|The Madness can be tough on a person. This is me two years ago,|
taking a big loss. Grrrrr.....
Opening Weekend Gems
March Madness is like a cruel joke to a little boy with ADHD. You go to the bar and, at least for the opening weekend, there are typically FOUR games going on at once. There are thousands of bars in NYC, and only a few know how to handle the mass chaos that ensues when everybody wants to do everything all at once.
If you find yourself looking at the schedule, scratching your head as to which delight is going to be the most delightful, I have picked out a few to tantalize the Madness senses…
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota St.
If you like PG’s, the epicenter of a basketball game (unless you’re Kansas this year), this is your game. In football, you don’t get to see the quarterbacks ever face each other directly, the closest I can think of was those ESPN commercials with Eli and Peyton Manning side-kicking each other playfully. Oh, it was glorious, and a tease for what never can be, but anyway, this game was seemingly hand selected to pair the BEST POING GUARDS in the nation against each other—Michigan’s Trey Burke and South Dakota’s Nate Wolters.
On more than one occasion, the Bleacher Report editing staff accused my basketball writing as being slightly racist, but in this aspect, I can’t help but see the parallel universe of correlation between Nintendo game Jordan vs. Bird and this match between the uber-athletic, ultra-flashy Burke and the smart, stoic keep your feet-shoulders-hips square to the basket Wolters. If only someone would write a movie about this? Burke often takes shots that require protractors to properly disseminate shot trajectory, meanwhile Wolters is tough to the lane, but very textbook in the way he creates space for himself and opportunities for his teammates.
Burke: 6’0 190lb. So. 19.2ppg, 6.7asst, 3.1reb, 40% 3pt.
Wolters: 6’4 190lb. Sr. 22.7ppg, 5.8asst, 5.6reb, 39% 3pt.
As you can see, statistically they are remarkably similar. Wolters has a little height advantage, but with the way Burke creates shots with speed and dexterity, it’s pretty much a stalemate. The winners are the fans, who reap the rewards of this classic first round battle.
From a hunger standpoint, this is also pretty even. This is Wolters’ last stand in his college career at a little school, before he goes to the NBA and pounds nostalgia beers with Jimmer Fredette about being “the man” on campus. For Burke, this is a horrific déjà vu, as he was in a similar kind of matchup, and on the losing end I might add, against D.J. Cooper and the Ohio Bobcats last year.
Wolverines. Jackrabbits. I can’t help but feel this game will come down to the wire, and drunkards that have been watching basketball since noon, will sound a lot like Snatch talking about how Wolters is about to get “properphucked,” but in a glorious montage the rabbit runs away, much to the dismay of the overhyped skunkbear fanbase.
I may be biased, but the matchup doesn’t lie.
Upset Alert: Michigan may be better, but in the name of March Madness, and underskilled vanilla thunder, BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR!
No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell
INDIE ROCK JEALOUSY (B-B-B-B-B-JEALOUS)
Michigan State and Valparaiso kick things off at 1215. This game is the compliment. And by compliment as far as entertainment is concerned, barring some kind of Weber St. setback, this is the dip to the chip.
Butler was once an underground foe with occasional opportunities to make noise in March. That’s the life of a grassroots mid-major basketball program. Brad Stevens has created a buzz in Butler generating enough hype to come within one play of a (FREEKING) National Title (against Duke) and a slew of other upsetting wins, if you’ve been “fortunate” enough to play them. They have a way of grinding out and frustrating opponents in a way I’ve never seen before. Every Butler game is good, and they are all tenacious. Either way, they’ve become a program you can never count out this time of year.
Bucknell has had it’s share of March Magic, pulling a 14-3 upset over Kansas in 2005. Then, in a minor fashion again in 2006, with a 9-8 upset over Arkansas. Let the wild rumpus end…
Until now. This is their chance to stick it to the man. For every Death Cab for Cutie that made it out of the indie rock basement, there is a band in a garage, pissed off that they aren’t selling product and putting panties in their respective mouths. Panties aren’t just for Bulldogs. Bison like panties too! Especially if they are Zoey Deschanel’s.
Verdict: Butler has a great deal of variety on their roster, and played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation (played Gonzaga AND Indiana non-conference, winning both games), but at times looked inept and confused as to its greater destiny. Bucknell has a beast of a center in Mike Muscala, which just sounds like a big bad dude you don’t want to mess with in the paint. Butler will claw and scratch, but I don’t think they have enough muscle and grit for Muscala, yet I don’t think it’ll be enough. Bulldogs are the big dawgs now, and…until next time.
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincinnati
THROW A DIRTY BRICK INTO THE PRETTY OCEAN (A.K.A. Doug McDermott)!
Creighton is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, with the best player in the nation. Cincinnati wouldn’t even take the ball on offense if they didn’t have to score to win. They can’t score, but they can win. Hmmmmm….
In foosball, I’m so much better on the defensive end, that in a one-on-one game, I will typically just leave my offense up, and try to make stops and just shoot from the back row. It’s a liberating strategy, and typically effective with my skill set. This is Cincinnati.
Doug McDermott is a 6’8, 225 pound, Junior, Power Forward coached by his father, Greg McDermott, who averages 23 points and eight rebounds a game on 56% field goal shooting, including an alarming 50% from beyond the arc. He’s like a refined, not crazy, textbook version of Adam Morrison. The Creighton Bluejays scored 75 points a game on a league leading 50.8 field goal percentage. With McDermott shooting threes like free throws, it’s no wonder they regularly run their vanquished foes out of the gym.
