Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#1 seeds be darned!! I love this Final Four.

Ever since the Final Four field settled down on Sunday, I've been reading everything I can about this last weekend. I know all the storylines--Why you should love or hate every team, who's hurt, who's favored, etc. etc. One of the things I keep coming back to though, is a lot of analysts and writers typing up all these articles about how this year's Final Four is such a disappointment. I disagree.

And no, it's not just because Michigan State is in it (though that of COURSE helps). And no, it's not because two of the teams I dislike most got knocked out and relieved me from watching a national championship game that I couldn't care less about because I want both teams to lose. It's because this tournament and these teams, to me, represent the true joy of sport.

They say that this year's teams don't have the "best" talent. There isn't an NBA draft choice among them. CBS and the NCAA will lose money because the casual fan has no interest in any combination of national championship match-ups they might see. And yes, all those things might be true. But as someone who loves March Madness, loves basketball and loves to believe in the impossible, this tournament almost can't get any better. Why?

Because this is what it's all about. As a child, you grow up in a world where we're told "anything is possible." We hear stories about David and Goalith, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella--the list goes on. The moral of those stories? If you're a good person, you work hard, you do the right things and believe in yourself, you can be successful, no matter how the odds are stacked against you. That attitude is ingrained in us from birth. Sports legend, especially the NCAA tournament, is filled with tales of realizing the impossible dream--Jimmy V and NC State, George Mason, '85 Villanova--you get the picture.

But over time, it seems those scenarios are dwindling. The Yankees paid millions of dollars to win the World Series, the Lakers still reign supreme, the UConn women's basketball team is steamrolling over everyone in their path--tales of the best of the best and their world domination are taking over our airwaves and jading our perspective. Sure, you CAN achieve the long as you have the most money, best resources and top-notch talent.

(NOTE: I'm not trying to lessen the accomplishments of these dominating teams. I'm sure they all work extremely hard and sacrifice quite a bit in order to get to an elite level. I'm just saying that when you look at them from the outside, their dominance can be daunting.)

So pardon me for being refreshed by this "ragtag crew." Pardon me for the fact that I loved watching the so-called "more talented" teams get knocked out because someone else had the will, the heart, the toughness and most of all, the sheer AUDACITY to walk into an arena and think they could win. Pardon me for being inspired by players who reached deep inside themselves when it mattered most and made it happen in order to win. Pardon me for thinking that maybe this year was a wake-up call for all those teams who looked too far ahead because everyone else told them they should already be raising a banner.

I love this Final Four because it made me believe. It reminded us that having the most NBA draft picks or the tallest kid on the floor or the winningest history or the best mascot doesn't equate victory. It reminds us that what we were told and what we tell our children is really true--ANYTHING is possible. This Final Four represents everything about why we love sports--our joy, our pain, our hope.

Kansas or no Kansas, with John Wall or without, I will still be watching.

I hope you do too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Caught Your Breath Yet?

...I'm not sure I have. This has been top to bottom, one of the most exciting, craziest, most unpredictable tournaments I have seen in a long time. And even though my bracket was busted after the first Saturday (after the first round, my bracket was at 99.1%, thank you very much), I stopped caring. How CAN you care when you're glued to the T.V., rooting for the underdog (gee, I love Northern Iowa) and on the edge of your seat seeing how many buzzer-beaters will drop?!

Needless to say, I am ECSTATIC that Michigan State is back to the Final Four. As they say, it's not how I would have drawn it up, but as they ALSO say, I'll take it!! What I liked most is the fact that the team seems to have taken it upon themselves to get it done--they've shown a determination and a team spirit that I knew they had, players stepped up (aka Durrell Summers, what?!?!), players played hurt (DELVON ROE ON A TORN MENISCUS) and Draymond Green ran the point. Whatever happens from here on out, I'm proud. THIS is the MSU team I know and love.

In other news, can everyone PLEASE stop referring to Butler as a "Cinderella"?!? I know they're from a "mid-major" conference, they don't have McDonald's All-Americas and blah blah blah....but really? This is a team that has won their conference quite a few times and has been a steady presence in the NCAA touranment. This is a team that returned EVERYONE from last year with tons of veteran leadership. This is a team that was ranked in the top 20 or so ALL SEASON. Look at their nonconference schedule: Davidson, Northwestern, Minnesota, Clemson, Georgetown, Ohio State, Xavier, Siena...They haven't lost since DECEMBER. They were a 5 seed, which as one of the PTI guys pointed out, means AT WORST the committee thought they were the #20 team in the country.

WHERE DO YOU SEE UNDERDOG!?!?! This is a tough team that can play...and has all season. What am I missing? Please advise.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Curse those analysts!!!

