Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reactions from the weekend...

That sound you just heard was my bracket exploding into a million tiny pieces.  After the first weekend.  Which has NEVER happened to me.  With all the basketball I watch and read about, I'm usually slightly more accurate (at least until the 2nd weekend).  I mostly blame Mizzou and Florida State for totally falling short of expectations. 

But in spite of all that, this tournament has already been everything I dreamed it would be.

We started Sunday with 68 teams and within 1 week, the field is cut to 16.  It's how it's always been, but when you really stop to think about it, it always blows my mind.  The days of games seem to take forever and yet when they're over, I always find myself thinking, "that's it?"  Since I'm not going to analyze every game, here are some general thoughts:

~There were absolutely NO buzzer beaters.  Not a single one.  There were a couple of last-second shots TAKEN, but zero made.  One of the writers I follow pointed that out and at first I said, "wait, what?!?"  BUT IT'S TRUE!  Hard to believe that in all the excitement of the weekend it never happened, but there you go. 

~WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT DUKE!?!?  To be fair, I never expected them to go out in the first round, but I KNEW they were getting bounced early! 
~Baylor's uniforms:  I keep reading all these things about how the team uniforms are a "fashion statement" and "bold"...But I think they're hideous (the uniforms, not the team).  I can feel my retnas burning every time I look at them.  I'm all for taking risks, but yuck.
~THE BIG TEN!  At this time of the year, I usually root for the entire conference to do well--it validates the fact that there was a 3-way tie for the conference title and also why there were so many teams in the middle of the pack.  We pretty much just beat up on each other for 2-3 months.  To be real, the only team I DIDN'T think would get out of the first round was Purdue and it turned out to be Michigan.  I know I'm supposed to laugh maniacally about that, because of the whole UM-MSU thing, but I honestly do wish they had won.  Here's hoping the teams survive another game (or two).  And speaking of Purdue...

~ROBBIE HUMMEL.  Homeboy almost SINGLE-HANDEDLY beat Kansas.  I'm sure all the aforementioned Big Ten teams were watching and thinking, "welcome to our world, Jayhawks."  That loss was heartbreaking for the Boilers, so I'd like to offer 2 totally different perspectives when it comes to this young man:

1.) As a fan of basketball, he will be missed.  Good kid, hard worker, came back from incredible adversity, great player, etc.  He's everything you would want in a collegiate player and he can leave knowing he left a positive mark on the program, the fans and the sport in general.  I'm sure Purdue will celebrate him for years to come.  

2.) As a person who's watched him light up her team a million times, I say...PEACE OUT!  Good luck, good riddance, LEAVE US ALONE!  There are a select group of players I was THRILLED to see graduate after 4 years:  Dee Brown at Illinois, Tyler Hansborough at UNC, J.J. Reddick at Duke and Dallas Lauderdale at Ohio State (the last one not so much because he torched my team or was constantly discussed by the media, but because I SWEAR he was there for like 7 years and no one EVER MENTIONED IT.  Also, I'm pretty sure he was 43 years old.  I never did see a birth certificate....But I disgress).  Robbie Hummel is on that list. 

~Jae Crowder is a beast.  That's pretty much all I have to say about that.

~I picked Witchita State over VCU in the first round.  Total mistake.  We should all know by now not to pick against the almight SHAKA!  But I will say I'm proud of the Hoosiers for coming back and winning that second round game.  Well done!

~My father laughed at me when I told him to pick Colorado over UNLV.  My thinking was that UNLV was on a 5-game losing streak and not playing well, while Colorado had a solid record and just won the Pac-12 tournament.  We debated this for awhile and he thought I was nuts.  WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?!?! 

~Unfortunately, my father and I ALSO spent a great deal of time discussing my choice to pick Belmont over Georgetown and THEN to put Belmont in the Sweet 16.  He also thought that was crazy...but it turned out he listened to me.  And I was REALLY wrong.  Sorry, Dad.  :(

~SPARTANS!!!!!  Of course I was going to mention it.  DRAYMOND GREEN'S TRIPLE-DOUBLE!  A GRINDING WIN OVER ST. LOUIS!  A MATCH-UP WITH LOUISVILLE!  I'm excited and terrified and stressed out all at once.  And really, that's all I can say for now. 


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The West Region---aka Lindsay's Region of Doom!

My totally biased opinion is that this region is by far the toughest.  Maybe that's because my beloved Spartans are the #1 seed here, but even if they were to get knocked out, I STILL think every game will be a fight. 

