Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday 03/19 A.M. Quickie:
Only If "Sweet" Means "Favorites Advance"

Thoughts on the NCAA Tournament... while wondering if I'm the only person who was pleased by Greg Oden's crazy-hard foul as the first reliable indicator that the guy actually cares.

(I'm also wondering if I'm the only person who noticed that Ohio State got noticeably better after Oden fouled out. Coincidence? Perhaps not.)

Check out my latest Tournament piece in today's Wall Street Journal Online.

Meanwhile, here's my biggest storyline: Despite the uptick in excitement over the weekend, the favorites continue to march on. That lends itself to a key question today:

Where is Cinderella? Or, more interestingly, in the absence of some double-digit seed crashing the party (for the first time in 10 years), WHAT is a Cinderella?

The highest seed left is 7, which is sort of Cindy-ish. But UNLV also beat arguably the weakest team of the 2-seeds. (Nothing against the Rebels, though. Can't wait for the clips from that '90 team.)

Here's an interesting phenomenon: From their seedings, 4-seed Southern Illinois and 5-seed Butler have absolutely no business being described as Cinderellas. But their mid-major status conflicts with that. Would you call 5-seed Tennessee or 5-seed USC a Cinderella? Hardly.

It lends itself to a fascinating discussion about what, exactly, makes a Cinderella. I'd argue that it SHOULD be seeding (6/7-plus, at least), but it WILL be the "rep" factor of the team.

Little ol' Butler FEELS like a Cinderella, even though they were seeded with an EXPECTATION of making the Sweet 16. So they hardly qualify.

But if everything continues to proceed like they have in the first two rounds, we won't have to worry about "Cinderella." It will be all high seeds, all the time.

A few more things noticed after watching Tournament all weekend:

1-seeds: KU looked the best, but played the worst team of the four. But you can't say Florida, UNC and Ohio State didn't look vulnerable. Were those close wins wake-up calls or foreshadowing of early exits?

(OK, this is the type of post that freaks me out as a Gators fan: Oregon is the new Florida. Here's my response: Yes, the path is eerily similar, but I'm not seeing enough roster similarities. Presuming the great outside shooting is a push, last year's Florida team had an unmatched FOUR post players in its rotation, and that doesn't even count Corey Brewer, who was probably the best defensive player in the tournament field.)

Durant is Done: I know his NBA potential is amazing, but it's hard to sustain excitement for a National Player of the Year who can't even get his team out of the first weekend of the Tournament. What a let-down. (Yeah, yeah: 30 points. More relevant: 1 Tournament win.)

(I wonder if the bitter taste of this loss will inspire him to think twice about jumping to the NBA. Doubt it. I think he's gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if PG DJ Augustine bolted, too.)

Looking ahead: UCLA-Pitt is the game to watch, because of the backstory of Ben Howland formerly coaching at Pitt, leaving them for the Bruins and being replaced by his protege, Jamie Dixon.

Florida-Butler: As a Gators fan, this scares me. Butler is like a better Purdue.

Oregon-UNLV: I can't believe UNLV has repositioned itself as a Cinderella after all those years as the Bad Boys of college hoops.

KU-So. Ill.: It's been too easy for the Jayhawks so far. How will they handle it if they're in a close game?

UNC-USC: Well, all of a sudden this game isn't NEARLY as exciting as it would have been if the Heels were playing Texas.

Georgetown-Vandy: No team is playing better than the Hoyas, but no team is worthy of "Cinderella" status more than the Commodores.

Ohio State-Tennessee: As mentioned above, the Buckeyes would do well to sit Oden and play small-and-fast versus the Vols.

Memphis-Texas A&M: Watch that Aggies home-court advantage! The regional is in San Antonio.

Tournament Challenge: I have 10 out of 16 Sweet 16 teams. Where'd I go wrong?

USC: Didn't everyone get this wrong?
Vandy: Ditto.
Memphis: I was done when Creighton lost.
Pitt: But picking VCU was worth the loss.
UNLV: At least I picked Wisco to lose.
Butler: Damn my hometown bias for the Terps.

Here's the thing: If I followed my own advice and stuck with the "National Bracket," I would be beating 90 percent of all individual bracket entries right now. 90 percent!

