Sweet Emotions

Well, ladies and gents, things are about to get real. With the fun and excitement of the first weekend behind us, we are now left with serious games with serious implications and emotions in the Sweet 16. As Steven Tyler put it:

I pulled into town in a police car
Your daddy said I took you just a little too far
You’re telling me things but your girlfriend lied
You can’t catch me ’cause the rabbit done died
Yes it did

I’ll just let that sink in for a minute. While we wait, here are my thoughts on today’s Sweet 16 matchups:

4 Wisconsin vs. 1 Syracuse
I’m not going to lie. Any game featuring Wisconsin has the potential to make you want to stab your eyes out. That said, their combination of quality guard play and tough defense should make this game very competitive. The Syracuse zone forces teams to hit outside shots to win, something Wisconsin has shown it can do on occasion. There is potential for an upset, but here’s hoping Syracuse uses their superior size and athleticism to spare us another round of “Bo Ball”.

Living proof that stage presence can overcome a lot of ugly.

4 Louisville vs. 1 Michigan State
Based on the season thus far, this seems to be a match-up of similar teams on similar paths. Both teams play suffocating defense at times, both teams struggle to score, and both teams overcame mid-to-early season set-backs to win their conference tournament. While Michigan State is the higher seed, all but one of the personnel match-ups seem to favor a finally healthy Louisville roster. The problem is that one match-up happens to be Draymond Green, who can and has put his team on his back. If Louisville can somehow convert a high percentage of transition baskets, look for the Cardinals to advance.

6 Cincinnati vs. 2 Ohio State
While the Cardinals and Spartans might feel like they’re looking in the mirror at one another, the Bearcats and Buckeyes couldn’t be more different. Cincinnati seemed to switch gears from mediocre also-ran to true Final Four contender heading up to the tournament, while pre-season Final Four favorite Ohio State has gone the other direction. The Buckeyes will have the clear talent advantage and they should be able to force their tempo on a Bearcat attack that sometimes resembles a team from the Rec League Final Four. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the Buckeyes will be able to return to form this late in the season.

7 Florida vs. 3 Marquette
On paper, this pairing would seem to favor the Golden Eagles. According to KenPom, Marquette has a balanced, efficient attack with the nation’s #28 offense and #16 defense. The Gators trend toward the scoring side with the #3 offense and #73 defense. Marquette seems to be the tougher, more consistent team and with dynamite scoring from Darius Johnson-Odom and Big East POY Jae Crowder we could see them pull away. However, you can never under-estimate guard play in the NCAA tournament and Florida’s can be unmatched at times. If the Gators are hitting outside shots, this could go down to the wire.

As we all pretend to be interested in what they’re paying us to do, lets keep our fingers crossed that 4 potentially great match-ups all materialize tonight. See you tomorrow.

 

The Greatest Day Ever: Part II

March Madness is even more satisfying than Bill Murray.

Closing the books on the glorious masterpiece that was the first day of the NCAA tournament is done with the sweetest of sorrows, but fear not. Just like Groundhog Day, we get to hit the clock and do it again.

Here’s what’s peaked my interest for Day 2:

7 Florida vs. 10 UVA
This has to be one of the hardest games to pick that I can remember. Both teams have looked like top 10-15 material on occasion this season, but neither has found the consistency for that to materialize. Florida is #5 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency and #121 on defense, while UVA is #104 on offense and #3 on defense. It should be interesting to see how this “strength-on-strength” match-up plays out.

Is The Wolfpack Back?
NC State gave UNC all it wanted in the ACC tournament and managed to scrape their way into the field.While the Wolfpack is obviously playing their best basketball of the year, San Diego St. seems to have put theirs well behind them. If C.J. Leslie and the Pack get going, they should have a good chance of not only beating the Aztecs, but possibly making a run at the Sweet 16.

