Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Final Four preview: Louisville is favorite but not a guarantee for title

Midwest No. 1 Louisville vs. West No. 9 Wichita State

Breakdown: Louisville has outscored opponents by an average of 21.75 points this tournament and hasn’t lost since Feb. 9, a 104-101 loss to Notre Dame in five overtimes.

Besides winning the Big East tournament with a win over East No. 4 Syracuse, which is in the other Final Four matchup, Louisville has also taken down Michigan State and Duke in the NCAA tournament. Both Duke and Michigan were ranked in the top 10 this year, with Duke being No. 1 at a few points this year.

Louisville, led by junior guard Russ Smith (26 points per tournament game), has a variety of weapons and has shot 57 percent from the field (119-for-207) in four games, justifying its No. 1 overall seed.

But despite showing no signs of slowing down, Wichita State has been no slouch. It upset Pittsburgh by 18 points, took down No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State and made the Final Four.

But for the Shockers to defeat Louisville, it needs to hit its 3-pointers. After an opening 2-for-10 performance against Pittsburgh from beyond the arc, Wichita State went 14-for-28 against Gonzaga, 5-for-12 against La Salle and 8-for-20 against Ohio State.

And the defense has held teams to 34 percent from the field in the tournament (79-for-230). But still it will need to have to play beyond its talent to defeat Louisville.

Prediction: Lousiville 73, Wichita State 59

I just don’t see Wichita State winning this game. Lousiville will take away the 3-pointer, and it will take advantage of mismatches inside to build a big lead.

Wichita State will play tough, but it won’t be enough.

South No. 4 Michigan vs. East No. 4 Syracuse

Breakdown: Michigan was as impressive as any team with its win over No. 3 Florida in the Elite Eight.

But the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament was a top-five ranked team for much of the season and have arguably one of the best point guards with sophomore Trey Burke. So the performance was hardly surprising.

Michigan shot xx percent from the 3-point line (10-for-19) against Florida and held it to 20 percent (2-for-10). And it also had one of the best comebacks of the tournament against No. 1 Kansas, erasing a 14-point deficit, in the Sweet 16 and obliterated VCU in the round of 32.

The Wolverines played in one of the best conferences all year and are tournament tested, which makes them very dangerous. However, Syracuse has one of the best defenses remaining, which it will need.

Syracuse has been in the top 10 in opponent’s field-goal percentage all year, and that has transferred over to its four tournament games – Montana State (11-for-54, 20 percent), California (22-for-56, 39 percent), Indiana (16-for-47, 34 percent) and Marquette (12-for-53, 22 percent).

And that is nothing compared to its perimeter defense in the tournament. Opponents are shooting only 15 percent (14-for-92).

The Orange zone has been impressive and is the perfect defense to force Burke out of the paint and the Michigan bigs from establishing itself on the glass.

However, Michigan can shoot, and if it knocks down a couple of 3-pointers or if freshman guard Nik Stauskas gets hot like the Florida game (6-for-6 from beyond the arc), Syracuse’s zone will have to switch to a man-to-man to contest the shots. That leaves the game open for Burke in the second half.

Prediction: Michigan 66, Syracuse 63

I think Michigan has the strengths to finally solve the Syracuse zone, but it won’t be easy.

This game should go down to the wire, but I just think Michigan is the better team overall.

But whichever team wins, I feel that Louisville/Wichita State will have some trouble in the title game.

Seeding Final Four:

1) Louisville – The favorite to win the title, but it will have its hands full against either the versatile Wolverines or the defense of the Orange.

2) Syracuse – I don’t think it has enough to get by Michigan, but the defense has been impressive enough to earn them this spot.

3) Michigan – An impressive run to the Final Four, but it should have lost against Kansas. Michigan cannot afford those types of lapses if it expects to win.

4) Wichita State – Sorry Shockers, but if you win, it will be two of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. I just don’t feel they have enough to make the final.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Grading the Elite Eight: An upset goes a long way

I do not count a No. 4 over a No. 3 to be an upset, but it technically counts. However, the West No. 9 Wichita State win over No. 2 Ohio State is definitely an upset and the best game of the Elite Eight.

Overall, there were a few great performances and moments but the games were quite average from the fan’s perspective.

It wasn’t the best, wasn’t the worst and the Wichita State upset was good enough to make it memorable for the average fan.

But in terms of brackets, the winner is the West. That bracket had upsets, good matchups, buzzer beaters and it has the lowest seed in the Final Four with Wichita State.

And although the Elite Eight was average, the tournament as a whole has been very good.

Here are my Elite Eight and final bracket grades:


No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 2 Duke – B -

This game was back-and-forth until 12 minutes to go in the game. That is when Louisville took over and never looked back.

But the game was very exciting until that point, and the Louisville takeover was very impressive, especially with the loss of sophomore guard Kevin Ware to a horrific broken-bone injury.

Ware was not a huge contributor, but a loss like that could have caused minds o not be in the game. That didn’t happen.

Duke just couldn’t solve the defense, only hitting eight of 24 shots in the second half. That ultimately did them in and took away any possibility of an exciting finish.

The game wasn’t horrible, and it could have very easily have been a National Championship game.

Louisville just lived up to its overall No. 1 seeding, the only seed higher than No. 4 left in the tournament.

MIDWEST overall grade – C

The matchups had potential, but none of them really lived up to it. This bracket only had two upsets, and with Oregon being the No. 12 to make the Sweet 16, I would hardly even count those games as upsets.

