March 1. That means March is here. Which means that we've entered March Madness. Which means that even the casual college basketball fan begins to pay a little more attention to the regular-season finale games and the conference tournaments (small, "Mid" and big), all in the hopes of gleaning that extra bit of insight that will help you pick an office-pool bracket that much smarter (or luckier) than the rest of us.
The debates over 1-seeds vs. 2-seeds is boring to me. First of all, being a 1 is no guarantee of making the Final Four, let alone winning the title. The most amazing part of last year wasn't George Mason's Cinderella run (and, no, it wasn't
So, for the time being, who's a 1-seed (or a 2-, 3- or 4-seed) is totally irrelevant. (5-seed? Maybe. But only because it's the "dreaded" seeding spot.)
The relevant question is: Who's in and who's out? Who's on the bubble and who's a lock? Which teams need strong conference-tourney showings? And, in the Comments, I'd love to get your picks for the biggest Bubblers – the teams we should be watching over the next 10 days.
(And not those teams that are going to eke their way in, only to lose in the first round in embarrassing, "What-was-all-the-fuss-about" fashion. Otherwise known, annually, as "The Big Ten's 5th and 6th bids. No: The best Bubblers are the ones who might actually have the stuff to win a game or two.)
It's worth a hat tip to ESPN.com college hoops editor Andy Glockner, who, with the change of month, has upgraded his "Drive to 65" Bubble Watch to daily. (Shanoff Trivia: Who knew that very early in my career, I was the college basketball editor at ESPN.com, complete with creating the very first edition of a "Bubble Watch?" I'm hard-pressed to remember a stretch of time that I worked harder, longer or more ludicrously than March 1997.*)
Do I sound immersed enough? Good. It's March. Finally.
PS: The Bracket Project is one of my new favorite Web sites. Now THAT is a service!
More storylines we'll be talking about today:
I am convinced that the Selection committee will reveal a bracket that has
(Meanwhile, I don't mean to overlook A&M's Acie Law. Sure, he's a first-team All-American, but what does it say that in this Year of Durant, he can present a legitimate alternative for Big 12 Player of the Year? I'm not saying Durant won't win it, but just that there's a fair debate. And that says a lot about Law. Wow: Texas A&M is going to just tilt so many pool sheets.)
It's been a sick year for freshmen, and not just Durant: Did anyone else catch highlights of Villanova's Scottie Reynolds, who had 40 in Nova's win over UConn? (Or how about
Three words: Stephane. Lasme. Rules.
Lovie Smith gets his deal: It took the Bears a little while, but I hope Lovie thinks it was worth it. 4 years, $5.5 million a year? Seems reasonable for a Super Bowl coach, even if history suggests the Bears won't make the Super Bowl again during these next four years.
Ravens cut Jamal Lewis: Remember when he was THE running back?NFL Free Agency starts: Rumors, innuendo, salary cap. Whee!
Randy Moss to Green Bay for Aaron Rodgers? I don't know why the Raiders would do this, except that Rodgers is better than any QB that Oakland could either (a) draft or (b) get in free agency, to pair with taking WR Calvin Johnson with the No. 1 overall pick. (Tip-off: PFT)
Mark Cuban isn't going to buy the Cubs. Too bad.
Roids Scandal: Well what did you EXPECT that Gary Mathews Jr would say? "You got me! I'm all about the steroids!"
Bonds gets death threats: Unsurprising, unfortunately. Maybe the blog Leave The Man Alone can take this up as a signature effort.
Responses to Murray Chass: I felt more than a little outrage at Chass' anti-stats column from Tuesday in the New York Times. (What kind of self-respecting baseball columnist doesn't even have a smidgen of curiosity about statistics?) Baseball Prospectus' talented Nate Silver has a thoughtful response, which is more than Chass deserves. That's why there's Fire Joe Morgan. And here's Seth Mnookin on Chass, too.
NBA Last Night: Did the Suns really lose to the Sixers? Philly must really not want Oden or Durant... The Wizards are sinking (and so is Arenas); what the hell is it about my college and pro teams right now?... AI (34 points) and Melo (23) flash why the West should fear the Nuggets in the playoffs if the pair get it together.
NBA Injury Watch: This is touchy for me, because Wade and Livingston were my fantasy NBA backcourt (sigh) and I've gone, in one week, from contender to obliterated, but here's an interesting theory from Brooks.
Cedric Maxwell apologized for his sexist remarks against ref Violet Palmer. He then expressed surprise at the "firestorm" he created. Seriously: What did he expect to have happen?
Arena League season kicks off tonight, most notably with its new partnership/ownership with ESPN. I remain convinced that this move is what takes AFL from "growth sport" (and you're foolish if you mock it, if you look at the fan and revenue growth) to the top of the "niche" sport pile, just behind NASCAR and NBA.
For those coming in late, I argue that the NBA has become a "niche" sport, just like NASCAR. That's not an insult by any stretch. Both are HUGE niche sports, but niche sports all the same. There are only three truly "national" sports: NFL, Baseball and College Football (with college hoops enjoying a halo effect from CFB). Among niche sports, there is the NBA and NASCAR on one tier; then PGA, tennis and now Arena League; then NHL. AFL is going to zip past NHL (if it hasn't already).
I might break out a discussion of Arena League later in its own post. I'd be curious for your take on it.
Speaking of NASCAR, I don't know what "Car of Tomorrow" means, but it sure sounds pretty cool. Drivers are iffy on it, as you'd expect them to be. Of course, NASCAR teams also apparently cheat more pervasively than any other sport, including the NFL, so there you go.
Finally, I'm late on this, but I missed the Colbert Report on Tuesday night, but caught the replay last night. And not only did he name-check the Toronto Raptors, he put them on his "On Notice!" list. But then he took it a step further! And he put them on his "Dead to Me!" list. For NBA fans, this is a bit ironic, given that the Raptors are the breakthrough success of the year.
* - Then there was 1999, when I created and wrote the "Dance at a Glance" column for SI.com. You might notice that it's quite Quickie-ish, particularly if you peek through the archive on the lower right. It was a critical moment in my development of a "short-form-content" philosophy that would later manifest itself most purely in the Quickie.)