Al’s Completely Biased NCAA Tournament Bracket Thoughts

Never one to quibble about originality, I am hot on the heels of Small Arms McGee with my thoughts in the aftermath of a SethNonSelection Sunday I am now calling “Weakest Year Ever Day Brought to You By Weakest Committee Ever.” In my mind, this has been one of the ugliest years in basketball, with everyone swimming in a sea of mediocrity that was most notable for the number of dolphins identified as sharks (aka the Big East teams). In keeping with the season, one of the ugliest selection committees in basketball created a truly lopsided bracket that puts the hammer down on OSU, the supposed No. 1 overall seeds. (I was going to link to the Meet the Committee page to laugh at how ugly they are, but apparently they’ve taken that page down due to fear of backlash or personal threats to their families made by Seth Greenberg. So now I’m laughing at them.)

Seth Greenburg's Tears for Fears

So, here are my thoughts on the brackets.

East
I was worried that Gene Smith’s ties to Ohio State would mean that their road to the Final Four would be strewn with rose petals ala Duke last year, so I was shocked to see how difficult that bracket is. However, it’s difficult for everyone, I think. I used to wonder why UNC always gets put in these difficult brackets until I saw that one of the committee members is from Wake Forest, and their feelings about UNC border on some sort of psychotic pathos. I’d almost rather have someone from Duke be in charge of our seeding. UNC might end up playing Ohio State, but I’m not optimistic. Unless Roy told the team to hold back and not wear themselves out in the ACC Tournament (knowing that Duke had the Number 1 seed once they made it to the ACC Tournament final, just as I had expected–not even a loss would have stripped them of that seed), UNC looked wretched in all three of its ACC Tournament games. A fall before the Sweet 16 is looking likely for the Tar Heels.

West
I don’t expect Duke to be challenged in the West. They put some teams that on paper look like they could challenge Duke, but Duke should come through all that unscathed and make it to the Final Four. If Texas makes it past the second round, I’ll be shocked. If Arizona and Tennessee make it past the Sweet 16, I’ll be even more shocked. Pearl is too out of control and Arizona has the same problem that UNC does – youth and inconsistency. Duke has gotten their second wind now and should be able to beat any of them. And, of course, one of the weaker 2nd seeds, SDSU, will be right there to fall apart in the face of Singler’s nipple twisting intimidation and Seth Floppy.

Southwest
This could be the most exciting bracket of them all. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Kansas this year, which probably means they’ll win it all. Why? Because I stopped being able to make decent predictions about the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1990s. I hate Pitino, but Louisville always makes whatever bracket they’re in exciting. I don’t think Florida State will make it out of the first round because they have no offense to counter their defense. Sure, they beat Duke, but that’s because Duke went in there overconfident. After they beat Duke, they got scouted more and people began to see that defense doesn’t always “win championships.” If Singleton plays and is healthy, they might make it to the Sweet 16, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Southeast
Could the announcers on CBS yesterday have been more scathing about Pitt’s number 1 seed? I couldn’t help laughing. I think they were upset that it wasn’t Notre Dame. No one thinks that Pitt can make it to the Final Four, and I agree. The Big East really needs to put its money where its mouth is in this tournament, but I don’t see Pitt as being the one to do that. I think Wisconsin will have no trouble with Belmont – unlike lots of UNC fans, I don’t think that “almost beats” count as wins. I’m hoping St. John’s takes out Gonzaga so we don’t have to put up with them after the first round. They always mess up my bracket. ODU could make some noise this year; they’re the sleeper of the CAA but they haven’t had many tough opponents.

Overall
I still can’t decide who’s going to win it all, though. I don’t feel as strongly about Kansas as everyone does and I fear that if Singler is out of his slump, Duke could beat any one of the one seeds. OSU would be most likely to challenge them, but by virtue of their being in the toughest bracket, they could lose before they face Duke or be so exhausted that they just lay down and die in the face of a Duke that will have cruised into the Final Four (even with out Kyrie “The Toe” Irving). Of course, if Duke loses early, we’ll hear nothing but wails that there should be an asterisk on the game because they didn’t have the point guard on the All-Galaxy team–otherwise they would have beat all their opponents by 40+.

So, there you have it. My completely biased and basically irrelevant thoughts on March Madness. See y’all in Houston (I wish).

SELF PLEASURE: A preview of the 2010-2011 Big 12 men’s basketball season – Part II (teams 1-6)

Previously, we have covered the teams that will most likely finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 for the upcoming season. This was done in an effort to provide equal coverage to all conference teams. It should not be implied that anybody gives a crap about those 6 teams, because they don’t.

So on to the teams that matter:

(6). Texas A&M Aggies

Remember when this guy was good at his job? Me neither.

