Friday, March 27, 2009

The Revenge isn't missing -- it's moved

On the off chance that somebody out there is still checking this blog and wondering what happened as the Big East has been rolling through the NCAA tournament, I thought I should mention that I'm now blogging college hoops (as well as baseball, football and maybe some other stuff) for my new employer at this site here. Feel free to check in anytime.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Busted Already?

I mean, the President only got 11 out of 16 right on the first day, so I guess I don't feel too bad, getting only 10. But he didn't lose any second-round winners, whereas the day's biggest upset was of a team (Illinois) that I had picked into the Elite Eight.


Well, at least that's out of the way. Now I can enjoy the games without worrying about whether I need to get them right or not. I am cooked on day one.

Just two of the tournament's seven Big East teams played on day one. UConn looked terrifying and Villanova looked shaky. (Though anybody who watched that American team play should understand why those who call for the elimination of the mid-major auto-bids are dead wrong. That's what this tournament is all about -- a team like that playing good, solid, fun-to-watch basketball and putting themselves in position to really, truly, accurately believe that they have a chance to win an NCAA tournament game. The upsets and near-upsets in games like that are what this tournament is built on -- why it's the event it is every year. A tournament without the Americans and Cal State-Northridges wouldn't be as cool.)

My picks for today (or, "Teams You Should Run Right Out and Bet Against Now While You Still Have the Chance"):

Syracuse over Stephen F. Austin (though you know which way this blog is rooting)
Oklahoma State over Tennessee (coin flip)
Kansas over North Dakota State (but you have to think about it, right? It's Kansas.)
Utah State over Marquette (UPSET SPECIAL!!!)
Arizona State over Temple (Even though the Pac-10 didn't show much on day one)
Pitt over East Tennessee State (Has ETSU ever seen anyone like DaJuan Blair?)
West Virginia over Dayton (if the game were in Dayton, maybe. But it's in Minnesota)
Missouri over Cornell (to Andy Bernard's chagrin)
Utah over Arizona (too much Keith Van Horn? Oh wait...)
Louisville over Morehead State (MSU will always have this past Tuesday)
USC over Boston College (again with the Pac-10. Why???)
Xavier over Portland State (Xavier is another Elite Eight team -- can't lose two)
Siena over Ohio State (...)
Wake Forest over Cleveland State (though everybody likes the upset here...)
Michigan State over Robert Morris (MSU could get every rebound in the game)
Florida State over Wisconsin (ACC vs. Big Ten? Should be no contest. Should be.)

Syracuse game tips at 12:15. Bedtime looks like at least 12 hours later. Getcha popcorn ready, as a bizarre man once said.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baylor 74, Georgetown 72 -- Requiem for a Lost Season

Honestly, you couldn't have scripted a more fitting end to this season. Blow a 10-point halftime lead, on the road, against a team full of seniors who stayed more focused and motivated throughout the game than you did. Fall asleep on defense over and over again and let that kid keep getting free on the baseline for those alley-oop dunks.

I hate watching my team in the NIT, because you never feel good about rooting for it. ("We're Number 66!!") But now at least that's all resolved. From what I saw, it certainly looks as if Greg Monroe could use more seasoning, so hopefully he stays away from that NBA draft and comes back to try and make up for what happened this year.

We could go over it and over it, but we already have, for the past few months. And besides, this is the best day of the year -- whether the Hoyas decided to join it or not.

The NCAA Tournament begins in earnest this afternoon. I'm in Florida, doing some spring training coverage, but the heavy early odds favor me blowing off this Phillies-Marlins game and finding a sports bar with about 110 TVs and parking there for the afternoon. Or going back down to Delray Beach and crashing on my in-laws' couch to watch one game on the TV and others on the laptop.

Briefly, my Final Four is Michigan State, Duke, Connecticut and Oklahoma, with Michigan State beating Duke for the title. I never win these things, and my performance (as detailed below) in this year's Conference Tournament Pool speaks to the success I expect to have in the big bracket as well. So while I have no reason to think you'd be using my picks as any kind of advice anyway, I can confidently advise you to stay away, and use them only to poke fun at me after the fact.

My winners today:

LSU over Butler
Memphis over Cal State-Northridge
BYU over Texas A&M
Purdue over Northern Iowa
North Carolina over Radford, easily, even with Ty Lawson tied behind their backs.
Cal over Maryland
UConn over Chattanooga
Washington over Mississippi State
Minnesota over Texas (Sure, drinking the Big Ten Kool-Aid. Why fight it?)
Clemson over Michigan (Too much Kool-Aid is bad for you)
Villanova over American
Akron over Gonzaga (UPSET SPECIAL -- GO ZIPS!!!)
Duke over Binghamton
Oklahoma over Morgan State
UCLA over VCU (though I see the President picked the upset here...)
Illinois over Western Kentucky

Let's tip off!!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool -- Saturday recap, Final Day preview

Twelve more bids awarded Saturday, and only four more conference tournaments to be played. It is as tight as it gets at the top of the pool.

Chris Sabatino leads with 304 points. Right behind him are Rob Biro and Steve Politi, each with 303.

Chris also leads the race for most champions picked correctly, with 11 out of 26 so far, but Ed Price, Yohan Sengamalay, Sal Sabatino and Steve Politi each have picked 10.

So how does it shake out today? Well, Rob and Steve have Duke in the ACC final, which means each gets four more points if Duke wins. Chris would suffer here for having picked his alma mater’s archrival over alma mater herself, while Steve would be rewarded for doing the same.

Rob has Tennessee winning the SEC, so if that happens he gets a leg up on the other two in the overall points race.

Chris has Purdue in the Big Ten, so he gets help if they win.

Chris, Rob and Steve all have Stephen F. Austin in the Southland, so no blood there.

So, the way I figure it:

-If Duke and Tennessee both win, Rob wins the overall points title regardless of the Big Ten result.

