Dunton returns for a little pre-Madness rant. He doesn’t want Kentucky to win, unlike yours truly. Today, Wayniac Nation presents to you Dunton’s views on why Kentucky needs to lose. Hold on to your seats, Nation fans, you can bet your March Madness loving’ butts my counterpoint will be coming!
Welcome back Dunton for his first work of 2015 (slacker). Today, as a longtime UNC fan, he looks into life moving forward without Duke enthusiast Dick Vitale behind the mike for the biggest rivalry in college basketball. It’s a new era in college hoops, and someone isn’t happy:
What an eventful week, folks. There was a little bit of everything going on in the world of sports. OTAs reached full steam in the NFL and Andre Johnson is still a no show for my Texans. The MLB June Amateur Draft’s wonderful 8,642,783 rounds concluded Sunday which was highlighted by the San Diego Padres drafting Johnny Football in the 28th round. The New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings are in a doozy of a Stanley Cup Finals as the Rangers have let the first two games get away from them in overtime. The Miami Heat ironically couldn’t take the heat in Fan (less) Antonio and the Spurs out sweat them to a Game One victory. And once again, we missed out on a Triple Crown with the ponies.
Then there was Rashad McCants. Yet another athlete from a major collegiate program has come forward and cried foul. McCants was a central figure on the University of North Carolina’s 2005 championship team that defeated Illinois by five points in St. Louis. He appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines making a very severe claim against UNC, a school long under suspicion of putting athletics before education, claiming he took “paper classes”. These were classes primarily in the African-American studies program that allowed students to write one term paper a semester and not even show up to any classes in between. McCants accusations claim that tutors even wrote his papers and apparently did such a good job that he made Dean’s List (I have been informed that this is an academic achievement, not an honor by legendary UNC coach Dean Smith for being good at hoops) in that championship season. Further investigation has shown that five players from the championship team, including four anonymous “key players”, were coincidentally enrolled in the same classes.
Happy Memorial Day, America. It’s a time for barbecues, heading to the beach, and enjoying a long weekend with family and friends. There is usually a ton of booze involved and maybe you sneak in a two minute glance of one of the most famous non-stop left turns ever in the 98th running of the Indy 500. It is also a time to remember… hence the clever Memorial Day tag.
The sports world has long been filled with athletes who remember that, although sports are entertaining and indeed a job, they are also just a game. Endless amounts of athletes have put their careers on hold to serve this country. While some of us spend this weekend celebrating relatives or friends who have served, lets take a look at some of the more memorable athletes to put America above their stats and illustrious careers.
Well, folks, it all ends tonight. What started out as 68 teams is now down to the last two standing. The number seven seed UConn Huskies will take the court against the number eight Kentucky Wildcats to see who becomes the highlight of One Shining Moment. The greatest tournament to date should end with a memorable match from North Dallas this evening as both teams are evenly matched in talent.
Where they are even in talent, they are world’s apart in team philosophy. Kentucky is a cast of the most athletic freshman in the land while UConn is a veteran team. The raw youth of Kentucky forms an offensive juggernaut with high flying dunks and timely three point shooting while UConn paved their road to the finals with shut-down defense led by a feisty team general always in command. The Wildcats played close games against tough competition all the way throughout while UConn has had most of their games in hand, blowing out the one and two seeds.
So who do I have winning this game?
3 REASON THAT UCONN BASKETBALL WILL WIN THE 2014 TOURNAMENT
3. Veteran leadership.
The Huskies have three players on this team who have cut down the nets before and are poised to do it again. Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, and Tyler Olander all won a championship in 2011 against Butler. The three were merely freshman themselves that season, yet they all played an integral part in the championship run. This season, Olander’s role has diminished with Philip Nolan, Ryan Boatright, and DeAndre Daniels really coming into their own, but Napier and Giffey are huge cogs in the Huskies scheme.
2. That defense is suffocating.
Did you know that since Jim Calhoun took over the UConn Huskies that they still do that zig-zag drill at the onset of practice? You know, that drill you did in high school where one guy dribbles diagonally back and forth down the court and the other guy shifts his feet and smothers him the whole way down? That’s probably why they have shut down every elite team they have faced thus far.
What UConn did to Florida was simply remarkable. They took Scottie Wilbekin out of the game and, in doing so, they completely shut down an offensive power that had won 30 straight games rather easily. They completely disrupted Michigan State’s offense in the Elite 8 by taking away their ability to slice the lane. They also made them settle for jump shots and I’m not talking about those wide open, set threes Adreian Payne was drilling because people were worried about Keith Appling. I’m talking about forced jump shots. Kentucky is young, very good, and extremely athletic. They are also, however, very raw and depend greatly on the sharp shooting of the Harrisons. Napier and Boatright could feast on this type of offense.
