Tag Archives: Seton Hall Pirates

The Real Madness of March

Every year, I spend far more time and energy than I should filling out my NCAA Tournament March Madness bracket.  I debate whether chalk or Cinderella’s will prevail.  I agonize over which 12-5 upsets are ripe for the picking.  I look at strength of schedule and see who beat who, as if that matters.  Then, I spend the entire tournament second guessing myself.

Inevitably, I get caught in between rooting for my bracket and cheering for those Cinderella’s that capture our hearts.  It ends up being a very stressful month and at the end, I never feel like I have fully enjoyed what is truly an amazing sporting event.

I like to act as if I know what I’m talking about when predicting these games.  Really, I don’t.  None of us do.  Why bother pretending?  It’s not like I’m a big college basketball fan anyway.  I mean, sure, I watch the tournament religiously.  The first Thursday and Friday of games are days that I believe should be national holidays.  Why play the charade of going to work and acting like I’m not watching online?  I am.  #SorryNotSorry (I am, however, sorry I just used that expression. #NeverAgain)

Anyway, when it comes to regular season college basketball, I never watch many games.  This season though, that’s never been truer.  Confession: I watched a grand total of three full college basketball games this winter.  The complete list: Mt. St. Mary’s vs. Michigan (I was actually in attendance), Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Go Bearcats! #BeatX), and Tulsa vs. Cincinnati (Again, I was in attendance).

So, yeah, I don’t really have any idea what went on this college basketball season.  (Though, I hear tripping people has become a hot button issue.)  What I do know, from hardly following along, is that there was a lot of movement in the Top 25.  It seems to me that this is one of those years where there are a ton of good teams in the field, but not many great ones.  Is that a fair assessment?  Honestly, I’m asking.

Let’s highlight some things as I take my first look at the bracket.  (That’s right; I didn’t watch the selection show either.)

East

Hey!  Mt. St. Mary’s made the field… sorta.  The only first round upsets I have here are Marquette over South Carolina and New Mexico State over that Baptist school in Waco, Texas.  Give me Virginia over Florida in the second round.  Other than that, there’s nothing too exciting.  Looks like an easy path to the Final Four for defending champion Villanova.

Midwest

Woo, lots going on here.  First, Michigan State got lucky.  The Spartans are bad but the Hurricanes sound beatable.  The rest of the first round seems pedestrian but man, look at these possible second round matchups.  Kansas vs. Michigan State is enough said.  Iowa State meets Purdue in a battle of teams with high hopes.  Creighton vs. Oregon will be fun.  And Michigan gets a shot at revenge against Louisville.  I’m still upset about 2013 and, as a result, I’m going into full homer mode.  The Wolverines beat the Cardinals, the Ducks, and the Jayhawks on their way to Phoenix.  (#SorryNotSorry… Damnit, that didn’t last long.)

West

Smart guy alert in the 8-9 matchup as Northwestern and Vanderbilt get together.  Wait, the Northwestern Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament!  Congrats to them.  I’ll even pencil in an opening round win for them before getting smacked by Gonzaga.  Give me the other smart guys at Princeton to pull the upset on Notre Dame.  On the bottom half, I’m going a little upset crazy.  Florida Gulf Coast makes another run to the second weekend with wins over Florida State and Maryland.  And St. Mary’s finds its way to the Elite Eight for a fourth try at besting West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.  You know what they say, “it’s tough to beat a team twice, thrice, four times in the same season.”  Well, Gonzaga will.

South

I’ve got Seton Hall beating Arkansas for the same reasons I have Marquette beating South Carolina.  I’m Catholic and the SEC is still a terrible basketball conference, until proven otherwise.  Middle Tennessee State earns its second tourney win over a Big Ten opponent in as many years, my second 12 over 5.  Cincinnati will beat UCLA with a superior defense the likes of which the Bruins have never come up against.  Unfortunately for my adopted school, the Kentucky Wildcats will be waiting in the Sweet Sixteen.  North Carolina will be able to handle Coach Cal’s bunch en route to yet another Final Four.

Final Four

Last year’s championship game was so phenomenal, why not have a rematch?  Michigan and Gonzaga fall victim to destiny.  This time around, Villanova won’t need a buzzer beater.  The Wildcats will repeat, beating North Carolina quite easily.

There you have it.  Now all that’s left to do is wait until Thursday so I can hide my internet browser behind some important-looking work stuff and enjoy this damn thing for once.

I recommend you do the same, but don’t expect many of you to.  That chance at glory is too tantalizing to pass up, isn’t it?  Yes, you’d rather drive yourself crazy trying to arrive at the perfect bracket that you’ll literally never achieve.

