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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NCAA Tournament Recap: A Few Scoops of Zombie Justice


Haters.  When you think about it, they're a lot like zombies.  They appear out of nowhere, with an insatiable, and often unexplainable blood lust, yet they're usually able to to be dispatched by incredibly simple, all be them often brutal means.  Ya know, like tricking a group of them to follow you around a corner, only to drop a piano on their heads when they eventually get there.  Yeah, just like "Zombie Kill of the Week" from the movie, Zombieland...

And that's what I aim to do today.  Drop a big 'ole piano on the heads of all the Teds that have come out of the woodwork hating on the Big East after the 1st two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.  Because that's how they're acting, like zombies.  Matter of fact, "lemmings" would probably be a more appropriate example, but nobody kills lemmings, they just aimlessly walk of a cliff to their deaths.  And seeing as I'm out to give these haters a shotgun blast to the face full of justice, I'd rather them be un-dead Pink Hats than little wobbly, furry lookin' muppets...or whatever lemmings are...

So let's talk a little tournament, and get to the root of both why the Big East failed to impress, AND why the haters have been so quick to call them out as frauds...



STILL the best basketball conference in the land
Eleven Big East teams started the tournament, an NCAA record, but now only 2 out of a possible 9 remain.  So, the question is asked: What went wrong?  And while the un-dead Teds are quick to mention that this means the Big East was "way overrated" and "unworthy" of a record setting 11 bids, I can point to one specific guideline, and give a few well though out reasons, as to why their 9-9 record over the opening weekend should come as no surprise, nor serve as a reason to doubt the conference's overall prowess...

Fist off, let's establish that by the ground rules set up by the NCAA, there's NO DOUBT at all that the Big East deserved to get 11 teams in the Big Dance.  The criteria for getting in may not be crystal clear, but in loading up on quality non-conference opponents, the Big East and it's teams assured themselves that both their conference's RPI (#2) and Strength of Schedule (#2) will rank at or near the top come Selection Sunday.  With that in place, all the teams need to do is win enough games, and more importantly, enough of the right kind of games.  This year, they had 11 teams that did that, so those 11 teams got it in.  And if you'll flash back to Sunday, I don't recall anyone complaining about that fact...

Now, while all the teams deserved to get in, there were a few that were sputtering in, and surely set up to lose.  Those teams, were St. John's, Georgetown, and Villanova.  The Johnnies had injury issues and had to travel across the country, G'Town was just getting their starting PG back and doubts remained about his health, and Villanova might have been playing the worst basketball of any team in the tourney coming in.  OK, so those teams lost.  Not all that shocking...

Next, we have the teams that were board-locked by another Big East opponent.  Cincy, Syracuse.  That means you.  Those pods had 2 Big East teams in them, and low and behold, their Sweet 16 rep is from the Big East (Marquette + Cincy, by the way, were two very popular 1st round upset victims).  Oh, and for the record, you switch #6 G'Town with #6 Cincy, and #11 VCU is done before they even really get going.  Mizzou probably would have beaten G'Town, too, but it just speaks to how the nuance of seeding also plays a big role in all of this...

And boom goes your bracket...
So, 5 teams out of the way, and 6 left to be accounted for.  Well, really only 4, because UCONN and Marquette are still alive.  And you can cross off #5 West Virginia, because they played right up to their seeding, winning 1 game and taking #4 Kentucky down to the wire.  So 3 teams left...

Louisville.  They lost on an improbable last second 3 after losing a 10 point lead when one of their best players (Preston Knowles) was lost to injury.  He doesn't go down, they win that game, and in all likelihood, save your bracket from it's first major blemishes...

That leaves Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.  Two teams that, I'll be the first to admit, should definitely be in the Sweet 16, but in them only 1 team that truly failed to play up to expectations.  And that would be Notre Dame.  The Irish are a streak shooting team that couldn't find their touch, so they got blown out.  No excuses there.  That's just a loss.  But it's not so cut and dry with Pitt.  A Gilbert Brown free throw goes in, and they move on.  An excuse that may seem like a cop out, but not when it's used in defense of a team that just doesn't blow people out.  Pitt plays close games, and they lost one that they just as easily could have won.  Not a total shock, to those of us that have been paying attention all season, yet it's serving as one of the major bullet points for those attempting to cut down the Big East...

