Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MLB Preview: American League

After I won multiple awards for my NL preview yesterday, I couldn't very well ignore the American League, especially since that's all anybody around here cares about.  So that's what we got goin' down here tonight, a little American League chatter.  

Also I want to mention as a public service announcement that although the 5-8 Club is famous for their Juicy Lucys you shouldn't ignore the broasted chicken.  It's not quite as good as any random place at least 1 hour north of the cities (and the more norther the better), but for a city joint it's very good.  

Anyway, here you go.


1.  Boston Red Stockings.  There's a reason all thdork Red Sox fans are so excited for their team - they're going to be really god damn good.  They signed the top 2 free agent position players available who filled holes for them in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, have an excellent rotation 1-5, a bullpen good enough that they can ship Hideki Okajima to triple-A, and, lest you think their 3rd place finish last year means they're overrated, they still won 89 games and several key players (Pedroia, Ellsbury, Youkilis) missed substantial time last season. In short, no matter how much you hate them and their fans (and I do with one exception) this team is going to be a monster.  The shark move here would be to make sure and get Papelboner as your fantasy closer, since he's going to get a ridonkulous amount of save opps.

2.  New York Yankees.  They're lucky that the offense is loaded up because that rotation is brutal.  Sabathia is good, I guess, but AJ Burnett is terrible, Phil Hughes is a dandy, Freddy Garcia is dead, and Ivan Nova will be in AAA ball by June.  That said, they're going to be tough to beat and should win a lot of 8-6 ball games, plus with Soriano setting up for Rivera they essentially just have to outscore you through 7 innings.  Side note: if you look at the lineup there's absolutely no reason Derek Jeter should be hitting anything other than 8th or 9th.  Other than the intangibles of course.  And those piercing blue eyes.

3.  Tampa Bay Rays.  Whoever stocked up the Rays farm system did one hell of a job, because it seems no matter who leaves there is always a hot young prospect ready to step in, and that especially includes the pitching staff.  This year those guys will have to be dead on, because behind provens David Price and James Shields are a bunch of youngins - talented youngins in Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Jeremy Hellickson - but young just the same.  Two other things:  1.  FREE DESMOND JENNINGS!  and 2.  Kyle Farnsworth as your closer?  Seriously?  I dropped them from #2 to #4 for that reason alone.  Then bumped them back to #3 because Evan Longoria is both awesome and sexy.

4.  Baltimore Orioles.  I feel bad for these guys, I really do.  After years of throwing good money after bad, making poor decisions, and decimating the farm system they're finally starting to do things right.  They got a solid manager (Buck Showalter), good young talent (Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta), with more on the way (Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Chris Tillman), and are signing reasonable free agents who make sense and fit with the roster (Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Kevin Gregg, and trading for JJ Hardy).  Really they're doing a lot right and in any other division they'd be a sleeper to win it.  Here, however, fourth place is their absolute upside.

5.  Toronto Blue Jays.  This is definitely a fun team if you like a youth movement - the oldest pitcher in the rotation is 26.  They also have fun prospects like LF Travis Snider and C JP Arencibia who are going to be handed starting jobs and told to run with them.  If the youth is good and crap factories Adam Lind and Aaron Hill - two of the biggest disappointments in all of baseball last year - can bounce back this team might be able to threaten for fourth place.  That being said, this team would be a contender in the AL Central.  Thank god the Twins are in such a shitty division.


1.  Minnesota Twins.  Hey, speaking of the Twins being in a shitty division, here I am picking them to win again even though I'm not remotely impressed with this team.  If you're reading this you probably know everything you need to about the Twins so all I'm going to say is I hate hate hate hate hate the middle infield and I still don't understand the Hardy trade, but my biggest question is how they handled the whole Scott Diamond thing.  Trading Billy Bullock, he of the 150 strikeouts in 108 innings in two years at age 22 and the Twins second-round pick just TWO FUCKING YEARS AGO means that Diamond better be the best god damn reliever in history.   AGAGDASHKJ the season hasn't even started yet and I'm already mad.  Let's just move on.

2.  Detroit Tigers.  You know who I love this year?  Justin motherfuckin' Verlander.  He's been awesome the last several years, no doubt, but I think this is the year he goes from awesome to AWESOME.   I also love Austin Jackson, and I think if he can just have half of Delmon Young's plate discipline he's got super star written all over him, and the youngster SP duo of Scherzer and Porcello has got potential.  That's it that I like on that team because I hate everybody else including fat alcoholic and girl hair McGee.  I guess I don't hate Will Rhymes, but that's not because of his play (Punto-esque) but because of his sweet name.  If Snow had just called himself Will Rhymes Informer would have hit #1 on the charts.

3.  Chicago Gay Sox.  Ever have a player you love (Adam Dunn) who goes to a team you hate with every fiber of your being?  I always loved Mike Mussina and it broke my heart when he signed with the Yankees, but I never really really cared because it was AL East crap.  This time it's really going to test me.  I harbor no ill will towards Dunnsy right now, but I'm pretty sure the first time he takes a Nick Blackburn 88 mph heater 500 feet the other way (and you know it's coming) I'm pretty sure the hatred will rise up quickly.  Looking forward to the Twins facing Jesse Crain though, pretty sure we have some guys who will return that 500 foot favor.  Of course I'm assuming/hoping they got old Crain, not fancy new Crain from the second half of last season.  Because that guy was good.  Ah god dammit.  This is going to be so frustrating.

4.  Kansas City Royals.  Holy shit you guys are these last two teams brutal.  Honestly these might be the two worst teams in the entire league.  I'm going to throw the Royals in the lead because I like that fat doubles machine and $nake has a shirt of the Mexecutioner.  There's your upside, plus that Hawai'ian dude who's slugging like 3 in spring training.  The future is supposedly very bright here, which is good because the present is full of Jason Kendall and Bruce Chen.  No shit.  The Chenner.  Want to know how fucked up the Royals' are?  ESPN lists Melky Cabrera as their starting CF and starting RF, and that seems like it might be accurate.

5.  Cleveland Indians.  Carlos Santana is going to be awesome.  That's the entire list of positives I can come up with unless you believe in Justin Masterson (kind of sort of) or think Matt LaPorta might still be good (no chance).  Since I got nothin' else to say, here's a picture of a naked Grady Sizemore:
You know you love it.


1.  Oakland Athletics.  Ok fine, I'm buying in.  If San Francisco can win an entire World Series on the strength of their pitching staff, why can't Oakland win a crappy AL West on the strength of theirs?  Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are studs in the making, Gio Gonzalez is nasty, and Dallas Braden has the soft-tossing lefty thing down pat.  Add in bullpen additions in Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour and I really like the pitching they've got here.  The offense was downright dreadful last year, and although the pick-ups of David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, and Godzilla will help it still isn't going to be pretty.  This is going to be another team that's going to have to win those 3-2 ball games quite a bit if they're going to contend.

2.  Texas Rangers.  These guys are the opposite of Oakland with their potent lineup that gets more potenter with Adrian Beltre at the hot corner, but with Cliff Lee gone the entire rotation is rather underwhelming, especially if you're like me and think they all suck outside of C.J. Wilson.  With such a shaky staff I don't understand why they're so strident in keeping Neftali Feliz as their closer.  Yes he was good last year, but he's easily the most talented pitcher on the team and came up through the minors as a starter, and since that's where they could maximize his value I'm baffled at the choice to keep him closing games.  Good for the rest of the AL, I suppose.

3.  Los Angeles Angels.  Just a massive pile of meh, which seems odd because these guys were perennial contenders not that long ago, but I guess missing out on Carl Crawford and having a back-up plan of standing around doing nothing will generally drag you down a smidge.  Jered Weaver and Dan Haren are a great 1-2 punch, especially since it turns out Weaver is actually good which shocked the hell out of me, but after that everybody is boring unless you think 1B Mark Trumbo can win rookie of the year.  I don't, because I have never heard of him.  When the left-side of the diamond is made up of Maicier Izturis, Erick Aybar, and Alex Rios you know damn well you aren't competing for anything, and don't forget their still trying to force Fernando Rodney to be a closer so they'll lose their share of close games as well.

4.  Seattle Mariners.  I picked these guys as my sleeper team last year.  Turns out I'm an idiot.  Good news though, they've taken major steps to turn this thing around by acquiring Jack Cust, Gabe Gross, Adam Kennedy, Miguel Olivo, and Brendan Ryan.  Jesus Christ guys, you only won 61 games last year and THIS is how you address your issues?  How can you be this shitty and only have three young, high upside guys in the entire system (Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda)?  At least the Pirates and Royals look like they have a plan, and don't forget they had Cliff Lee!  What did they get for him, Smoak and a bag of balls?  This is terrible.  I can't wait until Felix forces his way out, maybe the Twins can get him for Cuddyer and Dusty Hughes.


NL MVP:  Troy Tulowitzki (alternate:  Buster Posey)
AL MVP:  Adrian Gonzalez (Evan Longoria)
NL Cy Young:  Clay Kershaw (Roy Halladay)
AL Cy Young:  Justin Verlander (Jon Lester)
NL Rookie: Domonic Brown (Freddie Freeman)
AL Rookie:  JP Arencibia (Desmond Jennings)
NL Division Winners:  Phillies, Reds, Giants
NL Wild Card:  Brewers
AL Division Winners:  Red Sox, Twins, A's
AL Wild Card:  Yankees
World Series:  Reds over Red Sox

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MLB Preview: National League

Since I just learned today that baseball starts up for real on Thursday, which seems ridiculously early but is apparently real, I better get going with my baseball previews.  I'll start with the National League today, and go onto the AL tomorrow.  If you want to know who you should target in your fantasy league, feel free to just go ahead and take a gander at the bottom of this post.  That's your championship team, folks.

