Tag Archives: ESPN

On Obama picking Vanderbilt over Harvard

President Obama filled out his NCAA Tournament bracket this week. It’s become something of an annual tradition these past three years. Andy Katz shows up in a suit, hauls along one of those oversized, cardboard brackets, and Obama grabs a sharpie, delivering his picks with that trademark cadence.

This really isn’t about Obama filling out a bracket. It is, to me at least, one of the cooler things he does. Less cool that he does it on ESPN. But Obama seems to know ball, and his brother-in-law coaches Division I basketball, and basketball just seems to be a family sort of thing; one of those things he shares with people he loves.

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Because sometimes you just want friends to tell you about cool things… the Brew House team offers up its weekly mix of author-supported goodness.

Television show: “Portlandia”

By now, Portlandia is a semi-famous television show, with thousands and thousands of viewers and dedicated loyalists*. Familiar faces from Hollywood’s comedy intelligentsia (read: Hipster Elite) make cameos. And there are recognized catch-phrases. And it really only took six episodes for the whole thing to become part of America’s modern hipster (read: young) zeitgeist.

*These are the same people that watch Kids in the Hall on Netflix and are still mad that other people can’t understand the brilliance of the old Comedy Central show, Stella.

At its core, Portlandia is an outrageous send-up of Portland’s social and cultural landscape (a place where “young people go to retire” and the “dream of the 90s is still alive”). And this, I think, is what makes the show so fascinating. It’s a show that pokes fun at Portland and all its idiosyncrasies. And yet, it’s prime audience is made up of people that are exactly like the citizens of Portland.  Continue reading

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Dancing in the dark

Editor’s note: It does feel like we’ve been pretty heavy on the college basketball lately. Then again, it’s March. So without further adu…

The story starts under the night sky. You leave work late on a Sunday, just as the day is about turn to Monday. You crawl into your car, and the voices emanating from the speakers start spewing advice.

Beware of the 12-5 upset. Look out for UTEP. There’s gonna be a champagne superNOVA in the South.

You rub your eyes. What are these people talking about?

You flip the dial. Another voice. Wait, an animal show? At this hour?

The voice is talking about Grizzlies and Mountain Hawks and Tigers. About Owls and Bears and Badgers and Huskies.

You take a deep breath and stare out in the deep, dark horizon. Is this a dream? Where am I? Who said that?

Better try another station.

Problem is, you stumble upon a show that’s even stranger.

A farming show? Could it be? Yes, a farming show. They’re talking about Cowboys and Aggies and Gauchos.

Click. Radio off.

Finally, you’re home. You stumble through the front door and collapse onto your couch. Perhaps you can reintroduce yourself to reality through television. It’s 12:15 a.m., so you hit the power button on the remote.

And then you realize. It’s worse than you think.

Your television has been hijacked by middle-aged men in luxury suits. Who are these guys?

They use words like “sleeper” and “upside” and “spurtability”. They ask questions about the abilities of Sam Houston and Robert Morris and Brigham Young.

What? You’re confused. Why are they comparing a former Governor of Texas with a major financier of the American Revolution? And what does Steve Young’s great-great-great-grandfather have to do with anything?

And then you realize. You’ve descended into madness.

*****

So yes, it all starts with the bracket. Sixty-four teams spaced evenly on that small white piece of office paper. Yes, there’s a random play-in game place somewhere off to the side. But that’s OK. It’s a small flaw overshadowed by perfection.

So yes, let’s start with the bracket.

And to do so, we must take a trip back in time. Before the internet. Before printable brackets ran up printing costs at offices around the country. Before ESPN had a network called ESPNU – and 87 straight hours of NCAA Tournament talk. Before the talking heads saturated our heads with cinderellas and upsets and chalk.

Yes, let’s go back to a simpler time. When it was just a kid and a bracket. Such a simpler time.

The tradition went like this: I would wake up on a Monday morning and search for the special NCAA Tournament preview section in the Kansas City Star. Inside, on page C6-7, would be the holy grail. The NCAA bracket. The first opportunity to see every matchup, laid out across the kitchen table. The Final Four logo was always in the middle, reminding us of the goal. Salvation didn’t lie within, it awaited your team in Indianapolis or San Antonio or St. Louis.