More Sports News Items:

NBA: Kobe scores 50 on Sunday to follow up his 65 on Friday. Not bad. But what did he do in the NCAA Tournament? (Oh. Right.)

NFL: Packers say Rodgers not on block for Moss. Either the GM is lying or he's stupid. (Or both.) How could they not even consider that deal?

Varsity Dad: For those of you parents out there following the "soft launch," there's a new post up.

Seriously: It's like there's nothing else going on in sports this week...

-- D.S.


thistlewarrior said...

Appearantly their was something else going on in sports this weekend:

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

Stay classy Joey Porter!

Patriots64 said...

All in all a pretty boring weekend cept for the Ohio State game!
Hopefully better games ahead. Habs beat Leafs on Saturday night in a shootout so that made up for it.

Mega said...

An NFL player punching another NFL player in the face? Yawn. Next thing we know an NBA player getting busted for drugs will be considered "news".

Does anyone else besides me think that So. Ill. actually has a chance against Kansas? The game won't be a blow out either way I think, SIU doesn't get blown out and they don't blow anyone out (though Sunday's 15 point win could almost be considered a "blowout" by their standards).

Adam Giblin said...

College Station (home of A&M) is about 200 miles from San Antonio. You're forgetting how big Texas is... it's not really the home game everyone is talking about. Boston - NYC is about 200 miles, and Yankees at Fenway is not exactly a home game. Of course, Pitino couldn't win two games in an arena with his name on the wall, so maybe the "home court" advantage just doesn't hold at all unless it's a LEGITIMATE home court.

Unknown said...

If Greg Oden played for Duke and didn't get hit with an intentional on that 5th foul, Dan's head would have exploded.

He would still be ranting about it.

ToddTheJackass said...

Here are the ten things I learned from the Tourney this weekend:

1) There is no "this year's George Mason
Precisely what made George Mason such a great story last year was that it was so unprecedented. People expecting "this year's George Mason" were simply ignoring history.
2) Texas was not Syracuse
While Durant may be better than 'Melo at this stage, 'Melo had a much better supporting cast, including Hakim Warrick, and G-Mac, along with steady role players. Texas just had Durant and their point guard.
3) The ACC is who we thought they were
Basically the ACC had UNC as the only legit contender, and a lot of other tourney worthy teams, none of whom were poised to make a deep run this year.
4) Roy Hibbert is the player in the tourney who could advance his draft stock the highest
After single-handedly dismissing my BC team, Hibbert finally looks to have arrived. No longer a project, Hibbert is the real deal, and if G-town makes a run, look for Hibbert to become a top 5-7 pick.
5) Florida is unpredictable.
No doubt you were sweating a little if you picked Florida to win it all. This was not the team that won the SEC Tourney a week ago. That team couldn't be beat. But the question is, which Florida team shows up the rest of the way? Oh yeah, and Horford is better than Noah.
6) The Pac-10 is for real.
Hey West Coasters, don't blame us on this one. Your games simply aren't nationally televised. Otherwise we might actually know how good Oregon or USC is. Then again, I don't think anyone outside of So-Cal could have picked USC over Texas.
7) The year of the near-but-no-upsets
If there's been one thing that's characterized this tourney, it's been the lack of upsets, or the amount of near upsets. Teams like Ohio St. won, but made everyone sweat through it. Same with Pitt, UNC, Florida, A & M, and Georgetown, all of whom have had to sweat out games before finally pulling them out.
8) Defense is alive, and it's called Southern Illinois
Man, can the Salukis play some D. Anyone who doubted (me included) that the Salukis couldn't play great defense against superior athletic teams from power conferences was proven totally wrong over the weekend.
9) We all should have listened to the guy on the blog who called UNLV an elite-8 caliber team
UNLV looks like a great team, and handled a bruised up Wisconsin team well. Guess what, they match up well against Oregon too.
10) It's sad to see Seniors in their final games.
If you're a BC or Wisconsin fan, no doubt this weekend was painful, seeing guys like Jared Dudley and Alando Tucker play their final collegiate games after they've given their hearts and souls to your team for the past 4 years.

