Saturday, March 31, 2007

Florida vs. Ohio State:
Haven't We Seen This Before?

Yes, both this past January, when Florida football beat the stink out of the Buckyes. And this past December, when Florida basketball beat the stink out of the Buckeyes.

But this is a different Ohio State team: (1) On a neutral court, not Gainesville; (2) seasoned, healthy Oden; (3) playing as confidently as they have all season; (4) the powerful arrogance of youth. They are much, much better than that OSU team that got their asses kicked back then.

All that said, Florida didn't win by 26 back in December because of a fluke. The same matchups from back then will create problems for Ohio State, and here's the biggest: How will Oden manage Florida's three-headed post monster of Horford, Noah and Richard?

Granted, I blew my pick of Georgetown over OSU; I'm happy to 'fess up to not giving OSU enough credit (or perhaps giving G'town just a bit too much). But I'm sticking with my original, pre-Tournament (hell: pre-SEASON) pick:

Florida to win its second straight national title, fulfilling a destiny worthy of a champ whose starting five postponed NBA millions to come back together, enjoy college basketball and stake their place as part of the very short list of the best teams in college basketball history.

-- D.S.

Final Four Live-Comment

If you're up for it, let's talk about the Final Four -- before, during and after the games. I'll try to jump in, too.

(I've been watching CBS' Final Four preview all afternoon. Ironically, the best piece of the day had nothing to do with college hoops, but instead was about that women's coach of the boys' high school team at Boys and Girls High in Brooklyn. If Long Island University was smart, they would hire her as the men's coach tomorrow. The piece about the late UNC mascot Jason Ray was really touching, too. I'm usually not a fan of the Dick Enberg sappy pieces, but this one was a good one.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Billy Donovan Isn't Going to Kentucky

Cripes, this Billy Donovan story is now ticking me off. Here's the news flash: He's not jumping to Kentucky.

No, I don't have some inside scoop. I simply have common sense plus several years of closely following Donovan's situation. That's all anyone needs to dismiss the rumors of why he'd leave for UK.

(1) Kentucky is going to offer him a $1 million a year raise? I'm sorry: Since when can't Florida match (or exceed) any other offer? They'll make him the highest paid coach in college hoops without blinking.

(2) Kentucky is a better job than Florida? I'm sorry: I'd argue not right now -- but I'll even give you that one. But here's the thing: It's not a better job FOR DONOVAN, not after he has built up Florida into what it is today -- a program superior to UK's... and HIS program.

(3) Donovan hasn't quashed the UK rumors? I'm sorry: What would you like him to do – stop concentrating on the Final Four so he can interview with Kentucky? Or sign an extension with Florida? He has always said he'd handle it during this offseason; he's sticking to his plan.

Let's review: (1) Money isn't an object. (2) The UK job isn't what it used to be as compared to Florida's. (3) Silence is not implicit interest but explicit focus.

At the risk of applying a Quickie jinx: Billy ain't going to Kentucky. He'll either stay at Florida or go to the NBA. (But even if the NBA offers him $5-6 million a year, do not be shocked if Florida offers to match it, putting Billy at roughly twice what Coach K makes. Hey: Market rate. But at that point, it would be about the new challenge, not the money. But I'm even starting to believe that Donovan doesn't REALLY want to coach in the NBA as much as he is intrigued by the idea of coaching in the NBA.)

Now, I'm going to return to nervously waiting for the game. Feel free to continue putting your favorite Simpsons characters, episodes and quotes in the Comments of the post below.

-- D.S.

Friday 03/30 A.M. Quickie:
Breaking Down the Final Four

Final Four Weekend: Say what you want about the lack of a Cinderella factor in the Final Four (and I have), but these are some tremendous games and tremendous teams.

How weird is it that both are rematches from last year's Tournament? This Florida team is as close to last year's team of the foursome. Then UCLA (which swaps PG Farmar for then-backup Collison – they're actually better for it). Then Georgetown. Then Ohio State, which – of course – picked up two unknowns named Oden and Conley.

I'm sticking with my original bracket picks: Florida over UCLA (my original pick, both teams) and Georgetown over Ohio State (though I had Texas A&M losing, rather than OSU).