You know, I stuggled picking Villanova over St. Mary's because they haven't been playing well. HOWEVER, all the analysts said that once Nova got out of the Big East, they would be better because they weren't with teams that knew them as well.

I love Nova, so I wanted any reason to justify picking them. FAIL. NEXT TIME I AM GOING WITH MY GUT!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Real-Time Blog diary


In honor of the day, here is a real-time diary of my thoughts during the show as brackets were revealed. It may not be that interesting, but there you are.

5:00 pm: Reveal of #1 seeds. I called all four. No surprises there, especially as Kansas as overall.

Then a background of the way the bracket is set up--really?!!? Really.

Everyone is a buzz that Duke was seeded over Syracuse. Uh, why? Duke just won their conference tournament--Syracuse did not. End of story. Also, they are STILL A 1.

Midwest bracket--immediate reactions...
Kansas vs. Lehigh--poor Lehigh.
Oh great...New Mexico State.
Maryland is a four?!? I hate this bracket.
WE ARE IN THE SAME BRACKET AS OSU!?!? This is super tough.
Georgetown vs. Ohio...pretty sure the Bobcats don't have anyone who can handle Greg Monroe.
Tennessee vs. San Diego State....don't know much about SDSU, but that one could go either way.

Overall, I am NOT a fan of this bracket. It is tough, tough, tough. However, I have faith in my Spartans that however far they go, they will have to earn it. It will be a test to see what this team can really do.

Syracuse--YAY!! I love them and want them to do well.

Kansas State as a 2 seed seems a little high to me. I haven't been super impressed with them, but who knows?!? I think they will at least get out of the first round.

A little surprised to see Florida...I didn't see too much of them or what they've done and didn't think they really did anything to deserve getting in.

Glad for Minnesota, they really played hard and have a lot of talented kids. But I think that means Illinois will be on the outside this year, which is a little disappointing. My Big Ten bias wanted them to make it.


Texas is announced as a #8. Everyone seems shocked. Why!? Texas has been crashing for the last month and a half. I vote Wake Forest takes them out.

Temple vs. Cornell....Cornell is a pretty tough funny would it be if THIS was the 5/12 "upset?"

WISCOSIN GOT A FOUR AND WE ARE A FIVE!?! HOW DOES THAT WORK?!?! ABSOLUTE CRAP. WE WON OUR CONFERENCE. THEY DID NOT. We BOTH lost in the quarterfinals of the Big how do THEY get seeded over US!?!?

West Virginia--#2 seed is fair.

Clemson vs. Missouri...2 mediocre teams going at it. That should be exciting...

New Mexico a

Marquette gets revealed with a dad has a thought about this...
Dad: See, that's blue collar. They're at a bar. That's my kind of team!

All the announcers are talking about how Kentucky has such a tough road.. Oh, cry about it. No offense to Texas, but I don't really think they are a "challenge." Sorry.


Duke gets the play-in game...I still don't get how they figure that one out. Anyone know?

Cal vs. Lousiville....I am going Louisville there.

Purdue as a 4 seed....that is fair.
Siena as a 13 vs. Purdue...that is a TOUGH draw for Purdue. I could see that one going either way.


This region doesn't illiicit a super-strong reaction for me. BUT overall, I am FIRED UP...I think there are some great match-ups here...HAPPY MARCH MADNESS!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2009-2010 Post-season Awards

It's that time of year...the regular season is over, conference tourneys are upon us and Selection Sunday is just around the corner....hooray! So, of course, we all must look back and reflect upon the college basketball season that was. I've created some of my own awards, because this is my blog and I wanted to. Hope you enjoy!

The "Wow, I was REALLY Wrong About That Team" Award
Tie between Michigan and UConn. I remember in my season preview I thought UConn with its guard play and veteran postplayers would lead the Huskies to the top of the Big East....FAIL. Perhaps part of the implosion was from missing Coach Jim Calhoun, who took a medical leave of absence midseason. They showed some resurgence upon his return, but it's safe to say this season is one they'd rather forget. Good thing their women's team is unbelievably awesome. Michigan was in my category for teams that would improve this season and it looks like they've done the opposite. It's strange that Belein had the same group of players and a worse record...I don't really understand how that works but something didn't quite click for the Wolverines this year. Ouch.

The "No One Saw Them Coming" Award
The Syracuse Orangemen!! Who else?!?! A team that began the season unranked yet won the outright Big East title, spent some time as #1 and now is being talked about as a championship favorite...of course, with my inexplicable love for Syracuse, this makes me happy. A group of unselfish guys that play hard--a mix of veteran leadership and young talent with a breakout star in Wesley Johnson--definitely a formula for success! Somewhere, Jonny Flynn is smiling.

