March Madness: Inside look

Random thoughts….. Has Gus Johnson announced every game so far? Seems like it…. I absolutely loved having the option to watch any game, all of it,  without someone else controlling my remote!  The live look-in’s are fine, but just like any other game in another other sport, once it starts, I want the option to watch it in its entirety- success. Despite some negative reviews, I enjoyed the First Four. The 64 vs 65 play-in game of recent years was a faliure, now we get some meat with those “last four in” majors going head to head.

Lets take a look at the winners. Obviously Richmond with two teams in the sweet 16 is in heaven. 11 seed VCU has roared to the Sweet Sixteen with convincing wins over USC, Georgetown and Purdue, no easy task. #12 Richmond also impressive, shocking Louisville out of the gate, then beating sleeper favorite Moorehead State. The ACC is also holding its head high this week After a “down” season, three of the four are still alive in Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.  The Seminoles very impressive in the upset of #2 Notre Dame.  Hats off to the Mountain West, #2 San Diego State and #3 BYU very much alive to keep run going. Lastly, Butler, last season’s Cinderella is at it again. The Bulldogs surviving last second wins against both Old Dominion and #1 Pittsburgh.

We need to start in the Big East when discussing the losers thus far. Yes, the city of Richmond  has as many teams left as the mighty Big East. Eleven teams began the tournament, the lowest seed of them all, Marquette, is still alive. Some credit must be given I assume to #3 Syracuse and Cincinnati who fell to conference mates. Expectations were not high for the Pac-1012, but they are very fortunate that Arizona survives for another day. The Big 12 can’t feel good about things, #1 seed Kansas has advanced, but lets face it, their path is nowhere near what teams face in the East Regional.

While I don’t believe player performance in post season play can severely cripple value, it certainly can be enhanced. Example, Butler forward Gordon Hayward a year ago. Drafted in the 1st round by Utah, not a chance that happens without Butler’s run to the title game. Arizona forward Derek Williams’ stock continues to sky rocket. An athletic, versatile power forward, Williams has added an effective perimeter game and would be worthy  of the #1 overall pick. Duke guard Kyrie Irving gambled a bit by returning from injury, if he helps the Blue Devils to Houston, he could also  be #1 overall. Two mid major stars BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard are also on the rise due to strong play against major competition. One player who could have improved his draft stock was Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough.  Projected as a late 2nd round pick at best, The Big East player off the year could have enhanced his status, but the Irish 2nd round defeat didn’t help.

Sweet 16 on the tube


715pm San Diego State vs Connecticut (CBS)

727pm Florida vs Brigham Young (TBS)

945pm Duke vs Arizona (CBS)

957pm Wisconsin vs Butler (TBS)


715pm UNC vs Syracuse (CBS)

727pm Kansas vs Richmond (TBS)

945pm Ohio St vs Kentucky (CBS)

957pm Florida St vs VCU (TBS)

March Madness: Sweet 16

Wow, surprise, surprise, surprise!  Six of the top 16 seeds fail to make it to week two including a #1 in Pittsburgh and a #2 Notre Dame, both from the Big East. We also have three double digit seeds in the Sweet 16, Virginia Commonwealth, Richmond and Marquette.

My own bracket took a major hit early with Louisville going down, I still had a chance to compete until my “sleeper” Kansas State lost and it all came crashing down when my title selection from Syracuse tumbled.

East Regional:

Ohio State vs Kentucky– Can anyone stop the Buckeyes? So far, the strategy has been to sag and prevent Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale from killing you in the paint…. fail.  Jon Diebler has been deadly from long range, and if you pay too much attention to him, William Buford puts on a show. The Wildcats looked good in the win over West Virginia, but I don’t see anyone stopping the Buckeye express.

Marquette vs UNCMarquette shocked #3 Syracuse in one of many Big East battles across the tournament. The Golden Eagles will have to stay hot from the perimeter to compete. The Tar Heels will try to lure them into a run and gun affair, with Harrison Barnes leading the way. Freshman  point Kendall Marshall will be tasked with keeping bigs Tyler Zeller and John Henson involved. UNC survives another close one.

West Regional:

Connecticut vs San Diego State– The Huskies survived a Big East rematch with Cincinnati, U Conn’s 7th game in 12 days!  Kemba Walker seems possessed and committed to get U Conn to Houston, but the key may be big Alex Oriakhi in the paint.  The Aztecs survived a marathon with Temple and will rely on superstar Kawhi Leonard. Playing in SoCal will help SD State, but may not be enough.

