Winning & Musing…Volume 2.18

Finally…Spring has sprung here in The Mountain State!! It’s been 80+ degrees the past couple of days, with plentiful sunshine. However, as happy as that makes me I must temper my enthusiasm since preliminary indications are that next week will begin with a “wintry mix”. I am exercising similar caution with the sports calendar because, while some things are pointed in the right direction it is far too early for a victory lap. Let’s discuss.

 

 

 

As per usual I haven’t paid all that much attention to the NBA season. Actually I’ve probably been even less invested than usual (if that’s possible) for reasons I have covered previously. However, that all changes with the start of the playoffs, which look like this in the Eastern Conference:

Toronto Raptors                    vs.     Washington Wizards

Boston Celtics              vs.     Milwaukee Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers      vs.     Miami Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers    vs.     Indiana Pacers

Ideally we would see either the Celtics or 76ers emerge to represent their conference in the NBA Finals. All eyes will be on a Raptors-Cavs second round series if/when it happens, and I must admit that, as patriotic as I tend to be (USA!! USA!!) I am more than sick of Lebron James. He is NOT better than Michael Jordan, and some of the things he has said off the court have revealed the kind of person he really is, which isn’t positive. When one lives by the sword one dies by the sword, and since the NBA has spent decades marketing individual personalities over teams they shouldn’t be surprised that many fans react negatively when some personalities are pompous, self-righteous, & tediously egotistical. Which brings me to the Western Conference:

Houston Rockets                  vs.     Minnesota Timberwolves

Golden State Warriors         vs.     San Antonio Spurs

Portland Trail Blazers           vs.     New Orleans Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder       vs.     Utah Jazz

I am beyond thrilled that the Warriors & Spurs play each other in Round 1, because that means that one of the world’s biggest blowhard coaches will be eliminated quickly (hopefully either Portland or New Orleans will take out the remaining trash in the second round). I’d be fine with the Rockets making it to the NBA Finals, although I think the Pelicans could be a sleeper. A Philly-N’awleans Finals would be fresh & intriguing, wouldn’t it??

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning their second National Championship in the past three seasons. The 2018 edition of March Madness will mostly be remembered for the impressive run to The Final Four of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, with their Gryffindor scarves and elderly nun Sister Jean, and for the history making 16th seed UMBC Retrievers’ huge upset of #1 Virginia, something that had never happened before. However, though there had been numerous teams atop the polls throughout the season and no dominant force emerged as a clear favorite to cut down the nets, hindsight is 20/20 and Villanova was always lurking near the top and seemed to be the most consistent program thru the season.

 

 

Sunday at The Masters was delightful fun as usual. Though Tiger Woods & my man Phil Mickelson made the cut and played on the weekend they were never legit factors, but luckily for fans & the folks at CBS guys like Rory McIlroy & Rickie Fowler were entertaining, and Jordan Spieth’s -8 final round of 64 was fantastic even if it came up a bit short. Initially I had no issue with winner Patrick Reed, but post-victory stories have emerged that paint him in a rather negative light. Apparently he hasn’t spoken to his own family for several years because they disapproved of his marriage. I’m not married, but I cannot imagine ever choosing a woman over my parents or sibling. From what I’ve read the family seems conciliatory and willing to resume a relationship with Reed, but he (and his wife) aren’t interested. That’s pretty sad in my humble opinion.

 

 

The NHL Playoffs are underway, but y’all know my tepid feelings about hockey. If my Pittsburgh Penguins make it thru the first couple of rounds perhaps I’ll become interested. Somebody keep me posted.

 

 

 

I know I know…pro wrestling isn’t a “real” sport. I get it, but indulge me. My neighbor & I watched last weekend’s WrestleMania 34 event, and it was an enjoyable evening. The “mainstream” media was all over former MMA champion Ronda Rousey’s participation now that she has officially segued into a career in the WWE, and I’ll give credit where it is due…Rousey looked good in the ring. She still needs a lot of work doing promos, and the powers-that-be should keep her as far away from interviews with outlets like ESPN as they possibly can since they’ve proven to be bizarrely detrimental, but inside those ropes she acquitted herself nicely on absolutely the biggest stage she has ever been on in her entire career. People like to make fun of “wrasslin’”, but there were 78k in the Superdome, and millions watching on PPV or the WWE Network. As popular as MMA might be it can’t match those numbers. I was happy that Rousey’s mixed tag didn’t get a main event spot (Lawrence Taylor once main evented a WrestleMania, which was a slap in the face to full time wrestlers) and was instead on the mid-card where it deserved to be. Overall it was a well-constructed show and a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

 

 

I’m not emotionally invested in baseball quite yet, but I’ll get there. I think it’s hilarious that games have already been cancelled because of snow. Several years ago I proposed a plan for a shorter baseball season…maybe it’s time to take such suggestions seriously.

