Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Messy Brackets Edition

All the Bracketeers have zero teams left. We will be spectators on Saturday and Monday, allowing us to cheer with heart rather than pick.

Carl takes the blue ribbon with 59 out of a possible 120 points. Place and show go to Tony (54) and Eddie (51). Of the pros I tracked, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports Online did best with 51.

If the quality of this season’s Tournament is due to parity, seeding or the “one and dones”---who cares. I cannot remember more exciting games…more rousing comebacks…more final possession verdicts…more stellar individual performances in recent Tournaments. Just an occasional blowout this time…seemingly fewer than ever.

A glorious Tournament thus far. Bravo!

Had you seen a bracket with VCU, Butler, Kentucky and UConn in the Final Four, perhaps the conversation would have gone something like this.

“You’re an idiot…there are no number one seeds here.”

“Butler! They lost their best player to the NBA last year. They had five losses in the Horizon League. They lost a total of nine games…six who failed to get in the Tournament.”

“VCU! They tied for third in Colonial Athletic Association for goodness sakes. Eleven losses and five of those teams aren’t in the tournament.”

“UConn! They were a preseason #10 pick in the Big East and actually finished ninth. They had nine losses, come on.”

“Kentucky! They sent five guys to the pros after losing in the Elite Eight to that criminal Bobby Huggins. They only play six guys and three of them are freshmen. They finished three games behind the Gators in the SEC East. They lost three games to teams that failed to make the 68 cut off.”

“Those four teams have combined for 37 losses.”

Butler has trailed in the second half in three of their four victories.

Las Vegas says: Kentucky is favored by 2---Butler by 2 ½.

When UConn coach Jim Calhoun won the 1999 Tournament, Butler coach Brad Stevens was a point guard at DePauw and VCU’s Shaka Smart was a point guard at Kenyon College.

Five different coaches have taken Kentucky to the Final Four---Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and now John Calipari.

Calhoun, Smart and Stevens are the only men to lead their schools to the Final Four.

The Kentucky/UConn game is second consecutive rematch for the Wildcats in the Tournament. UConn bested UK in the Maui Invitational in November.

No shortage of story lines in this Final Four.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Sweet Sixteen, Day Two Edition

Tony continues to lead with Carl just a point behind. Eddie and Dale had the best days with 2-2 records. This round is worth three points per correct pick. As always, check my math.

No question who the better team was as Arizona just dismantled Duke in the second half, 93-77. Arizona started playing really good basketball about the time Duke started playing really bad basketball. For a program that prides itself on its defense, 77 points should be enough to insure a victory. It wasn’t even enough to keep Duke close. Everything that could go wrong down the stretch went wrong. Arizona outscored Duke 55-33 in the second half. It’s a sad way for Singler and Smith to end their marvelous careers.

Beginning in 2000 Duke has gone 3-7 in Sweet Sixteen games. With the exception of a 2003 loss to Kansas, Duke has been the higher seed in all the losses. Duke lost as a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16 for the fifth time, three more than any other school.

They don’t print commemorative tee shirts at Duke for making the Sweet Sixteen.

Arizona got 11 offensive rebounds in the second half…Duke got two.

The two early games were most exciting. I had one the tube and one on the computer watching MMOD. For the majority of both games, a three-point lead was a lot.

UConn had just too much Kemba Walker. I ought to have known better than to bet against him.

The Huskies shot 50 percent from 3-point range (8-16), marking the fifth time this season the team shot 50 percent or better from 3. UConn has won all five of those games.

Jimmer Fredette needed a ton of shots to get his points, but he is an immense treat to watch. I gave him a standing ovation when he exited with 2:01 remaining. What a stunning player to watch…one that those of us in the East did not to see enough during his college career.

Florida played a strong all around game…they were hitting on all cylinders. Hard to believe this team lost four games to non-NCAA Tournament teams.

Alex Tyus led four Florida players in double figures with 19 points and also pulled down 17 rebounds, Kenny Boynton had 17 points, while Erving Walker and Chander Parsons each scored 16 for Florida.

The Gators earned their fourth trip to the Elite Eight since 2000.

Since 2001, just one team seeded lower than fifth reached the Final Four---George Mason (#11) in 2006. Since seeding began in 1979, just two double-digit seeds made the Sweet Sixteen---LSU in 1986 and George Mason.

A pleasure listening to Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery call the games. Unlike Clark Kellogg, they never get in the way of the game, they know the game and have moments of witty banter. They are both Runyonesque characters.

Duke is now 0-4 in NCAA Tournament games played on the West Coast and 0-2 in the Honda Center.

Neither Wisconsin nor Butler shot very well. Since both teams are demons on defense, that was to be expected. Butler's 7-point win equaled the combined margin of victory for its four previous games in the NCAA tournament.

The Bulldogs have now won 12 straight games overall. Wisconsin shot 30.4 percent from the field, its second worst shooting performance this season.

