Monday, March 25, 2013

15 Going On Sweet 16

Remember when George Mason made the Final Four a few years ago, the coach delivering pizzas to the students who were waiting outside in the cold to get tickets, and the novelty of a Cinderella Story? Well in this era the dance has become a rave with the young teams really drawing attention and we not only knew parity would be the theme of the club, but now we’re actually expecting Cindy to make more than a cameo appearance wearing her best LBD. Grant it Cindy and more than three mice helping her this year as Oregon being seeded as 12 pretty much put her on the VIP guest list last Sunday afternoon. Along those same (bracket) lines, Arizona as 6-seed when they’ve been ranked in the top 10 for the majority of the season was underhanded as slippin’ the door man a deuce when shaking his hand, so she was definitely in. In hindsight she would have arrived on schedule anyway as for the first time in the history of the dance a 15-seed has made the Sweet 16 as Florida Gulf Coast, whom was already on the radar after beating Miami earlier in the year, upset both Georgetown and San Diego State (who was supposed to be dressed up as Cindy this year according to many) en route to big date Friday night with fellow Floridians the Gators of UF. Rest assured, the CBS hype machine will be pumping us full of FGCU stories and shorts all week leading up to the weekend so get ready, and I gotta’ admit, I’m in, is what the dance is all about. A program that is younger than most of us watching the tournament itself, although they did win 24 games this season, they really only have one signature win over Miami, but got blown out by VCU and Duke, and had double digit losses to St. Johns, Iowa State, and the powerful Lipscomb Bisons(please note Duke is the only school of the afore mentioned to still be playing). So now that they can’t sneak up on anyone and the Gators will have a week to prepare, let the banter begin on whether Cindy rages on past midnight or if she is gator bait. Cindy has some sisters with her at the dance this year, in Wichita State and La Salle whom will be ‘dancing with the upstarts’ when they meet on Thursday night. The downside is that one of them will have to go home but it assures that at least one family member will still be dancing late in to the evening on weekend. Wichita State made all the pundits east of the Grand Canyon happy as they made an early exit and all of East coast bias commentators from ESPN can now say ‘I told you so’ that the Zags didn’t deserve a top line billing. Even now I don’t think that was the case but Cindy can be a real beotch when you try to make her leave the party early, and the shockers lived up they’re name as they shot both 50% from the floor and 50% from 3-point land and that usually results to crying at the podium for an opponent regardless of seeding. La Salle’s party started when Ole’ Miss took out Wisconsin in the first round making a weekend date more that feasible as double digit compeers got together in a 12-13 matchup that honestly both schools would have wanted when the brackets were released. As expected a tight game throughout and as usual in the tournament games like that are decided at the free-throw line and the Explorers exploited the Rebels weakness 72% to 47% and that made a world of difference in a 2-point game. As for the distant cousins several times removed from Cindy’s lineage Oregon and Arizona are the remaining dancers whom were not top 4 seeds, you can change uniforms with almost any other schools still playing and you couldn’t tell the difference. Perhaps only Louisville can make a case against that statement and will have a chance to do so Friday night when they will have to deal with the Ducks. Their lone Pac-12 remaining school Arizona will also be trying to spoil a favorites evening as they take on #3 seed Ohio State and the 3 point line is a harbinger of how close this game should be and how terrible the seedings were put together this year. But, in the spirit of the spirit of the season that’s what we tune in to once our date has gone home early, our brackets have long since collapsed, and we’re looking for another reason to cheer and be involved, that’s the genius of the big number in front of the school name that instantly invokes intrigue with the hopes that perhaps Cindy or one of her sisters hasn’t gone home with someone yet.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let the Madness of Parity Begin!