 

 

I’d been watching…off & on…ESPN’s Golic & Wingo on weekday mornings the past few months, but lately have given a fair opportunity to the brand new Get Up, starring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, & Jalen Rose, to wow me. Neither show is horrible. Golic & Wingo is predictably chill, while Get Up isn’t as obnoxious as it had the potential to be. Having said that, both are like buying overpriced but watered down drinks at a bar. Greeny & Golic specifically aren’t nearly as entertaining as they were while together on Mike & Mike. Neither mix is necessarily bad now, but the new shows are lacking…something. I stated awhile back that the late night shows no longer interest me and I am more likely to turn my television off at 11:30pm now than watch any of the garbage spewed forth by Kimmel, Colbert, et al. And now I no longer turn on my TV first thing in the morning to check out what Greeny or Golic have to say about sports. It wasn’t broke, but ESPN decided to “fix it” anyway. Way to go morons.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 2.16

Greetings sports fans. It hasn’t been a particularly warm spring just yet, atleast here in the hills of West Virginia, but the sports calendar has been full so there are lots of little nuggets to ponder. Let’s do that.

 

 

 

 

 

kobeI was never a big Kobe Bryant fan. He always seemed like kind of an arrogant punk to me, and his…adventure…in Colorado several years ago did nothing to endure him to the masses. Talk of him being on the same level as Michael Jordan is ridiculously laughable and he is barely even one of the Top 10 best Los Angeles Lakers of all time (he’s behind Magic, Kareem, West, Chamberlain, Shaq, Elgin Baylor, Worthy, “Hot Rod” Hundley, & Mikan in my book). Having said all of that, it is a rarity to see a guy play 20 years of any professional sport, and for him to have played his entire career with one team is remarkable. I am a sucker for good farewell stories, so it was with rapt attention I watched Bryant’s final game. Yes it was a meaningless contest, especially for a Lakers team that hasn’t even been close to the playoff hunt this season, but watching 37 year old Kobe summon up a wellspring of energy that he hasn’t displayed in probably 5 years and hang 60 points…SIXTY points…on the Utah Jazz was great TV and left a positive final impression. Well played sir…well played indeed.

 

 

 

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for winning the 2016 NCAA basketball national championship. The tournament overallVillanova Basketball didn’t seem to have as much theatrical impact as usual, but the title game, in which ‘Nova defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels, featured two fantastic three point shots in the final five seconds and more than made up for the abundance of chalk and tedious blowouts.

 

 

 

mlbWay too early impressions of the MLB season…

  • The Chicago Cubs look as formidable as the pundits predicted. Maybe Back to the Future II was only a year off with its “prediction”.
  • The Baltimore Orioles are going to be tough as well.
  • As of this writing the Minnesota Twins are 2-9 and the Atlanta Braves are 1-9. The success of the 90’s seems to be in the rear view mirror for both clubs.
  • My Pittsburgh Pirates were expected to take a step back this season after making the playoffs the last couple of years and so far that seems to be the case. I hope their ownership & front office knows what they are doing, but I can’t say my confidence is high.
  • Wouldn’t a Cubs-White Sox World Series be fun?? I’m not going out on a limb to predict it…I’m just suggesting it looks like a possibility.

 

 

 

The NBA Playoffs have begun and the first round matchups look like this:

 

East

Cleveland Cavaliers            vs.       Detroit Pistons

Toronto Raptors                 vs.       Indiana Pacers

Miami Heat                          vs.       Charlotte Hornets

Atlanta Hawks                     vs.       Boston Celtics

nba

West

Golden State Warriors      vs.       Houston Rockets

San Antonio Spurs                         vs.       Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder   vs.       Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Clippers          vs.       Portland Trail Blazers

 

Everyone is expecting the Eastern Conference to come down to Cleveland and Toronto, with the Cavaliers easily walking into their first Finals appearance since 2007. I think it’s possible that the Miami Heat might sneak into the conference finals over the Raptors, but other than that I expect no surprises. In the Western Conference it would be a huge disappointment for the Golden State Warriors…the defending NBA Champions who just set a new regular season wins record with 73 victories…to not get back to the Finals. However, don’t be surprised to see the venerable San Antonio Spurs give them a battle. The Western Conference finals might end up being more entertaining than the NBA Finals.

 

 

 

nhlThe NHL Playoffs are underway as well, but hockey really isn’t my thing. I’ll watch the Pittsburgh Penguins here & there, but beyond that I really don’t care.

