Sunday, March 29, 2009

InClement Weather: Weekend Bracket Banter

Been a while since we spoke, in fact it was Pay's 4-0 Thursday performance that left you wanting more.

Let's dive in head-first...

Get used to this smiling face. He may impact the Final Four as much as any player next season.
Credit: Streetball.com

Midwest Region

Louisville waxed Arizona 103-64. It didn't come as much of a surprise honestly. Right?
Arizona in 2009: No idea who the coach is. Likely it won't be Russ Pennell. In fact, despite the Sweet 16 appearance it appears Pennell may not be on the Wildcats bench at all. What do we know about the Wildcat roster? Jordan Hill is going to be a top 5 pick. He's gone. Chase Buddinger gave the Wildcat faithful an extra year and he's flirting with the lottery. He's gone. As for Nick Wise...he's a talented junior who should be back for a senior season. At least there's that for Wildcat fans.
Offseason Question: "Will Jamie Dixon be the next head coach of Arizona?"
Recruit to Watch: None. The coaching situation can't help. Interestingly, the only recruit signed (according to Rivals.com) was Tremayne Johnson. Why do I find it (somewhat) interesting? He was recruited by Reggie Geary.

Michigan State outlasted Kansas 67-62. While it seemed Collins was going to take control of the game down the stretch, a few lapses in judgment ultimately took out the defending national champions.
Kansas in 2009: This is a very young team. At the epicenter are Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins. The likelihood of Collins staying seems pretty high. As for Aldrich, I wouldn't be surprised if he made an immediate decision. If that's the case, he may be in those pre-draft rookie camps trying to climb up a few boards. If both stay, Bill Self has Final Four talent yet again.
Offseason Question: "Alright, Cole. What's it gonna be? Staying or going?"
Recruit to Watch: After bringing in 7 quality recruits in 2008, Bill Self tabbed two more. I'm most interested in 6'8 Thomas Robinson, who may see a lot more court time if Mr. Aldrich bolts early.

West Regional

UCONN controlled Purdue from start to finish, defeating the upstart Boilermakers 72-60. Jim Calhoun continues his march to a potential 3rd title in 10 years. Impressive to say the least.
Purdue in 2009: Matt Painter was frequently quoted as saying his team was working "ahead of schedule". You can't blame him one bit when you look at the roster he has. The team is likely to again be at the top of the Big Ten and, if Hummel stays healthy, can use this year's tournament run to their advantage this season. Look out for the Boilermakers in 2009.
Offseason Question: "How do they keep Hummel healthy an entire season and work their way up to a high seed?"
Recruit to Watch: Looking for depth is a recruiting advantage. Building for the future has to be considered when you bring back your entire starting 5. D.J. Byrd said no to Notre Dame, Indiana, Butler, and Xavier. That grabs my attention for Matt Painter and company.

Missouri somewhat stunned the Memphis Tigers 102-91. To put this in perspective: John Calipari's teams have never given up 100 points in a game. Ever. Until tonight.
Memphis in 2009: At the beginning of the season, I would've told you that Tyreke Evans was the #1 choice to be 1-and-done. Not so much anymore. In fact, can Evans be talked back into staying? Probably not. Nevertheless, it's not just Evans that is leaving potentially. Seniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier will be sorely missed. Shawn Taggart and Doneal Mack may feel kinda lonely next season. Then again, judging by their highly ranked recruiting class, Memphis will be just fine in Conference USA and come tourney time. More than fine, in fact.
Offseason Question: "Is there a legitimate scenario which Calipari takes to bolt to another program?"
Recruit to Watch: Xavier Henry is signed. No surprise that he's a top-5 overall recruit. DeMarcus Cousins has verbally committed and may be the top recruit in the country. If (my) #1-ranked John Wall ends up joining the Tigers (is he waiting for Evans to make a decision?), I might put Memphis as the preseason favorites to cut down the nets. Scary good potential trio of freshman phenoms.

East Regional

Pitt fended over Xavier, in large put due to (trash) an incredible shot from senior leader Levance Fields. Xavier falls just short yet again. I continue to feel for them.
Xavier in 2009: After losing so much in 2008, I wondered if the Musketeers had enough to be a top program in 2009. I won't misunderestimate this team again. Having only one senior on the roster is a good thing. Although being that it's BJ Raymond makes it sting a little extra.
Offseason Question: "If the dominoes start to fall, will Sean Miller be leaving for (of all places) Pitt?"
Recruit to Watch: I'm not picking a name. Chances are I won't value the right kid and he'll end up being a 3-4 year stud for the Musketeers. Yeah, it's like that.

Villanova fizzled early; fortunately, DOOK stunk up the joint for the entire 40 minutes suffering their worst tournament loss in nearly 30 years.
Duke in 2009: I hate to be a hater, but getting Greg Paulus off of this roster will only be a good thing. As for losing Gerald Henderson, that will hurt quite a bit. His athleticism and attitude will be sorely missed by Coach K. However, a few All-American blue chippers will enter this season (as always) and there is still a foundation with Singler, Scheyer, Smith, Williams, and Thomas in place.
Offseason Question: "What's the first step towards Duke regaining its status as a yearly Final Four contender?"
Recruit to Watch: Ryan Kelly appears to be the typical 5-star Duke recruit. Here's my typical-issue with a Duke recruit: he's 6'9 and 205 lbs. I bet he has an affinity for the flop and the three-point shot too, right?

South Regional

North Carolina coasted past Gonzaga 98-77. By the way, Ty Lawson looks more than ready to lead this team to a national championship.
Gonzaga in 2009: Not many teams are losing as many names at the Zags. Who you ask? Jeremy Pargo, Micah Downs, and Josh Heytvelt have been staples the past couple of seasons in Spokane. Don't cry for Mark Few just yet though. He'd an incredible savvy recruiter and his team always loads up his schedule before WCC-play to prepare them for tourney play.
Offseason Question: "Is this a team capable of taking the next step and reaching its first ever Final Four or are they (and Xavier) a perennial "almost there" team?
Recruit to Watch: Mangisto Arop. What can I say? I love the name.

Oklahoma started with a confident swagger early and never looked back against Syracuse, winning by more than the 13-point margin on the scoreboard as time expired.
Syracuse in 2009: No excuses about Flynn's back are necessary. The team shot 0-10 from behind the arc in the 1st half and were downright sluggish and lazy for the game's opening 25 minutes. While returning to the Big Dance after a two year absent was nice, the Orange better be hungry for more next season. Onuaku, Jackson, and Harris will finally have some depth behind them with Iowa State transfer Wesley Jonathan joining the Orange in '09. Kris Joseph can only improve and a few recruits, or even a healthy Jones/Jardine duo may steal a few backcourt minutes. Problem is: without Jonny Flynn, this team is in serious trouble. Potential redshirt point guard Mookie Jones isn't ready to run the point yet. If Flynn stays, he also has backcourt mates Devendorf and Rautins back. I hate to sound biased, but if he does stay, this team has serious national championship-potential.
Offseason Question: "Plain and simple: Is Johnny Flynn staying to fuel national title hopes in 2009?"
Recruit to Watch: 6'11 DaShonte Riley committed to Georgetown and then selected Syracuse over Marquette after some "second or third" thoughts. He'll have plenty of time to develop behind Onuaku and Jackson. Nevertheless, can he make a leap from year one to year two? Or will he redshirt and make what I just said even more irrelevant?


See you in a few to talk Elite Eight...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

PHSports Sweet 16 Preview

Last weekend, we saw very few upsets in the 1st round and none in the 2nd round. This weekend, we see the most “chalk” matchups in recent tournament history.

