Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tourney Look Alikes: Wisconsin's Jon Leuer

Thought I'd start something new here, guys. Noticed a striking similarity during Wisconsin's first rounder yesterday.

Wisconsin's forward Jon Leuer...

...looks like Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore. Judge for yourself.

Saint Mary's: If The Slipper Fits...

Okay, my bracket is cooked. Omar Samhan, Mickey McConnell, and former Hoosier Ben Allen just took out one of my title game picks in Villanova.

Honestly, it wasn't a pick I felt great about anyway. Between the Big East getting beat down in the NIT and losing high seeds like Georgetown in the first round, I was already nervous by the time Robert Morris almost beat 'Nova on Thursday in one of the early games.

Scottie Reynolds, you picked a really bad time to forget how to shoot.

Oh and by the way, Bill Raftery and Verne Lundqvist really have a thing for this St. Mary's team. How many times can we possibly hear about Omer Samhan's mom buying her ticket for Houston, not the first two rounds in Providence? Also, apparently Mickey McConnell is amazing.

Whatever, I'm just bitter over losing one of my Final Four.

I'm 8-for-8 in one regional (the West) and now pretty much dead in another (South), where I had Louisville vs. Villanova in the Elite Eight. I think I'm rooting for St. Mary's now. Did anybody have this upset? Anybody?

The High Holy Days of Sports

College basketball has, by far, the best postseason of any sport.

And we're proving it again this year.

There's not a whole lot I can say about the first round of the NCAA tournament that hasn't already been said, so I will direct you to Bleacher Report, or, if you want game breakdowns. Just a couple of notes from me.

1) Jordan Crawford and Armon Bassett scored 60 points between them in the first round, as Xavier and Ohio advanced. Crawford and Bassett could have been IU's starting back court this year. Everybody still on board for rebuilding, because I'm not sure I am. Seriously.

Bill Simmons asked a question in his live coverage of the tourney yesterday. PS - Sports Guy is the ONLY reason to read ESPN. The Question: Would you rather root for a college basketball team that wins all the time but might have ethical concerns, or a team that wins occasionally but is painfully honest?

I know which way Indiana administrators lean. And I gotta say, I disagree.

2) UNC - Mississippi State is on right now, in the NIT. Great game, as UNC leads on the road at The Hump. 36-33 at the half. Why expand the Tourney when the NIT is finally a good product? And no, I don't wanna talk about Northwestern. I don't even wanna think about it.

3) Oregon AD Mike Bellotti just resigned. A week after firing his basketball coach, Ernie Kent, who had been there for over ten years, I think? Anyway, Oregon's athletic program is in some serious trouble between Kent leaving, football players getting arrested and suspended, including your star QB Jeremiah Masoli, and now the head main bails? After one year on the job?

Something stinks here. Why aren't we hearing more about it? Oh, right. Bellotti got hired by ESPN as a commentator. No negative pub on the Worldwide Leader! I assume their ombudsman will jump right on this, and get ignored, just like always.

4) Enough negativity. Today I'm excited to watch Butler-Murray State and Washington-New Mexico, along with another former Hoosier, Ben Allen, playing for St. Mary's.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Bracket aka I Lost a Sweet 16 Team After the First Game Was Finished

With all this commotion I decided to post my bracket. First things first, my final four: Kansas, Kentucky, Kansas State, and Purdue. My championship: Kansas vs. Kentucky. My Champion: yes Steve I had to go with old blue, Kentucky. Yes, I understand that both teams wear blue, it wasn't really a nickname, more of a saying. I have Kentucky winning 77-73.

Onto some other picks via Steve's template

Biggest Debate:

I didn't know who to pick. I have a gut feeling that Gonzaga was going to beat Syracuse, yet I just couldn't bring myself to do it. My original final four included Pittsburgh but I just couldn't see it. However, with first round games, I didn't have much trouble picking those games. Unlike Steve, I didn't struggle with the Nova vs. Baylor game. Why not? Because like a moron I got caught on a whim and decided Notre Dame was Sweet 16 material. DUMB. Luckily, I couldn't see Notre Dame advancing past Nova so I have Nova going to the elite eight.