The real key will be keeping Julius Randle at bay. Even if UConn does what they have done thus far and shuts down the guards, Randle can dominate on the boards and create second chance shots. He is good enough to keep Kentucky in the game, but I don’t think it will be enough to win the game by himself.
DeAndre Daniels had an absolutely monster game against Florida (20 points and 10 rebounds), but this team lives and dies with their leader. Shabazz Napier is the most valuable player in this tournament. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. There hasn’t been a better or more important player on the floor in their five games leading up to tonight. Daniels and Boatright have become household names in this tourney, but that is because of the attention which is paid to Napier. He creates points. When he isn’t creating them, he scores them. What he and Boatright have done to opposing guards on defense is what has put UConn in the finals. He smothers ball handlers and isn’t afraid of anyone. He has the star-power and ability to win it all.
There you have it, folks. My last prediction of the college basketball season. Man, I hope I am right because I really can’t stand Calipari. Until next time, remember, the ball is tipped…
It’s FINALly here, folks. The Rematch tips off at 6:09 to begin the festivities. It has been one of the most exciting (and baffling) tournaments in a long time. There really is no telling what will happen tonight.
What have we learned from 2014’s version of March Madness? We definitely now know that the one-and-done rule has leveled the playing field and mid-majors are truly a threat to all of the powerhouses that use to run the tournament. I doesn’t seem that college sports looks for parity, however. They want conference and school domination. Look at what the BCS created in college football. The SEC (most notably Florida, Bama, Auburn, or LSU) made an appearance in the Championship Game seemingly every year. The Frozen Four of NCAA Hockey is the same way as Boston College, Michigan, and Wisconsin always seem to be in the hunt right until the end. Just ask Arizona State or Florida State what it’s like NOT to be in contention for the College World Series. They wouldn’t have an answer because they always are. In college hoops, however, the powerhouse teams have a new crop of their own freshman and a new starting line-up of their own each season making a repeat extremely difficult. Case in point? Not one Final Four team from last year remains in the hunt.
We also learned that I am finally getting this predicting thing down. My actual projections for the Final Four were off (Syracuse, Michigan State, Louisville, and Oklahoma State as the sleeper), however, I did say that the only number one seed that had any chance at a Final Four appearance was Florida. I also said that it would be seeds 4 and lower that would dominate this years’ bracket and sure enough, we have a 7 and an 8 seed playing in North Texas tonight. So who will be playing Monday night to cut down the nets at the end of the Madness?
I really have no freaking clue. So much of me wants to go ahead and put UConn or Florida down as the winner, but I think that is based on my hatred of John Calipari. He seems to prove on a yearly basis that cheaters always win. Let’s look at each team and see what they bring to the table.
#2 seed Wisconsin (30-7): This is a weird Wisconsin team. Bo Ryan has built this club on the grinder philosophy. Year in and year out they put you to sleep with solid defense and long offensive sets. This year they are running more, and Ryan is at last in the Final Four. Perhaps it is because Frank Kaminsky is a match-up nightmare. If Brian Scalabrine, Shawn Bradley, and Dirk Nowitzki mated, you would get Kaminsky. Standing at 7’0” tall, he can burn you in a lot of ways. If you defend him one-on-one, he is going to beat you off the dribble. If you leave him alone, he is going to bury the three. If you let him in the paint, he’s going to post you up and posterize you. Is he enough to beat this surging Wildcats’ team? I don’t think so, but he has the ability to help Wisconsin move on all by himself a la Never Nervous Pervis.
#8 seed Kentucky Wildcats (28-10):
Once again, John Calipari has built an NBA team in Lexington. Way back in late 2013, this team was the Preseason #1 in college hoops. Like many of Calipari’s past free agents, pardon me, rookies, they simply needed more time to gel together and didn’t get off on the right foot. Plagued by inconsistency, this team dropped some big games. Then the Big Dance started and these guys found their rhythm. The NCAA Championship isn’t always about the best team winning, it is about the hottest team surging to victory. Right now, that is Kentucky. They have defeated three teams in a row that were in last season’s Final Four. On top of that, all three of those teams were legitimate #1 seeds in this tourney (Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan). Julius Randle is an absolute beast on the boards (12 per game in the tourney) and the Harrison twins are on fire. Calipari has the best team money can buy in the match-up and Kentucky advances to the Championship.