*****

Of course, the next part was the best.

You grabbed a pen and made your picks. Simple, right? Easy, right?

You studied the first-round games. You looked for any sort of hint. You analyzed coaches and matchups and the strength of each conference.

You probably made a few homer picks. You knew you had to pick a few upsets. You learned tricks along the way. Always pick at least one 12-5 upset. Nine-seeds actually beat eight-seeds more than 50 percent of the time. 16-seeds? Forget ‘em.

You found teams with great point guards. You searched for teams with experience and chemistry and intangibles.

And in the end. None of it seemed to matter. Your bracket would inevitably go bust. Sure, sometimes you would hit on a big upset. But nobody can be perfect. Nobody.

*****

So what’s the secret? Well, first, you must realize that there is no secret. Yes, you can use modern tools. You can look up offensive efficiency ratings. You can compare advanced RPI metrics. You can use it all. But there is no fail-safe.

Still, there is strategy.

For example:

1. Put all ones, twos and threes through to the second round.

2. Go through the other first-round games and go with your first instinct. If you have to think about it, skip that game and come back.

3. At least one No. 1 seed will make the Final Four.

4. There’s a reason why – since the inception of the 64-team tourney in 1985 — only two double-digit seeds (LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006) have made the Final Four.

5. Pay attention to coaches. Sure, they might not make much of a difference during the actual games, but there’s a reason why only 15 coaches have won National Titles in the last 20 years.

Breakdown by coaches (* means there actually in the field)
1. *Mike Kryzewski (2)
2. Roy Williams (2)
3. *Billy Donovan (2)
4. Jim Calhoun (2)
5. *Bill Self (1)
6. *Jim Boeheim (1)
7. *Gary Williams (1)
8. *Tom Izzo (1)
9. *Tubby Smith (1)
10. Lute Olson (1)
11. *Rick Pitino (1)
12. Jim Harrick (1)
13. Nolan Richardson (1)
14. Dean Smith (1)
15. Jerry Tarkanian (1)

6. In the same vein, only 13 different schools have won titles in the last 20 years.

Last 20 champs by conference breakdowns (Now, not at the time of the title)

1. ACC (7)
2. SEC (5)
3. Big East (3)
4. Pac-10 (2)
5. Big 12 (1)
6. Big Ten (1)
7. Mountain West (1)

7. If you need a tiebreaker, go with the coach with Final Four experience

Other coaches with Final Four’s in the field (number in parentheses)

1. Kentucky’s John Calipari (2 *though both were vacated…ouch)
2. San Diego State’s Steve Fischer (2) *won a title at Michigan in 1989)
3. Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt (1)
4. Georgetown’s John Thompson III (1)
5. Texas’ Rick Barnes (1)
6. Ohio State’s Thad Matta (1)
7. Villanova’s Jay Wright (1)
8. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (1 *at Cincy)
9. UNLV’s Lon Kruger (at Florida)

9. Lastly, work fast

*****

So let’s do it. Here it is… My 5-minute bracket. A little science… and a little speed.

Midwest Regional

(1) Kansas over (16) Lehigh – Duh
(9) Northern Iowa over (8) UNLV – Panthers are tough and experienced
(5) Michigan State over (12) New Mexico State – See Izzo, Tom
(4) Maryland over (13) Houston – Cougars lucky to get in
(11) San Diego St. over (6) Tennessee – Old coach strikes again
(3) Georgetown over (14) Ohio – Duh
(7) Oklahoma State over (10) Georgia Tech – first instinct… who knows?
(2) Ohio State over (15) UC Santa Barbara – Duh

Second round

(1) Kansas over (9) Northern Iowa – Going with chalk
(5) Michigan State over (4) Maryland – Going with coach with more Final Four’s
(3) Georgetown over (11) SDSU – Going with talent over Fisher’s coaching experience
(2) Ohio State over (7) Oklahoma State – Talent and coaching advantage for Buckeyes

