You Go Girlfriend

Surely by now you’ve heard about or seen the girl who won the McDonald’s All-American game dunk contest.
Like most people, I was very curious, so I checked it out tonight.
It was exactly what I expected. An absolute joke.
Look, I’m not one of these slackjawed mouthbreathers who thinks that women shouldn’t be playing sports. I like women’s basketball. I think Title IX is a good thing.
But women’s sports don’t need to be exactly like men’s. They’re different and they always will be. And that’s OK. Women don’t have to dunk to make their game good. They don’t need to have TV ratings to make their game good. Real sport isn’t about SportsCenter highlights.
Back to Candace Parker. She’s obviously a great, great player, and she’s a great athlete. But she can barely dunk. I’m about three inches shorter than she and when I was her age, I could dunk like her. And believe you me, I wasn’t about to enter any contests against All-Americans. I was just happy to impress the other non-athletic white boys around me.
Clearly, the only reason she got out of the first round was because she’s a girl. Is that really what women want? Do they want people to smile at them and say, “that was great honey, for a girl?” Because that’s what happened. She didn’t triumph, she was patronized. If anything, she set the women’s game back, because actual basketball fans will see through the scam in about half a second.
Update – What Jason Whitlock said.

Good vs Evil

Like many college basketball fans these days, Chris Chase thinks that Mike Krzyzewski is evil. Unlike most of the other frothing haters though, Chris has the common sense to see that Coach K is a hell of a good coach. Chris even had the integrity to publicly admit it. If you haven’t seen his blog before, give it a read. He’s damn funny.
NCAA stats
When I watch the NCAA tourney, I’m always keenly aware of how the various conferences are doing. Maybe it’s because my team, Virginia, hasn’t been a consistent contender for a long time, but I root hard for all the ACC teams. I generally pull for teams from the other conferences to lose, even if it upsets my pool picks.
When I’m trying to get a guage on which conference is having the best year, I use two measures. The first is very simple – total wins. It’s the number of teams your conference has sent home. Teams that lose in the first round have no bearing on this value. The other measure is slightly more complicated and does take into account the total number of teams in the tournament. I multiply the number of bids received by the overall win percentage of the conference. That way, you get credit for having many teams, even if several lose in the first round.
Looking back on the past 15 years, you’ll see that the ACC led in wins five times, including this year. The ACC led in Ratio six times. The SEC, Big 10 and Pac 10 all led in wins three times. The Big 10 led in Ratio four times.
In those 15 years, only once, in 2003, was the ACC clearly the weakest power conference.
The ACC never once had a record of less than .500 (and was .500 only once).
The Pac 10’s performance this year, only three bids and one win, is the worst of any major conference in the past 15 years. The next closest was the Big 10’s nightmare of 1995 when they got six teams in, but only won one game.
Here is a chart (big thanks to Charlie Board and his awesome site) of all the results by conference since 1990. The leader in wins and ratio for each year is bolded. You’ll probably want to set your browser to full screen to see this, as it’s pretty wide.

 