Be sure to leave your predictions for Saturday's semifinals in the Comments section (if you enjoy that sort of thing), perhaps with a pithy bit of analysis as to why.

Florida over UCLA: Yes, "revenge factor" scares me, but even if this UCLA team is slightly better than last year's team (a dubious claim, given that in the title game, now-NBA PG Jordan Farmar was the only player who did any damage offensively), this Gators team is better than last year's team, too. And if the Bruins had so many match-up problems then that they lost by 20, how have those mismatches improved? (And have they improved by 20 points' worth?)

The X-Factor: I am intrigued by Florida's recent experience in the Georgia Dome for their three-game blitz through the SEC Tournament as a quasi-"home" advantage.

Georgetown over Ohio State: Oden might eat up Hibbert in their much-anticipated one-on-one showdown, but – as in the Florida-UCLA rematch – look to last year's Tournament game for a clue as to how this will turn out. JTIII's offensive and defensive philosophies obviously give Thad Matta fits. Maybe Matta learned from last year's second-round loss to the Hoyas. (But maybe Georgetown has gotten better, too.) And maybe Oden – and, more likely, Conley – is a huge upgrade from last year's OSU team. (But Georgetown's players have gotten better, too.)

The X-Factor: The reason I picked Georgetown to make the national title game back in early November was because of the way they heart-breakingly lost in the final seconds to Florida a year ago in the Sweet 16. No team had a bigger chip on their shoulder this season, and that sense of mission -- of entitlement – has been driving them all season. That jaw-droppingly dominant OT versus UNC? That wasn't luck; that was heart – the same heart that will beat back the Buckeyes tomorrow. Ohio State's top two players – Oden and Conley – haven't had their heart ripped out in the NCAA Tournament like these Hoyas players have. I'm not saying that they are satisfied "merely" with a Final Four, but there's no way they can want it as bad as Georgetown.

More hot topics on the sports radar today:

NCAA Tournament expansion: While they will never expand it to include all teams – as I've been advocating for a decade – but I think that expanding it to 68 teams, with four play-in games, will pass.

It's a great idea. It adds three teams to the 11/12/13 at-large pool, while ending the current play-in situation where a single team gets bounced before Thursday. Now four will!

Women's Final Four: You cannot possess any sense of irony and not be rooting for LSU.

MLB: Ria Cortesio handles her ump duties just fine, thank you very much. It's back to the minors for her, but – hey – Mark Prior is there, too.

(I know, I know: I didn't do an MLB preview this week. But we'll blow it out all next week.)

Michael Phelps does it again: Ridiculous. This makes Kobe's 50-plus point scoring binge look shallow and meaningless.

NBA: If the Grizzlies' late-season surge (two wins in a row!) costs them Greg Oden and/or Kevin Durant, they should fire everyone.

NBA Tonight: Who had tonight's Raptors-Wizards game as the East's most intriguing game of the season?

NIT: Congrats to West Virginia, who eased the disappointment of not making the NCAA Tournament with an NIT title. Was this win the team giving their coach a going-away gift? Hmm...

College Hoops Coaching Carousel: So who will be the next Michigan coach, West Virginia's John Beilein or Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings. Vandy went further in this year's Tournament than WVU, but Beiliein's system offers the chance for much more success.

Marbury's new shoes come out Sunday: How amazing is it that the release of the next edition of a $14.98 pair of shoes will have people lined up around the block on Sunday morning? This remains one of the most intriguing sports consumer-product concepts of the last 20 years.

I think yesterday's Comments discussion about the different levels of expectations among fans of winning vs. losing teams was one of the best we've ever had here. I highly recommend you check it out.

Speaking of sports movies, it's always good to note new ones coming out. Will Ferrell's new one (does he do ANYTHING except sports movies anymore?) about the pairs ice skating is going to make a mint. He's currently working on a movie about the ABA, but maybe he'll have some interest in mine. (Though, to debunk several of the theories on yesterday's comments about the post, it isn't a Dodgeball-style comedy. There is some humor in it -- as with any good sports movie -- but having to choose between silly and not silly, I went with not silly. Of course, that could change as the demands of commercialism are satisfied.)