Sweet 16

(1) Kansas over (5) Michigan State – Revenge for Jayhawks
(3) Georgetown over (2) Ohio State – Interior play carries Hoyas

Elite Eight

(1) Kansas over (3) Georgetown – Easy: talent and coaching on KU’s side

West Region

(1) Syracuse over (16) Vermont – (Just nod and move along)
(8) Gonzaga over (9) Florida State – Instinct pick; Who really knows?
(5) Butler over (12) UTEP – Hoosiers was filmed at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse
(4) Vanderbilt over (13) Murray State – Tough matchup for Murray St.
(6) Xavier over (11) Minnesota – Gophers are a fraud
(3) Pitt over (14) Oakland – Going by rules
(7) BYU over (10) Florida – Ignoring rules; love Jimmer Fredette
(2) K-State over (15) North Texas – (Nodding…)

Second Round

(1) Syracuse over (8) Gonzaga – Talent… check. Coaching…check.
(5) Butler over (4) Vanderbilt – Chitwoods pull it out.
(3) Pitt over (6) Xavier – Toughest call yet, but Panthers are battle-tested
(2) K-State over (7) BYU – Great defense over great offense

Sweet 16

(1) Syracuse over (5) Butler – Probably dumb, but going with Boeheim
(2) K-State over (3) Pitt – Teams are similar; Love Pullen and Clemente

Elite Eight

(1) Syracuse over (2) K-State – The ‘Cats ride ends in the regional final…

East Regional

(1) Kentucky over (16) East. Tenn. St. — (Breezing along)
(9) Wake Forest over (8) Texas – Longhorns are lesson in dysfunction
(12) Cornell over (5) Temple – Cornell almost beat Jayhawks, who destroyed Temple
(4) Wisconsin over (13) Wofford – Anybody know where Wofford is?
(6) Marquette over (11) Washington – Yea, I’ll sell on the Pac-10
(3) New Mexico over (14) Montana – Steve Alford primed to take Lobos deep
(10) Missouri over (7) Clemson – Dream draw for Mizzou
(2) West Virginia over (15) Morgan State — Love Bob Huggins’ sweatsuit

Second Round

(1) Kentucky over (9) Wake Forest – Wildcats chalk it up
(12) Cornell over (4) Wisconsin – Big Red will be tourney darlings
(3) New Mexico over (6) Marquette – Lobos have Big East-type talent
(2) West Virginia over (7) Missouri – Bob Huggins puts clownsuit on Mike Anderson

Sweet 16

(1) Kentucky over (12) Cornell – Sad to say… Wildcats have too much talent
(2) West Virginia over (3) New Mexico – Lobos lack muscle to stay with Mountaineers

Elite Eight

(1) Kentucky over (2) West Virginia – Wildcats have NBA talent and coaching — a potent combo

South Regional

(1) Duke over (16) Play-in winner – (nodding head)
(9) Louisville over (8) California – Honestly, just going with the nine-seed here
(5) Texas A&M over (12) Utah State – Aggies over Aggies… fun.
(13) Siena over (4) Purdue – Let’s hope Gus Johnson calls this upset
(11) Old Dominion over (6) Notre Dame – And the south region implodes
(3) Baylor over Sam Houston State – Bears’ Carter and Dunn play at home in N’awlins
(7) Richmond over (10) St. Mary’s – (nodding head)
(2) Villanova over (15) Robert Morris – (still nodding)

Second Round

(1) Duke over (9) Louisville – Coach K over Pitino — barely
(5) Texas A&M over (13) Siena – Saints not as good as 2009 version
(3) Baylor over (11) Old Dominion – Udoh makes difference for Bears
(2) Villanova over (7) Richmond – Once again, going with coaching

Sweet 16

(1) Duke over (5) Texas A&M – Blue Devils are efficient — Coach K’s OK, too.
(3) Baylor over (2) Villanova – Baylor wins playing “home” game in Houston

Elite Eight

(1) Duke over (3) Baylor – How’d Duke get this bracket again?

Final Four

(1) Kansas over (1) Syracuse

Payback for 2003. But really, it’s about Jayhawks being the more complete and efficient team.