ACC

SEC

Pac 10

Big 10

Big East

Big 8/12

Year

Bids

W-L

%

Ratio

Bids

W-L

%

Ratio

Bids

W-L

%

Ratio

Bids

W-L

%

Ratio

Bids

W-L

%

Ratio

Bids

W-L

%

Ratio

2004

6

13-4

0.764

4.58

6

7-6

0.538

3.23

3

1-3

0.250

0.75

3

3-3

0.500

1.50

6

10-5

0.667

4.00

4

9-3

0.750

3.00

2003

4

5-4

0.556

2.22

6

6-6

0.500

3.00

5

6-5

0.545

2.73

5

8-5

0.615

3.08

4

12-3

0.800

3.20

6

14-6

0.700

4.20

2002

4

10-3

0.769

3.08

6

5-6

0.454

2.72

6

9-6

0.600

3.60

5

9-5

0.643

3.22

6

6-6

0.500

3.00

6

13-6

0.684

4.10

2001

6

11-5

0.688

4.13

6

5-6

0.454

2.72

5

13-5

0.722

3.61

7

10-7

0.588

4.12

5

5-5

0.500

2.50

6

3-6

0.333

2.00

2000

3

7-3

0.700

2.10

6

11-6

0.647

3.88

4

4-4

0.500

2.00

6

15-5

0.750

4.50

5

8-5

0.615

3.08

6

9-6

0.600

3.60

1999

3

7-3

0.700

2.10

6

10-6

0.625

3.75

4

1-4

0.200

0.80

7

13-7

0.650

4.55

5

10-4

0.714

3.57

5

4-5

0.444

2.22

1998

5

10-5

0.667

3.34

5

7-4

0.636

3.18

4

11-4

0.733

2.93

5

7-5

0.583

2.92

5

7-5

0.583

2.92

4

2-4

0.333

1.33

1997

6

8-6

0.571

3.43

5

5-5

0.500

2.50

5

13-4

0.765

3.83

6

7-6

0.538

3.23

4

5-4

0.556

2.22

5

7-5

0.583

2.92

1996

6

6-6

0.500

3.00

4

14-3

0.824

3.30

4

3-4

0.429

1.72

5

2-5

0.286

1.43

5

12-5

0.706

3.53

4

4-4

0.500

2.00

1995

4

11-4

0.733

2.93

5

11-5

0.688

3.44

5

9-4

0.692

3.46

6

1-6

0.143

0.86

4

6-4

0.600

2.40

5

8-5

0.615

3.08

1994

5

10-5

0.667

3.34

4

12-3

0.800

3.20

4

4-4

0.500

2.00

7

11-7

0.611

4.28

6

8-6

0.571

3.43

4

6-4

0.600

2.40

1993

6

14-5

0.737

4.42

4

8-4

0.667

2.67

3

3-3

0.500

1.50

5

10-5

0.667

3.34

3

2-3

0.400

1.20

6

5-6

0.455

2.73

1992

5

12-4

0.750

3.75

4

6-4

0.600

2.40

4

4-4

0.500

2.00

5

14-5

0.737

3.69

5

5-5

0.500

2.50

6

5-6

0.455

2.73

1991

6

13-5

0.722

4.33

5

2-5

0.286

1.43

4

3-4

0.429

1.72

5

6-5

0.545

2.73

7

11-7

0.611

4.28

3

7-3

0.700

2.10

1990

5

14-5

0.737

3.69

3

3-3

0.500

1.50

4

4-4

0.500

2.00

7

8-7

0.533

3.73

6

7-6

0.538

3.23

4

2-4

0.333

1.33

Final Four is Set

One of the interesting things about college basketball is that it’s the only major sport I can think of where there’s a universally agreed upon threshold of success below winning the championship. Sure, teams and coaches want to win NCAA titles, but more often you hear about the Final Four. At the beginning of the year, prognosticators pick their Final Four. The top coaches are measured by the number of Final Fours they’ve reached. Top players talk about wanting to play in a Final Four. It’s almost as if just reaching that level is good enough even if you don’t go on to the title. Almost.
So, this year’s group of teams who reached their preseason goal is set. Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Duke all won their regionals this weekend and are headed to San Antonio.
UConn won by completely dismantling happy-to-be-here Alabama in the first game of the weekend. The game was over by halftime, when UConn was ahead by 24 points. The Huskies were never challenged in four straight games, none against a ranked opponent. Obviously, UConn is playing very well, but just how well is difficult to judge. I still think they’re the favorite, but I think they would have been better off if they’d have beaten at least one really good team instead of several pretty good teams who had been on hot streaks.
Oklahoma State beat sentimental favorite St. Joseph’s in a great game Saturday night. It was tough to see St. Joes lose. They really had a remarkable team that played the game the way it should be played. They never woofed, they never whined, they never flinched. When opponents fell, Jameer Nelson would help them up. He’d pat opponents on the butt when they made a good play. You just don’t see that kind of sportsmanship anymore. But, they lost to a damn good team. Oklahoma really has a complete team, with quickness, shooting, defense and strength. I can’t bring myself to feel too good about Eddie Sutton, but the man is a hell of a coach. I just wish he still had the big perm.
Today’s games were both nail biters and of course I was psyched to see the ACC take them both. Jarrett Jack was incredible in the first game. He gave Georgia Tech everything it needed to win that game. He scored, he passed, he got rebounds. Did you see that play in OT where they brought Schenscher up high and Jack went low and posted Miles up for a hoop? The man can do it all!
The Duke – Xavier game was every bit as close as the Georgia Tech – Kansas game. Closer even, although it didn’t go to overtime. Neither team played a very pretty game, but that was mostly due to good defense on both sides. It was a slugfest and it just turned out that Duke hit the key shots late. Obviously it really hurt Xavier when their main big man, Anthony Myles, fouled out after getting two quick whistles. The conspiracy theorists will all swear that the fix was in, but he really committed a dumb foul for his fifth one, clearly shoving Sheldon Williams right in front of the ref. They rarely miss it when players in good rebounding position suddenly go flying forward. (psst – hey conspiracy boys – before you get too worked up, check the box score. 23 fouls on Duke and 21 on Xavier).
The ACC has two teams in the Final Four for the fifth time overall and fourth since 1990. Since 1990, the ACC has had nearly as many Final Four entrants (17) as the next best two conferences (the SEC has 9 and the Big Ten 10) combined.
I’ll have more tourney stats later in the week showing just how strong the ACC has been this year and in the past.
Tournament peformance by conference