If some of this was said earlier in the weekend, I apologize, as I took a sabbatical from the blog over the weekend.

ToddTheJackass said...

And that "guy on this blog touting UNLV" was Jason. I should've listened to you man, and remembered your name too...

Brian in Oxford said...

What a difference getting married makes. I go from winning last year, to 3rd from the bottom out of 20. Can I blame the new wife for that? :)

I pretty much NEED Kansas over UNC in the final, with every single other game going to a Cinderella, that nobody took, so they can't get points I'm already missing out on. It would be quite the comeback story....

Not A Gunslinger said...

With so many higher seeds advancing, does this mean the Selection Committee got it right this year?

TBender said...

San Antonio will definitely be Aggieland this weekend.
It maybe 200 miles between SA and B-CS, but most Aggie alumni don't live near the school. They're everywhere and they travel.

A&M will have the same advantage that Louisville just had, but in a larger quantity.

TBender said...

And one more thing to add...

Fear the Salukis!

(And we're thankful Chris Lowery wants to stay in Carbondale...)

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Adam Giblin said...
College Station (home of A&M) is about 200 miles from San Antonio. You're forgetting how big Texas is... it's not really the home game everyone is talking about. Boston - NYC is about 200 miles, and Yankees at Fenway is not exactly a home game. Of course, Pitino couldn't win two games in an arena with his name on the wall, so maybe the "home court" advantage just doesn't hold at all unless it's a LEGITIMATE home court.

This is a nuetral Court tournament. If Texas A&M doesn't get an overwelming majority at a venue 200 miles from their home arena (or the Houston area where the majority of their grads live) then I have questions for the fans.

As a Florida alum I can say that we ruled the Sweet 16 in 2000 as it was held in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami which despite being 330 miles from Gainesville, and 200+ from Orlando and Tampa (Where a good majority of the Gator alum live)

It's as much of a home game as they'll get. I would hope at least 10,000 Texas A&M fans show for a game in a venue that holds 40,000 for basketball.

Joe (Dayton)

Jingoist said...

And how interesting is the $30k fine to the Celtics for GM Danny Ainge being seated next to Durant's mother in the opening weekend of March Madness? If you don't think KD is headed for the NBA, well... er, is there anyone who actually thinks that?

ToddTheJackass said...


It was actually at the Big 12 Tourney. And Ainge's excuse is that he claims "he had no control over where he was seated".

Speaking of the C's, how about a win at San Antonio? Who the hell saw that coming?

Dot Co Dot Il said...

Nothing else going on?
How about the Cricket World Cup or World Swimming Championships?
European soccer?

Statements like this make you sound like an ignorant oaf.

Jingoist said...


You're right, the Big 12 tourney, my bad.

Though I have never acted on it, I have always had this inclination to always bet BIG money against the C's whenever they play the Spurs and ONLY when they play the Spurs... simply because they cannot beat them. Until this weekend that is. The irony would have been if I had actually made the bet this weekend.

ToddTheJackass said...

I'll go on record professing my ignorance for not knowing the World Swimming Championships were this weekend.

Inexcusable, absolutely inexcusable.

SF said...


What do you make of the Nuggets stomping of the Suns the ther night? A.I. had 44 and 15. Are they finally for real? Do the Suns/Spurs need to fear them as a potential 1st-Round match-up?

ToddTheJackass said...

Alright, how bad of a person does it make me that I laughed when I heard David Wells has Type-II diabetes?

I have friends who have diabetes, and I know how much it sucks.

But David Wells is such a ridiculous lard ass who ate dik-dik and lion the last time he checked in. So this is funny, right?

jhawkjjm said...

I wouldn't get too excited about Southern Illinois defense just yet. Yes VT beat UNC twice, but didn't they also blow some "gimme" games as well i.e Western Michigan and Marshall. And Southern Illinois beat them already at the beginning of the season.

Let's see how they handle a deep Kansas team before we say they're a great shutdown defensive team. And don't forget KU has a top ranked defense as well. You need to be able to score as well to win games. Either way it should be a great game.

Unknown said...

