Friday, March 31, 2006

Rating the Announcers

Everyone's been ragging on Billy Packer and Jim Nantz, and probably justifiably so, but let's take a look at the all 4 of the commentating duos that worked the Sweet 16 and Elite 8:

Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery - Quite simply, Bill Raftery is my personal hero. He has solid knowledge of the game, but I always have fun listening to him. He'll criticize a little, he'll get really excited over small things, but he's entertaining. I love listening to the guy. As for Lundquist, he's not my favorite play-by-play guy, but he's solid, and he works very well with Raftery. Bottom line, these two are the top duo in the Tourney. A.

Gus Johnson and Len Elmore - I've ragged a little on Len in the past for not really being excitable, but the truth is, I don't mind him at all. He's a little negative at times, he's not excitable (although he got about as close as he'll ever be at the end of the UCLA/Gonzaga game), but this is why Gus Johnson is a good complement to him. Gus is extremely excitable, but I don't mind that. You can tell he's really into the game. All in all, above average as a duo. B+.

Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas - I really like Dick Enberg, but let's be honest, he's been showing his age for a while now. I can only hear so many "Oh My!" (although he threw in a "My oh my!" after that Texas/LSU sequence when Gibson hit the 3) and name mess-ups before it gets a little old. But he's still got a great voice for calling the game, which is why I won't complain much. He's the basketball equivalent of Keith Jackson... old, but never really calls a bad game. As for Bilas, meh. I don't dislike him, but I think he's better in a studio role than in calling play-by-play. C.

Jim Nantz and Billy Packer - I used to like these guys, but now I'm starting to dislike them, joining most of America. I think it started on Selection Sunday, although not because of their behavior, but because of something Packer said. He said something to the effect of, "I haven't seen anyone in the MVC play, but looking at the numbers..." Wait, this guy is supposedly the top college basketball analyst out there, and he hasn't seen anyone from a 4-bid conference play? That's not right. (Digger Phelps said something similar, but I won't go into that here). As for Nantz, I don't really mind him per se, but he's really got to lay off a little on the cliches. Let's just say I'm not the only one cringing when I think he might say after the National Championship game this year. D+.

Bottom Line: Give me Lundquist and Raftery and you won't hear a peep out of me! How about you guys? What's the consensus out there?

EDIT: Thanks to a couple of readers for pointing out that I messed up in saying that Gus is not excitable enough, when I actually meant that Len was the one that doesn't get excited I have edited it out now. My apologies.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

MLB Predictions

The time has come, I suppose, to make my MLB picks for the year. This will be my first year I'm not actually playing baseball on a team, so the start of the year is bittersweet for me, but at the end of the day, it's still baseball, and baseball is still awesome. Here goes nothing.


1. Boston Red Sox
2. NY Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devilrays

1. Cleveland Indians
2. *Minnesota Twins
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

1. Oakland Athletics
2. Anaheim Angels (none of that LA crap here)
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners


1. New York Mets
2. *Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Houston Astros
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds

1. LA Dodgers
2. San Fransisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

* denotes wildcard

Oakland over Minnesota in 4
Cleveland over Boston in 5

Oakland over Cleveland in 6

St. Louis over Atlanta in 4
Los Angeles over New York in 5

St. Louis over Los Angeles in 5

Oakland over St. Louis in 6

AL MVP: Travis Hafner - the guy can just rake, and he's got a heck of a lineup around him. (Other Votes: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz)
NL MVP: Albert Pujols - Has officially replaced Bonds as the best hitter in the game. (Other Votes: David Wright)

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana - Scary thought, he should be just entering his prime. (Other Votes: Rich Harden, John Lackey)
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy - Still improving, and plays in great pitcher's park. (Other Votes: Roy Oswalt)

AL Rookie of the Year: Kenji Johima - Generally, older Japanese players fare well. (Other Votes: Fransisco Liriano)
NL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hermida - will be batting in Florida. 20/20 potential. (Other Votes: Connor Jackson)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Could we have seen this coming?

By now, we know who the real George Mason was, the most famous George Mason alumni, and just about every other random factoid you ever wanted to know about them. By the time Saturday rolls around, I suspect we'll even know what shampoo GMU coach Jim Larranago uses (my guess: Pert Plus), and you'll also hear about as many bad 'Patriot Act' puns as you'll ever want to hear. But this doesn't answer some questions about the Patriots, such as, how did they get here? Could we have seen this coming? Let's take a look at the past coupld of years of Patriot basketball.

Last year, George Mason was a middle of the pack CAA team, posting a 10-8 conference record and a 16-13 overall record. They lost their last 3 games on the way to an early exit in the CAA Tournament. Obviously, they were nowhere near a postseason tournament.

From what I can tell, they came back with much of the same as far as the roster is concerned. Their top 3 scorers are seniors. However, this year didn't start out much better than last year finished.

They started out with a win over UC-Irvine, and then lost to Wake Forest. At the time, this was an understandable loss... then Wake Forest went on to finish last in the ACC. In their next game they lost by 20 vs. Creighton. By early December they were 4-3. They proceeded to go 24-4 the rest of the way, and are now 4-0 in the tourney. Let's check the numbers of this year's starters last year compared to this year:

2004 Stats
Jai Lewis - 13.0 Points, 7.5 Rebounds, 1.9 Assists
Tony Skinn - 14.4 Points, 2.9 Rebounds, 2.2 Assists
Lamar Butler - 15.7 Points, 2.4 Rebounds, 2.4 Assists
Will Thomas - 5.7 Points, 5.6 Rebounds, 0.8 Assists
Folarin Campbell - 6.4 Points, 2.2 Rebounds, 1.3 Assists

2005 Stats
Jai Lewis - 13.7 Points, 7.7 Rebounds, 1.9 Assists
Tony Skinn - 12.6 Points, 3.5 Rebounds, 2.8 Assists
Lamar Butler - 12.0 Points, 2.5 Rebounds, 2.0 Assists
Will Thomas - 11.8 Points, 7.3 Rebounds, 1.2 Assists
Folarin Campbell - 11.0 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 3.5 Assists

From the looks of the numbers, the 3 seniors (Skinn, Lewis, Butler) have all been about equal statistically, but the improved play is coming mostly from the sophomores. Of course, this is mainly to be expected, as typically that is when the most improvement occurs, and because Campbell and Thomas didn't start last year while the other three did.

So this doesn't really tell us anything. How about their schedule this year? Hiw did they fare against tournament teams?

Well, they did go 3-1 against tournament teams, with those wins against Wichita St., Manhattan, and UNC-Wilmington. Good wins, but nothing really to hang your hat on. Consequently, 6 of their 7 losses came against Non-Tourney teams, with the exception being UNC-Wilmington, whom they split with.

Could anyone have really seen this coming? Maybe this guy, but I'm guessing his was more of a lucky guess or joke pick. All the signs pointed against them going far. They had a tough road (the last two National Champs as well as a talented Michigan St. squad), they most likely don't have anyone that will play in the NBA, their second leading scorer was suspended for the first game of the Tournament for throwing a cheap shot, they had exactly 2 wins against the RPI Top 50, and they didn't have any type of momentum (they had lost to Hofstra twice in the last 2 weeks, including in the Quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament). Yet here they are, one of 4 teams left in the NCAA Tournament, making perhaps the best run ever in the NCAA Tournament, the first Mid-Major to make the Final Four since Larry Bird and Indiana St. in 1979, and tied for the lowest seed ever in the NCAA Tournament.

Sometimes, you just never know.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Better Luck Next Year!

I don't know if you can read that (you can click the picture if you can't), but it shows the picks of the ESPN "experts." Between Jay Bilas, Pat Forde, Andy Katz, and Dick Vitale, they have one Final Four team. ONE. I know it was a fairly unpredictable tourney, but I have more Final Four teams left than Jay Bilas, Pat Forde, and Andy Katz combined. That's sad.