West Region
#1 UConn v. #5 Purdue

From laptops, to suspensions, to torn ACLs, to MOP of the West Region? Could happen.
Credit: TampaBay.com

A day after the news of an alleged recruiting violation hits the airwaves, UConn must step onto the court for a crucial showdown against Purdue, who is no pushover now that they are finally healthy. The Boilers will need to make up for their size and rebounding gap (UConn has a +8.3 rpg margin while Purdue has a -0.3 margin) with good decision making and shooting.

Keys to Victory for UConn
1. Outphysical (not a word) Purdue and pound them on the boards
2. Alter shots and force the Boilers to settle on the perimeter
3. Get JaJuan Johnson and Nemanja Calasan into early foul trouble

Keys to Victory for Purdue
1. Hit mid- and long-range jump shots early to pull Thabeet away from the basket (a la Notre Dame)
2. Protect the ball (+3.5 turnover margin per game)
3. Have Chris Kramer glove AJ Price

Prediction: UConn, 67-62

#2 Memphis v. #3 Missouri
To date, Memphis has not met a team who likes to play the Tigers at their own game. That changes tonight. In Missouri, you have a team that averages 18.5 assists per contest and has two ball handlers who have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 or better. In Memphis, you have a team that defends among the best in recent college basketball memory (opponents shoot 36% and 29% from three-point range).

Keys to Victory for Memphis
1. Put their stamp on the game via defensive will
2. Collect offensive rebounds en route to 2nd-chance points
3. Defend the perimeter

Keys to Victory for Missouri
1. Put pressure on Tyreke Evans
2. Hit 3-point shots early and set the press
3. Attack Memphis’s bigs

Prediction: Missouri, 67-61


East Region
#1 Pittsburgh v. #4 Xavier
This matchup pits two of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Pitt and Xavier have rebounding margins of +9.8 and +8.4 per game, respectively. While Xavier does not want a street fight, they are not afraid of one like most of Pitt’s competition. One final key stat to think about: Pitt’s assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.5 while Xavier’s is 0.9.

Keys to Victory for Pittsburgh
1. 2nd-chance points
2. Domination at the point → easy opportunities in the low post
3. Keep DeJuan Blair and Sam Young out of foul trouble

Keys to Victory for Xavier
1. Use slashing cuts
2. Hit (39.9% as a team) & defend (33.2% against) the trifecta
3. Get DeJuan Blair into foul trouble

Prediction: Pittsburgh, 74-65

#2 Duke v. #3 Villanova

Assuming Dante Cunningham is the constant, which of the countless Villanova role players will take their turn and step up for Jay Wright's Cats?
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

This is another strength versus strength matchup in the East Region. Both teams have multiple good ball handlers and both teams average 8 or more steals per game.

Keys to Victory for Duke
1. Covet the ball
2. Provide help-side defense on dribble drives
3. Singler/Henderson must stay out of foul trouble

Keys to Victory for Villanova
1. Get to the charity stripe early & often
2. Get the Coreys going
3. Force Duke to settle for deep shots

Prediction: 71-67, Villanova

Why Expanding the NFL Season = Fuzzy Math

We all remember that moment in the 2000 Presidential Debates. George W. Bush slammed Al Gore's economic proposals as using "fuzzy math" and "fuzzy numbers." That may have been one of the first times we saw that patented Dubya smirk (y'know ... the one where he looks like he's just said the most clever thing in the course of human history).

Well, now I'm taking on the Dubya role, and am calling out Roger Goodell for using fuzzy math in his proposal to expand the NFL Regular season. Yes, as a fan of professional football, I would LOVE an extra week or two of meaningful football. But I am also a fan of quality football, not games where the star players are missing due to injuries. Unfortunately, Goodell's proposal would drastically increase the chance of injury for the players who consistently grind it out on the gridiron.
"Raj ... Re-Run and I think you're usin some fuzzy numbers"

The Commish wants to expand the regular season to either 17 or 18 games, while dropping the pre-season to 2-3 games, thereby keeping the total number of games at 20. The problem comes to play when we look at actual playing time of starters. Starters generally play anywhere from 0-5 quarters of football during the preaseason, and never more than two quarters per game. And starters, of course, play every down of a regular season game. So, by replacing even just one preseason game with one meaningful contest, the starters will be playing more downs in 20 games. And let's not forget that the players will also be playing harder in that one game than in the two quarters which it's replacing.

I may be in the minority, but if you want to increase the regular season by a game or two, you can't keep the total number of weeks at 20. Not if you want quality football to continue throughout all 17-18 regular season games. 18 + 2 does not equal 16 + 4. That's just fuzzy math.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UConn Reportedly Violated NCAA Rules, PHSports Not Surprised

In a report from Yahoo! Sports (and later followed up by ESPN) that is expected to make waves on a day involves no NCAA tournament games, there are allegations that UConn violated NCAA recruiting rules in pursuit of former guard Nate Miles. The allegations are as follows:

  • One of UConn's assistants knew about the relationship between Nate Miles and Josh Nochimson, a former student manager turned sports agent, as early as fall 2006.
  • Phone records show UConn coaches may have exceeded limits on phone calls and text messages to Miles and others close to him. In December 2006, for example, former UConn assistant coach Tom Moore made 27 calls to Miles's guardian and a person Miles referred to as an uncle, as well as three calls to Miles. The limit is one.
While UConn gears up for its Sweet 16 tilt against Big Ten tournament champion, let's take a very short trip down memory lane. Their star point guard, AJ Price, was one of two players on the team who attempted to sell stolen laptop computers. The purported ringleader was, of course, Marcus "Laptop" Williams. The message is clear. UConn puts winning above accountability. Sure, Williams was kicked off the team for a period, but he was welcomed back. Why? Jim Calhoun values results over any measure of accountability or representing your institution with any sense of dignity, and he has proven that he is willing to cut corners to obtain the desired outcome.

We are not saying that UConn is guilty in the recruitment of Nate Miles. We're just not surprised. Not one bit.

Also, I would not be surprised to see Tom Moore outed as the fall guy. Valued former assistant Dave Leitao is out of a job since getting the heave-ho from UVa and he could fit that bill.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fantasy Baseball: Tear Apart Sum's Roster

Are you all bracketed out? Tired of the NCAA tourney? Can't stand watching all that great college basketball? No, I'm not tired of it either, and doubt I ever will be. But, we must show some love to America's former favorite pastime (since we all know football has taken over the #1 spot on both the AP and Coaches polls) of baseball. Unfortunately, I'm even less knowledgeable about baseball than I am about college basketball. I drink my Red Sox kool-aid every morning from opening day through the fall classic, and that's about it. Surprisingly, however, I'm in a fantasy baseball league, and we just had our draft last weekend. So I thought I'd come to you, the loyal PHSports readers, with my lineup so you can berate my picks while laughing and pointing at me (just remember, when you point at me, three fingers are pointing back at you).
The dude even wears red ... ohhh yeah

A quick primer about my league. It's a rotisserie format, with the following stat categories: Runs, Home Runs, RBIs, Stolen Bases, Batting Avg., Wins, Saves, Ks, ERA and WHIP. It's an 11-team league, with a wrap around draft. I had the 9th pick in all odd number rounds and 3rd pick in even number rounds, and there were 23 rounds in total. I have my picks, in order, below, along with the players taken directly before and after my selections (my picks in bold). Let me know what you think and who I should get rid of ASAP.