The Madness of March

1 basketballIt’s time!! One of the best long weekends of the year tips off tomorrow, and I’m ready. My two nephews are actually going to watch the first couple of rounds in Columbus, OH. Good for them. Anyway, y’all know I can’t resist doing a bit of prognosticating, although it’s not quite as much fun this season since we all know how this thing is going to end…with the Kentucky Wildcats cutting down the nets on April 6th. But, in the words of one of cinema’s most entertaining philosophers Clark W. Griswold, “getting there is half the fun”. So I suppose we shall enjoy the ride even if the finale will likely be anti-climactic.

As usual, let me take a moment to unlock the secret doors of my mind and explain my process:
• I’m not a college basketball expert. I’m a fan that only pays attention to a handful of teams and knows virtually nothing about 75% of the tournament field.
• My picks are based solely on my vibes and the small amount of basic basketball knowledge I possess.
• I do listen to some of the talking heads, but rarely make choices based on their opinions. As a matter of fact, I think several of them (especially Doug Gottlieb…a complete tool) are arrogant windbags that don’t have much more of a clue than I do.
• I do not pick play-in games. They are an inconsequential money-making scheme by the NCAA.
• I pick a few upsets, but I’ve learned over the years that, for the most part, the selection committee knows their stuff and is usually pretty spot on in their seeding. There might be a few upsets in the first couple of rounds, but the chaos rarely gets too…well…chaotic. The cream almost always rises to the top.
• A 10 over a 7 or a 9 over an 8 isn’t really that much of an upset.
• I fill out one bracket and one bracket only. It is done pretty quickly after the selection show airs. I am far too lazy to do research.

So with those things in mind let us take a brief glimpse at each region, talk about upsets, and see who I think will make it to The Final Four.

 

 

 

East
1 Villanova              16 Lafayette
2 Virginia                 15 Belmont
3 Oklahoma           14 Albany
4 Louisville              13 UC Irvine
5 Northern Iowa   12 Wyoming
6 Providence           11 Dayton
7 Michigan St.         10 Georgia
8 NC St.                      9 LSU
I am predicting a lot of chalk in this region, with a few notable exceptions. I have Albany over Michigan_State_SpartansOklahoma in the 1st round. I’ve watched the Sooners play a few times this season and believe they are way overseeded. And I’m picking Wyoming over Northern Iowa in one of the infamous 5/12 upsets. After that I have Michigan St. upending Virginia in the 2nd round and ultimately winning the region by defeating Villanova.

West
1 Wisconsin            16 Coastal Carolina
2 Arizona                 15 Texas Southern
3 Baylor                   14 Georgia St.
4 North Carolina    13 Harvard
5 Arkansas             12 Wofford
6 Xavier                   11 Ole Miss
7 VCU                       10 Ohio St.
8 Oregon                  9 Oklahoma St.
The big shocker I’ve predicted in this region is Wofford (hailing from Spartanburg, SC) WisconsinBadgersdefeating Arkansas. I also have Ohio St. over Virginia Commonwealth, a team that gets a little too much love just because they made it to one Final Four four years ago. After that I have Baylor pulling off a mild upset over Arizona in the Sweet 16 before falling to Wisconsin in the regional final.

 

South
1 Duke                 16 Robert Morris
2 Gonzaga           15 North Dakota St.
3 Iowa St.            14 UAB
4 Georgetown   13 Eastern Washington
5 Utah                 12 Stephen F. Austin
6 SMU                  11 UCLA
7 Iowa                 10 Davidson
8 San Diego St.   9 St. John’s
Mostly 1st round chalk here except for a couple of interesting exceptions. I’m picking Eastern Iowa_State_CyclonesWashington over Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin over Utah. I just don’t buy Georgetown. This isn’t the mid-1980’s. Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, & Alonzo Mourning are distant memories. The Big East isn’t the same conference it used to be. Stephen F. Austin is a small school in Nacogdoches, TX (about 100 miles southwest of Shreveport, LA) that is named for one of the founding fathers of the state. I have a vague recollection of catching one of their games on TV awhile back and thinking they were pretty good and could pull off a first round upset if they weren’t up against a top flight team. Utah is good but far from elite. After that I have picked San Diego St. to surprise Duke in Round 2 and Iowa St. over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. I’ve seen the Cyclones play a few times and they are very talented. They play in the best basketball conference in America (The Big 12…which has ten teams) and won its conference tournament, defeating the vaunted Kansas Jayhawks. Gonzaga’s road hasn’t been nearly as arduous. Ultimately I have Iowa St. beating San Diego St. in the regional final.

 

Midwest
1 Kentucky          16 Hampton
2 Kansas               15 New Mexico St.
3 Notre Dame     14 Northeastern
4 Maryland          13 Valparaiso
5 West Virginia   12 Buffalo
6 Butler                11Texas
7 Wichita St.       10 Indiana
8 Cincinnati         9 Purdue
I think Kentucky would have won this region no matter what, but the committee made it Kentucky-Basketballpretty easy for them. I have Valparaiso (from northern Indiana) upsetting Maryland and Texas getting by Butler in the 1st round. Butler, like VCU, is given too much credit for past successes in the tournament. The “experts” are almost unanimously picking Buffalo to beat my WV Mountaineers, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. I have Wichita St. defeating in-state rival Kansas in Round 2, but at the end of the day no one will be surprised when Kentucky easily downs Notre Dame to win the region.

