Friday, March 28, 2008
Rob tackled Thursday's Sweet 16 games, I thought I'd give Friday's games a shot. On with the show, as they say...on with the show, indeed.
7:10 PM ET - Detroit Rock City (10)Davidson (28-6, 20-0 Southern) vs. (3)Wisconsin (31-4, 16-2 Big Ten)
For the record, his name is pronounced like this guy (Edberg), though mom and pop Curry went with the traditional spelling. I think Teej wanted a picture of Swedish tennis great Stefan Edberg here, but I'm too lazy to go find one. G:TB is really torn, given our concomitant love for both Bo Ryan specifically and the underdog generally. We didn't give Curry a chance against Georgetown and that worked out poorly for us, but recent history has shown that reversal of opinion tends to lead to bad juju, so the pick here is Wisconsin by a healthy margin - lay the 4.5, Danny.
7:27 PM ET - Houston (3)Stanford (28-7, 13-5 Pac-10) vs. (2)Texas (30-6, 13-3 Big 12)
I hear the Lopez boys are dumb as bricks. But Connor Atchley is the love great-grandchild of Albert Einstein and Marie Curie. G:TB loves Cardinal(s) of all kinds - Stanford rolls and doesn't stop until they get to San Antonio.
9:40 PM ET - Detroit (12)Villanova (22-12, 9-9 Big East) vs. (1)Kansas (33-3, 13-3 Big 12)
This is like Lion-O vs. Snarf. Or Joey Dorsey vs. long division, a complete mismatch. After running Nova out of the gym, Lion-O is celebrating with a Cheetarah/She-Ra threesome. I don't have the first fucking clue what any of that means, but it sounds awesome - especially the part about the threesome. I think Teej likes Kansas here, but I'm confused about the Joey Dorsey inclusion. Also, this would make more sense if it were linked to the Memphis Tigers, what with all the big cat cartoon references. I like the Jayhawks to win, but unlike my oft-addled compadre, my Big East bias says the Wildcats beat the 12.5-point number.
9:57 PM ET - Houston (5)Michigan State (27-8, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. (1)Memphis (35-1, 16-0 C-USA)
Make. your. fucking. free throws. Indeed. There's just no way Drew Neitzel and Goran Suton can hang with CDR, Derrick Rose, the aforementioned Joey Dorsey, and the rest of Memphis' talented cast. Or is there? The relevant aspect of this game for those that think MSU has a chance: Tom Izzo > John Calipari by quite a wide margin. I don't know who has the broadcast of this one, but expect Dick Vitale to burst a capillary in the pregame sputtering on about Italian delicacies. I'd give a month's salary to see Bob Knight pull a Neil Reed on Dickie V mid-rant. G:TB is taking Sparty to win, with full knowledge that we'll regret it.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
This hoary chestnut brought to you by the impending visit of my in-laws, timed to perfectly coincide with the Round of 16. What I can’t change is the fact that they have no interest in sports, let alone college basketball. What I can change is my location, so I’ll be once again playing the role of the indifferent son-in-law and relocating to my upstairs entertainment lounge for Thursday and Friday’s action. I’m quite convincing in this role, having played it to much critical acclaim during my extended run in this particular production.
Breaking a leg, then, with another set of fearless and poorly-informed predictions regarding Thursday’s games:
(7) West Virginia vs. (3) Xavier (7:10, Phoenix, AZ)
Okay, uncle. I gave no credit to Xavier for their excellent regular season, predisposed as I am to see the Atlantic 10 as a crap conference. I’ve been reformed. The Musketeers will end the Huggins love fest and put an end to the stomach-turning frequency of his appearances on my television.
Bonus gambling nugget: The 7th seeded Mountaineers are favored over Xavier in this one. What does Vegas know that I don’t, other than the best places to go for legal prostitution?
(4) Washington State vs. (1) North Carolina (7:27, Charlotte, NC)
Man, I hope we get this one in the Nation’s Capital. Carolina and their extreme up-tempo against Wazzu and their stifling defense has the makings of a donnybrook. WSU’s given up an average of 40.5 points per game in the tourney; Carolina exceeded that amount in every half they played in the first two rounds. I think the Heels will go down before the Final Four, but I don’t think this is where it happens.
Bonus gambling nugget: Carolina is giving Wazzu 7 ½ in what is basically a home game. G:TB likes the Heels to cover, though not without some struggle. The over/under is somewhere around 143, and that’s a coin-flip.
(12) Western Kentucky vs. (1) UCLA (9:40, Phoenix, AZ)
The Hilltoppers played some real teams close this year, losing by 3 to Gonzaga and 6 to Tennessee, and beating Michigan and Nebraska (okay, semi-real teams), and they’ve got three strong senior guards in Courtney Lee, Ty Rogers, and Tyrone Braselton, so maybe they’ve got a puncher’s chance. Yeah, I can’t make it sound convincing, either.
Bonus gambling nugget: #1 seeds are 26-4 ATS when facing 12 seeds or higher in the Round of 16 in the history of the tournament. Bruins cruise past the 12 ½ point number. Also, I made up that statistic.