#1 Florida Gators (36-2): 30 straight wins, people. The Gators haven’t lost in over 4 months. As many of you are aware, their last lost was to this UConn Huskies team they play this evening. Florida is a much different team than that last meeting: Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill weren’t healthy and Chris Walker wasn’t allowed to play. Since they have been healthy and at full force, they have been literally unbeatable. The only disadvantage I see Florida having is that they have yet to really be challenged in this tournament. Pittsburgh was a good team, but not great. I thought UCLA would really give them a run, but it turned out that they caught fire in the PAC-12 Tourney and ran out of gas by the time the Sweet 16 rolled around. Getting to play Dayton in the Elite 8 was no challenge. As hot as the Fliers were playing, they weren’t good enough to go much further, especially against an elite powerhouse like Florida. Billy Donovan has his squad playing team basketball and all of their cogs are moving together like a well oiled machine. This should be a great game.
#7 seed UConn Huskies (30-8): Nobody is giving these guys a chance, and you can’t really blame them with the way Florida is playing. But there is one reason I am giving them a chance: #SHABAZZKETBALL!!! Shabazz Napier is the best player in the whole Final Four. He has been pretty much the best player on the court in every previous round. He has put up a Player of the Year-type season, but here’s what has happened along the way. DeAndre Daniels has stepped up his game and now Napier has a wing man. Daniels had a monster game against Iowa State in the Sweet 16 and a solid game against Michigan State in the Elite 8. Ryan Boatright has also improved his play over the last few weeks giving the Huskies a very formidable trio. Niels Giffey and Philip Nolan have turned it up and the UConn Huskies have transformed from Shabazz Napier and friends to a well-rounded basketball team. They can key their improved defense and rebounding as the reasons they were able to upset #2 Villanova, #3 Iowa State, and, the team who many considered to be the best team in the tournament (why would I side with Obama? I should have known better), #4 Michigan State. The only thing that is left for them to do is to take down a number one seed, so why not tonight? UConn wins at the buzzer and ends Florida’s 30-game win streak and season.
So, there you have it. I foresee a #7 vs. #8 final. That being said, should Florida win, it will be simply amazing that we get an all-SEC Final. The SEC was arguably the weakest of the “power” conferences in the tournament, yet all three of their teams were represented in the Sweet 16, now two are in the Final Four, and it is highly likely that Kentucky will get one last chance to figure out Florida on Monday night. Whatever happens, we are in for a great weekend of college hoops.
Till next time , folks, we are one step closer to One Shining Moment!
Happy Monday, folks. First and foremost, I must apologize to The Wayniac Nation faithful. In my 80 days of blogging (yes, today is day 80) I have not missed a Sunday post. This week was different as we may have just experienced one of the craziest opening weekends of March Madness I can remember. It would have been an injustice to write about it before it was complete, so I waited until today.
We did some serious dancing over the last four days, didn’t we? The Mercer Bears busted a lot of people’s brackets, but I still think they became the most beloved team in the nation by taking down Coach K and his Dookies. Harvard shocked the world and took down a heavily favored Cincinnati club. They then put a huge scare into Michigan State, but inevitably the Spartans were their last waltz. There was little doubt in my mind that UConn was going to upset Nova in Round 2 (I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I’m not changing my stance and calling this Round 3). Shabazz Napier is a total beast and he had a total beast game against Jay Wright and his Wildcats. UNC suffered a controversial loss in one of the most bizarre endings to a tourney game since UNC watched C-Webb call a time-out. I think someone needs to be held accountable and removed from officiating for the rest of the tournament. Although UNC fans, like Wayniac Nation’s own Mike Dunton, have argued that they should’t have let their lead slip away in the first place, to lose the game on an officitaing/score table error is atrocious and unacceptable. But the Dance rolls on. The Dayton Flyers became the scourge of Ohio when they took down the beloved Ohio State in a huge upset. Considering that the only people who are Buckeye fans either live in Columbus or are alumni, most of America became enamored with the Flyers. I was, too… until they beat Syracuse. Now they can go to hell for all I care. What a terrible first weekend for me. My Blue Hens, my Orange, and both of my brackets are in the toilet. Well, that’s not entirely true.
If you remember in my preview, I told you to be weary of the higher seeds, especially the # 1s. That being said, my Final Four is still intact, so despite the whirlwind of upsets I technically have a chance. Before we look at what’s in store for next weekend, let’s have a quick recap of the one through five seeds, since that is essentially your Top 25.
One seeds: Shockers are out — Gators, Arizona, and Cavaliers remain. UVA looks great, but of these three remaining teams, their days are numbered with Michigan State on deck.
