Posted on: March 17, 2010 11:36 am
Edited on: March 17, 2010 11:41 am
Day two of the NCAA tournament kicks off Friday at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY. And before you ask - yes, they're replacing the ice with NCAA licensed hardwood. It would just be silly if they didn't.
The West and East Regions will do battle in the great city of Buffalo, named after the famous hot wing sauce. Let's take a look at the matchups...
(2) West Virginia vs. (15) Morgan State, 12:15 pm
West Virginia is a team you have to keep your eye on at all times. As soon as you look away, you could get blasted by a water bottle or loose change thrown by their fans.
Morgan State - which I still can't find on the map - has two electrifying players you've probably never heard of in Reggie Holmes and Kevin Thompson. Both will likely struggle against West Virginia's big bodies.
NO UPSET HERE
West Virginia will win easily and won't need a Da'Sean Butler bank shot at the buzzer to do so.
(7) Clemson vs. (10) Missouri, 2:45 pm
The seventh seeded Clemson is led by All-ACC'er Trevor Booker. Booker, who seems like he has been in school for eight years, is averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He ranks in the top 5 all-time in career scoring and rebounding at Clemson.
Mizzou plays what is known as "The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball." They love to get up and down the floor and distribute the basketball. Defensively, Missouri leads the nation in steals per game and turnovers forced per game. You gotta love Mike Anderson.
LACE UP THOSE SNEAKERS FOR A RAPID PACE
Both squads play a similar up-tempo offense and pressure defense. It will be a very fast-paced and entertaining game. My money is on the Tigers. Should be a safe bet.
(8) Gonzaga vs. (9) Florida State, 7:10 pm
The Zags are in their 12th consecutive NCAA tournament despite losing four starters to the NBA last season. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they were placed in Buffalo, some 3,000 miles and three time zones away. If they defeat Florida State, they will face Syracuse in the Orange's own backyard. Moral of the story: Gonzaga got the shaft.
The Seminoles won ten games in the ACC but eight of them came against sub .500 teams. FSU's Chris Singleton and Solomon Alabi both made third-team All-ACC and were the top vote-getters on the ACC all-defensive team.
Gonzaga has the fifth-best field goal percentage in the country at .494, and Florida State is the NCAA's best against the field goal at .372. This one all depends on who shows up to play.
(1) Syracuse vs. (16) Vermont, 9:30 pm
C-A-T-A-M-O-U-N-T-S! CATAMOUNTS! CATAMOUNTS! CATAMOUNTS!
Vermont will pull off the upset. You heard it here, folks.
Posted on: March 16, 2010 11:37 pm
When the NCAA Tournament kicks off Thursday in New Orleans, the feel will certainly be festive. And by festive, I mean hungover, because for reasons that only the brilliant minds behind the proposed NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 could likely understand, the first round is taking place in New Orleans the night after St Patricks Day. So in a city where public drunkedness is not only accepted, it is actively encouraged and at times, mandatory, the NCAA is going to place basketball games after the nation's drunkest collective holiday. Its for the kids ladies and gentlemen.
When the games do actually get started however, there will be a lot to see in James Carville's hometown. One of the top two teams in the country, an #8 seed that was ranked #1 overall this season, a certain NIT team that played its way into a #6 seed and quite possibly the most athletic team in America are all setting up shop in New Orleans as they hope to advance on in the South and West regions. Each game has some intrigue, some wackiness and a whole lot of Harangody. An overview:
NOTRE DAME vs OLD DOMINION 12:25
Most people would claim that the iconic figure in college basketball this year was John Wall, the uber-talented UK point guard who dazzled the country with athleticism, wild dunks and game-winning shots. They are wrong. The real icon of college basketball is the man with the worst hair and body in sports, Luke Harangody. If Harangody were a car, he would be a Kia Rondo, tall and boxy, prone to slow, awkward movements and proportionated in such a way as to seem to make success impossible. But like the Kia Rondo, Harangody finds a way to get the job done. When you watch this game today, take a few possessions and simply follow the 'Gody. Like the fat guy who sweats a lot but still finds a way to get garbage buckets in your church league game, the 'Gody will win no beauty points as he looks to the naked eye as the most unathletic basketball players since the cast of "Hang Time" left the court (still Reggie Theus's best coaching job). But he will score, rebound and even defend, all without seemingly being able to make one impressive movement. He is the basketball equivalent to an episode of "Friends," unlikely to leave you feeling the least bit impressed, but garnering solid ratings.
The 'Gody is playing against Old Dominion, a team I actually saw on our Road Trip across America and one that can cause some problems. ODU is as athletic a small school as you will see in the Tournament. They are long at every position and their goal is to get every rebound and outwork you, while playing a brand of basketball that can best be labeled as "boring." Their coach will try to counter the 'Gody's boxcut with his own moustache, a full feathered beauty that is both dark and bushy, a veritable forest under his lip. With his facial hair mesmerizing, it is easy to forget just how talented this team is and it isnt an exaggeration to say that they will be the more athletic team on the floor.
