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For The Love Of College Basketball

Life Changes, but College Basketball Still Rules!

Posted by 49ways on August 13, 2013

Well my friends, my life has taken a sharp turn for the better.  I am now in Physician Assistant School at Emory University in Atlanta, and I am as thrilled as can be.  My life was stagnant for years, so I decided to pursue a challenging and rewarding career.  I tell people that if Emory hadn’t called, I’d be finding a way to get into coaching.

So here I am, taking a reading break, when I fell upon this awesome and clever article by Andy Glockner of

Great read, Andy!

I am sad to announce that I will not have a TV this year.  With an average viewing of eight games a week, I can’t afford to be distracted from my studies.  I’ll leave it up to my partner to post some exhilarating articles.  I’ll chime in once in a while, but let it be known that I will still be following the greatest sport on earth sans the boob tube.

Football is here, but college basketball begins in November!


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My favorite first round match-ups in each region

Posted by sawdog on March 17, 2013

The Madness bracket was released tonight and I truly believe the committee did an excellent job with their selections.  They have a very tough task making the field, and all things considered, they got this field right.  As I look at the Field of 68 tonight I want to share my thoughts on my favorite first round matchups in each region.  These aren’t necessarily the best games or the games I think will be closest.  Instead, these are just my choices for games that I find most intriguing for a variety of reasons for which I will explain.  Let’s all just be thankful the Dance is here!

Here are my favorites:

Midwest Region

Creighton vs Cincinnati–This is the 7/10 matchup.  The main reason I find this matchup so interesting is that if Creighton is for real, I’m ready to see it.  No more excuses Doug McDermott and company.  Last year I picked Creighton in a close one vs Alabama, and they rewarded me with a one point win.  However, they couldn’t pull the upset over the #1 seed in the second round (or third round, whatever it is these days).  With an even more experienced group and all-american McDermott, can last year’s tournament experience translate into a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 or beyond this year?  Could Creighton take down Duke in the Round of 32??  To do that, they must first tackle Big East foe Cincinnati.  I’m ready to see just how prepared and focused Creighton is this time around.  What I’m really intrigued to see is if Creighton can leave no doubt about their chances of upsetting Duke with a resounding, message-sending win over Cincinnati.

East Region

Marquette vs Davidson–How about this for a 3/14 game?  Davidson, under Bob McKillop’s guidance, is fast-becoming a tournament regular and mid-major darling.  And a team that no high-major like Marquette really wants to draw.  Davidson challenged themselves in the non-conference with the following games: @ New Mexico, vs Vanderbilt, vs West Virginia, vs Gonzaga and vs Duke.  How’s that for cojones?  They even beat Vanderbilt and West Virginia.  Davidson lost a conference game in mid-January and haven’t lost since–they are on a 17 game winning streak, which included a win over fellow tourney team Montana.  Marquette clearly has superior athleticism across the board, but without a bona-fide star to lean on, they may find themselves in a close one with a battle-tested and well-coached Davidson squad.  I’m just as intrigued to see how good Marquette really is.  The sum of their parts seems greater than the individual components, a testament to great team play and great coaching.  Can’t wait to see this one play out!

South Region

South Dakota State vs Michigan–This time I go with the 4/13 matchup.  This is all about guards.  Nate Wolters of SDSU vs Trey Burke and Michigan.  SDSU picked up valuable experience in last year’s Dance, so I am very curious to see how this Jackrabbits team responds with another chance to make some noise.  Michigan cooled off the latter half of the year and can absolutely be upset by this Jackrabbits squad.  SDSU nearly toppled highly seeded Baylor in the first round last year!  Look out folks.  Expect some great scoring and hopefully a thrilling opening round game!

West Region

Boise State vs La Salle–Yes, I just picked a play-in game.  I have kind of adopted Boise State as my favorite mid-major this year.  I was impressed with their resume and campaigned for their inclusion in the tournament.  And it appears they got into the Dance by the skin of their teeth.  According to a committee member when Ole Miss secured the automatic bid from the SEC, it opened up a spot for the Broncos.  That’s the thin line between dancing and finding your way into the NIT.  Now that Boise is in, I’m still cheerleading for them.  They have a chance to do something their football team has been doing for years.  Make America proud.  And represent a wonderful basketball conference known as the Mountain West.  La Salle has my Cinderella approval too.  I’m not trying to hate on them at all!  I think the winner of this matchup can give Kansas State a scare.  I love some of K-State’s players–especially Rodney McGruder–but I’ve never been a big believer in head coach Bruce Weber.  I guess he doesn’t reach an intensity level that I would like to see.  So anyway, the opportunity to upset #4 seed Kansas State has me intrigued.