Two seeds: Nova and Kansas have gone home (without Joel Embiid, I projected Kansas was not making it out of the first weekend) — Wisconsin and Michigan remain. Considering the Wolverines should have been a one seed, there is no surprise here.
Three seeds: These guys took the biggest hit. In case you forgot, let me remind you that Duke has been eliminated after being knocked out by the 14th seeded Mercer Bears in one of the most exciting games of the tournament thus far. Cuse and Creighton have also been bounced. If Tyler Ennis drove the lane instead of pulling up for a terrible shot, my prediction of a Cuse/ Florida showdown was highly likely. Alas, the Orange suffered another close loss to a team they should have beaten. Iowa State remains, however their days may be numbered without Georges Niang.
Four seeds: All four remain. This is not a surprise at all. These are the strongest seeds in the tourney, and I have Michigan State and Louisville pegged for the Final Four.
Five seeds: Zero remain.
The end result of the opening weekend of the tournament is that only 12 of the Top 25 in the nation remain in the hunt for the 2014 NCAA Championship. That is absolutely insane. The slate of games for the upcoming weekend is titillating, so let’s take a gander at what we have in store. (It’s always exciting to find a use for the word titillating, isn’t it?)
The South: #11 Dayton vs. #10 Stanford is not a match-up anyone had projected and probably had a hand in ending the chances of the billion dollars from Warren Buffet (Well, that and the 1 in 9.4 quintillion chance of predicting a perfect bracket, but I digress). The exciting part of this game is that we know for sure we have a double-digit seed in the Elite 8. I would have to think the Cardinal, coming out of the ultra competitive Pac-12, has the upper hand. Speaking of the Pac-12, the #1 Florida Gators will have their hands full with the #4 UCLA Bruins. I have this slated as the second best game of the Sweet 16. UCLA has already taken down current number one seed Arizona to win the Pac-12 tourney. They aren’t afraid of anyone. Billy Donovan has his Gators looking like the ’06-’07 teams. I think this match-up is going to be great.
I had the #3 Iowa State Cyclones making a deep run in the tourney, but as I said, Georges Niang’s season ending injury puts them up against the wall. Shabazz Napier is playing out of his mind, and he should help #7 UConn eliminate the last three seed standing, but it won’t be easy. The #4 Michigan State Spartans versus #1 UVA Cavaliers game I have pegged as the third best game of the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers’ defense is suffocating and their offense is clicking, but Michigan State is playing some good ball. Yes, they struggled with Harvard, but if you have watched tournaments past, everyone struggles with Ivy League schools, just ask Georgetown (I don’t care if the Orange are in the ACC now, screw the Hoyas). Tom Izzo is poised to add a seventh Final Four appearance to his already impressive resume. Adriean Payne is playing awesome ball right now as well and should lift the Spartans to a match-up with the Huskies.
The Midwest: Athough the actual #1 seeded Wichita State Shockers were bounced, this bracket still has two legit one seeds going in the Sweet 16. The #11 Tennessee Volunteers don’t stand a chance against the #2 Michigan Wolverines. I think the loss to the Spartans and the coinciding loss of a one seed in the Big 10 (That’s Actually 12 but Adding Even More) Tournament has this team playing like last year’s runner-up squad. All eyes will be on the best game of the weekend, however, as The King of the Cheaters and his #8 Kentucky Wildcats take on the #4 Louisville Cardinals. Kentucky is the most inconsistent team in the nation as Julius Randle and the Harrison Wonder Twins should be enough to have gotten them a higher seed. But they don’t always come out and play a solid game from start to finish. Louisville, the AAC Conference and Tournament Champs, still have the nation wondering how they are a four seed. The bottom line is that Kentucky could be an awful, 2-win team but they would still bring everything they have to this huge in-state rivalry. It will be the game of the Sweet 16 and the ensuing Michigan versus Louisville Elite Match-up may be the game of the tournament.
The West: This is a boring bracket. The #2 Wisconsin Badgers seem like they have a big advantage over the #6 Baylor Bears and their crossing guard uniforms. Seriously, they could land a plane with those uniforms. Wisconsin, in my opinion, was ranked way too high, so I could see Baylor pulling off the upset, especially after the way they decimated Creighton and the best player in the nation in Doug McDermott. Everyone says I am nuts for not believing in the #1 Arizona Wildcats. They have yet another tricky match-up versus the #4 San Diego State Aztecs. Arizona looked really good against Gonzaga; however, if you remember from my preview, I had Gonzaga losing to Oklahoma State, so that outcome wasn’t much of a surprise. I think Arizona wins both of their games this weekend and rounds out the Final Four before losing to Louisville.