(1) Kentucky over (1) Duke

Blue Devils are talented, but they just can’t run up and down with Wall, Patterson and Cousins.

Championship game

Kansas over Kentucky

This one feels like destiny. And it feels like 2008. Self versus Calipari. Kansas versus an uber-talented freshman guard. I believe the result would feel the same, too.

Kansas 75, Kentucky 68 – in regulation

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Passing around the scorn

“You get smaller as the world gets big
The more you know you know you don’t know shit
“The Whiz Man” will never fit you like “The Whiz Kid” did
So why you gotta act like you know when you don’t know?
It’s OK if you don’t know everything”
— Ben Folds, from the song “Bastard”

So let’s start here, because I really don’t know where else to start.

I usually don’t like to criticize people in the media. I guess that’s just the way I operate.

Of course, I operate this way for a number of reasons. First of all, we all know that there are plenty of people throwing jabs at media members. And really, who wants to join that argument?

Secondly — and I think this is the most important thing — I sincerely dislike the fact that many people seem to refer to the media as one singular body. There seems to be this line of thinking that the “media” is this one huge mass of people. And, of course, they all work in the same way. And, of course, everyone works together in the same room.

Of course, this is an exaggeration. However, I think there’s some truth in that statement, too.

For instance, did you know that “media” is plural?

Yep, it’s the plural form of “medium”. So whenever I hear someone say something like, “the media is” terrible, or “The media is” so biased, I really do start to cringe.

Of course, all of this is not that important. But it did cross my mind today… and that’s where we begin.

So I’m watching ESPN’s “Around The Horn” on Tuesday afternoon. To be honest, I really don’t watch this show that often.

I do enjoy Tony Reali, who seems to be a really gifted TV sports guy. And sometimes it’s nice to get a quick, 30-minute run-through of the bigger stories of the day.

And on Tuesday, believe it or not, “Around The Horn” led off with K-State’s Big Monday victory over Texas. So even though I don’t care much for “Around The Horn”, this did seem to be a nice moment for Kansas State.

I have a personal connection to Kansas State. My parents grew up in Manhattan. My sister went to K-State. And I remember the Tom Asbury and Jim Woolridge years, when K-State took the court with Pervis Pasco, Jeremiah Massey and a bunch of worthless spare parts. Those were tough years.

And now, K-State is back in the top 10, they beat the No. 1 team in America, and for 24 hours, they were the toast of college basketball*.

*And did you see that K-State coach Frank Martin said he’d “destroy” his players if they didn’t come hard at their next practice? That had to be one of the all-time great quotes after a victory, right? Here are the exact words…

“Wednesday, if we don’t come in and compete, I am going to destroy them.”

Tony Reali started by hyping K-State’s win. He mentioned Martin’s quote. He mentioned the fact that the Wildcats hadn’t beaten a No. 1-ranked team since 1994 (Kansas). And he mentioned that K-State’s students didn’t rush the floor — a move that is giving K-State’s students some major street-cred among people who care about such things.

But then Reali had to toss off the discussion to the first pundit, and in this case it was Kevin Blackistone*.

*Let me first say that I don’t want this to come off as a dig at Blackistone. I’ve never met the guy, but I’m sure he’s good people. And the guy is a pretty fine journalist. He’s been everywhere — The Boston Globe, The Chicago Reporter, The Dallas Morning News, and now he’s writing for FanHouse.com. However, I am going to use him as an example in a much larger problem.

Of course, Reali threw it to Blackistone using some hip language like this:

Reali: So, K-State students decide NOT TO RUSH THE FLOOR, you cool with this KB?

Blackistone: Yea. I’m cool with this, Tony. It was a good move. They THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO WIN THIS GAME. K-State has a good team this year. They came in ranked ninth (in the coaches’ poll) and Curtis Kelly — this guy is a great player. He’s a National Player of The Year Candidate. He’s a double-double threat every time he takes the floor.

Now, I’m not sure if you follow college basketball. And even if you do, you probably don’t follow K-State basketball that closely. So let’s take things slowly. But there is one sentence here that I want you to pay close attention to.