Once again, you can consider these to be equivalent to clairvoyant looks into the future.  I almost never get anything wrong.


1.  Philadelphia Phillies.  Pretty obvious pick here, but it's always going to be obvious when your first four starters are four guys who would all be the ace on the majority of teams in the entire league.  Of course, these kind of super team things rarely work out, at least in the regular season, and a very old offense has tons of question marks.  Utley is out and nobody knows when he's coming back, Rollins was a nightmare last year, they just gave a fat, old player a monster contract, and perhaps their best all-around offensive player is now on the Nationals.  They'll still win, but they aren't going to dominate.

2.  Florida Marlins.  They've been a scrappy bunch the last several years, and I think this is the year they finally make the leap.  Their rotation of Josh Johnson, Javy Vazquez, Ricky Nolasco, Anibel Sanchez, and Chris Volstad would be the best in many divisions, assuming they stay healthy, and there's enough offense here to keep them in Wild Card contention.  Whatever you think of Hanley Ramirez's attitude issues the guy is an incredible player and gives Florida a huge advantage by having such an offensive powerhouse at such a traditional weak position.  Mike Stanton is an absolute future star.

3.  Atlanta Braves.  Should be a very solid team, and for no particular good reason just as I'm blindly believing in the Marlins' rotation, I'm expecting the Braves to fall apart.  Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe are older than dirt, Tommy Hanson is inconsistent and for Jair Jurrjens inconsistent would be a huge improvement.  And what's to be excited about with the offense other than Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, and Freddie Freeman?  They'll be in the Wild Card running, but I think Bobby Cox being gone is going to take longer to adjust to than you'd think.

4.  New York Mets.  The division between the 3rd team and 4th team in this division is absolutely immense, because the Mets are absolute garbage.  Let's put it this way:  R.A. Dickey will be prominently involved, and he might actually be the second best pitcher on the entire squad behind Mike Pelphrey - and that's not a compliment to Dickey, these guys are brutal.  There's still some minor jump up potential here based on a decent offense with David Wright, breakout candidate Ike Davis, and contract year guy Jose Reyes, plus Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran.  The offense should be ok, but that pitching staff is terrifying.

5.  Washington Nationals.  I wanted to rank them ahead of the Mets because the Mets are terrible, but I just couldn't after looking at what they're rolling out there.  Livan Hernandez is still here, and so is Jon Lannan, Jason Marquis, and they added Tom Gorzelanny as starter #5.  Sweet, that should make all the difference.  There's a decent young base here with closer Drew Storen, starter Jordan Zimmerman, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, SS Ian Desmond, and, of course, SP Stephen Strasburg and minor leaguer Bryce Harper (Brian Harper's son), but with The Stras out until late this year or next this won't be the year they put it all together.


1.   Cincinnati Reds.  Love this team.  Absolutely and completely love them.  Young and talented pitching staff with multiple candidates to breakout (Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Edinson Volquez), the hardest throwing man in all of MLB (Aroldis Chapman), and a young group of position players who are either already stars (Joey Votto), look to be right on the cusp (Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips), or are still just in the "potential" phase (Drew Stubbs).  They aren't really the type of team who I'd consider a serious World Series contender unless multiple guys on that staff breakout this year, but they'll win this division.

2.  Milwaukee Brewers.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery some donk once wrote, and the Brewers are definitely going with the San Francisco Giants model and have assembled a very good rotation.  If Zack Greinke stops getting hurt playing basketball and doesn't end up on the floor in the fetal position every time someone asks him a question he should dominate the NL, and Shaun Marcum should be a poor man's version of the same after coming over from Toronto.  Add in Yovani Gallardo and a pretty good offense and they'll be a very good team, especially if Prince Fielder's contract year becomes PRINCE FIELDER'S CONTRACT YEAR.  And closer John Axford has the sweetest mustache in the league.

3.  St. Louis Cardinals.  Adam Wainwright is so good at throwing a baseball that his injury knocks St. Louis from division favorite to division also-ran.  Any team with Albert Pujols can't be completely counted out, but the rest of the lineup is either old guys on the downslope of their career or David Eckstein clones.  Honestly, I have no idea why a team with David Freese, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, and Tyler Greene would possibly be interested in signing Nick Punto since all five of these guys are basically clones of each other and they all suck.  Maybe LaRussa's gone all demented and is starting some sort of bizarre collection, and at the all-star break he's going to encase them all in wax and open some sort of Eckstein Wax Museum.  That's be pretty sweet, actually.

4.  Chicago Cubs.   This should be a pretty competitive division, because I can even see the Cubs jumping up and contending at the top if everything goes their way.  It won't, of course, because we're talking the Cubs here and there's an awful lot that would need to go right.  Carlos Zambrano's head has to be on right, Matt Garza has to be able to dominate more often being in the NL, Ryan Dempster has to be good, Carlos Pena needs to bounceback as does Alfonso Soriano as does Aramis Ramirez, and so on.  One thing is for sure, they have a future star at shortstop in Starlin Castro.  Or at least that's what I told myself when we ended up having to draft him as our fantasy shortstop.

5.  Pittsburgh Pirates. Is this the year the Pirates finally turn it around?  Well, if by turn it around you mean don't finish in last then I say yes, although that's more of a testament to the shittiness of the Astros than the improvement of the Pirates.  I mean, you can at least see that they're trying to turn it around:  Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata are a nice young core but after that it's very blah - and that's the upside.  Assembling young arms is a good strategy, but someone needs to tell these guys that it really only helps if at least some of them have some talent.

6.  Houston Astros.  Kind of the opposite of Pittsburgh in that the starting pitching is at least ok (Wandy, Bret Myers, JA Happ, and Bud Norris) but the lineup is just brutally brutal.  The middle infield pairing of Clint Barmes and Bill Hall should make you feel better knowing there's actually a worse combo than what the Twins are trotting out there, I've never even heard of their third baseman, and their first basemen is a rookie who was traded three different times before he managed a major league at-bat.  And they still have Carlos Lee, who continues to kill team morale by constantly pawing through teammates' lockers looking for snacks.


1.  San Francisco Giants.  It's hard to believe any team that was so reliant on it's starting staff can repeat, but in this case you have to pick the Giants because 1.  The NL West sucks, 2.  At least one of those pitchers (Madison Bumgarner) is still waiting to breakout, and 3.  there only losses off the roster of "significance" were Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria.  They might have the worst hitting outfield in history, but they should still be good enough to win this crappy division, especially since they have a rich man's Joe Mauer in Buster Posey.

2.  Colorado Rockies.  I wanted to pick the Rockies to win the division but I just can't.  Troy Tulowitzki is a pimp and Carlos Gonzalez is awesome, but then it's crickets.  Todd Helton is old with the power of Drew Butera but is still starting somehow, Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart are starting to look like they're "potential" and that's about it, Dexter Fowler is Carlos Gomez with a slightly better batting eye, and Seth Smith should be a pinch hitter.  They also have Ty Wigginton.  Yeah.  The pitching is alright and could probably clean an office building or hotel like nobody's business, but that lineup is just really, really icky.

3.  Los Angeles Dodgers.  These guys have been about as underachieving as the Mets the last few years, and it all starts with Captain Disappointment (that's also what Mrs. W calls me), Matt Kemp, who decided to go from future superstar do everything five tool player to Adam Dunn with less power.  Think about that one. And speaking of less power we can't forget first baseman James Loney, the only 1B in history with less power than Dough Mientkiewicz.  Clay Kershaw is probably a future Cy Young award winner, but behind him is a soft-tossing old man (although he's a lefty) and a Japanese guy who will probably throw his arm out by July.  And also Chad Billingsley, who sucks.  How you can have that much money and fuck up a team should be the next study done by Dateline.  I think we've got all the sex predators by now.

4.  Arizona Diamondbacks.  You could basically flip a coin between Arizona and San Diego right now because both of these teams are equally depressing and shitty.  I'm giving the nod slightly to Arizona because they at least have a few players who could have huge years:  Justin Upton (although I feel like we're saying this every year for the last several), Miguel Montero (not a huge year overall, but at least for a catcher), and Daniel Hudson (if his post-trade results were real).  They also have a middle infield with some pop in Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson, even if they field as well as Roger Dorn.

5.  San Diego Padres.  The list of exciting players on this team is Mat Latos and Cameron Maybin.  That's the entire list unless you really like nondescript but effective closers who are going to be traded at some point or mediocre-to-poor starting pitchers who were featured in really awesome books.  All I know is a team with zero offense just got rid of the man responsible for about 106% of that offense.  Plus their middle infield combo is Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson.  Ouch.    

