Did You Know?

A very interesting statistic mentioned throughout Sunday’s editions during ESPN’s SportsCenter:

There have been 37 upsets where an unranked team was able to knock off a school ranked in the Top 5 according to the Associated Press polls.

This tied an NCAA record with the season where there was a team that scored baskets every 20 seconds (and that was with a 35 second shot clock during that period).  The season was 1989-90 and that team was Loyola Marymount when they posted NBA type numbers for forty minutes, both before and after the tragic passing of legendary player Hank Gathers.

And similar to that 1990 NCAA Tournament, when upsets were aplenty in the first two rounds–I would not be at all shocked if many lower seeds managed to advance to the Regional rounds located this year in Anaheim, Louisville, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

My next “Under the Microscope” will feature two schools fighting to get one of those final coveted at-large berths:  Ohio State and one-time Cinderella darlings in Monmouth.

Enjoy the rest of your Leap Day.

 

 

Warren Buffett to offer employees $1 million per year for life

Perfect bracket contest comes with a few caveats

According to an interview which aired on Monday morning at financial channel CNBC, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is changing his perfect bracket contest.

In 2014, I blogged briefly about if any fan had a perfect bracket, that person would have won $1 billion of Warren’s money.  This time around, this bracket is limited to only the employees of this proud Omaha, Nebraska based company.

His Ultimate Bracket Contest is only valid during the first two rounds (the first weekend).  Whomever picks all 48 first and second round games correctly will win $1 million per year for life.

Otherwise, if there is no perfect bracket–the employee with the most correct picks will win $100,000.

Not bad of a financial payday, if you asked me.

 

Never Count Out Tom Izzo and Michigan State in March

SONG SELECTION:

Jenny Lewis, “Late Bloomer”

Released July 29, 2014 on The Voyager album from Warner Brothers Records

What is it about Michigan State and the month of March?
It seems like almost every year since Tom Izzo took over for the retiring Jud Heathcote, the Spartans (aka “Gang Green”) turn up the screws defensively and come up with the right blend of offensive talent to make a deep tournament run.

Last year, they tripped up in-state rival Michigan which stole away the Wolverines’ chances of locking down the final Number 1 seed.  In the process, the Spartans showed lots of heart and determination en route to an unexpected Final Four berth.

The latest Stock Up mention happened early on Sunday afternoon shortly after Xavier earned it four days ago in their upset win over Villanova, as Michigan State cruised easily past Penn State 88-57 in East Lansing.

It did not start out that way as the Spartans missed 12 out of their first 15 shots from the field.  National player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine slumped early missing his first six shots from the field, but still managed to lead the team in scoring with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Michigan State has won four games in a row and are in a stretch of finding themselves winning 8 out of their last 9 contests.   The only loss in this recent span was a one point overtime loss to Purdue.

”Our defense and rebounding kept us in the game and that’s the way we have to win as we move forward…I think we’ve got a chance to make a run.”

Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo in postgame remarks after the game

For Penn State, their fighting spirit came back to briefly bite them.  Nittany Lions head coach Patrick Chambers argued with the referees one too many times and was ejected for picking up two consecutive technical fouls with 4:53 left in the first half.  By the time the first half buzzer sounded, it was garbage time as the Spartans cruised to a 52-27 halftime lead.

Coupled with Xavier getting the newest Stock Down label after their disappointing loss on the road at Seton Hall on Sunday afternoon, expect Michigan State to more than likely grab one of the four Number 1 seeds in two weeks.

The Desi Rodriguez Show lit up Xavier

Give credit also to the defense who barely let Xavier get off any quality shots on Senior Day in New Jersey.  The final score was 90-81, pretty much locking up the Pirates’ first NCAA bid in a decade.

Sophomore forward Desi Rodriguez tabulated career highs scoring 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds, while fellow sophomore point guard Isaiah Whitehead also came up huge with 22 points and Angel Delgado added 17 more.  The Pirates used 50 percent shooting to get the job done, while holding high flying Xavier to just 26 points in the entire first half.  In the process, Seton Hall scored 23 of the final 30 points before halftime to turn the game into a rout.

Although the Musketeers more than double their offensive output in the last 20 minutes outscoring Seton Hall by a whopping 55-45 margin, it was not enough in the end.  Xavier will have six days to lick their wounds before playing host to Creighton in the team’s final regular season game on Saturday, while Seton Hall will not get much time to savor this win as the Pirates put their 21-7 overall mark (11-5 in Big East play) on the road at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday night to take on Butler, another team just like Seton Hall looking to bolster its’ tournament resume before the Big East tournament starts at MSG in New York on Wednesday, March 9.

The other upsets of note on Sunday was Pitt outlasting Duke 76-62 as the Blue Devils offense continues to sputter on the road, and Ohio State keeping their Big Ten hopes alive with a 66-62 close shave win over Iowa.