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Boise State deserves a bid

Posted by sawdog on March 16, 2013

On the eve of Selection Sunday the usual bubble chatter debates are raging.  Who should get in??  Who played their way out??  Who will get snubbed?????  I was asked yesterday which team Dickie V will be most upset about when they are “snubbed” and not offered an NCAA Tournament bid.  I had to think carefully here.  You have to ask yourself “what are some examples that lead to a Dickie V explosion (which is inevitable, by the way)?”  Here are some scenarios off the top of my head:

1.  A power conference team struggles down the finish line, but had good wins in a tough conference, despite a mediocre conference record.  EXAMPLE:  Minnesota.  The Golden Gophers finished with many losses in the past several weeks, leading to an 8-10 conference record.  If the committee were to snub Minnesota, this undoubtedly would cause a level 9 fury from Dickie V, the likes of which we’ve never seen.  If Illinois–also 8-10 in conference–were to make it, with the Gophers left out, it would increase Dick’s rage by a factor of 10.  In the end, as I considered my options to the question at hand, I took ESPN’s bracketology to task for information.  Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi has Minnesota and Illinois safely in the tournament, leading me to shy away from them as my answer.

2.  A mid-major program plays a tough schedule, handles that tough schedule well, and finishes amongst the best teams in a good conference (when power conferences like the SEC have struggled to produce quality teams).

This second scenario led me to the Boise State Broncos.  When I break down their resume I see no way the committee should leave them out.  Here is why:

1. Did they play a tough non-conference schedule?  Answer:  Yes.  It’s as tough as several of the bubble teams in question, at worst.  They played @ Michigan State, @ Creighton and vs LSU.  Not murderer’s row, but not a string of patsies from start to finish.

2.  Did they fair well against the tough non-conference foes?  Answer: Yes.  They lost by four @ Michigan State, they BEAT Creighton @ Creighton, and they dismantled SEC foe LSU.  They finished with a 12-2 non-conference record (no BAD losses).  They did lose @ Utah, which I consider to be a questionable loss but not a BAD loss.

3.  What about the conference portion of their resume?  Answer:  Solid, in tough conference.  They finished with a winning conference record at 9-7 in a conference that features four surefire NCAA tournament teams in New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State and San Diego State.  They only suffered one bad loss, @ Nevada.  Plus a tough loss @ Air Force, who finished 8-8 in conference.  The other five losses in conference play were against those aforementioned tournament teams, all on the road.  Their 10th and final loss thus far came against San Diego State in the conference tournament this week.  By six points.  Again, SDSU is a tournament lock.

What we see with Boise State is a pattern of a solid team.  They got a huge win early in the year @ Creighton.  They were a tough home team losing only once there all year, against a ranked New Mexico team.  The majority of their losses were to tournament locks, on the road.  Yes, they have a bad loss @ Nevada, but every bubble team has at least one bad loss or they wouldn’t be on the bubble!  In reality, your favorite bubble team probably has two or more bad losses if you’re honest!

I see a solid resume from a great school, that plays in a tough conference that is undoubtedly stronger than at least one power conference this year–the SEC–and perhaps others.  If I were on the committee I would be arguing like hell FOR Boise State, so I might not be your best friend if you and your bubble team not named Boise State are reading this.

So my answer to the question “who will Dickie V be most upset about when they get snubbed?” is Boise State.  They are squarely on the bubble, and it’s very possible power conference teams like Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama or Maryland could “steal” their bid.  I believe Dickie V will see what I see in Boise’s resume, and take the pulpit on Sunday night to come down on the committee for leaving them out.

That’s my best guess anyway.

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Ranking the Midnight Madness Celebrations

Posted by sawdog on October 14, 2012

On Friday, schools across the country opened up their doors to the public to celebrate was has long been known as Midnight Madness–or, the official beginning of college basketball practice in preparation for the upcoming season.  The title “Midnight Madness” is misleading, however, as NCAA rules changed in recent years to allow earlier start times for fan considerations.  Thus, schools truly began practicing at 9 pm.  ESPN sent coverage crews to various schools to generously televise these events.  In total, ESPN represented 14 different Men’s basketball teams across the country.  The following day ESPN3–ESPN’s online goldmine–provided you and me with video replays of nine different Midnight Madness celebrations.  These nine schools included Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, North Carolina, Kentucky, St. John’s, Florida State, North Carolina State, and Indiana.  I spent time this weekend watching each of these celebrations in their entirety in order to compare the school’s efforts against one another.  The following is a countdown ranking of how I viewed these Madness events.