Fun day yesterday: Between the Ben Maller/Boston Herald mention for the Peyton Manning SNL thing and the Deadspin mention of my small business deal, it was a true "Everything's Coming Up Milhouse" type of day. Whee!

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Exciting News: Screenplay Optioned

Perhaps this is best tagged under "Navel-gazing," but the official announcement went out a little earlier this morning:

TeamWorks Media, a fantastic up-and-coming production company based in Chicago, has optioned an original screenplay I have written, set in the world of college basketball. The story centers around a ragtag intramural team that vaults from campus champs to the national tournament.

(So for all you sports-bloggers/writers looking for that novelty Final Four angle after a long week of wearing out the usual game storylines, there's your hook. Hey, in a Final Four devoid of Cinderella stories, this might look tempting.)

I couldn't be more thrilled to be working with TeamWorks on this, and I sincerely appreciate the confidence (and sketchy judgment!) they have shown in partnering with me on the project. (Here's the full release.)

Hey, maybe "sports blogger sells screenplay" is the new "sports blogger gets book deal." It may be a little while before you're sitting at the multiplex watching, but it's one step closer.

-- D.S.

Thursday 03/29 A.M. Quickie:
The Pleasure/Pain of Expectations

It's one of my favorite philosophical sports debates:

Would you rather root for a mediocre team, for whom ANY postseason success is considered happy news? Where your managed expectations allow for the slightest success to feel as good as a national title?

Or would you rather root for a perennial national contender, racking up regular-season wins, but be so saddled by expectations that you end up essentially unsatisfied if they don't win a national championship?

When I was at Northwestern in the pre-Rose Bowl years, we would dreamily talk about "bowl eligibility" (6-5!) as ultimately satisfying. (Is that pathetic... or glorious?)

Heading into this Tournament and this Final Four, as a Florida fan, it's an opposite proposition: Given this team and its expectations, anything less than a national title would be considered failure.

How nuts is that: Making a Final Four (for a second year in a row, no less) isn't enough. It's "title or bust," literally.

I presume this is how Yankees fans feel. Or USC/Ohio State/Notre Dame football fans. Or Mavs fans, at this point. Or Pats fans, though the NFL's parity has beaten the "Super Bowl Champs or Bust" expectations out of all but the most naive fans.

This kind of perennial expectations of huge success is new to me in my mere five years of Florida fandom. As a Northwestern fan back in the early '90s, I would pity those "title or bust" fans; it left such tiny margin for error between satisfaction and disappointment.

When, like this weekend, anything less than a national title is staggeringly disappointing, I almost wish I was back in my pre-Gator-fan days, rooting for Northwestern to make the NIT field. Almost.

How do you feel about it, and how have your own experiences as a fan hit this, one way or the other?

Today's hottest topics:

Final Four: There's a lot of talk about Oden-vs-Hibbert, but if you throw in Al Horford (and, frankly, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard), when was the last time a Final Four had this many talented post players?

Wooden Award: I suppose it's fitting that in the first year of the NBA's new draft age-limit rules, a freshman like Kevin Durant would win an award named for college hoops' poster purist. Durant is a finalist.

NFL: Joe Gibbs pees a little bit on the Briggs rumor, but he does spark more gossip the Redskins want to trade up into the draft's Top 5.

MLB: Ugueth Urbina given 14 years in prison for attempted murder. That ain't gonna be easy time.

So much for Steve Swindal as the heir-apparent to George Steinbrenner to run the Yankees. The son-in-law is going to lose both the "son" and "in-law" parts as George's little girl files for divorce.

Strat for sale: OK, I think the millions of sports-blog readers should come together and buy a majority ownership stake in Strat-o-Matic.

NBA: Guess what? The Raptors are the new trendy pick to win the East (even without Bargnani and Garbajosa). They're not just this season's Clippers; they represent one of the great single-season turnaround stories in the NBA in a long time. They beat the Heat last night.

Mc'D's All-America H.S. Game: Kansas State-bound Michael Beasley showed why he's the best in the class with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Beasley will be next season's Greg Oden, if not its Kevin Durant. He might not score like crazy, but he could lead K-State to a Final Four.