Round 1: (Josh Hamilton) Ian Kinsler - 2B, Tex (Ryan Braun)
Round 2: (Ryan Howard) Tim Lincecum - P, SF (Evan Longoria)
Round 3: (Russell Martin) Jason Bay - OF, Bos (Carlos Quentin)
Round 4: (Brandon Phillips) Brandon Webb - P, Ari (Ray Halladay)

After 4 rounds, I had the top 2 pitchers in the NL last year (Credit: The Arizona Republic)

Round 5: (Nick Markakis) Joe Mauer - C, Min (Alex Rios)
Round 6: (Shane Victorino) Adrian Gonzalez - 1B, SD (Rafael Furcal)
Round 7: (Chipper Jones) Ryan Doumit - C, Pit (Hunter Pence)
Round 8: (Garrett Atkins) Josh Beckett - P, Bos (Brad Lidge)
Round 9: (Cliff Lee) Adrian Beltre - 3B, Sea (Mariano Rivera)
Round 10: (Ryan Ludwick) Ervin Santana - P, LAA (Jon Lester)
Round 11: (Mike Aviles) Raul Ibanez - OF, Phi (Derek Jeter)
Round 12: (Robinson Cano) Joakim Soria - P, KC (A.J. Burnett)
Round 13: (Jorge Posada) Denard Span - OF, Min (Jose Valverde)

Who the hell is this guy? And why did I draft him ahead of Jhonny Peralta? (Credit: boston.com)

Round 14: (BJ Ryan) Khalil Greene - SS, StL (Carlos Delgado)
Round 15: (Brad Hawpe) Randy Johnson - P, SF (Francisco Cordero)
Round 16: (Zack Greinke) Xavier Nady - OF, NYY (Brett Myers)
Round 17: (Max Scherzer) Jason Motte - P, StL (Brandon Morrow)
Round 18: (Mike Gonzalez) Hank Blalock - 1B, 3B, IF, Tex (Rick Ankiel)
Round 19: (Willy Taveras) J.D. Drew - OF, Bos (Jered Weaver)
Round 20: (Matt Lindstrom) Jim Thome - Util, CWS (Nick Swisher)
Round 21: (Mike Pelfrey) Chris Volstad - P, Fla (John Smoltz)
Round 22: (Jeff Clement) Wandy Rodriguez - P, Hou (Fernando Rodney)
Round 23: (Troy Percival) Clay Buchholz - P, Bos (Jesus Flores)

So, I went a little Red Sox heavy, with 4 players. But you can't blame me for taking Clay in the last round ... can you?
(Credit: yoursportsmemorabilia.com)

Early on, as the best batters were flying off the board, I decided to try and concentrate on the pitching categories, in particular the starting pitchers. Needless to say, I'm quite happy with a rotation that includes Lincecum, Webb, Beckett, and Ervin Santana. Randy Johnson is a question mark, but I figured he was worth the risk in round 15. Of course, the flip side of having a great pitching staff is my fairly weak batting order. None of my guys had over 36 HRs last year, and only three had over 100 RBIs. I think I'm fairly solid with regard to catchers, and that is a weak spot on other teams, but my outfield leaves much to be desired ... as does my infield.

My hope is that come mid-August, I'll be so far ahead in the pitching categories and close enough in the batting categories, that I can trade away one or two of my starting pitchers to get some solid upgrades at the plate. But give me some feedback. Who did I reach on? Did I get any steals? Best pick? Worst pick? Lay it on me...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

InClement Weather: Sweet Sixteen Thoughts

Opening Round Reactions can be found HERE and HERE.


Oh yeah, in case you didn't know, people HATE Eric Devendorf.
See! See! See! [
All three posted next to the Syracuse result for today. COOL RIGHT!?!?]
Guess who loves it? Eric Devendorf.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Midwest Region

Louisville
put the load on Terrence Williams and he responded with a stellar performance down the stretch against Siena. Their reward? An NBA-loaded squad from Arizona who is playing with house money. Execution in the opening 5 minutes and closing 5 minutes of each half will dictate who advances to the Elite Eight in this game.

Arizona proved a lot of experts correct. 1) They didn't deserve to be in the tournament field based on their regular season resume. 2) Once they got in, Arizona had a favorable draw and was very likely to make their way to the Sweet Sixteen due to their incredibly talented roster. Funny how things work out, right?

Kansas escaped a slow start against Dayton, mainly due to Dayton's even slower start. Cole Aldrich further impressed NBA scouts with a triple-double (13 pts, 20 rebs, 10 blocks!). The defending champs aren't afraid to grind out tough victories. Enter their next opponent...

Michigan State executed down the stretch, USC couldn't. The lack of urgency from the Trojan players during the final possession had to be unsettling for Tim Floyd (or was it?). The Spartans had 7 players log over 17 minutes and seem as balanced a squad remaining. Question is: do they have the offensive firepower necessary to win games in which they can't slow down the tempo to a crawl?

West Region

UCONN dispatched Texas A&M (as expected) with relative ease on Saturday afternoon. I was out watching I Love You, Man. I bet you wish you had too.

Purdue withstood all Washington could deliver in the 2nd half to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Obvious memo out to the Boilermakers: you'll need two stellar halves to have a chance against UCONN. The real question remains: who can put Thabeet and Adrien on their butts on the Purdue front line? Any takers?

Missouri's ending against Marquette was one of the oddest endings you're likely to see in an NCAA Tournament game, without a buzzer beater being involved. J.T. Tiller made a fantastic Eaton-esque move to the hoop, with the game tied at 79 with 5.5 seconds to go, and drew a foul. After an awkward fall, "pinch-shooter" Kim English - yes, to add drama he is a freshman - nailed two free throws. Any Marquette fan was ballistic. Unfortunately, things only got worse when Lazar Hayward turned the ball over by stepping over the baseline before inbounding the ball. I don't want to hear about Acker's half-court heave/no foul call either, please. The final result was Missouri outlasting a gutsy Marquette squad. I thought if McNeal went for 30 and James played it'd be enough; however, Mike Anderson's incredible reclamation project at Missouri continues to improve.

Memphis dispatched Maryland early on. Tyreke Evans now has a gritty Missouri roster to deal with. Good luck to both sides on that front.

East Region

Pittsburgh trailed Oklahoma State with less than 3 minutes to go and then promptly answered the bell with its big 3 (Young, Blair, & Fields) making plays down the stretch. Can they dodge a third potential bullet against Xavier? Probably not. Will they storm out early and finally establish themselves as a legit #1-seed? Probably. By the way, Jamie Dixon has quickly become a Coach K-esque whiner on the sideline. He is livid after every call and has not lived up to the moniker of a tough coach on a tough team. He's a whiner. Plain and simple. Odd since DeJuan Blair walks a thin line between outworking and outright bullying opponents in the blocks.

Xavier withstood a brutal Wisconsin defensive effort in the first-half and executed down the stretch in the second half. I keep finding myself baffled at how much Xavier lost from last season's roster and has rebounded to make the Sweet Sixteen. They'll need nothing short of a stellar effort to make a second consecutive Elite Eight; however, if they can click on offense early and establish their tempo against Pitt, it's more than possible.

Villanova took out UCLA outside of the school's business building. Ridiculous.

Duke may have defeated Texas. They also may have gotten one too many fortunate calls down the stretch. Not that it should come as a surprise. Sure, I can hate all I want. Problem is: Duke may be Final Four bound if John Scheyer is going to be this heady a player. Uh oh.

South Region

UNC got an incredibly gutsy performance from Ty Lawson to overcome a scrappy LSU team down the stretch. It was nothing short of gutsy, but not heroic. Calm down, beat writers. Marcus Thornton tried his best; yet, the Heels were simply too much thanks in large part due to their talented point guard. They'll need this for four more games from Lawson. If healthy, this team would be a lock to cut down any and all nets. Problem is: he won't be 100%. That makes things slightly more dicey.

Gonzaga offered us as close a buzzer beater as possible. WKU had a legit gripe after not getting the timeout call. I can't imagine being in their shoes. Nevertheless, the tough reality is that Gonzaga still made the shot and still won. I'm pumped for UNC/Gonzaga. Which means the Tar Heels are gonna rout the Bulldogs and win by 30. Why? Because they can be that good.