Another thing I laughed at, Jay Bilas wrote an article today (need Insider) titled "Getting in means much more than seeding." Jay Bilas felt so strongly about this issue that he had to write a whole article saying that just getting into the Tournament in more important than where you are seeded. As if that was in doubt. Geez Jay, you're telling me that if you want to advance deep into the Tournament, actually getting in is more important than where you're seeded? Did you come up with all of this by yourself? For good measure, here's a quote:

"Being selected for inclusion in the tournament is far more important than seeding."

Does Bilas think this is some type of revolutionary idea? That if you want to make a run in the Tournament you have to get in first? I really do like Jay Bilas, but I had to laugh when I read this. Maybe I'm just missing the hidden meaning here. Anyone have any idea what it is?

MNF Doubleheader?

The NFL announced today that there will be a doubleheader on the first Monday night of the year. The first game will feature the Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins, on ESPN. The second game will feature the San Diego Chargers at the Oakland Raiders.

Not only do I think this idea sucks, the Chargers at the Raiders? What, they couldn't fit in a mtchup like San Fransisco at New Orleans? (no offense to the fans of those teams) They showed Oakland on the opening night last year, wasn't that good enough? I digress.

The other thing the NFL is doing is adding a tripleheader on Thanksgiving. Aside from the normal Cowboys and Lions games, they are adding the Denver Broncos at the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, not only do I think this idea sucks, but another notch against it is that the Broncos/Chiefs game will be on the NFL Network. Now, I don't know that many people, but I don't know one person that has the NFL Network. This is like showing conference tournament or NIT games on ESPNU. Technically, it's on TV. But that doesn't mean most people can watch it if they so choose.

If you're going to mess with the schedule, at least give me the option to watch the game.

New Banner

Much, much thanks to Jeff from The Sports Page.

I was chatting with him on AIM one night when out of the blue he volunteered to make me a banner. I said sure, I'd love one, and he told me he could make one. By the next day I had one in my inbox. And then, when I had trouble figuring out how to set it up on my page, he helped me out there as well, all out of the kindess of his heart. So thank you very much Jeff, as you certainly didn't have to do this for me, but you did anyway.

What do you all think?

Final Four is Set

This was not supposed to happen. A team with more depth than anyone else in the country, the best pure PG in the nation (Marcus Williams), the potential #1 pick in the NBA Draft (Rudy Gay), the best 6th Man in the Nation who seemingly had ice water in his veins (Rashad Anderson), the #1 shot blocking team in the country, a Hall-of-Fame coach, and experience is not supposed to lose to a #11 seed in the Elite Eight.

But somebody forgot to tell that to George Mason.

Despite late-game heroics for the second game in a row to allow Connecticut to send the game into overtime, George Mason defeated Connecticut 86-84 in OT as Denham Brown's 3-pointer at the buzzer was no good.

Sticking true to their tournament form, George Mason was extremely balanced. They were led in scoring by Jai Lewis with 20 points. After that, Will Thomas and Lamar Butler had 19 each, Folarin Campbell has 15, and Tony Skinn had 10. Rudy Gay led UConn with 20 points in what might have been his last collegiate game.

While Connecticut probably could have played a little better, all the credit has to go to George Mason. They played a fantastic game, especially in the 2nd half and OT. They didn't turn the ball over much (only 11 TO), they shot 50% from beyond the arc, and they outrebounded an extremely good rebounding team by 4. Don't be fooled by their seed... beating Michigan St., North Carolina, Wichita St., and Connecticut in a 2-week span is great no matter who you are, and they didn't even need any miracle shots to win any of the games. They definitely earned respect for the little man in college basketball.

For a laugh, here's ESPN's Final Word about George Mason when they previewed the tournament:

Skinn's cheap shot in the CAA semis -- and the resulting one-game suspension -- figures to be too much for the Patriots, essentially a seven-man team, to overcome.

On a separate note, I really wish I could whistle like Jim Larranaga, George Mason's coach.

The other game was a surpisingly dull matchup between Villanova and Florida. Both teams play an up-and-down style, so I was thinking we would be in for an entertaining game, but Villanova, or should I say Villanova players not named Randy Foye and Jason Fraser forgot to show up. Foye contributed 25 in a losing effort, as Florida beat Villanova 75-62.

The story of this game was how bad Allan Ray was. 5/19 for 11 points. And he was getting some decent looks, he just could not hit the broad side of a barn. Has to be a tough pill to swallow after a fantastic senior year. Florida was led by Joakim Noah's 21 points and 15 rebounds, Al Horford's 12 points and 15 rebounds, and Taurean Green's 19 points. Corey Brewer was also huge in his defense of Allan Ray.

With experts like Clark Kellogg predicting all four #1 seeds to make the Final Four (before the brackets were announced, no less!), this is the first year since 1980 that none of the #1 seeds will be at the Final Four. A wacky year, a wacky tournament, and fittingly, a wacky Final Four. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Complete Sports Home

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Half the Bracket is Set

Half of the Final Four was set today, as UCLA beat Memphis 50-45, and LSU beat Texas 70-60 in overtime. UCLA rode shut-down defense all game to a win in the lowest scoring regional final ever, while LSU pounded it in to "Big Baby" and Tyrus Thomas to eventually wear down Texas.

For the summary of UCLA/Memphis, I'll use this paragraph from Wayne Drehs of ESPN:

But it wasn't nearly enough -- because of the Bruins' defense. When Howland came to UCLA from Pittsburgh three years ago, this is what he sold to his players: defense, focus and mental toughness. They bought in. And Saturday night in northern California, he was proven right. When his two star players -- guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo -- combined to go 3-of-18 from the floor, when his team shot 51 percent from the free-throw line, when they were outrebounded by five and committed 17 turnovers, they still won.

Memphis coach John Calipari called it "The ugliest game I've ever coached in. Easily."

But you're definitely not going to hear any complaining from me!

For LSU, meanwhile, it was all about the big boys. Glen Davis wore down LeMarcus Aldridge down low on his way to 26 points and 9 rebounds, while freshman Tyrus Thomas contributed 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks, as well as making Texas reluctant to take it to the hoop. They held Texas to 30% from the field, including Aldridge's 2/14 effort. The Sports Page has some nice pictures from each game, while Deadspin says Indianapolis buffet restaurants should prepare for Glen Davis now.

This sets up a really intriguing Final Four matchup. If you like great defensive basketball, you're going to want to tune in. Both teams like games low scoring, as evidenced by today's action. LSU will obviously try to get it inside, but UCLA has some bodies to throw at the big guys down low, and their pressure defense from the guards will make it tough for the guards to enter the ball. That will definitely be the interesting matchup to watch.

Anyway, I like Connecticut and Villanova to win out in the other regional semifinals, which take place Sunday.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Heart Attack Can't Be Far Off!

With the way this tourney has gone, I think I may have a heart attack before it's over. However, I don't think that would be such a bad way to go!

That three to tie it by Rashard Anderson had absolutely no business of going in the basket... and yet he drains the deep three with a man in his face... unbelievable. You wanna talk about clutch? How about that guy down the stretch? That was just utterly unbelievable. I stuck a fork in Connecticut with about a minute left, and they battled back. Just an incredible game.

This is like deja vu all over again, but Connecticut has to start playing better in the first 3/4 of the game. I think they racked up 24 turnovers by that point, and a 6'6'' post was dominating that game. This is not going to get it done in the Final Four or Championship.

Anyway, I have 6 of my Elite 8 teams in there (although I was 8 for 8 in my predictions a few days ago), and all of my Final Four teams left, but I'm not feeling really confident. I'll tell you what I mean with some quick Elite 8 picks:

Texas vs. LSU - My pick before the Tourney was Texas, but I have to reconsider. LSU is playing great ball right now, and I just don't think Texas will be able to get enough production from their guards. Both teams are enormously talented inside, but I think Darrel Mitchell will do enough for LSU to get the win.