(3) Louisville vs. (2) Tennessee (9:57, Charlotte, NC)
Sadly, I’ll be fast asleep when this one ends, which is too bad, because it could be a terrific game. Lots of talking heads seem to be overlooking the Vols here after they played two consecutive indifferent games to open the tourney while Louisville has looked strong thus far. So I’ll be employing a little reverse-reverse psychology and backing the Cardinals. I said they’re a Final Four team at the beginning of the Dance, and I’m riding that horse until it hacks up a lung.
Bonus gambling nugget: Vegas seems to agree with me, making Louisville a 2-point favorite. That can’t bode well.
Monday, March 24, 2008
"All research begins with ignorance. The ability to focus on what it is that you do not know is critical to doing research. I'm absolutely convinced that none of us understands the world.
I'm not a person that the world irritates, to quote Bill Buckley, but you turn on the radio and in any debate, you've got people who are convinced they know. Liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, people who think Terry Francona is a genius, those that think he's an idiot. They're all convinced they've got this figured out. None of them has it figured out.
We do not understand the world; the world is billions of times more complicated than our minds.
You can make a useful contribution to a discussion if you can figure out specifically what it is you don't understand and try to work on it. If you try to start from the other end - 'I've got the world figured out and I'm going to explain it to everybody' - maybe there are a lot of people who succeed in doing that, but it doesn't work for me." -- Bill James
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Not to get all Dickie V on you, but Friday flat out delivered, boys and girls. From Stephen Curry to Ty Rogers to the American Eagles to the Midwest Region double-digit bloodbath, and yes, Teejay's Siena Saints (we'll not say anything about Dan Dakich), the action was top notch from beginning to end. We're guaranteed at least two #12 seeds in the Sweet Sixteen, while all the top seeds looked strong to quite strong. The light, the heat, indeed.
On to Sunday's games, just because we know you want to be able to make awful puns in a safe, nurturing environment:
(13) Siena vs. (12) Villanova (12:10, Tampa, FL)
Val Kilmer approves of Siena's run, which keeps going for another week. Has Teejay mentioned that he picked them to win a game in the tourney?
(7) Miami vs. (2) Texas (2:15, Little Rock, AR)
There's no scenario under which Miami beats Texas in this game, save the 'Canes suiting up Dwyane Wade. Horns move on to Houston.
(7) Butler vs. (2) Tennessee (2:30, Birmingham, AL)
I've resisted and resisted and resisted jumping on the Butler bandwagon, playing against type even as I've wanted to believe. Now, I believe - that's a good damn team. Bulldogs surprise the Vols.
(10) Davidson vs. (2) Georgetown (2:50, Raleigh, NC)
Stephen Curry ain't getting 40 against the Hoyas. The country's best defensive team denies the dream for the Wildcats.
(13) San Diego vs. (12) Western Kentucky (2:50, Tampa, FL)
I'm drinking the Torero Kool-Aid. Oh. Sorry.
(8) Mississippi State vs. (1) Memphis (4:45, Little Rock, AR)
I really think MSU can win this game. Really. They can. And I think they...won't. But I reserve the right to point to this as evidence that I thought they kindamaybecould if they do.
(6) Oklahoma vs. (3) Louisville (5:00, Birmingham, AL)
This'll be the most lopsided game of the day - I think Pitino's gang is headed to San Antonio. Sooners are just a speedbump.
(9) Arkansas vs. (1) North Carolina (5:15, Raleigh, NC)
Heels aren't going to lose 25 miles from Chapel Hill. Bums me out, but that doesn't make it less true.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Relevant to nothing, wouldn’t Lose Yourself be better than One Shining Moment?
Here’s what we think about Saturday’s games:
(7) West Virginia vs. (2) Duke (2:10, Washington, DC)
Has anyone seen Mike Krzyzewski and Commissioner Valchek in the same room at the same time? Didn't think so. I’m mortally torn on this game. Why couldn’t John Beilein just stay in Morgantown? I’ve not been sold on Duke at all this season, and the Big East spent the first day of the tournament proving its toughness. Huggy Bear lives to kill again, exasperating legions of Cincinnati fans.
(11) Kansas State vs. (3) Wisconsin (4:20, Omaha, NE)
G:TB loves us some Bo Ryan, and the coaching matchup here is more unbalanced than Gary Busey on a meth and Jager binge. As much as we’d like to keep watching Michael Beasley, looks like his next game will be in an NBA uniform.
(6) Purdue vs. (3) Xavier (4:40, Washington, DC)
Purdue spoiled the Baylor dream season, but we won’t hold that against them. The Baby Boilers and their all-court balance move on against the Musketeers.
(5) Notre Dame vs. (4) Washington State (6:20, Denver, CO)
This will be an intriguing matchup of styles. Notre Dame prefers a buttoned-up, all-business look – heavy on Armani and Ferragamo, while Wazzu’s all “hang loose, bro. check out my boardshorts and flip-flops”. Derek Low and the boys squeeze the Irish and win a low-scoring game.