 

 

So, my Final Four consists of Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Iowa St. vs. Michigan St. That’s two #1 seeds, a #3, and a #7, although one can hardly think of Michigan St. as an underdog.

1I foresee the title game being Kentucky against Michigan St., with the Wildcats winning pretty comfortably. It lacks drama, but it is what it is. I suppose it’d be kind of cool to see a team finish 40-0, but honestly I’m looking forward to a little more unpredictability next year.

I’m Gonna Win A Billion Dollars!!

Well okay…maybe not. But I am atleast glad I finally found some way to insert my NCAA March Madness brackets into an entry here at The Manofesto.It’s not exactly perfect, but it’ll do.

bballmadness3

As you can see, my Final Four consists of Florida, Virginia, Duke, & Oklahoma St., with the Gators eventually upending the Cowboys for the national championship. This looks like one of the more wide open & competitive tournaments in recent years, and alot of talking heads seem to be predicting a plethora of upsets. Some are even saying that none of the #1 seeds might make it to The Final Four. I don’t buy that. More often than not chalk ultimately rules the day. Oh sure there will be a few upsets. That’s what keeps things interesting. But I don’t think it’s wise to get crazy…even when the “experts” keep talking about parity and teams being “mis-seeded”. That committee is made up of folks who know what they’re doing. They certainly know more than most of us.

I don’t consider a 9 over and 8 or even a 10 over a 7 to be all that big of an upset, so in this year’s first round (yes I still call it the first round no matter how much they try to shove their fuzzy math down our throats), I am forecasting eight real upsets, with nearly half of them occurring in the South region. To be honest that is probably too many, but I suppose we’ll see.

Beyond the first round there are just a few teams I really like as “Cinderellas”…Tulsa, Oklahoma St., Oregon, & Nebraska. I have the Cowboys ending up in the title game and going down to Florida.

I think alot of folks are expecting early exits from traditional powers like Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Syracuse, & Arizona, but I have all of them getting by their first round opponents and all but Arizona getting to atleast the Sweet 16. The most overrated teams in the tournament for me are Ohio St. & UCLA, both of whom I have being defeated in the first round.

So there you have it. The next couple of weekends should be alot of fun. I encourage y’all to enjoy The Madness. Fill out brackets. Enter office pools. Compete with friends. But don’t expect to walk away with Warren Buffet’s billion dollars…that prize shall be mine. But if you’re really really nice maybe…just maybe…I’ll share.

The Return of March Madness!!

Loyal citizens of The Manoverse might know that your humble Potentate of Profundity isn’t a big fan of winter. As a matter of fact, as I write this I am suffering with my annual bout of bronchitis which I’d thought I might actually escape. Alas it arrived with just a few days left in the season. At any rate, I grab onto any bbindicator of brighter, warmer, happier days like Tiger Woods gravitates toward hot, blue-eyed blondes. I thought Groundhog Day provided some hope this year but I have learned that putting one’s faith in a rodent is about as wise as trusting Lindsay Lohan to show up to court on time. At any rate there really is no better or more reliable harbinger of springtime than the annual NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament, aka March Madness. The brackets have been released and the time has come for me to dive in head first with my picks. As usual I need to offer a few reminders about my methods:

    • I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I print it out and fill it out on the fly. My picks are based on my knowledge as an average fan, a cursory listen to various talking heads, 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 that much of 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 don’t pick play-in games (or as they now call them the “First Four”).
    • 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.

Although most everybody would probably agree that this has been a crazy & unpredictable year for college basketball and that should translate into a wide open tournament with lots of parity, the truth is that when I completed my brackets I saw a lot more chalk than I assumed I would. I am predicting 10 first round upsets, with four of those being a 9 seed over an 8, which of course isn’t really an upset. I only have one double digit seed making it to The Sweet 16, and my Final Four consists of one #1, two #2s, and a #4 seed. If my vibes are on the right path a lot of folks will be praising the tournament committee for just how accurately they put everything together considering the fickle randomness that has surrounded the entire season.

