Friday, March 26, 2010

Drop what you're doing

Put down whatever it is you have in your hand, get on your computer, jump on the internet, search for the Xavier-Kansas State game. March Madness on Demand may have full games archived. If you have to go to a torrent site, or download the game somewhat illicitly, do it. Watch the game. Just trust me, you want to see this game if you didn't catch it live.

Seriously. Find a way to watch this game.

You're welcome.

Cornell did themselves proud

No shame in losing to the 2nd best team in the nation as of the start of the tournament. Kentucky was just too athletic and (once they took Cornell seriously) too good on the defensive end. Cornell just couldn't get good shots off.

But even facing that reality, Cornell never gave up on the defensive end, and Kentucky wasn't able to pull away until the very end. Unfairly, they're going to be buried behind the Butler upset and the Xavier-Kansas State instant classic, but Cornell deserves a lot of kudos for their tournament run, and for this game they just played against the presumptive favorite remaining.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Syracuse pulls a Kansas

Butler is better than Northern Iowa. Their half court defense has been flustering teams for the last 3-4 years, and the Orange couldn't solve least not early on. 18 turnovers though...Syracuse needs to do better than that.

Well, now the top 2 choices for overall winner in my pool are gone (though about 3x as many picked Kansas, Syracuse was the next most popular choice). If Cornell can somehow knock off Kentucky, that would be 80% of the pool losing their winner by Day 5.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I hate you, Bill Self

The man has ruined more of my brackets than anyone else, mostly because his teams almost always underaachieve come tournament time. Kansas was handed maybe the toughest region in the tournament...but that was because of #2 seed THE Ohio State University, #3 seed George...nevermind, and #4 seed Maryland. #9 seed Northern Iowa never factored into this designation. And why would they?

Looking back at the box score, absolutely nothing jumps out at me. N. Iowa shot less than 35% from 3 point land, and just 40% from the field (Kansas shot 44%). The only stat that points to the upset is the 15 Kansas turnovers they forced. This points to a choke job, which really shouldn't be that much of a surprise from a Bill Self coached team.

I figured I had to stop piling on Bill Self after Kansas won it all in 2008, but let's review that title-winning team: They were 1 shot away from losing to Davidson in the Elite Eight, and only an epic choke job at the free throw line in the title game by Memphis allowed Bill Self and his team to claim the title.

When I filled out my bracket, I picked Kansas to win it all. Once I had finished, I thought about changing my bracket, as I have been burned by Bill Self teams at least 3 times in the past. I declined to make a change, as I figured if I went away from my first thought I would regret it. I forgot that this isn't the SAT, but real life, and in real life, the percentages say that Bill Self teams will implode when you count on them.

Congratulations Bill Self, you have successfully steered your team to yet another gross underachievement. Hopefully I won't trust you for at least another 3 years.


Angry Bracketeer

Day 3, Villanova's habits catch up to them

Last year Villanova was a tough defensive team that played 3-4 guards with a dangerous offense predicated on slashing and kick-outs. The center of this offense was Scottie Reynolds, the player who hit a driving layup to beat Pittsburgh and claim a spot in the Final Four.

This year's tournament Villanova team was a tough defensive team that played 2-3 guards with an offense that didn't seem to have an identity. Scottie Reynolds shot about 4-26 in the 2 games, and totally lost the swagger he gained from last year's Final Four run. Without their catalyst, Nova's offense wasn't consistent enough. Against 15 seed Robert Morris, their defense forced enough turnovers to keep them in the game, and their sheer talent advantage eventually was just enough to advance to the Round of 32. Against St. Mary's they ran into a team with a dominant post player (Omar Samhan) who was able to get St. Mary's a ton of bailout baskets when the rest of the team was harried by Nova's defense. Seriously, his post moves are outstanding.

That, and a couple of huge 3's in the last few mintues, were enough to send Villanova packing, and unfortunately, hand Duke the South region. If Duke doesn't make the Final Four, they should give up basketball next season, because the only possible threat in this region was Villanova.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Day 2

- I'm still upset at losing 10 game minutes of my life to watching Duke beat up on the play in winner.

- The Georgia Tech/Oklahoma State game wasn't always great basketball, but it was definitely an exciting ride from beginning to end. Both teams had some ridiculously sloppy moments, but their on moments were pretty fun to watch. Except for the 8 straight time outs in the last minute and a half. That was boring. Props to Ga. Tech for hitting almost all their free throws, especially considering they were a 67% FT shooting team during the season. That and Georgia Tech's defense won them the game, as Oklahoma State didn't look comfortable on offense for the last 12+ minutes in the game.

- Great defense may beat great offense...but not if it's cancelled out by bad offense. FSU seemed to mount a good rally towards the end, but they dug themselves too big a hole in the first half.

- New Mexico State got no favors done for them at the end. The lane violation was cheap (Serena Williams can relate), which gave Michigan State a 3 point lead instead of a 2 point lead, and then the officials didn't review how much time was left on the final out of bounds play, which effectively ended the game. I like MSU, because they always play hard nosed defense and always rebound incredibly, but the help from the zebras was a little too much.

Day 2

- Cornell smoked Temple. So, instead of calling the Patriot League the Ivy League without the academic presumption, should we call the Ivy League the Patriot League only with good athletics? Probably not, because after Cornell, the rest of the Ivies would get smoked.

- As of midway through Friday's games, it looks like all of the excitement was used up in Thursday's games. Hopefully this will change, preferably starting with Duke's game.

- Speaking of Duke, how can you possibly think the viewers want to see Duke beat up on the team that got a win and now will be sacrificed at the altar of the lucky 1 seed? And staying with the massacre for 10 minutes? That's just stupid. You guys did a decent job with the late games Thursday, why ruin that now?