Oregon should have been a No. 4 seed at least, and that makes this bracket the one where teams that were supposed to win did. There were a few good ones, but overall, this bracket was the most boring to watch.


No. 3 Florida vs. No. 4 Michigan (W) – C+

Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke starts strong, and Florida switches to a zone. That is when the 3-pointers rained down – Michigan was 10-for-19 – and when the game had its moments until a 21-point lead for the Wolverines.

Florida cut into the lead a little at the end of the first half, and it definitely stole the momentum at the start of the second, switching to a man-to-man defense and contesting every shot.

But it was too late as Michigan freshman guard Nick Stauskas’ 6-for-6 performance from beyond the arc and 22 overall points was one of key differences in the game.

But the Michigan lead was too much to overcome, and the game was over with 12 minutes to go, especially with the horrendous perimeter shooting of the Gators (2-for-10, 20 percent).

I must brag that I did choose this exact Elite Eight matchup and winner at the start of the tournament.

SOUTH grade – B

There were some great upsets and storylines, and the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds didn’t make it the Elite Eight.

This bracket was only slightly better than the East, but it still didn’t have enough to beat the West.

But there was the first ever No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16, and that is something no one will forget when filling out their brackets next year.


No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 4 Syracuse (W) – C

The Syracuse zone gave Marquette fits in the first few minutes, allowing Syracuse to grab an early 11-point lead, a lead it never lost despite a few runs by the Golden Eagles.

Marquette’s run at the end of the first half that brought it to within three points and one in the second that made it a four-point deficit breathed a little life into this game, but it never really became the Big East thriller some expected.

Poor shooting by both teams also slowed down the pace, but Marquette’s was terrible (12-for-53, 22 percent). This wasn’t the exclamation point the bracket needed to be one of the best of the tournament.

EAST final grade – B –

They say the final games in a bracket are remembered, but there were too many good games early on to pull the grade down too much from the Elite Eight. 

The East might not have been the best, but it had its moments.


No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Wichita State (W) – B+

It wouldn’t have been the West bracket if there weren’t an upset in the Elite Eight.

With all the talk about South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State seemed to be under the radar, and it now had knocked off both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the West bracket.

But what is crazy is that both teams were similar in every stat except 3-pointers. Wichita State knocked down eight of 20 (40 percent), while Ohio State only hit five of 25 (20 percent).

The Shockers jumped out to a 20-point lead, but Ohio State wasn’t going down without a fight, clawing back to trail by only four with two minutes to play.

The upset coupled with the late-game excitement made this game one of the better ones of the Elite Eight.

West overall grade – A –

This was what was dubbed as the weakest bracket of the four, but it had the best matchups and best games of any other bracket.

When the No. 1, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7 seeds do not make the round of 32 and there is a No. 2 vs. No. 9 matchup in the Elite Eight, it just screams excitement.

It was fitting that Wichita State was the team to come out of this bracket, and it deserved it with wins over the best seeds.

NCAA Tournament grade (through Elite Eight) – B

The Midwest bracket definitely kept this grade from an A, but there were some very good games and even better moments in this tournament.

There weren’t tons of overtime games or lots of buzzer beaters. This isn’t the best tournament. But it has been very good so far, and now we have an interesting Final Four.

Louisville/Wichita State and Michigan/Syracuse are games that have potential. I just hope it is true potential.

Next up  –  

Final Four preview, Weds, April 3
Final Four grades, Sun, April 7
National Championship preview, Mon, April 8
National Championship grade, Tues, April 9

Friday, March 29, 2013

Grading the Sweet 16 (second day/overall): Instant classic with a side of interesting matchup

The first half of the night had me on my feet, but it caught me off guard.

South No. 4 Michigan looked to be down for the count against No. 1 Kansas, and I was hanging with some friends, half-paying attention.

Then I noticed a few plays and realized Michigan was cutting into the lead a little bit. Then I watched as it made one of the better comebacks of the season and forced the first overtime of the entire tournament.

That game was fun to watch, and it sets the tone for what I think will be a great weekend of games in the Elite Eight.

We also can’t forget the South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast story. It ended, but it still had a chance late into the game.

Overall, it was an average Sweet 16 with a great game and sets up a great round of games Saturday and Sunday.

Here are my grades for the day:


No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Michigan – A+

The first overtime game of the tournament looked to be over with four minutes left in the second half. That was before sophomore guard Trey Burke took over late to lead No. 4 Michigan to an 87-85 win over No. 1 Kansas.

Burke not only hit the a game-tying 3-pointer from 30 feet with four seconds left, but he also shot the lights out in overtime, finishing with 23 points and 10 assists.

Michigan came back from an 11-point deficit in the final minutes, and it kept the momentum in the overtime, forcing turnovers and hitting four of seven shots from the field.

But still, Kansas still had a chance to win in the waning seconds. They just didn’t execute in the end.

The chaos and switch at the end, and the drama of the lower seed making an improbable comeback and upset made this game an instant classic.

No. 3 Florida (W) vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast – C+

Florida Gulf Coast burst out and grabbed a quick 11-point lead, knocking down 3-pointers and alley-oops in the process.

But then Florida settled down, played its game and took advantage of its superior rebounding and ball handling.

The game started and looked like a shocker, but in the end, it was all Florida. Florida Gulf Coast stopped making shots, and Florida was getting second-, third- and fourth-chance opportunities.