(6) Marquette vs. (3) Stanford (6:45, Anaheim, CA)
We’re on the Lopez Twins’ Neverland Tour Bus, single glove affixed. Cardinal advances, denying the Big East an undefeated tournament. Today’s games notwithstanding.
(8) UNLV vs. (1) Kansas (6:50, Omaha, NE)
I’ve seen nothing thus far to indicate that Kansas will have any trouble any time before the Final Four. Nothing, that is, other than Bill Self’s Sy Sperling beaver pelt. ‘Hawks still roll.
(5) Michigan State vs. (4) Pittsburgh (9:10, Denver, CA)
Rough, meet tumble. I eagerly await this one – probably my most anticipated Saturday game. And not only because I’ll have to live through a children’s Easter Egg hunt and a day full of in-laws to get to it. Pitt in a one-possession battle.
(9) Texas A&M vs. (1) UCLA (9:15, Anaheim, CA)
Yawn. CBS had better be broadcasting the Pitt game in the D.C. area. UCLA easily over whiny Mark Turgeon and the Aggies.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
(6)Oklahoma/(11)St. Joe's - I believe Oklahoma has lost games this year scoring 45 (twice) and 49 points. That's bad folks. St. Joe's beat Xavier twice...I love Xavier...therefore St. Joe's wins. Keep it simple stupid.
(3)Louisville/(14)Boise St - Siena thumped Boise by 20 during BracketBusters. I would have to believe Pitino and the boys win by at least that.
(7)Butler/(10)South Alabama - Butler got hosed with a 7 seed. And they might not escape this game because of it. Wait, 30 seconds of research...and I'm going South Alabama. We'll call it the Ronnie Arrow Redemption Story.
(2)Tennessee/(15)American - Some clarification please - it's not American coach Jeff Jones that pummeled the colon of Melissa Stark, right? Tennessee scores 100 in this one.
(2)Texas/(15)Austin Peay - Texas is good. Austin Peay has a funny name.
(7)Miami/(10)St. Mary's - I know absolutely nothing about these two teams. So we'll take the so-called mid-major. Plus, I need at least one WCC team to advance.
(8)Mississippi St/(9)Oregon - I believe it was Seth Davis who said this is more like a 6/11 game. We here at G:TB are big fans of Miss St. sophomore Jarvis Varnado, who averages 4.6 blocks a game. The SEC might, like the Ukraine, be weak, but I'm still trying to figure out how Ernie Kent's squad got into the Dance.
(1)Memphis/(16)Texas-Arlington - There are 328 teams in Division 1. Memphis is ranked 326th in free throw shooting. As a team, they shoot an abysmal 59.6% from the line. Obviously, it won't hurt them here, but sooner or later...
(5)Clemson/(12)Villanova - As I mentioned in the comments the other day, I was impressed by the veteran guard play of the Tigers, as well as the athleticism of the big men. And screw Villanofun - they forced my beloved Cuse to the NIT.
(5)Drake/(12)Western Kentucky - I like Drake's story. Don't hate the Drake, people.
(4)UConn/(13)San Diego - Hasheem Thabeet is also a G:TB fav. San Diego's star guard is apparently the grandson of crazy jungle juice drinkin' Jim Jones, so I'm not backing him and his crazy cult lineage.
(7)Gonzaga/(10)Davidson - Davidson was 20-0 in conference play. I don't care what conference you're in, posting a 20-0 is damn impressive. As is the backcourt of Stephen Curry (the well-known star) and Jason Richards (the underrated PG)...Richards just happened to lead the country with 8.0 APG. Right, I'm not talking about the Zags at all...no need to, they're out.
(2)Georgetown/(15)UMBC - For our boy Geoff, Roy will go 22, 15 and 5 in this game against a UMBC frontline with no one taller than 6'8".
(1)UNC/(16)Mt. St. Mary's - Moving on...
(8)Indiana/(9)Arkansas - Ugh, I don't want to pick the Hoosiers, but I kinda have to.
(4)Vanderbilt/(13)Siena - I saved the best for last. Since the beginning of the season I told anyone who would listen that Siena would win the MAAC, AND would win their 1st round tourney game. So far, so good...now we just need the Saints to find a way to outscore a very balanced 'Dores squad led by Shan Foster and Aussie big man A.J. Ogilvy. Go Saints.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
(6)Purdue/(11)Baylor - Squirrel loves the Baylor dream story. It's nice, I agree. Player on player homicide can really devastate a program. But if we ever got around to that G:TB All American squad we had talked about, Purdue freshman Robbie Hummel would've been a first teamer, so we're taking the Boilermakers here.
(3)Xavier/(14)Georgia - I have a tremendous amount of love for Xavier. Tremendous backcourt. Six guys averaging double figures. Tourney experience galore. And they're facing the miracle Dawgs squad who survived a tornado to win the kiddie SEC? Please. Sean Miller's squad in a laugher.
(7)West Virginia/(10)Arizona - Jerryd Bayless is Derrick Rose good. He's just not a great speller. The first year ride for Huggins (and Beilein's players) ends here.
(2)Duke/(15)Belmont - Sure, I think Duke's overrated. But I still gotta take 'em here.
