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For a second year in a row the Butler Bulldogs couldn't quite put together a run at the NCAA Championship Game. 2011's contest saw the perennial underdogs fall to the UConn Huskies by a final score of 53-41. Butler shot just 12-64 from the field, including a 1-13 night from star Matt Howard, and though Connecticut shot just 19-55 themselves the Huskies managed to end the game having made fewer mistakes.
Shelvin Mack went 4-15, with all his makes from behind the arc, to pace Butler with 13. Even Kemba Walker wasn't immune to the low-scoring morass; he picked up his game-leading 16 points on 5-19 shooting, including an 0-4 performance from behind the three-point line. If it weren't for UConn's 14-16 performance at the foul line I'm not sure either team would have scored any points at all.
With 94 points scored between the two squads, and no particular defensive brilliance on display, the 2011 NCAA Championship Game was just final proof that a great NCAA Tournament cannot, no matter how great, promise a watchable national championship game.
I don't think I've heard a ever heard a whiter description of a basketball player than the great line our own Jason Kirk dropped ahead of the 2011 NCAA Championship Game's opening tip-off (and I read Larry Bird's Drive twice!): "Matt Howard has been the awkward but relentless engine" of Butler in propelling them to their second straight national championship appearance.
It's in reference to this article, in which Butler coach Brad Stevens tells us Howard's "mind and his motor are different." Which is a strange quote, because it seems like what Coach Stevens is actually saying is that his mind and his motor are both going to make up for any athletic deficiencies when it comes time to translate his skills to the NBA. In other white-athlete-adjective news, he's later described as crafty and competitive.
I bought a bunch of these in bulk—they came with my copy of Drive—so I'd like to leave some of them out here, in case you have a use for them. "Stick-to-itive"; "gritty"; "blue-collar"; "hard-workingest"; "gym-ratty"; "play-hardiest." Oh, do I have too many play-hardiests.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to people who enjoy the anybody-can-win spectacle of the NCAA Tournament, but there’s a second piece to being beloved 2011 NCAA Championship Game underdogs—the matter of being picked to lose to the other team. In early betting action the odds have UConn favored by 3.5 points, which would be strangely low if the NCAA Tournament weren’t so strangely close all the time.
The line has already moved from its initial position, which had the Connecticut Huskies on top of the Bulldogs by four points; apparently betters love the underdog so far just as much as the average casual tournament fan.
For what it’s worth, The UConn Blog is, at this very moment, one of the most confident SB Nation blogs in the universe, with a confidence poll that hovers around 90 of late. That’s what happens when you’re in the presence of Kemba Walker and the Kemba Walker Philharmonic, and while I’m sure they’d demure if asked directly, they would probably also be happy to bet UConn to win by more than four points.
No. 8 Butler won the Underdog Derby Saturday, dismantling the No. 11 VCU Rams in the Final Four for the right to be outseeded by No. 3 UConn in the 2011 NCAA Championship Game. The Bulldogs reach the national championship for the second season in a row, having lost to Duke out of the No. 4 spot in 2010. For UConn, who bested the Kentucky Wildcats by a single point, it's the first trip to the championship game sinc etheir wins in 2004 and 1999. Since Jim Calhoun arrived in 1986 they've reached the Final Four four times, all since 1999.
Butler had been ranked just three times before the arrival of coach Brad Stevens—including the year before Todd Lickliter departed for Iowa—and they've been ranked as high as 16 every year since. But 2011 was shaping up to be his worst year with the program before their memorable NCAA Tournament run; they got just a week into the season before leaving the AP rankings for good. Apparently Horizon League performance is no adequate measure of March Madness performance...
Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies came through in the last minutes of an incredibly close Final Four contest Saturday to defeat Kentucky 56-55 and advance to the NCAA Championship Game. 2011's No. 9 squad in the nation are now the NCAA Tournament's bad guys; they'll take on eight-seeded Butler as the closest thing this national championship has to a top seed. Walker led both sides with 18 in a grindingly slow game that saw the teams combine to make just 10 of 39 three pointers. Brandon Knight had 17 on 6-23 shooting for the Wildcats, whose most efficient scorers were Terrence Jones, with 11 points and 15 rebounds, and Doron Lamb, who added 13 points off the bench.
