Dayton Saves The Day!

Thursday was upset central at the NCAA Tournament. Friday saw favorites dominate the action, winning the first 15 games until Dayton came along and prevented the first-ever 16-for-16 performance from the favorites on a single day since the tournament became a 64-team affair.

The tournament is halfway done from a games played standpoint. The strength and weakness of the opening two days is the proliferation of games. It normally provides some memorable upsets, but individual games often get drowned out in the noise of the overall experience.  Saturday we narrow things down to a more manageable number of games. Some of them should be great.

While it is hard to call UCLA a Cinderella, they are an 11-seed. But, they are facing a 14-seed in UAB in the opening matchup. This will be a lot of fun and enjoy this game because the winner is almost, almost, guaranteed to get destroyed by Kentucky next week.

That’s unless Cincinnati manages to beat Kentucky in Game 2 which would be the greatest second-round upset ever.

#10 Ohio State vs. #2 Arizona tips next and that could be a good game if Ohio State plays like it can.

The coach everyone is rooting for #14 Georgia Southern takes on #6 Xavier an hour later in another great matchup. This will be an enjoyable one.

The 6-0 ACC puts that streak on the line when #8 NC State plays #1 Villanova at 7:10. Wichita State (2014), Gonzaga (2013), Pittsburgh (2011), Kansas (2010) are all recent examples of #1 seeds that lost in the second round. History doesn’t have to repeat itself, but if you were going to pick from a list of Kentucky, Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin to lose in the second round this year, which one would you pick?

The final three games are all 5-4 or 6-3 match ups.

Georgetown meets Utah.

UNC meets Arkansas

Butler meets Notre Dame

While wins by Utah, Arkansas, and Butler would be considered upsets, I don’t think they really are. All three games should be good ones.

I can’t wait.

Tear It Up

Always fun to see the bracket go up in smoke on Day 1, but Iowa State’s loss did just the to me. Interestingly, CBS reports that over 99% of their brackets have one loss or more at this point after 16 games. And since misery loves company, there is also this. (In fairness, I hadn’t read his original article. This mistake was all my own.)

What have I learned? When you think a conference is mediocre, like I did with the Big-12, watch out. I’m curious to see how far that mediocrity can sink in that conference. Could Kansas lose today to a #15 seed? That’s the real fun of March Madness.

Let’s Dance- Part 2

Well the brackets are out, and I like my ten picks from yesterday, with the exception of Butler and Kansas. They were placed in the same bracket as Kentucky. Not good at all.

But the other eight, look to be in good spots. Let’s go through it.

1- Kentucky (#1 seed)- They are the number 1 seed overall and have Kansas, Notre Dame, and Maryland as the “seeded sixteen” teams in their bracket. I think they cruise to the Final Four.

2- Duke (#1 seed)- I’m not sure how they got a #1 while UVA, the regular season ACC champ didn’t, but they have a clear path to the Final Four. Iowa State (#8 on my list ) is their biggest threat.

3- Arizona (#2 seed)- #2 in the West and probably the biggest threat to Kentucky in the Final Four. I think they make it and I think they do it. Put them in my Final Four.

4- Wisconsin (#1 seed)- Great comeback today, but I think they bow out early.

5- Louisville (#4 seed)- The East is probably the most wide-open bracket, but I don’t think they get past Villanova.

6- Kansas (#2 seed)- Kentucky will kill them. Notre Dame, Indiana could as well.

7- Villanova (#1 seed) – A clear path to the Final Four. UVA is damaged, Oklahoma is flawed, Louisville is the threat.

8- Iowa State (#3 seed)- See #2

9- UNC (#4 seed)- They can beat Wisconsin and Arizona, but that is a stern test.

10- Butler (#6 seed) – doomed with their draw.

So my Final Four is- Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Iowa State. And I will take Arizona and Iowa State in the finals with Arizona winning it.

Other seeded sixteen teams I didn’t consider.

2 seeds- Gonzaga and UVA. Gonzaga never impresses me as a favorite. They are the classic underdog. UVA is not the same team that won the ACC regular season.

3 seeds- Baylor, Notre Dame, Oklahoma. Of the trio, Notre Dame would be the one I consider the closest to a title.

4 seeds- Maryland and Georgetown. Maryland is also dangerous, but Georgetown could be upset in Round 1.

And if you want two bracket busters, I would pick Northern Iowa and Wichita State. Northern Iowa is a #5 seed in the East and Wichita State is a #7 in the Midwest. Ignore them at your own risk.

 

Let’s Dance!-Part 1

We are 18 hours from the brackets being revealed, but I can’t wait. I have to pick the 10 teams I think can win it all when they ultimately get revealed.

