March 20, 2013

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Let The Madness Begin

By: Joe Williams

The best tournament of the year is under way. I’ve already filled out my NCAA Tournament bracket – thrown it away – and filled out a new one. But I don’t like this one either. Time to start over and make a final attempt. But before I do, there are a few things I’m going to keep in mind.

There are many factors to keep in mind when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

A No. 5 seed is going down. You can take that to the bank. The hard part is figuring out which one it will be. UNLV looks like the obvious choice because they have a rematch with Cal and it’s only about an hour away from the Bears’ campus. VCU could be in trouble if Akron wasn’t going to play without their star point guard. So the Oklahoma State Cowboys better be on upset alert because they have to play an Oregon team that is better than its 12 seed.

We also know that there is probably going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Some of the best candidates are Colorado, Bucknell, Oregon, Middle Tennessee St., Minnesota, and Iowa St. Look for two of these teams to make it to the second weekend. It’s Bucknell and Iowa St. in my bracket.

The Mountain West Conference will have a good showing. Five teams got in (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego St., Colorado St. and Boise St.) and all five will win at least one game..starting with the Broncos on Wednesday night. The SEC, on the other hand, will struggle to find a W. Florida should get one but that could be it.

The key to a successful bracket is to avoid picking teams to make a deep run and then they fall to an early-round upset. That’s going to be tough this year with how even the field appears to be. Here’s one team to avoid in each region…Florida, Syracuse, Ohio State and Duke.

All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. Which top team will make it to Atlanta? The last nine national champs have had blue for a school color so I will take Gonzaga and Kansas to win their regions. I’ll take St. Louis to shock the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals and win the Midwest. And if I’m sticking with blue then I guess its Marquette out of the East Region. And I better be right. I can’t afford another finish at the bottom of the office pool or I’m the one that’s going to be blue.

December 17, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Josh Hamilton joins Los Angeles Angels: The balance of power could be shifting in the AL West as the Los Angeles Angels have signed Josh Hamilton, formerly of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton’s deal is a reportedly $125 million over five years. Give the Angels credit for making such a splash yet again in the offseason. Over the past two winters, they’ve had the biggest signings in baseball with Hamilton this year and slugger Albert Pujols last year. One thing’s for certain, though – if L.A. somehow misses the playoffs again, ownership won’t be happy after investing a boatload of money for the next several seasons.

Josh Hamilton going to the Angels was the biggest story of the week.

Andrea Bargnani bashes team: Toronto Raptors forward/center Andrea Bargnani recently spoke to an Italian newspaper, reportedly calling his team ‘pretty much the worst team in the NBA.’ Few would dispute that with the Raptors and Washington Wizards battling it out for rights to shack up in the league’s basement. Bargnani’s honesty should be lauded as far too often, players dance around questions. Unfortunately for him, though, making the comments while he collects dusts on the bench recovering from an injury looks bad. The franchise needs him healthy to even have a chance at respectability and calling the team he’s not able to help right now among the worst in the league implies that his teammates aren’t all that good.

High school girls’ basketball team wins 107-2: No, 107-2 isn’t a team’s record over several seasons. Rather, 107-2 was the score of an actual, singular game. Indiana’s Bloomington South High School defeated Arlington by that ginormous amount, drawing the criticism of many. There are two sides to the argument, of course. If you’re Bloomington, do you continue to play as hard as you can or take your foot off the pedal a bit? I don’t necessarily have a problem with either approach in college or the pros, but in a high school contest, that’s probably a bit ridiculous. To his credit, the Bloomington coach played all nine of his players. Hopefully, the reserves logged a ton of minutes in the game.

NHL lockout gets uglier: If you were hoping for a timely end to the NHL lockout as an early Christmas gift, you’re probably out of luck. Word broke last week that the players could break up their own union and things could go downhill from there. According to ESPN, by voting to disband the group, players could be protected by antitrust laws, which prohibit companies from locking out employees not a part of the union. If they are locked out, laws require said companies to pay triple the amount of wages owed to employees … er, players in this case. The NHL quickly reacted, filing a class-action complaint in federal court and an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Eventually, things will still end up with Sidney Crosby scoring goals and owners entertaining clients in their private suites since there’s simply too much money to be made. But when that happens remains a big question mark.

Enter … Pokertox: Okay, so we could debate for hours if poker is really a sport, but just go with it for now – I promise, it’ll be fun. Dr. Jack Berdy in New York is introducing Pokertox to the world. Pokertox, essentially is Botox for poker players. The procedure would ideally reduce telltale facial reaction players might make in certain situations while playing the game to give them a better poker face. Sounds a bit strange, but when you think about it, it would have to help, right?

