gay bashing.
To strengthen her case she points to Wikipedia entries being tweaked to suggest homosexuality and YouTube comments. Carolina fans are routinely criticized for being the "old, wine and cheese" crowd, and yet now we're launching a massive online movement to promote the homosexuality of Duke players? As for using YouTube comments as a barometer of a fan base, that's no different than judging everyone on Wall Street by the actions of Bernie Madoff, or judging young African-American entertainers on the actions of Chris Brown. It's not accurate and borderline irresponsible.
Ms. Darby identifies several usernames that have ties to Carolina, but neglects to do so when pointing out that there's a YouTube video called "Tyler Hansbrough is Faggy". Nor does she point out that Roy Williams, Dean Smith's, and Tyler Hansbrough's Wikipedia entries are also the focus of frequent vandalism. Recently, Coach Williams's entry was asserting, "He is a gay man who has sexual relations with his players."
Much of what is going on is juvenile, crude and unfortunate, but that's a far cry from bigotry. Duke fans themselves are not immune to throwing the gay barb. When referee Dick Paparo would officiate games in Cameron Indoor, if he made a call the fans didn't agree with, he would be hit with chants of "You Suck, Dick!" Is this just clever word play or homophobic? I would argue it's immature, clever wordplay. When former NBA player John Amaechi announced he was gay, it was a Duke player, Shavlik Randolph, who had this to say, "As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine. As far as business-wise, I'm sure I could play with him. But I think it would create a little awkwardness in the locker room." Which is more damning, YouTube comments or your student body and a player making these remarks?
The Cameron Crazies are not above treading on the line of decency. When a former Maryland player was alleged to have sexually abused a fellow student, fans threw panties and jeered him. Is making a mockery of sexual assault acceptable and observing that Greg Paulus has been dunked on repeatedly in his career, resulting in several crotches in his face, so far removed?
When fellow TNR writer, Jason Zengerle, responded to Ms. Darby's article he points to the bigger issue:
The homophobic Duke haters aren't necessarily taunting Duke players as whiny wimps; they're just taunting them just as they would their friends. Let me explain: the presence of so many white players on Duke's team creates the somewhat unusual dynamic of white fans taunting white athletes. As a result, this white-on-white shit-talking frequently takes the form of the shit-talking that goes on between the white taunters and their white friends--which, if you've recently spent much time with a certain class of white guys between the ages of 15 and 40, you know is a pretty homophobic form of shit-talking.
While it may seem that Duke is the target, it has nothing to do with the name on the chest, it's the color of the skin. These insults were not hurled at Grant Hill or Gerald Henderson, just as Kyle Singler would never be forced to endure monkey noises as some African-American high school players recently did in California. Christian Laettner never had bananas hurled at him like Patrick Ewing. Greg Paulus's intelligence has never been questioned, unlike JR Reid, who was the focus of "JR can't read" chants, by the Cameron Crazies. These are examples of true bigotry amongst basketball fans, a category which the majority of the remarks Ms. Darby references do not.
I'm not defending these "homophobic" remarks, but rather suggesting they're a cultural problem, not a problem in a rival fan base. In the vernaculars of many young men, "gay" is used as a synonym for lame for example, "Man, he's so gay when he flops." and "fag" often gets used in place of other crude words such as bitch or pussy. Their usage is immature and may not be socially acceptable in most circles, but rarely are tied to hatred or dislike of homosexuals. As it relates to Ms. Darby's point, Duke players and fans are just as guilty and to refuse to acknowledge that while using such a powerful word as bigotry (particularly in the South)is inexcusable by both Ms. Darby and The New Republic.
We take a look back at the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Memphis v. Vasquez gets some love, the impact officials have had, late game execution and what conference has been the most disappointing (I'm still mad Wake). We also look ahead at the upcoming match-ups and discuss the ongoing (have we entered saga territory?) story of Julius Peppers and a potential win-win situation for two teams needing to make a move. Come for the wrestling reference, stay for the breakdowns. Download it HERE.
Pop that jersey like it is 2004 young man! The sweet 16 is set and perhaps the field loaded up on old school metamucil because it is rather chalky. The top 3 seeds are a combined 24-0 and only one double-digit seed remains and it is Arizona. The number one seeds have been tested somewhat but are still alive. As we must wait in agony for Thursday night to get here and the games to resume, here is a fun fact about each team that is left remaining in this talc-like field of favorites.
Connecticut: Their impressive 82 point margin of victory in the first two rounds are the largest since the Elton Brand, Shane Battier, William Avery, Trajan Langdon team of 1999. That Duke team ended up losing in the finals....to Connecticut.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are the only team from the state of Indiana left in the tournament. This is the first time
Bruce Matt Painter has led Purdue to the Sweet 16 in his time in West Lafayette following the first Big Ten tournament title for the school. Can this be the first Final Four for Purdue since 1980? Catfish's bracket depends on it.
