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 12, 2010 12:52 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2010 1:05 pm
Unlike their major conference brothers, the Big XII quarterfinals went as expected Thursday and held all the suspense of a gun battle on The A Team, with all four top seeds advancing to the semifinals. On Friday, the conference’s four ranked and already tournament bound teams will square off in games that matter only for seeding purposes. Here’s what you missed yesterday while you were threatening Elton John.
#1 Kansas 80, #9 Texas Tech 68
#4 Texas A & M 70, #12 Nebraska 64
#2 Kansas State 83, #7 Oklahoma State 64
#3 Baylor 86, #6 Texas 67
TEAM OF THE DAY
The Baylor Bears are for real. Thursday brought a change in repetitive college basketball phrase du jour from “passing the eye test” to some variation of how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season, thanks largely to Baylor’s attempt to beat Texas for the third time.
The Bears didn't make it look all that difficult. It might be time for a new phrase.
James was already losing it early in the second half, already getting into confrontations with Dunn and Carter on two occasions, when Dunn took the ball to the hole and made the layup and got fouled by James. Already being smothered by a Bears’ run, James went into meltdown mode and got T’ed up, went to the bench and screamed at teammates and was never remotely useful again.
Baylor will now face Kansas State in the semifinals, a team that has a very similar makeup to their own. The battle between the backcourts of Carter and Dunn and Jacobham Lincoln and Denis Clemente has the potential for some March magic. Make sure you tune in.
STUD OF THE DAY
If history is the best predictor of the future, then Jamar Samuels didn’t have a shot against Oklahoma State Thursday. In a loss to the Cowboys on January 23rd, the Kansas State sophomore fouled out in only 13 minutes and contributed an anemic 5 points and one lonesome rebound. On Thursday, though, Samuels got sweet revenge in the Wildcats’ blowout of Travis Ford’s team, pouring in 27 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. In an 8-minute frenzy at the end of the first half, the Wildcats put the Cowboys away for good behind 13 ofSamuels’ 21 first half points. That’s what you call solid bench play.
DUD OF THE DAY
Needing a win to secure themselves a spot in the NCAA tournament and facing a highly ranked team that they had already defeated, Oklahoma State had every reason to look forward to their game with Kansas State. Somewhere at around the 8:30 mark of the first half, though, Travis Ford’s squad crapped after cutting the Wildcat lead to 27-23. Kansas State closed the half on a 24-3 run and the Oklahoma State bench hung their mohawks in disappointment. After about 200 misses from downtown by James Anderson and 20 more minutes of inconsequential basketball, it was time to head back to Stillwater, one of the few places that make Kansas City appear as the “Paris of the Plains”. I expect defections.
2000: AN AFTERTHOUGHT
Kentucky was the first NCAA team to race past 2,000 wins earlier this year and celebrated with t-shirts, speeches from Adolph Rupp’s son and a dancing DeMarcus Cousins. North Carolina got theirs and hoped no one would notice how far they’d fallen, barely making mention. Kansas? They were somewhere in between the two when they wrapped up Win2K in Kansas City. They talked about the historical significance of the win, but made sure that everyone knew their focus went far beyond any pomp and circumstance (if any) that comes with that magical number.
STARS OF THE DAY
Jamar Samuels (Kansas State) - 27 points, 10 rebounds
LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor) - 19 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists
Cole Aldrich (Kansas) - 12 points, 18 rebounds, 3 blocks
Ekpe Udoh (Baylor) – 25 points, 8 rebounds
James Anderson (Oklahoma State) - 27 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen (Kansas State) – combined for 31 points and 13 assists
Donald Sloan (Texas A&M) – 23 points
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I think it does speak volumes worth of history and tradition of the program. We’re very proud of it. It hasn’t been a big point of emphasis for this team, but I think the guys respect the past enough to know it’s a big deal.” – Kansas coach Bill Self on getting win number 2000
THE DAY AHEAD
#1 Kansas vs. #4 Texas A&M (7:30 pm)
#2 Kansas State vs. #3 Baylor (9:00 pm)
Posted on: March 11, 2010 12:56 am
Edited on: March 11, 2010 7:18 am
While Texas’ 82-75 win behind Damion James’ 28 points and 16 rebounds will grab the headlines, the big winner might be the Iowa State basketball program, which showed the world through a competitive game Wednesday night that they actually do exist.
