No tourney picks; Coaching…

Maybe it’s not having my team in the tournament – although, I’m usually more objective and make better picks when the Illini are out.  Hey, can this please be the last year in many without the Illini in the tournament?  Coach Groce, looking in your direction…  Maybe it’s because I actually won the pool last year and am feeling the pressure to repeat.  Maybe it’s because the wife’s been monopolizing the laptop…

At any rate, no March Madness picks this year.  Just couldn’t carve out the time to do it.  At least five or six people are disappointed.

The real reason:  the joys of coaching.  Yes, Youth Soccer  Spring Season is nearly upon us, and there’s stuff to do…  Getting all the drills and mini-games organized, having the kids vote on shirt colors and team nickname, contacting the team sponsor for this year’s donation, pricing and ordering the team shirts, securing a field for practices, writing the welcome email for team parents…  Yeah.  Not to mention the weather’s been nice enough a few days to actually get the kids outside and kick it around a bit.

So that’s the reason.  Focused on the kids’ season.  Yeah, I’ll be tuning to watch the tournament (and the NIT as long as the Orange and Blue are alive) and hoping  for upsets and Wichita State to shut people the hell up.  But no official picks.  Maybe next year.

March Maladroitness

It’s that time of year!  And with our Fighting Illini back in the mix again, we will be following this year’s NCAA Tourney with the kind of relentless commitment that will make the wife sigh and roll her eyes.  Speaking of the wife:  she’s agreed to fill out a bracket this year and attempt to get into it a bit.  She probably hasn’t watched more than one or two basketball games all year (and then only begrudgingly in the background).  She will probably beat me like a drum.

I’ve really kind of given up trying to be all analytical and stat-driven about the tourney.  It never seems to work.  I also have to admit that I don’t watch as much college hoops as I used to, so my sample’s not as large.  I have watched a lot of Big 10 ball, though (ugly as it may be at times), and that’s one of my themes.

We’re all about the the themes.  This year it’s ‘B1G is legit’.  In past years it’s been ‘B1G is underrated’, etc.  I always pick too many from the conference.  I always pick against teams with coaches I don’t like.  I always pick some crazy upsets (sometimes it works).  So this year, I’m embracing these traits and themes.

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Bracket Time

With no rooting interest or teams to follow, this year’s bracket picks should be much improved.  Right?  RIGHT?

We’re going against the usual form and trying to avoid personal bias as much as possible.  This means not overestimated Big 10 and Missouri Valley teams and not picking upsets for teams or coaches we despise.  Also, we didn’t spend hours doing statistical analysis this year, instead we went by teams we’ve seen and the general absorbed commentary of the talking heads.

So here’s a Sweet Sixteen, with Final Four picks italicized:

South: Kentucky, Wichita State, UNLV, Duke

West: Michigan State, New Mexico, Murray State, Missouri

East: Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Ohio State

Midwest: North Carolina, Michigan, San Diego State, Kansas

A few surprise and upset entries, but nothing to outrageous.  Let’s see what happens.

Tourney picks this year

Having proven to be a pretty poor tournament picker over the years, I’ve gone ahead and done my bracket anyway*.  My goal is to beat the President.  He has less time than me to watch out-of-conference games, but he also has a staff of minions to provide him with research.   Who will win this epic half-assed clash?

I suffer from the same malady every March:  I overrate the Big 10, stubbornly refuse to pick teams or coaches I dislike, and usually screw up the upset picks.  This year I’m still overrating the Big 10, but hey- it’s what I watch.  I’m probably underrating the Big East, but their ESPN-fueled publicity machine rubs me the wrong way, and having watched some of their dire, hack-filled contests, I’m not sure about how good many of them actually are.

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Don’t do it, NCAA

…don’t be greedy.  Don’t screw up your very best championship event in a shameless money grab to appease CBS, whose tournament coverage sucks anyway.  Listen, NCAA – if you want to fix something, change something, how about doing away with the idiotic BCS system and implementing a 16-team playoff for football…

The NCAA began prepping the battlefield a few months ago when we first heard rumblings of possible expansion.  Now this week Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney chimed in with this “expansion seems likely” comment, followed up by results of a ‘feasibility study’ stating 96 teams would be better than going to 72 or 84.  And that sound you heard from the Sports Media and punditry was the clamor of discontent.  The current ESPN SportsNation poll has generated 80,000 votes, with 72% favoring keeping the field at 65, 11% for expanding to 96, 5% for going to 128 (ridiculous!), and 12% in favor of contracting the field back to 32.

Few, it seems, favor messing with what many feel is the perfect three-weekend basketball event – with the exception of the small group of men who really matter.  And who are they?  CBS Sports execs who want more money.  College Presidents and Athletic Directors, who want more money.  Uh oh.  Money.  With more athletic departments cutting sports programs, with economic problems applying pressure, it’s just good capitalism to take more money if you can get it, right?  And these really important guys seems to think another round of games will improve the bottom line.  A few coaches (including Bruce Weber) seem to think they’ll have more job security with an expanded field, but their opinions matter about as much as the fans’. Continue reading

NCAA to Missouri Valley: F@#& You!

That’s right, you, Illinois State, and all you MVC coaches and ADs struggling to schedule-up and play the RPI game to make the tourney. And for good measure you too, Dayton… In fact all you Mid Majors!

To say the NCAA lacks credibility would be like saying our Electoral process is broken. It’s pretty obvious, it’s steeped in history, and what’s anyone going to do about it? The NCAA’s primary objectives are to make every red cent they can off ‘amateur’ athletics and protect the sacred cows. They do this well. Look no further than the two prime events, the BCS series and March Madness for your evidence. Continue reading