Memphis vs. UCLA - Again, I picked UCLA before the Tourney, but now I'm having second thoughts. The Bruins have just struggled so much against the zone. Plus, UCLA has to be a little drained after the emotional comeback win over Gonzaga, while Memphis has had a relatively easy schedule so far, and they're coasting into this. I don't know if UCLA can quite match Memphis' energy for 40 minutes.

Connecticut vs. George Mason - Let's be honest here, Connecticut has not played well up to this point, and they're actually quite lucky they're still alive. Meanwhile, George Mason has played 3 excellent games thus far. Let me just say I think it will take a combo of Connecticut playing their worst game, and George Mason playing their best game if the Patriots are going to win here. I'm not saying it won't happen, but I'd be absolutely shocked if it did. Connecticut wins.

Villanova vs. Florida - I like this matchup better for Villanova than a potential Georgetown matchup. Florida plays a similar style to Villanova, but the Wildcats play it better. Joakim Noah will be solid, but Villanova has enough bodies to throw at him. Villanova wins.

Although as a side note, is there anyone more fun to watch than Kyle Lowry? Yes, the refs let him get a little too physical with his on-the-ball defense, but with his style of playing and going all out, he's just a joy to watch.

Couple other notes: Human beings are just simply not supposed to do what Sean Williams did to block Kyle Lowry's shot at the end of regulation. He came from the other side of the lane to block that thing. One of the better blocks I've ever seen. Lastly, let me at least call out Allan Ray for a marvelous pick on Jared Dudley to get Will Sheridan open for the bucket. Very nice play.

And with that, I'll see you tomorrow as Texas takes on LSU, and UCLA takes on Memphis. Hopefully the games stay exciting!

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Other Sweet 16 Games

Sorry if it seems like I'm minimizing these games because I wrote a whole post about UCLA/Gonzaga... that's just because of how important that one was to me. But anyway, these three weren't too bad themselves, especially Texas/West Virginia. Let's have a look:

Texas 74, West Virginia 71: The most important number in this game is 28, as in the number that Texas outrebounded West Virginia by. 43-15. That's unbelievable. Second chance points is the biggest reason why Texas was able to overcome 15-33 shooting from behind the arc for the Mountaineers.

Now, as amazing as I thought the UCLA finish was, it might not have even been the best one of the night. Pittsnogle hits a 3 to tie it up with 5 seconds, and then Kenton Paulino comes right back to drain a 3 at the buzzer. Could you possibly ask for two better finishes? The 20 or so minutes that encompassed this finish and the UCLA finish is really a great example of why I consider college basketball to be so amazing. I dare you to find something better than this.

LSU 62, Duke 54: The MVP of this game was absolutely and unequivocally Garrett Temple. He scored 3 points on 1/6 shooting. But looking beyond the boxscore, his defense on J.J. Redick was some of the best work I've ever seen. He was physical with him, but not to the point where he was fouling him. He harrassed him everytime he got the ball, which was not all that often. Redick got about 3 decent looks all game, and that was because of Temple. Redick's final collegiate line: 3/18 FG, 11 points. I tip my hat to you Mr. Temple.

The turning point in this game, in my mind at least, was when Shelden Williams got his 4th foul. After that, he just looked extremely tenative out there on both ends. He was abused down low because he didn't want to pick up his 5th foul, and he was not a factor at all on the offensive end. This was the turning point in the game.

Also, many props for Tyrus Thomas. He finished with 9 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks. But a lot of his work came late in the game, when he too had 4 fouls. The difference in how Shelden Williams played with 4 fouls and how Tyrus Thomas played with 4 fouls was the difference in the game.

Last note about this game, how great was it to have two legitimately good nicknames in the same game? "The Landlord" vs. "Big Baby?" That's just simply good stuff right there, and something we don't get much of anymore.

Memphis 80, Bradley 64: This one went about exactly as I thought it would. Bradley stayed in the game for a while, the halftime score was 35-30, but eventually Memphis was too deep and talented for them. Not too much else to say about this one.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


First off, I'm a UCLA Bruins fan, so obviously I thought this UCLA/Gonzaga was one of, if not the best game I've ever seen.

The first half was pretty much not good at all. UCLA just came out playing uninspired ball... no defensive effort at all, settling for open jumpers that were not falling, and turning the ball over a lot against the zone. Gonzaga's lead was up to 17 at one point. It really would have been hard for them to have a worse half.

They started playing better right away in the second half, but they didn't really make up any ground. They cut it to six at one point, but Gonzaga answered right back with a 4 point play. Any time the Bruins would make a run, Gonzaga would be able to answer back.

When Adam Morrison hit 2 free throws with 3:26 left, Gonzaga was up 71-62, and they looked to be in control of the game. They never scored again.

At that point, UCLA really picked things up, obviously, but especially on the defensive end. They pressured the heck out of the ballhandler, and they were all over Morrison everytime he got the ball. On misses, UCLA had some great box-outs. Offensively, they scored just enough. Here's what I thought about the last 3 1/2 minutes:

- First, how does the ref blow that call and not give Darren Collison continuation? I'm obviously a biased observer here, but this wasn't even debateable. Collison was clearly in the act of shooting. Just a really, really bad call, that thankfully didn't cost the Bruins.

- For fairness' sake, the refs should have added at least 0.5 seconds to the clock after the jump ball.

- That runner by Farmar on the baseline to cut it to 71-68 is a lot harder than it looks, trust me.

- I really think there were about 10 different times over the course of the game that I thought UCLA was toast. Gonzaga just played so well for 36 1/2 minutes, and UCLA was so bad for the first 20. I didn't know if they'd be able to make it up.

- I have no problem with a guy crying after a tough loss to end the season, but starting to cry on the court when there's still 2.6 seconds left and it's a 1 point game. Emotion is obviously a huge part of the game, but show at least a little restraint and wait until the game is over.

- Gus Johnson is awesome. And the best part is, we even got some good emotion from Len Elmore! Mark this date down on your calendars!

- This is probably embarrassing to admit, but I just felt physically drained after that game. It was like I played the game.

- If Gonzaga had gone back down and hit a game-winner after "The Prince" hit his layup, I think I may have had a heart attack. I would have gone from being really down the whole game to an unbelievable high, and then back down. I would have just sat down where I was for at least 10 minutes and just stared into space. Luckily though, it didn't have to come down to that!

Really, I don't know how to put it into words. Just an unbelievable game.

I'd be really interested in seeing your guys' reactions and thoughts about it, whether you had a rooting interest or not. Where does it rank among some of the games you've seen?

ESPN Recap
SI Recap

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sweet 16 Preview

We're finally back to the NCAA Tournament! Which, of course, means more commercials, more Jim Nantz and Billy Packer, and oh yeah, more basketball. If you've been scoring at home (or even if you're alone), you know that I still have 7 of my 8 Elite 8 picks, so I have that going for me, which is nice. So we might see some of those same picks again.

Atlanta Region
Duke vs. LSU - I went with LSU in the beginning, and I'm sticking with it. They seem to me to match up well. They're athletic and big. Tasmin Mitchell seems like a good matchup for Redick, because he's athletic and has a 3-inch advantage. Inside, it'll be a battle of the big boys between "Big Baby" and Shelden Williams. Williams has struggled against similar players this (Killingsworth, Hansbrough), so this might favor Davis. In the end, I think Duke's role players, specifically DeMarcus Nelson and Lee Melchionni have to step up and hit shots. I don't see them making enough. LSU wins.

Texas vs. West Virginia - The Mountaineers are looking for a return trip to the Sweet 16, Texas is looking to cash in on all that talent. The teams met earlier this year, with Texas winning 76-75. Texas seems to be playing better, at least they did against NC State. West Virginia has played great basketball over the first 2 rounds. In the end, I think Texas' athleticism will make the result of this one similar to the first, Texas in a close one. But Daniel Gibson needs to produce.

Oakland Region
Memphis vs. Bradley - Bradley has absolutely played as well as any team so far in the Tourney, and they deserve to be here. That being said, I think Memphis is far too athletic, talented, and deep for Bradley to hang with them. You had a great run Bradley, but Memphis takes this one going away.