The greatest thing about this March Madness thus far is everything I just typed is most likely wrong. And in all honesty, I hope it is. My two teams are out and my brackets are weak. What will keep me most interested is a Dayton versus Tennessee Championship Game. Well, that and watching One Shining Moment and getting the chills like I do every year (well, except for that one Jennifer Hudson monstrosity).
Until next time folks, don’t forget Opening Day is just a week away!
Hide the women and children. The Madness is quickly approaching. We are just hours away from what could be one of the more bizarre and entertaining Final Four’s in a long time. Thanks to Mark Few who put a small school named Gonzaga on the map, mid-majors are no longer a joke. This tournament is pretty stacked and that spells bad news for the higher seeds.
I don’t see a scenario that a number one seed pulls it off this season. I don’t know if it is because the Selection Committee is slipping or there is simply more parity in hoops these days (I like to believe the latter), but there are deeper seeds that keep rolling, rolling, rolling down the river (get up, ooo ooo, get up ooo ooo) at full speed. In fact, since Kansas lost Joel Embiid, I don’t think even a two seed has a chance. And this, my friends, is what makes The NCAA Tournament the best sporting event in the world.
Now, I’m not saying a #1 seed can’t win it, nor am I completely ruling out Florida or Arizona as the next champions. I’m merely trying to tell you that if you think Florida, Arizona, Virginia, or Wichita State have a clear road to Texas, you are out of your mind. I think that a 4 seed is going to win it and I agree with our Commander-in-Chief (said no one ever) on his final’s match-up prediction. So without further ado:
FOUR TEAMS THAT COULD CAUSE THE #1 SEEDS A LOT OF TROUBLE:
MIDWEST: the #4 seed Louisville Cardinals:
Remember these guys? They are coached by Rick Pitino the Elder and happen to be reigning National Champs. How these guys got a four seed is beyond me. At the onset of Selection Sunday, the “experts” had Louisville grabbing the last #1 seed after Michigan lost. Alas, sports experts are the new weathermen and are seemingly right 10 percent of the time. The Cardinals drew the 4 seed.
The Cardinals finished the season 29-5 but it was how they rampaged and ransacked the AAC in their last 5 games of the season that gives me reason to believe that these guys are ready to defend their championship. They started by disheveling SMU who was in the Top 25 at the time (incidentally, SMU is the biggest snub I can remember in a long time but like a nerd in an 80s movie, they aren’t going to the Dance). They then dismantled a Top 25 UConn Huskies team by nearly 40 points. In the AAC tournament they continued their domination with 61-point first round massacre over Rutgers. 61 POINTS!!! IN A TOURNAMENT GAME!!! I don’t care what conference you play in or what team you are playing: to win a game by 61 points against a conference rival in a tournament game makes you a powerhouse and a serious threat to cut down the nets in Texas. Next up was a 29 point win over Houston, and a ten-point victory over UConn once again to win the AAC Championship. This team has veteran leadership who have been through a Championship run before. They have a very tough bracket and a possible match-up with Calipari and in-state rival Kentucky, but they have just as good a chance as anyone to be back in the Final Four.
WEST: the #9 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys:
Don’t let the 21-12 record fool you. Oklahoma State is the best #9 seed in the tourney and may be better than most of the 7 and 8 seeds as well. They have a tough bout with Gonzaga in the Round of 64, but with all their cogs moving they should get past them for a showdown with the #1 seed Arizona Wildcats. I love Arizona as they are a perennial Sweet 16 pick in every losing bracket I have ever done (I believe my lifetime record is 0-72). They are beatable, however. Yes they are 30-4 and to win 30 games in that legit PAC-12 Conference says a lot about their skills. Three of those losses, however, came to NCAA Tournament teams. They were all close games but they still lost to Oregon, in-state rival ASU, and UCLA for the PAC-12 Championship. The inability to put away big-time regular season games leaves the door open for Oklahoma State to pull the upset.
We all know they have Ron Artest, Jr. (aka Marcus Smart), but let’s face reality, he’s also a stud. He and senior Markel Brown bring some serious game with the ability to score and the leadership to guide this team. They will give Arizona a run for their money.
EAST: the #4 seed Michigan State Spartans:
It pains me to say this. You must know how I feel if you read my piece on March 11 entitled “Let’s Party Like It’s 1999!” My Delaware Fighting Blue Hens would have been better off being a lower seed because they have a better shot against the 3 seeds than they do against the 4s. Alas, Blue Hen Nation will give the Spartys a run, but probably fall short. Trust me, folks, I hope I am wrong on this one.