9.  Missouri

Highlights: Scrimmage, skills competition, dunk contest, “Mizzou Wobble Dance” with fans on court, presentation of Big 12 Tournament Champ banner

What I liked: Keion Bell’s dunk, leaping over 6 standing people, was the highlight, ending with his teammates tackling him under the basket. I also liked the team energy around one another.

What I didn’t like: Of the nine celebrations, this one was the most vanilla. The player introductions were like a real game, where they came off the bench and ran to mid-court. The crowd was a little tamer than other sites.

Interesting Thing I Learned: Missouri is currently “Transfer U,” with four transfers vying for playing time this year. Those four players include Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriakhi (UConn), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). An additional transfer–Jordan Clarkson from Tulsa–waits in the wings for next year. The guard-oriented team of yesteryear may be a style of the past at Mizzou as head coach Frank Haith has some newfound muscle to work in the rotation.

8. St. John’s

Highlights: Introduction of prominent basketball alumni (including legendary former head coach Lou Carneseca), scrimmage, 3 pt shooting contest, dunk contest

What I liked: I liked that the player’s chose their own song during their individual introductions. The coaches did as well. It was funny to hear Gene Keady’s country/slow song sandwiched between some more classic hip hop tunes.

What I didn’t like: The emcee–Jon Anderson, the ESPN anchor–never felt really comfortable with the stage. It was a little awkward trying to draw laughs (and I like Jon). It was also unclear why these alumni were introduced…were they just people who happened to show up? There wasn’t a clear theme for them to be there.

Interesting Thing I Learned: Head coach Steve Lavin calls himself 85% healthy following his battle with cancer. Lavin has always come across as one of the true genuine, likable guys in the profession so that is great news to hear.

7. Syracuse

Highlights: Scrimmage, dunk contest, dancing with cheerleaders

What I liked: I enjoyed the salute to our soldiers. Following player introductions head coach Jim Boeheim was welcomed to the crowd from the inside of a US Army jeep escorted by ground soldiers. Boeheim exited wearing a USA jacket, Cuse sweatpants and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” playing over the speakers. The theme of the night was a salute to the USA via the gold medal Boeheim won in London with the men’s basketball team (and he showed the medal to the crowd).

What I didn’t like: A county official–I believe–introduced Boeheim to the crowd by rattling off all of Boeheim’s coaching career accomplishments. It was apparent to me that Boeheim was a little uncomfortable receiving all the praise, but it culminated in her presenting Boeheim with “October 12, 2012 named Jim Boeheim Day” by the county. I’m not a fan of heaping praise on the coach at these Madness events. It’s about the players and the fans, unless there are truly unique circumstances.

Interesting Thing I Learned: A woman’s basketball player competed in the dunk contest. I was skimming the footage, so I’m not sure exactly how it turned out, but it looked as though she may have never completed a dunk. But she was in there trying.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Five teams: Good and bad of my bracket

Posted by sawdog on March 17, 2012

This has become my favorite blog post of the year. The one where I give you five good and five bad first round decisions that I made in my bracket. Join me in my mizzery.

Five Teams that made me look smart:

1.  Iowa State–This game didn’t follow the plot line that I thought it would, but the result was still the same–the Cyclones victorious.  This Connecticut team entered the tournament talented but disorganized, the latter quality not exactly ideal for post-season success.  Iowa State is extremely well-coached and with a star in Royce White I figured it was worth at least one win in this year’s tournament.

2.  Georgetown–I know Georgetown is a #3 seed, so saying I looked smart picking them is kind of pathetic.  But Georgetown has struggled in first round games in recent years, and many were calling for the Belmont upset.  Belmont was well-tested, nearly beat Duke and very experienced.  Would this be another disappointment for Georgetown?  My gut said no.  My gut said the experience the Hoyas gained in recent failures would give them the motivation to excel.  My gut was rewarded.  They led by about 10 throughout the entire game, eventually settling for a 15 point victory.  In an event where games are often very close Georgetown was one of the few teams cruising to a relatively easy win.  My gut is riding Georgetown to the Elite Eight so I’m proud of these Hoyas!

3.  Creighton–The Creighton/Alabama matchup was fascinating to me…probably my favorite first round matchup of the tournament (probably tied with Memphis/St Louis for the same contrasting styles).  This was a classic matchup of defense (Alabama) vs offense (Creighton).  I saw this game coming down to the final possession all the way.  My logic in picking Creighton was that they had the better player (McDermott) and better clutch shooters, and that would be enough in the final two minutes to carry the Blue Jays past the Tide.  Creighton fended off Bama for the 58-57 victory.