UCLA vs. Gonzaga - Very intriguing matchup, pitting an offensive powerhouse against a very good defensive team. Coming in, I wans't impressed with the Zags and I thought they'd be done in round 2, but they really did impress me against Indiana. Morrison was off his game but they still scored a lot, and Errol Knight showed a lot of defensive intensity. However, I think UCLA is tougher, better defensively, better on the glass, and they shoot a little too. UCLA in a tight one.

Washington Region
Connecticut vs. Washington - I really like this Washington team, but I don't think they have enough to get by Connecticut. Yes, UConn has struggled, but they're still the deepest and most talented team, and they have the best PG in the nation. Brandon Roy's a beast, but unless Dentmon has a big day I don't see the upset here. Connecticut wins.

Wichita St. vs. George Mason - Another rematch, as George Mason beat Wichita St 70-67 during BracketBusters. Both teams are obviously playing great basketball, and both have beat solid opponents. I like George Mason's balance, with 5 men in double figures, and how they picked up the slack and stepped up when Tony Skinn was out for the first game against Michigan St. This is basically a pick'em in my eyes, but I'd tend to lean toward George Mason.

Minneapolis Region
Villanova vs. Boston College - Basically everyone has been pointing to this potential matchup since the brackets were announced, and fortunately for basketball fans, things fell into place. A classic inside vs. outside battle. I think Smith & Dudley will get theirs for BC, and I think Foye & Ray will do their part for Villanova, which is why I think this one comes down to how Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi perform compared to Louis Hinnant and Tyrese Rice. Hinnant has been playing great ball ever since the ACC Tournament, and Boston College is going to need more of the same in this game. However, I think Lowry will be able to outmatch Hinnant here. One other factor that could play a huge role is Sean Williams and his shot-blocking ability. If he is effective down low defensively against Nova's driving guards, that could turn this around. However, in this matchup of power vs. speed, I like speed, which is why Villanova is the pick.

Florida vs. Georgetown - Before the tourney I picked the Hoyas to the Elite 8, but I'm not so sure about that anymore. Florida is playing about as well as anyone. They have great inside-outside balance, athletes everywhere, and they play very good defense. For the Hoyas, Hibbert is playing exceptional ball right now, but Brandon Bowman has not been much of a contributor on the offensive end of the floor during the first two rounds. I'm changing my pre-backet pick (because I can do that), and going with Florida, who is just playing great basketball right now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Random NFL News

- John Abraham is off to Atlanta , with the help of the Denver Broncos. I'll let ESPN explain:

"Atlanta sent its first-round choice, the 15th pick overall in this year's draft, to Denver for the Broncos' first-round choice, No. 29 overall. The Falcons also picked up a pair of middle-round selections, one each in the 2006 and 2007 drafts.

The Falcons then shipped the 29th pick acquired from Denver to the Jets in exchange for Abraham."

- In a semi-surprising move, former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri signed with the Indianapolis Colts today. Terms of the deal are not available yet, but it looks like he'll get a $3.5 million signing bonus, and then it averages $2.5 million a year over the first 3 years of the deal. I guess when you're desparate you're desparate.

- Eric Moulds has permission to seek a trade, after he refused to take a pay cut. Moulds' "personal trainer" said that Moulds does not want to play for the Bills and he won't play for the Bills. Not good for a team whose offense wasn't very good last year. Although that probably had more to do with JP Losman and Kelly Holcomb more than anything else.

- The Minnesota Vikings actually have a fullback! They signed Tony Richardson to a 2-year deal on Tuesday. Under Tice, the Vikings never really had a true FB, but they used Jermaine Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser as more of an H-Back/TE. Richardson comes from Kansas City, which has been a very good rushing team, so this looks like a nice deal. Richardson is a solid lead blocker and receiver out of the backfield.

Vikings get Steve Hutchinson

The Seattle Seahawks decided not to match the Vikings offer sheet for Steve Hutchinson. And for this, I am very pleased.

The deal is 7 years and $49 million, but the Vikings are "only" guaranteeing Hutchinson $10 million. However, because of a clause put into the contract, if the Seahawks were to match the offer, they would have had to guarantee him all of the $49 million because Walter Jones is their highest paid lineman. They didn't, and then they used the money saved to sign Julian Peterson.

This deal makes Hutchinson the highest paid OG in the history of the NFL if I am not mistaken, but seeing as how he is probably the best Guard in the NFL right now, and the Vikings have money to burn, I'm very happy with this. The Line was one of the Vikings big problems last year, as it showed as the QB's took lots of hits and the running game was inconsistent at best. If Matt Birk can come from his injury, with Birk, Mount McKinnie, and Hutchinson, the Vikings have the makings of a very solid offensive line.

Now my hope that DeAngelo Williams falls to #17 in the Draft and the Vikings snatch him up. Then it would make for a very good offseason, even with the loss of Culpepper.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Well, maybe the Jim Bowden should have thought this through

Further proof that Jim Bowden is one of the worst GM's in baseball, if not the worst.

Soriano refuses to play.

In the Nationals game Monday afternoon, Soriano was put into the lineup batting leadoff and playing Left Field. But when the game started, he just didn't go out. Frank Robinson had to go to home plate and make a lineup switch, inserting Brandon Watson into CF and moving Ryan Church into LF. The Nationals are now saying that Soriano will be given another chance on Wednesday, and if he once again refuses to play, he will be put on the DQ list and will not receive pay. Bowden had this to say:

"He made it pretty clear that he was not going to play," Bowden said. "We hope that when he reflects on it, we hope that he changes his mind and plays left field."

Gee Jim, don't you think maybe you would have taken that into consideration when you made the trade? Soriano has said all along that he will not play in the OF, so what does Bowden do? Trades for him and tries to put him into the OF. And this is not even going into the fact that Brad Wilkerson is actually a better, cheaper player. And the Rangers got Termel Sledge as well.

Bad GM + Overrated Player with Bad Attitude = Very Funny Situation.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Worth Every Second

In the last 4 days, I'd estimate that I spent roughly 30 hours watching college basketball. Sadly, this is no exaggeration. Most would consider this a colossal waste of time. Me? Let's just say that if I could do it all over again... I would in a heartbeat.

What a great first couple of rounds of the NCAA Tournament! We saw a double OT game on the first day, another OT game after an 18-point comeback, lots of close games and upsets, and even some game-winners. You know there were some great games when you can have lists like this:

Top Game-Winning Shots
1. Jermaine Wallace (Northwestern St.) - The fadeaway 3 from the corner over Adam Haluska with 0.5 seconds at 14 seeded NW St. upset the 3rd seeded Hawkeyes is the defining moment of the Tourney so far, and one that's gonna be replayed a lot of times for a lot of years.
2. Darrel Mitchell - LSU - It looked like the Aggies had pulled off another win. Up two with time winding down, Mitchell had the ball in his hands. With 3.9 seconds left, and Mitchell standing about five feet behind the line, Mitchell launches one. And it swishes through, sending LSU into a matchup with Duke. Huge shot for the senior, especially even just having the guts to take it. Down 2, they got the ball with plenty of time. They stalled around for a while before Mitchell's man got switched off of him. No one came out enough on Mitchell. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. Chris Lofton (Tennessee) - Another fadeaway from the corner, this time to help 2 seed Tennessee be only the 5th 2 seed ever to lose to a 15 seed. Great shot, but it's third only because if he misses, Tennessee still gets to go to OT. If Wallace misses, the Demons of Northwestern St. are done for the year. If Mitchell misses, LSU is going home. Still a fantastic shot.
4. Robert Vaden (Indiana) - Time winding down. Ball passed to Vaden. Ball tipped in air. Vaden gets ball. Vaden shoots ball. Ball goes in. Vaden breaks my heart. I picked the Aztecs to win that game, but I have to give it up for Vaden. Way to keep your cool, hit the shot, and send your team onto round 2.
5. Cameron Bennerman (NC State) - With the score tied at 52, Bennerman drained a three from the wing with about 30 seconds left. California never scored again in the game, and the Wolfpack advanced like they always seem to do in round 1.