Notre Dame is full of Irish Catholics and the noon start on the day after St Patrick's Day will ensure a small crowd at the opening tip. ODU has the players to get out on the Irish three point shooters and Harangody will not be able to impose his will down low. However the Irish are deeper, have the best player on the floor and by the second half, Johnny O'Malley and the rest of the Irish faithful will stagger into the gym just in time to see the Irish win by 7.
BAYLOR vs SAM HOUSTON STATE 3:00
Every year the NCAA Tournament sees one team develop into a trendy pick to make noise and allows announcers on the Worldwide Leader to get on television and make proclamations that have no real substance but sound important like "I tell you who I like Digger, I like "TEAM X". The way they shoot the ball, play defense and their great Coach _____, this is a team that can really make some noise. I am not saying I will pick them over (INSERT #1 seed), but it wouldnt shock me if they get hot and cut down the nets to the Final Four. While the announcer says this, all of the other blow-dryed hairpieces on set shake their head and proclaim that they too like this team and have been on board with them all year. Inevitably this team is never as good as these paid airbags say they are and often the disappointment starts in game one.
This season that team is most certainly Baylor. You cant throw a stick without running into someone who has Baylor as their "sleeper team into the Final Four." The Bears are coached by Scott Drew and have found a way to turn around a basketball program that was long thought to be dead. However considering the fact tha tmost fans couldn't name one player on the Bears' roster, annoitment as a Final Four team seems a bit premature. As for Sam Houston State, they are fun to watch. They bring it up and down quickly, like to shoot a lot of three pointers and try to win by managing the game pace. Earlier this season they gave Kentucky a run for its money in Rupp Arena and since then, have put up great shooting performances week after week. Baylor isnt the greatest draw for Sam Houston, because they can match the athleticism that Sam Houston uses to dominate its opponents. But if they hit threes, then who knows what can happen.
Did you like how I got you excited right there....made you think that I was going to pick the upset upstarts? Not going to happen. Had SHS gotten a slow, methodical team, I might pull the shocker. As is, Baylor moves on and makes pundits shake their head and nod that they are the team to watch in the games ahead.
KENTUCKY VS EAST TENNESSEE STATE 7:00 PM
You know all about Kentucky, Calipari, Wall, Cousins, etc. They are really good and no group of players since Shane Battier was smiling and going to class every day at Duke have received the consistent national publicity of this group of Kentucky players. They have been visited by Lebron, Magic, Ashley Judd, Drake, Ben Roethlisberger (pre-college town romp), Mike Tomlin, Charles Barkley and even the biggest star of them all, World Wide Wes. They have raised over a million bucks for Haiti, talked to the President over the phone and even got to rub on Seth Davis's rosy cheeks. It has been such a strange, magical journey. But now it gets real and the games mean more. All the goodwill of the 32-2 campaign that has won the hearts of Kentuckians is at stake in one three-week period where anything can happen.
Well almost anything. What can't happen is losing to ETSU in the first round on Thursday night. ETSU famously was once led by a player that makes the NCAA all "hey I remember that guy but I have no idea where he went to school" list, Keith "Mr." Jennings. For it was 21 years ago that Jennings took a #16 seeded ETSU team and very nearly pulled the shocker over #1 seeded Oklahoma. They hope to bring that kind of magic back to light again, but this time against a much bigger fish and a much more talented group of players. Win partor lose, they will probably take solace in the fact that they will head back to Johnson City, Tennessee after the game and be greeted by the hottest group of mountain coeds this side of a very special episode of Hee-Haw.
Kentucky wins by a lot and moves on, much to the delight of the Big Blue nation. But when ETSU's most famous alum Kenny Chesney sneaks into the building, Jay Bilas becomes so enamored with his soft, beach sounds that he takes off his announcing headset, mumbles something about Baylor being a sleeper to get to the Final Fourand goes on tour with Buffett.
TEXAS vs WAKE FOREST 9:35 PM
What do you get when the two most underperforming participants in a particular endeavor get together to see which can muster up just enough to even showcase a flash of their former brilliance? No, its not every Pacino/Deniro move of the past ten years, but rather is the Underachievement HEavyweight Championship Title Match when Texas plays Wake Forest. Over the course of this past season, no two teams have been more baffling and neither has made its fans groan and search out for signs of life from its coach than the Longhorns and Demon Deacons. Both teams have loads of talent, but both have played so terribly at times that even Mike Dunleavy has asked from afar, "dont you coaches do anything?"
The most egregious offender has been Texas, where Rick Barnes has definitely proven that he is the worst Top 12 program coach in America. While there is no doubt that Barnes has assembled talent by the boatload in Austin, his team has played as poorly in the last two months as any team in the Tournament and has produced an historically unprecedented waste of talent from one program in one season. There may be as many as six guys on the Texas roster who could play in the NBA and players one through eleven, they could be the most talented team in America. But they are stuck floundering around, getting blown out by mediocre teams and backing their way into the tournament on the back of a win against NIT contender North Carolina in December. Remember, Texas was ONCE #1. Now they are hideous and absent a miracle turnaround, will finish a season of disappointment like none other.
