March Madness 2018

Did y’all see the dumpster fire that was the NCAA Selection Show this past Sunday evening?? First of all, I tuned in to CBS at 6pm for the bracket reveal because…well, that’s where it’s always been!! For decades!! I understand that CBS & Turner Sports entered into a partnership a few years ago. The best part it is that games are shown on CBS, TBS, TNT, &…for some odd reason…Tru TV, which is cool because one can pretty much watch every single game if your channel flipping skills are up to par. The negative aspect is that we are forced to endure Turner’s NBA lineup of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, & Kenny Smith. I don’t necessarily have anything against those guys, but it’s a “world’s colliding” kind of thing. ESPN doesn’t have Kirk Herbstreit & Lee Corso on the Sunday Night Football pre-game crew. Fox doesn’t have Terry Bradshaw & Howie Long analyzing college bowl games. Stay in your lane. After four months of college basketball it’s a little weird to have NBA guys suddenly pop up to break down March Madness as if they’re experts. Having said that, it’s not a huge deal. However, what was done to the Selection Show a couple of days ago was sinful. After finally locating the show on TBS I tuned in to see them listing all of the automatic qualifiers in alphabetical order, and then start to announce at-large teams the same way. What?!?!?!?? What kind of BS was that?!?!?!?? Where were the damn brackets?!?!?!?? What about the seedings & matchups?!?!?? My understanding is that they eventually got around to all of that, but too late for this guy. I changed the channel and decided I’d watch ESPN’s analysis a bit later. Then…as I have learned to do in such situations…I logged onto Twitter and located the appropriate hashtags. Now THAT was entertaining!! Dear TBS…in case you haven’t heard by now…America collectively despised your idiotic Selection Show. It was almost unanimously reviled. Hopefully the powers-that-be hear the cries of despair from disillusioned basketball fans and next year everything will go back to the way it’s supposed to be, allowing us to forget 2018 like a drunken night back in our youth when we may have done something particularly vile & unlawful but somehow escaped illness, injury, & incarceration, thereafter successfully blocking it from our consciousness.

At any rate, you’re here for my two cents on the tournament. Unfortunately I am unable to put up actual brackets, so we’ll just improvise. I’ve italicized first round winners, and any further predicted upsets are discussed in the comments. I only do one bracket and use it for any & all “competitions” I may enter. My picks are based on minimal research, elementary understanding of college basketball as a casual fan, and my infamous vibes, which longtime citizens of The Manoverse know are mostly unreliable. I don’t give a rat’s petoot about play-in games because I think they are stupid. This year’s field was supposed to be wide open, but to be honest I think you’ll see a lot of chalk, especially in the first two rounds. There are probably ten or twelve teams at most that are legit title contenders, which I suppose still leaves us with plenty of opportunities to be entertained. With the godawful Selection Show behind us I think we can look forward to a really fun few weeks of Madness.

 

 

East

1       Villanova                                                   16     LIU-Brooklyn or Radford

2       Purdue                                                      15     Cal St.-Fullerton

3       Texas Tech                                               14     Stephen F. Austin

4       Wichita St.                                                13     Marshall

5       West Virginia                                           12     Murray St.

6       Florida                                                       11     UCLA or St. Bonaventure

7       Arkansas                                                   10     Butler

8       Virginia Tech                                             9       Alabama

Let me give a shout out to my Marshall Thundering Herd for making the Big Dance for he first time since 1987, which was even before I arrived on campus in the early 90’s. I’m predicting a big upset in Round 1, with Stephen F. Austin upending Texas Tech, and a milder surprise with Butler upsetting Arkansas. How in the world the Red Raiders are a #3 while my WV Mountaineers are a #5 is beyond comprehension. I have Villanova vs. Purdue in the regional final, with the Wildcats making it to the Final Four. Boring?? Perhaps. Predictable?? Sure. But I bet almost everybody in America sees it happening the same way.

 

 

West

1       Xavier                                                        16     Texas Southern or MC Central

2       North Carolina                                          15     Lipscomb

3       Michigan                                                    14     Montana

4       Gonzaga                                                   13     UNC-Greensboro

5       Ohio St.                                                     12     South Dakota St.

6       Houston                                                     11     San Diego St.

7       Texas A&M                                               10     Providence

8       Missouri                                                     9       Florida St.

I have three first round upsets in this region…Florida St. over Missouri, Providence upending Texas A&M, and San Diego St. taking out Houston. I’m picking Gonzaga to beat Xavier and Michigan to defeat the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16, with the Wolverines then winning the regional final over the Zags to make it to the Final Four.