The last thing I want to mention here is what should/could be considered a national travesty.  Take a look at this picture and guess who this is:

No, it's not the female joker (and I don't mean Harley Quinn), no matter how much it may look like it.  It's actually Rose McGowan, formerly the super hot and busty star of Scream and Jawbreaker.  This is what she used to look like:

Why?  Why would you kill that?  Even setting aside her formerly awesome boobs which have suddenly disappeared, check out this side-by-side of her formerly beautiful face:

Good lord, why?  This is the kind of thing that convinces me that the devil actually exists.  I'm actually near tears right now.  I'm going to go cry myself to sleep and probably masturbate.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekend Review - 03.28.2011

 What a retardedly stupid nonsensical and awesome tournament this has been.  I can't remember ever having this much fun watching.  Nearly every game close, and essentially completely impossible to predict.  At this point I'd bet there are more people with zero final four teams correct (including your president - suck it, commie) than even have one, and although I'm sure there are a handful of people who have two correct I'd be pretty shocked if I know anyone who does.  Every year it sucks when this tournament ends because it's always the most fun sporting event to watch, but this year it's going to be even worse.  Doesn't help that the Twins are speeding towards mediocrity even faster than usual, but I won't dwell on that know.  Plenty of time to talk hardball after next week.


1.  Virginia Commonwealth Rams.   Hard not to recognize a team that went from the First Four round to the Final Four, and a team that had the "experts" wringing their hands and bitching non-spot about how they shouldn't have gotten a bid (check the records and you'll see that I said they should be in multiple times - point me).  Since you're about to get force fed more happy fun stories about VCU than you can handle I'm going to tell you a semi-funny story from Chicago instead.  As most bars do at this time, the Dayton bar where we spent an inordinate amount of time had a bracket on the wall and an employee would hand write in each winner.  This bar clearly had a female employee do it, because on the line where you would write the winner of the Georgetown/VCU game the chick wrote "VCU/USC."  So now I'm picturing a bracket on the wall of the bar with four different winner lines with "VCU/USC" written down.  I don't know, maybe you had to be there but it's pretty god damn funny.

2.  Derrick Williams.  Easily the most impressive player I saw this weekend and I don't even know if there was a second one.  What an absolute monster.  That dunk he threw down against UCONN in the second half where he basically powered through two dudes to throw down would have been the most impressive dunk of the entire tournament, except he eclipsed that one with the monster Shawn Kemp NBA Jam style slam he had against Duke.  And it's not like he's a one-dimensional, Trevor Mbakwe dunking machine.  He can shoot from the perimeter, rebound like a mofo, and he's excellent with the ball around the basket.  I don't know what kind of NBA career he might have because I don't watch until the playoffs because I'm not retarded, but Williams is/was an absolute college beast.  Probably has a huge crank, too.

3.  Matt Howard.  If Williams blew me away with his awesomeness, Howard blew me away with his improvement.  Last year he was basically a chubby disaster against good teams and, although I don't want to say he single handedly lost the championship game against Duke, but he was so badly outplayed by Brian freaking Zoubek and looked so ridiculously out of place in that game that it's really just a testament to the brilliance of Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward that the championship went down to the wire.

Now, however, he's lost a bunch of that babyfat, added a jumper with 3-point range to his game, cut way way way down on his fouling, and is absolutely brimming with confidence.  Which he should be because he's playing great.  He's played some very good front courts so far this tournament in Old Dominion, Pitt, and Florida, and even the dainty Jon Leuer can be a challenge, and he's played well on both ends of the court against all of them.  Last year's version of Howard would have gotten killed by Florida's super athletic dudes, but this year Howard scored 14, grabbed 5 boards, and most importantly only committed three fouls so he was able to play 40 minutes.  His numbers might not jump out an grab you, but if you saw him this year and last you'd see what a massive improvement he's made, and he's a big, big reason Butler is heading to the Final Four.

4.  Jeremy Lamb.  All season long the one thing UCONN really needed was a second scorer to take pressure off of Kemba Walker who, despite being completely awesome, is not unstoppable despite what the media and announcers decided to make their running story (12-25 and 7-17 shooting in the two games this weekend doesn't make him unstoppable, it just makes him a high volume shooter and scorer).  Lamb really stepped up, scoring 24 against San Diego State, tying a season high and was basically the whole reason UCONN won that game, and then following it up with 19 in the win over Zona.  I still think he's a bit soft, but he's only a freshman so he can either take the good path and toughen up a bit and end up a pretty high level player and scorer, or he can go on about his business as he is, having games where he scores a ton and just as many games where he's nowhere to be found.  I say that second thing like it's a bad thing, but I should point out that even that version of Lamb would be the best player on the Gophers, and it wouldn't even be close.

5.  Kentucky Wildcats.  Well I'm flabbergasted.  It's rare of me to misjudge a team this badly.  Actually strike that, because I think team's are better than they really are all the time, but it's rare that a team I think is terrible ends up doing something stupid like going to the Final Four.  Calipari is a terrible game coach and a terrible game planner, generally winning games by having the most talent, almost in spite of himself.  This year's Kentucky isn't all that talented, at least from a Calipari's most talented team perspective, so I figured an early exit was inevitable.  Shocking that I got something wrong in this year's tournament I know, but apparently Brandon Knight is a lot better than I thought.  Much, much better than Brandin Knight, who, of course, played for the world's most chokiest program in history in the Pitt Panthers, the same most chokiest program who I inexplicably chose as my national champion.  Next year I'm not even filling out a bracket, it's getting too embarrassing.  It's like if Stephen Hawking called you to hook up his tivo.  From an understanding how to do it perspective, I mean.  Not the whole "I have no movement in any of my limbs" thing.


1.  Wisconsin Badgers.  As enjoyable as that loss was for Gopher fans and white people haters that had to be brutal for Badger fans.  Really, I mean if you lose a buzzer beater game it sucks like getting punched in the stomach by a large black man who was just helping you find your glasses in a snowbank sucks - quick, painful, unexpected, but the pain subsides quickly.  It sucks to lose that way, just like it sucks to lose to a team that just blows you away because they're so much better or playing so well at the time, but you can live with those losses.  The way Wisconsin lost, however, has got to just gnaw away at you for a long, long time.  Butler gets credit for shutting the Badgers down, but in reality they didn't do much.  It was simply Wisconsin missing open shots.  Over.  And over.  And over.  And over.  In the mid-first half Jordan Taylor was fouled on a three-pointer and missed the first two free-throws, and that basically summed up the night.  And I loved every damn minute of it.    

2.  Jimmer Fredette.  Did you get a chance to watch the Jimmer?  Freaking amazing when he has the ball, right?  Amazing shooter with unlimited range and a hair-trigger release, ability to get buy a defender off the dribble and get into the lane, an excellent eye to find open teammates for easy hoops, and just amazing body control.  Really an impressive player with the ball.  But did you happen to notice him when he doesn't have the ball?  I've never seen a lazier god damn player in my life.  He does one of three things if he doesn't have the ball:
  1. Stand there
  2. Clap his hands and call for the ball.
  3. Run directly at his teammate with the ball and clap his hands while calling for the ball
That's it.  That's the entire repertoire.  My favorite though is any time he passes the ball and it doesn't directly lead to a shot for this teammate he immediately follows his own pass, naturally while clapping and calling for the ball.  There's a reason nobody on this team every gets an assist other than Jimmer, and that's because he either shoots, creates a shot for somebody else, or immediately demands the ball back.  Honestly I was pretty unimpressed, and I watched all four of his games in this tournament and they were all the same.  Add in a level of defense that would make Blake Hoffarber turn red with embarrassment and he might be the most overrated player since Adam Morrison.  If this guys wins National Player of the Year it'll be a travesty and, frankly, should probably spark off some race riots.  But that's pretty much my answer for everything.

3.  Duke Blue Devils.  hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha oh my god that was so awesome.  It was like, all of a sudden Arizona realized, "hey, these guys are a bunch of nerds.  More athletic nerds than the Northwestern dorks of course, but still nerds.  And we aren't, so let's kill them" and then suddenly a dunk contest broke out and pasty white dorks and Jalen Rose's favorite type of brothers were their props.  They could do the entire one shining moment montage just from dunks from this game.  I think if Duke was playing a women's team that night those broads would have been running and jumping all over there heads.  Or maybe a lay-up line would have broken out instead.  I guess that's more realistic.

4.  William Buford.  Outside the Wisconsin duo of Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, I'm not sure anybody looked crappier than Buford.  Here's my impression of his game against Kentucky:  clang clang clang clang clang clang and so on and so forth.  Like Billy Ho once said, "I'll tell you what. Why don't we take all these bricks and build a shelter for the homeless, so maybe your mother will have a place to stay.  And your sister, too.  I want your mother and sister out of my house."   Damn Will, you just got played by a slow, white, geeky chump.  What do you mean, black ball?

5.  Colton Iverson's transfer.  Of all the red flags jumping up around the program regarding player defections this one has to be the worst.  The rest can all be rationalized away if you are looking for a reason to do so:  Royce White was a bad egg, Justin Cobbs was homesick, Paul Carter's sister was sick (ok so that one was pretty legit), Devoe Joesph is a selfish player who only cares about himself, and on and on.  If you want to have blind faith in Tubby you didn't have to try to hard.  For me, however, this one is a stunner and, frankly, makes me more than a little concerned.

