Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness

Selection Sunday has come and gone and now we set our sites on fine tuning our brackets.  Everyone wants to have the edge in their respective office pool.  Everyone wants to have bragging rights when it comes to picking the big upset. 

But regardless of our vast knowledge, we all know Janice from Accounting will once again win the pool by picking teams based on uniform color.

This being said it truly is the best tournament in the world.  Where else for a three week period can the entire nation come together in the name of basketball?  Tides will turn.  Games will be decided by last second heroics.  David versus Goliath.  I am salivating as I write this. 

This time last year I went through region by region and listed my power conference player to watch, mid major player to watch, a sleeper pick, potential upset special, my sweet sixteen, my elite eight, and my final four pick.

I will continue this trend with yet another analysis with maybe a little bit extra.  It is time to dance!


Power Conference Player to Watch:  Ryan Kelly, Senior, Forward, #2 Duke

The Dukies are a different team with this sharp shooting big man than they are without him.  The numbers don't lie.  They are 18-1 with him in the line up and their only loss was an ACC tournament loss to scrappy Maryland.  Of those wins they were against the likes of Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State, and Miami, Fla.  He strokes the three with great touch for a big man at 48%.  He stretches the floor for others on his team to succeed like center Mason Plumlee.  He may not be the most athletic player in this bracket but he could very well be the most valuable.  Keep an eye on Kelly and the Blue Devils to make a serious run to the Final Four in Atlanta.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Doug McDermott, Junior Forward, #7 Creighton

For the second year in a row there is no other mid-major player in this bracket worthy of consideration than McDermott.  He has once again led his Dad's club in scoring at 23.1pts per game and also grabs 7.5 rebounds per contest.  He has a multitude of scoring moves and almost does it with ease.  He has the potential to lead this MVC stalwart into the next weekend if they can get a break or two against a potential second round match up with Duke.  Should be fun to watch him teach the Cincinnati Bearcats how to Dougie.  And everyone else how to Dougie!

Player with Best Name in Bracket: Mogboluwaga Oginni, Freshman, Forward, #7 Creighton

May I buy a vowel???  He doesn't see much action, 0.4pts/0.3rbs, and that is a good thing for the announcers ticketed for his match up.

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Seth Curry, Senior, Guard, #2 Duke

In his case you could say, "Who's your Bro?"  He is the son of former NBA marksman Dell Curry and current NBA three point assassin Stephon Curry.  The boy has NBA shooting touch running through his veins.  Somebody needs to package and sell that in GNC.         

Sleeper Pick:  #4 Saint Louis Billikens

They have six players who average between 7-13 points and are a veteran team with a roster full of juniors and seniors.  They also are playing for the memory of the late great Rick Majerous who past away.  He was a great coach throughout his career and an even better person.  These players are hungry to keep his memory alive and want nothing more than to march on.

Potential Upset Special:  #12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma State

Oregon was the winner of the Pac 12 tournament and according to just about every analyst televised yesterday felt they were grossly undervalued.  Using this as fuel don't be surprised to see them pull this upset in a 5/12 game that almost every season has one or more. 

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Louisville v. #4 Saint Louis, #3 Michigan State v. #2 Duke

Elite Eight:  #4 Saint Louis v. #2 Duke

Final Four:  #2 Duke



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Aaron Craft, Junior, Point Guard, #2 Ohio State

The college games closest thing to Gary "The Glove" Payton we have seen in some time.  He has the best on-the-ball defensive skills and quickest hands that allows him to deflect and disrupt would be passes.  He averages two steals per game and those are just the ones he is able to come up with on  his own.  He and his teammates create such havoc on the defensive end it makes up for their offensive shortcomings.  Craft averages 9.9pts and 4.6 assists per contest.  His confidence has blossomed of late and he is becoming more aggressive in driving to the lane.  He needs to attack the basket and dish dimes to guys like Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith, Jr.  If you don't see Aaron Craft's cheeks a flush rosey red color then he isn't having a very good game.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  (tie) Tony Snell, Junior, Guard, Kendall Williams, Junior, Guard,  #3 New Mexico

The majority of folks would have chosen Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, but they are a number one seed this year,  and I really don't consider them a mid-major program any longer.  New Mexico is an up an coming program in a very competitive conference.  The Lobos are led by this combo of guards, Snell/Williams, that have created a great deal of happy times in "The Pit".  They follow the lead of their coach, former Indiana super shooter Steve Alford, and could take this team to new heights.