The Huskies led by seven at the close of the first half, but Kentucky rallied early in the second as Connecticut stalled, and the two teams were neck and neck the rest of the way, although Kentucky led just once in that second half. The Wildcats just couldn't quite overcome Knight's poor shooting, and that means Kemba Walker, one of college basketball's most dynamic scorers, will take center stage at the National Championship game.
The VCU Rams racked up a high score of low-seed casualties through the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but it was No. 8 Butler who was finally able to knock out the giant-killers, dispatching No. 11 VCU by a score of 70-62. It was much closer than all that; VCU was within four before falling behind for good and, backs against the wall, playing the joyless intentional-foul game for the rest of the night. Jamie Skeen led VCU with 27 points and six rebounds in the loss. For the winners, Shelvin Mack had 23 points and six rebounds, including a crucial five point run to put the Bulldogs ahead for good in the second half.
Butler advances to the NCAA Championship Game, where they’ll play the winner of the upcoming UConn-Kentucky overdog bracket. It’s Butler’s second consecutive trip to the national championship, having lost to Duke as a No. 4 seed in the 2010 championship after advancing as a much less implausible underdog through that tournament.
Dear Final Four: Game Times are, admittedly, a touchy subject. Nobody wants to move theirs for somebody else; nobody wants to go first or last if there’s some perceived slight there. But 5:00 CDT, sirs? Calling at this hour is simply unconscionable. VCU vs. Butler may be the finest upset special in years, but that’s no excuse to interrupt our family time with your, your dribbling and your esoteric seeding practices.
Champ, pass the broccoli. Thank you. What bothers me about this—no, I will tell him, dear, I must—is that you won’t be done afterward. After monopolizing our conversation like that for hours, and this on the day Sophie was bumped up to accelerated reading, weren’t you, you’ll just start up the Kentucky vs. UConn game at 7:49. Now, I realize we’re just flyover country to you people, but here in flyover country we have a certain reverence for polite, family conversation around the dinner table. Perhaps that’s something they oughtn’t fly over at all, right dear?
So if you’ll excuse me, Champ, here, has some things to tell us about his algebra class. Go on, Champ, floor is yours. I’ll show you to the door, 2011 NCAA Tournament. Or can you see yourself out?
Congratulations, 2011 NCAA Tournament watcher, you've made it past the hiatus—the Final Four is tonight on CBS, with the VCU Rams taking on the Butler Bulldogs in the underdog bracket portion of the Final Four schedule starting at 5:00 CDT. That could well not be enough penultimate March Madness for you, in which case you should consider keeping the channel on CBS (or remaining inside Reliant Stadium) for the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies, who play at 7:49.
VCU and Butler are the stories of the tournament, everyone's favorite underdogs, and justifiably so; it's almost disturbingly perfect that a First Four team managed to come this far in the first year of everybody's least favorite new bracket addition. But I can't imagine many people will decide against that second, appropriately seeded dose of near-final college basketball.
After that it's just a short pause and the NCAA Tournament's National Championship, which will involve at least a No. 8 seed. Which is pretty cool, unless you were one of those one or two seeds who found themselves totally shut out of the Final Four.
Of all the things the internet has done for sports coverage, this is perhaps the most vital: It's led to an exponential increase in short-term, YouTube-hosted novelty songs. For the 2011 NCAA Tournament: This VCU Rams-related ditty, a "Hooked on a Feeling"-inspired number called "Shaka's Got 'Em Believing." It's very Shaka, but I'll have you judge for yourself as to just how smart you give it credit for being—
Ooga Shaka, indeed. I've got to admit—the production values are pretty strong all the way through. (No surprise: It's a production, apparently, of "The World's Greatest 70's Show Band.") I can't wait for their version of "Dirty Diana" when some team offers Shaka Smart Mike Anderson money to get taken for granted at a much larger institution. Do they have anything in jilted-lover parodies with a rhyme scheme that fits "Matt Painter"?
In the meantime, VCU fans are left to ponder what other songs they can fit their coach and folk hero's name into. My guess is that it gets much more difficult from here.
The penultimate day on the 2011 NCAA Tournament TV schedule comes Saturday, when the Final Four begins on CBS. No. 11 VCU will take on No. 8 Butler at 5:09 CDT, in the clash of the universal bracket murderers, while Kentucky and UConn, already overshadowed in this FInal Four by their upset-y brethren, will play the late game, set to go on at 7:49.
