Saturday, March 19, 2011

03/19 (Round of 32) Quickie

Let's start with the important stuff:

Barack Obama is leading the Quickish group of the Tournament Challenge. (Well, not the President himself, but the bracket of his picks I entered into the group.)

I went 24-8 in the first 32 games. (Obama went 29-3. All higher seeds is 25-7. The National Bracket is a mediocre 22-10. My 4-year-old -- who made his own picks this year -- is beating me.)

So: How does YOUR bracket look? (At this stage, your record in the first 32 is a vanity metric -- what matters is how many Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four teams you have left. Most people have most of these remaining, with some separation coming this weekend.)

Friday's highlights:

*George Mason + thrilling ending + Gus Johnson = amazing.

*I love that VCU was that team on Selection Sunday that all the talking heads decided wasn't worthy. Then all they did was win in the First Four, then turn around and beat a team from the vaunted 11-bid Big East. And they did it handily. How can you not root for VCU?

(I'm thrilled I picked VCU to beat Georgetown -- my favorite pick of the first round. But my most agonizing second-guess was changing VCU-over-Purdue to Purdue-over-VCU. We'll see how that works out.)

*Kyrie Irving had a solid debut playing mostly with Duke's second team, and his impact on the tournament will be substantial. How many other teams are adding a Top 3 NBA draft pick just in time for the Tournament? Even if he remains a reserve, it's almost unfair to think that he'll be going up against other teams' subs.

*This seems pretty clear: Derrick Williams didn't foul the Memphis player on that last shot. And fouling up 3 was exactly the right strategy by Arizona coach Sean Miller.

*It's hard to complain about yesterday's lack of Thursday afternoon's level of drama. The George Mason finish combined with the Thursday afternoon lingering feeling of awesome should be enough to get you to today's games. Speaking of which:

Previewing Saturday:

12:15 CBS: (4) Kentucky vs. (5) West Virginia.
2:45 CBS: (2) Florida vs. (7) UCLA
I had Michigan State beating Florida here. Ugh.
5:15 CBS: (12) Richmond vs. (13) Morehead St.
I, like many, had Louisville winning here. At least we guarantee a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16.

6:10 TNT: (2) San Diego St vs. (7) Temple.
7:10 TBS: (1) Pitt vs. (8) Butler. Upset special!
7:45 CBS: (3) BYU vs. (11) Gonzaga. Game of the day.
8:40 TNT: (4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Kansas St.
I had Belmont here, beating Utah St. Double-ugh.
9:40 TBS: (3) UConn vs. (6) Cincinnati

Enjoy the day! Be sure to check out Quickish throughout the afternoon and evening for the best quick-hit analysis of the games, in real-time(-ish).

Friday, March 18, 2011

03/18 Quickie: How's Your Bracket?

"How's your bracket?"

I love the Friday after the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament. We're coming off a 16-game marathon -- with another one coming imminently -- and there is more than enough information to know where you stand in the bracket. It's not enough to claim anything but temporary victory, but there's something to go on. I have infinite curiosity to talk about your bracket with you, and it's basically all I ask people. This is because I'm socially inadequate. But it's better than nothing.

My bracket was 11-5. I missed Louisville (like most, but happy to miss it), Mizzou (what was I thinking) and Michigan State (almost worse that they nearly pulled off the 23-point comeback) -- and then I got absolutely destroyed in the Kansas State/Utah State-Wisconsin/Belmont sub-region double-header last night. I'm kicking myself that I bought into the Belmont hype and picked against Wisconsin, a perennially tough Tournament out. (And I also bought into the Utah State hype. Why?)

Comparatively: The National Bracket went 12-4 (with the only true upset pick by the "crowd" -- Michigan State over UCLA -- being wrong). The "Chalk" method of only picking higher seeds would have gotten you to 13-3. If you followed President Obama, you would be 14-2. Not bad, Mr. President. There are like 7 perfect brackets left out of 6 million entries on If you're one of those 7, we salute you.

As for the games themselves:

*It's hard to add much more to Butler, except to say that as amazing as you thought that play was, it was even better than that, on about a half-dozen different levels. Even if I get it wrong, I'm sort of loving that I took them to the Elite Eight. (Ugh: Quickie Jinx in effect for Saturday.)