-If Florida State and Mississippi State both win, Chris wins the overall points title regardless of the Big Ten result.

-If Duke, Mississippi State and Purdue all win, Chris wins the overall points title.

-If Duke, Mississippi State and Ohio State all win, Rob and Steve tie for the overall points title.

-If Florida State, Tennessee and Purdue all win, Chris wins the overall points title.

-If Florida State, Tennessee and Ohio State all win, Rob wins the overall points title.

I think that’s right. If it’s not, I’m sorry. Also, I think any combination of Chris, Rob, Steve and Ed can win and/or tie for the prize for most champions picked.

As a refresher, the overall points leader wins $15. The person with the second-most overall points gets $5. And the person who picks the most champions correctly gets $10. There are no tiebreakers. If you tie, you split the money.

Now, on to the daily roundup:

The Binghamton Bearcats earned their first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, beating UMBC 61-51 in the final of the America East tournament. Binghamton’s tournament title was correctly forecast by Dan and Steve, but Steve won the dollar with a score of 11 out of a possible 19 points. Steve is now up to $4.66 in winnings, almost the first guy to earn his entry fee back. Which is good, since he hasn’t paid it.

It’s back to the Big Dance for Morgan State, which earned the MEAC’s bid with an 83-69 victory over Norfolk State. Morgan was the predicted tournament champion of Dan, Greg, Sal, Nino, Chris, Yohan, Mark and Rob, but this was Nino’s tournament all the way. Nino scored 20 out of a possible 21 points in the MEAC bracket, missing only with Howard’s loss to Florida A&M in the 8-9 game. Congrats to Nino, king of the MEAC.

Louisville restores sanity and order to the universe, finally coming up with a way to stop Syracuse, 76-66 in the Big East tournament final. I have a hunch both of these teams will find their way into the tournament, but Louisville is now officially guaranteed. Nobody had Louisville winning, so the dollar goes to Mark Feinsand, who had the best overall Big East bracket with 21 out of a possible 37 points. Mark is the Beast of the Big East.

Another tournament in which the top seed actually wins! Utah State beats Nevada 72-62 for the WAC title and an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Sal, Nino, Chris, Yohan, Steve, Mark and Rob all had Utah State here, but Sal is the big winner with a PERFECT 19 out of 19 points!!! A perfect WAC bracket for Sal. Congrats, Sal, you are El Jefe Primo in the WAC.

Akron ends Buffalo’s dreams 65-53 in the finals of the Mid-American. Yohan was the only person to correctly pick Akron to win this tournament, and with 15 points out of a possible 22, Yohan wins the MAC’s one-dollar first prize. Yohan is…wait for it…the new Shaq of the MAC, supplanting Gary Trent.

Temple ends the Cinderella run of Duquesne with a 69-64 victory in the A-10 final, earning the league’s automatic bid. Mark and Yohan both picked Temple to win this tournament, but Yohan edged Mark by a point, 15-14, for the A-10 dollar. Had Mark picked Xavier over St. Louis in the quarterfinals, as everybody else did, he’d have won this. Instead, Yohan rules the A-10.

Utah nips San Diego State, 52-50 to earn its ticket to the dance as champion of the MWC. Mark, Rob, Nino, Yohan, Jim and Jon all had Utah here, and it’s Jim who takes home the dollar. Correctly forecasting both finalists helped Jim to a score of 16 out of a possible 19 points, and earns him the title of Lord of the Mountain West.

BIG 12
Missouri ends Baylor’s dream run with a 73-60 reality check in the Big 12 final. Nobody had Missouri. We all had a Kansas-Oklahoma final. The best score in the Big 12 was 7 out of a possible 22, which was posted by Ed, Sal, Jim, Greg and Jon, who each pocketed 20 cents. The Big 12 is ruled by a council.

Yes. Memphis. 64-39 over Tulsa in the foregone final. Correctly forecast by all 12 of us. But Sal, who didn’t miss a game after the first round, scored 19 out of 22 to earn the dollar and be crowned emperor of Conference USA.

Top-seeded Alabama State takes out Jackson State in the final of the SWAC and advances to the Big Dance. Only Ed and Sal correctly picked Alabama State to win this tournament, and those two also tied for the win in the SWAC bracket with 10 points out of a possible 11. They can armwrestle for supreme control of the SWAC.

Sixth-seeded USC took out fourth-seeded Arizona State 66-63 in a very surprising Pac-10 final to earn an NCAA tournament bid. Nobody had USC winning this. Jim and Steve each scored 12 out of a possible 20 points in the Pac-10 bracket and each get 50 cents. Jim and Steve form the two-headed sultan of the Pac-10.

Cal State-Northridge beat Pacific 71-66 in overtime to secure the Big West crown and advance to the NCAA Tournament. This title was correctly forecast by Chris, Ed and Steve, but Chris had the best overall Big West bracket, scoring 14 out of a possible 16 points. Chris wins the dollar as Duke of the Big West.

Florida State took out North Carolina, a result that was correctly forecast by only Dan and Steve, a self-loathing Tar Heel. Duke beat Maryland in the other semifinal, as correctly forecast by five people, including at least two Duke alumni. Duke will play Florida State today in the ACC final. Mark, Steve and Rob are tied for the pool lead with 12 out of a possible 18 points so far. But Mark had North Carolina winning this tournament, while Steve and Rob each picked Duke. So if Duke wins today, Steve and Rob will each get 50 cents. If Florida State wins, it remains a three-way tie, with Steve, Rob and Mark each getting 33 cents.

Mississippi State took out top-seeded LSU in the SEC semis, throwing many SEC brackets into chaos. Tennessee beat Auburn in the other semi and will face MSU in today’s final. Sal leads with 12 out of a possible 18 points so far, but he picked LSU to win, so his only hope is a Mississippi State victory today. If MSU wins, Sal gets the buck. But if Tennessee wins, Rob and Jim (each of whom picked Tennessee to win the tournament) will move past Sal and tie for the pool title with 14 points apiece, each getting 50 cents.