The "Sucks to be You" Award
Robbie Hummel of Purdue. The poor kid has battled through injuries his first two years, is having a strong, healthy season, the media's loving his team, people are talking Final Four and then he goes down at the end of February with a torn ACL. **Insert the dreams of Purdue fans everywhere crashing down here** A serious bummer. Luckily, he still has another (and hopefully injury-free) year.

The "Congratulations, Your Success is Completely Irrelevant" Award
Cal and/or whoever wins the Pac-10 tournament. Normally there are a lot of comments about the West Coast not getting enough attention, teams from the region surprising everyone...and this year held true to that, but it was mostly because everyone was surprised at how bad they were. Normally, winning your conference is cause for celebration. Not this year. A perfect example as to why the NBA and the NCAA need to figure out a better solution to the one-and-done rule.

The "Biggest Crash and Burn" Award
Texas might be asking why I didn't put North Carolina here. Don't worry. We'll get there. But the difference is that no one was really talking about UNC winning another title. Texas was something of a golden child this year. They started out so strong, cruised to a #1 ranking and had the tournament been played in December and early January, they probably could have taken home some hardware. But it's not--and for whatever reason, Texas fizzled while everyone else got better. To go from Final Four hopes to hoping to make the tournament is never a good time.

The "Nobody Feels Sorry for You" Award
North Carolina, I'm talking to you!! Has anybody noticed that in almost every game this year, Roy Williams looks like he's going to cry? "Wah, my team is struggling, WAAAAH" "WAH, Duke kicked our tail" "WAHH it's so hard...just like the earthquake in Haiti" And understandably, fans are upset too. They had a national championship and now probably won't make the tournament. If that was my team, I'm sure I would be disappointed. But guess what?!?! You've had 3 Final Fours and 2 national championships in 5 years. SUCK IT UP. Quit whining. You're a perennial powerhouse and you're having a down year--it happens to everybody. Deal with it.

The "6th Man of the Year" Award
My man, Draymond Green!!! I'm sure you could argue that there are other players who mean more to their teams, but I disagree. Green has stepped up for MSU all year, being a co-captain as a sophomore, scoring when he needs to, crashing the boards, being a vocal cheerleader, coming up with bonding ideas (i.e. the sleepover at Breslin) and winning the hearts of fans because of his effort. He went from playing just 11 minutes a game last year to over 25 this year, grabbing almost eight rebounds a game (third in the Big Ten) and scoring 10 points. He also did enough to garner conference 6th Man of the Year honors, so I feel there's some support to my statements. Also, the fact that a 6'6, 235 pound guy is nicknamed "Day Day" just makes me love him even more.

And now....drum-roll please.....the unveiling of the...

2009-2010 ALL WIGS TEAM

Last year I had a lot of big guys, these year was all about the guards. Again, these aren't "the best players" in the NCAA, just my personal favorites.

Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Quick, clutch, composed. Reynolds is currently chasing the all-time leading scorer record at Nova and here's hoping he gets it. Reynolds has grown up so much in his time under Jay Wright, becoming a team leader and an all-around better player. He's tough, he's competitive--in short, everything you want in a guard. Me = Big fan.

John Wall, Kentucky
My fasination with him has been well-documented. He has had a few freshman moments this year--arguing with his coach, thinking he knows better, pouting because he hasn't played well--but overall, he's remained unselfish, always looking up the floor, sharing the ball and using his incredible quickness and explosive energy. Watching him play is always fun. It will be interesting to see how his youth and the youth of his team plays out in the tournament...but hopefully we have a lot to look forward to from him.

Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
Of COURSE I was going to include someone from Michigan State. If you had asked me a month or so ago, I might not have picked Kalin. But watching him respond after being injured won me over. I think sitting on the bench watching his team without him really ignited a fire and a passion in him to be the leader Izzo needed him to be. The lightbulb is on and he has the talent to really go far. I love watching him slash through the lane and I love that he's the one that wants to hit the big shots. You can tell the effort is always there now and he wants it bad.

Evan Turner, Ohio State
The kid broke his back and now might be Player of the Year. Need I say more? I have so much respect for his talent, I'm not sure I can really put it into words. The kid just gets it done.

Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
I think I'm going to let his numbers speak for themselves on this one...
Johnson was named Big East Player of the Year this week, surprising a lot of people who assumed it would be Scottie Reynolds. But Johnson "has started all 31 games this year after transferring from Iowa State. The junior leads Syracuse in scoring (15.7 ppg), rebounding (8.5) and minutes played 34.5). He has scored in double-digits in 28 of 31 games and posted 11 double-doubles."