For a program that hasn’t made any post-season tournament since 2005 and has put together a combined 24-56 conference record in that time, never winning more than six Big 12 games in a season, it’s just nice to be noticed again. Losses are routine. Publicity is a blessing.
“Every year I have the same conversation with my parents,” Iowa State journalism major Nick McClanahan told CBS. “I tell them that I’m still covering Cyclone basketball for the school paper and my dad threatens to stop paying the tuition if I don’t stop lying to him. He says he knows they killed that program years ago. It’s frustrating.”
Does getting on television and possibly even making a page three story in the local paper help the program? McClanahan thinks so.
“At this point, I think any recognition is good recognition,” McClanahan explained. “I’m not sure what it will do for recruiting, but my dad might start visiting me again or stop calling my apartment collect on the rare occasion he wants to speak to me.”
McClanahan isn’t the only person on campus feeling the sting of the fall from grace of the Cyclone program, though. According to the school’s media relations department, the student body and community as a whole is suffering through the downturn in Iowa State’s basketball fortune and they’re doing their best to help them deal with their depression.
In a statement released to CBS, Iowa State said that counselors are available 24 hours a day to meet with students, faculty or any Iowa State fans living in the community. According to the statement, the losing is only part of the issue.
“With Larry Eustachy’s continued resurgence at Southern Miss, Marcus Fizer’s monthly contract in Mexico and Iowa State tranfer Wes Johnson helping Syracuse hunt for a national title, “ the statement read, “we understand the widespread depression and recognize that we must help those affected.”
The school says calls have flooded in over the past few weeks, but slowed on Wednesday night as Iowa State at least gave them a glimmer of hope. And at least a little bit of national recognition.
Texas might have advanced to play Baylor on Thursday, but Iowa State still scored themselves a victory.
Posted on: March 9, 2010 1:19 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 7:31 pm
The Big XII,despite the stigma of being a football conference and sounding like a name of a movie your company won't expense, has developed into quite the powerful basketball league over the past several seasons. This year appears to be no different as they enter the post-season with the nation’s top ranked team, three other teams in the top-25 and six teams likely to go dancing. Before they take on the world, though. a little intra-conference positioning is on tap. The Phillips 66 Big XII Tournament (no event is more married to their sponsor) gets underway tomorrow and there are a number of things that the casual observer must know. Study up.
Kansas City, Missouri, hosting their ninth Phillips 66 Big XII Tournament, is known as both the “BBQ Capital of the World” and the “Paris of the Plains”. The convergence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers originally attracted settlers to the area and KCMO was officially incorporated in 1850. That also marks the last time someone thought, “Hmmm. I think Kansas City might be a nice place to live.”
Names to Know
Sharon Collins – Collins is a delightful elderly lady who will be lingering in the bar of your hotel, sipping a 7-on-7 and working her way through three packs of Marlboro Reds. Often confused with Kansas point guard Sherron Collins, Sharon has developed some witty pick-up lines involving “ball handling” and “going to the rack”. Stay away.
