Saturday, March 21, 2015
Friday, March 20, 2015
We start day 2 with Kansas and New Mexico State. Kansas is the two seed a lot of people think is ripe for an upset. But I think they're good, just played a tough schedule. Not much to comment on from Kansas's blowout. Sim Bhullar's brother, Tanveer is 7'3" 355 lbs and hardly plays. He did make both his shots. Every year I pick Michigan State. Some years they let me down, but they usually always play well and Coach Izzo always makes good decisions late in games. Ok, not always, but they had a big enough lead to hold on. A couple of Michigan State players have nice sneakers, kind of remind me of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
That battle of Pennsylvania never materialized. Villanova took it to Lafayette. And they looked good doing it. But those of us who have Nova exiting early shouldn't panic. Plenty of teams dominated in round 1, and lost in round 2. Note: Until they got to 96 teams I will not call the playing games the first round. I'm becoming an old fart. Or I resist shill marketing. You make up your own mind. Utah is coached by Larry Krystowiak, one of The Concierge's favorite players. Basil Smotherman definitely leading the all-name team so far this tournament. Octavius Ellis ejected for Cincinnati. Deservedly so. Brutal cheapshot forearm under the chin of AJ Hammons. Purdue picked a good time to get hot from 3. Started 1-18, hit 3 of next 4. But once again no such thing as momentum. Quick basket for Cincy, a turnover on a ball batted off the fingertips and reversed on review, then a hard take to the basket for an and-1. But you have to just get out of the way there. A 2-point lead and the ball with 39 seconds left is pretty strong. Can't risk fouling, especially because the shot could miss. No whistles at the end of this game. But I like the no call. I don't like rewarding an offensive player for running recklessly into a defender. Damn that was an exciting shot. Buzzer off, shot up, rolling around the rim. It actually took long enough to process all that. Another overtime game. Exciting overtime considering no one could make a shot, lent itself to some up and down action though. In games this close those little things that happen throughout the course of the game, the missed free throws, the bad passes, the defensive lapses, determine the winner and loser. I really enjoy watching the Ivy League teams play. The always give a solid effort. And they usually keep it close through ball movement and good outside shooting. I really enjoy Andrew Catalon as an announcer. He does the Olympic curling but is getting more high profile assignments. Wow, what a finish. North Carolina just made the plays to hold off Harvard. A great game though, both teams played well and made plays instead of some other games that stayed close because of ineptitude. Ty Charles of Stephen F Austin made Mrs. Poop's All-Hair team.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
It's very rare you see Notre Dame being the more athletic team on the floor. Usually they just have a bunch of slow white guys who can shoot. I don't have a lot of confidence in Northeastern after hearing their coach fell off the Al Skinner coaching tree. UAB just seems nervous. Shooting terribly, dropping passes. They likely won't be able to come back if they fall into a huge hole against Iowa St. Fred Hoiberg doesn't age. UAB did withstand that initial punch from Iowa State and got back into the game by grabbing a lot of offensive rebounds, which is easier when you miss a ton of shots. The downside of Greg Anthony's prostitution arrest: all the announce teams got shuffled, Verne and Raf got separated so did Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel. Eagle and Spanarkel were the longest running team, at 17 years. I hate cliches like "they wanted it more" but UAB is trying a lot harder, running faster, boxing out more than Iowa State. Terrible late game strategy by Notre Dame. Up 6 under 3 to go and Jerian Grant holds the ball for 30 seconds and chucks up a bad three. Then they fall asleep on defense and allow Northeastern an easy backdoor bucket. The luck of the Irish certainly with them. They tried to blow this game. Why throw an 80-foot pass? Someone come to the ball! But they played great defense in the final possession with a 2-point lead and that was good enough to hold on. When Niang passes and gets other people involved Iowa State's offense works great. When he gets the ball and shoots it without passing, it doesn't work for them. He doesn't have the hot hand in this game, other teammates particularly Thomas do, but he doesn't seem to recognize that. He finished 4-15 from the field (pitiful considering most were within 10 ft) with 3 turnovers. So that's the first big upset of the tournament. A lot of people had Iowa State going to the Final Four. I had them losing to SMU on Saturday so this actually works out pretty well for me. Georgia State's coach looks so silly rolling along the sideline on a stool. Kevin Ware. Surely you remember his gruesome injury from when he was with Louisville 2 years ago. Funny thing, when Baylor got the lead, they tried to sit on it, and GSU went off, especially the coach's son. And bang, there you have it. The first big ONIONS!!!!! moment of the tournament. Incredible shot by Hunter, the coach's son, knocking dad off his stool. Incredible. If he hadn't hurt himself after the conference title game he would have done it after this one. Amazing. That's why we love the tournament. Two No. 14 seeds won in the same tournament only twice, in 1986 (Arkansas-Little Rock over Notre Dame, Cleveland State over Indiana) and 1995 (Weber State over Michigan State, Old Dominion over Villanova). This Butler-Texas game seems to me to be one of those overachieving hard-working teams that plays good basketball against an undisciplined underachieving team with lots of talent. But I prefer talent which is why I have Texas winning this one. Larry Brown is going to die on the sideline. He does not look well. He's only three years older than Boeheim. Is that what we have to look forward to in year 3? A decrepit corpse on the sideline? What a comeback by SMU! That little guy Nick Moore was awesome. 