Look for Thad Matta’s Buckeyes to be featured in my next edition of “Under The Microscope” in the coming days, along with another school to be determined.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.  Please don’t cry too hard during the Oscars, we need you to save those much needed tears for Selection Sunday in two weeks.

Vanderbilt scores huge upset win over Kentucky

SONG SELECTION:

Florence and the Machine, “Ship To Wreck”
From their June 2, 2015 release How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Found on the Republic Records label

Kevin Stallings knew fully well going into their huge matchup with Kentucky that the Commodores chances of earning a quality win to possibly earn a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Consider it (mostly) done after Vanderbilt’s 74-62 hard fought victory over Kentucky in front of a nationally televised audience watching on CBS.

With the win, they should be off my proverbial microscope and into the Big Dance–as long as they beat Tennessee this coming week and win at least two games in the SEC conference tournament.  This win is huge in many respects, among them:

  • The Commodores (18-11 overall, 10-6 in SEC play) have won six of their last eight contests.
  • With two games to go in the regular season, they leapfrogged past LSU to third place.
  • Vanderbilt is one game back of both Kentucky and South Carolina, who lost earlier in the day on the road at Mississippi State 68-58.

Other upsets of note throughout the country

Purdue won a slugfest at Mackey Arena over Maryland 83-79 holding Melo Trimble to 19 points on the afternoon.

Utah upended Arizona 70-64 in Salt Lake City, as the Wildcats begin what most experts think should be their usual late season swoon.

Florida State tripped up Notre Dame in Tallahassee, roaring out to a 46-30 halftime lead and never looking back winning big by a 77-56 count.

But the bigger upset was in Austin, Texas as Shaka Smart’s Longhorns scored the game’s last 22 points in succession to break open a close contest with Oklahoma.  Trailing 40-37 at halftime, the game was nip-and-tuck even though Buddy Hield still managed to score 33 points to lead all scorers–but only managed to light up the Horns defense for only 10 in the entire second half.  The final score ended up being 76-63, as Texas is now one win away from the magic 20 win plateau.

Finally, Virginia was simply too much inside for North Carolina to overcome in a 79-73 hard fought win.  The Cavaliers are only one game back of both the Tar Heels and Florida State with two games left to play before the ACC Tournament.

But Kansas brought some semblance of order as they claimed a share of their 12th consecutive regular season Big 12 Conference title–an impressive feat in any era, college or professional.

More updates to come as updates present themselves.  Please have yourself a great night and thanks again for reading.

 

 

 

CBS Sports expands Selection Sunday to two hours

First time change since 2002, when the tournament draw expanded from a then 30 minutes to a full hour starting at 6 p.m. Eastern time

According to an article posted on Thursday by Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com, the field of 68 will be revealed from New York roughly a half hour earlier (immediately following the call of the Big Ten Tournament championship game) at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

In other words, popular programs such as 60 Minutes, The Good Wife, and other typical Sunday night prime time fare will air at least 30 minutes later in the Eastern and Central time zones.  The Mountain and Pacific time zones will have those shows air at their regularly scheduled times.

Handling the hosting duties for CBS Sports covering their 35th consecutive tournament draw will again be Greg Gumbel and Ernie Johnson.  They will both be joined on set once again by Clark Kellogg, Seth Davis, Charles Barkley, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, and Doug Gottlieb.

First hour will reveal the entire 68 team field, but the second bonus hour will feature much more in-depth analysis and plenty of coaches interviews

One of the common complaints on why CBS cut the Selection Show short through the years was not hearing much pure Q&A with Jim Nantz and that year’s Selection Committee Chairman.  Going forward, Jim Nantz along with Bill Raftery and Grant Hill will get to join in on the fun while speaking with this year’s Selection Committee Chairman and current Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione when he joins the gang in studio shortly after the NCAA’s annual ten-member panel will end their Selection Briefing in New York City–instead of at their National Headquarters located nearby White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I also look at this time shift in three different aspects:

  1. We start the day waking up one hour later with Daylight Savings Time beginning at 2 a.m. that morning.
  2. Fans can begin filling out their brackets a half hour earlier than in years past.
  3. Bloggers like myself could use many quotes said by the coaches and the many CBS and Turner Sports personalities as instant fodder.

It has become so big that CBS Sports during the 1990’s had to create a separate division just to sell the marketing rights when they held full exclusive rights to the then 63 games of the tournament after its’ initial expansion in 1985.

But with TBS, TNT, and TruTV providing most of the cable fun–hopefully all cord cutters will not miss out as you too can join in using the NCAA March Madness Live app on your smartphones, or logging onto ncaa.com on any desktop and laptop.

And Yours Truly Online will have the usual rant and rave that will be sure to please (or shock) my fellow fans and other interested online friends later that Sunday night.

Yes, there will be a Pop Quiz sometime the week of March 6, so study smart!