Actually, another big debate I had was the crushing feeling that New Mexico was going to take down Kentucky. But, like I said, I had to go with old blue.

Unlike Steve, I'm not going to make a comment about Duke other than I have them going to the sweet 16 and losing to Purdue.

12 over 5

Unlike Steve, I only have one 12 seed defeating a 5 seed. That 12 seed I have going to the sweet 16. Another sentence for suspense. That 5 seed is: Cornell. Probably wrong, but honestly, I have no hope that I'll ever win a tournament. If you can't win a tournament picking Uconn over Georgia Tech, and being the only person to pick that championship game, you probably won't ever win one.

Big Ten Bias

I too have the Big Ten going 5-5 in the first round with two teams making it to the elite eight and one to the final four. Thanks for pointing out how biased I am Steve. Otherwise I would have never known.

No Guts No Glory

I made the following picks:

Murray State (13) over Vanderbilt (4): Who looks like a genius now!

Cornell (12) to the sweet 16

Clemson (7) over West Virginia (2)

Other Games I wanted to pick but didn't have the balls:

Murray State over Butler

Gonzaga over Syracuse

New Mexico over Kentucky

Honestly, I really like Murray State. If I had Murray State in the Sweet 16 versus Gonzaga I would have picked Murray State (13) to make it all the way to the elite eight. For a team that beat really no one all year (although they did have 30 wins) that would be a ballsy pick. Until then, I'll keep on rooting for you!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Derek’s Bracket: AKA The Perfect One

Following up on Steve’s post below, here is a breakdown of my finalized bracket for 2010: (Sidenote: To each his own, but I think that pools should never allow more than one bracket for each person – wouldn’t it seem a little tainted if “Wilson (2)” was the winning bracket? That would deserve an *)

I’ll start with my final four – Ohio State, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Duke will be fighting for the championship in Indianapolis – with Syracuse defeating WVU in the championship. I managed to follow Noffke’s rule of 2 teams from the same conference in the final four with Cuse and WVU, OSU will ride Evan Turner to the final four the way Marquette rode Dwayne Wade in 2003, and Duke gets in by default (what a joke of a region).

Biggest Debate – Syracuse or K State from the West?

The talk of the week so far is that Syracuse’s bad play down the stretch coupled with the injury to Arinze Onuaku will lead to an early exit – I don’t buy it. I think that the Orangeman will get by Vermont and FSU with Onuaku in uniform and glued to the bench. The second weekend he’ll return to the starting line-up and Syracuse will play the zone defense to perfection on their way to the 2010 NCAA championship.

8 1’s in the Sweet Sixteen

That can’t be right, can it? It is. Along with all four number 1 seeds, I also have 11 seeds Minnesota and Washington advancing past the second round. I think Minnesota will use its length to disrupt a streaky Xavier team and then sneak by Pitt in round two on the strength of solid 3 point shooting by Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber. Washington was more of a gut selection because they have two guys in Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas that can go off for 30 on any given night. We’ve seen in the past guys like Steph Curry and Acie Law carry their teams with huge performances in the tourney. Both guys I mentioned are capable of something similar.

Two Seed Trouble

It seems like every year I find myself picking a 1 or 2 seed to bow out early for one reason or another (Note: This usually doesn’t pan out..). This year is no different as I have the Richmond Spiders knocking of Noffke’s South champion Villanova. I can’t say I have seen either team play much in 2010 – call this a hunch play. I did see what Nova did down the stretch and think that they are primed for an upset. I will say that whichever team meets Baylor in round 3 is going to lose anyway.

Other Notable Upsets

The only 12 seed I have advancing past round 1 is Utah State. This is the strongest group of 5 seeds I can recall in awhile – Butler and MSU have too much experience to lose in round 1 and Temple is just too talented to be upset by a Cornell squad I would normally pick to advance without thinking twice. The only other double digit first round upsets I picked are San Diego State over a worn down Tennessee team and Missou over Clemson solely on tourney track record.