I mean, what exactly is the reasoning here?  Iverson can't possibly believe Tubby is holding him back from a professional future playing ball, so what possible rationale could he have for leaving with only one year left to play?  It's not like a playing time issue makes much sense either, because of his style of play, body type, and just overall gangliness he's not going to suddenly jump up to 36 minutes a night no matter where he goes.  I just don't get this one.  Colton would have been my last guess at a player who would be transferring out.  I fear there are some real issues with this program, and I'm starting to think this year may not have been rock bottom.  If Colton can leave, anybody could.  What if both Mbakwe and Rodney end up leaving?  Or hell, anybody else, I don't even know any more.  I just know that I'm suddenly more fearful than ever that Tubby's style of coaching isn't just not winning as many games as we'd hoped but is now actively pushing players out.  Let's just move on to baseball so a different team can let me down.

And since we're almost to baseball season (preview of some sort coming soon, maybe even this week), here's the team Snake and I put together in our fantasy baseball draft.  I don't know about you, but looks like a championship to me.

C - Miguel Montero, Arizona (do you realize there are like 3 good catchers?  And we weren't getting stuck with freaking Wieters again.  I've done that dance twice).
1B - Billy Butler, KC (fat doubles machine)
2B - Rickie Weeks, MIL (counting on last year NOT being a career year)
3B - Evan Longoria, TB (so sexy he'll steal your girlfriend)
SS - Starlin Castro, CHC (please don't suck)
OF - Mike Stanton, FLA (not the middle reliever.  We're buying the hype)
OF - Austin Jackson, DET (how about just a little plate discipline?)
OF - Delmon Young, MIN (no points for fielding)
Ut - Jason Kubel, MIN (got him very, very late.  Decent upside)
SP - Jon Lester, BOS (could win 25)
SP - Justin Verlander, DET (looking even more unhittable this year)
SP - Clay Buchholz, BOS (I guess we're all in on Boston)
SP - Madison Bumgarner, SF (hoping his rough spring doesn't mean anything)
RP - Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (like I said)
RP - Joakim Soria, KC (Will probably end up saving 85% of KC's wins)
RP - Drew Storen, WAS (we can't have Strausberg, so we'll take his little buddy)
Bench - 1B Justin Smoak, SEA (Of course)
Bench - SP Michael Pineda, SEA (we hit it big with Leake last year, might as well try again)
Bench - RP Chris Sale, CHW (already unhittable, just needs to get the closer gig)
Bench - SP Carl Pavano, MIN (steady enough)


RIP Paul.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday's Gambling

This is a much harder slate of games to breakdown than the ones I looked at yesterday.  But because I love you, dear reader, I will continue to march ahead.  I'm like Sojourner Truth and shit.

North Carolina -4.5 vs. Marquette:  I absolutely, abso-smurfly cannot get a good read on this game.  The points almost seem perfect here.  And what do we really have in Marquette?  Do we even know?  They semi-limped into the tournament, but then beat Xavier and Syracuse - two pretty good teams.  I can only come back to what I know, and that's how Marquette is mainly a perimeter oriented team who beat two other perimeter oriented teams.  That's a mark against them since Carolina is very solid in the paint with Henson and Zeller.  Also going against Marquette is that the Heels are one of the hottest teams in college right now, and there last, and maybe most impressive win came over Washington, another perimeter oriented team.    Since I've locked myself in wagering on every game I'll throw one unit on UNC here, but overall I'd rather just stay away.  That includes that over/under 149.5.  It's just too high, but not so high that I'd bet on it.  Overall I hate this game.

Ohio State -6 vs. Kentucky:  Conversely to the one above, this is the game I'm most confident in for a myriad of reasons, and that's not even counting the fact that the Buckeyes have been runnin' and jumpin' all over people's heads so far in this tournament.

Reason #1 would be the coaching.  Recruiting-wise, Thad Matta vs. John Calipari may be a battle of 1a and 1b with no correct answer, but gameplanning wise and in-game adjustment wise Matta blows him out of the water.  I talked a bit in yesterday's post how I got too cute with my bracket picks and backed poor game coaches even though I know better and they all came back to bite me in the ass.  I'm not making that mistake again.

Reason #2 would be how this Kentucky team, and Calipari's teams in general, succeed best when they can use their elite athleticism against teams that can't compete in that area.  I was actually expecting to be picking Kentucky to go out early this year, but seeing their matchups were against Princeton and West Virginia picking them to the Sweet 16 is one of the few things I got right.  But now going against the Buckeyes they won't be seeing any slow white dudes or whatever Joel Mazzulla is, this Ohio State team might be the most athletic team they've faced this year.  Terrence Jones will still have an edge on Jared Sullinger - and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him get the better of that match-up - but the Buckeyes or even or better everywhere else.

Reason #3 would be how Ohio State has been runnin' and jumpin' all over people's heads this whole tournament.  Take how they're playing, the points I made above, and a little reminder that Ohio State is an elite (top 10 def. efficiency) defensive team (Reason #4) and this could be a blood bath.  Oh yeah, Kentucky's faced two other top 10 defensive squads, that they've given the Wildcats two of their eight losses this year (Reason #5).  I'll be going with Ohio State big for six units, and I'm throwing a unit on the over 140, just because Ohio State might very well get to 140 by themselves.

Kansas -10.5 vs. Richmond:   At first glance this one is tough and my first impression is that isn't 10.5 points an awful lot for a sweet 16 game?  I mean like, a ton when two teams that are obviously playing well are involved?  I know Richmond's second win was over a 13 seed but Morehead was still the same team that beat Louisville and the Spiders beat them in impressive fashion.  The Spiders have played one team comparable to Kansas this year, Purdue, and beat them on a neutral floor - that bodes very well for Richmond.  They are also a good shooting team, and if Kansas has one weakness - and they don't - it's defending the jump shot.  Richmond is also solid at defending the shot, so they may be able to slow Kansas's incredible offensive efficiency and keep this one close.  Nebraska actually has a similar profile to Richmond in terms of field goal defense and tempo, and they were able to keep the game within 3 and hold them under 65 points in one of their meetings - and Richmond is much better in all facets than Nebraska.  That all adds up to enough for me to go with Richmond and the points for two units.  I'm not touching the over/under because just as likely as the Jayhawks getting held down is them dropping a hunny all by themselves.

Florida State -3.5 vs. VCU:  Ernest Hemingway wrote "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" and I'm pretty sure he was talking about Virginia Commonwealth because this ride is about to come to a screeching halt.  Actually your opinion on this game basically comes down to one question, "Do you believe in a team's whole body of work or do you think a team can completely flip the script for a few short weeks?"

VCU was always a good team, but they basically were a poor shooting team who was reliant on long-twos and three-pointers but was always able to score enough points because they took great care of the basketball.  The taking care of the basketball part is still true, but suddenly the past two games they've greatly increased their ability to put the ball in the hole.  Now they come up against Florida State, an absolutely rock-solid defensive basketball team who may actually be the best statistical defense we've seen in years, and whose #1 above all defensive strength is forcing their opponents to take, and miss, difficult twos and threes.

I know you're wondering how they were able to shred Purdue and besides the obvious (missing Kelsey Barlow) they other key here is that although Purdue ranks as a very good defensive team, they don't do anything defensively off the charts well - they're just very good at every part of defense.  FSU, on the other hand, is simply off the charts good at making you miss shots.  They aren't great at causing turnovers, they don't limit opponent offensive rebounds particularly well, and they don't really keep their opponents off the free throw line - but they are absolutely positively great at making opponents take bad shots and miss

Overall Purdue might be the better defensive team, but this match-up is absolutely perfect for Florida State, and a complete buzzsaw for the newest little engine that could.  And then couldn't.  Going with Florida State here for 4 units.  I'm also tossing a unit on the under 132 because I think there's a chance FSU keeps VCU in the fifties and they're offensively challenged enough where they couldn't possibly get to 70, but I'm limiting it to a unit because VCU seems like that annoying kind of team that will keep fouling even when they're down double-digits with 20 seconds left.  Also known as under-killers. 

Good luck to all.  Good or bad, I'll be back to break down some weekend action.  Unless I get too drunk at our fantasy baseball draft. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Gambling Perspective on the Sweet 16

I am now ready to write again. You may think the reason I haven't put any words down is because I filled out the world's worst bracket. And yes, I most certainly did fill out the worst bracket, but since I've never had any credibility anyway I don't really care how badly I look. The reason I haven't been able to put anything up is I'm still trying to recover from Chicago. Three nights of drinking until 3am - two of which started around noon - is way too many for an old man like me to handle. I've been trying to maximize my sleep in order to try to recalibrate myself back to normal. It hasn't worked yet but it's getting better, so I'm going to at least put something up so nobody thinks I'm dead.

There's no doubt my bracket is god damn awful, and I think I've figured out why other than that I suck - overthinking. It's hard to even rank the stupid things I did in making my picks, starting with believing in a Jamie Dixon Pitt team. Perennial underachievers, taking them to the Final Four would have been stupid, let alone picking them as my national champ. And he's not even the worst coach I backed, because I actually put my money behind Rick Barnes. Rick. Effing. Barnes. So dumb. Hell, after those two believing in a Lorenzo Romar-led Washington Huskies team doesn't even look bad, and that would normally be the biggest mistake one could possibly make in a bracket.

It wasn't just backing obviously poor coaches either, because there were some teams I was behind that should have had more obvious red flags. The most obvious is Notre Dame, and somehow I completely missed it and had them in my final four. Yep, I took a team that is almost 100% reliant on the jump shot to score points and suddenly expected them to be able to beat four straight NCAA Tournament caliber teams. Just stupid. But possibly not as stupid as expecting a team that just lost one of it's best players and leading rebounders to make a surprise run to the elite 8. Why did I back St. John's despite all that? Again, I'm an idiot.