Well, that's it: Micheal Ray Richardson has been uninvited from my family's Passover seder. (Sounds like he wouldn't want to be there. UPDATE: On second thought: He absolutely would.)

Another W.R. for Michael Phelps: In the 200 IM. As I said yesterday, he's the world's greatest athlete right now. You don't have to care about swimming to be impressed.

Varsity Dad/Mom x 2: Congrats to Mia and Nomar on Hamm delivering twin girls on Tuesday. So: Middle infield combo or being the "2" in a 4-4-2 soccer lineup?

Exciting news coming later this morning.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday 03/28 A.M. Quickie:
"Name of the Year" Picks!

Today's hottest storylines, as I leave the Billy Donovan story behind -- until Tuesday (at the latest)...

In honor of the Final Four, my Name of the Year ballot revealed!

My Final Four semis: Bulltron Region 1-seed Intelligent Infinite Botts over Sithole Region 4-seed Kyle Sackrider. Dragonwagon Region 4-seed Phyre Quickly Burns over Chrotchtangle 1-seed (and NOTY pre-tournament favorite) Vanilla Dong.

In the title match-up, I picked Phyre Quickly Burns as the 2007 NOTY champion over Intelligent Infinite Botts. As I said to the NOTY organizer to explain my pick: "Phyre Quickly Burns isn't a name. It's a narrative."

Check out other notable picks. ("Notable" used so very very loosely.)

(Slow day? Hell no!)

Michael Phelps: World's Greatest Athlete? Sets a new world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Not sure how many of you appreciate what that means. I think it's not hyperbole to say it would be like an NBA player scoring 101.

NFL Trade: Lance Briggs to the Redskins? Don't they already have two other expensive linebackers? What a classic Redskins move.

NFL Rules: Why would the Cardinals and Bengals reject the idea of making instant replay permanent? They were the only NFL teams to do it.

Meanwhile, I'm no Luddite, but defensive players having radios in their helmets defeats the entire purpose of home-field advantage. I'm glad the owners rejected that proposal.

Women's NCAA Tournament: Traditional powers UNC and Tennessee join Rutgers and LSU in the Final Four. Should be pretty intriguing.

NIT: I don't care what the name of the tournament is – a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win a win-or-go-home semifinal is exciting. Congrats to West Virginia, which topped Mississippi State and advanced to the NIT final against Clemson, which held on against Air Force. They'll play for the coveted title of "Team 66." (Which isn't fair or accurate, but nonetheless, where we are.)

NBA: I'd like to know if Grizzlies fans are happy their woeful team beat the Lakers – or pissed because, at this point, every win takes them further from Oden or Durant at the top of the draft lottery.

Pop Culture: LeBron to host the ESPYs. I appreciate his star appeal, and his acting in his LeBron TV commercials was exceptional. I hope he gets into the host role and doesn't try to play it too cool, leaving the fun to his sidekick, the ubiquitous Jimmy Kimmel.

Media: I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I even WANT Joe Theismann to call college football games. From quotes, his heart doesn't seem into it, and don't you want a CFB analyst who loves CFB?

MLB: Mark Prior, minor-leaguer? That's looking more likely since Lou Piniella picked Wade Miller to be the Cubs' 5th starter. Go back a half-decade and try to wrap your mind around THAT.

Nats Watch: When I wrote my Nats Deadspin preview, Vegas had them at 300-to-1 shots to win the World Series, longest in baseball this season. But, per Boswell's WashPost column today, their over under is 68 wins – not the 40-something that some (me) were suggesting. It's a great time to hop on the bandwagon!

In the biggest league M&A since the NBA/ABA, the UFC will buy Pride Fighting Championships, creating a mega-MMA entity. What happens when MMA slots itself just under NFL, college football and baseball (in that order) as an increasingly rare "national sport?"

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday 03/27 A.M. Quickie:
Donovan, Final Four, Jaworski, More

Tons of thoughts while re-watching replays of Rasheed's 60-footer...