The top seed went out in the Big Ten as well, with Michigan State getting basically smoked by Ohio State in its semifinal game. Michigan State was the pick of eight of the 12 of us, and so it’s a big loss. Purdue beat Illinois in the other semifinal, which is big for Chris and Jim, each of whom had Purdue winning this tournament. Nino currently leads with 13 points, and if Mississippi State wins, Nino will get a buck. But if Purdue wins, Jim will win the dollar with a score of 15 out of a possible 22 points.

Top-seeded Stephen F. Austin takes on sixth-seeded Texas-San Antonio in this afternoon’s Southland final. Currently, seven people are tied for first place in the Southland with 5 out of a possible 8 points so far. Of those seven, five picked Stephen F. Austin to win the tournament. (The other two had Sam Houston State and Nicholls State.) So if Austin wins, Dan, Rob, Steve, Ed and Jon will split the dollar five ways. If San Antonio wins, Dan, Rob, Steve, Ed, Jon, Nino and Jim will split the dollar seven ways. Either way, Dan will finally win some money. WHOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Chris Sabatino: 304
Rob Biro: 303
Steve Politi: 303
Sal Sabatino: 292
Paul “Nino” Canino: 285
Greg Lester: 283
Yohan Sengamalay: 283
Ed Price: 279
Mark Feinsand: 279
Jim Graziano: 269
Dan Graziano: 260
Jon Graziano: 259

CHAMPIONS PICKED CORRECTLY (out of a possible 26)
Chris Sabatino: 11
Ed Price: 10
Yohan Sengamalay: 10
Sal Sabatino: 10
Steve Politi: 10
Rob Biro: 9
Paul “Nino” Canino: 9
Mark Feinsand: 8
Jon Graziano: 7
Greg Lester: 7
Dan Graziano: 4
Jim Graziano: 4

Steve Politi: $4.66
Sal Sabatino: $4.36
Yohan Sengamalay: $4.16
Ed Price: $3.36
Paul “Nino” Canino: $2.66
Mark Feinsand: $2.50
Jim Graziano: $1.70
Chris Sabatino: $1.50
Greg Lester: $0.70
Jon Graziano: $0.20
Rob Biro: $0.16
Dan Graziano: NOTHING!!!!

Enjoy today’s title games, and the selection show, boys. I’ll be back tomorrow with a final recap.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool --- Friday Recap, Saturday Preview

Oh, we got a race, boys.

On a day that saw 16 tournaments play, one champion crowned and another slew of top seeds hit the bricks, Rob Biro moved into first place in the overall points standings of The Conference Tournament Pool.

But it’s tight behind him. Chris Sabatino is two points back, Steve Politi just three out of the lead, and Sal Sabatino and Greg Lester are each within nine points of the top spot.

Today is a big day, with 15 tournaments in action and 12 of them holding their title games. By the end of today, with only four games on the schedule tomorrow, we should have some idea of who’s going to win.

I’d like to thank all of you for the work you put in on your picks. There are no more picks to make, which I’m sure comes as a relief. I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have.

Now, onto the daily summary:

The Patriot League tournament played three rounds over 10 days, and it ended early Friday evening when top-seeded American beat Holy Cross 73-57 to earn the title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Nino, Chris, Yohan, Rob, Jim, Ed, Mark and Steve all had American winning, but Mark and Steve had the best brackets, with 10 out of a possible 11 points. (Both missed only with Lehigh in the first round.) Mark and Steve therefore each pocket and additional 50 cents. Congrats, Mark and Bracket Boy.

I always feel like it’s a cool day when the sports I want to watch start playing before noon. Today is such a day, as top-seeded Binghamton and sixth-seeded UMBC meet in the final of the America East tournament. If you’d forgotten about this tournament, you can be forgiven. The semifinals were six days ago.
To refresh: Jim leads with 10 out of a possible 15 points so far, but he cannot score any more, since he had Vermont winning the tournament. Nobody had UMBC, and Dan and Steve had Binghamton. Dan is hopelessly behind, but Steve has seven points and would get four more if Binghamton won the final, passing Jim and winning the dollar. So if Bingy wins, Steve gets a buck. If UMBC pulls the upset, Jim gets the buck.
Game is on ESPN2 at 11 am EST.

Top-seeded Morgan State advanced to the final with a 75-67 victory over Coppin State, and Norfolk State took out South Carolina State in the other semifinal. These results give the MEAC dollar to Nino regardless of the outcome of today’s final. Nino leads with 16 points out of a so-far possible 17 and has Morgan State winning the tournament. Jim has Norfolk State winning the tournament, but he only has 11 points, and the final is worth four. So while Jim would still get credit for a champion pick if Norfolk State wins, he’d only get to 15 points and would not catch Nino. So Nino wins this $1. Congrats, Meat Sticks.
Norfolk State takes on Morgan State in the MEAC final tonight at 7 pm in Winston-Salem, N.C.

I keep thinking of that Vince Vaughn line at the end of Anchorman, where he’s holding the ladder and threatening to push Will Ferrell back into the bear pit, going on and on about how much he hates him and then he finally says, “But goddamn it, I respect you!” This is how I’m starting to feel about Syracuse, and in particular the kid Jonny Flynn.
A night after playing six overtimes to take out the No. 4 team in the country, Syracuse needed another overtime to take out West Virginia in the Big East semifinals. Louisville whipped Villanova in the other and will face the Orange tonight, as Syracuse attempts to become only the third team (and the second Syracuse team) ever to win four games in four days to win the Big East tournament. (Incidentally, I looked it up – neither of those other two teams played a six-overtime game in their tournaments. True story.)
Mark Feinsand correctly predicted this final, and has 21 out of a possible 32 points so far to lead the pool. He also picked Syracuse to win, and nobody picked Louisville, so Mark has already wrapped up the Big East dollar. Congrats again to Mark, who’s making a strong late push to win back the entry fee he has yet to pay.
Syracuse faces Louisville tonight at 9 pm in the Big East final from Madison Square Garden. The winner does get an automatic bid, but I have a hunch the loser might sneak into the field too.