The Aggies, believe it or not, are one of only 2 schools to have made the NCAA Tournament each of the past 5 seasons AND won at least 1 game each year (Pitt being the other). Billy Clyde Gillispie, who actually at one time knew how to coach, started the revival of the Texas A&M program, and Mark Turgeon has continued it. The Aggies lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, including their top 3 scorers and top rebounder. They will depend heavily this season on the leadership of guards Dash Harris and B.J. Holmes. It would seem that A&M would be poised to take a step back this year, but never underestimate Turgeon, who happens to be the only surviving member of the Lollipop Guild. Just as he did with Wichita State, he quietly and consistently puts his teams in position to compete for conference titles and postseason berths. His teams are seldom flashy, but they’re usually good, and this one will be as well.

(5): Texas Longhorns
Talk about an enigma. At one point last season, the Longhorns were 17-0 and ranked #1 in the nation for the first time in school history. They had beaten Michigan State, Pitt, and UNC by double digits and looked like the best team in the country. Then in their 18th game, they were blown out at Kansas State and it triggered a complete collapse that coach Rick Barnes was never able to stop. Barnes, who I’m convinced is also best selling novelist John Grisham, is saying all the right things about this year’s team. Saying last year was a fluke and that it will have no effect on this year’s team. But the fact is that nobody really knows what to expect from Texas this year. They have talent, with Gary Johnson, Jordan Hamilton, and super freshman Tristan Thompson leading the way. But talent doesn’t always correlate to wins, and if it doesn’t again, then Barnes/Grisham will have plenty of time to work on his latest shitty novel.

(4): Missouri Tigers

Best state ever, right?

I have often been unfairly accused of having a bias against Missouri. This hurts my feelings, because I love the state and the school. I don’t know why this perception is out there, but it is – and there seems to be little I can do do change it. So I’m not going to preview Mizzou; instead I’m going to turn it over to someone who knows the team well, a former sports editor for the school newspaper and valedictorian of a recent graduating class. Take it away, Sir:
“Thank you Profit and thank you four the oppertoonity to talk about the Missouri Tigers the college that I love so much and the team is the most faverite that I have. I will say wright off the bats that I don’t agree with you putting them at number for in your rankings I perdict they will win the big 12 confrence this year because their is alot of talent and we will win the confrance this year. This is true because our coach Mike Anderson runs a style of play called the fastest 40 minutes in basketball which means that we are faster then the other teams and trhe resulting in that is that we will win our games. I see the Final For as a vary realisticly goal for our team. Because we play the fastest 40 minutes in basketball. We play it so fast that it only takes us 36 minutes to play it HA HA HA! that was a joke because I know that annidotes are funny. But for really we are the best team in the big 12 again. And we are fast and that is why we will win thank you.”

No, thank you. And because I allowed a respected member of the print media in Columbia to write that preview, I hope it lays to rest the fallacy that I don’t like Missouri.

(3): Baylor Bears
Suddenly, some of the nation’s top recruits are interested in Waco, Tx. Which wouldn’t be that unusual if it weren’t for the fact that suddenly some of the nation’s top recruits are interested in Waco, Tx. Questions are swirling around the recruiting practices of Scott Drew, and the program received yet another broken jaw, er black eye, this summer with the arrest and subsequent suspension of star player ShoeLaceDarius Dunn. Fortunately for Dunn, he plays for a team on which players have been known to murder other players and coaches lie about it to protect themselves. So a little thing like beating in the face of a defenseless teenage girl isn’t that big of a deal. The 3 game suspension for that will be plenty. At any rate, despite all the controversy surrounding this team off the court, they are quite effective on it. Coming off an Elite 8 appearance last season, the Bears have one of the most talented freshmen in the country in Perry Jones, in addition to Dunn who might be the best player in the Big 12. My assertion that this is one of the elite teams in the Big 12 is fact. My belief that this might be a team full of scumbag cheaters is still pending…

(2): Kansas State Wildcats

Beard win.