I think the homecourt advantage won't be there if A&M plays Ohio State.
Ohio State alumni are EVERYWHERE. if the Aggies take 10k, I would not be shocked if OSU had 15k there.

CorrND said...

I realize that 5-over-4 isn't exactly an upset (as Dan said, similar to 9-over-8) but as a 5-seed, isn't Butler technically NOT expected to make the Sweet 16? Still, I agree that they don't qualify as a Cinderella.

Mega said...

jhawkjjm- you make a great point but lets also not forget about what I like to call the "Self Factor". Its similar to the "Schottenheimer Factor" in the NFL, if you know what I mean.

Andy said...

Who else thought that the Oden foul should have been intentional? That was ridiculous. He pretty much threw that guy to the floor. I'm very disappointed. Had that been called correctly, Xavier would have won.

Big D said...

"...even though they were seeded with an EXPECTATION of making the Sweet 16."

Gotta disagree - if they were seeded with the expectation of a Sweet16 berth, they'd have been a 4 or higher. Butler's 5-seed, to me, almost seemed like the tournament committee was putting them in the perfect place to be the standard 12-5 upset on Day 1, thus quashing any talk about the relevance of mid-majors in future tournaments.

Every game Butler wins from here on out is like a big "F-U" to the seletion committee. Or at least, that's how I see it.

As for Texas, I can't take anything away from Durant's abilities. He'll still go pro, mostly because I have to believe he's tired of having a coach like Rick Barnes. Of course, he'll probably get stuck with Doc Rivers next season, so it's kind of a lateral move only with a bigger salary.

Lost 2 Final4 teams yesterday, but still (miraculously) have my Championship Game intact. Not that anybody really cares.

mattie said...

Maybe if Xavier had someone under the basket to get the rebound on the missed free throw, they would have won.

(Seriously, can someone explain to me why there was no one from Xavier under the basket for that shot? I feel like I'm missing something obvious...but if he misses the free throw and you get the board, Ohio State's got to foul, and then you only need one of two to ice the win...why send everyone back and let Ohio State come flying up the court on the missed free throw to attempt the game-tying three? I just DON'T GET IT.)

But yes, the foul on Oden should have been intentional, though it had a sort of Shaq feel to it, as others elsewhere have mentioned (i.e., he's so man-among-boys that *any* exertion on his part will look like he's going to kill somebody).

Andy said...

Yeah, Xavier should have had someone down there, and the whole situation would have been avoided if Cage had made the free throw anyway, but the foul was intentional. I don't think it was just a case of Oden being so much bigger or anything. He threw the guy to the floor. It was intentional.

And by the way, has there ever been an older looking 18 year old than Oden??? The guy looks 30!

Jen said...

What the heck am I supposed to do until Thursday!?! And I am NOT a basketball fan at all! I only have 11 teams in the Sweet 16, and I've already lost 2 Elite 8s! Ugh, I was really counting on Durant...

I wish Wisco would have just lost their first game and gotten it over with!

@Todd: you're bad, but I have to laugh with you. My grandfather was a diabetic and it ended up being the cause of his death, so David Wells should take this diagnosis as a huge wake-up call.

Luke Bell said...

I have said it before, the Oden foul was intentional, but I don't think it was on him. There is another player (number 12 I think) that lowered his shoulder and nailed the Xavier player out of bounds.

jhawkjjm said...

Self factor? What Self factor? This is a guy who's lead 3 teams to the elite 8. One of those teams being Tulsa. Everyone harps on the two first round exits, and rightfully so. But the first one was a senior lead team that had been a few seconds away from a third straight final four the year before. That team should not have needed any extra motivation and they (the team) just choked. Last years team was the youngest in the field starting 3 freshman and 2 sophomores. Coaching can't overcome complete inexperience. Self has his Ferrarri now, let's see what he can do with it.

As you can see, I'm not one of those KU fans who rip Self and long for the days of Roy Williams. He had a huge number of tourney flamouts before finally winning it at Carolina, with someone elses players. But yes he did make several (4?) final fours in his 16 years.

(and for anyone who listened to Colin Cowerd this morning, he argued you can't use the National Title excuse if you win it in the first year or two with someone elses players.)

TJ said...

