Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sunday 03/16 (Very) Quickie

Brackets out tonight!

Clemson upsets Duke: Consider that foreshadowing of Duke missing yet another Final Four. They might not choke in the first round like they did a year ago, but being booted before the first weekend is over isn't far-fetched. (UNC almost was upset themselves, against VA Tech.)

Tennessee shocked by sizzling Arkansas: Here's the biggest implication -- if UNC win the ACC Tournament, it assures the Tar Heels they will get to stay in that Raleigh regional. (I think if the Vols had won the SEC, they would have had a claim.)

I have been on the Vols Final Four bandwagon since last March: Does this loss inspire them... or expose some fatal flaw that will derail them before they reach the Final Four?

Georgia pulls off the double-double: They beat Kentucky and Mississippi State... in the same day! With that kind of momentum (and without having to play Tennessee), we could see a miracle Bulldogs run. Four league wins all regular season; three in three days. Amazing.

Illinois miracle rolls on: The Illini are one win away from a miraculous NCAA Tournament bid. That said: They'll have to play a 4th game in 4 days against no-nonsense Wisconsin.

Pitt spanks Georgetown for Big East Tourney title: Pitt scares me more than any other team in the tournament field. Here's why: They have the make-up to go to the Final Four -- or flame out in the first weekend. I have no idea what to do with this team in my bracket.

Big 12: Kansas-Texas for the championship, but it's for way more than bragging rights, or even a Big 12 Tournament title trophy -- the winner likely gets that coveted No. 2 seed for that Houston regional.

SEC: Never been prouder to be affiliated with the Sporting Blog than today, after following Spencer Hall's utterly amazing coverage of the tornado in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome.

UCLA wins Pac-10 championship: I would give them the No. 1 overall 1-seed. As long as they're playing in Anaheim, then Phoenix, that's all they should care about. (That and Mbah a Moute's ankle.)

WAC: Triple-OT Madness! Not sure if you can have a better tournament auto-bid than a winner-take-all showdown between two teams that goes THREE overtimes. Congrats to Boise State. They definitely earned it.

Congrats to UMBC, which earned their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. (More small-conference auto-bids: Coppin State, which will always have a place in my heart for its 1997 win over 2-seed South Carolina as a 15-seed, earning the front-page headline under my direction as college basketball editor: "Coppin a Feel: Cocks Get Blocked." And don't forget Cal State Fullerton, earning its first bid since the late 70s. All will enjoy a few days of spotlight before being drummed out of the Tournament in its first round.)

Tim Welsh out at Providence: They should be able to get someone good to replace him. It's a small school in the rough-and-tumble Big East, but you're the only game in town, the fans are amazing and if you do well, a bigger/better job is a guarantee.

John Lackey out 3-4 weeks: I'm not worried about the Angels' chances in the weak AL West; but it is something to keep in mind if you haven't had a fantasy draft yet.

Rich Rodriguez has first practice at Michigan: They will be much better. Maybe not today. Maybe not next month. Maybe not even next season. But eventually.

Terrelle Pryor Watch: He'll make his decision this week. I think he'll pick Ohio State, but I'm not sure why: Why would he want to sit behind Todd Boeckman for a year? I loved the idea of Pryor signing with Memphis, where he would start immediately -- in football and in hoops.

Varsity Dad Update: Congrats to Dice-K on his wife giving birth to Dice-Kid.

-- D.S.

Saturday 03/15 (Very) Quickie

Rockets win 21st straight: No matter how they finish the season, no one can take away the history they have made in stringing together the second-longest win-streak in NBA history.

(Can't wait for Rockets-Lakers on Sunday. If Gasol's ankle isn't better, the Rockets could steamroll on -- they've got to be motivated to take down Kobe, right?)

Illinois on a miracle tournament run? They beat Purdue yesterday, and that's not nothing. But it's a long way from getting out of the quarters to winning the championship.

Consider this: While Wisconsin and Michigan State beat up on each other, Illinois gets Minnesota (who upset Indiana at the buzzer) -- the winner one win away from the NCAA Tournament!

