THE NAKED TRUTH
What better way to start off your St. Patrick's Day revelry than by joining a bunch of naked protesters at the Oaks. From 10 to noon tomorrow
, you too can join the rogues gallery of anti-University agitators in ditching your clothes and lying awkwardly on tree branches for "noted photographer" Jack Gescheidt. It may be a bit cold, but Mr. Gescheidt presumably will show his models the same respect afforded those in the above picture - so no shrinkage issues to deal with. According to the release, the protesters will create a "Tree Spirit photograph, depicting our interdependence with trees in general, and with this specific grove of native oak trees threatened by state plans to uproot them."
The photographs will be memorialized in the Tree Spirit Project
website, as well as a pair of subscription websites: Hippies Gone Wild and Filthy Arborist Whores ($4.99/month and I don't recommend either). Hope you can make it - if you're on the fence, just imagine what you'll be missing:
DAY ONE THOUGHTS
Only got to viddy parts of a couple of contests due to work. I did see what I needed to see from Washington State, and I am chagrined by my lack of faith in The Hated One and his charges. Bennett showed today why he's going to be a better coach than his old man, turning the Cougs loose after Oral Roberts had shown they could trade punches with WSU in the half court. WSU is now a pretty intriguing team, and I think they should match up really well with Vandy's three point shooters in Round 2.
The second game was Indiana/Gonzaga, which was interesting if a little bit ragged. Gonzaga doesn't have the athletes this year. Indiana settles for too many threes (which they hit tonight); they'll have to find some way to get it inside to avoid a blowout loss to UCLA on Saturday.
And finally, Stanford showed us that there are worse things than failing to get into the tournament.
Overall it was a blah Day 1, and my bracket (as predicted) took a beating, with two Sweet 16 teams eliminated (ORU and Duke). Oh well, I got the 8/9 games right, and I resisted the siren's lure of Davidson and Old Dominion (unlike many of my work colleagues). On to Day 2, as I turn to Holy Cross and Georgia Tech to get me back in business.
TIGHTWAD HILL'S BRACKET
The following is the result of a combination of statistical analysis (Pomeroy, ASM, etc) and gut instinct. It is almost certainly wrong, so please do not take it seriously or change your bracket based on what you read here. This is primarily for your amusement as my dark horses go lame in the opening round, and my Final Four teams fail to get out of the round of sixteen. This bracket is sort of old-school, in that I see three 10+ seeds making it to the Sweet 16. That result used to be the norm, but it hasn't happened since 2002 (though in every year but one since then, two 10+ teams have reached that round). Upsets are in italics:Midwest Regional - Wisconsin is dealing with an injury, and Georgia Tech has the right profile (better conference, tournament-tested coach, good ASM) for a big second round upset. Everything else goes to plan. I toyed with the idea of taking Maryland over Florida - if the Terps win, then Oregon might make it to Atlanta. Florida, on the other hand, has too many weapons for Oregon.
Florida over Jackson State; Wisconsin over TAMU-CC; Oregon over Miami OH; Maryland over Davidson; Butler over ODU; Notre Dame over Winthrop; Georgia Tech over UNLV
; Arizona over Purdue
Florida over Arizona; Georgia Tech over Wisconsin;
Oregon over Notre Dame; Maryland over Butler
Florida over Maryland; Oregon over Georgia Tech
Florida over OregonWest Regional - Hard for me to see anyone but UCLA and Kansas in the Elite 8. Duke matches up pretty well with Pitt; in fact, VCU might be a tougher nut for the Dookies in Round 1. Holy Cross is my first true long shot pick for the Sweet 16 - I think they'll get by a pair of over-rated teams in SIU and Virginia Tech. Kansas and Bill Self need to prove to me that they can make a Final Four run before I'll pick them over UCLA. Just hit your free throws, Bruins...
Kansas over Niagara; UCLA over Weber State; Pitt over Wright State; Holy Cross over Southern Illinois
; Virginia Tech over Illinois; Duke over VCU; Indiana over Gonzaga; Villanova over Kentucky
Kansas over Villanova; UCLA over Indiana; Duke over Pitt
; Holy Cross over Virginia Tech
Kansas over Holy Cross; UCLA over DukeUCLA over KansasEast Regional - The first 1 seed to depart? North Carolina, who I think will struggle with Michigan State's toughness and inside game. MSU's got great stats, if not a great record, and I trust Izzo. Mixed emotions on the Wazzu pick, but the Cougars just aren't hitting on all cylinders right now and ORU is pretty good. Two religiously-affiliated schools in the Sweet 16? God willing.
