Thursday, March 20, 2008

"And Harlem Globetrotter...does that name mean nothing to you?"

NCAA Preview, Part One: The "We're Just Happy to Be Here" Crowd...and Indiana University.

65. Coppin State (16): Lots of internet chatter that Coppin State (record: 16-20) should be playing Mississippi Valley State (17-15) and not Mount St. Mary's (18-14). The reason that's not the matchup--allegedly--is that it would pit two black colleges against each other, which just might be perceived as racist. While that may, in fact, be true, it kind of obscures the real story, that being: the play-in game shouldn't exist at all. It's a terrible idea. But since it's not going anywhere, it should at least be contested between the two last teams to get an at-large bid (this year: Villanova and Arizona), with the winner getting a 12-seed (both squads are too good to be 16-seeds...and it wouldn't be fair to North Carolina).

64. Mount St. Mary's (16): As I'm typing this, I happen to be watching said play-in game, which is being contested in front of seemingly dozens of fans at Dayton University. Not exactly a tournament atmosphere...and I can't help thinking that both CSU and MSM are feeling a little gypped at this stage (also, I just discovered that both schools are located in Maryland--that's discrimination, too, people!). The only thing that's remotely entertaining is that Brent Musburger has this pained look on his face anytime they cut to him in the announcer's booth, almost as if he's silently wondering "which network executive's wife did I inadvertently sleep with at the Christmas party to get this shitty gig?? I cover the fucking Rose Bowl!!" (Also: is it even possible that Musburger is 69? If so, he's remarkably well-preserved. Keith Jackson was a blathering idiot at that age...). As for MSM, its most famous alum--improbably--is Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. Weak.

63. Mississippi Valley State (16):
MVS opened the season with eight consecutive losses (including a shattering 71-26 loss against Washington State), which is actually kind of which point the Dean secretly had the entire team killed and replaced, and they went 17-7 the rest of the way. Or not. But they did lose their first eight games. They're listed as 32 point underdogs against UCLA (and though he hasn't released them yet, I'm guessing they'll get Danny Sheridan's rather cruel "trillion to one" label), which all adds up to Jerry Rice very probably not attending Thursday's game.

62. University of Texas-Arlington (16):
a surprisingly big school (just a shade under 20,000 students) that wins the "school motto that most sounds like the mission statement for a cult" title in a walk ("Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy"). Their new (as of 2007) school logo looks so much like Boise State's, that I have no idea how they haven't been sued over it yet. (It's a dogfight between Lou Diamond Phillips and the creator of Jimmy Neutron for the most famous alum.) This is their first trip to the tourney...and it'll be a short one, as Memphis will absolutely pulverize them. Well, at least they'll get to live it up for a few days in...Little Rock, Arkansas? Aww, crap.

61. Portland State University (16):
another first timer. Courtney Love went there (but--shocker--did not graduate) and appears to have covered a portion of her tuition by stripping (true story), which would've been (to borrow Ryan's phrase) abjectly terrifying for unsuspecting freshman. Even though Kansas is the weakest one-seed by quite a wide margin, it's safe to say that this won't be the year that a 16 knocks off a 1.

60. Austin Peay (15):
I'll admit: this name always makes me laugh. Turns out Austin Peay was the Governor of Tennessee in the 1920s and that he signed off on the bill banning the teaching of evolution in the classroom (the so-called Butler Act), which paved the way for the Scopes Monkey Trial. Somewhere, Mike Huckabee just nodded approvingly...and has no idea why.

59. Belmont (15):
much as I dislike Duke, they will never, ever lose in the first round as a #2 seed (sigh). Not a lot going on with Belmont, which is located in Nashville, Tennessee. Their motto is somewhat hilarious--"from here to anywhere"--because it feels like an afterthought ("seriously, just leave. We don't give a shit what happens to you once you give us our 95k..."). The school counts Melinda Doolittle--who made it to Idol's final three last year and was clearly the most talented, but lost because she (a) was apparently unaware that they didn't stop writing songs in 1952, and (b) was completely disingenuous whenever she received compliments ("me? Really? Gosh!") to the point where it became quite grating--among its famous alums, so they lose marks from me for that.