These are exciting times in the Little Apple. Most experts are predicting K-State will break rival KU’s streak of conference championships. Like Baylor, the Wildcats are coming off an Elite 8 appearance. Unlike Baylor, it appears they are doing it the right way in Manhattan. Their head coach, Frank Martin, has gone from being an obscure Bob Huggins assistant to one of the top coaches in college basketball. Martin, a longtime Don in Miami’s Cuban Mafia who is believed to have assassinated over 300 people, has left the crime syndicate life behind. The Wildcats love their coach and leave everything they have on the court every single game. They do lose the very talented Denis Clemente, but so many other key players return, including Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, and Wally Judge. Pullen, a graduate of the C. Everett Koop School of Beard Trimming, is the Big 12 coaches’ preseason selection for player of the year. The senior guard is the heart and soul of a team that should be better than anyone else in the conference and would then need only to get past Kansas to claim the league title. Of course, that is something they have had trouble doing lately: they were 0-3 against KU last year, and since Big 12 play began their record against the Jayhawks is 2-33. That’s 2 wins and thirty-three losses and that is NOT an exaggerated statistic. And that’s why I have gone against most people and put them #2 in my preseason league rankings. Because until they lose their grip on it, this league’s supremecy still belongs to the:

(1): Kansas Jayhawks
Everything points to this being the year somebody else steps up to win the Big 12. The Jayhawks lost All-American Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, and one-and-doner Xavier Henry. But this team seems to have better chemistry and just might surprise a few people this year. The Morris twins, up-and-coming-future-sensation Thomas Robinson, and (in small stretches) Arizona transfer Jeff Withey give the Hawks presence inside, and a rotation of 47 guards will make it difficult for other teams to stay as fresh as Kansas. This will be Bill Self’s fastest team yet, and a very exciting one to watch. There are questions, and then there are also facts. Kansas has:
* the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearances in the country (21);
* the longest current streak of consecutive home victories (61);
* the most winning seasons in Division I history (91);
* the most conference championships in D-1 history (53);
* the most consensus All-Americans in D-1 history (20).
Granted, these numbers have little to do with the upcoming season, but I like throwing them out there anyway. Kind of like these numbers:
* Bill Self, entering his 8th year as the Jayhawks head coach, has a record of 204-43 at the school. And his record at Allen Fieldhouse since becoming head coach? It’s the best home record among all active coaches by far: 115-6.

So to summarize: The Big 12 has several crap teams, 2 of which are thankfully leaving after this year.  There are several very good teams, and potentially 2 or 3 great teams. I have no bias against Missouri. Frank Martin is the greatest mobster/assassin/coach in the country. And after all the dust settles, Kansas is still the team to beat.

The more things change, the more they remain the same…

College Football Expansion Hoopla V2.0

Will the USC Song Girls cheer for the Trojans or the Longhorns in the 2012 Pac-10 Championship Game?

This topic has consumed about 70% of my sports related attention this month and Expansion Hoopla V1.0 got a lot of hits, so let’s do it again…

A lot has changed in a week (actually not really; the only thing that has changed is my mind).  This super-long post lacks pictures or graphics and is broken down into several text-heavy sections.  If you just want to bitch about the conference or the Pod I put your school in, scroll to the bottom and comment.  If you are a conference expansion junkie like me, sit back and enjoy my rambling inferences and analysis.

The first part of this post explains what I have inferred based on recent comments from relevant conference commissioners, university Presidents, AD’s, and insiders.

———————————

-Maryland and North Carolina have likely both told the Big Ten to pound sand.  They like the ACC for now.

-Texas probably isn’t going to the Big Ten either.  They are more interested in merging the cream of the crop from the Big Twelve with the Pac-10, possibly as a simple six team addition to form the Pac-16 and possibly as a “Western Alliance” with a looser conference connection and as many as 24 schools.

-Nebraska and Missouri are dying to be invited to the Big Ten.  Even Tom Osbourne issued a statement saying as much.  Both schools’ Presidents are already on record as being very interested.

-Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want an SEC invite.  They might get invited to the Pac-16 with Texas or they might not.  They prefer the certainty and immediate prestige the SEC brings.

-Kansas is on the fence between the Big Ten and the Texas led Pac-16.  Either way, they’ll probably be in a better position than they are now.  There is a slim chance that they could end up homeless if the Big Ten invites Missouri and Nebraska and the Pac-10 and Texas don’t invite them to be one of the five teams to join the Pac-16.

-Utah is probably going to the Pac-10 / Pac-12 / Pac-16  regardless of what else happens.

-Boise State to the MWC is a done deal.  Makes sense for all parties and the MWC will need someone to replace Utah if they leave for the Pac-10 or BYU if they leave for the Western Alliance.  Expect this announcement in June.

-Rutgers to the Big Ten is a done deal.  Paul Taglibue’s disparaging comments about the potential Long Island television audience for a Rutgers-Minnesota game reek of bitterness.  If this announcement is made in June then Rutgers will be able to play Big Ten football in 2012.

-Pittsburgh, Syracuse,  and Connecticut would all love a Big Ten invite.  Each has serious drawbacks, but each brings added East Coast viewers.  Pitt’s drawback is that is brings the fewest viewers since Penn State already owns the Pennsylvania market.  Syracuse’s problem is that they are a medium sized private school that doesn’t do much research and has a horrible football stadium.  Connecticut is not a member of the AAU and Continue reading

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.