(3)Wisconsin/(14)Cal State Fullerton - Honestly, I know nothing about Fullerton, and I'm not even going to bother to google them. If any game bites me in the ass, it's this one. Go Badgers.
(6)USC/(11)Kansas State - I actually typed in "(6)USC/(11)Michael Beasley". I think you know which way I'm leaning. "Pulling a Glenn Robinson" is about to become "Pulling a Michael Beasley".
(8)UNLV/(9)Kent St - Four dead in Ohio? Honestly, that's all I know about Kent State. And Lon Kruger got the job done last year.
(1)Kansas/(16)Portland State - Bill Self will fuck this up eventually, just not in this round.
(4)Wazzu/(13)Winthrop - Have I mentioned Dana Jacobson looks just like He-Man? Winthrop used to be a trendy upset pick...not for me. I'll take the deliberate style of Wazzu to bore and advance.
(5)Notre Dame/(12)George Mason - I can't be the first person to tell you Luke Harangody looks like Ron Perlman? AKA Helboy? I promise no more of these lookalike games. We all love the CAA around here, but Mason is done.
(5)Michigan St/(12)Temple - So, Chaney is gone and Penn's old coach is in? And Temple won the A-10? And Tom Izzo's teams have underachieved for years now in the Dance? Fuck it, I'll take Team Neitzel.
(4)Pittsburgh/(13)Oral Roberts - I know Bob Knight loves Pitt. If I could take a moment to address the General - Stop slouching a-hole. It won't kill you to sit up. Wear a decent outfit onset. You look like White Goodman in Dodgeball. I've decided to pick ORU just to spite Knight...and because they go 6'8", 6'9" and 6'10" on their front line.
(6)Marquette/(11)Kentucky - Kentucky without Patrick Patterson = 15 point loss. Buh-bye.
(3)Stanford/(14)Cornell - Robin, Brook, Danny and Jose Lopez Jr. will destroy poor Cornell (yes, I'm sorry, jokes tend to get recycled around here).
(1)UCLA/(16)Mississippi Valley St - Hey MVSU, at least Jerry Rice went there. I'm pretty sure UCLA is my national champion.
(8)BYU/(9)Texas A&M - I hate the Aggies for some reason. No idea why. I'm taking a Mountain West team here, though they have been piss poor lately in the first round (UNLV run last year excluded).
Monday, March 17, 2008
Friend of G:TB Jerry has stepped up with a typically dead-on take on the March Madness phenomenon, especially the overplayed bracket meme. Like him, I'm historically brutal in submitting successful brackets, though I did manage to parlay my interest in the tourney into a reasonably profitable revenue-skimming operation during my college years. So do be sure and take the next several comments with a healthy portion of skepticism.
In terms of teams with realistic chances to have some success, I'm rooting hard for Baylor, Butler, George Mason (duh), and Pittsburgh. Baylor's pretty obvious - Scott Drew's kids are the feel-good story of the decade. Butler, too, is clear - A.J. Graves is even scrawnier than me. Pittsburgh, well, I just like the cut of their jib.
I'm hoping West Virginia, Kentucky, and Miami flame out early. Hate the Huggins. And just don't care for either of the others. I'd put North Carolina and Memphis in here, too, but rooting against them won't do any good. (Though keep an eye on Jarvis Varnado and Mississippi State if they get to Memphis in the second round.)
As much as it pains me, I've got a 'strong sell' recommendation on Gheorghetown. Call it a hunch. They'll get past the Gonzaga/Davidson winner easily, especially if it's Davidson, but I don't think they beat Wisconsin.
Stanford and Louisville are really good (and, in a bonus, both Cardinal(s)). Final Four good. Stanford beat UCLA in the regular season, despite the fact that the record shows otherwise and had them dead to rights in the Pac 10 final. The Cardinal are (is?) big and deep. With David Padgett healthy, Louisville is experienced, balanced, and well-coached.
Teams I think will overperform their seeding (by doing more than just winning in the first round): Clemson, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Baylor, Louisville, Stanford.
Teams I expect to gack: Oklahoma, Marquette, Memphis, Tennessee, Miami.
No real screw-jobs from the committee, though it's a bit disappointing to see three mid-major vs. mid-major contests in the first round. At least three will be going through, I suppose, so there's a silver lining for you. Butler as a 7 makes no sense whatsoever, but neither does Indiana as an 8.
Tiger Woods. Good at his profession. The fine men and women of Bear Stearns. Not so much. Godspeed to our colleague Rhymenocerous as he stands firmly in the breach, protecting hearth and home from marauding Chinese arbitraguers in these uncertain times.
And finally, apropo of nothing, I caught the first two episodes of John Adams last night. Aside from the fact that a bald Paul Giamatti is most disconcerting, those bastards at HBO have sucked me in for another 6 weeks. The acting is phenomenal, the story intense (the gravity of the scene in the time immediately after the Continental Congress voted for independence, well, talk about one shining moment), and details spot-on.