And to you all I say have fun losing your group for the umpteenth time to your aunt who bases her picks on the team mascots.  After all, this is the real madness of March.

E-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll send you back an invite to my bracket group.  Should be easy to beat me since I’m not trying, right?

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview

Ladies and gentlemen, here are your games for the Second Round of the Midwest Region:

1 Virginia vs. 16 Hampton

8 Texas Tech vs. 9 Butler

5 Purdue vs. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock

4 Iowa State vs. 13 Iona

6 Seton Hall vs. 11 Gonzaga

3 Utah vs. 14 Fresno State

7 Dayton vs. 10 Syracuse

2 Michigan State vs. 15 Middle Tennessee

Overview

When I look at this bracket, I see it being a chance to be either a straightforward, no upsets region or a complete bracket buster with a bunch of upsets. First, you have a controversial 1-seed in Virginia. After thinking about it, Oregon shouldn’t have been a surprise 1-seed at all; Virginia should have. Oregon won their conference tournament, but Virginia didn’t. And to make the situation more dramatic is that Michigan State is sitting at the bottom of the region as a 2-seed after winning their conference tournament. Does the committee not value the Big Ten? Who knows with those people. In addition to that, Michigan State got placed in the same region as Purdue, whom they just beat for the Big Ten tournament title. Oh, the irony! Anyway, here are a few takes that I have from this region:

Favorite to win the region:  2 Michigan State.

Sparty won’t admit it, but they feel snubbed not getting a 1-seed. The only one not feeling this is Tom Izzo. The dude is a bracket wrecking ball. Izzo knows that seeding doesn’t matter since the Spartans went to the Final Four a year ago as a 7-seed. He doesn’t care; his team can beat anyone in the country. Michigan State is once again in the same bracket as Virginia, whom they have beaten the past two years in the NCAA Tournament. Advantage:  Sparty.

Surprise team that could win the region: 6 Seton Hall

There’s always a team in every region that can sneak up on you and knock off a few giants, and before you know it they are in the Final Four. That team this year is Seton Hall. The Pirates just finished off winning the Big East tournament by beating #5 Xavier and #3 Villanova in consecutive nights. Those are some big boy wins. Seton Hall is high on life right now and is one of the hottest teams in the country coming into the NCAA tournament. No one wants to play Isaiah Whitehead and the Seton Hall Pirates right now. Too bad Gonzaga has to.

Major upset to think about in the second round: 5 Purdue vs. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock

Purdue is a big team with two 7-footers and crashes the boards like it’s their job, but they could run into a tough game against UALR. The Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock are one of the best defensive teams in the country, only giving up 59.6 points a game. Purdue is decent on defense and averages 77.7 ppg on offense. UALR is a really slow-paced team on offense, which could lull the Boilermakers to sleep on defense. This could be a good game, so don’t count out the Trojans just yet.

Team that could knock off 1 Virginia: 4 Iowa State

Iowa State starts off having to face an intriguing Iona team and then has to play against either Purdue or Arkansas-Little Rock before they have a chance of playing 1-seeded Virginia. Georges Niang is a stud for the Cyclones, who can take on anyone. Iowa State has already beaten Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, and Colorado, so they are no stranger to taking down good teams. The problem is that Iowa State gives up 81.8 points a game, which is a lot. Virginia only scores 59.7 points a game, which is not a lot. Something’s got to give. If both teams get to face each other in the Sweet 16, Iowa State is more than capable of beating top-seeded Virginia.

Team that could shock 2 Michigan State: 7 Dayton

Michigan State is a lock on most brackets to get to the Final Four, but no so fast. The Spartans will have a tough test in the third round by potentially playing Dayton. At one point this season, Dayton was a top 15 ranked team, won nine in a row, and looked like a Final Four contender. The Flyers caught the injury bug with one of their studs in Kendall Pollard being out for a while with a knee injury. Dayton lost a close game to Saint Joseph’s the other day, but if Dayton is clicking and playing at their best, the Flyers can play with and beat anyone in the country. They have been successful in the NCAA tournament the last two years, getting to the Elite Eight in 2014 and getting to the third round from the First Four in 2015. Archie Miller is a great coach and an even better one during tournament time. He has already taken down great coaches such as Thad Matta and Jim Boehiem in this tournament, so Tom Izzo is certainly not overlooking the Flyers if they end up playing each other.

E-mail Chris at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @chrislvsketchup.

Stats from ESPN.com

Picture from creativecommons.org

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.