58. University of Maryland Baltimore County (15):
I can't shake the feeling that this is a Wire shout-out. Despite my misgivings about Georgetown, they shouldn't have much trouble with UMBC, who win the "most adorable nickname" award--The Retrievers--so handily that I may need to retire it.

57. American University (15):
Another first timer, which is a little astounding, given that their program has been around for at least fifty years. Famous alums include Kermit Washington (aka: this guy--at the 1:25 mark--...and if you're confused as to which one is Washington in the clip, here's a hint: his mother was not proud) and my man David Aldridge. I remember them from their epic high-scoring tilts with Loyola Marymount back in the late 80s/early 90s, which they would invariably lose by something like 162-137, so...expect lots of pressure defense.

56. Boise State University (14):
would love to pull the trigger on this one, because I love BSU, but they're in a lot of trouble here. (Might I suggest converting their basketball court to blue, as well? No good?) Louisville's an awfully tough squad and I'd be surprised if BSU kept it close.

55. Cal State Fullerton (14):
Note to CSF players: My God, you go to Cal State Fullerton! Your weather is far too temperate and your campus far too nice to be cooped up in a gym all day. You should probably quit, or, at the very least, not try too hard against Wisconsin. (Please.) Fun fact: CSF's coach is nicknamed "Sweater Vest"--I shit you not.

54. Cornell (14): I love this matchup (against Stanford) and no one can convince me that the tourney organizers don't routinely rig the brackets so that they can create matchups like this. Somehow, David Fay must be involved. Ordinarily, I'm all over picking the Ivy League winner to pull off the upset (see: Princeton v. UCLA in 1996--to this day, still my favorite tourney moment), but I don't think Cornell quite has enough to pull this one off--though it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if it was close.

53. Oral Roberts (13): so many jokes. I think I'll take a pass.

52. San Diego (13): ...which, of course, in German means a whale's vagina.

51. Winthrop (13): Winthrop is in for the 4th consecutive year, which is laudable. This time around, however, it's a bit of a downer, since, in defeating UNC-Asheville in the conference tourney final, they've deprived the viewer of a chance to see the truly colossal Kenny George--who is 7'7", 360 pounds, and possibly the slowest man alive. Maybe it's because, in said game, George, despite playing 27 minutes, only recorded 4 (4!) rebounds. The fuck? He's 7'7"! He should average 18 a game just by accident! I demand to see that game tape! Damn it all.

Right...Winthrop. They're up against a Washington State team that I have absolutely no faith in. Possible spoiler.

50. Siena (13): They're named after a crayola color! And not even a good one!

49. George Mason (12): 2006's Cinderella will--fingers crossed--get rolled by Notre Dame.

48. Western Kentucky (12): will hang tough with Drake.

47. Texas A&M (9): As punishment for them not making the Final Four last year like I so sexily projected, I'm picking them to lose in the 1st round. Take that.

46. Miami (7): meh. Beat Duke (once), but went 7-8 in the rest of their ACC games. I'm not sold.

45. Georgia (14): despite being a laughable one game over .500, Georgia is in by virtue of winning four games in three (!) days (the Atlanta tornado forced organizers to move their Friday quarterfinal against Kentucky to Saturday morning...and then they had to play again that night) to take the SEC Tournament, which is, I think, revealing of both the strengths AND weaknesses of Conference tourney week. On the one hand, it's a cute story and, admittedly, an impressive feat on the Bulldogs part. On the other hand: they're 17-16! And in the tournament! COME ON! I think this is a by-product of teams in the SEC that knew they were in (Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Arkansas) kind of mailing it in in order to preserve their energy for the real tournament. (Of course, no one would ever admit this.) More importantly, Georgia's involvement here, to a certain extent, exposes the tournament as somewhat of a sham. They have no business being here, no business hanging with a solid 27-6 Xavier squad, yet could easily win the game...ah, well.

