Thursday, March 17, 2005

Diary Of A Bracket Gone Horribly Wrong, Pt.1

OK, I feel like I'm about to beat a dead horse, but here goes:

Can we please stop berating the Illini for not always looking like the 1996 Bulls? Please? The Tribune's Rick Morrissey, being his usual whiny self, has plastered a column on the front page today bemoaning an Illini team that he feels is playing, in so many words, lousy. Blah, blah, blah. Of course, this is par for the course for Morrissey, who would find the negative in world peace.

Gee, how nice of Morrissey to piss in the Wheaties of Illini fans this morning. Nothing like advancing in the tourney to bring out Morrissey's expected warnings of impending doom.

I don't know what Morrissey, or anyone else, was expecting from the Illini's first-round matchup with Mr. Farleigh Dickinson. Maybe they were expecting a bevy of high-flying dunks, some Harlem Globetrotter-esque trickery, a 30-point blowout, and for FDU to elect not to come back out after halftime. Sorry, it doesn't always work that way, Rick.

Not anymore. Not with the current state of college basketball when the most prominent young stars are often already in the NBA. The difference between the big guys and the little guys is not what it once was. Toss in the fact that players at schools like Farleigh Dickinson are playing in the biggest spotlight of their lives, juiced to the gills with energy, and relatively close games are more and more becoming the norm. Washington, Wake Forest, Kentucky, and Gonzaga all struggled to dismantle lowly seeds. This is normal. The question, often, is no longer "Can an underdog keep it close?" Rather, the question has become "How close will an underdog keep it?"

That said, did the Illini play their best? No, they can play better. However, there is no use in continually criticizing their lack of perceived dominance as they continue to win one game at a time.

Man, Chicago sports fans are always expecting the worst. And it doesn't help when guys like Morrissey get front-page billing to stoke the negativity.

-- With the Illini's Achille's long suspected to be their inside game, Nevada's 6-11 Nick Fazekas, 6-10 Kevinn Pinkney, and 7-foot Chad Bell should provide an interesting matchup dilemma.

-- Can UAB get a little respect? It was nice to see the Blazers dismantle LSU after many wondered how they even managed to sneak in with an at-large bid. If you haven't seen the Blazers play, make an effort to. They play defense the old-fashioned way - like dogs after loose meat. I love it.

-- LSU? Alabama? The SEC is looking weaker than a Mark McGwire non-answer.

-- Was Milwaukee's win over Alabama the most expected "upset" ever? Who didn't have the Panthers winning that game in their bracket. I mean, other than me, of course, who also saw two of my Sweet Sixteen picks fall already. I may be the worst bracket builder - ever. (By the way, I refuse to add the 'UW-' to the Panther's name. It's pointless.)

-- Bruce Pearl should be on the short list for a lot of jobs at bigger schools - even if he looks and sounds like a member of the Soprano family. He might be a perfect fit for UNLV.

-- Cincinnati looked like it may have restored some of its defensive swagger that used to dominate in the '90s before the Bearcats became infamous tourney paper tigers over the last few years. And Jason Maxiell is an absolute beast. Perhaps they will prove Kentucky correct in dodging the Bearcats on the schedule for several years.

-- Maxiell vs. Kentucky's Chuck Hayes. This matchup could be brutally beautiful.

-- I wonder if a lot of drugs are consumed in Boise. Perhaps there's little to do in Boise but drugs.

First, the Broncos football field is blue. Interesting. Now, their basketball court is adorned with massive, colorful drawings of Broncos' heads. Hmm. Something must be spurring these strange ideas in their creativity. Yesterday, I had a sudden urge to drop acid and watch nothing but the games in Boise.

(The court looks cool, actually.)

-- So, has CBS decided that every commercial break must run at least one annoying ad featuring Coach K? It's ridiculous. Coach K is selling out faster than U2 tickets. It's no wonder so many people despise Duke. Particularly annoying is the commercial where Coach K stares directly into the camera and, basically, offers his best recruitment speech.

"I don't want to improve you only as a player...but also has a student...and a person." Or something along those lines.

Hey, Coach K, get off my TV screen! You really need that extra cash from American Express, huh? Why not just run an ad where Dick Vitale implores the nation's best high schoolers to enroll at Duke?

I patiently count the minutes until the Blue Devils lose. Call me petty.

-- Warning: Billy Packer will be broadcasting games today. Have a remote control handy.

-- Confession of a hoops junkie: Last night when CBS's tourney broadcast ended, I felt edgy and my hands began to visibly shake. My forehead was moist with sweat. Luckily, I switched over to ESPN2 and caught some of the UNLV-Arizona State NIT game. And the rush of relief was immense.


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