The annual spring collegiate basketball tournament that has become a social media sensation and American cultural institution is upon us again! The NCAA Tourney commonly known as March Madness gets started Tuesday evening with the official tip-off taking place on Thursday morning. With the parity college basketball is experiencing there are at least ten teams with a shot a cutting down the nets in Atlanta as favorites not to mention several Cinderella possibilities to wear the glass slipper and stun the country! Forty-four different schools were ranked this season which is just five off the record which was set back in the 2008- 09 campaign. While Gonzaga finished the regular season on top of the Associated Press poll for the first time in school history and as expected grabbed a number one seed in the West Region, the school to beat is Louisville. Rick Pitino’s crew, the top seed in the Mid-West Region showed just how potent and powerful they can be after outscoring Syracuse by 30 points in the second half of the Big East championship game turning a 13 point deficit into a 17 point victory. Indiana, who spent ten weeks at number one this past season, grabbed the top seed in the East Region with Kansas gaining top billing in the South. As always there are some compelling first round match-ups between eighth and ninth seeds. In Lexington, Kentucky Colorado State’s deliberate style of patient basketball, will be put to the test against a Missouri squad that will try to run you out of the gym along with firing three pointers as fast as the scoreboard can change digits! In the East Region, N.C. State who has superior talent is seeded 8th only because the Wolfpack don’t show up unless motivated. They’ll face a Temple squad that has been up and down all season. Expect C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown to all be ready to go and make a Cinderella run with talent that is as good as most in the entire tournament. Another eight versus nine game that intrigues is North Carolina against Villanova. The Tar Heels may be young but can shoot the deep ball with the best of them. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock are long distance assassins. The Wildcats will counter with trying to pound the rock inside to Jay Vaughn disaster on a neutral court. They take on a red-hot Mississippi squad coming off an upset of Florida in the SEC Championship game. Rebels guard Marshall Henderson is capable of having one of those games carrying the underdog to glory. The other twelve versus five game that sticks out is Arkansas against VCU in Auburn Hills. Some experts believe Shaka Smart’s club can make another run to the final four like in 2011 when they upset top-seeded Kansas in the Southwest region. We say the Rams should be on upset alert in round one! While Arkansas is inconstant at times, the Hogs play the same high-paced tempo game as VCU and when hot can thump anyone as then number one Florida found out in Fayetteville earlier this season. Speaking of the final four which is what this event is all about, who might get there can be anybody’s guess? The favorites are Louisville and Duke out of the Midwest, Gonzaga and Ohio State from the West, Indiana and Miami from the East along with Kansas and Georgetown in the South. Sleeper picks starting in the Midwest Oklahoma State (young but very talented), Michigan State and St. Louis (defense wins games and both this teams can lock you down!). From the West you have to be aware of New Mexico. Steve Alford’s team won the Mountain West Tourney in Vegas against UNLV which says plenty not to mention they are big, have solid guard play and a star player in Kendall Williams who averages 13.5 points a game and can take over at any time. N.C. State in the East could be the surprise team. They have enough talent to take down Indiana in Dayton in the second round. Motivation is all the Wolfpack need and that match-up will bring exactly that! With the A-T-L the final destination, here are our picks for glory. Louisville from the Midwest, two-seed Ohio State from the West, Miami surprises with a ride from Austin all the way to Georgia and Georgetown stops Kansas to win the South. In the semis, Louisville takes down the Buckeyes and Miami’s size proves to be too much for the Hoyas. So we get two teams that love to run and shoot the three-ball, in the Cardinals and Hurricanes. But the difference in the championship game is size and Miami has it. Shane Larkin can handle the Louisville pressure, while Durand Scott and Larkin match Peyton Silva, Russ Smith and Luke Hancock three ball for three ball! The Hurricanes however go to the next level with points in the paint. Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble prove to be too big inside and Miami wins their first national title in a high scoring 82-78 shootout!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One Big Dog, and Many Small Ones Will Bite Come April

The DJ is setting up, the waitresses are counting their cash drawers, and the bartenders are making sure everything is well stocked. The big dance is set to begin next week and although some invitations have been sent out already, most are still yet to be delivered even though the addresses are on the envelopes. However about five or six bridesmaids still hope that the handsome bachelor will show up at their dorm just in time to whisk them away to the hottest party in the country and the greatest event in American sports. Normally at this time of year the pundits have already begun to fill out their brackets as the top four seeds usually end up on the bottom four lines even though it has only happened once in the tournament’s history, then it’s just a matter of throwing in an upset here or there (so they think). However even that is not possible this year because we still don’t know for sure who the top four seeds will be and moreover don’t know who the number one overall will be despite the fact that Gonzaga University has the best record at 30-2 a full 2 games ahead of the number 2, and is the only ranked school to end the season with an undefeated conference record. There has even been banter on weather the Bulldogs should even hold a top line come Sunday. Grant it that’s coming entirely from the East coast wave that’s two hours in to counting sheep most nights while the Zags are busy bustin’ someone up by double digits. So let me go on record right now and state that not only should they be a top seed but should be THE top seed in the dance and my logic is simple and irrefutable. Who else deserves it more, and can quantitatively make a case? The simple answer is no one can. Every school has lost multiple league games and looked more than vulnerable when on the road. There has not been one school that has stayed on top of the mountain too long, hey we even saw 5 top seeds go down in successive weeks. Don’t even submit a brief that has the words “weak conference” anywhere in it as you name me the school and I present at least two ‘bad losses’ it’s had this year to teams that would be .500 or less in most conferences in college basketball and that’s my point. This will be the year where the parity in college basketball is even more evident and I for one can’t wait to see some these schools with “Nebraska Football Schedules” leave the friendly confines of their campus home gyms. There will many an upset this season and I won’t be the least surprised to see a repeat of 2006 when no school that started on the top line ended up there come April. Also like 06’ look for a double digit school to crash the party and ruffle the feathers of the “Finals Clubs” like Duke and Indiana, where their hotel rooms are already booked in Hotlanta. Oh yea, that already happened when Gonzaga finished the season as number one. For the record guys, this is not a case of “just because you’re here, doesn’t mean you belong”, as the ol’ guard may be waiting for rush invitations stamped from Spokane, Washington.