There are those that say March forgives all sins. If either of these teams can win this game and then upset Kentucky, a season of disappointment can quickly be forgotten. Both teams have been awful, but in Texas's case there has been the occasional show of life. Wake Forest has been tuned out for months. Texas wins a close one in a game that simply frustrates all who watch.
So there you have it, Notre Dame, Baylor, Kentucky and Texas. Chalk from this guy. But hey, its New Orleans and the fun will be on the streets anyway. Enjoy the games and watch out for Harry Connick on the street trying to sing you a song...he does it to all the tourists.
Posted on: March 16, 2010 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2010 11:12 pm
For thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers, the area previously known as El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe was inhabited by several groups of Ohlone Native Americans. Thursday, San Jose, as it is now called, will be inhabited by the East and West regions of the NCAA tournament - which makes absolutely no sense.
Four first-round NCAA tournament games will be played at HP Pavilion Thursday and rumor has it that madness will be in attendance. And just as Juan Bautista de Anza led Spanish expeditions into California in 1775, I will lead you through the San Jose site of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Only I won't be wearing a funny hat.
(4) Vanderbilt vs. (13) Murray State, 2:30 pm
The Vanderbilt Commodores, coached by SEC Coach of the Year and King of the Hill neighbor Kevin Stallins, finished the season with a 24-8 overall record and a 12-4 record in conference play. They are one of the nation's highest scoring teams with 77 points per game led by guard Jermaine Beal's 14.7. Beal is joined in double figures by A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor with 13.4, and John Jenkins' 10.9 ppg.
The Ohio Valley Conference champions compiled a 30-4 record including a 17-game win streak. The Racers can hurt you from anywhere as they have five players averaging in double-figures: Ivan Aska (10.6), B.J. Jenkins (10.5), Tony Easley (10.5), Danero Thomas (10.4), and Isaiah Canaan (10.3). Murray State shot 50% from the field this season, the third best team percentage in the nation.
Though Vanderbilt can score with the best of them, the Commodores struggle to rebound and defend the three-pointer. The Racers are coming in hungry, and if they can get hot from deep, Vanderbilt could fall to the #13 seed. Which wouldn't be shocking - Vandy lost to #13 Siena just two years ago in the big dance.
(5) Butler vs. (12) UTEP, 4:45 pm
Butler hasn't lost a game since losing 67-57 at UAB on Dec. 22. They were the only team in the nation to go undefeated in conference play. The Bulldogs have an NBA prospect in Gordon Hayward, who is averaging 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Hayward was also named the Horizon League Player of the Year and is the only person named Gordon to excel in sports.
The Miners are led by junior point guard Randy Culpepper and his 18 per game. However, the UTEP's bread 'n butter lies down low with Derrick Caracter. Caracter is the only Miner with any NCAA tournament experience. The big man, who was one of the nation's top prospects out of high school, spent two years at Louisville where he was kicked off the team despite being given second, third, and fourth chances from Rick Pitino. Now, he is averaging 14 and 8 in El Paso and appears to finally have his head on straight.
CONTRAST IN STYLES MAKES BAD DRAW FOR BUTLER
Butler has a good big man in Matt Howard but he struggles when it comes to physical competition. Physical competition, as in Derrick Caracter. The former Louisville head-case will have his way with the Bulldogs inside. It's up to Butler's Gordon Hayward to make up for it on the other end. Don't count out a 12/13 matchup in the second round of the West Region.
(6) Marquette vs. (11) Washington, 7:20 pm
This is the third straight year Marquette has been seeded sixth in the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles enter the tournament having won 11 of their last 14 despite being picked to finish 12th in the Big East in the preseason. Lazar Hayward averages 18.1 points per game to the lead the team that lost three four-year starters from last season.
The Huskies are on a seven game win streak and are finally showing they can be the team we all expected them to be. But then again, it's hard to tell because the Pac-10 is terrible.
HAYWARD vs. PONDEXTER
Marquette's Lazar Hayward matched up with Washington's Quincy Pondexter is going to be a showdown. Watch this game just to see these two go head-to-head, if not for anything else.
(3) New Mexico vs. (14) Montana, 9:40 pm
Montana punched its ticket to the dance with one of the most incredible individual performances I've ever seen. The Grizzlies were down 22 on the road at Weber State in the Big Sky title game before Anthony Johnson went off. Johnson scored a school record 42 points including the Grizzlies' final 21 points of the game. Even more impressive, he didn't miss a single shot during that stretch.
HOBSON AND THE LOBOS ARE THE REAL DEAL
Unless Montana's Anthony Johnson can put up another XBox-like performance, New Mexico will ride Darington Hobson's red and silver trunks on to the next round and beyond.
Posted on: March 16, 2010 2:53 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2010 2:57 pm
Hey, welcome to Providence! What would you like to do first? Perhaps we could go see a show at the Waterplace Park Amphitheater, or head to the top of Constitution Hill. Maybe we could do some shopping at the Westminster Arcade, tour the Old State House, or do one of many other things I read about on Providence's Wikipedia page.
What's that? You're just here for the basketball games? We can do that too. After all, round one of the Midwest and South brackets are slated to take place on Thursday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center -- and everyone knows there's nothing like watching some hot, exciting tournament action as you eat some hot, delicious donuts. Let's see what's going down on Thursday, shall we?
