Monday, March 21, 2005

"Aren't you feeling the Madness?"

Sadly, that argument didn't work when trying to convince the wife that a fourth straight day of hoops watching was a good idea. So we took most of yesterday off and went to see "Downfall", which I highly recommend if you're in the mood for two hours and 45 minutes of delusional Nazis, punctuated every so often by a tirade from Hitler about how everyone has betrayed him. (At some point, I need to post a little self-analysis on why I'm so interested in Hitler, Bobby Knight, and other combustible personalities.) Anyway, on with the tournament thoughts:

1. At some stage, I need to write an in-depth post on the comparison between the '04 Georgia football team and the '05 Tech basketball team. Both were disappointing, although Tech was moreso, since they aren't going to finish in the Top Ten like Georgia did. Both teams had a hard time making their offenses work this year. Both teams leave the season with a number of fixtures moving on, leaving questions for the upcoming season. Both teams' icons (David Greene and Ismail Muhammed) proved to be flawed players. I'm going to need to think about this a little more.

2. Every year, one team gets completely screwed in terms of their site for the first two rounds. In 2004, it was #3 seed Pitt, which had to travel to Milwaukee to play Wisconsin. This year, it was Wake Forest. Wake lost primarily for the same reason they lost games during the season: they could not stop dribble penetration. However, it couldn't have helped that they had to travel to Cleveland for a second-round game against West Virginia. How is that fair? And how the hell does West Virginia, a #10 seed, get to play two home games? Would it have been that hard to flip them with Iowa or St. Mary's? And it must have really galled Wake fans that Duke got a #1 seed, despite finishing two games behind Wake in the ACC, and got to stay in Charlotte and play Mississippi State, a team that would not have beaten Wake because they didn't have the guards to exploit Wake's weakness. Ultimately, Wake's season was undone by Chris Paul's nutpunch on Julius Hodge. After that, Paul was suspended, costing Wake in the ACC Tournament, and karma went against the Deacs.

3. You know you've watched too much CBS when you get drawn into "Spring Break Shark Attack", which had all of the necessary elements of a bad disaster movie:

Incredibly unsubtle foreshadowing - Dad refusing to let daughter go to Florida because those men are "like sharks"

Nerdy whistleblower - Shannon Lucio's brother, who figures out before everyone else that there is a shark problem, but no one will listen to him.

Improvised tech solution - I was bitter that there was no "this just might work" statement when the protagonists deployed their electronic shark repellant.

Malevolent business interest - the sharks are all drawn to the beach by a nightclub owner from a rival beach. Couldn't have seen that one coming a mile away.

Malevolent male interest - I had the date rapits pegged from an early stage, although it was disconcerting to me that he looked like a less horsey Ruud Van Nistlerooy.

Unsubtle class issues - the rich guy is a date rapist, the club owner is killing people in the sake of profits, and the one good guy is a flannel-wearing handyman who doesn't have the money to go to college, so he spends his weekend nights at a bookstore.

Lots of hard bodies, many of which were eaten by the sharks.

Terrible CGI, although the scene where the windsurfer flew into the jaws of the shark was nice.

Shannon Lucio's two friends - as the movie progressed, her boobs became more and more prominent, to the point that I expected to see them acknowledged in the closing credits.

Where was I?

4. Kentucky/Cincinnati was the best game of the tournament. Nothing says "big game" like a rocking Dome. And for some reason, the Hoosier Dome (f*** you, RCA) always seems to play host to big games and it adds something to the aesthetic of the game. Don't ask me to explain. I didn't have much faith in this Kentucky team because of their youth and issues scoring, but they played well against an inspired opponent. And as if Cincy didn't give me enough reasons to root against them, Jihad Mohammed? Think he gets stopped when he gets on a plane?

5. Your daily reminder of the importance of identifying the effects of recency in sports prognostication: it's always a good idea to pick against teams that play better in their conference tournaments than they did all season. Florida? Gone. Georgia Tech? Gone. Iowa? Gone. Syracuse? Gone. West Virginia is the only team that was able to sustain a March run. Speaking of the Neers, between his name, his lack of a chin, and his bad tattoos, is Kevin Pittsnogle the ultimate embodiment of his school and state? Not unlike J.J. Redick, save for the fact that he's not from Stamford, CT.

6. My goodness is the SEC bad?!? I'm of the opinion that you can point to the coaching ranks. Few of the programs in the conference pay much attention to basketball, so they've hired a collection of average coaches based on short, successful runs at mid-majors. Really, is there a coach in the conference who would be on anyone's list of top 15 coaches in the country, other than Tubby?

7. Color me skeptical about Andrew Bogut. He played fairly well on Saturday and there's no way that Utah would be anywhere near the Sweet Sixteen without him, but should a guy that slow be the #1 pick in the Draft? Is his maximum upside that of Zydrunas Ilgauskas (or, as my wife calls him, Drew Nizzlegoskas)? I'm fervently hoping for Chris Paul, although CP seems to have a short fuse. For instance, he got his fourth foul in the second OT on Saturday night and then immediately picked up #5 on an overly-aggressive defensive play that smacked of total frustration. He's going to have a hard time adjusting to the NBA, unless refs give him the star treatment from day one.

8. Another issue when picking NCAA teams: imagine that team down three with eight seconds to go. Can you imagine the team hitting a three? Put another way, does the team only have one three-point threat upon whom the opposing defense can focus? If so, then don't pick that team. Syracuse and UConn were both in that position this weekend and I was confident on both occasions that they had no prayer of making a three. Sure enough, both teams' point guards were forced to hoist up terrible shots and they're both home now.

9. An illustration of measuring conference strength by number of teams reaching a certain benchmark in the Tournament: the Big Ten has three teams in the Sweet Sixteen. This obscurs two facts:

a. The Big Ten was viewed this year as three good teams and a bunch of unmitigated crap. The first weekend of the tournament did nothing to disabuse us of that notion. Thanks for the cameos, Iowa and Minnesota.

b. The Big Ten's three survivors have beaten five teams seeded #11 or higher, plus #9 Nevada. Oooooh!

10. After all my talk of impotence when picking brackets, my Final Four teams all progressed, although how hard is that when you take three #1 seeds and a #4?

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