Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March Madness Day 8 Recap

Everyone always says your views change when you have a kid. For sure, there are big changes: spontaneity isn't dead, but it's much harder to pull off. "Sleeping in" until 7:30 AM is a luxury, not a curse. Your first thought in public when a kid's being unruly is sympathy, not condescension. It also affects little things too:

In case you missed it, New York Yankees relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain will miss some time this season thanks to an injury suffered during a freak trampoline accident while playing with his son. Now, Chamberlain being a) a Yankee, and b) someone who's proved fairly injury prone, my initial reaction last year would have been "What an idiot, he should have been much more careful." Now, my reaction is, "Poor guy (and he's a Yankee!), he was trying to get some quality play time with his kid and then this happened," and "I'm glad this guy's working on spending quality time with his kid, considering how many wouldn't do so."

I'm not sure exactly what the lesson is, but I think it's that fatherhood makes you into a tremendous softy who is able to feel sympathy for a New York Yankee. But I could be wrong.

To Melissa A, Paula B, Chuck B, Tammy F, Nate G, Corey H, Manuel J, David K, Celinda K (nice work honey!), Ed K (nice job, Dad!), Mark P, Chuck M, Mo M, Craig M, Andy M, Mike M, Ben P, Joe P, Julie S, and Max T, for all correctly slotting Kentucky and Kansas into the Final Four.

To our current leaderboard:
1) Manuel J (--)
2) Corey H (-6 pts)
3) Ben P (-10 pts)
4T) David K (-12 pts)
4T) Mark P (-12 pts)
4T) Barack O (-12 pts)

To Max T, Mike M, Craig M, Nate G, Chuck B, Julie S, Mark P, David K, Ben P, and Corey H, for all correcting picking 3/4 Final Four teams. Everyone except Chuck missed on Louisville, Chuck missed on Ohio State. Normally, 3/4 would be the best in the pool,but...

To Manuel J, for correctly picking all 4 Final Four teams this year. This certainly isn't a yearly occurrence in the pool. Well done, Manuel!

To the 63 of you (us) who correctly picked Kentucky to make the Final Four, and to the 27 of you who correctly slotted Kansas in the final weekend. That means 8% of the pool picked Louisville, 40% picked Ohio State, 72% picked Kentucky, and 31% picked Kansas.

To Norine M (my aunt), who reminded me that Lehigh (they of the spectacular 15-over-2-seed upset, well, one of them) is located in Bethlehem, PA, where I had visited her and my cousins in the past.

To Rachel G, Susan G, and Zahra H, for buttressing up little Miles and preventing the pool's youngest ever entrant from finishing in dead last.

And to little Miles himself, for correctly picking one Final Four team (Ohio State).

To Linda Y, who, though her chances of winning took a disastrous spill with UNC's no-show in the final 3 minutes of their game, now will have no qualms about rooting for her favorite team (tOSU) in their attempt to win the title. You see, unabashed Ohio State fan Linda picked UNC to win it all. As a lifelong Seahawks fan, I heartily endorse NOT picking your favorite team when betting, as it makes the losses twice as excruciating. The downside being it can put a damper on the wins, but, like I said earlier, I'm a Seahawks fan.

To Boston College, who was nowhere near any postseason basketball action, but punched their ticket to the Frozen Four (college hockey) yesterday. Well done, Eagles.

To Carlos Beltran, who lived up to his pledge and paid for former teammate Jon Niese's nosejob. I almost filed this story under 'Condemnations' because, well, it's just weird. But since Beltran stood by his word, I figured it was positive...I think.

To Jon Niese's new nose. It doesn't look that much different from the old nose.

To the St. Bonaventure women's basketball team, who got clocked by #1 seed Notre Dame. Thing is, this was a Sweet 16 game, not a first round game. Yikes.

To me, see most years I miss a weekend (at least) of games to fulfill frisbee-coaching duties. I stepped down as coach before this season so as not to miss a bunch of spring weekends with Celinda and Miles. But, my yearly tradition of missing games will continue on as I will be at a wedding in New Jersey next weekend, and am likely to miss the two semifinal games. While this likely means no insightful nuggets on the games, on the bright side, the updated daily spreadsheet will probably be a little late. But not too late.

To, again, the US Olympic Soccer team. After losing 2-0 to Canada, they merely had to beat El Salvador to move on to the next round of qualifying (the knockout stage). Instead they gave up 3 goals (1 in the dying seconds) and had to settle for a draw 3-3. This eliminated the US from the next round, and considering qualifying was on US soil, this is a travesty. Get ready for Day 9!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March Madness Day 8

Kentucky 82 - Baylor 70
And it wasn't this close. I'll say this much, if the Kentucky team that played today comes to play for the next two games, none of these other teams can stop them. I didn't see Kentucky play all year, and figured a bunch of talented freshmen could be had by a talented, disciplined team. Baylor is clearly not that team. Not disciplined enough and not invested enough in defense. But it didn't matter today, Kentucky played a terrific, mature game and are easily the odds on favorites to win it all still.

Kansas 80 - North Carolina 67
Horribly disappointing last 3 minutes from North Carolina, but much credit goes to Kansas' defense. The first half of this game was Carolina ball. Fast-paced, lots of offense creating good looks. The second half was Kansas ball, uglier offense, but tenacious defense, and Carolina couldn't keep up defensively for the full 20 minutes of the second half. You could kind of see it coming, because even though both teams weren't shooting great in the second half, Kansas was generating better looks than Carolina. The Tar Heels continually settled for difficult shots when it got hard. Does having Marshall make the difference? Based on the second half I'd say it makes a big difference, but not enough to win the game. You are who you are, and Carolina isn't a scrappy team. Kansas is, and that's what got them through to the Final Four.

The end of this game looked a lot like the end of the Kansas-Purdue round of 32 game. All of a sudden Kansas clamped down defensively and Purdue simply couldn't generate any offense. Same thing happened to Carolina here. Roy Williams and Bill Self accumulate a great deal of talent, but today, Bill Self got his team to execute to their strengths better.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

March Madness Day 7 Recap

Another brief update, since it's getting kind of late.

To Manuel J, the only person to correctly pick both Louisville and Ohio State to make the Final Four. No one else got both of these teams.

To our current leaderboard: 1) Manuel J (--)
2) Barack Obama (-4 pts)
3) Linda Y (-5 pts)
4T) Corey H (-6 pts)
4T) James P (-6 pts)

To the 7 people who correctly put Louisville in the Final Four: Manuel J, Denise K (Hi Mom!), Leni P, Joanne T, Chuck B, Arthur S, and Quincy A.

To the 35 people who correctly put Ohio State in the Final Four. If you think I'm going to list every one of you (us, see what I did there?) out, you're crazy. But well done us!

To Miles, for sleeping in until 6:30 AM this morning. So much better than the 5 AM wake up calls we'd been getting during the week.

To Jason D, and Steve F, for a fun few hours in Boston today, even the part that was choosing tuxes. Bonus for getting me back to the train with about 90 seconds to spare.

To the bartender at the Irish pub we stopped in before I got on the train to come home, not only did he speak Irish, but he put a shamrock image in our stouts.

To the couple 3 rows ahead of me on the commuter rail coming home, for taking the acceptable limits of PDA and jumping well over them.

To the US Soccer Olympic Qualifying team, for losing 2-0 to Canada in qualifying, putting their chances at reaching London 2012 in serious jeopardy. Enjoy Day 8!

March Madness Day 7

Louisville 72 - Florida 68
You have to hand it to Rick Pitino. No one was looking to Louisville before the tournament started when they were talking about Final Four teams coming out of Phoenix, but the Cardinals outclassed Michigan State and then came back from 11 down with 10 minutes left against Florida thanks to switching to a man-to-man defense and hitting some big shots. Florida played a heck of a game, but when they couldn't hit a three-pointer after Louisville stopped playing zone, it put too much of a crimp in their offense.

Ohio State 77 - Syracuse 70
Ohio State had multiple chances to make this game easier on themselves, but they didn't do it. Whether it was missing free throws, throwing away inbounds passes, or just stagnant offense, Ohio State made this one hardon themselves. But for all their faults, they always came up with a basket when they had to have it. Syracuse couldn't stop Jared Sullinger when his teammates were able to get him the ball. And Aaron Craft was the epitomy of a floor general, running the show and supplying some terrific defense on Syracuse's guards.

