Tag Archives: Miami Hurricanes

The only thing missing from the Sweet 16 is a #16 seed

Obviously that’s an exaggeration.  Other seeds besides the 16’s have been obliterated from the NCAA Tournament field after the first weekend.  Hell, there’s not one #5 seed remaining.  It just feels like we’re only missing a #16 because we still have a #12 Oregon, #13 LaSalle, and #15 Florida Gulf Coast still hanging around the bracket.

As with any inexact science, I was hit or miss with some of my pre-tournament predictions last week.  However, I’ll give it another crack now that the field has been whittled down a bit.  To try and maintain some semblance of sanity, we’ll start with the most orderly region, and work our way to insanity.  So here we go with a breakdown of the Sweet 16, starting in the East region.

East

The only region to stay true to form in the Sweet 16.  Not that it didn’t come awful close to blowing up.  Indiana, Miami, and Marquette each escaped by the skin of their teeth.  I’m sticking to my guns in the East.  I still think the Syracuse Orange make it to the Final Four.

Although I’m a firm believer that many championship runs are started with narrow victories, I don’t think it’ll hold true for the Hoosiers.  The Syracuse zone defense, along with their length and athleticism will be bothersome for Indiana.  Plus Jim Boeheim has the big bodies to throw at Cody Zeller all day. 

I didn’t think Marquette would make it past day one, so I certainly don’t think they’ll get past the Hurricanes.  It’ll be another battle, but Shane Larkin is playing so well, I think he’ll lead the Hurricanes into the Elite Eight.  But two straight physical matchups with Big East foes, and a short prep time for the ‘Cuse zone spells the end of Miami by the end of next weekend.

Midwest

The #1 Louisville, #2 Duke, and #3 Michigan State survived, so that makes for a pretty normal region.  #12 Oregon joins them; but as I said before the tournament, that seed didn’t make a lot of sense for the PAC 12 Tournament champions. 

The Ducks are the fun story in this part of the bracket after knocking off the #5 seed Oklahoma State and #4 St. Louis; a team that was supposed to threaten the likes of Louisville and make a run to the Final Four.  Well, the fun ends for Oregon on Friday.  The Cardinals have ramped up an already nasty defense to a new level.  Oregon isn’t going to enjoy it.

Coach K and Coach Izzo is a matchup of epic proportions.  Like Louisville, the Spartans have put a couple of beat downs on their competition.  Quietly Duke has gone about their business, cruising to two easy victories.  I’m just not sure how the Blue Devils are going to handle the frontcourt of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. 

Like they did in 2009 the overall #1 seed Louisville Cardinals will face Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, on one day’s rest.  The game will be held in Indianapolis once again.  The outcome will not be the same.  The Cardinals will take this one, and move on to the third weekend.

South

The #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have become the headliner, despite the presence of some heavy hitters.  #1 Kansas looked asleep in the first half against #8 North Carolina, but woke up in time to stomp the Tar Heels in the second half. 

I had my doubts about #4 Michigan coming into the dance, but they’ve more than proved me wrong.  The Wolverines throttled #5 VCU; and are the one team that is making me question my original Final Four projection.  I still think the Jayhawks best them.  Better coach, better defensive team, and plenty of talent to go toe to toe with Michigan.

One would assume at this point that the #3 Florida Gators should smoke FGCU.  Then again, the Eagles were supposed to get smoked in the round of 64.  I won’t claim to know a ton about this club.  But when I watched them play this past weekend, I didn’t see a team skating by on luck.  I saw a team that was outplaying what was supposed to be better competition.  I’ve got to think the Gators will prevail, but I sure hope FGCU makes it fun.

I still have a chance to salvage three of my original Final Four picks.  The Jayhawks won’t disappoint.  The Gators are making a habit of exiting in the Elite Eight.  They’ll do it again this year.  Kansas takes them down, and marches on to Atlanta.

West

This is the region of insanity.  The #13 LaSalle Explorers are trying to replicate the play-in game magic that VCU showed a couple of seasons ago.  It’s not a surprise to me, but #9 Wichita State shocked #1 Gonzaga, ousting the first top seed.  And the west did have what looked to be the major upset of the tournament when #14 Harvard upset #3 New MexicoThat lasted just until some team named FloridaGulfCoast arrived on the scene.

The nice thing about the LaSalle and Wichita State matchup is that it guarantees a mid-major makes the Elite Eight.  On the other hand, one of them will have to go.  I think it’ll be LaSalle.  I’ll go with the Shockers to move on and face the winner of Ohio State/Arizona.

