Friday, May 30, 2008

Off-Season Blues

Wow, Card Chronicle has some great offseason coverage on the Big East. Ever since Bill Self left Illinois, and Charlie Villanueva decided not to come to Illinois (hmm, guess he didn’t want to be on a team that went to the national title game,) I’ve pretty much been of the following mindset: Don’t get excited until you see what team suits up in the fall. There are a lot of things that can happen (injuries, transfers, academic ineligibility) that can make your team worse, so don’t get your expectations too high.

But, since Georgetown had two rather significant defections already this offseason Vernon Macklin to Florida and Jeremiah Rivers to Indiana, and since recruit Chris Braswell is not academically eligible, I felt I should comment in some capacity.

My biggest concern is that Georgetown is about to have a season very much like the 2007-2008 Syracuse season. The Orangemen ended up with 3 players averaging over 88% of the minutes per game and the bench was virtually non-existent. The result was a team that had moments of glory, but often looked worn down by the end of the year. On paper Georgetown has three very talented recruits coming in (Monroe, Sims, Clark), two sophomore MAA guards coming back (Summers and Wright), and two veteran starters (Sapp and Summers). This group should produce a starting five that will be competitive with any team in the country. But what happens if one or more of the incoming players isn’t ready for Big East Competition? Who is going to fill that key 16-18 minutes of bench play? And what happens if one of the projected starters gets injured? The bench is the biggest question heading into the Big East season.

And that’s where a player like Jeremiah Rivers is sorely missed. Yes, he probably wasn’t going to start this year for Georgetown. Yes, he doesn’t have much of a jump shot. But Rivers did all of the little things. He rebounded; he played defense; he set up his teammates. He did all the “role player” things a team needs to win back-to-back Big East titles. And he will be missed. “Jeremiah was a Bulldog, was a good friend of mine…”

Conference Tournament Wrap-up

8 Teams, Double Elimination

SEC: While top seeded Georgia bowed out after two games, 2nd seeded LSU won the title. This allowed LSU to jump ahead of top seeded Georgia in the NCAA tournament national seedings. (LSU is 7th nationally, Georgia 8th.) But the real story was 8th seeded Ole Miss making it to the title game and ensuring an at-large bid. The SEC ended up with 9 bids again, as even Arkansas who didn’t qualify for the SEC tournament, still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

CUSA: Like Georgia, top seeded Rice lost its first two games in the CUSA tournament, but still received a national seed (#6). And like Mississippi, 8th seeded UAB went on a mini-run, sitting undefeated after two games. But unlike Mississippi, UAB lost two straight to Houston and their season came to an end. The title game featured two teams, 4th seeded Houston and 6th seeded Marshall that had to come out of the losers bracket to play in the title game. But only Houston was victorious and Marshall was not one of the 5 CUSA teams to earn a bid.

Big East: Again, the top seed lost its first two games and was eliminated. But top seeded St. John’s received the Big East’s lone at-large bid. The other bid went to tournament champion Louisville who went 4-0 in the tournament.

Sun Belt: 5th seeded Western Kentucky won the tournament and may have knocked top seeded Louisiana-Monroe out of the NCAA tournament in the process. 2nd seeded New Orleans probably had the best at-large profile, but they also had to be sweating after losing the opener and then squeaking out a rain-delayed extra inning elimination game win. New Orleans rallied to make the title game and locked up an at-large berth.

Southern Conference: Top seeded Elon scored 21, 16, 12, and 17 runs in a decisive tournament sweep. 2nd seeded College of Charleston lost in the title game and despite a 39-20 record, was left out of the NCAA tournament field.

8 Teams, 2 Round Robins

ACC: Top seeded Miami swept its round robin, won the title game and earned the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, 6th seeded Virginia went 2-1 and edged Florida St. in the head-to-head tie-breaker to win its half of the round robin. This may have been key as Virginia was the 6th and final ACC team to make the field.

Big 12: 5th seeded Texas lost the opener in extra innings, but won the remaining games to capture the Big 12 crown. 7th seeded Kansas St. won its half of the round robin, but the loss in the title game proved costly, as KSU did not receive an NCAA invite.

6 Teams, 2 Byes, Double Elimination

MVC: Wichita St. won two games in less than 9 innings (thanks to a league mercy rule for blowouts) and went undefeated in the tournament. The Shockers earned the MVC’s lone NCAA tournament bid.

MWC: TCU lost to New Mexico in its second game of the tournament, but fought out of the loser’s bracket sweeping New Mexico on Friday and Saturday to win the tournament and earn the MWC’s lone bid.

Big 10: The Big 10 is never going to be a baseball powerhouse, but it can’t hurt recruiting when these games are shown on national TV on the Big Ten Network. Michigan went undefeated and the Wolverines earned the Big 10’s lone NCAA tournament bid. Michigan shouldn’t have been a host in the NCAA tournament, but was awarded a host site since there were too many West Coast locations.

A10: I failed to post the bracket last week. Shockingly the one team from a southern city, Charlotte, won the tournament and earned the lone NCAA bid.

6 Teams, Double Elimination

CAA: 2nd seeded James Madison went undefeated in winning the conference tournament and top seeded UNC-Wilmington did enough in the regular season for the CAA to earn two NCAA tournament bids.

Big South: Second seeded Liberty lost the opener, fought back and gave top seeded Coastal Carolina its only loss, but it wasn’t enough as Liberty was left out of the NCAA tournament field. Champ Coastal Carolina was awarded a host site in the NCAA tournament.


-Dallas Baptist became the first independent to make the NCAA tournament since Miami did it in 1992.

-I never posted a bracket for the Summit League. Hey, when you have 6 teams in the conference, a 4 team bracket is all you can have. Oral Roberts, the good team in the Summit league, was victorious.

-San Diego swept Pepperdine in the WCC Championship series, but both teams received NCAA invites.

-The Pac10 had no conference tournament, but still earned 5 bids. One team with a losing conference record (California) earned an invite.

-The Big West had no conference tournament, but still earned 4 bids. If this was the NCAA basketball tournament, UC Davis would be an at-large with a 13 seed, clearly one of the last teams in the bracket.

-And here is the official NCAA bracket. Double elimination games begin on Friday!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Baseball Brackets

I love printable PDF brackets. Here are the upcoming college baseball conference tournaments:

8 Teams, Double Elimination
SEC Tournament Subtle Point: Notice that the upper and lower bracket undefeated teams flip (the winners of Games 7 & 8 flip). This helps reduce the number of redundant games.
Conference USA Tournament
Big East Tournament
Sun Belt Tournament
Southern Conference Tournament (includes bonus opening round games)

8 Teams, Two Round Robin Tournaments
ACC Tournament
Big 12 Tournament

6 Teams, 2 Byes, Double Elimination
MVC Tournament
MWC Tournament
Big Ten Tournament

6 Teams, Double Elimination
Big South Tournament (includes bonus opening round games)
CAA Tournament

Championship Series
The WCC pits its first and second place teams in a weekend series. This year San Diego faces Pepperdine.

No Tournament
Long Beach St. got some nice publicity from Paul Goydos during The Players Championship, but they don’t believe in playing conference tournaments out west. Oh well, if we peruse the Big West schedule there are plenty of good games including Long Beach St. vs Cal St. Fullerton. Similarly, the Pac10 has some solid bubble teams finishing out the regular season.

ESPN’s college baseball coverage is one of the few things that isn’t “insider only” yet. Check out Jeremy Mills columns if you want a nice summary of weekend action. He also runs some bubble projections. Here was an earlier bracket projection. Baseball America has a more recent projection and some good coverage overall. As you know, I’m always stumping for Basketball Prospectus. And I’d do the same for Baseball Prospectus, except that the college baseball coverage requires a subscription.

Baseball’s championship week isn’t nearly as fun as basketball’s championship week, but it can still be a fun time. For example a team like Coastal Carolina is essentially like Memphis in basketball. They are far and away the best team in the Big South, and they’ll get a good tournament seed. But if they falter in the conference tournament, someone loses an at-large bid. That always makes for fun scoreboard watching.

Meanwhile, the SEC could send 9 teams to the NCAA tournament, despite only 8 teams qualifying for the SEC tournament. When a league is that deep, in a sport as unpredictable as baseball, you have a recipe for a great tournament.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Associated Press, May 8, 2008 - 3:01 PM

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University officials say basketball coach Bob Huggins has been taken to a hospital in Charlotte, N.C., for precautionary reasons after tripping on an airport tarmac and hitting his head on the pavement.

Athletic director Ed Pastilong says Huggins had a bump on his head, and never lost consciousness.