- It's not right for the game Gus Johnson is doing to not be a close one. Get on it Florida State.

Still More Day 1

- The last 9 seconds of regulation in the Wake-Texas game are a perfect example of why most coaches call timeouts reflexively in those situations. Just a total mess where Wake got nothing despite gaining possession off a missed free throw with 9 seconds to play. Yikes.

- I mean seriously, it's OT now, and Wake's guards are practically begging Texas to steal the ball on every other trip down the floor. An ACC tournament team with cruddy guards? What's the world coming to?

- Based on their...ahh..carelessness with the ball, I was shocked Wake didn't call timeout down 1 with 10 seconds left. Shows what I know, they simply called him Ishmael. Texas could have afforded to call a timeout, as the big man who ended up getting fouled with 10 seconds left missed both of his free throws, if Rick Barnes beleived in time outs, or coaching in general. I'm not sure Barnes doesn't just want to accumulate as much talent as possible and hope for the best.

- San Jose as cardiac city? Really? What about Providence, 8th string announcing team?

- The biggest bracket buster of Day 1? Easily Georgetown's loss. Took out 2 winners in my pool.

- Well, Day 1 was more fun than usual, hopefully it hasn't used up all the excitement for round 1.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More Day 1

Going to have to go to the proverbial bullet points, as I was away from the TV/computer for a good portion of the afternoon/evening:

- Kansas State must have watched the 'Nova game, as they came out strong and the game was never in doubt. Nice to see a high seed take their first round game seriously, though the fact that the #2 seed is pretty new territory for K-State may have something to do with it.

- It's nice to see Baylor have some success. It seems like only a couple years ago that one of their players killed another and then the coach was caught on tape trying to cover things up. Upon further review, it was almost 7 years ago. Wow.

- St. Mary's had a hellish schedule, having to win their conference tourney to get in, then travel to Providence over Daylight Savings weekend to play their first round game. Didn't hurt them too much, though it won't help them against the wounded and angry Villanova Wildcats.

- Murray State played a heck of a game. Vandy didn't play bad defense at the end, Murray just hit an incredible shot. Tough break for Vandy, who didn't play great, but looked like they had done just enough to pull it out.

- Kentucky had a very smooth start to their tourney. They had better win the tourney, because that's the only way the NCAA won't take away their tournament victories 3-5 years down the road. What? That's how it goes with Callipari. Ask UMass, or Memphis. Luckily for the Nets, Callipari didn't win any playoff games with them for the NBA to take away.

- Wow Georgetown. A double digit loss to THE Ohio University?

- Washington-Marquette was a fun game, kudos to Pondexter for holding for the last shot in a tie game but starting his move with ~10 seconds left and giving himself time to get a decent shot off. Too many players wait until ~5 seconds are left and end up throwing up wild, rushed shots, or worse, not getting any shot off at all. Sure Marquette had 1.7 seconds left to try a desperation 3 pointer for the win, but better risking that scenario then wasting a shot at a good game winning chance of your own.

Day 1, Part 1

Aaaaand, we're back!

The past couple of years the tourney has gotten off to a pretty boring start. Favorites took care of business, underdogs perhaps put up a fight into the 2nd half, but then couldn't maintain the fight. Any "upsets" were ones most everyone saw coming, and only the bracket pickers who tried to get cute felt the sting on Day 1. In the last 3 years I believe 5 people have successfully nailed all of the games on Day 1. Day 2 is when the upsets started wreaking havoc on the brackets.

This year is definitely a change-up.

The first set of games started with perhaps the worst display of offense at Notre Dame since the days of Ron Powlus. About 10 games ago, sitting firmly on the bubble and with their star player injured, Notre Dame decided to slow their games down to a crawl, only take shots with less than 5-7 seconds on the shot clock, and hope this frustrated the other team and kept the game close through the end. Unfortunately, it worked. It also created some of the most boring basketball I've ever seen (Ty Willingham would be proud). Fittingly, Notre Dame wasted the last 8 minutes of this game, during which time they hit a grand total of 1 bucket (Charlie Weis would be proud...what? Too soon?) I usually pull for Notre Dame, but I don't want to see that ever again.

Doing a complete 180, BYU's Jimmer Fredette was awesome. 37 points, and 2 big 3's in double overtime to finally help BYU pull away from a surprisingly tough Florida team.

Finally, there was the Providence game: Villanova (2) vs Bob Morris (props to ESPN for this one) (15). These games usually are, ahem, terrible. But Bobby came to play, and Villanova...didn't. Things didn't get off to a rocking start for 'Nova with coach Jay Wright benching 2 of his starters for the first 4 minutes for..well, no one knows why. I don't think he was expecting much of a fight (I can't blame him, Robert Morris? Please.) But Ol' Bobby jumped out to an early lead and had a 6-point edge at halftime. Nova's best player Scottie Reynolds wasn't hitting anything (he finished 2-15 from the field), but thanks to his driving and foul-drawing skills, Nova stayed within striking distance, but with 4:19 left they still trailed by 8. Finally Nova started taking advantage of the bucketfuls of turnovers (21 for the game) Bob Morris and clawed their way back in the game to force OT. At the beginning of OT, Bobby looked outclassed, but then Nova started getting careless with the ball. In the end, plucky Bob was down by 3 with 9 seconds left and the ball on their own baseline. They then proceeded to dribble out the clock in one of the worst plays out of a timeout I've seen in a couple years. The little guy who drained a 3 from the parking lot 20 seconds earlier? Never touched the ball, mostly because he didn't cut for it until 1.5 seconds or so were left. Nice job coach. Maybe you can call lanes for Dutch speedskaters next.

I've already started to hate the Ivan Brothers. Bad sign, as I'm going to see them 3427 more times between now and April 5th.