Villanova (2) vs. Robert Morris (15), 12:30 PM
This is Robert Morris' second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tourney as a 15 seed (they lost last year to runner-up Michigan State), so they know the drill. But although Villanova is capable of putting up a lot of points -- the Wildcats have the third highest point average in the country at 82.5 per game -- they're no 2009 Spartans. Mike Rice has a strong team by NEC standards but against a longtime-ranked Villanova team, it's likely lights out for the Colonials as tournament play kicks off in Rhode Island. Villanova's sputtering at the end of this season, but they're still more than capable of this win. I'm not a huge fan of Villanova progressing far in this tourney, but they'll progress out of the first round.
FUN FACT: You may remember Villanova coach Jay Wright from his role as dashing RAF flyboy Simon Wilburforce in the 1944 British WWII propaganda film Jerry's on the March.
Richmond (7) vs. Saint Mary's (10), 2:50 PM
You'll likely remember the Richmond Spiders from their plucky upsets of the 80's and 90's, but coach Chris Mooney finds his boys on the favored end this time around, a seven seed against the ten-spot Gaels, who average over 40% from the three-point line. Though Saint Mary's was a feel-good story when they knocked off bruiser Gonzaga (sorry Zags, you're not the cute "little team that could" anymore), they're going to have their hands full with a Richmond team led by Atlantic-10 POY Kevin Anderson and backed up by double-digit averager David Gonzalvez. At the end of the day, the Gaels will be covered in Spiders. And that's never a good thing.
FUN FACT: Saint Mary's College teams are are known as the Gaels. It is a fact that when you watch this game, one person will try to look really smart and tell everyone what this mascot means. You should punch this person in the face because it will be 2:50 PM and you will have been drinking in the Applebee's bar since 11:30 AM.
Ohio (14) vs. Georgetown (3), 7:45 PM
The Ohio Bobcats kind of came out of nowhere to take home the MAC trophy, finishing 5th in the east half of their conference on the year. But then, somehow, they put together four straight wins to surprise everyone and sneak into the Big Dance. Pair them against the Hoyas, who similarly surprised the country to garner an at-large bid after an impressive Big East tourney showing, and you have two teams who have willed themselves to this point. That's always part of the fun of the NCAA Tournament, except in situations like this where one inspiration story has to eat the other. Regardless, this is the kind of game that you can feel good about whoever wins it, and that's probably going to be Georgetown. A Big East surprise performance trumps a MAC surprise performance. Sorry Bobcats, but you can take solace in knowing that you're both winners.
FUN FACT: Hoyas big man Greg Monroe, at all times, should be referred to as "Monroooooooe!" in a Ted Knight impression from 80's sitcom Too Close for Comfort.
Tennessee (6) vs. San Diego State (11), 9:45 PM
Two things are certain in this matchup: Bruce Pearl will sweat through his brand-new St. John's Bay wrinkle-resistant button-down shirt and San Diego State will miss some free throws. How do I know? Because Bruce Pearl is a very sweaty man and the Aztecs are currently ranked 329th out of 334 Division 1 teams in free throw shooting (just over 60%). Look for the Vols to be led again by Wayne Chism, who will once again wear the most ridiculously ineffective headband in NCAA history, and for Tennessee to take advantage of a young SDSU team. That said, it should be noted that the Aztecs are coasting on a high right now, having won nine of their last ten games -- and Tennessee looked pretty defenseless against a UK team who routed them in Nashville on Saturday. If Bruce's crew is ready to prove themselves again, they could play the Hernando Cortes role on Thursday. That's right. I just busted some Cortes on you. Eat it.
FUN FACT: If it is even two degrees colder than 74 degrees in Providence on Thursday, the San Diego State Aztecs will be too cold to play and the game will be forfeited.
So the stage is set in Providence. Let's basketball, everyone!
Posted on: March 16, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2010 4:00 pm
The NCAA tournament gets kicking on Thursday in the place that gave us Chuck Norris and Carrie Underwood as beautiful Oklahoma hosts four games of regional insignificance (two Midwest and two West). The winners of each game will face each other again on Saturday (funny how they do that, huh?) and the losers will be forced out faster than the Cherokee Indians were welcomed in. You, though, are settling in for a nice four-day binge and have nothing to worry about. Except being uninformed. So, read up.
(8) BYU vs. (9) Florida Thursday 12:20 PM
Overview: It is a heavy burden that the Gators and Cougars carry on Thursday. It is this Oklahoma City game that ushers in the entire 2010 NCAA Tournament. BYU and guard Jimmer Fredette shot into the national rankings this season while Florida just did what Florida does. They won a lot of games early and then tanked. Unlike the previous two editions under the worst coach to ever win a title, however, the Gators somehow snuck into the tournament ahead of Mississippi State, a team that beat them in the SEC tourney. Most experts attribute this to Florida’s win against Michigan State at the beginning of the year. However, the truth is that in exchange for this NCAA berth, Alex Tyus has agreed to let his forehead serve as a secondary CBS network for the remainder of the tournament, giving more coverage to you, the viewer. Who loves you, baby?
