Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Worth the Madness?

Due to the craziness that is March Madness, I found myself pondering a very interesting and intriguing issue with my friends and people who know a thing or two about basketball. There is no doubt in my mind that March Madness is the most exciting tournament out of any of the major playoffs in this country. Every year we see the upsets we see the drama and we see the expectations. But something just isn't quite the same this year.

So I posed this question between my friends and I, are the upsets from the early rounds worth the loss of the better and more quality teams in the tournament?

At first glance, most people say, "The upsets are what March is all about!" I agree... to an extent. But are the upsets really worth the price of a shaky elite 8 group, and and even shakier Final Four? If you really start to think about the tournament and what the people really want to watch, it becomes quite obvious that it is better for the tournament and the sport of basketball at the collegiate level, that the better teams advance. It creates a quality brand of basketball amongst the final competitors, instead of a team that might just be hot at the right time and is not as well-rounded as another team.

Now, don't get have me mistaken. The upsets are the most drama-filled, entertaining part about March Madness. I love them and I yell like a 6 year old girl every time something crazy happens. Every year millions of people go crazy trying to fill out a bracket and play the roll of the "experts" and be the first people to call a particular upset. Well that's all well and good...before the sweet 16. When it comes time to buckle down and get the best quality basketball, the upsets, in my opinion, aren't welcome after the sweet 16 with two exceptions.

Exception A) There is a can't miss, superstar on the underdog teams that you just simply can't resist seeing again and again. Think Stephen Curry during his Elite 8 run with Davidson.

Exception B) The team that is the underdog is actually much better then their seed projects them to be. Let's think Xavier the past three years, or Tennessee this year.

So what does all of this mean? Well for starters, this years tournament just had too many upsets of teams that just got hot and found the right formula to beat one juggernaut. Northern Iowa beat Kansas because they played in the moment, made threes in the clutch, got lucky that Kansas didn't press until three minutes to go, and just wanted it more than Kansas. Is No. Iowa the better team? Of course not, but this is the classic example of a team that just slips under the radar and catches the juggernauts by surprise. This happened too many times this year (Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, etc.) and the result is the least interesting Final Four that I can remember watching in years.

You think I'm the only one? You didn't notice the NCAA's stranglehold on that Duke Baylor game? It was so bad at one point that the referees in the game (the final elite 8 game) were so one-sided because they NEEDED Duke to make the Final Four, just for pure marketing purposes and ratings. A Final Four consisting of Butler, Mich. St, WVU, and Baylor would be the least watched Final Four in eons. So Duke out shoots Baylor in free throws by a ton, especially in the second half. Baylor shot something like 6 free throws while Duke was in the 20s. The 20s!!!

Now because of all these upsets of the early, better teams, we're left with a "put me to sleep" Michigan State team against a Butler team that just finds the opponents weaknesses and exploits them. They have no real advantage in talent and they probably aren't even in the top 5-8 best teams in the country. Duke is there because they were given the draw of a lifetime and the toughest opponent they had to face all tournament was a Baylor team that was playing against Duke/the officials. The only real solid team that I see in the Final Four is West Virginia. But even they have had some crazy injuries and a little bit of luck in their game against Kentucky.

My main point here is that, while the upsets are all fun, drama-filled, and they make you call your buddy at work and scream into the phone, "I LOVE MARCH!!!" They do not leave us with the quality basketball that we want to see in the Final Four. Call me a stickler, or a nit-picker, but I want to see quality basketball come the end of March, and I don't think I'm alone in this. I will always be for the underdog, just as long as they stay out of the Finals where the best teams should battle it out. Hopefully the teams in the Finals prove me wrong and we get one hell of an ending to one hell of a tournament so far.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's March, Need Some Help?

If you were some kind of a computer hacker, and you understood how to do all of the crazy things that allow you into certain databases of information, and you somehow hacked into Kean's student body database, and you happen to look up the student, Thomas Michael DeRiggi, you would see that he is actually a double major. His first major and the thing that he spends most of his time concentrating on is Physical Education and Health. If you happen to scroll down underneath that you would see that his second major is non other than, Bracketology.

Just in case you live under a rock, and some of you do, it's March.