Some thoughts:

1.) I heard several of my favorite experts pick MSU to lose early or not to make the Final Four.  Naturally, I was all set to launch into a long-winded diatribe about how silly it is that all the analysts say "don't count out Izzo in March" yet they were ALL counting out Izzo in March!  But then I checked out ESPN and realized I missed a crucial Bracketology conversation in which several experts (even DIGGER) picked the Spartans...so I can no longer rant on that one.  I'm not saying MSU is a lock for the Final Four--this is, of course, the tournament and as we see every year, literally anything can happen.  And who knows how the loss of Branden Dawson will affect MSU down the stretch.  But they played really well in the BTT and I don't think it's totally out of the question.  It's just nice to see the media have some faith. 

2.) I'm totally bummed that my second-favorite team, the Missouri Tigers, are in our region.  I have mixed emotions on this one.  On the one hand, I don't want to have to play them and be forced to root against them (because of course, I would be rooting for my own team).  But on the other hand, if we DO have to play them, it would be great because it means BOTH teams would have done well enough to have a shot at the Final Four.  And if MSU gets to the Elite Eight, I'll be extremely happy and proud.  Of course, a Final Four and/or a national championship is better, but I'm trying to keep things in perspective.  :) 

3.) The match-up that baffles me:  Louisville vs. Davidson.  I just don't know which way to go here.  Yes, Davidson beat Kansas...but that was so long ago!  And yes, Louisville has had some issues this year...but they're playing really well right now and just won the Big East tournament, so they're coming into this tournament with some momentum.  Additionally, I just love Rick Pitino as a coach.  I think his teams always play hard and I usually really enjoy watching them.  But then back in my sports TV days, I went down to Davidson to do a feature on Steph Curry and absolutely loved the school, the fans and their coach, Bob McKillop....so much so that I now own a Davidson basketball t-shirt.  WHAT TO DO!?!? 

4.) Sleeper team in the region: New Mexico.  I think because they aren't on TV and not in a power conference, people can overlook them.  Sweet 16?

5.) Another favorite team: Marquette.  Jae Crowder is a total beast.  Buzz Williams is totally underrated as a coach...and I find him hilarious.  This team is tough, physical and ready to win.  I would LOVE to see them vs. Mizzou.

6.) Teams I know pretty much nothing about that scare me:  St. Louis and Memphis.  I'm already nervous about LIU-Brooklyn.  No one wants to be the first 1 seed to lose to a 16.  So there's that.  And then, if MSU wins their first game, I hear lots about Memphis that turns my stomach.  I'm more worried about getting past them than anyone else in the bracket, probably because I know more about the other teams and can think about how MSU matches up with their players and strengths and weaknesses.

So that's the West.  President Obama likes Mizzou...who do YOU have?

Monday, March 12, 2012


Given my state of mind for the last entry in this blog, I would like to begin here by addressing the awesomeness of the Big Ten Tournament, particularly the FANTASTIC performance by my very own Spartans!!!!!!!! 

I was really, really excited to see how they re-grouped after the Ohio State loss.  They were focused and ready to play.  Not only that, but I thought their defense was terrific and I loved how various guys stepped up each game.  Everyone gives Draymond Green a lot of credit (and they should) but MSU has a lot of guys that do a lot of things well.  I LOVED that Ohio State game.  It was intense, physical and you could really tell that winning that tournament title meant a lot to both clubs....and even I felt intense--my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing and I had to physically remind myself to BREATHE.  I was so happy they won and even though I wouldn't have cared if they'd gotten a 2 seed, it was pretty awesome to see them get a 1.


How excited are you for this tournament?  If the conference tournaments were any indication, this is going to be one crazy ride.  Instead of doing all kinds of game by game analysis (because let's be real, I'm not ACTUALLY qualified to do that), I'm just going to give my thoughts on some matchups and teams in general. 


All the "experts" are all about Kentucky here and I don't blame them.  Please understand I think Kentucky is a VERY, VERY good team.  They have incredible talent and a coach that knows what he's doing and can get the best out of his guys.  BUT.  I'm not totally enamored of them, I have to say.  With the exception of a couple of teams (Florida, Vandy), I think the SEC is pretty weak and I don't think UK has had many challenges or faced too much adversity.  I also think that all the youth on that team can really be a factor in the tournament.  The pressure and the expectations are a lot to handle--not to mention the sheer SCOPE of the tourney--the atmosphere, the schedule, the fact that most people are rooting against you because you have a 1 in front of your name.  I think Kentucky is really good, but I don't think they're invincible.  If they go up against an athletic team with a lot of size and experience, they could be in trouble.

The match-up in this region that's really giving me pause is Notre Dame and Xavier.  ND had a rocky start and lost their best player to injury...but somehow managed to regroup and make a run through the Big East.  Xavier had an amazing start to the season until that horrible brawl against Cincy and then it all seemed to go downhill.  They seemed to figure something out though on the way to the A10 championship game--but have they figured out enough?  I love Xavier, and when they were on, they looked like a Final Four team early this year.  I can see them viewing the tournament as a fresh start and playing with a lot of drive and emotion.  But I can also see ND just being a little too much for them.  The Big East is a tough conference and ND has certainly been battle-tested.  The jury's out on this one...I still can't decide. 