Player with Best Name in Bracket:  Igor Hadziomerovic, Sophomore, Guard,  #13 Boisie State

Maybe the 5.4ppg of this guard will get Boisie over the HUMP and into the second round to face Bruce Weber's Kansas State ball club.  Yes, master, we will wait and see.   

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Madut Bol, Senior, Center, #16 Southern Jaguars

Son of former NBA center, Manute Bol, he sees the floor just under ten minutes per game and he averages just above 1pt and 1rb per game.  Not a shot blocking force like his old man but nice to know a Bol is still playing hoops.

Sleeper Pick:  #8 Pittsburgh Pathers

The Big East representative, sitting with a 24-8 record, have been battle tested and ready for a rumble.  Pack a lunch type of team.  Jaimie Dixon is a great coach and really needs a breakthrough in the NCAA tournament after disappointments in past trips.  The potential match up with Gonzaga in the next round could be a saving grace for the Panthers.

Potential Upset Special:  #11 Belmont over #6 Arizona

Arizona has not fared well against Bruins this year, three losses to UCLA, and why not these Bruins of Belmont.  They are led by scorer Ian Clark, a Senior Guard.  Belmont was a #14 seed last year and have built on that success and hope to create some excitement in Salt Lake City as a lower seeded underdog.  If the threes are falling and the lack of achievement out of Arizona's athletes could be a perfect storm for an upset.

Sweet Sixteen:  #8 Pittsburgh v. #5 Wisconsin, #3 New Mexico v. #2 Ohio State

Elite Eight:  #8 Pittsburgh v. #2 Ohio State

Final Four:  #2 Ohio State



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Otto Porter, Jr., Sophomore, Forward, #2 Georgetown

Mr. Everything for John Thompson's Hoyas has literally carried them to the top of the Big East and a 25-6 record.  He has all the skills you want in a talent and leader.  He puts the ball in the basket in variety of ways.  He can shoot the three and also has the strength to go down low and get an old fashioned three point play that would have the likes of Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning proud.  He is a potential high draft choice in the NBA draft.  His ability to knock down free throws at a high rate separates him from other players in his category.  Could bring back glory days of old for G'Town.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Nate Wolters, Senior, Guard, #13 South Dakota State

The poor man's Steve Nash  has an all around game that doesn't show nary a weakness.  He can fill it up from deep and break your ankles on a cross over and make you look dumb doing it.  The Jackrabbits leading scorer, 22.7ppg, has steadily increased his totals over his four years.  He has the potential to be a good player at the next level.  It should be a great match up against another great guard in Michigan's Trey Burke.  If Nate the Great has it raining threes in Auburn Hills it could be another early exit for the Big Ten.

Player with the Best Name in Bracket:  Sooren Derboghosian, Junior, Center, #6 UCLA

I don't think the late John Wooden had anyone by that name for sure.  The little used center has only logged 7 minutes in heaven but is shooting a scorching 100% from the field.  Ok, so he is 1-1 but who is counting! 

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Tim Hardaway, Jr., Junior and Glen Robinson III, Freshman, #4 Michigan

The sons of NBA nickname hall-of-fame greats Tim "Killer Crossover" Hardaway and Glen "Big Dog" Robinson have definitely made their pops proud.  The younger Hardaway scoring 14.8ppg and "Little Dog" Robinson making amazing plays throughout the course of the season.  Michigan will need a "killer" performance on a "Big" stage to advance far in this tournament.

