Tag Archives: NCAA tournament

Final Thoughts on the 2011 NCAA Tournament

UConn defeated Butler 53-41, in a snooze-worthy performance that didn’t come close to matching the high intensity of the rest of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Now that the tourney is done, here are my random thoughts (mostly about the TV coverage and tournament format) in no particular order.

I’m pissed that UConn won it all

I know it’s sour grapes, but I can’t stand that UConn has won — and has made it three championships since 1999. As a UMass alum, I simply cannot root for UConn. It’s ingrained. What can I say? Obviously I’m bitter because UConn has been the much better of the two bordering state schools over the last decade or so. I also can’t forgive Jim Calhoun — as if he needs my forgiveness — for refusing to continue to play UMass a few years ago. That said, it was an incredible run for the Huskies; winning five games in five days in the Big East Tournament and then winning six more to take the title. It’s just another painful reminder that UConn is on a completely different stratosphere than UMass.

Jim Nantz was as brutal as ever with his corny puns

In my most recent post I predicted some possible Jim Nantz puns for the end of the championship game. Most of mine were pretty bad, but what we got from Nantz last night may have worse than his usual predictable quips covered in cheese. He gave us a little appetizer at the second-to-last media timeout with a “Walker, Texas Ranger” reference to UConn’s star guard, Kemba Walker. What he came up with (well in advance, I’m sure) at the final horn was “Huskies are the top dog!” First of all, he had already mixed in a few dog puns in the second half — one of which was a mention of “dogfight” (I guess the statute of limitations is up on dogfight references in sports). Secondly, I’m not even sure “Huskies are the top dog” is grammatically correct; shouldn’t it be “top dogs“? After his game-ending call, he gave us a bonus a few minutes later with “Connecticut wins best in show.” It was around this time I was hoping Butler’s mascot dog, Blue, would come over and tear Nantz to pieces! See ya at the Masters, Jimbo.

Mid-Majors continue to gain ground

This was as good as it gets for the so-called Mid-Majors. Two Final Four teams, with Butler (for the second straight year) and VCU. George Mason, five years since its Final Four run, is still relevant — the Patriots beat Villanova in this year’s tourney. Morehead State beat Louisville in a thrilling first rounder. Mountain West schools BYU and San Diego State both made extended runs. Gonzaga, a tournament staple at this point, trounced St. John’s in round one as an 11 seed. Adding legitimacy to the Mid-Majors is the fact that VCU coach Shaka Smart turned down the NC State job on Monday to stay with the Rams. Brad Stevens is likely staying put at Butler, and why not? Two straight Finals appearances can only help recruiting and keep the Bulldogs in the national spotlight. He and Butler are putting the Indiana Hoosiers to shame at the moment.

The teams that won a “First Four” game did NOT win an NCAA Tournament game

First of all, I wish they would just go back to 64 teams in the field. Secondly, call these games what they really are: Play-in games. Now these four extra games are considered the first round. So eight teams play in the first round and 64 play in the second? Huh??? Why do we need to spice these games up. This is Division I collegiate athletics; no need for the “everybody’s a winner!” sentiment. And let’s get one thing straight: If you win one of these “First Four” games, you did NOT win a tournament game. When Clemson beat UAB in one such game this year I heard one of the broadcasters mention that it was Clemson’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1997. Well, the Tigers lost their next game to West Virginia…so in my mind they still haven’t won a tourney game since ’97.

Is the Big East overrated? I have no idea

On the one hand, the National Champion comes from the Big East. On the other, out of the 11 teams from the conference that were in the tournament only two made it to the Sweet 16. Either way, plenty of people from the national media and the Twitter universe made proclamations about this conference. I’ll sit on the fence on this one. Judging an entire conference based on how 11 teams performed in a two and-a-half week tournament seems a little ridiculous. I think the conference is very good, but it has 16 teams in it! Of course there will plenty of good teams. If the SEC had 16 teams, it would likely be just as good as the Big East. The conference is way too big and it’ll get bigger when TCU arrives. The fact that every team plays in the conference tournament is a joke. But I digress. It is a very strong conference that had two teams limp into the tournament (Georgetown and Villanova),  eight that were tripped up early, and one that took the whole thing.