*The ending of the Morehead State game was amazing, too, not because of that clutch 3, but because of that incredible defensive play made by Kenneth Faried at the end -- yes, "all ball," but that the ref didn't automatically blow his whistle PRESUMING a foul. The ref was the game's MVP, for letting star players do what they do best -- Morehead State earned that win. Amazing.

*You have to feel terrible for Princeton. It was so winnable. And you have to wonder how Kentucky can do much more than make the Sweet 16.

*The night games were mostly a dud, especially compared to the afternoon set. It was fun to see Michigan State make a run at it (or, alternatively, to see UCLA completely collapse), but maybe if MSU hadn't futzed around in the first half, they would have won the game. This was a fitting ending to a terrible season for the Spartans. They'll be back... yada yada yada... fin. (As for Florida's performance in Tampa, forgetting they were playing a 15-seed, I haven't seen them look that good since the 2007 national title game. Still reflexively waiting for the collapse.)

*I loved the games on separate channels. I thought I wouldn't appreciate the extra-staggered start times in the afternoon, but they were fine. The separate channels were amazing. Controlling your own TV experience during the Tournament is the best.

Looking ahead to Friday: Mmm...chalky.
*12:15 CBS: (4) Texas vs. (13) Oakland.
*12:40 TRU: (8) Michigan vs. (9) Tennessee.
*1:40 TBS: (2) Notre Dame vs. (15) Akron
*2:10 TNT: (8) G. Mason vs. (9) Villanova. Mason!
*2:45 CBS: (5) Arizona vs. (12) Memphis
*3:10 TRU: (1) Duke vs. (16) Hampton. Kyrie Irving!
*4:10 TBS: (7) Texas A&M vs. (10) FSU
*4:40 TNT: (1) Ohio St vs. (16) UTSA
*6:50 TBS: (1) Kansas vs. (16) BU
*7:15 CBS: (2) UNC vs. (15) LIU
*7:20 TNT: (3) Purdue vs. (14) St. Peter's
*7:27 TRU: (6) Xavier vs. (11) Marquette. Toss-up.
*9:20 TBS: (8) UNLV vs. (9) Illinois.
*9:45 CBS: (7) Washington vs. (10) Georgia
*9:50 TNT: (6) G'town vs. (11) VCU. Upset Special.
*9:57 TRU: (3) Syracuse vs. (14) Indiana St.

Not about the Tournament: Jim Tressel's self-imposed 5-game suspension... isn't enough. Not for what he did. Not for using players he knew would be ineligible for an entire season. Not for covering it up -- lying -- to the NCAA. He should be banned for the year, the same year he stole from every team that Ohio State beat last season. I don't understand why OSU fans wouldn't get why Tressel is indelibly tainted and demand the school go after the only coach in America who is a clear upgrade to Tressel: Urban Meyer.

And, finally, a very happy birthday to Mrs. Quickish (nee Mrs. Quickie), whose birthday always falls during March Madness -- and who won me over on our first date when she talked about her appreciation for offensive rebounding as an essential college basketball success metric. She's always got a perfect bracket in my pool.

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

03/17 (First Thursday) Quickie

You all know how I feel about it: I think today (and, to a slightly lesser extent, tomorrow) is a national holiday, the greatest sports day of the year...

"First Thursday."

The first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, when 16 games are played in rapid-fire succession (a bit less rapid-fire this year) and you can spend from noon til midnight watching hoops and rooting for some level of madness: Upsets, close finishes, buzzer-beaters.

First things first: Be sure to get your entry into the "Quickish" group of the Tournament Challenge. Just this morning, we cracked the Top 100 groups. Nicely done!

Next: This is sizing up as the biggest day in Quickish history -- but only with your help. Please be sure to check out the site. And please tell friends! Facebook, Twitter, email, word-of-mouth, tap the next person at the bar on the shoulder. It all helps (seriously).

On to the first day, which is different than past years: Because of the four simultaneous games spread out over 4 TV networks -- a great development for fans -- the start times in the afternoon are much wider. It's an hour between the 2nd and 3rd game of the day.

