Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tournament Thoughts: Late Friday

We start the evening session off with a nice piece of cheese for Duke. Absolutely dominating Robert Morris.

But at least we got a new addition to Mrs. Poop's All-Hair team. Robert Morris's Andre Frederick.

Don't need to watch the second half of this one though.

Oklahoma State vs Oregon is really showing off the color capabilities of my TV.

Oregon gives the Pac-12 a perfect opening round, Arizona, UCLA and Utah all won.

Terrible opening round for the Big 12 though. Oklahoma St., Texas, Baylor and Iowa State all out in Round 1.

Total domination by Iowa. I only picked them because I thought too many people were picking Davidson based solely on the fact that Steph Curry went there. But even he couldn't have helped them tonight. Ok, maybe he could have.

Not sure why they have a camera in the living room of Peter Hooley's family home. Why not bring them to where the cameras are? They couldn't travel to Columbus, Ohio? I know his mom recently passed, but I don't understand why they're at the game. And why they chose to sent a camera crew to record his sister's reactions.

Frank Kaminsky is excellent. I really want to see the matchup between him and Kentucky's bigs in the a national semifinal.

San Diego State's Malik Pope made Billy's All-Hair Team.

St. John's gave it a great effort and man did they push the pace, they just couldn't make enough shots, or hold San Diego State long enough to really cut the lead to a threatening number.

If Gonzaga is the West Coast mid-major version of Duke, then Kevin Pangos is JJ Reddick.

Sir'Dominic Pointer is on every All-Name team. And his sister's name is Miz'Unique.

And speaking of names, Dayton has Bobby Wehrli (rhymes with Hurley) and Scoochie Smith (real name: Dayshon).

It's the Flyers vs. the Friars. I wonder if there are two other teams whose names rhyme. We know Syracuse will never play in such a game.

Providence coach Ed Cooley lost more than 100 pounds after getting bariatric surgery a couple years ago. He doesn't even look like the same guy, except for the weird hair thing.

Why would the committee do this? I still can't understand how they can send Dayton to Dayton, isn't there a rule saying you can't play a tournament game on a court where you hosted at least 3 games during the regular season? Why is Dayton exempt. And then send them to Columbus for the first round. I don't believe the home court advantage matters that much, but why open yourself up to the criticism?

So we end the day with only even minor upset. That tends to happen after a big day of upsets on day 1. But it does set us up for some good games on Sunday. Looking forward to it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tournament Thoughts - Early Friday

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.

Wyoming has Larry Nance Jr. that's a sure sign of aging, when you start to watch the kids of players you used to watch.

Northern Iowa looks good. Lots of guys who can knock down shots. Have I mentioned I picked them to make the Final Four? Go make me proud Panthers.

Great run by Wyoming to cut a 21-point deficit. UNI helped them out by shooting quick 3s. Larry Nance Jr got hot. He's 6'8" and can shoot. Maybe he'll get a luck from an NBA team.

Kurt Warner representing Northern Iowa!

In the Christian Laettner 30 for 30 Bobby Hurley was 18 and he looked 10. Now he's about 40 and looks like 50.

So there will be no 12-5 upset this year, despite a couple close calls.

Buffalo had so many chances but could just never seize the lead. That's why size matters, WVU got that huge offensive rebound that gave them another possession, which turned into the back-breaking 3-pointer.

So Belmont couldn't pull off the upset but they did give us one of those nice moments where an underdog makes a run and they showed the guys in the bench in warmups going nuts.

The winner of this year's Coach Memorial You Can't Teach Height Award is UC-Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndaiye. There used to be a guy of the same name who played at Auburn and briefly in the NBA.

Terrible end of game performance for UC Irvine. Wasted an entire possession with a tie game, committed a dumb foul in the corner and then couldn't even get a shot to tie the game.

It's just crazy that practically every single close game goes against the team I picked.
Purdue, Buffalo, Wofford, UC Irvine, LSU, SMU. All of them had good chances to win, and I lost every single one of those games.

Maryland holds off Valpo. Drews are now 0-2 in this tournament.

All the 4s and 5s survived, pretty sure that has never happened before. Now onto the final session of the best two days of the years.

Tournament Thoughts - Late Thursday

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.

She also likes their neon shoes.

Valiant effort by Stephen F. Austin but good job by Utah to hold them off.

If I were friends with Thomas Walkup I would call him 5th floor.

Average height of Kentucky starters: 6'9"
Average height of Hampton starters: 6'3"

They look like men vs. boys out there.

Chase picked NC State to the make the Final Four because their red S looks like Syracuse's orange one. I actually changed his bracket and put Providence in the Final Four instead. He's going to be so happy in the morning.

Great comeback attempt by NC State. They fell in love with the 3 just a little too much but LSU absolutely handed the game to them by missing 6 free throws in a row. This is the distinction I make between a great game and a close, exciting one. This was not a good game, poorly played, miscues galore, but a thrilling finish.

I guarantee LSU's players will be thinking about that one for a while.

Ok, now on to Wofford, one my of 2 12 over 5 picks this year. They just look like a spunky underdog. And they seem to have quite a bit of support in Jacksonville. That is only about 5 hours from campus. And if you're a Wofford alum you probably don't get a better chance to see your team in the tournament.

Great exchange, Qualls throws down a monster dunk to give Arkansas a 1-point lead. Before he can even mean mug for the cameras, Wofford nails a 3 to retake the lead. Dunks, no matter how loud, ferocious or spectacular are still only worth 2 points.

The only reason Wofford did not pull off that upset is because they shot too may 3s, and missed the last 6 they took in the game. They needed to try to get the ball to the basket especially those possessions where they had a 1 or 2 or 3 point lead. And that last possession they basically held for a 3 to tie. I know Arkansas played good D on them, but they should have tried to get a bucket and foul.

Georgetown has a guy named Mikael Hopkins. I feel like I have mentioned this before. But it doesn't seem I did.

A great first day of games with some monumental upsets, two overtime games, and 5 games deciding by exactly 1 point, a new single day tournament record.

Days like this are the reason I love the Big Dance. Even though I can't pick a bracket for shit.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tournament Thoughts - Early Thursday

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.

I have no idea why Georgia State chose to slow the pace. They had the ball up 1, slowed it down and it all went to shit. They were pressuring Baylor and forcing turnovers and then they stopped, and Baylor went on a 10-0 run.

Georgia State has 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

I'll Believe It When I See It

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.


Song of the Week

"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

The Other Orange

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

Bracket Breakdown

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, The Poop, as always. And maybe we'll all do better than we did last year.