Thursday, March 15, 2012

March Madness Day 1 Recap

The first day of March Madness came and went and it went by with only one game that was worth watching, and one game that should have been if not for some awful officiating. The best game of the day was easily VCU-Wichita State which saw both teams trade baskets late. It also was the only game to go down to the last second, as Garrett Stutz of Wichita St missed a game-tying three. In other words, Shaka beat the Shockers. And while VCU might not go back to the Final Four, winning today will only make people believe that they are going back on that same run.

Something Stinks In Pittsburgh

Syracuse survived their matchup against UNC-Asheville and they can thank the men in stripes for that. The Bulldogs had a goaltending call and a lane violation go against them, but those are judgement calls. The worst came with 38.5 seconds left. Syracuse inbounds the ball and it goes out of bounds off Brandon Triche's hands. So, UNC-Asheville ball, right? Wrong, it goes back to the Orange. It's one thing if a foul was called, which could have been. If so, everyone would whine about UNC-Asheville getting a tough whistle and no one would care. By not call it a foul, and blatantly getting that call wrong, then the entire legitimacy of your officiating crew can be questioned and that's not something that should occur in a game like this. UNC-Asheville may not have won today, but they deserved a fair chance to go for it and they didn't get it. Disgraceful.

Defending Champs Bounced

UConn fell to Iowa State, ending their reign as National Champions. Expectations weren't high since this Huskies team overlooks opponents and did so tonight. Iowa State made a bunch of three's and though UConn fought back, they couldn't make it a game. Now, the future of the program is anyone's guess now that they are banned for the tourney in 2013.

Rest of the action:

The Big East had the worst day among the major conferences as West Virginia limp home after getting crushed by Gonzaga. The conference did get wins by Louisville and Marquette, joining Syracuse's win. The Mountain West also looked bad today as Colorado State and UNLV both lost, while New Mexico survived a scare against Long Beach State. UNLV was particularly dreadful as they chucked three's all night and allowed Colorado from the awful Pac-12 score a win. No other upsets occurred as Kentucky and Ohio State took care of business as 1 and 2 seeds respectively. Wisconsin and Vanderbilt set up their matchup with little fuss, while Baylor and Indiana didn't allow their games to get away from them. The other close game was Kansas State's win over Southern Miss, and that was because the Wildcats only had three guys score for them. They will need more to beat Syracuse, but I do think they are up for the task.

Just a reminder, I will be back to live blog the afternoon games once again tomorrow. Hopefully, we will have some better finishes (and the trend is Friday has good games after bad ones on Thursday). Although, without Gus Johnson, I can see the basketball gods as an angry sort and will dull the tourney so we can call it March Yawness.

March Madness Live Blog

Instead of a preview, I decided to live blog the first two days of the tournament. Especially as long as we're looking for great finishes. I will update my blog whenever anything interesting goes on, especially if there's a great finish brewing. Enjoy the best weekend in sports.

12:10 PM: For the record, my Final Four is Kentucky, Missouri, FSU and UNC. No true Cinderella's unfortunately.

12:15 PM: Bill Raftery says Murray State starts in the mantaman. March Madness officially begun. This means I should grab my first beer.

12:22 PM: First commercial break, Colorado State with a good start early, up 7-3. Murray State looks out of synch offensively.

12:26 PM: Murray State down 10-8. Meanwhile, it looks like Mario Williams will be heading to Buffalo. I can't wait to see how much money Williams will get to go there. I'm thinking Haynesworth money.

12:31 PM: Also, it looks like Dwight Howard is going to waive his ETO and remain with Orlando until the end of 2013. This officially the dumbest free agent situation in sports history.

12:38 PM: Murray State has finally arrived, ahead by 3 and we hear the Racers fans for the first time. Kansas St/So Miss is about to begin.

12:54 PM: So Miss and Kansas State has become a horrible rock fight. I thought I left those behind in the Big East Tournament.

1:02 PM: Halftime in Louisville, Colorado State is up 1. Get greeted by the first Napa commercial of the tourney. At least they aren't singing the song anymore (aside from a quick 3 second clip).

