Posted on: March 16, 2010 11:37 pm
When the NCAA Tournament kicks off Thursday in New Orleans, the feel will certainly be festive. And by festive, I mean hungover, because for reasons that only the brilliant minds behind the proposed NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 could likely understand, the first round is taking place in New Orleans the night after St Patricks Day. So in a city where public drunkedness is not only accepted, it is actively encouraged and at times, mandatory, the NCAA is going to place basketball games after the nation's drunkest collective holiday. Its for the kids ladies and gentlemen.
When the games do actually get started however, there will be a lot to see in James Carville's hometown. One of the top two teams in the country, an #8 seed that was ranked #1 overall this season, a certain NIT team that played its way into a #6 seed and quite possibly the most athletic team in America are all setting up shop in New Orleans as they hope to advance on in the South and West regions. Each game has some intrigue, some wackiness and a whole lot of Harangody. An overview:
NOTRE DAME vs OLD DOMINION 12:25
Most people would claim that the iconic figure in college basketball this year was John Wall, the uber-talented UK point guard who dazzled the country with athleticism, wild dunks and game-winning shots. They are wrong. The real icon of college basketball is the man with the worst hair and body in sports, Luke Harangody. If Harangody were a car, he would be a Kia Rondo, tall and boxy, prone to slow, awkward movements and proportionated in such a way as to seem to make success impossible. But like the Kia Rondo, Harangody finds a way to get the job done. When you watch this game today, take a few possessions and simply follow the 'Gody. Like the fat guy who sweats a lot but still finds a way to get garbage buckets in your church league game, the 'Gody will win no beauty points as he looks to the naked eye as the most unathletic basketball players since the cast of "Hang Time" left the court (still Reggie Theus's best coaching job). But he will score, rebound and even defend, all without seemingly being able to make one impressive movement. He is the basketball equivalent to an episode of "Friends," unlikely to leave you feeling the least bit impressed, but garnering solid ratings.
The 'Gody is playing against Old Dominion, a team I actually saw on our Road Trip across America and one that can cause some problems. ODU is as athletic a small school as you will see in the Tournament. They are long at every position and their goal is to get every rebound and outwork you, while playing a brand of basketball that can best be labeled as "boring." Their coach will try to counter the 'Gody's boxcut with his own moustache, a full feathered beauty that is both dark and bushy, a veritable forest under his lip. With his facial hair mesmerizing, it is easy to forget just how talented this team is and it isnt an exaggeration to say that they will be the more athletic team on the floor.
Notre Dame is full of Irish Catholics and the noon start on the day after St Patrick's Day will ensure a small crowd at the opening tip. ODU has the players to get out on the Irish three point shooters and Harangody will not be able to impose his will down low. However the Irish are deeper, have the best player on the floor and by the second half, Johnny O'Malley and the rest of the Irish faithful will stagger into the gym just in time to see the Irish win by 7.
BAYLOR vs SAM HOUSTON STATE 3:00
Every year the NCAA Tournament sees one team develop into a trendy pick to make noise and allows announcers on the Worldwide Leader to get on television and make proclamations that have no real substance but sound important like "I tell you who I like Digger, I like "TEAM X". The way they shoot the ball, play defense and their great Coach _____, this is a team that can really make some noise. I am not saying I will pick them over (INSERT #1 seed), but it wouldnt shock me if they get hot and cut down the nets to the Final Four. While the announcer says this, all of the other blow-dryed hairpieces on set shake their head and proclaim that they too like this team and have been on board with them all year. Inevitably this team is never as good as these paid airbags say they are and often the disappointment starts in game one.
This season that team is most certainly Baylor. You cant throw a stick without running into someone who has Baylor as their "sleeper team into the Final Four." The Bears are coached by Scott Drew and have found a way to turn around a basketball program that was long thought to be dead. However considering the fact tha tmost fans couldn't name one player on the Bears' roster, annoitment as a Final Four team seems a bit premature. As for Sam Houston State, they are fun to watch. They bring it up and down quickly, like to shoot a lot of three pointers and try to win by managing the game pace. Earlier this season they gave Kentucky a run for its money in Rupp Arena and since then, have put up great shooting performances week after week. Baylor isnt the greatest draw for Sam Houston, because they can match the athleticism that Sam Houston uses to dominate its opponents. But if they hit threes, then who knows what can happen.
Did you like how I got you excited right there....made you think that I was going to pick the upset upstarts? Not going to happen. Had SHS gotten a slow, methodical team, I might pull the shocker. As is, Baylor moves on and makes pundits shake their head and nod that they are the team to watch in the games ahead.
KENTUCKY VS EAST TENNESSEE STATE 7:00 PM
You know all about Kentucky, Calipari, Wall, Cousins, etc. They are really good and no group of players since Shane Battier was smiling and going to class every day at Duke have received the consistent national publicity of this group of Kentucky players. They have been visited by Lebron, Magic, Ashley Judd, Drake, Ben Roethlisberger (pre-college town romp), Mike Tomlin, Charles Barkley and even the biggest star of them all, World Wide Wes. They have raised over a million bucks for Haiti, talked to the President over the phone and even got to rub on Seth Davis's rosy cheeks. It has been such a strange, magical journey. But now it gets real and the games mean more. All the goodwill of the 32-2 campaign that has won the hearts of Kentuckians is at stake in one three-week period where anything can happen.