 

NCAA NIT Total Postseason

Conference

Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win %

ACC

6 13-4 .764 2 2-2 .500 8 15-6 .714

Conference USA

6 4-6 .400 2 3-2 .600 8 7-8 .467

Big East

6 10-5 .667 4 9-3 .750 10 19-8 .704

Big Ten

3 3-3 .500 3 3-2 .600 6 6-5 .545

Big Twelve

4 9-3 .750 5 6-4 .600 9 15-7 .682

Pac 10

3 1-3 .250 1 3-0 1.000 4 4-3 .571

SEC

6 7-6 .538 3 0-3 .000 9 7-9 .438

Sweet Sixteen – Day Two

Obviously, I’m getting to this write-up a little late, as the Saturday games have already been played. Let’s pretend that hasn’t happened yet, shall we?
Midnight Strikes
Pop. UAB turned back into a pumpkin against Kansas. UAB’s modern version of Forty Minutes of Hell was a great story last weekend, but given five days to prepare, Kansas tore it apart. It wasn’t even Forty Minutes of Heck, at least not for the Jayhawks. That’s the thing with that sort of pressing and trapping defense, with ample preparation time, a good team with a good coach will eat it up (just ask Pete Gillen at UVA). That stuff works great against teams that haven’t seen it often enough to put together a good plan in time. The reason it worked at Arkansas back in the mid-nineties was that they combined their gimmicky defense with great talent. Those teams were loaded with NBA talent, so preparation wasn’t enough for most teams. UAB doesn’t have that luxury, so a smart team like Kansas who has better players than UAB can turn that pressure into a layup drill. Goodnight Cinderella.
Midnight Strikes Twice
Nevada was the other Cinderella playing on Friday night (I don’t consider Xavier, a seven seed, a Cinderella). They put up much more fight than UAB, and really were only a play or two away from winning. Considering that Georgia Tech lost BJ Elder, who coach Paul Hewitt says is their best player, in the first two minutes of the game, it was a huge win for the Yellow Jackets. I wasn’t sure that they’d hold up to Nevada’s pressure, but they did and move on. If Elder can’t go against Kansas, it’ll be tough, but one thing GT does have is impressive depth at the guard spots. I’m sure coach Hewitt knows better than I do, but I think Jarrett Jack is really the key to that team, not Elder. If Jack steps up, along with one or two other guys, they can win without Elder. Even so, I like Kansas in that Sunday game.
X Marks the Spot
The one bad thing about Xavier moving on the Elite Eight is that I am sick and tired of hearing professional sports media mispronounce their name. It’s not Ex-Zavier, people! It’s pronounced Zavier. Is that so hard?
As for the game, it was a good one. Both Xavier and Texas are tough, aggressive teams. The reason Xavier pulled it out was that Texas just couldn’t hit enough shots, which was their Achilles heel all year. Even so, the game went down the final few possessions, with Xavier just pulling it out. The final score is very misleading, as the final seconds became a free throw drill when Rick Barnes lost his mind and got two successive technical fouls and the heave-ho. I can’t imagine what a true basketball school would do about a coach who gets two technical fouls with under four seconds left and his team only down by three. Had he kept his composure, his team still had a chance, although a very long one. After Romain Sato knocked down three freebies though, chance left the building.
Fuel for the Burning Hatred
Duke, America’s most hated team, won yet again, knocking off Illinois 72-62. Like two of the other three games of the night, this one was close. Duke managed to carve out a lead with some hot shooting in the second half and just held on. Again, the final score isn’t a true measure of the closeness of the game.
The last thing I want to do is help fuel this Duke backlash, but I have to admit I got sick of hearing the announcers talk about how tough and brave Duhon was. (They added Dee Brown to their praise as soon as he started limping too). Good lord people, athletes play through pain all the time – it doesn’t make them a Nobel peace prize winner. Hell, guys on my mediocre adult soccer team play through injuries. They do it because they love to play and hate to sit and watch. It’s neither brave nor especially tough.
So the Elite Eight (I’m just not comfortable with that title, by the way. Do they all have to be alliterations?) is set. Two ACC teams made it in along with two from the Big Twelve and Atlantic 10 and one each from the SEC and Big East. This round and the Sweet Sixteen are pretty good measures of conference quality for a particular year. The Final Four has a such a small sample size that it takes several years to really put together a good picture, unless one conference gets two or three teams in one year.
Tournament performance by conference