(If Illinois wins the Big Ten Tournament, how awesome would it be if the Committee put them in the 64-vs-65 "Play-In" game?)

Indiana shocked, cont'd: If you pick the Hoosiers past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, you are insane. I can't imagine I would pick them to get out of the first round.

Congrats to American University: First appearances in the NCAA Tournament are always amazing. I know the fans are going nuts. They deserve to.

SEC Tournament weather issues: If you have tickets to the semis and finals, good luck with that. Or, you could just watch Tennessee win it all on TV at a nearby sports bar.

Pitt is really good in the Big East Tournament: Reaches 7th final in last 8 years. It's this annual run that always confuses fans into thinking they can do something similar in the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA doesn't have to win the Pac-10 Tournament for me to pick them to win the NCAA Tournament, but they seem to be on that way anyway: They'll be the most popular choice, nationally, I predict. ( CBB POY Kevin Love: 19 and 10)

I think Arkansas earned its way into the Tournament with a win over Vandy; I think Virginia Tech may have earned its way in with a trip to the ACC semis.

Xavier: Wow. So much for that bandwagon. Then again, the Musketeers have a way of saving their best for the NCAA Tournament. (Still... to be shut down that harshly by St. Joe's? Oh, I think St. Joe's gets in as an at-large with that win.)

I'm a little down on the conference tournaments this year, but I'll still spend the weekend watching college hoops... it's all about trying to make sense of the contenders, the potential Cinderellas and everyone in between.

-- D.S.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where Do You Watch the NCAA Tournament?

This column by Big Daddy Drew made me lament the end of my longtime place to watch the first round of the NCAA Tournament: The Park Avenue Country Club, now defunct.

I would arrive at 11 a.m. and stake out a small round table by the bar with a good view of all the large TV screens. Obviously, I was by myself, so I'd put some stuff on the other chair to discourage people from sitting next to me. Some years, Mrs. Quickie would drop by for the late-afternoon games; other years, I simply maintained the facade -- I just needed a little space for myself in an otherwise insanely crowded bar.

Last year, on the first Thursday I live-blogged the afternoon for Deadspin, and while that was a ton of fun, it wasn't the same. This year, I will likely take advantage of CBS's online access to watch all the games from home or work.*

But, as Drew laments, it's just not the same as watching an early-round buzzer-beater in a bar, even if you don't know anyone.

(Ironically, given my usual interest in watching alone-among-a-crowd, my favorite first round viewing experience of all time was in 2002, when I led a group in taking over a corner of the Sports Depot in Allston, Mass. with a huge group of business school friends.)

-- D.S.

* - It was a crazy Costanzan "collision of two worlds" that Drew put this above-mentioned post on Deadspin (where I regularly contribute) that referenced and linked to the company I work for in my "real" job. (What? You mean all that unpaid, unadvertised blogging doesn't pay for a mortgage or toddler daycare? Say it ain't so!) Drew had no idea, making the coincidence all the more fascinating and funny for me. But needless to say, to paraphrase George: "A Dan divided against itself CANNOT stand!"

(Update: +100 for the first two comments.)

Bob Costas Hates You

Apparently, Bob Costas loathes me, too. I could write something about how staggeringly wrong-headed Costas' opinion was, but after 2 months of promoting his book, Will Leitch has the best talking points down.

Friday 03/14 A.M. Quickie:
Brackets, Bubbles, Rockets, Crystal, More

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Colorado, Baylor, Pitt, Pac-10 refs, West Virginia, Florida (doh!), Amare Stoudemire, Baron Davis, Houston Rockets, Billy Crystal, Kevin Jones, Trent Dilfer, Curt Schilling, American University and More!

Why "gut" is your best guide on Sunday night...
Why Baylor might have bounced off the Bubble...
Why Bob Huggins is a March bad-ass...
Why Florida will win the NIT...
Why Suns-Warriors is playoff-worthy...
Why Billy Crystal blew it...
Why Trent Dilfer can still help...
Why American University is your rooting interest tonight...
And more... after the jump!

Don't forget to sign up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" Tournament Challenge group!