Missouri: It is hard to believe that Mike Anderson has the Tigers where they are. After convinving his nephew, DeMarre Carroll to come back for one more year, Mizzou is in the Sweet 16 since Quinn Snyder took them there 7 years ago. For Tigers fans, it has to feel like a century ago; a different time and world when the game was played with peach baskets and the ball had laces.
Memphis: Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez and his statements about Memphis were a point of contention on our latest podcast, but whether or not you agree with what Vasquez said, let's look at a number. The Tigers have 13 NCAA Tournament wins in the past 4 years, this year included. That is more wins over the same period by Duke, Maryland, Wake, FSU, Clemson, and Boston College combined. Memphis would not dominate the ACC like they do Conference USA, but then again, Tennessee is not on the Atlantic Coast.
Pittsburgh: Feel free to joke about Bryant Gumble all you want, but HBO's Real Sports is one hell of a show. The latest episode had a segment on Pitt coach Jamie Dixon and the tragedy of losing his sister and coach of the Army women's team in 2006 shortly after both had made the NCAA tournament. Dixon was a great player at TCU and went overseas to play professionally. In one of his first games he ran full on into a 7 footer and ruptured his pancreas. He finished the game but then spent months in a foreign hospital where he went without food for 50 days at one point. It's hard to cheer against Dixon and Pitt after watching this story.
Xavier: Catfish was all over this one before I realized it, but Sean Miller played his college ball at Pitt. He was the 1988 Big East Freshman of the Year, and leads them all time in assists and FT percentage. Miller has led the Musketeers to the tournament every year he has been at Xavier, including a Sweet 16 this year and two years ago, and an ELite 8 appearance last year. This will not be the first time Miller faces a former friend, in 2007, Miller faced Ohio State and former boss Thad Motta and had the game in hand until a furious comeback by the Buckeyes, which included the mind rape of a non-intentional foul on Greg Oden.
Villanova: Many people are still fixated on Jay Wright's teams from years past when it was Randy Foye, Allen Ray, and Kyle Lowery jacking three pointers all over the place, but aside from Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes, no one on the Wildcats has made over 30 three pointers this year. Two years ago Nova had 4 such shooters, and 3 years ago with the guards mentioned above attempted 734 shots behond the arc, which is 99 more than this year's team combined. Nova is more balanced than ever before which is why they will be a tough out.
Duke: I wonder how much it was burning Carolina fans to see the Duke fans cheering in their game against LSU. Catfish will be happy to know Coach K's bunch has been called for 10 less fouls and shot 22 more FTs than their opponents thus far in the tournament. However, Kyle Singler did foul out of the game against Texas and if the Devils want any shot at making it to Detroit he has to be on the floor.
Louisville: Aside from their 3 6'9" players, the Cardinals only have one player who sees the floor that is over 6'6" (Terrence Williams). Only T Dub and Earl Clark average over 5 boards per game. Catfish's favorite and no doubt one day Charlotte Bobcat Samardo Samuels only notches 4.7. The Cards did manage to outrebound Siena 44-31 including 15 from Williams.
Arizona: Anyone else get the feeling this next game against Louisville will determine the fate of interim Arizona coach Russ Pennell. You would think a Sweet 16 appearance would be enough to convince UA to keep Pennell on, but AD Jim Livengood is keeping mum on the subject, preferring to play the "let's enjoy the moment" card.
Kansas: In 1986 blocks and steals were included officially in statistics, and since then only 6 triple-doubles have been recorded in the tournament. Cole Aldrich joined the club with his 13 point, 20 rebound, and 10 block performance yesterday in the win over Dayton. I'm sure XM would overlook this as a crappy triple double because it did occur in the tournament. The others to have recorded one are Gary Grant (Michigan '87), Shaq (LSU '92), David Cain (St. John's '93), Andre Miller (Utah '98), and D-Wade (Marquette '03).
Michigan State: This is the best record (28-6) Tom Izzo has had at Michigan State since 2001 when his team went 27-5 and lost in the Final Four to Arizona. Even if the Spartans lose to Kansas on Friday, the seven losses will equal the total of the 2005 Final Four team and his national championship team from 2000.
North Carolina: Tyler Hansbrough had 15 points on Saturday when Carolina beat LSU. The Tar Heels are 5-1 when he scores 15 points or fewer this season. Tar Heel fans can be relieved about Lawson's toe, it may give him pain, but there is no way it is turf toe.
Gonzaga: Demetri Goodson has one of the most memorable shots in a tournament that was somewhat lacking from definitive ones. The games have been good, but with a faucity of upsets and no shot going in at the horn, Goodson's is as good as it gets for now. Goodson is a freshman averaging just 3.8 PPG, that is 2,192th nationally in case you were wondering.
Syracuse: The Cuse is most definitely in the house. The Orange are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Paul Harris is is the lynchpin for this team; averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. His highs in each category this year are 26, 16, and 6 (I excluded the UCONN game). He will have to play big if the Orange are to beat Oklahoma. He also was a highschool teammate of Johnny Flynn and likes popcorn.
