Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's Madness...!

What have we learned after the first--ahem, second--round of the NCAA Tournament, a k a March Madness?  Well, we know why Warren Buffett is not only smart but shrewd--who's surprised that no brackets, anywhere, are still in play for Buffett's $1 billion carrot for those hoping to pick a perfect bracket?  We also know that, as a friend tweeted, "what the tourney giveth, the tourney taketh away" (see VCU, Duke, and Ohio State.)

Let's do some grades, shall we, on early round action...

Pass:  12 seeds.  This is a tournament that, at least initially, will be known for the 12 seeds' dominance over five seeds--North Dakota State, Harvard and Stephen F. Austin all showed why the five seed is, annually, susceptible to the upset.

Fail:  Not only did five seed VCU fall to Stephen F. Austin but they did it by giving up a four point play with less than a second left in regulation.

Pass:  Thank you, NCAA and CBS, for expanding this tournament to Turner such that all games are televised and available for easy switching, to and fro throughout the day.

Fail:  Albany's unis.  Did you see those two-toned shorts?  Talk about a Glamour don't...

Pass:  Wichita State did what one seeds are supposed to do--they took care of business and easily demolished Cal Poly.

Fail:  Quick service burger restaurants.  What's with McDonald's cursory use of Johnny Manziel in the LeBron James commercial?  And, it's two days in and I'm already tired of the Burger King spot with Chris Webber and the obnoxious screaming fan.

Pass:  Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist.  Raftery is the most engaging, fun color guy of the tournament and Lundquist makes the perfect foil and sidekick.  Yeah, these guys are long in the tooth but their voices just scream "March Madness."

Fail:  Gus Johnson, where are you?  We want you back...

Pass:  Kansas' freshman.  We all expected 19 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks from Andrew Wiggins but it was the two least heralded Jayhawk frosh--Conner Frankamp and Frank Mason--who provided significant minutes and production off the bench.  Frankamp steadied a ship that was taking on water in the first half with his steady play and ended up with 10 points, four assists and no turnovers in 25 minutes of action.

Fail:  Duke--it was the Blue Devils second opening round flameout in three years.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Reflections from the Big 12 Tournament

Greetings from downtown KCMO--home to the Big 12 tournament and the headquarters for fans of March Madness.  Let's kick it around as we observe the comings-and-goings here in the Power & Light District.

Bruise brothers team:  The Big 12 could field quite a bruise brothers team--I'm going with Tarick Black of Kansas, Cameron Ridley of Texas, Thomas Gipson of Kansas State, Jamari Traylor of Kansas, and Rico Gathers of Baylor.

Worst mascot:  It's a tie between the horse of Oklahoma and the Phillips gas pump guy.  I know, I know--the Phillips "thing" is a sponsor mascot but, seriously, that is a freaky looking life form.  The OU horse is just flat out weird and only makes sense if you like mullets.

KCMO:  Could the city have picked a worse time to seemingly have construction happening on every street and major artery into and in downtown?  The roadways were packed yesterday and, once downtown, parking was at a premium given all of the office parking spaces that were already in use.

Best game:  With deference to KU-OSU and those teams' overtime thriller, the best game award goes to Iowa State beating Kansas State.  There were numerous lead changes, opposing crowds going crazy, and NCAA Tournament seedings on the line.  For Kansas State, the loss puts them at 3-5 over their last eight games--not a good way to enter the Big Dance.

Creepiest promotion:  The Motel 6 Kiss-Cam is just downright awkward.  "We'll leave a light on for ya" indeed...

Best player:  Andrew Wiggins of KU put on a show yesterday.  While everyone is marveling at his 30 points, let's consider that he held Oklahoma State's Markel Brown to five of 13 from the field and one of four from three, with the one make an incredible fall-back jumper by Brown over Wiggins' outstretched arm.  Wiggins grabbed seemingly every rebound in the overtime and was simply the best player in any game yesterday in Sprint Center.

Nice touch:  The public address announcer thanked the ESPN Regional/Big 12 Network crew yesterday as this is the last year for that group's involvement with the tournament.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It's's (soon to be) Madness!

Let's throw it around a bit, shall we, as we enter the best college hoops month of the year.

Kudos:  Let's give it up for Wichita State.  The quest for an undefeated regular season has been well-documented--the thing that makes this team a delight to watch is that word "team."  The Shockers are unselfish, play hard, trust each other, and know their roles.  Yes, they've only played a couple of teams in the top 100 RPI but going undefeated, against anyone, is an unprecedented accomplishment.  All eyes are now on how WSU will fare once they have to play a team, likely in the second round, that will be better than any they've faced thus far this season.

Out of control:  Yesterday's out-of-control award goes to head coach Mick Cronin of Cincinnati followed by John Calipari's ejection in the Kentucky-South Carolina game.  This has not been a season of laudable coaching behavior and Cronin's antics yesterday were over the top.  Calipari, by comparison, simply looks like a guy who's about to blow given the frustration of coaching this year's Kentucky squad.  (By the way, remember when the preseason talk of an undefeated season was linked to Kentucky?  Yeah, what happened...?)

Can you see me?:  Just as Cronin's "I get no respect" sideline histrionics were embarrassing, let's not forget "TV Teddy" Valentine's role in this whole sideline drama.  Valentine is widely known as the one college hoops ref who adores the spotlight--his confrontation with Cronin was partially avoidable had TV Teddy not gone after the Cincinnati coach after the first verbal barrage.

Marcus, Marcus, Marcus:  Marcus Smart, sadly, is his own worst enemy.  A scintillating talent that can take over a game, as witnessed by the final minutes last night against Kansas, his flopping continues to detract from his NBA-ready talent.  Smart also used the national TV stage to mug and flex in front of KU coach Bill Self in the waning second of last night's win over the Jayhawks.

Court storming:  The announcement out of Austin, TX that the University of Texas is likely to begin selling beer at its athletics contests flew under the radar a bit this past week.  Can you imagine the combination of over-served fans with the current rash of court-storming behavior?  The court-storming needs to be stopped before the inevitable happens.  (And, shame on Digger Phelps suggesting that court-storming is simply the sharing of a celebratory victory by students with their fellow "student athletes."  Digger, while making that proclamation on ESPN GameDay yesterday, of course worked in the seven upsets of number one teams he had during his coaching career.)

No. 1 seeds:  Do you want to make the regular season more relevant?  Then, only schools that win their conference's regular season should be considered for number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament.