With a full five days between the last Regional Final and the National Semifinals, I did what any decent college basketball fan with too much spare time would do: I crafted a new bracket showing what this year’s Tournament would have looked like had it contained 96 teams. I used the approach most people are pushing for expansion, which is to include all regular-season champions of every conference in addition to postseason tournament champions.* I basically took seeding from the NIT for the added teams although I had to decide where to fit in teams that won their conference titles but would have earned an at-large NIT berth if necessary (namely Siena, Cornell, Murray State).
*Of course, using this method retroactively on this season avoids the huge, “How hard does a regular-season champion try in a postseason conference tournament if it already has its ticket punched?” question. This, to me, is one of the biggest issues with expansion: Do teams that won the regular season in a conference such as the SWAC, which has virtually no hope of an at-large berth, even compete in the conference tournament? What do they have to gain? And isn’t it better for the conference if they lose in the tournament and a second team earns a bid? And does this force the Ivy to have a conference tournament?
||San Diego State
||New Mexico State
||William & Mary
||Sam Houston State
||East Tennessee State
Continue reading »
It’s time for another installment of “Getting Lost,” where John S takes you through all the salient questions from last night’s episode of Lost:
So, could you figure out who “the package” was before it was revealed? I think anyone who watched could have figured out, as soon as Charles Widmore said the package wasn’t “a what” but “a who,” that A) the package’s identity wouldn’t be revealed until the end of the episode; and B) that the package was almost certainly Desmond Hume. There was even a good chance it was Desmond before Widmore declared that his package was a person. After all, we pretty much know where all the other characters are and what they are doing at this point in the season, whereas Desmond showed up for about eight seconds in the season premiere and then disappeared.
Well, it could have been someone like Walt, or Jack’s ex-wife, or someone new, or someone coming back from the dead. Continue reading »
What we read while shedding a tear for Dick Enberg…
- Think of the oldest picture of a brain you have ever seen. This one is almost certainly older.
The last Regional Final will be the most exciting/anxious/nerve-racking one for us here at NPI, as our alma mater takes on upstart and underrated third-seeded Baylor. Tim and John S broke down the game as objectively as they could, although their conclusions might leave you questioning that statement.
JOHN S: Well this is the Elite Eight game we (well, at least we at NPI) have been waiting for: Duke-Baylor. Duke is the last remaining #1 seed and therefore the last hope of this not becoming the first Final Four since 2006, and only the second overall, not to feature a single top seed. Even if the Blue Devils do make it, though, they are not exactly an intimidating 1-seed. Steve Lavin on ESPN yesterday referred to Duke as “the underdogs” (not that I would intentionally give credit to something Lavin says, but just the fact that he could realistically call the third team on the S-curve an “underdog” was a little telling). A lot of people are surely going to take Baylor after the team’s utter dismantling of Saint Mary’s in the Sweet 16.
Duke, on the other hand, is coming off an ugly win over Purdue, in which the Blue Devils turned the ball over a lot, neither team shot more than 40% from the field, and Duke only won by 13 because of a decisive rebound advantage over a team that had lost its best rebounder to injury. Suffice to say, the win did not inspire much confidence. But as UK’s loss illustrated, who’s hot is not necessarily the determining factor in the NCAA Tournament, so let’s take a wide-lens view.
Alright, Tim, what do you think is the most important aspect of this game? Is it how well Jon Scheyer and company can shoot over Baylor’s zone? Is whether or not Ekpe Udoh or Brian Zoubek wins the rebounding battle? Is it whether Duke’s defense can hold Baylor under 44% shooting for the first time in the Tournament? Or is it some other thing, like whether or not Coach K takes his jacket off? Continue reading »
Well, Tim and John combined to go an impressive 1-3 yesterday. Guess which one of us got the only game right! Here’s a hint: It was Tim. Hopefully we will fare better today. The first game on the docket features two of John’s favorite coaches, Bruce Pearl and Tom Izzo, going head-to-head in a game that will hopefully wash the stink off of last night’s Bob Huggins-John Calipari duel.
TIM: John, I’ve had a lot of fun at your expense these last few weeks, from your decision to knock Butler out in the first round to your incredible ability to pick games incorrectly on second and third tries. But, there has been one thing (and one thing only, it seems) that you have been right about where I was wrong: You just don’t pick against Tom Izzo in March.
JOHN S: Well, first of all, some of my incorrect second or third tries were not what I had originally said, so that’s a little unfair. For example, I had West Virginia in the Final Four in my original bracket so….basically I’m a genius.
But yeah, it’s hard for me to really take credit for the Tom Izzo thing, because by now everyone should realize that Michigan State almost always outperforms expectations in the Tournament. Only three times in the last decade has MSU lost to a team seeded lower, and once was in the Final Four to national runner-up Arizona and another was to a George Mason team that would end up in the Final Four. Just as often, the Spartans have made surprising runs of their own, including one to the Elite Eight as a 7-seed in 2003, to the Final Four as a 5 in ’05, and to the National Championship game last year as an unheralded 2-seed. Izzo simply knows how to coach in the Tournament. So it’s not really surprising that Michigan State is once again in the Elite Eight, even in spite of the injury to Kalin Lucas. Continue reading »
Once again, Tim was right and John was wrong in picking the early game. Well, they’re back for tonight’s game–John S to see if he can finally get one right, and Tim to tell you who will win. They are both trying to get over the fact that Dick Enberg is likely calling the last game of a great career tonight.
