Sweet 16 Chat

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

If you’re looking for a chat about planning your Super Sweet 16th birthday party, you have come to the wrong place. If you want to discuss this weekend’s college basketball action at the #1 source* for college basketball news and insight, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be taking all of your questions and offering our unique brand of insights so come with all questions and bring along some friends. I’m planning on going from 1 PM to 3 PM ET so come back then.

*The NCAA might not agree with this claim.

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Notes from the East Region Open Practice

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

Because of the NCAA’s refusal to give us a media credential (or discuss the issue and our side of the case), we were forced to go to today’s open practice to get an up-close look at the teams. As an aside, if anybody has extra tickets for the games in Boston for the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 (in case your team gets cheated by the refs), send me an e-mail at rushthecourt@gmail.com and I might be able to take them off your hands.

The guys who don't want me covering the game

The guys who don't want me covering the game

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The East Region open practice might have been the most boring 5 hours of my life (not counting lectures). There’s a reason the NCAA makes this event free (outside of the fact that they more than make up for it through the $8 programs, $5 Cokes, and $23 baseball caps). The crowd was 95% white males in their mid-30s or above along with a handful of kids chasing autographs from players who they were looking up during the practices checking to see which ones had the best stats. My favorites were the old guys sitting behind me who kept on commenting on how good Gary McGhee and Brian Zoubek were (the tallest guys on the court) and what outstanding pros they were going to be. Anyways, here are my thoughts and pictures (some pictures are from my iPhone because I forgot to charge my digital camera) from each team’s “practice”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)


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.

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ATB: NCAA First Weekend Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2009


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.


#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.

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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

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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

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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.

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