Ohio State was dead tired by the end though. While 9 players got game time, the 4 bench players combined for 20 minutes total. And at least 9 of those minutes came entirely in the first half, when Sullinger was sitting with foul trouble. By the end, tOSU was dragging, and that had to contribute to their inability to put the game away down the stretch. But to their credit, they overcame their fatigue, and as a result they did what last year's #1 overall seed couldn't do: reach the Final Four.

March Madness Day 6 Recap

Going to get right to the recap, since Day 7 has already ended and thus, I'm officially behind.

To everyone who correctly predicted all 4 games yesterday: Melissa A, Andrew and Dawn P, Zach A, Paula B, Dale C, Steve F, Ben F, Peter G, Corey H, David And Josiah K, Celinda K, Ed K, Bryan L, Joe M, Kate M, Katie M (neither the same person nor related), Norine M, Brian M, Mo M, Jason M, Barack Obama, James P, Ben P, Joe P, Bernie Q, Moose, Lindsey U, and Ryan W. Well done all.

To everyone who nailed 6/8 Sweet 16 games, best performance in the pool: Noah K, Barack Obama, Corey H, James P, Manuel J, Ben F, Denise K, and Kate M.

To our current leaderboard.
1T) Noah K (--)
1T) Barack Obama (--)
3) Linda Y (-1 pts)
4T) Melissa A (-2 pts)
4T) Corey H (-2 pts)
4T) James P (-2 pts)

To Ohio and NC State, for playing with heart and effort.

To Celinda K and Ed K, for rebounding from an 0-fer day 5 with a perfect 4-for-4 day 6. Also a shoutout to Denise K for taking top-K rank for the Sweet 16 round. Way to go honey and Dad, and Mom!

To Rachel G, and Susan G, for both looking out for little Miles and keeping him out of the basement.

To everyone even tangentially associated with the North Carolina program. I'm honestly not sure who is less deserving of a Final Four berth, you guys or Bill Self. And that pains me to say.

To the guy/gal in charge of scheduling these games. Really? Neither of the two later games could start before 10 PM? I want to watch your product, I want to improve your ratings and help you charge McDonalds for their commericals where they don't even try to connect with the viewer because, well, they're McDonalds, and they'll get our business anyway. But you make it very hard sometimes, guys. Enjoy Day 7!

March Madness Day 6, Part 1 & 2

Baylor 75 - Xavier 70
This turned into a pretty good tilt, despite a couple of points where Baylor went up big. 18 point lead in the first half, and a 12 point lead with about two minutes to play. Xavier clawed their way back to make it a one possession game both times, but they were never able to get even or ahead. If Xavier could have hit a three before under two minutes were left (and plenty of those misses were open looks), they could have stolen this one. Baylor's defensive effort was pretty inconsistent, but give them credit, whenever Xavier threatened, they came up with a terrific look to get points and stop the bleeding. Usually, it was a dunk or layup. In the end, Baylor's overall athleticism ruled the day.

North Carolina 73 - Ohio 65 (OT)
UNC should be ashamed of themselves. Ohio deserved this win, despite not getting one field goal in overtime. UNC got up big early, and then decided they could coast and win this one comfortably. They could settle for outside shots, chain multiple possessions together where the ball never got below the three-point line, and sit around flat-footed on defense, and it would be okay, because their talent would carry them. It almost came back to bite them, but Ohio couldn't quite make that one more play in regulation to finish the Tar Heels off, and then they were simply spent by overtime. A shameful performance from a team who, yes, was without their point guard and leader, but who knew this from the moment their last game ended. You couldn't come up with some plan, Roy? No one would take it upon themselves to step up, Harrison, John, anyone? I didn't even pick UNC to make the title game, let alone win it all, and I was disgusted. I can only imagine how those of you who did put your full trust in Carolina Blue feel after that game.

Kentucky 102 - Indiana 90
Kansas 60 - North Carolina State 57
I admit, a full week of waking up at 5 AM or earlier caught up with me and once I saw neither of these games started before 10 PM, I didn't even try to stay awake. So here are my first three thoughts after reading the scores this morning:

1. Wow, a college game ended with a 102-90 score. More than half of the NBA games played last night ended with fewer points scored.
2. Of course Kansas almost blew it against a double-digit seed. Ask me if I'm shocked, no, ask me if I'm even a little surprised. Go on.
3. The midwest region is down to two of the biggest underachieving teams over the years in Roy Williams' Carolina team and Bill Self's Kansas one. With how these two teams go, I'm prediciting that if Kendall Marshall plays (and thus Carolina faces the expectations), Kansas will win. If he does not, then Kansas will blow it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March Madness Day 5 Recap

With sincere apologies to Don McLean:

So bye, bye silly bracket of mine,
Went to Phoenix, then got deep-sixed, I lasted longer this time,
At least it wasn't by Bill Self's design
But this is the day that it died.

Yep, 12 years I've run this pool and this is the twelfth year I've had to write this intro. My bracket went up in flames last night when Michigan State got owned by Louisville. In a way, it's nights like last night that drive me in running my pool. If all the pool consisted of was filling out a bracket, keeping track, and then announcing the winners, a night like last night would kind of end the fun part of the pool. Instead, I try to keep tabs on as many games as possible, keep a running commentary on as many things as possible, and share it all with you, so that there's still something to do from Day 6 through Day 10.

So that's why you get rambling, babbling words all over the place with sparse moments of semi-coherence. Anywho, let's get on with things:

To Noah K, C-Mo, Mannuel J, and Denise K, for all correctly prediciting 3 of the 4 games last night. On a day where 14 participants got 0 correct picks, 3/4 is a terrific day. Extra shoutout to Denise, for lapping the K family field, outpointing all of the rest of the K family. Way to go, Mom! combined.

To our current leaderboard:
1) Noah K (--)
2T) Colin M (-1 pts)
2T) Linda Y (-1 pts)
4) Melissa R (-3 pts)
5T) Manuel J (-4 pts)
5T) Barack Obama (-4 pts)

Extra shoutout to Noah, the lone member of his family to not finish Top-3 in last year's pool, using his strong Day 5 to leave the rest of his family in the dust in this year's pool.

To Ryan and Suzie W, for joining Celinda and I (and Miles) for dinner last night. Fun time was had by all (especially little Miles).

To Miles, for staying up over an hour later than his usual bedtime but remaining his usual charming self throughout (after a brief shy period at first). Miles does lose some points for turning around and waking up at 5 AM again this morning. Sleep like the Michigan State offense, little buddy!

To the Jets. Really? Tebow? At some point, you have to make a choice: Sanchez is your guy, or he isn't. Now, he shouldn't be, but first you chase Peyton Manning (defensible), fail, then give Sanchez an extension (not a good call), and THEN, you bring in Tebow, so you can run more wildcat packages and try to have a college-like 2 QB system (hang on, let's get Charles Barkley...TURRRRRRR-IBLE decision!) If the idea was to give Sanchez some competition, okay, I get it. But to bring in a QB with a vocal, passionate, deluded fan base who will be chomping at the bit to chant his name as soon as Sanchez puts a foot wrong, AND bring more turmoil to your broken locker room? Really? This seemed like a good idea?

To Peyton Manning. I am thrilled you chose not San Francisco. But really, you should have chosen San Francisco instead. I mean, it wasn't close.

To Roger Goodell. I get that to appease your lawyers you HAD to come down hard on the Saints for the Bounty issue. But I don't fully understand the punishments. Payton gets a full year? After Belichick got nothing other than a fine? You cited assaults on the integrity of the game in Payton's punishment, and what Belichick did (while not on the same level) also committed such assault. I'm not saying Coach Hoodie should have been suspeneded anything close to a year, but the difference between the two punishments is staggering.