1- Kentucky- If you don’t agree with this, you aren’t paying attention.

2- Duke- Yup, they lost in the ACC semis, but Okafor is awesome. (Though I think the Knicks would be better off taking Towns with the #1 pick)

3- Arizona- We tend to ignore the Pac-10 unless UCLA is leading it, but ignore this team at your own risk.

4- Wisconsin- Frank the Tank is a real beast in college and the next Adam Morrison in the pros.

5- Louisville- Pitino, Pitino, Pitino. Count him out at your own risk.

6- Kansas- Bill Self, Bill Self, ah you get it. I still think this crew is a bit short though.

7- Villanova- If the Big East still was the Big East, they would be higher. For now, let’s just say they have a legitimate shot.

8- Iowa State- Beat Kansas at home and won the Big 12 tourney. Don’t ignore them.

9- UNC- Talent to play with anyone, but do they have the heart ?

10- Butler- Again, if they Big East still was the Big East….

Some teams I am discounting at my own risk that others will tout….

1- UVA- Too hurt

2- Notre Dame- Too lucky

3- Any other SEC team besides UK- too mediocre

4- Any other Big 10 team besides Wisco- see above

5- Any other Pac-10 team besides Zona- The Pac-10 is terrible!

Back after the brackets.

Midnight

I live two subway stops away from a tiny college with a D1 basketball team. Saint Francis College tonight  had a chance to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. In fact, Saint Francis is one of five programs from the original NCAA that has never made the tournament. (Army, Northwestern, William&Mary, and The Citadel are the other four.)

But it wasn’t meant to be. Robert Morris will now have the “honor” of being slaughtered by some college powerhouse like Kentucky. Losses sting no matter when or where, but Robert Morris danced a few seasons ago. For St. Francis a 40-point blowout at the hands of Kentucky would have been wonderful.

Bad Name, But Maybe A Good Team

NYCFC starts play in the MLS league today. Despite the dumb name, I am looking forward to it.

The name is dumb because the “F” stands for “Football” and this team plays soccer. I get it, outside of this country soccer is called football, but inside of it, the primary market for this club, it is soccer. And, when I think of a New York Football Club, I think of the Giants.

But despite that, this is an exciting thing. While the Red Bulls have existed for 20 years, they play in Jersey. For now, NYCFC will play in Yankee Stadium, but they should end up somewhere in the five boroughs.

In addition, they have some big-name players. Frank Lampard will join the club when the EPL is over. David Villa is here and playing in their opener. They are backed by deep pockets- Manchester City and the Yankees. In short, they aren’t your typical expansion club.

It’s been 20 years since MLS launched and they now have 20 teams playing in the U.S. and Canada. Apart from the ugly Chivas situation, they haven’t lost a team since 2001. Most of the clubs play in dedicated soccer stadiums in front of rabid fan bases. MLS is currently a AA or AAA league in terms of talent worldwide. It will be interesting to see where they are in 40 years.

“New York’s” Team Takes A Whack

Let’s get this out of the way up front. I have never liked Syracuse. I grew up in New York City when St. John’s basketball and Chris Mullen did battle with Syracuse on a regular basis. I booed Rony Seikaly and Dwayne Washington growing up and kept on booing guys like Carmelo Anthony later on. On the list of teams I really don’t like, Syracuse holds a very high spot.

And I find their whole marketing campaign about how they are “New York’s” team a joke. Rutgers has tried this marketing angle as well, and it is just stupid. New York doesn’t have a college football team, and while there are certainly plenty of Syracuse basketball fans in the region, St. John’s still draws the biggest cheers. With so many people from so many different parts of the country, you can find a group rooting for almost any college somewhere in NYC. Case in point, I walked into a bar that was packed with UNH supporters and memorabilia a few years ago in the East Village.

But I digress, I want to talk about today’s sanctions against the Orange and the joke that the NCAA has become. I am not going to argue that Syracuse did or didn’t do what it is accused of doing. I suspect they did. But the punishment and the solutions offered by the NCAA hurt the wrong people.

Have you noticed how great Kentucky is this year? Undefeated, and heading for what could be a historic 40-0 season. Have you noticed who coaches them? John Calipari, the only NCAA coach to have Final Four appearances vacated at two schools. I have a feeling the NCAA had that in the back of their mind when they specifically named Jim Boeheim in today’s announcement. They are trying to show how tough they have become, but “punishing” Boeheim by taking away wins and suspending him nine ACC games is laughable. Taking away some scholarships will hurt, but losing three scholarships a season from a total of thirteen is hardly a death sentence.