Last night's fantasy baseball draft results, picking 4th overall in a 16-team league (following up yesterday's post): Wright, Berkman, V. Martinez were my first 3 picks, and it went downhill from there. (Yes, I avoided the temptation to take Ryan Braun 4th overall.)

My favorite part of fantasy baseball drafts is overvaluing potential rookie breakouts -- it's basically the only success (however limited) I have found in playing fantasy baseball. My rookie pick-ups this year: Jay Bruce and Colby Rasmus. I wanted Evan Longoria, but my No. 1 pick was David Wright and Longoria went really early.

Morning updates coming both days this weekend, in anticipation of Selection Sunday night! (Look for a column I'll have online for the Wall Street Journal on Monday, in addition to my Sporting News column and what I'm sure will be lots of commentary here on the blog.)

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

ISO Fantasy MLB Draft Advice: 4th Overall

OK, so my fantasy baseball draft is tonight. I'm No. 4 in a 16-team league, so my first 3 picks are Nos. 4, 29 and 36... before a LONG wait.

(1) Who do I take with No. 4 overall? Conventional wisdom would say "Whoever is remaining among A-Rod, Hanley, Wright or Reyes."

That said, as long as I'm not picking again until No. 29, I give myself some leeway -- particularly if there is a player in that first 16 or so who I really wanted. In this case, it's Ryan Braun. He is not worthy of being No. 4 (his average draft spot is No. 14... he certainly won't last until No. 29).

Is there anyone else I should be looking at at No. 4 beyond that "Big Four?"

(2) Who should I target in that 29 and 36 spot? Here's the consideration: Obviously, it depends on who I take at 4 (and who is already selected, etc.). Basically, I'm looking for a "First 3" strategy: IF/OF/P? IF/OF/Best Available? BA/BA/BA?

(3) If you're willing to put it in the Comments publicly, who are your big sleepers and breakout players I should overvalue -- meaning: They're worth taking higher than you'd think based on their position ranking or average draft position. (Keep in mind that I regularly take a flier on rookies, who are generally undervalued... at least the ones that "break through.")

I'll report back tomorrow with the results. It won't be pretty. I can hang for about the first 10 rounds, and then I start to get very iffy as things start to drift to the back of the rotation, as well as the bullpen.

-- D.S.

Open-Source the NCAA Tournament:
Expand the Field to All 340 Teams

Replace conference tournaments and expand the NCAA Tournament to all 340 teams. It is one of my pet causes -- one I have laid out here before. Here's how it would work:

Step 1: At the end of the regular season, the top 32 teams earn byes into the Big Dance. The remaining 308 teams are seeded into a bracket.

Step 2: Within 4 rounds of games (the same 4 games most small-league champs play to earn their NCAA bid anyway during C-Week), you cut that group down to 32.

Step 3: Seed them with the Top 32 into the usual 64-team format. Play on as usual.

That's it.

There is no Bubble; everyone is in. Where conference tournaments are already a de fe "everyone-in-the-pool" tournament, this formalizes it.

The incentive to do well in the regular season: To get into that Top 32 and get the bye week (but the 32 who survive the 308-team scrum have their own advantage -- momentum).

Expanding the NCAA Tournament by a handful of teams is pretty useless; it doesn't solve anything. Letting everyone in does.

Championship Week (at least the first half) is fun. The NCAA Tournament is fun. Let's take the best of both and make them even better.

-- D.S.

Thursday 03/13 A.M. Quickie:
Tourneys, Rockets, Rays, Stewart, Knight

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Mount St. Mary's, Syracuse, Arizona, Cal, Houston Rockets, Chris Paul, Shelley Duncan, Francisco Liriano, Tony Stewart, Maya Moore, Bob Knight, David Carr and More!

Why we should expand the NCAA Tournament to everyone...
Why Syracuse will dominate the NIT...
Why the Rockets' streak will end imminently...
Why Chris Paul is an MVP candidate...
Why Shelley Duncan is a thug...
Why Francisco Liriano is in trouble...
Why Tony Stewart isn't following the script...
Why Bob Knight isn't very good on TV...
Why David Carr is no Eli Manning...
Why your boss can't stop you next Thursday...
And more... after the jump!