They'll be playing in Reliant Stadium, Houston's less-iconic replacement for the Astrodome. Mid-Major Madness suggests we "appreciate VCU and Butler for what they are", which is different, I guess, for appreciating them as part of a huge upset freak show. (Who knew—teams don't like being objectified any more than people do?) Meanwhile, ticket prices are apparently down from past Final Fours. People like watching Cinderella squads on TV, but they don't quite bring the alumni as readily as, say, Kansas and Duke...
After the Final Four you'll have to wait until the April 4 for the culmination of the March Madness Year of the
Pitcher Upset, when the National Championship hits CBS at 8:00.
All morning we've been talking about remaining 2011 NCAA Tournament teams who are forced, by way of the spectacularly bizarre Final Four bracket we have before us, to play roles that they wouldn't normally play. Even the UConn Huskies—third-seeded UConn, with one of the best players in college basketball in Kemba Walker!—is unable to resist the force of sportswriting narrative. Never underdogs by any means, Connecticut is left, thanks to VCU, Butler, and even Kentucky, playing the role of the evilest of evil superpowers, twirling its mustache for a leering crowd.
UConn is a long-time basketball powerhouse, a power-conference stand-out, and the only team that ever wins, so far as I can tell, the NCAA Women's Tournament, for good measure. But normally they'd at least have a No. 1 or No. 2 seed around to balance out the hate.
If they beat Kentucky in the Final Four they'll be left to play in a National Championship game in which nobody outside Connecticut—figuratively literally no one—is rooting for them to win. It's tough to find a neutral court when whichever team you're playing is America's sweetheart. So twirl away, UConn, and do the best job you can of tying that mid-major-in-distress solidly to the railroad tracks.
The Butler Bulldogs, last year's March Madness darlings and 2011 NCAA Tournament No. 8 seed, have done everything right as they enter the Final Four portion of their bracket on April 2. No matter—whatever they'd done this season, short of curing infant rubella, wouldn't have been quite enough to get them past the VCU Rams on casual-basketball-watching America's list of this year's underdogs.
So it's a good thing that they've already practiced being humble. It has to be tough for the Butler players—they must want so badly, like every athlete in the history of athletics, to say that nobody believed in them, that they were doubted all the way but they never doubted themselves, and unlike 99% of those athletes it would actually be true. Just not quite as true as it is for their Final Four opponents out of, of all places, Virginia Commonwealth, home of the "We Were Doubted All The Way But We Never Doubted Ourselves Rams".
"You start to get big-headed in any way and you could be brought down very easily," notes one of Butler's well-adjusted basketball players. Unfortunately for them, that's the role they're supposed to be playing in this movie...
Anybody even remotely categorizable as an underdog come 2011 NCAA Tournament time was bound to earn casual-fan plaudits if they got as far as the Final Four—consider Gonzaga's continued stint as ostensible underdogs, even now—but the VCU Rams, starting as a First Four play-in team and moving within a game of the 2011 National Championship, have everything going for them. Like George Mason before them, they're officially America's Team. Which is a lot of pressure to shoulder, for a team with no pressure.
The Post-Dispatch has a nice story on the subject; rather than play to that pressure-cooking public applause they get a bunch of name coaches, including SLU's Rick Majerus, to say that, hey, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams are a pretty good team, after all.
All things considered I'd rather by an underdog than an overdog, such as it is—it's never fun to be rooted against at no fault of your own, aside from your own excellence—but at this moment it has to be at least a little difficult being a VCU basketball player.
The Kentucky Wildcats' return to NCAA Tournament glory in making the 2011 Final Four would be a great story most years; unfortunately, this year it comes as Butler and VCU dominate the scrappy-underdog talk with their incredibly improbable NCAA bracket runs. A Sea of Blue did its best to counteract that narrative Monday morning after the Wildcats' big win over the UNC Tar Heels, writing about the Wildcats' long wandering in a relative March Madness wilderness.
Nobody's going to accuse Kentucky of being a basketball underdog, given their long string of NCAA Tournament championships, but after a run like that it's tough to miss the Final Four for 12 years running. (It's like the St. Louis Cardinals' long World Series "drought", as exercised in 2006.)
A Sea of Blue mentions Brandon Knight and Kentucky's "lights-out" shooting as key reasons for their run past UNC, and is just pleased, for now, that Kentucky still has a chance to advance further. They worry, of course, about UConn's primary gunner—"Kemba Walker is, in all honesty, too good to guard effectively."
