Conference Report Card – Sweet 16 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

We’re back with the second annual review of how the major conferences are doing after one weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  As we all are aware, the Dance eliminates the pretenders – that means you, Wake and Washington – so that the teams with legitimate chops remain standing.  Chalk has predominantly ruled this tournament so far, but that doesn’t keep us from evaluating which conferences are performing better or worse than expectations.   We review the conferences with multiple bids below…

Simpsons Chalkboard

Big East  (7 bids, 5 remaining, 11-2 record)

The Big East was the most powerful conference all year and they are proving it in the postseason.  West Virginia was the only first round loser, and Marquette was outlasted by a tough-as-nails Missouri team in the second round.  All other Big East teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, setting a new record for the total number from one conference (5).  What’s more is that each of these teams are F4-caliber; there isn’t a single Cinderella in the group.  It wouldn’t surprise us if this league managed to get 75% of the F4 entrants this year, and we fully expect all five to play into the national quarterfinals.

Verdict:  A.  The Big East’s expected # of wins for the tournament is 16.2, and there’s a solid chance that the league will bust through twenty wins this season in setting another new record.

Big 12  (6 bids, 3 remaining, 9-3 record)

For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 had another great first round (6-0), culminating in their three best teams making it to the Sweet Sixteen.  The league hasn’t had an upset yet, and the three losing teams – Texas, Oklahoma St., and Texas A&M, acquitted themselves nicely in five of their six games (lone exception: TAMU vs. UConn).  Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma all have tough but winnable games if they play well, and the Big 12 should reasonably expect to see one of them playing into next weekend.  For a “down” year in the league, this is a great performance.

Verdict: A.  The Big 12 already has nine wins against an expected performance of 10.57 wins, which basically means they’re doing really well so far.

Atlantic 10  (3 bids, 1 remaining, 3-2 record)

The A10 got three teams into the Dance and made the most of its opportunity, winning two first round games (one an upset with #11 Dayton over #6 WVU), and sending Xavier to yet another Sweet Sixteen.  We don’t feel that XU has much of a chance to advance the league’s banner further against Pitt, but never count out a Sean Miller team.  Xaviercruised to the Sweets against two good teams.

Verdict: A-.  The league was expected to win 2.52 games and they’ve already won three, so anything beyond that is gravy.  How pathetic is it that the A10 is outperforming the SEC by a country mile?

Horizon (2 bids, 0 remaining, 1-2 record)

The Horizon had a chance to make some serious noise in this Tournament, but typically-solid Butler couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain when it lost to #8 LSU (who was probably underseeded).  However, Cleveland St. so far has had the upset of the Dance with its throttling of #4 Wake Forest, so we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Sweet Sixteen: West Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is our NCAA Tournament West Region correspondent.

Welcome to the Mild, Mild West, which saw a grand total of three upsets in the opening twelve games, and whose Cinderella (if that term can even be used) is a five-seed that boasts the Big Ten Tournament championship.

The upside to having a predictable regional field is, of course, that four obviously superior teams emerge from the first weekend and are sure to provide high quality competition. Three of the four teams won their conference tournaments, and the one that didn’t is a #1 seed. This was the bracket that many experts said was the most accurately seeded, and it looks like they were right.

Hottest Team
Having won their first two games by an average of 41.0 points, this has to go to UConn. The Huskies have played inspired ball and got great performances out of their great players, which is key to establishing confidence on a Tourney run. But UConn is a #1 seed, and their road is (theoretically) the easiest. Both Purdue and Missouri looked excellent in their two wins, with sound performances followed by clutch play when it mattered most. Purdue, though, would simply not have beaten Marquette if not for JaJuan Johnson (or maybe, an inadvertent toe), so if UConn is disqualified, then Mizzou is the best-looking squad right now.