North Carolina over E Kentucky; Georgetown over Belmont; Oral Roberts over Washington State
; Texas over New Mexico State; USC over Arkansas; GWU over Vanderbilt;
Boston College over Texas Tech; Michigan State over MarquetteMichigan State over North Carolina
; Georgetown over Boston College; Oral Roberts over GWU
; Texas over USC
Texas over Michigan State; Georgetown over Oral Roberts
Georgetown over TexasSouth Regional - The only regional where I see the top 4 seeds surviving to the Sweet 16. Xavier could give Ohio State a scare in Round 2. A&M is the best and most balanced team in this bracket, and they've got enough to get past Memphis in the Sweet 16. I'm not terribly impressed with either OSU or Virginia - the gap between #3 A&M and #4 Virginia is huge, in my opinion. The Long Beach State pick is pretty uninformed, though they have a really nice back court. Some 12 seed has to win, and this one seems as likely as any.
Ohio State over C Connecticut; Memphis over North Texas; Texas A&M over Penn; Virginia over Albany; Long Beach State over Tennessee;
Louisville over Stanford;
Nevada over Creighton; Xavier over BYU
Ohio State over Xavier; Memphis over Nevada; Texas A&M over Louisville;
Virginia over Long Beach State
Ohio State over Virginia; Texas A&M over MemphisTexas A&M over Ohio StateFinal Four - I want to pick the Bruins here, but you never know when the FT shooting issue will bite them. These would be epic semis, regardless of who prevails: My best guess:
Florida over UCLA; Texas A&M over Georgetown
Texas A&M over Florida
Here's a guard-heavy ten man roster of my favorite Cinderella players since the NCAAs expanded to 64 teams in 1985. All of these guys played a major role in leading their teams to first-round upsets.
Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
(1998). The play. The shot. The dive. The celebration. The best tournament moment - ever.Ken "Mouse" McFadden, Cleveland State
(1986). The face of Cleveland State, along with their unfortunate cokehead coach Kevin Mackey. They took down Indiana in a game immortalized in John Feinstein's Season on the Brink
; the loss would be a rallying point for Bob Knight's title run a year later.Bo Kimble, Loyola Marymount
(1990). The heart and soul of the most emotional run in tournament history. Left-handed free throws in honor of a fallen friend. I had the great pleasure of watching them beat a very good Alabama team in the regional semis. Total magic. He scored 45 points in LMU's first-round upset of New Mexico State.Steve Nash, Santa Clara
(1993). Sometimes these Cinderellas have second acts. Nash is one who has gone on to do even greater things in the pros. As a collegian, he led the Broncos to a shocking upset of #2 Arizona back in the day when Lute Olson couldn't coach in the tournament.Pete Meyers, Arkansas-Little Rock
(1986). Scored 29 points in 29 minutes to knock off #3 Notre Dame. Later became famous as guy who (for a short time) succeeded Michael Jordan as Chicago's starting two-guard.Forwards:Harold "The Show" Arceneaux, Weber State
(1999). Single-handedly eliminated North Carolina with 36 points in maybe the most dominant first-round performance in modern tournament history. Never caught on in the NBA, oddly enough.Gabe Lewullis, Princeton
(1996). The freshman was the guy who slipped behind a back pick and made the layup that knocked out the defending champion Bruins. Lewullis would go on to be a three-time All-Ivy pick, and Cal fans remember him as a first-round problem the following season. Today's he's an orthopedic surgeon, apparently.Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont
(2005). The hulking kid with incredible game and, for a week, the toast of all New England. Scored 16 points as the Catamounts (!) upset #4 seed Syracuse.Tarvis Williams, Hampton
(2001). Williams was far and away the best player on the Hampton squad, but he got into early foul trouble against #2 Iowa State. He notched his fourth foul with 13 minutes to play and the favored Cyclones making a run to take the lead. His coach left him in, and he made the four-footer with six seconds left that sealed the 2-15 upset.Center:Darryl Bedford, Austin Peay
(1987). Bedford, a center, stepped outside to help Peay knock off favored Illinois. He made five 3's on the way to 24 points in a 68-67 upset of #3 Illinois, who were led by Kendall Gill and Nick Anderson.Coach:Dick Tarrant, Richmond
. Tarrant's Richmond Spiders were the Cinderella team of the late 80s and early 90s. In '88 they knocked off defending champion Indiana, and in '91 took out two-seed Syracuse at Cole Field House - I was there, and have never had more fun cheering for an underdog.