Also, Payton's suspension runs April 1, 2012 to April 1, 2013. Yet you suspended the GM, Mickey Loomis for 8 games starting week 1 of the season. And Loomis KNEW this was going on and WAS ORDERED BY HIS OWNER TO STOP IT AND DID NOTHING. Yet he gets off easy, and you wait until after a) the draft and b) the roster is finalized for the start of the season to start his suspension? Seriously? Things don't add up here. Enjoy Day 6!

March Madness Day 5, Part 2

Ohio State 81 - Cincinnati 66
Ohio State was clearly the better team in the first half. Then they got cocky/lazy/something as Cincy ran off a 19-4 run early in the second half to take a small lead. After a timeout, tOSU flipped the switch back to "On", went on a 17-1 run of their own, and destroyed Cincinnati.

Ohio State's guard Aaron Craft seems to be a good barometer of tOSU's potential. Craft had a tremendous game against a very game Gonzaga team, scoring 17 points on 7-9 shooting. He struggled for a long time in this one, at one point he was 0-5 from the field. But he picked things up offensively by the end, finishing with 11 points, and played his usual tough defense to make things tough on Cincy's guards. If Craft can avoid offensive sinkhole games (the one question coming into the tournament), tOSU is a true contender

Florida 68 - Marquette 58
I'm kind of shocked the final score was this low. Both of these teams love flying up and down the floor, especially after defensive rebounds/forced turnovers. But the defense/bad shooting overrode the number of possessions, and in the end, Florida simply played the game better than Marquette did.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March Madness Day 5, Part 1

Syracuse 64 - Wisconsin 63
That was the game Wisconsin needed to play. They kept the game (relatively) low scoring, they hit 52% of their three pointers (important since they were 7-for-22 on two point shots), and they had the ball down 1 with 15 seconds to play. And that possession will haunt everyone on that Wisconsin team for a looooong time. The ball never got past the free throw line in that possession, and was outside the three point line for most of it. Bo Ryan will have nightmares about not calling his last timeout with 6-7 seconds left when it was clear his team didn't have a plan they could execute on their own.

In my 3rd year of coaching the Brown Women's Frisbee A-team, we were seeded 11th in the 16-team regional tournament. We found ourselves in an elimination game against 4th seeded Wesleyan (who had beaten us in the previous tournament). Well, Brown came out and played a tremendous game, going up 11-7 on Wesleyan. Then Wesleyan stromed back, getting it to 11-11. Because there was no air-horn letting us know the time constraints (frisbee is played to points, but the rounds can't go beyond a certain time limit), I didn't realize this 11-11 point was our last one. Brown worked the disc near the end zone and then we stalled. I had a time out to use and didn't use it, we turned the disc over, Wesleyan went down and scored, and won the game, ending our season. I coached the team for 4 more years, with plenty of terrific moments and some less than stellar ones. I still vividly remember the end of that game and my inaction.

Would the time out have made a difference in either case? Maybe, maybe not. But in the end, the coach could have done something to give the team a slightly better chance and didn't do it. Those are the situations that keep you up at night. And in my case I was effectively a volunteer coach at a game with practically no spectators. Ryan is a highly compensated coach in front of millions.

Louisville 57 - Michigan State 44
Aaaaaaaaand there goes my bracket. Louisville's pressure D flustered Michigan State, and Louisville's bigs were better. MSU relied too much on Draymond Green to provide their offense (you could see it against St. Louis in the previous round, offense was simply hard for MSU) and he wasn't able to carry them past a motivated Louisville team that believes in itself. Could the 2012 Louisville Caridnals be the 2011 Connecticut Huskies? Both rode a Big East tournament streak to the conference title and a better seed than their season deserved, and rode that streak to an impressive tournament run. Now all that stands in Louisville's path to the Final Four is either a lower seeded Florida team, or a Marquette team that Louisville swept during the season. Heck of a game by the Cardinals, they broke Michigan State's will in that second half.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Madness Interlude

Something to think about doing during the downtime before the games start back up again on Thursday: participate in the Coaches vs Cancer round by round bracket challenge. More info here. Basically, you make picks before every round (so now you would choose the 8 Sweet Sixteen round winners). You can win prizes, and it every correct pick meas more money is donated to help fight cancer. The downside is you do have to register at CBSSports.com, but it does seem like a good cause.

Monday, March 19, 2012

March Madness: Miles Picking His Bracket

A few people have asked how Miles picked his bracket. I talked about this a little bit in the Day 1 recap, but here is a video of him dunking the ball through his toy hoop. I essentially had him do this 63 times, 1 for each game in the tournament. Here is the video (don't worry, it's just 1 dunk, not all 63):

March Madness Day 4 Recap

And then there were 16. The first weekend is in the books. We get a 3 day break until the games start up again, so use the time wisely (like catching up on all the NFL free agent news).

To Paula B, Tony C, Mikey F, Nate G, Dan H, Noah K, Norine M, Andy M, Ben P, William S, Linda Y, and baby Miles for all getting 5/8 games correct on a really tough day for brackets.

Most days that shoutout would be for those people having the best showing of the day, but that award goes to Melissa A, who rolled the field with a whopping 7/8 games picked correctly. For a day where a 6, 7, 10, 11, and 13 seed all won their round of 32 games, that is an amazing feat. For those of you wondering, her one miss was Xavier (she had Duke).

To Melissa A and Linda Y, for each correctly picking 13/16 round of 32 games, best in the pool.

To our current leaderboard:
1T) Melissa A (--)
2) Linda Y (-3 pts)
3) Melissa R (-5 pts)
4T) Peter F (-6 pts)
4T) Dan H (-6 pts)
4T) Noah K (-6 pts)
4T) Barack Obama (-6 pts)

To baby Miles, who for the first time in the pool is not holding down the last place fort. A strong showing on Sunday vaulted Miles ahead of 7 participants. Well done, kiddo!

To Sam OC and Chuck M, for joining me for pizza, Guinness, and the NC State/Georgetown game at Hope St. Pizza. Double shoutout to Chuck for going one extra round on Sam and I on the Guinness. Hat tip, good sir. We're looking for one more member so we can start our own posse:

To the Seahawks, for bringing a real quarterback into the fold: Matt Flynn. No more pained watching ineptness at the quarterback position in the form of Tarvaris Jackson.

To Peyton Manning, for not going to San Francisco. Not because it wouldn't have been the right decision (it would have, if Manning wanted to win Super Bowls), but because it doesn't stick my Seahawks with an impossible road of their own to the Super Bowl, or heck, even the division.

To Purdue forward Robbie Hummel. Purdue lost to Kansas, but through no fault of Hummel's, who poured in 26 points against the Jayhawks. As I mentioned in an earlier update, Hummel missed the last two tournaments (and all of last season) thanks to two separate ACL tears. And Purdue was a legit Final Four contender at least one of those seasons. It's probably not much consolation, but at least Hummel got to lead his team to an upset win and a thrilling almost second upset.

To Lyndsey M (and Kristy G, even though she's not part of the pool) and Sugar and Spice cupcakes. Check them out here. I broke my giving up of desserts for Lent to try a St. Patrick's Day one under the Corned Beef and Cabbage exemption rule, and it's even more delicious than it looks.

To me, for somehow completely missing the fact that UNC point guard Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in the Creighton game, considering it was a huge talking point after the game. I don't know how I missed it, but a shoutout to Celinda for bringing me up to speed yesterday evening.

Also, to Creighton, who looked borderline dirty a few instances of that game with hard fouls (including attacking Henson's injured wrist). This isn't hockey of football, fellas.

To our waitress at Hope St. Pizza, we're not certain as to whether St. Patrick's Day hit her a little hard or if all enthusiasm was drained from her at birth.

To McDonalds, would it kill you to put out a decent, funny commercial? The old men commercial isn't it.

To whoever greenlit the Three Stooges movie. I don't know one person who didn't a) hear it was being made and immediately scrunch up their face in pained confusion, and then b) see a commercial for it and nod his/her head glumly as it confirms their suspicions. Is anyone actually going to go see it?

To the Miami Dolphins - always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, heck, even Alex Smith - no one will take their money. Today they had to finally settle for David Garrard, who missed all of last year due to injury (and isn't Peyton Manning, so it actually matters).

Be ready for Day 5 on Thursday!