Best Player
I’d be previewing a Marquette/Maryland game right now if not for Memphis’ Roburt Sallie. The reserve guard just couldn’t miss against Northridge, pouring in a career-high 35 points when the Tigers looked dead in the water. He got Memphis rolling again in the Maryland win and finished with 13. For all of the superstar athletes on that team, it’s been Roburt Sallie’s grit and sharpshooting that has kept them alive. Can he keep it up? Can Memphis survive if he doesn’t?

Best Game
The Northridge fiasco was a doozy and nearly the shocker of the year, but Purdue’s victory over Washington was the highest quality of exciting basketball in the West Region so far. Purdue showed how they were victorious in the Big Ten tournament this year, while Isaiah Thomas, Washington’s brilliant freshman point guard, simply refused to let the Huskies die. The 76-74 Boilermaker win was sealed by back-to-back rejections from superfreak-forward JaJuan Johnson, and even Washington fans could leave knowing that both teams left it on the floor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Sweet Sixteen: East Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

The East Region: A Look Back, A Look Ahead  (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

A look back: Here are some of the bests and worsts of the first two rounds of the East Region – as well as some other haphazard notes …

Most impressive team remaining: Villanova. The Wildcats’ dismantling of UCLA was a sight to behold.

Shakiest team remaining: Pittsburgh. I sat next to a diehard Pitt fan at a sports bar Friday. I knew it was a bad sign when he turned to me disgusted midway through the second half and said, “Just root for East Tennessee State. I know you want to.”

Don’t forget about us:  In Xavier’s opening-round win over Portland State, the Musketeers shot 54 percent from the field and committed just seven turnovers. In their second-round win, they held Wisconsin to 25 percent shooting. Xavier has now won at least one game in six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.

Don’t forget about us either: Duke is back in the Sweet 16. Oh, how we missed you.

Best performance: Pitt’s Sam Young was electric against Oklahoma State, scoring 32 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Tournament TV Ratings – First Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

Ever wonder which teams drive the best ratings in the NCAA Tourney?  Looks like Louisville, UNC, Duke and Michigan if you buy into the first weekend stats.   (h/t The Big Lead)

ncaa-ratings-1st-2d-rounds

In related news, CBS Interactive is reporting that their March Madness on Demand service was up 60% over last year’s demand.  This may be partially attributable to their new hi-def feature from Silverlight, but it also probably represents that people continue to take their access to major sporting and news events increasingly from the web. 

CBSSports.com, in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA, today released traffic figures for NCAA March Madness on Demand (ncaa.com/mmod) for the first four days of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. In total, there were 5.6 million unique visitors to the NCAA March Madness on Demand video player, a 60% increase over 2008 figures. Additionally, there have been 6.5 million total hours of video and audio consumed thus far, a 71% increase over 2008 figures.

Share this story

ATB: NCAA First Weekend Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

First Weekend Storylines. Like most of you guys, we figure we watched approximately 38 hours of basketball last weekend over the first four days of the NCAA Tournament.  Since we were in Vegas taking advantage of the sportsbooks’ multiple huge-screen tvs, we pretty much saw pieces of every game on the dance card.  Here are some of our thoughts and observations based on the sensory overload (speaking of sensory, that chick making bedroom eyes at the burger in the McDonald’s commercial is ridiculously difficult to remove from the internal hard drive).

Coach K, Your Filet o’ Sole Has Arrived.  From our point of view, at least in terms of the elite teams of each conference, there was never any question that the Big East was much stronger than that of the ACC this year.  The fact that anyone was even questioning this seemed odd.  This year, the Big East had six teams (of seven bids) with a reasonable shot to make a run at the F4 – UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, Villanova and Marquette, and the first five of that group is still standing (the most ever by a single conference in the Sweets, btw); the ACC had three (of seven bids) - Duke, UNC and Wake Forest, but only the twin towers of Tobacco Road royalty are left dancing.   The simple fact of the matter is that the ACC’s middle – comprised of Clemson, Florida St., Maryland, BC and Virginia Tech (NIT) – were only “solid” teams that had significant weaknesses due to personnel or other issues.  Conversely, the equivalent caliber teams from the Big East (with the notable exception of WVU) were left out of the Big Dance.  This group includes Providence, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Notre Dame, and there shouldn’t be any dissent as to the fact that each of these teams would have competed for the middle of the ACC with the above group and several would have also earned bids on the basis of the occasional upset (see: Maryland and BC).  Sitting where we are now, with five Big East teams a mere two wins away from the F4, it wouldn’t shock us to see all four slots filled by a BE team.  This is still an unlikely scenario, but keep in mind that only Villanova is considered an underdog to reach the next round (Syracuse is a pick’em against Oklahoma), and all five of these teams are more than capable.