The good news, however, is that although my bracket picks were god awful I did manage to come out ahead by a bit with the gambling gods thanks mainly to a heavy bet on George Mason, a heavy bet on the Zona/UNC over, and a super mega heavy bet on Darius Morris over 4 assists against Duke. So let's all clear our minds, forget my poor picks, and concentrate on picking the sweet 16 from a gambling perspective using what I learned this past weekend. We'll do Thursday's games today and Friday's games tomorrow.

UCONN -1 vs. San Diego State: Right away we hit up one of the biggest subplots of the weekend - don't back a poor game coach. Although I love Steve Fisher and the man has a national championship and a couple other Final Fours, he's the epitome of a "recruit great athletes, roll the ball out and let them play" style coach. That can work, but you run into trouble against teams with similar athletes who are backed by a game coach who can actually influence a game, and that's what you have with the Huskies and Jim Calhoun.

Two big x-factors in this game:  home court advantage for the Aztecs and Kemba Walker for the Huskies.  The game is going to be played just 2 hours from SDSU's campus so it should be a partisan crowd for them, while if you watched any basketball this year you know Kemba Walker is the kind of player who can carry a team by himself - and not only can he, but he's done it over and over in big spots.  I give the x-factor advantage to UCONN, and along with the coach factor that makes this one an easy decision.  Take UCONN -1 (3 units).

Florida -3 vs. BYU:  This one's a rematch of a thrilling first-round match-up from last year that saw BYU take the Gators down in triple-overtime.  Both teams are mainly still intact from last year, particularly Florida who has the same starting five, so if you're looking for some kind of x-factor that could be it.

Personally, I'm a bit more interested in how BYU's has survived without being exposed for a lack of a big man by Brandon Davies suspension for playing a little pickle.  Basically neither of their first two opponents has been able to throw an athletic big man at them - the type of player the Cougars need Davies around in order to slow down.  Wofford's Noah Dahlman is efficient, but he'll never be described as an incredible athlete, while Robert Sacre from Gonzaga is more of a defensive presence.  The real question is if Florida's interior players can make BYU pay for their honor code.

Neither Alex Tyus or Vernon Macklin are offensive juggernauts, although they average 20 pts and 11 rebounds per game between the two of them, but the biggest stat affecting this game is their three-point shooting - specifically their lack of interest in in with just 5 attempts between the two of them all season.  This means they're basically just going to camp in the lane - bad news for the Cougars.  SDSU's Billy Thomas and Malcolm White are similar players to Tyus and Macklin, and in the first two games with Davies BYU held them to a combined average of 17 points and 12 rebounds - both Cougar wins.  In their third game with Davies in street clothes those two went off for 30 and 19 and the Aztecs won.  Good enough for me.  The pick is Florida -3 for 2 units.  BONUS:  Take the OVER 149.5 for a unit.  Florida is going to score at will in the paint, which means BYU is going to have to score a ton to keep this close, pushing the final up into the 80s range each.

Duke -8.5 vs. Arizona:  The coaches are a wash because both are excellent in game, although maybe peg Krzyzewski half a point for pre-gaming, and give Arizona a small advantage for being the quasi-home team in this one with the Dukies traveling across the world to play.  What I'm really curious is to see how Derrick Williams of Arizona plays here, because I'm getting a bit of a Danny Manning vibe from him.

Williams, who averaged 19 and 8 this season and was one of the most efficient players in the league with a FG% of .600 (.581 from three), has scored 22 and 17 (with 10 and 9 boards) in the Wildcats' first two wins and had a game-winning play in each, one from each end (blocked shot vs. Memphis, 3-point play vs. Texas).  Of note is that Duke played a similar player to Arizona's Williams this year twice in Maryland's Jordan Williams, who went for 20 and 10 and 16 and 16 in the two games.  In Duke's late loss to UNC John Henson went 10 and 12.  Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen scored 18 and grabbed 15 in their win over the Dukies, and Justin Brownlee was 20 and 9 in St. J's win - nearly double his season averages.

Look, I'm not saying Arizona is going to win, but I am saying this is interesting.  You have one of the best players in the country carrying his team right now and running himself into possibly the #1 pick in the NBA Draft, and he just so happens to be the kind of player who Duke struggles to contain - the same Duke team that's flying all the way across the country for what will be a semi-road game.  Personally, I'm taking Arizona and the +8.5 points for 3 units, but right now if you threw a little cash at the moneyline on Zona you're getting nearly 4/1 odds.  I can see it.

Wisconsin -4.5 vs. Butler:  In many ways, Butler is just a slightly worse version of Wisconsin - both teams play very efficient offense, good but not great defense, limit opponents possessions by taking extreme care of the basketball and not allowing offensive rebounds, and play at a slow pace.  Hell, they even have the same black guy do everything ball-handler guard and big white guy combination.  The real question is:  is Wisconsin 4.5 half points better than Butler, or less?

Two things have me thinking that Butler is the play here:  Timing, and Ronald Nored.  As far as timing goes, Butler has struggled all year, even losing five Horizon games and suddenly looking like they wouldn't get an invite to the tournament.  Since a three-game losing streak mid-season they've now won the next 11 in a row including a sweep of the second best team in their league (Cleveland State), a win over a team that had previously swept them (Milwaukee) and wins over two very good teams in ODU and Pitt - clearly they're hot.  The other reason is Nored - the Bulldogs best defender.  He's not much for scoring (he'd be great as a BYU student) so he can just chase Jordan Taylor around all day and use his energy up that way, leaving Shelvin Mack free to concentrate on offense.  On the flip side, Wisconsin doesn't have anybody outside of Taylor who I can see Bo Ryan using to guard Mack, so Taylor's going to be playing double duty.  Not that he can't handle it, but it's a small advantage toward the Butler side of this one.

Look, I don't know who is going to win this one and I'm really glad I don't have to pick a winner.  I think this game is straight 50/50, but those small advantages detailed above tell me that the best bet here is to go ahead and take Butler +4.5 for two units, because this should come down to the wire.  As a little bonus, that OVER/UNDER 124 number looks pretty interesting, and I'm taking the OVER 124 for three units.  Both teams play slow but neither is a necessarily great defense.  Since both teams take great care of the basketball (and neither defense is particularly adept at taking it away), both teams will get their shots.  Since both teams are efficient scoring machines, they should score some points.

So there's Thursday's games.  Those should work out pretty well because I've got a lot better feeling for this set than I do for the next nights.  I'll do some math, run some numbers, read some things, and see how I come out.  Right now I'm thinking Ohio State and three question marks.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And Here We Go

Time to reveal my picks for round 1, both for wagering purposes and bracket purposes.  Unfortunately I won't be able to do a round 2 preview since I'll be getting my drunk on down in Chi-town with Snake, Bogart, and Dawger.  If you follow me on Twitter I will, however, promise to try to toss up as many opinions/thoughts/pics of a passed out Dawger as possible.


-  Ohio State () vs. UT-San Antonio.  No line yet, but UTSA looked pretty frisky tonight vs. Alabama State.  Of course, it turns out Alabama State isn't Ohio State.  Not at all.  I'll take Ohio State up to about 23 or 24, and jump on the roadrunners for anything beyond that.  Just like that stupid coyote always tried to. 

-  George Mason (+1) vs. Villanova:  Somehow this line has taken Mason from a favorite to a dog, which means the public is all over Nova - always a bad sign.  The Wildcasts are sliding hard and are a terrible team, while GMU could have had a Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 run in them with a different seed and/or different draw.  My largest wager of the first round.  Take Mason to win straight up.

-  West Virginia (-1.5) vs. Clemson:  I agree with the experts that the Big East is the best conference in the country and going 11-7 is pretty good, but I'm just not impressed with WVU this year.  Maybe it's because they still have the same lame backcourt, or maybe it's because Kevin Jones never became what I had hoped he'd be, but either way I like Clemson here.  And I don't even like Clemson (Tigers to win and cover).

-   Kentucky (-13.5) vs. Princeton:  I was all set to make Kentucky a victim of a first-round upset and then the brackets were announced and all my plans went to hell.  I have no doubt Kentucky will win this, but I think they start slow, probably trail into the second half, and then there overall talent will win out.  Princeton covers, but Kentucky wins.

-  Xavier (-2.5) vs. Marquette:  I love the Musketeers all the way to the sweet 16, and think Marquette lost way too many important games down the stretch to be considered any kind of serious threat.  X to win and cover.

-   Syracuse (-12) vs. Indiana State:  I like the Orange, but they are way too vulnerable in that 2-3 to penetrating guards this year (which is why they'll get dumped by Xavier in the next round).  Luckily for the Cuse, Indiana State doesn't fit that MO.  In what is likely to be the biggest spread of any first round game, Syracuse easily covers against the Sycamores.

-  Washington (-5.5) vs. Georgia:  The first match-up I've struggled with.  Not who is going to win, that's the Huskies, but that spread is just a little bit too high for me to feel totally comfortable with it.  If I had to choose I'd go with Washington, thinking they outlast the Bulldogs in the end, but if you want a better pick just take the over (Captain Circus Ball always takes Washington over).