Duke v Arizona – Can the Blue Devils repeat? The chances almost ended in the narrow win over Michigan. Super Frosh Kyrie Irving hit the biggest shot of the game, his only points from the floor. I am really beginning to like the Wildcats, especially big time forward Derek Williams. Williams converted a three point play in Arizona’s miraculous last second comeback over Texas. In the end though, Duke is too balanced and too deep.

Southwest Regional:

Kansas vs Richmond– The Morris and Morris show continues, twins Marcus and Markieff with far too much for the Illini.  The Jayhawks can shoot and rebound and continued focus will land them in the Final Four. The Spiders will again be a heavy underdog, a roll they cherish. Richmond will need to shoot lights out from three point land to keep it close.

VCU vs Florida State– The Rams and Seminoles arrive in San Antonio after upset second round victories. VCU pounded heavily favored Purdue while FSU surprised #2 seed Notre Dame. The Seminoles are extremely athletic and defensive minded, and if they shoot like they did against the Fighting Irish, nobody may beat them.

Southeast Regional:

Butler vs Wisconsin – What can you say about the end of that Butler-Pittsburgh game? The Bulldogs gave the game away only to have the Panthers give it back, all in the last two seconds. Butler’s spiritual leaders is Matt Howard while their ultimate success lies with the shooting of Shelvin  Mack.  The Badgers held off Kansas State and are hard to figure. I gotta go with Butler to grind it out.

BYU vs Florida What’s not to like about Jimmer Fredette? In my mind, the most entertaining player in the college game. The Cougars absolutely blew out a solid Gonzaga team.  At some point the loss of Brandon Davies’ banging underneath will be felt, this may be the game.  The Gators may be the hottest team around down the stretch and their front line will be too imposing to overcome.

Play resumes on Thursday and Friday, the Elite eight over the weekend, then on to the Final Four!

March Madness: West Regional


Breaking news yesterday from the West Regional that impacts the entire tournament. With Coach K confirming that superstar guard Kylie Irving was likely to play pushes Duke into the role of heavy favorite at least in my bracket. Irving who has been out since December 4th with a toe injury is now practicing full bore with the Blue Devils. How good is the kid? How about good enough to be the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft this summer.

Duke fans will have a long way to travel as the West will decide its Final Four entry in Anaheim, California. Early games are in Charlotte, Tuscon, Tulsa and Washington DC.

1st round

#1 Duke over #16 Hampton– Play this one 100 times and the result would be the same, especially now (Kylie). Irving and Nolan Smith along with Kyle Singler on the perimeter is flat out scary.

#2 San Diego State over #15 Northern Colorado– The Bears moved up to Division 1 just four years ago, unfortunate match up against the most underrated team with most underrated superstar in the country.

#3 Connecticut over #14 Bucknell– The Bison have won 23 of their last 25 games, but lets face it, its the Patriot league vs the Big East here.

#4 Texas over #13 Oakland– I went with the Longhorns here but the Golden Grizzlies are not afraid of anyone. Oakland played five ranked teams in December, including a win over Tennessee and a narrow loss to Michigan State.

#12 Memphis over #5 ArizonaUPSET ALERT The Wildcats are led by one of the most unknown super stars in the country in Derek Williams. However, going with the Tigers here as Arizona hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season.

#6 Cincinnati over #11 Missouri– The improved play of big man Yancy Gates has made all the difference for the Bearcats. The Tigers are one of the few remaining hectic full court press teams left in the country and are fun to watch.

#7 Temple over #10 Penn State– Please don’t let this be the regional game shown in my market!

#9 Tennessee over #8 Michigan– I’d like to go with the Wolverines here based on the superb “Fab Five” production, but since Michigan doesn’t acknowledge it happened, we go with the Vols!

2nd round

#1 Duke over #9 Tennessee– Scotty Hobson and Tobias Harris are as a dynamic one-two punch as there is in the country, but hoops is a five man game and the Blue Devils are loaded.

#2 San Diego State over #7 Temple– The Owls closed strong winning 11 of 12 with only loss to Duke. Temple over matched especially with two starters injured.

#3 Connecticut over #6 Cincinnati– Big East battle will be a joy to watch. Honestly anything could happen in this one, but when in doubt go with the Kemba show.

#12 Memphis over #4 Texas– UPSET ALERT The Longhorns were flat down the stretch of the regular season. At least they don’t go down in 1st round like they did last year to Wake Forest.

West Regional Semifinals

#1 Duke over #12 Memphis- The Tigers start four guards and four freshman, so the magic ends here. Irving’s return gives the Blue Devils incredible depth in the back court with Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry coming off the bench.

#3 Connecticut over #2 San Diego StateUPSET ALERT Hard to go against the Aztecs who will have the home court advantage, but Connecticut made a statement in Big East tourney and Kemba Walker will put on a show.