Wait until next season.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Sweet Sixteen, Day One Edition

If you seriously think you can ace your bracket due to nothing more than your college basketball acumen, the Tournament will humble you in short order. The good news---it’s the best tasting humble pie ever. Savor the moments.

As much as I detest the 9:45 tip-off time for the Duke/Arizona game, the great news is that Vern Lundquist and Bill Raftery will be the announcers. The pathetic Nantz/Kellogg combo will be inflicted upon the viewers watching the pairings in Newark---UNC, Marquette, Ohio State and Kentucky.

The city of Richmond has as many teams left in the NCAA Tournament as the Big East does.

If Kansas gets to the Final Four, they will do so without playing a team seeded above a nine.

Six of the seven Florida players who scored in last season’s Tournament game vs. BYU return for this year’s Sweet Sixteen match.

The VCU/Florida State match-up in the Sweet Sixteen is the first meeting of a #10 vs. #11 seed since 1997.

This is the first time that Florida and Florida State have reached the Sweet Sixteen in the same Tournament.

Pitt and Notre Dame are the only one and two seeds not in the Sweet Sixteen.

Since 1979 the Big East has five titles…the ACC has ten.

With BYU and San Diego State, the Mountain West has a pair of teams in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in the conference’s 12-year history.

Jacob Pullen had 58% of Kansas State’s point in their loss to Wisconsin.

In his last four games, BYU’s Jimmer Fredette is averaging 37 points.

Duke is 6-4 in one-point games in the NCAA Tournament…Kansas 4-6.

The two Big East teams standing, Marquette finished #11 in the conference and UConn struggled down the stretch and wound up at #9.

The ACC is 7-1 so far…Mountain West is 4-1…Big Ten is 7-5.

The longest active streak of Sweet Sixteen appearances belongs to Duke at three. Butler, Kentucky and Ohio State are working on two-peats.

Kemba Walker is averaging 25.9 ppg since the start of the Big East Tournament.

In the West Regional, the participating teams have 22 Final Four appearances between them---Duke 15, Arizona has four and UConn with three.

The Big Ten has had the best post-season performance in the past five years. It is the only conference to create more upsets than it has surrendered. Six of their teams were upset, but they were on the winning side of nine upsets. In the same five years the Big East is 19-21, while the ACC is 14-14

UConn won seven games in eleven nights, and looks like they have plenty of gas in the tank. Kemba’s smile is holding up as well as his legs.

Nine of the Sweet Sixteen were ranked in the preseason AP poll. Absent were Wisconsin, FSU, Richmond, UConn, Arizona, VCU and Marquette.

The Ohio State/Kentucky game features two freshmen point guards.

Seven of the Sweet Sixteen won their conference tournaments…five others made it to the title game.

Three of the eight games feature the predicted seedings…#1 OSU vs. #4 Kentucky; #2 San Diego State vs. #3 UConn and #2 Florida vs. #3 BYU.

Kentucky is on an eight game winning streak and has at least two future first-round picks.

Duke has never failed to make the Sweet Sixteen after winning an ACC Championship…they are 18 for 18. Their three ACC Tournament losses in the past 12 years have all been in overtime.

Michigan doesn't have a senior on the roster and could have one of the better backcourts in the country with Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. next season.

Pop Quiz: What teams comprise the Final Four of the College Basketball Inviational (CBI)?---Boise State, Oregon, University of Central Florida and Creighton.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Sixteen Left Playing Edition

After a day when most Bracketeers went 4-4, Tony maintains the lead going into the Sweet Sixteen. Losses by Notre Dame, Purdue, Texas, Syracuse and Pitt have hurt many an Elite Eight and Final Four prediction.

The ACC has three teams left…two in the SEC, Big East a deuce, two for the BigTen, one in Big 12, The Pac 10 has one, the Mountain West has a pair.

In the Sweet 16, #2 Florida vs. #3 BYU is a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup in which The Jimmer went for 37 points and the Cougars came out with the victory.

Richmond will lose four senior starters, including two 1,000-point scorers (Justin Harper and Dan Geriot) and a 2,000-point scorer (Kevin Anderson), from this season's team.

Since the NCAA Tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, of the 26 teams that entered as No. 1 in The Associated Press poll, only 14 reached the Final Four.

Only four teams ranked No. 1 in the media poll or gaining the overall top seed were able to claim the tournament trophy: Duke in 1992 and 2001, UCLA in 1995 and Florida in 2007.

Only three overall top seeds have reached the Final Four since the selection committee began ranking the No. 1s in 2004.

Gonzaga's Mark Few is the first Division I coach to reach the NCAA Tournament in his first 12 seasons.

Notre Dame forward Scott Martin started at Purdue and was a member of a star-studded Boilermakers recruiting class that included JuJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel.

The biggest upset ever, according to the point spread, was when Santa Clara, a 19.5-point underdog, upset Arizona in the first round in 1993. Santa Clara’s freshman point guard was some guy named Steve Nash. The biggest upset in the Championship game was when 9.5-point dogs UConn beat Duke in 1999.

