Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Weekend in Review/Weekend Ahead

Editor’s Note: Needless to say, my bracket is pretty much a train wreck (see what I did with the picture?! see that?!). But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some valuable things to learn from the first weekend, or that we can’t apply some of that knowledge to what should be a solid conclusion to regional play starting on Thursday. 

First Round

Results: 21-11. Ok, for a day as weird as Friday ended up being, you could say that record isn’t entirely terrible. But when you consider that I lost a total of 6 out of my Sweet 16 picks in the round of 64…..well that’s just not what you look for. Not to mention that I scared the crap out of myself so much with the West Region (evidence can be found here: http://jaywalking33.com/2012/03/13/ncaa-tournament-megapreview/) that I decided to make some really irrational upset picks that sounded like a lot of fun at the time. The end result: a self-fulfilling prophecy that saw zero of my Sweet 16 picks actually advance to that round (Missouri, Memphis, Long Beach State, Murray State….yikes). Not a great first round for me, but it was still great television for everyone else.

East Region: Easily the biggest memory from the first round out of here was the epic battle between Syracuse and the University of North Carolina………Asheville (jokes on jokes). I can safely say that I have never been in an environment where the people I was watching with were so attached to a game without any shred of vested interest. From the opening tip-off to the very end, we were clapping with each Asheville bucket, or groaning in dismay with each positive play from the ‘Cuse. Towards the end, we were actually screaming. Maybe we saw what we wanted to see with some of the 50/50 calls in the second half, but one thing that cannot be debated was that no one outside the state of New York got the result they wanted. It was a great game, and makes it apparent that it’s only a matter of time before a one seed falls in the first round.

South Region/West Region: Again, this was a pretty easy call with the huge upsets of Missouri (that feels good to say) and Duke. A 15 over a 2 had only happened four times in tournament history but to get it twice on the same day made it that much more unbelievable. Personally, I have never been so happy to see my bracket destroyed as when Missouri’s final chance at a tie went amiss. But I’ll try to keep the bias out of it. At the same time, you have to give Norfolk State and Lehigh some credit. Norfolk beat Missouri at its own game. They shot the ball very well, scored a lot of points, and got great guard play. And in the other game, CJ McCollum was an absolute star. He led his team in the truest possible sense and looked like one of the best players in the tournament in the process. Look for him to lead the nation in scoring next season.

Midwest Region: There were three really solid upsets in the first round out of the Midwest, making for some very fun basketball to watch for the casual fan such as myself. NC State and South Florida advancing were somewhat unexpected, and then we got the big one with Ohio advancing over Big 10 regular season co-champ Michigan. John Bielein has done an incredible job at building that program during his tenure, but this team just wasn’t ready yet. Better days are certainly ahead.

Second Round

Results: 6-10 (holy shit). Yeah, this is where that combination of bad upset picks, and unanticipated upset games really came to bite me in the ass. Losing Georgetown was a bit of a bummer, especially after watching a Kansas team (who they would’ve played had they beaten NC State) that looks a little bit vulnerable when defenses overload on Thomas Robinson and force the Jayhawk guards to win the game with jump shots.* Losing Vanderbilt in its hard fought game with Wisconsin also didn’t feel great. I thought this team, if it was firing on all cylinders, had a legit shot to challenge for a berth in the Final Four, leaving a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

*For as bad as Kansas played at times, you also have to give Matt Painter a ton of credit for putting together an incredible game plan for stagnating Kansas’ offense, and even more up’s to Robbie Hummel for playing out of his mind in the first half. What a college player. 

East Region: There weren’t any buzzer beaters, but three out of the four games were really solid ones. Gonzaga’s backcourt showed a TON of promise in a really tough loss.* Wisconsin showed why they will be a tough out for Syracuse, and Cincinnati beat Florida State in the type of grind it out, defensive battle the ‘Noles normally win. But the moment that I will be taking away from the second round of this region is Kansas State forward Jamar Samuels’ career being called to a premature end by the NCAA for a pretty minor rules violation. I guess they were right to enforce the rules here, and maybe Syracuse still wins this game even with Samuels in. But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. The eligibility rule book is in a dire need for some change, and quick. Nobody is winning in this current situation right now.

*Bulldog freshmen Kevin Pangos (people are calling him the best Canadian point guard prospect since Steve Nash) and Gary Bell Jr. are going to be absolute stars for Mark Few for the next three years. And Deshaun Thomas for Ohio State has emerged as one of the top young scorers in the country. He has really come on for Thad Matta and should warrant some pre-season All-America consideration if he doesn’t leave early. 