 

NCAA NIT Total Postseason

Conference

Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win %

ACC

6 11-4 .692 2 2-2 .500 8 13-6 .684

Conference USA

6 4-6 .400 2 3-2 .600 8 7-8 .467

Big East

6 10-5 .667 4 9-3 .750 10 19-8 .704

Big Ten

3 3-3 .500 3 3-2 .600 6 6-5 .545

Big Twelve

4 9-2 .818 5 6-4 .600 9 15-6 .714

Pac 10

3 1-3 .250 1 3-0 1.000 4 4-3 .571

SEC

6 7-5 .583 3 0-3 .000 9 7-8 .467

Sweet Sixteen – Day One

OK, if they weren’t already, my NCAA picks are dead now. For some reason, I was possessed by the evil spirit of Billy Packer when I filled out my brackets and I put inconsistent Wake Forest in the Final Four (along with even more inconsistent UNC). Poof.
Big little men
I had only seen St. Joe’s play part of one other game before last night. They are impressive. Their guards, their whole team really, have so much poise and confidence. They never seemed to have a doubt that they’d win. On the flip side, Chris Paul had a terrible game, and it seemed due to lack of confidence. He didn’t think he could beat his man, and continually picked up his dribble 25 feet away from the basket. A point guard of his caliber shouldn’t be picking up his dribble out there. Additionally, Phil Martelli completely outcoached Skip Prosser. Prosser had a reasonable plan of exploiting Wake’s superior inside game. They succeeded in getting four fouls on each of St. Joe’s starting inside guys just a few minutes into the second half. So, then Martelli went small, and instead of taking advantage of their size mismatch, Wake went small to match. The problem was, St. Joe’s guards were much better than Wake’s. Well, Wake has seven months to think about it and to get better. They should be a hell of a team next year.
Cruise control
At the start of the tourney, I picked UConn to win it all. I still feel that way. Vanderbilt seemed like they were just happy to be there and take their lumps, so UConn methodically took them out. It was never in question. UConn just looks stronger with each game.
OK State is OK
I hadn’t seen either OK State or Pitt play too much this year. Just a few minutes here and there and highlights. One thing I hadn’t realized was just how quick the Cowboys are. I guess I just assumed that they were the standard physical Eddie Sutton team, grinding it out on offense and beating you up on defense (and mailing you cash via Emery Express). But not this team. John Lucas junior is quick as hell. Hopefully he didn’t get all of his daddy’s genes. The Oklahoma State – St. Joe’s game should be a helluva matchup. I have a feeling the Cowboys will be more affective at using their inside strength than Wake was though.
By the way, when did Ben Affleck take over as coach at Pitt?
No repeat for the Orange
I wasn’t surprised at all that Alabama won this game. It looked like a pretty even matchup. What surprised me was how well coached and smart Alabama looked. Frankly, “smart” just isn’t a word that comes to mind much when you think of Alabama athletics. The way they attacked Syracuse’s zone in the second half was just brilliant though. They had beautiful interior passing, often starting with an entry pass to the free throw line and ending with a dunk or layup. Maybe ‘Cuse’s defense wasn’t up their normal standard, but they have a fairly experienced team. ‘Bama just outplayed them. The big time basketball programs out there should be taking a good look at Mark Gottfried, because he shouldn’t be stuck at a school where fans think basketball is just a slight diversion between the college bowls and spring football.
Tournament performance by conference:

 

NCAA NIT Total Postseason

Conference

Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win %

ACC

6 9-4 .692 2 2-2 .500 8 11-6 .647

Conference USA

6 4-5 .444 2 3-2 .600 8 7-7 .500

Big East

6 9-5 .643 4 9-3 .750 10 18-8 .692

Big Ten

3 3-2 .600 3 3-2 .600 6 6-4 .600

Big Twelve

4 8-1 .889 5 6-4 .600 9 14-5 .737

Pac 10

3 1-3 .250 1 3-0 1.000 4 4-3 .571

SEC

6 7-5 .583 3 0-3 .000 9 7-8 .467

Letters and Jealousy

I read two great letters to the editor in a recent edition of the News & Observer. Not great in the sense of impressive, but great in the sense that I laughed out loud at them and couldn’t wait to write about them. Unfortunately, I can’t find the damn things, so I’ll just paraphrase them here.
The first one:
I just want to say that I think it’s a great thing that UNC is doing by not jumping to conclusions about JamesOn Curry. Let’s wait until all the facts come out and he has his day in court. Maybe he was just set up by someone looking to make a name for himself.
I trust the solid leadership of Mr. Baddour and Mr. Williams and I’m sure they’ll make the right decision. Go Heels!

