Archive for March, 2010

The Logistics of 96

March 31, 2010

Rumors are abound that the NCAA is going to, perhaps as soon as the March 2011 season, expand the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams from the current 65.  While I am not wild about the possibility I thought I would explore what this would mean in a nuts and bolts fashion.

First of all, how would the teams be organized?  If you keep the current system of 4 Regions that would be 24 teams per region.  Seeds 1-8 would have first round byes.  The first round would be 9v24 (winner to play 8), 10v23 (winner to play 7), 11v22 (winner to play 6), 12v21 (winner to play 5), 13v20 (winner to play 4), 14v19 (winner to play 3), 15v18 (winner to play 2), and 16v17 (winner to play 1).  After that first round you would have a field of 64 much like today’s (if form held exactly like today’s) format.  You could simply assign 6 teams to a pod instead of 4 and you could play games on Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week of the tournament; buildings would be Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday and Wednesday-Friday-Sunday.  Regionals and the Final Four would be just like now the following two weekends.

A more radical idea would be to go to 8 Regions with 12 teams in each region.  The first weekend would maintain the traditional two rounds being played, either by going back to the old system of having two sub-regionals per region but with two sub-regions in the same building, or you could have pods of 3 with 4 pods per building.  The first weekend would get each Region down to 4 teams, or 32 for the whole tournament and you would play Regional semis and finals the 2nd weekend like we do now.  The departure from normal would then come from not having a Final Four, but rather an Elite 8 at the championship site, which is what they do at the Division II level.  The National Quarterfinals could be played on that Thursday, with the Semis on Saturday and the Final on Monday like now.

As for the field itself I don’t know that it would necessarily make the tournament more boring.  People have very understandable fears of diluting the field, but old timers can tell you about the same fears when it was expanded from 32 to 48 or to 64.  What would basically happen is that the teams that are currently 15 and 16 seeds would become 23 and 24 seeds (maybe a seed line or two higher in the odd case) with a mix of mediocre power conference and decent 2nd, 3rd, 4th place mid-major conference teams filling in some cases into 13 & 14 seed lines with the bulk in the 15-22 seed range.  By and large these teams are just fractionally worse than the teams that currently and would continue to occupy the 9-12 seed lines.  They would then play each other in that opening round, thus by definition eliminating half of themselves, including likely most of the small conference teams that 1 and 2 seeds pound in oftentimes boring games.  But they would be playing someone more on their level and a lot of these games would likely be competitive.  Then with better teams winning high seeds would not have the walkover in the Round of 64 that they do now.  To use 2010 as analogy, Kansas would be playing Illinois and not Lehigh in the Round of 64.  Barring upset they would still be playing Northern Iowa in the Round of 32.  So at least in some ways it could make the Tournament better.

Another interesting factor is television.  I don’t know how interested CBS or any broadcast network would be in that first round, particularly the 4×24 format.  I could see ESPN showing 1st round games, and perhaps also the 2nd round or at least the afternoon portion of it, with CBS or whoever coming in the opening weekend.  On the other hand, the only change from the current schedule with the 8×12 format would be a 3rd Thursday.  I think a network could find a way to fit some National Quarterfinals into their schedule.  Perhaps they would play two games Thursday night and two games Friday night, then play Sunday and Tuesday night.  Either way would work.

Like I said at the top I am not personally anxious for an expansion to 96.  Personally I would maybe suggest expanding to 68.  That would mean having “play-in” games for all four 16 seeds.  Just make a day of it in Dayton on that Tuesday.  By having 8 teams on the 16 line it pulls other, stronger teams down a line and opens 3 spots on the bubble around the 12 or 13 line and again makes for a perhaps stronger 1st round.

Santonio Holmes Case Closed

March 30, 2010

Seems that the woman involved has changed her mind a couple times the past 3 weeks:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10089/1046721-66.stm

Either way I would like to suggest that members of the Pittsburgh Steelers might want to avoid nightclubs for awhile.

Pirates Making a Mistake

March 29, 2010

Not hardly an eye-grabbing headline I realize.  But it seems that manager John Russell has caught Tony LaRussa over-think things disease and plans to bat the pitcher 8th:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10088/1046523-100.stm

Without even commenting on the notion that the Pirates lineup is stacked with talent I would simply like to suggest that since a time Abner Doubleday still walked the Earth managers have traditionally batted their weakest hitter last in the order for a very simple reason.  Last comes up to hit least.  If you want more runners on ahead of McCutcheon, bat him 3rd not 2nd.  When you bat the pitcher 8th he’s that much closer to the meat of your lineup killing rallies.  When you bat the pitcher 8th he will have to get pinch hit for more quickly.  God intended for pitchers to bat 9th, and Russell is over-thinking things here.

Of course, if it actually works after 17 seasons of futility the man will be hailed as a hero.

Winter Classic Coming to Pittsburgh?

