Recent Sports Developments from a Curmudgeon’s Point of View

Al puts on her curmudgeon's cap for this round of commentary

For those of us who love college football and basketball above all other sports, this is a tough time of year. Yes, the NBA playoffs are on but since they go from now until Wimbledon starts (or it so it seems), I can’t get excited about them yet. I’ll be more interested in them around Memorial Day. And, yes, baseball season has started, but I’m a Braves fan who has been denied round-the-clock Braves coverage since I moved away from Atlanta, so I’m not seeing a lot of their games. I do know about that Colorado no-hitter against the Braves (unfortunately), but that’s about it and it’s enough to make me flashback to being a Braves fan in the 1970s.

I don’t know why, but I seem to be suffering from the post-CBB doldrums more than usual. Maybe it’s because, for me, a season in which UNC sucked and Duke won the National Championship is best spent in denial. So, in my mind, there hasn’t been any college basketball since April 2009. However, thanks to a significant other’s love of SportsCenter in both Spanish and English and the continuous ESPN broadcasts at my gym, I’ve been forced to take notice of some recent developments. And that has prompted me to share my curmudgeonly views on them.

68-team NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament expansion

Whew, we really dodged a bullet on that one? Right? Um, wrong. If I had the power to give awards, the NCAA would get one for “Sneakiest Way to Handle Tournament Expansion.” This was brilliant from a spin and public opinion perspective. Have a couple of NCAA officials and former officials hint that “expansion is possible” and let ESPN and other sports outlets run with a 96-team tournament scenario, getting college basketball fans all riled up and arguing the pros and cons. Then, after letting us rant and wail for awhile, they say, “We’re only adding three more games.” This completely deflated most complainers while fans like me were relieved and happy that we don’t have to worry about a bracket with 96 teams–yet. Continue reading

Open Letter to the Ohio State University

Dear tOSU,

First, stop emphasizing the word “the” in your official name. No one cares. However, that is not the subject of my letter. I am writing on behalf of the college basketball world today. Why? Why did you have to chuck countless threes in the last 10 minutes of the second half?

I know Tennessee had an advantage on the inside, but did you have to rim out on all of them? It used to be so fun holding the banner of “Sweet Sixteen U” over Tennessee fans, but no more. I imagined a university that holds itself in such high regard could keep the history alive, but I was mistaken.

So thanks, Ohio State, for reminding me why I never choose your athletic teams to win a big game. Was the SEC speed too much for you this time as well?

Sincerely,

America

Conference Comparisons After Round 1

For college sports fans with teams who suck, it seems the default mechanism nowadays is to champion the strength of your conference to make yourself feel better about said suckage. We’ve all had conversations with Big East conference homers in basketball and SEC conference homers in football (I’m pretty sure I am one).

Every year the Big Dance acts as the rule that the conferences are measured against. Whoever dominates the tournament has bragging rights for the year.

So… How do the conferences stand up after round one? Have a look below:

  • Big East – 4 of 8 teams remain = 50%
  • Big 12 – 5 of 7 teams remain = 71%
  • ACC – 4 of 6 teams remain = 67%
  • Big 10 – 4 of 5 teams remain = 80%
  • SEC – 2 of 4 teams remain = 50%
  • Pac 10 – 2 of 2 teams remain =100%
  • Mid-Majors – 11 of 33 teams remain = 33%

Obviously of note in that comparison should be the relative success of the Big 12, ACC, and Big 10 versus the relative failure of the Big East and SEC. The fact that the Pac 10 won both of their games is commendable, considering how terrible that conference looked all year. Also noteworthy is the fact that 11 mid-major teams are still alive after the first weekend.

These numbers alone don’t tell you that much in the grand scheme of things. What’s really interesting is looking at how the conferences have performed in terms of seeding. To analyze this, I’ve listed the number of teams that have performed at or below their seeding for each conference.

  • Big East – 5 teams performed at or above their seed, while 3 teams played below their seeding. 0 teams performed above their seeding.
  • Big 12 – 5 teams performed at or above their seed, while 2 teams played below their seeding. 1 team performed above their seeding.
  • ACC - 5 teams performed at or above their seed, while 1 team played below their seeding. 1 team performed above their seeding.
  • Big 10 – All 5 teams performed at or above their seed. 0 teams performed above their seeding.
  • SEC – 4 teams performed at or above their seed, while 1 team played below their seeding. 0 teams performed above their seeding.
  • Pac 10 – 2 teams performed at or above their seed, while 0 teams played below their seeding. 1 team performed above their seeding.
  • Mid-Majors – 30 teams performed at or above their seed, while 3 teams played below their seeding. 6 teams performed above their seeding.

This is where it gets a little more interesting. With 3 teams playing below their seeding and 0 teams performing above their seeding, it’s safe to say that the Big East has under-achieved compared to the other conferences. The Big 12 had 2 teams perform below their seeding, but they also had one perform above their seeding.The other major conferences performed as you would probably expect.