March Madness Day 4, Part 3

Ohio 62 - USF 56
USF brought their good defense to the party, and had made do with mediocre offense this far thanks to the defense. They simply ran into an Ohio team that hit their shots in the second half, especially from behind the arc. Ohio ended up 9/18 from downtown, while USF was only 2/15.

Xavier 70 - Lehigh 58
Lehigh put up a great fight, but Xavier's size advantage was too great. Xavier's center Kenny Frease scored a career high 25 points in the game because Lehigh didn't have anyone on their roster who could handle his size and strength. Add in Lehigh's not being able to buy a bucket as the second half went on, and their engine simply ran out of steam.

Kansas 63 - Purdue 60
What a surprise, a Bill Self team came out flat against a lower-seeded opponent. I will say this, Kansas turned up their defense in the second half, and Purdue was really struggling to get good looks. So much so that it got in Purdue's heads, as their last two offensive possessions (not counting the desperation 3-point attempt) were two of the worst such possessions I've seen in this tournament. They were too concerned about the clock and thus their possessions ended in a steal and a wild 3-point attempt that clanged into a long rebound. Both of these endings allowed Kansas to get out in transition instead of having to work in their half court offense. All in all, a terribly disappointing ending for Purdue, who had held onto the lead for so long, only to see their work undone in the final minute.

Cincinnati 62 - Florida State 56
Admittedly I didn't stay up for the second half of this one. But I'm pretty sure the moral is that more teams should get in bench-clearing brawls in the middle of the regular season. It hurt both Cincy and Xavier in the short term as both teams probably could have been seeded higher without dealing with the fallout and resultant suspensions, but both are in the Sweet 16 despite having to beat higher seeded teams to get there.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March Madness Day 4, parts 1 &2

North Carolina State 66 - Georgetown 63
Georgetown coach John Thompson III doesn't read his Bill Simmons. Simmons has popularized the Ewing theory years ago. Basically, it defines a situation where a star player who's teams never win anything gets hurt, everyone assumes the team will crumble in his absence, and instead the team thrives. It's named for Patrick Ewing, especially the Knicks' run to the NBA Finals in 1999 while Ewing was sidelined with an injury.

What does this have to do with Georgetown? Well, for one, Ewing went there, and for two, Georgetown has a dead ringer for a young Ewing in Henry Sims on their current roster. Sims struggled all game long for Georgetown, with foul trouble a big factor. Coach Thompson clearly should have sent Sims out of the arena when the tide started turning against his team, as the Ewing theory would have had to take notice and ensure Georgetown's advancement to the Sweet 16. Instead, Thompson didn't learn from history, and Georgetown sputtered throughout the second half, allowing NC State to aggressively take that berth from them.

Michigan State 65 - Saint Louis 61
St. Louis did a tremendous job flustering Michigan State all game long. Slowing down the tempo, drawing fouls effectively, and St. Louis even held their own in the rebounding battle, a battle MSU usually dominates. St. Louis had effective height, MSU simply was too talented. St. Louis launched many runs, getting within one possession numerous times, but they couldn't quite scale the mountain. I feel a little less secure about my chosen winner, but I can talk myself into MSU winning ugly when they didn't have their best game. Yeah, that's all it was.

North Carolina 87 - Creighton 73
Florida 84 - Norfolk State 50
These games weren't any kind of interesting. UNC was too athletic for Creighton and Florida rediscovered their 3-point shooting after hitting just 4/23 such shots in their first game. I'd say more, but OH MY GOD THE SEAHAWKS SIGNED MATT FLYNN!!! We have a real quarterback on the roster now!!!

March Madness Day 3 Recap

Saturday was more of what we saw on Thursday. Zero upsets in the 8 games played yesterday.

To Indiana/VCU and Wisconsin/Vanderbilt, for putting on the two best battles of the day.

To today's perfect prognosticators: Brian M, Jamie L, Manuel J, Don B, Elliot B, Peter F, Linda Y, and Melissa R. Well done guys.

To our current leaderboard:
1T) Melissa R
1T) Linda Y
3T) Melissa A
3T) Katie A
3T) Peter F
3T) Barack Obama

To Alec Baldwin, for poking fun at himself/the flight attendant who kicked him off a flight for not turning off his phone in his latest Capital One commerical.

To Baylor player Brady Heslip, who hit 9 three-pointers in Baylor's win over Colorado. Extra credit for managing this feat despite being a member of the tournament all-ugly team.

To Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears QB and Vanderbilt alum), who just can't help sounding like a spoiled frat kid, even when he's not moping around on his own sideline. He gave credit to the refs in the Vanderbilt-Wisconsin game as Wisconsin's MVPs. I didn't see it that way, but I'm sure ol' bitter beer face knows better.

To Peyton Manning, I thought you were supposed to make your decision this past week? Now it's "Monday or Tuesday"? For real this time? Or are you going to keep milking it? And, as a Seahawks fan, stay the heck away from San Francisco, I'd like my team to have a chance at winning the division in the next 3 years.

To blogger, for making it very difficult (maybe even impossible) for me to post videos here. I reserve the right to change the direction of this condemnation to me, if I'm just missing the simple way to do this.

Enjoy Day 4!

March Madness Day 3, Part 3

Kentucky 87 - Iowa State 71
Iowa State hung on for much longer than expected, but eventually Kentucky simply overwhelmed them. Kentucky is talented, but they are definitely immature. When simple things like calls go against them (even while up double digits), they wear the frustration on their faces. If there's a team that can hang with them talent-wise, maturity could be the difference. If things start going against Kentucky, I'm not convinced they'll overcome that adversity.

Baylor 80 - Colorado 63
These two teams know each other better than you would expect, since they were in the same conference until this season, when Colorado left the Big 12 for the Pac 12. Much like the UK-ISU game above, Colorado hung on for much longer than expected, but Baylor's superior talent eventually went on a sustained run to put away the game.

Louisville 59 - New Mexico 56
If I'm going to be entirely honest, I found myself zoning out during this game. Being 30 really stinks, from an energy perspective. In a few years I'm going to have to outsource my late watching hours to Miles. I thought New Mexico's goose was cooked with plenty of time to go in the second half, but New Mexico rallied well, they just fell a few plays shy. They kept their turnovers down (13 isn't a high number against Louisville's pressure D), but they shot under 40% from the field and were 5-for-23 from downtown.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Madness Day 3, Part 2

Marquette 62 - Murray State 53
This game was a barnburner. Not only was the action back and forth and tight till the end, but it was played at a pace that left breakneck in the dust. Marquette just kept the pressure on and on but Murray State, to their credit, handled it and stayed doggedly at Marquette's heels. In the end though, Murray State showed just enough cracks that the higher seed triumphed.

Wisconsin 60 - Vanderbilt 57
Wisconsin plays some boring basketball, but its effective. They slow the game down and kind of lull the other team to sleep. Vanderbilt got back in the game by switching defenses to a 2-3 zone. That zone came back to bite them though, as with under a minute left, Wisconsin recovered two consecutive offensive rebounds off of late-in-the-shot-clock 3-point attempts while leading by 2, again shortening the game. Vandy got a chance with 13 seconds left, didn't call timeout, and took a quick off-the-dribble 3 point shot which clanged, and that was basically all she wrote.

Indiana 63 - VCU 61
VCU was quicker than Indiana, and forced the Hoosiers into 22 turnovers for the game. That, and an early hot hand behind the arc is the only reason they were even in this game, let alone leading for most of it. Because their offense was putrid down the stretch, as they simply couldn't buy a bucket despite generating some good looks off of their quickness. Once Indiana was able to cut out the turnovers, they were able to come back and win the game based on their superior offense. VCU needed one or two more shots to fall in the last 4-5 minutes (I believe they hit 2 field goals in the last 12+ minutes) and they would have survived. Still for a team that came out of nowhere to make the Final Four last year, then lost 4 starters between last season and this one, it's a pretty inspired two-year stretch for VCU. Congrats coach Shaka Smart.

March Madness Day 3, Part 1

Syracuse 75 - Kansas State 59
The question was could Kansas State hit enough shots that were available due to Syracuse's zone. The answer was no (31.3% shooting from the field). When Syracuse got their offense untracked in the second half, KSU simply couldn't keep up. Those who picked Syracuse to go far will be heartened after this game.