OK, now generally, this sentiment isn’t so bad. Yes, it’s good to avoid jumping to conclusions. But, I’m going to have to assume that since you can write you can also read. Good lord, the police have mentioned that they have videotape evidence! I’m sorry, but the whole innocent until proven guilty thing is for courts. It’s to protect people before you strip them of their Constitutional rights and throw them in jail. You do not have a right to a scholarship, spot on the team or playing time. If a coach or school thinks you screwed up, whether you were convicted in a courtroom or not, they can and should punish you.
Clearly, this kid was heavily involved in selling drugs. He was charged with six counts of possession and selling drugs. No one was trying to make a name for themselves by nabbing Curry. They had a yearlong sting involving undercover agents at the schools and they arrested 48 other kids. I’m guessing that were just as disappointed as everyone else to find out that their star player was involved.
A kid who has been charged (and will very likely be convicted unless he pleas to something lesser) with six different drug charges after he’s already earned a free ride is not someone you want to give a scholarship too. How do you explain to some parent that they have to pay full tuition for their daughter who earned her way to UNC by achieving in the classroom while the school foots the bill for drug dealers? I’m sorry, you don’t. I feel badly for Curry. He’s a kid and he screwed up. It’s not like he committed a violent crime. But, he did screw up and he should never play for UNC.
And back to this joker who wrote the letter. Anyone who’s a big enough fan to feel compelled to write the paper commending his school on their potential leniancy is not someone to listen to. You just know this guy would feel completely different if Curry had committed to Duke or State. Hey letter guy, how did you feel about Sheldon Williams’ troubles in high school? Or what about Damon Thornton at State? I’d bet my house that he thought they were thugs who had no business in the ACC.
And now the other letter. My summary of this one:
I like the way Duke used to play. They used to run up and down the court and score lots of points. It was fun that way and they won a lot. Now, they seem to play slower and they lose games now. I think coach Krzyzewski is a great coach, but I think he should make his team run more. Then, they’ll win more games.
Do I even need to respond to this? Some guy who writes letters to the paper thinks that he (or maybe she) knows better how to coach Duke than Coach K? Hey, maybe they should try to hit more long shots too. Those count for three points, you know! Ooh, ooh, and those dunks are great. Get some more of those also. Then, Duke’ll really start winning some!
Duke Hatred
Have you noticed this trend? Duke hatred has always been around, but recently it’s been showing up all over the place. Otherwise normal newspapers have written about it. Check the Albany Herald, Cleveland Plan Dealer, the Washington Post, and even ESPN.
So why all the hatin’? I’ll tell you.
1. They win. There’s no better way to garner hatred. Win. Over time, if you keep winning, people will hate you. America loves a winner, but they really love an underdog. If you keep crushing the underdog, people turn on you. If you keep winning, you’ll eventually beat everyone else’s favorite team. People get tired of you. There’s a reason why so many people hate the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers and Manchester United.
2. Media exposure. Duke is on TV all the time. Even when they aren’t on they’re on. You can be watching a minor league hockey game between Saskatchewan and Moose Jaw and at some point, the commentators will start talking about Duke. It irritates.
2a. Dick Vitale. He is the most obnoxious, annoying announcer on the planet. And good lord, does he talk about Duke. According to a very scientific study, he mentions Duke and/or Coach K 8.73 times per game when Duke isn’t playing. Nothing is worse than watching a game with your team and listening to Vitale go on and on about Duke while ignoring three consecutive possessions of the game he’s actually watching.
3. Duke is a better school than your alma mater. Let’s face it, Duke’s a damn good school. There’s a really good chance that you wouldn’t have gotten in if you applied. What’s worse than losing to a school full of people smarter than you? It’s like being beaten up by a nerd.
4. Coach K isn’t warm and fuzzy. Coach Krzyzewski (see, I can spell it) is a pretty intense guy. He takes everything seriously and rarely lets down his guard. He’s no Bobby Knight or Gary Williams, but he certainly isn’t Pete Gillen or Jim Valvano either. His intense, direct attitude can easily come off as arrogance. And frankly, that’s probably not a misperception, as you have to be arrogant to be that good at something.
5. Duke has had lots of good white guys. There’s no player more hated than the other team’s white guy. I don’t know why this is true, but it is. Those little scrappy point guards on the other team (and they’re always refered to as scrappy, as if that’s a good thing. Didn’t Scrappy Doo kill that adjective for good?) are always detestable. Think about Duke – Hurley, Laettner, Wojo, Collins, Parks, Newton and now Redick. Obnoxious players all. The really killer part is that Hurley, Laettner and Redick were (are) all damn good.
So, there you have it. Five key reasons. There are probably more, but they are all offshoots of these five. What they all boil down to is jealousy. Petty jealousy. You (and I) wish it were your school winning all those games, getting on TV all those times, compared to Ivy League schools, coached by an intense winner and represented by scrappy (and good) white guys.
So, quit your whining and get over it. Duke is a great program which does things the right way. They’ve won at an incredible clip over the last 20 years without a whiff of scandal. Duke players are generally polite and articulate (I’ll allow a few exceptions, like for Tauntay Jones). They graduate on time. They play an attractive brand of basketball. You don’t have to like them – you probably have your own team already – but there’s no need for the hatred.