Syracuse stiffled Arizona State for much of the game, responding to any adversity with calm outside shooting and a suffocating zone. The fourth Sweet Sixteen for Boeheim since '98, the Cuse should already be drawing up plans to hope to "contain" Blake Griffin. Good luck. Meanwhile, I am not pleased with the AP headline of Cuse "edging" ASU. When the Sun Devils cut the game long double-digit lead to 5, two straight 3s put it back to 11. The culprit was the most hated man in the tournament himself, Eric "K-Fed" Devendorf. James Harden is lucky NBA defenses aren't able to use a true zone defense. If so, the past two games might've knocked him out of the top 10. Cuse advanced and I sleep easy for a few more night.

Oklahoma defeated Michigan after the Wolverines excited their fanbase a little too much early on. Griffin took control, had a sensational posterizing-dunk, and the Sooners are quietly shaping back into form. Jeff Capel has a huge task ahead of him. One star player, no matter how incredibly talented, won't be enough without a solid gameplan that attacks the zone and isolates the Cuse big men to produce down the stretch.

Enjoy a few days of rest. If you have a team alive, keep on livin' the dream.
If not, don't resort to watching the NIT. Please.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

InClement Weather: Opening Round Reactions [Part II of II]

Mid-day update.
We spoke earlier. You enjoyed it. Admit it.

Check the poll to the right of the page, too.

Villanova stormed past UCLA and never looked back. This being a home court game didn't hurt, but it didn't decide a thing either. Nevertheless, it's ridiculous the Wildcats played their opening round games on a court they hosted 4 teams at this season.

Memphis led from the start against an overmatched Maryland squad. Tyreke Evans had 13 points early and the entire Memphis roster got involved from start to beginning. Most impressive line? Antonio Anderson took 2 shots and dished out 11 assists. Perhaps this is a Final Four-caliber squad.

Three 5:00ish tipoffs underway.

LSU needs to work harder than UNC on both sides of the ball. Unlikely. Seeing Ty Lawson's face on the bench early was not a good sign for Tar Heel fans. Even if they would have 4 days off after a victory, Lawson will need to be 100% before the Final Four. The last 5 minutes of the first half may have decided things early on. LSU is simply not good enough to execute play-in and play-out against Roy's boys. Carolina closes the half on a 17-7 run after trailing (briefly) 20-19. I'll be interested to see a team who can get into the penalty as quickly as the Heels do. Nova perhaps?

Purdue started off red hot; however, Washington has righted the ship and got the deficit under double-digits. You blink and what you just said isn't so succinct. Purdue leads 39-28 at the half.

Oklahoma and Michigan are in a bit of a stalemate. No surprise with a Big Ten team involved. Somewhat surprisingly, Michigan leads 28-25. Could another Player of the Year be going out in the first weekend? Not so fast.

As for the 1st (aka "Opening") Round...

East Region

I'll take Travis Ford over Bruce Pearl any day. As for Eric Andrews. Well...
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Pittsburgh survived a scare from East Tennessee State 72-62. Honestly, you can realistically point to ETSU blowing this game with their wretched performance from the foul line (12-24). Meanwhile, if DeJuan Blair thinks he's gonna get away with being that physical in the second weekend...it ain't happening.

Oklahoma State, coached by Travis Ford, narrowly defeated Tennessee 77-75 in potentially the opening weekend's most nailbiting game. The Vols took a late lead on a clutch 3-point play from Tyler Smith, only to lose it (and the game) to Byron Eaton's heroics on his own 3-point play with less than 10 seconds to go. Seriously, hasn't Eaton been at OSU for a decade? On another note, Bruce Pearl is becoming a bit of underachiever considering the talent he recruits.

Wisconsin upset Florida State 61-59. "James" Toney Douglas and the Noles had the lead far too often down the stretch, even by 3 in the final minute, to lose this game. Give all credit to Bo Ryan and the Badgers. Hughes is a clutch performer, plain and simple.

Xavier took out Portland State, mainly in the second half, 77-59. It's highly understated how much Xavier lost last season and how talented they remain. Remember that Greg Oden all-out shove may have cost this team a Final Four last season.

UCLA snuck past VCU 65-64 in the closing seconds. VCU play uninspired basketball for 35 minutes and in the end, Maynor seemed more worried about drawing a foul than making the winning shot. I was there and it was painful. Meanwhile, UCLA can thank way too many clutch free throws for their victory.

Villanova withstood American to win 80-67. American was up 14 in the second half and then got stuck on 55. Garrison Carr channeled Stephen Curry quite well for 15 minutes. Jeff Jones keeping Carr out far too long - 4 fouls or not - and the foul situation itself doomed the Eagles. How Villanova was in the double bonus at the 14-minute mark is unforgivable. Meanwhile, they might as well have played this game at the Villanova dorms to make it any more un-neutral. A disgrace by the tournament committee. Disgrace!!!

Texas coasted past Minnesota 76-62. With all the talent on the Longhorns roster, they will not surprise anyone to give Duke one hell of a game.

Duke stormed past Kornheiser's Bighamton squad. No comments necessary.

South Region

It's not just Blake (front and center) who needs to be a manchild in the coming games. Brother Taylor - who Pay and I often disagree a lot about - better be more than a body double who cleans up misses after his brother is triple-teamed.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

North Carolina played sans-Lawson and did what you expect great teams to do: destroy 16 seeds 101-58.

LSU had the athletes and the game plan to take out Butler 75-71. So they did.

Western Kentucky "upset" Illinois (how undeserving a 5-seed were they?) 76-72. Bruce Weber got the most out of this team; however, they were clearly not going very far this year in the tournament.

Gonzaga pulled away from a pesky Akron squad to earn a 77-64 victory. The key for the Zags is not showing up in a potential Sweet Sixteen showdown with the Tar Heels. Instead, it's making the Sweet Sixteen and then worrying about their performance against the South region's top-seed.

Arizona State took an early lead and Dionte Christmas the Temple Owls never caught up, losing 66-57. James Harden was ice cold - only 9 points - but the Sun Devils got a dynamic first-half from Derek Glasser and stellar performance from post-man Jeff Pendergraph.

Syracuse was up 20-4 early and cruised to as easy a first-round victory as Coach Boeheim could've asked for 59-45. SDSU shot 0-15 from behind the arc to start the game. Impressive. Johnny Flynn is still searching for his legs, but at least the Orange have their first tournament win since 2004.

Michigan held on to defeat Clemson 62-59. With two NBA-caliber players on the floor (specifically Manny Harris), the Wolverines were bumpy at best in the second-half, yet held on for their first W in the NCAA Tournament in nearly 11 years. No kudos for Clemson's Terrence Oglesby, whose costly ejection was, well, costly.

Oklahoma waxed Morgan State. Sadly, what ended up being most memorable for this game was the "flipping" of Blake Griffin. What a way for the team to represent themselves in the tournament for the first time ever.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend slate. See you Monday!
But before I go...here's a classic Bruce Pearl/Eric Andrews moment.

video

InClement Weather: Opening Round Reactions [Part I of II]

I don't like text limits. That being said, I'm using them today. All day. Seriously. No, seriously.

Saturday afternoon update: Villanova leads UCLA 44-31 at the half. Role reversal for both teams. Nova trailed 10 on Thursday night to American and UCLA led VCU (tear) by 10. Sometimes I wonder if Villanova is better off with Scottie Reynolds on the bench. I also wonder if everyone is better off without Jay Bilas commentating.


Meet the new "stockbroker" America.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Midwest Region

Louisville defeats Morehead State 74-54. The Cardinals allowed the pesky play-in-game winners to stick around in the 1st half; however, too much talent and too much athleticism won out.