Pastilong says Huggins and other athletic department staff flew to Charlotte on Thursday morning for a Mountaineer Athletic Club event. After Huggins got off the plane, he was checking his cell phone messages when he tripped over a cone on the tarmac and hit his head.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pro-Sports Filler

Unless you are a potted plant in Tom Crean’s office, we’re in the quiet period on the college sports calendar. The major coaching vacancies have been filled, the early entry deadline has passed, and we are left to wait for some of the early entrants to remove their names from the draft list.

(By the way I’m thrilled as a college basketball fan that Tyler Hansbrough and Darren Collison are coming back next year. After Collison performed so poorly against Memphis, I’m glad to see him come back. And as much as I root against Hansbrough in the regular season, his intensity and energy are a perfect reflection of what college basketball is all about.)

No, instead we’ve come to the time of the year when I take a casual peak at the NBA. And despite numerous columns reporting how this is the greatest year of NBA basketball in recent memory, I’m just not seeing it. Other than a handful of great endings (West jumper, Butler lay-up, Duncan three pointer), the slate of games has been ridiculously predictable. Jason Kidd was slow just like everyone said. Shaq didn’t have enough left in the tank just like everyone said. Tracy McGrady lost again in the first round. And the teams seeded 1-4 won every single first round series. “The NBA, where predictability happens.”

But wait a minute, didn’t I praise the Final Four that included all 1 seeds? Yes, but that’s because the Final Four produced three great games where I had no idea who would win. The second round of the NBA playoffs has had no more drama than the first round. The second round has opened up with the better seeds taking a 2-0 advantage in every series and again there is little drama.

Sadly, it isn’t a new trend for the favored team to keep winning in these NBA playoff series. The NBA playoffs do a fabulous job of determining the best team at the expense of a potential Cinderella. As Charles Barkley has said numerous times, the best team might not win a five game series, but they’ll usually win a seven game series. While the NCAA tournament does a horrible job of picking the best team in the country (great teams can often lose one game), the NBA model often results in the favored teams eventually crushing all hope of an upset.

That’s all fine and good as long as there is some similarity in quality between the very best teams so there is some uncertainty about the best team. And at the start of the playoffs, we thought we had that. In fact, all 8 Western Conference teams looked legit, with 4-5 Eastern Conference teams looking pretty good too. But after a month of NBA playoff basketball, instead of looking forward to future potential match-ups, things have become all too clear: The Lakers are the best team in the NBA. After acquiring Gasol, they were the most dominant team in the regular season, and after crushing in 6 straight playoff games, it is hard to picture anyone from the East, or even the New Orleans / San Antonio winner slowing this team down. (Those brutal Boston – Cleveland games are particularly disheartening.)

So since the NBA has taken only 3 weeks to crush all my enthusiasm (Chris Paul and Dwight Howard notwithstanding), let’s move on to the NFL. I loved the shortened draft. It was almost watchable. Normally I sit around waiting, and waiting, and waiting for my team to pick. This year, with my Vikings trading out of the first round, I flipped it on as a casual viewer and I was still hooked. Nice job NFL.

The Vikings pre-draft trade for DE Jared Allen received mostly positive reviews, but I have a few comments on it.

1) The coaching staff must have a lot of faith in Tarvaris Jackson because Brad Childress has basically put himself in a position where he’s either going to win with Jackson or get fired.

2) I have no idea which of those two things will happen.

3) I feel a lot better about the trade after Jacksonville traded a virtually equivalent package of picks to draft rookie DE Derrick Harvey. Would you rather trade a bunch of picks for an untested rookie or for the NFL’s leading sack-getter in 2008? (OK, the Vikings also had to pay a lot more, but they had the cap room for it.)

4) I hear some minor criticism that Allen is often out of position against the run, and isn’t the most complete DE in the NFL. I still don’t care. Last year the Vikings were great against the run and opponents often abandoned the run for a highly successful, all-pass strategy. The issue was that no one on the Vikings could lay a hand on the QB and that teams could pass with impunity. Even if Jared Allen was so weak against the run that he could only play in obvious passing situations, he would still be a worthwhile acquisition because he fills such a glaring weakness for the team.

5) Dimitrius Underwood et al. One of a long line of failed DE’s drafted in the first round of the NFL by the Vikings. Hey, maybe Derrick Harvey will be a star, but you can only fail at drafting a DE so many times.