March 28, 2010

All indications are the New Year’s Day 2011 version of the NHL Winter Classic will be Washington vs Pittsburgh at Heinz Field:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10087/1046280-61.stm

If all of this is correct that would be a tight turnaround to build the rink in 8 days after the Steelers play at home on 12/23.  Also, will they be able to do this and leave the field in good shape for a potential home playoff game?  If the Steelers were to land the 3rd or 4th seed that would be wildcard weekend on January 8th or 9th which leaves them a week to tear the rink down and get the field in playoff football condition.  PNC Park would be easier logistically but as the article says its a smaller place with a lower seating capacity, and I think the NHL rightly believes the demand for tickets would be there to fill Heinz Field.

Also, what the article fails to address is weather.  Pittsburgh is a northern climate in this country but its not Buffalo or Chicago.  Sunny and 50 degrees is not beyond the pale by any stretch if the weather flow that day is zonal or a ridge of high pressure in the east with winds out of the southwest.  Heck I have certainly seen temps in the 60s in January before though that is rare.  If it is that warm keeping the ice firm will be a challenge, especially on a temporary cooling system.  Still, if this does come to fruition it’ll be a lot of fun.  I’m sure NBC likes the thought of Ovechkin v Crosby on this stage.

4 Good Games

March 28, 2010

Sorry for the bland title for a rather exciting slate of Elite 8 games that just concluded about one hour ago.  I can’t say my memory is perfect but I’m not sure the last time all 4 Regional Finals were that competitive.  Action got started with the slipper still fitting for the Butler Bulldogs and they took down Kansas St in a game that closely mirrored their Thursday night win over Syracuse.  Get out to the lead, see the Wildcats make a run late in the 2nd half only to make all the plays in the final 90 seconds of the game to seal the win.  Of course, this team doesn’t compare to, say, George Mason in terms of being a true cinderella.  #5 seeds don’t make the Final Four every year but its certainly not beyond the pale, and this team was highly ranked all season with a couple quality wins.

The Saturday nightcap saw West Virginia overcome Kentucky despite not making a single solitary 2 point goal in the first half.  8 3s and then a few foul shots had them leading at halftime and they slowly pulled away in the 2nd half as the Wildcats were increasingly frustrated by the Mountaineer defense.  Also, Jay Bilas was 1000% right late in that game when Mazzoulo was on the bench with 4 fouls, then eventually out with 5; why wasn’t Kentucky in a full court press?  They were down roughly 10 points the last 6 minutes of the game but with no point guard on the floor WVU may’ve been quite vulnerable to turnovers on a pressure defense.  Was certainly worth it to find out.  The Mountaineers being able to advance without their starting point guard, in honor of Dick Enberg’s last NCAA Tourney game, is certainly worthy of an Oh my!

Sunday was started by a compelling game between Michigan St and Tennessee that was tight throughout.  The Spartans got the shooting foul call at the end that Ohio St didn’t get Friday night and made the free throw for the winning point.  Given that Tennessee had a timeout left I thought they should have inbounded the ball to midcourt with the 1.6 seconds left and called another timeout immediately to set up a catch and shoot play that would’ve been more reasonable than a halfcourt heave.  But give the Spartans credit for figuring it out (again) how to win without their best player.  A lot of coaches would pay good money to figure out how Tom Izzo does this every March.

As a brief aside Verne and Raf revisited the end of the Ohio St game Friday night and continued to pretend that it was a good no call on the final play.  I’m sorry even if Prince did get a clean block he knocked Turner to the ground and you are not allowed to do that.  But I guess CBS is protecting the NCAA here, and, perhaps more to the point, they have a large contract with the SEC in football so they are always kind to the teams in that conference.  Its usually Gary Danielson that does the shameful shilling during football season but Verne Lundquist knows how to do it too.

In the final game we finally had a #1 seed advance to Indianapolis as Duke won its first loseable game in the tournament by beating Baylor essentially on the strength of superior offensive rebounding.  Also Scheyer is damned lucky he didn’t connect with that elbow after he called timeout late in the game.  A Baylor player coming in late and shoving a Duke player ended up (correctly) getting the only technical on the play and that pretty much finished sealing the deal, but things could’ve been very different if Scheyer connected with the elbow that got Acy upset.

Again as a brief aside I liked how CBS again covered for the NCAA in their pregame tease by making it sound like Duke had the harder road to the Regional Final because they played the higher possible seed in all 3 games whereas Baylor played 3 double digit seeds.  That’s a nice factoid but California and Purdue were no threat to the Blue Devils; Old Dominion and perhaps St. Mary’s were really better than, or at least comparable to both of those teams (in the case of Purdue I speak strictly of the post-Hummel product that was on the floor).  Its a fact the Committee gave Duke a relatively easy road to Indy; whether by accident or by design I’ll let others debate.