Second-seeded Nevada eliminated Louisiana Tech while top-seeded Utah State nipped New Mexico State 71-70 in the semifinals. The latter game was interesting for reasons outlined in the AP recap I’ve copied here:

Tai Wesley missed a short hook in the lane with 7 seconds left, but NMSU's Chris Gabriel swatted the ball out of bounds. During an ensuing time out, the Utah State mascot "Big Blue" the bull confronted the New Mexico State's cowboy mascot "Pistol Pete" -- both teams are Aggies -- and ripped off his fake mustache.
The cowboy then chased the bull to halfcourt, jumped on his back and tried to pull him to the floor before retreating to his end of the court.
After fans for both teams started booing, Wesley caught the inbounds pass at the top of the lane and passed to Tyler Newbold on the left wing. His 15-footer rolled off the rim, hit the backboard and rolled in.

The upshot, for our pool, is this: Both Jim and Sal have perfect WAC brackets so far, with 15 out of a possible 15 points. But only one will get to 19. Sal has Utah State winning the final, and if they do, he gets the dollar. Jim has Nevada winning the final, and if they do, he gets the dollar. Just watch out for that bull, Jim.
Utah State and Nevada meet in the WAC final tonight at 10 pm in Reno, Nev. The game is on ESPN2. The winner goes dancing.

Akron and Buffalo are the semifinal winners, setting up a 3-vs.-4 matchup in the finals of the Mid-American. Steve and Rob each have 13 out of a possible 18 points so far, but Rob picked Miami to win this and is therefore done scoring. Steve picked Buffalo, and if Buffalo wins, Steve pockets the MAC dollar. However, Yohan picked Akron, and if the Zips pull it out, Yohan will pass Steve and win the dollar.
The MAC final pits Akron against Buffalo tonight at 8 pm EST in Cleveland and will be shown on ESPN2.

Carnage in Atlantic City, as fourth-seeded Temple knocked off top-seeded Xavier and seventh-seeded Duquesne took out fourth-seeded Dayton to make the A-10 final a bubble team’s worst nightmare. These results also torched almost everybody’s A-10 bracket, as seven of us had forecast a Xavier-Dayton final and nine of us had either Xavier or Dayton winning. Yohan and Mark picked Temple. Yohan and Ed each have 11 points to lead the pool, but only Yohan can get more. (Ed had Rhode Island winning.) If Temple wins, Yohan will have 15 points and get the dollar. But if Duquesne wins, Yohan and Ed will remain tied with 11 points and split the dollar.
Duquesne vs. Temple for the A-10 title and a trip to the tournament tonight at 6 pm on ESPN2, live from the boardwalk.

San Diego State upset top-seeded BYU to advance to a final-game matchup against second-seeded Utah. Jim Graziano was the only one in the pool to correctly forecast this final, and as a result he has already locked up the MWC dollar. Jim has 12 points out of a possible 15 so far and is one of six who picked Utah to win the tournament. Nobody picked San Diego State to win the tournament. Congrats to Jim, whose victory left his brothers as the only ones yet to win any money – until the next paragraph.
San Diego State vs. Utah in the MWC final tonight at 8 pm EST in Las Vegas. Winner dances.

BIG 12
Baylor continues its Cinderella run, taking out Texas in the semis and advancing to the finals. Missouri knocks off Oklahoma State, meaning three more points for Greg. Since everybody had either Kansas or Oklahoma winning this tournament, there are no more points to be scored, and the Big 12 pool ends in a seven-way tie between Greg, Ed, Jim, Jon and Sal. Each gets 20 cents, and Jon is on the board. Leaving only Dan with no money. Fitting. And we haven’t even talked about Wake Forest yet…
Baylor-Missouri for the Big 12 title tonight at 6 pm EST on ESPN, live from Oklahoma City. Would be a big win for Baylor.

Memphis won, of course, and so did second-seeded Tulsa. Dan, Sal and Yohan all correctly forecast this final, but Sal did better in the quarterfinals and has locked up the C-USA dollar. Sal leads with 15 out of a possible 18 points, one more than Dan and Mark. And since everybody has Memphis winning, Sal can’t be passed. Good work, Sal.
Memphis is scheduled to beat Tulsa like a bowl of eggs in the Conference USA title game starting this morning at 11:35 am EST on CBS, live from…well, Memphis, of course.

Chalk in the SWAC, with Alabama State and Jackson State advancing to the final. Seven of us correctly forecast this final, and Rob currently leads with a perfect 8-of-8 points so far. Rob, like seven others, has Jackson State winning, and if they do, he’ll finish with a perfect score of 11 and win the SWAC dollar. But if Alabama State wins, Ed and Sal will pass Rob and finish in a tie for first with 10 points, each getting 50 cents.
SWAC final between Alabama State and Jackson State is tonight at 9 pm EST in Birmingham on ESPNU.

The top two seeds in the Pac-10 go down, and so does almost everyone’s bracket. Eight people had UCLA winning the tournament and two had Washington, and both lost in the semis. Jim and Steve were the only ones to correctly forecast Arizona State’s semifinal win (nobody picked USC’s), and as a result they are tied for the pool lead with 12 out of a possible 16 points so far. Steve had UCLA winning, and cannot score any more. However, Jim picked Arizona State to win, and if they do, he’ll get another buck.
Arizona State against USC tonight at 6 pm EST on CBS, live from L.A.

