Posted on: March 17, 2010 2:54 pm

25 For Thursday: Guarantees on Day One


The NCAA Tournament kicks off on Thursday and America's collective work production will take a hit that even a Bernake bailout cannot prevent.  Its March Madness time and we kick it off with 16 games on Thursday that will get your juices flowing.  Now in the first round, we know that there is a lot of action going in every direction and it can be difficult to keep up with what is going on at any given moment.  That is what we are for, to make the complex manageable.  So as you watch on Thursday, keep this list in front of you and refer to it often.  It is your Twenty-Five for Thursday NCAA Guarantees:

1.  BYU vs Florida Will Make You Very Happy:  It doesnt matter what game is actually the first action of the NCAA Tournament, I look forward to it with eager anticipation.  This year it happens to be BYU vs Florida, which means that I will watch the opening tap, comment on how BYU looks "better than I would have thought" and place a "friendly" wager on two teams who if they played during the regular season, I would choose working out on a gazelle over watching.  That is just what March does.

2.  Florida's Dan Werner Will Have You Shaking Your Head:  It is not often that a player is so consistenly awful that you wonder how he not only plays, but is able to function in society.  Dan Werner is that player.  Dont say you have not been warned.

3.  Sam Houston State Will Make Announcers Make Stupid Puns:  I probably like Jay Bilas more than any other announcer in America.  But as my former assistant in Washington DC used to say about women who wore to much makeup, "he think he cute!"  I can guarantee some pun about "remembering the Alamo" or "Sam Houston State wont go down like Sam Houston, etc.  He has to do it.  Just forgive him.

4.  You Will be Angry About Which Game You are Getting Assigned at Some Point During the Day:  One of the great parts of the first round of the NCAA Tournament is the fact that there are four games going on at any given moment.  However what is assured is that the game you will want to see wont be on wherever you happen to live.  There is really nothing you can do about this except (a) go watch at a bar, (b) watch the Mega March Madness feature on CBSSports.com or (c) hope that Greg Gumbel will interrupt the game you are watching with updates.  What wont work is throwing your remote at the screen at cursing at Seth Davis.  Trust me, I have tried.

5.   David Koresh's Name Will Come Up in your Bar:  At some point during the telecast, they will mention that Baylor is in Waco, Texas.  Then someone in your group will say, "how do I know Waco?"  Then Branch Dividians are brought up and David Koresh will be mentioned.  Just go ahead and do it early and then you will look like the smart one of the group.

6.  Verne Lundquist Will Mispronounce Names:  This is a guarantee, but I dont look at it as a negative.  In fact, if you play a drinking game for each name that Verne butchers, you are guaranteed fun and a raucous crowd by 3:30 pm.  Just take "Verne" shots (something foreign and exotic) and sit back and smile.  It will make Villanova vs Robert Morris much more entertaining.

7.  Scottie Reynolds Is Still in School:  You know how some guys just seem to be in school forever?  Scottie Reynolds is that guy for me.  I am fairly sure he played with Ed Pickney and Harold McClain after being recruited by old Rollie.  Also on this list, Jon Scheyer, Greivis Vasquez and Luke Harangody.

8.  Murray State Will Beat Vanderbilt:  This is a given. Everyone has it in their bracket.  Just mark it down.

9.  Your Friend Will Tell You He Had Murray State Beating Vanderbilt:  Tell him to just shut about it.  We all had that game and we also had Siena beating Purdue.  You aren't special.  In fact, you would have been more special had you picked Vanderbilt, so seriously shut your mouth before I come over there and show you how little I care about your bracket.

10.  Frank Martin Will Scare Your Children:  Kansas State coach Frank Martin is clinically insane.  Just watch him.  He is an exact twin of the gym teacher on "Beavis and Butthead" and he looks at any point like the vein that is piercing through his skin will simply burst and cause his head to explode, thus forcing Teddy Valentine to give him a technical foul.  It is strange to remember, but he coached Michael Beasley.  How in the world did they not kill each other?

11.  An Old White Guy Will Tell You He Likes Luke Harangody:  Every time I have watched a Notre Dame game, some person (usually old, white and cranky) tells me that Luke Harangody plays "the game the right way" and that he is his favorite player.  Sometimes that person is a former Indiana coach and is paid by a national network to call the games.  Either way it is sad.

12.  You Will Be Fascinated by ODU Coach Blaine Taylor's Moustache:  Seriously it is amazing.  Black, bushy and extending over his lip.  There hasnt been a better one since Magnum P.I.  Watch the Old Dominion vs Notre Dame game just for the moustache.  You wont be disappointed.

13.  "The Butler Did It" Will Be Said by Someone:  Every year that Butler plays, someone makes that reference.  It is like clockwork.  And there hasn't been a working butler in this country outside of the Hamptons and Hollywood in thirty years.  This year it will be Spero Dedes.  Book it.