It wasn’t the best game in terms of excitement, but it deserves a nod for that brief time six minutes into the game that probably had everyone who isn’t an Eagles fan  saying, “Is this really happening?”

Florida Gulf Coast also made a little run at the end that still had me believing they could pull off another big upset.  The Eagles just fell a little short.

SOUTH grade – B+

The opener in this bracket was a great one, and the latter had its moments. Now there is a Florida/Michigan battle awaiting in the Elite Eight.

SOUTH overall grade (through Sweet 16) – B+

There have been huge upsets, good games and a variety of matchups we wouldn’t normally see. This bracket is with the West bracket in terms of the best of the tournament.


No. 1 Louisville (W) vs. No. 12 Oregon  – C

Louisville shows why it is the overall No. 1 seed with a 77-69 win over No. 12 Oregon, and it never really was in trouble in this game.

I expected Oregon’s speed to present a problem, but Louisville equalized that with 28-for-52 shooting (53 percent) from the field, led by junior guard Russ Smith’s 31 points.

Oregon really didn’t play bad (27-for-61, 44 percent), but its speed wasn’t an advantage on defense.

The Ducks made a nice run in the second half, but this game was not all that riveting.

No. 2 Duke (W) vs. No. 3 Michigan State  – C

What started as a really close game turned out to be a Duke defensive show in a 71-61 loss.

Both teams were seven for their first 13 shots, and both teams finished with a 40-percent scoring average. However, Duke forced Michigan State into foul trouble and lit them up on the free-throw line.

Michigan State had four players with three fouls and two more with four, and Duke was 24-for-26 from the charity stripe.

That slowed the end of the game, and allowed a brief advantage for Duke to remain, making a seven-point deficit seem like 15.

Overall, it was a game that had potential, but Duke was able to force Michigan State to play its game.

MIDWEST grade – C

Once again we had average games in this bracket. But A No. 1 Louisville/No. 2 Duke matchup is one that should be good. The coaches are experienced and always come up with great game plans, while the teams’ are both high skilled.

However, that is how the Duke/Michigan State game was supposed to be.

MIDWEST overall grade (through Sweet 16) – C -

In terms of brackets, this one is filled with average games. It definitely was the easiest for the higher seeds. It is the only bracket with a No. 1 vs. No. 2 Elite Eight.

SWEET 16 Day 2 grade – B

It was a much better day than the first part of the Sweet 16, and there were some incredible moments in the Michigan/Kansas game.

Plus, we had the interesting matchup of Florida/Florida Gulf Coast with a few moments.

SWEET 16 overall grade – B -

The second half of the round helped this grade, but I am not complaining. The Elite-Eight matchups created after this group of games looks to be memorable.

Grading the Sweet 16 (first day): The day of the shellacking

There I was barely sitting on the couch with my gaze pulled into the television picture, wandering back to the computer, dragged back to the television. I was riveted, never blinking, laughing at how awesome the games were.

Then I woke up.

This was one of the more boring days of the NCAA Division 1 mens basketball tournament, and the latter half of the night was forgettable.

Still, we did get a really good game with East No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Arizona. And that is the one real highlight. But still, please give me a better night of games tomorrow.

Here are my grades for the first day of the Sweet 16.


No. 2 Ohio State (W) vs. No. 6 Arizona – A

Ohio State is becoming the 3-point, last-second darlings the last few games. Another game-winner with time winding down as LaQuinton Ross capped his 8-minute, 14-point finish from NBA range.

Ross finished with 17 points (14 of Ohio State’s final 17 points), and the Buckeyes needed that performance to get by a very skilled Arizona team.

The Wildcats had an early lead made possible with defense before some turnovers led to an Ohio State run. But just when we thought it was going to be over, Arizona makes a run that included a basket and a foul by Mark Lyons to tie the game before falling 73-70.

This game is everything you would expect in a Sweet 16. Ohio State is now a favorite to make the Final Four.

No. 9 Wichita State (W) vs. No. 13 La Salle – F

In one of the more unlikely matchups, it was one of the more forgettable games. Wichita State dominated this game.

Up 17-3, it kept abusing the paint and grabbing the boards. The Shockers had a 44-to-23 advantage on the glass. And that was only half the way they showed that they were the stronger team.

But at this point, I think Wichita State/Ohio State is primed to be a good one.

WEST grade – B

The Ohio State/Arizona game was good enough to keep me really liking this bracket. And don’t be surprised if Wichita State pushes the Buckeyes Saturday.

WEST overall grade (through Sweet 16) – A-

One bad game isn’t about to hurt the grade on this bracket’s games this year, and it has a chance to finish great with the next game. But I hope the Elite 8 brings better things.


No. 2 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 3 Marquette (W) – D

The injury of Miami senior center Reggie Johnson was a big factor into why this game was never really a game.

It is a shame too, because I wanted to see what Johnson could do. And his loss hurt the chance of an exciting game.

Marquette was able to get easy looks inside, and it was able to edge Miami on the boards, something that is much harder to do with Johnson in the lineup.

Marquette won by 10, but it led by 21 at one point. A couple of late 3-pointers made the score closer than it seemed.

No. 1 Indiana  vs. No. 4 Syracuse (W) – C+

This game had potential in the middle, but Syracuse’s zone was a wall for Indiana. Syracuse had 11 blocks and stifled the Hoosiers.