Well almost anything. What can't happen is losing to ETSU in the first round on Thursday night. ETSU famously was once led by a player that makes the NCAA all "hey I remember that guy but I have no idea where he went to school" list, Keith "Mr." Jennings. For it was 21 years ago that Jennings took a #16 seeded ETSU team and very nearly pulled the shocker over #1 seeded Oklahoma. They hope to bring that kind of magic back to light again, but this time against a much bigger fish and a much more talented group of players. Win partor lose, they will probably take solace in the fact that they will head back to Johnson City, Tennessee after the game and be greeted by the hottest group of mountain coeds this side of a very special episode of Hee-Haw.
Kentucky wins by a lot and moves on, much to the delight of the Big Blue nation. But when ETSU's most famous alum Kenny Chesney sneaks into the building, Jay Bilas becomes so enamored with his soft, beach sounds that he takes off his announcing headset, mumbles something about Baylor being a sleeper to get to the Final Fourand goes on tour with Buffett.
TEXAS vs WAKE FOREST 9:35 PM
What do you get when the two most underperforming participants in a particular endeavor get together to see which can muster up just enough to even showcase a flash of their former brilliance? No, its not every Pacino/Deniro move of the past ten years, but rather is the Underachievement HEavyweight Championship Title Match when Texas plays Wake Forest. Over the course of this past season, no two teams have been more baffling and neither has made its fans groan and search out for signs of life from its coach than the Longhorns and Demon Deacons. Both teams have loads of talent, but both have played so terribly at times that even Mike Dunleavy has asked from afar, "dont you coaches do anything?"
The most egregious offender has been Texas, where Rick Barnes has definitely proven that he is the worst Top 12 program coach in America. While there is no doubt that Barnes has assembled talent by the boatload in Austin, his team has played as poorly in the last two months as any team in the Tournament and has produced an historically unprecedented waste of talent from one program in one season. There may be as many as six guys on the Texas roster who could play in the NBA and players one through eleven, they could be the most talented team in America. But they are stuck floundering around, getting blown out by mediocre teams and backing their way into the tournament on the back of a win against NIT contender North Carolina in December. Remember, Texas was ONCE #1. Now they are hideous and absent a miracle turnaround, will finish a season of disappointment like none other.
There are those that say March forgives all sins. If either of these teams can win this game and then upset Kentucky, a season of disappointment can quickly be forgotten. Both teams have been awful, but in Texas's case there has been the occasional show of life. Wake Forest has been tuned out for months. Texas wins a close one in a game that simply frustrates all who watch.
So there you have it, Notre Dame, Baylor, Kentucky and Texas. Chalk from this guy. But hey, its New Orleans and the fun will be on the streets anyway. Enjoy the games and watch out for Harry Connick on the street trying to sing you a song...he does it to all the tourists.
Posted on: March 8, 2010 12:31 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2010 12:33 pm
Bubble teams across the country held their collective breath last night as Old Dominion held off de facto CAA Tournament host VCU 73-69 in overtime. They wont be able to exhale (or one of them will suffocate) until around 9:15 this evening.
While the Monarchs are certainly a bubble team themselves, the consensus seems to be that their resume is strong enough - and their competition for one of the final at-large bids weak enough - that a loss in tonight's Colonial title game will not keep them out of the big dance. ODU currently appears on all but four of the brackets utilized by the Bracket Matrix website, where they're seeded as high (or low) as 9th and as low (or high...we really to come to a consensus on this) as 12th.
Here's a quick look at Blaine Taylor's team's tournament profile:
Record: 25-8, 15-3
Stength of Schedule: 100
Record Against RPI Top 50: 1-3
Record Against RPI Top 100: 7-7
Key Wins: At Georgetown, vs. Charlotte, vs. Marshall
Key Losses: None
I'm not sure it's single-digit seed-worthy, but it looks immensely better when you put it side-by side with the resumes of the other teams fighting for those last 11 and 12 seeds. Just like Maggie Gyllenhaal...when she coached at South Alabama.
The best thing ODU has going for it may be its lack of anything that could resemble a bad loss. The Monarchs dropped three league games and they were to teams that finished second fourth and fifth in a very strong mid-major conference. Their five non-conference losses all came to squads (Missouri, Northern Iowa, Mississippi State, Dayton, Richmond) that are either definitely in the tournament or just on the outside looking in.
So the Rhode Islands, San Diego State and Pac-10 teams of the world should all be wearing their Gerald Lee jerseys this evening when Old Dominion takes the floor against third-seeded William & Mary, which snuck by No. 2 Northeastern 47-45 on Sunday. ODU took care of the Tribe in both meetings between the two during the regular season.
Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and ESPN has the coverage.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 4:49 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2010 4:57 pm
RESULTS1) Old Dominion 86, 8) Towson 56
2) Northeastern 74, 7) Hofstra 71 (2 OT)
3) William & Mary 70, 11) James Madison 65
5) VCU 75, 4) George Mason 60
GAME OF THE DAY
The game of the postseason thus far took place last night in Richmond where second-seeded Northeastern needed two overtimes to eliminate red-hot No. 7 Hofsta.Senior guard Matt Janning scored a season-high 26 points to lead all scorers, out-dueling CAA Player of the Year Charles Jenkins who led Hofstra with 24. Janning, a four-year starter, hit a three with 45 seconds left in the second overtime to put the Huskies up for good.
It's the first time Northeastern has advanced to the CAA semis since 2005-2006, the first year they were a member of the conference. They'll now face William & Mary, which jacked up a tournament-record 36 three-pointers on its way to holding off the upset bid of 11th-seeded James Madison.
UPSET OF THE DAY
Form held with the exception of VCU's surprisingly easy victory over No. 4 George Mason.
Larry Sanders put on his postseason face and recorded his 12th double-double of the season, netting 17 and snatching 12 rebounds. The Rams will face rival and top seed Old Dominion in the other semifinal. The Monarchs rolled over Towson, 86-56.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Matt Janning saved the best performance of his senior season for the biggest stage, finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in Northeastern's double-overtime victory over Hofstra.
THE DAY AHEAD
VCU/Old Dominion should be one of the better tournament semifinal games of the postseason. The two met in this round a year ago and the Rams prevailed and eventually won the tournament. They split their two meetings this season.
VCU is the one team in the league that has an answer for ODU's size, and that answer is NBA prospect Larry Sanders. If Sanders can stay out of foul trouble and overcome his show's multiple Emmy snubs then I think the Rams pull the mild upset and go for the title and their fourth win in four days on Monday.
Hofstra was the hottest team in the league at the end of the season, so there's no shame in it taking Northeastern two overtimes to eliminate the Pride. Still, the game was the third of the day, meaning a relatively short turnaround for the Huskies today. William & Mary lives and dies with the three, and tired legs certainly make the perimeter more difficult to defend.
Don't be surprised to see two upsets and a 3/5 title game on Monday.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 4:44 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2010 4:45 pm
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Posted on: February 19, 2010 1:04 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 8:46 pm
By: Thomas Beisner
Each morning, the CBS College Basketball Road Trip team will stop spooning each other in their Motel Six beds at the crack of noon, grab a couple of NCAA approved bagels and hit the road in pursuit of their next college basketball destination. Though their dossier and agenda are to supposed to remain top secret, I went to high school with one of the writers from "Viva Laughlin" and CBS forgot to take back his keys. Here is what he found…
Location: According to Wikipedia, Cedar Falls, the home of Northern Iowa University, was originally named Sturgis Falls after William Sturgis, a sea-faring American hero from the 18th century. It was renamed Cedar Falls later due to its close proximity to the Cedar River. If these standards applied today, tonight’s game would be in Cracker Barrel Falls, Iowa. (Confession: Research shows there is not a Cracker Barrel within 100 miles of UNI…how is that possible?)
Traveling Distance: Today our road warriors embark on a leg of the trip that is so short, Lorenzo Romar might recruit it to play point guard. Traveling an estimated 271 miles in about 4 and half hours, the fiercest foe will not be the road, but the lingering Milwaukee hangover and Matt’s Jason Mraz playlist.
Mascot: The Panther. When I originally typed this, I accidentally wrote “Panter”, which of course is not the mascot. That’s a contact in Rick Pitino’s black book.
Forecast: Despite the local weatherman's best efforts to heat things up with a little innuendo, it’s going to be cold. Like sleeping with your best friend’s girl on the day his dog died and his parents split cold. The temperature calls for a high of 29 degrees and, with two of the nation’s top-3 scoring defenses battling inside, the shooting might be just as icy. Both teams allow only 55 points per game (UNI: 55.1, ODU: 55.8) and aren’t too shy about shooting the three (UNI: 18 per game, ODU: 15). However, rain is not expected in the forecast. At least not from Old Dominion, who shoots 30% from downtown. (That paragraph is dripping in more cheese than Milwaukee was, sorry.)
Notable Alumni: Northern Iowa’s alumni list is littered with former football players including former NFL MVPs Kurt Warner and Bryce Paup, making them one of only two schools to have both a defensive and offensive MVP as an alum. On the Old Dominion side, things are a little more eclectic as the Monarchs boast headband pioneer Chris Gatling, a Watergate burglar and the host of Cash Cab. If we were awarding points for flat tops, UNI would be the runaway winner. This is purely based on cultural impact, though, and the non-conference bragging rights go to Old Dominion.
Agenda: Besides not freezing to death, the agenda is simple. Soak up everything that is Northern Iowa University and get a first-hand look at two of the best mid-major (is that a dirty word in Cedar Falls?) teams in the country. If seeing these teams up close helps us earn a couple extra bucks in the office pool in March, then so be it. And if Drew tracks down this fellow CBSer and former UNI student, we'll apologize later. Just don't blame it on the Viva Laughlin guy. He's been through enough.
Cedar Falls, Iowa, let’s do this.