Creighton: Offensive Efficiency 7th Defensive Efficiency 77th
Cincinnati: Offensive Efficiency 177th Defensive Efficiency 12th
I think that pretty much speaks for itself.
Cincinnati does have good athletes, however, they have even better names. Cincy is my biggest contributor to the ALL-NAME TEAM.
Cincinnati will try to stop Doug McDermott with THESE NAMES:
· Cheikh Mbodj
· Titus Rubles
· Sean Kilpatrick (might as well be KILL McDermott!?!??!)
· Cashmere Wright
· Ge’Lawn Guyn (McDermott, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!)
· Justin Jackson (What now?)
Verdict: I think they will frustrate the chosen one, but ultimately, Doug McDermott doesn’t cry and hit himself with the basketball. I am not on campus right now, but I don’t think he’s growing a porn stache either. If Creighton gets past Cincy, I like them to upend Duke as well. Yikes. I wrote 500 words about Cincy vs. Creighton, but one quick take about how Duke will be much easier. That’s right.
No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Montana
BEARS LOVE ORANGES!
Quite simply, Jim Boheim has been coaching Syracuse for 137 years with the same 2-3 Zone defense predicated on the notion that you CANNOT get to the basket for easy shots, because all his players are 6’6 with huge wingspans and massive tree trunk frames or sleek, slender and long as a telephone tower. Seriously, six of their players are 6’8 or taller, and they all have long arms, typically at the end of the tunnel is a massive Redwood ready to swat the ball. They don’t want you going inside.
Montana, coincidentally for the stronghold of this piece, is one of the BEST three point shooting teams in the nation. Percentage wise they are 18th in the nation, as well as 32nd in the nation at getting to the free throw line. This tells you that their forte is setting screens and getting the rack, but dishing out to a barrage of shooters: Kareem Jamar (36%), Jordan Gregory (44%), Will Cherry (28%, he makes them when he has to), Mike Weisner (46%).
That folks is how you beat the 2-3 Zone. Drive and dish.
I did, however, make this same suggestion, picking Montana over Wisconsin, LAST year, and it didn’t happen. They really don’t have the size to deal with Syracuse the least bit, the main problem for most mid-majors. Syracuse started hot and finished 8-8. It doesn’t matter. They should be able to squash Montana without much effort from sheer stature. Like a little boy vs. his dad on a kiddie hoop. Syracuse has ranked pretty well at stopping the three, 12th nationally, but I attribute this mostly to playing teams in the Big East that can’t shoot the three. Certainly, there isn’t another team that specializes in the dish and drive like Montana. Even if the size of ‘Cuse is apt to bother them, I’m apt to say…
That’s why they play the games folks.
Upset alert: I’m calling it again! Montana Grizzlies!
No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No 10. Iowa State
COOL HAND JACK
Notre Dame is poised and ready to disappoint their fan base with another early exit, while Iowa State marches back into another game they have a “punchers chance” at. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was an NBA player with a penchant for launching threes and his teams are no different. The offense is your basic four hunters and a barking dog to chase down the birds. Everyone that isn’t the “center” and I use that term loosely as Georges Niang is only 6’7, is setting pick-and-roll opportunities for bombs. They all jack at will.
This is one of the few ND teams I can remember that isn’t absolutely crippled if they don’t make threes. They have a big center, by the name of Jack Cooley, 6’9, regularly puts up 13-10, and most importantly isn’t a wuss. Everyone else can shoot the three, but it seems that they try to work it in for “better looks.” Statistically, they are the 13th most efficient offense, and in a league chock full of defense oriented teams, I’d say that’s not too shabby.
What makes this game interesting is, ND will probably eat the shot clock as much as they can. I would be real surprised if they shoot early in the shot clock and use the offensive end to limit possessions, while Iowa State will do the opposite to speed things up.
We have a real tempo grab on our hands. If Niang gets in foul trouble there is only one other guy that isn’t a guard to take his place. It should be a real nice day for Jack Cooley. If for some reason it’s not, another punchers chance for ISU against No. 2 Ohio State. The beauty of the college game, friends!
Spartan fan side note: You might recognize Garrick Sherman on the ND bench (he’s actually been working into the rotation!?) and of course starting PG Korie Lucious for Iowa St.
No. 8 Pittsburg vs. No. 9 Wichita State
A BASKETBALL GAME WITH NHL SUBSTITUTION PATTERNS
Both schools have a lot of new players, and are very liberal with substituting. In fact, both teams use 9-10 man rotations, keeping everyone most games under 28 minutes, with both teams having only one player in their starting lineup as a featured double-digit scorer (Wichita State also has one off the bench).
Both teams have size in spades and are hard-nosed teams that fight for the basketball. Neither team shoots incredibly well from the perimeter, so it’s going to be a hard fought, get to the basket and get your nose punched sort of game.
It’s like that scene in Face Off when Cage and Travolta are looking in the mirror, but at themselves, but they’re not what they see in the mirror, they are actually the opposite selves. There’s going to be some of that going on, while each fan base tries to identify their own players on the court. I hope they have names on their jersey’s!?!
Verdict: Who? What? Where? I’m confuuuuuuuuuuused….