“Curtis Kelly — this guy is a great player. He’s a National Player of The Year Candidate.”

Thing is, I’ve been following K-State pretty closely this season. Obviously, I haven’t been following the Wildcats as closely as say, an actual “K-State fan”, but let’s just say that sentence seemed a little off.

Hmm. Let’s look closer. How about we find some stats?

Let’s see here… K-State junior forward Curtis Kelly.

So Kelly, who is in first season at K-State after transferring from UConn, is playing 22.8 minutes per game.

He is averaging 11.4 points per game. So he’s not exactly piling up the points.

The 6-foot-8 Kelly is pulling down 6.3 rebounds per game. Hey, that’s not too bad.

He’s shooting 65.7 percent from the free throw line. He has 47 turnovers against just 24 assists. And how about all those double-doubles he’s recording? It seems he’s had two.

Well, to be fair, he did have 18 points and 10 rebounds against Ole Miss in a K-State loss.

And he did have 11 and 11 against IUPUI. And he did put up 15 and 9 against Xavier.

But according to the information I received from the google machine, that only makes two double-doubles. Hmm.

And to be really honest. He has scored in double-figures in 11 games. Then again, he has scored fewer than six points in four different games.

But let’s go back to that statement one more time.

“Curtis Kelly — this guy is a great player. He’s a National Player of The Year Candidate.”

Now let me slowly take a sip of water, and…(clearing my throat) Really? Really, Blackistone? National Player of The Year?

Now perhaps Blackistone made an honest mistake. Maybe he got some bad information from a friend. Who knows? It’s just one measly comment about some basketball team from Manhattan, Kan. Sure, that basketball team just knocked off the No. 1 team in the land. But can we really expect one man to know every little detail about every team in the country?

I guess that’s the whole point of this little exercise. And it’s the same reason I find myself watching ESPN less and less.

It’s just simply unreasonable to expect anyone to know everything about every sports story in the country. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kevin Blackistone, or Woody Paige, or Skip Bayless, or Kornheiser, or Wilbon, or Greeny and Golic.

All these thoughts were coming together when I thought about that great song from Ben Folds.

“So why you gotta act like you know when you don’t know?
It’s OK if you don’t know everything.”

And yet, all these talking heads on ESPN must know. I mean, they do work for ESPN, right?

Hey, I know it’s there job to go on and talk about the big stories of the day. But just once, I want to hear one of these guys say something like this:

“You know what. K-State played great last night. The home crowd was rocking. Frank Martin is an unheralded guy, and he’s doing a great job building that program. And hey, I didn’t watch the whole game, and I don’t know all that much about this K-State team. But keep an eye on them. They just took down the No. 1 team in the country. And they play Kansas in a week… and that place is going to be crazy.”

There’s one more thing that I find interesting about this discussion. And that’s the fans. Listen, I know I’m speaking in huge generalities, but bear with me. Please.

In general, fans seems to hate their hometown media.

The hometown newspaper is a rag. The local TV stations are jokes. And grown men on message boards seem to spend way too much time discussing how much the local sports radio stations suck.

This seems to happen everywhere.

And yet, fans seem to love the national media*.

*Hey, did you see ESPN.com has a story about us?
Yo, we’re on the cover of Sports Illustrated. We’re the shizz.
Hey, Tony and Mike were talking about us on PTI.
Hey, did you see they mentioned us on Around The Horn?

These words have been said by thousands of fans across the country. Fans of many teams and fans from many cities.

At the same time, the local beat writer at the newspaper is a tool. And all the local radio hosts are idiots.

I have so many personal feelings about this discussion. Yet, at the same time, there’s a little bit of truth in everything.

There are some local media member that are brilliant, and there are some local media members that are less than brilliant.

There are some members of the national media that are phenomenal, and there are some that… well, struggle.

And sometimes, I turn on ESPN and I hear someone say that K-State’s Curtis Kelly is a National Player of the Year candidate.

And then, I just don’t know what to say. But then, I hear Ben Folds and I feel better.

Remember… It’s OK, if you don’t know everything.

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