That's the list...Happy MArch Madness!! :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

My despair has subsided.

Well, it's been a long while since I've posted and it hasn't been for lack of things to say. After our sad, sad loss at HOME to Purdue and brutal loss AT HOME to Ohio State, I felt quite despondent over the state of things.

It wasn't the losses per se, but the way the Spartans looked during said losses. They would get down and fight like hell to come back (which was awesome) but then Purdue and Ohio State hit a couple shots and it felt like they just sort of went, "Ok. I guess we're done then." On the positive side, I have been a big fan of the way Lucas, Summers and Allen have been playing recently. The trouble is, MSU needs EVERYONE contributing and playing hard in order to be successful.

After yesterday's big win AT PURDUE (which frankly, I never expected), I feel better. Looking back, at this point in the season we are exactly where I thought we would be--split with Purdue, split with Illinois, split with Wisconsin...and the loss to Ohio State stinks, but given the fact that Evan Turner is currently playing out of his mind and the team seems to be peaking at the right time, it wasn't like they lost to a crap team.

Some thoughts about the Purdue game....

It was a bit of a weird game. Sloppy, physical, all in all, pretty ugly. I don't think Purdue is "bad" without Hummel, but they are certainly a different team without him. I think State definitely had something of an advantage in that they caught the Boilers in their first game sans Hummel and they were in a bit of disarray--much like the Spartans in their first game without Lucas. There is definitely an adjustment period there. I also think Michigan State might have had a little more confidence going into knowing Hummel wouldn't be on the floor--they had a whole week to prepare for Purdue KNOWING he couldn't play. This was an open-door for MSU to grab a little on that Big Ten title and I'm guessing the mental state of both teams affected the outcome.

Purdue was clearly off their game and part of it was on them, but part of that credit goes to the Spartans as well. They played good defense, crashed the boards HARD (but a lot of the time there were only green jerseys around the glass, as Purdue ran back to stop the run), and kept going inside, despite not getting fouls called or turning it over. Of course, turnovers were ridiculous, but frankly, I disagreed with a lot of the calls. Sorry, but Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan were not traveling EVERY TIME they tried to pivot. The thing that made me the happiest though, was seeing MSU play with composure the entire time. No matter what the call or the play before, it was like they just said, "Ok, that play is over. Next." Amazing. No matter where Purdue ranks or who is on the court, they always play hard and Mackey is a TOUGH arena. That crowd gets fired up--trust me, I've seen it in person. Hummel or no Hummel, it was a big win for State. Maybe not in the eyes of a committee or whatever, but for THEM I think it meant a lot. It made me proud. :)

Unintentional comedy for the day? Derrick Nix hanging on the rim after missing a dunk and tipping the ball in. Good effort, can't ACTUALLY do that. In other news, Kalin Lucas has stolen my heart. That kid is just bringing it. I think his injury really sparked something in him that brought him to a new level of leadership--I love it. I am also a big fan of Summers and Allen right now....LOVE the way they are playing, though if Summers wanted to dunk more, I would be okay with that too.

Other thoughts:

~Despite what anyone may think, I actually feel really badly for Robbie Hummel. I don't think anyone wants a kid to get hurt, especially at this point in the season. For a kid like Hummel, who's battled injuries and worked so hard, it must just be devastating. Thankfully, he has another year still. Despite the fact that he's the bane of my exisitence because he's so good, he is a good kid who does the right things. I only hope the best for him.

~Evan Turner is playing out of his mind right now. It's not a shock that he's good--I KNEW that. But watching him play these last few weeks has given me a new level of respect for him. Wow.

~I wish I had this in writing, but I totally called Kentucky losing to Tennessee at Tennessee. Bruce Pearl is one of the few coaches that really seems to have Calipari's number. He has less talent than Kentucky, yet prepares his kids and gets them to respond in a way that is really impressive. Now that they've beaten Kansas and Kentucky, I would hate to face these guys in the tournament. Yikes.

~Is it kind of weird to anyone else that Notre Dame is actually playing really well WITHOUT their best player (Luke Harangody)...I mean, ever since he went down the Irish have gone from being a irrelevant team to a bubble team...really?!? It's so strange to me. Also, I think Tim Abromitis gets the nod for "most unfortunate last name" this year. It sounds like a disease..."And he gets hit by Abromitis..." "And Abromitis takes him down..."

~I still love Syracuse and Villanova. It was tough to watch them play each other, because I think both teams are just outstanding, but Syracuse REALLY stepped up. I would love to see both teams make the Final Four and I really believe they have the talent to do it. Here's hoping!