South Region: Seeing Xavier recover from the early season brawl with Cincinnati that could have easily killed their season is my favorite storyline from the first weekend in the South region. How this school has been able to get it done year in and year out, as a mid major, with coaches always seeming to exit for higher profile jobs (from Skip Prosser to Thad Matta to Sean Miller) is pretty incredible. They needed a late season rally to sneak into the tournament, but now that they’ve had their chance, its been pretty fun to see them take advantage of it. Tu Holloway is one of the best players in the country that not many people know about.

West Region: While Florida’s dominating play is a worthy runner-up, the easy story line from out west for me has been the incredible play of Draymond Green. He’s been an absolute stud the entire season, but he’s seemed to have taken it up to an other-worldly notch in the past few games (20 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 8 apg). He has been the most valuable player of the tournament so far and Michigan State is the runaway favorite to advance to the Final Four out of the west because of the way Green has been playing. Plus, he is the model example of the merits of staying all four years at a program. Seeing a player develop on a consistent, yearly basis the way he has is so much fun to watch.

Midwest Region: Playing a team with nothing to lose, against a player who can’t miss, your own key players going silent on the offensive end, missing open threes, and missing important free throws. For the last several years or so, these types of things have been all too familiar to Kansas fans in losses that always seem to bring great seasons to terribly disappointing ends. And for awhile (pretty much for 37 minutes) in its second round game against Purdue, Kansas fans had to brace themselves for another loss to a double digit seed for the exact same reasons mentioned above. But then, something happened. They fought through the tension, battled for all of the long rebounds, made key stops on defense, and made some very clutch plays on the offensive end. This was something that people weren’t used to seeing from a Kansas team with its back up against the wall in a tournament game. It still probably isn’t good that the Jayhawks were only able to prevail against an inferior Purdue team by three points. But at the same time, it does give people some hope for the future round(s). For now, Kansas can bask in the glow of winning an incredibly hard-fought game, against a team that refused to quit. For now at least.

Final damage from week one…..Overall record: 27-21….6 of my Sweet 16 picks still alive….4 of my Elite 8 picks still alive….3 of my Final Four picks still alive….National Runner-Up pick eliminated in the Round of 64….National Championship pick’s most indispensable player (Kendall Marshall) pretty much ineffective for the rest of the tournament with a broken wrist. Somebody get me a beer.

Regional Play Preview

Kentucky vs. Indiana: For people expecting a repeat of one of the best games of this regular season, you will be sorely disappointed. Kentucky is playing like the tournament favorite it deserves to be and its single liability, Marquis Teague, has really been picking up his play (posted a great line against Iowa State). Indiana will not have the home court advantage it had against Kentucky earlier this season. And for the amazing job Tom Crean has done at Indiana (he is at least one year ahead of the rebuilding schedule), the fact of the matter is the Hoosiers don’t have the talent, athleticism, anything to hang with Kentucky. Wildcats roll.

Baylor vs. Xavier: Xavier’s Tu Holloway is the type of star who can carry a team to victory all by himself. As much as I’d like to say that will happen here, I’m going to stick with my guns and stay with the south regional final I predicted at the beginning of the tournament of Kentucky vs. Baylor. Baylor has been playing too well for the last couple of weeks to falter against a team that doesn’t have the athleticism or depth the Bears have (that’s the hope at least). It could be a tight game…Xavier has found ways to stay in pretty much every tournament game I can ever remember watching them in. But look for Baylor to edge them out in this one.

Michigan State vs. Louisville: I think I proved in my previous column that I have a great feel for the game when I said there just isn’t something I like about this Michigan State team (kidding). While they still might be one of the historically weaker number one seeds in awhile, they are still a better team than Louisville in almost every phase of the game. The Cards do have an edge if Peyton Siva can play well, but look for Draymond Green and the rest of the Spartans to be too much for Louisville to handle. Sparty advances.

Marquette vs. Florida: To be quite honest, this absolutely will be the only game I’ll be having second thoughts about as soon as this goes live. Florida has been absolutely smoking their competition. Bradley Beal is playing so efficiently on offense. But its not like their competition has been stellar. And what worries me m0re, I’m still not sure if I can trust this Gators squad. I don’t know if Kenny Boynton is going to go cold, like he sometimes is prone to do. I’m not sure if Erving Walker is going to try to do too much on offense, rather than playing within the flow of the game, if his team is in a tight one. There isn’t much doubt that Florida is the more talented of the two teams. But, after a weekend of getting nailed for trying to do too much for picking the right upsets (and rightfully so), I am going to go with the team that I trust more. And that is Marquette.