West Regional Final

#1 Duke over #3 Connecticut– Duke going with both Plumlee’s in the starting lineup strengthens their only weakness. Ryan Kelly very versatile off the bench with the ability to fill in across the front court. Don’t forget Kelly was the slam dunk and 3 point champion as a high school senior.

March Madness: Southwest Regional

Headlining the South West region are top seed Kansas and #2 Notre Dame. The Jayhawks have  much to prove after falling in 2nd round a year ago to Northern Iowa.  The 16th and final spot in the South West region will be decided tonight as Southern California takes on Virginia Commonwealth in Dayton, Ohio in a “First Four” play in game*. The South West Final Four representative will be decided at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Early round games take place in Chicago, Tulsa and Denver.

1st round:

#1 Kansas over #16 Boston University– KU rolls into its 22nd straight tournament coming off their seventh straight Big 12 crown.

#2 Notre Dame over #15 Akron– Irish proved they were for real with the win at Pittsburgh.

#3 Purdue over #14 St.Peters– Solid season for the Boilermakers led by Big 10 player of the year JaJuan Johnson.

#4 Louisville over #13 Moorehead State– Louisville has its hands full with Kenneth Faried who led the nation in rebounding and field goal percentage.

#12 Richmond over # 5 Vanderbilt– UPSET ALERT The Spiders Princeton offense give the Commodores fits.

#6 Georgetown over *Play In– Hoyas get point guard Chris Wright back from wrist injury who makes them click.

#10 Florida State over #7 Texas A&M– Seminoles bolstered by Chris Singleton’s return from injury.

#9 Illinois over #8 UNLV– Lon Kruger falls to his former team. The defensive minded Runnin Rebels just don’t have enough offense.

2nd round:

#1 Kansas over #9 Illinois– Bill Self defeats his former team. The Illini seemed headed for big things after wins over UNC and Gonzaga before the New Year, but went 11-12 rest of way.

#2 Notre Dame over #10 Florida State– Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough leads the senior laden Irish.

#6 Georgetown over #3 Purdue– UPSET ALERT Might have been different had the Boilermakers had injured star Robbie  Hummel.

#4 Louisville over #12 Richmond– The one-two punch of Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper get the Spiders into second round, but Cardinals have way too much depth.

SW Semfinals:

#4 Louisville over #1 Kansas– UPSET ALERT Louisville can beat anyone on a given night, with signature wins over Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Connecticut. Streaky three point shooting, depth and defense get it done for Rick Pitino.

#2 Notre Dame over #6 Georgetown- The Irish can score with anyone, ask Villanova about the 25 three pointers the Irish rained down on them. Notre Dame is deep, can play defense and is clutch in close games.

SW Final:

#2 Notre Dame over #4 Louisville– The Irish return to the Final Four for only the second time, the first since the Digger Phelps era.

March Madness: First Four

Did you catch the “First Four” last night?  One great game and one blowout.  In the opener in Dayton, Ohio, North Carolina-Asheville defeated Arkansas-Little Rock in overtime. Their reward? An opening round date with #1 seed Pittsburgh! In the second game, as expected, Clemson blew out Alabama-Birmingham. The Tigers advance to take on West Virginia in the main draw. Play continues tonight as Texas San Antonio plays Alabama State with the winner getting top overall seed Ohio State next. In the nighcap, an interesting battle with Southern California up against Virgina Commonwealth. The Trojans have been the definition of inconsistent. USC’s signature wins include Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, Arizona and Washington.  Southern Cal Coach Kevin O’Neill returns after a brief suspension to lead the 19-14 Trojans. VCU shocked favorite George Mason in their conference tournament to earn an invite, the first time three teams from the Colonial Athletic Conference received bids. Georgetown awaits the winner of that matchup.

If you watched last night, what were your thoughts of the TruTV coverage. It was a blend of CBS and TNT with the network blending the usual suspects of College Basketball like Jim Nantz with NBA holdovers including Charles Barkley. I thought the coverage was good overall but the mix of hosts seemed a bit akward.

Almost all bracket pools do not include any of these games, so tonight (and tomorrow morning) is your last chance to fill out your brackets. With that in mind, here are some trends to keep in mind.

-A #1 seed has never lost its 1st game since the tourney expanded to 64.

-Its been 10 years since a #2 seed lost its first game.

-12 seeds are most likely to post 1st round upset (23 in past 26 tourneys)

-One of top 4 seeds will fall before Sweet 16 (90 of last 104 chances)

-Don’t pick all #1’s for the Final Four (only happened once ever)