Oklahoma: Tony Crocker has started the habbit of wearing a longsleeve shirt under his jersey. I cannot recall seeing this ever in a men's game. Candace Parker wore one due to injury last year. I thought at first it was just some fashion statement he was trying to make, but Crocker's reason is also medical. He has a condition where the ability for his body to stay warm is slowed. Oh no, I forgot to mention Blake Griffin, Freeman must be alerted!
Friday, March 20
March Madness not only decides who has what it takes to be crowned on the court, it spans all categories of life's best battles. Holy Taco has given us the 2009 National Douchebag Tournament. 64 douches from Entertainment, Politics, Sports, and Business will battle it out to cut the down the Summer's Eve gift basket. I like the 3 seed Octo-Mom out of the Entertainment, 3 seed Skip Bayless from Sports, 2 seed Ron Blagojevich in Politics, and a darkhorse Jim Cramer 7 in Business.
The 2009 National Douchebag Tournament [Holy Taco via Yesbutnobutyes who also have some other alternative tournaments listed]
There was not too much intrigue in the first day of the tournament. Maryland won as a ten seed, Western Kentucky made sure there was at least one 12-5 upset, and those affable Tigers from the upstate of South Carolina have done it once again. The seven seed Clemson fell to ten seeded Michigan 62-59 in the first round of the NCAA tournament yesterday. A ten over a seven is not considered much of an upset if one at all, but I believe this one is cause for a second look. If you live in ACC country as I do, you are quite familiar with Clemson falling apart. Even though Catfish continues to have faith in them, the Tigers' seasons in football and basketball have ended in despondent disarry of late.
This past August the Clemson football team was ranked in the top ten and a fashionable pick to reach the BCS title game. I saw through this charade (although my Wake Forest pick was wrong) and Clemson went on to have one of its most dissapointing seasons. With a returning QB, defense and two dynamic running backs Clemson opened the season by getting spanked by Alabama in the Georgiadome. Their stumbling led to the firing of Terry Bowden and even though Dabo Sweeney gave them a spark late, they lost the Gator Bowl to Nebraska as they blew a lead late.
The basketball program has never reached a the level of national championship that the football team has accomplished, but recently expectations have been raised on the hardwood. Their last four seasons tell the tale of quick starts and horrible finishes:
2006: First Half of season: 11-0, second half: 8-13, final record, 19-13
2007: First Half of season: 17-0 second half: 8- 11, final record: 25-11
2008: First Half of season: 10-0, second half: 14-10, final record: 24-10
2009: First Half of season: 16-0, second half: 7-8, final record: 23-9
source: the op blog via Deadspin tourney previews
Considering where Clemson was before head coach Oliver Purnell arrived, many fans are content to just have a good season and make the tournament, but those feelings have to be dissipating quickly though. It is time to start moving in the tournament where the team has not won a game in 12 years. Last year, the Tigers were a popular darkhorse pick as the five seed in the West Region until they blew an 18 point lead to Villanova and made the quick exit.
The 59 points Clemson threw up in Kansas City yesterday were the lowest they totaled in a game this season. The Tigers shot 32.3% from the field and 22.7% (5-22) from the 3 point line. In a common theme of Clemson's season, they failed to pound the ball inside to their stud Trevor Booker. Booker had 18 and 11, but only accounted for 15.3% of their FG attempt total. Their most notorious shot-jacker, Terrence Ogelsby was 1-8 shooting and was ejected for throwing an elbow. In his defense, the elbow was nothing extreme, but for some reason we have the rule where if the officials go to the replay and they see contact, they are forced to eject the player. The rule is ridiculous, but it was clear Ogelsby chucked his forearm into Zack Novak and therefore had to be tossed. Clemson made a late comeback, but as has been the trend, they fell short. They had the ball down three but only attempted a couple ball screens which Michigan switched on and K.C. River's final shot as a Tiger did not even draw iron.
Even in Purnell's post-game quote he sounded like he lost faith in his team. "It's kind of like a high-wire act: maybe you stay up on it, get it down and bring it into overtime. But the way we were making shots in this game, it probably wasn't going to happen," he said after the game. The trend has been set Clemson teams have developed the reputation for falling flat on the big stage. Whether it is coaching, the player's decision, or just a failed attitude, the Tigers are right where we are used to seeing them this time of year.
Thursday, March 19
Recently in college basketball there has been a horrible trend developing. White dunkers are failing to land on their feet after dunks. With the NCAA tournament starting in less than 3 hours, fingers around the nation are crossed for our pasty paladins of the hardwood. Observe our first case, Wyoming's Adam Waddell:
What did this young man think? He had just found the morphing ball on Metroid or something? Waddell was ok and kept playing.
Next we have Kristoff Ongenaet from Syracuse. With a name like Kristoff you know there could be problems, but to be fair he is probably the best dunker named Kristoff in history and his team had just played in 7 overtimes to get into this game against Louisville.
You have to love how the trainers need to be waived in by Jim Boeheim. A white dude just hit the floor on a dunk, grab a towel and run your ass down there! Fortunately Ongenaet returned to the game, he is afterall from the mean streets of Ghent.