The Buckeyes/Wildcats is an intriguing matchup.  Arizona was a popular pick to go out early.  The talent is certainly there, but running into Aaron Craft without a true point guard is an issue.  Craft will give the Wildcat guards fits.  Ohio State will send the Wildcats packing.

The West region will be decided by a brawl.  Two tough defensive teams, that struggle to score at times.  Malcolm Armstead versus Aaron Craft will be an unbelievable duel.  In the one region where I lost my Final Four pick, I think Ohio State gets it done.  Too much experience and the better floor general move on to the Final Four. 

Obviously, it’s never going to be this simple.  Although it looks like the bracket is about to normalize with higher seeds after this weekend, there’s bound to be more insanity.  I can’t wait until Thursday night for the Madness to continue!

March Madness Predictions

The most wonderful time of the year is here!  March Madness is just two days away.  Sorry play-in games, or First Four, whatever you want to be called.  The real tournament starts on Thursday.

Countless brackets will be filled out feverishly in the next few days.  Everyone has a method to the madness.  Or there are those who use a lack of an actual system, as their method of filling out what they hope to be a winning tournament bracket.

While I won’t do what Hayden was so generous to do for you yesterday, and provide you his entire bracket; what I will do is provide my take on each region.  It’ll be a mix of prediction, evaluation, and flat out speculation.  Just a little something for you to go with, or against while filling out your brackets.

The first thing I’m going to do is pick the games of the First Four.  I think bracket pools should evolve to where these are used as bonus points.  Extra credit for getting your bracket in by Tuesday.  In these games I like North Carolina A&T over Liberty; St. Mary’s to beat Middle Tennessee State; Boise State takes out La Salle; and James Madison ousts LIU Brooklyn.  They may not seem important, but it wasn’t long ago that VCU used the First Four as a springboard to the Final Four.

Alright, so here we go, region by region.

Midwest

Who will come out of the Midwest?

Answer: Louisville Cardinals – Matchups are so important in the tournament.  The greatest advantage the Cards have is that they can matchup with anyone.  The other critical variable is that U of L is predicated on defense.  No matter what, they are always in games because they will wear the opponent out, and get points off of their defense, even when the offense is struggling.  This is a deep, experienced team led by senior point guard Peyton Siva; focused on getting back to the Final Four.

Which dark horse team could take the region?

Answer: St. Louis Billikens – This is another gritty defensive team, with a lot of experience.  The core of this team gave Michigan State all they could handle last year in the round of 32.  Yes, I realize they are a #4 seed, which is a little high for a dark horse.  However, in a region with Louisville, Duke, and Michigan State, it’s fair to say that it would take a Cinderella run for anyone else to come out of this region.

Which lower seed could make some noise?

Answer: Saint Mary’s Gaels – I was leaning toward the Oregon Ducks, simply because they were seeded improperly.  However, this is a Gael’s team that has been to the tournament, and has a ton of experience.  Although they have to play an extra game, which may put the Memphis Tigers on upset alert, I wouldn’t be surprised to see St. Mary’s win two games.

Who will disappoint?

Answer: Duke Blue Devils – At most, I envision Duke getting to the Sweet 16.  While there’s no shame in getting there, and losing to say Michigan State; more is expected from this team.  The Blue Devils also face a tricky second game.  Creighton could be particularly dangerous; and Cincinnati would be no easy task either.  Duke could be heading home early for the second straight season.

West

Who will come out of the West?

Answer: New Mexico Lobos – The Lobos have stellar guard play from Kendall Williams and Tony Snell; and they have a legit seven-footer in Alex Kirk.  There’s not much in their way until the Sweet 16 and a possible matchup with Ohio State.  New Mexico has all the components necessary to make a Final Four run.

Which dark horse team could take the region?

Answer: Wisconsin Badgers – The Badgers are positioned at a #5 seed partially because the Big 10 teams beat the hell out of each other.  As usual Bo Ryan seems to have an endless supply of big guys who can pound you on the glass and defensively; and can also stretch the defense from the perimeter.  Wisconsin should cruise to the Sweet 16; and could be a real problem for Gonzaga, assuming the Bulldogs make it there.

Which lower seed could make some noise?