Sleeper Pick:  #5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams

The "Havoc" they play at VCU lead them to the Final Four a couple years ago.  Now they are in a new league, A-10, and have what some consider a better team than what Shaka Smart led to the promised land.  It will take yet another full court press and turnovers galore to make another magical run but with a Smart man leading them it would be hard not to put Smart money on VCU.

Potential Upset Special:  #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA

This one game will be decided by one stat.  Rebounding.  UCLA rebounds like they are playing hot potato.  Minnesota, although on a downward spiral lately, rebounds very well.  Trevor Mbakwe will need to own the paint and with help from the Hollins boys it should be party time for Tubby and his team.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Kansas v. #4 Michigan, #3 Florida v. #2 Georgetown

Elite Eight:  #4 Michigan v. #2 Georgetown

Final Four:  #2 Georgetown



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Cody Zeller, Sophomore, Center, #1 Indiana

This seven footer dominates the game.  The Hoosiers power post player is almost unstoppable when he gets position against his opposition.  As he goes so does Indiana.  He not only scores but rebounds and runs the floor like a gazelle.  He leans on his teammates to feed the beast and this guy is starving for a championship.  Zeller has shown an ability to carry his team on his back and clutch victory from the heart of his opponent when his team most needs him.  This was never more evident against Michigan the last game of the regular season when Indiana won the Big Ten outright on the road in dramatic fashion.  Could be Hoosier Daddy come April.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Rotnei Clark, Senior, Guard, #6 Butler Bulldogs

The Arkansas transfer has not disappointed in his one and only season with the Bulldogs.  He is picking up where he left off with range that begins when he enters the gym.  He can  hit threes from all over the court and has a clutch ability in his being that allows him to send daggers through the heart of those who doubt him.  He sent Marquette packing in Maui with a wild three and has not stopped since.  Could be another key contributor to Coach Brad Stevens's already stellar tourney resume.

Player with the best name in the Bracket:  Bak Bak, Senior, Center, #12 California

The Johnny Two Times of the tournament who's name is so nice you  have to say it twice.  He has almost as many fouls (18) as rebounds (20) this season.  Will probably be a very short stay for the Golden Bears cause UNLV will make them go the papers, get the papers.  Their walking papers.

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Shane Larkin, Senior, Guard, #2 Miami, Fla

The son of Hall of Fame shortstop, Barry Larkin, he has lead the Hurricanes to an ACC regular season championship and ACC tournament championship.  He is as steady as they come for Miami's veteran squad.  He directs this team like Marty Scorsese and puts them in position to win.  He made the right choice in basketball and the only triple play he hopes to create is lasting into the third weekend of this tournament.

Sleeper Pick:  #6 Butler Bulldogs

Not much more you can say about one of the best tournament ready teams in recent memory.  They play hard, tough, and smart.  All direct reflections upon their future Hall of Fame coach Brad Stevens.  He has carved out a nice niche in Indianapolis and knows who he is and where he comes from.  Refreshing to see and highly respectable.  Always a tough out in the NCAA's.  This season will be no different.

Potential Upset Special:  #14 Davidson over #3 Marquette

Coach McKillop's Wildcats are annually one of the little known teams nationally but within the ranks of college basketball they are well known.  They are always playing tough high caliber talent in the nonconference like Duke, Gonzaga, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Vanderbilt.  They will not be scared to face Marquette so Buzz better have his guys ready for a fight.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Indiana v. #4 Syracuse, #6 Butler v. # 2 Miami, Fla

Elite Eight:  #1 Indiana v. #2 Miami, Fla

Final Four:  #1 Indiana


FINAL FOUR - Atlanta

#2 Duke v. #1 Ohio State

#2 Georgetown v. #1 Indiana

National Championship Game:  #2 Duke v. #1 Indiana

National Champion:  #1 Indiana

Most Outstanding Player:  Cody Zeller

Mr. Zeller came back to school for two things.  One, he wanted to bring Indiana basketball back onto the national scene.  And two, he wanted to win a national championship.  The Hoosier guards need to remember who got them there and get him touch after touch after touch down low.  He is more skilled offensively than Duke's Plumlee and IU's Victor Oliodipo will shut down Seth Curry and make his shot erratic.  Best conference.  Best Team.  National Champ.