Syracuse vs. Wisconsin: This is probably a toss-up, but I actually feel pretty comfortable picking Wisconsin to advance to the East Regional Final. Wiscy’s ability to control the tempo of the game will be a great detriment to Syracuse, who would rather exploit its elite athletes and get up and down the court. And for a team like Syracuse that emphasizes their ability to make the other team turn the ball over a lot, the fact that they will be going up against Badgers point guard Jordan Taylor makes matters even more difficult. While he may have regressed a little on offense this year, he still turns the ball over at a very low rate (in fact Wisconsin as a team rarely turns the ball over), and that should hurt the Orange quite a bit. Every possession is going to count in this one, and all that does is ensure that Syracuse will have that much less margin for error against Wisconsin’s stifling defense. While my Vanderbilt pick may be out the window, I am still expecting the same fate for Syracuse, simply at the hands of a different team. Out of all the games in this round, this is the one I am going to make sure I have the time to watch from start to finish. ‘Sconsin in a close one.

Ohio State vs. Cincinnati: Just like I said for Xavier a few paragraphs ago, Cincinnati making it this far into the tournament post-brawl is really pretty impressive. I don’t think Mick Cronin gets enough credit for the job he has done at that school, making it competitive once again after the Bob Huggins era. That being said, I think the Bearcats will really have their hands full with an Ohio State team that might be the new favorite to meet Kentucky in the national championship thanks to Kendall Marshall’s wrist. For me, this one is pretty simple. I think Ohio State is just a little tougher, a lot more talented, and very, very well coached. Buckeyes march on easily.

North Carolina vs. Ohio: Obviously, this is a less than ideal situation for the Heels. But if you could have a game to test out Kendall Marshall’s wrist or give Justin Watts a chance to get his feet wet and immerse himself in that offense in a tournament situation, Ohio is a pretty good team to do it against considering the circumstances. I think Roy Williams could play point guard for this team in the round of 16 and Carolina would still advance. Barring a huge upset, this game is about North Carolina finding a slightly new recipe for success because of their most important player’s injury. It’s about trying to prove they can still compete for a championship despite their current predicament. Tar Heels advance.

Kansas vs. North Carolina State: For good reason, Kansas will  be the heavy favorite in this game. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good contest. The Wolfpack have been playing with some kind of conviction since the very end of the regular season, into the ACC tournament, and now all the way into the deeper rounds of the NCAA tournament. Mark Gottfried has really done a great job righting the ship, and its not like this team is devoid of talent either. Lorenzo Brown has emerged as a star, and CJ Leslie is a legitimate post threat. I think the Jayhawks will come out really fired up to prove that their speedbump against Purdue was a fluke, and that will likely be the difference. But NC State will not go down without a fight.

Final conclusion to draw from the first weekend would be the injection of the musical stylings of Frank Ocean into the daily proceedings of the quad. This guy has got a really bright future ahead of him in the music industry and brings a level of intelligence to his music that you don’t really see very often from other artists. Be sure to check out his only release thus far in his young music career: Nostalgia, Ultra.

NCAA Tournament MegaPreview

Image

Editor’s Note: Obviously, waiting six months in between posts is not the ideal move when it comes to pleasing an already microscopic fan base. That said, the greatest spectacle in sports seemed like the perfect way to get back on the horse. And what’s not to be excited about? The field is bubbling over with very talented teams in the lower seeded tiers. Tournament favorites such as Kentucky, Syracuse, or Kansas could easily be undone by unpredictable point guard play. And others, could just as easily by outed thanks to tricky matchups. While this format may not be the fairest determinant of a true champion, the fact that it is an absolute crapshoot makes it by far the most enjoyable to watch. So get out your brackets, and lets watch some basketball, because this year has the makings to be a great tournament.

SOUTH REGION

Kentucky may be the runaway favorite to win it all this year, but the committee did the Wildcats zero favors in their selections. For my money, this is by far the most difficult region to get through. Kentucky will have a very interesting second round matchup, regardless of who wins (Iowa State vs. Connecticut). And what happens if they advance to the Sweet 16? Their options are currently Indiana (the only team to beat them in the regular season), Wichita State (maybe one of the top 10 teams in the country), or VCU (don’t even have to explain this one). And that’s just the TOP HALF of their draw. While they are still my pick to advance to the Final Four, they certainly won’t have an easy time getting there.

Five Players to Watch

Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor – This guy may be on the wrong side of 6 feet, but he is absolutely the heart and soul of this Baylor basketball team. He can shoot the three, penetrate into the lane, and jump out of the gym (seriously, watch some of his dunk highlights). Plus, he is an automatic pick to make the south regional’s all-swag team.

Royce White, F, Iowa State – One of the most versatile players in the entire tournament. He’s got range to the three point line, a bevy or post moves, and also the skills to bring the ball up the court and play the point forward. This team faces an uphill battle having to play UConn and possibly Kentucky, but if anyone can lead the charge to pull off this kind of upset, its White.