The Final Four bracket couldn't possibly have worked out better than it did for NCAA Tournament watchers—we're now officially guaranteed to see a serious underdog team, Butler or VCU, come into contact with a team that has an impeccable March Madness tradition, UConn or Kentucky. (For a constantly updated 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket, click those red words to my cursor's left.)
If you're currently working on a spec script entitled Hoosiers: The College Years, now is your chance to stop writing that juicy Bob Golic part and begin lightly fictionalizing the incredible turns of event in a tournament that began with a notably unwanted bracket addition in the First Four. People literally didn't think the VCU Rams belonged in the tournament! Does it get any better than that?
FADE IN ON nobody believing in Cirginia Vommonwealth University's Goats. FADE OUT as Bob Golic hoists that championship trophy high, saying, "They never believed in us! But we believed in us!" Congratulations: You've successfully written a sports movie, albeit one a little more ripped-from-the-headlines than usual.
The Kentucky Wildcats, a fourth seed, would be a minor upset in last year's NCAA Tournament, but 2011 March Madness plays by different rules: They'll be playing against UConn in the 2011 Final Four for the chance to be the hated team going up against last year's famous four-seed, the Butler Bulldogs, or the 11-seed VCU Rams.That's their reward for beating the No. 2-seed UNC Tar Heels, the last high seed in the Elite Eight, 76-69. Brandon Knight scored 22 across all 40 minutes of Kentucky basketball to lead the way; remarkably efficient Tyler Zeller scored 21 on 12 shots to lead the Tar Heels.
Kentucky, now 29-8, was 10-6 in this year's SEC conference play. North Carolina finishes the season 29-8 with a 14-2 ACC record.
The mid-major side of the Final Four is a 64-team tournament first—it hasn't happened since Larry Bird took Indiana State to the Final Four along with Pennsylvania. Kentucky and UConn have a chance to finish off their NCAA Tournament schedule with a win, but they don't have a chance, alas, to do it as the People's Champion.
How's this for some March Madness: The 2011 Final Four is now without a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, with the VCU Rams taking on and beating the Kansas Jayhawks to sew up a berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament's penultimate round. The third 11-seed ever to reach the Final Four, they got out to a hot start thanks to a run of outstanding three point shooting and the Jayhawks could never quite come back, although with 13 minutes left in the second half they came within three. Jamie Skeen and Brandon Rozzell, who each hit four three-pointers, were the only Rams in double figures. Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris were the focal points for the Jayhawks' offense, combining for 33 points, 28 rebounds, and four steals. With the Butler Bulldogs opposite them in the Final Four bracket, one thing is certain—whomever manages to get into the other spot of the National Championship game is going to be rooted against mercilessly in the title game.
As of today we know that'll be Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies or the Kentucky Wildcats—who, and three and four seeds, would themselves be the upset special in a more rational universe. Hard luck for them, but I'm sure they'll take it.
The UConn Huskies and the Butler Bulldogs were the first teams to advance to the Final Four, reaching March Madness's second-highest pedestal Saturday night after eliminating the Arizona Wildcats and Florida Gators, respectively. It was a set of tightly bunched Elite Eight scores that Sunday's Kansas vs. VCU and Kentucky vs. UNC games will be hard-pressed to match.
Butler was just the second No. 8-seed in NCAA Tournament history to beat a 2-seed, and the first since the 1985 Villanova championship squad pulled the trick off twice. They'll be rewarded for their efforts with a chance to face the last No. 1-seed standing, if the Kansas Jayhawks can fell VCU tomorrow.
UConn will have one of two similarly tradition-heavy college basketball schools to deal with—they'll be watching to see whether it's four-seeded Kentucky, who dispatched the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sweet 16, or the UNC Tar Heels, the last two-seed with the chance to track mud all over the FInal Four's nice clean floors.
March Madness, along with March, is just about over—it all comes down to the National Championship game on April 4 in Houston. Check out SB Nation's college basketball hub to follow along on our constantly updated printable NCAA Tournament bracket.