Siena took down Ohio State 74-72 in double overtime. The debate continues: should you or should you not foul a team down 3 with under 10 seconds to go?

Arizona "upsets" Utah 84-71. If you're ever looking for a first-round upset, always target the most talented 12-seed from a major conference (see: Villanova last season).

Cleveland State throttled Wake Forest 84-69. Perhaps the best team out of the Horizon (seriously), this is the same team that won in the Carrier Dome earlier this year. Wake Forest hasn't been right for 2+ months, this shouldn't have been a major shock.

Dayton took out West Virginia 68-60. I'm now allowing any injury-excuses for the Mountaineers, Bob Huggins and this group straight-up underachieved in this region. Props to the Flyers.

Kansas beat North Dakota State. Ben Woodside was a lot of fun to watch. Kansas is NOT a lock to easily take out Dayton; yet, with every win they get more and more dangerous.

USC stormed past Boston College 72-55. Maybe a lot of the "experts" picked USC a year too early. Yet again, the (middle of the) ACC has no established tempo and has the game dictated by their opponent.

Michigan State hardly breezes past Robert Morris. The motivation of playing in Ford Field may not be enough; however, this Spartan team might just need to win by any means possible (despite how ugly it looks).

West Region

No offense to Charles Abouo, but it won't be so easy for A&M to suffocate Thabeet and Adrien on Saturday.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

UCONN
dismantled Chattanooga 103-47. Jim Calhoun is a brilliant coach, but why has he missed 3 tournament games over his career?

Texas A&M defeated BYU (again) 79-66. 1) Why did this have to be a repeat matchup? 2) How often do teams lose when they make their first 10 shots?

Purdue held on against Northern Iowa 61-56. The Boilermakers are a popular sleeper pick, but will need a far better second half on Saturday to survive and advance.

Washington defeated Mississippi State 71-58. I think a few too many people overestimated the Bulldogs and underestimated the Huskies. Mistake!

Marquette outlasted Utah State 58-57. Their second win without James, the Golden Eagles aren't going to be able to keep up with the Tigers without a spectacular individual effort from Jerel McNeal.

Missouri outpaced Cornell 78-59. If the Tigers can start their games a little hotter from the field, this is the darkhorse of the region far too few are talking about.

Maryland beat California 84-71. Anyone who depended on a Mike Montgomery-coached team...sit down. Vasquez talks just as much as Devendorf, and I love it!

Memphis fought back to defeat CSU Northridge. Tyreke Evans is an uber-talented kid, but can he realistically lead a team to the Final Four?

A Preview Ahead...

UCONN matches up against Texas A&M. The Aggies may need to make their first 10 shots again to keep up with the Huskies. Calhoun should be back in action and the gameplan has to focus around limiting open shots for Josh Carter. If the Aggies want to pull the upset, attack Thabeet and hope for foul calls. Meanwhile, the Huskies need Jeff Adrien to establish himself early and wear down the A&M frontline.

Purdue and Washington could likely put up one of the most competitive matchups of the second round. Purdue started rock solid and then ended with a thud against Northern Iowa. That won't be acceptable today. Washington can win this game if they develop an inside-outside attack. The key to that is the play of PG Isaiah Thomas, who can't shoot 3-13 from the field again.

Maryland draws a wounded Memphis team who can't be underestimated, despite a very poor effort in the opening round. Tyreke Evans must limit fouls - on both sides of the ball - and involve his teammates early. For the Terps, Vasquez will have the be Superman - perhaps to the tune of a near triple-double - and play within his emotions. The Terps will need their role players to control weak side rebounds and hit open shots. Maryland needs an A+ effort to advance to the Sweet Sixteen; especially if Memphis doesn't return with their D game.

Tomorrow, Marquette and Missouri meet up. This was a highly entertaining OT game in 2003, the last time these two teams met up in the NCAA Tournament. Marquette has four guys who can carry the scoring load; however, they still aren't the same team without their senior PG James. Meanwhile, Missouri must value possessions by blending good shots and offensive rebounding. It's hard to outwork a team like Marquette. With such tremendous balance on offense for both teams, a star may need to rise above everyone else for either team to advance.

Enjoy today's action. We'll be back later with Part II.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PHSports Staff Picks & Predictions: 2009 NCAA Tournament

Sure, none of us correctly predicted Kansas would win it all last year ... but two out of four PHSports writers did have the Jayhawks in the Final Four. So maybe, just maybe, two of us have this year's winner somewhere in our listings as well. Unfortunately, none of us have my "Lawlma Mater" of American getting to the national semifinals ... but hey I can still dream, right?

So kick back, call Papa John's, and start reading how two of us pick UNC and two of us don't, all before tipoff at 12:20 pm EDT.

"I just don't see why we can't have a 640 team tournament instead ..." (Photo by Dennis Nett/The Post Standard)

Paymon
Final Four: Villanova, North Carolina, Louisville, UConn
National Champions: North Carolina over UConn
MOP: AJ Price, UConn

Top Sleeper: Arizona State
Under the Radar: Clemson
Underrated: UCLA
Overrated: Illinois, Oklahoma ... and Memphis

1st -Round Upset I Love: Western Kentucky over Illinois (esp. if Chester Frazier does not play)
2nd -Round Matchup I'm Craving: Syracuse v. Arizona State
Final Comment: I anticipate a paucity of first-round upsets, which will set up a series of marquee games between evenly-matched teams on the tail end of the opening weekend. Ultimately, this tournament, like every other NCAA Tournament, will come down to steady guard play. If Ty Lawson is able to overcome his toe injury and Danny Green gets out of his shooting slump, then I expect the Tar Heels to cut down the nets in Detroit.

Clement
Final Four: Louisville (Midwest), Memphis (West), Villanova (East), North Carolina (South)
National Champions: Louisville Cardinals
MOP: Terrence Williams, Louisville

Top Sleeper: Stephen F. Austin (mid-major), Purdue (major)
Under the Radar: Butler (mid-major), West Virginia (major)
Underrated: Cleveland State (mid-major), Texas (major)
Overrated: VCU (mid-major...ouch), Kansas (major)

1st -Round Upset I Love: Stephen F. Austin (I don't love it. Believe me. Syracuse is 0-2 in opening round games after reaching or winning the Big East Tournament finals. They lost to #13-seed Vermont and #12-seed Texas A&M. I suspect they will start cold and lose a heartbreaker. However, they'll be a Final Four team next year...if Johnny Flynn remains with the Orange.)
2nd -Round Matchup I'm Craving: Eric Maynor and the upstart Rams of VCU barely get by UCLA, setting them up for a match-up - in Philly - against the Villanova Wildcats. Why? I'd be there. I'd also LOVE to see any scenario with a 16-seed winning. Any of them.
Final Comment: This field is much more open than you think. I'm too Big East heavy; however, I also have Pitt out before the Sweet Sixteen (shocker!) and UCONN out before the Elite Eight (surprise!). Louisville will prove me wrong - yet again - and cut the nets down for Pitino.