CJ McCollum, G, Lehigh – Let’s be real, this team opens up against Duke, meaning we’ll only get to watch him for a single game. That said, this dude can flat out put the ball in the hole (has an outside chance of finishing his college career with over 3000 points scored). I’m very eager to see how he performs on the biggest of stages against one of basketball’s purest of bluebloods.

Mike Moser, F, UNLV – I’m sure Ben Howland is really regretting the fact that this kid transferred out of Westwood after just a year. After transferring to UNLV and sitting out a year, this guy has blossomed into one of the top players in the Mountain West Conference. He can score and he can rebound. It’s that simple.

Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky – I try to pick slightly under the radar guys when it comes to lists like this, but come on. One of the top contenders for player of the year, the unibrow has to make the cut. A savant when it comes to shotblocking, he’s not such a bad rebounder either. And he’s only scratching the surface when it comes to his offensive game (can already hit the perimeter jump shot). A talented man on a talented team, it should be very interesting to see how he matches up against some of the other bigs the south region has to offer.

Didn’t make the cut – Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Garrett Stutz, Perry Jones III, Tu Holloway, Austin Rivers, Chase Stanback

First Round Picks

Kentucky over Mississippi Valley State, Iowa State over Connecticut, Wichita State over VCU, Indiana over New Mexico State, UNLV over Colorado, Baylor over South Dakota State, Notre Dame over Xavier, and Duke over Lehigh

Second Round

Kentucky over Iowa State, Wichita State over Indiana, Baylor over UNLV, Duke over Notre Dame

Sweet 16

Kentucky over Wichita State, Baylor over Duke

Regional Final

Kentucky over Baylor

Team that could make a run

UConn may be a bit of a sellout when it comes to this kind of pick, which is why I will be going with Wichita State. They might have a tough time even making it out of its opener against a very pesky VCU team, but I feel like this senior-laden team has the chops to give Kentucky a serious run for its money. They are efficient on both sides of the ball, get its scoring from several different sources, and have a coach in Gregg Marshall that has done a fantastic job following in the steps of Mark Turgeon. This may be the teams last chance for a couple of years to be a serious contender, and I’m really pulling for them to take advantage of it.

Team that worries me

Baylor was the obvious choice for this one. When they are playing well, they have the talent to go toe to toe with any team in the country, but will we be getting that team for the tournament? If you watched them in conference play, your answer would probably be no. If you watched them in the Big 12 tournament, your answer might be yes. A lot of it comes down to whether or not Perry Jones III can be aggressive at all times, playing like the lottery pick that he is. And again, trying to figure out what Perry Jones we will be seeing is a tough problem to figure out. Baylor is a totally legitimate darkhorse pick to advance to the Final Four. They’re also a great pick to be upset in the second round.

WEST REGION

While I have no idea what’s going to happen anywhere in this tournament, I actually have absolutely no shred of a clue what to do with this region. Michigan State obviously has the coach in Tom Izzo and the player in Draymond Green to make a run. Missouri absolutely has the best guards in the country. And then, what to make of talented by inconsistent teams like Memphis or Florida? What about the team with the best winning percentage in college hoops in Murray State? And I haven’t even mentioned a talented Marquette team or a Louisville squad that might be peaking at just the right time. Needless to say, I am fully expecting to get none of my picks right for this part of the bracket.

Five Players to Watch

Draymond Green, F, Michigan State – If it wasn’t for Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson, this guy would be my runaway choice for national POY. He can score, he can rebound, and he also might be the best passer on his team. In a sentence, he has put the team on his back for the entire season. This team goes as Green goes, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Isaiah Canaan, G, Murray State – This guy is a legitimate candidate for a first team all-america selection and for good reason. He gets into the lane, he has great range, and he is the unquestioned leader of the only remaining team in the country with a single loss. He is going to have to play out of his mind in the tournament to get this team to the later rounds, but he just may have it in him.

Will Barton, G, Memphis – This guy is having the best season in basketball that absolutely no one is talking about. He is scoring a ton, rebounding unusually well for a guy of his size, not to mention averaging 3 dishes a game. If Memphis can advance to the second round, this team has a VERY legitimate chance of taking out the Spartans, and it will probably be because of this guy.

Casper Ware, G, Long Beach State – I can’t wait to see what this guy has in store for the nation. He is the undervalued leader of an undervalued team that has a shot at making some serious noise in the next week or so. He is a bit of a high volume shooter, which always comes with risks. But what it also means is that if he is on a hot streak, he can easily drop 35 on an unsuspecting victim. America, you’ve been warned.