Answer: Wichita State Shockers – I was tempted to say Belmont, but I think everyone, including Arizona is aware of what the Bruins can do.  Not that WichitaState is an unknown; I just think they’re better positioned to make a run.  The Shockers struggle to score at times, but they’ll get after it defensively, and come at you in waves.  I strongly considered picking WichitaState to knock out Gonzaga in the round of 32.  I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.

Who will disappoint?

Answer: Gonzaga Bulldogs – The Zags definitely deserved a #1 seed, and they are a really good team.  However, the top line also makes them a prime candidate to be a disappointment.  Unless this team finally cracks the seal, and makes a Final Four; it will be exactly that.  I just don’t see them negotiating through Wisconsin.  If they do, either New Mexico or the Ohio State Buckeyes will take them out in the Elite Eight.

South

Who will come out of the South?

Answer: Kansas Jayhawks – The Jayhawks didn’t lose a ton from last year’s National Runner-up.  Bill Self is one of the elite coaches in the game.  They have a nice mix of upper classmen (Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford) and youth (Ben McLemore, Perry Ellis).  If things go as I think they will, Kansas may run the VCU Rams, and I doubt they get tripped up by them again.  Anything can happen, but I don’t see much at the bottom of the region to keep them from Atlanta.

Which dark horse team could take the region?

Answer: VCU Rams – So I just said Kansas gets out of the region.  Well, if anyone could take them out, I say it’s VCU.  Shaka Smart’s team gets up and down, shoots the triple, and creates havoc on defense.  They really don’t look physically imposing, but they are relentless.  The Rams can’t overlook the Michigan Wolverines in the round of 32.  However, VCU is more than capable of making a deep run.

Which lower seed could make some noise?

Answer: South Dakota State Jackrabbits – Any team with Nate Wolters has a chance to cause problems.  The fact that Michigan isn’t a top flight defensive team helps immensely.  Wolters should be able to get his offense going, and he has enough support to get out of the round of 64.  Reaching the Sweet 16 would be huge for the Jackrabbits, and certainly feasible with a possible mid-major matchup in the round of 32 with either the Akron Zips or VCU.

Who will disappoint?

Answer: Michigan Wolverines – About 15 games into this season, I thought the Wolverines were the best team in the country.  Trey Burke is a Player of the Year candidate.  They have firepower galore.  They also settle for a lot of perimeter shots, and don’t play very good defense.  Combine that with an underwhelming coach in John Beilein; and you have a tournament disappointment.

East

Who will come out of the East?

Answer: Syracuse Orange – I realize the Orange didn’t exactly set the world on fire down the stretch.  The talent and experience is there to make this a formidable foe in the tourney.  The Orange has solid guard play, and James Southerland has been torching the nets from three.  The first major test should be the Indiana Hoosiers in the Sweet 16.  For teams that haven’t run into it often, the length of the Syracuse zone defense can be a real problem.  I think both Indiana and the Miami Hurricanes struggle with that problem and the Orange crash the Final Four.

Which dark horse team could take the region?

Answer: Temple Owls – The East seems like the least likely to have a dark horse representative in the Final Four.  However, my rationale is simple.  Temple plays a methodical style, and has a player in Khalif Wyatt who is capable of carrying a team on his back.  If the Owls were to knock off Indiana in the round of 32, I could see them making their way through the weakest of the regions.

Which lower seed could make some noise?

Answer: Bucknell Bison – This is a flat out good team.  Mike Muscala will be a household name by the time the Bison exit the tourney.  Bucknell is well balanced, and has played major competition.  This is the one double-digit seed I’m confident will go to the Sweet 16 at minimum.  They’ll get by the Butler Bulldogs and then oust the Davidson Wildcats after they pull the upset of the Marquette Golden Eagles.  Once they get that far, who knows what can happen.

Who will disappoint?

Answer: Indiana Hoosiers – Again, being the top seed has its privileges, and its drawbacks.  The Hoosiers have been their own worst enemy when they’ve lost this season.  They just seem to lose focus.  I don’t see them keeping it for three straight weeks.  If they do, they could win it all.  If they don’t, they could suffer a worse fate than the Sweet 16 ouster I’ve predicted for them.

Final Four

As you can see, in breaking down the regions, I gave you my Final Four picks.  Louisville out of the Midwest region vs. New Mexico out of the West region.  Kansas out of the South region vs. Syracuse out of the East Region.

I’m picking my Louisville Cardinals to once again overcome the New Mexico Lobos.  They battled last season in the round of 32.  This time the stakes are higher, but the outcome will be the same.  The Cardinals take a close one.  The Kansas Jayhawks will end the improbable run by the Syracuse Orange on the other side of the bracket; setting up a Louisville vs. Kansas matchup for the National Title.