I also can't decide about Baylor.  I've seen them do really well....and seen them choke in big games.   I want to think they can make a deep run but I can also see them, as well as Duke, getting bounced early.  Duke to me is super vulnerable.  They have some athleticism in the Plumlees, but that's about it.  And if Ryan Kelly doesn't come back or isn't at full strength, they're even more depleted.  They're also a team that lives and dies by the 3.  If they meet a really fast, strong, athletic team, and the 3s aren't falling, they're toast.  I also don't respect their defense--or should I say, lack thereof.  Of course, Duke will ALWAYS have the advantage of one of the best coaches in the game in Coach K.  And their players, while not necessarily "athletic" are both intelligent and skilled.  I could see them getting far, but I could also see them losing to the ND/Xavier winner. 

More tomorrow on a different region--let me know what you think about the South!    

Monday, March 5, 2012

To the Victor....Go the Spoiled....

I'm really, REALLY disappointed and upset about that MSU-OSU game.  I mean, I'm REALLY irritated.  I've managed to keep most of the games in perspective this season, but this one is tough to swallow. 

And here's the thing:  Michigan State WON the Big Ten championship.  Granted, they are sharing it, but they WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP.  This is a team that everyone (well, all non-MSU fans) wrote off at the beginning of the season, the team picked to finish FIFTH in the conference and barely make the tournament--certainly not a team that was expected to be in contention for a conference championship or have a top 5 ranking at the beginning of March. 

Yet here I am, fresh off a regular season that far exceeded expectations--whining, complaining and ticked off because MSU has to share.  If I was on the outside, watching a fan of any other team do that, my response would be an incredibly indignant:  "REALLY?!?!" followed by a derisive "your team won the conference.  Stop crying about it and shut your mouth."   

So that really made me reflect on it because frankly, my disappointment isn't really a normal reaction. 

(ASIDE:  One thing I think I AM justified in being really sad about is Branden Dawson and his season-ending ACL injury.  AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL.  He is such a HUGE part of our team and we NEED him.  Also, I always feel for any kid who has a season-ending injury, ESPECIALLY late in the year.  It totally sucks.  End aside.)

This is the thing:  When State started playing well and winning and climbing the ladder of victory, I got excited.  I said from the beginning of the year that MSU would be better than everyone gave them credit for...AND THEN THEY WERE! 

After last year's awful season, this is exactly what I wanted and needed and hoped for.  And you know what?  I got greedy.  I didn't just want to finish near the top, I wanted to finish AT the top.  And then I wanted to finish at the top ALONE.  Oh, and I started to want that NCAA tourney #1 seed too.  Why?  Because I'm spoiled.  We're all spoiled.  I've been to 3 Final Fours in 6 years, seen several Big Ten titles, read and listened to countless media outlets sing Izzo's praises and generally enjoyed an obscene number of victories.  It's not a question of IF we'll make the NCAA tournament, but where we're seeded.  And after last year's horrible showing, I wanted to erase those memories as quickly as possible. 

I couldn't even tell you how MSU blew that 15 point lead and lost that game. Normally I'm pretty analytical and can say, "OSU did this and MSU did that and here's what happened." Not this time. All I know is we were winning and it felt great. And then we were tied and Buford was hitting the game-winner with Appling in his face. And the final dagger through the heart?  MSU controlled their destiny.  All they had to do was win 1 of their final 2 games...and they couldn't.  I know that this team is young and I often forget that because of the great senior leadership they have.  But that part ticked me off too.  THEY needed to make it happen.  And they didn't.  I know that experience will come in time and those kids (emphasis on KIDS) have played their butts off this season.  But it still stings.

So that's the first part.  I'm just a spoiled brat.  But then I realized there was a little more to it than that....

It was also SENIOR DAY.  And more importantly, it was DRAYMOND GREEN'S Senior Day.  And DELVON ROE'S Senior Day.  And AUSTIN THORNTON'S Senior Day.  And I wanted those guys who all worked so hard and been through so much and truly shown what it means to be a Spartan, to have their moment.  To be able to have the fans at Breslin and thousands of fans watching on TV see them get buzzed out one at a time, kiss the floor and wave to the thunderous ovation of the crowd.  I wanted them to have that time and they didn't and couldn't.  I wanted to see DayDay come off the floor and hug Izzo and tug at the heart strings of Spartans everywhere.  It should have been a celebration and instead it was disppointment over a loss and disappointment over losing Branden Dawson. 

So that's where I stand.  I'll get over it eventually and be ready to cheer this weekend during the Big Ten Tournament.  But for today, I'm going to mourn the loss and thank the seniors...and hopefully stop whining really soon.  ;)