Kim English – Not to be confused with Gary Parrish's Missouri man crush, natives of Kansas City know Kim English for exactly what it is – an institution of learning. Sue Ann Kim established Kim English in 2001 after relocating from Beijing and has now helped over 75 Chinese transplants gain American citizenship and master their new language.. 好！
Tiny Gallon – In basketball circles, Tiny Gallon is the freshman center for the Oklahoma Sooners. In Kansas City, though, tiny gallon has two completely different meanings. It’s most commonly (and most boringly) used a reference to anything smaller than 128 ounces. For example, you might tell the gas station attendant that their soda machine is out and he will reply, “Dammit son, just grab one of them tiny gallons in the cooler”. The less frequently used version in Kansas City is used as part of a phrase such as “Dang, did you see that tiny gallon the red dress? She must not be from ‘round here”. This variation often does not appear in Kansas City vernacular at all, making appearances only when a large amount of visitors come to town. Because women in Kansas City are fat.
Kansas – They entered the year at the top of the polls and ended the season still hugging the top spot. That’s certainly not a bad thing. In between, there were fights with the football team, DUIs, Facebook banishments and the worst free throw ever. And that’s just two players. They’re the favorites to win the national title so you have to figure they’re the favorites to win this tournament. I didn’t fact check that. I’m just assuming.
Kansas State – Just seven years removed from coaching a high school team, Frank Martin has Kansas State in national title contention thanks to the backcourt of Jacobham Lincoln and the world’s fastest basketball player/magician Denis Clemente. They dropped both games to Kansas this year but went undefeated against Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas this season. I would assume this, along with their #2 seed, makes them the second favorite.
Baylor – After slowly improving the past few years under Scott Drew and that Australian point guard, the Bears launched themselves onto the national scene this season thanks to Tweety Carter, the school’s first McDonald’s All-American, and LaceDarius Dunn, who’s name sounds like the sequel to this movie. Their road to the title likely goes through Texas, Kansas State and Kansas. They’re 2-0 against the Horns this year and 0-2 against Kansas’ finest, losing by 2 to the Wildcats and by 6 to the Jayhawks. Again, third in your program, third in your sports book.
#8 Colorado vs. #9 Texas Tech – Despite protests to just have their athletic directors debate whether athletes respond better to being enticed by sex, drugs and alcohol or by being locked in a closet, these teams will play an actual basketball game. The Buffaloes enter the tournament on a three-game winning streak and the Red Raiders, despite having a guy named Mike Singletary, have showed no backbone in losing seven in a row and nine of eleven. You sold on this one yet? No? Umm...there will be cheerleaders?
#5 Missouri vs. #12 Nebraska – Even The Scwab is going to sit this one out. You should too.
#7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Oklahoma – There will be plenty of hatred in the Sprint Center for this one and, for once, it won’t be because Oklahoma State is fighting each other. An in-state rivalry is just the kind of first-round sexiness this tournament needs. The key for Oklahoma State will be Big XII Player of the Year James Anderson, who topped the conference with 22 points per game. On the other side, Oklahoma freshman guard Tommy Mason-Griffin was the conference leader in tattoos per square inch. I don’t think that will be as useful in this matchup. It does bear noting, though.
#6 Texas vs. #11 Iowa State – The formerly top-ranked Longhorns are now the sixth-seed in the Big XII tournament after a road loss to Kansas State sent them spiraling into a 6-8 tailspin to finish the year. However, barring a disaster, Texas will slaughter the Cyclones and you’ll hear for the 450th time about Dexter Pittman's weight loss. What they won’t tell you, though, is that his excess weight stumbled across some radioactive contamination in a sewer and formed a living organism capable of transforming into actual size Tweety Carter, Tommy Mason-Griffin and Sherron Collins body doubles. This could pave the way for a Longhorn tourney run.
Rest of the Schedule
Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 11
No. 1 Kansas vs. CU/TTU winner 11:30 a.m.
No. 4 Texas A&M vs. MU/NU winner 2:00 p.m.
No. 2 Kansas State vs. OU/OSU winner 6:00 p.m.
No. 3 Baylor vs. ISU/UT winner 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals - Friday, March 12
Thursday afternoon winners 6:00 p.m.
Thursday evening winners 8:30 p.m.
Final - Saturday, March 13
Semifinal winners 5:00 p.m.