The hot story of both the day and the week leading up to the Final Four is the fate of Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Would Donovan really leave
Florida for Kentucky? AOL FanHouse has been all over this story, and here's a link with the latest gossip -- suggesting (by UK fans) it's a done deal. I say: Wrong.

First off: I don't think he'll go to UK. It won't be about money: Florida will match or exceed any Kentucky offer. And, as I've said before, I don't think Kentucky is a better program than Florida right now. Why would Billy walk from what he's built up for a rebuilding job?

More realistically: There is the idea that if Florida wins a second straight national title (or even if they don't), Donovan will have done as much as he possibly could EVER do in Gainesville. He might as well leave after that, right? There's some merit to this.

But I'd argue this would push him to a coaching job in the NBA, not another college. He has always said the NBA is intriguing to him, and it's not like he won't get offers (no matter what the sorry record of college-to-NBA coaches is). Fans can't begrudge a jump from college to the pros.

Apparently, the Heat are hot for him, which would be a great fit. He could stay in-state and enjoy the services of a Top 3 NBA superstar. (I was thinking Bobcats, because Jordan would want to make a big splash and the team is essentially a bunch of college kids anyway. But who would want to play for MJ? Worst boss ever.) Originally, I thought he was a lock for the Knicks, but as they're keeping Isiah, that seems to be a non-starter (lucky for Donovan).

From everything I understand, Donovan was going to wait all along until the end of the season to do his extension. Rather than creating uncertainty, isn't this the stand-up thing to do? After all, can you imagine the crap he'd get if he spent this week negotiating a lucrative personal contract extension, rather than focusing on the Final Four?

That would go against everything he has preached to his team; it's why he didn't sign an extension last April – he said that if his players would defer their NBA payoff to return, he'd defer his big payoff for a year, too. So his silence isn't a signal he's got a deal with UK. It simply fuels wishful thinking by Cats fans.

As for the Heat? It wouldn't surprise (or offend) me, and it shouldn't surprise (or offend) Gator Nation.

Let's move on...

My favorite stat of the Tournament (remaindered from yesterday): Nearly 162,000 people correctly predicted this year's Final Four in's Tournament Challenge. (Last year's total of correct Foursomes? Four.)

Thanks to the Commenters for pointing out some possible Glaring Omissions in yesterday's Top 5 CBB teams since 1985: '94-95 Arkansas and '01-02 Maryland.

Given my list, I think teams are generally given a lot more credit for following the "win a title first, then get back to the Final Four and lose" than "get to the Final Four and lose, then go back to the Final Four and win a title."

Maybe that's because defending a title is so much harder than winning a first one.

Quickie-ish College Hoops All-Americans: As the AP has released their All-America teams, most notable for putting freshmen on the first team for only the third time ever (and there were two of 'em this year, Durant and Oden).

It's time for my picks, in order of how worthy they are to be on the team:

1st team: Durant, Law, J. Green, Tucker, Hansbrough.

2nd team: Oden, Horford, Afflalo, Lofton, Dudley.

Billy Gillespie to Arkansas? I know the guy is a job-jumper, but I would have thought he would have held out for Kentucky, which would eventually trickle down to him after all the "No's" from the bigger names.

Gillespie would have Arkansas near the top of the SEC within two seasons. Just be forewarned Hogs fans: He would use that to vault to a better job by 2010.

(The latest update is that Texas A&M is going to sweeten the pot to keep him. Seriously: Given the foundation Gillespie has put in, the Aggies job is a better one than coaching at Arkansas.)

Rick Pitino not leaving Louisville for Kentucky: Yet another high-profile coach who won't go to Lexington. (Psst: Because the job ain't as good as its fans think it is. In SAT analogy terms:

Women's Tournament: You could tell Rutgers was destined for the Final Four when they beat Duke last weekend. You could tell LSU was destined for the Final Four when their successful coach was exiled for having a romantic relationship with a player.

They play each other in the Final Four: Something's gotta give.

I'm sticking with LSU and the ironic timing of winning a national title. (It's just like Michigan and Bill Frieder in 1989, except he was exiled for having an inappropriate relationship with Arizona State, not his own player.)