Parsons Power: If Florida wants to advance to get beaten by Kansas State, they’ll need to rely on America’s most public supporter of Miley Cyrus, Chandler Parsons. Since deciding to stop looking like Ellen and going with a buzzcut, Parsons has looked like a new man (or just a man, period). He’s become the Gators single most important player in terms of ball-handling, shooting, rebounding and keeping Dan Werner off the court.
Watchability: CSI, the first one. Remember the first time you watched CSI? You got all gassed up with mystery and suspense and watched every episode, rented the season on DVD and then watched it again? Then they came out with 12 spin-offs and you were too mentally drained to keep up. Remember? Well, that’s how this is. It’s ok to show some emotion and get fired up about the first game of the tourney. Just take it easy on those Doritos and watch how many of those Natty Lights you pound. We have a long ways to go. Be patient, young man.
(2) Kansas St. vs. (15) North Texas Thursday 2:40
Why the Mean Green will win: Kansas State lost to Ole Miss, who lost to Mississippi State, who lost to Rider, who lost to Rutgers, who lost to Louisville, who lost to Western Kentucky, who lost to….drum roll please…..North Texas! So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Watchability: A breaking news interruption. You’ll pretend to care because everyone else around you is. But, really, you’re just waiting for it to flip over to something better (and closer).
(8) UNLV vs. (9) Northern Iowa Thursday 7:10 PM
Vegas Odds: Had my middle school English teacher not changed the definition of “irony” about 25 times in one semester, I’d call the fact that the historical odds favor ninth-seeded UNI to beat eight-seeded Nevada-Las Vegas ironic. Instead, I’ll call it interesting. The lower seed in the 8-9 matchup has won 54% of the time in the NCAA tournament, which means the Panthers could get their All-Midwest matchup with the Jayhawks in the second round. But, they only beat Southern Illinois by an average of seven points this year and UNLV beat them by nine, a truly flawless and unquestioned method of comparison. Honestly, that last stat is probably worthless. I'm just contractually required by CBS to bag on UNI.
Watchability: A country music cover song video. Just like the first time you saw John Michael Montgomery singing “I Swear”, to be more exact. You know you’ve gone through this song and dance before and you have no idea who is on your television screen, but you can’t turn away because there’s a part of you that knows this is what heaven is like. Though it’s familiar, it still carries an allure that will have you watching from beginning until end, even though you swore not to. (Note: Research shows that Montgomery actually released his version before All 4 One released theirs. However, if you haven’t noticed that we’re not doing second drafts by now, you aren’t reading enough.)
(1) Kansas vs. (16) Lehigh Thursday 9:30 PM
Why Leigh will pull the upset: Kansas lost to Oklahoma State, who lost to Rhode Island, who lost to Virginia Commonwealth, who lost to James Madison, who lost to Northeastern, who lost to Boston, who lost to Harvard, who lost to Princeton, who lost to Brown, who lost to Yale, who lost to Quinnipiac, who lost to…..drum roll please…..Lehigh. So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Watchability: The Jersey Shore. You’ll tune in and get a kick out of the first few minutes. You’ll laugh, shake your head and text your friends about what a train wreck it is. Then, after about 10 minutes, it will hit you that what you’re watching is actual real life and you’ll start to feel embarrassed over the televised disaster and flip to something else. Preferably, some other CBS programming on Alex Tyus’ forehead.
Posted on: March 15, 2010 7:32 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2010 2:35 pm
My favorite time of the year is the one hour when the brackets are announced (only on CBS!). It allows me to focus on a number of my favorite things, such as which teams out there might pull an upset, who will make the Final Four and why Clark Kellogg refuses to look into the camera while he is talking. But after that fun hour, the focus has to shift to the brackets themselves and the matchups and storylines that will fill the month of March. For in that month, CBS shifts from multiple shows starring Mark Harmon to nights with multiple appearances by Ian Eagle. And as the ladies surely know, that marks an improvement that we can all get behind.
The favorite to cut down the nets and head to Indianapolis is surely the Kentucky Wildcats, who have transformed from an NIT team led by a coach whose favorite hangout was the local rehab facility to the slickest coach in America, John Calipari. Whether its his hairgel, quick wit or ability to wear the same plaid tie to every game, Calipari has captivated the Commonwealth and college basketball in his first year in Lexington. A big part of that success has been due to his dynamic Freshmen, John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, who figure to be 2 of the 3 top players selected in next year's NBA Draft. Kentucky comes into the Tournament 32-2 and are arguably the most talented team in America. But they are also inconsistent and have been fortunate to win virtually every close game they have been faced with this season. If they hit three pointers, they are unguardable and can win the title. If they are missing, they are vulnerable from the second round on.
When you think about West Virginia, what comes to mind? If the answer was a coach in a tracksuit with slick hair and a poor graduation rate, then you are a college basketball fan. West Virginia is the #2 seed and are the trendy pick to make the Final Four. The Mountaineers have arguably the most clutch player in college basketball in Da'sean Butler who has game winning shots against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Marquette and Hickory High, just to name a few. When the game is close, Butler has it and chances are he will either make it or he will miss it (actually he will almost always make it, I just wanted to channel my inner Digger Phelps for an inane comment). West Virginia is tough, physical and when they are hot, have the potential to beat anyone in the Tournament. A UK vs WVU final would be an instant classic and the first "Battle of Appalachia" in the Big Dance.