These two young caucasians were able to escape without injury, but next time, the pale rider to the rim may not be so lucky. Right now we do not know a solution; some say it is to force them to do what they do best and play fundamental basketball and simply lay the ball up, but others argue that would take away their rights of freedom and expression. We are going to see a lot of dunkers with marshmallow complextions in the next couple of weeks and we should all be holding our breath when they reach for the rim.
What will happen at Ford Field on April 6? Somebody will win a championship and it sure as hell won't be the Lions. Based on our brackets, Catfish and I finish off our NCAA tournament picks.
CLEET'S FINAL FOUR
Pittsburgh over North Carolina: To me this is a once in a blue moon kind of team for Pitt, and they are strong exactly where Carolina is. LeVance Fields-Ty Lawson, DeJuan Blair-Tyler Hansbrough, Sam Young-Wayne Ellington. I know I am taking a chance considering there would be a definite Hansbrough flop attempt or two on Blair, but I think the refs are going to let Pitt play and if that happens, they can win.
Memphis over Kansas: The Tigers get a small measure of revenge on KU. This year, Memphis is shooting around 70% from the line, compared to their paltry 61% a year ago.
Memphis over Pitt 77-71: In a similar fashion to Utah after Van Horn and Kentucky after Mercer, Memphis gets one better than the year before with their stars Dorsey, CDR, and Rose. The last time I correctly picked a National Champion before the tournament was in 2007 with the Florida repeat. I did not like making that pick, this one however I am fine with if it comes to fruition. Calipari was a smarmy prick at UMASS but I think his years of fail with the Nets tempered him somewhat. I felt bad for him after the game last year and if he got a chance to cut the nets down, I have no problem with that.
CATFISH'S FINAL FOUR
North Carolina over Pitt: If I pick this wrong, it's going to hurt a lot less than watching the Heels fall in the Final Four again. It will be called the de-facto national championship, despite being the semi-final. Two point guards that take tremendous care of the ball, two big forwards that are going to get theirs. Sam Young will present matchup problems for the Heels, but I look for Lawson's speed (if they're here, he's playing) and Ellington's shooting to be the difference makers (and maybe Blair foul trouble to make me breathe easier).
Purdue over Wake Forest: Wake tries to win the game in the first five minutes by bombing shots, allowing Purdue to get comfortable in the national spotlight. Wake's youth and inexperience finally bites them as Purdue slows down the tempo and executes in the halfcourt.Teague's turnovers which have been an issue all season, finally cost the Deacons.
North Carolina over Purdue: Tyler Hansbrough isn't my favorite Tarheel, but I don't think I've ever wanted someone to win a title as much as hope he does. Give me Lawson's quickness and Hansbrough's veteran savvy over the Boilermakers.
Wednesday, March 18
It's hard to find anyone this side of Syracuse or Norman that thinks North Carolina will not make the Final Four, even with the question of Ty Lawson's big toe. Speaking of the Tar Heels, Catfish did the quick facts of team for the annual Deadspin NCAA Tournament on all 65 teams. I was slated to do the Miami preview but you know, they suck. The picks from the final region after the break.
RADFORD SHOCKS THE WORLD!!!DREAMS ARE TRUE!!!! North Carolina over Radford: My whole office gets off Thursday afternoon to go watch the Highlanders attempt the unthinkable which should be fun since we live in the middle of North Carolina and will be rooting for Radford. Hopefully Lawson won't play and the Heels will at least give RU some hope before it gets ugly.
Butler over LSU: Butler and Clemson tie for getting jobbed on the seeding. The Bulldogs are very disciplined and as long as the three is going down, they are trouble.
Illinois over Western Kentucky: Since Illini guard Chester Fraiser has been hurt with a bum hand, there is not much room on the top of the hill for the Hilltopper bandwagon. But Darren Horn and Courtney Lee are not walking through that door.
Gonzaga over Akron: Much like Pitt Gonzaga has yet to get over the proverbial hump in the tournament. This has to be the Zags' most complete team, no offense to Richie Fram, Dan Dickau, Blake Steppe and Adam Morrison.
Arizona State over Temple: Harden is great, but Pendergrapgh and Derrick Glasser are the key.
Syracuse over S.F. Austin: Thanking their stars they got a Friday game after the marathon Big East tournament run, the Orange are a dangerous team.
Michigan over Clemson: For those who are not familiar with how it works at Clemson, let me fill you in: they will grab a lead early by hitting threes and getting the ball to Trevor Booker inside but eventually they will begin turning it over and jacking up bad shots and the game will end with Ogelsby taking some defunct outside shot.
Oklahoma over Morgan State: For all the chatter about the Sooners just a month ago, no one has full confidence in this team now. Mike Freeman must be angry.
North Carolina over Butler: Maybe Brad Stevens is too young to realize this, but you do not beat UNC in Greensboro.
Gonzaga over Illinois: Mark Few has to feel the pressure after all the missed chances in the past and the fact that two of his stars are seniors.