And Syracuse hit some early shots to grab a big lead, finishing 21-for-48 (43 percent) from the field to Indiana’s 16-for-37 (34).

Indiana made a run and got to within six but didn’t have enough. The performance of Syracuse’s zone and the prowess of its defense was impressive, but this game was just a little better than average.

EAST grade – C-

I expected more from these games and was letdown. But the Marquette/Syracuse match is destined to be a really good one. I definitely see a possibility of an overtime game, which hasn’t happened yet during this tournament.

EAST overall grade (through Sweet 16) – B

What saves this bracket grade is the potential the Elite Eight is bringing. I expect this grade will go up Saturday.

SWEET 16 Day 1 grade –  C

There was one game out of four that was close into the last five minutes, and that game was won on a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left.

That moment saved a below-average grade. I found myself shooting a rubber basketball into a hoop, doing set plays against pretend opponents, feeling like a lunatic.

The television was just in the background. I kind of want to sit on the couch tomorrow and say, “Oh!,” play-after-play. Here’s to good basketball.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Grading Sunday’s games: Tough to catch my breath during best day so far

From buzzer beaters to record-breaking upsets to back-and-forth games. Sunday had it all.

The day starts with a 3-pointer with time winding down for West No. 2 Ohio State as it survived No. 10 Iowa State.

It continued with the No. 1 matchups. And although both No. 1 seeds moved on, it wasn’t easy for South No. 1 Kansas or East No. 1 Indiana. Both teams had to battle until the end to make the Sweet 16.

Then we have West No. 13 La Salle winning with a layup with five seconds remaining, and then we had East No. 2 Miami (Fla.) and No. 7 Illinois battle until the final minutes. Great stuff.

I couldn’t catch my breath. I would say that six of the eight games were a B- or higher, with South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast becoming the lowest seed to make the Sweet 16.

This was not only madness, it was a dream for basketball fans. Surprisingly, I also went 6-2 with picks making me 11-5 in the third round (35-13 overall). I am happy with those predictions this season.

Here are the grades for Sunday.


No. 2 Duke (W) vs. No. 7 Creighton – C

When the game was close, I thought this could finally be a nice ending to a day of games – which hasn’t been the case all weekend.

But Creighton’s poor 3-point shooting ultimately took the fun out of this game. Duke didn’t even necessarily play well, but it is hard to lose when your opponent’s strength is outside shooting and it goes 2-for-18 (11 percent).

MIDWEST grade – C

The only game was close for much of the way, but the ending left little drama and little excitement. It was another letdown in a bracket of mismatches.

MIDWEST weekend grade – C-

This was by far the worst bracket of games, but there were some nice storylines with No. 12 Oregon proving they should be a higher seed.

Still, I found myself not really watching this bracket as intently as the others. But I think No. 1 Louisville/No. 12 Oregon and No. 2 Duke/No. 3 Michigan State will redeem this bracket next week.


No. 1 Kansas (W) vs. No. 8 North Carolina – B

North Carolina looked like it had Kansas on the ropes, and then senior center Jeff Withey went beast mode on the Tar Heels.

He not only had electrifying blocks, but he had dunks that shook the arena. Withey single-handedly stole the momentum, and the upset potential became the distant memory.

Withey had 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. That great performance was worth watching.

No. 3 Florida (W) vs. No. 11 Minnesota – C

Florida led for most of this game, and it was apparent Minnesota was overmatched a bit.

But Minnesota battled, and it made a late run to give hope for Gophers fans. Unfortunately, a scoring drought of over five minutes ended that hope.

This game wasn’t very good in terms of excitement, and it was by far the worst of the group of games Sunday. However, it still wasn’t a blowout and was OK to watch.

No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (W) – A

Not only did Florida Gulf Coast become the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16, but it also made a name for itself.

This team is legit, and it was great to see their execution and passion as they made shots, battled for 50-50 balls and halted San Diego State enough on defense to pull away in the end.

It will be really interesting to see the matchup against No. 3 Florida next week.

SOUTH grade – B+

What a set of games from this bracket Sunday. After the terrible Michigan/VCU game Saturday, this bracket came alive with close games and history from Florida Gulf Coast.

SOUTH weekend grade – B+

Overall, this was a great bracket of matchups with great storylines shaping up. I am very excited for Kansas/Michigan and Florida/Florida Gulf Coast next week.


No. 1 Indiana (W) vs. No. 9 Temple – B+

Another No. 1 seed that moved on with a battle on its hands. Temple was close to the upset here, but Indiana didn’t back down at the end.

The Hoosiers played a skilled, athletic game on defense at the end and just willed their way to a win.

The back-and-forth contest was fun to watch, and this was just the beginning of a great day of games.

No. 2 Miami (Fla) (W) vs. No. 7 Illinois – B

Syracuse jumped ahead early, and it controlled the entire game. It seemed like a blowout in the making, but California kept fighting.

And a couple of late runs, including back-to-back 3-pointers and a forced turnover, made this game fun.

It wasn’t the best, but compared to the first games, this was a B.

EAST grade – B+

I definitely enjoyed these games, despite no upsets. We could have very easily had two upsets Sunday, and that is all you can ask for.

EAST weekend grade – B

There were some really good games in this bracket, but there were a few really bad ones too. Plus, this is the only bracket with the No. 1 through No. 4 seeds moving on. Still, I am excited for Indiana/Syracuse and Miami (Fla.)/Marquette next week.