So on the one hand, no more griping at the TV as you watch one close game finish while you're being held at another one; on the other hand, only one game at a time. No more manic finishes -- I wonder what the unintended consequences are of that. How much of the "madness" feel comes from 2 or 3 games all ending at once? (More than a little, I think.)

Let's get to it (times ET, my pick in bold)

12:15 CBS: (5) WVU-(12) Clemson. I picked WVU but now I'm rooting for Clemson -- and hope to hear the coach say "It's because we got our juices flowing in the First Four."

12:40 TRU: (8) Butler-(9) Old Dominion. One of the most intriguing match-ups of the first round, with both teams a popular pick if they were playing anyone else (or, say, Pitt.)

1:40 TBS: (4) Louisville-(13) Morehead St. But I'm excited to see MSU's Kenneth Faried.

2:10 TNT: (7) Temple-(10) Penn St. Ugh. What a grinder. At least it should be close.

2:45 CBS: (4) Kentucky-(13) Princeton. My 4-year-old picked Princeton. It would be wild if he was right.

3:10 TRU: (1) Pittsburgh-(16) UNC-Asheville. Blowout.

4:10 TBS: (5) Vandy-(12) Richmond. A very popular 12-5 upset pick.

4:40 TNT: (2) San Diego St-(15) No. Colorado. SDSU's road as a favorite starts here.

6:50 TBS: (2) Florida-(15) UC Santa Barbara. Pleasedon'tlosenowpleasedon'tlosenow.

7:15 CBS: (3) BYU-(14) Wofford. CBS isn't dumb. They're putting Jimmer in primetime.

7:20 TNT: (3) UConn-(14) Bucknell. Ahh, now we get game tip-times packed together.

7:27 TRU: (4) Wisconsin-(13) Belmont. Arguably the best game of the 1st round. Belmont is a trendy pick for the upset (with the caveat "Wow, if they were playing anyone but Wisconsin...")

9:20 TBS: (7) UCLA-(10) Michigan St. The annual Izzo run starts now.

9:45 CBS: (6) St. John's-(11) Gonzaga. Unlike many, I find nothing awesome about the Johnnies' resurgence. Good riddance with an early exit.

9:50 TNT: (6) Cincy-(11) Mizzou. A classic toss-up.

9:57 TRU: (5) Kansas St-(12) Utah St. It's going to be a late night. And it could end with a nice little 12-5'er.

Good luck to everyone on their brackets! Should be a great day. Hope you can make it to Quickish. We'll be hustling to help you keep up with the best real-time commentary.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Analyzing The Obama Bracket

It's an annual tradition around here that I analyze Barack Obama's bracket quickly after it is announced.

In this year's edition -- published over at The Awl if you want to see it in full -- I go over Obama's picks, which include picking all four 1-seeds to the Final Four.

It's a little risk-averse -- as is his Sweet 16, which includes only two teams (Arizona, Kansas State) outside of the Top 4 seeds in each region.

Then again, two years ago, Obama was in the 81st percentile among all bracket-pickers; last season, picking Kansas to win it all, he barely nudged past the 50th percentile.

(That's where the "He's right in the middle!" arguments fall short -- the "middle" should be the "national bracket," which is usually in the 75-80th percentile.)

Anyway, I understand his motivation to want to be right by being relatively safe -- in a moment of personal humiliation, I just went against a lifetime of personal policy by creating a second bracket with different, safer picks. It's not that it's a hedge; it's that I wanted to be able to track how I COULD have done, had I not been stupid and picked George Mason over Ohio State or Butler over Pitt. I actually feel a sense of shame over having done it.

So back to Obama: There's nothing wrong with the safe bet. As we all saw last year, it's not always right -- but if everyone is on the 1-seed bandwagon and that team LOSES, the Tournament becomes that much more fun for everyone. Even if you're not winning the pool.

-- D.S.

03/16 (NCAA) Quickie

Be sure to enter the "Quickie" group of's Tournament Challenge. It's not quite the 10,000 entries from a few years ago, but it is in the Top 100 most popular groups of the 140,000 groups that have been created (and most of the Top 100 are either ESPN-related groups or "official" groups created for each team's fan base). Can we at least pass Colin Cowherd?