Noffke: You Call That a Big Ten Bias? Pshhh

This is something I didn’t notice until running through the bracket now…but I have the Big Ten going 10-0 over the first weekend. Of those 10 wins only 3 would be classified as “upsets” – both of Minny’s wins and the MSU second round win over Maryland – but it is still a noteworthy trend. (Note: You also might throw the two Purdue wins in that category based on their game against Minnesota last weekend sans Hummel, however I have them beating 13 seed Siena and 12 seed Utah State…not exactly murderer’s row).

No Guts No Glory – Part Deux

There are two upsets that I really wanted to include in the bracket but with money on the line decided against.

Northern Iowa over Kansas in Round Two

Kansas seems to be the consensus choice to cut down the nets in 2010 which would make this one of the greatest upsets of all time. The Panthers of Northern Iowa return the core of their tourney team from last year that pushed Purdue to the brink as a 12 seed in the first round. If this match up with Kansas comes to fruition my eyes will be glued to the television.

Louisville vs Notre Dame Regional Final

By all accounts Duke will face a cupcake schedule on their way to the final four this year, which I think makes them a target for an upset. Louisville is a deep team that Rick Pitino will have ready to play in round 2 vs the Dukies. If they get by the Blue Demons I think they are a shoe-in to get to the regional final. Notre Dame, on the other hand, switched up their game plan upon the return of Harangody this month and have really taken off. If they can get by Baylor in round 2 they’ll have a shot at the Final Four as well.

Only a Few Years Early 2012 Tournament Prediction


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tourney Announcers... Announced

The breakdown is here!

For my money, the Verne Lundqvist - Bill Raftery team is #1 overall, while Gus Johnson is the most entertaining guy to have on your TV during a good game.

The Old Men get that 9:55pm San Diego State vs. Tennessee game to wrap up Thursday, as well as another potentially good one in Richmond v. St. Mary's at 3:00.

GuJo, paired with Len Elmore, gets Mizzou vs. Clemson at 2:45 on Friday as well as Florida State vs. Gonzaga at 7:10.

Oh, and UPSET ALERT. He's also calling Vermont vs. Syracuse. A Catamounts run would be an epic way to end Day Two..

Tiger Woods: Attention Whore

My early estimation: New record set for Master's viewership...If only I worked in mine possibilities for Tiger spoofs during this.

Steve's Bracket.

So it's Tuesday, that means today is the day I fill out my bracket. I am not going to game by game that I did last year. I will give you the highlights of my bracket

Before the bracket's were selected, in my mind I had decided that Kansas, West Virginia, Ohio State and Georgetown would be in my Final Four. Well, the brackets didn't work out that way, putting Kansas, Ohio State and Georgetown in the same region. So that was a bummer.

My Final Four ended up being Kansas, K-State, 'Nova and West Virgina with Kansas beating West Virginia in the title game. This follows my criteria with having 2 teams from one conference (twice actually) and a return team from last year's Final Four. I really do not like my K-State pick, but didn't like anybody else in the West. If Kansas and K-State meet up in the Final Four that will be for th Fourth time this season. Can Kansas win all 4? I don't know.

Biggest Debate

Who will win, Baylor vs 'Nova?

This is the game I have flip flopped on more times then any other. I have faith that either team will beat Duke in the regional finals and advance to the Final Four so the winner of this game would be my Final Four Team. 'Nova is the better team, but is a terribly streaky team that can play well and play like crap. Baylor will most likely have a home court advantage playing in it's home state of Texas. In the end, I decided to go with the best player on the floor and that would be Scottie Reynolds. On top of that, the expierence the team had from last year's Final Four run should help them win the game.

Weakest Road


Did Duke get a special favor for this tournament or what? They have been practically gift wrapped a Regional Finals berth. They get the play-in game winner followed by Cal (from the underperfomring Pac-10) or Louisville (who underperformed all year). After cruising through the first weekend, they will likely meet Purdue, who, without Robbie Hummel, has forgotten how to score. Texas A&M might provide some challenge in this game if they make, as they will be playing in thier home state of Texas

12 Over 5

Everyone knows that each bracket should always include a 12 seed beating a 5 seed. Well I picked Three 12 seeds beating 5 seeds. The only 5 seed that was safe, Michigan State.

