Hey, remember when I picked Georgetown to win the NCAA tournament? That turned out to be a bad pick. Sorry. My bracket is full of bad picks. I’ve never done this poorly. I only got 29 total games right out of 48. I correctly predicted only seven of the Sweet Sixteen. Two of my Final Four teams lost their first game. That’s almost impossibly bad. I don’t know what happened.
On the bright side, I did correctly pick Ole Miss and Minnesota to win in upsets. This probably makes up for all my mistakes. You might even say it more than makes up for them. I know I would.
Here are some bullet-point style thoughts about the first weekend of games.
This photo should have won the Pulitzer Prize
Colorado State is coached by Larry Eustachy. I wish someone had told me this, I didn’t know he was back. He’s a fun character to have around. He’d be more fun if he was still getting drunk at frat parties on his opponents’ campuses after games. One thing about Larry is that he doesn’t wear a suit during games. He wears a button-down shirt with the school’s logo on it. When he was at Iowa State he wore an Adidas mock turtleneck. Coaches who don’t wear ties irk me. It’s just so bush league. Only old guys who wear sweaters à la Bobby Knight or Lou Carnesecca can get away without wearing ties. No one else. I declare ties mandatory unless you’ve been grandfathered in to the sweater club. I don’t think any of those guys are even left. When Tommy Amaker was at Michigan he wore sportcoats with these fancy mock turtleneck things. It drove me fucking crazy. Grow up man.
You look terrible
One little thing I enjoy is when the referees go to the monitor to review a call. Not the review itself, because those are ludicrous and need to stop. Just call the foul and move on. The refs blow calls constantly, why should we be extra concerned about getting flagrants right? Even with the video they still blow the call much of the time. At least they’ve stopped ejecting players for unintentionally elbowing people. Anyway, what I love is when they go to the monitor. It always plays out the same way. The announcers tell us that the refs will be reviewing the call. Then the camera cuts to the referees, who are standing at midcourt. The midcourt guy turns around the monitor, which shows the same shot we’re looking at, which is the refs themselves. It sets up the terrific infinite regression of the refs looking at themselves on the monitor looking at themselves at the monitor, etc. I love that.
I hate the new generic NCAA floor that every venue uses now. The floors were always such a great part of the visual appeal of the tournament, especially when there are four games going on at once. You immediately knew where each game was instead of having to sideways-read the baseline lettering. It also provided a cool sense of continuity through the day, because each game in a given venue had a kind of intrinsic visual similarity. Since everyone is flipping back and forth between games in different places, this was a really cool small thing. It’s too bad that the NCAA’s corporate marketing strategy is more important than fans.
Another thing I miss is the way the physical bracket is organized. It used to be that all the games in two regions were on Thursday and the other two regions were on Friday. This meant that the whole left side of the bracket got filled in Thursday, and the right side on Friday. Another small cool visually/graphically appealing thing. Now it’s a big mishmash. Frown.
Complaint number three: we need to figure out how to incorporate the First Four into the bracket. Right now you don’t even pick those games. That was kind of lame when there was just one play-in game, but now that there are teams playing early that can and do win in the tourney proper, something needs to be done. My suggestion would be to scrap the whole thing and go back to 64 teams, but then the NCAA would lose the TV revenue from Tuesday and Wednesday and mediocre power conference programs would complain about not having a chance so it’ll never happen. I hate the NCAA so much.
The Big Ten did very well this weekend. Except Wisconsin. This made me very happy. I have a new strategy when it comes to picking games involving Big Ten teams. If teams play better in their non-conference schedule than they did in conference play, pick them. If they did worse, don’t pick them. Big Ten conference games are so different from regular college basketball that I don’t think they have much predictive value. Notable teams this year that fit the profile: Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois (who were much better out of conference), and Wisconsin (who was much worse). I feel pretty good about this, we’ll see how it plays out in years to come.
UCLA/Minnesota is the only matchup I can recall in which both teams fired their coaches immediately. Howland was pretty inevitable. I think Tubby was too. UCLA can probably pick whoever they want. Minnesota could end up with a downgrade if they’re not careful. Their AD used to work at VCU; he hired Shaka Smart. Hopefully he knows what he’s doing, and hopefully he’s loading up a dump truck with money to give to Shaka. I would be so happy to see him in the Big Ten generally and at Minnesota specifically. The Gophers playing that havoc style of his would have Williams Arena rocking every game. That would be awesome. That’s an awesome arena. The Palestra in Philadelphia is the only basketball venue I’ve visited that tops it.
I picked Memphis to beat Michigan State. That was dumb. Here’s why:
I didn’t think of that. The announcers made a big deal of Josh Pastner’s laminated cards and his jumping around. Jesus. Is he coaching twelve-year-olds? I’ve seen Memphis play before. I knew about him. I should have known better than to pick him to beat a team with a real coach and a real gameplan. He’s a recruiting coördinator, not a coach. My fault.
I was watching Marquette/Butler and I spotted someone familiar on the Marquette bench. It took me a split second to place him. Jerry Wainwright. Wow. I assumed he’d retire after he got canned by DePaul, but I guess he’s still around. Just wow is all I have to say.
The TV timeout situation is out of control. CBS cuts to a commercial on every called timeout. Plus all the scheduled TV timeouts. That means in most games there are EIGHTEEN commercial breaks. In a 40-minute game. That doesn’t even count halftime. Just unconscionable. The NCAA’s bald hypocrisy on issues of finance is more deplorable with each passing day.
Speaking of TV timeouts, lets talk about commercials. The Bud Light one with the people on a blind date is, to me, the obvious winner for worst/most overplayed of the year. Budweiser has a gigantic ad budget. Couldn’t they at least film a few terrible commercials instead of airing the same terrible commercial over and over? KFC is the runner-up. “Dad, you’re not getting my bites.” Fuck you and your dad and anyone who thinks putting gravy on chicken nuggets is a good idea. Second runner-up is the Sears thing with the dancers and appliances. I don’t even get that one. Is it supposed to be funny? Are there people who think it’s funny? The mind fairly boggles. Nothing this year comes close to unseating the all-time champion, the Michael Jordan of bad March Madness advertising, Shrimp Sensations from Applebee’s. Take a bow, Shrimp Sensations.
Now it’s time for my new and revised bracket. Just because I did really really poorly last time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to me now. I’m rooting for an all-Big Ten Final Four. I think Michigan State is the only team that won’t make it. Three out of four will still be good. It’s amazing that Ohio State will get to the Final Four without beating anyone seeded higher than 6. I wonder if that’s ever happened before. Michigan will win. Trey Burke is the best player. Although if they end up losing to Florida Gulf Coast I won’t even be mad.
Fuck a jinx