Connecticut became the second team to reach the FInal Four bracket Saturday night, topping the Arizona Wildcats 65-63 in Elite Eight action. Star guard Kemba Walker scored 20 points and added seven assists and four rebounds to pace the Huskies, while freshman Jeremy Lamb picked up 19 with two steals. Jesse Perry and Derrick Williams were strong for the Wildcats in a losing effort, putting up 14 points and seven rebounds and 20 points and five, respectively. (For an updated NCAA Tournament Bracket reflecting the first half of Elite Eight action, click here.)
UConn, who beat No. 2 San Diego State to reach the Elite Eight, will face the winner of tomorrow's UNC vs. Kentucky game in the FInal Four. The Butler Bulldogs were Saturday's other Final Four entrant, upsetting Florida 74-71 in their own Elite Eight contest; they'll face the winner of No. 1 Kansas's Sunday game against No. 11 VCU.
The Final Four begins April 2; the winner of those two games will play in the national championship on April 4. Follow along here at SB Nation St. Louis or at SB Nation's NCAA basketball hub.
Butler reached the Final Four for a second March Madness in a row Saturday night, but their experience in the 2011 NCAA Tournament is more impressive even than that–they did it coming out of the No. 8 seed this season, knocking out the No. 2 Florida Gators 74-71 in an Elite Eight overtime contest. Shelvin Mack put together 27 points in the win, five of them in overtime, to lead the Bulldogs; after an outstanding Sweet 16 performance Alex Tyus scored 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Gators. It's the first time an eight seed has been a two seed since 1985, when Villanova topped North Carolina by a score of 56-44 and Memphis State 52-45.
The Bulldogs continue to win disproportionately close games, and they've now beaten a 1, a 2, and a 4 on their way to the NCAA National Championship game. Khyle Marshall added 10 points and seven rebounds—all offensive—for the Bulldogs, who managed to pull out a close game despite shooting just 17-27 from the free throw line.
Mel Kiper's hair is—and I'm speaking unequivocally—the NFL Draft expert's primary asset, and as we get deeper into 2011 NFL Mock Draft season it's only going to get more important. Which is why I'm amazed that he's suggested he'll dye it blonde if his Connecticut Huskies lose their Elite Eight matchup with the No. 5-seed Arizona Wildcats. That's like Michael Jackson betting the ability to moonwalk that he beats the Whip Warriors in Captain EO—it'll probably happen, but why take the chance?
If you're suddenly more interested in this particular matchup, UConn takes on Arizona tonight at 5:55 PM CDT on CBS. The 2011 NFL Draft season continues through the end of April, by which time Kiper should have some beautiful brunette roots showing through his hypothetical lost bet.
What I'm not sure about is what Mel Kiper gets out of this bet, besides a series of viral blog entries about his perfect coif. He needs to ask for something in return, like the opportunity to obliviate everyone who heard him talk up Jimmy Clausen before last year's draft.
SB Nation's 2011 NCAA Tournament printable bracket has been updated following the results of the Sweet 16, and the resulting Elite Eight bracket leaves Kansas with an exciting chance to just miss a March Madness bracket Upset Straight. Starting with No. 9-Illinois, Kansas has dropped No. 12 Richmond, faces No. 11 VCU in their Elite Eight matchup, and could get No. 8 Butler in the Final Four. If only a 10 seed from the other side of the bracket, Georgia or Penn State, had gotten out of the second round and stalked their way to a National Championship game; we'll have to settle for a hand of 16-12-11-9-8.
With the Elite Eight Kansas is finally the last No. 1 seed standing in the NCAA Tournament bracket—Pitt fell in the round of 32, while Duke and Ohio State lost on consecutive days of Sweet 16 action. In the East regional Kentucky, fresh from pruning a No. 1 from the ranks, draws No. 2 UNC; out west No. 5 Arizona was the assassin, and they'll get No. 3 UConn for their troubles. Butler and Florida complete the ranks of the remaining tournament teams, with Butler looking to win another ugly, slow upset on their way to a second consecutive Final Four appearance.
The Kansas Jayhawks took out the Richmond Spiders and the UNC Tar Heels dispatched the Marquette Golden Eagles with a minimum of fuss, with two of the top cinderella teams of the NCAA Tournament so far losing by a combined 38 points Friday. Kentucky slipped past No. 1-seeded Ohio State by a score of 62-60 to keep the upsets flowing, and in a battle of double-digit seeds VCU topped Florida State 72-71 in overtime. Such is the nature of the NCAA bracket updates come Elite Eight time—March Madness gets a little more sedate, but it doesn't get any less absurdly close.