So without further ado let’s take at peek at each region:

 

 

East

1 Indiana               vs.       16 LIU or JMU

2 Miami, Fla.      vs        15 Pacific

3 Marquette        vs.       14 Davidson

4 Syracuse           vs.       13 Montana

5 UNLV                    vs.       12 California          

6 Butler                   vs.       11 Bucknell

7 Illinois                 vs.       10 Colorado

8 NC St.                     vs.       9 Temple

For some reason Bucknell is getting a lot of love from the “experts”. Now I do recall that they pulled a first round upset over Kansas a few years ago, but that’s all the more reason why the Butler Bulldogs won’t take them lightly and should get thesu win. Having said that, this is the region where I am predicting the most upsets. I have #9 Temple over #8 NC St. (not that big of a deal), #10 Colorado over #7 Illinois, #12 California over #5 UNLV, and the biggest shocker…#14 Davidson beating #3 Marquette. After that it’s all chalk, with Syracuse upending Miami to get to The Final Four.

 

West

1 Gonzaga               vs.       16 Southern

2 Ohio St.                vs.       15 Iona

3 New Mexico       vs.       14 Harvard

4 Kansas St.          vs.       13 Boise St. or LaSalle

5 Wisconsin          vs.       12 Mississippi         

6 Arizona                 vs.       11 Belmont

7 Notre Dame        vs.       10 Iowa St.

8 Pittsburgh           vs.       9 Wichita St.

The first round is unlikely to provide all that much drama, but business should pick up after that. I’ve seen a lot of talking heads predict that Pitt might give Gonzaga a run for their money in the 2nd round, but funnily enough I have the Panthers getting upset right off the bat by Wichita St. The 2nd round should see a osumatchup of #3 New Mexico vs. #6 Arizona, but whereas several of your pundit types seem to have developed a crush on New Mexico…going so far as to prop them as a potential Final Four team…I have the Wildcats getting the upset. In the regional final I have Ohio St. beating Gonzaga to make it to The Final Four.

 

South

1 Kansas                   vs.       16 Western Kentucky

2 Georgetown       vs.       15 Florida Gulf Coast

3 Florida                   vs.       14 Northwestern St.

4 Michigan              vs.       13 South Dakota St.

5 VCU                           vs.       12 Akron     

6 UCLA                       vs.       11 Minnesota

7 San Diego St.       vs.       10 Oklahoma

8 North Carolina   vs.       9 Villanova

This bracket doesn’t seem like all that much fun to me outside of the top heaviness of the four best seeds. However, at the bottom of the bracket I have predicted three mild upsets. #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA would feel like more of a ballsy choice if everyone else wasn’t picking it as well. #10 Oklahoma over #7 San Diego St. is agtown result of my battle tested philosophy, although I suppose I am showing a lot less respect to the Mountain West Conference than most. #9 Villanova over #8 North Carolina would be a lot more of a marquee game if this was the late 80’s, but in my heart it’s still bigtime. The top four should all make it thru to the regional semis, with Georgetown pulling the mild upset over Kansas to reach The Final Four.

 

Midwest

1 Louisville              vs.       16 NC A&T

2 Duke                         vs.       15 Albany

3 Michigan St.       vs.       14 Valparaiso

4 St. Louis                 vs.       13 New Mexico St.

5 Oklahoma St.       vs.       12 Oregon  

6 Memphis                vs.       11 St. Mary’s

7 Creighton              vs.       10 Cincinnati

8 Colorado                 vs.       9 Missouri

Most “experts” are touting this as the toughest region, but I am only predicting a couple of upsets. I have #9 Missouri over #8 Colorado (again not a real upset), and #12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma St. Everyone is in almost unanimous agreement LouisvilleBB2009_normalthat Oregon, which won the Pac 12 tournament, was grossly underseeded, and after the 1st round upset I have them pulling off another surprise over #4 St. Louis to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Other than that I have 3 of the top 4 seeds reaching the regional semis, with Louisville upending Michigan St. to reach The Final Four.

 

So my Final Four is Louisville, Ohio St., Georgetown, & Syracuse. There is definitely a Big East flavor to that group, ala 1985 when Georgetown, St. John’s, & Villanova all made it that far. Maybe I am a bit biased since I live in West Virginia and my Mountaineers competed in the Big East for many years, or maybe I’m just a little sentimental since the conference in its traditional form is being blown up. Whatever the case may be, this would be a fantastic Final Four. I picked Louisville to beat Ohio St. and Georgetown to defeat Syracuse. That means that the National Championship Game would pit the Louisville Cardinals versus the Georgetown Hoyas, and I think Louisville wins that battle and cuts down the nets in Atlanta, GA.

 

The Madness Begins…..

The Madness is back!! It’s time once again to immerse oneself in caring about a whole host of basketball teams that we’ve never heard of or atleast pay little attention to, all so that in a few weeks the best teams that everyone loves or hates will rise to the top anyway. It’s time to match wits with talking heads, i.e. experts like Dickie V., Doug “Credit Card” Gottlieb, Clark Kellogg, & Seth Davis. It’s time to face the bracket challenge, whether there is money & prizes at stake, or just plain ol’ macho pride.

 

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 simply fill them 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 is only an upset in the most technical roundabout way. 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.