NCAA Second Round – Day Two

Each year when I do my NCAA Tournament predictions, I fill out my bracket and submit it to whatever pool I’m in. I also keep a copy of my sheet to track my progress. When I get a game right, I highlight it in yellow. When I get it wrong, I highlight it in pink, including any games in later rounds that I might have already lost. Let me tell you, after this weekend, my pick sheet looks like something out of Queer Eye for the NCAA Pool. Pink everywhere. My only hope is to pretty much nail all of the rest of my picks, including UConn winning it all.
State Chokes
Wow, what a heartbreaking loss for NC State, losing after being up 11 with under four minutes left. According to Bill Simmons’ Levels of Losing, this was a Stomach Punch, with a little Monkey Wrench thrown in for good measure. First off, State was the better team and they were supposed to win. So when they cruised to a double digit lead in the second half after playing tight the first half, it seemed like the Sweet Sixteen was a done deal. Then, the collapse. State’s defense completely disappeared. From about the 4 minute mark, Vanderbilt scored on every single possession. Every single one. In their last seven possessions, they scored 20 points. They’d have a hard time doing that again against a high school team. Of course, the key to that run was the attrocious intentional foul on Marcus Melvin. It started with Melvin throwing a bad pass that was intercepted. As Melvin chased Corey Smith down the court, Smith pulled a Zola Budd, slowing down and cutting right in front of Melvin. Their feet tangled and they both went down. Now, you have to call that a foul, but an intentional foul? It was a complete accident! Melvin was gonna foul him, but not at that point, and he certainly would have used his hands to do it, not his feet. A terrible call at that (or any) point of the game. Given that they still never stopped Vandy, State might well would have lost anyway, but the call still made a difference. Take away the three that Moore hit for Vandy on that possession (after Smith hit both free throws) and Vandy would have been down four with under a minute to go instead of just one. That’s a big difference. But, what happened happened and State’s season ended there. I’m surprised there weren’t reports of State fans raining off of overpasses and tall buildings.
Kentucky Blue
The big upset on Sunday of course was the UAB win over Kentucky. I never saw that one coming. Kentucky is one those few schools that rarely loses early when they have a high seed. Duke is really the only other team like that. Others, like Stanford, Arizona and Kansas, you kind of expect to get upset, but not Kentucky. That it was UAB that did the damage brought back a repressed memory from my youth. UAB upset #1 Virginia in 1982, Ralph Sampson’s junior year. I wasn’t able to hear those letters U-A-B for years without going into a blind rage. Years of therapy cleared that up for me, but I’m guessing the rabid Kentucky fans will have the same problem I did. Honestly though, this was not one of Kentucky’s really good teams. They were solid, but not a power like they’ve been in some recent years. Even so, it’s a good thing for coach Tubby Smith that Louisville and Rick Pitino lost in the first round. I don’t think the Cats fans have ever felt completely comfortable with Tubby, and if they think they are getting passed by Louisville and the traitorous Pitino, they’ll run Tubby out on a rail.
ACC vs. Big East
There were three matchups between the ACC and Big East over the weekend (four if you include the JV game of Villanova vs. UVA in the NIT). The ACC took two with Duke easily handling Seton Hall (I actually fell asleep watching that one) and GT squeaking by BC. Syracuse beat Maryland in the other game. Each conference has three teams left (as does the Big Twelve). It’ll be interesting to see who ends up in the Final Four and gets bragging rights.
End Game
Did you see the end of that Georgia Tech – Boston College game? Man, did those teams make some dumb decisions down the stretch. BC got the ball with 33 seconds left and down one. Now, the smart thing to do is to work the clock down and try to get a good shot with 10 or so seconds left. You want to score and not give the other team a good chance to come back and beat you. Instead, they drove the lane and threw up a brick with about 23 seconds left. Fate was kind though and they got the offensive rebound. So, a few seconds later, Jarrett Jack of GT steals the ball and goes the other way in a clear fast break. He was all by himself. If he had just dribbled in like he was going to shoot and then curled back out along the baseline, he probably could have killed the entire clock. Worst case, BC fouls someone with a second or two left. But no, Jack felt the need to show off and threw down a rather impressive dunk. It looked good, but it only put Tech up 3 and gave BC 5.5 seconds to tie the game. Lucky for JJ, BC missed their shot.
The play reminded me of a similar situation I found myself in way back in my sophomore year of high school. I pulled the ball back out and I think my coach about passed out with excitement. In honesty, I was only partly thinking about the time. I was more concerned about the guy who beat me down the court and I didn’t want my layup blocked. But, regardless, I made the smart play, and I was a mediocre 14 year-old. You think college players would know better.
Chris Paul
If you didn’t see either of Wake Forest freshman Chris Paul’s games yet, be sure to tune in to the next one. It’s a tough matchup with St. Joe’s guards, but Paul looks like he’s looking to take The Leap into greatness. His game against Manhattan was simply incredible. He had 29 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. His most impressive play though was when he skied to swat a fastbreak layup back to about midcourt. The 6’1″ Paul looked like Emeka Okafor getting up for that one.
Tournament performance by conference:

 

NCAA NIT Total Postseason

Conference

Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win %

ACC

6 9-3 .750 2 2-1 .666 8 11-4 .733

Conference USA

6 4-5 .444 2 2-0 1.000 8 6-5 .545

Big East

6 8-3 .727 4 6-0 1.000 10 14-3 .824

Big Ten

3 3-2 .600 3 1-2 .333 6 4-4 .500

Big Twelve

4 7-1 .875 5 4-2 .666 9 11-3 .786

Pac 10

3 1-3 .250 1 1-0 1.000 4 2-3 .400

SEC

6 6-4 .600 3 0-3 .000 9 6-7 .462

NCAA Second Round – Day One

There seemed to be a lack of upsets in the first round this year, with only three higher seeds advancing. It was kind of curious given the relative volatility of the top 25 rankings this year. Maybe the teams in the power conferences have finally realized that you can’t take any NCAA games for granted. Or, more likely, it’s just the law of averages. Stuff happens.
1, 2, brackets go boom
Which brings us to the second round. Let the upsets begin! First, Gonzaga, just a few years removed from being Cinderella themselves, got whomped by Pacific 91-72. That’s about the most surprising margin of victory in an upset that I can recall. So, do we start putting the Zags in that list of underachieving major programs?
Next up to be fitted for their toe tags was Stanford. They blew a 13 point lead in the second half to an Alabama team that was on the bubble until the last week of the season. Fittingly, Stanford had a chance for yet another amazing last second shot to tie. This time, it missed. There’s that law of averages again.
ACC not perfect
The ACC finally lost some games. After running their record to 8-0 behind a yawner for Duke and a tight win for Wake, the ACC lost both Maryland and UNC.
Technically, UNC’s loss wasn’t an upset, as they were the six seed to Texas’ three seed, but really, anytime UNC loses an NCAA game, it feels like an upset. Three down years hasn’t fully changed that yet.
Maryland lost to Syracuse, in a matchup of the previous two NCAA champions. Maryland tried to reuse their recent pattern of getting down and coming back, but they came up one bucket short. I’m sure it was a particularly gratifying win for some Syracuse friends of mine who are tired of my ACC bragging. Not only did their Orangemen advance, but they knocked out an ACC team to do it. The first ACC loss of the tourney, even.
Pathetic 10
All season, there were two story lines out of the Pac 10. First was Stanford’s amazing season. The other, often brought up in relation to the first, was about how unbelievably bad the conference was as a whole. Talk about your law of averages. How is it that so many teams hit low points in the same year? Six of the ten teams finished with losing overall records! Well, the story of the Pac 10 sucking turned out to be the one with more legs. Stanford’s run ended today and not one Pac 10 team made the Sweet Sixteen. Three bids – two losses in the first round and one in the second. Ouch.
Tournament performance by conference:

 