1:13 PM: Souther Miss is staying close to Kansas State. In more NBA news, Gerald Wallace will go to the Nets for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a top-3 protected first rounder. Wallace adds a scorer for the Nets, while the Blazers could be ready to rebuild with multiple lottery picks. Like it more for Portland.

1:23 PM: Is that Isaish Caanan steal and jam and omen for the second half?

1:30 PM: Southern Miss is somehow only down 3 at halftime. Murray starts the second half with a 7-0 run.

1:37 PM: Pierce Hornung has a beast of a name and is a beast among men today. 13 rebounds already. Too bad it's not translating for CSU.

1:41 PM: The Lakers trade a 1st round pick for Ramon Sessions. He's the missing point guard that will put the Lakers over the top, says no one.

1:42 PM: Zay Jackson with the interception and the trey. 16-2 to start the half by the Racers. Rams are falling apart.

1:52 PM: Louisville-Davidson has tipped. Now, how does Rick Pitino use his success in NYC to bust NCAA brackets this year?

1:55 PM: Caanan hasn't played well today. And Murray State is still up 11. I'd be afraid if I'm facing them in the future.

2:02PM: Missed FT's could comeback to haunt Murray State, as Colorado State is slowly starting to find offensive rhythm. Still up 12, so it's not time to worry.

2:10PM: You know, I always enjoy it when Nets fans are spoon fed how they will get star players and take over New York and buy it; then when the time comes to make a move, the Nets get guys like Travis Outlaw and Gerald Wallace. Deron Williams will look great in a Mavs uniform next season.

2:18PM: Murray State is about to advance. Wisconsin-Montana has tipped off and the Badgers have scored 14 points in 6 minutes. Didn't think they can do it.

2:23PM: Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez are carrying Kansas State. Can two guys win this game against So Miss? Will a third KSU player step up?

2:26 PM: These two trades involve guys who continue to be bongs which NBA teams pass around. Marcus Camby goes to the Rockets; Stephen Jackson goes from Golden State (days after the Warriors acquired him) to San Antonio for Richard Jefferson. I have no clue what the Warriors are thinking, but they have made some horrible deals in the last couple of years when the new ownership took over.

2:31 PM: Louisville took control late in the half, despite no Dieng. Up 8 at the break. Apparently, Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet are going to Portland for Camby. So now 2 of the first six picks in the 2009 NBA Draft have become throw-ins to make the cap work. In just three years.

2:42 PM: KSU up 62-59 with 2:25 left. First chance at a classic finish.

2:50 PM: Dodson's missed 3 means the Wildcats can wrap this up. As long as they make their FT's.

2:55 PM: K State wins by 6. Marquette with a quick start on BYU, just like Iona did. Don't think BYU will win if they go down 25 this time. Just a thought.

3:05 PM: Marquette up 18-5 now on BYU, while Louisville is up by 7. Derek Fisher has been traded to the Rockets, ending an era where PG's licked their chops when facing the Lakers. Still, will Sessions hit those backbreaking three's that Fisher can? And do so while leaving the same incredulous feeling of "how does he make this shot" that Fisher exuded.

3:14 PM: Won't you love how ESPN will treat today's NBA trade deadline like some major moves happened, when it really was just like the NHL's deadline?

3:22 PM: Louisville seem to be suffocating the life out of Davidson. They're up 12, but it feels like 22. Where Steph Curry when you need him? The Warriors ask themselves that same question.

3:40 PM: There is absolutely no close games right now. So it's time for a peak at Syracuse to see how long UNC-Asheville will last. Meanwhile, the Clippers acquired Nick Young from the Wizards in a three-way trade, which sees JaVale McGee go to Denver and Nene go to Washington.

3:43 PM: Some day in Portland; now the Blazers are firing coach Nate McMillan. Stealing all the thunder on NCAA games going on in the city. Time to build around LaMarcus Aldridge and I happen to like this decision.

