Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday 03/28 (Very) Quickie

Well, there goes the last remaining strand of my bracket: Syracuse beating Oklahoma then beating UNC? Try: Syracuse getting thumped by Oklahoma, and UNC throttling Gonzaga.

(Let me say: I should have given Oklahoma more respect -- they played great. And while I'm still not convinced Ty Lawson can be effective playing 2 games in 36 hours, let's give UNC the benefit of the doubt.)

I guess I still have "Louisville will win the whole thing," but does that really count if they were the top-ranked team coming in to the Tournament? But, wow: Do the Cards look good.

(Anytime you can say "Biggest shellacking in modern Sweet 16 history," it says something about the winner -- oh, and the loser, too.)

The defending champs are out, KO'ed by Michigan State. I think KU overachieved all season long; I was more impressed with Bill Self this year than last year.

(Michigan State is going to get waxed by Louisville, and despite Oklahoma's impressive performance, they are going to lose to UNC -- Griffin vs. Hanbrough should be epic.)

Coming today: Pitt-Nova -- that's a toss-up. Neither team has been in this position, at least in the last quarter-century. UConn-Mizzou -- at least the Tigers will make it fun to watch.

By the way: My bracket percentage in the Tournament Challenge has dipped into the bottom third. Obama's is back above the 50th percentile (54th percentile).

Oh, and if I went with "Pick By Higher Seed" or "National Bracket," I would be out-performing 88 percent of the freaking country. 88 percent. Sigh.

-- D.S.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kentucky Billy: Gillisipie Out, Donovan In?

UPDATE: Umm...nevermind!

Original Post:
Billy Gillispie is out at Kentucky. The question: Is Billy Donovan in?

If we're in plane-tracking time in Gainesville, I suspect Donovan might be UK's new coach.

I can only presume that if Donovan leaves, the Gators hire VCU's Anthony Grant.

I would be slightly surprised (but not shocked) if Donovan left -- wanted to leave -- only two years after:

Winning back-to-back national titles...
Then turning down Kentucky...
Then bolting Florida for the NBA...
Then changing his mind and come back to Florida, saying it was the only college job he wanted...

Then leaving for Florida's biggest basketball rival. Arguably one of the Top 5 jobs in college hoops, but still -- Florida's biggest basketball rival.

As I said when he left for the NBA, I can't possibly harbor any grudges or notions that Donovan "owes" Florida anything. The guy won two national titles, leading what was arguably one of the Top 5 greatest teams in modern college hoops history. He has earned the right to do what he wants.

Even if it means coaching at Kentucky.

-- D.S.

(You all know how I feel about Anthony Grant. If I had a coaching vacancy and could hire any coach in the country, it would be Grant. When Donovan left for the NBA two years ago, Grant was going to become Florida's coach -- I liked the move then, and I still like it now. If it happens, of course. You know how Billy D. gets about these decision things....)

This Month's Tim Tebow Update:
No-Huddle, Extra Deification, Beards

It has been far too long -- inappropriately so -- since I have commented on the state of Florida football:

*Florida spring practice started Wednesday. They are toying with the Sooner-style high-speed no-huddle. As obsessed as Urban is with the correlation of the volume of offensive plays to scoring an avalanche of points, this seems like a no-brainer.

*Tim Tebow's Speech -- yes, I capitalized it -- is now on a plaque outside The Swamp. (Orson dislikes it; I like it.) On my next trip down to Gainesville, I will surely have my children photographed in front of it. And by "children," I mean "me." And, perhaps most important...

*Tim Tebow is rocking a spring-break beard. It is unlikely he grows it as fast and furious as we swarthy Semites, but it is up there with Michael Jordan's one-time goatee as "Influential (If Temporary) Facial Hair Trends." When Clay Travis is giving in to Tebow, the domination is complete.

What we were missing this year -- following Tebow's annual spring-break PAAAARTAAAAAY to the Philippines -- was a repeat of last year's epic, myth-making detail that he performed circumcisions. Either he stopped doing them, or he kept it on the D.L. this time.

Despite the fact that this is my favorite player of all time, my favorite team, my favorite sport -- I will restrain myself as much as possible from now until August, so as not to alienate ALL of you. I have done a good enough job alienating MOST of you already.

-- D.S.

Friday 03/27 A.M. Quickie:
The NCAA Tournament Is Saved!

In losing, Duke and Memphis saved this NCAA Tournament from the Chalk Plague. That leads today's SN column.

Duke losing is always a moment -- it's become an annual moment -- of best-of-the-year schadenfreude. To see them lose so...humiliatingly -- it makes it even sweeter.

