March 2 Hoops-in-Brief: UCLA is DEFINITELY No. 1... I'm back sitting shotgun on Georgia Tech's bandwagon... Who saw UVA coming? Anyone?...
My top 1-seed? UCLA, which affirmed the spot by beating No. 13 Washington State AT Wazzu to win the Pac-10 regular-season title. Wazzu plays that brutal-D/deliberate-O style that gives favored teams fits in the NCAA Tournament; perhaps drawing on last year's NCAA run, UCLA proved it can win playing that style, in addition to having the guns to score when they need to. And to win AT Pullman? Impressive.
I have said before that I don't think it matters if a contender is a 1-seed, 2-seed or even further down (just ask all of the 1-seeds from the 2006 Tournament about their AWESOME experience at the Final Four... wait.)
But that doesn't mean that the intrigue over the four 1-seeds isn't there. UCLA is a lock, as I just said.
Wisco? Eh. They're not even the best in their own conference, and without Brian Butch, they're no 1-seed.
The unprecedented parity I forecast at the start of the season and have tracked since is in full effect. Good luck with those brackets, friends.
Georgia Tech: We're Back On! Three and a half months ago, I surveyed the field of college hoops teams and made a few Final Four picks:
And Georgia Tech. (Why? I liked Tech's young talent and overall size, even in an ACC that was stacking up as deep, if not loaded with juggernauts.)
For the next three months, I cursed that pick as the Wreck played EXACTLY like a young team should: Inconsistently. But last night was at least a measure of validation: A huge – HUGE – win over UNC.
If Georgia Tech can beat a presumptive 1-seed like the Tar Heels, then they certainly have the ability – if not the consistency – to win four straight in the NCAA Tournament and fulfill my longshot pick.
At the very least, I think this win nudges them to the "in" side of the Bubble, despite an RPI in the 40s (and the fact that that would give the ACC a whopping 7 bids). Too little, too late? Not in college basketball. (Here's a reasonable argument why they're still outside looking in.)
Meanwhile, speaking of ACC, did anyone – ANYONE – have
I know that
College Hoops This Weekend: Smaller Conference Tournaments continue. I will watch ANY conference-tournament championship game. I don't care. Big South, Atlantic Sun,
For the rest, there are two key dynamics among the conferences holding their regular-season finales: Bubble teams trying to get in, and Tournament "locks" trying to jockey for favorable seedings and regional placements.
NYT's Pete Thamel blogs March Madness: The New York Times has done a really good job with event- or season-specific sports blogs. March Madness could be their best yet, because the lead writer behind it – Pete Thamel – is, by far, the best college sports reporter in the country. Here's the link to the NYT's "The Bracket" blog.
The best of the bunch is
NBA: Mavs win 14th straight. I did a local-radio interview yesterday and was asked about the Mavs' chances to win the NBA title. They're playing better than anyone else right now, but I just can't get behind them. I have no analytical reason for that, and they SHOULD earn my favor, because I have a weakness for teams being "motivated" after a previous season's crushing loss. (See Texas A&M,
MLB Steroid Watch: MLB wants more info about Gary Matthews Jr. from the Albany DA. Sure, his name came up, but isn't it obvious that a lot of other names will, too? Why target Matthews individually and not seek to get info on ANY/EVERY MLB player who might be involved?
MLB Deals: Michael Young gets a 5Y/$80M deal. It's the second-largest in Rangers history. Given how well the largest deal worked out, I see nothing but good things ahead here!
More MLB Deals: The Giants locked up promising sophomore SP Matt Cain to a 4-year deal worth $9 million. He led NL rookies with 13 wins and 179 Ks last year. That Giants rotation should be solid this year.
NFL Cuts: The Vikings cut Fred Smoot. It's the end of an era – a Double-Sided era, if you will.
More NFL Cuts: Cowboys bounce Drew Bledsoe, a lame experiment from the get-go, driven by Bill Parcells' overrated personnel management skills. Steelers cut Joey Porter (but what about the dogs?!). Saints cut Joe Horn (legacy secure with his "Celly-bration").
NFL Trades: Lions DB Dre Bly to the Broncos for RB Tatum "If you draft me for your fantasy team, I will ruin you. Yes, Dan, I'm talking to you"
NFL Deals: Fred Taylor signs a 3-year extension with the Jaguars. Inevitable annual injury presumably built in to the terms.
NBA: Blazers Prez and GM Steve Patterson resigns. He's the type of executive who makes me think that I could run an NBA team fairly competently (or at least more competently than he does). TrueHoop's Henry Abbott is a Blazers fan; he'll have the best analysis.
Bud Selig's new MLB-wide drug-test policy: I think it would be only fair if the mainstream media covered the positive drug tests of MLB league and team employees who failed their drug tests in the same breathless way they cover MLB athletes who fail drug tests.
Jared Zabransky on the cover of EA's College Football 2K8 is the most inspired choice on any EA cover ever. Fans can only hope that that means the motif of this year's game is expanded ability to run trick plays, Boise-style.
Kudos to Yahoo's Dan Wetzel for using Shaun Livingston's season (or career) ending knee injury to remind everyone that the NBA's age limit is preposterous.
Gilbert Arenas Watch: I enjoyed Klosterman's take on Gilbert in the new edition of the New York Times' sports magazine, Play (which, for my money, is the best sports magazine out there, including SI and ESPN the Mag), out this weekend and featuring none other than Deadspin's Leitch as a contributor.
Nice way to end a week that started with Gilbert showing me – me! – some love on his blog. (I also finally got a long-awaited custom order from the NBA Store: A Wizards jersey T-shirt with the number 0 on the back, with "Agent" where "Arenas" would be. Whee: Happy birthday to me.)
In case you missed it: The Top 20 Most Influential Sports Bloggers, ranked by two dudes who should know better than to do that.
On a related note, if you live in NYC, mark your calendars for next Wednesday night, for the March edition of the always-excellent Varsity Letters
The other readers include No. 1-ranked Will Leitch of Deadspin; No. 3-ranked Henry Abbott of TrueHoop/ESPN (and I'm sayin' HE'S buyin'!); No. 6-ranked Matt Ufford of WithLeather and Kissing Suzy Kolber; my neighbor Jason Fry and Greg Prince of Fear and Faith in Flushing (one of the best team-specific blogs you'll read, and if you're a Mets fan, an absolute Must-Read); and Jon Bois, Nick Dallamora and Brandon Stroud of The Dugout (who probably should have made my Top 20, if only for their consistent brilliance).