Will The Mid-Major Bug Bite KU Again?
Kansas is a very good basketball team led by a POY candidate in Thomas Robinson. Kansas has also had lots of very good basketball teams that have lost to mid-major teams in shocking fashion. Detroit is no Kansas, but they have size, athleticism, and 5 guys averaging double-digits in scoring. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, I’m just saying…

Here’s to a great day of hoops. Hopefully we’ll see a little more shock than chalk.

 

Small Arms McGee’s Tournament Predictions

East:
As I said in my Selection Sunday Reaction post, Ohio State didn’t get much of a reward for being the best team all season. Kentucky is certainly better than a 4-seed, and Syracuse is battle-tested. I have Syracuse beating Carolina, who won’t be able to shoot well enough to exploit that zone. I think John Calipari has plenty of ammunition to work his “they don’t respect us” angle that worked so well at Memphis, and will knock off Ohio State early. Syracuse beats Kentucky to advance to Houston.

West:
I had been mentally preparing myself for Duke to be set up with another weak bracket, disguised by playing out west. I was right that they’d get San Diego State, but wrong that their bracket would be weak. If Texas can get out of its own way in the first two games, they could be a challenge for Duke. And if UConn gets there, Nolan vs. Kemba would be fit for pay-per-view. I have K finally getting some revenge against Calhoun for 1999 and 2004, and getting the Lubed Evils back to the Final Four. If Duke gets there, people like me won’t be able to say they got a cakewalk this time.

Southwest:
The committee doesn’t set up made-for-TV moments huh? Right.  We all look forward to Bill Self vs. Illinois in the second round (assuming Kansas finally exorcises its “first-round opponent that start with B” demons).  I have Kansas beating Louisville to get to the Elite Eight and Purdue slipping by Notre Dame. (As an aside, I have a rule these days that requires me to never trust Vanderbilt or Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament. If my predicting ability in the past is any guide, you’ll see Vandy and Notre Dame square off in the Elite Eight.) Anyway, Kansas skates by Purdue relatively easily to get to the Final Four.

Southeast:
The committee thought they had put together a bracket even Pitt couldn’t screw up.  Clearly, they underestimate Pitt’s abilities to avoid the Final Four. This region is the home to my biggest upsets – which are relatively few and far between in my bracket this season. I have Belmont beating defense-averse Wisconsin, then beating Utah State to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where Pitt finishes them off. On the other side I have Florida taking out BYU. (Upset alert: Gonzaga upsets a dinged-up St. John’s team before falling to the Stormin’ Mormons.) Florida edges Pitt to reach its first Final Four since 2007, and more importantly, denying Pitt its first Final Four since the FDR administration.

Final Four
Duke hits its threes and beats Syracuse.  Kansas races past Florida.  Kansas’ frontcourt proves too much for the Plumlees in an intriguing matchup between Coach Hair Dye and  Coach Toupee.  Kansas is your 2011 national champion, and Carolina fans won’t give a shit about Roy Williams wearing a Jayhawk sticker this time.

Enjoy the tournament.  And remember:  never, under any circumstances, pick an ACC team not named Duke or UNC to advance past the second round.

 

Al’s preseason predictions for NCAA men’s college basketball

Al for most of 2010

This has been one of the worst years to be a UNC fan. First, there was the horrible performance of the men’s basketball team that began in January of this year. Then there was the nightmare of the Duke national championship, which was all but gift-wrapped and handed to them by the NCAA selection committee and the other #1 seeds who laid down and died for no discernible reason. And then, UNC fans learned that a group of football players and an assistant coach (now former) figured that they could violate NCAA rules without getting caught while others looked the other way. And all for—get this—a team that until recently, had not beaten UVA or N.C. State in four years and lost every bowl game it was in.