Two bonus posts today: At about 10, I'll republish a version of the lead of my Sporting News column today, because it might be my favorite idea/issue/argument of the year. (Quickie regulars will know it -- it might be my most simply explained version yet.) And in the early-afternoon, I will be asking for your help in figuring out what to do with the No. 4 draft slot in my 16-team fantasy baseball league draft being held tonight.

Meanwhile, Selection Sunday is one day closer: Don't forget to sign up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group of's Tournament Challenge, a 6-year tradition that continues. Yes, you can be in your office pool and the Deadspin pool and still sign up for this one -- apparently, it's like the NIT of tournament pools: It used to be high-profile, now it's slightly more symbolic ("symbolic" meaning "a lot fewer people are entering"). But I have high hopes to juice the entry totals over this final week before the tournament starts. One week from today!!!

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who Ya Got: Frosh vs. the Field?

At the beginning of the college basketball season, everyone recognized that this was a spectacular freshman class -- by the end of the season, it was the... wait for it...:

Best. Freshman Class. Ever.

Very quickly, I started claiming that if you gave me the freshman class, I'd give you your pick of sophs, juniors and seniors... and my squad would beat yours. (In a symbolic move, today I named Kevin Love my college basketball player of the year, just edging out Michael Beasley, but certainly beating SN's own pick, Tyler Hansbrough.) Let's compare:

My team of Freshman 10:
Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, Jerryd Bayless, James Harden, Dante Green, OJ Mayo, Anthony Randolph, DeAndre Jordan. That group could make up 8 of the first 10 players taken in the 2008 NBA Draft.

(Just to illustrate the crazy depth of this freshman class, consider a few of the guys I left on the bench: Kyle Singler, Patrick Patterson, Russell Westbrook, Davon Jefferson, Nick Calathes, Jonny Flynn and probably a bunch I'm forgetting.)

Your team of Soph-Junior-Senior 10:
Tyler Hansbrough, DJ Augustin, Chris Lofton, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Luke Harangody, Shan Foster, Stephen Curry, Brian Roberts, Roy Hibbert, DJ White.

(Again, I'm not saying there isn't depth behind these guys, too, but when you're picking from three classes combined, it's a lot easier. But I'm the one who insisted on 1-on-3.)

Anyway, could the greatest class ever of freshmen beat the "experience" of the older guys? I'd be curious to get your take.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 03/12 A.M. Quickie:
Love, Oral, Cuse, Kobe, Fitz, Daly, More

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Kevin Love, Tyler Hansbrough, Oral Roberts, Butler, Syracuse, Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Larry Fitzgerald, Vernon Gholston, John Daly, Pat Tillman and More!

Why Kevin Love is better than Tyler Hansbrough...
Why I'll always love Oral Roberts...
Why Butler's seeding is a fascinating subject...
Why the Big East Tournament is the best...
Why Kobe loves sports bloggers...
Why Nick Young finally showed up...
Why Larry Fitzgerald is worth the money...
Why Vernon Gholston is the new Chris Long...
Why John Daly is John Daly...
Why Tommy Lasorda needs a kids' TV show...
Why Pat Tillman is a Hall of Famer...
And more... after the jump!

Today's Bonus Post: The long-simmering argument -- my freshmen vs. your sophs, juniors and seniors -- takes center court. And, honestly: My squad will crush yours.

I love the small-conference tournament title games, but there's something about that all-Wednesday-afternoon-long string of Big East games that bridges the divide between those small-league tourney finals and the start of the power conference quarterfinals.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Henry Abbott on Cuban, Mavs, Bloggers

You don't have to care about sports-blog "inside baseball" to find this reporting and analysis by Henry Abbott about the Mavs banning bloggers to be fascinating.

It's a perfect case-study of an owner, team and policy who just don't get it. (That it's coming from Cuban is, frankly, remarkable -- be sure to slap a Mavs logo on the ladder as you're pulling it up behind you.)

It is anti-media, anti-"open," anti-technology, anti-progress and -- worst of all -- anti-fan.

