Sunday, March 16, 2008

Selection Sunday

It's one of best sporting days of the year - "Selection Sunday" - for the Men of college basketball. I'll be watching games all day and for good measure, I'll keep my notes here for the majority of the day.

12:00 pm: My day starts in Charlotte, NC, where the ACC tournament was coming to a close between the Clemson Tigers and UNC Tar Heels. Like the rest of tournament has been so far, this game didn't fail to impress. Both these teams have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the tourny and are now just playing for seeding and bragging rights.

12:50 pm: Ty Lawson scrambles for a last shot before halftime and the shot wiggles out... I was ready to jump out of my seat.

1:11 pm: Just realized the orange/baby blue split on the sidelines. Pretty funny to see. On another note, it's ridiculous to watch that Tiger full court trap. Maybe that's how this team has been playing all season, but I can't possibly see them keeping this up for 40 minutes not with this kind of intensity, but at this point in tournaments, a lot of teams are running on pure adrenaline.

1:17 pm: They show the graphic for last time Clemson was in an ACC title game (1962). I don't know what's more impressive - Dick Vitale's senior year at Seton Hall or 31 cents for a gallon of gas.

1:27 pm: Clemson's starting to fall apart just as I suspected. They're playing softer and more timid than they were in the 1st half. The Tigers are missing shots and not getting 2nd chances, while UNC is starting to run and get their game going without any relent.

1:45 pm: It's getting down to the 5 minute mark and Clemson's making a last run attempt. The score's 74-67 and Danny Green's fouled out of the game. I'm going on a quick lunch break (don't worry I'll be watching the game while eating though).

2:03 pm: 4 point game, UNC's Wayne Ellington at the free throw line trying to ice the game. Ellington misses one. Clemson gets off a solid look from three (Ogilesby) and Carolina rebounds to get the win.

2:14 PM: Never mind on that call. 15 minutes later, UNC is fouling Clemson like they're the ones needing a miracle comeback. This is ridiculous. The game finally ends at UNC 86, Clemson 81, but it was not a smooth ending for the Tar Heels and they need to figure some things out before getting ready for the tournament.

Next game(s): Big Ten title: Illinois VS Wisconsin, Big 12 title: Texas VS Kansas, SEC title: Georgia VS Arkansas

ESPN is running the Big 12 title game, which by all means is probably the best game of the afternoon. The most intriguing has to be the SEC title matchup since Georgia is an under ".500" team going for an auto-bid and taking a potential bid away from other "bubble teams". The matchup I'll be watching though is the Big Ten because of the home bias for Wisconsin, even though this game will probably ugly and relatively unwatchable to the average fan.

2:24 pm: Eww, I just realized Billy Packer and Jim Nantz would be doing the Big Ten title game. I might be watching a lot of the Big 12 title contest.

2:40 pm: It's not even possible for this Big Ten game to be uglier right now. 14:07 mark in the 1st half and the score is... 8-4 - Ill. - Wait! 8-7! Wisco hit a trey.

2:46 pm: This Big Ten is at 10-10... I'm switching to the Big 12 and it's eff'in 35-34. Who in their right mind would watch the Big Ten when there's a game of this caliber on right now. KU and UT are just shooting lights out. Both these two teams are showing why they're both threats to win it all.

2:59 pm: Just decided to check in on the SEC and UGA is up 26-9. There's no typo there - the 16-16 Bulldogs are up on Arkansas 26-9 with 10:00+ left in the 1st half. If Georgia makes this tournament, someone on that bubble is gonna be quite bitter.

3:01 pm: The Big 12 is at the half and we'll have to refer to this score again once the Big Ten has reached their halftime as well, but this score is currently on pace for triple digits for both teams. Halftime score: 46-45 Texas.

3:11 pm: The Big Ten is at the half with Wisconsin leading 29-22 on Illinois. Wow, I honestly just hope that this game reaching triple digits combined scoring. Don't let that close score fool you either. A 7 point lead in this type of contest might as well read 39-22 in other leagues.

