In the words of the immortal Ralphie, Oh Fudge…

“Oh fudge…” was originally going to pertain to six losses in thirty-six games, but now it speaks to my stupid computer and it’s inability to operate on the most basic level. When I woke up this morning, my computer refused to wake up with me. As I washed the crust from my eyes, my computer remained wrapped in the blankets of an hours-old alcoholic stupor. It thought we were still at the 6740 in Uptown Whittier, and it wouldn’t stop trying to order a drink, even though I had cut it off before halftime of the last set of games.

So while I was trying to finish writing about the round of sixty-four before the first game of the round of thirty-two, my infernal helper droid wanted to go back to bed. So I tried to be patient and drink my coffee, and considered saving the dregs for the keyboard in vain hope of waking the damn thing.

Well, the first game of this round is done, but it swung the way I thought it would (I have brackets visible for all to see on Facebook and at espn.com), so I will continue to March on (not pun intended, but it works), and this little persnickety device at my fingertips will have to trudge along behind at its inefficient clip.

Right now, I need to address First Friday. No art festival this, as many of the illustrious teams of the NCAA Tournament had trouble scoring in the double digits. I don’t speak of heralded players but ENTIRE TEAMS. Ugh.

Let’s take Cal Poly: The only team in the tournament with a losing record, for the season, the Mustangs scored 81 points in their play-in game. They had an unbelievable ONE turnover in that first half. In the first half of the game against Wichita State, Cal Poly had one field goal. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But Cal Poly did only manage twelve field goals for the entire game. They scored 37 total points, with less than half provided by their starters. The Shockers of Wichita State managed only 64 points, but let’s make sure to note that their starting five got A LOT of rest. And their bench got a bunch of NCAA Tournament minutes, which may serve them well when called upon in their next game.

Kentucky vs Kansas State: Wildcat versus Wildcat, paw a paw. Now, despite being over-hyped as the preseason number one team in the country, Kentucky has shown their youth and its pitfalls, and that continues and will continue to shadow them throughout the remainder of their time in the tournament. But they have played well of late, and hell, their coach is John Calipari. He may not know how to get his players a college education but the man knows how to peak at the right time. The score is what we’re dissecting right now, and 56-49 does not make anyone feel good about their chances moving forward. These two can score, particularly Kentucky, and they’ve done so against a very strong schedule. I did not include this game as one to watch, because the outcome seemed obvious. Kansas State, a team that needs to make its bones playing the best competition it can muster, decided to cakewalk through their non-conference schedule. They played the 296th weakest non-con in the country, and it shows. That flavor of cupcake might work for Louisville (298), but not for the Wildcats of Kansas State.

Enough of that. Let’s get to first Saturday.

Florida wins.

I’ve done my rant about Ohio State, and Dayton steps into their shoes. I had OSU going to the round of sixteen, meaning neither Syracuse nor the Flyers would win this game, so I don’t really care who crawls out of this one, but let’s just say Syracuse. Both teams score at the same clip, but Syracuse boasts a defense ranked 18th in the country, against the 19th strongest combined offense. Dayton’s D is ranked 101. You see where I’m going with this, and with that, I move on.

Good for Harvard. I can’t reiterate enough: read the first post. I think my take on the Harvard/Cincy match-up is hilarious. And now they face the hated Michigan State. Hated by Michigan fans like me. With talent through the Breslin Center ceiling, and a fine coach in Tom (love the name) Izzo, they will Be in Arlington, Texas, at the stupidest venue in the history of ever for college basketball, Cowboys Stadium, to compete in the Final Four. Double boo.

I did not foresee the University of Saint Louis winning against North Carolina State. Even watching the second half of the game, I didn’t see it, until I did. Yuck. Nonetheless, Louisville was going to win this round. But let’s talk Billikens. One of their players is named Rob Loe. I loved him in Bad Influence, you know, the movie where he films himself having sex with two women, only to shortly thereafter be busted in real life for filming himself having sex with two underage girls? Watching the Billikens, he is truly timeless. And how about Jordair Jett? Are you thinking what I think his mom was thinking? “These are gonna be his favorite shoes. I bore him to play hoops.”

Villanova vs UConn. Cats versus Dogs. Another great movie, probably. I’m sure my niece and nephew have it in their library. Myself, I’d rather watch this game. Villanova scores a little better, gives up a little more in opponents’ offense. Barely. Villanova has a faster tempo (again, barely), but they’ve proven they can go bucket for bucket against the nation’s best offenses. UConn wins in the defensive category, but Villanova wins the game.

I will not be writing much more about Villanova in the future, so my computer can settle down and stop telling me I’m spelling Villanova wrong.

I didn’t see North Dakota State coming. I mean, I had heard that they were strong, and I believed it, but Oklahoma crushed them in every single statistic except for the head-to-head match-up. North Dakota State won the first/last one. The match-up against San Diego State should be a good one, with SDSU’s seventh-best defense in the country, and NDSU not caring one bit about who they play. San Diego State has a pretty good record against well-matched teams, and they have  Steve Fisher. And I don’t know about his shot-making ability, but he’s a damn fine coach. I mean, where the hell were the Aztecs since Tony Gwynn was their point guard? Answer: they were waiting for this coach. SDSU takes it.