Some other interesting factoids thoughts from the first two round:
- Sweet 16 bids for the MVC: 2.
- Sweet 16 bids for the CAA: 1.
- Sweet 16 bids for the Big 12: 1.
- Sweet 16 bids for the Big Ten: 0.
- Billy Packer's silence on the issue: Priceless.

- On the subject of the MVC, I knew Wichita St. and Bradley were good teams. I even predicted the Shockers to the Sweet 16. But they are playing great basketball, better than I could have predicted. The reason for their success starts with their defense. Both are very good and capable defensive teams. On offense, they make good decisions and have good balance with the inside and outside game. Bradley's stars are C Patrick O'Bryant (only a sophomore) and Wing player Marcus Sommerville (18 and 6 against Pittsburgh). Wichita St. has the MVC Player of the Year in Paul Miller down low, but they also have balance, as they hit 9/15 from downtown against the Vols. These are not your father's Mid-Majors.

- How disappointing was the Big 10? The conference was ranked #1 in the RPI coming in. They have 0 Sweet 16 teams. Let's look at their teams' seeds and the seeds' of who they lost to:
#2 Ohio St. - lost to #7 Georgetown
#3 Iowa - lost to #14 Northwestern St.
#4 Illinois - lost to #5 Washington
#6 Indiana - lost to #3 Gonzaga
#6 Michigan St. - lost to #11 George Mason
#9 Wisconsin - lost to #8 Arizona

Yep, that's a grand total of 2 out of 6 teams that lost to teams that had higher seeds. They didn't win a game that they weren't favored to win. Yikes.

- Georgetown might have the best 1-2 punch in the nation next year in Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, both sophomores this year. Today, Hibbert had 20 and 14, while Green had 19 points, 8 rebounds, and even 6 assists. Only 4 players scored for the Hoyas, and they won by 18 points. Looks like everyone on the Buckeyes except Terence Dials forgot to show up.

- Connecticut really needs to stop playing down to the level of their opponents. They are a more talented and deeper team than Washington, but if they play like they did in these first 2 rounds, Washington is more than capable of beating them.

- UCLA/Gonzaga should be a heck of a matchup. The Zags are great offensively, which they showed they can be even if Morrison has an off night. The Bruins are very tough defensively. The key to this game is that UCLA has to play better if Gonzaga plays zone than they did against the Tide.

- I still think Villanova vs. Boston College is the game of the round. Classic inside vs. outside matchup. This one will be decided by whoever plays better: Villanova's big men or Boston College's guards. Ray and Foye will get theirs for Nova, and Dudley & Smith will get theirs for BC. I still favor Villanova because Lowry is a tenacious defender, and Sheridan is playing better, but if Tyrese Rice starts hitting 3s like he did in the 2nd half against Montana, it could be a long afternoon for the Wildcats.

That's all I got for now. Much more to come in the following days, as we wait for the Sweet 16 to start up Thursday. Have a good week!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ok, these commericals are getting a little ridiculous.

By now, I'm sure you've seen them all. If you're like me, you've seen all the commercials CBS is showing at least 10 times each, and probably more (and this, sadly, is not an exaggeration).

It's not even the fact that they always replay the same commericals. It's the fact that for every TV Timeout, we get a solid 3 minutes of commercials. After every timeout a team takes, we go to a commerical break, where they usually fit in at least 2 commercials. Whatever happened to the announcers talking about the game during a short timeout? Instead, we're stuck with the same commercials over and over again.

So if you'll allow me to rant about these crappy commercials, and I encourage you to do the same in the Comments, because I'm sure you're as fed up as I am.

The Applebee's Commercial - The first couple times I heard this, I kinda liked it. Now, I think CBS plays it more than any other commercial. I've just grown to have a strong dislike of these two guys. And when they're in the Applebee's playing the guitar, and the water is just flying off the guy's guitar and hits the woman in the eye, that's just stupid.

State Farm Commercial - This is just stupid. The guy's in getting car insurance... only he's dressed up like he's ready for a basketball game. His chest and face are painted, and I think he's wearing a cape. The lady tells him something, and I think he barks. Does State Farm think a guy in a cape with his chest painted barking is going to convince people to buy their insurance? Anyway, she says something else, and he says "Boo Yeah!" What? I don't like Stuart Scott in the first place, and I really don't like Stuart Scott impersonators. So not only is a painted guy in a cape trying to buy insurance, but he's barking and he says "Boo Yeah!" Not cool.

TGI Friday's Commercial - First off, TGI Friday's is not so popular that you just constantly run into people there. Second off, I personally have never met a guy that just sits down, steal a guy's last shrimp out of his hand, and then drinks his Kung Pow says, and says "Spicy." This just does not happen. I don't even get the point of the commercial. To say their sauce is spicy?

Southwest Airlines Commercial - Or maybe it's Northwest Airlines, I'm not sure. Whatever those "Wanna get away?" commercials are. I actually kinda liked these at first. In one, the guy pumps up his basketball so much that it pops when it hits the backboard. In another, the guy jumps off a mini-trampoline and goes on the roof. These become far less clever after the 300th viewing.

McDonald's Commerical - I really have to say, if you've been married for 10 years, and you didn't even know it until you drank a cup of coffee from McDonald's, your problems are very large. And I don't just mean marital problems. How incredibly stupid is the premise of these commercials? "Drink a cup of coffee, cure amnesia!" This commercial sucks.

Cingular Commercials - "You don't have March Madness, you have March Sadness." No, I have March Sadness, from watching this commercial so many times. I have grown to hate that guy with the Cingular phone. Everything about him. His looks, personality, etc., and all from a commercial. I actually thought the dropped calls ne was kinda clever, the one about where he and his brother have such a deep emotional connection that two words is all he needs to say. But now that I've seen it so much, it's not funny anymore.

The saddest thing about this is that normally, these commercials probably wouldn't be that bad. But I've seen them so many times because of all the long commercial breaks that CBS has, so I know I'll be seeing a lot more of them over the course of the tournament.

Friday's Gamesin the NCAA Tournament

First off, I'm not even going to go over how my picks went, because it wasn't pretty. So far, I've lost 4 (ouch!) Sweet 16 teams, and one Elite 8 team in Michigan St. My hopes rest on Georgetown making the Elite 8, and LSU beating Duke to make the Elite 8, and then getting my Final Four and Title picks right. Needless to say, I'm not optimistic. Anyway, let's look at the best and worst from Firday's action.

Best play: Do I even need to write this out? Jermaine Wallace's fade-away three with 0.5 seconds to beat a senior-laden Iowa team in what might have been Steve Alford's last game at Iowa. An instant classic, and one that goes into the video archive for future viewing.

Most Disappoing Teams: Kansas and Michigan St. Iowa lost as well, but they at least should have won if not for a miracle shot in the end. Kansas and Michigan St., however, were just outplayed the whole game. I realize Bradley is a very good club, but Kansas was playing so well. They just beat Texas last week to win the Big 12 Title. By the numbers, they were the most efficient defensive team in the nation. But Bradley just beat them all over the place. As for Michigan St., we probably should have seen this coming. Loads of talent, but no D. George Mason, without their 2nd leading scorer, did whatever they wanted offensively against the Spartans. Shocking to see from a Tom Izzo coached team.

Best Announcer: As usual, Bill Raftery stood out. I love this guy.

Least Excited Announcer: Len Elmore. Don't get me wrong, I still like him, but SHOW A LITTLE EXCITEMENT. Maybe this is only noticeable because he was working with likeable but very exciteable Gus Johnson, but the only times I heard Elmore get excited is when he was sarcastically correcting Johnson, which got a little annoying.

Worst Announcing Duo: Jim Nantz and Billy Packer. Like Elmore, I don't mind these guys, but I like them less than I used to. Maybe it has to do with having to hear their conversation with Craig Littlepage last week, but for some reason I don't like them as much. Give me Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery everyday of the week and twice on Sunday.