Only once have all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four -- in 2008. Twice as often -- in 1980 and 2006 -- no No. 1s have advanced. No. 1s have won 16 of the 26 64 (or more) team tournaments. No. 2 seeds are a distant second with four wins, while third seeds have won three times. No team lower than an eight seed has ever won.

There is just one pairing in the first round in which the lower seed has a historical edge. Not surprisingly, that is the ninth seed, which has won 56 of their 104 games against the eight seed. It might seem like the 12 seeds have great luck against the five seeds, but the higher seed has still won two thirds of the games the two seeds have played.

Michigan doesn’t have a single senior on the roster, only two juniors who play, and a roster led by a sophomore and a freshman.

During 72 previous NCAA tournaments, only three head coaches have won the title while coaching at their alma mater: Norm Sloan (N.C. State, 1974), Gary Williams (Maryland, 2002) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse, 2003).

The only school to win games as a 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed is the University of Richmond. The Spiders were the first 15 seed to emerge victorious, upsetting second-seeded Syracuse at Cole Field House in 1991.

From 1946-1981, the two Final Four semifinal losers played in a consolation game, held Monday night just before the final. When CBS took over the tournament rights in 1982, the third-place game was dropped. Virginia beat LSU in the final consolation game in '81.

The definition of irony: the site of the first-ever Final Four as we know it -- Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., (1939) -- is the largest school to have never made an NCAA tournament appearance.

Neither Duke nor UNC beat the spread.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---And Then There 24 Edition

Tony is the lone bracketeer to have Richmond in the Sweet Sixteen…on ESPN; just 6.5% of the entrants had that bet. Tony went 7-1 and remains in the lead. Hardy rides solo with all his Elite Eight and Final Four picks alive.

It’s official--- There are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 different possible brackets with a 68-team field. My combination is ranked #4,219,865.

Many magnificent match-ups today. Looking especially forward to: Syracuse/Marquette, Purdue/VCU…and of course the Duke game following UNC’s opener at 12:15.

With his first rebound today, Duke’s Kyle Singler will become the 10th player in ACC history to accumulate more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Ohio State’s only two losses came at Wisconsin and at Purdue -- two places no visitors won this season.

Kentucky’s young squad gained a ton of experience in their two close, hard fought wins over Princeton and West Virginia. Ohio State had best be ready.

Las Vegas sez: Duke by 11 ½, UNC by 4, Texas by 5 ½, Purdue by 9.

Perhaps it’s a case of my poor eyesight, but I’ll bet I’ve seen at least a dozen traveling violations go uncalled thus far.

If you watch a lot of the Tournament, it is easy to get worn out be the same commercials shown ad infinitum. The McDonald’s ad with Lebron James truly sucks and sucked from the first showing. McDonald’s must think the audience is big time gullible to buy into this pathetic pitch.

It’s not your imagination---timeouts and half times are longer this year. To rake in more dough to pay for the new and inflated contract signed by the geniuses at CBS and Turner, methinks.

During the first two days I am certain Tru-Tv had more new viewers to entice with the promos of their regular programming than usually watch the network…I am just as confident they won’t attract any of those viewers for keeps.

The Visagoth Sports Net pitches from Capital One are inventive and have a high dose of cleverness…don’t know how they’ll wear, but they have more than a couple in rotation.

Rick Pitino’s addition raises the credibility and college basketball knowledge of the Tournament half time shows. He makes more sense and dispenses more meaningful info in his succinct comments than the rest of the foolish pundits combined.

Jim Spanarkel and Mike Gminski are doing a great job in the booth. Hope they are around for the second weekend. Borrowing Len Elmore from ESPN was a good call…pairing him with Gus Johnson is embarrassing. Johnson is a puker.

Over the last four seasons, the Big East has gone 43-29 during March Madness and placed four teams in the Final Four.

Florida Gulf Coast College is considering Florida assistant Richard Pitino to become its head coach.

Never have I cheered as hard for Florida as I did during the final three minutes of their triumph over UCLA. The half-court trap with about a minute and a half to go was a gem. Sidebar: none of our Bracketeers picked UCLA in this game. The other Walker (5’ 8” Erving) had 21 points to lead the Gators.

7.6 million users logged into the coverage of the Tournament on March Madness on Demand on day one.

This year’s 68-team field is the 11th different field size starting from as low eight teams from 1939 to 1950.

Michigan and Memphis share the lead in a dubious Final Four category - each has had two Final Four appearances vacated.

BYU has played in the most tournaments without a Final Four appearance with 25. Missouri is close behind with 24, followed by Xavier with 21.

There are 20 coaches in the field this year that have taken a team, not necessarily their current team, to the Final Four.

San Diego State was fortunate to get by Temple. They started “burning clock” with seven minutes remaining and merely a two-possession lead. Usually when teams start playing not to lose that early, they lose. Temple’s Juan Fernandez looks about 12 years old…but he can sure play.