No. 2 Ohio State (W) vs. No. 10 Iowa State – A

I was craving good basketball after the one-sided games that began Saturday, and that craving was fulfilled with the opening game of Sunday.

Iowa State is a fast team with skilled players that can make plays happen even when there is nothing there, and Ohio State is a team out of the Big 10 with athleticism and methodical play.

The way this game went back-and-forth was good enough. But to have it end with a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds set the tone for a crazy day.

No. 12 Ole Mississippi vs. No. 13 La Salle (W) – A

What a nice story with La Salle. This game was not only fun with both teams making runs and hitting key shots down the stretch, but it also had another upset with the Atlantic 10’s La Salle moving to the Sweet 16.

And to have it done with a running layup through a tough zone with two seconds left just put an exclamation point on this one.

La Salle has not had success like this since 1955.

WEST grade – A

This bracket was again one of the better ones to see. The madness has hit this side more than the rest of the bracket with a No. 2, No. 6, No. 9 and a No. 13 in the Sweet 16.

WEST weekend grade – A-

There were some bad moments, but this was by far the best bracket to watch. And it has a guaranteed seed of No. 9 or lower that will make the Elite 8. I am interested in No. 9 Wichita State and No. 13 La Salle. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Arizona should be a good one too.

OVERALL Sunday grade – A

This was the best day of the tournament since Thursday, and it might have been the best because I kept watching all the games. I definitely hope this trend continues next week.

OVERALL weekend grade – B+

There were a few moments that I wondered why I was even watching these games, but there were so many great storylines and so many great moments, that I would call the first weekend of the NCAA mens basketball tournament a success for fans and for parity.

Some really interesting matchups came out of the first weekend, and the rest of the tournament is shaping up to be something special.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Grading Saturday’s games: Yawn fest alleviated with final three games

Forget the lack of true upsets, as Oregon shouldn’t be a No. 12 seed, but the first five games made me nearly take a nap.

Five games. Five blowouts. Boring.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some great plays. There were some good performances by teams or certain players, but a blowout is a blowout.

No drama and one team playing awful.

But then came East No. 3 Marquette’s squeaker over No. 6 Butler and then came West No. 1 Gonzaga getting upended by the sharp shooting of No. 9 Wichita State.

Even South No. 4 Syracuse and No. 12 California had its moments. And I finally started to have fun.

Although, I did only go 5-3 in my bracket today, making me 29-11 so far but only 14-10 since Thursday.

Here are the grades for Saturday’s games.


No. 3 Michigan State (W) vs. No. 6 Memphis – C

Why does this game get an average grade? Because there were some good plays but more importantly, there were no other games to turn to.

No. 1 Louisville (W) vs. No. 8 Colorado State – D

This game had no doubt. Louisville was bigger, stronger, more athletic and more aggressive. Plus, Colorado State didn’t hit their 3-pointers.

After a big first half, Louisville ran away with the game in the second half. And I turned the game off.

At least I picked Louisville in this game in my bracket.

No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 12 Oregon (W) – C

While this is an upset by seed, it is actually a game Oregon should have won. What a bad matchup for Saint Louis.

This game was fast which made it not drag so much, but Saint Louis fell behind and never recovered and essentially gave up.

It looked like Oregon was playing by itself on rebounds, and it shot as if no defenders were present. Oregon got whatever shot it wanted.

The selection committee definitely got it wrong with Oregon. They should have been a No. 6 seed like Arizona.

MIDWEST grade – C

I hope the No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Creighton is better or this bracket is in danger of a D for the round of 32.


No. 4 Michigan (W) vs. No. 5  VCU – D

I was expecting this to be a game. I was wrong.

Michigan not only broke VCU’s pressure, it cut a hole in it, ran through and singed it back together to keep VCU behind a wall while they scored at will.

Michigan shot 51 percent from the field (31-for-60) and won the battle on the boards, 36-21.

This game was over in the first half, and I was forced to watch it because it was the first game of the day.

SOUTH grade – D

The only game ion this region was pretty terrible, but a Florida Gulf Coast upset could lead this bracket all the way back to a B, maybe an A if the other games are respectable.


No. 3 Marquette (W) vs. No. 6 Butler – A

This was the game I was waiting for all day. Both teams hit shots, made plays and it came down to a final shot. What more can you ask for?

There was a point it looked like Butler had the control, but it never happened. The teams were too similar, and it was fitting it came down to a final missed 3-pointer.

Both teams deserved to win, but Marquette won with the strength of Madison Memorial graduate Vander Blue. He nailed a huge 3-pointer to tie the game late, and the Golden Eagles never looked back.

No. 4 Syracuse (W) vs. No. 12 California – B

Syracuse jumped ahead early, and it controlled the entire game. It seemed like a blowout in the making, but California kept fighting.

And a couple of late runs, including back-to-back 3-pointers and a forced turnover, made this game fun.

It wasn’t the best, but compared to the first games, this was a B.

EAST grade – B+

Thursday was much better in the East, but overall, this was a good bracket.


No. 6 Arizona (W) vs. No. 11 Harvard – F

Arizona destroyed Harvard, and not just because Harvard missed its first 12 shots.

Harvard could not contain Arizona senior guard Mark Lyons, who transferred from Xavier for graduate school after three seasons. Lyons scored 27 points, and Harvard’s Cinderella story ended in the first four minutes.