I’m picking the Louisville Cardinals to get their third National Championship.  Final score: Louisville Cardinals 72 Kansas Jayhawks 65.

Explaining My Bracket

 

Before the incredible creator and organizer of this blog, Mr. Josh Flagner (@RailbirdJ), has anything to say, yes, I am a HUGE Ohio State homer. I am a student at The Ohio State University and I love my school and my team an incredible amount. Now, does that have anything to do with the Buckeyes winning the National Championship in my bracket? Maybe, but I am going to try to defend my choice to the best of my abilities.

First of all, here is my bracket:

Hayden's Bracket

As you can see, it’s not too risky because I really don’t believe in picking upsets just for the sake of picking upsets. Any team can upset any team, but unless there is solid evidence as to why they will do so, I am not going to pick a random upset just “because”. For some people it works, and they get lucky. I’d rather be good than get lucky.

My first round upsets go as follows:

Cincy over Creighton, Minnesota over UCLA, Mizzou over Colorado State, and Villanova over UNC.

Why? Well, I guess I’m going by conferences. UCLA plays in an incredibly weak Pac 12 while Minnesota has been ok in the Big Ten, by far the best conference in college basketball. Cincinnati plays in the Big East, a great basketball conference, while Creighton plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri plays in the weak SEC, but plays Colorado State from a weaker Mountain West. The Villanova over UNC upset doesn’t follow this criteria quite as closely as the others do, but I truly believe that UNC is uninspired and plays in a much weaker ACC than we are accustomed to. While it may not be the most sound logic in the world, I just think that teams with tougher competition know how to beat teams that haven’t played anybody.

My round two upsets are as follows:

Wisconsin over Kansas State, VCU over Michigan, Minnesota over Florida.

These upsets weren’t really based on any formula, just the simple “this team is going to beat this one” logic. Wisconsin has beaten some of the top teams in the NCAA tournament including Indiana twice, Ohio State, and Michigan. While I cannot stand their slow style of play, Bo Ryan’s boys will handle Kansas State rather easily. We’ve all seen what Shaka Smart is capable of and while he should be in Los Angeles soon coaching the UCLA Bruins, Smart is going to take his Rams to victory over a struggling Michigan team. Michigan looked like Final Four contenders at a certain point, but since have failed to amount to much of anything. Some say they peaked at the wrong time and I’d definitely agree with that statement. Florida looked awful yesterday and has looked awful at various points throughout the year. Unable to win a SEC Championship in a terrible down year for the SEC, the Gators are going to be shocked when a hungry Golden Gophers team comes around and beats them up.

Round Three looks a little something like this:

No Upsets.

I know it’s shocking, but I just don’t see any upsets happening in the Sweet Sixteen. Oklahoma State could take down St. Louis, but the Billikens have come on EXTREMELY strong as of late. Wisky could definitely beat Gonzaga, but again, I just think they have too much firepower for the big, slow Badgers. The game I am very wary of is Kansas beating VCU. I honestly think that Bill Self’s team could be headed back home after this game, but I could also be very wrong. The Jayhawks have laid low in terms of media hype for quite a while after a losing skid, but surprisingly jumped back on the bandwagon and were able to secure a number one seed. That streaky Kansas squad could make an immediate comeback and get blown out of the water early on. Watch out for that upset, one that I just wasn’t sure enough about to put on my bracket.

Round Four upsets:

Ohio State over Gonzaga and Georgetown over Kansas.

I wouldn’t really call Ohio State over Gonzaga an upset, but in terms of the Bracket, Gonzaga is a one seed while Ohio State is a two. Ohio State may be the dark horse to win it all after an atrocious start to the season. They haven’t lost since a drubbing in Madison, Wisconsin, have beaten Michigan State twice in that time, and took down Indiana in Bloomington on Senior Night. Aaron Craft is finally playing up to his potential and the Gonzaga Zags may not know what is coming their way. Kansas will not make the Final Four no matter what. That team we saw in the midway point of the season is going to comeback, it’s just a matter of when. Otto Porter and Georgetown, from the rough and tough Big East, are going to take down the Jayhawks on the way to Atlanta. If it’s not Georgetown, it will be somebody else, but again, Kansas is not cutting down the nets on their way to the Final Four.

My Final Four:

Louisville, Ohio State, Indiana, Georgetown.