4.  New Mexico–Many people made their upset special Long Beach State, and for good reason–they were battle-tested, had an excellent point guard and are led by an excellent coach in Dan Monson.  There was something that caught my eye, however, watching New Mexico head coach Steve Alford give an interview in the pre-Selection Sunday interview on ESPN.  He just looked confident.  His body language with his team just rubbed off the right way…I kind of got the feeling that he knew he had a good team ready to go.  There are only two Round of 32 matchups I agonized over forever, and one of them is New Mexico vs Louisville (the other Vandy vs Wisconsin).  My gut said New Mexico.  My brain switched to Louisville.  I went with my brain.  I think I hate myself for this switch.

5.  Indiana–You may not have considered New Mexico State for the upset at all, but if you follow the experts on ESPN there was considerable chatter about the athleticism of NMSU and how they were perhaps primed to fit the Cinderella slipper.  With Indiana losing a starting guard just days ago, there was some additional concern for the Hoosiers.  I never doubted Indiana.  Never.  I figured they would rally for at least one game before perhaps struggling in the Round of 32.  Indiana cruised past New Mexico State for the win.

5b.  South Dakota State–The Jackrabbits didn’t win, but I took a chance on them against Baylor.  Yes, I chose this upset!  Every year I pick some Cinderalla–it’s in my DNA to roll the dice and go with it–and the jackrabbits had me all sorts of fired up Thursday night!  They fought to within three points with just a few minutes remaining, but couldn’t find the mustard to squeeze past the Bears.  I’m proud that I identified this team for the potential upset and gave the Jackrabbits (Jackrabbits!) a chance.  They almost made me look smart, which doesn’t really count for looking smart, but whatever.  Details.

Five Teams that made me look beyond dumb and epically stupid:

1.  UNLV–Wait, what?!  You didn’t pick Missouri first??!  No Duke here??  Relax.  I’ll get to those.  I just want to start with the team I felt the most confident about, and hence, the one making me look the most stupid.  Why I latched onto the Rebels I have no idea.  I never saw them play once this year.  I literally had no feel for this team.  I only knew what the experts spewed, plus some basic statistics on their team performances.  I knew “Mike Moser is good.”  I knew they beat North Carolina early.  I knew I liked the Mountain West Conference for having quality teams at the top, and thus I liked UNLV’s “preparation” for the tournament.  I “knew” a lot of things, except the fact that I would wake up Friday morning seeing Colorado beat UNLV.  I had UNLV in my Elite Eight.  Seriously.  I am not a huge fan of Baylor (despite their ultra athleticism) and obviously Duke had imperfections, so I convinced myself that UNLV would emerge from the bottom half of the south region for those reasons.  Wrong.  UNLV:  I hate you.

2.  Missouri–Good Lord Tigers, really??????????????!  I got so caught up in your team.  I LOVED your team!  You were so fun to watch.  It was like the dream team for a casual Missouri fan.  You brought me in.  I saw you play like 8 times this year and I loved every second of it.  Fast, crazy, confident.  Big 12 Tournament champs.  30-4.  The reason I went with you AS MY FINAL FOUR pick wasn’t because I was convinced you would make it there (you were put in the bracket of death also known as the West Region), but I just convinced myself who you DIDN’T draw–namely, any team that plays like Kansas State, the team that beat you twice and gave you half your losses.  No matter how badly I wanted to pick Florida over you, I kept reasoning that Florida doesn’t play like Kansas State.  Then again–Marquette doesn’t play like Kansas State.  Once again, thinking Michigan State wouldn’t be there, Louisville doesn’t play like Kansas State.  I just thought the teams you would face, despite how darn good they were, didn’t play a style that could exploit you at your own game.  And I was wrong.  Badly, horribly, terribly, stupidly wrong.

3.  Duke–I actually–true story–considered LeHigh.  Duke’s struggles are well known, and one of them is defending the perimeter.  LeHigh has an excellent point guard.  That spelled trouble for the Blue Devils.  In the end, because I wasn’t high on Baylor and was picking them to be upset, I gave Duke and their hall of fame coach a pass and penned them into the Sweet 16.  I figured they would struggle and barely get by LeHigh, and then find a way to ride the hometown crowd to the Sweet 16.  Nope.  This Duke team was exposed.  Big time.

4.  Wichita State–I don’t feel really stupid here, but stupid enough to make note.  I really thought last year’s NIT Champions and senior-dominated team would be totally ready for this NCAA Tournament.  But the Shockers met The Man in Shaka Smart.  Smart’s Rams are tough as nails and fear nobody.  I’m watching this guy from now on.  Geesh.