footinmouth

#1 Seeds. UConn looked absolutely dominant in its two games, and while not much can be discerned from a 56-pt dismantling of Chattanooga, the 92-66 beatdown of a Texas A&M team that was coming on strong must be viewed with awe.   The Huskies will get the best team in the Big Ten next – Purdue – but we have trouble believing that the Boilers will challenge Jim Calhoun’s team at this point.  Suddenly a #1/#2 matchup against Memphis in the regional finals looks very appealing.  UNC bombed Radford in its first round game before riding a partisan crowd’s energy and Ty Lawson’s toe to a breakaway win over LSU in the second round, 84-70.   The Heels should put away Gonzaga easily in the next round (we doubt Heytvelt will dominate Hansbrough this time around), but a regional final against either Oklahoma or Syracuse could present all kinds of problems for the Tar Heels.   Louisville and Pittsburgh both struggled to put opponents away in both their first and second round games.   Both of these teams sometimes have trouble scoring, and we have to wonder when a prolonged scoring drought against a good team will be enough to end their run to the title.   Pitt should have a relatively easy go of it with its next game against Xavier, but we’re looking at Louisville’s next game against Arizona and wondering what might happen if the trio of Budinger, Wise and Hill are all making shots.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Mascot Death Match – Second Round (Sunday Matches)

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2009

Continuing on into the second round of the Mascot Death Match…  you can continue to vote on these throughout the early part of this week, and we’ll have the Sweet Sixteen Matchups up on Thursday. 

For the 2d Round Saturday Matches, click here

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC 2009 Mascot Death Match – Second Round (Saturday Matches)

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2009

We’re back with the 2nd round of the Mascot Challenge. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascot so he/she can advance toward the championship game.

For the 2d Round Sunday Matches, click here.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

East Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round (pt. 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2009

EAST REGION GAME PREVIEWS – PART TWO (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

Once again, we will be picking the East Regional games, while also pitting non-basketball alums from each school in a no-holds barred battle for March supremacy.

Friday’s Games – Dayton, Ohio

(8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Tennessee (12:25 p.m.)

DZ: This match-up is about as even as they come. Both teams play fast-paced, high-scoring basketball. The Cowboys’ James Anderson (18.6 ppg) will be the best player on the court, but the Vols are stronger in the interior with Tyler Smith (17 ppg) and Wayne Chism (13.8 ppg). I’ll go with Bruce Pearl and the Vols here – but you might be better off just flipping a coin.

SM: Usually, these 8 vs. 9 games include at least one so-called mid-major team against a BCS conference team, and I usually lean toward the little guy with my pick. But as the only 8/9 game between two mediocre big boys, this is a total toss up. I have to go with the team I know more about, and that would be Tyler Smith and Tennessee. The real question is whether Bruce Pearl will break out the day-glo orange blazer.

Alumni Throwdown – Gary Busey (Oklahoma State) vs. Chris Hadfield (Tennessee)

DZ: Like the real game, this has all the makings of a great match-up with an actor lost in space going up against the first Canadian to walk in space. But the astronaut wins when Busey gets distracted trying to figure out the life force of a basketball.

SM: Busey had a great turn in a recent season of Entourage. But once you’ve appeared on a reality show called Celebrity Rehab, you’re disqualified. I’ll go with the Canadian astronaut, eh?

(16) East Tennessee State vs. (1) Pittsburgh (2:55 p.m.)