I have seen no signs that this new basketball season will erase the pain of the last 10 months, so with that in mind, I submit these predictions, aka “Al’s nightmare” for the ESPN/USA Today preseason top 10:

1. Duke: Despite finishing second in the ACC regular season behind Maryland, Duke will remain ranked no. 1 throughout the entire season and will easily win the ACC championship, landing a #1 seed in whichever is the most advantageous region for them in the NCAA tournament. In a final four that consists of Duke, Seton Hall, Michigan State, Bowling Green State University (I’d like to thank Small Arms McGee for furnishing the name of this team), Duke will beat Seton Hall and Bowling Green State to win it all. The name of the Naismith Award will be changed to the Krzyzewski Award. People will conveniently forget that Wooden had more championships and call K the best and most successful men’s basketball coach in the history of the game. By 2012, Krzyzewski will be credited with inventing the game.
2. Michigan State: Despite a slow start to the season, which will include a loss to #1 Duke and to Texas and two inexplicable back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Penn State, knocking them down to about 11 in the rankings, they will finish strong to defeat Ohio State in the Big 10 Conference Championships. This will land them a no. 2 seed in the region least advantageous to them, where they will have to play the toughest opponents. This will wear them out so that they are too tired to beat Bowling Green State in the Final Four, setting Duke up for yet another win. Izzo will continue to be admired by most rational basketball fans but mocked by Duke fans for always coming up short in the NCAA tournament.
3. Kansas State: Kansas State will start out strong in the early season with a nice win over Florida in December and move into the No. 2. spot after Michigan State loses to Northwestern and Penn State in December. They will hang onto that spot until losing at Kansas in January. Despite an embarrassing loss at Nebraska, they will end up in the Big 12 Championship game and lose to Kansas. However, the NCAA selection committee will still give them the second No. 1 seed, but it will be in a region as far away from Manhattan as possible given the tournament venues. Sadly, they will exit the tournament in the Sweet 16, falling to Temple.
4. Pittsburgh: Pitt will beat all of their opponents in December and January (including Tennessee) only to lose to Georgetown, Syracuse, West Virginia and Louisville so that they end up in 4th or 5th in the conference and bow out early in the Big East tournament. They’ll be given a courtesy No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and lose in the Sweet 16 to Bowling Green State.
5. Ohio State: The Buckeyes will not seriously be challenged by any out of conference team, squeaking by opponents with scores like 57 to 54, and will probably be ranked #4 after Pitt loses to Georgetown. They will win the Big 10 regular season and will beat Wisconsin in the Big 10 tournament in a game that is about as exciting as watching your laundry spin in a front-loading washer or waiting for water to boil, only to lose to Michigan State in the final. They will still be the third #1 seed in the NCAA and will make it to the Elite Eight only to lose to Seton Hall 71 to 68, which will be their highest score of the season.
6. Villanova: Jay Wright’s team will stay in the top 10 for most of the season, losing only to Syracuse and Pitt and ending up in the Big East Championship final game after beating Pitt in a rematch, only to lose to Seton Hall, who will end up being the Big East Champ. However, based on their finish as #1 in the Big East, Villanova will earn the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but will lose in the Elite Eight, again to Seton Hall.
7. Kansas: The Jayhawks will have a tough year, because they will be without Josh Selby until the NCAA clears him on January 1, 2011 (this hasn’t been a very good year for Kansas fans either). They will most likely lose to Arizona, Memphis, Cal and Michigan (the score in that game 60 to 58 will be the lowest number of points Kansas will score all season) until Selby gets in the groove and leads them to the Big 12 Conference championship, which they’ll win. They’ll get a no. 3 seed and lose in the Elite 8 to Bowling Green State.
8. Purdue: The loss of Hummel will be felt by the Boilermakers, but because they play in the Big 10, they’ll still have a solid season. They’ll beat Virginia Tech handily in the Big 10 – ACC Challenge, but this will set them up for a loss at Alabama, just as Purdue fans are beginning to think they might be contenders without Hummel. They’ll recover and go on to win several more games before losing to West Virginia 64-54. After that, their season will be a series of ups and downs and they’ll exit the Big 10 tournament in the second round. They’ll land a no. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and lose to Tennessee in the Sweet 16.
9. UNC: The Tar Heels will go 7 – 4 in November and December and fall out of the rankings, after Barnes trips over the goal post in the Hofstra game and hits his head on Zeller’s knee, breaking Zeller’s kneecap and falling into a coma. One bright spot will be a win over Kentucky. After squeaking by St. Francis of Pennsylvania on January 2, the Tar Heels will learn that Barnes has come out of the coma. In his excitement, Roy Williams will leap up and accidentally smack a female reporter in the face, which Duke fans and other ABCers will describe as “Roy punches female reporter in the face” while the UNC Sports Information Office declines to comment. Trying to make amends, Roy will apologize to the reporter, explaining that it was an accident, but will make matters worse by adding, “I was just so happy. That li’l rascal coming out of the coma is even better than the rescue of those miners in Chile.” UNC ends up 3rd in the ACC (only because the rest of the conference is so horrible), after Barnes rejoins the team the last week in January. They end up with a No. 6 seed in the tournament, but lose in the second round to Syracuse. UNC fans pretend they’re happy that UNC made the tournament at all and won a game, but actually they are seething with rage and disappointment.
10. Kentucky: Out of conference, Kentucky will lose only to the ranked teams, including UNC and in conference, they’ll lose to Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi State (in double overtime). They will play Florida for the SEC championship and lose, but will still end up with a No. 2 seed. They’ll lose in the Elite Eight to Gonzaga only because I will have picked them to win in that bracket and Gonzaga has spoiled every bracket I’ve ever made since they started going to the tournament. There will be lots of predictions that their season will be vacated as Calipari haters and bloggers come up with extremely convoluted stories of corruption and agents, but in the end, Kentucky’s season will stay intact as the NCAA decides to take another look at Baylor’s recruiting instead.