The great debate in America this season has been "Is Glenn Beck clinically insane?" However the second best debate has been "Who is Player of the Year, John Wall or Evan Turner?" While the consensus seems to have shifted towards the man from Columbus, John Wall is without question the best in this region. It has been a long time since college basketball has seen a Point Guard that is this athletic and can get to the rim so easily in big game situations. Down the stretch, Wall has made big play after big play and he even created his own dance that has people in Kentucky making fools of themselves on a daily basis. In short, he is a superstar and clearly the focus of the East Region.
Darrington Hobson - New Mexico --- The best player on the best team you have never seen play (seriously does New Mexico play on any television, anywhere? Is there a channel I can only get in the Virgin Islands to see them play? I have tried to find them on television, but it is like trying to catch a falling star...thanks Jamie Walters and "The Heights"), Hobson has the potential to make a lot of noise in March. He was the MWC Player of the Year and averages nearly 17 points a game. Plus his name is Darrington, which is really preppy and makes me wonder if he was a member of Bushwood in Caddyshack.
Da'sean Butler - West Virginia --- You know him for the clutch shots, but dont forget about the way he takes people off the dribble and controls the defensive side of the ball as well. When West Virginia needs a bucket, they go to Butler. But chances are when they need a big stop on defense or an important rebound, he is in the mix as well. The heart and soul of a Mountaineer team that is as tough as anyone in America.
Damion James - Texas --- Texas is a trainwreck of the highest order. Eleven players on their roster are probably good enough to start for all but a handful of teams in the tournament. Yet they finished 7-9 and were humiliated most of the last two months of the season. The lone bright spot is Damion James, a skywalker who can dunk on your face and then tell you about it for the next week. Texas wont make much noise but James has the ability to give you one highlight that will make "One Shining Moment."
Ryan Wittman - Cornell --- Quick tell me what you know about Cornell. Chances are that if you are under 35, it was either (a) something about "Road Trip" or (b) Andy Bernard from "The Office." But they also play some basketball there this year and the Big Red (which is also a very underrated soda by the way) are looking to make some noise with two winnable games over Temple and Wisconsin. Ryan Wittman is the offensive star of the team, scoring 18 points a game and shooting a tremendous 42% from three-point land. If Cornell is in tight games that will have Greg Gumbel shifting you off the end of your game to catch their game, you will see Wittman hit at least one bomb.
Anthony Johnson - Montana --- The start of Championship Week is trying to channel his inner Harold "The Show" Arceneaux to become the latest Big Sky player to make NCAA Tournament magic. Johnson was brilliant in the Big Sky title game, bringing back his Montana team from 20 points down with 34 points in the second half, a performance that rates as one of the best I have personally ever seen. He draws New Mexico and since I have never seen them play without an antenna and tin foil stuck to my roof, I will say that Johnson can make them cry in "The Pit." When you go to work tomorrow and someone says, "what about that tournament", just say, "do you know Anthony Johnson, well you should." You will seem smart and ladies will flock.
TEAM MOST LIKELY TO PULL AN UPSET
Everyone is picking Cornell over Temple, so its cliche and I wont fall for it. I will go with Wofford to shock the world against Wisconsin. The reason most low-ranked teams cant pull an upset in the NCAA Tournament is that the differential in athleticism is so great that they simply cant guard the top seed they play. Not so with Wisconsin. The same style that keeps Bo Ryan's club in every game they play, also makes them vulnerable to upsets in too many games as well. Wofford has beaten Georgia, played South Carolina to the wire and played the last two months of the season as well as any small conference team in America. The Terriers make a shock in their first trip to the Big Dance.
MOMENT THAT WILL MAKE GUS JOHNSON YELL:
I expect a wild game in the second rounder between Missouri and West Virginia. To me, the Mountaineers have the classic makeup of a team that gets shocked in Round Two. They won their conference tournament and thus everyone has forgotten their weaknesses. They were on Desean Butler miss from losing to #11 seed Cincinnati in the first round and Huggins team is vulnerable when forced to put high point totals on the board. Mike Anderson is known for his ability to shock in the second round, coaching UAB to a second round win over overall #1 seed Kentucky in 2004. Put Gus Johnson on this game, it will go to Overtime and the Tigers can shock the Mountaineers, sending Bob Huggins back to "I have only made one Final Four" land.
GAME TO SKIP
I cant imagine any reason I would watch Marquette vs Washington. I am sure it will be close and I know that it will be one that announcers say is "gritty." But close doesnt equal good. Both teams will play physical, but the foul at all costs basketball is not the brand I prefer. Skip it and get something to eat instead. You need the rest.
IMPORTANT RANDOM TIDBITS ON EACH TEAM:
--- Texas has Rick Barnes as its head coach. You may have forgotten that since it has looked like the Longhorns have had no coaching all season.