I think I've discovered the secret to winning bracket pools. Sadly, it requires making two brackets. One bracket should be exactly the national bracket, and the other should be upset-heavy. Years like this year and two years ago, your national bracket would carry the day, and years like last year the upset bracket would carry the day.

(In other news, I'm trying to feel better about my pick of Texas in the final game by reminding myself that I have SIU in the final four.)

verbal97 said...

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned that Xavier should have fouled OSU when a 3-pointer was needed to tie. If you foul, they would have to make the first one and get the rebound/tip-in on the intentionally missed second shot. A much longer shot statistically speaking than making a 3-pointer.

I also agree with Todd on Durant. You can't hold it against one player that a team of five players can't win a team game. As Todd mentioned, Anthony had others around him, including a role playing team leader (Duany) and a much, much, much better coach in Boeheim. Another interesting hypothetical would be to see how far Texas would have gone if you switched places between Noah (or Horford) and Durant. I say they would have been no better than an 8-9 seed.

TJ said...

@verbal: As a neutral fan, I always hate it when the team up 3 with a few seconds left fouls--it takes away the potential drama ofa 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie. But if you caught the end of the Tennessee game yesterday, they fouled in the same situation Xavier was in, and did it perfectly.

I can understand why coaches might be hesitant to tell their players to foul there, though. I can see how coaches would be afraid that 19 year old kids, in the intensity of the situation, might mess up and foul while the other team manages to get a shot off, creating a situation where they could potentially lose the game. I think a lot of coaches figure the worst taht can happen if they don't foul is a tie, and are willing to live with the risk.

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

1.) Xavier should have made the free throws to ice the game.

2.) They should have fouled once OSU got past half court.

There is no other way to play it. If Xavier fouls, there chances of winning are increased because they need to make the first free throw, purposely miss, and then get the rebound and make it. Those odds are what...less than 10%?

Brian in Oxford said...

I think 3 free throws for a foul on a three-pointer is stupid.

The extra point is supposed to be a reward for making such a deep shot. By granting 3 free throws, you're practically assuming the shot would have been made, and thus not playing up the "degree of difficulty" that's inherent.

Maybe, like an in-the-bonus situation, I'd be willing to think about the ol' three-to-make-two rule. But otherwise, 2 shots for a shooting foul.

Anonymous said...

i think siu kansas will be a great game, two completely different styles matching up the best defensive team vs the best offensive team, i think in the end kansas has a little to much firepower but it should be a great game. and by vote who else thinks that it was clearly not a charge but a block in the butler maryland game

verbal97 said...


I understand your points. As a neutral fan, you like the drama of the game-tying shot (note: I was pleased with the outcome because I have OSU going to the champ. game). But Xavier isn't playing for the neutral fan, they're playing for their tournament life, so they should have fouled...

The second point being a coach not wanting to risk it with fouling. I'm no basketball expert, but it seems to me that situation is something you would prepare for and practice. It was clear from the previous play that they weren't going to call an intentional foul on anything short of giving an atomic wedgie, so that risk shouldn't be a factor. And if you foul early enough, then making a shot shouldn't come into play either. But as mentioned, I'm not a basketball expert.

One other note re: David Wells. I work in a Diabetic clinic and research facility, so I'm perfectly aware of how much it sucks being a diabetic. That said, I find it difficult to feel sorry for someone like David Wells. He not only makes poor lifestyle choices, but glorifies them. I hope he realizes how serious Diabetes is and makes some changes, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.

Stormy said...


With your Varsity Letters involvement, I just wanted to see if you caught the obit in today's (3/19) WashPost for Charles Einstein, who died March 7. Not only was he a prolific baseball writer, he created card counting systems for blackjack which are still in use. I came to him through a used copy of one of his Fireside books on baseball, I'd put him on my personal Mount Rushmore with Angell, Boswell & um, I'll get back to you on the fourth.

CMFost said...

The biggest mistake that Xavier made was letting Ohio State actually take the 3 point shot. If you foul them before the shot they go to line for 2 FT's and Xavier was up three. Any Coach that does not just foul in that situation is a moron.

Unknown said...

Hm. I think the biggest mistake in the game belonged to Thad Matta.

