April 17, 2010

Q: What's wrong with this picture?

A: Three players are in the lane before the free throw has been shot. That is a lane violation.

Wait - this is the NBA. AND it's the playoffs. Excuse me...

A: Nothing.

Get ready for nearly two months of the same old bullshit.

April 7, 2010

The Ghost of Myles Brand comes clean

Drew mentions both sides in his post, and I have to be honest (and hopefully not annoying) in using this to reply. There is one giant hurdle with the NCAA and expanding the tournament. Before I get to that, I'll list the minor bumps that won't bother this cash cow at all:

1. Either way, they make a shitload of money. Sure, they give some of that to schools. Some.
2. Their placing the same bland court on each site. This is a personal annoyance, but keeping the regular court was just as much the fun of it. When you're watching games, how do you know the difference if the game is in Salt Lake City, New Orleans, or Providence? You don't, which is pretty annoying. I couldn't figure out what game I was watching, which was maybe their point.
3. Jim Nantz made sure to mention the tribute to Brand on the court of the Final Four. Clark Kellogg, as a good employee, echoed the statements. Brand always did a good job of stroking both sides of the NCAA lifeblood: the money, and the schools.

Brand, as President of the NCAA, was keen to point out that it wasn't exactly beneficial for the largest schools to adopt a win at any cost view. He didn't do anything about it because, well, there's nothing he could do.

Brand also made public the graduation rates of each school's basketball team. This usually came up around tournament time. Ah...now here's a chance to enforce something. Such as, if your graduation is below a certain percentage, you can't play in the tournament. Whether you agree with that kind of rule or not, it's something he COULD have enforced.

But like the parent who simply calls out the child of his problems to make them known and then does nothing about it, the problem (it's only a problem to the NCAA, not the schools, of course) wouldn't go away. Myles would just smile and cash in the free spa visit ticket from Dick Vitale.

The expansion of the tournament comes down to one thing. And if the NCAA simply comes to terms and admits this, it can pave the way for a Division I football tournament.


Whew. Felt good. That's the elephant in the room. Can we all admit this? Once we get past it, we can deal with 90 schools in a tournament...40 of which are actually any good. But that's the fence, NCAA. You gonna climb over it?

April 2, 2010

We movin like Russia, Bone Crusha, at the flick stick the usher

Alright, let's just keep this going, right here, on this fancy blog. After all, 'tis the purpose....

Deadspin is in the ring, and the url couldn't make it any more clear. Again, as usual, any and all analysis is tainted with the "DON'T CHANGE A THING IT IS SO GREAT AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH" angle. As though the tournament is SOOOO perfect that it could never be altered. I guess that's the question... is it possible to make something more perfect?

Let's go ahead and go through those complaints:

"The dirty secret of the 64-team tournament is that it is already too big. No seed lower (lower meaning weaker) than an eight has ever won it."

Oh god, no, I'm sorry, but no. That's not truth. If we argue on the premise of "no team lower than an 8 seed has ever won it", then we must accept the principle that THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS WHO WINS IT. That is just the antithesis of what the tournament is all about, in my mind. I don't care who eventually wins. Yes, the final four is exciting. But for me, and doubtlessly for many others, it's all about Coppin State, Pepperdine, G. Mason, UNI, etc. These runs by underdogs are what makes the tournament awesome, I'm sorry, I'll never be convinced otherwise. Sure, eventually Kansas or Kentucky or Uconn outlasts the competition and is crowned champion. So how exactly does that change with the new system?

Moreover, I'd like to make the argument that the tournament is WAY more fun once half of the "top teams" are eliminated. Think of it... once Kansas, Syracuse and Kentucky were out in this year's tournament, didn't it really feel like it had "opened up"? Like, seriously, Butler or Michigan State could win the whole fucking thing. MICHIGAN STATE? What were the pre-tournament odds on that one, Dickfer? 1 in a Brazilian? So come on, more competition just means more 1 seeds get shat on... regardless if a #13 never wins (and they never SHOULD, it's the fucking tournament, remember?) I think the level of competition doesn't get impacted by adding more teams.