-  North Carolina (-17.5) vs. Long Island:  The Blackbirds are a tough team to get a read on because they score a ton of points, but a lot of that comes from their uptempo style and the fact that they didn't really play anybody (their best opponent was Northwestern who beat them by 16).  I don't think they have a prayer of stopping the inside guys for the Heels.  Look for UNC to break 100 here and cover.


-  Duke (-23) vs. Hampton:  Hampton's defensive metrics are outstanding, but like a lot of these smaller conference schools they're inflated due to the level of competition.  They haven't seen anybody near to Duke's level, the Dukies generally take care of these types of teams and if Kyrie Irving is back you don't need to worry about them stepping off the gas - they need as much practice as a full team as they can.

-  Tennessee (-2) vs. Michigan:  Tennessee is one of the toughest teams in the field to figure out because they could just as easily make a deep run, including a win over Duke, as get blown out by Michigan.  When in doubt and the point spread is this small, go with the more talented team.  Vols win and cover.

-  Arizona (-5.5) vs. Memphis:  Arizona's another team I thought would be a first round upset for me, but getting matched with Memphis really helps them out.  I watched a couple of the Tigers' games in the C-USA Tournament.  This is not a good team, but I don't think Arizona is either.  When in doubt, take the points.  Zona wins, Memphis covers.

-  Texas (-9.5) vs. Oakland:  My most bummerific first round matchup.  I was convinced Oakland had a sweet 16 run in them, but unfortunately they run up against the Longhorns, criminally underseeded and not only one of the most talented teams, but also an excellent defensive squad which should help keep them upset-proof.  Still, my instincts tell me the Grizz keeps this close:  Texas wins (and ends up beating Duke) but Oakland covers.

-  Cincinnati (PICK) vs. Missouri:  This one I really struggled with until I did a bit more digging:  Missouri really struggles against teams that are strong in the paint, and Cincy is strong in the paint.  Bearcats are the pick.

-  UCONN (-10) vs. Bucknell.  Some consider Bucknell to be a trendy upset pick, citing the run through the Big East tournament the Huskies just completely and how they're probably tired.  Well, Bucknell is a decent upset pick, but that reasoning only comes from people who are stupid.  20-year old star athletes in the best shape of their lives are going to be fine.  Bucknell is a little scary simply because they're pretty good.  UCONN wins, but Bucknell covers.

-  Temple (-2.5) vs. Penn State.  I think this is the "I really would like to see Talor Battle snag an NCAA Tournament win" pick.  Take the Nittany Lions.

-  San Diego State (-15.5) vs. Northern Colorado.  NoCo has one very good player. SDSU has six.  This game is an easy win for SDSU, but NoCo has enough fire power to keep it from getting out of hand and sneaking in for the backdoor cover.  SDSU by 15.


-  Pitt (-18) vs. UNC-Asheville.  Pitt is my pick to win this whole thing, but they don't exactly strike me as the type of team to blow teams out, and Asheville isn't all that bad.  Pitt to win easy, but not by 18.

-  Old Dominion (-2) vs. Butler.  ODU is the kind of team that could have gone on a Sweet 16 run with a different seeding (and actually could and probably will threaten Pitt greatly in round 2).  Butler is a terrible team who is getting by on name recognition and is terribly overseeded as a 9.  ODU in a rout.

-  Kansas State (-2.5) vs. Utah State.  Perfect matchup for USU - a more athletic team than they are, to be sure, but also a completely undisciplined team who could, and will, crumble against a more disciplined foe.  K-State also seems like the kind of team that will get pissed if they start slow against a team they probably think they should kill and start pressing and make it worse.  Utah State wins straight up.

-  Wisconsin (-5) vs. Belmont.  Belmont is looking like a trendy upset pick - and I'm picking them as well - but I'm not sure going up against a team like Wisconsin was in their best interests.  They might be too disciplined and too efficient for a team like the Bruins.  Doesn't really matter though, because I'm picking them to win.

-  St. John's (-2) vs. Gonzaga.  Another trendy upset pick, but this one is only because people are really stupid.  St. John's is one of the best teams in one of the best conferences and has proven they can win away from their home arena.  Gonzaga is an overrated team who limped through the West Coast Conference and is getting public backing due to name recognition.  Johnnies all the way here, win and cover.

-  BYU (-8.5) vs. Wofford.  My first reaction at seeing this line was that it was way too low and BYU was going to kill them.  But thinking further, Wofford's biggest strength is scoring in the paint and without Brandon Davies the Cougars are vulnerable there.  Wofford should keep this close, but BYU wins.

-  Michigan State (-1.5) vs. UCLA.  I might be falling into the same "name perception" trap that I was making fun of people for up above, but UCLA is not remotely scary and it's just so hard to think a Tom Izzo team could possibly lose a first round game.  I gotta roll with Sparty here.

-  Florida (-13) vs. UC-Santa Barbara.  I love UCSB's guards here against Florida - the two gator guards struggle against bigger guard types, and Orlando Johnson is that kind of guard.  I just don't know that UCSB has the horses in the paint to deal with the Gator guys.  UCSB keeps this one close and covers, but Florida takes the game.


-  Kansas (-22.5) vs. Boston.  Carry on My Wayward Son vs. More than a Feeling.  Who could possibly decide?  Kansas wins and covers.

-  UNLV (-2.5) vs. Illinois.  You know how a the end of Return of the Jedi Darth Vader says to look "strike him down, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete?"  After McCamey effs up yet another game, this one to end his career, it will be just like that.

-  Vanderbilt (-3) vs. Richmond.  I'm not particularly a fan of Vandy, but I can't stand Richmond.  I will never forget how good they looked last year going into the tournament and then they got absolutely de-pantsed by St. Mary's, grabbing something like 9 rebounds in the entire game.  AS A WHOLE TEAM.  I just can't get over it.  Vandy wins and covers.

-  Louisville (-9.5) vs. Morehead State.  Morehead's Kenneth Faried is an absolute beast in the paint, but he'll have to have the game of his life for Morehead State to win.  They could keep it close though.  Lville wins, Morehead covers.

-  Georgetown () vs. VCU.  This is going to be a nice test for Georgetown, who will have their starting point guard back for the first time in about a month.  G-Town's a good bet up to about 3, and anything after that I'd go VCU, with G-Town winning overall.

-  Purdue (-14.5) vs. St. Peter's.  Even with the news that Kelsey Barlow is suspended for the rest of the season Purdue should have little trouble with St. Pete's, and this game should probably be lined at around 20 or so.  The Barlow thing makes things interesting in round 2, considering he's one of their best perimeter defenders and Georgetown is loaded with guards.  This one's easy for the Boilers, though.

-  Texas A&M (-1) vs. Florida State.  If the Seminoles had Chris Singleton they'd be the easy pick, but they don't, so I'll go with the team that is whole.  The best bet in this one though, is probably to take the UNDER.  This game could end up being 44-42.

-  Notre Dame (-14) vs. Akron.  The Irish are way too ruthlessly efficient against teams that play poor defense to let the Zips hang around.  Easy win.

So there you have it.  My Sweet 16 is Ohio State, Kentucky, Xavier, Washington, Duke, Texas, UCONN, SDSU, Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Notre Dame, Pitt, Utah State, St. Johns, and Michigan State.  Elite 8 will be Ohio State, Washington, Texas, SDSU, Kansas, Notre Dame, Pitt, and St. Johns with Ohio State, SDSU, Notre Dame, and Pitt advancing to the Final Four.

No matter what, this should be a fun year.  It's like 4 days of Christmas, and here's a little something to set the mood.  See you on the other side. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some Tough Bracket Questions

I'm just sitting here, sipping away on some Crown Royal - which I won for free at a raffle while supporting a very worthy cause, so it's win/win - and looking at my bracket picks and there are some really tough questions this year.  So why not share what I'm agonizing over?  Maybe it will give you some insight to pick a better bracket.  Maybe somebody can sway me in the comments section.  Or maybe I'll just come to a better conclusion by typing it all out.  Maybe it will even be entertaining.  Or not.  Whatever, dude it's free so just read it. 

And don't forget to join the DWG bracket pool at this link.  Valuable prizes are there to be won. 


The top half here is pretty straight forward if you ask me, particularly the 8/9 game between GMU and Nova, where Mason should kill the sliding Wildcats and Ohio State will have little trouble with anybody, including Kentucky.  I think UK was ripe for a first round upset until they were matched against Princeton, who won't be able to remotely keep up with them.  The Princeton offense is cute and can work in some instances, but Kentucky is too athletic and too fast.  It wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers keep in close for a half, but Kentucky wins hands down.

The bottom half, however, is a mess for me because both second round games are tough.  Syracuse has been both good and bad this year, however what they've had the most trouble with is teams with good, penetrating guards - which exactly what Xavier bases its offense on, particularly Tu Holloway.  On the other hand, Xavier hasn't beaten anybody out of conference play - look at their schedule, they've missed on every chance to get a good win.  But on the third hand, they did dominate the A-10, for whatever that's worth. 

The other game, UNC vs. Washington, is going to be an absolute circus ball barnburner.  Washington is a much better team than they're 7 seed, but unfortunately when circus ball goes bad it goes bad in a hurry.  Carolina on the other hand snagged a two thanks to a late run through the ACC, but looked pretty bad in their ACC Tournament games.  Is Harrison Barnes about to make the leap on the biggest stage or can Justin Holiday shut him down?  Can Kendall Marshall run with Captain Circus Ball (Isaiah Thomas)?  Is Terrence Ross's emergence in the Pac-10 Tournament a real thing or a fluky blip through a mediocre season?  Does Washington have enough skilled bigs to slow down an emerging Tyler Zeller and rebounding machine John Henson?  And can either of them stop Matthew Bryan-Amaning?