 

Midwest

1       Kansas                                                      16     Pennsylvania

2       Duke                                                           15     Iona

3       Michigan St.                                              14     Bucknell

4       Auburn                                                       13     College of Charleston

5       Clemson                                                    12     New Mexico St.

6       TCU                                                           11     Syracuse or Arizona St.

7       Rhode Island                                            10     Oklahoma

8       Seton Hall                                                 9       NC St.

I have straight first round chalk here, with the exception of a very slight upset of the Wolfpack over Seton Hall. The only other thing I’ll say about the first round is that the Oklahoma Sooners 100% absolutely should NOT be in this tournament. The “experts” can spin things any way they choose, but the Sooners getting a bid ahead of their in-state rival Oklahoma St. is absolutely criminal. The Cowboys defeated Oklahoma head-to-head 2 out of 3 times this season, plus they beat Kansas 2 out of 3 times. If that’s not good enough I’m not sure what possibly could be. ESPN has fellatiated freshman guard Trae Young all season, to the point that college basketball fans everywhere loathe an 18 year old kid. He led his team to a rather pedestrian 18-13 record, so I’m left with the impression that he is mostly hype & potential, a guy that the geniuses in Bristol, CT decided to promote as Steph Curry 2.0 but who has been unable to live up to the concocted storyline. He probably needs to stay in college another year or two, but instead he’ll enter the NBA Draft where a team will waste a first round pick on him and he’ll become an epic disappointment. Anyway, after Round 1 I have Kansas meeting Duke in the regional final, with the Blue Devils advancing to San Antonio.

 

South

1       Virginia                                                      16     Maryland-Baltimore County

2       Cincinnati                                                  15     Georgia St.

3       Tennessee                                                  14     Wright St.

4       Arizona                                                      13     Buffalo

5       Kentucky                                                   12     Davidson

6       Miami, FL                                                 11     Loyola-Chicago

7       Nevada                                                      10     Texas

8       Creighton                                                  9       Kansas St.

I have two mild upsets in the first round…Texas over Nevada and Kansas St. beating Creighton. The Big 12 is the best basketball conference in America and I think going thru those battles the past few months will have benefits now. I’m picking Kentucky over Arizona, Miami to beat Tennessee, & Texas with another upset over Cincinnati in Round 2. As a matter of fact I am picking the Longhorns to make it all the way to the regional final before falling to top seed Virginia.

 

 

So I am left with a Final Four of Virginia, Villanova, Duke, & Michigan…two #1’s, a #2, and a #3. I foresee a title game pitting Duke vs. Michigan, with the Blue Devils cutting down the nets for the seventh time in 27 years, the last championship being in 2015. That oughta tick some people off.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.15

Don’t you just love the ebb & flow of sports?? It’s almost magical how the baseball season opened on the same day that the championship game wrapped up college basketball. Or how Nascar pops back into our lives just as we are starting to miss football. The Nascar folks are even nice enough to take the day off when they know that between The Final Four and Easter Sunday our weekend is jam packed. Okay okay…I am smart enough to realize that there are people who make lots of money to carefully coordinate the well-timed ebb & flow, but in my heart I still believe in magic. Anyway, today we have a good mix of things to contemplate, so let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to the 2015 NCAA basketball national champion Duke Blue Devils. I Duke_Blue_Devilshave no issue with them winning even though they certainly aren’t the kind of underdog that I typically cheer for. I thought the game itself as well as the tournament in general was poorly officiated, but that can’t be held up as the single reason Duke prevailed. Coach K seems like a genuinely decent dude, although I can’t go so far as to say he has eclipsed legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.

 

 

 

Baseball season is underway and I am mildly excited about that. It’s a long season so ppiratesone has to modulate enthusiasm throughout the next few months so that interest doesn’t wane during the dog days of summer. I expect my Pittsburgh Pirates to be in the midst of the pennant race again, although I do have some misgivings about their bullpen and whether or not that weakness will cost them a division title.

 

 

 

There’s been a lot of discussion during March Madness about what’s wrong with college basketball and what should be done to fix it. Most agree that the tournament is just dandy, but it’s the 3 or 4 months that precede it that has issues. One thing that is constantly mentioned is the 35 second shot clock and how it should be lowered to 24 seconds “just like the NBA”. Decreasing the shot clock is a valid debate, but what is with this compulsion to copy the NBA?? College & pro basketball are two similar yet basketballdifferent games and I think I prefer it that way. Contrary to popular opinion I find the collegiate game much more entertaining. It’s raw. It’s genuine. And yes, it’s got lumps, just like tasty homemade gravy, which has so much more flavor than the mass produced stuff one finds in a jar at the grocery store. College athletes are extremely talented, but there’s a wide range of skill and, at the end of the day, they are still a bunch of somewhat capricious & undeveloped 18-22 year old youngsters. There are highs. There are lows. There are flashes of dramatic, heroic triumph, and moments of inexplicable disappointment. Yes the NBA has that stuff too because the players are still human beings, but the game is undeniably more refined, less dramatic, more predictable, and too often as bland as store bought gravy. So revise & improve college basketball. Go for it. Nothing is perfect and tinkering can be fun. But be innovative. Be practical. Don’t focus on replicating the NBA. It’s lazy, redundant, & lacks imagination.