Phil Pressey, G, Missouri – I could have picked a lot of other guys, but I have to give some love to the engine that makes the best team in Missouri’s history go.  This squad has the best four guard rotation of any team in the country, and it all starts with Pressey. He is lightning quick, averages over 2 steals a game, and has a sterling 2.6:1 assist to turnover ratio. He may not score as many points as Marcus Denmon or Kim English, but make no mistake, Phil Pressey is the most valuable player on this team.

Didn’t make the cut – Keith Appling, Drew Gordon, Peyton Siva, Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, Patric Young, Kenny Boynton, Mike Scott, Marcus Denmon, Mike Dixon

First Round Picks

Michigan State over LIU Brooklyn, Memphis over St. Louis, Long Beach State over New Mexico, Louisville over Davidson, Murray State over Colorado State, Marquette over Iona, Florida over Virginia, Missouri over Norfolk State

Second Round Picks

This is where things start getting a little tricky for me. Having a 6, 8, and 12 seed (and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Florida get hot and beat Missouri) is quite a shot in the dark, but that’s half the fun of making picks anyways.

Memphis over Michigan State (taking the Will Barton love to another level), Long Beach State over Louisville, Murray State over Marquette, Missouri over Florida

Sweet 16

Memphis over Long Beach State, Missouri over Murray State

Regional Final

Missouri over Memphis

Team that could make a run

I may have Memphis making an unorthodox run to the Elite 8 as an 8 seed. But, given their coaching and basketball talent, I believe this kind of run should actually be expected of them. In all actually, their low seed is simply a product of having to win a bunch of games in the Conference USA. That means my pick here is Long Beach State. They have a coach in Dan Monson (the same guy who first brought Gonzaga to national prominence) who knows a little something about making a run with a mid major team. They have a guy in Casper the ghost, who I already gushed about a little earlier. While they could just as easily lose in the first round to a good New Mexico squad, I’m not betting against them. They played a murderous non-conference schedule and were extremely competitive with some of the best teams in the nation. This team is seasoned, talented, and isn’t just happy to be there. They expect to win games.

Team that worries me

This might blow up in my face, but there’s something about Michigan State that I don’t like a lot this year. And if we learned anything from last year, playing (and winning) in the toughest conference in the country guarantees you nothing come tournament time. Tom Izzo and Draymond Green may make me look stupid here, but I think these guys could be ripe for an upset. I’m going with my gut here and moving on before I get too freaked out and decide to change it.

EAST REGION

Well the news that Fab Melo will be out for the entirety of the tournament certainly shakes things up in the East. Syracuse suddenly becomes a lot more vulnerable, and some of the lower seeded teams start looking a lot better. The fact of the matter is that Ohio State, when firing on all cylinders, is probably one of the three best teams in the country, and I expect that to be the ultimate factor when sorting through this region. Florida State is absolutely on fire right now though, and could make things very difficult for the Buckeyes. In the top half, Wisconsin is always a tough out, and Vanderbilt is coming fresh off a victory over Kentucky. Not to mention Harvard is probably very hungry to prove they deserved a little more respect from the selection committee.

Five Players to Watch

William Buford, G, Ohio State – For the most part, I feel like you know what you are getting with Jared Sullinger. He may be the best player on the team, but the determinant of how far this team advances could be which William Buford shows up. He is a do everything wingman in a similar mold to David Lighty, and will need to be aggressive and on point if he wants to advance to a Final Four before he graduates.

J’Covan Brown, G, Texas – Brown is personally responsible for putting Texas into the field this year. It’s been him, an at times inconsistent Myck Kabongo, and a bunch of other guys in Texas uniforms. Simply put, the guy can score. Like Ware, he shoots in high volumes, but mostly because there is no one else on the team that can provide the kind of offense he can. It will be very difficult for Texas to advance, but don’t be surprised if he hangs 30 on a team before bowing out.

John Jenkins, G, Vanderbilt – This guy is an absolute dynamo from outside the three point line (averages 4 made 3 pointers a game) and is just the type of player that can carry a team to 2-3 wins in a tournament. Vanderbilt is starting to live up to their lofty preseason expectations, and Jenkins is a key reason why. Expect him to make life very difficult for opposing teams.

Bernard James, F, Florida State – The ‘Noles are one of the best defensive teams in the country, and it starts with James, an ultra-athletic post defender. He is a 26 year old senior thanks to serving in America’s military for a few years, and that kind of maturity might just give him, and his team, an advantage that not many others have. Florida State is riding a wave of big wins into the tournament, and if its going to continue, they’ll certainly need big things from James.

Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse – The loss of Fab Melo for the tournament is a huge blow for the Orange, who will need other guys to step up in big ways to help compensate. Perhaps more than anybody, Joseph will have to play like the star that many have expected him to be over the last few years. His lack of big numbers are somewhat a product of the depth Syracuse has on the wing spots, but also from a lack of aggression on his part. If this guy can average around 20 ppg in the tournament, this squad still has a legitimate shot at cutting the nets down in April.