DZ: If the national championship hopeful Panthers have a hard time with this one, they could be in trouble. High-scoring guard Kevin Tiggs (21.5 ppg) helped ETSU win the Atlantic Sun tournament championship, but you may have heard Pitt has a couple of stars in its own in DeJuan Blair (15.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg) and Sam Young (18.8 ppg). The Panthers coast into the second round.

SM: I’ll lay it on the line – Pitt is my pick to win it all. So if they show ANY signs of trouble against a school whose finest alum is a late bishop, my bracket could be in trouble. Tiggs may be a small-conference gunner against Lipscomb and South Carolina-Upstate (yeah, that’s a real school), but DeJuan Blair is a big enough force to block out the (Atlantic) Sun. Panthers rest the starters late, and still run away by 20-plus.

Alumni Throwdown – Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr. (East Tennessee State) vs. Mark Cuban (Pittsburgh)

DZ: It will take a wing and prayer for ETSU to beat Pitt, but prayers are what the late bishop has (sorry, there aren’t many famous ETSU alums). Look for the bishop to prove faith is stronger than money by knocking off the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks in the feel-good upset of the (fake) tournament.

SM: I don’t want to vote against a bishop, but I also don’t want Mark Cuban to rip me on his blog or his Twitter or whatever it is the kids are doing these days. Cuban politely edges Bishop Hunt in this one, but then gets fined by David Stern for excessive celebration.

Friday’s Games – Boise, Idaho

(4) Xavier vs. (13) Portland State (7:25 p.m.)

DZ: The Musketeers notched some signature wins early but have just a .500 record since Feb. 7. Meanwhile, pint-sized guard Jeremiah Dominguez, the two-time Big Sky MVP, fuels a very good shooting Portland State team that knocked off Gonzaga, on the road, earlier in the season. Xavier is a tourney-tested team under head coach Sean Miller, but I like Portland State here in the East Region’s upset special.

SM: I’m on record saying Xavier is a little high as a four seed, but Portland State may be the one team in this region with an even more favorable ranking. I was the one person who watched the Vikings win the Big Sky title at the buzzer, and they did not look like a 13 seed. The Musketeers handle their business rather easily in this one. After that, though, I make no promises.

Alumni Throwdown – Robert Romanus (Xavier) vs. Holly Madison (Portland State)

DZ: Madison, one of Heff’s girlfriends on Girls Next Door, matched up against the actor who played Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? This one would be over before it starts with the Playboy model easily wooing the overconfident sleazeball. (“I woke up in a great mood. I don’t know what the hell happened.”)

SM: Blondes aren’t usually my thing, but in this matchup, it’s a no-brainer. I mean she’s a Playmate, for goodness sake. Personally, I would’ve gone with Phillies legend and Xavier grad Jim Bunning, but a certain Mets’ fan picked this alumni matchup. At least he has a World Series title to back it … oh, wait.

(5) Florida State vs. (12) Wisconsin (9:55 p.m.)

DZ: Averaging over 20 points per game, the Seminoles’ Toney Douglas is one of the best players in the region. But Wisconsin is a pretty solid team for a 12 seed, allowing less than 60 points per contest. Florida State should win a close one, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 12-13 game in Round 2 here.

SM: I’m much higher on the Big Ten than most folks this year (Purdue to the Elite 8!), but not in this case. The Badgers have been totally unimpressive this year, and first-round games are often decided by the best player on the floor. In this case, that is FSU’s Toney Douglas – this year’s breakout star in the East Region. The ’Noles win a tight one late, possibly on a Douglas trifecta.

Alumni Throwdown – Burt Reynolds (Florida State) vs. Stephen Ambrose (Wisconsin)

DZ: Because why wouldn’t we pit a famous actor and former Florida State football player against a late historian and author of Band of Brothers? I’m going with cool guy Reynolds since Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing one of my old professors at Penn.