Anyone’s bracket even close?

I did not get one single Final Four team. I’m sure I’m not alone. I thought I was going out on a limb putting San Diego State and Florida in (I also had Kansas and Ohio State). Apparently I needed a longer limb. I can’t even beat myself up about this particular bracket. I was as likely to win the lottery and be struck by lightning on the same day as I was getting this Final Four picked correctly. Hey, at least I had VCU winning one game — a real tournament game, not that “First Four” game!

Putting games on four networks was a great move

No surprise here. This worked out very well. There was no more guessing which games I would get to see in my region. No more wondering if CBS would switch to a game more exciting than the one I was watching. It was nice to be able to choose your own adventure in the first couple of rounds. The only negative was the fact that TruTV was the only channel of the four that was in standard definition only. Not a complaint I would have made a year and a half ago when I did not even have HD. But TruTV was an eyesore compared to the crisp pictures on CBS, TNT, and TBS. Overall, it was nice to have the ability to watch every game. Otherwise, just one other annoyance…as someone who notices sportscaster cliches, I think I counted four or five times when a broadcaster said something to the effect of “Make sure you have fresh batteries for your remote,” referring to the constant channel changing due to multiple games being played simultaneously. I think Ernie Johnson said it two days in a row. Gus Johnson even said it. C’mon, Gus! You’re better than that.

College basketball is not very good right now, but damn that was a fun tournament

I love college basketball, but even I have to admit the sport is not as good as it once was. There are very few great players. Actually, I’m not sure if there are any truly great players right now. Kemba Walker? Maybe. Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, John Wall, and Kevin Love would still have had eligibility at this point; imagine what could have been! I’m not the first to say that college basketball has suffered greatly with players leaving after a year. You saw it in this tournament. The level of play was OK at best. Yeah, the championship game brutal, but the quality of basketball overall in the tournament continues to be lacking in many areas. Even so, as long as we still have buzzer beaters (check), overtime nail-biters (check), and upsets galore (definite check), the tournament will always be an awesome event. This tournament, championship game aside, was one of the most entertaining in my lifetime.

Advertisements

Predicting Jim Nantz’s NCAA Championship Call for All 16 Teams

The 2011 NCAA tournament has been similar to others in the recent past. There have been a few major upsets and many games decided in the final seconds. Unpredictable and full of drama.

One thing you can always count on in the tournament is Jim Nantz will eventually script his final call when the winner is determined. He is probably already working on a few.

Since he’s become master of the cheesy NCAA championship pun, I figured I’d help him out in advance. In the past, I’ve seen blogs that have done this sort of thing just prior to the Final Four. Let’s get an earlier start this year, and give Jim a few options for all 16 remaining teams.

I could not find any video of examples of Nantz’s wordsmithery, but here are a few in text form:

“Nothing could be finer…North Carolina is your National Champion.” (as in “nothin fina’ than Carolina” from UNC’s 2009 title)

“Rock Chalk Championship.” (a play on Kansas’ famous slogan, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” from 2008)

“A milestone victory for Arizona.” (in reference to Arizona’s Miles Simon, from the 1997 championship)

OK, now that we’re up to speed, here are some incredibly corny puns that only Jim Nantz could love. Some of these are stretching it a bit, but hey, that’s what Nantz does anyway.

Arizona Wildcats

That’s two, son! (a reference to Arizona winning its second national title and also a play on words with Tucson)

Arizona has risen!

Duke Blue Devils

A Double Dose of Duke. Back-to-back titles!

A devil of a team!

(OK, OK they’ve won it too many times. He wouldn’t have anything original left anyway, hence last year’s “Duke is the king of the dance!”

Connecticut Huskies

“They may have Walker, but what a RUN to a championship!”

“UConn call the Huskies the 2011 champions!”

What will Jim Nantz say if the Aztecs win it all? Here's a candidate.

San Diego State Aztecs

“Fisher reels in a championship for San Diego State!”

“Go Diego, Go! The Aztecs are national champions!”

“A championship made to order just above of the border!”

BYU Cougars

“A night they’ll never Fredette! BYU is the 2011 national champion!”

“Sex and drugs may be out, but a championship is allowed at BYU!”