I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams have an undeniable advantage. I put major weight on being battle tested. Strength of schedule is an important factor. The games a team played in November & December…whether they were wins or losses…can serve as great “conditioning” in March.

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 obsess over it.

 

So, having said all that, here is what my vibes are communicating to me about 2012’s Big Dance:

 

East

1 Syracuse                16 UNC Asheville

2 Ohio St.                 15 Loyola (MD)

3 Florida St.            14 St. Bonaventure

4 Wisconsin         13 Montana

5 Vanderbilt               12 Harvard

6 Cincinnati           11 Texas

7 Gonzaga                   10 West Virginia

8 Kansas St              9  Southern Miss.

Lots of talking heads seem to be bailing on ‘Cuse, believing that they’ll fall short of The Final Four. Not this humble Potentate of Profundity. My vibes are telling me that one of the annual 5/12 upsets will occur when Harvard…alma mater of NY Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin…defeats Vanderbilt. Actually I think it’d be more fun to see those two teams match up in a Quiz Bowl or in the Jeopardy college tournament, but I guess we’ll take what we can get. I also have Harvard beating Wisconsin in the 2nd round. The only other first round upset I foresee in this region is my Mountaineers over Gonzaga. WVU gets a virtual home game less than 100 miles away in Pittsburgh, and I just don’t think the Zags are quite as good as in years past. I like Cincy over Florida St. in Round 2, as well as the ‘Eers getting by Ohio St. But ultimately Syracuse will make it to not only The Final Four but also the title game.

 

 

West

1 Michigan St.        16 LIU Brooklyn

2 Missouri                15 Norfolk St.

3 Marquette          14 BYU*

4 Louisville              13 Davidson

5 New Mexico         12 Long Beach St.

6 Murray St.         11 Colorado St.

7 Florida                   10 Virginia

8 Memphis                 9  St. Louis

I’m just not sold on Michigan St. as a top seed. I give them credit…they always always always seem to be in the conversation each & every year…but I’m not buying it this season. I’m pretty much going chalk in the first round, with the lone exception being St. Louis over Memphis. Typically I wouldn’t consider a 9 over an 8 all that much of an upset, but several “experts” have been saying that Memphis is seeded way too low and is a legit potential Final Four team, so I guess it’d be more of a surprise than usual. By the way, a billiken is a charm doll created by an art teacher from St. Louis  in 1908 who saw the mysterious figure…an elf-like creature with pointed ears, a mischievous smile, and a tuft of hair on his pointed head…in a dream. Fascinating. At any rate, it’s chalk all the way after that until the regional semifinal where I have Louisville taking out the Spartans, with Missouri then getting the Final Four spot.

 

South

1 Kentucky              16 Miss. Valley St.*

2 Duke                       15 Lehigh

3 Baylor                    14 South Dakota St.

4 Indiana               13 New Mexico St.

5 Wichita St.              12 Va. Commonwealth

6 UNLV                     11 Colorado

7 Notre Dame        10 Xavier

8 Iowa St.                    9  Connecticut

I have two first round upsets here. I just think that defending champions UConn won’t bow out so easily, and surely not to an 8th seed like Iowa St. And I have another 5/12 special, with 2011 tournament Cinderella VCU recapturing that magic one last time and beating Wichita St., who is only the third best basketball team in their own state. The second round in this region should be awesome, although I am only picking one upset. I think Notre Dame will defeat Duke and then beat Baylor, making it all the way to the regional final before going down to Kentucky.

 

Midwest

1 North Carolina     16 Vermont*

2 Kansas                      15 Detroit

3 Georgetown           14 Belmont

4 Michigan                 13 Ohio U.

5 Temple                     12 South Florida*

6 San Diego St.            11 NC St.

7 St. Mary’s                  10 Purdue

8 Creighton               9  Alabama

The voices are speaking to me about two upsets here. First, I am picking NC St., a battle tested ACC team, to beat San Diego St., who is probably seeded a couple of spots too high. The same logic applies in choosing Purdue from the Big 10 over St. Mary’s. I’m also picking the Wolfpack over Georgetown in the 2nd round. In the regional semis I’m taking Michigan to upset North Carolina, with Kansas ultimately securing the last Final Four spot.

 

So my Final Four is Kentucky vs. Missouri and Syracuse vs. Kansas. I’m not exactly venturing out on a limb with those choices. I was kind of surprised to be honest, because this has seemed like kind of a wide open season with lots of parity. However, at the end of the day I just think there are about a half dozen teams that, while probably not elite in the “we’ll remember them 20 years from now” sense, are just that much better than anyone else. So while all fans can enjoy the first & second rounds and there will undoubtedly be several exciting games & some upsets, ultimately few will likely be surprised at who is in the race near the finish line. I’m picking Kentucky & Syracuse to meet in the final game, with the Wildcats cutting down the nets and being crowned national champions.