Ohio State 73 - Gonzaga 66
This was a very enjoyable game, back and forth, back and forth. Every time one team would take a lead, the other would storm back to tie or re-take the lead. Gonzaga's big man Robert Sacre did very good job on tOSU's Jared Sullinger for 38 minutes. However, Ohio State's guards and other forwards were a little too much. And when Gonzaga made their last run to tie the game late, Sullinger took over. Tremendous fight from both teams in this one.

March Madness Day 2 Recap

Now THAT was March Madness. The end of Day 2 is always a bit of a letdown. Sure the games are getting better as the lesser teams get knocked off, and yes, there are still 31 more games to be played, but the essence of the tournament is these first two days. From noon till midnight, there are 4 blocks with essentially 4 games going on at once. When game A hits a commerical, flip over to Game B, all the while keeping an eye on Games C and D, in case they're close or a tremendous upset is brewing. For most tournaments, it's all about crowning a champion. That's not to say finding a champion isn't important (it's why everyone complains about college football, they don't get to settle their champion on the field).

But the essence of the NFL playoffs is the Super Bowl. The essence of the NHL playoffs is seeing that dead-tired, beat up team lift the Stanley Cup. Even the baseball playoffs are about seeing one team outlast everyone else to win that 4th game in the World Series. College basketball isn't like that. It's not March Madness because of the championship game. In fact, the championship game is a total dud as often as not. March Madness is about these first two days, when scores and highlights and games are flying all around your head and you're just trying to keep it all straight. That one of the beauties of playing (or running) a pool. It's easy to get overwhelmed, or lock in on your favorite team alone, and when they're bounced, just fade out. The pool keeps you scouring for updates, flipping the channel, and keeping track. And the payoff is seeing that ridiculous buzzer beater, or the historic upset. That, is what March Madness is all about. Shoutouts
To Melissa A. and Tony C. for correctly picking 12 of yesterday's 16 games correctly, the best showings of anyone in the pool.

To Mom and Dad K, for getting their picks in all the way from Florida for the second straight year.

To the sheer number of you in the pool, as thanks to you I learned that Gmail conversation chains max out at 100.

To our current leaderboard:
1T) Melissa A
1T) Corey H
3T) Katie A
3T) David K
3T) Josiah K
3T) Noah K
3T) Barack Obama
3T) Sam OC

To that guy who predicted yesterday would be exciting since Thursday was kind of dull. Who was that guy? Anyone remember? Anyone? Oh well.

To Lehigh and Norfolk State, whatever your bracket looked like afterwards, it's always pretty neat to see history. And something that now has only happened 6 times ever certainly qualifies.

To Kyle O'Quinn from Norfolk State, who received just one scholarship offer and was the best player on the court against Mizzou. His postgame interview was awesome, "I told my mother I wanted to speak to Craig Sager [interviewer], and I want to speak to Craig Sager again!"

To Charles Barkley, who still can (and does) say whatever the heck he wants. In the studio after Norfolk State's upset, he said, "I don't know why anyone would be excited to talk to Craig Sager."

To Greg Anthony, also a studio analyst between games with Kenny and Charles. Anthony made a couple of great points. One was that Missouri absolutely should NOT have changed their style of play against Norfolk State, as they were the 2 seed and in that situation you make the 15 seed adjust to you. One of which was after Kenny Smith had blasted Duke for not feeding their big men more in their loss to Lehigh. Anthony said that Duke hasn't played that way all year, and their big men traditionally got their points on putbacks or dishes off of penetration, and to expect them to convert to a traditional posting-up-based-game against Lehigh wasn't reasonable. I know what Kenny and Charles bring to the table, but Anthony has been a pleasant surprise.

To Kenny Smith, the third studio analyst with Greg Anthony and Charles. Not only did he get put in his place by Anthony twice, he also said that a team like Norfolk State will not have a letdown after knocking off Mizzou. What? Of course they will, they just won their championship. After all it took for them to knock off a team no one gave them a chance to beat there absolutely will be a letdown. It's human nature.

To CBS for once again shunting Seth Davis off to the secondary studio set. He belongs on the bigger stage with Kenny, Charles, and Greg. Bad decision again CBS.

To CBS/the NCAA for not finding some way to get Gus Johnson back calling the tournament. For those of you who don't know, Johnson is the overly excitable play by play guy who had been with CBS (and calling the tournament) for years, but last year his CBS contract ran out and he moved on to Fox. Everyone knew that meant he was off the tournament, but Gus Johnson IS March Madness. He makes a close game that much more fun with how overexcited he gets, it's a shame this year's tournament doesn't have him calling any games.

To the Plumlee (brothers on Duke's team) parents, courtesy of Celinda: You just can't give two sons the same first initial, if they have to play together their jerseys will look ridiculous. Ma Plumlee? Please. Note that this was all the more noticeable in our house because one of the Plumlee brothers is named Miles.

To Spicoli's a local restaurant a stone's throw away from our condo. We decided to go out to dinner during the Mizzou game. I knew it was close but figured Mizzou was going to pull away, there were still 10 minutes to play after all. I kept track on my phone, and when I saw it was still an upset-in-the-making with 30 seconds left (and we had finished our meal), I took Miles for a walk into the crowded bar area to watch the finish (we were eating in a separate section with no TVs). The game wasn't on. In fact, no game was on. One TV was on ESPN, and I have no idea what the other set was on, but none were on the game. TERRIBLE use of your TVs Spicolis. And all you bar patrons, nobody pointed this out? This would have been a whole post in and of itself, except our DVR had the last 5 minutes saved when we got home. Enjoy Day 3!

March Madness Day 2, Part 4

Michigan State 89 - Long Island Brooklyn 67
This is what a top seed is supposed to do. LIU came out and played a heck of a game. They shot 47% from behind the arc. And they kept the game close well into the second half. But Michigan State never let them actually take the lead outside of the opening minutes of the game. The weathered the LIU runs, and methodically built their lead into a comfortable win.

South Florida 58 - Temple 44
Just like last year, only one team from the First Four survived their first real tournament game. These two teams were atrocious in the first half. Don't let anyone tell you it was good defense, that wasn't it. USF shot 3 for 27 from the floor in the first half. That's right, 3 made baskets in an entire half...and they were only down 4 points at the break.

Xavier 67 - Notre Dame 63
I really thought Notre Dame had this one. They built a 6-8 point lead with less than 10 minutes to go, and kept hanging on to it, hanging on to it. Xavier would rally and get close, but ND would keep its advantage. Until 3:45 remained, when Xavier finally took its first lead since midway through the first half. After that Xavier traded tough buckets off of penetration to Notre Dame's well set up jumpers. This was a tremendous game to watch...and then the refs got involved. With 2.8 seconds left and down by 2, Notre Dame drew a foul for a 1-and-1 free throw situation. He made the first free throw, but the refs called ND for a lane violation which negated the basket and gave the ball to Xavier. Then while Xavier was trying to inbound the ball, ND was called for an intentional foul, which gave Xavier two free throws (which they drained) AND the ball back. Did these calls decide the game? No, but they did help deprive us from what could have been an even more exciting finish. Don't be the story, refs.

Kansas 65 - Detroit 50
Kansas learned from the earlier 2v15 upsets, and became the only 2 seed to advance on Friday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness Day 2, Part 3

St. Louis 61 - Memphis 54
Upset #1: 9 over 8. Memphis played the way most assumed Missouri would, lots of ball pressure and plenty of dribble penetration. St. Louis was able to match them pretty well in the athleticism department (well, except for their coach, Rick Majerus) and in the end they stepped up their defense to choke off the penetration. When that happened Memphis took too many tough 3's that didn't go in, while Saint Louis was able to execute their offense.

Ohio 65 - Michigan 60
Upset #2: 13 over 4. Ohio did a good job taking Michigan out of their comfort zone. When Michigan only shoots 30% from behind the arc, they're going to struggle. Combine that with Ohio shooting over 50% from the field, and you get the upset we saw. Charles Barkley just made a terrific point: usually the difference between David and Goliath is quality big men. But the teams losing today are guard-oriented, jumper-oriented. When the jumpers don't fall, these teams are extremely vulnerable. And that's what happened. These teams were vulnerable, and the Davids stepped up and took the game.