Let the games begin!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Raiders of a Lost Art

 picture courtesy of drafthouse.com

Think for a minute about the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark and when Indiana Jones is running fearfully away from that immense boulder just barrelling down on him like a runaway freight train.  He is feverishly scrambling every which way in order to get himself out of harms way.  Danger lurking at every angle he finally reaches the outside and safety. 

It was exciting to see, exiting to experience, and dangerously fun for all.  It was definitely well worth the price of admission!

Not unlike a potential storming of home court after a dramatic last second win or huge program altering upset.

This example brings me to what has transpired this past week when Duke and Virginia hooked up for an ACC battle.  The up and coming Virgina Cavaliers finally downed a Blue Devils team they hadn't beaten in many many a try.  

The students ultimately stormed the court and chaos ensued.  Coach K wasn't the least bit amused and was very upset at the reaction of the students towards him and his players.  He didn't come out and say he wanted court storming to be banned but he just wants his players safe.

Court storming needs to stay in college basketball.  This is as much a part of college basketball these days as the three point shot or the one and done rule. 

The students who make up every teams fan base makes college basketball the special sport it is.  The raw emotion of wanting your school to prevail against a top ranked team or heated rival is unquestionably why storming the court is so awesome.

If you have ever been a part of this process it has to be awe inspiring.  To be one of the mad dashers has to be exhilarating.  I have never been in the scrum but have been in the building when one is taking place.

Andy Kaufman and a buzzer beater...yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!
 I was lucky enough to score tickets and attend the Illinois versus Iowa contest when Andy Kaufmann drained the now famous three and the Orange Krush just attacked him and the rest of the Illini players.  I was beside myself and wanted desperately to be a part of the moment.  It was pure joy!  It is a memory I will cherish forever. 

It is such a rush that your emotions just take over your body, even watching it from afar.  It is hard to hold back when your adrenaline is pumping full force and you just have to hug everyone you see and "be in the moment". 

This only happens in college basketball and to a certain extent the high school level.  When you are playing for the name on the front of the jersey as opposed to the name on the back of the jersey it makes all those involved part of a family.

When Dee Brown was roaming the halls of Assembly Hall he would constantly puff out his Illinois chest and let everyone in America know this was Illinois basketball.  This is what storming the court brings to the table.  Students are in college for only a short time and then we all have to grow up and become adults.  

Why not let loose and experience the moment as long as it is genuine.  Illinois knocking off #1 Indiana and storming the court is legit. 

Hypothetically, Northwestern beating Penn State not so much. 

You don't want storming the court to be come cliche but it can easily get to that point if fans just want to be "part" of the game.

There is a great deal of this going on these days and it has lost some of its luster as it seems teams and their fans are just waiting to storm the court when it really isn't warranted.  It is beginning to become a lost art. 

We need to get back to why this act was so special and not make it cheap and petty.   

I understand the act-like-you-have-been-there-before argument, as well as, the safety aspect that Coach K was upset with last week.  Both are valid arguments but sometimes you just have to explode and celebrate.

I was listening this past week to Mike and Mike in the Morning, on ESPN, and they had former coach Dan Dakich on and he was asked his opinion on this issue.  His response was shocking to them.  He mentioned during his days at Bowling Green he had a player who was, in his mind, an NBA talent injured during a storming and it otherwise ended his career and Dakich's too as a coach. 

Yet, he would still encourage the fans and students to storm the court because it is what college basketball is all about.  I found this very interesting.  He and this player basically had their careers ended when an occurrence happened during a court storming and he still loves it so much he would encourage it. 

It shows his love of the game of basketball and how much he understands the fans love of the game and their team. 

The next time you are attending a basketball game and it looks like an upset or buzzer beater may just happen remember that the hoards and hoards of fans out there storming the court for the love of the game is good for college basketball. 

We have enough art forms in our world taken away from us and storming the court is an art that we definitely don't want to be lost and stored away in some massive warehouse.