The Butler/Pitt game was as well played and hard fought as any I have seen this season. Good thing Butler has more than a day off before the Sweet Sixteen. I appreciated Mike Gminski’s comment that the calls the refs miss are the no-calls…they get the calls they make correctly in the overwhelming majority.

In the main, my vast array of incorrect picks are due to over-estimating a team…in the case of Wisconsin, it’s because I simply under-estimated the Badgers.

Kemba Walker did it again. He’s a big game player, and Jim Calhoun’s not a bad coach.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Tournament Day Two Edition

Tony went 12-4 and remains in the lead by a deuce. Four of us went 12-4. Georgetown, UNLV and Texas A&M were the most frequent bracket busters. Dale and I had Xavier going to the Elite Eight--ouch.

Some wonderful match-ups today. I'm looking forward to Pitt/Butler, Florida/UCLA, BYU/Gonzaga and the Morehead State/Richmond games. Remember, Florida, en route to back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, knocked off UCLA both years in the national semifinals.

Out of 5.9 million entries in ESPN’s NCAA bracket pool, only 317 people went 16-0 on the first day of games Thursday. Five entrants went 0-16.

Five of the eleven Big East team invited are on the way home. The Big 10 is 5-2.

When Cinci and UConn meet today it will be the first time in NCAA tournament history an intraconference game has been played before the round of 16.

My first thought while watching Michigan/Tennessee was that boys from Michigan looked like Lilliputians compared to lengthy players clad in orange. Looked like a total mismatch. However, fate was kind and Tennessee disregarded Bruce Pearl’s, “win one for the Gipper” speech.

A bunch of smart sports pundits on Friday morning predicted that with the future of the ethics-challenged Bruce Pearl hanging by a thread, Tennessee players would adopt an us-against-the-world attitude and beat Michigan. Guess not! World 75, Tennessee 45. A 30-point skunking…hooray.

During the regular season, Duke went 10-3 vs. teams that made the tournament. Seven of those 10 wins were over teams that have won at least one tournament game.

The final three minutes of the George Mason victory over Villanova was so exciting, I couldn’t leave it when the second half started for Duke.

Four of the last six teams to defeat Villanova in the NCAA tournament have gone on to win the championship. UNC in 2005 and 2009, Kansas in 2008, Florida in 2006.

The battle between Tristan Thompson of Texas (17/10 and seven blocks) and Oakland’s Keith Benson (15/11 and three blocks) was a treat to see. Oakland made a magnificent comeback attempt.

Syracuse held Indiana State to 40.7 percent shooting from the field. None of the Sycamores' five starters scored in double figures,

Akron was three of six at the foul line…Notre Dame a little better---20 of 26.

Arizona has won five of its past six and 13th of its last 16 games overall…Derrick Williams recorded his 12th double-double of the season (22/10).

Leave it to Roy Williams to run up the score on the little guys…96 of UNC’s 102 points came from the starting five.

Washington’s bench outscored Georgia’s bench 28-0 as they squeaked by with a three-point victory. It was tremendous comeback attempt by Georgia. The jet lag and UNC (in a virtual home game) will run the Huskies ragged on Sunday. It will be a high scoring affair.

"Every college team [watches] TV and says, 'I want to play Duke, I want to see what it's like to play Duke. We sure found out."—Hampton Coach Edward Joyner.

Coach K gave his bench 42% of the playing time and they scored 43% of the points. It was Duke’s 21st neutral court victory in a row.

Coach K’s NCAA Tournament record is now 78-22. An advanced degree in math is not required to figure out that winning percentage, but it still almost defies comprehension. Most conferences haven’t won 78 NCAA-Tournament games.

Well, Chris Singleton’s foot may have healed…in 16 minutes he put up four personals and five points, an assist, a steal and a block, plus a pair of rebounds.

Jared Sullinger had 11 points, nine rebounds and three steals in just 28 minutes for Ohio State. Very efficient.

Boston University showed a lot of grit against Kansas…they were as close as six with 10:00 left in the game.

Georgetown lost to a double-digit seed for its third straight NCAA tournament. Sort of another “where’s Waldo” moment for the Hoyas. VCU needed merely 44 shots to get their 74 points. The Rams shot just 66.7% from the line or it could have worse. 42 fouls were called and there were 23 turnovers in a sloppy game.

Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson recorded his 11th double-double of the season with 16 points and 16 rebounds…not a bad night.

Marquette held Xavier's Tu Holloway, who had averaged 20.2 points, to five points on 1-of-9 shooting and five turnovers. Marquette sure didn’t act like a team that was just happy to be there. That was a strong effort. Xavier needed 51 shots to get their 55 points.

UNLV picked a poor time to lose back-to-back games for just the second time this season. Illinois hit over half of their threes…pretty stout.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Tournament Day One Edition

Only Missouri and Louisville prevented Tony from having a perfect opening day, so he is in lead by two games. On to day two.