The people who get hurt the most are the current Syracuse players. They can’t leave the school without sitting out, and they weren’t even involved in the recruiting and other shenanigans that led to this punishment. It is another example of the flawed system the NCAA perpetuates.

I wish we could all just agree that this “student-athlete” model is garbage in the big name sports. Most of these athletes are students in name only and their athletic work is making enormous money for other people. Money that they don’t get anywhere near. Some will argue that they get a free education. But I will ask you this. How valuable is that education when it comes secondary to athletics? Athletic schedules are driven by television and conferences have expanded to the point of geographical absurdity. Missing classes for games isn’t an exception, it’s the rule at most of these schools.

I wish one of two things would happen. Either the NCAA stopped the charade and paid the players a fair wage and treated them as adults, or they actually created a system that enforced the rules equitably and totally. Neither will happen, but perhaps we could ultimately move to something closer to the former. Otherwise, we will have another “scandal” like this one in the very near future.

 

No Buzz For Baseball?

Last night the New York Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win a great hockey game 4-3 and move into first place. The New Jersey Devils traded future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr to Florida. The Battle of Brooklyn went to overtime and St Francis, one of only five original NCAA teams to never make the tournament, took another step towards ending that streak. Any of these stories could have led the local sports reports on TV last night, but two of them weren’t even mentioned on the channels I watched. Instead, we got detailed reports from Tampa and Port St. Lucie on the state of the Yankees and Mets, including a home run total for A-Rod’s batting practice session.

Yet the print media has decided that their is no buzz around the Yankees. They are writing columns about how people don’t seem to care about baseball in New York. Maybe they will be ultimately proven right. If we hit July and the Yankees and Mets are out of the race and under .500, baseball may become an afterthought. But for now, it certainly isn’t and pretending it is five weeks before opening day is just silly.

Super Saturday?

A few years ago the NFL tried to shove an 18-game regular season down the players’ throats. It didn’t work, but one of the reasons for it was a very good one- an 18 week season would put the Super Bowl on the Sunday before Presidents’ Day. The NFL would have granted a long-standing wish of most sports fans- the day after the Super Bowl would have been a national holiday. Since that isn’t happening, and the NFL has no desire to move the regular season start to a later date, how about they do the next best thing? Move the Super Bowl to Saturday Night.

“Super Saturday” sounds very similar to “Super Sunday” so that wouldn’t be a problem. The teams would get one less day off, but still would have 13 days to prepare for the game. The only real objection is that Saturday Night is the worst night of the week for TV viewership. Somehow, I think the Super Bowl would overcome that fact. Businesses would be excited to have fewer hungover people at their jobs the day after the Super Bowl. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I doubt the NFL will concur.

One thing that may influence the possibility of a Saturday Super Bowl is next year’s NCAA College Football Playoffs. Because the Rose Bowl demanded to stay on New Year’s Day, and the Sugar Bowl did too, the semifinals will only be on New Year’s Day when those bowls are the semifinals- as happened in 2015. Next year, the semifinal bowls will rotate to the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl, but both games will be played on New Year’s Eve. This strikes me as stupid, but the TV viewership for these games could influence the NFL and the Super Bowl. If the games do well, it should convince the NFL that a Saturday Super Bowl is possible. If not, Sunday will probably remain the day of the big game and we will all have to deal with the Monday repercussions of that.

Stop Winning!

That wasn’t a misprint you saw under NBA scores last night, the Knicks really did beat the Thunder. In fact, the Knicks have now won four-of-five to “surge” into a tie with Philadelphia for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Worse still, they are now a game better than Minnesota.

Finishing with the third-worst record in the league means not only a 10% reduction in your chance of landing the top pick, but also going from a guaranteed top-four pick, to a top-six pick. And with the Lakers now only three games ahead of them, the Knicks could ruin their chances even further.

But Langston Galloway is great and Hardaway is showing the form he displayed as a rookie you say. The future is appearing right now! Please, stop saying that. Galloway  has played NINE games. Let’s see him play the rest of this season before we anoint him the next Jeremy Lin. (See what I did there?) Hardaway looks better, but again, let’s see it last for half a season or more.

What appears to have happened is that the Knicks shed some of the “divaness” and added some lunchpail type players. Smith, Amundson, and Thomas are not afraid to get their uniforms dirty. They hustle and scrap, something the Knicks sorely needed. Every team needs guys like that, but the Knicks are still bad. They really only have Carmelo to put the ball in the hoop (Again, nine games for Galloway) and the defense is better, but still bad. If this team had started the season together, maybe it wins 30 games. But we are a long way from a championship, and will continue to be so, unless we snag a big draft pick.

So keep trying guys, just not too hard. (wink)

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.