3:59 PM: Louisville wins. Wisconsin's up 16 with 4:37 left. Marquette up 15 at halftime. Syracuse is the only game worth watch, trailing Asheville by 3. Too soon for upset talk, though.

4:09 PM: Asheville's guard Keith Hornsby is the son of singer Bruce Hornsby, singer of The Way It Is. That's fascinating.

4:20PM: Brandon Triche couldn't get the shot off before the clock expired. Instead of 2 and a possible foul, the Cuse will be down 4 at the half. Still too early to talk about 16 over 1 possibility. Let's wait until the 10 minute mark, or a double digit Asheville lead. Whichever comes first.

4:24 PM: I need to pay attention better. Read this tweet.

4:29PM: LBSU and New Mexico are underway. Meanwhile, BYU is once again rallying in the second half. If they win this game, I'll be afraid of BYU for the rest of the way.

4:38PM: Marquette starting to show that they won't allow BYU back in it. Starting to clamp down on defense.

4:47 PM: Darius Johnson-Odom does what Devante Gardner should have; kick out to open man for three. Marquette back up 13.

4:57 PM: Asheville won't go away yet. Harvard vs Harvard of the South is underway. I really want good things for Tommy Amaker's team, but Vanderbilt is a team I'm all-in on.

5:02 PM: UNC-Asheville up 1, J.P. Primm leads all with 14 points.

5:11 PM: Jaron Lane ties it again for Asheville. 54-54 with 6:21 left. Now we can start to picture the upset as possible.

5:20 PM: 3 for James Southerland. That has to be the dagger. Puts the Cuse up 8 with 2:24 left. UNC-Asheville gave it a good try.

5:23 PM: Syracuse fouls a 3-point shooter. Too bad it didn't fall or the lead would have been cut in half.

5:26 PM: Bulldogs don't quit, make 2 FT's, miss layup, but get the loose ball and timeout. Down 6 with 1:56 left.

5:29 PM: Great feed by Dickey to Atkinson. Asheville down 4.

5:32 PM: I can't believe they called a lane violation on Asheville. The fix is in.

5:33 PM: LANE FOR 3!!!!!!!!!! Bulldogs down 3 with a minute left. Unbelievable.

5:34 PM: This might be it. Though, Triche missed the FT after the layup. Asheville fouled with 38.2 left.

5:37 PM: I was kidding before about the fix. Now, I'm not after that missed out of bounds call. These refs today should be investigated and I'm serious.

5:42 PM: Syracuse barely, despite playing this game 8-on-5. This was a disgrace how UNC-Asheville wasn't allowed a chance to try to win.

5:53 PM: I'm trying to get more excited about New Mexico-Long Beach State, but the stink from Pittsburgh is still strong. I'll put an end to the live blog right here (especially with New Mexico opening things up). I'll be back for the night games.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

D'Antoni Resigns

Since the return of Carmelo Anthony, the NY Knicks have been 2-6 and it seems like this team that was thriving during the early days of Linsanity had Melo-ed out. This also coincided with the Knicks schedule becoming a little tougher and seeing Lin have some issues that most rookies would have. Unfortunately, instead of patience ruling the days, head coach Mike D'Antoni resigned.

Once again, the Knicks decide to panic over showing prudence. If D'Antoni stays for the season, perhaps they can regain the chemistry that was there during Anthony's injury. Perhaps Anthony, knowing that all of NYC has begun to turn on him, would become a team player in these proceedings. Instead, the Knicks front office have a "sky is falling" mantra and now they have probably made things worse for Melo here as the label "coach-killer" will be used to describe him. Unless of course, the Knicks plan to trade Melo in the next 24 hours.

So this is the end of the Mike D'Antoni Era; one which he should have never taken part in when the choice of jobs was Chicago when they were about to draft Derrick Rose (yes, he chose his team before the Draft Lottery, but he could have waited until then) and New York. He had two years which he seemingly could do nothing wrong since Donnie Walsh was more concerned with creating cap space for 2010. However, it seemed like D'Antoni wasn't getting the same treatment as he was continually criticized for the lack of defense the team had and that no matter which good players came into town after 2010, they wouldn't win if D'Antoni was coach.