I was all set to blog about this myself, but Henry -- as he often does -- captured it in much the same way I can only hope I would. Maybe I'll chime in with more, but HA got it.

-- D.S.

Kobe Bryant Day in the Sports Blog World

Hardwood Paroxysm initiated a sportsblog-wide "Kobe Bryant Day" being held today.

The results have been impressive. Obviously, I want to add in my contribution with something typically superlative...

I'm not sure that Kobe is a more worthy 2008 MVP than LeBron, but I do know this:
If I had one must-win game and could draft one player to pull it off, it would be Kobe.

Agree? Disagree? Add your own nominee (or Kobe-related analysis) in the comments.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 03/11 A.M. Quickie:
Spitzer, George Mason, San Diego, More!

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Eliot Spitzer (obviously!), George Mason, San Diego, Gonzaga, Siena, Stephen Curry, Middle Tennessee State, South Alabama, Houston Rockets, Manu Ginobili, LeBron James, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Trent Green, Julius Jones, Joe Paterno, Lute Olson, Billy Crystal and More!

Why Eliot Spitzer is like a Bubble team...
Why George Mason ain't as lovable as before...
Why the West Cost Conference rules...
Why South Alabama deserves a reprieve...
Why Stephen Curry makes Elon losing tolerable...
Why the Rockets continue to amaze...
Why Manu Ginobili is first-team all-NBA...
Why Roger Federer got a scare...
Why Shaun Alexander is totally confused...
Why JoePa and Lute shouldn't be coaching next year...
Why Billy Crystal demeans baseball...
And more... after the jump!

Today's Scheduled Bonus Post: An expansion on the point I made in today's SN column about why smaller conferences should always get that extra at-large invite ahead of a 5th or 6th bid for a power conference.

Don't forget: Sign up NOW for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group -- 6 years and still going strong! -- in's Tournament Challenge. Yes, you can be in the DQR group and still participate in other groups. Let's match last year's 1,000-plus!

-- D.S.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday 03/10 A.M. Quickie
Drake, Florida, Shaq, Big Unit, More!

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Drake, UNC, Florida, Elon, San Diego, Shaq, Rockets, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Walsh and More!

UPDATE: Spectacular mini-cam video of Shaq diving into the crowd
at the Suns-Spurs game, from reader Bill K. Don't tell me Shaq doesn't want to win!

Why Drake is the new Duke...
Why UNC has bigger concerns than the ACC...
Why UCLA is still the team to beat...
Why Florida is finished...
Why Elon is your rooting interest...
Why Shaq turned the Suns' season around...
Why Randy Johnson is worth watching today...
Why Nolan Ryan is an idiot..
Why Terrelle Pryor's brawl isn't his biggest news...
And more... after the jump.

UPDATE: Per the comments, you should read this front-page article in the Boston Globe about Matt Walsh. Sounds like he's more than a bit of a wack job. That said: We already know the Pats were fine with cheating, so his credibility doesn't have to be pristine. (What I don't buy at all is Bill Belichick's protest that the taping was simply a difference of opinion about the spirit of the NFL's rules, which everyone else seemed to be able to follow.)

Today's Bonus Post: The lamentation over Florida that you have been waiting for since it became obvious they wouldn't be making the NCAA Tournament this year after winning back-to-back championships, confirmed with yesterday's loss to Kentucky in Lexington.

More bonus posts coming this week, and as you'd guess, it's all about college hoops: Championship Week mania, Freshman vs. The Field (ending the debate raging here all season long), a radical suggestion for Terrelle Pryor, MLB Fantasy Draft strategy and More.

Don't forget to sign up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group of's Tournament Challenge, a tradition since 2003. Even without the exposure of (which in 2006 produced the single-largest "office pool" in online sports, of more than 10,000 entries), generated more than 1,000 entries a year ago, good for the third-largest group on Get in the game now... and tell your friends. You can enter a bunch of different groups, so be sure this is one of them. The tradition continues!