MLB: Joe Torre back in '08? If the Yankees don't win the World Series this year (or at least an AL pennant), he might not get a choice.

MLB Fantasy: Did you drop Kerry Wood and Duaner Sanchez yet? How about picking up new Marlins closer Jorge Julio for a few extra saves?

MLB Know the Name: Ria Cortesio, who will become the first female ump to work an MLB game (even if it's exhibition) in 20 years. (Remember the name "Pam Postema?")

My new Nats fandom: Apparently, most of the season tickets won't be delivered in time for the season's start. Excellent customer service for a team that will be lucky to win 40 games!

NFL Trade: Eagles get LB Takeo Spikes and QB Kelly Holcomb from the Bills for DT Darwin Walker and a cond'l '08 draft pick.

NFL: The hot catchphrase of the summer will be "personal conduct policy," the new hammer that the league plans to wield to club players and coaches into not being such assholes.

Suspensions (even up to a year) and fines are nice, but when the Commish starts talking about docking teams' draft picks, he's threatening in a language they can understand.

(Man, if the new policy had been in place over the last year, the Bengals wouldn't have a draft pick.)

NFL 2007 Season Opener: Saints at Colts, by far the best possible matchup, pairing the Super Bowl champs versus the league's top feel-good story.

Ron Jaworski to MNF: He will go down as the best analyst in the history of the show. Hopefully, it will finally affirm that the average MNF viewer doesn't want more entertainment -- they want more analysis.

(And yet, the USA Today story about the switch said that Joey T was TOO much about the in-game analysis, and not enough about analysis of the other news around the league. Fair enough: Jaws would be as expert about that as anyone, and you never got the sense that Joey T was comfortable riffing on the storylines from the rest of the league -- of course, game analysts rarely are, which is what makes Jaws such a good fit here and what makes next season's development of the show so intriguing: Sounds like they want MNF to be as much a three-hour talk about the week in the NFL as it is a three-hour talk about the game at hand.)

Roids Watch: How fast will it take the transfer of customer lists from the Albany DA's office to sports leagues for the names to come out in the media? My over-under is the end of the business week.

NBA: Rasheed from 60! Yet another sign that this is the Pistons' year to win the East.

NASCAR: I'm not sure there's a more promising marketing gimmick than "Car of Tomorrow." I don't even understand what it means. It just SOUNDS interesting.

NFL PacMan Watch: Jones to face felony charges? Seems like it was only a matter of time, didn't it?

NHL: Commish Bettman says fighting is "part of the game," after critics pop off about the need to curb it. (Bettman added that safety should be the first concern. Isn't it possible those are incompatible?)

Tennis: Serena heckler booted. I appreciate clever heckling, but there's very little place for it during a tennis match. And it's totally unacceptable when the heckling is racist.

Freaky story of the day: The news that there was a device to shoot poison darts into horses embedded in the track at Happy Valley in Hong Kong. This is weird. This is wrong. This is fascinating.

(It would, of course, be much more intriguing if they surreptitiously shot poison darts into visiting football players at Happy Valley in Penn State.)

Rest in peace, Jason Ray.

-- D.S.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday 03/26 PM Quickie:
Hoops All-Americans, Jaws and Sadness

WSJ Tournament piece.

Exclusive: Peyton slams Brady.
Monday AM Quickie.

College Hoops All-Americans: I find it staggering that Durant and Oden DOUBLE the number of freshmen who have ever been named All-American, joining Wayman Tisdale and Chris Jackson. (Um: Carmelo Anthony?!)

I suppose it's a reflection on the level of talent that has simply skipped college for the NBA, thus Durant and Oden's place on the first team validates the NBA's age-limit rule (sort of).

Pretty interesting that Durant was the only unanimous pick of the entire team. Can't complain about the rest of the 1st team. I'm sure UNC fans will wonder how Hansbrough was displaced by Arron Afflalo on the 1st team.

The second team seems to have mistakenly included "Joakim Noah" where voters should have obviously written "Al Horford" (who made the 3rd team). Noah didn't deserve 3rd team either; I would have put Horford on the 2nd team, Corey Brewer on the 3rd team and Noah nowhere. And I say that as a Florida fan.