Slainte, then, as we leave you with a little from Shane MacGowan and the boys on this bogus but festive holiday: There's some takes delight in the carriages a rolling/Some takes delight in the hurley or the bowlin'/But I takes delight in the juice of the barley/And courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
While most film rats (we'd call them film "buffs", but if there was any buff in them they surely would have seen this brilliant piece of cinema in the theatre already) race to their mailboxes this week hoping to extract that precious little red envelope containing "No Country For Old Men" - that movie, as my Mensa cube mate puts it, with the creepy Spanish dude that looks like "Denny" from Grey's Anatomy and won all those awards - we'll be calmly waiting for a different film from the top of our queue...
A little gem called Gattaca: Special Edition.
Table for 4 please.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
But so, too, do Tony Shaver’s kids. Despite being overmatched athletically and vastly inexperienced in big games in comparison with their opponents, the Tribe gave us a reason to believe. Given our alma mater’s historical, ahem, underperformance on the hardwood, that is a gift of substantial dimension, friends.
W&M closed the first half on a 16-8 run to trail by a single point, and the Mason fans sitting around us in the Richmond Coliseum cast nervous glances at each other while Tribe fans tried really hard to coordinate high-fives and fist pumps, unaccustomed as we are to such emotions. There may have been some minor muscle tears and one unfortunate unintentional elbow to the nose of a septuagenarian Tribe fan witnessing his first conference final. Alas, Folarin Campbell, Will Thomas, Dre Smith, and Chris Fleming (Chris Fleming? Really?) led the Patriots to a 9-0 run to start the second stanza and W&M never got it closer than 7 until it was way too late. While the Tribe was gritty, gutty, game and all the other clichés that surround Caucasian basketball players (the Washington Post called them stubborn this morning in the print edition – high praise, indeed), Mason deserved to win.
But as we noted in this space just yesterday, the loss does nothing to diminish the joy this unlikely group of kids brought to W&M’s generally subdued alumni. For the briefest of moments we were allowed to pretend we belonged, to plan trips to the Boise or Sacramento or Tacoma subregionals, to shout ourselves hoarse watching a game that actually mattered, and to dream. Generations of us had never even allowed ourselves to dream. When we talk about this team, that’s the thing we’ll remember – not that they finally fell short, but that they let us dream, hope, and care. And at some level, that’s the magic of college basketball, that an obscure school from a mid-major conference can make otherwise mature (it’s in the eye of the beholder, people) adults let loose the bonds of logic and rationality and really, deeply believe in the most unlikely outcomes.
So thanks to the 2007-8 William & Mary Tribe for a heretofore once in a lifetime run, and thanks to MGL at CAA: Life as a Mid-Major and Extra P at Storming the Floor for getting behind our quixotic efforts this season. One of these days, boys and girls, one of these days we’ll get to see the Tribe demolished by a 2 seed in the first round of the tourney. And G:TB can’t wait.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Over at the CAA Zone, MGL dropped a Norman Dale quotable on us today, minutes after I'd remarked to Rob that Shooter's rant in the mental ward was being paraphrased by Teejay in his office this morning: "NO WILLIAM & MARY TEAM . . . HAS EVER . . . MADE IT TO THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP!" And so I will leave the G:TB huddle with Coach Dale's simple send-off.
Thanks to Extra P at Storming the Floor for the clip of Tribe fans, um, storming the floor after the unlikely semifinal win over VCU. 'That Just Happened' is destined to be William & Mary's version of 'Do You Believe in Miracles'.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Quarterfinals, Saturday, March 8
(8) Hofstra vs. (1) Virginia Commonwealth (23-6, 15-3)
VCU is the CAA’s Marlo Stanfield, the cold, efficient, and single-minded alpha dog. The Rams dominated the conference in 2007-8, finishing with a 15-3 record and winning the league by 3 games. The Wire’s David Simon won’t be giving us a Hollywood ending on Sunday night, and while Marlo may not survive in the end, neither will McNulty and Freamon. VCU dispassionately and clinically ends Hofstra’s season.
(5) William and Mary vs. (4) Old Dominion (17-14, 11-7)
ODU doesn’t do anything all that impressive – they just put their heads down and work hard. Occasionally, they’ll have too much to drink*, but for the most part, they’re solid and dependable. Like Bunk Moreland, the backbone of The Wire.
On Saturday, Bunk’ll sit W&M’s Dukie down in an interrogation room, gently lay a comforting hand on the Tribe’s shoulder, and explain in reassuring tones how he’s just doing his job. Sometimes, the Man does what the Man has to do. W&M will understand, but in a plot twist worthy of David Simon himself, the Tribe will turn the tables on the Monarchs, stunning them like I expect to be stunned after the Wire’s final run on Sunday**.
* - metaphorically, in ODU’s case – heaven forbid that we cast such aspersions.
** - and yes, this is quite truly wishful thinking and not a prediction made with much rigorous analysis – though W&M did beat ODU in Norfolk this season.
(10) Drexel vs. (2) UNC Wilmington (19-12, 12-6)
The Seahawks are the CAA’s Michael Lee, tough, street-smart, and a little bit iconoclastic. They’re capable of a achieving at a very high level, but are constrained fatally by their environment (as we’ll soon see, that’s a proxy for their coach). It all goes poof for Drexel against a much tougher Wilmington squad.