19-0 run! I never believe in momentum and these games often prove it. Teams get their doors blown off for a few minutes, then hit a couple shots and of the sudden they have all the "momentum." If it's that transient it probably doesn't mean anything at all. Bryce Alford on fire. It is a good day to be a coach's son. Oh what a terrible ending to a great game. Very hard to say but I don't think that was goaltending. What a terrible finish to a very exciting game. SMU was in this cage of their own creation though, with a very bad turnover when they should have been sealing the victory. It always figures that the team everyone is criticizing about their bid is the one that wins a game, and now they have a very good chance to make the Sweet 16. It seems like D'Angelo Russell is going to be a very high pick in the NBA. And he certainly is a very good player but it seems to me a lot of these athletic wings types have been busts in the NBA. That was a vicious elbow to Russell's face. It should have been a flagrant 1, excessive contact, but because it wasn't intentional it didn't rise to the level of a flagrant 2. They got one right, huge turn of events. VCU gave that game away. Way too many mistakes, bad turnovers, ill-advised shots. But an overtime game was an exciting way to end the first session of games.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Jim Boeheim announced this morning that he will retire in 3 years. That seems like a really long transition period to me. Maybe he can say he didn't want his hand-picked predecessor Mike Hopkins to take over amidst the turmoil and sanctions from the NCAA. But this also gives Boeheim way too much time to change his mind. I do not trust him but I guess this gives him time to remove the stain of this latest ugly incident from being the last thing people remember about him. But if he didn't want it to appear as if he were forced out, why not wait a year or two to announce this? This doesn't give him enough time to recoup the 108 wins he lost, so he will never get to 1,000. So he turns the program over to Mike Hopkins who has been on the staff for 20 years, and been the designated coach-in-waiting for at least the last five. I am not sure what kind of coach Hopkins will be. Will he just be a Boeheim clone and do everything exactly the same? Will he try to put his own stamp on the program? Will he follow his mentor and teach one defense and employ one strategy no matter the circumstances? Or will he be a real coach who prepares his players for different opponents and adapts his scheme to the strength of his team. I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I'm looking forward to finding out. In three years. Hopefully after Boeheim goes out on a high note of back-to-back-to-back National Championships.
"Both Sides Now" - Carly Rae Jepsen I can't believe my favorite Canadian pop cutie did a cover of one of my favorite songs ever, and I never knew about it. Maybe because her version isn't that great. It certainly doesn't measure up to Neil Diamond's (SOTW, 12/27/06). It's hard to make the same song SOTW twice, but this is so worth it.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
For those of you Syracuse fans who are disenchanted by the NCAA Tournament this year because Syracuse isn't it, I have some advice for you: watch the women! Women are people too! Under the guidance of Coach Quentin Hillsman the program has made great strides towards respectability, earning its first tournament win last year and threatening to earning its higher seed ever until a first round loss to 13-20 Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament. That loss knocked Syracuse down to a number 8 seed and a first round matchup with Nebraska on Friday at 7:30 PM ET. If Syracuse wins they'll likely earn a rematch with South Carolina and superfrosh A'ja Wilson. The teams played in November in the Bahamas and SU narrowly lost (one of 6 losses to top 15 teams). But this time because of the women's tournament structure, it will be a home game for the Gamecocks. But as a true fan of the Orange I hope you all will support the women's team as they try to carry the banner for the school this year.
Monday, March 16, 2015
The overriding theme of this year's tournament is Kentucky. Will they win the tournament, go 40-0 and stake their claim as the best team ever? The answer is yes. Kentucky is going to win. If this tournament were run in a billion different Universes concurrently I like Kentucky to win 80% of those. So when filling out your bracket you have to ask yourself if you want to take a big chance, and go for the win, or do you want pick Kentucky and battle it out with everyone else on the other 57 games. I will be picking Kentucky! Now on to the other teams that might have a chance if Kentucky falters. I like Duke a little better this year. They have interior toughness this time and in a crapshoot like the tournament can be, I don't expect them to get knocked out early for the third time in 4 years. This is the best Gonzaga team possibly ever. Their arc started as a Cinderella, and then when they finally got high seedings they never reached those expectations. This is their year to make the Final Four, beating Duke in a thrilling regional final. Wisconsin is the only other team I could see beating Kentucky. Watching Kaminsky go against Towns and Cauley-Stein in the Final Four will be awesome, and probably the de facto National Championship. I think the East regional (going through the Carrier Dome) is the most wide open. I don't have much faith in Villanova or Virginia and I could definitely see that one going to a surprise team like Northern Iowa or even Michigan State. I think Kansas got royally screwed by getting lumped in with Kentucky. I think they are better than Virginia, and playing the nation's toughest schedule should count for something. They went 9-5 against top 30 teams for heaven's sake, including a loss to Kentucky. I think a 2 seed is right for them, but I don't think they were 8th best. Now to the bottom of the bracket. Texas and UCLA should not have made the tournament. Temple and Richmond were more deserving. Temple was the last team left out according to head of the committee. Texas I can forgive because they play in what is toughest conference in the country but the Pac-12 is putrid and UCLA beat no one all year. And to compound the issue, each of those teams got a free pass to the first round. And poor Boise State gets screwed again having to play Dayton on its home floor. The committee could have avoided two controversies by swapping Dayton and UCLA here. Now on to some upsets. A lot of people are picking Stephen F. Austin but Cinderellas rarely do it two years in a row. I don't see Northern Iowa getting upset in the first round. So for a 5/12 upset it's either Wofford over Arkansas or Buffalo over West Virginia. I would tend to pick against the team from the weaker conference but I haven't made up my mind. I'm also watching Cal-Irvine over Louisville as a first round upset. I'm really looking forward to all the 7-10 games this year especially VCU vs. Ohio State as some of these teams are very live dogs in the second round. More thoughts coming throughout the week. Stay tuned and please join the tournament challenge group on ESPN.com, The Poop, as always. And maybe we'll all do better than we did last year.