Lehigh 75 - Duke 70
Upset #3: 15 over 2. Wait what???? There are teams you aren't shocked lose to vastly lower seeded teams. Missouri? Not a huge shock. Michigan? They haven't been a top seed for awhile, okay. Duke? What??? The most striking thing about this game? Duke was NOT more athletic than Lehigh. Lehigh! From the Patriot conference! They were able to match Duke's athleticism. This gave Duke fits on the offensive end, and their futility on that end overrode their as-usual strong defense.

There is one downside here, I can't make my yearly Patriot League joke. There aren't many conferences the Ivy League can turn up its nose at when we're talking about athletics, so I usually get my shots in where I can. Instead, let's all point and laugh at Duke. Eat it, Duke.

Purdue 72 - Saint Mary's 69
Upset #4: 10 over 7. When you're giving up penetration like that, it's tough to win. Kudos to St. Mary's for rallying and briefly taking the lead, but in the end Purdue was able to get better looks. Purdue is a good story because of 5th-year senior Robbie Hummel, who lost the end of two seasons ago and all of last season to ACL injuries. Two years ago Purdue was in the running for a top seed, and then Hummel got hurt towards the end of the year. They ended up a 4-seed and lost to eventual champion (and top seed) Duke in the Sweet 16. Hummel's missed his team's last two trips to the NCAA tournament, so it's nice he gets to enjoy his stay this year.

Before today, 4 #15 seeds had won their first round matchup over #2 seeds.
Today, 2 #15 seeds beat #2 seeds in the first real round of the tournament.

March Madness Day 2, Part 2

Florida State 66 - St. Bonaventure 63
Florida State spent all of the postgame insisting they didn't take St. Bonaventure lightly. Florida State spent most of the game taking St. Bonaventure lightly.

Georgetown 74 - Belmont 59
Georgetown did what higher seeds are supposed to do. Overwhelmed their opponents. They shot 62% from the field and Belmont never seriously challenged them.

North Carolina 77 - Vermont 58
So much for John Henson being ready for the NCAA Tournament. I bet a lot of people would reconsider their brackets had the truth about Henson been known. Miles might even have decided to tank his Final Four dunk attempt if he had known. I can't imagine Roy Williams was worried about befuddling Vermont's attempts to game plan for the Tar Heels, just be honest with us next time, coach.

Norfolk State 86 - Missouri 84
Here it is, the game that torched countless brackets. As I mentioned on twitter, 41% of brackets lost their West region Final Four team when this one ended. The really amazing thing is, Missouri didn't play poorly. They put up 84 points. Norfolk State played out of their mind (shot better than 50% from behind the arc). Where Missouri will come under fire is Norfolk imposed their will on this game better than Missouri did. As a 2 seed, that's inexcusable. But Missouri wasn't able to generate the turnovers like they're used to (11) while Norfolk State used their size advantage to pull down 14 offensive rebounds.

It's only the 5th time ever a 15 seed has beaten a 2 seed. Hold that thought...

March Madness Day 2, Part 1

Cincinnati 65 - Texas 59
A Rick Barnes team came out flat in the tournament? I'm shocked. I've said it before, Barnes is a terrific recruiter, but not much of an in-game coach. Talent is enough to get a team to the tournament, but not enough to win enough to make a Final Four (or overcome a disadvantage in talent).

North Carolina State 79 - San Diego State 65
NC State simply destroyed San Diego State on the boards. NC State was bigger, and they took full advantage. Too often with SDSU got a stop, NC State got another chance and used it to keep San Diego State at bay.

Creighton 58 - Alabama 57
A close game! And better yet, a buzzer beater! This one came down to the little things, and Creighton did them better than Alabama. Alabama didn't do themsevles any favors with how they handled the last few seconds. Up one, Creighton used it's last non-bonus foul with 4.7 seconds left, giving Alabama the ball at midcourt with 1 timeout left. Alabama elected not to take it, but after inbounding the ball the players looked confused so their coach called time out with 2.6 seconds left. This left the with little time to get off a shot, and their three pointer was short, handing Creighton the game. After the game Alabama's coach said they were assuming Creighton would play a man-to-man defense and called a play based on that, then Creightion came out in a zone. I'm not sure calling the time out with 2.6 seconds was the right play (I think it was too late by that point), but it's a fair issue, and kudos to Creighton for doing well to get Alabama out of rhythm on their last possession with the foul and then the defensive switch.

Florida 71 - Virginia 49
Florida totaled Virginia despite shooting just 4/23 on 3-pointers. The 3 ball is an integral part of Billy Donovan's game (learned from Rick Pitino - play at a fast pace and take a lot of threes). That's a terrible sign for Virginia (I know, who cares, they lost). But if Florida was able to roll Virginia without any help from that facet of their game, then what was Virginia doing out there?

March Madness Day 1, Recap

And Day 1 is in the books. Normally for the first 2 days of the tournament, one day is relatively mild with few close games and fewer games that truly come down to the final buzzer. The other day features game after game that is in play until the dying seconds. Yesterday's slate of games definitely felt like the former (2/16 were upsets, 1 game truly came down to the buzzer), though we did get the bonus of seeing a #1 seed sweat out its initial game. Based on past history, I'd do what I could to keep an eye on today's slate of games, I think we'll see some excitement.

The game commentary is up, apologies for how little there is, between work, baby, and my weekly dose of anything resembling exercise (pickup frisbee), I didn't see as many games as I would have liked.

To Miles, for being the first person to finish his bracket (he finished on Sunday), and for being the youngest person in the history of the pool. For those of you wondering, yes, Miles did in fact "choose" his own bracket. This was a little bit more of a process than I anticipated.

My original plan was to take the three plastic cookies he got with a cookie monster doll, set them out, and designate two cookies the higher seed and the third the lower seed. Miles likes this toy so I figured getting him to grab a cookie wouldn't be a big deal. So on Saturday I laid out the cookies and encouraged him to pick one. He started at me for a few seconds, then started walking away to do something, anything else. Knowing I was going to have to get him to do this 63 times, I quickly racked my brain for another option.

For my next try, I decided to geek out. For those of you in the pool, this will come as no surprise, considering the official picks sheet is an Excel sheet full of drop-down menus and made to look like an actual bracket. Miles has a set of wooden blocks with letters, numbers, pictures, etc. on them. I grabbed blocks 0-9 and A-F and planned to set up the matchups hexadecimally (1v16 would be 0vF, 2v15 would be 1vE, and so on) and have Miles pick them. He was uninterested. I then made two little towers with the proper "numbers" at the top of each one and decided to see which one he'd knock down first (he loves playing godzilla). He looked at the towers, looked at me, and then (mocking me for putting the two towers too close to each other) knocked them both over at once. Progress, but not helpful. I re-stacked the towers, and he lost interest.

Yikes, on to Plan C (with a big assist to Celinda for the idea). For his first birthday a little over a month ago, he received a little "playground set" complete with a basket. The basket is a little taller than him, but he can easily reach up and dunk a basketball. So I decided that I'd have him try to dunk 63 times. If he made it, the higher seed would win. If he missed, the lower seed. It took two days (he'd usually dunk 5-6 times and then move on to something else), but he did it. And when I tallied up the results, he made 66% of his dunks (and threw the ball at me at least 3 times and then laughed). Likely a little upset heavy (see his day 1 results), but not bad.

Quick footnote: I decided I wouldn't interfere with his picks with one exception: the 1v16 matchups. I wasn't going to let my son pick something that had never happened before without trying to guide him away from it. He made the basket for 3 of the 1v16 matchups, but missed the 4th. I gave him a second chance on that miss and he made it, so I counted it as a win for the 1 seed. The game in question? Syracuse vs UNC Asheville. Maybe he's a savant? If so, look out for Notre Dame and New Mexico.

To Rachel G, for being the first non-Kofron to turn in a bracket.

To Zach and Lisa, for being the first official entrants.

To Ben P, for the funniest email submitting me a bracket.