Non-FBS Schools reportedly leaving Big East: For years, the Big East has endured a bit of a power struggle. The schools that played football have wanted to improve that side of the conference, but there were many members that either didn’t play football or didn’t participate in the FBS. With the recent defections from the conference, reports are now that the Big East’s non-FBS football members (that’s Georgetown, DePaul, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Providence if you’re scoring at home) plan to leave. Reports have the seven potentially ending up in the Atlantic 10 to create a new basketball super-conference. Others say that the seven schools could join forces with other Catholic basketball-focused colleges and create a new league. Either move really makes significantly more sense than remaining in the Big East since each member would have the same goals. They would also be less prone to being affected by the recent realignment nightmare since the other conferences are heavily football-focused and wouldn’t be as interested in adding a non-FBS football member.

March 22, 2012

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Elite Eight Predictions (Part 1)

By: Junior

The NCAA Tournament is back underway tonight and we will find out the first 4 teams going to the Elite 8. These games have your expected #1 seeds in Syracuse and Michigan State as well as #6 Cincinnati and #7 Florida making it further than I suspect most people had them going in their bracket. In this post I will look to predict the unpredictable and pick the winners of tonight’s games.

Wisconsin vs. Syracuse

The first of 3 Big Ten vs. Big East matchups tonight, showing how well both conferences have been doing in the tournament so far. Syracuse has continued to play dominant despite not having Fab Melo for the entire NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin showed how good they can be by beating a Vanderbilt team many people saw as a dangerous draw in this tournament. While Wisconsin has 9 losses on season, 7 came against ranked teams, and the other 2 came against Iowa, who clearly gave them matchup problems. Syracuse is a long, up-tempo team that likes to push the ball and get quick points. Wisconsin is your typical Bo Ryan team, stressing tough defense and rebounding. While Syracuse is the favorite in this game, I like Wisconsin in the upset.

Louisville will look to avenge a loss to Michigan State that kept them from the Final Four in 2009.

Louisville vs. Michigan State

This game will be dominated by two coaches who know what it takes  to win in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo have been to the NCAA Tournament a combined 30 times, making the Final Four 11 times and both having won a National Championship. Michigan State has had a pretty easy road thus far as a number one seed, but both teams had a scare last round. Louisville beat New Mexico 59-56, while Michigan State needed a late run to put away St. Louis, 65-61. These two teams met in 2009 in the Elite Eight, with Michigan State winning that game 64-52. While these two teams are very different than in 2009, I still think Michigan State will win this game and send the Cardinals home sooner than they were hoping.   

Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
Cincinnati wrecked a lot of brackets (including my own) when they upset Florida State on Sunday. They would shock even more people if they continued their streak with a win against Ohio State. The Buckeyes came into the season with high expectations, being ranked 3rd overall in the nation. Having to battle in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in basketball this season in my opinion, gave them a few more losses than predicted, but made them a tougher team to beat. The Bearcats will gladly accept that challenge, having beat tough teams such as Marquette and Syracuse earlier this season. However, I do think Ohio State will be going to the Elite Eight, but not without a fight.

Florida vs. Marquette

While there is no Big Ten team in this game, the Big East has yet another team playing tonight in Marquette. Marquette can score at will, averaging almost 76 ppg. Florida hasn’t been finding it hard to score either, putting up 84 in their last game against Norfolk State. Florida has 10 losses on the year, but 5 came against Top 3 opponents, so Marquette will have their hands full.  Florida has won both of their NCAA Tournament games in blowout fashion, while Marquette had a big win in the first round, and a 9 point victory in their last game. That being said, Florida’s opponents were much easier in my opinion and I think Marquette is the final Elite Eight team decided tonight.

March 5, 2012

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NCAA All-American Ballot

By: Anson Whaley

As a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, one of the great privileges I have is voting for the organization’s All-American college basketball team. Below were my selections for the 2011-12 season.

Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) – The Tarheels have any number of players that could be considered for All-American status, but my nod goes to Barnes. Barnes is a downright freakishly athletic player and while some critics will complain that he needs to average more than five rebounds as a 6’8” forward, he’s a mismatch nightmare and can step out and hit three-pointers. He makes 40% of them and also averages 17 points a game – doing all of that for the ACC’s regular season championship team is good enough for me.

Harrison Barnes is a major reason why North Carolina is so highly ranked.

Anthony Davis (Kentucky) – As a true freshman for the Wildcats, Davis has been as good as advertised. His 15 points and ten rebounds per game only scratch the surface, though. Davis may be the best defensive player in the country, which for a first-year player is incredibly rare. He also leads the nation in blocked shots with nearly five per game and could lead Kentucky to yet another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Marcus Denmon (Missouri) – Denmon is the second leading scorer in the Big 12 and has the Missouri Tigers gunning for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The senior is one of those players who have gotten better each year and in 2011-12, he is averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding, and assists.