The "You Guys are Probably Going to Need to Play Better Than This to Win in Future Rounds" Award: Texas and Connecticut. UConn trailed 16 seed Albany by 12 with as little as 11 minutes left, and I don't think they took the lead for good around the 6 or 7 minute mark. This one week after they got beat by Syracuse. As for Texas, they struggled the whole game against Ivy League champion Penn. Maybe I forgot to mention this, but these two teams are in my National Title Game. I'm a little worried. Honorable mention goes to North Carolina and Ohio St., who barely snuck by a 14 seed and 15 seed respectively.

The "Oh they had a game today?" Award: Wisconson. Did these guys forget to show up. I realize Atrizona is an athletic team, but 94 POINTS? Against a Bo Ryan coached team in the NCAA Tournament? Shocking.

Some other awards for the weekend:

Best game of Saturday: Washington vs. Illinois. Two good teams, each with a star player, even play good defense, and each are well-coached. That should be a fun one to watch.

Best game of Sunday: Villanova vs. Arizona. As Arizona showed today, they've got a high-powered offense. Villanova certainly didn't show theirs today, but they have one too. This will be high scoring, and a lot closer than the seeds indicate.

The "My Bracket's Hopes Rest on This Game" Award: Georgetown vs. Ohio St. Aside from the obvious, like keeping my Final Four teams involved, I need a Georgetown upset. Anything less and you can stick a fork in my bracket.

The "Game Most Likely to be Hyped up Because of the Names of the Teams Involved" Award: Connecticut vs. Kentucky. Despite a win today, Kentucky is not that good. On paper, they have no business staying anywhere near UConn. But we all know these games aren't played on paper but by the little men in our TV sets.

And with that, I wish you happy viewing of the Tourney this weekend!

I want a written apology, Jim Nantz and Billy Packer

Allow me, for a minute, to take the persona of Craig Littlepage, as I write this letter to Jim Nantz and Billy Packer.

Dear Jim and Billy,

Please let me take you back to last Sunday. Our committee had made our selections, and you were outraged. "Too many mid-majors" you said. "Let's look at the 5-year trends" was another popular answer. Let's see how those Mid-Majors are doing now.

The MVC got 4 bids, which you guys felt was way too much. So far, they're 2-2, which is modest. But considering their seeds were 7, 10, 11, and 13, going by the seeds they should only have had one win. For comparison's sake, how about the Big 12? They had seeds of 1, 4, 6, and 12, so they should have 3 wins. They have 2 as well. Let's look at the MVC teams one-by-one.

7-seed Wichita St. - Controlled the game in all aspects in a 86-66 win over Big East team Seton Hall.
10 seed Northern Iowa - Led at half against another Big East team, Georgetown, but ended up with a 54-49 loss.
11 seed Southern Illinois - Did not fare so well, as West Virginia was hot and beat them handily. But they were the conference winner, so our hands were tied.
13 seed Bradley - A win over the Big 12 winner Kansas. Kansas is young, but just last week they beat Texas by double digits to win the Big 12 title. Bradley controlled this game throughout. Not a bad showing for the MVC.

How about the CAA, who also got 2 teams? How did they fare?

9 seed UNC-Wilmington - Had the game in hand but let it slip away in OT to another Mid-Major, this time George Washington.
11 seed George Mason - These guys were even at a disadvantage, playing without their second leading scorer. So what do they do? Beat a more-talented Michigan St. team, who was, I might mention, a trendy Elite Eight pick.

That makes 1-1 for the CAA, when their seeds say they should have been 0-2.

Elsewhere, small-college teams like Northwestern St., Bucknell, Montana, and Wisonsin-Milwaukee won against higher-seeded and arguably more talented teams, most of them coming from the power conferences. Other Mid-Majors such as Xavier, Murray St., San Diego St., Davidson, Winthrop, and Pacific gave higher-seeded and power conference teams all the wanted and then some.

Sure, mistakes may have been made with a team like Utah St. or Air Force (who did far relatively well for a 13 seed), but if you guys had it your way, Mid-Majors like Bradley or George Mason would have been left out for a team like Florida St. or Maryland. I hope you guys can finally see the light, and see that yes, these Mid-Majors can compete with the big boys. The proof is in front of us.

Craig Littlepage

P.S. Seriously though, watch out for Wichita St. and Bradley in the next round.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament

And I have one word for it... WOW!

A double OT game, an OT game where team came back from an 18 point deficit, a fadeaway game winner, and more than one game that was back and forth all day.

The games I'm referring to, of course, was BC topping Pacific in double OT, George Washington coming back from 18 down in the 2nd half to beat UNC-Wilmington, Chris Lofton hitting a tough fadeaway to stave off #2 Winthrop, and Indiana beating SD State. Another great one featured Gonzaga coming from behind to beat 14 seed Xavier. In the biggest surprise of the day, Montana had a relatively easy time beating Nevada today, and they'll take on BC on Saturday.

However, despite near-upsets of a 2 and 3 seed, no other outcome (besides Montana) really came as a shock today. The two biggest upsets seed-wise were 11 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee and 12 seed Texas A&M, but those weren't reall unexpected.

As for my picks, almost everything went right. I was 13/16, missing only with Marquette, Nevada, and San Diego St. On lots of other games that I sorta went back and forth on, things went my way. For example, I changed my pick to Wichita St. at the last minute, I originally took Syracuse, I put a lot of thought into the Tennessee game and UWM game, but they went my way.

While I'm here, I have a real bone to pick with Brandon Heath. He did everything but shoot at Indiana's hoop in the closing minutes. Long, errant 3 point attempts, a runner that wasn't even close, and the huge mental error that allowed Indiana to get the ball back with 13 seconds instead of 6 or 7. Just a dreadful performance after he hit the 3 to put them up 79-76.

And here I was ready to name my first-born child Abukar.

Three best names of the Tourney: Mohamed Abukar, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Great stuff there.

With that, day 1 is in the books. Let's hope for more of the same tomorrow.

And by more of the same I do not mean that Applebee's commerical. Seriously, does CBS have more than 5-10 commercials? I don't care about two guys playing the guitar, or KG coming out of a ball to drink a Gatorade. I see CBS goes to a commerical after every single timeout called. Normally, stations at least let the announcers talk occassionally during the 20 second timeouts, but in the Tourney, we're subjected to more and more awful commercials. CBS, just because I see 30,000 previews for "The Unit" does not mean I'm going to watch the show. In fact, I'm specifically going to avoid it. Just awful stuff in otherwise good coverage, at least in my part of the country.

And speaking of CBS, the commentating lowlight of the day: After Chris Lofton's fadeaway to put Tennessee up 63-61, here was Kevin Harlan after watching the replay: "Where did he get the courage to take that shot?" Uh, I like you Kevin, but I think he got the courage from the clock winding down, and him having the ball in his hands. Just a guess.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

NCAA Tournament Picks: Final Four

Atlanta Region
Oakland Region
Washington Region
Minneapolis Region
Final Four

All right, now that we've made it this far, let's take a quick look at how we got here.

Atlanta: Texas over LSU
Oakland: UCLA over Memphis
Washington: Connecticut over Michigan St.
Minneapolis: Villanova over Georgetown

That being said, let's dive into the matchups:

Texas vs. UCLA
This would be an interesting matchup. Texas has the better frontcout with PJ Tucker, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brad Buckman, whereas UCLA's backcourt of Jordan Farmar and Aaron Afflalo reigns supreme. I think this would be a relatively low scoring game, because both teams are solid defensively. I think Afflalo would do a good jon blanketing Gibson, and I think Farmar would take control offensively for the Bruins. However, I think Texas has a little too much muscle inside. PJ Tucker would be able to score on Bozeman, and Alrdridge would do well on freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. I like Texas to head to the Title game, mostly on the back of PJ Tucker.