Marquette's 15 points in a brutal first half is the strangest story of the night. Eight minutes into the game Marquette carried a slim 10-8 lead, but things moved quickly after that and UNC closed the half on an absurd 32-5 jog. Tyler Zeller led UNC with 27 points and 12 rebounds; Marquette got 16 points in 18 minutes from Davante Gardner, a freshman forward who'd averaged nine minutes and 4.6 points a game to this point. The bracket can be upset, but teams like Marquette often learn, around Sweet 16 update time, that it's pretty hard to push over.
San Diego State had no answer for Kemba Walker and UConn, and the Mountain West Conference champions—the best team in Aztecs history—couldn't hold on to a lead midway through the second half, falling to the Huskies in the Sweet 16 by a score of 74-67. The Aztecs, 34-3 in the final estimation, were led by Malcolm Thomas, who scored 16 points on 11 shots and picked up eight rebounds. They're the second two-seed to fall and the first in this NCAA bracket update; Florida won an overtime victory against BYU, and UNC has yet to face No. 11 Marquette. Kemba Walker scored 36 points while playing all 40 minutes for the Huskies, going 12-25 from the field and putting in eight free throws.
The Aztecs won their first 20 games in the regular season before losing 71-58 to BYU in January, but it took them two overtimes to top Temple in their round-of-32 matchup, following a 68-50 victory over Northern Colorado in the newly christened second round of the NCAA Tournament.
A rough shooting night for Jimmer Fredette meant the end of BYU's charmed season; the Cougars fell 83-74 to the Florida Gators in overtime when the nation's top scorer couldn't put a single point on the board in overtime. An outstanding game from Alex Tyus, who picked up 19 points and 17 rebounds, put Florida over the top, but four of five starters for the Gators scored at least 16 points. Fredette finished 11-29 from the field, including 3-15 from behind (and, at times, way behind) the three point line.
Fredette missed his first six shots before coming online near the end of the first half, but he was 0-2 with two turnovers in overtime, when the Cougars managed just six points. Florida's Elite Eight appearance is their first since 2007; they'll play Butler, who upset No. 4-seeded Wisconsin in their own Sweet 16 action.
In 2007 Florida, a No. 1 seed, beat Oregon in the Elite Eight before beating UCLA and Ohio State to win their second consecutive National Championship.
The Butler Bulldogs continued making NCAA bracket mince-meat Thursday night, topping Wisconsin 61-54 to continue their march from the eighth seed toward a second consecutive Elite Eight berth. The Badgers fought back after Butler went on a 12-3 run to open the second half, nearly erasing a 20-point lead, but Butler held on in the closing minutes to advance to another chance at an NCAA tournament upset, against No. 2-seeded Florida.
Butler continues to scrape by in a series of stereotypical March Madness nail-biters, which isn't exactly the way to convince the powers-that-watch that you're for real, but it makes for excellent TV, and that 20-point-lead just mustn't have been Butler enough for their tastes. (They'll have to lecture Arizona about it.)
Matt Howard led Butler with 20 points, including nine free throws, and 12 rebounds. Wisconsin shot just 17-56 from the field, with Jordan Taylor leading the team with 22 points on 6-19 shooting. Jon Leuer, who averaged 18.7 points per game for Wisconsin in the regular season, was just 1-12.
The No. 5-seeded Arizona Wildcats put up 55 points on the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils in a brutal second half to put together one of the biggest upsets in the NCAA Tournament to date. After trailing 44-38 at the half—with Derrick Williams having scored 25 of those points—the entire team erupted in a second-half that saw them outscore Duke by 22 points. The 93-77 final score is a startling end to the 32-5 defending champs' season, and it puts Arizona in a position to play the No. 3-seed UConn Huskies in the Elite Eight.
The Wildcats outscored Duke 39-24 after taking a 54-53 lead five minutes into the second half; Duke never had the chance to rally. ESPN reports that star Duke freshman Kyrie Irving, who scored 28 points in the loss, hasn't yet decided whether he'll come back for his sophomore season or enter the NBA Draft. If he leaves now, he'll do it with quite a sour taste in his mouth.