 

 

 

Under The Microscope: Vanderbilt and Temple

SPECIAL NOTE:
This blog is dedicated to the memory of a college basketball visionary who headed up TVS Sports in the 1960’s and managed to give Dick Enberg his first nationally televised assignment announcing “The Game of The Century” when Houston upset UCLA in 1968 in the first ever college basketball game inside a domed stadium–right square on second base at the former Houston Astrodome.

He would later become the head of CBS Sports and eventually went on to become Vice Chairman of the Chicago White Sox baseball team following the 1981 season–staying at that post right up to their World Series victory over Houston in 2005. Eddie Einhorn passed away on Wednesday at the age of 80 following complications from a stroke.

If you get some time, please check out his 2006 book and special DVD enclosed on how college basketball in general and the NCAA Tournament in particular has evolved after the first years under his watch:

aa

Image courtesy of purfoodsfitness.com

I was one of the first fans to grab a copy when Amazon first marketed it, and it is definitely enjoyable reading the stories of many past coaches, current coaching legends at Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville, and the many broadcasters that worked under Eddie for many years from the likes of NBC’s Al Michaels to a former partner of Jim Nantz of CBS Sports in the 1980’s that did Utah Jazz games in the late great legend “Hot” Rod Hundley.

Here is a link where you can buy your own copy:

http://www.amazon.com/How-March-Became-Madness-Tournament/dp/B00ZVO3SFY/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1456506404&sr=8-3-fkmr0&keywords=when+march+became+madness

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Vanderbilt Commodores, Southeastern Conference

Good Wins:   February 4 vs. Texas A&M, also swept season series with Florida.

Bad Losses:   November 25 on neutral court vs. Kansas (top ranked in RPI at the time), December 6 at Baylor, December 9 vs. Dayton, December 22 at Purdue, January 9 at South Carolina, January 23 at Kentucky, and January 30 at Texas.

RPI Breakdown:  55 overall, 72 in non-conference play.

Brief analysis:  1-5 against the RPI’s Top 25.  They may have a 9-6 record in the SEC good enough for 4th place, but their game Saturday vs. Kentucky could speak volumes.  If not, they would have to pretty much win the SEC postseason tournament just to have a chance.

Percentage chance on reaching the Big Dance:  33 percent.

Temple Owls, American Athletic Conference

Good Wins:  February 4 vs. Tulsa and swept season series with UConn.

Bad Losses:  November 13 and 22, both on neutral courts vs. North Carolina and Utah, December 13 vs. fellow Big 5 opponent St. Joseph’s, and February 17 vs. then top-ranked Villanova.

RPI Breakdown:  56 overall, 145 in non-conference play.

Brief analysis:  You could safely point to the January 2 loss at Houston as their possible reason why they may not reach the Big Dance.  They would have to run the table in the AAC Tournament just to get in.  Even with the same 17-10 overall record as Vanderbilt, the overall body of work just isn’t there in my mind.

Percentage chance of reaching the Big Dance:  10 percent.

Xavier’s upset of Villanova might shake up the brackets

SONG SELECTIONS:

The Staves, “Steady” found on the If I Was album, released on February 2, 2015 by Nonesuch Records

and Fleet Foxes self-titled album and the song, “White Winter Hymnal”

Released June 3, 2008 on the Sub Pop record label

Wednesday saw a trio of upsets in the Top 10, but none bigger than Xavier upsetting Villanova 90-83 led by Kris Jenkins scoring 22 points.  The Musketeers almost scored at will, and was almost as relentless as the heavy wet snow that pelted areas south and east of Chicago during most of Wednesday afternoon and evening.

How does scoring 40 points in the first half and 50 big boys in the second half?  That should win you a lot of basketball games.

Even after Wisconsin upset Iowa on the road 67-59 and Colorado upending Arizona 75-72 in Boulder, you can safely make the argument that anywhere from six to eight schools are very worthy of occupying the four Number 1 seed slots.  I cannot recall any year in recent memory where we have had some very good teams worthy of occupying the lower 1 seed line, as opposed to having groups of the high 2 and high 3 seeds.  And yes, Colorado was mostly left for dead around King Day, but here they are–back in the tournament conversation again.

Again, the Selection Committee puts more value on what happens during the regular season.  Even if for example, Xavier and Villanova lock horns at MSG in New York for the Big East title game–it will pretty much be a foregone conclusion on who will be part of that number 1 seed conversation.

Unlike last year, we all knew about Kentucky, we knew about Wisconsin–but the only pure drama was during the last day when Virginia watched Michigan State blow its’ chance at the final Number 1 seed losing the Big Ten title game to in-state rival Michigan State.

Bottom line folks, stay tuned.  It is going to be a mostly bumpy ride as we enter Leap Weekend 2016.  See you over the weekend, depending on how big the upsets are.