SM: That’s the best a large state school like Wisconsin has to offer? No Bud Selig, Steve Miller, Joan Cusack, or Charles Lindbergh? This one goes to Burt Reynolds in a landslide. The man nearly stole the show in Boogie Nights – a film that included Heather Graham and not a lot of clothing.

Share this story

Offensive Variation and A Short Word about Defense

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2009

When Ben Allaire isn’t drumming up meaningless college basketball statistics, he’s writing about the Virginia Cavaliers over at Dear Old UVa.  RTC appreciates having Ben stop over this week to make some numerical sense of this year’s NCAA Tournament field.

What the analysis thus far has told you is how consistent a team is, without regard to how good they are.  In theory, a team could be consistently abysmal and do well in its Pythagorean consistency.  Granted, that team would be unlikely to make the big dance, but we wouldn’t have controlled for it.

Take a Pitt as an example.  We’ve seen that Pittsburgh is a maddeningly inconsistent team in terms of offensive efficiency.  As you probably have guessed, it’s a major function of their over-reliance on DeJuan Blair, but it’s a tad bit more subtle than that.  Pitt is first overall in the country at offensive rebounding, again as a function of Blair’s obscene board work.

This reliance on offensive rebounding makes them susceptible to foes; if Blair gets in foul trouble, they have trouble producing points.

Furthermore, they don’t shoot that many free throws relative to their field goal attempt (in an attempt to get more offensive rebounds?).  Free throws can be a consistent and efficient way to get the ball in the hoop.

Back to the main point: perhaps none of these reasons matter for Pitt to succeed.  Maybe Pitt is so outstanding, even their bad times are good times.

That’s why I’ve “devised” a measure of offensive consistency relative to the offensive efficiency.  Basically, I’ve just divided the standard deviation of offensive efficiency by its mean. Statistically, this is known as the coefficient of variation (CV).

The CV often used to assess how wide a distribution of numbers is.  It has an added wrinkle here in that teams are trying to minimize the top (low variation) and maximize the bottom (high offensive efficiency).  Thus, teams want this to be as low as possible.

Think about it like a dart board. The main goal is hit the bull’s-eye. Do you hit it once every ten shots, but otherwise are all over the place or are you consistently off by three inches? Really, you want to hit the bulls-eye often and when you miss, you want to be close to it.

Here are the top/bottom five teams seeded fifth or below in the coefficient of offensive variation:

Rank Top Performers Off CV Bottom Performers Off CV
1 Oklahoma (B12) [2] 0.0954 Illinois (B10) [5] 0.1533
2 North Carolina (ACC) [1] 0.0980 Pittsburgh (BE) [1] 0.1501
3 Duke (ACC) [2] 0.1059 Memphis (CUSA) [2] 0.1438
4 Syracuse (BE) [3] 0.1093 Michigan St. (B10) [2] 0.1418
5 Washington (P10) [4] 0.1119 Louisville (BE) [1] 0.1417

I guess this answers our conjecture about Pitt, but also raised a number of questions about Memphis and Louisville: two teams that many have winning it all.  Will they have enough firepower to last eight games? You have to wonder.

I assume that no one is surprised to see Illinois tops at the bottom considering they’re (1) in the Big 10 and (2) that debacle against Pitt.  Michigan St. has been pretty awful at times as well.

On the left side, we have OU. Jeff Capel has put together a great offensive group in Norman.  Jeff, if you’re reading this, Charlottesville is lovely this time of year.

UNC is no surprise at #2.  The secondary break is king, as is Ty Lawson (when he plays).

Duke is a surprising #3.  I think most people think of Duke as been rather sporadic on offense because they rely on the three so much.  Not so, they can hang with the top teams in the country on offense.

Lastly, I’d like to note that had we not included only the top five seeds, Siena would’ve been tops still.  Fran McCaffery’s crew is really solid on offense. Fran, if you’re reading this, Charlottesville is lovely this time of year.