 

 

 

$100 for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?? I don’t think so. I’m not really a boxing fan and won’t be brokenhearted if I miss it altogether, although I may look around and see boxing_2_lgif I can catch it for free. There are ways. I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and haven’t paid for a PPV in a few years. Technology is a good thing…most of the time.

 

 

 

wrestling-clip-art-PSS0166Speaking of pro wrestling, it has caused a rift in my relationship with ESPN talking head Colin Cowherd. I had been a fan of Cowherd’s daily radio show that is simulcast on ESPNU…until a few weeks ago. Colin’s buddy and fellow ESPN personality Bill Simmons is a fellow wrestling fan and had appeared on WWE Raw. Cowherd was reviewing Simmons’ performance on the show and had some rather demeaning & unprofessional comments about wrestling fans, saying that we all live in our parents’ basements and everyone who had attended that particular event outside of Simmons had probably been driven there and dropped off by their mother. And his comments weren’t said in a good-natured, joking manner. He was intentionally being an insulting jackass. I happened to have some free time that day so I tweeted #boycottCowherd and got much more of a response than expected. It was the most interaction I’ve ever had on Twitter. Some folks were supportive while some tried to match their hero Colin in the abuse department. Cowherd himself replied to me stating that his show had the best ratings on ESPNU, as if that is a noteworthy accomplishment when the truth is that better & more popular shows like Mike & Mike, Pardon the Interruption, & First Take air on ESPN or ESPN2. My God, even Dan Lebatard & his Papi are shown on ESPN2. Cowherd apparently doesn’t understand that his show airing on ESPNU indicates just how insignificant it is in the eyes of his bosses. At any rate, I’m not crazy enough to think that one man can take down an entire TV show or colincowherdthat my feelings matter to a self-important blowhard like Colin Cowherd, but I’ll damn sure never watch him again. I realize that professional wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea. That’s fine. But to those of us who enjoy that sort of thing it is as valid a form of entertainment as anything else. There are any number of television shows…Game of Thrones, Scandal, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey…that the masses love but I’m not interested in, yet I don’t go around bullying & verbally assaulting fans of those shows. The idea that all wrestling fans are a bunch of toothless hillbillies or socially inept psychos who are unemployed and live with their parents is a tired cliché that is no longer funny. Wrestling fans are male & female, black, white, & Hispanic, affluent & poor, young & old, urban & rural…just like the fan bases of any other kind of entertainment. Does Cowherd really think the backward recluses he trumpets as the typical wrestling fan could even afford to go to the shows, purchase the merchandise, or buy the pay-per-views?? Maybe someone should call EMS to bring the jaws of life to ESPN and extricated Colin Cowherd’s pea brain from his anal cavity before he suffocates and becomes an even bigger moron than he has already proven himself to be.

 

 

 

It’s still a little bit surprising to me that the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t make it to the national title game. I know I’m not the only one who felt like them winning it all was a foregone conclusion. But it seems like in the process of obliterating my WV Kentucky-BasketballMountaineers in the Sweet 16 the ‘Cats fired all their bullets and didn’t have much left in the tank. They barely got by Notre Dame in the Elite 8, and then finally were beaten in the Final Four by Wisconsin. Now I will grant you that the Badgers are an extremely talented team and had the added revenge factor (after UK beat them in last year’s Final Four) as motivation, but I sincerely believe that Kentucky would defeat Wisconsin in 9 out of 10 games. In a single elimination tournament though anything can happen (and no…I don’t think that format should change…for now).

 

 

 

The argument over trying to get NCAA basketball to mirror the NBA made me think of baseball’s designated hitter rule. Upon further ponderation I think I like things the way they are, with the American League having the DH and the National League not utilizing it. It makes each league unique, which is something we’ve begun to lose in the United States. We’re all about homogenization. I’m not as well traveled as I’d prefer, baseball drawingbut I know that every city & town in this country has a lot of the same stuff. The same restaurants. The same retail outlets. The same radio & TV stations that play the same music & shows day after day, week after week, year after year. Every mall has the same stores. Every movie theater is essentially the same. Every automaker makes the same kinds of vehicles that aren’t nearly as singular & cool as cars back in the 40’s & 50’s. This uniformity is comforting on some level, but it is also bland & uninspiring. Just like college basketball shouldn’t try so hard to emulate the NBA I hope the American & National Leagues will always remain similar yet distinctive.