NCAA NIT Total Postseason

Conference

Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win %

ACC

6 8-2 .800 2 2-1 .666 8 10-3 .769

Conference USA

6 4-3 .571 2 2-0 1.000 8 6-3 .666

Big East

6 7-2 .778 4 6-0 1.000 10 13-2 .867

Big Ten

3 2-1 .666 3 1-2 .333 6 3-3 .500

Big Twelve

4 5-1 .833 5 4-2 .666 9 9-3 .750

Pac 10

3 1-3 .250 1 1-0 1.000 4 2-3 .400

SEC

6 5-2 .714 3 0-3 .000 9 5-5 .500

NCAA – Day Two

Oh, Richmond! The Spiders almost did it again. I picked Wisconsin in my pool, but I was pulling hard for Richmond. I can’t help it. Unless it’s an ACC team in trouble, I always pull for the underdog.
Richmond is sort of underdog royalty. It’s amazing how a few upsets over a nearly 20 year period can so define a program. Whenever anyone thinks of Richmond basketball, they think of upsets (or maybe Dick Tarrant’s magnificent afro). For the players, it has to be a wonderful advantage for their NCAA games. They are surely aware of their school’s history and it gives them confidence. They feel like they should pull off the upset. And their opponents know it too. Maybe they didn’t know the history before, but by game time, they’ve been asked about it several times. Then when Richmond gets close or gets a lead, the crowd gets a buzz, the Spiders get confident and the favorite gets tight. Or at least, that’s how it sometimes goes. Tonight, that worked for a while until the Badgers had a hot spurt and squished the Spiders. It was fun while it lasted.

Richmond NCAA upsets:
1984 – Beat Charles Barkley and his Auburn Tigers in the first round. Longtime NBA player Johnny Newman was on this Richmond team.
1988 – Beat defending national champ Indiana in the first round.
1988 – Beat Georgia Tech in the second round to make the Sweet Sixteen
1991 – Beat #2 seed Syracuse in the first round
1998 – Beath #3 seed South Carolina in the first round

The big upset that did happen was Pacific beating Providence. What kills me about this one is that I picked it, but then erased it and changed it! Curse the fates! I only changed two picks in my whole bracket, and one of them has bitten me already. Oh well, it’s not like I don’t suck at picking the tournament anyway.
In other news (sounds cheezy, but I couldn’t think of another segue), the ACC completed its undefeated first round, going 6-0. Basically, it won all the games it was supposed to win. That’s an accomplishment to be sure, but the big games are this weekend. Power conference teams are nearly always favored in their first round games. It’s the teams that make it to the second week that really make their mark though. That’s where the ACC will validate (or not) it’s great year. Six teams in the final 32 is great, but that won’t mean much if a bunch lose in the next round. Six Sweet Sixteen teams is still a possibility, but so is a flame out. All the games are tough now.
Tournament performance by conference:

 

NCAANITTotal Postseason

Conference

BidsW-LWin %BidsW-LWin %BidsW-LWin %

ACC

66-01.00022-01.00088-01.000

Conference USA

6 4-2 .666 2 2-0 1.000 8 6-2 .750

Big East

6 5-1 .833 4 5-0 1.000 10 10-1 .909

Big Ten

3 2-1 .666 3 1-2 .333 6 3-3 .500

Big Twelve

4 4-0 1.000 5 4-2 .666 9 8-2 .800

Pac 10

3 1-2 .333 1 1-0 1.000 4 2-2 .500

SEC

6 4-2 .666 3 0-3 .000 9 4-5 .444

NCAA – First day

Whew! Wake Forest damn near blew my up my brackets just a few hours into the first day. For some reason, and I’m blaming it on those damn squirrels, I ended up with Wake in my Final Four. Not a great idea, probably, but I certainly didn’t want to lose them in the first round.
Is it just me, or are the 12, 13 and 14 seeds getting better every year? Did you see UTEP play Maryland? That team’s a 13 seed, but they were dynamite. They showed no fear of Maryland and were really only a play or two from advancing. Same with VCU, BYU and of course, Manhattan, who did advance.
My fears for the ACC weren’t justified yet. They squeaked by in three of their games, but still went 4-0 on the day. In the end though, the close wins count the same as the big ones. Survive and advance.
The Big East continued its renaissance as well, going 3-0 on day 1.
The Big Ten and Pac 10 lived down to their billings, each losing one of their three teams. The Big Ten has a history of fabulous NCAA tournament flameouts, and this year could be no exception. Remember those two years in a row that the Big Ten didn’t get anyone in the Sweet Sixteen? In 1995 and 1996, they had a combined 11 bids and they all failed to win two games. It could happen again. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t get any teams into the second round this year.
Tournament performance by conference

 

NCAA NIT Total Postseason

Conference

Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win % Bids W-L Win %

ACC

6 4-0 1.000 2 2-0 1.000 8 6-0 1.000

Conference USA

6 1-1 .500 2 2-0 1.000 8 3-1 .750

Big East

6 3-0 1.000 4 4-0 1.000 10 7-0 1.000

Big Ten

3 0-1 .000 3 1-2 .333 6 1-3 .250

Big Twelve

4 2-0 1.000 5 3-2 .600 9 5-2 .714

Pac 10

3 1-1 .500 1 1-0 1.000 4 2-1 .666

SEC

6 1-1 .500 3 0-3 .000 9 1-4 .200