2014 Best Upset ESPY

Tonight is the 2014  ESPY  awards and, to be completely honest, I had forgotten about them.  Wednesday nights in the summer are for “So You Think You Can Dance” (because I can’t).  However, I received an happy little present as I was going up to bed- happy enough that I needed to to a quick blog post for you all.

The ESPY for the Best Upset was Mercer’s defeat of Duke in the NCAA tournament.  You know I am jonseing for  for basketball in the middle of the summer…it’s a long time until October, but this was a happy little surprise.  Let’s Celebrate!

Let’s recount that night.  The Mercer Bears were in Duke home territory playing at the PNC arena in Raleigh.  And as the seconds wound down Coach K had to steel himself for losing to a #14 seed and getting knocked out of the round of 64 AGAIN (let’s also savor the 2012 win by Lehigh in Greensboro).  The Bears won that game 78-71 on their strength and experience.  They started five seniors, shut down Duke’s scorers from the field, and played all 40 minutes of basketball. This ESPY is a bit of basketball goodness in the middle of the summer!

Let’s Celebrate that again!!

 

 

 


completely busted

Today, with losses by both Michigan State and Arizona, my bracket is completely busted.  I had those two in the final with the Spartans taking it all.  I don’t love any of the final four teams.  Kentucky wears that garish shade of blue, plays dirty ball, and relies to hard on the one and done players- blah, no thank you.  Billy Donovan and his Gators lost it for me with his piss poor coaching against UConn in their loss to the Huskies.  UConn has been a perennial “no thank you” but with their new coach, the time they have spent in “no post-season” purgatory, and the on-court leadership from Shabazz Napier this season they may be the best of a lack luster choice. (I also saw Napier’s mom saying “good job” to the MSU players as they walked into the locker room today- good sportsmanship is learned early and that was nice to see).  I own two dachshunds and it is just hard to root for the Badgers.

On a better note, the Lady Heels won against that other “Carolina” and will be meeting Stanford in the elite eight.  If they get another win, Coach Haskell will be meeting the ladies in Nashville.  Go Carolina!

As Arizona is out, we no longer get to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson do this:


THIS is what it’s all about

Mercer upset Duke 78-71. THIS is what March Madness is ALL about!

Only 3.3% of brackets predicted this upset! Go Bears!


Bracket Broken?

Is your bracket broken yet?  I’m sure that it is…this has been a day of upsets.  It has also been a day of OT play.  Last year there was only one game that went into overtime.  This year there has already been four.  This is what we live for.  This is March Madness!

The North Dakota State Bison beat Oklahoma in overtime.  Looking at stats, the Bison did not match up well with the Sooners, but their defense held them in check, making jump shots harder to make.  The surprise star of the night was first year player, Carlin Dupree.  He did not play in regulation, but got put into the game in OT because of a reach-in foul by Taylor Braun.  After less than a minute on the floor, Dupree was calmly sinking foul shots like a pro (they win and loose games, people) leading NDSU to the win.

NC State blew a 16 point lead to loose in OT to St. Louis.  A win seem assured for the Pack with five minutes left in regulation, but St. Louis (what they heck is their mascot, anyway) steadily, play-by-play, tied the game and took the game into overtime.  During the regular season, St. Louis was 2-0 in OT and State split their OT 1-1.  Derrick did assure me that State was not going to loose this game by text as they set up for the extra minutes, but alas poor foul shooting was the undoing of this game.  TJ Warren, ACC player of the year, alone was around 30% from the line and the Pack overall left 17 points on the floor (20-37).  Missing foul shots makes your season much shorter.  Coach G should rest assured, the pack is young and he has TJ Warren and 4 freshmen in rotation.  They will do nothing but get better.

For the first time since 2009, Ohio State is going home after one tournament game.  PJ had them in the Final Four on his bracket, but the Dayton Flyers had other ideas.  With the OSU senior, Aaron Craft, missing his last second shot the 11 seed won the game by one point.  Throughout the year, the Buckeyes had played with strokes of brilliance, but tonight they did not play to any potential.  The game was not a disaster, but Ohio State could have played every part of this game better.

Texas held off Arizona State with a last minute buzzer beater to win.  I had ASU beating Texas, so while this is not an upset I was a little surprised that the Longhorns pulled this one off.  After a missed three pointer center Cameron Ridley scooped up the offensive rebound for a quick put-back.  The officials had to review the play.  He got it off before the buzzer, so the Longhorns survive to play another round.

I could not watch the Louisville- Manhattan match up.  The game started with the commentators recounting fact that Manhattan head coach, Steve Masiello, has ball boyed for, played for, and coach with Rick Pitino.  Manhattan runs the same style as Louisville and Masiello’s coaching style is most similar to anyone else in Pitino’s coaching tree. (It was fun that reporters heard him calling out Louisville’s plays during the game)  Pitino is on record saying he cared less about the #4 seed (one I think he deserved) than that the NCAA made him coach against is protege.  That sounds like whining at its finest.  You should coach against those in your coaching tree.  It is something to be proud of not something to whine about.  Louisville won the game, but just barely.  It took 8 straight points by Luke Hancock to lift the Cards to a 71-64 win.  Last year’s champs weather this game, but I’m not going to loose any sleep when St. Louis sends them home in the next round.