(6) Northeastern vs. (3) George Mason (20-10, 12-6)
Okay, bear with me here, because this won’t make much sense until the end of this preview. Mason is Bubbles, the recovering heroin addict and conscience of The Wire. They’ve had amazing highs this season (wins over Kansas State and Dayton when the Flyers were at full strength, an 85-38 drubbing of Drexel) and maddeningly inexplicable descents into the abyss (losses to East Carolina and Georgia State, blowing a double-digit lead in the BracketBusters game against Ohio). The Patriots will end Northeastern’s season, but not without a struggle.
Semifinals, Sunday, March 9
(5) William and Mary vs. (1) VCU
Dukie vs. Marlo. And the result will be about exactly what you’d expect. Sadly. Poor Dukie, cast into the dark underworld, destined to a short, brutal life of drug addiction and far more unspeakable unpleasantries.
(3) George Mason vs. (2) UNC Wilmington
The grim fate of W&M’s Dukie is balanced by the ascension of Mason’s Bubbles in the second semi. As noted a few days ago in this space, G:TB thinks the Patriots are the league’s most talented team, capable of playing at an extremely high level (and equally capable of going on bizarre, half-long walkabouts). The redemption theme continues on Sunday, as Mason avenges two in-season losses to Wilmington to set up a good vs. evil (y’know, artistically-speaking) conference final.
Finals, Monday, March 10
(3) George Mason vs. (1) VCU
ESPN is hoping, nay, praying that this national telecast features action like last year’s 65-59 VCU win over Mason, or 2004’s nail-biter between the two squads. Because ESPN’s seen the dark side, like 2001’s 35-33 final between Mason and Wilmington, a contest that set the game back to Dr. Naismith’s time.
As The Wire ends, we expect David Simon to give us stories of individual redemption and triumph while reminding the viewer that the systemic problems never end, that we’re doomed as a society to wallow in corruption, violence, and avarice. The names change, but the game never does.
Luckily for George Mason and Bubbles, theirs is one of those few bright spots in Simon’s otherwise grim portrait, as they defeat the Rams to clinch the CAA’s automatic bid. And in a nod to poetic justice, Marlo lives to fight another day, too, with VCU capturing an at-large bid in a season where just about every bubble team seems intent on playing its way out of the Dance.
Somewhere, Tom Yeager as the Greek beams a satisfied smile.
And so, in honor of the conclusion of The Wire’s spectacular run, we give you the most absurd CAA conference tourney preview you’ll find:
Round One – Friday, March 7
(8) Hofstra (12-17, 8-10) vs. (9) Towson (12-17, 7-11)
Hofstra, the league’s biggest disappointment, stand in for Jimmy McNulty and Lester Freamon in the CAA cast. The Pride came into 2007-8 with 3 consecutive 20-win seasons, each culminating in a trip to the postseason NIT. And just as we expected better of good police like McNulty and Freamon, Tom Pecora’s boys let their backers down this year.
Towson’s basically background scenery in the CAA, just like Slim Charles on The Wire. Hofstra takes the first step towards redemption in this matchup, beating Pat Kennedy’s Tigers easily.
(5) William and Mary (14-15, 10-8) vs. (12) Georgia State (9-20, 5-13)
W&M reminds us of no Wire character more than Dukie, the smart, sweet, and silly but ultimately doomed youth. Picked on for years by the tougher kids (teams), the Tribe found a purpose in 2007-8, as finally did Dukie, if only briefly. Georgia State is Clay Davis, if only because their head coach, Rod Barnes, bears a passing resemblance to the embattled public servant.
Dukie gives the audience hope for the future tomorrow, as W&M notches their 4th conference tournament victory in 26 tries, avenging last year’s buzzer-beating loss at the hands of GSU’s Leonard Mendez. Sheeeee-it.
(7) Delaware (13-16, 9-9) vs. (10) Drexel (12-19, 5-13)
At one point this season, Delaware was 5-0 in conference play, alone in first place and on top of the world. Just like Stringer Bell. The game gets everyone in the end, though, especially those who think they have it figured out, and the Hens skidded to a 4-9 finish. Bruiser Flint’s Drexel Dragons remind us of Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Templeton, perpetually overrated and bound to get what’s coming to them. Just not in the first round of the tourney, where they surprise Delaware and move on to face UNC Wilmington.
(6) Northeastern (13-16, 9-9) vs. (11) James Madison (13-16, 5-13)
JMU started the season with a surprising win over a good Siena team, and carried the momentum from that win into a 7-2 out-of-conference mark entering CAA play, where they jumped ugly on a solid Northeastern team and beat VCU, the league’s best team. And just like Ziggy Sobotka’s high-rolling lifestyle crashed around him, the Dukes went from filet mignon to shit sandwich in a hurry.
Boston-based Northeastern was quietly competent in league play all season, getting their job done with little fanfare and building towards a promising future, like Detective Leander Sydnor. Next year, the Huskies will be a tough out. This year, they’ll drum a JMU team that’s just playing out the string.
