Since I have no idea where I will be tomorrow and Friday - aside from being in front of a TV set watching the NCAA tournament somewhere - I'm devoting
all of this rant to college basketball today. If I'm not able to write anything for the rest of the week, at least I will have made my tourney picks.
Let me begin by saying that I got an e-mail on Monday from a reader who took exception to my tournament picks and offered several points of debate
regarding those picks. Since I had not done them, I realized that he was reading last year's picks inadvertently. I make no claim to be able to pick
all 63 games correctly - even though I do enter several bracket contests with the hope of winning up to $1M - but I am certain that last year's picks
would be of zero value in terms of this year's tournament field.
The Pious Pooh-Bahs over at the NCAA love to wring their hands and bemoan the evils of gambling on their pure and noble athletic endeavors. Stick a
camera and/or a microphone in the face of one of these folks and they'll try to convince you that the fate of Western Civilization is in severe
jeopardy by such a dastardly practice. But the hypocrisy of this wailing is shown by the fact that the NCAA could really make it difficult for the
folks who run the myriad bracket pools around the country, but they don't. They can't make it impossible; but they can make it hard enough that many
of the pools would disappear. All they have to do is to make all games in the rounds of 32 and 16 and 8 and 4 subject to random draws after the games
from the previous rounds are completed.
So why don't they do that? They'll tell you it's "logistics". I say it's because they have a model for what the NCAA tournament would look like
without millions of bracket pools and they don't like the picture. Someone in the finance department of the NCAA has probably shown the noble folks
there the revenues received from the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the revenues received from the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament and asked the
noble leadership just what important NCAA activities would have to be stopped when revenues from March Madness dropped toward those of Ladies' March
Madness. That would mean firing some of the cronies who feed off these revenues and so the Pious Pooh-Bahs just go back to their moaning and
Lots of people do "All-Name Teams" for the NCAA field. I don't spend a lot of time on this but there are a few players with interesting handles:
Winsome Frazier - Mississippi State: All he has to do is "Winsix" instead of merely "winning some" and he'll be on a championship team. Once the
Bulldogs get eliminated, you can call him Winsome "Lose Some" Frazier.
Taj Finger - LSU: If Finger's "wrong finger" makes an appearance during a game, he might be watching the games for a while.
Tack Minor - also LSU: You know his little brother, Brad Minor, right?
Diamond Gladney - Ohio U: Don't play too rough, Diamond...
DeMarcus Ishmeal -– Oakland: You just know he takes delight upon being introduced to someone in saying, "Call me Ishmeal."
Speaking of the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland U, they need to win seven games in order to be the champs of the tournament. If they were to accomplish
this feat with what would have to be Divine intervention, they would wind up the season one game over .500. It won't happen, but pretend that they
make it to the final game with a .500 record. Can you imagine the rhetorical flourishes that will surround that team at that point? It would be as if
you had been dunked in a barrel of saccharine.
I notice that Texas Tech has made it to the tournament again this year and the Texas Tech graduation rate is higher this year than it has been in the
past several years. Somehow, Bob Knight manages to get kids who can play basketball and survive the rigors of at least a few classroom situations to
agree to live in Lubbock, Texas. Meanwhile in Houston, Tom Penders is hot on the trail of a recruit for next year who is 23 years old and who has been
to five high schools and three community colleges so far in search of his eligibility criteria. If the kid were really outstanding, he'd be in the NBA
by age 23; so obviously, this is a young man whose thirst for knowledge will take him to a college where he can drink from the fount of knowledge. Or
College basketball this year has been even less predictable this year than in prior years. I mentioned Maryland yesterday beating Duke twice and
losing to Clemson three times. Pitt lost to Bucknell and then beat UConn, Syracuse and Boston College on the road. Syracuse looked great at the
beginning of the year; then they lost four out of six games; then they rolled through the Big East tournament and waxed UConn along the way. Santa
Clara holds wins over Stanford and UNC; Santa Clara also lost to Cal-Poly, Cal-Irvine, Central Connecticut and Yale. So now, you're faced with picking
63 games for your bracket pool and you need to "get an edge" somehow. My recommendation is to read the entrails of a goat...
With regard to tournament picks, here is some advice from Jim Armstrong in the Denver Post:
"The first commandment of bracketology? Go with the powerhouse conferences. The Atlantic Sun? Wasn't that Elvis' record company? The MEAC? Sorry, the
MEAC doesn't inherit the Earth in the tournament..."
Here's my roadmap to the tournament outcome:
I think Wisconsin-Milwaukee has a real shot to win its first round game outright against Alabama. While I don't think Penn
can beat Boston College outright, I do think that Boston College is the worst of the #4 seeds in this tournament. I'd be on the underdogs with the
points in both of these games. The St. Mary's/Southern Illinois game will be interesting. I like Oklahoma State to come out of this region.
Gonzaga is a three seed this year; isn't it time to stop calling them a "dark horse" and a "mid-major"? Isn't it time to
expect them to get to the Elite Eight - or at least lose a close game in the round of sixteen? I don't see a lot of real upset possibilities in the
opening round here; maybe West Virginia is vulnerable; Pitt could beat Pacific; nothing else is really appealing. There are two teams in this regional
ranked lower than they ought to be - Louisville and Texas Tech. One of them will make it out of this regional to the Final Four; I think it will be
Just one question for the Selection Committee if I may: If Illinois is the #1 team in the country, why is UNC getting to
play against the winner of the play-in game? Whatever. I like several low seeds in this regional particularly with points from the books. New Mexico
will not be a pushover for Villanova even though Villanova is playing very well now; Northern Iowa could beat Wisconsin outright and should not get
blown out; I like NC State to win outright over Charlotte and I like Iowa State to beat Minnesota outright. This region comes down to a final game
between UConn and UNC. I'll take UConn to win that game.
I have to root for Iowa in the first round just because I love to see Bob Huggins' teams go home early. I'm not sure why
Michigan State is seeded so highly here and even though they should get by Old Dominion, I think I'd take the dog and the points in that game. I like
Syracuse to emerge from this regional beating Kentucky in the regional final game.
So I have none of the top seeds advancing to the Final Four. I have Syracuse and UConn playing yet again this year in one match-up and the winner of
that game will be - - Syracuse. In the other game, I have Louisville and Oklahoma State going at it and the winner of that game will be - - Oklahoma
And in a final game where the stands will be a sea of orange, I like Syracuse to win it all.
Finally, an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
"The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission is investigating a high-school coach who allegedly licked the blood from a player's injured
knee, the Eugene Register-Guard reported. As for his Draculonian measures, the coach is expected to argue he was just practicing to become a sports
But don't get me wrong, I love sports...
Copyright The Sports Curmudgeon
[Edited on 3/17/05 by SportzWriter]