In a night of upsets and close calls, perhaps the most surprising (except to my Mom who had Harvard winning on her bracket) was Harvard’s win over the #5 Bearcats.  Last year, Harvard was a surprise winner, but this year they shouldn’t have been.  Harvard has steadily been recruiting well and playing basketball at a higher caliber.  Even Pres. Obama picked this upset, though he does not have the Crimson beating the Spartans in the next round.  For tonight, the Ivy League champs have their upset and go into the next game with experience and momentum on their side.  (Though, I do agree with the president and have MSU winning it all- they are looking health and playing at the level the need to be playing right now).

As foul shots can make or break a win (I’m looking at you NC State), I have to mention Michigan State’s Adreine Payne.  He went 17-0 from the free throw line tonight in the Spartan’s win over the Delaware Blue Hens.  Payne was on fire in all aspects of his game tonight (though his conditioning could be a bit better), but going 100% from the line is impressive.  That is how you win games during the Big Dance.  Harvard can’t match them for size and I think they have the best chance for playing through their region and winning the whole thing (beating Arizona).

Ohhh, it’s March Madness….my favorite time of the year!


Sunday Funday

I have some work I need to do for school, but it is hard to get anything done when today is the day the Big Dance brackets are set and my favorite app opens for the post season!  There’s about 45 minutes until the ACC championship tip-off, Go Cavs, beat dook!- but there are so many good basketball  stories swirling in the air right now.  Who’s gonna get that fourth #1 seed (maybe Virginia if they knock off the devils)? Is Wichita State gonna go perfect for the season (unlikely unless you are the Lady Huskies)?  Is this the year that a #16 beast a #1?  It’s never happened, but one of these years….

As we wait for the ACC to start so that they can finish, there were some good stories from conference championships around the country.  Perhaps as not a surprise, but worth commenting on nonetheless Louisville beat UConn in fairly spectacular fashion.  I have no love lost for Rick Pitino (and the particular shade of blue that the Cardinals play in hurts my eyes), but their run through the AAC tournament (does AAC tournament sound made up to anyone else?) has been thorough.  They beat Rutgers by 61 points and the 10 points they beat the Huskies by belies a much harder game that was played.  This was the fifth meeting in a row where the Cardinals beat the Huskies in double digits.

I was rather surprised that UCLA routed #4 Arizona, though I guess I shouldn’t have been.  They are both strong teams and the rivalry growing between them  leads to passionate play on both sides.  Arizona’s defense was just ineffective against the Bruin’s quick offense.  I am going to ignore the Wear twins in all future discussions of UCLA, for obvious reasons, but they were effective from mid-court for this game.  UCLA won this game by 4 points, play was fast and fun, but the Wildcats did miss 6 free throws in the game.  Those points left on the court could make all the difference between going to the Big Dance and going to the Big Dance as a #1 seed.

The shocker of the day was Providence’s 65-58 win over Creighton.  I thought Creighton had that one, no problem.  The Blue Jays have been hot and Buckets McDermott (click on this link you will not be disappointed) is an offensive machine.  This game was a study in how a steady game wins the race.  A good mantra to mediate on as we enter the live or die moments of the post season- you have to show up to the game and play a full 40 minutes (I’m looking at you Carolina) to win the title.


30-0 and not #1

Wichita State is 30-0 and not the #1 team in the nation.  Florida, a team with 2 losses, holds that spot.  Some say because the Shockers play in the Missouri Valley Conference and not a traditional powerhouse conference is the reason they are not in the top spot.  We are reaching a time in college basketball where complete domination by major conferences is coming to an end.  With the shuffling of teams in and out of conferences (and creating them like the AAC), what it means to be in a major conference, or a mid-major, is changing.  The ranking of college basketball needs to reflect that.

This team is 30-0.  The first Division I men’s team to ever reach this mark in the regular season (remember St. Joe’s went 27-0 in 2003-04).  While #2 in the nation is nothing to scoff at, I find the strength of schedule argument hard to take at this point.  Yes, strength of schedule is something to take into consideration, but if you are at the end of March and no one has been able to take you down- you deserve the #1 spot on the poll.  Especially when the team above you has TWO losses.  One of Florida’s losses, against UConn, was one of the worst pieces of college basketball coaching I have seen in a long time.  UConn had no time outs and Billy Donovan called one allowing the Huskies to set up a shot and ultimately win the game.  That piece of coaching should, in no way, be rewarded.

Wichita State, keep doing what you are doing.  Good Luck as you finish up your season and roll into March Madness!


The Basketball world has become more predictable

We still have time for some upsets tonight, but yesterday not much happened that was super surprising.

Yes, Michigan upset Kansas in overtime.  It was a great last shot to send them into extra minutes and I was rooting for Big Blue to knock off #1 Kansas.  But it was not a huge surprise that they won. Both are good teams, from power conferences….

As for the rest, Louisville beat Oregon…man, I was going for those Ducks…to be the last #1 standing.

Dook out defended the Spartans.  Defense is what won the devils that game (I know Curry shot 29 points, blah, blah, blah), but without their defensive game  Michigan State’s played good enough on the offensive end to win.

Saddest of all was that Florida beat FGCU ending their Cinderella run.  The beginning of the first half, the Eagles went on a 8-0 run and maintained a double digit lead.  However, with some substitutions and a little practice Billy Donovan figured out what his Gators needed to do to dominate the court.  The first half ended with a 16-2 run for Florida, then Florida started the second with a 5-0 run.  That was a blow that FGCU couldn’t overcome.  This team played great ball, works fantastically as a team, and has more than done their job for the season.  It will be interesting to see: 1) how much easier it will be to recuit to FGCU and 2) How much general interest and enrollment spikes for this young school!

At this point, I am ABD (Anybody but Duke…and Louisville can lose too!)