Big Ten Bias

I have the Big Ten going 5-5 in the first round with 3 to the Sweet 16 (Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State) and Ohio State to the Elite Eight. Maybe I'm a little biased

No Guts No Glory

I really really wanted to make the following Picks, but e didn't have the intesinal fortitude to pull the trigger.

BYU in the Final Four

I really wanted to pick BYU to make the Final Four (Wall Street Journal actually did). They play good sound fundamental basketball. They take care of the ball while being very efficient on offense and create turnovers on defense. If they can get through K-State in the second round, they will be playing in thier back yard in Salt Lake City for the regigonal final.

Texas over Kentucky

If Texas plays the same way they did at the begining of the year, they are fully capable of beating Kentucky. Sadly, we have not seen this team in 2010.

Home Sweet Home?

I know I have mentioned where the teams are/will be playing numerous times in this article. I read in the tribune the other day, that teams that play close to home have a higher winning percentage then teams that have to travel long distances. So I have been paying more attention to where the games are being played more then I have in years past.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Pick a Bracket

All right, we’ve all seen the crazy gimmick of how to pick your brackets. My personal favorites are choosing which team has the shortest name. This is particularly useful in years when Duke and UCLA (Yes if I chose longest names, UCLA would be come University of California in Los Angeles, they can be useful either way) are good. I also like the dominant mascot way of picking, mainly for the logic and reasoning of the picks. A Hoosier is probably a farmer, and a razorback is basically a pig, and farmers take care of pigs, so clearly the farmer wins! Funny how you can set up a mascot fight and have the team you want to win come out on top of it right?

But even though we always try to replicate the random logic some people use. We know someone’s cousin Emily will pick based on their favorite color, somehow predict George Mason reaching the Final Four, and then win the pool.

(Speaking of George Mason, I will always claim some credit with them. I picked Michigan State to beat them in the first game. But, I had Michigan State beating exactly every team they beat on their way to the final four. That’s got to count for something right, right?)

Fear no more, armchairsuperstar is here to help!

What is the key to winning the bracket? Getting teams into the Final Four! Regardless of scoring, those teams get you points each and every round they are right and even more points when they have reach the final four.

I actually have done some statistical analysis on the Final Four for ever year since 1985 (The Year it expanded to 64 teams) and have noticed two trends.

1st Trend: 2 teams from 1 conference make it to the final four.

Of the past 25 tournaments 2 teams from 1 conference have made the Final Four 18 times (1985 the Big East had 3 teams that made it). That’s 72% of the time.

Now you might be thinking, ok great, 2 teams from 1 conference. Well how many conferences are there? Agreed it may seem difficult to pick which conference it is going to be. There are only a few conferences that have more then 2 or 3 teams receiving bids and the conferences with only 2 or 3 teams will most likely not be able to have 2 of them making the Final Four So now we are only talking about 5 conferences to choose from. That’s not that bad.

Looking at the potential teams this year; I think the best option of having multiple teams make the final four is the Big East, with one Number 1 Seed, two Number 2 seeds and three Number 3 seeds.

2nd Trend: A team from last years Final Four will return to the Final Four

Of the past 25 tournaments, 16 times a team from the previous years Final Four has made it back to the Final Four (In 1991 and 2007 two teams returned to the Final Four). That’s 64% of the time. Again I know not a super high number.

Think of it this way. If you knew nothing about basketball besides the last years final four; there is a 16% chance you get one right (64% * 25% [1 out of 4 picking the correct team from last year]). That’s blindly picking. What if you watch college basketball and know stuff about teams. Like last year, when North Carolina was a number 1 seed, and was likely to make it again.

Looking at the potential teams this year Villanova and Michigan State (UConn and UNC did not make the bracket) I feel like Villanova has the best chance of getting back. They got the expierenced guard play that is needed to get through the tournament. Michigan State has landed in the toughest region that includes Kanasa, Georgetown and Ohio State.

So what are the odds that both 2 teams from 1 conference and a return team happen in the same year? Well, these odds are a lot lower. Only 10 times in the past 25 years has this occurred. That's 40%. Now that's not a bad percentage but probably not as high as you would like.