Dan Wetzel is right: Duke is not a top program anymore. Coach K has weird recruiting tendencies these days; his Xs and Os has always been a little suspect. Basically, Duke is sort of like if Butler had McDonald's All-Americans: Jump-shots, and that's about it.

And when the jumpers aren't falling -- or the opposing team is so much more wildly athletic and/or deep -- the system breaks down.

Duke hasn't lost to a higher-seeded Tournament team in forever. If they aren't playing in North Carolina, they are mediocre.

Schadenfreude seems almost misplaced these days. They're not good enough to hate.

And that may be the worst insult of all.

As for Memphis? I'm just not a particularly big Calipari fan. I respect what they did last year -- even if they snatched defeat from victory in the national title game. I think it's amazing for the Tournament that they were run off the court. Mizzou is so fun to watch -- good for them. Let's hope Mizzou's success inspires more teams to push the tempo and play full-throat full-court D.

I think it's good for the Tournament that of the 5 teams that the majority of fans picked to go to the Final Four, the first one -- Memphis -- finally lost. It breaks the seal. We could still see all 4 1-seeds make the Final Four -- then again, we could also still see 4 Big East teams make the Final Four. I don't know which one would drive people more crazy.

Speaking of the Big East, the league put two more teams besides Nova into the Elite Eight -- UConn won, but didn't look particularly impressive doing it. Purdue plods -- I think UConn is in for a shock when they play Mizzou.

Pitt? They don't win pretty; they just win. Levance Fields has cojones of steel for taking (let alone making) that 3 at the end. Pitt already lost to Nova once this season, so you know the Wildcats can do it -- and Nova seems to be playing brilliantly right now. But conference-vs-conference games this late in the NCAA Tournament, it's a toss-up.

Tonight's games are going to be terrific, particularly the double-header of Syracuse-Oklahoma and UNC-Gonzaga.

As I have mentioned a hundred times, I have Syracuse winning the region -- I think their frontcourt is beefy enough to handle Blake Griffin, and Jonny Flynn is unstoppable. You bust the zone with amazing 3-point shooting and big men who can pass and shoot from the free-throw line -- Oklahoma has neither.

Meanwhile, I picked UNC, but if I had any guts, I would have taken Gonzaga. (I have Syracuse beating this game's winner anyway -- so where was my risk?) (1) Ty Lawson's toe is a huge unknown, and (2) the Zags play with more swagger than any team in the country. I think Gonzaga will win the game tonight. And there's your Quickie jinx, damn it.

(Actually, for bracket-pride purposes, I want UNC to win, because I think Syracuse can beat UNC -- I don't think Syracuse matches up nearly as well with Gonzaga.)

I am already bummed that on Monday, the NCAA Tournament is virtually over.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Fate of Kentucky's Billy Gillispie

Neglected this in today's column:

I think Kentucky should fire Billy Gillispie. (I thought they should have fired him after last season, frankly, when it was obvious he was a terrible fit -- perhaps a terrible coach, too.)

Here's what Kentucky should do, although I'm loathe to give them great advice that would save the program: Swoop in on Alabama's deal and hire VCU's Anthony Grant. Today. Time's ticking...

-- D.S.

SportsPickle Gets Acquired By IAC

Congrats to my friend and former colleague DJ Gallo on his longtime labor of laughs being acquired by IAC's College Humor. Great news for a great guy.

-- D.S.

Thursday 03/26 A.M. Quickie:
Sweet 16, UConn, Blair, Duke, Mizzou

I have low expectations that we will see anything beyond the chalk that has defined this tournament so far.

As I lead in today's SN column, all I can really hope for is that Duke loses -- Nova's certainly got a good shot at pulling that off. And I wouldn't mind seeing Memphis lose, either.

*David Price!
*Kobe's maid!
*Aaron Curry!
*Dwight Howard!
*Stan Van Gundy!

Lots more where that came from. Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Oh, if you're curious how my fantasy draft worked out last night: Sandoval, Votto, Uggla, Hanley, Chris Davis, Manny, Ellsbury, Choo as main position starters; Lind, Dickerson, Spilborghs, Andrus as position backups; Kazmir, Josh Johnson, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Manny Parra as SP; 7 RPs, with Matt Lindstrom the only true closer but a bunch of guys who will get high Ks and spot Ws (Howell, Gallagher, Masterson, Balfour, Juan Cruz, Rafael Perez).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday 03/25 A.M. Quickie:
UNC, NFL Draft, Lance, Duke Women, More

Ty Lawson is the pivotal player of the NCAA Tournament. If he is healthy (enough), fans are justified in thinking UNC is the team to beat.