Armin
Final Four: G'head...hate me...all the #1s make it this year. I'll be the smart-alec that says it.
National Champions: UNC (Sheesh...What's wrong with me?)
MOP: Someone named Tyler (ok...I officially hate myself)

Top Sleeper: Arizona (gotta pick my "alma mater")
Under the Radar: Utah State (that thug they got playing center is a BEAST)
Underrated: Tie...Northern Iowa & Western Kentucky
Overrated: Florida State

1st -Round Upset I Love:
Arizona over Utah, of course
2nd -Round Matchup I'm Craving: American vs. VCU....go Virginia!!!!
Final Comment: I'm filling out my sheet with teams that have the best looking cheerleaders. No other strategy has ever helped me do well in my tourney pools...figure I should implement this strategerie. ;)

Sum
Final Four: Louisville (Midwest), Missouri (West), Pitt (East), North Carolina (South)
National Champions: Pitt (over Louisville)
MOP: DeJuan Blair, Pitt

Top Sleeper: West Virginia (major), Western Kentucky (mid-major)
Under the Radar: Clemson (major, Butler (mid-major)
Underrated: Purdue (major), American (mid-major)
Overrated: Oklahoma (major), VCU (mid-major)

1st -Round Upset I Love: Western Kentucky over Illinois. Like Paymon mentioned, Frazier is not at 100% even if he does play, and that will hurt the Illini, especially against a strong 12-seed in Western Kentucky. And yes ... I do think they can repeat their Sweet 16 appearance of last year.
2nd -Round Matchup I'm Craving: UNC vs Butler, especially if Ty Lawson isn't back. Butler is an extremely solid squad that got jobbed (in my opinion) with the 9-seed. I think Butler's defense will give Hansbrough and Co. lots of trouble before finally giving way to the 'Heels in the last 5 minutes of the game.
Final Comment: The tourney is the Big East's to lose. Aside from 2-3 upsets (I don't count 9's beating 8's as an upset), I think the first round will hold true to form. Unfortunately, a lot of deserving mid-majors were excluded from this tournament (read: Creighton and St. Mary's) and saw their rightful spots go to undeserving majors (read: Arizona and Wisconsin). Good to know that Fudgy Packer still has his unannounced seat on the Selection Committee.

Yeah ... you know can't wait to see him at this job instead either. (Credit Tiricosuave.com)

Thanks for listening to us ... now make sure you DON'T bet your savings on our picks (though it's safer than investing in Citi...). Got an opinion? Want to tell us how wrong we are? Chime in below!

Monday, March 16, 2009

InClement Weather: Sweet Sixteen (Thoughts)

No doubt by now you've filled out a bracket (or 12) and begun to overanalyze what lies ahead for us all in the coming weeks.

Take a deep breath and calm down. In fact, enjoy sixteen (or so) thoughts about the bracket.

No, I'm not here to talk bubble either.

Midwest Region
1) Utah is already the most overrated team according to the entire country. Not me. But you say to me: "name on player on their team." That doesn't say anything negative about them; instead, it speaks to the lunacy in picking Arizona to march to the Sweet Sixteen automatically. Despite a load of talent, the Wildcats are undisciplined and unfocused (especially come March Madness in recent years). I would favor Cleveland State over Arizona. And that's not even because of the "hate".

2) Ohio State and Siena is a game you order the Direct Ticket package for, even if you don't know much about either team. It's going to be entertaining as two contrasting styles go to war. Both of these teams can scare Louisville. Big time.

3) USC ran through the Pac-10 Tournament all the way to their automatic bid, but they'll struggle with BC. If Rice hits his shots early, this game will be over very very early.

4) West Virginia is an up-and-coming team at the perfect time. If Ebanks can control himself against Kansas' bigs in the second round, the Mountaineers can shoot lights out from the beyond the arc and grab an early lead. Then Bob Huggins can switch up his defenses and frustrate you into bad shots. Just ask Pitt.

West Region
5) Nobody deserves BYU/Texas A&M again. Nobody.

6) Purdue and Washington are two teams that I fully expect to battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. Read that again and understand what I'm really saying.

7) Memphis might've gotten the break they needed by receiving the 2-seed. They get to play with a chip on their shoulder and one of the easier halves of their region's bracket. I don't buy Missouri just yet as an Elite Eight team. Despite having a fantastic coach, it won't happen this season for the Tigers.

8) Marquette is now done with that muderous Big East schedule - five-straight ranked opponents - and has (I think) finally adjusted to life with James. Nevertheless, they have a tricky first-round matchup against an underrated Utah State team. Can they win one game without James in the tournament? Of course. 2? Not so fast.

East Region

9) Two very contrasting styles when Wisconsin and Florida State meet up. Leonard Hamilton needs to be prepared for Toney Douglas to see two defenders at all times. If Kitchen attacks the hoop efficiently and the Noles use their size on both sides of the ball early on, the Noles will roll.

10) Texas and Tennessee both appeared to be top 10 squads at different points this season. During others, I wondered seriously if they were worthy of a tournament bid. One of them is bound to pull a major upset. But who? Paging Mr. Abrams and Mr. Chism.

11) Villanova playing in Philadelphia is better than 1-seed. This team is NOT afraid of meeting up with Pitt in the Elite Eight. Not one bit. They also shouldn't discount a scrappy trio of teams (American, VCU, and UCLA) in their way of a potential showdown with Duke. Yes, I actually just called UCLA "scrappy". Compared to the last three years, that's a compliment for this team.

12) Don't fall too in love with Eric Maynor and the VCU Rams pulling the "automatic upset" just yet. Even you Seth Davis. Darren Collison is the better PG on the floor, college-wise, if 100% healthy. Meanwhile, Larry Sanders will have to bang without picking up cheap fouls. While I like the Rams to win - especially if they shoot the 3 well and guard the 3 even better - the Bruins have several key players remaining (especially Collison and Shipp) from a squad that has made 3 straight Final Fours. Beware of Maynor though. Just ask the Patriots of George Mason. If the Rams start well, they don't lose very often.

South Region
13) Butler and LSU won't be able to keep up with UNC for even a half. Nevertheless, I'm interested to see how UNC manages Lawson - whom I expect to be 100% healthy - in their second round matchup. With the look of the draw, they'll need him healthy by the Sweet 16, especially if Gonzaga rolls in the opening weekend (which is far from automatic).

14) Syracuse vs. Oklahoma is a matchup many are already salivating over in the Sweet 16. Something tells me it won't happen, which would be a shame; especially for bleeding heart Orange fans like myself.

15) Look out for Temple, especially if Dionte Christmas can shoot over the Arizona State zone. The Sun Devils gave up big leads in their past two games, losing against USC in the Pac-10 final. While James Harden is the best player on the court, if he's cold early on, I like the Owls to gring this game out and potentially knock out the 6-seed.

16) If you have any ideas for gauging Clemson and Illinois: let me know, please?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Final NCAA Tournament Bracket Projection Stats

Here is PHSports’s final numbers (unofficial) for this year’s bracket:

Teams correct: 63/65
Exact seeds: 29/65
Seeds within one of seed line: 58/65
Score: 305

Though the final statistics are underwhelming and while I will agree to disagree that Arizona and Wisconsin did not deserve to be at-large teams, I was happy with the overall job that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee did and I was happy with my overall bracket projections. Below, you will see the scores by seeding quadrants. The take-home message: the Committee and I saw eye-to-eye on ranking the protected seeds, but not so much with the last 17 teams (who I admittedly pay less attention to).

Scores by Quadrant

Seed #s 1-4
Teams correct: 16
Exact seeds: 13
Seeds within one of seed line: 16
Score: 90

Seed #s 5-8
Teams correct: 16
Exact seeds: 6
Seeds within one of seed line: 14
Score: 74

Seed #s 9-12
Teams correct: 14
Exact seeds: 5
Seeds within one of seed line: 12
Score: 64

Seed #s 13-16
Teams correct: 17
Exact seeds: 5
Seeds within one of seed line: 16
Score: 77

NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections -- March 15, 2009 (FINAL)

Following the exhaustive breakdown late last night, our focus in today’s post is brevity. That said, here is PHSports’s Final 65.

A few noteworthy points before we delve into the seeds and pairings ...
* San Diego State was knocked out as a result of Mississippi State winning the SEC Tournament. As a side note, was that not the worst officiating in a single minute of basketball since 1972?