Syracuse over Arizona State: Your first thought is that ASU can bust the zone with Harden, but they do not have someone who is good from exposing the foul line weakness of the zone unless they use Harden which nullifies a lot of his three-point shooting. This game could be a classic.
Oklahoma over Michigan: Griffin may go Danny Manning with this team in an twist of irony.
North Carolina over Gonzaga: The dream ends here for the Zags as Lawson should be back and running the break by this time.
Syracuse over Oklahoma: Cuse will counter Griffin with a collapsing zone of Onewaku, Jackson, and Ongenu and the supporting cast will not be able to knock down enough outside shots.
North Carolina over Syracuse: Instead of pointing out Carolina's obvious strong points I have a story. Two years ago Catfish was nice enough to get me a ticket to a football game with Miami visiting UNC. Of course, Miami sucked balls and lost the game after going down by 30+ at halftime. As the Canes came back on the Heels, a timeout was called and the PA played a rap song while we waited for the action to continue. Some of the Miami players started to bob up and down to the song. The crowd thought they might as well have sacrificed a young girl on the field: a chrous of boos and obscenities were fired on the Miami team. There was one redneck in particular behind us that kept shouting: "Dance boy, dance!" It was one of those moments when you say to yourself, "It's the year ___ and people still shout this stuff in a public place?" I of course found it more amusing than offensive. I am a Miami fan after all and have heard much worse and inane insults hurled at my team. I do however have to wonder what these people think when Danny Green does this before every game. Does he earn a "Dance boy, dance"?
North Carolina over The Goofy Jersey Popper: To Go or Not to Go? That is the question. Whether or not Tywon "Pain Threshold" Lawson plays, the Heels have enough fire power to advance.
Butler over LSU: I've trashed LSU all year, and I've come too far to go back on my word, even if everyone is picking Butler, which makes me nervous. I'll gladly trade a loss here to have LSU face Carolina in the 2nd round.
Illinois over Western Kentucky: Do I get upset credit for this, since everyone is picking WKU? When was the last time a 12 was favored over a 5? It might just happen here.
Gonzaga over Akron: Akron's played a lot of close games in the MAC down the stretch. This one won't be close. I have trouble betting on anyone named Brett (except for Hart, as long as it's not a spelling bee) and Humpty. Sure, it's fun to say, but do you want to wager on him?
Temple over Arizona State: I hate to do this, but if football season taught us anything, it's that there's no way a team from Arizona can come East and win (unless you throw 4 INTS and refuse to cover the best WR in the country). Pendergraph and Harden have played well, but Kuksiks has been on an extended spring break. They need him if they want to win this game, let alon make a run.
Syracuse over Stephen F. Austin: The Cuse may have lucked out here. After an emotional week, it wouldn't be surprising to see them sleepwalk into this tournament, but fortunately for them the Stone Colds don't have enough firepower to get a big lead on the Cuse before they wake up.
Clemson over Michigan: Everyone's falling in love with Michigan, but most are doing so without having seen them play. Manny Harris will be the key if the Wolverines are to win, and Booker will be the key if the Clemson guards don't shut him out.
Blake Griffin over Morgan State: Blake Griffin looks like he's ready to load up the team on his back and make a run. Hopefully, the rest of the Sooners will get their act together in time for future rounds when the games get tougher.
North Carolina over Butler: Butler graduates players just like (most) other schools and this team's rep is built partly on players no longer in the program. They'll hit some threes, but Carolina's rebounding will prove the difference.
Illinois over Gonzaga: 41-33.
Temple over Syracuse: There's gotta be one, right? Cuse played their tails off in the Big East tourney, but it may be hard to regain that focus against teams they know they should beat. This one could bite me hard, believe me I know.
Clemson over Oklahoma: We saw how Blair played when everyone was talking about Thabeet. Trevor Booker could be poised to do the same against Griffin and Co. I always swear I won't bet on Clemson, but here I go again.
North Carolina over Illinois: The Illini lack the offensive punch to hang with the Heels, again with or without Lawson.
Temple over Clemson: This is the matchup where you look at your bracket and think WTF was I thinking. There's no way Oglesby and friends continue to ride Booker, deciding it's their time to shine. Oglesby responds by going 1-9 from 3-point range.
North Carolina over Temple: Christmas keeps it close (terrible matchup for the Heels), but Ellington's shot and Hansbrough's presence inside lead the Heels back to the Final Four.
Pittsburgh more than earned their number 1 seed in the East Region, but perhaps the zebras will determine their fate more than any other entity. If the whistles come quick, the Panthers could be in trouble. 87.5% of the time, the Panthers win when they do not get into foul trouble everytime.
Pittsburgh over ETSU: If this were football I would take the Bucs, even though they have discontinued their football program, behold the power of Wannstedt!
Oklahoma State over Tennessee: The Cowboys are blazing the second half of the season, while the Vols are up and down it seems every game or even within every game. In times like these, we do not need market or team flucuation.