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Wichita State (W) – A

And we have another big upset. What a game. Wichita State had a small edge for most of the game, but Gonzaga came roaring back.

It was then that the 3-point barrage started. Wichita State was 14-for-28 from beyond the arc and Gonzaga made a couple of huge errors, including a lane violation late in the game.

This is up there with Northern Iowa’s win over Kansas a few years ago. It is one we will remember when all is said and done.

WEST second-round grade – B

The Gonzaga upset made this bracket decent today, and the West is absolutely crazy. The highest seed left is No. 2 Ohio State. The next highest? No. 6 Arizona. I feel like an underdog is making the Final Four this year out of this bracket.

OVERALL Saturday grade – C

The final few games saved the day. I was ready to mark an F down, but I had lots of fun watching the end of the night. Hopefully, Sunday is better.

Grading Friday’s games: Upsets show seed don’t matter


Minutes after South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast upset No. 2 Georgetown, the effects could be felt throughout the college basketball world.

It really doesn’t matter what seed you are anymore. It is about matchups and whether you make your shots.

Georgetown was flat, and the reason for that is nervousness. Florida Gulf Coast played loose, with nothing to lose. And with a skilled, athletic team, Florida Gulf Coast was able to punch Georgetown with a quick barrage and by the time Georgetown realized it needed to fight for its life, it was too late.

Games like that has become the staple of the tournament. Parity is alive, and as reporters, bloggers or fans, we all love it.

I was 9-7 with my picks on Friday after going 15-1 on Thursday. Yeah, I love the madness.

Here are my grades for that game and the rest of the games on Friday.

No. 2 Duke (W) vs. No. 15 Albany – C

Let’s be honest. The matchup was not in the advantage of Albany, and it showed early when Duke was able to assert itself on defense and pick up points on transition.

Senior guard Seth Curry was on fire, picking up 26 points, and senior forward Mason Plumlee dominated, with 24 points and nine rebounds, which was fun to see for fans of good performances.

And Albany didn’t just rollover in the second half, which is also nice to see. But overall, this was a game to switch off early on with a lack of drama.

No. 7 Creighton (W) vs. No. 10 Cincinnati– B

It looked as though Cincinnati was going to secure an upset until the end, but overall this was a close matchup in a game that teetered back and forth.

Creighton might have come out as the winner, but the fans did too. Junior forward Doug McDermott scored 27 points for the Bluejays, which shows he might be a presence against Duke Sunday.

The one aspect that took away from the game was the poor 3-point shooting of Cincinnati.  But overall, this was a good game.

MIDWEST second-round grade – C

There were a couple of good games these last two days, but overall, this was the worst bracket to watch so far.


No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (W) – A

Although this game was never really a game with Florida Gulf Coast running away in the second half, this is a story we all crave during March Madness.

This is an upset that busts brackets but garners fans, because I bet many casual fans or fans of other schools that aren’t San Diego State will be rooting for the Eagles.

But Georgetown was only down two points at halftime and made a late run, but this game felt like Florida Gulf Coast’s the whole way and should be ranked with the top upsets of all time.

No. 8 North Carolina (W) vs. No. 9 Villanova – C

What started as a one-sided game ended with a little bit of uncertainty because of North Carolina’s terrible play.

Villanova was beaten early but didn’t give up, and North Carolina made this a game with turnovers and poor shooting at the end.

However, the game was really never that entertaining because of the bad play.

No. 3 Florida (W) vs. No. 14 Northwestern State – D

Florida easily won this game, and although Northwestern State had an early lead, it was overmatched against the Gators.

Florida had four players in double figures, while Northwestern State had just one.

No. 7 San Diego State (W) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma – B

San Diego State was able to knock down its shots at the end while Oklahoma was not.

Still, I really enjoyed this game because it was back and forth for most of the game until the end.

And even then, it seemed like San Diego State was the underdog, and the energy from the team as they pulled away was fun to watch.

No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota (W) – B

A No. 11 seed over a No. 6 is not that big of an upset, especially when it is two major conferences, but still, UCLA came out of a very impressive Pac-10 conference and Minnesota faltered late in the Big 10.

That was out the window here though as Minnesota led by double figures most of the way and held UCLA off when it made its one run in the second half to run away with the win.

But I was entertained, possibly because my managing editor at my job loves the Pac-10. Take that Jim!

No. 1 Kansas (W) vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky – B

Much like the Gonzaga game Thursday, Western Kentucky was looking primed for the biggest upset in tournament history.

Kansas played timid, and Western Kentucky kept the Jayhawks off balance on offense.

But, in the end, the talent of Kansas was just too much, and senior center Jeff Withey was insane with 17 points, seven blocks and six rebounds.

This was fun to watch because of the potential upset and Withey’s performance.

SOUTH second-round grade – B

There were a few bad matchups, but Friday’s games made this bracket one of the better ones to watch.


No. 8 NC State vs. No. 9 Temple (W) – B

A game of runs.

Temple looked like it was going to run away as NC State looked like they were going to go home instead of coming out in the second half.

That not only changed but nearly never changed back as NC State stormed back on offense.

But in the end, the lack of defense on both sides was a pain in my side to watch, keeping this game from an A.

No. 2 Miami (Fla.) (W) vs. No. 15  Pacific– D

This was not a matchup to see. Pacific could not contain Miami at the glass, and with the one-and-dones came transition baskets.