That's the game where I'm having the biggest issue, because whoever wins that is my elite 8 team opposite Ohio State.  Putting a seven seed there might be a recipe for disaster, but like I said I don't think Washington is talented like a 7, more like a 3 or 4.  In a wide open tournament they could make a big run.  In any case, that section of the bracket is without question the most talented and hardest to pick.


One of the toughest first round games here for me in Oakland vs. Texas.  I was convinced I was going to pick Oakland in their first round match up, because their entire season looks like a run-up to a first round upset:  tough non-conference schedule with a bunch of misses, easy run through the conference, an NBA player and another dynamic scorer.  And then they got Texas.  Texas, who on talent should not be a 4, but more like a 3 or even a 2.  Texas, who is equally capable of flaming out and could easily lose not just to Oakland but could even lose to a 16 seed.  I just don't know.  If Texas does get passed Oakland, however, they'll beat both Arizona and Duke.  Book it.

The bottom of the bracket is pretty straight forward other than the Cincy/Mizzou game but who really cares because neither will get through UCONN.  Until the sweet 16 matchup between UCONN and San Diego State, that's about as tough as it gets.  I don't know if I believe in UCONN, despite that run through the Big East Tournament.  Hard to pick against them, though, even if I'm a big SDSU guy.  Either way the winner of that game is your final four team, whether they end up having to beat Duke or Texas.


This is without a doubt the biggest mess of a region, at least for me, because other than Pitt winning this entire region, a lock, I've changed the outcome of basically every other game ten times.  For some reason I'm having trouble picking Belmont over Wisconsin even though my entire plan was to pick Belmont over anybody because they play so similarly.  I also want to pick Utah State over K-State because I think that's a perfect matchup for USU - an undisciplined, mediocrely coached team prone to underachieving - but they haven't beaten anybody this year and I can't stop thinking about how last year's team could keep up with Texas A&M athletically, and this year's team is probably less athletic while K-State is way beyond last year's A&M.

At the bottom here it's stunning that Florida is a two seed, and they could run all the way to the elite 8 or they could get dropped in the first round if their guards aren't shooting well.  St. Johns might be the toughest team but just lost leading rebounder and third leading scorer DJ Kennedy to a knee injury.  Everybody knows about Jimmer and BYU, but what can you expect from a team who just booted their best interior player for getting some stank on his hang down?  Then there's Michigan State who has struggled all year but hell it's Michigan State.  This year's version actually looks worse than ever, but I'm pretty sure we said that last year.  And maybe the year before.  I just don't know.

This whole region is a complete mess for me right now.  The only thing I'm remotely sure of is that Pitt is winning it.  Other than that, anything else could happen.  Hell I could see Gonzaga getting to the elite 8.  And, just to throw a little more confusion your way, Old Dominion is absolutely the worst possible second round matchup for Pitt, and as sure as I sound about Pitt winning it wouldn't remotely surprise me if ODU wins.  Crazy year.


This is the region I'm most confident in.  Kansas is a very good team that's also very vulnerable, but fortunately for them they don't face a team that can beat them until Notre Dame in the elite 8.  Louisville is a good team that will get to sweet 16 and I wanted to pick them to beat the Jayhawks, but they just aren't a good enough team to do it.  I like their guards but neither Knowles or Siva is the type to dominate a game and I don't think they have the interior guys to handle the Morrisisis's, so KU moves on. 

In the bottom half the toughest game to pick is Georgetown vs. Purdue.  The Hoyas were looking very Final Four sleeperish but faded hard once Chris Wright went out with a broken hand.  He's supposed to be back for the tournament (and it's his non-shooting hand) but who knows how it will affect him?  The game is in Chicago as well, which settled the coin flip for me and convinced me to push Purdue through to the Sweet 16.  Not that it really matters, because either team loses to Notre Dame.  Both the Irish and the Jayhawks could have been vulnerable to the right (wrong?) team, but both caught a break and are on a collision course to the Elite 8.  That will be a great game, and I see the Notre Dame pulling it out because Kansas has to choke somewhere. 

I feel better now.  I know what I'm going to do.  Go ahead and prove you're smarter than me.   And forward the link on to as many people as you want.  I'm still going to win.  And then I get to keep all the prizes.


Big Ten (12): A Quick Look Ahead to Next Year

In lieu of a week in review and before I turn my attention to the NCAA Tournament and breaking that down, which I most certainly will, let's take one last look at the Big Ten but from a slightly different perspective - what's ahead?  Assuming Jared Sullinger is the only underclassman to declare - and he should be - this is what each team will be bringing to the table for next season.  Naturally things can change - other players can enter the draft (Darius Morris, Will Buford, Trevor Mbakwe), players can transfer for whatever reason, and there could be some late movement and/or signings on the recruiting trail, particularly jucos, but here's what I see.

Also I just watched the NIT selection special and the Gophers couldn't even crack that field.  Is there any doubt this is the worst season in the history of gopher basketball?  I mean this is way, way worse than even Monson's last season.  I hate my stupid life.

Illinois Fighting Illini:
Deletes:  PF Mike Davis, SF Bill Cole, PG Demetri McCamey, C Mike Tisdale
Adds:  PG Tracy Abrams (#12 PG, #50 overall), C Nnanna Egwu (#13 C, #93 overall), SF Mycheal Henry (#10 SF, #36 overall), PF Mike Shaw (#9 PF, #58 overall), SF Devin Langford (3 stars)

That is an awful lot of talent to lose, but I feel safe saying the Illini will still end up one of the better teams in the conference next year.  That incoming class is ranked #11 in the country by ESPN, and they still have guys with a ton of talent returning in Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson, and Jereme Richmond.  In fact, they could potentially end up a new version of what Ohio State has been doing with the athletic wings who can do a little bit of anything, assuming Paul can acclimate himself to being the primary ballhandler, that is.  If he can't and Abrams isn't ready right away things could be a bit rocky - although ditching McCamey is already addition by subtraction.

Indiana Hoosiers:
Deletes:  G Jeremiah Rivers
Adds:  PF Cody Zeller (#4 PF, #20 overall), SF Austin Etherington (3 stars)

They're bringing in more talent than they're losing and that's always a good thing, but I don't know if adding Zeller is enough to suddenly make them relevant.  Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls are nice players to built around, and Verdell Jones has shown he's a quality player, but with Maurice Creek suffering another injury and looking like he may never be the same player Zeller is going to have to be a bit of a savior if they're going to compete next year. 

Iowa Hawkeyes:
Deletes:  PF Jarryd Cole
Adds:  SG Josh Oglesby (#36 SG, #118 overall), SF Aaron White (3 stars)

They're not losing anybody irreplaceable, but that's in part because they don't really have anybody irreplaceable on that roster period.  Bryce Cartwright has proven to be a good Big Ten point guard (but he's a senior next year) and Melsahn Basabe has a ton of potential, but everybody else on this roster is either meh or worse.  The newcomers are pretty underwhelming and all, so expect another rough year in Iowa City.

Michigan Wolverines:
Deletes:  None
Adds:  SG Carlton Brundidge (#27 SG, #104 overall), PG Trey Burke (3 stars)

A nice little end of the season run to get into the NCAA Tournament brings hope that this group is coming together, and they'll have to do because barring a poor decision by Darius Morris it will be the same team next year as this year.  A few months ago you would have said that was a bad thing, but it's suddenly looking like this might be a sleeper team to compete for a Big Ten title next year.

Michigan State Spartans:
Deletes:  PG Kalin Lucas, SG Durrell Summers, SG Mike Kebler
Adds:  SG Dwaun Anderson (#23 SG, #89 overall), SF Branden Dawson (#4 SF, #13 overall), SG Brandan Kearney (3 stars), PG Travis Trice (3 stars)

It's never easy to replace your starting backcourt, and even tougher when 2 other guards have transferred in the last two years.  There is a ton of talent in the frontcourt, but Keith Appling and the three freshman are all they have as far as guards.  I'd bet we'll see a fair amount of Draymond Green playing point forward next year.  Branden Dawson is supposed to be out of this world good.

Minnesota Gophers:
Deletes:  SG Blake Hoffarber, PG Al Nolen
Adds:  SG Joe Coleman (#34 SG, #116 overall), SG Andre Hollins (#40 SG, #126 overall), PG Julian Welch (juco)

Is newly inked Julian Welch the absolute key to the season because he's the only one on the team capable of being a starting point guard on this entire roster?  Yes.  Yes he is.  I know Hollins is supposedly a combo guard but in truth he sounds more like a shooting guard with good enough handle to run point if need be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm actually super super excited to watch him next year because he sounds more and more like he might be a bit underrated, but he's not a point guard.  Of course, if he follows Tubby to NC State then this is all pretty irrelevant anyway.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:
Deletes:  SG Bo Spencer, SG Drake Beranek, PG Lance Jeter
Adds:  PG Corey Hilliard (3 stars), SF Josiah Moore (3 stars), SF David Rivers (3 stars), C Zach Sterup (unrated)

The biggest unknown, simply because who has every watched a Nebraska basketball game?  I know that they return in some serious size in Jorge Brian Diaz, a 6-11, 245 lb. sophomore (will be a junior) who is talented but who didn't really develop from last year to this year.  I also know they're losing do everything point guard Lance Jeter, Derek's brother, and how can you replace those kind of intangibles? 