Al takes a lickin’, but comes back kickin’ with predictions for tonight’s top 25 action.

Al after last night's games were over

Have I mentioned that I hate Wednesdays? I woke up to find that 4 out of my 5 predictions were wrong (I was out last night and didn’t watch basketball); I had to wrestle with a recalcitrant new version of InDesign for most of the day; I had to deal with someone who is neither an editor or writer trying to edit a poster I wrote; my daughter got mad at me because I insist on claiming her as a dependent on my taxes because, well, she was. Then there was the sad news about the earthquake in Haiti. On the bright side, the Lane Kiffin departure to USC has created all kinds of hilarity in the sporting world. Oh, and a friend dropped by with doughnuts and coffee.

Now I’m torn. If I watch the games I want to watch tonight while keeping an eye on the scoreboard, I won’t get a single prediction right because that’s how Wednesdays work for me. Also, UNC will lose no matter what. If I wait until tomorrow to check out the scores because Thursdays are marginally better for me, then I miss a great night of basketball. See, how much Wednesdays suck? I’d really like to petition my life to let me just go straight from Tuesday to Thursday.

Well, time for me to quit whining like an N.C. State fan when asked about ACC officiating and get down to business.

No. 1 Texas at Iowa State. Even though Texas is due for a fall and they’re playing at Iowa State, the time for the Rick Barnes-coached team to collapse is not quite upon us. Check back in a week or two.

No 3 Kansas at Nebraska. Teams in the top 10 are toppling faster than you can say “weakest year ever” and then punctuating their embarrassments with yet another loss (see Purdue and West Virginia). But I’m hanging on to my faith in Bill Self as a motivator and giving Kansas this win.

No. 5 Syracuse at Rutgers. If a virtually illegible post written by someone on the Rutgers message boards who forgot to take his lithium is to be believed, there are some internal issues at Rutgers. Meanwhile, Syracuse has managed not to lose another game after losing to Pitt and has now won two more games. I know I’m playing with fire by going with three of the top 5 teams actually winning tonight, but think Syracuse can take Rutgers–internal issues or no.

Anyone else sick of this guy?

Boston College at No. 7 Duke. Because today is Wednesday, this is the only game I’ll get right. Guaranteed. I’d like to add that I’m really sick of having Jon Scheyer shoved in my face every time I log onto espn.com. Hopefully, the Lane Kiffin news will take care of that.

Minnesota at No. 8 Michigan State. This one is really, really hard because it truly could go either way. On paper, MSU is clearly the favorite, but the Big 10 (like the ACC) is in disarray right now and no team is invulnerable. I’m picking MSU only because I want  them to win, but I won’t be surprised if this is an upset. By the way, good luck to anyone who thinks they can beat MSU in February because you won’t.

No. 9 West Virginia at South Florida. Like all alleged sportswriters, I’m a turncoat. I’ve gone from thinking that West Virginia could beat Syracuse to wondering if they’ll even finish third in the Big East. South Florida has dropped three straight, though. My fingers are crossed that WVU comes through in the clutch.

No. 13 North Carolina at No. 19 Clemson. Sorry, Jose, but I’m going to watch this game, it’s Wednesday (a double whammy because historically UNC does not play well on Wednesdays), and Clemson’s playing at home. So grab your rifle and come find me.

No. 20 Pittsburgh at No. 15 Connecticut. And I thought picking between Minnesota and MSU was going to be hard. This one is next to impossible to call. I had to resort to the coin. I’m still not sure I feel good about what the coin just told me.

No. 16 Wisconsin at Northwestern. This is an upset waiting to happen. Wisconsin gave it all to upset Purdue and I think they’ll come out flat against a pretty solid Northwestern team.

No. 17 Brigham Young at Air Force. Wow, BYU’s only lost one game. On the other hand, they’ve mostly played cupcakes and lower mid-majors. Air Force hasn’t played anyone and has lost 7 games. It’s always risky to pick a ranked mid-major to win a game, but what the hell.

The site of a possible Yellow Jacket upset

No. 18 Georgia Tech at Virginia. Georgia Tech, like Wisconsin, pulled a big upset on Saturday and is not likely to play well tonight, not that any ACC team is really playing well this season. For those reasons, I’m giving the upset to the Wahoos.

No. 21 Temple at Pennsylvania. One can only hope that Temple can beat the hapless Quakers.

No. 23 Mississippi at Georgia. Another coin toss provided me with my pick because I think these teams are evenly matched despite Mississippi’s better record.

For those of you wondering whether I’ll watch any game other than UNC-Clemson tonight, you’ll have your answers as the results roll in.