5.  St. Mary’s–I don’t like St. Mary’s lack of physicality (they play a more west coast finesse style) but I like their TEAM.  They do play nice team basketball.  Coming off their conference tournament title I just gave them a bone here, figuring they would knock of Purdue.  They displayed their team toughness last night coming back from 12 down late in the game to take a one point lead, but Purdue made the plays in the final minute for the victory.  I’m disappointed with the Gaels dangit.

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My thoughts on the First Annual Bracket Draft

Posted by sawdog on March 14, 2012

We introduced a new March Madness game tonight amongst four old friends. We drafted teams in a snake draft format. There was only one key rule to follow:

1.) You could not draft the same numerical seed twice.

So if you drafted #6 seed Murray State, you couldn’t later draft another #6 seed even if one was available on the board. We tried this rule to keep balance across our rosters (everyone would have a 1 thru 16) which is fair considering some of us follow basketball a little more heavily than others. It gets a little tricky, and sounds confusing, but it was really simple in the end if you just remembered that rule.

I won’t speak for my competitors tonight but here is my sixteen team roster round-by-round. (We will be competing for points based on our teams advancements, with seed upsets an extra point. There are additional rules but that’s good enough for now)

My roster by round:
1. Kentucky
2. Florida State
3. Vanderbilt
4. Michigan
6. St. Mary’s
7. Creighton
8. Connecticut
9. Belmont
10. South Florida
11. Texas
12. Lehigh
13. Vermont

In addition I automatically received the following teams (because my competitors picked their seed counterparts and thus I was left with these automatically):


So I will be taking on my competitors with this roster.

Did you have a strategy early in the first few rounds?
I had the number one overall pick, so I selected Kentucky. I feel good about that, obviously, but the reality is that with parity here in college basketball you just never know. But still–I knew I had the #1 overall pick for a couple of days and Kentucky was my lock. With that in mind I had to wait till the last pick in the second round for my next selection. I had a pretty good idea of what I could go after. Honestly, I thought Florida State would be off the board, so my strategy was going to be taking Vanderbilt and Wisconsin back-to-back in order to corner the market on Syracuse’s top competitors at the top of that region. But with Florida State there I had to take them. I felt their 3 seed value was at a higher premium than Georgetown and Marquette, who were still 3 seeds on the board at the time of my selection.

What’s your biggest heartbreak?
Wisconsin. I was hoping that they would make it around to me in the 4th round but my boy A-Train locked them up in the 3rd round. It’s not because I like Wisconsin a lot. I don’t. But the developments with Syracuse have the Orangemen primed for an upset, and I wanted the top teams up there that could take them out. I trust Bo Ryan to coach strong, and with an elite point guard like Jordan Taylor (flying WAY under the radar) you always have a chance. They could easily lose to Montana–and in fact that is a talked about upset–but they play GREAT defense and are hard to prepare for with their slow down style. Stat gurus really like Wisconsin, and that was also a tipping point for me to find some favor in their value.

At what seed line do you feel like you are least competitive?
Well, I would say the #2 seed line where I automatically received Duke. Missouri came off the board with the last pick in the first round, and then Kansas and Ohio State came off right before my pick. That gave me Duke by default. I knew this would happen. I was prepared for it. Nobody in this group respects Duke, and everyone would look to avoid them. I kind of embraced it before the draft started. I mean, yes, I get a Duke team that at times looked very average this year, but they also beat a ton of high quality teams. With a Hall of Fame coach with 4 national championships I still felt like they could win two games in the Dance, keeping me competitive with other 2 seeds. I look at Missouri and they have a bracket of death down there (Florida, Marquette, Murray State) and I actually feel Duke has an easier path to the Elite Eight. I trust Coach K more than Frank Haith, Thad Matta and Bill Self even if his team looks vulnerable in some areas.

What seed (12 or worse) on your roster can do the most damage?
I picked up Belmont, which has been a trendy upset pick over Georgetown. I’m one of those guys that feels like if everyone is talking about it then it probably won’t happen! But if you set that belief aside, yes, Belmont nearly beat Duke earlier this year and they are loaded with experience. They scream “WATCH OUT!” I feel like Georgetown will be ready for this–because of the Belmont hype and due to Georgetown being fed up with early losses in recent years–so I’m not sure Belmont will pull this off but I sure don’t mind having them to see what happens! If they get past Georgetown, look out. They can win more than a couple of games with some confidence!