To Corey H and Celinda, for correctly picking 15/16 games today, best of anyone. COrey missed on Wichita St-VCU, and Celinda missed on UNLV-Colorado.

To the current leaderboard. Unfortunately there are 35 of you in the top-3, so the sheet will have to suffice for listing you all out.

To Terri M, Michael F, and Susan G, for going big and picking a 9 seed to win the whole thing. Unfortunately, that 9-seed was UConn. Still, major props for being bold. Also a shoutout to Lisa A, the only other person to pick a non-top 4 seed to win it all (Gonzaga).

To the NCAA, for needlessly complicating keeping tabs on the games on a computer. In the past, there was one location where you could watch any game, switching back and forth and it was all FREE. This year they changed the model. That central hub requires payment ($4 for everything, but still), but if you have cable, you can still watch the games for free...but only by going to the individual network's page. CBS.com, TNT.com, etc. To make matters worse, only CBS.com has the scores of the other games going on at that time. The other networks only show the games that will be on that network. So if you wanted to keep track of multiple games, you need to have multiple tabs open on your browser. Given what the computer viewing experience has been in the past, this year is a pain in the you-know-what.

To Jay Bilas, normally a good college analyst. He picked his bracket, and it was only available on ESPN Insider (costs money). It's billed as a thoroughly scouted, game-by-game breakdown. It's basically just him picking all the top seeds. Maybe he'll be right, but with only a couple sentences on each game, it looks like he just went with the chalk. Hardly worthy of "insider" status. I blame his Duke connections.

To Mario Williams (DE formerly of the Texans, #1 overall pick the year Reggie Bush came out, and best defensive player on the market), who just got paid an obscene amount of money but has now stuck himself in Buffalo. There's a reason Buffalo wouldn't let him get back on a plane once he took his first free agent visit there, it's Buffalo. Everywhere is more exciting than Buffalo. Have fun, Mario, your team stinks and, well, it's Buffalo.

To the Portland Trail Blazers. In 2007, they had the #1 pick in the draft. They selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, despite Oden looking like a 55-year-old. It's true that the traditional mantra is go big over small, but Oden's injury concerns destroyed his time in Portland, meanwhile Durant is one of the top players in the NBA. Why bring this up today? Portland released Oden, to make room for players brought in at the trade deadline. Oden was on the shelf yet again undergoing yet another microfracture surgery on his knee.

Enjoy Day 2!

March Madness Day 1, Part 4

Iowa State 77 - Connecticut 64 Every time I looked up, UConn was getting killed on the boards. Few second shot opportunities and too many such opportunities for ISU. UConn also gave everything they had to make the game somewhat close (they were down by 22 at one point), and sometimes you simply don't have enough left to get over the hump in that situation.

Indiana 79 - New Mexico State 66 Ohio State 78 - Loyola MD 59 Colorado 68 - UNLV 64 I'm going to let Miles give the commentary for this section of games: *startles* Huh? Where am I...what's going on? I wonder if anyone is still awake. *cries* Oh hi Daddy, I don't know why I'm awake right now either, and it's kind of getting me down. How about you pick me up and...HEY! Don't try to leave, pick me up! Okay good. Yeah, I like cuddling........Wait, if you're here, how about we play some? Wait. What are you doing. Don't leave me here! I'm up, I want to be entertained! Come back!! I'm NOT going to sleep! You'll be back! (Which we were)

Poor little guy woke up about 11:30 and was discombobulated for about an hour, but on the plus side, he slept "in" until 7 AM this morning!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March Madness Day 1, Part 3

Kentucky 81 - Western Kentucky 66 Apparently all of Kentucky is better than just the Western part of Kentucky. Who knew?

VCU 62 - Wichita State 59 The one upset so far, and it came down to execution at the end. I can't give Shaka Smart (VCU coach) too much credit for VCU's final play that resulted in a basket, as it was "Set a pick for then everyone get out of the way of our penetrating guard". But Wichita State's game tying play was a total mess. They waited too long, were sloppy, and had poor spacing. VCU made the plays, looking to become the new Butler (non-power conference team that goes on 2 consecutive deep runs in the tournament).

Gonzaga 77 West Virginia 54 Much was made of Gonzaga being at a disadvantage in this game, despite being the higher seed. They had to travel across the country from Spokane, WA to Pittsburgh to play West Virginia in a pseudo home game for WVU. I guess it didn't matter. I wonder which bitter beer face is worse, the one Bob Huggins must have had after (and throughout) this game, or the one Mario Williams will have when he realizes he's sentenced himself to many years in Buffalo with his extravagant deal he signed today. I know they threw a ton of cash at you Mario, but it's still Buffalo.

Baylor 68 - South Dakota State 60 Disappointing showing from Baylor as they simply couldn't put the lesser team away.

And not to jinx things, but there are quite a few pool participants who are sitting along in the dugout right now, and no one is talking to them. (If you don't get the baseball metaphor, there are some 12/12's so far for today)

March Madness Day 1, Part 2

Marquette 88 - BYU 68 Last year's VCU amazing run excepted, there's a reason teams that play in the First Four are stuck in the First Four.

Syracuse 72 - UNC Asheville 65 Syracuse thought they'd cruise through this game, that's the only explanation here. Greg Anthony was absolutely right at halftime. Charles and Kenny Smith were talking about how Syracuse should have abandonned their zone and played man-to-man defense to take advanatage of their superior athleticism. But Syracuse ALWAYS plays zone, and like Anthony said, if you're the 1 seed in this game you don't make adjustments, you make them adjust to you.
In the end, as my grandfather used to say, UNCA simply didn't have the horses to take down Syracuse. It didn't hurt that they got a couple of shady calls (a phantom lane violation and a terrible directional call). UNCA didn't make enough plays to win and cannot point to the calls as the difference, but the game would have been much more interesting had the refs not inserted themselves like they did.

New Mexico 75 - Long Beach State 68 I didn't see enough of this one, instead I was chasing Miles around the house and pretending to eat his books (which he loved). This isn't the first year I've gone through March Madness with a baby, but a 13 month old is harder to keep entertained than a 1 month old. The 1 month old may cry, but he'll also sleep and just sit there. It's easier to keep an eye on the game when the baby is also stationary. Now when I catch 30 seconds of the game, I look back down and Miles is across the house finding something new to grab/throw/eat.

Vanderbilt 79 - Harvard 70 Anyone who calls this the brain bowl didn't watch the last 4 minutes of the game. Vanderbilt put on a clinic of how not to hold a safe lead during that time. Not coming back to the ball after Harvard made baskets and pressed them, leaving their point guard to bring it up alone against the press, taking quick, wild shots, and fouling Harvard needlessly. Check. Check. Check. Check. For a prestigious academic university, kind of disappointing. Harvard fought valiantly to come back, but they were down by so much that they had to be practically perfect, and they fell a little short of that mark.

March Madness, Day 1, Part 1

Murray State 58 - Colorado State 41 Colorado State was able to eke (I always thought this word was spelled 'eeke', thanks Words with Friends!) their way to a slight halftime lead by hitting some threes and by watching Pierce Hornung grab 11 boards. This papered over the fact that CSU was turning the ball over too much and not getting any easy looks thanks to Murray State's defense. In the second half though, Murray State started rebounding, and Colorado State didn't curb their turnover habit.
Kansas State 70 - Southern Mississippi 64 This started out as the worst offensive basketball I've seen since Wisconsin last year (since they lost a game 36-33 last regular season). Southern Miss looked awful, and Kansas State did not take advantage, instead letting Southern Miss hang around. Then, at the end, the difference was dribble penetration. KSU did, Southern Miss could not. Down the stretch, their only baskets came off of steals and breakaways.
Louisville 69 - Davidson 62 I was surprised this game ended up this close, but Davidson never really threatened in the last quarter of this game. They were down enough that they needed to go for threes much earlier than they did.
Wisconsin 73 - Montana 49 Yeah, this one wasn't interesting, which made it okay when I couldn't really watch any of it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Peyton Manning Derby