Florida State over Wisconsin: This could potentially be the ugliest tournament game to watch.
Xavier over Portland State: Sean Miller is a winner; plain and simple.
VCU over UCLA: Here I was thinking I was one of the few who knew that the Rams could ball, but now everyone has the Bruins on upset alert.
Villanova over American: Is this pick unpatriotic?
Texas over Minnesota: Another great 7-10 pick'em.
Duke over Binghamton: Lots of Duke chest-pounding around here last couple of days.
Pitt over Oklahoma State: I'm banking on Jamie Dixon and company to shed the ineptitude of former NCAA tournaments gone by.
FSU over Xavier: I like Toney Douglas more than anything Xavier can counter him with.
Villanova over VCU: Pondered long and hard over this one, Wildcats get the edge.
Duke over Texas: This Duke team is stronger than the flops the last couple of seasons. I mean, they still flop, but they are a better team.
Pitt over FSU: Amazing the basketball team was not involved in academic fraud huh? Pitt's interior is stronger and more experienced.
Duke over Villanova: Jay Wright is a terrific coach, but I do not like the way he sounded on an interview yestreday. It appears he and his players are sensing Final Four pressure. Duke is more confident going into the tournament then they have been in years.
Pitt over Duke: Last year, before Fields got hurt, Pitt beat Duke at MSG. Like UCONN, Pitt knows they are superior to Duke when it comes to matching up inside. The Panthers will exploit this and finally get over the hump and make the Final Four.
Pitt over ETSU.
Oklahoma State over Tennessee: Veteran PG over athletic forwards just like the BIG 12 Tourney.
Florida State over Wisconsin: Toney Douglas is one of the best on the ball defenders in the country and can disrupt an entire team's offense single-handedly. The Wisconsin big men can handle the ball and could prove troublesome for FSU, but no quite enough.
Xavier over Portland State: Waters goes down hill and so do the Vikings.
UCLA over VCU: If 99% of the country is going in one direction, go the other.
Villanova over American: Believe it or not, I paused on this one. American has been blowing people out lately, but having two sub 6 footers in their top 3 scorers scares me.
Minnesota over Texas: Rick Barnes returns to his home state of North Carolina, and because society frowns on setting people on fire, residents will have to resort to booing his team and cheering Minnesota on to victory.
Duke over Binghamton: If Tony K is rooting for a team, I'm going the other way... oh wait, it's Duke? Well F me sideways.
Pitt over Oklahoma State: OK State can slow down Blair and Fields, but what about Mr. Young? Too many weapons, Pitt advances.
Xavier over Florida State: Who will slow Toney Douglas? Maybe no one, but who will he guard? None of Xavier's top scorers which doesn't bode well for the Noles.
Villanova over UCLA: Not entirely sure that UCLA will be here, Nova is my sweet sixteen team regardless.
Duke over Minnesota: For some reason, I foresee the announcers discussing how much foul trouble has limited the Minnesota shot blockers. If not, they may be able to keep Henderson on the outside, which is critical to beating the resurgent Devils.
Pitt over Xavier: Annually, Xavier ends up facing one of the toughest teams in the nation, and falling short. This team isn't as good as last year's and this one won't be as close.
Villanova over Duke: Yeah, I don't like Duke and they'll probably win to spite me, but screw it, I can't keep writing their name without self-flagellation.
Pitt over Villanova: A tremendous benefit to both teams that they will be playing familiar foes, should help reduce the glare of the lights for many of the players (and coaches). Villanova beat them before, but not when it counts. Pitt goes to the Final Four.
It seems an NCAA by-law that Indianapolis must be invovled somehow in the NCAA tournament. Of course, that is where they are headquarterd so no quarrel there. Cannot wait to see the players slug it out in the regional at the
glorified barn stadium that is Lucas Oil Field. The region's picks after the break.
Louisville over Morehead State: I hope the Ohio Valley enjoys the extra unit of $ they will receive.
Siena over Ohio State: The Saints have a tough draw and are playing in Dayton, just 75 miles from the wasteland that is Columbus, but I picked them as a sleeper before the brackets came out and I'm not swtiching now. Kenny Hasbrouck gives Siena consistent guard play, while the Buckeyes may struggle to find scoring outside of Turner.
Arizona over Utah: I actually like the idea of putting Utah on the back of all the Utes players' jerseys. I don't actually like Utah in this game. Hill, Budinger, and Wise disturb Nevill and edge the Utes in a close, low-scoring affair.
Wake Forest over Cleveland State: The Vikings are a trendy upset pick because they plat good defense and they beat Syracuse! Also, Wake has been playing particularly inept of late. Still, all things considered I am going to trust that Dino Gaudio has hammered the point home to the Deacs about poor shot selection and they will get on track.
West Virginia over Dayton: Many people have West Virginia as a strong darkhorse in the tourney, some even have the Mountaineers going to the final four. While I like Dayton, Chris Wright alone cannot overcome a team from a conference that has seen good players all year. Alex Ruoff to me is the key to WVA's success.