Oregon vs Wisconsin: Much like their football compatriots, Orygun (see bumper stickers) is always a run-and-gun team. Unlike their football brothers, the Ducks’ basketball team yields less offensive production. Wisconsin plays a slower tempo, with better offensive results. Wisconsin also played the fifth toughest schedule in the country, against the third best average offenses. Badgers eat Duck for dinner.

Last but not least, it’s Michigan versus Texas. I don’t want to talk about it; I’d rather focus my energy on wishing. Big Blue. Dah dunt dunt Dah dunt dunt dunt Dah dunt dunt Dah dunt dunt dunt Dah Dah …

See ya later. I have balls to watch.

 

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Oops I’m still right.

Very cavalier title, no? No nods to Cleveland or University of Virginia. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a trifecta of “no”s. Enough about the first two sentences; let’s get back to the title. Oops. But what are you gonna do, pick ’em all? What am I, Warren Buffett?

Answers to questions 1, 2 and 3. Yes, and rhetorically so. Next. No. And no. And if I were Jimmy Buffett, I’d be a billionaire and I could set up a trust for ABC Textbook Company to re-write the history books after we’re all dead and/or gone, and then future generations will see that indeed, a billion dollars does come with a perfect bracket. But one billion dollars is not why I decided to set up this blog.

I set up this blog to write, and I will eventually write about myriad subjects, and all subjects will pertain to my interests. I continue to write about the tournament because I like the tournament, and it’s something to write about.

Let’s start with the good stuff, meaning the stuff I got right. This will be short, because my patience for gloating, even my own, is considerably short. This will change as I my picks for the most part continue to prove true. but for now, let’s keep it humble, because there is not too much to write about until the entire first round is over. Fine, second round. I mean the round of sixty-four.

I’m going to digress here, because I need to address the play-in games. Once upon a time (not too long ago), there were no play-in games. And their existence is not ruining the tournament by any means. Once I figure out these eleventh and twelfth round play-ins, I’ll probably find some merit it them. If nothing else, they may lend even more excitement (is that possible?) to the bracket. Why the loser of these games are eliminated I still haven’t the foggiest idea. Don’t fret, I will do the research after the tournament is over, but for now I don’t care.

I called Stanford. Yeah, it was a seventh seed versus a tenth seed. Hardly an upset. Except Mark Calcavecchia. He’s upset. Tiger’s happy.

See how short that was? Now let’s address my First Thursday shortcomings.

Ohio State lost to Dayton by one. How do I explain that? I don’t. But I’m a Michigan fan. Fuck The Ohio State University. And thanks for making the Big Ten look bad, you jerks. Go pass a class.

Harvard beat Cincinnati. This was a game I tagged as one to watch. If you haven’t read my pre-game take on this one, go back to the last post. I’m pretty funny.

I’m going to start this next game with what I scribbled in my notebook yesterday:

“Oklahoma is going to overtime against North Dakota State. Oklahoma missed the back end of two double-bonuses in the last minute of regulation so, if they ultimately lose, they did it not in overtime, but in the first forty.”

And they did it. Oklahoma lost.

Two more lifts from my notes last night, both pertaining to the last of the games I got wrong yesterday:

“NC St. is in overtime with St. Louis and trailing with time running out.”

Huzzah! NC State lost too! My what a lead they had! Pwflttt.”

Yippee. I’ll post again after the second day of the round of sixty-four (this day, and this round) is over.

[I thought I had posted this yesterday, but it was not visible on the blog page, so I freaked out, thinking I had lost it entirely. Alas, it was in my draft folder, so here it is, and the follow-up should be available in half-hour or so. Oops indeed!]

So much for a good step forward…

This blog is made for writing, and so you might expect the first post of this blog to pertain to writing. And the only similarity this post will have with actual writing is the use of words. Instead, it will be about basketball.

Boys basketball, to be more precise.  And to be less obtuse, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. My bracket is filled out, and I am now going to explain why my first round picks (do the play-in games count as a round?) are better than yours, until such time as my picks lose to your picks, and I will follow this post with another detailing why I was wrong, how you are probably still wrong, and what will happen in the consequent round.

Regarding the play-in games, my picks will make themselves apparent when I explain why said teams will win or lose in the round of sixty-four. Side note: What the hell is going on with three play-in games in the same region, and the outcome of a possible twelfth seed loser going home while a sixteenth seed gets a free ride to the round of sixty-four? It should be noted that I watched very little college basketball this season, and I paid even less attention to discussions regarding such games and their teams, and the answers to my queries are not pertinent at this time, as I have made my picks, and someone could enlighten me regarding how these concepts became actionable outcomes.