Jeff Green should have been on the second team, too. Aaron Gray had no business being on the 3rd team. He's whatever the opposite of a "snub" is.

Ron Jaworski is an inspired pick to replace Joe Theismann on MNF. I don't think there has ever been a better game analyst on MNF, and he's a far better compliment to Tony Kornheiser than Theismann was.

Finally, but most important: Condolences to family, friends and fans of UNC student/Heels mascot Jason Ray, who died today.

New Wall Street Journal Online Piece:
'Fessing Up to My Sorry Final Four

Here's the link. (And it's FREE!)

For today's Quickie, click here (or scroll down), leading with the Top 4 Final Four Storylines.

Manning Disses Brady on SNL

Here's an amazing first-hand account of Peyton's appearance on "SNL" from reader Josh from Suffern, NY:

I attended last night's SNL dress rehearsal, where Lorne Michaels decides what sketches and jokes to keep, and which to dump.

Anyway, during Peyton's monologue, Amy Poeler was dressed in a Patriots jersey and heckled Peyton, saying "What does Tom Brady and the Circus have in common? They both have two more rings than you."

Peyton stared right back and said, "That's not the ONLY thing he'll have two more of....."

CLASSIC! I'm not sure if the rest of the audience got the reference, but unfortunately they dumped it from the live broadcast.

They sure did, which was too bad. Thanks, Josh. That was fantastic scoop. (To clarify for those who are wondering: "Two more" refers to out-of-wedlock babies. Yes, I'm sure Peyton knows that Gisele isn't pregnant -- that we know of -- but it was a quality swipe nonetheless.)

-- D.S.

Monday 03/26 A.M. Quickie:
Top 4 Final Four Storylines

Between holding my breath during Florida's win over Oregon and hyperventilating at the insanely awesome Georgetown win over UNC, I'm finally recovered this morning...

Ranking the Top Four Storylines of the Final Four:

(1) Florida trying to repeat. I would contend that winning a title then returning to the Final Four – with the same five starters, no less – puts this team among the Top 5 since the field expanded to 64.

1. UNLV '90-91
2. Duke '91-92
3. Florida '06-07
4. Michigan '92-93
5a. Michigan St '99-01
5b. Kentucky '96-97

(2) Ohio State's Fab Frosh. Oden and Conley have put themselves in the Pantheon of all-time Tournament freshmen alongside Carmelo Anthony, the Fab Five and Mike Bibby. But they need a title for Melo-style immortality.

PS: Not a bad victory for the "National Bracket" that the team picked by the most fans to win the title makes the Final Four. (But not nearly as impressive as the fact that nearly half of all fans projected Georgetown beating UNC.)

(3) Georgetown is back. And college hoops is SO much better for it. Thompson. Ewing. Jeff Green as the Tournament's Most Valuable Player So Far. And, my god: That "Hoya Detroya" overtime against UNC, which capped one of the greatest regional finals I can remember. Seriously: How amazing was that game? (I guess if you're a UNC fan, you might disagree.)

PS: When was the last time the trendiest pick before the Tournament actually comes through and makes the Final Four? The Fab Five in '92?

(4) UCLA returns to the Final Four. In any other year, the idea of a team repeating as a Final Four team would make them a strong contender for "Best Storyline." In this field, the Bruins are an oversight.

The idea of a re-match of the 2006 title game scares the hell out of me. Won't UCLA find extra motivation in trying to avenge last year's ass-kicking? Or will Florida rely on the fact they "owned" the Bruins?

What are your favorite storylines of the Final Four?

Recapping the Weekend:
UNC: Totally choked. Totally.
Oregon: Too much foul trouble.
Memphis: Not ready for national stage.
Kansas: Who didn't see this coming?

Tournament Challenge: Despite picking 3 of 4 Final Four teams, I'm only in the 63rd percentile in the "Daily Quickie Readers" pool. (For comparison, my 10-month-old son's bracket picks are in the 88th percentile.) If I had used the National Bracket to make my picks, I would have been in the 74th percentile.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to being able to focus on other sports. For now, just a few notes:

Kobe Watch: Scores only 43. Cripes: "Only."