The Mike D'Antoni Era ends without seeing the full potential of the system that had the Phoenix Suns at the cusp of a championship for three years. Always remember that the Suns never won because of Joe Johnson's injury in 2005, their cheap owner letting Johnson and Quentin Richardson go, while selling first round picks year after year, and Robert Horry checking Steve Nash into the scorers table when they were about to take control of their series with the Spurs in 2007. The Knicks only saw the positives with D'Antoni twice; the first half of 2009-10 before Jim Dolan decided to ruin it all to get Carmelo too soon and the first nine games of Linsanity, where Jeremy Lin looked the part of Steve Nash and the unselfishness was contagious.

Mike Woodson takes over as coach and unless something incredible happens, he won't be coach for a long time. Instead of building their way to a winner, what we now see of the Knicks is a team once again finding the fork in the road. And do Knicks fans really want Jim Dolan and Glen Grunwald, who we learned turned down this trade as GM of the Raptors, to decide that future. I know I don't.

As for D'Antoni, I know he'll be back in the NBA and he will do well in a less pressurized environment. His system can work in this league with the right point guard and as long as there some quality defensive players on the roster (like Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert showed here), an NBA title isn't a ridiculous thought. Best of luck Mike.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Cycle Bracketology

Today was a day that had more encouraging news for those on the bubble. Memphis beat Marshall and Long Beach St beat UC Santa Barbara to avoid bid thieves taking two spots away. Also, N.C. State lost to North Carolina and Ole Miss lost to Vanderbilt ending auto bid dreams for these two bubbles. Colorado won the Pac-12 title and it will be interesting if the selection committee treats the conference like it's a Power Six one or the way it should be treated, which is slightly better than the MAC.

For the first time, I'm going to try out creating my own rough bracket. It's going to be a little tough, since I'm also in process of moving just before the selection show, but here's it is.

1 seeds: Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan State
2 seeds: Missouri, Kansas, Ohio State, Duke
3 seeds: Baylor, Louisville, Michigan, Marquette
4 seeds: Florida State, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Indiana
5 seeds: New Mexico, Murray State, Florida, UNLV
6 seeds: Cincinnati, San Diego State, Memphis, Vanderbilt
7 seeds: Creighton, Notre Dame, Wichita State, St. Mary's
8 seeds: Temple, Saint Louis, Iowa State, Gonzaga
9 seeds: UConn, Alabama, Purdue, Kansas State
10 seeds: Xavier, Harvard, Southern Miss, Long Beach State
11 seeds: Texas, BYU, Colorado State, West Virginia
12 seeds: Virginia, VCU, Seton Hall, Drexel*, N.C. State*
13 seeds: Ohio, Colorado, Davidson, California*, Iona*
14 seeds: Belmont, South Dakota State, New Mexico State, Montana
15 seeds: Detroit, Loyola, LIU, Lehigh
16 seeds: Western Kentucky*, Norfolk St*, Mississippi Valley St.*, Vermont*, Lamar, UNC-Asheville

*play-in game

(if St. Bonaventure beats Xavier in A-10 title game, they're a 13 seed and Iona is out)

(Ohio State win over Michigan State means Missouri's a number 1)

(Florida State moves to a 3 if they beat UNC)

(Vandy moves to a 5 w/win over Kentucky)

(bracket not adjusted for NCAA rules)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Conference USA Title Game

That was the result of the Big East Semifinals, as Cincinnati held off Syracuse; handing the Orange their second loss of the year, while Louisville romped Notre Dame in the other. For the Bearcats, this is their first Big East title game, while Louisville is in it's third in four years. We'll see for sure if the Cardinals will maintain their dominance of MSG tomorrow night, or if Yancy Gates, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright lead Cincinnati to their first title.