Connecticut vs. Villanova
The rematch that everyone thought we'd see in the Big East Tourney Game. Well, you know what they say, better late than never. I think that these are the two best teams in the NCAA this year. The first two meeting give a pretty good indication of how this one will go as well. Connecticut will dominate in the paint, but Villanova will stay close with the great guard play, and very good rebounding from the guards. In the end, I like Rudy Gay to actually play up to his potential, and lead Connecticut back to the National Title game.


Texas vs. Connecticut
Not quite everyone's dream matchup, but still a lot of good players. They key is whether or not the talented big men of Texas can score on the shot blockers (Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, and Jeff Adrien) of UConn. The key matchup would seem to be Rudy Gay vs. PJ Tucker, but I think it's how Texas' guards play. The Longhorns need a big game from Daniel Gibson, but in game 6 of the Tourney with not much of a bench, he doesn't quite have it in him. The bigs keep it close, but in the end, Connecticut captures their 2nd NCAA Tourney in 3 years, as they just have too much talent to be denied.


And there you have it. I have to say, I'm not real confident in these picks. I think this year there will be lots of uncertainty in the first three rounds of the tourney, which will wreak havoc on most brackets. I am fairly confident in Connecticut winning it all, however. Either way, enjoy the games, because as a sports fan, it just doesn't get any better than this.

NCAA Tournament Picks: Minneapolis Region

Atlanta Region
Oakland Region
Washington Region
Minneapolis Region
Final Four

(picks in bold)


1) Villanova vs. 16) Monmouth
Um yeah, I'm not quite that worried about Allan Ray's eye.

8) Arizona vs. 9) Wisconsin
I think Arizona is a good team led by Mustafa Shakur (great name) and Hassan Adams, but Wisconisn usually has success in the Tourney with Bo Ryan. Plus, I think Alando Tucker is the best player in this game, which is why I like the Badgers here.

5) Nevada vs. 12) Montana
Montana has a shot, but the Wolfpack are ready this year, with Nick Fazekas leading the way. But the biggest secret about Nevada is they are much deeper than just Fazekas. Marcellus Kemp, Mo Charlo, Ramon Sessions, and Co. are all very good players, which is why they'll get by Montana.

4) Boston College vs. 13) Pacific
A tough road for BC. They lose a hard-fought game Sunday, and then they have to fly over 2000 miles to play a game Thursday afternoon in the high altitude against a battle-tested Pacific team. But Craig Smith and Jared Dudley get it done here.

6) Oklahoma vs. 11) Wisconsin Milwaukee
I picked Oklahoma as a sleeper last year, so maybe I'm just bitter, but I don't like the makepu of their team. If Michael Neal and Terrell Everett aren't hitting outside shots, they are an average team. I think Wisconsin-Milwaukee is almost as good as last year, when they made it to the Sweet 16. I like them to pull off the semi-upset of Oklahoma.

3) Florida vs. 14) South Alabama
I've heard lots of upset talk about this game, but I think Florida is too talented to fall in round 1.

7) Georgetown vs. 10) Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa is the most accomplished MVC team in terms of who they've beaten btu they haven't been playing very well of late. Georgetown is a good team with a patient offense. If you haven't played it before they're tough to stop.

2) Ohio St. vs. 15) Davidson
Davidson is a nice little team, but the Buckeyes are too strong on both sides of the ball. They'll win this one easily.


1) Villanova vs. 9) Wisconsin
The Badgers will try to slow the game down, and while they may succeed for a while, Villanova's guard are too good to slow down for the full 40 minutes. I can see Wisconsin hanging in it for a half, but not much longer.

4) Boston College vs. 5) Nevada
Like most of the 4/5 matchups, this is evenly matched between two good teams. But I don't think Nevada will be able to quite match up with BC inside, as they execute well enough for the win and a trip to the Sweet 16.

3) Florida vs. 11) Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Last year Wisconsin-Milwaukee was able to play off their round 1 upset of Alabama with another win over BC. This year, they won't get by the Gators, who are balanced and athletic.

2) Ohio St. vs. 7) Georgetown
The Buckyes are very good, but I think they got the toughest #7 in Georgetown, who I feel is a little underseeded. With Hibbert, Green, and Bowman, the Hoyas are big and athletic. They'll be able to frustrate the Buckeyes with their variation of the Princeton offense, or at least enough to eke out a win to advance to the Sweet 16.


1) Villanova vs. 4) Boston College
This could be the game of the tournament. Both teams are very talented, well coached, and they execute their game plans very well. Villanova likes to get out and run, drive, and shoot from the outside. Boston College is a little more methodical, and they pound it to Smith & Dudley. I think Sheridan, Fraser, Clark, and Cunningham will be able to slow Boston College's big men enough for Villanova guards to do their thing, and advance to the regional final.

3) Florida vs. 7) Georgetown
I like Joakim Noah and Al Horford down low, but I like Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green a little better. This one should be entertaining, but I think the Hoyas provide enough problems down low to sneak away with another win.


1) Villanova vs. 7) Georgetown
Much the same scenario for Villanova as in their previous game against Boston College. And once again, I like te big boys for Villanova to do enough defensively to let the guards control the game, and propel Villanova into the Final Four.


NCAA Tournament Picks: Washington Region

Atlanta Region
Oakland Region
Washington Region
Minneapolis Region
Final Four

(winners in bold)


1) Connecticut vs. 16) Albany
Albany is not a terrible team, but Connecticut is much, much too good to fall here.

8) Kentucky vs. 9) UAB
Much like two years ago, UAB's style will cause the problems. This game won't be as entertaining as the 2004 thriller, but the outcome will be the same.

5) Washington vs. 12) Utah St.
I think Utah St. is the second most likely 12 seed to win a game (after Texas A&M), but I'm high on Washington. They have a lot of athletes, some depth, and a star in Brandon Roy. I like the Huskies here.

4) Illinois vs. 13) Air Force
Air Force didn't belong in the Tourney, but that doesn't mean they aren't a good team. I expect them to give Illinois a good game, but it won't quite be enough to be the Fighting Illini.

6) Michigan St. vs. 11) George Mason
George Mason just does not have the firepower to match up with the Spartans, with or without Tony Skinn. I like the Spartans here.

3) North Carolina vs. 14) Murray St.
As has been the case with a lot of the lower seeds, I do like Murray St., but they won't get by the Tar Heels. Too much talent, and too much Tyler Hansbrough.

7) Wichita St. vs. 10) Seton Hall
Probably the hardest game of the first round for me to call. I'm not real familiar with either team, but I do think Wichita St. is sound defensively, and Paul Miller is a very good player down low, which gives the Shockers the edge.

2) Tennessee vs. 15) Winthrop
If I was ever going to pick a 2/15 upset, this would be it. It has all the ingredients. Tennessee is overseeded and they didn't make the Tourney last year. Winthrop is underseeded and gave Gonzaga a good run in the Tourney last year. That being said, I think the Vols want to prove they deserve their seed, and I like them in a game that will be far closer than the seeds would indicate.


1) Connecticut vs. 9) UAB
UConn's two biggest weakness are that it can sometimes seem to get bored (like the first half against Cuse), and it only has one true ballhandler. UAB might be able to exploit both. With their pressure D, UConn will need to handle the ball well, and they can't underestimate the Blazers. In Calhoun I trust, however, to get them motivated.

4) Illinois vs. 5) Washington
An intriguing matchup between two good, athletic teams. I like Brandon Roy to take the Huskies on his back and earn a litte respect for the Pac-10 in what could be the most entertaining second round game.

3) North Carolina vs. 6) Michgan St.
The Heels have loads of talent, the best Freshman in the Nation, and for this year, at least, the best coach in the nation. But the Spartans have a three-headed monster in Brown, Ager, and Davis, and they always overachieve under Izzo. With Trannon back in the lineup, I think that gives them a little more toughness, and just enough to get it done against the Tar Heels.

2) Tennessee vs. 7) Wichita St.
I think the Shockers pose some problems for the Vols, especially Paul Miller down low. I like Wichita St. to pull the upset and give the MVC the credit that it deserves, with a Sweet 16 team.