Anyhow we are now down to the Final Four.  Butler v Michigan St and West Virginia v Duke.  I have not seen officially but I assume the 5 seeds game will be first at around 6:06p with the Duke game the nightcap at roughly 8:40pm.  Also, the Bulldogs and Spartans are on the same seed line my figuring is the Spartans will get to wear the home uniforms.  On the theoretical S-curve they were in the region of the #1 overall so that would make them the “best” #5.  Whoever wins the WVU v Duke game will be the clear favorite in the final but nothing would shock me at this point.

Turns out Congressman Cantor Was Making It Up

March 27, 2010

His office window wasn’t shot out after all:

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/joan_walsh/politics/2010/03/26/phony_eric_cantor_story?source=newsletter

Sinead O’Connor on Pope Benedict XVI

March 27, 2010

She’s not a big fan of his:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/25/AR2010032502363.html

Refs Push Vols Into Elite 8

March 26, 2010

Evan Turner was plainly fouled in the last second of the game putting up the would-be tying 3 point shot and refs chose to ignore it.  It was just as plain as the foul late in the Xavier game last night, especially in the context of a game where the Bucks were called for fouling air at least 3 times on Tennessee flushes.  Seth Davis and CBS, mindful of how much the NCAA pays them, is currently on-air in the mid-games studio segment pretending it was a good no call, but that’s just bullshit.  Of course, the Buckeyes may not have been in such a desperate position (Turner does have to hit all 3 at the line if they do make the call) if the refs had been willing to believe that a white guy (Diebler) can make a clean steal which would’ve put OSU up 4 with about 2 minutes to play.

Of course, the Vols certainly did earn having a chance to win this game as they did exactly what I feared.  Their rotation of players allowed them to play pressure defense and force the game up-tempo.  In addition, to an appalling degree they were able to control the lane area dominating the inside scoring stat and offensive rebounding.  It didn’t help Ohio St’s cause that Diebler had a terrible night shooting, but Tennessee did a lot of things well to be in this game.  I just wish it hadn’t been reffed by the worst officiating crew I have seen in an NCAA Tournament game . . . since Robert Morris v Villanova 8 days ago.  They called Lighty for his 3rd foul early in the 2nd half when he was pushed from behind by a Volunteer into the ball handler.  They ignored Chism shoving a Buckeye out of the way clearing the lane for his teammate.  They missed lots of stuff.  And now, if Kentucky and Tennessee both make the Final Four (which I consider fairly likely at this point) we all get to hear from CBS how completely wonderful the SEC is when its not even football season.  Argh!

Hatfield and McCoy to be Revisited

March 26, 2010

When West Virginia and Kentucky square off in the Regional Final Saturday evening in Syracuse after both posted strong wins Thursday night.  The Mountaineers struggled with Washington before pulling away in the 2nd half while Kentucky outgunned Cornell after the very early stages of the game.

The West semis last night were a tad more interesting as Butler became the first Horizon League member to reach the Elite 8 by upsetting top seed Syracuse.  The ‘Cuse clearly didn’t play their best game but credit should go to Butler for forcing the game on their pace and making the plays the last 3 minutes of the game after the Orange had claimed a 4 point lead.  As for the Kansas St game wow!  Xavier was down 19-4 early and stormed back to make it an even game by halftime and it stayed even for another 30 minutes.  Obviously a certain amount of focus today on the refs missing KSU’s foul with about 5 seconds left that would’ve been double bonus 2 shots before the foul they did call in the act of shooting that was 3 shots and let Xavier force overtime.  Either way I still dislike that strategy to foul on purpose up 3 points.  I understand the thinking but why lengthen the game when you are leading?  Just play defense.  If the guy makes the shot on tough defense tip your cap and play overtime.  By fouling you introduce more things that can go wrong.  He could be in the act of shooting.  He could make the first and miss the 2nd on purpose and they get a rebound.  Maybe even a rebound put back and 1 that lets them win.  Or, as in the case of what the Wildcats tried to do last night, you foul with several seconds left maybe he makes both and you fail to get the ball inbounded properly and they still have time to score again for the win.  I say use the KISS rule and just play defense.  Of course, Kansas St. did that at the end of the 1st overtime and the dude hit a deep 3 to force a 2nd overtime.

Four more games tonight.  Obviously rooting for the Buckeyes against Tennessee.  If OSU prevails I can then sit back and watch Northern Iowa v Michigan St with an even heightened level of intrigue.  My assumption is Duke and Baylor will win the two games in Houston but we shall see.

Homer Laughlin, Hall China to Merge

March 26, 2010

The two East Liverpool area potteries will combine:

http://www.reviewonline.com/page/content.detail/id/525293.html?nav=5008

Hopefully the marriage will allow the remaining portion of the local pottery industry to remain vibrant.  And I encourage my readers to become plate turners and look for their back stamps!