No matter has disheveled your bracket looks after day one…you got your money’s worth in every game. I don’t think there was a game that was supposed to be competitive that did not live up to expectations.

So many came down to the final possession…you cannot ask for more.

My-oh-my…a shot clock on the first CBS broadcast. That’s a positive. Now if they would dump Clark Kellogg, we’d be jake.

Twelve lead changes in the first half of the Butler/ODU game…didn’t take long for exciting action. ODU was good on the boards with a dozen offensive rebounds (26 total), but Butler had 15 and 27 total. Not often ODU gets out-rebounded.

Of the Blue Devils' 15 non-conference games this season, eight were played against teams that made the NCAA tournament. Duke was 7-1 in those games. The Devils were also 3-2 against ACC teams that made the NCAA tournament.

Penn State took just six foul shots, while Temple went 13-15 from the line. Only 18 total turnovers in the game. PSU was 42% from the three.

There were 45 fouls in the Clemson/West Virginia game…both teams went 80% from the line.

Is it just me, or do the tattoos increase in number and become more hideous each year?

Just 15 turnovers in the Princeton/Kentucky game…only 19 total fouls and both teams made just six foul shots. Kentucky tied North Carolina with 102 wins in the NCAA tournament, the most all-time.

UNC-Ashville made Pitt think for the first 20 minutes…very scrappy team with no player taller than 6’5”. Pitt grabbed 54 rebounds. Good for Coach Biedenbach to get everyone in the box score.

Morehead State out-rebounded Louisville 43-29. Kenneth Faried notched his 28th double/double…and we’ll get to see more of him and that will be a treat, no matter what it did to my bracket.

The shot by Temple’s Juan Fernandez was truly a “buzzer-beater” with 0.4 seconds showing on the clock. Never more than a four point difference entire second half.

The March Madness On Demand app for the iPad gets an A-Plus from me. Of course, the iPad has a lot to do with it. Once you have a game running the initial time, the switch between games is nearly seamless. Picture clarity is superb.

Looked like a whole lot of empty seats in Tampa for the Florida/UCSB game…I thought it would be a full house.

Florida, UConn, Gonzaga, Pitt and Kansas State looked strong to me. Kansas State’s Coach Frank Martin still looks like Dick Tracy to me.

Gutsy finish for Michigan State to come back from 20 down. Says a lot about Coach Izzo and the players.

Jimmer Fredette is worth the price of admission…he’s scored over 30 points in five of BYU’s last six games.

Gonzaga’s rebounding was most impressive…a 41-18 margin…wow. Gonzaga has won ten in a row.

Florida’s win was the team’s first in the tournament since winning the 2007 Championship game.

Kemba Walker led UConn with 18 points as well as a career-high 12 assists for a UConn tournament record.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Brackets are Ready Edition

One of our bracketeers’, (Carl Moesche) grandfather, Melvin Proud, was Purdue's (1917) first-ever three-sport letter winner.

One thing I learned last night after about 30 seconds of watching the first play-in game---Clark Kellogg has not gotten any better.

The ESPN announcers cover the game all season and know their stuff. Their broadcast teams develop nice chemistry. They provide entertainment, insight and information. It sucks that basketball fans have to spend the post season listening to the CBS/TBS junior varsity. The good news is there is always Westwood One Radio coverage of some games.

Here are some late Las Vegas spreads: Washington by 5.5, Xavier by 2.5, Cinci by 1, Temple by 2.5, Old Dominion by 2, Kansas State by 2.5, Wisconsin by 5, St.John’s by 1.5, Michigan State by 1.5, UNLV by 2.5, Vandy by 3, Texas A&M by 1.

From kenpom.com on experience: Syracuse is #275, Kentucky is 314th, UNC # 323, UConn # 332. They’ll all in the same regional. Makes an Xavier (under 12 turnovers per game) upset of Syracuse tempting. If UNC was playing someplace other than Charlotte, it would make Washington enticing as well.

Two freshmen and two sophomores are the most important players for Texas.

I wanted to pick Georgia over Washington in what is nearly a home game for Georgia, but almost every stat overwhelmingly favors Washington…probably offsetting jet lag.

I had to pick Clemson and Michigan, as I could not put myself in a position to cheer for Bruce Pearl or Bob (T) Huggins.

Kemba Walker has shown he is a big game performer, so I finally picked UConn to get past the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Sports” that Missouri brings.

Every win predicted for San Diego State is based on the blind faith of numbers, as I have never seen them in action.

Time after time, trying to complete a bracket I wound up with all four number one seeds in the Final Four. I had to pick at least one to fall. Had I not witnessed Duke’s powerful run in the ACC Conference Tournament, they would have been my choice (and Texas may well get them). However, Duke beat good teams (not Wake Forest, Georgia Tech or NC State) to win the championship.