“This feeling will never get OLD at Brigham YOUNG! The Cougars win the title!”

Florida Gators

Gator done! Florida wins the 2011 championship!

Chomping for a championship!

Butler Bulldogs

This time, the Butler did it! (way too obvious, of course)

BUT of course! The Bulldogs are the 2011 champions!

Wisconsin Badgers

Bucky ain’t so sucky! The Badgers are the 2011 national champions!

Nothing cheesy about this night!

Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Virginia is for championships!

Nothing COMMON about winning a title!

VCU is the SMART pick. The Rams have SHAKA the world!

Florida State Seminoles

They are too much to (pan)handle! The Seminoles win the 2011 national championship!

A Hall and Oates reference is unlikely, but you never know with Nantz.

Richmond Spiders

The itsy bitsy championship goes to Richmond!

From rags to Richmond!

She’s a Richmond! You can rely on your old man’s MOONEY!

Kansas Jayhawks

Kan-sas really be happening?? The Jayhawks are champions!

You couldn’t have asked for anything Morris!

Rock Chalk Cham – oh shit, I used that one already.

Marquette Golden Eagles

Milwaukee’s Best! The Golden Eagles are 2011 champions!

Right on the Marq!

The Golden (Eagles) Rule!

North Carolina Tar Heels

A Tar-iffic season ends with a championship!

What a thrill for Chapel Hill!

Head over Heels for a national title!

Kentucky Wildcats

Yes, they Ken!

Look what the cats dragged in…a championship!

Ohio State Buckeyes

O what a night!

One of the great nights of Columbus!

It’s not bad being Thad! The Buckeyes are the national champions!

If you stuck with me all the way to this point, you have my extreme gratitude! Enjoy the rest of the tournament.


Advice For Filling Out Your NCAA Brackets: Don’t Take Anyone’s Advice

Other than the rare times when my favorite teams are playing for championships, there isn’t anything in sports I get more excited about than the NCAA tournament. I love college basketball in general. I am a rare fan who will watch from the very first tip in early November all the way to the final buzzer of the championship game.

With that said, I get into the tournament largely for the same reason as the guy from your office who doesn’t know Georgetown from George Mason: the brackets.

While I’ll certainly watch as much of the tournament as I possibly can, the games in the later rounds lose a bit of their luster once my bracket has bit the dust. For all of its faults — and this year’s selections have many — the tournament format is still as close to perfection as you’ll find. The brackets and the pools that go along with them have a perfect marriage with the games themselves. If the NCAA ever decides to reseed after each round or make some other fundamental change to the format, CBS (and now TNT, TBS and TruTV this year) would lose a huge number of viewers because filling out a bracket would be impossible once a true tournament style is taken away.

Enjoy the game. Enjoy making your selections. But one piece of advice: Don’t seek out any kind of help. Chances are it won’t lead you to the glory of winning your pool.

I’ve never won an NCAA pool, and I’ve probably done about 20 or so in my life. I don’t even think I’ve come in the top three. Again, I’m a huge college basketball fan. I’ve seen almost every one of the 68 teams in the field play this season, and many of them multiple times. This isn’t a good thing when it comes to making picks.

I’ll start to think, “this team has more seniors, so its experience will put it through” or “that team doesn’t have the size inside to match up with its opponent.” This type of overthinking is what you’ll get if you listen to any one of ESPN’s college basketball talking heads — most of whom I like by the way. And those guys know a lot more than I do, so they’ll really have you trusting them when it comes to bracket assistance. Don’t fall for it.

The tournament is always filled with upsets and who the heck knows where they’ll come from? This year appears to be tougher than ever. There is no dominant team, and beyond the top four seeds in each region you might as well pick out of a hat for teams seeded 5 through 12 (no team is favored by more than six points in such matchups).

Of course I will still do my research, recall the games I’ve seen involving the teams, and make my most educated predictions for the tournament. And more than likely I will have a below average bracket that will be fit for shredding on Sunday afternoon, if not earlier.

So if you like to pick based on mascots or team colors, go for it. If you want your dog to make your picks, have at it. If you pick based on which school requires the higher SAT scores, good for you.

Just don’t listen to the experts. Don’t even listen to me. In fact, forget you even read this. Just make your picks and enjoy the games!