Now you might be asking, ok these odds are really not that overwhelming, why should I pick my bracket this way? Well Either 2 teams from 1 conference or a repeat team returning to the final four has occurred 24 of 25 times!!! Only one year has neither trend occurred. That is why you should consider picking your brackets this way.

Here is a year by year breakdown of the two trends.

2 From 1 Con (Y/N) Return Teams (#) Both (Y/N)

2009 Yes 1 Yes
2008 No 1 No
2007 No 2 No
2006 Yes 0 No
2005 Yes 0 No
2004 Yes 0 No
2003 Yes 1 Yes
2002 Yes 1 Yes
2001 Yes 1 Yes
2000 Yes 1 Yes
1999 Yes 0 No
1998 No 1 No
1997 No 1 No
1996 Yes 0 No
1995 No 1 No
1994 Yes 0 No
1993 No 1 No
1992 Yes 1 Yes
1991 Yes 2 Yes
1990 Yes 1 Yes
1989 Yes 1 Yes
1988 Yes 0 No
1987 Yes 0 No
1986 No 0 No
1985 Yes 1 Yes

Now I am not saying that these will guarantee success or even to use them. But just something to think about while your picking your bracket.

I have just one small disclaimer that makes me sound like a Wall-Street analyst. Past performance does not indicate future earnings. So take this information with a grain of salt.

The point of doing the brackets is to have fun. So have fun and enjoy March Madness!

One last side note: Since there is a lot of which conference is better then every other conference trash talk going on nowadays, here’s a breakdown of how many times each conferences have had multiple final four teams.

Big Ten
Big XII (Big 8)
Big East

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2010 NIT Bracket Breakdown: Why I Love the Little Dance

The National Invitation Tournament is the red-headed stepchild of the college basketball postseason. While 65 programs get to experience the glory and the headlines that come with an invitation to the Big Dance, the snubbed squads of the nation let out a collective sigh and get ready for a possible trip to Madison Square Garden.

But the NIT isn't that bad of a consolation prize. Winning this tourney can redeem a lost season, prove that pesky selection committee wrong, or lay the groundwork for a better 2011.

Granted, Penn State followed their 2009 title with a disastrous 2010, but at least Talor Battle got to cut down somebody's nets during his time at State College.

Here are eight great reasons to watch this season's National Invitation Tournament, which kicks off Tuesday and Wednesday with first-round action around the country:

Burst Bubbles

These are the schools whose video feeds we didn't get to see on CBS Selection Sunday. Which is probably for the best, because coaches Seth Greenberg (Hokies) and Bruce Weber (Illini) may have needed a three-second audio delay in lieu of serious self-control.

Illinois (No. 52 in the Pomeroy Ratings), Virginia Tech (No. 31, the highest rated team in the field), and Memphis (No. 51) all have legitimate beefs with the committee this year.

Tech's Malcolm Delaney is a bonafide star, making the all-ACC first team this year on his way to a lucrative NBA career. He averaged over twenty points a game for the Hokies, along with 4.3 assists and 3.6 boards, while hitting the 30 point mark five times. Four came against NCAA Tournament teams including Clemson, Temple, and Georgia Tech.

Memphis, in its first year without John Calipari, is just two years removed from a trip to the NCAA Championship game. The Tigers lost to Houston in the C-USA tournament by a single point, sending the Cougars on their way to an improbable dance invite while costing themselves a bid.

Sophomore guard Elliot Williams, a Duke transfer, leads the team in scoring (18.3 ppg). But he needs to get his mojo back if Memphis wants to make a run - he has shot just 17-53 over the Tigers' last five.

Illinois thought their win over Wisconsin, coupled with taking Ohio State to double overtime in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, might be enough to earn them a dance card. But a 19-14 record and bad losses to teams like Utah and Bradley were enough to sway the committee the other way.

Juniors Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale give the Fighting Illini a solid inside-outside game. As a one-seed, they draw Stony Brook in the first round, and I look for Illinois to play with a chip on their shoulder while making a deep run in the NIT.