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Live Draft: Bracket Madness

Posted by sawdog on March 14, 2012

First Annual Draft Bracket tonight. Let’s do this. You know the rules!

Bracket Challenge Draft

Posted in Mock Drafts, NCAA Tournament, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

My thoughts on chasing the top seeds in the Dance

Posted by sawdog on March 11, 2012

Most of us have settled with the notion that Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina–in that order–represent the top three # 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.  You won’t find a tremendous number of people that will launch an argument.

But the chase for the final #1 seed and the pecking order of the #2 seeds has generated some great debate.  Rightfully so.  Missouri, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State are all vying for the these seeds.  If you’re the type of person that doesn’t understand why the pecking order is important take the time to read this great explanation from SI’s Seth Davis.  This will give you the perspective you need.  In short geography, geography, geography.

I went to bed last night thinking about this pecking order and I woke up this morning ready to weigh in.  Armed with some facts here are my opinions on who should get the 4th # 1 seed, who should get the # 2 seeds, and what regions these teams should be placed in.

It starts with Kansas.  Upon further review the Jayhawks deserve the final # 1 seed.  Sometimes we get caught up in shortsighted behavior and we only see Missouri cutting down the Big 12 tournament nets–and so we want to hand Missouri the keys to a top seed.  However, if you break the season down into three parts–Non-conference, conference, and conference tournament–the Jayhawks win 2 of those 3 categories.  That means something.  Kansas won a hotly contested Big 12 conference season by two games over Missouri.  Let’s not lose perspective of that.  But what’s more impressive is their non-conference lineup.  I counted only four games that you would consider weak opponents: Towson, FAU, Howard and North Dakota.  The rest of their non-conference games were against top competition (Kentucky, Ohio State, Duke, Georgetown), current bubble teams (USF) or  teams that won their conference regular season and tournament (Long Beach State, Davidson).  Yes, Southern California is terrible, but the Jayhawks at least went on the road to play them.  No other top team competing for the 4th #1 seed can boast a resume like Kansas.  If you’re looking for that final separating factor in your mind, consider the lack of the number of cupcakes (4) that Kansas scheduled.

With my four #1 seeds determined I could go ahead and place them in their regions, following my best understanding of the NCAA guidelines, of course.  The four regionals this year are in Boston (East), Atlanta (South), St. Louis (Midwest) and Phoenix (West).  My #1 seed pecking order is Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Kansas.

East —–> Syracuse
South —–> North Carolina
Midwest —–> Kentucky
West —–> Kansas

Kentucky has flirted with either the South or the Midwest region (halfway between St Louis and Atlanta) but with UNC stepping up and securing the #3 overall seed, the Tarheels will be placed in the South to be close to home. Kentucky will naturally slide to the Midwest. If you’re the committee, you have to love this kind of flexibility. Syracuse obviously has earned the Boston regional, which leaves our lowest priority #1 seed, Kansas, with the West regional in Phoenix.

The battle for #2 seed pecking order is much more interesting. Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan State and Duke. The eye test and the paper test can give two different perspectives. Most people have conceded that Duke is the lowest rated of these four teams thanks to a couple of questionable home losses, surprisingly. An early exit in the ACC Tournament and a second place finish to UNC in conference play doesn’t help. But how do we separate Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State from each other?

My gut feeling is that the NCAA Tournament committee isn’t going to put much depth of thought into this notion that the Big 10 is the #1 rated conference, and the Big 12 is #4 (something I heard this morning). Right or wrong, I just don’t see them holding this Missouri team back for a statistic like that. I mean, the Big 12 had three top 10 teams all year! And Missouri went 4-1 against Baylor and Kansas! Missouri had the weakest non-conference slate of these three teams, but it wasn’t chopped liver. I think Missouri will be the beneficiary of committee members that see some key facts that are hard to argue: 30-4, undefeated non-conference, and Big 12 Tournament Champions. Plus 4-1 against their top rivals Baylor and Kansas. As much as people will bark loudly today about Michigan State’s SOS and RPI they need to use those in some other argument against some other team. Not Missouri.

That leaves Ohio State and Michigan State. Who deserves a better seed? This is fairly simple to me. They both played tough non-conference teams and shared equal quality wins and quality losses–Ohio State beat Florida and Duke but lost to Kansas (without Sullinger, mind you) and Michigan State toppled Florida State and won at Gonzaga, but lost to North Carolina and Duke. A wash. They both finished 13-5 in the regular conference season to share the Big 10 crown. Each team won on each other’s court in head-to-head matchups. It’s literally as close as it could possibly be as of this morning. But guess what? They play each other a third time today on a neutral court for the Big 10 Tournament Championship. You know how basketball people love to say “let ’em play” at the end of closely fought, tough games? Well I say “let ’em play” today. Whoever wins today’s championship has higher pecking order for seeding. Is that so hard to grasp?