So I picked Pitt. Old Dominion seemed Pitt’s only opponent capable of banging with them on the boards…so I am riding ODU to the Elite Eight. ODU and Pitt are ranked 1-2 in rebounding margin…in that order. Pitt and ODU will make or break my bracket.

The recent injuries or suspensions to key players from Georgetown, Purdue, St. John’s, BYU and Florida State prompted me to shorten the runs for those five schools.

The Tournament is a magnificent time for basketball fans. We get the NIT and the NCAA Women’s Tournament in the off days. Is this a great country or what?

As the games play out, we will all learn that “nobody knows nothing.” Expect the unexpected. What could be better?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Play In Games Have Begun Edition

Who does the Pope cheer for when Marquette and Xavier tipoff?

In the women’s Tournament, Marist (MAAC Champion) is on a 26-game winning streak.

Washington’s ten losses came by an average of five points…their 23 wins were by an average of 21 points.

Washington and Illinois (four gifted seniors) are two teams with quite a bit of talent that have underachieved.

“If members of congress have to vote publicly on tax increases or whether or not to go to war, why in the world shouldn’t tournament selection committee members have to explain why they voted for or against certain teams?”---John Feinstein.

Next year the selection committee will have zero ex-coaches.

Watch for Oakland’s Keith Benson…18 points and 10.1 rebounds per game…against Purdue he was 16 and 14…and 26 and 10 in a win over Tennessee.

Notre Dame has five seniors…Ben Hansbrough is averaging 18 ppg.

JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore account for more than half of Purdue’s points. Purdue takes a lot of jump shots for such a tall team.

USC has beaten Tennessee, UCLA, Texas and Arizona. Nukola Vucevic averages 17 ppg and 10rpg.

Pitt and Kansas are the only teams in the Top 22 in both field goal percentage and rebounding.

Five teams enter the tournament 14 losses including USC and Michigan State.

The Southwest could be nicknamed the “all-injury region” with Georgetown (Chris Wright), Chris Singleton from FSU and Purdue’s Robbie Hummel.

#12 seeds have won at least one game 20 of 22 years.

#9 seeds have won over half their games (54%) vs. #8 seeds.

72% of #1 seeds advance into the 4th round.

The Final Four has included exactly one or two #1 seeds 21 of the last 26 years.

There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets for a field of 64. That's the number nine follow by eighteen zeros. Multiply that by 16 for a 68-team field.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Let the games begin edition

Princeton’s buzzer-beater to earn the Ivy League Championship over Harvard could not have been more exciting. Thanks to ESPN3, I got to witness the four lead changes in the final 50 seconds.

According to kenpom.com, Duke has one the five most efficient offenses and defenses.

Belmont’s 18.4-point scoring margin is #1 for the regular season.

Wisconsin made 82.7% of their foul shots.

Did you ever think you would see the day when the CAA would have just one fewer team in the dance than the ACC?

Old Dominion won seven times against NCAA Tournament teams.

Should UAB win their play-in game, six of the eight teams in the Tampa pod will feature coaches with Final Four experience. A total of 17 Final Fours.

Kansas is close staying home as their road to the Final Four is: Tulsa, San Antonio and Houston.

San Diego State stays close to home as well…Tucson and Anaheim prior to the Final Four. Only two other teams from the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones are in the entire West bracket.

Two Pennsylvania schools (Temple and Penn State) have to fly to Tucson to play one another on Thursday.

Gonzaga is playing in sorta nearby Denver. Denver’s pod has just two teams from the west (the Zags and BYU)…the other six are from the Eastern Time zone.

The odds of picking a perfect bracket when the field was 64 was in the neighborhood of one in nine quintillion. I am certain some MIT grad will let us know the odds with 68 teams.

Quote: “Being a nine seed in D.C. is better than being a seven seed anywhere else.”—Old Dominion forward Keyon Carter.

George Mason won eight in a row on the road and had 20 wins by ten or more points.

“Nothing finer than beating Carolina” reads the tee shirt I am wearing. Duke’s victory over UNC on Sunday was the best 40 minutes of basketball I have seen Duke play since 2001 with Williams, Boozer, Battier, Dunleavey, et al. Every player for every minute, played at high intensity. When Duke plays with this unity of purpose, they can beat any team. Duke also showed upcoming Carolina opponents how to defeat UNC…full court press them and disturb the freshmen point guard (who is poor shooter on his best day) and upset freshman wing Harrison Barnes with a close defender. What most impressed me about all three Duke victories, was that each and every time Maryland, Virginia Tech and UNC had a run where momentum was close to changing, a different Duke player stepped up and hit a big shot or caused an important turnover. It was a thing of great beauty.

I don’t know if the parity is the reason, but this is the most difficult bracket I have attempted to fill out.

Start with George Mason and Villanova. GM has no games vs. the Top 25…Nova is 5-7. GM is #18 in field goal percentage to Nova’s #143. Nova is #17 in foul shooting…Mason is #175. Mason shoots the 3 very well (39.7%, #14), while Nova is #146. Nova has a big margin in offensive board sand both teams foul equally. Leaning Mason.

