April 3, 2007
So I was right in predicting a Florida-Ohio State national final and a Florida victory. Where’s my prize? This at least proves that I am a better predictor of sporting events than marshmallows.
The CBS coverage was the usual. Billy Packer obsessed over the big guys getting winded the entire game — aren’t these guys barely 20 years old and able to run around for forty minutes? — and Jim Nantz obsessed over everyone’s parents. After the game was over, an uneasy Nantz and Packer stood by while an excitable Joakim Noah made no sense. You know, I think he’s right: Packer and Nantz probably did have no idea what he was talking about (at least he didn’t start dancing this time). Nantz ignored the rant and plowed ahead by asking MOP Corey Brewer about his father.
The game itself was unspectacular as the Gators used their balanced attack to wear down Ohio State for the win. Every time Ohio State looked ready to get close in the second half, Florida would score off a loose ball on some back-breaking play. It must have sucked to watch this for Ohio State fans. Greg Oden put up strong stats (25 points, 12 boards) in defeat, even prompting Packer to suggest he might win MOP honors. It was probably enough to cement his #1 NBA Draft status by showing he could produce in the biggest college game there is. Nantz picked Al Horford (18 points, 12 boards) for MOP honors, and both broadcasters proved wrong as Brewer was chosen.
The result is leading to all sorts of discussion about the back-to-back titles and Florida’s place in history. I’ll leave that one to the experts and simply note that it must be pretty sweet to be a Gator fan these days. It reminds me of the “cup runneth over” feeling I had when the Red Sox and Patriots held championships simultaneously a few years back.
April 1, 2007
Look at that, it’s Florida and Ohio State for the national championship, just as I predicted before the tournament began. Not that it was a surprise pick, by any stretch — lots and lots of people picked these teams, which were the top two seeds in the entire tournament. But it shows I’m not completely clueless, which is nice.
It’s rather strange to have the college football and college basketball championship games be the same matchup of schools three months apart. Of course Florida dominated the football game in January, as well as the regular-season basketball game back in December. So much for the premise that so-called “football schools” can’t be basketball powers.
I foresee Florida cutting down the nets again, as I originally picked, based on superior depth and experience. The Georgetown game last night showed Ohio State’s vulnerability inside if Greg Oden is in foul trouble, as he has been so often in the tournament. Florida has three big guys it rotates inside that can cause problems, and if you clamp down on them defensively Florida will knock down threes, as they showed against UCLA in the other national semifinal. I think the Buckeyes will need a superhuman effort by Oden to control the paint so that they can extend their defense in order to win, and I don’t quite see that happening.
March 25, 2007
As you may know by now, the champions of the Big East, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 10 made the Final Four this weekend. The New York Times has some stats on how much more predictable this year’s semifinalists were than last year’s:
Last year at this time, of the 3.1 million entries in ESPN.com’s bracket pool, only four chose the correct Final Four teams. This year, 161,869 of 3.3 million entries have the Gators, the Buckeyes, the Bruins and the Hoyas still alive.
I correctly picked three of the four, which makes me even less special, though my Florida over Ohio State pick for the final could still come to pass.
March 20, 2007
Ian Thomsen has a good column about why the NBA playoffs, despite their higher quality of play, are less exciting than the NCAA Tournament. It’s all about the brackets.
The quality of basketball in the NCAAs is as poor as it has been in 40 years.
The reason for the tournament’s popularity is its sudden-death format, which enables millions of people to bet on it with impunity (other than Rick Neuheisel). It’s a terrific event, but it has little to do with the talent of the players or the way they play, which by any historic standard is inferior.
He goes on to say that the NBA, by dragging its playoffs out over months with several best-of-seven rounds, accomplishes the exact opposite of college basketball by reducing the importance of each individual game and making watching less exciting. I doubt David Stern will switch to a sudden-death format any time soon, but it’s at least worth realizing this is the case. Thomsen also says that the predictability of the NBA playoffs — teams seeded one or two in a conference have won the last 11 championships — isn’t always desirable.
Contrast these points with the discussion on Slate. Josh Levin opines:
CBS, and everyone who moans that college football needs a playoff, seems to think the greatness is structural — that shoving teams into a grid and watching who shakes out is inherently rewarding. If you think that’s the case, I sentence you to three weeks of watching the women’s tournament — throwing together a bracket can’t add sizzle to a boring product.
The real reason the NCAA Tournament is entertaining is, of course, the content. Major college basketball is a great sport: The games are close and full of violent mood swings, and (as I wrote yesterday) it’s obvious that the players sincerely care about winning.
First, the college football point is erroneous; people who push for a college football playoff want one not necessarily because it will be more exciting but because it’s simply better to have a playoff than not to have one when you are trying to crown a national champion. More to the Thomsen argument is Levin’s point about the women’s tournament. I wholeheartedly agree that the women’s tournament sucks, but so would a tiddleywinks championship that followed the bracket format. When there are two events of closer comparison in quality — like men’s pro and college basketball — then the format really does make a difference.
March 19, 2007
Kevin Durant wasn’t giving us much of a hint about his possible future plans after Texas lost to USC in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday:
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate question right now,” Durant said. “I’m just worried about this team and what we can be next year as a team.”
Could he really be thinking about staying in school? There has been some speculation to that effect, and I understand that right after the season ends is an emotional time. In the coming days and weeks, however, I expect someone will explain to Durant that he would be risking injury and millions of dollars by going back to college for another season.
March 17, 2007
The night games concluded with no more upsets to speak of (unless you count #9 Purdue over #8 Arizona, which is pretty lame as upsets go). We’ll have to make due with a pair of #11 seeds, Virginia Commonwealth and Winthrop, in the cinderella role, which happens to be the same seeding George Mason had on its improbable Final Four run a year ago. Maybe round two will be more unpredictable in what has so far been a pretty tame tournament.
Saturday the second round opens with the Battle of Ohio between Xavier and Ohio State, a chance to get Greg Oden some more national exposure to the tourney audience. The whole country will see that one at 1:10pm; CBS’s logic must be to put two eastern teams on early, while left coasters are still getting out of bed (the early game Sunday pits Tennessee and Virginia). Following OSU-Xavier, here in DC I’ll be seeing Maryland-Butler and Georgetown-BC, and probably Michigan State-UNC to end the evening.
Another intriguing Saturday matchup is Louisville, coming off a thrashing of Stanford and playing in front of a friendly crowd in Lexington, against Texas A&M. One of the ESPN yakkers was complaining yesterday about how Louisville shouldn’t get this advantage of being the lower seed and having a favorable crowd. I think the Cardinals winning would serve those people right who picked A&M for the Final Four based on the regional being in San Antonio.
There’s also a clash of historic programs as Indiana faces UCLA at 8:10, and the cinderella watch will continue as VCU takes on a Pitt team that’s looked a little shaky lately at 5:50. I may check in if anything blog-worthy occurs.