Bledsoe’s Transcript Leaked By An Opposing Coach?

One blogger has sources that seem to think so. Matt Jones posted the following tonight on KSR:

A source within the media tells me that a College Assistant Coach leaked Bledsoe’s transcripts to multiple media outlets, including his own.

While the Mr. Jones (and Me) won’t give us any names, he does narrow it down a bit.

However I dont believe I have enough solid information to put the name out there. Suffice to say that the number of suspects of who it could be is quite small. Eric Bledsoe’s Junior year transcripts were given to only three schools, Florida, Kentucky and Memphis.

If you have a vivid imagination (and your mom tells me that you do), then it won’t be too hard for you to fill in the blanks of the men in question.

If hard evidence comes out that a particular coach released Bledsoe’s transcripts, then you would have to think that coach may be finding another line of work.

Will that hard evidence surface? I doubt it. Like most college sports scandals this one is likely to have a greater impact on your friendly neighborhood message board than anywhere else.

Nevertheless, it has to be a welcomed shift from internet prey to predator for UK fans.

Flowcharting the 2010 NCAA Tournament

Want to dominate your office pool but don’t know a thing about college basketball?

This would be a great time to create water-cooler talk with the boss, wouldn’t it?

Well here at EJSIC, we’re here to provide exactly what the people want: below, you’ll find the key to winning your office pool, with the EJSIC 2010 NCAA Tournament flowchart.

Continue reading

Live, from the SEC Tournament

Welcome to the EJSIC’s Live Coverage of the SEC Tournament. I’ll give you updates as the night progresses.

7:15 – Florida vs. The world in here tonight. Kentucky fans making their preference heard.

7:38 – By the way, if anyone ever offers complementary parking, decline. Gonna be an effing 30 walk later on……

7:41 – Florida playing like garbage. They’re in easily with even a close loss, but a blowout could leave them sweating it on Selection Sunday.

7:48 – Boynton against the world.

7:51 – Boynton, Parsons, and Walker have 41 of Florida’s 45 points. BTW, no cowbell for MSU tonight. I’m told that’s a football only concept.

8:10 – Tension is rising in the stands. Some drunk guy just spilled the lady behind me’s $5 bottle of water. Meanwhile, Florida has clawed back to within 10.