44. West Virginia (7): in tough against an underachieving Arizona squad that could, potentially, be dangerous if they ever woke up.

43. Marquette (6): no shame in losing to Kentucky....unless it's 1964 Kentucky coached by legendary racist Adolph Rupp (though no mention of that anywhere on Wikipedia) who promptly lets loose with a torrent hateful abuse. That would kind of suck.

42. Clemson (5): hello, upset.

41. South Alabama (10):
A sexy pick...though it's discouraging that tournament officials insist on matching up mid-majors with each other. If you're only going to give out 6 at-large bids to the "lesser" conferences, don't force them to kill each other off.

40. Oklahoma (6): Dunno...feel like they'll fall to an only-OK St. Joe's team.

39. Oregon (9): Luke Winn has successfully convinced me that these guys are defensively inept.

38. UNLV (9):
Among famous UNLV alums, Wikipedia lists two porn stars, Ickey Woods, and an actress from Passions. Nice. Put it this way: UNLV was Courtney Love's safety school. Go Kent State.

37. USC (6): They gave Memphis a scare back in November (a quality loss if there ever was one) by deploying a gimmicky triangle-and-two defense that gave the Tigers fits...but I wouldn't read too much into that. On the other hand, their star player, freshman O.J. Mayo, kind of drives me crazy. That said, this first round matchup with Kansas State (and their first year phenom, Michael Beasley) should be one of the better round one games.

36. Gonzaga (7): The Zags--the little sleeper that could--have won roughly 180 regular season games over the past seven years, but here's what they've done in the NCAA tournament over that same stretch (going back to 2001): lost in the 3rd round; lost in the 1st round; lost in the 2nd round; lost in the 2nd round; lost in the 2nd round; lost in the 3rd round (that was the horrific collapse against UCLA); lost in the first round. This adds up to an underwhelming 7-7 tournament record this millennium. The best analogy I can come up with? They just don't test well. (Plus, it's bad karma to keep losing in the WCC tourney and then snatching up an at-large bid). Truth be told, I'm a bit tired of the Zags and I think they'll lose to Davidson.

35. Purdue (6):
going to lose to Baylor. On the plus side their nickname--the Boilermakers--is still awesome.

34. Michigan State (5): Sigh...they're my boys, but I just don't think they're very good this year. Temple is not a great matchup for them. (Note: I'm fully prepared to retract all of this two weeks from now, after they miraculously land in the Final Four.)

33. Indiana (8): Hey, three Big Ten teams in a row! That's...not good. Here's the thing: IU has two presumptive second team All-Americans on their squad (D.J. White and Eric Gordon) and yet they're still struggling against the likes of Northwestern and Minnesota. Now, people are going to want to chalk this up to their ex-coach being addicted to text messaging (not unlike a 9 year-old Asian girl), but I don't think it's that simple. I watched them lose to a mediocre Michigan State team by--I am not exaggerating--a thousand points and they didn't seem upset in the slightest. Something's not right there.


Mark P said...

Wait, Michigan State are your boys? Do you root for State in basketball and Michigan in football? That's....just weird.

Kyle Wasko said...

Confounding, no?

My uncle went to MSU, so I've always been a fan of the school. As for U of M, aside from the Fab Five, I never really cared for the basketball program...and didn't become a fan of the football program until around the time of Kordell Stewart's Hail Mary. That swift kick to the balls made me realize how much I like the football Wolverines. It gets a little dicey when the two play each other (given that they, you know, hate each other), but I tend to defer to Michigan since, invariably, they have the better shot at the Big Ten title and, by extension, a berth in the National Championship (though LSU tends to fuck up the latter point on a biennial basis).