Obviously, the big winner in all this is the Mid-Major fan. 30 of 33 teams played at or above their seeding, while only 3 performed below their seeding. In fact, the three teams that performed below their seeding actually lost to other mid-major teams. An impressive 6 teams performed above their seeding.

What have we learned from all this? Getting the most teams in doesn’t necessarily mean you have the best conference in terms of quality. Not this year at least…

With no time to waste, Al makes her predictions for today

The first two Top 25 men’s college basketball games get underway in 42 minutes, so I need to get cracking if I’m going to get these out in time.

Texas A&M at No. 1 Texas. Cracks are starting to show in the game of the once seemingly invincible Longhorns. Shocking I know given Texas’s stellar late season play throughout history.  So, this will probably be a dogfight like the Iowa State game but I think Texas will prevail. Their first loss will probably be next week.

Yep, Texas, your cracks are starting to show

No. 2 Kentucky at Auburn: With play in one of now in full swing, one has to wonder when Kentucky will lose. I think the day is coming, but I’m pretty sure it’s not today.

Texas Tech at No. 3 Kansas. Call me crazy, but I think this is going to be a great game and it might even go down to the wire. I’m giving Kansas this win solely based on home court advantage.

No. 5 Syracuse at No. 9 West Virginia. My opinion of how good Syracuse is might be a little off because it was based on their stomping of UNC earlier in the season, but now that Clemson and College of Charleston have proven that just about any one can do that to the Heels, I’m not sure it’s a reliable measure of how good a team is. However, I do think that WVU is not as good as Syracuse, so I’ve got Syracuse in this one and I’m sticking to it.

No. 6 Purdue at Northwestern. I’m starting to hate Purdue because they, like many Big 10 teams, never do what I predict. So, I’m picking them in this game but fully expect to be laughed at by everyone when Northwestern pulls the upset.

Illinois at No. 8 Michigan State. I’m giving this one to MSU because, unlike most basketball teams this season (especially the Tar Heels), they seem to be getting better with each game.

No. 23 Mississippi at No. 10 Tennessee. LOL at everyone who thinks that Tennessee is a Top 10 team just because they caught Kansas napping. I’m going with Mississippi for the “upset.”

No. 12 Kansas State at Colorado. I’m picking Kansas State mainly because I think that they might lose if I pick them and also because I think Colorado might have worn themselves out upsetting BYU.

No. 18 Georgia Tech at No. 13 North Carolina. This pick is a huge risk because even though it appears that Tyler Zeller is a big doofus when he’s on the court, now that he’s off it due to injury, the entire team has become a big collection of doofuses. I don’t get that. I’m hoping we can win this one at home though and then I can taunt this Duke fan I know.

No. 14 Gonzaga at San Diego. Just once I’d like Gonzaga to do what I predict them to. It’s possible that it could happen today, but I’m already expecting a huge San Diego upset because I picked Gonzaga. I really wish they’d lose 20 games each season for the next 27 seasons so that I’d never have to deal with them again.

No. 16 Wisconsin at Ohio State. I can’t believe these two are playing again

More exciting than the Wisconsin Ohio State game Al watched recently

so soon. This game could go either way because Ohio State’s playing at home and also because they seem to be getting their act together. Just for laughs, I’m going to pick tOSU for the upset. I will not watch this game though because the last time I sat down to watch a Wisconsin vs. Ohio State game, I decided that putting a 20-quart stock pot on a hot plate and watching it until it boiled was much more exciting. Not to mention that all the clanging of bricks that banged off the rims activated my long dormant tinnitus.

Colorado State at No. 17 BYU. This is the game where we find out if BYU is for real or just another mid-major that’s overhyped (like most of them). Colorado State’s not that bad of a team, but I think BYU is likely to win this.

No. 19 Clemson at North Carolina State. Ordinarily, after a team pulls an upset, they come out flat the next game because they gave it all to win. However, Clemson hardly put any effort into their sound defeat of the Heels, so I think they can take on the Wolfpack. Like Texas, it’s not quite time for the Tigers to implode. That’ll come a little later in this month.

Louisville at No. 20 Pittsburgh. This is a tough one to call because I don’t think Pittsburgh is all that great. But they’re playing at home, so I’m giving this one to them.

Massachusetts at No. 21 Temple. One can only hope that Temple can pull this off, seeing as Massachusetts has lost 8 games.

Youngstown State vs. No. 22 Butler. I know it seems like I hate mid-majors but it’s actually only a select few. Butler’s one of them, but I think they can take Youngstown State. It’s iffy, though.

Oklahoma State at No. 24 Baylor. I like the Bears, but I think they’ll stumble in this one.

Virginia Tech at No. 25 Florida State. Yay, another great ACC matchup that’s impossible to predict. Please note the sarcasm. I’m going with FSU only because they’re playing in Tallahassee, not that it seems to matter.