How we got here:

Many people picked Miami to beat Indiana, that’s not going to happen. Miami is a decent basketball team in a down year for the ACC. Sure they beat Duke, but they also lost to Boston College. Outside of Duke, Miami hasn’t played great competition and when the Hoosiers come a-callin’, the Canes won’t be ready to answer. Louisville has shown their might, winning the Big East Championship, and may be the best team in this tournament. Duke has shown their flaws and Rick Pitino’s group is certainly going to  expose them. Georgetown just got the luck of the draw in terms of an easy road to the Final Four. Trashing Florida Gulf Coast, San Diego State, Minnesota, and Kansas, the Hoyas really were never challenged on the way to Atlanta. Ohio State had tough match-ups with New Mexico and Gonzaga, but they found a way to overcome both opponents. Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, and Sam Thompson have certainly found their way at just the right time, and the Buckeyes are primed and ready for a showdown against the Louisville Cardinals.

In the National Championship Game will be…

The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers.

When I said the Big Ten was by far the best conference in college basketball, I meant it. There will be two Big Ten teams in the Final Four, and they’re going to be the best two teams in the Final Four. Ohio State could very well be beaten by Louisville, but if I didn’t have faith in my Buckeyes, what would I have? They won’t lose in the Semi-Final two years in a row. They’ll find a way to beat the mighty Cardinals and make it to their first National Championship since Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. lead the Buckeyes to the Title Game in 2007. As for Indiana, they should take down Georgetown pretty easily. Their size will be too much, their stars will be too much, and their experience will be too much for the Hoyas.

In the National Championship Game, the Ohio State Buckeyes will beat the Indiana Hoosiers 75-74. Ohio State knows Indiana like the back of their hand. They’ve played these guys twice, and they’re going to know exactly how to handle the mighty Hoosiers. In their last matchup, Ohio State used Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott to rattle Indiana into 14 turnovers. They’re going to use that same tactic and regardless of Tom Crean’s gameplan to stop it, the best on-ball defender in the nation, Aaron Craft, is going to take down the Hoosiers almost single handedly.

So there you have it folks.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are your 2013 National Champions.

We all know that March Madness is named as such for a reason. It truly is a coin flip, pick out of a hat, tournament that anyone can win for any reason. I have reason to believe that my Buckeyes can get it done, but I also have reason to believe that Indiana, Louisville, or even VCU could take home the title as well. If I was completely unbiased, however, I would still pick Ohio State to win it all. They hit their stride at the right time and have played the toughest competition in America.

Of course, I am probably going to lose all of my bracket challenges, but it’s all in good fun. Some people have different methods to the “Madness”, and as you can see I went with conference supremacy. No method is truly accurate. Some who flip a coin see better results than those who research the teams and the games through and through. Regardless of who you pick, it’s all so much fun. Whether your bracket bleeds with red ink or is perfectly green, we can all enjoy this amazing little thing they call the NCAA Tournament.

I would really LOVE to see some of your thoughts on my picks as well as your own picks for March Madness. Let me know in the comments section of this page or on Twitter @H_Grove if you think I’m a genius or a basketball buffoon!

College Basketball: The Top 4 are primed for top seeds in the Big Dance

Finally, March is here and we’re just a couple of weeks away from Selection Sunday.  Although things have settled down a bit at the top of the AP poll, the teams occupying those spots have been far from perfect.

Indiana and Duke each had multiple losses over the last few weeks.  They’ve been able to maintain their status in the Top 4 based on some timely losses by some of the previous occupants of those slots.  The Miami Hurricanes and Michigan State Spartans made brief appearances in the Top 4, but have scuffled a bit in the meantime to drop out of the pack. 

Barring any inexcusable losses to finish the regular season, or during Conference Tournament play, the current Top 4 should each earn high seeds, if not #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.  As March Madness begins to appear on the horizon, here’s a look at the current Top 4 teams in the land.

 

Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-2) – For the first time in school history, Gonzaga University is the #1 team in college basketball.  For the first time in school history, the Bulldogs may also grab a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

In previous seasons, deserving Gonzaga teams have been knocked down a few slots based on their perception as a glorified mid-major.  Assuming they don’t lose in the West Coast Conference Tournament, nothing will keep them from claiming a #1 seed this season.