The sad truth is that no one is playing better ball than the Big Ten Tournament Champion Spartans. They took down Michigan in the Championship Game with ease inevitably costing the Wolverines a number one seed. The 26-8 Spartans are on a 5 game roll and are really past the injury woes that hurt them midseason. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are two well-rounded seniors set to lead the charge. Tom Izzo hates not being in the Final Four more than any other coach and Michigan State has the tools to not just make the finals, but win it all.
SOUTH: the #3 seed Syracuse Orange:
Come on, what did you expect? This isn’t a pure homer pick though as I have valid reasons. The unfortunate dilemma for Cuse is that Billy Donovan has this Florida team cruising like a 75-year old on 95 South in Boynton Beach: taking out everything in their way. The Gators are the # 1 seed that I think has the best chance to win this tournament, but they are in a tough bracket. They will need to go through Pittsburgh and UCLA to make it to the Elite 8 and then Cuse to get to the Final Four.
Ok, enough about those jort-wearing, Budweiser guzzlers. Losing to N.C. State was the best thing to happen to my guys in Orange. This team had no legs left, I said it TWO WEEKS ago. Jim Boeheim ran with a seven man rotation all year and aside from CJ Fair, none of the others had played a full season. They simply ran out of gas. This was evident in the final 20 seconds of their first ACC Tourney game against the Wolf Pack. They were chucking shots that were hitting nothing but back board if anything at all. It was excruciating to watch, but what I saw was a team desperate to win and end the game because they had nothing left. Now, they have had a week to rest. People forget that this team was 25-0 and beat Duke. They have all-world freshman Tyler Ennis running the ship and looking to prove that he should be in the same sentence as Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Any Cuse fan knows that Cooney is the x-factor. If he is hitting his shots, Syracuse becomes more deadly because that opens up Jerami Grant to run and slash through the paint. When Ennis, Fair, and Grant get rolling it energizes that 2-3 zone and then it’s all over for whoever Cuse is playing.
Now take it easy. This is not my Final Four prediction. You got to be nuts if you think I’m going for a billion smackers with Oklahoma State in my Final Four. But these four teams can present a huge obstacle for all of the teams they will face. I do think Louisville finds a way to repeat though… hopefully in a victory against the Ass Kickin’ Chickens of Delaware.
Enjoy your next two days of hookie from work, America and let the Madness begin!!!
Big news here at The Wayniac blogosphere. I am proud to introduce our first guest writer. Mike Dunton, aka Q-Tip if you’ve read my shout outs, is an old friend from Delaware. He’s a long-time UNC fan which makes him a professional Duke hater. He has already helped out by providing valuable information for my Hate Duke Nation piece in February. Today he becomes a full-fledged contributor to the ever growing Wayniac Nation.
So without further ado: BRACKETIQUETTE (we’re TMing this baby!)
Brackets are here! Some teams had their bubble burst on Sunday, some weren’t even considered, but for 68 teams all of the hard work paid off with their long awaited invite to the Big Dance. For me, Selection Sunday is like Christmas morning. I can remember laying on the floor in my parents’ living room with a bracket I made on oak tag during the Big 10 championship game so I could fill it out as the teams were announced. I waited all day for the selections, waiting to fill out each team as they were announced. There were times I felt that CBS should have a camera on ME filming my reaction to the match-ups, the cheering for those who snuck in, and the helpless eye rolls of despair of those who didn’t make the cut. Today, things have become much easier thanks to technology, but it is still a piece of my childhood. Every time I hear that siren’s song of CBS’ March Madness music, I get antsy watching who’s in and who’s out. Then I wait with bated breath to see where my favorite team (UNC) and least favorite team (Duke) are heading. After taking in all the glory that is the NCAA bracket, I try to figure out which region is the proverbial walk in the park — this is usually where Duke lands — and which team’s chances of making it to the Final Four are like surviving the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones.
With all of this excitement, there are a few things to remember as you prepare to fill out your bracket for your office pool or your chance at the $1 Billion from Warren Buffet. Here are some rules I have lived by for the majority of my life when it comes to entering these pools:
5 Ways to Ensure People Don’t Hate You During the Madness:
1. You can only fill out one bracket per pool that you enter. I loathe the person who enters a pool with multiple brackets. You are showing us that you can’t decide if Delaware is going to beat Michigan State in Round 2 (formally known as Round 1). Not cool! This is not a true bracketologist. There is no skill to this — you are hedging your bets! This is a person who enters multiple sheets all with different scenarios and then, if by chance they win, they brag about their “mad skills” as if they were the next Joe Lunardi. Well, that doesn’t fly in my world. Fill out one bracket per pool. If you want multiple scenarios, enter multiple bracket pools. At the very least it will make you look like you know what you are doing instead of being a person who dropped $50 in order to win $100.