Miami lit Pacific up on the 3-point line and really made this a game to turn off.

No. 1 Indiana (W) vs. No. 16 James Madison – D

Indiana ran away with this game with the better team and more talent on the roster, but James Madison didn’t give up at the end.

That is something that should be commended.

No. 7 Illinois (W) vs. No. 10 Colorado – C

A game that many thought would be an upset went one-sided very quickly.

Illinois showed why the Big 10 is so tough with good defense and execution on the other end.

Colorado made a second-half run, but it was too late to create drama.

EAST second-round grade – B

Thursday was much better in the East, but overall, this was a good bracket.


No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Mississippi (W) – B

The ending was great for everyone that isn’t a Wisconsin fan.

As a Wisconsin fan, I give this game an F, but as a basketball fan, the ending and upset was fun to see.

The shooting was horrible on both sides, and Wisconsin gave this game away. But it would seem that Ole Mississippi might be the darkhorse that people dubbed Wisconsin to be. 

No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 La Salle  (W) – A

How crazy is the West bracket? We now have a No. 12 and No. 13 matchup for round three.

This game was crazy. La Salle was dominating, and then Kansas State stormed back to grab a lead.

But La Salle never flinched and battled its way to edge Kansas State and win its second game of the tournament, the first since 1956.

No. 2 Ohio State (W) vs. No. 15 Iona – D

This was by far, the worst game in the bracket.

Ohio State easily handled an overmatched Iona team, and it was one I never really wanted to go back and watch.

No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State (W) – B

One thing people may have overlooked in this game was how well Iowa State uses its speed to catch teams off guard.

Iowa State was not the matchup Notre Dame wanted. The Fighting Irish are a methodical team that was never allowed to play their game.

But I was really impressed with Iowa State, and I enjoyed watching its fast tempo.

WEST second-round grade – A

When the No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7 seeds are all eliminated, it is always a fun and crazy bracket.

OVERALL Friday grade – A

The upsets were a plenty, and the matchups created for round three were fantastic. I am very excited for the round of 32.

OVERALL second-round grade – B+

I cannot give an A because of all the blowouts and because of some teams that should have played well choking games away.

However, it was a great couple of days, and it sets up a great weekend as we fill in the Sweet 16.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Grading Thursday’s games: Madness lives on despite mix of blowouts

Although there were only four upsets, there were plenty of scares to higher seeds including West No. 1 Gonzaga and East No. 3 Marquette Thursday during the NCAA Division I mens basketball tournament. 

And although some of the lower seeds – such as Midwest No. 12 Oregon and East No. 12 California – might have been seeded lower than what they deserved, but the matchups meant only a few blowouts, and that is always good for the tournament. 

How many people must have turned the television off after West No. 14 Harvard took down No. 3 New Mexico? Who wants to see East No. 4 Syracuse destroy No. 13 Montana by 50 points? 

But that was one of the only points Thursday that didn’t have fans on their feet, intently watching until the final buzzer sounded. 

And so here are my grades for the first round of games, which I was 15-1 with my predictions in my main bracket.

No. 3 Michigan State (W) vs. No. 14 Valparaiso – C

Michigan State dominated this game from start to finish, and there wasn’t much drama.
However, a 23-point, 15-rebound performance by senior center Derrick Nix was fun to see. 

Stepping up in the tournament is different then stepping up in the regular season, and even against one-sided matchups, it was nice to see good basketball by Nix and company. 

Let’s not forget senior guard Ben Boggs for Valparaiso either. He finished with 15 points and was 3-for-4 from downtown. He gave his team some life with those nice shots.

No. 4 Saint Louis (W) vs. No. 13 New Mexico State – C

This was another blowout that was only bad because of poor shooting. The game should have been much closer than it was, with New Mexico State finishing with 41 rebounds to Saint Louis’ 30. 

But the Aggies went 17-for-61 from the field and 2-for-16 from downtown that ultimately clinched their doom. 

Junior forward Dewayne Evans was impressive for Saint Louis with 24 points, but this game was a letdown because of what it could have been.

No. 6 Memphis (W) vs. No. 11 St. Mary’s (Calif.) – B

This is when the madness began in the Midwest region, and this was my only pick I missed on the first day. But it was close. 

Both teams were back-and-forth for most of the way, but it was the wild ending that really got my blood flowing. Memphis had the game wrapped up with a seven-point lead in the final minute, but a barrage of 3-pointers brought St. Mary’s to within two. 

Then Memphis turns the ball over with 2.2 seconds to give St. Mary’s a chance to win or tie. St. Mary’s went for the win and missed the shot, sending Memphis on. 

But this game still doesn’t get an A, because St. Mary’s played horribly in the last part of the second half that put them in that tough position to begin with. 

Plus, Memphis played horribly in the final two minutes that made this game close to begin with.
Still, this was the game that got me excited for the rest of the day.

No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon (W) – B

The first upset of the day wasn’t really close, but Oregon had something to prove after being shunned by the selection committee and put in the tournament as a 12-seed. 

Oregon outplayed Oklahoma State all game, and the energy made this game really fun to watch. It also sets up an interesting matchup in the second round against St. Louis that should be close. 

But, in the end, Oregon played a game to remember with a 44-30 advantage on the boards and eight 3-pointers. Oklahoma State didn’t play incredibly poorly, but it just never got into an offensive rhythm, thanks to great defense by Oregon.