We’ll post the final 3 rounds this afternoon.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
March Madness generally refers to the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, the engorged national obsession that this year begins on March 20. While we worship at the altar of Clark Kellogg’s verbal gymnastics as much as the next guy, we believe the frenzy actually kicks off tomorrow, when the Littles start playing off for guaranteed entry into the field of 64. And so, we bring you G:TB’s rundown of the Oompa Loompas, the Ewoks, the Billy Bartys, and yea, verily, the Lollipop Guilds who imbue this first full week of March with color and character until they give way to their Brobdingnagian counterparts before Spring’s sweet breezes begin to blow.
Today we’ll focus on the tournaments that start this week, in the interest of time and some notion of a need to accomplish at least one business-related task before heading home.
Location: Binghamton, NY
Dates: March 7-9, 15
Top Seed: University of Maryland, Baltimore County (13-3)
At Large Potential: Zip, Zero, Nada
For the record, I hate the split tournament format, though I grudgingly appreciate the abiding desire of conferences like the America East to get some precious television exposure. Lord ESPN, why dost thou torment us so? Also, in the interest of sharing, I spent the coldest weekend of my life in Binghamton. Moving right along...
Teejay hails from the America East’s frigid territory and insists that Albany will take the league’s automatic bid. Me, I look at UMBC’s dominant regular season (including a sweep of the aforementioned Great Danes) and the Retrievers’ killer mascot and go with the A-10 slayers (wins over Richmond and GW highlight UMBC’s out-of-conference sked) from Baltimore to make the chalk stand.
Location: Nashville, TN
Dates: March 5-8
Top Seed: Belmont (14-2)
At Large Potential: Yeah, not so much
The A-Sun made big noise out of conference during the season’s opening weeks, with wins over Kentucky (Gardner-Webb), Alabama (Belmont), Cincinnati (Belmont), and USC (Mercer), proving yet again that mid-majors (or in this case, low-majors) can play with anyone. Belmont takes a 10-game winning streak into the conference tourney, with their last loss at Campbell way back on January 5. The top-seeded Bruins open tournament play on Wednesday against…uh-oh…Campbell.
G:TB would be doing you, the reader, a significant disservice by pretending we know anything at all about how this conference tournament will play out. Doesn’t mean we won’t be watching.
Location: Campus Sites
Dates: March 4, 6, 8
Top Seed: UNC-Asheville (10-4)
At Large Potential: Diddly
Asheville’s 10-4 conference record is a bit misleading, as the Bulldogs lost all their conference games in consecutive fashion while 7’7” center (and G:TB favorite) Kenny George and point guard Bryan Smithson sat out with injuries. UNC-A was undefeated in conference play with the two in the lineup.
Randy Peele’s Winthrop Eagles beat Georgia Tech and Miami (FL) this season after dumping Notre Dame in the 2007 Big Dance, but if George is healthy, nobody in the Big South can keep Asheville from its appointed demolition at the hands of a major conference power.
Location: Richmond, VA
Dates: March 7-10
Top Seed: Virginia Commonwealth (15-3)
At Large Potential: Slim but not none
The CAA’s built a well-deserved reputation as a tough out in the NCAA Tourney, with VCU, UNCW, and ODU all notching wins in the last 10 years and George Mason making its’ unforgettable Final Four run in 2006. Unfortunately, that success doesn’t look to be enough to get the conference its 3rd consecutive two-bid season.
We won’t belabor the preview here, as we’ll drop a more comprehensive version on Thursday, but G:TB’s seen a lot of CAA ball this season, and we haven’t seen a better team than George Mason when the Patriots are focused. The latter part of that sentence is huge, because Mason has an annoying tendency to space out during crucial game situations. With some trepidation, it says here that Jim Larranaga prevails upon his senior standouts Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell to keep their heads in it long enough to get the band back together in late March. That is, of course, unless William and Mary catches fire. Natch.
Location: Campus Sites
Dates: March 4, 7-8, 11
Top Seed: Butler (16-2)
At Large Potential: A given, if anyone other than Butler wins the conference tourney. Otherwise, nope.
Mid-major darling Butler is clearly the class of the Horizon and poised to capture a top-5 seed in the NCAA Tourney with a clean run through the league championship. Only Cleveland State and Wright State (note: neither of those are actually states) blemished the Bulldogs in the regular season, and A.J. Graves, Mike Green and the boys avenged both of those losses.
Thing is, though, Butler plays a lot of close games – 12 of their 18 conference tilts were decided by single digits – and they don’t need to win the Horizon to get into the Dance. G:TB likes surging Cleveland State (winners of 6 out of 7) to pillage their way into Hinkle Fieldhouse and get all Hoosiers on Butler, denying somebody an at-large bid.
Location: Albany, NY
Dates: March 7-10
Top Seed: Siena (13-5)
At Large Potential: Sorry, no
Siena’s Saints took the top seed in the MAAC tourney by winning a tiebreaker over the Rider Broncs based on which team has a more geographically appropriate nickname. That said, Siena’s a pretty good squad, with a win over Stanford on their resume. The MAAC’s got 6 teams within 2 games of each other at the top, so it would surprise nobody on the G:TB staff to see any one of Siena, Rider, Loyola (MD), Niagara, Marist, or Fairfield claim the bid.