What has been assumed for months now has become official: The Indianapolis Colts have cut Peyton Manning. It’s not a surprise, because a few events came together to create the perfect storm of a situation where the Colts not only accepted this course of action, but really could not have chosen any other way:
  1. Manning has 4 neck surgeries since the end of the 2010 season, missing the entire 2011 season – This brought a Colts future without Manning into focus. If Manning doesn’t have to miss the 2011 season, the Colts likely win their division again, or at least make the playoffs. Bill Polian and his son keep their jobs, and the thought of drafting Manning’s successor remains the fantasy it had always been throughout Polian’s tenure.
  2. Andrew Luck decides to come out, and Indianapolis completely collapses without Manning, securing the #1 pick in the draft – This is what convinced the Colts to move on from Manning this year. Andrew Luck is seen as a surefire NFL QB, fairly or not. A team that would pass on Luck is a team that risks seeing Luck go on to have a Peyton Manning-like career. This isn’t Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford, simply the top prospect at the most important position in the NFL. This is a quarterback who teams have been salivating over since the 2010 season. When Indy’s collapse put them in position to grab Luck, they had to decide between maybe 3-4 more years of Manning, or potentiall another 14-15 years of great quarterback play in Andrew Luck.
  3. Manning’s extension includes a $28 Million roster bonus to be paid by Thursday March 8 (tomorrow)if Manning is on the roster on that day – This is why Manning is being cut and not traded. If Manning is on the Colts’ roster tomorrow, he receives a $28 Million bonus on top of his $7.4 Million salary for 2012. His cap hit would have been $17 Million. Tough to swallow, but it could be done. However, if traded, all of Manning’s guaranteed money comes due for cap purposes, and his cap figure to not play for the Colts balloons. Since Indy couldn’t trade him until after the roster bonus due date, there was no way for Indy to get value for Manning without crippling their cap.
Now there are only two pieces of the story left: Will Manning play again, and if yes, where? We’re a couple of days into the Manning chase, and Peyton has said he wants to make a decision this week. Let’s assume that Manning will play again. To answer the question of where he may take his talents, let’s first eliminate the teams who are not in the market for a quarterback either because they are happy with their quarterback’s play, or are too tied to him to contemplate making a switch.
  • Colts (soon to be Andrew Luck)
  • Patriots (Tom Brady)
  • Chargers (Philip Rivers)
  • Raiders (Carson Palmer)
  • Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger)
  • Bengals (Andy Dalton)
  • Texans (Matt Schaub)
  • Titans (Jake Locker)
  • Cowboys (Tony Romo)
  • Giants (Eli Manning)
  • Eagles (too invested in Vick)
  • Rams (Sam Bradford)
  • Bears (Jay Cutler)
  • Lions (Matthew Stafford)
  • Packers (Aaron Rodgers)
  • Falcons (Matt Ryan)
  • Panthers (Cam Newton)
  • Saints (Drew Brees)
  • Buccaneers (Josh Freeman)
  • Redskins (Robert Griffin III thanks to their soon-to-be official trade with the Rams)
That leaves 12 teams:
  • Jaguars - Not happening. As they showed in ruining Blaine Gabbert’s rookie season, this team needs a TON of help.
  • Vikings - Not happening. This team is simply too far away for Manning to spend the last few years of his career futilely chasing after the rest of the NFC North. The Vikings need to rebuild, and they know it.
  • Browns - Not happening. Cleveland is cursed. Manning’s not going to a cursed franchise that has to play the Steeler and Raven defenses four times a year.
  • Bills - Not happening. Manning is apparently taking even the weather of his new home team into account, and that eliminates Buffalo/Toronto from consideration. Manning doesn’t want to spend half of his season throwing in the winds and snow of upstate New York (or worse, Canada).
  • Jets - Manning apparently told them no, probably because he doesn’t want to share a city with his brother (especially now that Eli wins the rings tiebreaker to every argument), doesn’t want to subject himself to New York City, and probably doesn’t want anywhere near the Jets freak show of a locker room. Unfortunately for Jets fans, Manning’s “Thanks but no thanks” caused GM Mike Tannenbaum to go on a bender during which time he drunk-dailed the agent for his current quarterback Mark Sanchez, and agreed to a 3-year extension that makes Sanchez one of the 6 or 7 highest paid quarterbacks in the league. Lay off the peach schnapps next time, Mike.
  • Ravens - I just don’t see it. The Ravens could certainly use a QB upgrade over just good enough to get you beat when it counts Joe Flacco, but Baltimore barely has the cap room to keep their own guys they want to hold onto, and I don’t see Baltimore willing to remake its identity for Peyton.
  • Chiefs - They make sense, but I don't see Scott Pioli making a big splashy move for a 35-year-old quarterback.
  • 49ers - If Manning wants the chance to compete for Super Bowls, this is where he should go. But San Francisco isn’t going to remake themselves for Peyton (Harbaugh is way too proud to let Peyton run his offense), and don’t forget, Harbaugh is the quarterback Indianapolis kicked to the curb so they could draft Peyton. Does that mean Harbaugh wouldn’t entertain the possibility? I doubt it, but I also don’t see him rolling out the red carpet either.
  • Seahawks - Seattle has done a great job rebuilding everywhere except the quarterback position. Tarvaris Jackson isn’t ever going to be close to a top-flight quarterback, and he will hold Seattle back as they try to take the next step from mediocre to true contender. The upgrade to Peyton would be sizeable, and Seattle (according to reports) is doing everything they can to get a meeting with Manning, but it hasn’t happened or been scheduled yet. Manning may be looking at the weather as a factor here, or he may be looking at Seattle’s very young OLine and last year’s sack numbers and shaking his head. That isn’t entirely fair as Tarvaris Jackson greatly enhanced those sack numbers because he has zero pocket awareness, but Seattle’s line is still young and learning. I’m going to say Seattle’s out because if Manning hasn’t set up a meeting by now, I don’t think he’s interested (even if he should be).
  • Broncos - This is John Elway’s get out of Tebownation free card, if he wants one. Elway has never seemed enamored of Tim Tebow, even as the team made the final 8 in the playoffs. However, Elway would face a fan revolt if he benched Tebow going into next season unless the replacement was a bonafide guarantee. Someone who could not only produce, but who the fans could look at and say, “Okay, I love me some Tim Tebow, but this guy is a first ballot hall of famer, I’ll get behind him.” Peyton Manning is that guy, and he’s the only one of those guys who will be any sort of available. Peyton’s first meeting was with Denver so they have to be taken seriously. But they are lacking so many pieces on offense that I don’t see it. They need a running back, multiple receivers, maybe even a line piece or two.
  • Cardinals - Good team (finished 8-8 with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton under center). Great weather (indoors on natural grass). Terrific receiver (Fitzgerald makes okay QBs look good, and remember what Kurt Warner did with him). Yeah their division has San Francisco in it, but no team can claim to be a true powerhouse yet, and it’s been a joke for a long time, so the path to the playoffs isn’t necessarily too difficult. The one downside is it’s in the NFC, so he could end up competing with little brother for playoff or Super Bowl berths.
  • Dolphins - I say this is where Peyton ends up. The Dolphins certainly have some negatives: they’re in a division with Tom Brady, they were only 6-10 last year, they will play some December road games in terrible weather. But they are well equipped to run his offense (Reggie Bush isn’t a pound it 25 times a game back, but is a terrific receiver, Brandon Marshall is a legit #1 and he’s got good other options including tight end Anthony Fasano). The line is pretty decent-to-good, and the defense kept them in a lot of games last season. The weather is terrific, and it’s near his family (Manning has a house near Miami already). But the #1 reason I believe Manning will go to Miami?
    They. Are. Desperate. The Dolphins are begging for some good news. Owner Stephen Ross went after Jim Harbaugh and got rebuffed last season. He tried for Jeff Fisher this year and Fisher chose St. Louis. Ross needs something to sell to the fans so they won’t all think, “Another season middling along and staring up at Tom Brady and the Patriots. Bottom line, Manning may prefer Denver or Arizona, but if he takes a meeting with Miami, they will not let him get back on the plane. They will do whatever it takes to override whatever doubts he has (sign Reggie Wayne? Sure! Dallas Clark? Sure! Jeff Saturday? No problem!), and I believe Peyton Manning will be wearing a Miami uniform on opening weekend in September.