14.  By The Way, Who is Spero Dedes?:  He is calling the games in San Jose.  I have never heard of him and dont believe there has been a notable Spero since Vice President Agnew.  This must be investigated.

15.  UTEP's Derrick Caracter Will Dominate and Frustrate:  He is big, he is chubby and he is talented.  However Derrick Caracter has burned bridges everywhere he has been, most famously under Rick Pitino at Louisville.  At one time he was known as the best high school player in America.  He now finds himself at UTEP with a chance to redeem his reputation nationally in this Tournament.  What will he do? Probably a bit of everything.

16.  You Will Hate Whatever Commercials Are Playing:  If you are a true fan, and I know you are or you would not be reading this article, then you will watch every moment of the First and Second Round.  If you do, you will hate whatever commercials are on the air by the end of the weekend.  I still remember the Enterprise Rent-a-Car one where the woman asks if she should take "red or black" lingerie on their trip and her husband gets a goofy smile and says "both."  The first time I saw it, I had a crush on the woman...by the 500th, I wanted her to take the lingerie and strangle her husband, while the Enterprise Rent-a-Car SUV ran over them both. 

17.  Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh Will Impress:  Every year there is that one team that has a player who shoots from 25 feet and gets you out of your chair.  This year it is Ali from Northern Iowa.  He may be the best shooter in the Tournament and he is barely 6 feet tall.  He will hit at least one bomb against UNLV that will make you jump up and say "Wow."

18.  A Picture of Jerry Tarkanian Chewing a Towel Will Come on the Screen:  You can't show a UNLV game on television without at least one shot of Tark and a towel.  Its mandated by Congress.

19.  Demarcus Cousins' Attitude Will Be Mentioned:  During every Kentucky game played, there will be a skirmish for a loose ball, Demarcus Cousins will be involved and the announcer will say "he has a temper, he needs to calm down."  It happens every game, quickly followed by the announcer saying, "if Kentucky is going to win in this Tournament, Cousins will have to keep his cool." 

20.  You Will Not Watch Marquette vs Washington:  Its totally unwatchable basketball.  Grind it out, punch each other in the face, game in the 50s.  If this game were a movie, it would be anything starring Sandra Bullock, pre-"Blind Side."  Avoid at all costs.

21.  Having Said That, Marquette is the Lock of the Year:  Washington has literally no chance of winning this game...NO CHANCE.  Right now the line is a pick 'em...Vegas didnt watch Washington play and neither did you.  They won the Pac 10 Tournament, but you, me, Spero Dedes, Dan Werner and Ali from Northern Iowa could have won the Pac 10 Tournament this year.  Put it all on Marquette.

22.  A Shot of John Thompson Will Come on the Screen:  I dont mean JT III, who coaches Georgetown now, but the elder Thompson.  And I will continue to be amazed at how large that man is.  6'8" (at least), probably 325 pounds and a towering figure like none other.  The thought of him even scares me right now.

23.  You Wont Be Able to Tell the Morris Twins Apart:  Absolutely impossible to do.  Their parents named them Marcus and Markieff, the oddest assortment of names for twins since my high school's Nathan and Nathaniel.  Look at the two of them and try to figure out which is which.  You know how they say that parents can tell twins apart based on slight physical differences?  For the Morris Twins, the only differences are in the tattoos.

24. Rick Barnes Is Not Coaching:  Rick Barnes has not coached a game in the last two months of this season.  Actually let me strike that...Rick Barnes has not coached a game WELL in the last two months of this season.  On Thursday night versus Wake Forest, he will be on the sideline talking, but rest assured what he is doing can't be quantified as "coaching."  His players aren't listening, no plays are being executed and chaos is reigning.  But be calm, this is normal.

25.  The Night Will End with the Biggest Upset of the Day:  San Diego State is going to beat Tennessee.  The Fighting Headbands from Knoxville will fall on a late three by Steve Fisher's bunch and Bruce Pearl will walk into the locker room dejected, ending the year with yet another disappointing postseason. 

So there you go.  Twenty-five guarantees for Day One.  There were going to be more, but Frank Martin is outside my window and I need to go lock the door.

Posted on: March 17, 2010 11:36 am
Edited on: March 17, 2010 11:41 am

Previewing Buffalo: Friday's Games

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.


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.


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


Vermont will pull off the upset.  You heard it here, folks.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: East, West
Posted on: March 16, 2010 11:37 pm

Getting Ready For Thursday's Games: NEW ORLEANS


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:


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.


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.


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.


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 15, 2010 7:32 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2010 2:35 pm

Previewing the East: Who Can Stop the Cats?


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.

With that, my job today is to take an in-depth look at the East Region, a region that is headlines by the crazy Wildcats from Lexington and completed by the best school ever to come out of Johnson City, Tennessee.  There are storylines aplenty, and we dont want to miss any, so lets get to it:


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.


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.


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.