So last night's First Four was... well, it was a dud, from the standard-def broadcast on my TV (ugh) to the empty seats on the screen to the largely meaningless "close" game between 16-seeds (neither of which have a prayer of beating Pitt tomorrow) to the blowout between the two "at-large" teams that had more people talking about how unworthy UAB was than how Clemson has a puncher's chance against West Virginia (can't believe that game is at noon Thursday). Maybe it will get better tonight. I have VCU winning and then beating Georgetown, so if VCU loses, it's almost like a bonus to my bracket to change the pick tomorrow. (Frankly, I should suck it up and leave it wrong.)

Speaking of my bracket, I am now officially at my "WTF???" point because of that pick to bump Ohio State out of the Tournament against George Mason. Forget that Ohio State is arguably the best team in the country; they are playing in Cleveland! Then again, I just can't shake last year's loss by Kansas -- a team similarly thought of as a lock as Ohio State this year -- losing to Northern Iowa.

My problem: I'm trying to apply pattern recognition to what should more accurately be described as an outlier. Then again: I really do think Syracuse will/would beat Ohio State in the regional final (and Kentucky could beat them in the regional semi), so is it really that bad if I send them out on Sunday, rather than a week later? It's just a few bracket points -- and if Ohio State wins it all, I'm out of it anyway.

So much awesome NCAA Tournament analysis over at Quickish. I'm trying to pull the very best together into a single column, but for the time being, if you hit up the site and scroll back through the past few days, you'll get links to some terrific columns.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

03/15 (First Four) Quickie

You do not want to know what time I got up this morning to head back from Austin to NYC. Let's put it this way: It looked like I was the only person at the airport for a good two hours at least.

But I put the early hours to good use, loading up Quickish with all sorts of new and awesome NCAA Tournament analysis -- if you scroll down through yesterday (and even Sunday night), you'll get a ton of really good insights and recommendations to longer* takes.

* - One of my favorite things about the NCAA Tournament is that EVERYONE writes in the "quick-hit" style; it's the only way to hit on all the interesting issues in bracket regions that have so much going on.

(Can I claim to have helped popularize the form? You be the judge: Take a trip back to the "First Thursday" coverage from 1999. I will tell you that my friend and old editor Kevin Jackson once told me my quick-hit, bold-n-bulleted Tournament coverage for was a key proof-point for him in him supporting me when I brought him the Quickie a few years later. And when you look at it, you can see the philosophical line from that to the Quickie to Quickish. I am bleary-eyed, and I digress....)

Anyway, the point is that there's a ton of good stuff ready for Quickish today. Please give it a look -- and please tell a few friends about it. This is the most important week in the company's young history, and your support through referrals and recommendations are a HUGE help.

Tonight's opening half of the "First Four" should be a nice test run for Thursday and Friday.

Let's talk about the First Four for a sec: I'm a longtime proponent of Tournament expansion. Forget the "soft bubble"; I think that there's a huge appetite for more games if -- IF -- it is executed right. In its first year, the "First Four" is not executed right, on a couple of levels:

*Most of all, the promotion has been horrible. As soon as the First Four was established, CBS and Turner should have been pimping it constantly; I'd be willing to bet that most fans who will avidly tune in on Thursday and Friday have no idea where to find the games tonight -- or why to care. (That online bracket games don't count the First Four is a huge problem in trying to create some validity for it.)

*Competitively, it's a mish-mash: Two of the games are 16-seed play-ins (meaning two 16-seeds don't have to play-in at all). And two of the games are "last four in," which is totally fine. I wish all four "First Four" games had been between at-large teams.

It's way too early to deem the First Four a failure -- there are plenty of lessons from which to learn and improve for next year.

But remember: I've always had a soft spot for the Tuesday night "Play-In" game between 16-seeds in Dayton. It is neat that the games now involve almost-worthy at-large teams fighting to merely get the relevancy of a Thursday or Friday game.

By the way, watch this dynamic (as laid out in my annual Wall Street Journal picks column): I think VCU is going to win, then -- with a bit of a jump-start -- catch a cold Georgetown flat-footed. Typically, teams playing on Thursday or Friday can get away with a cold first half, because both teams are playing their first game. Not so this year. All of a sudden we will be talking about the play-in game as an advantage.