* St. Mary’s is an 11 seed due to seeding conflicts for Texas A&M and Penn State. Speaking of A&M, if less than four of the five Big XII teams ahead of them find themselves on the bottom part of the bracket (i.e. seeds 2,3,6,7,10,11,14,15), they can earn a #10 seed.

* Despite exclusion from PHSports, I would not be shocked one bit to see Wisconsin in the field. I just do not understand the love. Their best non-conference win was at NIT-team Virginia Tech and their best win was versus Illinois (their only win in five tries against the 3 Big Ten teams who were clearly in the NCAA Tournament prior to the conference tournament). Against those teams, Penn State, who had the same conference record as Wisconsin and is on the outside looking in due to an excessive focus on the OOC SOS, won 4 games in 7 attempts – two of which were away from Happy Valley. Wisconsin’s best non-home win was against Michigan on Jan 1.

* Memphis does not deserve a 1 seed. If they get it over UConn, then the Selection Committee did not compare the resumes and drastically overvalued the loss of Jerome Dyson.

The Seedings
1: North Carolina, LOUISVILLE (Big East), Pittsburgh, UConn
2: DUKE (ACC), MEMPHIS (C-USA), Michigan State, Kansas
3: Syracuse, Villanova, Missouri, Oklahoma
4: Washington, Wake Forest, Florida State, GONZAGA (WCC)
5: PURDUE (Big Ten), Xavier, Arizona State, Clemson
6: West Virginia, UCLA, UTAH (MWC), Illinois
7: Tennessee, Texas, Marquette, Ohio State
8: Butler, BYU, LSU, California
9: SIENA (Metro Atlantic), USC (PAC 10), Oklahoma State, Michigan
10: Dayton, Minnesota, Boston College, Maryland
11: TEMPLE (A-10), UTAH STATE (WAC), CLEVELAND STATE (Horizon), St. Mary’s
12: Texas A&M, Penn State, MISSISSIPPI STATE (SEC), VCU (CAA)
13: NORTHERN IOWA (MVC), WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt), AMERICAN (Patriot), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland)
14: NORTH DAKOTA STATE (Summit), BINGHAMTON (America East), PORTLAND STATE (Big Sky), Akron (MAC)
15: ROBERT MORRIS (Northeast), E. TENNESSEE STATE (Atlantic Sun), CORNELL (Ivy), RADFORD(Big South)
16: MORGAN STATE (MEAC), MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley), CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE (Big West), ALABAMA STATE (SWAC), CHATTANOOGA (Southern)

Last Four In: Minnesota, Texas A&M, Penn State, St. Mary’s
Last Four Out: San Diego State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Creighton
Next Four Out: Auburn, Tulsa, Virginia Tech, Niagara

Seeding Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Big Ten: 7/11
ACC: 7/12
Big XII: 6/12
Pac-10: 5/10
Big East: 7/16
SEC: 3/12
Mountain West: 2/9
West Coast: 2/9
A-10: 3/14
Horizon: 2/10


The PHSports Bracket

NCAA Tournament Bracket Projections -- March 15, 2009 -- 3am edition

It’s another day in the books and it’s another day in which I do not buy Memphis as a #1 seed. Even without Jerome Dyson, UConn is the better team using the “Eye Test” (which lazy pundits love to use as ammo) because they are stronger at every position on the floor, except for perhaps shooting guard. They are obviously the better team on paper, but of course … games aren’t played on paper … they are played inside TV sets.

Staying on the 1 line, Louisville EARNED the Big East double, which easily undoes the unsightly losses that invaded their resume in 2008. While they still go through shooting slumps, this is a different team because they play defense for 40 minutes. On December 27, 2008, I placed Louisville as high as I could (a #2 seed) without being forced into an insane asylum. The average seed according to the Bracket Matrix Tracker for the week of December 29, 2008 was 6. My rationale in 2008 was as follows:

“One is Louisville as the last #2 seed. The Cardinals have struggled out of the gate with losses to Western Kentucky and Minnesota, but Pitino’s Louisville teams generally do what they do now and then gel in late January to early March. I just think they’re getting to used to life without David Padgett.”

Moving to the 2 line, it was a tough choice at the tail end between Syracuse, Kansas and Villanova. The run by Syracuse legitimized earlier wins against Kansas, Memphis and Florida. Coupled with neutral court wins against UConn and WVU (and a trip to the Big East Tournament Final), the Orange trumps any set of wins by Kansas (best win: @ Oklahoma sans Blake Griffin) and Villanova (v. Pitt).

While today was not a big moving day, two teams capitalized on their opportunities. USC completed the improbable and defeated its 3rd straight tournament team in succession and claimed the automatic bid from the PAC 10. The result was moving from the 4th team out to a #9 seed. Ohio State manhandled Michigan State, who looked awful in Indianapolis and went up from a 10 to a low #7 seed.

Throughout the course of the day, the 62nd and 63rd teams in the field became clear to me. First, Texas A&M had built enough good will to overcome one very bad half against Texas Tech. Despite the loss, A&M was buoyed by Missouri’s championship run, because the Aggies only defeated them a week ago in College Station. Second, at the end of the day, Penn State just has too many quality, even if all of them happen to be against Big Ten teams. Penn State had a 4-3 record with two away wins against the three teams who scored 11 or more conference wins in the regular season. That was the deal maker for Penn State, who of course tried to schedule the Xenon Int’l School of Hair Design Fightin’ Barbers. Based on a determination made last night, I had rated St. Mary’s above Arizona and Creighton, which granted them the 64th spot. Unfortunately, the determination for the 65th slot was not as simple. For now, San Diego State is the 65th team by a slim margin over Arizona followed by Auburn (who lost today) and Wisconsin (who has a strong SOS, but no really strong wins) with Creighton trailing further back. The ultimate decision came down to how these teams played in the face of urgency. While Arizona lost 5 of 6 down the stretch (4 to clear tournament teams), San Diego State won their last three regular season games, defeated the tournament host in Round 1, avenged a regular season sweep by the #1 seed in Round 2, and fought to within one basket of taking down a very good Utah team. At the end of the day, if Arizona wins one of those five games, there is no conversation whatsoever about whether they are in. They did not.

Assumed Winners for Sunday’s Games
Duke, Tennessee, Stephen F. Austin, Purdue

If the Underdog Wins …
ACC Final: Duke v. Florida State. Duke will stay on the 2 line, but will likely fall 1-2 spots. If Florida State pulls off the upset, they will force their way onto the 3 line, likely forcing Oklahoma to the 4 line.

SEC Final: Tennessee v. Mississippi State. Tennessee would fall at least a seed line and Mississippi State would claim a spot on the 12 or 13 line. Good luck to the 4 or 5 seed who would have to face Jarvis Varnado.

Southland Final: Stephen F. Austin v. UT-San Antonio. If UT-San Antonio punches the surprise ticket, then they will be a 16 seed who may have the honor of being in the play-in game, likely against Chattanooga, who has the most losses in the field and made the most of an unearned homecourt advantage during the Southern Conference Tournament.

Big Ten Final: Purdue v. Ohio State. If this game did not end 20 seconds before the pairings are announced, then it might have a real impact on seedings. Depending on how Ohio State, they may rise as high as the final 5 seed or fall to an 8. This may also have an effect on the 7th Big Ten team.

Who Slid One Seed Line Due to Seeding Conflicts?
Boston College, Maryland, Texas A&M, Penn State

Who Benefited by One Seed Line Due to Seeding Conflicts?
USC, Michigan, Cleveland State, St. Mary’s

Have comments? Send them to phashemi@gmail.com.