Northwestern Wildcats:
Deletes:  PG Michael Thompson, F Mike Capocci
Adds:  SG Tre Demps (3 stars), PG David Sobolweski (unrated), PF Mike Turner (unrated)

They lose only one major contributor, but he's maybe the most valuable player on the team.  With John Shurna, Drew Crawford, Luka Mirkovich, and JerShon Cobb all back you'd think this team would be in ok shape, but then again, we thought they'd be better this past year than they were as well with that same main core.  Look at this year's team, subtract their point guard, and add no major talents (although Demps sounds like he could end up being pretty good down the line) and I don't think next year is the year for that elusive first NCAA bid.

Ohio State Buckeyes:
Deletes:  SF David Lighty, SG Jon Diebler, C Dallas Lauderdale, PF Jared Sullinger (presumably)
Adds:  PF Trey McDonald (3 stars), SF LaQuinton Ross (#16 SF, #53 overall), PG Shannon Scott (#17 PG, #65 overall), SF Sam Thompson (#14 SF, #46 overall), C Amir Williams (#7 C, #73 overall), PF Evan Ravenel (transfer from BC)

Once again the Buckeyes simply re-load, bringing in what ESPN calls the #4 class in the nation.  Assuming Will Buford is back, and he certainly should be, adding this group to him, Aaron Craft, and scoring me Deshaun Thomas is a recipe for another top of the conference team.  One caveat:  things could get ugly, chemistry-wise, if Thomas can't learn to play a less alpha role.  He shoots nearly every time he touches the ball, and although that's been fine in an instant offense off the bench role, it won't suit him trying to replace David Lighty.  Probably will end up not being an issue, but you never know.  One can hope.

Penn State Nittany Lions:
Deletes:  SG Talor Battle, SF David Jackson, PF Andrew Jones, PF Jeff Brooks
Adds:  C Pat Ackerman (3 stars), C Peter Alexis (unrated), PG Trey Lewis (2 stars), SF Ross Travis (3 stars)

This is going to be ugly.  They lose 80% of their scoring and 66% of their rebound.  Or, to put it another way, they're losing their top four scorers and top four rebounders.  It's going to be rough, either way, especially with an underwhelming group coming in next season.  I like Tim Frazier a lot, but he's not exactly the kind of player you can build around.  Problem is they don't have anybody who fits that description.

Purdue Boilermakers:
Deletes:  C JaJuan Johnson, SG E'Twaun Moore
Adds:  PF Donnie Hale (#25 PF, #144 overall), PF Jacob Lawson (3 stars)

I have no idea what this team will look like without Johnson and Moore.  Hummel will be back and presumably healthy so that will help, but otherwise it's a bunch of unknowns.  Who steps up out of all the other guys?  Kelsey Barlow?  Can Lewis Jackson turn into a more dominating score type point guard?  Who knows, but no matter what happens they're certain to take a step backward.

Wisconsin Badgers:
Deletes:  PF Jon Leuer, SG Tim Jarmusz, PF Keaton Nankivil,
Adds:  SG Traevon Jackson (3 stars), C Frank Kaminsky (3 stars), PG George Marshall (3 stars), PF Jarrod Uthoff (#29 PF, #150 overall)

Looking at their roster changes for next year on paper you'd think there's no way Wisconsin can contend, but we've been watching Bo Ryan for years and know by now it doesn't matter what it looks like on paper.  Not to mention Jordan Taylor will be back for yet another year, and this time he'll be asked to carry even more of the offense.  I'm actually looking forward to seeing just how good he can be, knowing full well that it's going to depress me.

So here is your very, very early prediction for next year's Big Ten standings:

1.  Ohio State
2.  Illinois
3.  Michigan State
4.  Michigan
5.  Wisconsin
6.  Minnesota
7.  Purdue
8.  Northwestern
9. Indiana
10.  Nebraska
11.  Iowa
12.  Penn State

Now let's close the books on this Gopher season and just enjoy some March basketball.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Last Few Get it Going

Colorado somehow stayed alive yesterday, roaring back against Iowa State in a game they trailed the entire way to make sure the Big 12 didn't lose every bubble team yesterday, because Nebraska and Baylor are now dead after their two losses to the Oklahoma schools.  The only other significant result from yesterday was Marquette's win over West Virginia, which moves them to lock status.  And congratulations to Northern Colorado, whose win in the Big Sky final over Montana puts them in the tournament and assures we get to keep saying NoCo for at least another week.  Also Long Island makes it in as well with a win over Robert Morris.  I bet Miles Tarver is thrilled.

For today:

BIG TEN:  If the Gophers hadn't pissed away this season I might be tempted to do a full on Big Ten Tournament preview.  Luckily I don't have to deal with that problem, and instead am just going to half-ass this one because we all know everything about the Big Ten already.
FAVORITE:  Ohio State.  Nation's best team.  
SLEEPER:   Michigan.  They might be playing as well as anybody in the conference that isn't Ohio State.
W's PICK:  Ohio State.  Even if they don't give it their full effort they're still that much better than everybody else in the conference.  It might be good for the rest of the league if William Buford manages to play himself into a first round draft pick and bolts.  Also I predict the Gophers lose to Northwestern by 20.
WHO'S DANCING:  Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois

ATLANTIC COAST:  The most bubblicious of all the conferences, Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Clemson are all fighting hard for bids, while Maryland might hit the bubble if they can swing it to make the championship game, and Florida State might be nervous if they lose their opener (if it's Georgia Tech)
FAVORITE:  North Carolina.  This assumes Kyrie Irving isn't back for Duke, but either way Carolina is suddenly legit.  The switch from Larry Drew to Kendall Marshall has done wonders for that offense, and I'm not sure Marshall shouldn't have been freshman of the year over Barnes.  Dangerous team in the tournament, serious Final Four potential.
SLEEPER:   Virginia Tech.  They have a hell of a one-two punch in Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen and they've shown the ability to hang with and beat great teams (beat Duke, took Purdue to overtime).  Unfortunately they've also shown the ability to get beat by crappy teams (swept by BC, lost to Georgia Tech) and that's why they're fighting for their bubble life.
W's PICK:  Duke.  Whereas UNC is streaking and Roy Williams has admitted he doesn't much care about the ACC Tournament, Duke needs to right the ship and Coach K is going to go after this one.  With little to really separate these two teams that could be the difference.
WHO'S DANCING:  Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson

SOUTHEASTERN:  Pretty sad what's happened to the SEC, once one of the top conferences in all the land which now been replaced in the top 6 by the Mountain West.  Even their "good" teams (Kentucky, Florida, Vandy, and Tennessee) are shaky enough that if there isn't a single SEC representative in the Sweet 16 it wouldn't be remotely surprising.
FAVORITE:  Florida.  The Gators have the #1 seed and best record in the conference, even though I think Kentucky is a slightly better team.  Their guards, specifically Kenny Boynton and Ervin Walker, are the kind that will give you fits in March.  They could carry this team on a nice run, but they're just as likely to shoot you out of a game.  Risky team to back, but then again you could say about most the SEC Tournament teams because Kentucky and Tennessee are all the same way.  Vanderbilt is probably the only remotely reliable squad.
SLEEPER:   Mississippi State.  A roster with Renardo Sidney, Dee Bost, Ravern Johnson, and Kodi Augustus on it is definitely talented, but chemistry, coaching, and off the court issues combined to make this a disappointing and NIT-bound season for the Bulldogs.  Unless of course they can put all that aside and win this tournament.  The talent is certainly there.
W's PICK:  Kentucky.  The SEC Tournament is just meaningful enough that a John Calipari team should do well and just meaningless enough so his team won't implode.  Unlike the NCAA Tournament where they'll lose their opener.  Sorry, but Brandon Knight isn't the guy who can carry at team in March.
WHO'S DANCING:  Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia

BIG WEST:  Dan Monson central.  He's certainly got this program moving in the right direction, and a conference record of 14-2 says they are the prohibitive favorite to win the autobid, but there are a couple of interesting teams who could rise up.
FAVORITE:  Long Beach.  They're the best team by a wide margin, no matter how you want to look at it and and they come in on a 9-game winning streak that includes a win over every other conference foe.
SLEEPER:   UC-Santa Barbara.  They've got two absolutely outstanding players in do-everything Orlando Johnson (who led the league in scoring at 20.2 and chipped in 6.6 rebs and 3.1 assists per) and fellow swingman James Nunnallly who was good for 17-6-2.  Two guys like that, who can do everything, handle the rock, shoot, and have good size can be a nightmare for an opponent.
W's PICK:  Long Beach.  They not only ran through the conference but did it with ease.  Plus having a Dan Monson led squad in the tournament and not the Gophers is the kind of cruelty the universe loves to visit upon me.

In today's action keep an eye on the SEC and ACC, as detailed above.  Georgia needs to get by Auburn, Boston College by Wake, and Virginia Tech by Georgia Tech.  There are a handful of other games that could have some affect on bids (Mich State vs. Iowa, Wash State vs. Washington, USC vs. Cal, Colorado vs. Kansas State) but those are the three where if the wrong team loses, their hope for an NCAA bid goes bye-bye.