Tuesday, March 23

16 Things

You know why people always complain about other people telling them about their brackets? Because they heard some other person mock people who talk about their brackets. Is it really the worst thing in the world if someone lets you know how the biggest sports pick'em in our country turned out for them? The argument pops up every year because people want to share how their bracket turned out, that is why the whiners still have a voice. It's that I'm too cool for school attitude that makes that midget on the Sports Reporters even more detestable. Yes I clicked on the TV Sunday morning and in addition to my hangover I was greeted with the weasel-faced Liliputian spouting his no doubt recycled rant about people talking about their brackets. He should count himself lucky he still has a place in a medium that has chewed up and spewed out others who plodded along by rehashing old stories and being generally lazy when it came to sports journalism. Okay, rant over. On to a look at each of the Sweet 16 teams remaining and one fact about each of them.

Kentucky: UK seems to be the shoe-drop team still remaining in this tournament, even though Kansas was the top seed that did not survive the first weekend. Kentucky has become the hated mass of this tournament. Before it was simply for winning a lot and being Kentucky, but the Calipari hire has definitely rubbed people the wrong way. It was a Fasutian hire for sure, and it signified the final crossing of the threshold for the winning is the only thing collective of Big Blue. Maybe it is the way it has always been, but in the past college programs were much better at providing a guise of respectful leaders, educational excellence and the betterment of mankind as a means to their basketball/football succeeding. Kentucky threw a good chunk of this out the window when they brought in Calipari. They were tired of losing, and took the path of least resistance and in this day and age they can hardly be blamed. It has brought the hail of criticism, but neither coach Cal, the players, or their fans really care. Winning is the only thing that matters now.

Cornell: People who paid attention to college basketball this year knew that Cornell was a solid team going into the tournament. In no way should they have been a 12 seed. Temple coach Fran Dunphy did all but take a verbal flame-thrower to the committee for pairing his 5th seeded Owls with the Big Red. What is surprising is that Cornell has the most impressive offensive performances overall in the tourney so far. Forget who scored the most points, Cornell laid 78 on Temple (opponents averaged 56.8) and 87 on Wisconsin (opponents averaged 56.9). Two teams known most of all for their tough, half-court defense got ran out of the gym.

Washington: I guess this is the equivalent of an NFL team winning their division at 9-7 and then catching fire in the playoffs. While UW was seeded too low as well, it was not the committee's fault. Washington underachieved all season in a bad Pac Ten. And that is the joke of it, with Washington getting to the sweet 16 and Cal winning their first round game against the chuckers that are Louisville, a big campaign started to try to bolster the conference. The truth behind the Lorenzo Romar soliloquies is that the league had two good teams, and a whole lot of slop behind it.

West Virginia: Bob Huggins is a very good coach, no denying that. He has reached a Final Four and two Elite Eights. However, he has not gotten that far since 1996 with Cincinnati. That year a very talented Bearcat team (Danny Fortson, Corey Blount, Keith LeGree) got Dante Jones'd by Mississippi State. This is Huggins's best chance to reach a Final Four since landing at Morgantown, will he go out like a lion, or a lamb who had a little too much to drink and tried to drive home.

Syracuse: Cannot be anything but impressed with the Orange's blowout of Gonzaga. Not just from a score standpoint but when Rick Jackson was tagged with 3 fouls in the first half, it seemed as though the door was open for Gonzaga. Jim Boeheim knows what it is going take to win the title, a great shooting night from his team, and a less than stellar one from the opponents. It is a good bet to be banking on, considering Rautins and Johnson look very comfortable so far and their length on the zone provides enough of a buffer for them to outscore the other team.

Butler: Butler may present one of the best chances for a team to knockoff Syracuse. They shoot the 3 well, don't turn it over, and play pretty good defense. Against Syracuse though, it is all about the 3. If the Bulldogs want any shot, they have to bomb away from deep. They were 9-14 in their 2nd round game against Murray State. If they shoot at that clip with a higher volume, they have a shot.

Xavier: The Musketeers returned the favor in kind to Pitt on Sunday. It was a little eerie how the game was so similar to last year's with the roles reversed. Xavier just keeps finding a way to make it work. They have been one of the most consistent tournament teams over the last decade and have done it with 3 different coaches.

Kansas St.: Frank Martin is the Frank the Tank for the new decade; big, strong, mean, unfunny, and able to crush small woodland creatures with either his gaze or his hands.

Northern Iowa: Ali Farokhmanesh is now a household name. Many have praised his big brass ones for shooting his open 3 against Kansas(me included), but allow me to go Whitlock for a second. If Ali had a complexion like an American typically thinks an Iranian person would have, would he be getting all this love? The easy answer is no. MSM people would praise his shot, but not throw in all the gritty, and effusive praise. I'm just saying, no I'm telling you that is what would happen.

Michigan State: The last year has played out like a Disney movie for the Spartans thus far. Lose national title in your home dome and see hopes and dreams crushed, come back next year but injuries and internal struggle force a tough year. Hobbled in the tournament they escape in the first game and overcome impossible odds with their star player down and out in the second game to hit a last second shot. So if they carry this on to win an improbably, impossible title it is a Disney movie and if they fall short it becomes a Lifetime movie.

Tennessee: Bruce Pearl is good for college basketball, especially at Tennessee. He gets people talking at a school where football is king and the women's team is queen. He gets good players and his teams have done well. He has painted his body orange and macked on the female population of Knoxville. The one thing he has not done is take the Vols beyond the sweet 16. It will not be easy to get by Ohio State, Pearl can move up one more step in the UT hierarchy by avenging his loss to the Buckeyes in 2007 where they led the entire game.

Ohio State: The path hath opened up for Ohio State. On paper there is no way they should not get to Indianapolis. Will the team with the number 1 pick in this year's draft take Turner over John Wall? If I had the number 1 pick, I would.

Duke: Duke fans are hedging their bets already by talking about next year. Despite losing Scheyer and perhaps Singler, they have coach K's first ever JUCO transfer, Seth Curry, and a top recruit Irving next year. There is reason for optimism, but Devil fans should be excited about now, there have to be one of the favorites left in the field.

Purdue: Right off the bat, in the press conference after they beat Siena, the Boilermakers were throwing the disrespect card on the table. Even the president's bracket was immune from attacks. Whatever it takes to get them motivated but the fact remains they lost their most dynamic player. It was natural for people to doubt them.

St. Mary's: Omar Samhan made himself a nice chunk of change in the tournament so far. While the ears of NBA scouts have pricked, they probably will be most interested to see how he fares against the bigs of Baylor.

Baylor: Scott Drew never played high school basketball, but he knows the game and knows how to recruit. He never hit that amazing shot against Ole Miss like his brother Bryce did, but he has his team playing what is essentially a home game regional with a legitimate chance to reach the Final Four.

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