Didn’t make the cut – Dion Waiters, Jared Sullinger, Jamar Samuels, Jordan Taylor, Yancy Gates, Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos, Kevin Jones

First Round Picks

Syracuse over UNC Asheville, Kansas State over Southern Mississippi, Vanderbilt over Harvard, Wisconsin over Montana, Cincinnati over Texas, Florida State over St. Bonaventure, West Virginia over Gonzaga, Ohio State over Loyola (MD)

Second Round Picks

Syracuse over Kansas State, Vanderbilt over Wisconsin, Florida State over Cincinnati, Ohio State over West Virginia

Sweet 16

Vanderbilt over Syracuse, Ohio State over Florida State

Regional Final

Ohio State over Vanderbilt

Team that could make a run

I’m expecting some big things from Vanderbilt this tournament, and like I said before, they are finally starting to play like the team we all expected them to be at the beginning of the season. They have a great trio of stars in Festus Ezeli, John Jenkins, and Jeffery Taylor, and a coach in Kevin Stallings who knows who to get a team geared up for big games. Things will be difficult from the outset, but I am expecting them to rise to the challenge and perform at a very high level. If they can make it to the Sweet 16, I believe they have the chops to make life very difficult for the Orange and exploit the absence of Fab Melo. I hate going on a limb like putting a 5 seed in the Elite 8, but the fact that the team is Vanderbilt makes that decision a little easier to sweat out. I never thought I would say this, but go ‘dores.

Team that worries me

I don’t really like putting Syracuse here but I just have to do it. Yeah, yeah we all know about Fab Melo and how the team was that much worse when we saw how they played without him during the season. But another problem, and perhaps just as serious, is Scoop Jardine. I think the guy is a great player at times, but he is just a little too inconsistent for my taste. Not all teams have absolute studs at point guard (look at Kentucky), but I don’t see this team being a serious championship contender when you aren’t positive what you’ll be getting out of your point guard. Maybe he plays out of his mind and has a huge tournament. If he does, Syracuse fans can rest a little easier. But I’m not betting on it.

MIDWEST REGION

If everything plays out like it should in this region, always a dangerous assumption, we could have matchup of two of the nation’s premier programs and coaches in Kansas (Bill Self) and North Carolina (Roy Williams). While the masses might be expecting chalk to play out apart from an upset or two, there are some teams in this part of the bracket that should certainly make things very interesting. St. Mary’s has one of the most underrated coaches in the country in Randy Bennett, and a lead guard in Matt Dellavedova who can make things very difficult for opposing defense. California could be hungry to prove that they belong. And Georgetown is the teams that scares me the most as a Kansas fan. Henry Sims is one of the best passing big men in the country, Otto Porter has emerged as a young star, Hollis Thompson is an athletic slasher, and Jason Clark is an absolute rock in the backcourt.

Five Players to Watch

Reggie Bullock, G, North Carolina – It’s no stretch to say that North Carolina might have the best frontcourt in the country. But Kendall Marshall is a pass-first point guard, and as a result, the Tar Heels have had trouble finding ways to score on the perimeter and space the floor at times. If they are going to have any shot of winning a championship, their guards and smaller forwards will have to make jump shots, and it all starts with Bullock, who is their most talented scoring guard. He is going to have be dangerous from 20 feet and beyond, easing the pressure on the Tar Heel big men, and adding another weapon to Carolina’s offensive arsenal. If Bullock can step up, this team is my favorite to win the title. 

Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas – This is a pretty obvious choice. This guy is one of the top candidates for player of the year and is the most important player in the country when it comes to being a direct determinant to his team’s success. He is a ferocious rebounder with a fast improving offensive game. If he can stay under control, out of foul trouble, and convert easy basketbs, Kansas will be a tough out. Robinson certainly has the ability to be “the guy” on a championship level team, but will he get enough support from his role players?

Allen Crabbe, G, California – Crabbe is a dynamic scorer who has the athletic ability to drive to the hoop, as well as the touch to be a lethal threat from beyond the arc. Cal has the potential (thanks to a very underrated group of guards) to advance to the round of 16, and if they are going to do it, Crabbe will be the one leading the way.

Doug McDermott, F, Creighton – There is a reason this dude is getting so much attention as a possible first team all-america member. He shoots an absolutely blistering 61% on field goals, and 49% from three point range, and also rebounds very well for his position. He is right up there with Thomas Robinson when it comes to being incredibly valuable to the outcomes in his team’s games. If the opposition finds a way to shut him down (a very tall order), Creighton will be out very early. On the other hand, if he can go off, Creighton will give North Carolina all it can handle in the second round.