I'm in the bag for Arenas, but I love the fact he makes little $10 side bets with fans sitting courtside. (And of course the NBA doesn't.)

Kentucky Watch: Izzo? I don't think so. Put him in with Donovan and Barnes in the "Wishful Thinking by Kentucky Fans" category.

Theismann booted from "Monday Night Football": Unknown who his replacement will be, but I'd vote for Ron Jaworski, who could provide an expert's eye to balance out Tony Kornheiser. (via ProFootballTalk)

Tiger is awesome. Yawn.

-- D.S.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Your 2007 Final Four:
Florida, UCLA, Ohio St, Georgetown

What a huge - HUUUUGE - performance by Georgetown to beat UNC. That OT was jaw-dropping.

Florida: Defending champs return.
UCLA: Second straight FF for Bruins.
Ohio State: Call them the "Final Frosh."
Georgetown: Best team remaining?

My otherwise sorry bracket has been salvaged by picking 3 of 4 Final Four teams: Florida, UCLA and Georgetown. (Barely impressive? Consider: I picked all three to make the Final Four back in November, too.)

Much, much more on Monday. (By the way, as for Final Four predictions, I'll stick with my original bracket picks: Florida meeting Georgetown in the title game.)

-- D.S.

Sunday 03/25 (Very) Quickie:
UCLA Saves the Tournament

Update: Florida is back in the Final Four. I'm curious about two things:

(1) Short-term: Does Florida's experience against UCLA in last year's title game help or hurt them? (Help: They've already proven they can beat them. Hurt: UCLA has that powerful "revenge" factor.)

(2) Long-term: With a second consecutive Final Four to pair with last year's title, it's time to consider this Gators team in its all-time-best historical context (say, post-1985).

They aren't Duke '91-92 yet. And I wouldn't put them at UNLV 90-91 yet. (Michigan State 00-01 is kind of weird, because Izzo basically took two different teams to the Final Four.)

But, regardless of how they finish in this Final Four, I'd put them among the top 5 college teams ever since '85. More on this tomorrow. Just thinking out loud for the first time on this...

As I whittle away the hours until Florida meets Oregon...

1:49 p.m.: Rationally, I know that Oregon's style is a MUCH better matchup for Florida than either Purdue or Butler. Irrationally, all this "Oregon is this year's Florida" stuff is freaking me out.

Original Post:
UCLA saved the Tournament
: By beating 1-seed Kansas, the Bruins ensure that the dreaded "4-1" (4 1-seed) scenario once again is thwarted from ruining the Final Four.

I appreciated the prospect of unprecedented novelty, but if the NCAA Tournament is built on anything, it is the foundation of "all 4 1-seeds have never made the Final Four in the same year."

Ohio State looks really good: After watching them struggle through the Rounds of 32 and 16, to see the Buckeyes clock Memphis makes their Final Four appearance more intriguing.

(Oh, and OSU totally debunked the ludicrous theory that the tournament was somehow left with better games if it was 1-vs-2 in the regional final. This one was a dud.)

Florida over Oregon: As I said yesterday, this is "this year's Florida" versus last year's Florida. Ducks mighty-mite Tajuan (5-foot-6) Porter (33 pts in W over UNLV) scares me. But I'm thrilled for the Gators to finally not be playing the Purdue/Butler-style grind-it-out games.

Georgetown over UNC: By far the most highly anticipated game of the entire tournament. It's Selection Sunday's trendiest pick versus the field's most talented team. Should be a great one.

(And, yet: I'm already sick of the nostalgia for 1982. I appreciate that it's the 25th anniversary of UNC-G'town in the title game, but consider that no fan under 35 years old -- at a minimum -- has any recollection of this game beyond ESPN Classic-style highlights.)

Women's Tournament: No. 1 Duke shocked in upset by Rutgers. I hope Florida watched the game and keeps in mind today. No presumptive favorite is safe.

D2 Title Game: Barton over Winona State, in what was one of the best games/finishes you'll see.

Peyton Manning on SNL: I'm disappointed he didn't reprise Joe Montana's famous role from the show. It would have endeared him to every fan out there.