MORE ON THE BRACKETS
Ken Pomeroy's rolling out his preview today
. He uses an algorithm called log5 to express each team's Tourney chances as a percentage. It's fascinating stuff that I highly recommend. The great thing about Pomeroy is he knows both hoops and math, and acknowledges that stat IQ doesn't necessarily trump basketball IQ. Of course, he's got loads of both.
In the Midwest, he likes Wisconsin a lot more than I do, though he acknowledges that the injury to Brian Butch is a big question mark. According to Pomeroy, this is the most wide-open bracket, with six teams having at least a 5% chance to cut down the nets in San Antonio (Florida, Wisky, Maryland, Notre Dame, Oregon, Georgia Tech).
He notes that Oregon has struggled on defense in the second half of the season, and isn't sure whether their fine D in the Pac-10 tournament is indicative of a trend. I'm not sure either, but I do know that Oregon is moving on offense as well as any team I've seen this year. Their blowout of SC wasn't just about a hot shooting afternoon - their ball movement led to loads of uncontested shots against a very good defensive team.
The West is interesting - he sees Kansas as the clear favorite based on a relatively easy bracket draw. Only UCLA, Duke and Pitt have a greater than 5% chance of emerging from the West according to his numbers.
He'll presumably have a look at the South and East regionals later today. As for this site, I'll have more on the Tournament later today.
TOP SECRET SPRING PRACTICE REPORT
No, just kidding - Cal as expected has closed spring practice to the public. I'll never understand why fans bitch about this. I'm as big a Cal fan as the next guy, and the quality of my life isn't compromised by JT closing practices. What are we missing? Half-assed critiques of player performance on a message board? This isn't a knock on Cyberbears at all, which features some incredibly knowledgeable football analysts. I just prefer to analyze Cal's talent based on what I see with my own eyes.
I for one am more than content waiting for the coaches to tell me who's doing well when they leak stuff through Heater and other scribes, or when they release an early depth chart. Until then, we can find other things to obsess about:
* Like Erik Ainge's torn meniscus
. I for one hope that he makes a quick recovery, though it's certain he'll miss all of spring practice. Meniscus injuries are odd things; sometimes athletes recover in a few weeks; other times it takes much longer to get back to 100%. It's not so much that Ainge needs the work; but he is trying to establish chemistry and timing with a fleet of new receivers.
* Or Cal's '08 football recruiting. UCLA has a bunch of very early commits
; good for them. Some early commits stick; lots look elsewhere as it gets closer to signing day...eleven months from now. It's better to have them than not, though, since it can create momentum in a region like LA (where the Bruin commits hail from). For those interested, Cal has only one '08 commit - OL Tyler Rigsbee, whose dad is the AD at Butte JC. For the record, I'm not worried.
* Or DeVon Hardin's draft status. His returning to school seems like a no-brainer, but stranger things have happened (Jamal Sampson). Never underestimate the NBA's willingness to whisper sweet nothings to players who have more upside than achievement on the resume. Here's hoping that the big guy makes the right call and returns to Berkeley next year. We don't want yet another mulligan for Mr. Braun.
* And finally, the complete and utter lack of white supremacist symbols and rhetoric
associated with our football team. Are we just going to let USC set the standard for everything in this conference? Seriously (for those of you who didn't get the sarcasm) I'd like to hear from someone - anyone - who can justify the fact that USC is washing its hands of the affair. Boys will be boys, but boys usually don't juxtapose flaming swastikas with their school's logo on Facebook. Our friends at Conquest Chronicles are suitably outraged
(as is every other Trojan I know), but the school is looking the other way. What gives?
GUIDE TO THE NCAA BRACKET
Many of you are looking at your brackets and wondering which upsets to pick. It's useful to look at historical trends, and also to look at a statistic called Adjusted Scoring Margin. ASM measures the margin of victory (and defeat) for tournament teams compared with the average scoring margins for their opponents. It's one tool for evaluating teams who come from disparate backgrounds - i.e., mid-majors and big-conference teams. ASM is very useful for figuring out which teams will make deep runs in the Tournament; it's less useful in picking individual games.