Ray McCallum, G, Detroit – Calling McCallum a diamond in the rough would probably be a disservice to his talent. He was very heavily recruited out of high school, but merely decided to play for his dad at Detroit. As a result, he has teamed up with Eli Holman and Chase Simon to form one of the most talented and dangerous 15 seeds in recent memory (trying not to freak out). Now that Detroit has advanced to the tournament, McCallum has a national platform to display his NBA calibur skills to all who are watching. When Detroit matches up with Kansas in the first round, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the best guard on the floor.

Didn’t make the cut – Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Harrison Barnes, Jorge Guttierez, Trevor Releford, Tim Hardaway Jr., Henry Sims, Robbie Hummel, Matthew Dellavedova

First Round Picks

North Carolina over Lamar, Creighton over Alabama, California over Temple, Michigan over Ohio, NC State over San Diego State, Georgetown over Belmont, St. Mary’s over Purdue, Kansas over Detroit

Second Round Picks

North Carolina over Creighton, California over Michigan, Georgetown over NC State, Kansas over St. Mary’s

Sweet 16

North Carolina over California, Georgetown over Kansas

Regional Final

North Carolina over Georgetown

Team that could make a run

I don’t think California is a complete enough team to be a serious contender. But I do think they have enough fire power at the guard position to steal a few games. Furthermore, it appears the draw breaks for them just the right way with favorable matchups against South Florida, Temple, and Michigan to make some noise. Yeah, they come from the historically bad conference in the Pac-12, but if we look at this team independent of conference affiliation, I think we will see a team with a level of talent that isn’t correctly represented by their seeding. Furthermore, they have a very seasoned coach in Mike Montgomery who is very capable of leading a team in a tournament setting.

Team that worries me

I might be over analyzing, but I can’t help but put Kansas in here. Assuming they advance to the second round, they meet a very tough mid-major in St. Mary’s who is more than capable of competing with the big boys. And this is a team featuring a player in Matt Dellavedova who is very capable of putting a team on his back and winning a game by himself. Not to mention the other possible speed bumps along the road to possible a regional final matchup with North Carolina (the most formidable being a Georgetown team that has already given Kansas trouble this year). Bill Self has done an incredible coaching job this year, and has done a good job of maximizing Kansas’ talent, but I also think that might be something of a problem. When they run into a team that is deeper and more talented, I just don’t know if they have the firepower to pull out a win. Here’s to hoping the Jayhawks prove me wrong.

FINAL FOUR

Missouri over Kentucky

North Carolina over Ohio State

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

North Carolina over Missouri

This would be a great matchup of different styles, but equally high octane offense. Missouri emphasizes its guard play and is deadly from three point range. North Carolina, on the other hand, runs its offense through its bigs, hitting high percentage shots in the paint. In the end though, Missouri’s lack of depth on the frontline after Ricardo Ratliffe will end up being too big of a deficiency to ignore, and Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock will hit the big shots from the perimeter when it matters. Apologies to all Carolina fans for the kiss of death.

It Is Our Choices Harry

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

-Albus Dumbledore


I sat in front of the computer for about 15 minutes trying to come up with some sort of opening line or thought that would jump start my final goodbye to the Harry Potter series. How did it make me feel? That would probably be too corny. A review of the books or the movies? A little bland. And I’m too lazy to try and write some big thesis on the books/movies anyways. I even discussed with a couple buddies a few weeks ago about going through a mock economy of the Wizarding World and seeing how it would have reacted to Lord Voldemort’s rises and falls. Maybe an interesting concept to be addressed sometime in the future. But again, I’m too lazy. And that’s not the kind of crap the 16 of you who come here want to read anyways.  

What can really be said about a journey that has had such a profound affect on a new generation full of people ready to believe in good?* The answer is…not too much. These aren’t exactly books that will be read in english classes throughout schools for the next 50 years. But maybe that’s why they are so beloved by so many people. Unlike The Lord of the Rings (far too difficult/slow of a read for many people), The Chronicles of Narnia (probably a little dated), or Star Wars (unfortunately maybe a little “geeky” for some), these are books that put into the utmost simplicity the triumph of love over evil, of courage over base fear.

*Had to stick a Bruce Wayne/Batman quote in here somewhere

You don’t have to do too much work to get to the core of what these books are trying to say. The themes and the symbols jump out at us. The characters are flawed enough, human enough, that we can relate to them and believe their struggles. The words of Albus Dumbledore and countless others touch us at such a visceral level, that we can understand exactly what is going on, even if we can’t put our feelings completely into words.

These are books for the masses. And I mean that in the best way possible. What other kind of series have we ever seen before where it is literally uncool, no matter what you’re interested in or the hobbies you have or what background you’re from, to have not read even a page? You feel like those people are missing out on a truly essential part of childhood; of something that can help ease the inevitable pain that comes with growing up.