Marquette and Xavier is vexing…have yet to do my homework on this one. Eyeballing the season, it seems Marquette plays just well enough to lose close ones. I like their style of play and coaching. Leaning Xavier.

Washington and Georgia is another toughie. It’s in Charlotte on Friday, giving Georgia the travel advantage. More homework necessary…leaning Washington.

I think Washington can take UNC if they get by Georgia…experience over flashy freshmen.

Potential Duke/Texas has me exasperated, but if Duke plays like they did Sunday, they’ll win that one…but on paper it’s a hard call.

Temple and Penn State is a head scratcher. Thinking Temple.

San Diego State baffles me because I not seen them, cannot dismiss them and they’ll be playing the Sweet Sixteen in Anaheim.

Vandy and Richmond is a close call. I’m going with Vandy, and think their match-up with Louisville will be a humdinger. They both shoot 45% from the field. Vandy makes three out of four foul shots; Louisville just two of three…the Cards foul about three more times a game than Vandy. It’s close on threes---Vandy 37%, Louisville 36.1%. It’s too close to call in rebounding, with Vandy superior on the defensive end and the Cardinals on the offensive end. It’s just about even on turnovers, but Louisville has a big advantage in steals. Tough call...no idea yet.

I like USC to get by Georgetown and meet Purdue. But choosing the Purdue/Notre Dame game with take some more grey matter. Leaning Notre Dame, who I think has the best passing game after Kansas.

Butler and Old Dominion should be a helluva game, as both teams have lots of upper classmen experience. Butler leads in most offensive categories, ODU in the defensive ones, all though points per possession is even-steven…both have a 44% fg%...a big advantage to Butler on foul shots and threes. Rebounding goes to ODU by a very large margin (#2 in offensive rebounds per game)…and a four to one advantage in blocks. Butler commits about five more fouls per game. Both teams have won nine in a row. ODU went 14-5 vs. teams in the RPI Top 100. Leaning ODU.

Texas A&M and Florida State is perplexing. Both are known for defense, but FSO gets about five more possessions per game, A&M has a big spread in points per possession. Slight edge to A&M on the foul line…even on threes…A&M gets nearly a quarter of their points from the foul line and FSU commits 19 a game. FSU has the advantage in rebounding, but has a horrid assist/turnover ratio…they are #22 in turnovers per game, but #9 in blocks per game and #12 in steals per game. Chris Singleton’s status for FSU is the game changer.

Ever the contrarian, I’m not buying the Utah Sate hype…count me in for Kansas State.

And for Belmont over Wisconsin!

Gonzaga has a better offense than St. John’s (#8 FG% to #74)…free throw % (#15 to #107)…3-point FG % (#72 to #233)…rebounds per game goes to the Zags 37.4 to 32.8…they get about three more assists per game. Steals are where the Johnnies excel…the Zags get more blocks and they foul about equally. Gonzaga is my choice, and their travel is less arduous.

I don’t pretend to be NostraKVD, but love the pageantry, excitement and spectacle of the Tournament. In 2008 I went 15-1 and 13-3 the first two days and had the Champion (Kansas)…in between I was ghastly and finished second or third from the bottom.

Think long and hard in your Elite Eight if you have three or more teams not ranked #1 or #2. College basketball may have parity, but it is also top heavy.

Attached is a bracket in the Excel format for ease of filling out and sending back. I’ll take them up until the first tip-off on Thursday.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Conference Tournaments Week Edition, 4.0

I don’t think the unexpected losses by Purdue, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Xavier and Pitt are going to be devastating. They’ll all get more time to rest and recover from a long season. If they draw a Thursday/Saturday play date, it won’t be as ruinous. Anyway, once play begins, the seeding is not as important as the matchups.

Tuesday afternoon through Saturday night makes the Big East Tournament the Iditarod Sled Dog race of college basketball.

Charles Barkley is a lot of things---boring is not one of them. We’ll see how well he wears in the studio during the tournament.

Duke’s victory over Maryland was closer than the final score indicated. It was a five-point lead when Nolan Smith went down with a toe injury. The score was 65-60 from the 8:50 mark until 5:39 to go. From there Duke went on a 22-11 run. Maryland shot themselves in the foot by missing 13 foul shots, while Duke made 22 of 27. Possessions were pretty close---Duke had 73 (1.19 ppp) and the Terps had 71 (1.00 ppp). Except for Duke’s possessions, those numbers are pretty close to the season averages. Duke exceeded the season average possessions by three. Maryland’s Jordan Williams had another double/double at 16 and 16, with just one foul in 38 minutes…most impressive. Jordan Williams has led the team in scoring 19 times and in rebounding 32 times in 33 games this season. Kyle Singler got his 29 points (1/3 of Duke’s output) the old fashioned way (no treys) and grabbed nine boards. One of those shots was a contortionist’s delight. Duke beat the spread by seven points…17th time this season.