The finals are Cal State-Northridge against Pacific. Chris, Yohan, Jim and Greg all got this right. Yohan leads with 11 points, and he gets a buck if Pacific wins the final. If Northridge wins the final, Chris gets the dollar.
Pacific vs. Northridge in the Big West final tonight at midnight EST on ESPN2 from Anaheim. Winner gets a dance ticket.

The only quarterfinal upset was Maryland over Wake Forest. The only one who had Wake winning the tournament was (guess) Dan. So this is still a free-for-all. Mark, Rob and Sal are tied for the lead with 9 of 12 possible points so far.
Semifinal matchups today: North Carolina-Florida State, Duke-Maryland.

Ed Price correctly picked all four quarterfinal winners – LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn and therefore leads the pool with 10 out of a possible 12 points so far. Yohan and Steve (Florida) and Jon (South Carolina) saw their predicted champions bow out.
Semifinal games today: LSU-Mississippi State and Auburn-Tennessee.

Bit of a dull day (big surprise) in the Big Ten. Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois and Purdue all advance. Nobody’s champion eliminated. Greg has picked all eight games correctly so far and leads the Big Ten pool with 11 points.
Semifinal matchups today: Michigan State/Ohio State and Illinois/Purdue.

Couple of nailbiters here, with sixth-seeded UT-San Antonio upsetting second-seeded Nicholls State and top-seeded Stephen F. Austin advancing over Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the semifinals of the hardest tournament to type. Dan, Nino, Rob, Steve, Ed, Jon and Jim all are tied with 5 out of a possible 8 points so far, but Nino (Sam Houston State) and Jim (Nicholls State) picked champions that have already been eliminated. So, if SF Austin wins the final, Dan, Rob, Steve, Ed and Jon would all tie and each win 20 cents. If San Antonio wins the final, it remains a seven-way tie, and each person in it would win 14 cents.
Stephen F. Austin and UT-San Antonio square off in the Southland final TOMORROW at 1 pm with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.

Rob Biro: 281
Chris Sabatino: 279
Steve Politi: 278
Sal Sabtino: 274
Greg Lester: 272
Paul “Nino” Canino: 266
Ed Price: 265
Yohan Sengamalay: 259
Mark Feinsand: 256
Jim Graziano: 252
Jon Graziano: 251
Dan Graziano: 242 (come on, Auburn!!!)

Ed Price: 7
Chris Sabatino: 7
Sal Sabatino: 6
Steve Politi: 6
Jon Graziano: 5
Greg Lester: 5
Rob Biro: 5
Yohan Sengamalay: 4
Paul “Nino” Canino: 4
Mark Feinsand: 3
Jim Graziano: 2
Dan Graziano: 1 (thank you, North Dakota State!)

Steve Politi: $3.16
Ed Price: $2.86
Sal Sabatino: $2.86
Paul “Nino” Canino: $2.66
Mark Feinsand: $2.50
Yohan Sengamalay: $2.16
Jim Graziano: $1.20
Greg Lester: $0.70
Chris Sabatino: $0.50
Jon Graziano $0.20
Rob Biro: $0.16
Dan Graziano: NUTTIN

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool -- Thursday Recap, Friday Look-Ahead




There were 53 Division I NCAA college basketball tournament games played Thursday. A total of 15 tournaments saw action. Four were just beginning. No champions were crowned. One game went SIX FREAKING OVERTIMES!!!

You want madness? The top two seeds in the Big 12 tournament – the two teams that 11 of the 12 of us picked to meet in the finals and all 12 of us picked to win it – exited the tournament without winning a game. The 2-seed in the Big East went out without winning a game, and the 3-seed fell to Syracuse in one of the greatest basketball games of all time.

We had action and upsets all over the board, which is what this time of year is all about. Our pool has a new leader, as Ed Price had a brutal day and fell from first place all the way down to fifth.

And so on we go to the summary of the 15 tournaments that played Thursday – all of which continue play on this Friday the 13th – as well as one that will crown its champion today.

Remember the Patriot League? You’d be easily forgiven if you didn’t. You picked this tournament nine days ago. It played its semifinals on Sunday but has waited until today to play the final. In that final, top-seeded American takes on second-seeded Holy Cross. Jon, Mark and Steve lead our Patriot pool, each with 7 points out of a possible 8 so far. But Jon has Holy Cross winning the final, while Steve and Mark picked American. So if American wins, Steve and Mark each get 50 cents. If Holy Cross wins, Jon gets a whole buck.

Pretty close to straight chalk so far in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The only game so far in which the higher seed beat the lower was fifth-seeded Coppin State’s 66-63 victory over fourth-seeded North Carolina A&T. But that was a tough loss for pool leader Ed Price, who had A&T winning not only this game but a semifinal game as well. Perhaps this is an opening for somebody?
So far, Dan and Jon Graziano each have picked all seven MEAC games correctly for a perfect score of 11 points. They have the same two winners today, but Dan has Morgan State winning the tournament while Jon picked South Carolina State. So somebody’s going to lose a game somewhere. History tells us it’s probably going to be Dan…
MEAC semifinal matchups today are Morgan State/Coppin State and SC State/Norfolk State. A Norfolk victory today would, I am pretty sure, give this dollar to Nino. But let’s jump off that bridge when we get there, shall we?