Mixed Day In The Bubble

Today was also a chance to see if bubble teams would take advantage of opportunities or fail at them like Thursday. Xavier probably locked up a bid and eliminated Dayton in the process with their comeback win over the Flyers. N.C. State, while maybe not locked in a berth, put themselves in good shape after defeating Virginia. Meanwhile, you saw bubble teams Miami-FL, Tennessee and St. Joseph's go into shaky ground (in the case of St. Joes, they are probably out) with losses.

The bigger story was the number of high seeds losing, opening up potential bubble thieves. Temple lost to UMass, setting up a matchup with St. Bonaventure; neither of whom will make it unless they win the A-10 tourney. That makes the winner of Saint Louis-Xavier a team the bubble world will be strongly pulling for. America's favorite conference, the Pac-12, saw California go down to Colorado, which now essentially guaranteeing a second bid for either the Buffaloes or Arizona. Finally, in Conference USA, their real title game features Memphis against Marshall, a game in Memphis which the Tigers must win for all bubble teams. Will any of these teams lose? A better question; will Nevada still be in line for an at-large bid after losing today? And lastly, is Long Beach St in the tourney as of right now, win or lose tomorrow? These are questions to be answered Saturday and you will see me put together a bracket for the first time.

Rock Fights Galore

This year's Big East Tournament has devolved into a bunch of low-scoring defensive performances that are offensive to most basketball fans (but likely thrillers for Big Ten fans). While these games are exciting toward the end, they are also sloppy. This year's tourney has me wondering if any Big East teams will make it past the first weekend of the Big Dance.

UConn and Syracuse was the best of these games as each team took turns going on runs and countering them. Turns out that UConn couldn't find someone to put the ball in the basket late, while James Southerland continuously made shots late to give the Orange the W. Cincinnati and Georgetown was a little uglier as the Hoyas made one shot in the last 10 minutes of the second half, until Otto Porter hit the tying jumper to force OT. It then became a battle between Yancy Gates and Henry Sims, trading buckets in both overtimes, until Cashemere Wright hit the winning shot late in double OT and Sims missed a 3. The worst of these games was South Florida-Notre Dame who's display of basketball harkened back to the George Mikan days. But someone had to win and the Irish prevailed. South Florida is back on the bubble, but if anyone watches the Bulls play, I wouldn't let them in.

Pitino's Garden Magic

The one game which saw some scoring was Louisville-Marquette, as the Cardinals won handily 84-71. The Golden Eagles were in trouble once Jae Crowder was in foul trouble and it didn't help that Kyle Kuric and Peyton Siva played very well. Rick Pitino once again outcoached his opponent (tough to do against Buzz Williams) and has Louisville a game from their third Big East final in the last 4 years. And to think, if Louisville had any consistent perimeter shooting, they'd be a real contender to win the whole thing this year. They may have to settle for winning at MSG.

The Incredible Expanding Bubble

Great day for West Virginia and Seton Hall as bubble teams had their chances either popped or put on life support. This year's Pac-12 was horrible and Washington couldn't just rest on its laurels as regular season conference champ if they wanted to make the Dance. So what do they do; blow a six point lead with 3:22 left against Oregon St, giving the committee a test case. Do they pick the Huskies because their Pac-12 champs or treat them like they would the MAC in this situation. Other bubbles losing; Mississippi State finishes their collapse as they fall to lowly Georgia; Oregon torpedoes their chances by dropping their first round game with Colorado and Northwestern doesn't appear to be breaking their 0-fer in NCAA Tourney play, losing to Minnesota in OT. Congrats to Southern Miss, Colorado State and Texas for winning yesterday and likely playing their way in. Today, we watch if Tennessee, Miami, NC State and Arizona can keep at large chances alive, while a proverbial play-in game for Xavier and Dayton takes place tonight.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Playing The Waiting Game

For the 19th straight year, Seton Hall won't win the Big East Tournament, losing to Louisville 61-55. Now, they must wait until Sunday for their NCAA fate, but if you ask me, they're out. If they don't make it, they can just look back on their losses to Rutgers and DePaul as why they're out. If they only win one, they probably go.