--- Wake Forest is the worst team at-large in the Tournament according to Jay Bilas. My friend Trevor agreed but you dont know him so I didnt think you would care.
--- Temple has their highest tournament seed since John Chaney left the program and ended the best "coach who looks like the team's mascot" comparison in America.
--- Cornell has a player named Mark Coury who started 30 games for Kentucky in his Sophomore year, averaging five minutes a game. Now he rarely plays for Cornell. Odd.
--- Wisconsin is officially the most boring basketball team in America year in and year out. (Source Everyone who has ever had to wait for a Big Ten Game to Finish before the game they care about started)
--- Wofford is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I have never been there but I hear it specializes in old antiques and "Its Beer-Thirty" t-shirts.
--- Marquette started the tradition of the big "Fatheads" being held up at college basketball games. That is why they are now being kicked out of the NCAA.
--- Washington has a player named Isaiah Thomas on its team and he is really good. Why did his parents do that to him AND intentionally spell his name wrong? I dont understand.
--- New Mexico is coached by Steve Alford, who famously had a testy relationship with his mentor, Bobby Knight. But unlike John Edward's mentee, he has kept the Bobby Knight sex tape private.
--- Montana won the Big Sky conference over lots of other teams from the Dakotas, Utah, Oregon and Montana. At the end of the tournament, instead of all the players circling for a team prayer, they gather around to tell stories about all the crazy white people that hate the government who live in their states.
--- Clemson starts every season 17-0 and then implodes. Except this season, when they were just mediocre throughout. That means they are dangerous.
--- Missouri is still reeling from the Quinn Snyder years. Does anyone know what happened to him? Is he still alive?
--- West Virginia officially requests that Michigan stop stealing its coaches and turning them mediocre. Thank you.
--- Morgan State is widely considered the most fun campus in the East region. But I guarantee you dont know what state it is in...and I am not going to tell you either. You should read a book once and a while.
So there you go, the East Region. I have Kentucky winning it, with Temple, Marquette and Missouri making the Final Four in the region and the Cats beating Marquette to go to Indianapolis.
Posted on: March 15, 2010 6:03 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2010 6:10 pm
The Wild West we once knew is no more. No longer is the West about guns, cowboys, horses, gold, Salma Hayek in a corset, and Sisqo singing the hook. Now, it's all about Racers, Orangemen, Catamounts, Gophers, Mean Green, Grizzlies, Gators, and Mormons.
Wanna know more?
Of course, you do.
We goin' straight to the Wild, Wild West...
Locations and First-Round Games
Nothing says West like Buffalo, New York...
San Jose, CA (Thursday) - (5) Butler vs. (12) UTEP, (4) Vanderbilt vs. (13) Murray State
Oklahoma City, OK (Thursday) - (7) BYU vs. (10) Florida, (2) Kansas State vs. (15) North Texas
Buffalo, NY (Friday) - (1) Syracuse vs. (16) Vermont, (8) Gonzaga vs. (9) Florida State
Milwaukee, WI (Friday) - (6) Xavier vs. (11) Minnesota, (3) Pittsburgh vs. (14) Oakland
Who To Watch
Leo Rautins, Syracuse - The father of Andy Rautins gets more TV time than the scoreboard during Syracuse games this season. Last March, we sat at home hoping to catch a glimpse of Sonya Curry during Davidson games. This year, it'll be Leo and I'm not happy about.
Frank Martin, Kansas State - Watch him. Seriously, watch him. If you so much as look away to check your bracket, the KSU Coach might come out of the screen and jab you in the throat. He is the most intimidating man in college basketball.
Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota - 2 seconds to go - get the ball in Hoffarber's hand. No, not his good hand. His left hand. Or hell, just give it to him while he's lying on the ground. He knows what to do.
Derrick Caracter, UTEP - Caracter was a head case at Louisville, even after Rick Pitino gave him a second, third, and fourth chance. Now, he's back on his feet in El Paso and could be a force to be reckoned with.
Alex Tyus' Forehead, Florida - The most famous hairstyle in college basketball. Is it male pattern cornrows? Is he the Predator? Stevie Wonder? Floyd Mayweather Sr.? I say he is AvaTyus, leader of the Na'vi Gators.
The severity of the Onuaku injury. Syracuse assured everyone its senior forward Arinze Onuaku would be fine after a scary injury to his right-knee in the loss to Georgetown. After claiming a 1-seed on Selection Sunday, Jim Boeheim is now saying his big man will likely miss the first weekend. Smart move to play it off until the bracket was set.
The oh-so-scary 12 seed. Since 2001, the #5 and #12 teams are 18-18. That's right, a split decision in the 5/12 matchup. UTEP looks to continue the upset tradition against Butler and I like their chances. Butler hasn't fared well against physical teams.
Gonzaga might finally make the run we've always expected. Gonzaga will eventually make the Final Four so why not now? They could catch an Onukau-less Syracuse team in the second round and the Bulldogs have the size to capitalize on his absence. Long as they can contain Wes Johnson. Yeah, it's a longshot but ya never know.
We will return tomorrow with previews for Thursdays games and a lot more ridiculousness...