Mark Few has consistently sought out tough non-conference opponents, and this season was no different.  The Zags haven’t lost since a buzzer-beating heartbreaker against Butler back in January at Hinkle Field House.  This team has a solid core, and the right make up to go far in the Tournament.  Kevin Pangos is a steady lead guard, and they have a powerful frontcourt led by Elias Harris and seven-footer Kelly Olynyk. 

It’ll be interesting to see how Gonzaga reacts to being the hunted rather than the hunter.  In a season that lacks a dominant team, the Bulldogs could achieve another first, a Final Four appearance.

 

Indiana Hoosiers (25-4) – The Hoosiers have outstanding players.  They have a pretty solid coach in Tom Crean.  They have a really strong record at 25-4.  What I don’t understand though, is how a team this good could lose four games they really had no business losing.

After an impressive win over Michigan in early February, the Hoosiers blew an eight point lead with under four minutes to play against an average Illinois squad.  Weeks later, Indiana followed up a statement win at Michigan State, with an inexplicable loss at Minnesota a week later. 

Indiana has to close out against the Ohio State Buckeyes at home, and then visit Michigan.  If they were to lose one or both of those games; and then not take home the Big Ten Tournament title, the Hoosiers would be the most likely candidate to get knocked down a seed in the big dance.

Based on how much talent they have, I’ll assume at this point that they can put it all together, and make a run to the Final Four.  However, a team that has proven to have lapses in effort or focus cannot afford one of those once the tournament starts. 

 

Duke Blue Devils (25-4) – As expected, the Blue Devils suffered very little damage while Ryan Kelly sat out with his injury.  Kelly came back in a big way this past Saturday, and led Duke to a huge win over Miami.  With a healthy roster at his disposal, it’s hard to bet against Mike Kryzewski and the Devils making a run.

Yes, they did pick up a couple of road losses.  However, losing at Maryland and Virginia is completely acceptable without all hands on deck.  The return of Ryan Kelly will relieve a lot of pressure that was placed upon some of the supporting cast during his absence. 

Miami has shown they can be considered a legit ACC contender, and North Carolina is starting to play better.  However, the ACC Tournament title is Duke’s to win or lose.  I’m betting on Coach K having his team laser focused on taking the tournament crown, and locking up a top seed in the NCAA’s.

 

Kansas Jayhawks (26-4) – The Jayhawks started off February looking like a complete fraud.  A three game skid to start off the month, which included an atrocious loss to TCU, put them in a bit of a tale spin. 

Bill Self and crew have quietly gotten themselves back on track, and have run off seven straight victories.  This version of the Jayhawks doesn’t feel as strong as the Final Four team from 2012.  However, there’s plenty of talent to make a similar march to the final weekend.

There’s plenty of experience with guys like Jeff Withey, Kevin Young, and Elijah Johnson.  Blend that with stud freshman Ben Mclemore and you’re good to go.  Coach Self is one of the best in the game, and he knows how to make the proper moves to get his teams going at this time of the year. 

 

It’s no foregone conclusion that any of the current teams in the Top 4 will get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Gonzaga is a virtual lock for a #1, as they have no regular season games left, and should be able to win the WCC Tournament.  Duke finishes with North Carolina, but again, the Blue Devils will be favorites to win the ACC Tournament, which would put them in a top line.  Kansas doesn’t face a challenging schedule to end the year.  The Jayhawks should cruise at least to the Big 12 Finals.

There aren’t too many candidates to snatch a top seed away from the current Top 4, but there are a couple of teams that could pounce if anyone stumbles.  Michigan is still in prime position as they can still get a statement win against Indiana, and potentially win the Big 10 Tournament. 

Even though the Big East is considered down this season, 5th ranked Georgetown, and 8th ranked Louisville may still factor into the top seeds.  If either one of those teams wins the Big East Tournament; it will be difficult for the Selection Committee to keep them off the top line.

The madness is upon us!  It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks leading up to Selection Sunday.

Mark Emmert is the Queen of England

markandqueen

Who has the toughest job in America with no power? Mark Emmert. In the United Kingdom they’d call him the Queen of England, and that’s too bad because I think Emmert has the best of intentions.

I know Mark Emmert is in a tough position because he really, really wants to be like Roger Goodell, but in reality he has no operational control over the organization that he runs; the NCAA. He is a figurehead, and one that has embarrassed the association for the better part of three years. Emmert cannot compel athletes or coaches to testify and has no say in what punishment is handed out to those who violate the association’s arcane rules.

