It’s March and that can only mean one thing, madness. I usually wait a day before I start looking at the NCAA Tournament Bracket. I quasi-listen to experts and analysts as they bifurcate and dissect each of the games, then I do the deep dive and read between the lines to find what the experts overlooked. If you are looking for guidance in picking winners, you'll find this column will prove to be as helpful in that endeavor as cotton candy is to fixing a plumbing problem. With the disclaimer out of the way, here are a few things I’ve noticed in the past day or so...
It's Time for Some Bracket-Idiot-Ology
By John Kreinbihl
Was the CBS reference to teams “not in the tournament” when discussing the first four out following the complete unveiling of the bracket and showing them graphically as “NIT” intentional? Did you see that? Have they done that before and I just missed it or was Selection Sunday 2014 it’s debut? Either, way props to whoever came up with that. Shoutingly subtle. I like that.
As I scan the bracket, I have to say I’m not a fan of the major conference teams playing in the First Round, First Four (8?), Dayton Dance-off or whatever they call it these days. Teams like Iowa, N.C. State and Tennessee are either in the tournament or they’re not. Play-in isn’t an option in my mind. Being 20-12 overall and 9-9 in the arguably the best conference in the country has to mean you're one of the best 64 teams in the nation. Same with the Wolfpack, 21-13 and 9-9 in the ACC and dare I say, a couple of NCAA Tournament feathers in their caps thanks to people like David Thompson, Tommy Burleson, Lorenzo Charles and Jim Valvano. Easily one of the best 64 teams this year.
And tradition has to factor into this decision. It’s like frequent fliers or preferred status customers. The more times you show up the more you’re rewarded. That’s why Duke gets to play their early round games across the street from Coach K’s house every couple of years or Kentucky showing up in a Regional in Louisville or the Cards at a Regional in Lexington more often than not. Play-in teams should be those just on the fringe of getting an invitation. Fewer quality wins, mid-major conference teams, etc.
I love that Cinderella shows up every year but it doesn’t mean she’s worthy of a 12 seed, and yes, I’m looking at you Stephen F. Austin or a 14 seed like La.-Lafayette or mercy, Mercer. I know the committee has handcuffed themselves with rules/guidelines in terms of unexpected winners, automatic bids, conference teams not meeting until this round, no rematches until after this round and so on, but if Team A with a sub-.500 records wins a mid-major tournament, I’m all for the excitement, but their automatic bid might be the play-in game.
Here’s the message 12-19 East North Central Western State should be given after winning the Missouri River Conference Tournament Title or the Big East Conference Tournament Championship for that matter: Congrats, you’re going to the dance. See you in Dayton.
Is it just me, or is the tournament better any time Indiana is on the outside looking in? The Hoosiers have a tournament tradition like few other teams but it’s not nearly enough to trump a less-than-stellar 17-15 season. Of course, I loved Indiana AD Fred Glass’s comment, “We're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI” after being snubbed in the NCAA’s and the NIT. I call that assogance – an ass displaying arrogance, but I see his point. If they didn’t play in the B-I-G 10 why bother playing in the C-B-I? From the big picture standpoint there are huge benefits of not dealing with practice playing and traveling. It gives the coaching staff time to work on new claps and text recruits illegally. A #1 seed last year, the Hoosiers are now the epitome of “from the penthouse to the outhouse”.
I’m probably too late to be one of the first fifteen million folks to sign up for Warren Buffett’s Billion Dollar Challenge. I guess I’ll have go on in life knowing Quicken Loans doesn’t have my e-mail address to send me refinancing notices. Sigh. Do you think Warren Buffett is tight with his money? He puts a Billion Dollars up for grabs for predicting every game correctly in this years’ tournament. At odds of like twelvety-trillion to one. Careful Warren, don’t crawl out on that ledge too far. You’ll hurt yourself. He might as well have offered a billion dollars to anyone who could swallow a plane.
I understand, but haven’t been able to confirm, that Jimmy Buffett, no relation to Warren, is also offering a big buck challenge this month. He’s put up a $500,000 prize to anyone who can figure out why Match.com didn’t bite on the idea of using “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” as the soundtrack in one of their commercials.
Whooopiee!! I see Kansas is in the same bracket as the Buckeyes. If things hold form, we could meet the Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen. That’s gone so well the last several meetings.
Michigan’s first round game is against Wofford College, which has fewer students than Denison.
If 11th seeded Nebraska can defeat Baylor and #3 Creighton gets by Louisiana-Lafayette, then the basketball spotlight will shine on the state of Nebraska for the first time since, well, the invention of the spotlight.
I heard lots of media experts telling me not to sleep on Harvard in the first round. The Crimson play Cincinnati, or some people call it, “the Harvard of the Clifton neighborhood”, in Spokane. If that game starts after 10:30 PM, then I’ll sleep on it, over it and through it.
Villanova and St Joe have the chance to renew their “Holy War” in the Round of 32 if they both win their first games. These two schools are 7 miles apart. They make Duke and North Carolina look like Maine and Montana in terms of travel time. Villanova leads the series 46-25 and these two teams played in December with Villanova winning 98-68. The Cats went for 59 points in the second half to turn a close game into a rout. If St. Joe’s loses and Villanova wins, then it’s old school Big East with the Wildcats taking on UConn.
Another Round of 32 possibility that intrigues me is the Wisconsin-Oregon game. This is a rematch of the 2012 Rose Bowl won by the Ducks 48-45. I wouldn’t be surprised if the score isn’t that high.
Big West Champions Cal Poly comes into the tournament on less than a roll. This is what a play-in team looks like. 13-19 on the season and prior to winning the Big West Tournament, losers of 8 of their last 11.
Did everybody in the A-10 except Duquesne make the tournament?
Memo to Michigan State and Oklahoma—Delaware and North Dakota State do not suck. You’re welcome.
Hey Wichita State, the committee doesn’t want to waltz to the Finals. They think potential match-ups with the likes of Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Michigan, et al will be more than you can handle. I think they might be wrong.
Two years ago my buddy and I got tickets to the Pittsburgh and Columbus Regionals and drove back and forth Thursday-Sunday. It looks as if the best chance for someone to do it this year is Milwaukee and St. Louis. I think they are about five hours apart. Orlando and Raleigh are closer to eight. Of course, if money is no object, you fly, but we played it smart and drove to give us money to blow, I mean invest, at the Wheeling Island Casino. Anyway, I hope someone out there is doing that and I'd love to hear about it.
Good luck in your brackets. My family got me started doing brackets back in the sixties and we’d bet a dime a game. The one hint I’ll share is, if the game seems like a real toss-up and you’re going back and forth on who to take, heed the advice of my grandmother and go with the team with the prettier state license plates. It always worked for her.
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