3:14 pm: So I'm reading the KU/UT box score and Augustin's got 18pts in the 1st half (by the way, the 2nd half of the contest just began) and I had to think to myself, DJ Augustin is quite easily the best point guard in the country and he's probably also the best 1-on-1 player as well. There's no other guy in the country that makes plays as easily off the dribble as Augustin, for his teammates as well as himself. If he stays at school after this season, which he may considering he is a bit undersized for the next level, he's got to be the frontrunner for player of the year next season, unless Tyler Hansbrough is at UNC again next season, which he obviously may as well. IMHO, Augustin should enter the point guard deep draft because he's got enough talent and savvy to be a lottery pick.

3:28 pm: Kansas is showing how good they can be. Mario Chalmers is trumping DJ Augustin's performance with 25pts of his own. They just have so many weapons and talent that any of them can go off on a given night. Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson, Sharron Collins... The list continues and all of them can play defense, which isn't showing in this hot-shooting affair, but is definitely true. The score is 57-54 Kansas at the 11:00 mark in the 2nd half.

3:32 pm: Checking in on my Badgers and it's going well. Wisconsin has taken a 39-26 lead with 16:00+ minutes left. As long as they keep up the D, which is one of the great ones of this season, they should cruise to the title and a #2 seed.

3:37 pm: Just checked in on an NBA score (LAL @ HOU since Houston's going for 22 straight wins) and the Rockets are beating the Pau Gasol-less Lakers 59-44 at the half. The game is on ABC if you want to see the Rockets continue to target history.

3:50 pm: Wow, that's about all I can say about this Big 12 game. It's completely crazy how up-and-down it is and it's definitely lived up to the hype. The teams keep going back and forth, Kansas just made a bit of a comeback to take a 70-69 lead on Texas.

3:53 pm: The graphic was just shown and there have been 14 lead changes and 6 ties. 72-71 Kansas.

3:54 pm: Went to the Big Ten score - 53-35 Wisconsin, and even though there are 8 minutes left, an 18 point lead in the Big Ten against a defensive team like Wisconsin is just not gonna get overcome. Sorry Illini, your NCAA tournament bid looks to be over.

4:05 pm: Kansas has a 78-73 lead with under a minute left. Chalmers has 28pts going to the line. Hits the 1st and then hits the 2nd. 80-73 and the Big 12 title will goto the Kansas Jayhawks as well as what i believe will be a #1 seed. Texas will likely drop to a #2 seed, along with Wisconsin, Tennessee and Duke (those are my predictions anyway).

Final Scores of these final tournaments:
ACC: 86-81 UNC over Clemson
Big 12: 84-74 Kansas over Texas
Big Ten: 61-48 Wisconsin over Illinois
SEC: 66-57 UGA over Arkansas

4:18 pm: The SEC is now switched to CBS after the finale of the Big Ten tournament. Georgia, after their ridiculous start, has come back down to Earth and is in a tight one with Arkansas. There are just under 4:00 left and the score is now 56-53.

4:24 pm: WOW, Georgia may have just clinched the contest. Billy Humphrey just hit a trey ball with just under 2:00 to put the score at 61-53 for the Bulldogs.

With the games over, the bracketology basically only just begins. Over the next hour or two, the committee will release the entire bracket and there will clearly be snubs and teams that "shouldn't" be there. I'll give my thoughts when they occur.

4:49 pm: Some downtime before the selection process begins so I turned on the Houston/LAL game (Thanks G-Nads for letting me watch the Lakers lose and Kobe stttruggle). And I gotta admit, Houston's looking impressive. I get that you need to be hot to win 21 straight (perhaps 22 now - they're up 96-86 with 3:15 left), but this team looks pretty legit. T-Mac is playing like he cares and that he wants to take this team as far as they can go. The role players know exact what to do and they do everything that is needed to win.