The Seedings
1: North Carolina, LOUISVILLE (Big East), Pittsburgh, UConn
2: Duke (ACC), MEMPHIS (C-USA), Michigan State, Syracuse
3: Kansas, Villanova, Missouri, Oklahoma
4: Washington, Wake Forest, Florida State, GONZAGA (WCC)
5: Purdue (Big Ten), Xavier, Arizona State, Clemson
6: West Virginia, Tennessee (SEC), UCLA, UTAH (MWC)
7: Illinois, Texas, Marquette, Ohio State
8: Butler, BYU, LSU, California
9: SIENA (Metro Atlantic), USC (PAC 10), Oklahoma State, Michigan
10: Dayton, Minnesota, Boston College, Maryland
11: TEMPLE (A-10), UTAH STATE (WAC), CLEVELAND STATE (Horizon), St. Mary’s
12: Texas A&M, Penn State, San Diego State, VCU (CAA)
13: NORTHERN IOWA (MVC), AMERICAN (Patriot), WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt), Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
14: NORTH DAKOTA STATE (Summit), BINGHAMTON (America East), PORTLAND STATE (Big Sky), AKRON (MAC)
15: ROBERT MORRIS (Northeast), E. TENNESSEE STATE (Atlantic Sun), CORNELL (Ivy), RADFORD(Big South)
16: MORGAN STATE (MEAC), MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley), CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE (Big West), ALABAMA STATE (SWAC), CHATTANOOGA (Southern)

IN: USC, Akron, Cal State Northridge
OUT: Auburn, Buffalo, Pacific

Last Four In: Texas A&M, Penn State, St. Mary’s, San Diego State
Last Four Out: Arizona, Auburn, Wisconsin, Creighton
Next Four Out: Mississippi State, Tulsa, Virginia Tech, Niagara

Seeding Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Big Ten: 7/11
ACC: 7/12
Big XII: 6/12
Pac-10: 5/10
Big East: 7/16
Mountain West: 3/9
West Coast: 2/9
A-10: 3/14
Horizon: 2/10
SEC: 2/12

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Running Blog

Check out Pay's latest brackets.
Jim Calhoun haters, rejoice!!!


7:00 pm

The afternoon becomes the evening...

The health of Robbie Hummel is much more important than Purdue winning tomorrow afternoon.
It wouldn't hurt the Boilermakers though.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

* #1 UNC goes down to Florida State in a great game. Derwin Kitchen sinks two clutch free throws and Ellington/Green misfire on late three-point attempts. Two games to remember for Kitchen in back-to-back-days (see: game winning layup against Georgia Tech in the closing seconds). Toney Douglas ia an amazing talent; however, he's very fortunate to be surrounded by a rock solid sidekick. Fear not Tar Heel fans, you're going to get a #1 seed. Your team more than earned it. In fact, you'll still be in Greensboro. Start snapping up tickets soon.

* Meanwhile, the Seminoles will meet the Blue Devils of DOOK tomorrow afternoon. I just might post a few questions tonight to Pay concerning the ACC Tournament Championship. Although I gotta wonder out loud: how many Seminole fans thought they'd win the ACC Championship...in basketball. By the way, the Dookies won't get a #1-seed, even if they wack the 'Noles AND the Orange defeat the Cardinals in MSG. Why? Duke needed to beat UNC to get the 1-seed, despite an uber-impressive resume. Disagree?

* Michigan State lost out on their only chance at a 1-seed, further dare-I-say-guaranteeing Louisville a chance to secure a #1-seed tonight at MSG. Pitino's boys are HEAVILY favored. For good reason, too. Ohio State just moved up a line or two as well, far away from the bubble.

* Is LSU trying to get the SEC a third bid by losing to Mississippi State? No. Is LSU as likely a top seed as there is to be upset VERY early next weekend? Yes. No wait. YES! The Bulldogs will match up with the Vols, who may have ended the season for the Tigers of Auburn. Somewhere, Chris Porter isn't happy. I remain unfazed altogether about SEC basketball.

* Temple leads Duquesne 42-37 at the half. Both teams aren't "stealing" bids. Why? Because every team on the bubble has dug their own grave. Two times over.

* Purdue defeated Illinois, avoiding their third straight loss. That's as sexy as a one-liner you'll get from a Big Ten result.

* Missouri leads Baylor by 4 points at the half. It's fun watching the Bears pull upset after upset, unlike Georgia last season. That team was very very bad, while I believe Baylor is a good team.

* Arizona State leads USC by 15 at the break. While USC worked their way closer to the bubble, an ugly loss here proves that the Trojans aren't going to be "in".

* San Diego State is one of the roughest bubble teams to gauge I've seen in the last 3-4 years. They can avoid any conflict and a sleepless night if they upset the Utes of Utah tonight. Will they? No. Why? To make the life of the Selection Committee more difficult. Seriously? No. But it sounds better, doesn't it?

* Also out west, in the WAC, Utah State could become the first 27-win team to NOT make the tournament. How? They might lose the automatic bid to mainstay Nevada. What changed the Wolfpack's season? Please don't mention the ,"Coach's ejection that led to a Friday night Bracketbuster weekend against VCU and my boy Eric Maynor who was too tired to carry his entire team who stood around and watched him play and wouldn't step up and make even one shot on the road, although I'm glad they did; especially Larry Sanders in the CAA Championship Game." Call it a hunch, but I'm predicting a Wolfpack upset. Why? To be a pain in every bracketologist's butt. Sorry Pay.

* There's also that aforementioned primetime game involving the "Overtime Orange" and the talented Cardinals of Louisville. Terrance Williams is licking his chops; meanwhile, Johnny Flynn and Eric "K-Fed" Devendorf better be ready for another 40-minute dogfight. Or will it be 40-minutes plus? You decide.

Back later. Maybe Pay can interject more sensible bracket banter.

3:30 pm


Coach Cal and Memphis cut down their yearly nets at the Conference USA Tournament.
Might as well be called the "Memphis Tigers Challenge".
By the way, could Memphis inch closer to a 1-seed if Louisville was upset by the (insert: tired) Orange?

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

* Mississippi State joined Baylor (Big XII) & USC (Pac-10) as "Georgia's of 2009", aka teams trying to "steal bids with spots in their respective championship games". Although let it be know that Georgia was horrific last year and their coach was going to be fired any second. The Bulldogs and Trojans largely underachieved this season, thus far.

Note: Nobody should feel bad for any of the bubble teams. Nobody - even the most bleeding heart Maryland fans (who remember, lost to UVA on Sunday) - will be robbed of a birth this year.

* Pay proves to me yet again why he's the "bracket master", proving to me why many experts - including himself - has Arizona (with 3 wins against Conference Champions - Washington, Kansas, & Gonzaga) outside the bubble.

* Tony Kornheiser can rejoice as Binghamton is in the big dance, via the American East automatic bid. I'm always happy when Vermont is absent.

* Memphis keeps on winning. By a lot. There should be no debate about them being a 1 or 2 seed. If they are tired of the disrespect Conference USA is getting, leave the conference or share the wealth of your recruiting classes.

* Ohio State is ending the argument for Michigan State to earn a #1-seed, leading the Spartans 69-58 during the under-4 timeout at Conseco Field House. The Buckeyes will also lock down a spot in the Big Dance, recently a 10-seed with a few lingering questions in today's bracket from Pay.

* Florida State and UNC are enjoying the game of the afternoon. Psycho T with a rare "frustration foul" to earn his 4th. He won't earn a 5th. Mark it down. Seminole fans have been asking for the calls to even out; however, the refs have been steady. Toney Douglas is a baller, folks. This kid could carry this underrated team DEEP into the tournament. Welcome Wayne Ellington to playing well in a big time game. Yes, the Heels are still sans-Lawson.

* Auburn and Tennessee are prepared to tip off. If the Tigers want to go dancing, they need to pull off the upset.