Prior to Thursday night, I personally had never seen, heard of or believed in the possibility of a five-overtime basketball game. But then Connecticut and Syracuse changed all that.
They played six.
Eric Devendorf, a tattooed thug who should have been kicked off the team in January, came within a tenth of a second of winning this game for Syracuse in regulation. His three-pointer at the buzzer looked for several moments as if it had won the game. But a replay review correctly determined that the ball had still been in the thug’s hands when the clock ran out, and the officials ruled that the game was not over.
They couldn’t have known how right they were.
An hour and forty minutes later, the game ended, a 127-117 Syracuse victory in six overtimes.
Syracuse didn’t lead in any of the first five overtimes, but they put it away quickly in the sixth. The game took three hours and 47 minutes and ended at 1:23 am. Eight players fouled out. When it was over, the ESPN broadcast crew stood and applauded both teams.
Unbelievably great players showing unbelievable toughness and making play after play all through the night. I really think Jonny Flynn might have a bottomless supply of energy and toughness. I say this truthfully, even though I despise him, his team, his school and all it stands for. But facts are facts, and the guy was a complete bad-ass for four hours’ worth of basketball. He played 67 minutes, and of his 34 points, 17 were scored in overtime.
All of this overshadowed the thrilling finish in the Villanova-Marquette game and West Virginia’s upset of second-seeded Pitt. All of that together, combined with the epic nightcap, proved once again why the Big East Tournament is the best college basketball event other than The Big Dance itself.
Five people had Pitt winning this tournament. Five had Connecticut. Steve has Villanova and Mark has Syracuse. One of those two will win the Big East dollar, depending on how today’s games go.
Semifinals tonight at the Garden: Louisville-Villanova and West Virginia-Syracuse. What can they possibly have for an encore?

If Nevada wins the tournament, Jim gets a dollar. If Utah State wins the tournament, Sal wins the dollar. If neither of those teams wins it, we’ll recalculate.
Semifinals today: Utah State/New Mexico State and Nevada/Louisiana Tech.

Bowling Green, Akron, Buffalo and (Eat My) Ball State all advance to the semifinals in the MAC. EMB State needed OT, and Buffalo had to hold off a second-half rally by Kent State, but that’s your semifinal setup for today in the Mid-American.
Currently, Dan, Greg, Steve and Rob each have 10 out of a possible 12 points, but sadly for Dan, the only MAC game he’s missed is this Kent State loss, and Kent State was his predicted champion. Just not Dan’s year, he guesses.
Greg, Sal, Ed and Jon all have Bowling Green winning this. Chris and Steve have Buffalo. Yohan has Akron. Everybody else’s champ is out.

The upset of the day in Atlantic City was seventh-seeded Duquesne’s victory over second-seeded Rhode Island, which is more bad news for pool leader Ed Price. Ed had URI winning the A-10, which they will now not do. Chris and Nino each have scored 10 out of 12 possible points so far, and each has Xavier winning it all.
Xavier takes on Temple in one of today’s semifinals, and Duquesne tries to extend its Cinderella run against Dayton in the other.

One big upset here – Wyoming over New Mexico. Only Feinsand picked that one, and Dan, Chris, Ed, Sal and Steve all had New Mexico winning the whole tournament.
Dan is the pool leader right now with seven points, since he’s only missed one game. But as mentioned, that one game cost him his predicted champion, so he is likely toast. For Dan to win this dollar, BYU and Wyoming have to win today and Wyoming has to win the tournament. Otherwise, somebody else wins. As usual.
Semifinal matchups today: BYU/San Diego State and Utah/Wyoming. Go Pokes, is all I can say.

BIG 12
Well, this is about as bloody as it gets.
Three of the 12 of us picked Kansas to win the Big 12 tournament. They lost their quarterfinal matchup Thursday afternoon to Baylor.
The other nine picked Oklahoma to win the Big 12 tournament. They lost their quarterfinal matchup Thursday night to Oklahoma State.
So there ain’t much left out there in terms of points. Greg actually had Missouri beating Oklahoma today in the semis, so he’ll pick up three points if they beat OSU. No one else can earn any more Big 12 points.
Right now, Ed, Sal, Jim and Jon each have finished with 7 out of a possible 22 Big 12 points, and will each get 25 cents if Oklahoma State wins its game today. But if Missouri wins, then Greg, who currently has four points, would get three more and make it a five-way tie. In that case, Ed, Sal, Jim, Jon and Greg would each get 20 cents.
(In the other semifinal, Baylor plays Texas. Nobody had either team winning that game.)

Well, Memphis won, which is cool, since all 12 of us picked them to win this tournament. They get Houston (an overtime winner over UTEP) in one semifinal while Tulsa and UAB do battle in the other for the right to get waxed in the title game.
Mark Feinsand leads the way here with 11 out of a possible 12 points so far, and if UAB wins today, Mark will win this pool’s dollar. However, if Tulsa wins today, Sal will win this pool’s dollar. All true, I promise.

Sraight-up chalk in the SWAC, with all four top seeds advancing to the semis. Rob, Nino and Steve each picked all four quarterfinal games correctly, and only Jim lost a finalist (Southern). Nino and Steve all have the rest of the tournament picked the same, so if Arkansas-Pine Bluff beats Alabama State and Jackson State beats Prairie View A&M today, they’ll each get 50 cents. But Rob has Alabama State winning today, and Jim and Jon get right back into this if Prairie View wins, so stay tuned. I mean, if you want.

USC pulls the day’s upset in the Pac-10, costing seven of us a point and Yohan his predicted champion (Cal). Still wide open in the Pac 10, where eight have UCLA, Rob and Nino have Washington and Jim has Arizona State cutting down the nets.
Semifinals today: Washington/Arizona State and USC/UCLA.

Everybody had Pacific, which beat UC-Davis, and seven people correctly picked UC-Santa Barbara’s victory over Fullerton. Sal leads here with a perfect six points so far, but this is the re-seeder tournament, which nobody has yet picked to its conclusion. We will do that today.
The semifinals today feature Long Beach State against Pacific and Cal State-Northridge against UC-Santa Barbara. You will receive your updated Big West brackets shortly. Please pick both semifinal games and then pick a winner from between your two finalists.