A final word on filling out your bracket, I’d hoped to do something with defense before today. Alas, it was not to be.  I’ll still probably come up with something about it, but it won’t help you fill in your bracket.  Be cautious with teams that force a lot of turnovers.  From all the analysis that I’ve done, teams that force a lot of turnovers aren’t very efficient on D and are likely to get upset.

Share this story

Sack Up, President Obama!!

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

You probably heard this already, but President Obama released his stimulative bracket today.  What’s notable about this bracket is that he has a serious West Coast bias thing going, and he pretty much goes chalk (choosing four of the top five seeds to advance to the F4).  Here’s the Obama Bracket… surely you can do better than this farcical attempt at knowledgeable basketball (thank you for reading, Mr. FBI Man).

obama-bracket-top-halfobama-bracket-bottom-half

Share this story

Behind the Lines: NCAA Tournament Day One

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

btl-header

This edition of Behind the Lines is emanating from Las Vegas. The Obsessed With Sports crew will be enjoying the first weekend of the tournament from the sports betting capital of the world.

Thursday, March 19th

The 8 versus 9 games are very close, as they should be.

Butler (9) vs Louisiana State (8) -2.5

Behind The Line: Take a look at the over on this one–it’s at about 127. Butler has consistently been going over numbers in this area while LSU scores a lot more than other Horizon League teams.

Texas A&M (9) vs Brigham Young (8) -2

Behind The Line: Both teams have been very good as far as covering as of late. They are a combined 14-6 in their last 20 games. In this case, the spread might play a more minimal role.

Gonzaga is no stranger to being a double digit favorite.

Akron (13) vs Gonzaga (4) -12.5

Behind The Line: Gonzaga is 7-6 this season when they have been favored by double digits.

Connecticut is also familiar with large spreads.

Chattanooga (16) vs Connecticut (1) -20

Behind The Line: UConn is a misleading 3-7 when they are double digit favorites. I say this because a number of their non-conference games didn’t even have lines because they weer favored by so much. Also playing a large role is the competition in the Big East, against whom the Huskies were still favored by more than 10.

According to Bodog the longest shots to win the whole shebang are Binghamton, Morehead State, Morgan State, Radford, Robert Morris and Chattanooga at 1750:1, respectively.

More from Vegas as the week progresses!

Share this story

East Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round (pt. 1)

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

EAST REGION PREVIEW (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

Since there seem to be more than a few obvious picks in the East Region, RTC gives you the bonus coverage you’ve come to expect. Not only do we pick the first-round game – but we also pit a non-basketball alum from each school against each other in a no-holds-barred blog battle. Enjoy.

Thursday Games – Philadelphia, PA

(3) Villanova vs. (14) American (7:20 ET)

SM: Picking a 14 over a 3 is the cool bracket thing to do. Not here. The ‘Nova players could roll out of their dormitory beds, take the train into town and still dismantle the best the Patriot League has to offer. Outside of the 1-16 games, this may be the biggest lock of the first round.

DZ: Yes, an American win would definitely be one of the biggest shockers of the tournament, considering ‘Nova will virtually be playing at home and hasn’t lost to a team with a Pomeroy ranking less than 28 all season. That said, I don’t think the game will be a blowout. Standout Garrison Carr (17.8) leads a senior-laden American team that is on a 13-game winning streak and is returning to the Dance for a second straight year. ‘Nova by 12.

Alumni ThrowdownMaria Bello (Villanova) vs. Goldie Hawn (American): SM: No contest. The Cooler is a highly underrated film. Although, William H. Macy? Really?  DZ: What the hell is a Maria Bello? Maybe I need to see The Cooler. Also, Goldie Hawn scares me here. I think I’ll pass on this one.

(6) UCLA vs. (11) VCU (9:50 ET)

SM: Ever since Seth Davis said he’d “put on a VCU sweatshirt” while falling all over the Rams during Sunday’s selection show, VCU has been a trendy upset pick. Well, count me in. Larry Sanders not only has a great TV show under his belt, but his arms are long enough to give Rick Majerus a real hug. UCLA doesn’t want to be in Philly, and Eric Maynor makes sure the Bruins head home early.