Ah, North Carolina. The perennial powerhouse is one of those schools that you expect to see in your bracket each and every year, but they barely qualified for even the NIT in 2010 at 16-16.

I guess losing Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson would be enough to make anybody take a step back, but Carolina's preseason ranking has proven even more inaccurate than the most optimistic Duke fan could have hoped.

Ken Pomeroy projects a comfortable Tar Heels win in the first round, but will fans show up for the NIT? Roy Williams is probably the best coach in this tournament, but he has struggled to deal with this .500 season. Carolina ended the season losing 9 of their last 12, including Georgia Tech in the early rounds of the ACC tourney.

That first round prediction looks safe, except that UNC happens to have drawn a particularly interesting opponent...


William and Mary has enjoyed serious hype all year, much more than their unassuming profile (No. 113 Pomeroy, No. 58 RPI) would dictate.

Their reputation as a giant killer precedes them, and was earned by beating Richmond (home), Maryland (road), and Wake Forest (road) during a brutal nonconference schedule. All three are in the Big Dance. Sophomore swingman Quinn McDowell (6'5", 212) might be one of the best players in the NIT this year - he is capable of offensive explosions and is joined by steady senior guard David Schneider in a duo that can give opposing guards fits.

Is Carolina's defensive ace Marcus Ginyard up to the challenge, or can William and Mary add another scalp to their wall and atone for losing to Old Dominion in the Colonial conference finals?

SEC Snubs

Mississippi State (No. 54 Pomeroy) and Mississippi (No. 41) enjoy a classic intra-state rivalry, and one that State has gotten the better of twice this year.

The powers that be at the NIT placed the Rebels (or should I make it the Ackbars?) and the Bulldogs on opposite sides of the bracket, setting up a potentially epic clash in the finals if both schools can survive.

Bulldog forward Jarvis Varnado might be the biggest name in this year's tourney. Averaging a double-double and almost five blocks a game, the senior gives opposing players fits in the paint.

Mississippi junior guard Chris Warren paces the Ackbars, shooting .415 from downtown to average over seventeen points a game. But his team has struggled in big games, with their only two big wins coming in early season action against Kansas State and UTEP.

Cardiac Cats Go East

Northwestern (No. 77) just had its best season in school history, notching twenty wins after losing its best player before the season even began. Pomeroy rates their matchup with Rhode Island as Wednesday's game to watch.

Rhode Island skidded into the postseason with painful losses to also-rans St. Bonaventure and Massachusetts, as well as a 57-44 pasting at the hands of NCAA 5-seed Temple, but they are 13-2 at home this year. Northwestern is 2-8 on the road.

Guard Michael "Juice" Thompson plays over 90% of minutes for the Wildcats and was one of the Big Ten's best point guards all season. Sophomore John Shurna was one of the best players in the Big Ten, period, averaging just over 18 and 6 from the forward spot.

URI's best win came over Oklahoma State in the early going. Northwestern's best wins include Purdue, Notre Dame, fellow NIT teams NC State and Illinois. As a Wildcat partisan, I'm hoping that the road will be kind to Northwestern. Either way, it should be an exciting game.

Gang of Five

According to pundits around the country, the Big East is the nation's best conference. Eight Big East teams got into the NCAAs. Five more are in the NIT. That's a whole lot of postseason love.

South Florida (#78 Pomeroy), Connecticut (#55), Seton Hall (#62), Cincinnati (#69), and St. Johns (#72) ought to give Madison Square Garden a distinctive Big East flavor in the coming weeks.

Four-seed Seton Hall welcomes Texas Tech before a probable second rounder against Arizona State, both major conference opponents who could feel the wrath of the East.

UConn (another 4 seed) draws 20-12 Northeastern, a talented squad, and could play Va. Tech in second round. Behind Carolina's Williams, UConn's Jim Calhoun is the second best coach in the NIT, although his health problems have certainly played a role in the Huskies' struggles this year.

USF (a 3-seed) will play NC State in the first round, yet another major conference matchup. Their star guard Dominique Jones averages 21.3 points per game and gives the NIT yet another superstar to watch.