2. Enter a pool that allows upset points for the lower seeds victories. This makes the games so much more entertaining. There was no greater thrill I had than watching the 15 seed Coppin State Eagles take down the 2 seed South Carolina Gamecocks in the 1997 tournament and knowing that I had picked it. My friends and I were fully invested in the game because I had a chance to receive an additional 13 points on that pick. Without the upset points, I could have cared less what happened to the Eagles after their win. Instead, I became one of those jackasses screaming at the one TV that no one is watching. Those teams may become yearly picks for you if they pay off one time in your brackets. After all, that’s how Gonzaga made their name!
3. No one wants to hear that you picked based on mascots or colors. That line is older than, “How you doing?” It’s played out. We get it — you didn’t know anything about the 7 vs.11 matchup in the West region so you looked at the cute bear and picked that team. There are people like myself who watch a lot of college basketball and feel betrayed by teams when they let us down in games that we thought we picked right. If you happen to pick based on your favorite color and win, just smile and say, “lucky guess” when asked how you knew that team was going to win.
4. Pick with your brain not your heart. It is going to be hard for me to pick against my alma mater Delaware next week. It’s tough to make a pick that will knowingly break my heart. I am pretty sure that, as much as I want them to win, my wallet is pulling for the higher seed. So here is what I tell you: take a realistic look at the whole region “your” team is in. If you think that their opponent in round 2 has no realistic chance of winning the region, then pick with your heart. It’s fun to have a game like that on your bracket on the off chance your team pulls the upset. But you have to face reality. Let your brain start picking after that first game. It is going to keep you in the pool longer, and you will be happier down the road.
5. Know what teams you picked on your bracket. Nothing makes me more irritated than spending the day with a group at a sports bar and listening to someone tell me, “I think I picked that upset, I think I picked that one too, and that one.” Then hours later you check your pool’s standings and they were wrong on 3 out of 4 of them. All that means is that you wanted to pick it but did not have the cahones to do so. If you make an upset pick, you are going to know that you picked it and we won’t question it. A little bit of help here is to print out your bracket(s) and bring them with you if you don’t think you will remember teams. I had mine in 2011 at the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte so I could keep up with the games and ended up walking out of the arena next to Pat Riley. Guess who signed my bracket? See, they can come in handy for other things too!
Now go have some fun and pick some winners! (You can follow Dunton on Twitter at @dartbus1521).
Last night, the University of Delaware delivered quite the birthday present to my fellow Blue Hen alums Rinalli, Andrew, and Larry by stamping their ticket to March Madness. The Ass Kickin’ Chickens will be making just their fifth appearance in tournament history but we are Dancing nonetheless. Yes, Blue Hen Nation we are Dancing to some sweet, sweet music and as Delaware alum, still current resident, and Delaware’s sharpest jeweler , Taco, so eloquently put it, we hope the DJ keeps spinning through March!
When I was accepted at University of Delaware way back in 1993, we were amid a two year run in the tournament. In fact, the spring before I moved into Dickinson Hall F in 1993, we nearly upset Louisville losing 76-70. In August of that same year I made Newark my home and Delaware basketball fell off the map. Luckily for me, I seriously messed up my freshman year of college (do you realize how far Dickinson was from main campus? Why would I walk there when I had beer from State Line Liqours sitting in my fridge?) so I got to stay there for a fifth year before entering the “real world”. While most of the friends I walked into Freshmam Orientation with were gone, I got to stay around and watch the Blue Hens make the tournament in 1998. I remember the championship game being on ESPN and my good friend Ryan Law rushing the court and being so happy that he saw his shirt sleeve on national T.V. in the highlights. I remember this turtle-neck, sports coat-wearing, former Duke assistant named Mike Brey being regarded as the savior of Delaware athletics. I also remember that my Philosophy teacher was a Purdue grad and gave us off for the first round game against his alma mater. We were blown out of the water. I’m pretty sure I remember Purdue scoring 18 points before we were on the board, and it was one measly free throw. We lost that game 95-56 and I left Newark athletically unfulfilled.