I also didn’t look at records. Oops. If you look at the overall win-loss statistic (meaning preseason and conference record combined) as it relates to success in the tourney, it appears extremely telling, yet the stats that I look to in order to predict success tend to suggest  similar results. So, despite my disregard of the win/loss column, the outcomes stick to the same pattern: the winners win, those who win with less regularity against equally-paired others who win with greater regularity against equally-paired others will win less, and so on, until the metrics suggest it’s too close to call, or the basketball gods deem otherwise. Once the ball is tipped, what’s left on our end is gut instinct, loyalty to one’s higher-learning institution, and crossed fingers, and on the other end, nineteen year-old boys with raging hormones and sweaty palms and, with the full realization that for the first time, millions of pairs of eyes are watching them, crossed fingers.

This is why it is important to look at match-ups. In the earliest rounds, talent rules. But when metrics collide, when certain statistics suggest that one team, though superior in talent pool, recruitment strength, program treasury, et cetera, may not match up well against a team with very different attributes, then tournament seeding may find itself sitting shotgun. I will highlight each second round example, and why these particular games will be the most rewarding to watch, but first, I give you the sure things (until I am proven otherwise):

Every 1 seed wins. I’m not kidding.

South: Virginia Commonwealth, UCLA,  THE Ohio State University (as some are given to say), Syracuse, Kansas. I’m going to reiterate a Dicky V. iteration from early in the season: KU is a Cinderella team. Yes, the same perennial powerhouse that features the preseason All-American Andrew Wiggins. I bet Dick Vitale also thinks the members of the Duke basketball team are Diaper Dandies. Quote me.

East: Michigan State, U. North Carolina, Iowa State, UConn, Villanova.

West: Oklahoma, San Diego St., Creighton, Wisconsin.

Midwest: Kentucky, N.C. State, Louisville, Tennessee, Duke, Texas, Michigan.

Let’s start with the South. The natural nail biters are the 8th vs 9th seed, and the 7th vs 10th games. Colorado versus Pittsburgh, and New Mexico versus Stanford.

Colorado is likely to beat the the teams they are expected to beat only three-fourths of time, while Pitt will win 88% of same. Pittsburgh also scores at a higher rate. The two teams defend absolutely equally, and Colorado’s tempo awards them a few more shots per game. But Pitt scores at a more substantial clip. The wrinkle is the Buffaloes strength of schedule. Much better, in conference and without. Which way to lean? The winning argument: the defenses Pitt has played against have averaged in the top 20 in the country, top 15 according to some. Now, Colorado has played against the top 40, which is not as disparate as numbers on their own may suggest, but Pitt’s clip and average winning scoring margin lean the scales Pittsburgh’s way.

New Mexico vs Stanford: Stanford scores less and allows more points… barely. Their tempo  is decimals apart. But Stanford’s strength of schedule, the average strength of their opponents’ offense and the average opponents’ defense are what separate these two teams. New Mexico has a higher success rate versus teams it should beat, but Stanford has had to confront much bigger fish than has NM, and still walks the walk.

East: Memphis vs George Washington is the most evenly matched game in the round of sixty-four. There is no glaring difference, only the most subtle of statistical footwork. Memphis’ schedule strength, the average opositions’ offensive firepower and defense they’ve faced lean (not too steeply) in their favor. if this game doesn’t go to overtime it’s because, assuming there are no key injuries, one team went bone dry or one team shot the lights out.

Cincinnati versus Harvard: Statistically, these teams are very similar. The difference? One team was recruited to get an education and happen to play basketball, and the other team was recruited to play basketball and then go play on the And1 circuit. The only other positive for Harvard, besides a starting salary of over one hundred thousand  dollars in their chosen fields, is that their non-conference schedule was more than twice as difficult as the Bearcats’, and they still kept their success at a higher level. Cincy padded their non-con with cupcakes, but have you seen Harvard’s conference competition? The Ivy is atrociously outgunned to battle anyone outside their league. Cincinnati wins but bounces in the next round. Yep. They’re playing Michigan State.

Baylor played one of the hardest schedules in the country. And those teams play some of the best defense in the country. And Baylor scores nonetheless. To go far in this tourney, they’d have to play at a quicker clip, with more possessions to show for it. Nebraska plays national-level defense, and has played the second toughest D schedule in the country. They get more possessions, with less to show for it. Baylor is better at winning games that tip in their favor. This is one of them. And I know I said I didn’t take game location in the tournament into consideration, but just to emphasize my pick: this game is in San Antonio. Baylor loses, not this time, but in the round of 32.

BYU vs Oregon: BYU played against better scoring teams, and won. But the teams they played weren’t so good at the defensive end. Okay, they were better than decent, but Oregon has seen better, plays it better, and scores more. Another one-and-done, Oregon takes the round of sixty-four.

Midwest: No real surprises here. The 8-9 game between Kentucky and Kansas State isn’t as close as it purports to be, St. Louis gets the heave-ho by 12th seeded NC St., UMass for some reason can’t field a team to beat Tennessee, and Texas beats Arizona State only because of match-ups. Talk to you later.