1) Connecticut vs. 5) Washington
Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones will not be able to get to the hoop against the trees down low, and Jamal Williams will not be very effective either. For that reason, I like Connecticut here, on the backs of their defense.

6) Michigan St. vs. 7) Wichita St.
The Shockers Cinderella run dies here. Michigan St. has too much talent for Wichita St. to get by, and the Spartans advance in the least entertaining game of the Sweet 16.


1) Connecticut vs. 6) Michigan St.
I'd like to go with an upset here, but I don't think it'll happen. When UConn shows up, they're unbeatable. They're too talented and too deep. And by this point I think Ager, Brown, and Davis will have run out of gas. Connecticut wins it.


NCAA Tournament Picks: Oakland Region

Atlanta Region
Oakland Region
Washington Region
Minneapolis Region
Final Four

(winners in bold)


1) Memphis vs. 16) Oral Roberts
I do think Oral Robers is the best 16 seed this year. Which means they'll lose by 20 instead of 30.

8) Arkansas vs. 9) Bucknell
Bucknell pulled the shocker of the tournament last year, but I think teams will be more ready for them this time. I like Arkansas on the back of Ronnie Brewer.

5) Pittsburgh vs. 12) Kent St.
I'm just not feeling this 5/12 upset. I don't think Kent St. has the firepower to beat Pittsburgh.

4) Kansas vs. 13) Bradley
I really do like this Bradley squad, but Kansas is just too talented, and they're playing too well right now, especially on defense, to fall in the first round. They move on in a good game.

6) Indiana vs. 11) San Diego State
I really like the Aztecs, with Brandon Heath, Marcus Slaughter, and Mohamed Abukar, and I like them even more now that Robert Vaden's health is in question. Look for SD State to pull off the upset.

3) Gonzaga vs. Xavier
I think this should be a very good, and very close game, but I think the Zags will be able to hold off Xavier for the first round win.

7) Marquette vs. 10) Alabama
Ronald Steele is an excellent PG, but he won't be enough against Steve Novak and Dominic James. I'll take Marquette here, under a coach that I really like in Tom Crean.

2) UCLA vs. 15) Belmont
I like the Bruins to win this game. :)


1) Memphis vs. 8) Arkansas
I see some people pointing to this game as a possible place for an upset, but I don't see it. I think Memphis has lots of talent, and even though they're young, they'll have a game under their belt, and Carney & Washington are a strong duo.

4) Kansas vs. 5) Pittsburgh
One of the most intriguing second round matchups. I think both teams are very solid, and both are playing well. But I think Pitt relies a little too much on Carl Krauser, and I think Kansas is a really, really good club. I like Kansas to slow down Krauser and Pitt to move into the Sweet 16.

3) Gonzaga vs. 11) San Diego State
I think San Diego State will have one miracle left in them. They'll be able to take advantage of Gonzaga's porous defense, and slow down Morrison enough to win a high-scoring battle out west.

2) UCLA vs. 7) Marquette
Definitely not a game UCLA can afford to take lightly. Marquette is well coached, they execute well, and they can defend. But I think UCLA is playing great right now on both sides of the ball, and Cedric Bozeman will be able to slow Novak enough for UCLA to move on.


1) Memphis vs. 4) Kansas
This would be a great game between two of the youngest teams in the Tournament. Lots and lots of talent on this court, but I think Rodney Carney makes the difference in a tight game, and Memphis pulls it out.

2) UCLA vs. 11) San Diego State
I think the Aztecs luck will run out against a tough UCLA team. UCLA is getting healthy so they have depth, their bigs are contribuiting more, and Farmer & Afflalo are a great backcourt combo.


1) Memphis vs. 2) UCLA
These two teams met back early in the year, with Memphis winning the game by 8 if memory serves. But this is a different UCLA team. They have bought into Ben Howland's philosophy, and they should be better sutied to slow down Memphis. Look for UCLA to cut down the nets and make the Final Four.


NCAA Tournament Picks: Atlanta Region

Atlanta Region
Oakland Region
Washington Region
Minneapolis Region
Final Four

Let's start the picks off here, if I may. (winners bolded)


1) Duke vs. 16) Southern
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Duke will rout them. Just a gut feeling.

8) George Washington vs. 9) UNC-Wilmington
Very interesting game. This probably the type of game where if George Washington was a 5 seed, and Wilmington was a 12, I would probably pick Wilmington for some strange psychological reason. As it is, I think George Washington is a little better team, and I think they'll be a little upset about getting underseeded, and win a close one.

5) Syracuse vs. 12) Texas A&M
Everyone is pointing to this game as the 5/12 upset... and I agree. I think Syracuse is not quite as good as their seed because of their hot streak, and I think Texas A&M is a little better than most 12 seeds. They play good defense, they're althetic, and they should be able to get it done for the in.

4) LSU vs. 13) Iona
LSU will win this game but don't sleep on Iona. They're a veteran club, and their led by the left Steve Burntt, who scores 25 points a game. This will be a pretty close one, I think.

6) West Virginia vs. 11) Southern Illinois
I think this is a really bad matchup for West Virginia. Their offense relies mostly on timing and shooting the ball well, especially since they don't get to the line and they don't rebound well. Southern Illinois is a very good defensive club, and they can frustrate you by taking a lot of time off the clock offensively. I like the Salukis in a low scoring game.

3) Iowa vs. 14) Northestern St.
Like the LSU/Iona game, I think this is a lot closer than seeds would indicate. In most years, Northwestern St. would be a 12 or 13 seed, but with the bottom teams being stronger, they're only a 14. But I do like the Hawkeyes to prevail.

7) California vs. North Carolina St.
Tough game to call, but I think because the Wolfpack have struggled so much lately, combined with the fact that the Golden Bears have the game's best player (Leon Powe) will propel them to a close win.

2) Texas vs. 15) Pennsylvania
Penn might be able to keep it close for a while, but that's it. Texas' starting 5 is too good.


1) Duke vs. 8) Goerge Washington
I think George Washington's style of play will really cause Duke problems. They don't really have the personnel to play the type of game the Colonials play. But, I do think Duke will win, largely on the strength of Shelden Williams inside. But it should be an entertaining game.

4) LSU vs. 12) Texas A&M

I think A&M can spring one upset, but that's it. Glen "Big Baby" Davis will take over inside to get the Tigers to the Sweet 16.

3) Iowa vs. 11) Southern Illinois
With the way these two teams play, this could be the lowest scoring game of the tournament. The winner might not even need 50 points. But I do like Horner and Haluska on the outside, and then Brunner on the inside to get the job done just enough to stop the Salukis Cinderella run.

2) Texas vs. 7) California
Powe is a beast down low, but he won't get enough help here. Buckman and Aldridge down low will be able to slow him down enough, and Gibson and Tucker will provide some scoring. Texas wins.


1) Duke vs. 4) LSU
First off, allow me to eat a little crow. Less than a month ago, I watched LSU beat South Carolina in a tight game, and I was not impressed. So my pick of LSU over Duke might come as a little surprise. Allow me to explain.

First, South Carolina was a better team than I thought, and they showed that in the SEC Tourney. Second, I really think LSU is a very bad matchup for Duke. The're athletic. I think freshman Tasmin Mitchell will be able to control J.J. Redick somewhat with his length and quickness. But more importantly, I think you have to attack Duke offensively down low. And who better to do that than Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas? I like Davis to have a big day, and for LSU to win a tight game to advance to the regional final.

2) Texas vs. 3) Iowa
This could be a rather dull Sweet 16 game. But I do like Texas here, although it won't be easy. Iowa will be able to wear them down somewhat, which is key because Texas does not have a real deep bench. But I don't think Iowa has enough shooters to beat the Longhorns. Texas wins.


2) Texas vs. 4) LSU
This could be an entertaining game between a couple of very talented teams. Texas has one of the best starting lineups in all of college basketball, while LSU has some great young talent. I think Buckman and Aldridge can slow Davis down somewhat, like they did with Powe. For this reason, I like Texas in a tight one. But Daniel Gibson needs to come to play.