Yes, you have Oden. But your playmaker is clearly Conley. The offense should go through him.

Brian in Oxford said...

Except that basketball already punishes defenders too much as it is. Offensive players are "bailed out" waaaay too much by even the chintziest of foul calls.

Hey, did anyone else have a problem with the inconsistency in the 5-second counts on the hideous "closely guarded rule" this weekend?

ToddTheJackass said...


The 5 second call and the 3 second calls are so infrequently called in college basketball, it's a joke. Basically, if you're a stud, you'll never get either called against you. It's hard though for officials to gauge and simultaneously count the closely guarded thing, especially 30 feet from the basket.

The other officiating joke in College Basketball are moving screens. The worst offender in this has to be Illinois, or at least they were with the Dee Brown team.

Unknown said...

Chuck Klosterman has another great article out on

Thought I'd mention's a good take on the steroids issue.

Anonymous said...

6) The Pac-10 is for real.
Hey West Coasters, don't blame us on this one. Your games simply aren't nationally televised. Otherwise we might actually know how good Oregon or USC is. Then again, I don't think anyone outside of So-Cal could have picked USC over Texas.

Yes they are,it's not that hard to fine where FSN is located on your TV screen.

Ps,FSN is 10x better at calling games than ESPN.

Brian in Oxford said...

Has anyone read Simmons' story in ESPN the magazine yet, where he rips Billy Packer? He sorta kept it a secret during his tourney blog last week.

ToddTheJackass said...

That's right, they are FSN. The problem is, no one watches FSN (at least not anywhere I've lived).

The overall presentation quality is just so low as a whole on the network that it makes it hard to watch anything on there unless it's the only place to find it. The lack of HD (at least for me) is also not good. It's a shame too, since it could be a good alternative to ESPN. It just, well, isn't.

Still, the timing of Left Coast games does make it tough to watch.

Andy said...

FSN is good for watching local MLB games but that's about it. I live in Minnesota and I can watch just about every Twins game and even some Brewers games. They also have some college sports but not much. Overall, I feel like the announcers are better than the big networks though. The camera work isn't the best, the overall look and feel isn't the best, but the announcers are smarter, nicer, and more accurate with calls.

Unknown said...

I was talking things over with a couple guys who, like myself, follow ALL of college b-ball. We determined that you must split conferences into 4 categories.

High- ACC, Big 10, Big XII, SEC, Pac-10, Big East, Missouri Valley
High Mid- A-10, CUSA, WAC, Mountain West, WCC, SoCon, Horizon, CAA
Low Mid- MAC, Patriot, Ivy, Mid-Con, Southland, Big South, Big West, A-East
Low- SWAC, Northeast, MEAC, Sunbelt, A-Sun, Big Sky, MAAC, OVC

That said, here's where we are now:
Tourney records against teams in other categories:
High conference teams: Against High Mid (5-2 in 1st round, 3-2 in 2nd round), Against Low Mid (7-1 in 1st round, 1-0 in 2nd round), Against Low (7-0)

So we have 13 teams in the Sweey 16 from the High conferences and the other 3 are from the High Mid (Butler, Memphis, UNLV).

That's pretty lopsided.

Also see that there was only 1 win by a Low Mid or Low team against a High (Winthrop over Notre Dame).

Jen said...

Our FSN in our local sports too...some Cavs' games, almost all of the Indians' games and some college stuff. Lately they have also been playing the '86 Cleveland State tournament games. Not many of you here are old enough to remember that run when they barely lost to David Robinson and Navy.

The heroin sheik said...

I don't think your conference affiliation really makes a difference in determining cinderellas. My only reasoning is that one of the greatest cindy's was NC State. I presume they were in the ACC back then which would have been one of the stronger conferences in the late 70's early 80's. If they can be a cinderella then Arkansas or Illinois could have been worthy of the sobriquet if they could have made a run. I think the only requirement to being a cinderella is for the majority of people to think you have no chance at the title.

Unknown said...

FSN is always regional. At least for me. I'll get the occasional PAC10 football game on FSN, but only 3-4 a year, and only if it starts at midnight or so.
That's Skinemax time.