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.


---  Kentucky
players like to give each other nicknames.  Demarcus Cousins goes by "Boogie", Patrick Patterson is "Black Kool-Aid", Josh Harrellson is "Jorts" and Perry Stevenson is "The Prairie Dog."  That would be a great lineup for a 1970s disco group.

---  East Tennessee State's most famous alumni is Kenny Chesney, but it should be Keith "Mr." Jennings, who in 1989 almost shocked the world as he nearly helped #16 seed ETSU knock out #1 seed Oklahoma

---  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. 

Category: NCAAB
Tags: East
Posted on: March 14, 2010 7:13 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 7:22 pm

Getting to Know #16 Seed East Tennessee State


7:10 PM

Going into the season, East Tennessee State looked to be in almost certain rebuilding mode.  After making the NCAA Tournament last season and dominating the Atlantic Sun, ETSU lost four starters and was presumed to be of little consequence to the A-Sun race.  But from the beginning, the team outperformed expectations.  They finished conference play 13-7, but in the parity-driven Atlantic Sun, that placed them one game behind the four-way tie for the conference title.  At the conference tournament, they pulled two upsets in their first two games and then defeated Mercer, playing on their home court to win the Championship.  What was thought to be a season in transition, became the Buccaneers’ ninth NCAA berth in school history.  If you don’t know much about ETSU (and honestly, if you don’t live in Johnson City, Tennessee, why would you?), here are some tidbits:


The team’s leading scorer at 14 ppg is a player who until this season, had only scored 75 points in his two-year career for the Bucs.  Tommy Hubbard was a highly touted recruit for ETSU coming out of high school and arrived on campus expecting to make a huge impact from Day one and become a shining star at a smaller school.  But a combination of injuries, playing time issues and collegiate adjustment caused Hubbard to struggle early and for Coach Murray Bartow to even suggest a redshirt season.  Last year he began the season as a redshirt, but had it pulled with nine games to go and became a key cog in an ETSU team that won its league and played #1 seed Pittsburgh close in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Now he leads the team in scoring and has even garnered interest from NBA scouts.  There may be no player in America who has improved more.


The Buccaneers are coached by Murry Bartow , now in his seventh season in Johnson City.  Bartow started his coaching career by taking over for a legend, his father Gene Bartow who literally started the basketball program at UAB.  His time in Blazer land was rocky, as he made the NCAA Tournament only once in six years at the school.  When he was dismissed, he took the road less traveled to the hills of Eastern Tennessee and has now become one of the candidates for National Coach of the Year.  There was a time that Murry Bartow looked headed to the Pat Knight school of coaches who couldn’t reach the heights of their famous fathers.  But Bartow now has it rolling at ETSU land and is garnering attention for more than just his last name.


ETSU’s nickname is the “Buccaneers”, an odd decision considering that there are very few places on Earth more landlocked than East Tennessee. But a pirate theme was chosen nonetheless and visitors are to be warned that when arriving on campus, they could be held up for ransom, forced to “walk the plank” or mysteriously accosted by men wearing eye patches and funny hats.  Their mascot is known as “Bucky” and was once part of a duo of mascots, “Bucky and Pepper”, but like Ryan Seacrest telling Brian Dunkleman, “Seacrest, Out”, Bucky got rid of his lesser half and got a makeover to appear more menacing.  What you are left with is a pirate that looks a bit like Wario from “Mario Cart” and seems to scare little children.  Be careful what you wish for.


East Tennessee State is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, which may be most famous to you as a key line in Travis Tritt’s hit “Bonnie and Clyde.” If however you are not as familiar with Travis Tritt lyrics as you should be, there are still reasons to care about Johnson City.  It was founded as a railroad depot, but quickly gained prominence as one of the centers of old-time country music producing such stars as “Fiddlin Charlie Johnson” and “Blind Lemon Jefferson.”  The need to give descriptive nickname to its residents helps explain the current mayor’s name “Edict Declarin’ Williams” and the locals preference to call the ETSU Coach, “Drawin Them Plays Bartow.”  Johnson City is also the last city in America to still have a “Barney Fife” Ordinance on its books, which allows the town to deputize citizens in times of need…such as when Buccanneers strike.  


Unless you count Timothy Busfield, who was on the 1980s television show Thirtysomething (and I don’t), the famous alumni section of the ETSU handbook begins and ends with country star Kenny Chesney.  The former country crooner who has recently turned into Jimmy Buffet-lite, graduated with a degree in advertising, which he brags about when he is hanging out with Peyton Manning (what, you didn’t know they were friends?).  “Beach Kenny” would like you to know that he is having a cocktail now and life is grand out here on the island.  And oh yeah, go ETSU.

So there you have it, your East Tennessee State Buccaneers.  This probably isn’t the team that can upset a #1 seed, but it is the team that will have a beach party and take your bounty while doing it.

Category: NCAAB
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