Listen, the Big East has failed to impress in this year's NCAA Tournament.  That's a fact, and I'm not looking to make excuses for that.  But to use hindsight to say they were unworthy and/or overrated?  Well that's just foolish.  They're still the best conference in the land, and their brutal slate of games will annually produce some of the best team's college basketball has to offer.  Not to mention attract the most talented prospects and highly respected coaches.  Whether or not they typically perform well in the Tournament?  Well that's another argument altogether, and NOT one that's even remotely considered when the Selection Committee makes their picks. Nor should it be.  Track records are fun to look at, but just ask the people who took Michigan St. on track record alone if they think that's a good way to select teams for the tournament field...

So, if you happen to be preaching that particular set of beliefs when you cross my path this week, that the Big East is as fraudulent as the Met's financial records, well then you're a jealous hater, and you should prepare to get a healthy dose of verbal buckshot right to the face.  Hey, I'm out for Zombie Kill of the Week here, kids, and if you're not careful, you could end up the next Un-Dead Ted to lose their head.  Ha! Finish with a catchy rhyme, that'll always get'em...

As for the tourney itself, not surprisingly I've been a huge fan.  Despite what the performance of my Orange or the previous Big East diatribe may suggest.  IT started off in a blaze of glory on Thursday afternoon, and while there have been a few more blowouts than I'd like, each "session" has provided more than enough intriguing action to keep even the most ardent skeptics fully enthralled.  Which kinda speaks to the downfall of the Big East, too.  Without it, there aren't as many upsets.  And without upsets, the Tournament just isn't...well...it just isn't the Tournament!  OK, it would probably be just as exciting if all the right seeds won all their games by 1 point, and we would theoretically still be left with the "better" teams, but let's not get caught up in the details.  The point is, it was a great opening weekend, and there's no reason to think that another outstanding slate of action isn't headed our way come Thursday...

Here are a few impressions I came away with:

OK, so don't foul. Got it?
*IF you follow me at all, you know I love Pitt coach, Jamie Dixon.  Which is why I'm having so much trouble figuring out why he even had his players lined up in the paint for Gilbert Brown's potential game winning free throw?  Brown's miss led the most bizarre foul you've probably ever seen, and the rest is history.  Granted, Butler deserved to win that game until the refs intervened in the final seconds, but the fact that Jamie and his veteran crew could so blatantly mishandle a key situation like that just left me scratchin' my head.  Not at the fact Pitt lost, I told you they were uber-vulnerable in close games, just at how they managed to give the game away...

*I know one person that is a Florida St. alum, and that's Rooch Nation lead graphic designer, Kevin "Frosco" Tomasso.  He had Notre Dame not only beating his alma mater in the round of 32, but moving all the way to the finals where he told me "they would get crushed by Ohio St.".  An hilarious prediction, not for his picks, but because the way he chose to phrase the final.  And again, doesn't it kind of speak to how unlikely an FSU win was?  Not that Frosco is some hardcore hoops fan, but still.  He's not a hardcore Notre Dame fan, either...

Picture = 1,000 expletives
*Ahhh, my beloved Syracuse Orange.  Beaten for the 2nd time in 2 months by Marquette, and yet again shown the door a few rounds early.  Well, what can I say?  You make 18 turnovers, you're gonna lose almost every time.  And to be honest, the whole game I was a little surprised that Marquette wasn't able to take advantage of those turnovers and pull away.  But they didn't, and that set up the typically fantastic, yet nonetheless painful call of "D-J-OOOOOOOOOhhhhh!" from Mr. NCAA himself, Gus Johnson, when Darius Johnson-Odom (or as I call him "Lamar Odom's Johnson") nailed the game winning 3.  Ahhh, that bastard.  Even when you hate him, it's only cuz you love him.  Gus Johnson, that is.  Not Lamar Kardashian's man parts...

The Golden Eagles did a great job again of frustrating Rick Jackson, seemingly the only Big East team that can do that to him at will, and with  Brandon Triche injured that moved more of the load over to Scoop Jardine.  Never a good thing.  Scoop's either awesome or awful, and he's usually both on consecutive plays.  So while his back court violation that seemingly cost the Orange the game may not have technically been one, it was only a matter of time before depending on the inconsistent Jardine jumped up and bit Boeheim's Orange in the ass.  And I'm not surprised it was a conference foe, let alone red hot Marquette, that was able to send them upstate with a sour taste in their mouth.  Hey, you make that many turnovers, and you're gonna lose.  IT's as simple as that...
I know I was saying Boo-urns

Oh well, there's always next year.  Then again, depending on your feelings regarding a certain Mr. #11, those may not be the most comforting of statements.  I still have "faith", but sorry, I'm fresh out of patience.  And yes, @PhillyFlash11, that means you can consider me a Twitter follower lost...but not you, @dionWaiters3.  I'm still down with you. Weeeeeeee!...

