Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/
listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike
Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes
and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their
glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert
TCU on the Rise? There have been relatively few upsets so far in the conference tournaments, but TCU's 85 -82 defeat of Kansas was the biggest to date. Jamie Dixon left a relatively healthy Pittsburgh team to coach at his alma mater and try to bring them some basketball success, something they've had very little of in the past. To put things in perspective, the Horned Frogs' six league wins are the most since joining the conference. So even though Kansas was playing without suspended guard Josh Jackson and his 16 point scoring average, it's still a huge win for the TCU and Dixon. What does the Jayhawks' loss mean to their NCAA Tournament seeding? Likely very litte. They'll still be seeded first in the Midwest and likely play the first two rounds in Tulsa. A fall from the first overall seed to two or three is probable, but that may not make that big of a difference. If they get through their first two games in Tulsa, then they get the regional in Kansas City, a distinct advantage for the team and its fans. I don't see the committee significantly punishing them, particularly since it was a close loss and Jackson was out. The big victim here is the Big 12 tournament, also being held in Kansas City. There were over 18,000 at the TCU - Kansas game, but with the Jayhawks ousted, it's doubtful their fans will see much point in attending the rest of the tourney.
Bracketology: What's the Point? I certainly understand the various sports media outlets, particularly ESPN, Fox, CBS and Sports Illustrated attempting to predict who will get in the tournament, where they'll be seeded and even what venue they'll be playing in. But it all seems like a waste of time, especially since so much depends on what happens in not the power conference tournaments, but in the mid-majors and others. In addition, the selection committee has a lot of rules that govern the seeding and regional placements of teams, particularly those from the same conference. While the pod structure has certainly aided the committee in creating more regional balance, it forces the committee to reward the higher seeded teams by keeping them closer to home. This can have ramifications farther down the line. For instance, the Tulsa sub-region would appear to be locked into having both Kansas, a projected top seed, and Baylor, a projected number two seed at the moment, at that venue. Of course that means that by default, the committee has to send sixteen, fifteen, eight, nine, seven and ten seeds to Tulsa. Given that Kansas is pretty much a lock for the Midwest region, that means Baylor will be placed in a different region, and so on and so on. And that's just one of eight sites. It helps somewhat that many conferences have already completed their tournaments, or will by Friday night. But you still have the power conferences and a handful of others, like the Atlantic 10 that won't be completed until Saturday night or even, in the case of the Big Ten and the SEC, on Sunday, shortly before the field is announced. It's obviously fun to speculate and prognosticate, but for me, we'll all know soon enough without wasting a lot of time on something very few people can predict.
How Many Teams Have a Chance? The NCAA field is comprised of 68 teams, all with at least a slim mathematical chance to cut down the nets in Phoenix. But how realistic is it for most of them to believe it could actually happen? Not very, if history tells us anything. Sure, we've seen some spectacular surprises, like NC State and Villanova in the 80's. We've even seen Butler make it to back to back Final Fours. But even NC State, Cinderellas as they were, came from, at the time, the top two conferences in the country. George Mason and VCU have cracked the Final Four in recent years as well, neither one making it out of the semifinals. And even last season, Syracuse got hot and made it all the way through as a regional champ. But those cases are rare, and if you're filling in brackets, it's probably wise to stay primarily with favorites. The last couple of seasons, I've finished in the top 3.5% of the ESPN bracket challenge, and that's submitting a single bracket. It's generally wise to stay with the top two seeds in a region, unless for some reason one feels the committee really missed the boat. Historically, the winners come from the Power Five conferences, and the Big East, evidenced by Villanova's and UConn's recent successes. Early upsets are fun, but you rarely see a team that can truly contend for the national championship go out before the Sweet Sixteen. So my belief is that there are probably twelve to fourteen teams with a legitimate shot to win it all. They will all be at least a four seed, and most likely a three or higher. Is there potentially more depth than normal this year because of a lot of parity in the major conferences? I don't think so. In fact, there are probably less really good teams than normal, with the SEC a great example. Kentucky is at the top of the league, but they're young and vulnerable. Florida is second, and I wouldn't count them as a powerhouse. The real strength lies out west, with Gonzaga, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon virtually unknown east of the Mississippi, but all of which I would have to count as teams with a good shot at the. One thing's for certain, a perfect bracket is hard to come by, but a perfect Final Four pick is possible.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.