The big first-day upset here was Georgia Tech over Clemson, which only Rob picked, in a nod to one of his impressive alma maters. Rob did miss with Miami against Virginia Tech, though, so nobody got all four first-round ACC games right. Seven people had Clemson winning twice and will suffer for that, but this is still wide open.
Nine people have North Carolina and Ty Lawson’s swollen toe winning this tournament. Steve Politi, who is a UNC graduate, has the Tar Heels losing their first game, and he (along with Rob) picked Duke. Dan, ever the iconoclast, picked Wake, which all but guarantees a Maryland win today.
Quarterfinal matchups today: UNC/Virginia Tech, Florida State/Georgia Tech, Wake Forest/Maryland and Duke/Boston College in a war for Graziano Kid Brother bragging rights.

Nine people have Vanderbilt winning its first-round game. They did not. Alabama did. Otherwise, no real movement of significance on the first day in the SEC.
LSU is the hot pick here, with six of the 12 of us picking the Tigers. Rob and Jim picked Tennessee. Yohan and Steve have Florida. Jon has South Carolina, and Dan, ever the iconoclast, picked Auburn to win this.
(A note here: Dan did his picks first, before any others came in, and was alarmed that nobody else in the pool besides Ed has Auburn winning even a single game. All pool history tells us this is bad news for Ed.)
Quarterfinal matchups today: LSU/Kentucky, South Carolina/Mississippi State, Tennessee/Alabama and yes, that pivotal Auburn/Florida game. Guess we’ll see.

Another just-getting started situation, with three first-round games. Eight of the 12 of us picked all three correctly, while Nino, Rob, Yohan and Jim all lost with Northwestern. But nobody lost a semifinal team, so the Big Ten remains wide open.
Eight of us have Michigan State to win it. Greg and Jon picked Illinois. Chris and Jim picked Purdue.
Quarterfinal matchups today: Michigan State/Minnesota, Wisconsin/Ohio State, Illinois/Michigan and Penn State/Purdue. How awesome would it be if those were football games?

Surprising amount of movement in the Southland, mainly due to UT-San Antonio’s upset over Sam Houston State. Everybody had Sam Houston winning Thursday, 10 of us had them in the final, and Greg, Mark, Nino and Sal all had them winning. Yohan’s champion, UT-Arlington, also lost its first-round game.
The most popular pick for the tournament winner is Stephen F. Austin, which was picked by six of us. Jim, in a desperate attempt to make up ground, picked Nicholls State.
Semifinals today: Stephen F. Austin/Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Nicholls State/UT-San Antonio.

Steve Politi: 233
Rob Biro: 229
Chris Sabatino: 228
Sal Sabatino: 227
Ed Price: 226
Greg Lester: 222
Paul “Nino” Canino: 216
Jon Graziano: 213
Yohan Sengamalay: 212
Mark Feinsand: 204
Jim Graziano: 203
Dan Graziano: 201

Ed Price: 6
Chris Sabatino: 6
Sal Sabatino: 6
Jon Graziano: 5
Greg Lester: 5
Steve Politi: 5
Rob Biro: 4
Yohan Sengamalay: 3
Paul “Nino” Canino: 3
Mark Feinsand: 2
Jim Graziano: 1
Dan Graziano: 1

Ed Price: $2.66
Steve Politi: $2.66
Yohan Sengamalay: $2.16
Sal Sabatino: $1.66
Paul “Nino” Canino: $1.66
Mark Feinsand: $1.00
Greg Lester: $0.50
Chris Sabatino: $0.50
Rob Biro: $0.16
Jon Graziano: Zip
Jim Graziano: Zilch
Dan Graziano: Nada

That’s all I got. I need a morning nap…

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Conference Tournament Pool -- Wednesday Recap/Thursday Preview

Seven more tournaments started Wednesday. In all, 11 saw action. Robert Morris and Portland State punched their tickets to the dance, bringing the total number of crowned conference champs to 13. Ed still leads in total points, but Rob, Chris and others are close enough that he can’t get comfy just yet.

Oh, it’s just getting good…

Strangely, there are no title games today. Fifteen tournaments in action, but none resolved.

Anyway, live from New York, it’s Saturday Night. Or, more accurately, your daily pool summary:

Tough to call it a “thriller,” but the Robert Morris-Mount St. Mary’s final in the NEC went down to the final 2.5 seconds. A game that was 19-19 at the half finished 48-46 in favor of Robert Morris, which is headed to the NCAA Tournament as NEC champ. Chris Steve, Rob and Jon all had Robert Morris winning, but Steve’s bracket was the best – 10 points out of a possible 11, missing only Long Island’s loss to Quinnipiac in the first round – and so Steve pockets another dollar. If this keeps up, Steve won’t even have to pay his entry fee. Which is good. Because he hasn’t.

Portland State held off a very game Montana State squad to win the Big Sky and secure its spot in the Big Dance. As you may recall from yesterday’s update, nobody did anything worthwhile in this bracket, and the $1 prize is being split six ways between Sal, Steve, Nino, Rob, Ed and Yohan, each of whom got three points out of a possible nine. Nobody had Portland State winning the tournament.

Bethune-Cookman wrapped up the MEAC first round with a widely predicted victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore, and there were also two second-round games in the MEAC on Wednesday. Morgan State, the title pick of eight of the 12 of us, had no trouble with Florida A&M. But the other second-round game was a big one in our pool. South Carolina State edged Hampton 57-56. This is a relief for Ed and Jon, who picked South Carolina State to win the MEAC, and the four others picked them to make the final. It is a major bummer for Steve, who picked Hampton to win it all, and Greg and Rob, who picked Hampton to make it to the final.
The MEAC’s other two second-round games are today, with North Carolina A&T taking on Coppin State and Bethune-Cookman facing Norfolk State. To this point, Dan and Jon each have picked all five games correctly for a perfect MEAC score of 7 out of 7 points.