I’m going to predict–for the sake of my regional picture needing clarity to wrap up this blog post–that Ohio State wins today.

My top 2 seeds regional prediction is thus:

1. Kentucky
2. Missouri

1. Syracuse
2. Michigan State

1. North Carolina
2. Ohio State

1. Kansas
2. Duke

I’ve already explained the geographic principles for the number 1 seeds. As for the # 2’s, well I considered Missouri the strongest and so they stayed close to home in the Midwest region. Since I predict that Ohio State will win today, I gave them the closer regional in Atlanta. Michigan State’s equidistant from Atlanta and Boston, so they get shifted to Boston, naturally. And the “worst” #2 gets shipped out to Duke. Consider the South and East regionals fluid, with today’s Michigan State and Ohio State result allowing for different placements depending on who wins.

You may already be screaming bloody murder at seeing the West Region filled with the lowest rated #1 and #2 seeds. What gives??!!? Well, this unfortunately reflects how weak basketball is on the west coast of our country. Kansas and Duke fans will still have to travel a lot further than the other top seeded teams. Before you go crazy, go back and read the Seth Davis link above. If the committee placed the #1 and #2 seeds in these regions just like I have they will no doubt be aware of “competitive imbalance” in these regions building. They have this covered. Once they place their #3 and #4 seeds into regions they will add the totals of their overall seed value together to ensure competitive balance. What I’m suggesting is that they may shift a stronger three seed and a stronger 4 seed into the West bracket to make up for the imbalance. It all depends on the geographical situations of the 3 and 4 seeds too. In a perfect world for the committee the strongest 3 seed (the team ranked #9 overall on their big board) would be someone like UCLA or Arizona, so they could slide into the West region naturally and begin the process of balancing the regions at the top. But we’ve already established the PAC 10 (12, whatever) is not good and this creates difficulties. I don’t always envy the committee and I think they get more criticism than deserved during this selection process.

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March Madness Q & A for 49ways

Posted by sawdog on March 9, 2012

If 49ways is going to ask me 10 questions in preparation for the Dance, I’m going to ask him 10 questions too.  Here we go.

1.  You played college basketball at the NAIA level.  What would it have meant to you to play in the NCAA Tournament?

Wow.  It would have meant everything!  My father played in this thing!  It would have been a dream come true, but as a short shooting guard, our dreams don’t always come true.

2.  A current Auburn player has been accused of possible point-shaving.  What should be the penalty for a such a crime?

Varez Ward (yes, the former Texas guard) should be banned from any form of organized basketball in the United States.  This is abominable.  I can’t believe players are still trying this.  My guess is the school gets a scholarship or two taken away, and/or a post-season ban for two or three years.

3.  How much emphasis do you think the NCAA selection committee should place on conference tournament results in deciding inclusion into the NCAA Tournament?

I think they should place a lot of emphasis on them.  The conference tournaments are the bubble teams’ last chance to make a statement.  Northwestern just blew theirs.

4.  What do you make of the Player of the Year race between Kansas’ Thomas Robinson and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis?

Both players are special.  I really don’t think any other player should be in consideration (even though I’ve heard Zeller and Green are in the mix).  I give the nod to Davis because the guy absolutely controls one end of the floor.  I love watching this guy play!

5.  What is your most memorable NCAA Tournament and why?

My most memorable tournament was in 2004 when Georgia Tech made it to the title game against UConn.  I knew Tech had a shot because they had beaten the Huskies earlier in the year.  They also won at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  That Tech team was so fun to watch.  They had about six guys who could go off for 2o points on any given night.  Man I miss those days….

6.  Is a mid-major like VCU or George Mason making the Final Four a good thing or a bad thing?

No doubt a wonderful thing!  This is what makes college basketball the best sport in the world.  I love seeing the smaller schools making deep runs.  This is going to sound cheesy, but I relate my life to all the upsets we’ve witnessed over the years – challenge yourself, and rise to the occasion.  Fight to get where you want to be.  In the words of the great Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up.”

7.  What NCAA tournament game will you never forget?

This game sickens me still, but Kansas-Memphis 2008.  I remember Sawdog texted me with 2:30 left saying, “this is looking good for Memphis.”  And then Memphis couldn’t make a free throw.  You know the rest.

A close second is VCU’s win over Duke in 2007.  Eric Maynor against Greg Paulus was hilarious!