DZ: Maynor might be the most well-known little-known player in this year’s Dance after his shot sent home Duke in ’07, but can we expect him to do it again with a different supporting cast? That’s a lot to ask, especially when the opponent is a UCLA team that will guard his shorts off. Darren Collison and the Bruins may not make their fourth straight trip to the final four, but they won’t be bounced in the first round. UCLA by 7.

Alumni ThrowdownJack Black (UCLA) vs. The Real Patch Adams (VCU): SM: Dr. Adams helps people on a daily basis, while Black is the brains behind one of the finest albums ever, Tenacious D’s self-titled effort. But because Dr. Adams’s story contributed to the downfall of Robin Williams, the nod goes to Mr. Black. DZ: I hope you realize you just picked a comedian who once said “Dude, if you get the nachos stuck together, that’s one nacho” over someone who brings limitless hope and joy to orphans around the world. That pretty much makes you a bad person … but yeah, I agree. The movie Patch Adams did not leave a lasting impression on me, but I consider Saving Silverman one of the most underrated comedies. Sorry, sick children – Black gets the nod.

Thursday Games – Greensboro, N.C

(7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota (7:10 ET)

SM: I’m already on record as saying that Texas is overrated and overseeded, so I have to go with the Gophers in this battle of two tourney-tested coaches, Tubby Smith and Rick Barnes. Minnesota posted a long-forgotten win over Louisville back in the fall, and has endured plenty of battles in the underrated Big Ten. Plus, I enjoyed two sub-zero days on campus in Minneapolis back in 2004, and could not have met nicer people. The Mall of America was pretty cool, too.

DZ: While it’s hard to pick Barnes over Tubby, I think Texas will avoid the upset here. The Gophers have really cooled off after a great start, winning only four of their last 11 games. And the Longhorns, while also inconsistent, have two go-to players in guard A.J. Abrams (16.3 ppg) and forward Damion James (15.4 ppg). Eleven straight tourney appearances won’t hurt either. Texas by a bucket.

Alumni ThrowdownMatthew McConaughey (Texas) vs. Tony Dungy (Minnesota): SM: Both have stood on the sidelines at big football games, but only Dungy really belonged there. The all-around good guy Dungy wins this in a landslide. DZ: What a weird matchup. You can’t say anything bad about Dungy, but I don’t dislike McConaughey nearly as much as Stewie from Family Guy. And I respect the fact that he’s essentially played himself in all of his movies, even if it did seem a little odd in We Are Marshall. Either way, I’m going with McConaughey in a major upset.

(2) Duke vs. (15) Binghamton (9:40 ET)

SM: As much as I would like to pick my America East brethren here, I have to believe that Jon Scheyer will get away with enough traveling violations to help his Blue Devils edge the Bearcats. Seriously though, D.J. Rivera is a great player (even if not a great student), but he can’t beat the McDonald’s All-Americans Coach K brings deep off the bench. Blue Devils run away late for a 15-point win.

DZ: I would love, love, love to see Binghamton keep it close – if only for my oldest friend who’s making the trip to Greensboro to see his alma mater. But I don’t see it happening. Duke is bound for a deep run after a couple of early exits, and Coach K will pick apart an athletic but undisciplined Binghamton team making its first trip to the Dance. This one could get ugly … Duke by a bunch.

Alumni ThrowdownRichard Nixon (Duke) vs. Billy Baldwin (Binghamton): SM: Be honest, you expected BU’s most famous alum, Tony Kornheiser. But we throw curveballs here at RTC. Baldwin has had a less-than stellar film career, but I mean, even a Baldwin can beat Richard Nixon in this bracket. DZ: What is this? Neither of us were alive for the Nixon presidency and I can’t remember ever thinking about Billy Baldwin once. Umm … I’ll shake things up and go with Nixon, only because I liked Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon and because Baldwin is a Yankees fan. Wait, weren’t we supposed to be talking about basketball?

Share this story