Kansas over North Dakota State: Bill Self is a changed man in my eyes, as far as coaching goes. It was not the win over Memphis in the national championhsip that had the biggest impact on him, it was the Elite 8 win over Davidson. Ben Woodside is great, but I do not expect KU to struggle with these Bison like they did against Bucknell.
BC over USC: I'm willing to believe in Tyrese Rice more than Demar DeRozan.
Michigan State over Robert Morris: How can one guy beat a whole team from Michigant State? Is this thing on?
Lousville over Siena: Lo how I agonized over this pick, I truly think Siena has a shot but the press and athleticism of Louisville will make up for them if they have a bad game behind the arc.
Arizona over Wake: I feel Arizona is one of those teams that people bicker about them getting in, but then put together a pretty good run because they have the talent.
Kansas over West Virginia: Sheron Collins and Cole Aldrich lead the charge, but what has made the Jayhawks so good is the contributions of players like Morris and Morningstar.
BC over Michigan State: Michigan State has had lapses all season whether it was getting blown out in Detroit by Carolina, losing to Maryland, losing to Northwestern, or exiting the Big Ten tournament, I refuse to put my faith in this team. Of course this means they will prove me wrong.
Louisville over Arizona: Not a lot of faith in the overall number 1 seed from a lot of pundits, but Rick Pitino has the Cards playing better than they were mid-season by a long stretch.
Kansas over BC: The flex offense will not be enough to stop the Jayhawks.
Kansas over Louisville: I just think that Kansas has the personnel and with Self's confidence, this team can make this run.
Louisville over Morehead State: Thanks for coming Beaker and friends. Congrats on the first tourney win in 25 years, no step aside and let the big boys play.
Ohio State over Siena: BJ Mullens and Even Turner cut short what could easily have been a deep run for Siena.
Arizona over Utah: Matchups again rule the day, as Arizona "vindicates" the selection committee by defeating a team they're more talented than. Can't help but think that this matchup wasn't a mistake.
Wake Forest edges out Cleveland State: This could be the closest game the Deacons will play until the Elite Eight if they play like they are capable of playing. They forgot who they are against Maryland, but if they can remember they could be poised for a deep run.
West Virginia over Dayton: Chris Wright might want to take flight and pick up some better teammates, because he alone will not be able to counter the balanced scoring and defensive looks of the Mountaineers.
North Dakota State over Kansas: We've seen it before with defending champs making early exits. If the Jayhawks don't even no where NDSU is, how can they truly respect them? NDSU in overtime to topple Bill Self and Kansas.
USC over Boston College: I keep flipflopping on this game, but I don't think the Eagles have faced a defensive team as active as the Trojans. Sanders and Raji will likely be key players for the Eagles, but I'm not sure if they can handle the athleticism of USC.
Michigan State over Robert Morris: I just can't pick a guy that looks like the "Not Sam Adams." The Spartans roll by twenty.
Ohio State upsets Louisville: The Buckeyes are deeper and have better guard play. They'll come into this game with a chip on their shoulder and just like they did against Michigan State, they'll emerge victorious. Prepare to hear Evan Turner's name repeatedly.
Wake Forest over Arizona: If Wake beats Cleveland State hopefully it means they've got their heads in the game. If they do, they have the players to slow Buddinger and Hill and come out on top.
West Virginia over North Dakota State: While dreams of Steph Curry dance in their head, the Bison will have to solve West Virginia's different defensive looks and Huggins will do whatever it takes to slow down Woodside.
Michigan State over USC: Tough defenses all around, but a partisan crowd and Galin Lucas help MSU to an early lead, where USC will fall into old bad habits, making the game easier than it should've been.
Wake Forest over Ohio State: Wake thrives off playing the underdog role. In this game they won't get to do it, making them harder to pick than it should be, but they matchup well with Turner and without OSU's go-to man pouring it in, it'll be tough for the Buckeyes to keep up.
Michigan State over West Virginia: A team that finally has the coach and experience to counter Bob Huggins's crew, the Spartans make all necessary adjustments, out-muscle and tough the boys from West Virginia.
Wake Forest over Michigan State: Again in their preferred underdog role, Wake Forest's James Johnson announces his presence to the nation. The Deacs frustrate Raymar Morgan as the team that was at one time number one in the country, finally begins living up to it's billing.
It's time once again for Catfish and Cleet to match wits and battle for supremacy of the ASD Intelligentsia. When we last met on the battlefield, I was able to squeak by on college football bowl picks. We will break it down region by region, starting with the West. Our Glendale region picks after the break..
Connecticut over Chattanooga: I wonder if TO will be there to cheer on his alma mater. I will be watching UCONN's FT shooting in this one (they shot 57% in the loss to the Cuse).
BYU over Texas A&M: Lee Cummard (stop snickering) and the outside shooting of the Cougars will be too much.
Northern Iowa over Purdue: I'm taking the 12-5 upset no one else is because I'm a nonconformist. Kwadzo Ahelegbe may become a household name.