 

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.

Random Thoughts 19

Congratulations to my West Virginia Mountaineers, who are headed to The Final Four after an improbable defeat of the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. And to all my Marshall peeps out there, please understand…I grew up in the shadow of WVU, less than an hour from Morgantown, and have been a loyal fan all my life. Just as some Mountaineer fans have delusions of grandeur, thinking the football team will ever be on the same level as USC, Ohio State, or Texas, so do many of my fellow Herd supporters have an irrational dislike for the Old Gold & Blue. To some degree I understand it, but on many levels I find it rather frustrating. There is a hierarchy in college sports, whether we like it or not…and sometimes we just need to understand our place in that pecking order and learn to embrace the rare occasions when our teams overachieve.

This is not the place to dive too deeply into the topic of nationalized health care, but suffice to say that I believe dark days are ahead for our nation. I just cannot fathom why otherwise intelligent people are unable to grasp how dangerous Barack Hussein Obama is or refuse to see how he is systematically tearing down our country.

Both Lost and 24 are ending in a few weeks. There hasn’t been this much grief in parents’ basements since the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons died two years ago.

I want to be very very clear about this: I am not being flippant, I am not joking. I am calling on ESPN to do the right thing and fire college basketball analyst Digger Phelps. The man is an embarrassment. He has no business doing prognostications on anything. Atleast Dick Vitale’s schtick is entertaining and he seems to be genuinely passionate about his job and the sport he loves. Digger is just smug, arrogant, and most of the time way way way off base on what he says. The man has ZERO credibility and as long as ESPN continues to give him a forum neither do they.

Changing of seasons, from cold to warm or vice versa, seems to really mess with my body. Two times a year…when summer segues into autumn and when winter makes way for spring…there is about a 3 week adjustment period when I just don’t feel right.

Speaking of my Marshall peeps – Ok, not really…but let’s talk about my adopted hometown and home of Marshall University, Huntington WV. The town is apparently The Unhealthiest City In America, and ABC has decided to use that for a reality show starring Food Network chef Jamie Oliver. As you may know, I dig The Food Network. I can’t say I have ever been a huge fan of Englishman Oliver, but he’s okay in my book…a little manic but atleast more genuine and less forced than Emeril Lagasse. Anyway, in his Food Revolution, Oliver is attempting to teach old dogs in Huntington new eating tricks. The show just premiered, so it’s way too early to really give it a thorough examination, but I am intrigued to see where things are headed. So far the usual West Virginia stereotypes have been avoided and the producers don’t seem to be going out of their way to reinforce that erroneous hillbilly image. The sad part is that the folks featured have not needed any help to make themselves look like uneducated assclowns. The lunch ladies at the elementary school are particularly grating. Pizza for breakfast?? I will admit that as a bachelor I have succumbed all too often to such bad choices, but it is embarrassing to think that our tax dollars are paying for an official government program that provides such a meal to children and no one in the chain seems to see anything wrong with the situation.

As a fan and as a rather cynical person who sincerely thinks it is always…always…about the money, I do not truly believe that Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted anyone. However, it seems obvious that Ben is missing something in his life that money and fame aren’t providing, and he is trying to fill that void with booze, women, and a party boy lifestyle. Friends and family need to get ahold of Big Ben and get him to church. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to get rid of the emptiness.

If atleast 50% of incumbents in House and Senate races are not defeated this November I will have absolutely no faith left in the American voting public.

Speaking of ESPN and Hussein Obama – I DON’T CARE what his March Madness bracket looks like!! SHUT UP!! For God’s sake when is the “mainstream” media in this country going to stop embarrassing themselves by constantly fellatiating this ghetto thug??

Movies should not be remade or “reimagined” for atleast 40 years after the original and even then only if the original has fallen out of vogue. For example, why were Halloween and…coming soon to a theater near you…A Nightmare On Elm Street, Red Dawn, Footloose, and The Karate Kid needlessly redone so soon??

Dammit!! Just when we were on the cusp of getting rid of Oprah (who, as some of you may know, I sincerely believe is an agent of Satan), there is word that freakin’ Rosie O’Donnell is coming back to television. We need to find the bastards who thought that was a good idea and beat them into unconsciousness.

 

March Madness 2010

I had a vision, a very specific way that I wanted to present to the masses my picks for the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament. However, the best laid plans tend to go astray, and either there is no way to reproduce filled out brackets here or I am just too dense to figure out how to pull the task off successfully. At any rate, I am talented enough to improvise, so we’ll go the low tech route and that will just have to suffice. It might not be a bad idea to pull out your bracket and use it as a reference to follow along. We will examine each region and review my upset picks and other general opinions & vibes.