Cincinnati (2-seed) gets Weber State (20-10, #109) from Big Sky in first round, a team that has a lot of postseason experience getting knocked out in the first round.

St. Johns is the only Big East school denied home court advantage in the first round, and drew Memphis. If they can survive the Tigers, they get to come home to the Garden and a probable game against Ole Miss.

The Big East has to be the favorite to cut down the nets in Madison Square, on numbers alone.

The Mid-Major Superstar

Illinois State's Osiris Eldridge (6'3", 215, senior guard) has been starting in Bloomington-Normal since he was a freshman. This year, he leads a deep, experienced Redbirds squad that will play Dayton on the road in Round One. The Flyers are arguably the best team State has faced all year outside of Northern Iowa, and Eldridge and Co. couldn't handle UNI.

The Missouri Valley is well-represented this year, with Wichita State joining ISU in the NIT bracket, and Northern Iowa getting hard-earned hype in the Big Dance.

A Blessing In Disguise

Coastal Carolina had a great year. Yet at 28-6, they're out, while Winthrop dances. That's gotta hurt.

The Chanticleers drew Mike Davis' UAB Blazers in the first round, creating an exciting medieval matchup - the Blazers' mascot is a dragon, while a Chanticleer, by all appearances, is some kind of mythical rooster.

Junior Chad Grey (6'7", 205) and senior Joseph Harris (6'5", 180) lead the scoring for Coastal, and both shoot good percentages at well over 50%. The Chanticleers got beat down by Duke on Nov. 16, 74-49, in their only game against a true major opponent.

UAB may be favored to win on their home floor in Birmingham, but Coastal Carolina is honestly lucky to have choked against Winthrop. Those poor saps get to go to the play-in game for the honor of battling Duke in the first round of the other tourney.

Who do you think has a better chance to make a run? I'll take the Chanticleers for all the marbles, please.

NCAA Tournament Upset Madness: Three First-Round Matchups to Watch

The brackets are out and it's official - college basketball is now the lord of the land for the next few weeks. While the top seeds will be cruising in Round One, there are plenty of juicy matchups that just scream upset potential, and as we all know, those are the games that make headlines in Opening Weekend.

Here are a few games that may bust up brackets early in the Dance:

(4) Vanderbilt vs. (13) Murray State

The Commodores had a good year in the SEC, with senior Jermaine Beal leading the way for a relatively youthful squad. But they got handled by Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament, losing by fourteen, and finished their regular season with a home loss to NIT-bound South Carolina.

By contrast, the Murray State Racers dominated the Ohio Valley all season long. Their defense stiffened in the conference tournament, allowing opponents to score only 51 points in each game as the Racers cruised to the title.

In their only matchup of the year against an NCAA Tournament opponent, State almost beat California on the road way back in December.

Murray State's rotation goes eight deep and features good size to match up with Vandy's AJ Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor. Senior forward Tony Easley leads a balanced scoring attack that could give Vanderbilt fits.

Don't be shocked to see little Murray State race into the second round and a game against Butler or UTEP.

(6) Marquette vs. (11) Washington

Thanks to "Big School Name Recognition," it's possible that a lot of the members of your office pool will go ahead and pick this upset for no good reason.

As it turns out, they might be on to something.

Marquette's 6-foot-6 duo of Lazar Heyward and Jimmy Butler will have a job on their hands containing Washington's own 'big man,' Quincy Pontdexter. This is not exactly a game of giants; both starting Husky guards are under six feet, while Marquette mighty mite Maurice Acker is just as small - and talented.

Ken Pomeroy's rankings predict a close and exciting game here. And Washington has the edge in locker-room motivation, as the Pac-10 has gotten no respect (deservedly so) all year. They also have momentum from winning their conference tourney outright.

My general rule: If it's a coin flip, pick the underdog!

(5) Texas A&M vs. (12) Utah State

According to Pomeroy, this is one game where the underdog ought to be favored, albeit by just a point.

This game is also proof positive that the committee has a sense of humor. It'll be all Aggies as A&M and State square off in the East regional. Meanwhile, in the South, Clemson and Mizzou give us an all-Tigers game. Shockingly, no Wildcats will battle one another this year, at least not in the first round.