Anyway, I'll be done traveling -- and done with the fun-but-constant distractions of SXSW (which was terrific) -- this afternoon. Then it's full-throttle from here through the Final Four.

Really glad and appreciative you're along for the ride. I come away from SXSW (and the launch of Quickish's first year of NCAA Tournament coverage) so excited about the trajectory the company is on and the chance to keep giving fans a really awesome and unique complement to the rest of their sports diet. Huge thanks for your continued support.

-- D.S.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hooray: National Bracket Day

What an absurdly busy last 24 hours or so.

Quickish has been on fire
-- hope you'll check it out for some really awesome quick-hit NCAA bracket analysis and recommendations to longer reads.

I wrote up my annual predictions column for the Wall Street Journal -- I'll give a smidgen of a spoiler: Duke over Kansas in the title game, joined by Syracuse and -- yes -- BYU in the Final Four.

Reading between those lines, that means I do NOT have Ohio State (or even UNC) coming out of the East, nor Pitt out of the Southwest.

UPDATE: Column just came out. Here it is. Complete obsessive analysis of it will be here tomorrow.

It's a mix of very unconventional (Ohio State losing before the Final Four?) and the very conventional (two 1-seeds in the title game). Hopefully, it's a winning mix that gets me off a multi-year schneid.

Please join up the Quickish (formerly "Daily Quickie Readers") group of the Tournament Challenge. Should be a lot of fun this year. (It's amazing to me that just 5 years ago, the DQR group had more than 10,000 entries and was the third-biggest private group in the country.)

Much much more later. But for a sense of what I'm reading -- and enjoying enough to recommend -- check out Quickish. It's all Tournament, all the time.

-- D.S.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday 03/13 (Very) Quickie

It's Selection Sunday, one of the best days of the sports year, if only for that hour at 6 p.m. ET when the brackets come out -- then the hours of bracket-picking that dominate afterward.

Two big things:

Fire up Quickish at 6 ET -- and check back through the night and tomorrow -- for the latest, fastest, best analysis from everywhere about the bracket.

Join the Quickish "Tournament Challenge" group. It's easy: Just click here, or if you're in other groups, just search groupname "Quickish" and add yourself in.

Should be a great night, a great week and a great rest of the month.

A few notes:

*"COLD! BLOODED!" joins the list of instantly memorable calls from Gus Johnson and moments in March (even if it was "only" the Pac-10 Tournament final). Isaiah Thomas: Wow.

*As noted at Quickish, UConn had the best run in the history of conference tournaments. Add to that: Kemba Walker put on the greatest individual performance in the history of conference tournaments.

*It's hard to feel bad for teams on the Bubble that will get left out. In the softest Bubble year in recent memory, all had their chances earlier this season. (It's also hard to feel good for teams on the Bubble that get in; will you pick any of them to get out of the first Thursday/Friday? Unlikely.) But if you find the Bubble intriguing, Dayton can steal a Bubble spot by winning the Atlantic 10 tourney title this afternoon.

*I keep seeing that the 1-seeds are locked as Kansas, Ohio State, Pitt and Notre Dame. I can't believe that the Duke-UNC winner won't get a 1-seed.

*I am so excited for the bracket to come out. It's been this way since I was a little kid. This year, Quickish coverage will keep me busy, but there's nothing like that initial "gut" pass through the field, followed by all the self-doubt and second-guessing. It's a unique feeling in the sports year.

*It was like Hanukkah on my laptop yesterday afternoon: I was at a bar with my laptop on, updating Quickish and watching the Harvard-Princeton ending on My battery power was down to single-digits and I watched the video feed drain it by the half-minute. With the power down to 1%, there was just enough left to see the Princeton buzzer-beater live, then get a post up about it on Quickish, then... battery out. But what a moment. (I was in a sports bar but the only one actually watching that game online. So my screams and shouts were met with strange stares, until I exclaimed what happened, then the TVs all cut to a clip of the finish.)

*Kobe's ankle sprain: Yikes, that looked ugly. If Kobe himself thought his season was over, you know it was a scary moment.

*NFL Labor: Both sides are hiring very fancy lawyers -- as you would expect them to. The PR effort from both sides is wearying, btw.

Get excited for tonight and the entire week. Hope you'll pop by Quickish.

-- D.S.