I repeat....IT'S MARCH!!!

Finally we have something to look forward to other than average NFL Free Agent signings, and pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. It's that time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. And yes, it is my favorite time of the year (Disclaimer: I have about 5 favorite times of the year, so just bear with me).

Today, Selection Sunday, is one of the top five best days of the year, because it brings us the greatest tournament known to man kind: The NCAA Basketball Tournament. So you guys are asking, What is this blog actually about today? Well let me explain. Year after year after year after year, people fill out brackets to be involved in this fantastic event. I categorized these people into 5 categories that look like this:

Group E (The Paris Hilton Division): These our people who have NO IDEA who played who this year, who is in the tournament, when the games start, hell, they might not even know it's in progress. But these people fill out brackets every year because it's fun to be competitive, and somehow a winner comes out of this group every year.

Group D (The Khloe Kardashian Division): These are people who know what the tournament is, but have no idea about its participants. But these people have a catch, they have someone really close to them who knows a lot about basketball and can give them some hints and tips on who to pick. This is the scariest division, because you always underestimate these people.

Group C (The Billy Crystal Division): These are people who are avid sports fans, but just don't follow college basketball enough to really grasp it. Usually these people are bigger fans of another sport and college basketball is on the back burner.

Group B (The Tom DeRiggi Division): C'mon, what would my own blog be without me naming a division after myself. These people are people who follow the sport religiously and try to find out everything they can about every team before they make selections. In this group you see the majority of people who lose their bracket contests to Groups C through E because somehow these people do all the research, but get consumed by too much over analyzing and then get frustrated because they lost to someone with the intelligence level of Paris Hilton.

Group A (The Joe Lunardi Division): These people, and there's only about 5 in the world, know everything about every team. These people probably get paid to cover NCAA basketball and somehow win their brackets every year. This is about 0.0000000000001% of the population.

Continuing from before, millions of people fill out these brackets without the slightest clue about basketball. They make these rushed decisions because either they don't really care, or they want to be the first to call the major upsets. This is why I'm here. I am going to guide you all in picking the sleepers, the favorites, and the final four along the way. Let's start with a few sleepers to impress all of your friends with:

The most obvious one that I can see is between 6)Tennessee and 11)San Diego State. San Diego State won 25 games this year and Tennessee is so shaky at times that they make other teams better somehow. Take SDS and you'll be a happy camper.

Next I have a gut feeling that 13)Siena is going to beat 4)Purdue. Purdue lost their best player and just hasn't been the same since, and Siena is always tough come tournament time.

Lastly, watch 12)UTEP vs 5)Butler. Butler is riding high on their 5 seed but UTEP is a feisty group and I wouldn't be surprised if UTEP pulls of the upset.

As far as second round match ups go, watch out for 6)Marquette 3)Baylor. Baylor is a scary team but Marquette has been Big East-tested, as I like to call it. Very intriguing match up here.

Watch out for a sweet 16 run by 12)UTEP. If all goes to plan and they win, they will face a shaky Vanderbilt team that I don't trust one bit. If their was a safe sweet 16 run I think you see it in UTEP.

On to the Final Four...
I don't want to spoil my picks or anything but these are just some preliminary thoughts....

Duke got the easiest ride of all the teams, but I still do not trust them. I wouldn't be shocked if you saw a Baylor, or Villanova come out of that bracket. Also I LOVE, Kansas to the point where I think if you don't pick them to win the whole thing that your either high or you just don't care. I actually love Syracuse's draw because their two toughest opponents, Pitt and K-State, are both beatable teams and I expect the Orange men to roll into Indianapolis. Kentucky is super duper young, and I don't trust them at all. I understand everyone is in love with John Wall and everyone's doing his dance,(Yes, I can do the John Wall dance to perfection), but I'm just not sold on this team in crunch time against a team like, say, West Virginia. West Virginia-Kentucky would be an excellent game to watch, but I love WVU to make the Final Four.

So there is some preliminary thoughts on this years tournament. This year's field doesn't have the WOW factor like some tourneys in the past but it should be an entertaining few weeks. Check back next week as I explain why all of my picks were wrong and you guys should never listen to me again.