Unfortunately for Emmert, there is no way he can enact any change that will be make the association as svelte and efficient as it needs to be. He has fought the good fight, but hasn’t necessarily done a good job fighting. He has had his head buried in the sand, and his enforcement investigators have made him look foolish. He’s been through two enforcement managers and no one in their right mind believes the investigation into Miami’s transgressions has been handled fairly.

Yeah, we know Miami cheated their asses off, got caught, and will likely face sanctions this June. On the other end of the spectrum is Penn State, which committed virtually no violations of NCAA regulations, and was basically given the death penalty. You can argue Penn State had a moral authority to do this and that, but the reality is they didn’t commit any violations. Emmert somehow convinced Penn State’s board of board to accept sanctions out of fear that the Committee on Infractions (COI) would hand down much severe penalties.

I’m guessing the people at Penn State forgot Emmert has no control on the actual penalties handed down by the COI while the people at Miami didn’t.

Pretty sure Emmert doesn’t look like Roger Goodell, but don’t tell that to anyone in State College, PA.

Anyone have an idea of what the real problem could be? Let me explain it to you. There are academic people – who are very smart – attempting to manage and run a sports enterprise. There isn’t a university in America that has a president, chancellor, provost or any of those other fancy titles that has ever run any form of a sports organization.

Know who is in charge of the NCAA? Mark Emmert, former president of the University of Washington. Before Emmert, was Miles Brand, former president of university of Indiana, who is known mostly for firing Bob Knight. What do they have in common, neither has run any type of sports property in their careers.

Arguably these two have been two that have defined the NCAA and its current direction more so than any other administrator before them, and neither has any real operational control of the organization nor has run a sports enterprise before taking the job.

The Executive Director of the NCAA is basically the Queen of England. The only difference is the Queen cannot be removed and makes a hell of a lot of money…and she gets a pretty nice car.

Can Emmert save himself? Sure, but it won’t help the organization or the student-athletes the association is supposed to serve. The best thing Emmert can do is go to those who hired him, demand the association be completely re-organized and quit the day those changes are implemented.

Do I see Emmert becoming a patsy for the greater good? Of course not.

So, since he won’t demand change and will likely be fired for his employee’s shoddy work on the Miami investigation, another university leader will be hired and the cycle will continue.

Don’t place the blame on the Emmert, NCAA’s Queen of England, but blame college presidents whom refuse to empower him to enact the change that is much needed in Indianapolis.

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The Time is now for Real Change at NCAA

The time has come for a complete overhaul of the NCAA and the way it investigates infractions. I know, you were hoping I would say it’s time to blow the entire organization up and start all over, but it isn’t. And if you think in terms of the big picture, hopefully that day will never come.

Here is what I know about the NCAA: It is really good at hosting tournaments at all levels, and it is really good about making the collegiate student-athlete experience great for 99% involved. What it is not good at is investigating and enforcing penalties infractions against the 1%. I’m Catholic, which means I know nothing about math, but for the sake of this argument the 1% here are 120 member schools that belong to Division 1-A (FBS).

At the very top level the organization doesn’t appear to have the chops or the staff to enforce penalties or to even conduct fair investigations. Often the investigations take many years to complete and penalties meted out by the different Committees on Infractions (COI) aren’t consistent.

Look, I know, these people don’t have subpoena power, but investigators and the COI need to use that to their advantage. If a person is not willing to cooperate with the COI or its investigators then don’t punish them or whomever you’re investigating. Move on and give that person or school the benefit of the doubt.

DM to COI: you are not a de facto grand jury, and to think you are is as distasteful as it sounds.

This week NCAA President Mark Emmert announced there was a significant problem with the investigation involving Miami (FL) and how it was able to obtain information. The NCAA admitted that it caught itself paying Nevin Shapiro’s attorney for information. Most of the facts are not available because the NCAA is conducting an external investigation of its entire enforcement division.

The perception we have of the NCAA and how it investigates and enforces the crimes of the few is pretty bad. College presidents and industry observers have been asking for a complete overhaul of the entire system. They want to make the rule book and penalties simpler, and if this investigation and the problems that arose from it don’t hasten those changes nothing will.

Unfortunately for those who may have been wrongly persecuted or over-penalized in the past, this won’t help you. But if it reduces the chances of current or future student-athletes and coaches from paying for the sins of their predecessors, then any change is 100% better. When the COI hands out bowl bans or reduces scholarships against schools like Penn State, USC, Alabama, etc. and the primary actors have already left the schools the only people they are hurt are student-athletes.