Joe Lunardi makes a big deal about ASM; so does a guy named Nate from a blog called Nate's Random Stuff
. He has helpfully done the research on ASM and made it available online for your review. Nate also has a formula that he says is more accurate called CRACK - don't ask, it's rather complicated but you can find it elsewhere on the site. We'll reference Nate's ASM rankings in this guide to bracket matchups.1-16:
As you all know, it's never happened - though there have been some close calls. Georgetown and Oklahoma in '89 won by a single point; more recently Purdue beat Western Carolina by a deuce in 1996. Resist the temptation, though.2-15:
It's happened four times, most recently in 2001 when Hampton beat Iowa State 58-57. I, along with lots of other bandwagoners, took Winthrop over Tennessee last year - resist the temptation in '07.3-14:
17% of 14-seeds win in the opening round. That's a pretty amazing statistic when you think about it - almost one in five. It's happened in each of the last two tournaments - last year Northwestern State got Iowa and in 2005 Bucknell upended Kansas. There aren't a lot of good candidates this year:
Texas A&M-Penn; Oregon-Miami OH; Pitt-Wright State; and Washington St-Oral Roberts. Penn isn't going to beat A&M, and I doubt Oregon will be tripped up by Miami OH. Pitt should whip Wright State. That leaves Wazzu against Oral Roberts. ORU won at Kansas this season, and their ASM (#77) is nearly as high as Wazzu's (#53). I'd hate to see the Cougs fall victim to the upset, but it's a very reasonable pick.4-13:
20% of 13 seeds win in the opening round. It's happened in five of the last six Tournaments. It probably behooves you to pick one (but not more than one) of these in your bracket.
Virginia-Albany; Texas-New Mexico State; SIU-Holy Cross; and Maryland-Davidson. The latter two games are by far the best candidates. SIU has a very low ASM for a four seed, and Ralph Willard is a tournament-tested coach at Holy Cross. Maryland is a good team, but Davidson's ASM is higher than the majority of teams in the Tourney. Your choice on which to pick; I lean toward Holy Cross for no good reason.5-12:
The magic number. One third of 12 seeds win their games. Starting in 2001, every year has had at least one 12-5 upset, and most years have had more than one. In 2002 all but one of the 12 seeds won; last year both Montana (over Nevada) and Texas A&M (over Syracuse) scored the upset. Interestingly, it's a relatively recent phenomenon - in the early days of the 64-team field 12-5 upsets weren't all that common. You need to pick at least one and probably two of these if the games look right.
Tennessee-Long Beach State; USC-Arkansas; Virginia Tech-Illinois; Butler-Old Dominion. Of these, ASM points you to pick Arkansas over USC. I just don't see it. Instead I'll take the Illini to drop an inconsistent Virginia Tech team, and that's it. If I had to pick another one, it would be LBSU over Tennessee.6-11:
Fewer 11 seeds than 12 seeds win in the first round (31%). Still it's likely to happen at least once in '07.
Louisville-Stanford; Vandy-George Washington; Duke-VCU; Notre Dame-Winthrop. Vandy is terribly overseeded, so consider them as a victim here. Winthrop is the trendy pick to drop the Irish, but Notre Dame is a pretty good team (12th in the nation in ASM) who almost knocked off Georgetown in the Big East semis. I'd probably lean toward GW here.7-10:
Hardly an upset anymore; 40% of 10-seeds win. The same rule applies - pick one or two if the matchups look right.
Nevada-Creighton; Boston College-Texas Tech; Indiana-Gonzaga; UNLV-Georgia Tech. ASM suggests that you consider the Blue Jays to knock off Nevada, but I don't see it. Georgia Tech over Vegas makes much more sense to me, given the historical poor performance of the MWC in the NCAAs. Gonzaga is intriguing, but Indiana is a pretty good 7 seed. I don't see Texas Tech doing much with Boston College, but that's more of a match-up problem since no one on the Raiders can guard Jared Dudley.8-9:
9's win more frequently than 8's (53% of the time). Pick at least two.
BYU-Xavier; Marquette-Michigan State; Kentucky-Villanova; Arizona-Purdue. Xavier really doesn't belong based on their resume, but I was shocked to discover that the Musketeers are 14th in the country in ASM. I'm going to pick three "upsets" here, with Arizona the only 8 seed to survive.