Washington over Mississippi State: This another upset lots of people are jumping on because most people have not seen Washington play and MSU just won the SEC tournament. John Brockman might be to Jarvis Varnardo as DuJaun Blair is to Hasheem Thabeet.
Marquette over Utah State: The Golden Eagles may have lost senior Dominic James but they showed in the Big East tournament that they are not going to just lie down. The Aggies had their impressive winning streak during the season, but only a 2 point win over Utah was notable out of conference. 135 SOS and 1-2 vs. the RPI top 100 lends me to think they will not be prepared for what the Big East will bring in this game.
Missouri over Cornell: I knew Cornell as "The Big Red" but all of a sudden there is a bear on the logo in all these suggestive poses like this this and this. Ahh, the timeless art of seduction.
Maryland over California: Amazing that Gary Williams is even in the tournament when you look at where they were early this year. The Terps do not have size, but neither do the Bears. I enjoy the Randle, Christopher, and Robertson show for Cal and Mike Montgomery has a wealth of tourney experience, hmmm maybe I should change my pick.
Memphis over CS Northridge: Matador joke in 3,2,1....
Connecticut over BYU: I hammer the Huskies on our tourney preview podcast but the one thing they do great is defend and that will get them past the Mormons.
Washington over N. Iowa: The dream ends for Kurt Warner's former school when Dentmon and Isiah Thomas prove too much.
Missouri over Marquette: Here is where not having James will hurt Marquette. The pressure defense of Mike Anderson will wear down McNeal and the Tigers have the best A/TO ratio in the nation.
Memphis over Maryland: Tyreke Evans is the answer for Vasquez and the Terps have no answer for Dozier and Taggert.
Connecticut over Washington: These two teams have a history in the tournament. Rashad Anderson sent the 2006 Sweet 16 match-up into overtime where the Huskies won and Richard Hamilton hit a game-winner at the buzzer in 1998 also in the sweet 16. This is a game where the loss of Dyson could really start to hurt the Huskies but I think Kemba Walker will give them enough.
Memphis over Mizzouri: Tiger battle! Despite losing a lot of players off last year's runner-up team, Memphis still has more experience than Mizzou.
Memphis over Connecticut: I cannot pick with my heart on this one, I do not think the Huskies will win this match-up. As good as UCONN's defense is, Memphis's may be better and they have the length to deal with Thabeet. I am also sensing some foul trouble for the big man trying to block the athletic frontcourt of Memphis.
UConn over Chattanooga: Why am I not getting lead billing in any of these? Anyhow, Thabeet goes on. See what I did there?
BYU over Texas A&M: Cougars have been blown out once all year. They'll be in the game and between shooting FTs and 3's well should have enough.
Purdue over Northern Iowa: Purdue could be one and done or make a nice run. I'm hoping for the latter, behind Hummel and Moore. Johnson will be the X factor.
Mississippi State over Washington: Sorry UConn fans, Washington won't be around long enough for you guys to break their hearts again. Riding high off the SEC Championship, it's time for Jarvis Varnado's coming out party.
Utah State over Marquette: Everyone telling Marquette what they could've been with James has an effect on the team. Utah State more than willing to euthanize them.
Missouri over Cornell: Loved Cornell and Whitman, but hate this matchup for them because I like Missouri more. A better matchup for the Big Red could've had them in the Sweet 16.
Maryland over California: All depending on whether or not the good Vasquez shows up for Maryland. He will and there will be about 20 3's hit in this game by both teams.
Memphis over Cal State-Northridge: No one plays D in the Big West like Memphis. Tigers roll in a game that isn't as close as the score indicates.
UConn over BYU: BYU will force them to shoot 3's, but they have no answer for the Huskies offensive rebounding. BYU starts hot from 3, but fades in the second half. Huskies survive.
Purdue over Mississippi State: Unfortunately, we won't get the Thabeet v. Varnado matchup we all crave. This will be the game we everyone starts to learn Chris Kramer's name.
Missouri over Utah State: Both teams take care of the ball, but Missouri's pressure creates more than the average number of TOs for the Aggies, making the difference.
Memphis over Maryland: Tyreke Evans v. Greivis Vasquez. Memphis's defense doesn't allow open 3-pointers for Hayes and Neal. They get their inside game going and win, despite Evans being outplayed by Vasquez.
Purdue over UConn: This may be the game where big man foul trouble plays a major role. If JaJuan Johnson can stay on the floor, it may just be enough to help propel Purdue past the Huskies. Purdue will play smart defense, force the Huskies to take outside shots, and with Chris Kramer hounding AJ Price could pull the upset.
Missouri over Memphis: Tyreke Evans still isn't an actual point guard, and it will show against Missouri's pressure. Calipari can't go back to back Elite Eights with two different freshmen point guards, right?
Purdue over Missouri: The Boilermakers largely nullify the press and Hummel outplays Carroll. I like the matchups for Missouri against any other school in the bracket, but not Purdue. They're just getting stronger as games go by with Hummel back.