5:00 pm: The Houston/LAL game is almost over, with Houston's 22nd consecutive victory coming in with little doubt. I've switched over to CBS where the seeding and bracket is being released.

5:01 pm: The #1 seeds are just as I thought they'd be a week ago, UNC as the #1 overall, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas (in that order). UNC is out East, Kansas is the Midwest, UCLA is in the West and Memphis down South. UCLA and Memphis would be slotted to meet each other in the final four, with Kansas and UNC to meet on the other side.

5:08 pm: The East region is now being revealed. Indiana is an 8 seed, WOW. This is real surprising to me. I knew IU had a bad close to the season, but didn't think they would drop past a 6 seed. It just shows the end of the season is really crucial for the tournament seeding. The 2 seed in this region is Tennessee, which is chilling since Tennessee was on the cusp of a #1 seed. A real intriguing matchup at 1st glance already is the 4/13 matchup between Winthrop and "Wazzu". WSU has struggled throughout the Pac-10 and Winthrop has been a tough win for many top tier teams in the past few seasons.

5:15 pm: The Midwest region is the 2nd region to be revealed. The #12 seed in this region was Villanova, a team that was definitely on the bubble. Wow, I can't believe this just happened. At 1st look, this bottom half of the bracket might be the toughest in the field. With Georgetown at the #2, Wisconsin at the #3 and USC at the #6, any of those teams could come out of this region to potentially face #1 Kansas in the Elite Eight. I like that 5/12 matchup, a lot. I think #5 Clemson's weaknesses shooting FT's makes them an easy candidate for a loss, especially against a bubble team like #12 Villanova, who's played so many close games in the deep, tough Big East

5:23 pm: Next is the South. MSU is the #5 in this region and I don't think they'll have too much difficulty taking down Temple. Pittsburgh rose a ton by winning their Big East title to get a #4 seed in this region. Texas is the #2 in this region and are my early favorites to be in the final four out of this region. They might have a tough time with Stanford, who's the #3 seed in this region. Looking at this region early, I'm seeing a lot of tough matchups, which makes this region one of the deepest revealed so far.

5:31 pm: Here's the last one: the West. The #5 in this one is Drake, who surprisingly won the MVC. They face #12 Western Kentucky. This makes my one favorite pick of a 12 upsetting a 5 stand because I actually like Drake and believe they're a legit team. Arizona broke the bubble and made it as well as a #10 seed. Georgia, a part of the last game played, got in as a #14 seed and play #3 Xavier.

Well, the brackets are now out and from what I've seen, there are quite a few surprises. I can't believe my Badgers didn't get a #2 seed. They were without a doubt the #1 team out of the Big Ten, a weak conference this season, but also the conference that has sent 2 teams in the past 4 years to the final game. I was surprised Villanova and St. Joseph's made the tournament with at larges, while teams like Illinois State, Va Tech, Arizona State and Ohio State did not make it. Many of the selections seemed pretty correct, but from what I'd heard recently, ASU and UofA had very similar resumes and for one to get in and not the other is a bit questionable. I also thought Va Tech showed enough during the season and in the ACC tournament to make it in. They finished ahead of Miami in the ACC and got the shaft, while Miami is dancing. A simple way to pick my favorite would be to just pick it. I like UNC. There's not really much doubt in my mind right now. They've got a couple of potentially tough games with IU (#8, 2nd round), Notre Dame (#5, 3rd round) and Tennessee (#2, Elite Eight), but I think the fact that they have some "home" games to play (all of their games are in the state of North Carolina until the Final Four) for the Final Four will get them out of their bracket. That being said, I think they are stronger than any other team in the nation and is playing as well as anyone else and with these facets considered, they will get there at the very least and have a great shot at winning it all. All this being said, I will spend much of my next four days figuring out my brackets and will update some upsets and picks I see happening. Happy March Baby! (Thanks Tibs for the idea of a Running Diary on one of the biggest sporting days of the year)