As noted before, Teejay hails from the Albany region, so we’ll leave the prognosticating to him. Survey says…Siena.
(Late breaking news from the Sports Book at the MGM Grand: Teejay says, “And Siena will win their first round game…book it”. Use that as you will.)
Location: St. Louis, MO
Dates: March 6-9
Top Seed: Drake (15-3)
At Large Potential: At least 2 and maybe 3 MVC squads will be in the Dance
Billy Packer’s least favorite conference annually vies with the CAA and the Mountain West for the title of Tallest Midget (we consider the Atlantic 10 a really bad major conference, not a top-flight mid). The MVC is clearly the class of mid-major hoops in 2008, standing 8th in Ken Pomoroy’s conference RPI.
Drake’s in the tournament already, and one of 2008’s great stories after coming from nowhere to win the MVC regular season. Illinois State’s probably in, too, but their lack of big-name win should have the Redbirds a little apprehensive. We think they win the tourney, with Drake bowing out early.
Location: Campus Sites
Dates: March 6, 9, 12
Top Seed: Robert Morris (16-2)
At Large Potential: Bagel
The Robert Morris Colonials beat Boston College earlier in the year, and enter the NEC tourney on a 13-game winning streak. Hot team, playing at home and looking for a redemptive run to their ultimate doom. That’s the kind of human interest story that’ll keep the nation tuned in until at least the first television timeout of their loss to Kansas.
Location: Nashville, TN
Dates: March 4, 7-8
Top Seed: Austin Peay (16-4)
At Large Potential: Nope
The Ohio Valley seems to be sharing Nashville as a tournament venue with the Atlantic Sun. Since I assume that Nashville is a tiny hick town with only one arena, this has me perplexed. (I could look it up, but a) I don’t care, and b) someone will almost certainly do it for me.)
Regardless, the OVC puts on an entertaining show on a regular basis, so we’ll be tuning in to the shared-court action to hear “Let’s Go Peay” from backers of the top-seeded Governors. There’s a whole lotta parity in the OVC, with 8 of the league’s 11 teams at .500 or better. One of them will win the automatic bid.
Location: Campus Sites
Dates: March 5, 9, 14
Top Seed: American (10-4)
At Large Potential: None
Ahh, John Feinstein’s driven-snow pure Patriot League, home of noble student-athletes and scintillating just-below-the-rim action. American University, whose conference tournament futility is an underreported phenomenon, snuck into the top seed and home court advantage when Colgate upended Navy in the season’s final game. Only 5 games separate the league champion Eagles from the last-place Holy Cross Crusaders, so your guess is as good as ours when it comes to the tournament winner.
Only thing we know is that it won’t be American.
Location: Charleston, SC
Dates: March 7-10
Top Seed: Davidson (20-0)
At Large Potential: Only if Davidson loses
Davidson’s 20-0 in conference play. That’s sick, regardless of the league, and the SoCon, while mostly mediocre, isn’t the SWAC. The league as a whole played the nation’s toughest out of conference schedule, and as difficult as it is for low/mid-major teams to get games against the big guys, that fact alone is enough to make G:TB root for the SoCon.
In addition to running the table in the league, Davidson lost by 4, 6, and 8 to UNC, Duke, and UCLA, respectively. In the words of Bill Walton, put ‘em in, big man.
Although it won’t matter – the Wildcats will close the deal in Charleston and scare the bejesus out of some unsuspecting 3 seed in the first round of the tourney.
Location: Mobile, AL
Dates: March 5, 9-11
Top Seed: South Alabama (16-2)
At Large Potential: So you’re saying there’s a chance
South Alabama and Western Kentucky both finished 16-2 in regular season conference action, with the league’s next best teams (Middle Tennessee, Arkansas Little-Rock, and Louisiana-Lafayette) a full 5 games back at 11-7. As an aside, how the hell is Denver in this conference?
The Sun Belt is one of those leagues where a clearly better team runs the risk of folding under the enormous pressure of the one and done environment, but we don’t see it happening to both USA and WKU. One or the other wins the league, and if it’s WKU, we still like South Alabama’s chances of sneaking into the field.
Location: San Diego, CA
Dates: March 7-10
Top Seed: Gonzaga (12-1 – season not complete)
At Large Potential: Indeed
Same as it ever was/same as it ever was. Little known fact that the Rhode Island School of Design’s own David Byrne is a huge WCC fan. Gonzaga’s win over Saint Mary’s last week dropped the Gaels into second place, and ensured that the Bulldogs will capture their 8h straight regular season title with a win over Santa Clara tonight.
Both Gonzaga and St. Mary’s are already in the Large Cotillion (I’m running out of new ways to describe the damn thing), and the G:TB team fancies the cut of the San Diego Toreros’ jib. Playing at home, USD screws up yet another team’s at-large dreams. We fervently hope that Bob Huggins is the victim.