Seton Hall games this season have gone one of two ways. When they hit some shots from outside, they can not just win, but dominate games (look at the games against West Virginia, UConn at home and Georgetown). And when they aren't hitting them, they have some of the most brutal offensive displays imaginable. Up until the midway point of the 2nd half, that was the game we saw, until Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope tried to rally the team back. It was a valiant effort on the seniors' part, but unfortunately, it won't be enough to impress the committee. We'll revisit this team on Sunday when the field is easier to decipher, but it doesn't look good for my alma mater.

Survive And Advance

While Seton Hall put their basketball lives on the line, South Florida avoided a crippling loss to Villanova, which would have put them right on the same level as Seton Hall, and despite beating the Pirates, the Bulls have a worse profile to stand on. Instead, they handcuffed the Wildcats like they have everyone else they've beaten in the Big East this year. Now, they get a matchup with Notre Dame which gives USF a chance to lock up a bid for the tournament if they win. A loss puts them right alongside Seton Hall and West Virginia who will be sweating it out until Sunday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

UConn Survives

Wednesday's early session of the Big East Tournament saw UConn outlast West Virginia in overtime. This win locks up a bid for UConn in the Big Dance, while the Mountaineers will have to wait until Sunday to see if their Dance-worthy. Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb were huge, Lamb in the back and forth first half, then Napier making big plays on defense in the second to rally the Huskies, then the winning three by Lamb in OT which clinched it. Meanwhile, Andre Drummond shut down and shut out Kevin Jones in the second half and OT; not allowing him to get the ball. This loss ends the Big East era for West Virginia, who will be missed in my eyes.

Panthers Run Is Over

Georgetown handled the Pitt Panthers today 64-52 and that was significant because with this loss, a ten year run of Pitt making the NCAA Tourney is over. It also means that millions of people won't have their brackets blown up because of an early round Pitt loss. Georgetown moves on to face Cincinnati, which helps the Bearcats avoid a must-win game. Losing to Georgetown wouldn't hurt Cincy, should it happen.

Going to Temple

Temple officially will be in the Big East next year, replacing West Virginia. If this was a relationship, this is like being dumped because you're ugly and fat, then you lose weight (still not the most attractive, though), while the ex gets fat and wants you back. Usually, you should say no, but Temple couldn't resist. While football is barely relevant, basketball should be able to be just as good, maybe slightly better, especially with Temple-Villanova looking like a great conference rivalry.

No Popping of Bubbles

The Big East Tourney started yesterday and UConn and Seton Hall both had bubble hopes that would have been dashed with a loss. Luckily, for both, we saw the Huskies and Pirates dominate their games and avoiding a bubble losing loss. Seton Hall, in particular, added a little drama by letting Providence take an 9-0 lead to start the game, before finishing the first half outscoring the Friars 36-14. We saw a lot of Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope in this game, as Theodore set a career high with 13 assists, but also, Brandon Mobley was instrumental early to pull Seton Hall out of the early rut.

Disappointments Survive

Pittsburgh and Villanova both had awful seasons, but get to continue them after the Panthers knocked off St. John's and the Wildcats defeated Rutgers. Pitt turned their game around late in the first half, ending it on a 13-2 run and never looked back. Meanwhile, Villanova rallied in the second half, overwhelming the Scarlet Knights after Maalik Wayns dropped 28 points on them.

Wednesday's Next

The second round will begin at noon. Pittsburgh will continue their quest to steal a NCAA bid when they play Georgetown. Meanwhile, the other three games will have major bubble implications. South Florida will play Villanova and the Bulls aren't in a position to lose this game. A win, and I say USF is in, but a loss will make they sit and wait on Sunday. Seton Hall needs to beat Louisville after the losses they suffered to Rutgers and DePaul. Rick Pitino says the Pirates are in; does he know something we don't? Should I take the points tonight? Finally, the opener today will have UConn and West Virginia face off. Will the loser stay in the tournament? I think if UConn loses, they will stay because they have great computer numbers. West Virginia should also stay, but they will be more vulnerable to bubble thieves than UConn will.