DePaul looked like it might make it an astounding two in a row before Providence asserted itself and advanced to a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded Louisville. Other winners at a lackluster day at the Garden included Marquette easily over St. John’s, West Virginia over Notre Dame and the Orange Forces of Evil over Seton Hall. Quarterfinal matchups today include Louisville-Providence, Pitt-West Virginia, Marquette-Villanova and Connecticut-OFOE.
As noted in a separate e-mail each of you received, our Big East brackets are screwed up (completely my fault) and must be re-picked from this point on. I regret this very much, and I assure you that I feel much worse about it than any of you do.
So far, everybody’s champion is still alive and Greg, Chris and Rob each have scored 10 out of a possible 12 points.

The Western Athletic Conference took a day off and resumes today with its quarterfinals. Of the possible 19 points, 18 are still available in this one. Wide open.

Go back, look at everything I just wrote about the WAC, and apply it here. Except change the number “19” to “22.”

Chris, Nino and Greg picked all four winners in the first round of the A-10 tournament, but the only one who really got beaten up here was Yohan, who had UMass making it all the way to the final. Mass lost to Duquesne, and will not make the final. Top seeds Xavier, Rhode Island, Dayton and Temple join the field for today’s quarterfinal matchups.
Seven of us picked Xavier to win the A-10 tourney. Jim and Jon picked Dayton. Mark and Yohan picked Temple. Ed has Rhode Island.

There was only one game in the Mountain West on Wednesday. It was a play-in between Colorado State, which was 4-12 in the conference this year, and Air Force, which was 0-16. Of the 12 of us, 11 picked Colorado State. One picked Air Force, and you’re reading him. Small victories, people. Small victories. Comebacks have begun less impressively than this.
Or maybe they haven’t.
Anyway, the Falcons will go for two in a row against top-seeded BYU in one of four quarterfinal matchups today. Off we go….into the wild blue yonder….
Six people have Utah winning this tournament. Five have New Mexico. Greg picked BYU.

BIG 12
Rough day in this bracket, as a guy named Mike Singletary scored 43 points and willed Texas Tech to an upset victory over Texas A&M. Jon was the only one who picked this game correctly, and in fact four of us had A&M winning a second-round game, which now is not possible. Ed, Sal, Jim and Jon each got three of the four first-round games correct. Nobody got all four.
Oklahoma is the popular pick to win this, as nine of the 12 picked the Sooners. Dan, Greg and Steve all went with the defending national champs instead.

Rice beat Marshall 60-59, and all 12 of us got that game wrong. And I’m thinking, what a weird game to all agree on and all miss. It was a 7-10 game, so not a huge upset. What did we all see in Marshall? Was it the movie? Ian McShane in all those commercials for that new show, reminding us of his role in the Marshall movie? Possible.
Anyway, since nobody got all four first-round C-USA games right, Mark, Ed and Nino all lead with three. And this is the only conference in which we all picked the same champion – Memphis, which hasn’t lost a C-USA game in more than three years.

Two first-round games Wednesday. Top-seeded Alabama State beat Alabama A&M, and second-seeded Jackson State took out Texas Southern. All 12 of us got both of those games right. The SWAC bracket is our collective bitch.
Jackson State is the pick of 8 of the 12 of us to win the SWAC. Ed and Sal picked Alabama State. Jim and Jon picked Prairie View A&M, leading to the question: Is there another tournament that has two A&Ms?
The other two first-round games are today – Southern vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View A&M vs. Mississippi Valley State.

PAC 10
Stanford knocked out the President’s brother-in-law, and Washington State made it a bad all-around day in Oregon in the first round of the Pac-10. Today brings the top six teams in the league into the tournament. Eight of us have UCLA winning it all. Rob and Nino picked top-seeded Washington. Yohan has Cal and Jim has Arizona State.

Eighth-seeded UC-Davis beat fifth-seeded UC-Irvine by a point, and jumps over to the other side of this weird bracket to face third-seeded Pacific in today’s second round. That means UC-Santa Barbara gets UC-Fullerton, which took out UC-Riverside yesterday.
Sal, Jim and Greg got both of these games right. Dan, Rob and Chris missed both.
You’ll all get your new Big West brackets this morning. And then we’ll have to do them again tomorrow morning, when they re-seed again. Silly, but nothing wrong with doing it a little differently, I guess.

The ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Southland conferences all begin tournament play today – the last of the 30 conference tournaments to tip off. We still await brackets from Jim and Jon for these tournaments, so I can’t tell you who everybody picked. More on that tomorrow.

Meantime, your steaming-hot standings:

Ed Price: 174
Rob Biro: 166
Chris Sabatino: 166
Steve Politi: 164
Greg Lester: 164
Yohan Sengamalay: 162
Sal Sabatino: 162
Paul “Nino” Canino: 161
Jon Graziano: 158
Mark Feinsand: 145
Jim Graziano: 140
Dan Graziano: 139

MOST CHAMPIONS PICKED CORRECTLY (of a possible 13 so far)
Ed Price: 6
Chris Sabatino: 6
Sal Sabatino: 6
Jon Graziano: 5
Greg Lester: 5
Steve Politi: 5
Rob Biro: 4
Yohan Sengamalay: 3
Paul “Nino” Canino: 3
Mark Feinsand: 2
Jim Graziano: 1
Dan Graziano: 1

Ed Price: $2.66
Steve Politi: $2.66
Yohan Sengamalay: $2.16
Sal Sabatino: $1.66
Paul “Nino” Canino: $1.66
Mark Feinsand: $1.00
Greg Lester: $0.50
Chris Sabatino: $0.50
Rob Biro: $0.16

My quick count says there are 53 conference tournament games today. Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa. Wait. It can’t be Iowa. Iowa’s the 10-seed in the Big Ten. Nobody picked them. I’m so confused…