"And let's face it, those top eight teams probably won't lose their second game either, because we've just given these teams that are already favored more rest, a chance to scout their future opponent live in a must-win game, two extra days of preparation for that opponent, and best of all ... only two days for the opponent to prepare for them"

All is fair come tournament time. So Duke can sit back comfortably and watch Alabama play Tulsa for their "play-in game". But they can't run a practice preparing for one or the other until the game is over. Yep, they get 2 days of rest. But after Tulsa dispatches Alabama easily, (way more easily than Duke thought) then both teams start preparing.

If we accept the notion of "THE TOP SEED GETS 2 EXTRA DAYS OF REST AND THEREFORE WILL HAVE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE" then why try their hardest in the conference tournament? Does that not ALREADY happen? You think Kentucky gave an ass about the SEC tournament? They were going in as a 1 seed regardless. They could've tanked a game early just to get more rest. Rest and time between games really doesn't matter when it comes to the tourney. Yes, it may prevent a 21 seed from winning it all. BUT THESE TEAMS WEREN'T GOING TO WIN IT ALL ANYWAY. Can they still beat a 1 seed? Sure, why not? It's all luck and good coaching. None of that changes.

Shit, I have SO much more to say, but I'll let others take it away. I have to go for a swim.


The tournament operates like all other playoffs in that, to some degree, the teams that are hot at the right time can go on runs. Teams that are truly elite have to learn to balance their effort as the season progresses. Can they afford to take their foot off the gas pedal? Once a team from a big conference clinches their seed, they can and should rest a little bit. The teams that will be fighting for position, and inclusion, in the tournament are going to be going all out, just like always.

See the great equalizer is the RPI. It's so great that a team like Butler can draw a 5 seed. If the program is truly top-notch, they can schedule whoever they want for non-conference, and provided they handle their conference, they will be rewarded. In football, the Gophers will never be taken seriously because they schedule South Dakota as a non-conference and that is laughed at. But in basketball, you have so many games that you can have both your tune-up, Georgia State games, AND your "maybe we'll catch Louisville when they're tired" games. It all adds up to RPI at the end of the season, and anyone can get in with the right amount.

Then, of course, we come back to the money. Again, failed arguments all around. Oh, the NCAA is doing this only for money? IS THIS RUSSIA???? Since when did we start fighting against the notion of sports trying to make money off of themselves? I understand petty gripes about Spiderman 2 sponsoring the bases in MLB, or BCS sponsorship and blah blah blah. But why are we begrudging the NCAA for trying to get more money and more television coverage out of their product? If we don't like the product, we won't watch. If we all decide that this system sucks, and no one tunes in for the early rounds, they will be forced to deal with that and change it in the future. I don't get these arguments. "HOW DARE THE NCAA TRY TO LOCK IN A HUGE TV CONTRACT TO SHOW THEIR INCREDIBLY POPULAR PRODUCT???"

April 1, 2010

Great Moments In Hypocrisy

Ok, the bubbling point has been reached.

I have been reading about the NCAA tournament expanding to 96 teams. Essentially, as I am to understand, they are adding 32 teams and giving the top 32 teams a bye. Again, to boil that down, that means they are folding the NIT into the current tournament and allowing the top 32 teams to have a game off.

My god. This sounds to me like more basketball... more competitive, lose-and-you're-out basketball. In March. So what, pray tell, is the problem here?

ESPN is predictably going bonkers over this, and it's not hard to figure out why. They make not a single penny from the tournament, so they are quick to put it down. Pat Forde was "interviewed" (by a network he works for) and called it a "catastrophe". Adding more basketball that matters is a catastrophe? Have we all lost our minds?

Let me run down what I perceive as the major gripes against all sports, amateur and professional, in this country (note: I am typing this from Hawaii, so we're BARELY in America, but still)

NFL - I don't know that there really is a gripe for the NFL. The television coverage is awesome. The sport just keeps getting bigger and better. The teams are balanced, and parity is everywhere. I guess the one knock could be that players don't get paid enough. But that shouldn't count. Really, I think the NFL is as well run as they come.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL - The BCS is by far the worst post-season system in any sport, at any level.

NBA - The season is too long, and it doesn't matter. The playoffs are too long. The officiating is as horrible as it has ever been in any sport anywhere in the world and that includes South American soccer where they used to threaten refs with murder. There are too many teams and too many stupid GMs.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL - The talent pool is smaller because the best players jump to the NBA too early. Coaches like Bob Huggins don't give a shit now, nor have they EVER given a shit, if their players graduate. Awful human beings like Rick Pitino are lauded as heroes in this game.