As good a night as Kyle Singler had, UConn’s Kemba Walker was even better in overtime win over Syracuse. Walker had 33 points on 18 shots, 13 of 14 from the line, 12 rebounds (he’s 6’1” remember), five assists, six steals, just one foul and played all 45 minutes in the fourth game in four days---an heroic performance---phenomenal!!! Syracuse threw up an incredible 76 shots in 76 possessions to earn their 71 points---not very efficient. Connecticut was far more resourceful with 66 shots in their 75 possessions in scoring 76 points. Syracuse had merely 11 foul shots…UConn took 28.

BYU’s Jimmer Fredette scored 33 of the team’s 47 points---in the first half…all from the field including five 3-pointers. I guess he relaxed in second half with just 19 points and totaled 52 points---just one from the foul line.

Down by five at the half, Florida poured it on for the remainder of the game (made 14 of 17 shots in second half) in their 85-74 triumph over Tennessee. It was a two point Florida lead when idiotic Bruce pearl was called for a technical----from there, Florida went on a 33-24 run to seal the deal. The Gators needed just 46 shots from the field in 73 possessions to do it---highly efficient. Kenny Boynton was especially deadly, scoring 22 points on 11 shots (ten of ten from the line). All Florida’s starters scored in double figures, including the Walker nobody knows about (Erving) who was remarkably efficient---17 points on nine shots from the field. This was Florida’s third victory over UT this season.

Miami went from a butterfly with their amazing ten points in 40 seconds comeback against UVA on Thursday to a caterpillar with their epic collapse to UNC, after leading by 19.

Seth Curry leads Duke in steals with 46…playing just 63.1% of available minutes.

The less said about Penn’s 36-33 victory over Wisconsin the better…just 42 possessions. It was the slowest NCAA Division I game since 1998. Leading scorer: Taylor Battle with nine. Jimmer had nine before the first media time out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Conference Tournaments Week Edition, 3.0

44.5 percent of Belmont’s minutes go to reserves, the fourth-highest total in the nation and by far the highest of any NCAA tournament team. The closest team is Gonzaga, at 39.4 percent. They rank No. 2 nationally in defensive turnover percentage, earning takeaways on 27.6% of possessions.

Butler ranks 75th overall in adjusted defensive efficiency after finishing last season fifth. They allowed more than one point per possession in 10 of 20 Horizon games, compared to just three of 20 during the title-runner-up season.

Old Dominion leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 45.2 percent of their misses, of which there are many, because they rank 189th in effective field goal percentage

Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) has led the NCAA in per-game rebounding average twice, passed Tim Duncan to become D-I’s all-time leading rebounder, and finished this regular season ranked No. 1 in Player Efficiency Rating.

94.2% of Wisconsin’s possessions are of the half-court variety, averaging an exceptional 1.017 points per possession (PPP).

Wofford forward Noah Dahlman shoots 61.3% from the floor and 74.4% from the line. It may be urban legend, but the claim is that he has never dunked or hit a 3-point shot in college. This season he is one for eight in jump shots.

Long Island University ranks 4th nationally in tempo, 2nd in free-throw rate and 4th in defensive free-throw rate. Most of us will be seeing them for the first time. They’ll be fast, attack the rim and won’t foul.

At 20.3% of points scored via the 3-point shot, UNC-Asheville ranks 324th.

Trailing by 19 in the second half, North Carolina took its only lead of the game on a Tyler Zeller layup at the buzzer to win by two. Miami needed 60 shots to score 59 points (pathetic)---Carolina took 50 shots and nabbed 61 points.

Ohio State needing OT to get by Northwestern exemplifies why the games aren’t played on paper. Is this a great sport---or what? Jared Sullinger needed 18 shots to get his 20 points.

Saturday’s most intriguing game just might be the playoff game for the Ivy League crown between Princeton and Harvard. These two universities first met on the playing fields in 1877. This game, between schools better known for SAT than RPI, is on ESPN3 at 4 PM.

Ole Miss gave Kentucky a real battle…exciting finish. It was a good thing UK’s Doron Lamb got 19 points on just nine shot, as Brandon Knight threw up 18 and got only 17 points for his efforts.

Maryland is a scary matchup for Duke tonight. Jordan Williams ate Duke alive in the two regular season games. In 67 minutes he went 15 for 22 from the line, needed just 24 attempts to score 43 points and pulled down 23 boards (ten offensive). More amazing for a guy his size under the basket, he had only seven fouls in the two games. He’s a very crafty beast. Duke won both games because Williams had very little support---the rest of the team needed 92 shots to score 83 points; and due to the fact that Kyle Singler was making shots with 47 points on 34 attempts along with 16 rebounds. With Singler in a major slump, it could be a long night for the Duke big men and the rest of the weekend off for the Blue Devils. Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly need to step up for Duke to take the pressure off Singler.