But for all the things that these books and movies do, I don’t think, even then, it is what sets them apart from other stories we’ve heard before. And I don’t think it is their innate simplicity either. We’ve heard different versions of the battle of good vs. evil since the day we were born. Harry Potter isn’t the only story to promote its biggest themes. We have already before seen the courage of the Jedi overcoming the fear at the very core of the Sith (shocker here folks…I don’t have a girlfriend). We have already before seen the indomitable human (elf, hobbit etc.) will fail to ever give up, and in doing so surpass even the most insurmountable of odds (see: everything ever written by J.R.R. Tolkien). In all of the stories and tales we can most easily recall, themes like the bonds of friendship and the beauty of self-sacrifice for others are ever present.

So what then, can explain why we connect so much with the story of Harry above almost all others? In the paragraph above, it is made clear that the messages we get from Harry’s quest to vanquish Voldemort are ones we have heard over and over again, and will continue to hear for a long time after. If I stopped right here, then you would have to ask yourself, “Then why the hell have I been reading all of this stuff if I could just get it from somewhere else?” And the answer of course is that with the Harry Potter books, J. K. Rowling brought something new to the table. Something was in her books that made readers feel different.

You can get the same messages and motifs from a lot of different stories and adventures. But only by turning the pages of Harry Potter’s saga are you made, if for only a few moments, young again. While the book is open, the hands in your internal clock seem to be suspended. With Harry’s greatest adventures, a part of ourselves recalls some of our very own favorite moments in the innocence of our childhood. When I would have to ride my bike everywhere, and beg my parents to let me stay with my friends by the pool for just a few more hours, and when I needed only fireworks to have a good time on the 4th of July.

Now, by no means am I trying to come off as some old hag that the world has passed by. That would be a little melodramatic. I am still very young in the grand scheme of things. But I am also old enough that I can now bring to mind what it was like to be a kid. I can think with wonder how light and carefree it was, but also with a feeling of bittersweet, knowing how those moments have passed me by.  

And the same can be applied to the world we could escape into with these books and movies. I will always look upon them fondly…for all the lessons I learned from them, the ordinary characters I got to see develop into heroes, and the end of the story where all of the struggle and pain and sacrifice is fulfilled with a final and absolute victory. I will go into tonight’s movie with that same kind of lightheartedness I think. For over 2 hours, I will be taken back to an old, familiar place and get to be a clueless little kid one more time. But when the end credits roll, there will also be pangs of sadness, knowing that, for the time being at least, those spellbinding moments have now passed me by.

Editors Note: Well…good thing I didn’t end up writing “some big thesis” on the books or how the series made me feel, right?

What’s happenin’ guys

Whats up guys, my name is Jay Miller (check my profile for more in-depth information on my name). Im just a pretty regular college freshman with an exceptional long range jump shot, knack for throwing the deep ball, and a certain long-windedness when it comes to writing. I was born and raised in one of the greatest, tragically unheralded cities in the world: Kansas City, and am a passionate fan of the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, Kansas City Chiefs. I am also a budding supporter of the hapless Kansas City Royals. I’m basically just a passionate fan of competitive sports in general. It hit me the other night that I get a pretty big amount of enjoyment writing about what I see in the sports world, so figured I would try one of these, and see what the 5-8 people who ever visit this blog think about what I’m thinking . I will try to keep my massive bias for the three teams mentioned above out of the picture as much as I possibly can (I’ll worry about this problem much more when the viewership inevitably develops into a massive national audience), but its sure to come up at some point. Lastly, I consider myself a pretty big music fan. So every now and again, I’ll put up a song or songs that I’m really feelin’ at the time, but the main purpose of this deal is to discuss sports.

So…I hope everyone enjoys. Feel free to email me any comments, inputs, opinions, or suggestions, positive or scathing (the fact you would even look at this blog is good enough for me). Im not really sure yet if the email deal is quite working yet so just get to me at kuhawker03@yahoo.com OR jmille43@villanova.edu. No preference on which one. Enjoy what you’re reading? Tell your friends! Think I’m a huge idiot/a-hole and should be verbally mass-rebuked via the web? Tell your friends! The only way we can get this thing from above single digit views and into the conversation for greatest blog on the eastern seaboard is to spread the word (if this enterprise is indeed worthy to be spread). Now I know everyone is just dying of anticipation for my inaugural sports-related post, so I’ll be certain to get one up tonight. I’m excited for what the future holds, if anything at all. I’m also a little bit scared I had to pay 17 bucks to get this baby goin’. Does anyone know what this means? Thats right, a case of Natural Light is on the line, my ass is on the line, and your ass is on the line. Lets get this done.