Let The Madness Begin

Happy days are here again. March Madness is the pinnacle of the college basketball season, packing the punch of a whole year’s worth of excitement into just a few days. It also provides one the rare opportunity to venture out on a limb and either look like a genius or a complete buffoon. It doesn’t even matter if there is money involved, although that’s always a nice bonus. Years ago at a former place of employment I was one of a group of about a half dozen guys that would gamble small stakes on everything from pro football to Triple Crown horse racing, but the crown jewel of our year was The Madness. The money involved was so miniscule it was an afterthought. It was more about pride and bragging rights, proving oneself to be knowledgeable amongst peers. I did not have that outlet for several years, but now, thanks to the various bracket challenges on sites like ESPN and Yahoo, I’m back in the game. And since I am filling out a bracket anyway I decided I’d share my deep well of basketball acumen (or slightly arrogant poppycock) here at The Manofesto. To my knowledge there is no way to insert a filled out bracket into this blog so it’s a low tech effort. I have faith that my readers can adjust.

Before I dive in allow me to share a bit about my methods and some things I have learned over many years of doing this:

    • I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I print it out, go down through, and fill it out on the fly. My picks are based on what I know as an average fan and on my vibes. My choices have no basis in scientific investigation of any facts or figures.

    • Will there be upsets?? Yes. But don’t go crazy. The first round has 32 games. Out of those there might be a half dozen upsets. The 5/12, 6/11, & 7/10 games are where to look for upsets. #1 seeds never…ever…lose in the first round, and #2 seeds very rarely lose. Atleast one #12 beats a #5 each year…I don’t know why. 8/9 games are pretty much dead even, so a #9 beating a #8 isn’t really an upset.

    • After the first round it’s a free for all, although that 11, 12, 13, or 14 that got thru one game is unlikely to make it much further. Still though, there always seems to be atleast one. The trick is picking the right one.

    • I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams will beat a small conference team the overwhelming majority of the time. I put major weight on being battle tested. A team that won 25 games during the regular season but did it against mostly weak competition is like blood in the water for a team from a power conference that might have won only 19 or 20 games and rode the bubble into the tournament.

    • I take into consideration where the games are taking place. If a team is playing close to home and has a bunch of fans in the stands that is important. But it’s not that important, so I consider it yet don’t nuts about it.

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at each region:

East

This is a killer region. Lots of folks seem to be expecting George Mason to upset Villanova, but I am taking the Big East, battle tested ‘Nova over the small conference team. Sorry Patriot fans…it’s not 2006 anymore. I’m also taking #11 Marquette over #6 Xavier. I am a lifelong fan of the WV Mountaineers, who made it all the way to the Final Four last season, defeating Kentucky (who was darn near an NBA quality team) along the way. Unfortunately that will not happen this time, and I think the Wildcats get their revenge in Round 2. I like Syracuse to defeat Ohio State in the regional final and make it to The Final Four.

West

I have #9 Tennessee taking down #8 Michigan, although that’s not really an upset. #12 Memphis over #5 Arizona fulfills that annual tradition. I also picked #11 Missouri to beat #6 Cincinnati and #10 Penn St. to beat #7 Temple. I also took Penn St., who barely made it into the tournament, to beat #2 San Diego St. in the 2nd round. I just don’t think San Diego St. has played anyone other than BYU, while Penn St. faced Big 10 competition all season. I have #1 Duke facing off against #3 Connecticut in the regional final, with Coach K taking the Blue Devils to yet another Final Four.

Southwest

I have Richmond pulling off another 5/12 upset here by defeating fifth seeded Vanderbilt. I also have #10 Florida St. beating #7 Texas A&M. That’s it for the first round upsets in this region. I have #6 Georgetown beating #3 Purdue and #2 Notre Dame to make it to the regional final, where they ultimately fall to Kansas, the second and final #1 seed I have in The Final Four.

Southeast

I’m taking Old Dominion to defeat last year’s tournament darling and National Title runner-up Butler, but remember…a 9 over an 8 isn’t truly an upset. The only real upset I’m picking here is #10 Michigan St. over #7 UCLA, and even that wouldn’t exactly shock anyone. However, in the second round things get interesting. Pitt a #1 seed?? Okay. But they’ll still choke as usual, and I’m predicting it will be against Old Dominion. #5 Kansas State over #4 Wisconsin is a mild upset. #10 Michigan St. does it again by beating #2 Florida, and #6 St. John’s…battle tested…will take down #3 BYU. In the regional final I have Kansas State vs. St. John’s, with the Red Storm making it to The Final Four.

The Final Four

Syracuse vs. Duke, with the Orange shocking everyone (except me) and quite possibly sending Dick Vitale crawling into a corner in the fetal position.

Kansas vs. St. John’s, with Rock Chalk Jayhawk emphasizing the “chalk”.

Syracuse vs. Kansas in the National Championship, with Kansas proving what many have suspected all along, that they are the best team in the land.