Posted on: March 15, 2010 3:31 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2010 5:46 pm
If you are a sports fan, and you happen to have a friend who owns a camera of some sort, or there happens to be a camera in your immediate vicinity, you have undoubtedly been tapped by a major network by now to put on a suit and tie (or, ladies, a sensible pantsuit) and go in front of that camera and talk about the upcoming NCAA Tournament. You will have probably done the pre-requisite "guessing of a first upset" and "broken down the one-seeds," for this is what people who comment on the NCAA Tournament in the 72 hours post-selection-show do. You will have probably made some comments about the selections, and whether you agreed with the selection committee or did not, and everyone is probably in awe of your incredible basketball prowess.
If any of the above is the case, the following information about the South Region will come as no surprise. For the rest of us, it may not be a terrible idea to take a closer look at the people and storylines you're likely to encounter in this region over the next several days.
The Locations (First Round)
New Orleans - Thursday: Notre Dame (6) vs. Old Dominion (11), Baylor (3) vs. Sam Houston State (14)
Providence - Thursday: Villanova (2) vs. Robert Morris (15), Richmond (7) vs. Saint Mary's (10)
Jacksonville - Friday: Duke (1) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop (play-in game tomorrow), California (8) vs. Louisville (9)
Spokane - Friday: Purdue (4) vs. Siena (13), Texas A&M (5) vs. Utah State (12)
Did Duke Deserve This Region? Many are harping that Coach K and his Blue Devils have the cushiest of regions in the South, considering their number two seed Villanova didn't even make the semifinals of their tournament and by all accounts is the weakest two in the entire tournament. But as we all know, it's very, very important for Duke to stay as close to home as possible, just in case Coach K forgets something and needs to run home. Some believe Baylor could be a dark horse to unseat Duke but...oh, c'mon, you're not gonna hear any of that on the love fest found on every channel. So let's just pretend they're going to win the region and all act super-surprised when they get upset, okay?
Cal vs. Louisville should be a great game. Cal won Pac-10 regular season play but couldn't hang on to beat Washington in the Pac-10 Finals. Louisville is a pale imitation of what it was this time last year. That said, this eight and nine seed matchup could produce a potential joker in the deck for a later round. Cal's Jerome Randle is the school's new all-time leading scorer, and if he's allowed to perform, the Cards have a tough time. If he's shut down, Louisville's cast should handle the Golden Bears easily. Either way, both teams have potential to play above their seeding, so don't be surprised if whoever comes out of this game throws a wrench into the South's proceedings.
Siena is way overhyped as a pre-packaged Cinderella team. Listen. In the next week you're going to hear a ton of people on television and at your workplace telling you to "mark it down!" that Siena is a lock to beat Purdue. This is because a.) Purdue's beatable, and b.) none of those people have ever actually watched Siena play, they've just heard things about them. The truth is that the Saints may have run off with their conference, but that's because the MAAC was terrible this year. They also looked really good against Butler a few weekends ago in a bracket-buster. But if you watched the MAAC tournament, you'd have seen Siena struggle with Manhattan, Rider and Fairfield. I'm not believing the hype. But maybe it's just me.
Richmond can beat Villanova. We're all used to seeing the spiders in a twelve seed or higher, and you have to take into account the psychology of not realizing a team you're used to only seeing eek into the tournament suddenly be a contender. That's exactly the role Richmond's in right now, and Villanova seems to be fading toward the end of this season. If you don't think Villanova's beatable, you clearly didn't watch the last three weeks of their season, where they've lost five of their last seven games. If the Wildcats underestimated Marquette, there's no chance they don't underestimate Richmond.
Did you ever see Godzilla Vs. Rodan? Because that's what it's going be when Notre Dame's 6'8" Luke Harangody faces Old Dominion's 6'10" Gerald Lee in the first round to see who can lumber the best. Those guys are gonna look like two runaway Mardi Gras floats. Let's hope St. Mary's 6'11", 265-pound Omar Samhan doesn't get wind of this or this thing's going to look like a scene from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Utah State vs. Texas A&M will confuse you. This is because they are both called the Aggies. Texas A&M is maroon and Utah State is blue. Don't listen to Vern Lundquist, because he will be losing his mind trying to call this game.
If you think Sam Houston State will beat Baylor, you probably go to Sam Houston State or play on the team. You should visit the school's official site here and chat with your friends/teammates on the message boards there.
There's an Olive Garden on Universal Boulevard in Providence. You need me to go ahead and make you reservations for Saturday night, Robert Morris? We'll see if they can turn on the games for you in the bar there.
So how does it end?
Sure, Duke has the easiest path out of its region -- but for the sake of argument, let's also point out that Duke's the weakest of all the one seeds. That would signify that they're not a total lock to get out of the South. Who is it, then? Might be better to say who it's not. It's probably not Villanova and it's probably not Purdue. And no, stop it already -- it's not Siena. No one's really talking about the Baylor Bears, who could stage a bit of a coup, and Notre Dame's actually a little better than you might think. This is the wackiest region, so let's just pick the wackiest possibility:
See you in the Final Four, Old Dominion!