-- D.S.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Florida Basketball Dynasty Officially Ends

After the last two amazing seasons, Florida's dynast-ish run is officially over:

With the loss at Kentucky, Florida has no shot at making the NCAA Tournament -- at least as an at-large team (and there's no way they win the SEC Tournament title).

Sure, you could argue that the dynasty ended when Horford, Noah, Brewer, Green, Humphrey and Richard all left after the back-to-back championships...

Sure, you could argue that no team since Kansas in 1989 (who lost the incomparable one-man champ Danny Manning) lost more from a title team -- that this ending was always possible (even probable)...

Sure, you could argue that Florida's 12-game NCAA Tournament winning streak is still alive until the next year the team actually makes the tournament field...

Sure, you could argue that an NIT championship could still qualify as a third straight postseason championship... (I'm kidding...)

It doesn't make it any less tough to take.

That said, you can't argue that any fan would rather win two NCAA championships in a row (hell, even one) and spend the next season in the NIT than not win a championship at all. But still...

Lots of readers think I'm a bandwagon Florida fan because they think I started rooting for them when the championships started.

Actually, my first season as a die-hard was 2001-02 (Mrs. Quickie is an even bigger hoops fan than football fan), and it was a pretty rough ride in the NCAA Tournament between that 2002 Tournament and the breakthrough in 2006.

But this is the first season I have rooted for Florida where they haven't even made the Tournament, let alone been ousted early (let alone won a championship). It sucks.

It sucks to be on the wrong side of the bubble, but it sucks worse to watch a team that -- by any Tournament resume line except "legacy" -- never played like they deserved serious consideration.

And I take little solace in the fact that even if they did make the field of 65, I had no unbiased reason not to pick them to lose in the first round (just as surely has I had no unbiased reason not to pick them to win a second straight title a year ago).

Unfortunately, Florida fans saw this outcome coming throughout the season, uneven efforts borne from rampant inexperience and near-complete turnover from a year ago. Doesn't make it easier.

But again, I'd rather win a title (or two) and be out of the Tournament the next year than make the Final Four a few years in a row without winning a championship.

That's why this month, finally, it's great... to be... a Florida Gator UCLA Bruin -- after being vanquished by the Gators the past two Dances, it's finally UCLA's time.

I'm sure the rest of the country will celebrate Florida's NCAA Tournament ouster... before the damn thing even starts! I can only retort with this lament: Enjoy it now...

With this year of experience under their belts, the entire roster returning (if Marreese Speights doesn't turn pro) and a recruiting class featuring two 7-footers, Florida's future looks very good.

All Gators fans can hope for is that this year's team uses this season's disappointment as the core of next season's motivation -- to keep that unbeaten NCAA Tournament streak alive.

-- D.S.

Sunday 03/09 (Very) Quickie

UCLA is the best team in the country (the and, yes, perhaps luckiest). See next item down.

UNC beats Duke at Duke, positions themselves for a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed and an in-state regional.

Georgetown beats Louisville: Again, the regular-season Big East title isn't particularly meaningful; what's important is that Georgetown is still in the mix for a No. 1 overall seed.

(Then again, you could make the claim that being a 1-seed vs. a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament is hardly that big of a deal. And G'town is all-but-guaranteed a minimum of a 2-seed.)

Wisconsin wins Big Ten regular-season title: Again, sort of meaningless on a national level, though I'd fear the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament, whether or not they are a 2 or a 3 seed.

Conference-tournament auto-bids: Belmont, Winthrop, Austin Peay.

Rockets win 18th straight: And it's not like they're beating weak teams -- they beat the Hornets last night behind T-Mac's 41. (Chris Paul is absolutely amazing).

Hawks beat Heat in re-play game: Then they beat them in a full, new game.

Josh Beckett back spasms: Noted as ominous foreshadowing.

The thing about USC beating Stanford was that it showcased just how good OJ Mayo can be offensively (25 points) when he wants to make himself the focal pointthe . Is it enough to Trojans get out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament? (Kevin Durant couldn't.)

Terrelle Pryor Watch: I love this late-breaking rumor that Pryor might be convinced to play hoops for John Calipari at Memphis, rather than football at Ohio State.

-- D.S.