Draymond Green (Michigan State) – The Spartans’ promotional mailer to voters says that Green is the most versatile player in the country. Head coach Tom Izzo says he’s never had a player that’s been asked to do as much as him. Green has had 20 points, ten rebounds, and five assists in five games this year (more than anyone else in Division I) so all of that sounds about right to me.

Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette) Marquette has surprised fans all season and Darius Johnson-Odom has been a huge reason why the Golden Eagles were in the top ten heading into the weekend. Jae Crowder could be the better overall player for Marquette, but he’s disappeared in several games this season and Johnson-Odom is the motor that makes the team go.

Kevin Jones (West Virginia) – Playing for NCAA bubble team West Virginia, Jones hasn’t gotten the recognition he’s deserved. But he’s been unquestionably the best player in the Big East, one of the toughest conferences in the country. And in averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, he may be the best player in all of America.

Doug McDermott (Creighton) – Players from mid majors don’t generally receive a ton of respect when it comes to All-American teams, but McDermott clearly deserves the honor. At more than 23 points a game, he’s the third leading scorer in all of college basketball and Creighton is a top 25 team with only five losses heading into this past weekend.

Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State) – Moultrie is in a similar position as Jones. He’s been largely ignored playing for unranked Mississippi State, but is also one of the top players in his conference. Moultrie is the leading rebounder in the SEC and the fourth leading scorer. He could have the Bulldogs back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Thomas Robinson (Kansas) – Robinson not only got my vote to represent the All-American team, but was my Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year selection as well. The forward averages just under 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Kansas Jayhawks, a top five team. The thing I like most about Robinson, though, is that he’s played even better against big time opponents. In five games with top ten foes in Duke, Missouri, and Baylor, he’s averaged 23.4 points and 13 rebounds.

Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) – Sullinger has disappeared in some recent games against Wisconsin and Illinois, but his 17 points and nine rebounds per contest are clearly enough for All-American status. He is in the top three in both scoring and rebounding in the Big Ten this season and his Buckeyes are one of the best teams in the country.

March 1, 2011

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Let the Madness Begin

By: Joe Williams

Insanity. Frenzy. Intense excitement. These words aren’t just a description of the Macho Man Randy Savage. They are also in dictionary.com’s definition of “madness”. Savage frequently referred to himself as “The Madness” and said “The Madness is running wild!”

The Macho Man may not be the world champion anymore, but every March the madness returns in the form of the NCAA basketball tournament. Every year millions of people around the country fill out their brackets and enter the office pool for one of the biggest sporting events in the world known as “March Madness”.

The 2011 edition of this tournament promises to live up to the “madness” billing and give us an exciting and unpredictable tournament. This year the madness started a couple weeks early. Kansas, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Texas (three times), Pittsburgh (twice), Notre Dame, Ohio State, Arizona (twice), Duke and San Diego St. are all top 10 teams in the poll who have lost in the last two weeks. Four of the top six lost this weekend, and the upsets should continue throughout the tournament.

The tournament itself will be different this year as well. The NCAA has increased the number of teams from 65 to 68. The last four at-large teams selected and the four lowest ranked automatic qualifying teams will play in the “First Four” on March 15-16. The at-large winners will advance to the main draw of the tournament, most likely as an 11 or 12 seed. The two winners of the automatic qualifiers will advance to face a No. 1 seed.

Television coverage of the tournament will also be different this year. The NCAA agreed to a new deal with CBS Sports and Turner Sports. Now, every game of the tournament will be televised nationally on CBS, TNT, TBS or TruTV.

As of today, Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, BYU, and Pittsburgh are likely in the discussion to be the four No. 1 seeds. The fight for the final spots in the tournament is much less clear. 31 teams will qualify by winning the automatic berth from their conference. That leaves 37 spots for the selection committee to fill.

Assuming the top teams in each conference win the conference tournaments, (which we know is not going to happen), there another 24 teams who should be a lock to make the field of 68. This leaves 13 tournament bids and somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 teams fighting for them.

The road to the Final 4 begins today with the Big South and the Horizon League conference tournaments getting underway. The first three teams will punch their tickets for the big dance on March 5, and when Selection Sunday rolls around on March 13 the field will be set, and the madness will be running wild. I’m sure the Macho Man will be watching.

Teams thought to be locks:

BYU, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, George Mason, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, San Diego State, St. John’s, Syracuse, Temple, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, Villanova, Wisconsin, Xavier

Teams in the conversation:

Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, Belmont, Boston College, Butler, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cleveland State, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Harvard, Illinois, Kansas State, Marquette, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Missouri State, Nebraska, Old Dominion, Penn State, Richmond, Saint Mary’s, Southern Miss, Tennessee, UAB, UNLV, USC, Utah State, Vanderbilt, VCU, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wichita State

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