*Marquette and Richmond were two teams I told you last week could easily end up in the Sweet 16, so you're welcome.  As for those of you that instead took my advice on Utah St. & Oakland?  Well, I'm sorry about that, especially since I myself didn't end up taking that advice either.  Eh, dems da breaks I guess.  The Richmond pick is funny, too, seeing as I bumped into a co-worker that was a URI alum, and also had Richmond in the Sweet 16.  He then went on to hate on the Big East, and tout the "little A-10's tourney performance".  When I asked him what about the only game where the 2 Conference's were head to head, where #11 Marquette, the last Big East team to get in, throttled A-10 regular season champ and #6 seed Xavier, he had no response.  Translation: He became the first Un-Dead Ted to get shot in the head.  BAM!  Get that weak A-10 sauce outta here!  Bring some delicious A-1 sauce, but not that weak ass A-10 sauce.  Please...

This guy also kisses dudes on TV
*I've got beef with the poor officiating in this tournament, and I've got beef with Charles Barkley.  Which is funny, because I've heard him say several times already that he's thought that the officiating in this Tournament has been exceptional.  At least I though that's what he was saying, sometimes it's tough to tell.  It's like he's constantly eating cotton balls dipped in honey.  But either way.  My beef with the officiating has been, per usual, the rampant misuse of the charge/block call, especially in crucial parts of the game.  It's like this.  A charge should be 100% obvious to everyone watching.  If it's not 100% obvious, then it was a block.  Which is why, 99.99% of the time you see a charge called (in the NCAA or the NBA), it should have been a block.  Now "player control" fouls, which also get signaled as charges, are another story.  I actually think those get called at a pretty accurate clip.  But the amount of charges that get called is just laughable, especially when they show us the replay and the player is CLEARLY moving throughout the entire play...

He's turrible....but then again, so am I
Funny thing is, I think I've figured out an incredibly simple way to make the misuse of that call far less of an issue.  Just change the physical action of calling the charge to something less demonstrative.  Guys like The Higgins brothers and Jim Burr, they think people are there to watch them ref, and when they get the chance to make a charging call they ham it up like they're auditioning for a role in the Broadway adaptation of the "Tim Donaghy Story".  It's really disgusting.  I think, if you change the call, you'll get fewer of them, and that's a good thing.  It would give players more reason to drive hard to the hole, and it would eliminate a lot of flopping.  Hey, I'm all for taking a legit charge, but if ALL you were trying to do was take a charge and not play defense, just like ALL Paul Pierce is trying to do is get to the free throw line, not really make a shot, then you shouldn't be rewarded.  IT's more or less a loophole that teams and players try to expose, a weakness they know the refs have that they try to take advantage of.  I say close the loophole, and it would make for a much better game...

As for Barkley, he says a lot of funny stuff, but it gets tiring.  Maybe it works better in the NBA because he's actually familiar with the players and the teams involved, I don't know, but he and Kenny Smith are just embarrassing themselves up there.  I want my analysts to be able to actually "analyze" and all they do is make jokes and speak in such broad terms that anyone with any knowledge of the game can immediately recognize they don't know what they're talking about.  And if you needed further proof, just watch how newly infused studio guest, Rick Pitino, reacts when the two of them are talking.  They're funny, sure, but it's more laughing "at them" funny for me than it is laughing "with them" funny.  Which is never a good thing in my book...


So there you have it.  The first weekend of the tourney is in the books, with another weekend of madness just a few days away.  It truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year.  As for my predictions going forward?  Well, my Final Four teams are still alive, but if I had pick again, I'd say either Duke or Ohio St. is primed to take this thing home.  Thankfully for my sanity, I don't have to pick again, so I'll still be rooting for the Kansas Jayhawks to get me off of my Championship snide...

To those that are still alive in your respective pools, good luck to you all.  To the rest of you, there's always next year...and if you're really looking for something to do, there are always some Un-Dead Teds that need takin' care of...

Have a great week, friends.  And I'll catch you on the flipman...


Teddy Williams...  
100...

#$>

1 comments:

Ktomasso said...

Here's a fun fact. In 5 out of Notre Dame's 7 losses this season, they scored either 57 or 58 points. While I had them going 4 rounds further than they actually did, I did predict their losing score to within 1 point (and to my favorite team nonetheless). Now if that's not a "braket guy" justification, I don't know what is. But, go me, and go FSU!

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