NHL - It is a regional, niche sport that expanded way too fast and too recklessly. 3/4's of the teams should be in Canada. The playoffs are so awesome, that they just make the regular season that much stupider. The goalies wear too much padding.

COLLEGE HOCKEY - It is followed and watched by enough people to fill the lower deck at a Wolves game.

MLB - The commissioner is a dunder-headed stink-licker who bends the entire sport's financial structure to the whim of the owners. The economic disparity between teams ensures that while spending money does not guarantee success, NOT spending money guarantees failure. Otherwise, all other gripes about the game are petty and usually made by nerds.


Now, this isn't meant to be comprehensive or to say one is better than the other. The point of all this is that nowhere in these complaints will you find that there are too many intense games that are do-or-die. Other sports would KILL for the pressure and awesomeness of an NCAA tournament. Hockey comes close, especially in overtime, because everything about the game gets turned up a notch. NBA playoffs are fun, yes, but the early rounds are just tune-ups for the good teams. And the games really only matter in the last half of the last quarter. But tournament basketball is foot-on-gas-pedal, all the time. Can the Gophers take the first half off and still beat teams like Penn State in the tournament? Nope, Xavier is going to crush them.

So, seriously, I don't get it. I don't get what I'm missing. The arguments laid down by commentators are laughable. They trot out the whole "THE KIDS WILL MISS A WEEK OF SCHOOL" bit... as if any sane adult pretends that student athletes in any major sport are students at all. Look, some of them get great grades and some of them fail hard and don't get allowed to play basketball (COUGH*ALNOLEN*COUGH). Just like in real school. The smart ones find ways to bring textbooks on planes and keep up with their work via email. The dumb ones coast along and get Jan to write papers. It's a billion times more prevalent in football. So don't talk about them missing school, please. I miss WORK, and many millions other do as well, to watch these games. The players can afford to miss a lab or two.

Another common argument is the old "THE REGULAR SEASON WON'T MATTER ANYMORE". Wow, that's garbage. First of all, how much the regular season matters won't change at all. You're talking about MORE teams, not less. Northwestern was a bubble team this year, and did not make it in. They would likely have been a "bubble" team regardless of if the field was 96 or 64. But had they made it into the field of 96, they might win A game, but never two, and definitely would eventually get dominated by a much better team. But here's the thing.... you're talking about allowing 31 OTHER teams like Northwestern into the tournament. You think ONE of those is eventually going to take down UNC and leave Roy with that shit-mouth frown he pulls when his teams go pee on themselves down the stretch like they always do? YES, YES, OH HELL YES. More opportunities to take down the Stanfords, Dukes and UCLAs are always welcome. So, to circle back to the point... how much does the regular season matter RIGHT NOW? Well, every year someone in the ACC (like Wake) loses like 4 games all year and goes in with a high seed. And they get railed by UTEP or whatever because the Miners try harder. So are you telling me Wake is going to work less hard during the season? What would that get them? The beauty of a tournament is just that - that the regular season matters to seeding and selection - but once the ball is tipped, it's game on buster brown. You may have beaten USC-Upstate by 60 points, but Morgan State is mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore.

Coach K is talking about guaranteeing a spot for the regular season winners, as well as tournament winners of the big conferences. Gold. Go for it. More cinderellas, more upsets, more quality teams matched up with shakey, middle-of-the-conference, just-barely-beat-Michigan-at-home-and-probably-would-lose-to-South-Dakota teams. Get them in there and watch them get reality-checked.

See, this is the same thing that would happen if they allowed it in football. Sure, at the beginning, Florida and Alabama and Texas would still roll. But eventually smart coaches would start putting together game plans and surprising them in the early rounds of the tournament. Oh, Mack Brown, you took it for granted that you drew Uconn in the first round? Well, now they're running the punt-block, ON EVERY DOWN.

We're Americans. We love the "one and done" of tournament play. Games 4 and 5 are so meaningless in NBA and MLB playoffs. When it goes to 7, that's magic. Anything else might as well be pre-season.

Honestly folks, tell me what I'm missing. More basketball is better, right? Even if the crappier teams make it in (to see UNC do in the tournament what it is doing in the NIT right now would flare up my bowels), I still see more pressure on the elite teams, and more opportunities for the little guys, and that - in essence - is what sets the NCAA tournament apart from every other postseason system in the country.