I know, most of you think the athletes should get paid, while I argue they already are, but that isn’t the point. The point is punish those who commit the crimes, and if they are out of reach punish those who enable them to do so. If this means taking significant amounts of money from schools, do so. If this means giving scholarships to non-student-athletes, do so.

Case in point; Ohio State’s athletic program is one of the few in the country that generates a profit through its athletic program. If the NCAA had taken its profit after expenses, while leaving all scholarship and post-season opportunities intact, I promise you other schools would have paid attention. For schools that don’t generate yearly profits through its athletic department, take money from the universities, but not from tax payers or at risk of reducing non-student-athlete scholarships.

Taking money is a better penalty than taking scholarships away from teenager’s who didn’t sell rings or buy their mothers cars or houses with booster money. Don’t believe me, ask Penn State, they’d gladly hand over $60 or even $120 million dollars instead of having to deal with reduced scholarships and a long-term post-season ban.

The changes I’ve suggested aren’t likely, so what are your ideas on better NCAA penalty enforcement?


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An all Catholic College Hoops Conference would be a revelation

Conference realignment in college athletics has been a maddening process to watch unfold over the last few years.  As a hardcore college hoops fan, I’m disappointed to see the Big East dissolve.  I won’t say I’m sad; after all, it is just an athletic conference.  But I am disappointed.

Growing up in the 80’s, the Big East was huge.  At that time, the amount of college hoops on national television was a mere fraction of what it is today; but you could count on seeing a Big East game on TV every weekend of the College Basketball season.

It seemed that every single March, I’d be watching an awesome Syracuse-Georgetown match up in the Big East semis or championship.  That rivalry is now gone.  Along with some other really great rivalries which developed over the lifetime of the Big East.

Although I’m disappointed with the loss of the Big East, I’m excited about the prospect of the remaining Catholic schools forming a league; along with the possibility of expanding to a nationwide Catholic basketball conference.

Now, my enthusiasm for this idea has nothing to do with religion.  I was raised Catholic; however, religion is not a part of my life.  There are other reasons for my enthusiasm for such a league.

First and foremost, I’m excited to see a conference whose members actually have something in common.  Conferences used to be regionally based.  The majority of conferences made complete sense.  The ACC had schools which resided on the Atlantic coast; the SEC was made up of schools which were in the Southeastern part of the United States, etc.

When teams would realign in the past, they typically would relocate to a conference that made sense regionally.  South Carolina joined the SEC.   Boston College and Miami joined the ACC.  You see where I’m going with this.

All of that went out the window with the latest boom of realignment moves.  The Big East was set to take on schools like Boise State, San Diego State, etc.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but those schools are out west.  Nothing against those schools; but that sort of tomfoolery really makes my Rainman-ish side itch.  I appreciate reason, logic, and order.

The formation of an all Catholic schools league would be logical.  Not only will the formation of a conference of all Catholic schools be logical because of the common thread they share; but it would also be a dang good college hoops league.

The Big East holdovers form a strong base of teams steeped in basketball tradition.  Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova have each won National Championships.  DePaul, Providence, St. John’s, and Seton Hall have each played in the Final Four.  Although most of that success dates back to the ’70’s & ’80’s, these are still successful programs.

What would make this a really great league, would be the possible additions that have been rumored.  If schools like Butler, Dayton, Creighton, Gonzaga, St. Louis, St. Mary’s, and Xavier join, it would make for a fun, yet powerful basketball conference.

There are enough top tier schools to be a force in the NCAA tournament.  Many of those schools consistently reach the second weekend of March Madness.  Even though the league would be strong, it wouldn’t be top heavy.  The talent gap between the first place team and the last place team wouldn’t be significant.  Once proud schools like DePaul and St. John’s would have a chance to revive after being buried in the Big East for years.

If all of those schools would come together, there’d be some awesome built-in rivalries.  Georgetown-Villanova will always have the Big East ties, and the 1985 NCAA Championship.  Butler/Xavier has been downright nasty in recent seasons.  Natural regional rivalries between St. John’s/Seton Hall, Dayton/Xavier, and Marquette/DePaul would exist.  Plus, the conference would span the Midwest with St. Louis/Creighton; and the West coast would be covered with Gonzaga/St. Mary’s.

Obviously this is a lot of speculation.  We know the seven Big East teams are on the move, but right now, there are only rumors about which other schools may join them.  Who knows if this will actually happen?  I certainly hope it does.  Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think an all Catholic schools league would produce some pretty awesome college hoops.