Back to the game. Utah State dominated the WAC this year and upset Mountain West powerhouse Brigham Young early in the season.

A&M performed admirably in the Big 12 meat grinder, but did fall to Western tourney teams Washington and New Mexico in their non-conference schedule.

Weak strength of schedule and a WAC finals loss to New Mexico State dropped Utah State to the twelve line, but both sets of Aggies play good defense and have similar offensive profiles.

State senior Jared Quayle may draw the tough defensive assignment of A&M's star Donald Sloan, and containing him could be the key in this game.

Other underdogs to watch include; (13) Siena over (4) Purdue, (11) San Diego State over (6) Tennessee, and (12) Cornell over (5) Temple.

My Big Ten All-Tournament Team and Awards


G: Devoe Joseph, Minnesota - Biggest Surprise

G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois - Best Leadership

G: Evan Turner, Ohio State - Most Valuable Player

F: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue - The Go-To Guy

F: Colton Iverson, Minnesota - Can't Miss


G: William Buford, Ohio State - Quietest Stat Stuffer

G: Manny Harris, Michigan - Toe-to-Toe with Turner

G: David Lighty, Ohio State - Glue Guy

F: Damian Johnson, Minnesota - Defensive Playmaker

F: Mike Tisdale, Illinois - Looks Like Bat Boy


F: John Shurna, Northwestern - Looks like a Manager, Plays like a Pro

F: Mike Davis, Illinois - Big Rebounder

G: Chris Kramer, Purdue - Mr. Toughness

G: Kalin Lucas, Michigan State - The Little Big Man

G: Cully Payne, Iowa - The Diaper Dandy

Some of the other guys I considered included Ralph Sampson III, E'Twaun Moore, Jon Diebler, Lawrence Westbrook (only on defense), and the guy that won the Dickie V impression contest at the half. Oh, and the trampoline artists, too.

EDIT: Oh my, I almost forgot Manny Harris. Fix is coming.

The Case Against Purdue Fans

Michigan State fans hate Purdue fans.

Wisconsin fans hate Purdue fans.

Indiana fans, obviously, hate Purdue fans. And know how crappy West Lafayette is, too!

Even the best Purdue writer on the web right now, Tim Cary, thinks Purdue fans are rude. Oh and by the way, those fans were Chris Kramer's mom.

Here's the deal, people. I have been to every game of the Big Ten tournament until today. There have been amazing games and awful ones, standout players and choke artists, great random fans and really irritating ones.

But the one constant throughout has been the POOR SPORSTMANSHIP of the Purdue fans infesting the upper deck of Conseco.

They moaned, whined, and cried every single time a whistle went against them on Friday. And that was a lot of whistles - 52 fouls were called that game. Seriously, an incredulous cry went up from Boiler Nation every SINGLE time they lost a ball out of bounds or got a foul. It was unreal.

And then yesterday, as I tried my damnedest to be civil to the angry folks in black and gold sitting next to me, all they had was dirty looks and barely contained rage. No sense of humor. No willingness to talk basketball. Or have fun.

Look, I know losing Robbie Hummel for the season hurts. And I know that it's not fun watching your team get crushed 37-11 in the first half. But, as I pointed out, I have sat through endless awful games this year thanks to the Hoosiers - I have sympathy. My angry West Lafayettian neighbors took this as a personal insult to their "amazing" team, pointing out that "we're number six in the country, where's IU at?" And they were NOT joking.

I need to point out that there are lots of good Purdue fans out there, I'm sure of it. I saw a few stick it out til the bitter, bitter end of the Minnesota debacle yesterday, and I went out of my way to give them props for it.

But when you storm out with 6:30 left in the second, stopping only to flip off the Indiana fans who have bent over backwards not to trash talk, and even to sympathize, during a game that I would have LOVED to spend chortling over "Boiler Doooowwwwwwnnnnn...." - Well, that's not class. That's a way to ensure that every other fan of the Big Ten roots against you next weekend.

Please, good Purdue fans, prove me wrong. Have some class. Enjoy your team as well as you can. And try and ditch the negativity.