8:21 – My 2 good buddies that are Florida fans scalped 2 tickets right in the middle of the Miss St section. Sucks for them. That’s a rowdy bunch.

8:25 – I believe there is something stuck in Dan Werner’s throat…..”chokin on a splinta”

8:35 – Well, that turned out to be a good ending. Florida saved face with a close finish. Put both these teams in the Dance.

Flask is empty. This sucks……

EJSIC @ the SEC tournament

That’s right. Yours truly has been dispatched to provide up-to-the-minute updates live from the site of the 2010 SEC tournament at the “whatever-they’re-calling-it-now-that-the -Sommet-Group-failed-to-make-payment Center” in Nashville, TN. EJSIC will be your first stop for the sights, sounds, and even smells (if I can find a way to capture them on my phone) of the 2010 installment of the UK Invitational.

To get things started, here are the 3 biggest story lines heading into the tournament, and the 3 things I’m looking forward to the most:

Tournament Story Lines:

1. Will the runaway-train that has been the 2009-10 version of the Kentucky Wildcats continue their resurgence with a tournament title? The obvious favorites going in to the event, it will be interesting to see if the C-A-T-S CATS CATS CATS will be able to continue to build on their 29-2 (14-2) record by capturing the tournament championship. THE most talented team in the country (IMO), the Cats have been dominant at home, but have proven to be shaky away from Rupp Arena, including losses at Tennessee and against the fightin’ Devon Downey’s, as well as close games against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Auburn. It will be interesting to see how this freshman dominated team will perform in what will be the first college tournament situation for most.

Can anyone derail DeCuz and the UK crazy train?

All that said, make no mistake about it; Nashville will become Lexington south this weekend, just as it is whenever UK comes to town.

2. Bubbles bursting. It is my opinion that none of Florida, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State will make the Big Dance without a win in this tournament, and it is shaping up to be elimination Friday, with potential Tennessee/Ole Miss and Florida/Miss St matchups.

3. Who is SEC POY? The case for Devon Downey over either of John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins was a strong one after ‘lil Carolina’s upset of then #1 UK, but it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the team’s late season slide. However, Downey may have thrust himself back into consideration, after a 26 point performance last week at the dump that is Memorial Gym. With a deep tourney run, and perhaps another upset of Kentucky should they beat ‘Bama on Thursday, things could get interesting.

Things I’m Looking Forward To:

Bruce Pearl is a show unto himself.

1. Vandy fans. I was at the SEC/Sun Belt Classic in mid-December, which showcased MTSU vs. Tennessee and Vandy vs. Western Kentucky at the same venue as the SEC tournament. Vandy fans showed why they were the joke of the SEC by managing to attract **maybe** 200 fans to a game in their hometown. Meanwhile, WKU had 6-8 thousand, and were a raucous bunch. No one would have guessed they were the team 4-3 heading in and Vandy was the team nationally ranked. Well Vandy fans (or as I like to call them, “Alabama football fans“), here’s your chance to redeem yourselves. I don’t expect any more than 400 of you, so don’t disappoint me.

2. A live view of “Dermal Soul Glo I’ve heard stories, but I want to see for myself if Bruce really does glow.

3. Demarcus Cousins. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this ticking-time-bomb’s explosion all year. If this kid played in the ACC, he already would have been involved in brawls with Chas McFarland and Ryan Reid, and having the opposing fans get a hold of your phone number would be a weekly ordeal. But even in a league as physically flaccid as the SEC, Cousins has been driven to temper tantrums and dirty plays numerous times. If he’s gonna flip out, and he will eventually, I just want to be there to see it.

I’m also looking forward to some “pity” beers to be bought for me by those feeling sorry for me, in my North Carolina t-shirt, although I don’t expect Kentucky fans to be overly willing to support my cause…………..dafunk…………….out.

Got a question, an angle you’d like me to cover at the tourney, or some hate-filled garbage to spew???? Shoot me an email at dafunk.EJSIC@yahoo.com, and I’ll get back to ya ASAP.