No. 1 Louisville (W) vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T – F

This was one of the worst games all day. North Carolina A&T had no chance to win, and it showed early. 

Louisville dominated on all sides of the ball, and I found myself switching to the other games more often than the rest.

No. 8 Colorado State (W) vs. No. 9 Missouri – D

Usually, these matchups are the closest, but the selection committee got it wrong here. Missouri was severely overmatched all game and looked like it was out of the game before the tip.

Colorado State also lit them up on the 3-point line with seven of 14 makes.

MIDWEST grade – C

This was one of the worst brackets in terms of matchups, but it wasn’t too bad.


No. 4 Michigan (W) vs. No. 13 San Diego State – C

The first half was very good in this game that made thoughts of upsets prevalent, but that soon subsided when Michigan showed why the Big 10 is one of the best conferences by putting on a clinic with defense and inside-outside offense. 

The game wasn’t bad, but the endings are what is remembered. This ending was far from great.

No. 5 VCU (W) vs. No. 12 Akron – D

This game was completely awful from start to finish unless you are a VCU fan. 

There was never a chance for Akron, and it was made apparent early with Shaka Smart’s gameplan. 

VCU pressures teams into turnovers and scores on transition. While VCU did play really well, which was fun to see. The lack of drama hurt this grade.

SOUTH grade – C

Most of these games are on Friday, but the first two were nothing to brag about.


No. 6 Butler (W) vs. No. 11 Bucknell – B

This was a fun game, despite Butler having an advantage most of the way through. 

Bucknell made a nice run late to make the game close, but both teams played well.
Butler was just the better team. 

However, the lack of real drama knocks the game from an A, it was still quality basketball.

No. 3 Marquette (W) vs. No. 14 Davidson – A

I started thinking of Stephen Curry with how well Davidson played in what would have been an immense upset. 

But Marquette was saved from a debacle with Davidson’s inexperience in the tournament. Davidson had this game won, because Marquette played awful. 

However, this game had everything fans of the tournament want – a potential upset, a game decided in the final seconds and drama from start to finish.

No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 California (W) – A

The second upset of the day was a battle. California didn’t have this won until the end, and even then, it had to make free throws to keep UNLV back. 

Both teams were incredibly talented, and it showed in this close game. California also had something to prove like Oregon after being seeded low out of the Pac-10.

No. 4 Syracuse (W) vs. No. 13 Montana – F

The only reason this game was watched was because it was the last game on, but there was nothing about it that screamed good basketball. 

Syracuse shellacked Montana in every facet of the game. 

EAST grade – A

Despite the horrible Syracuse game, these were all quality contests and had madness written all over it.


No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Wichita State (W) – D

Another No. 8 vs. No. 9 that was nothing special. The teams combined for three 3-points out of 37 attempts. 

The shooting was awful, and the rest of the stats were similar. However, Wichita State grabbed a lead, and Pittsburgh could never come back.

No. 1 Gonzaga (W) vs. No. 16 Southern – A

It is rare that a No. 1 vs. a No. 16 gets an A, but this game was one of the close ones that had fans cheering for Southern even if they never heard of them.

Southern played well enough to hang in there with some late 3-pointers, but in the end, it was hurt by taking too many deep shots. 

Gonzaga’s junior forward Kelly Olynyk (21 points, 10 rebounds) saved his team from becoming the No. 1 seed ever to fall with a great assertion in the paint in the second half. This was a good game.

No. 6 Arizona (W) vs. No. 11 Belmont – C

This was a game that many had an upset with, and despite Belmont’s run early in the second half, Arizona was too much for Belmont all game. 

It wasn’t a bad game, and Arizona was impressive. However, there wasn’t much to this game. Arizona was just that much better.

No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Harvard (W) – A

I might be the only person besides Harvard fans that picked them to win, but I had a hunch.
Harvard is talented, and the Ivy League has a recent history of doing well in the tournament. And all of those aspects showed again. 

New Mexico didn’t lose this game. Harvard won it with timely shots and really good defense.
And yet, the game had to be won at the free-throw line, and Harvard did just enough to survive and score its first tournament win in school history. 

All around great storyline for a good game.

WEST grade – B

There was a mix of OK games and really good games, but overall, this was a nice bracket to watch.

OVERALL Thursday grade – B

It is really hard to get an A, especially with so many bad matchups, but don’t be fooled. The good games were worth their weight, and there was always something to watch, even when there was a blowout going on. 

If Friday is like Thursday, we are in for great tournament.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snedeker Scorching Tour

In just a few short weeks, the PGA has already had a number of great story lines.
Anytime Tiger wins, it's obviously news. And then Phil Mickelson turned in one of the more impressive four-round efforts in recent memory at the Phoenix Open.
But lost in that mix was Brandt Snedeker, who might be the best story of all so far this season.
Snedeker, last year's FedEx Cup champion, is red-hot and finally got a win to show for it this weekend at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when he topped Chris Kirk by two strokes.
Snedeker finished runner-up to Tiger at Torrey Pines two weeks ago and was the runner-up in Phoenix when Mickelson went off. But in five starts this season, Snedeker has a victory, his pair of second place finishes and a one third place showing.
While Snedeker isn't exactly a new name — he was Rookie of the Year in 2007 — he should be included in conversations about today's top golfers.
He's on fire right now, earning six top three finishes in his last nine outings dating back to next year. And there's no reason to think that momentum is going to stop anytime soon.

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