We made the tourney again in 1999 but once again lost big to Tennessee. Since then the only promising hype Delaware had about basketball was Elena Delle Donna. She led the nation in scoring as a junior, took the women deep in the tourney, and became the second overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft.
Now, with Selection Sunday less than a week away, the Blue Hens have returned to The Dance 15 years later. Monte Ross is our head coach as Mike Brey left to become a national figure at Notre Dame. Last night, the patios at Deer Park and Klondike Kate’s better have been overflowing. God Street Wine, Grinch, Caravan, Love Seed Mama Jump, Jefe, and Mr. Greenjeans better have been blaring through the Mall, Harrington Beach, and the Student Center (the old one, not that new brightly lit, crazy one). There better have been some beer spilled for The Stone Balloon. And there better have been hundreds of college mistakes made at the wee hours of the morning. Why? Because this team not only made the tournament but has the chance to be your 2014 Bracket Buster.
TOP THREE REASONS WHY THE BLUE HENS HAVE A CHANCE:
3. We’re from CAA Country!
The Delaware Blue Hens beat William and Mary 75-74 in an exciting, down-to-the-wire finish to claim their first ever Colonial Athletic Association Championship. The CAA has been producing Bracket Busters pretty steadily over the last decade. Most people remember George Mason’s shocking run to the Final Four in 2006. A few people remember Old Dominion bouncing Notre Dame, coached by the aforementioned Mike Brey, in 2010. But most NCAA March Madness fans remember Shaka Smart and his Virginia Commonwealth Rams running from The First Four to The Final Four just 3 years ago. That same year the CAA had a rare two teams in the tourney as George Mason earned an outright bid by winning the CAA Tourney. The Patriots went on to upset Villanova in their first game before being bounced by number one seeded Ohio State. The CAA is sleeper country, folks, and you never rule out the Fighting Blue Hens!
2. We have experience.
Like most small schools, Delaware has the luxury of avoiding one-and-doners. Three of the starting five are seniors. Three have played together for a few years while the other two transfers have gelled in nicely. Monte Ross took over the depleted program in 2006 and while it has not been easy, his teams have shown improvement each and every year. This team has been patiently waiting for their chance. Now they have it.
1. The Ass Kickin’ Chickens are flat out good.
We have one of the more underrated starting 5s in the nation. All five average over 10 points a game as they run a fluid, unselfish offense. If Saddler has a big game one, Baptiste will have a huge game two. That’s how they operate and that’s what makes it difficult to shut down one guy for opposing defenses.
It all starts with Carl Baptiste staying out of foul trouble. Standing at 6’9″ and 260 pounds he’d be better named BapBEAST. He is going to cause match-up problems for a lot of schools because he is not just a huge hulking body but he can shoot and move. Jarvis Threatt is the floor general and has a handle on the ball that is dangerous for opposing defenses. He can slice down the middle and put in a sick lay-up, dump it to Baptiste who will dunk it down the opponents’ throat — or kick it out to Davon Usher, Kyle Anderson, or Devon Saddler waiting to drain a three. Threatt’s numbers show how important he is to the all-around game of the Blue Hens, averaging 18.1 points with 5.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Usher and Saddler, both seniors, are legit scoring threats as both averaged over 19 points per game. They are also solid on the glass and can drill it from three point land. Anderson reminds me of Ollie from Hoosiers except he shoots a hell of a lot better than that underhand garbage. He fills his roll nicely as the perimeter guy but can sneak inside if you give him too much space.
The only question that remains for Delaware is the Blue Hens’ opponent in Round One (or Two, or however it works these days). Of course, the biggest question The Wayniac has been asked over the last 12 hours is, “What happens if Delaware draws Syracuse?” And I got to tell you, folks, that is a tough predicament for me. If you haven’t read my bio, then you are unaware that I have rooted for Syracuse longer than any other team I have affiliated myself with since basketball was my first true love. Since 1986 and Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, and Rony Seikaly, I have bled Orange. If you follow @UofDWayne on Twitter, then you know I’m part of #CuseNation. But when push comes to shove, the University of Delaware was five of the best years of my life. They gave me the skills that made me The Wayniac. They gave me one of my oldest friends who edits every piece I write. And they gave me 20% of their tournament visits while I was there. The very least I could do is give them my allegiance. It will be an emotional roller coaster of a game, I’ll tell you that. I’ll curse while cheering. I’ll be yelling while clapping. I’ll probably throw up somewhere. But right now I’m in the Cockpit gearing up to wear my blue and yellow and represent Blue Hen Country. Sorry Cuse fans.
Till next time folks, LET’S GO BLUE HENS!!!