8.  Can you remember watching an NCAA Tournament game and thinking “this guy is coaching his ass off!!” ?  Is there a memorable coaching effort that stands out?

Great question.  Unfortunately, I can’t think of a time when I was impressed with a coach’s effort.  But I will never forget seeing Tom Brennan’s happy expressions when his Vermont Catamounts upset powerhouse Syracuse in 2005.  What a fitting end to a long coaching career!

9.  How close is Georgia Tech to recovering from this swoon and getting back to the NCAA Tournament?

In short, I’d say they are a long ways away.  But when you’re down, it can only get better, right?  Coach Brian Gregory has already signed two Top 100 players and a third who is #15 in the state of Georgia!  And it’ll be nice to have Alexander Memorial completed so they have one true home court.

10.  What’s the perfect setting watching the national championship game?

Hmmm.  Gotta go back to 2005!  Nothing like watching my favorite sport in the MGM Sportsbook with my best friends in my favorite city!  Vegas baby!

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Questions Heading Into Selection Sunday

Posted by 49ways on March 8, 2012

I’m getting antsy.  Sawdog and I have probably sent an average of 20 texts per day  in the past two weeks.  We’re upon the greatest time of the year, my friends, and I’ve got some questions for my partner.

1. Is the NCAA Tournament the greatest annual sports spectacle in the United States?

I would put the first two days of the NCAA Tournament up against anything this country has to offer–Superbowl included. I have screamed with friends all along my dormitory hallway watching Bryce Drew’s shot go down in 1998 (we may or may not have been skipping class…). I have gone bezerk by myself watching Northern Iowa stunningly take down top seed Kansas in 2010. And how about this shot from the parking lot??!  Everything about every game in the first round of the NCAA Tourament is what is right about sports.  Sprinkle in announcer Gus Johnson and there’s nothing better!

2. Should Selection Sunday be a national holiday?

It’s a Sunday, so we really don’t have to worry about it from a work standpoint.  But I’m ready to picket the Capital if you’re organizing!

3. How much credit should we really give Joe Lunardi?

I’m cool with Joe.  He has a high success rate of correctly identifying the at-large teams.  I disagree with him sometimes but as the guy who popularized “Bracketology” I’m not gonna hate.

4. Which is the best team on the West Coast?

The Pac-10 or 12 or whatever it is these days is just horrible.  I don’t know what happened out there.  I’m gonna give the nod to Saint Mary’s over San Diego State.  I like what they did in fighting hard for that win over Gonzaga the other night.

5. Outside of Duke-North Carolina, what schools represent the best college basketball rivarly?

Speaking of, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are forming quite the budding rivalry.  It may not have the history of a Syracuse-Georgetown or Kentucky-Indiana, but those two have met in the finals four straight years in their conference tournament and they sure do trade punches.  I like that they play clean basketball…not a lot of sloppy moments but gritty tough play fighting hard.  Kentucky and Louisville come to mind, but there’s some truth to not playing in the same conference taking a little bit away from the meaning of the game.

6. Predict the four #1 and #2 seeds.

1.  Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina

2. Ohio State, Duke, Michigan State, Missouri

I would be shocked if this is not the case.

7. Off the top of your head, which non-traditional power conference school(s) has (have) the best chance to make the Sweet 16?

I immediately thought of UNLV because they beat North Carolina and they have Mike Moser.  But I would have to see the bracket to feel good about this!

8. Which PG would you rather have?  8.5 pts/gm, 7.5 asts/gm, 2.5 TO/gm, 30% 3fg…. OR 20.0 pts/gm, 3.4 asts/gm, 3.9 TO/gm, 43% 3fg

Give me the first guy.  3:1 assist to turnover ratio?  I’ll take it.  Just make the right decisions, get everyone involved and do your job down the stretch.  (Who is it by the way??!)

9. Which team do you NOT want Kentucky to face in the second or third round of the tournament?

A lot of folks are speculating UConn could end up with an 8 or 9 seed, which could put them against #1 seed Kentucky in Round 2.  Despite the Huskies elite talent, my gut doesn’t fear this matchup.  I think Kentucky is focused and will rise to a challenge with the Huskies.  (Ask me if 2 minutes before tipoff and I’ll be pooping my pants).  Honestly, I want to face anyone.  Let’s do this.

10. Can and will Ben Howland right the ship at UCLA?

He’s going to be under the microscope big time.  Man, it will be tough to fight through all the accusations and see the green pastures on the other side.  The good news is that UCLA seems to average 100 fans per game, and the AD loves Howland, so hey, sure.  He’ll make it!

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