March is here. It is also my daughter's 1st birthday, which is a happy confluence.
*Virginia stuns Duke: As someone who believes that the college hoops regular season's main function is to get everyone ready for the NCAA Tournament, I couldn't care less about the way teams in the Top 5 seem to lose every week as it relates to the utterly useless regular-season "Who's No. 1?" debate (or even the largely useless regular-season "Who are the four 1-seeds?" debate).
The 'Hoos' win over Duke is valuable in one big way: It is an affirmation that it is going to be really hard this year to pick the team that is going to win six straight to win the national title (or even the three other teams that will win four straight and make the Final Four). Every would-be contender has displayed at least a few moments where you can doubt yourself when penciling in their name across a bracket.
Your best bet remains finding those teams with high defensive-efficiency ratings that can also score if they need to (represented by high offensive-efficiency ratings). That puts some of the usual suspects in the mix -- Indiana, Florida, Gonzaga, Louisville, Duke, Kansas, maybe even a wild card like VCU.
But it also should make you skeptical of, say, Georgetown (a team that plays fantastic defense but relies too heavily on one scorer to create any offense) or Michigan (a team that can score but doesn't come close to playing defense at an elite level). Miami and Wisconsin -- and, of course, Final Four stand-by Michigan State -- are intriguing possibilities.
Wrapping it back to last night's "upset," it shouldn't have come as too big of a shock: Virginia's defensive efficiency is in the Top 20 and its offense is underrated (coming in at a respectable No. 31 in KenPom's offensive efficiency ranking). For all of Duke's offensive brilliance, it had trouble stopping UVA's offense -- unsurprisingly, Duke's defense is ranked behind UVA's, along with 20 other teams.
*"Catholic 7" to expand, claim new old name: I sort of loved the "Catholic 7" shorthand for the spin-off basketball-first teams leaving the Big East. But now they are going to buy the name "Big East" from the old league (for whom it barely applied before and certainly doesn't now) for their start-up league, along with adding a few new members: Butler and Xavier, both of whom are big wins for the league -- perennial Top 25 teams (and, perhaps more important, perennial Tournament studs). St. Louis is also going to be added (another Top 25 team) and, reportedly, Creighton is in the mix. That's a bit of a reach, geographically. I would favor VCU.
*Those Adidas uniforms: I typically applaud the apparel companies for trying new things. The "short-sleeve" look doesn't bother me -- if you watched what happened in the NBA with Golden State, this is clearly going to be a bigger thing in basketball -- but the Zubaz-style shorts are awful. I love wearing basketball shorts around (the house, not in public), and I wouldn't wear those if I was given a pair for free, let alone buy them. Maybe I'm not the target market, but this isn't fashion via Oregon football or Maryland basketball -- it is a look that wasn't good back when we first saw it 20 years ago and hasn't gotten any better with age.
*Blackhawks' streak reaches 20: I'm not following their games live, but when I know they are playing the night before, it has become the first score I look for in the morning.
*Kings vs. Sacramento: I used to live in Seattle and have many friends from there who truly lament losing the Sonics and wish daily for an NBA team, but I hope that the Kings stay in Sacramento.
*LeBron wins everything, cont'd: I am not a big fan of the Harlem Shake craze, but the Heat did an incredible version. Consider how well LeBron is playing right now... and how willing he is to have fun with this video. It's really endearing -- the guy has a fantastic sense of humor about himself.
Have a great weekend -- light updates all weekend long, as usual.