 

East

I have a few first round upsets chosen: #9 Wake Forest over #8 Texas, #12 Cornell over #5 Temple, and #10 Missouri over #7 Clemson. Texas was the top team in the nation at one point but the wheels fell off – they lost 9 games in the 2nd half of the season and dropped completely out of the Top 25. If John Chaney were still coaching Temple I’d pick them, but I just found out today that he apparently retired 4 years ago. Meanwhile Cornell is among the most buzzworthy teams – 2 of their 4 losses were at the hands of Kansas and Syracuse. I also have Cornell getting by Wisconsin in the 2nd round before finally falling to Kentucky. I am taking #6 Marquette over #11 Washington, but I really debated and waffled on that choice. Ultimately it will come down to Kentucky and West Virginia for a trip to The Final Four, and I’m gonna make the homer pick with the Mountaineers. They should have been a #1 seed or atleast been the #2 in Duke’s bracket. Coach Bob Huggins is not happy about the lack of respect for his team and that might just propel them to success.

 

West

I’m seeing a few Round 1 upsets here as well: #9 Florida St. over #8 Gonzaga (the scrappy little underdog days are long gone for the Bulldogs), #12 UTEP over #5 Butler (ditto for these Bulldogs), #11 Minnesota over #6 Xavier, and #10 Florida over #7 BYU (it wasn’t that long ago that Billy Donovan’s Gators were national champs). That Xavier/Minnesota contest is the one I’m not sure about, but I’m going with my gut. Florida and UTEP do it again in the 2nd Round, over Kansas State and Vanderbilt respectively. It’ll come down to Syracuse and Pitt, with Syracuse earning the Final Four berth.

 

South

Let’s face it…the only reason Duke got a #1 seed is because they are Duke. West Virginia clearly deserved the better seeding. Duke dominated a very mediocre ACC in a year in which even the mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina played .500 ball. But what’s done is done. The Blue Devils will pay for this egregious error in the 2nd round when they go down to Louisville. Rick Pitino is already somewhere salivating. I see the 1st round as being pretty much chalk all the way except for #13 Siena defeating #4 Purdue who just isn’t the same team without star Robbie Hummel and probably should haven’t been seeded nearly this high. I’m taking Siena to do it again in Round 2 in an upset over #5 Texas A&M. I’ve got #6 Notre Dame beating #3 Baylor in the 2nd round as well. Louisville and Villanova should meet in the Elite 8, with Villanova securing the victory. So far that is 3 Big East teams in the Final Four, with two of the regional finals being Big East vs. Big East matchups. I truly believe the conference is that good.

 

Midwest

Can anyone stop the juggernaut that is Kansas?? I’m going to say no one in this region will. I have three 1st round upsets taking the total to 11 out of 32 games (although really…is a #9 beating a #8 that much of an upset in anything but the most technical of terms??): #13 Houston over #4 Maryland, #11 San Diego (discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina) State over #6 Tennessee, and #10 Georgia Tech over #7 Oklahoma State. Houston also upsets #5 Michigan State in my 2nd round. A Sweet 16 matchup between Georgetown and Ohio State should prove to be quite interesting, and I’m picking the Hoyas there. But then Georgetown will meet Kansas for the last Final Four spot, and I just don’t see the Jayhawks going down.

 

Final Four

So my Final Four matchups are Kansas vs. Syracuse and West Virginia vs. Villanova, which would be a huge coup for The Big East and proof positive that it is the preeminent basketball conference in the land. Kansas/Syracuse is a titanic struggle and a very hard game to pick. Neither team has been perfect this season…both have stumbled a couple times. But there is no denying that they are two of the best teams in the country. I think Coach Jim Boeheim is enough of a wily old veteran to come up with just the right game plan to pull off what I suppose most would consider an upset. I just don’t feel like Kansas has a “team of destiny” vibe. West Virginia and Villanova would probably be very happy to see each other at this point because, unlike the old saying, familiarity probably wouldn’t breed contempt as much as it would a slight sense of comfort. The two teams split conference matchups this season, and both were great, hard fought, competitive games. If Coach Huggins gets the Mountaineers this far he’s not going to let them go down to a team they have proven they can beat. So that leaves us with a National Championship game of Syracuse vs. West Virginia. They met only once this season, with The Orange pulling out a slim 1 point victory despite shooting nearly 58% from the field and West Virginia shooting a subpar 39%. Those types of numbers won’t happen again on either side. Once again familiarity should inspire calm and confidence for both clubs. The Mountaineers will be thankful to have avoided the Kansas juggernaut as well as the Duke media frenzy (and accompanying bias by referees), so despite it being one last game for all the marbles I think they will be cool and loose. Is it a homer pick?? Yes. But I’ll roll with it and pick the West Virginia Mountaineers to win the 2010 NCAA Championship.