The only problem: I don't think he can stay healthy (enough). Not going against aggressive Gonzaga on Thursday then turning around 36 hours later and playing either Oklahoma or -- much more devastating -- Jonny Flynn and Syracuse.

Lawson has yet to prove he can go 2 games in 3 days -- we'll see. It leads today's SN column.

Otherwise, I am able to temper my disappointment at a second straight dud of a season for Florida hoops knowing that football spring practice starts today, and Urban wants to go Sooner-style up-tempo -- there is no reason he shouldn't.

Mostly, I need your help. My fantasy baseball draft is tonight. I have the No. 1 pick in a 16-team league (H2H format). I'm pretty sure I'm taking Hanley Ramirez. (Um: Shoulder problem?)

My need for your advice:
(1) What's the best strategy when you pick 32nd and 33rd, then not again until 64th and 65th, then not again until... you get the point. Should I have "target" players and not worry about "reaching" in order to get the players I want? What is the best way to handle that? A whole lot of players will go off the board between my pair of picks.

(2) Given my draft position and the number of teams in the league, is there a particular position strategy I should take? Should I be going for a certain position with 32 and 33 (and so on)? What is the optimal way to draft the various positions?

(3) Any undervalued -- or seriously undervalued -- players I should think about? Any must-have breakouts I should "reach" for?

Leave your advice in the Comments. Much appreciated. I am a perennial bottom-feeder in the league -- my questions above are probably a good reason why, but (as with everything) I try to make up for ineptitude with enthusiasm.

Oh, and by the way: Yahoo Sports came out with their own Y! Sports Fantasy Baseball preview magazine, and it is excellent. Awesome work by Brandon Funston, Andy Behrens and Co. What little confidence I have going into tonight is through their work.

Complete SN column here

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday 03/24 A.M. Quickie:
Bracket, Schilling, WBC, Lions, Lance, More

Someone I have known for a long time and whose opinion I respect greatly said this was the best line I have written in a long, long time -- from a Twitter tweet yesterday:

"When the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is winning the office pool because the seedings hold up through the Sweet 16, that's a problem."

That sort of sums up how I feel about the homogeneous 1-1-1-1-2-2-2-2-3-3-3-3-4-4-5-12 Sweet 16. (BTW: Is that a good thing or a bad thing that it was "the best line in a long long time?")

But I have other things on my mind in today's SN column. Actually, I channel my inner Rachel Maddow and get all policy wonky on you:

How many other sports opiners out there will compare their bracket to the "toxic assets" pulling down our economic system -- and use a busted bracket to explain the government's bail-out plan.

I'm sorry that that probably reads like weird boasting; I just get oddly excited when I am able to connect sports and topical government policy.

The column, meanwhile, is loaded:

WBC: Who cares? (You do? Really?)
Lance: Yikes.
Lions: Drafting an OT No. 1?
NFL: 18-game season in '11?
Gilbert Arenas: He's back!
Xavier: New Gonzaga?
Gonzaga: Old UNC-slayer?
Patty Mills: New Stephen Curry?
Josh McDaniels: Spin-master.
Anthony Grant: Bama bound?
Jonny Flynn: 2010 NCAA POY?

Complete SN column here

-- D.S.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday 03/23 A.M. Quickie:
The NCAA Tournament Is Broken

The NCAA Tournament is broken. Not irredeemably broken, but broken. It leads today's SN column, and here's a graphical representation of why:

East: 1-2-3-4.
South: 1-2-3-4.
West: 1-2-3-5.
Midwest: 1-2-3-12.

What's wrong with this picture? Oh, that's right: NO MADNESS. No Cinderellas. No unexpected participants (Arizona doesn't really count).

The worst thing that could happen to the NCAA Tournament has happened: Predictability.

Please note: This doesn't have to do with the fact that my bracket imploded over the weekend, and I'm hovering in the 50th percentile (along with Barack Obama).

Or that if I had followed the National Bracket or the "Pick-The-Higher-Seed" non-strategy, I would be in the 80th percentile.

The bracket-picking is fun, but every year, I find myself rooting for the upsets, even if they bust my bracket. Would you rather be right or entertained?

This year -- though the games are compelling -- we are less entertained than ever. All I ask for is a couple of unexpected teams crashing the Sweet 16. This year, that didn't happen.

More you'll find in today's column:
*Top 3 most shocking women's Tournament result ever.
*Team USA, predictably, ousted in the WBC.
*The Rockets could spoil the NBA playoffs.
*Matt Stafford scored a 38 on the Wonderlic?

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.