JOHN S: Alright, it’s time to move on to tonight’s game, the marquee matchup between Kentucky and West Virginia. The only Elite Eight game between the 1- and 2-seeds, this is probably the most anticipated game of this round; whoever wins this one will likely be the favorite going into the Final Four. It will also be by far the toughest contest either team has faced. Kentucky is coming off a 17-point win over everyone’s favorite Cinderella, and even though the score doesn’t really tell how close this one was (Cornell was within six with under six minutes left), it never really felt like the Wildcats were in danger, even when the Big Red were up 10-2. Throughout this Tournament, Kentucky has shown how much margin for error they have, and how much better they are than most other teams when they do everything well. Meanwhile, West Virginia hasn’t played a single-digit seed yet, but they are coming off a pretty dominant second half against Washington in the Sweet 16. So do you think the Mountaineers can give hang with the Wildcats? Continue reading »
Tim and John S have spent most of this NCAA Tournament putting their picks in separate posts that prevented them from both collaborating and mocking one another. Now that we’ve reached the Elite Eight, it’s time to stick the two of them in the same room and see what emerges. Not surprisingly, the answer isn’t consensus.
TIM: So John, what looks worse now: your prediction that K-State’s game with Xavier “wouldn’t be close” or that Syracuse would play Pitt here since you expected “a lot of intra-Big East showdowns in this Tournament”?
JOHN S: Well, probably my Syracuse-Pitt prediction. I frankly admitted that my hunch about the K-State/Xavier game wasn’t based on anything, but my prediction about the Big East failed time and again in this Tournament. So far every team in that conference has lost earlier than I expected, with the possible exception of West Virginia, who I had in the Final Four–so there’s still time for me to be wrong on that one.
Anyway, we were both wrong on Syracuse, so don’t try and duck that one. Two questions about this game, though, stand out to me: 1) Are the Wildcats riding a high from their 2 OT win two night ago, or are they emotionally and physically spent from a game like that? Is winning a thriller an advantage or not at this point? And 2) If Butler advances to the Final Four in Indianapolis, how much does the quasi-home court advantage help them? Continue reading »
If there was any remaining doubt that this was the best NCAA Tournament ever, last night’s Xavier-KSU game (which I declared would not be close) should have cemented that status. Anyway, here are some more picks you can take to the bank….
2 Ohio State vs. 6 Tennessee
Original Pick: Georgetown over Ohio State
What I’ve Learned: Obviously, if the Volunteers are going to win this game, they are going to have to shut down Ohio State’s leading scorer in this Tournament: Jon Diebler. Diebler tore up UC-Santa Barbara in the First Round, dropping 23 points, and everyone knows that as goes Diebler, so go the Buckeyes. In all seriousness, Evan Turner has been the best player in college basketball this year and—notwithstanding what Denis Clemente, Terrell, Holloway, Jordan Crawford and Jacob Pullen all did at various points last night—the player who can most take over a game in this Tournament. Thanks to Georgetown’s early loss, Tennessee got to face Ohio in Round 2 and dispatched them fairly easilyafter struggling against San Diego State. But the fact that the Volunteers haven’t played a good team yet should make anyone wary of their ability to contain Turner.
The Pick: Ohio State Continue reading »
Three-for-four. Three-for-four. Man, I churn out three-for-four nights like a Little League All-Star. Of course, I knew I was going to get ONE game wrong last night; I didn’t know which. It turned out to be the game I was most confident in with my pick, as Syracuse (my national champion) looked listless early and panicked late. A disappointing showing by the Orange, although it keeps alive the Butler storyline, which I’ve been harping all year.
So again, with a 39-13 record in this Tournament, you know I’ve got three of these right. But which one isn’t?
5. Michigan State vs. 9. Northern Iowa
Original: Kansas over Maryland
What I’ve Learned: I was pretty confident that KU would lose eventually and that when it did, it would likely be because Sherron Collins tried to do too much. Of course, I didn’t think it would happen in the second round, and even then, I had UNLV in the second round. But to say that Northern Iowa’s win over the Jayhawks is one of the biggest upsets in Tournament history ignores the fact that the Panthers are a very good team that has lost only four times all season—and one of those was without Jordan Eglseder. UNI is like Cornell in that it can beat you inside and out on the offensive end; the Panthers, however, are one of the nation’s best defensive teams and capable of forcing any team into playing their tempo.
Michigan State’s win over Maryland—without Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen—only proved Tom Izzo’s coaching wizardry once more. The Spartans had no business winning that game, but they did. There are two reasons to pick State in this one: Izzo and the idea that UNI might be overwhelmed by the media attention in the last week. There are more reasons, however, to pick the Panthers: Their win over Kansas wasn’t as big a fluke as portrayed and their defense will certainly dictate tempo to a team playing without its point guard and leader.
The Pick: Northern Iowa Continue reading »