With the winnowing of the NCAA Tournament field to those Sweet 16, odds are relatively good that your March Madness bracket has officially become useless as a money-making enterprise. And if that's the case it's certainly lost any positive it's-Tournament-season vibes it was throwing off in late February. With that in mind, and given the nation's serious paper-art shortage after that fire at the National Museum of Napkin Origami and Straw-Wrapper Projectiles, I'd like to offer a few suggestions about turning your own failed NCAA bracket into a piece of inscrutable transgressive art. (If you don't have your own 2011 NCAA Tournament Printable Bracket, follow along on that one! Feel free to write your own incorrect picks for the Elite Eight and the Final Four into the margins before we begin; I like Pitt, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Texas, personally.)
1. Connect religion to something you dislike in a provocative way. Write the names of your 64 least favorite religions into the blanks of your bracket. The First Four teams are famine, pestilence, war, MTV Skins, and whatever else you're implicitly blaming on those religions. The 16 seeds are, say, Native Traditions. In the National Championship spot, write Hate!! or MTV scripted programming!! When you've finished framing your bracket, consider urinating on it.
2. When in doubt, get sociopolitical. Right now Kansas's Sweet 16 contest against Richmond is just a reminder that you thought it would be a great idea to be the guy who picked Louisville to come out of the Southwest bracket. But a sly, un-pin-downable sociopolitical assertion is a great way to turn the discussion from your dumb picks to Foucault's conception of power dynamics throughout history.
Bonus: The ketchup you spilled on your bracket while you watched the First Four at Buffalo Wild Wings looks a lot like dried blood!
Consider binding your printable NCAA Tournament bracket into an austere, hardcover book called THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, with the blood-ketchup spilling haphazardly over the word "history." Then consider urinating on it.
3. If you're short on time, just use the National Championship game. Fold your printable bracket in half and, with an adult's help, cut carefully around the Final Four with a fun pair of scissors. Out of the Southwest bracket, write in "The People!"; out of the East bracket, write "Big business!", or "Cynical Teen-Sex Dramas!" In the winner space, write in "Never us!" A glue stick and some construction paper will really brighten up even the worst failed bracket or indictment of the military-pornographic complex.
These are just three options; in the world of transgressive art, your future is limited only by how much you've had to drink in the last four hours. When someone wins your pool, and takes the cash prize, consider urinating on it.
The College Basketball Invitational nears the end of its schedule tonight, as semifinal action in college basketball's other other tournament pits UCF vs. Creighton and Boise State vs. Oregon. Both games will be televised live on HDNet beginning at 7:00 CDT; UCF starts the night at Creighton, with Boise State and Oregon coming to you from Eugene at 9:00.
UCF and Creighton found vastly different ways to get out of the quarterfinals; UCF beat Rhode Island by a score of 66-54, while Creighton and Davidson combined to score 194 points in the Bluejays' 102-92 victory. Boise State and Oregon were involved in much closer affairs; the Broncos won a 75-69 victory over the MVC's own Evansville, while Oregon topped Duquesne 77-75 at home.
The winners of tonight's semifinal games will play in the CBI's unique best-of-three championship series, which will air on HDNet beginning March 28 and continuing, if necessary, through April 1. That could cut into HDNet's Andy Richter Controls the Universe rerun time, but I'll try to cope with my standard-def DVD box-set in the meantime.
SB Nation's printable NCAA Bracket for 2011 has been updated to reflect the bloodbath your bracket took in the Sweet 16, which is either nice of my bosses or really cruel of them, depending on your perspective. You can find the official, regally titled 2011 NCAA Tournament printable bracket at that link, if you're into that kind of thing.
What was your biggest bracket-busting loss? Pitt is the only No. 1 seed out of the running as of the Sweet 16, but I can't imagine there were a lot of people in your pool picking Butler to rub them out. Losing Louisville in the first round was probably a minor disaster for a few people, and Texas a round later—the four seed seems like the place for maximum bracket carnage, because the teams in it could be plausibly chosen as upset candidates (obviously) and Elite Eight teams in equal measure. They seem chosen strictly to cut the bracket field as deeply as possible.
Which, mission accomplished.
As for that smug guy in your pool who picked Richmond to go all the way because he thought it was cool that they were named the Spiders—well, at least you won't have to put up with that much longer. (Though, to be fair, there's a very small chance that they beat Kansas and you have to put up with it forever.)
Heading into the Sweet 16 President Barack Obama's NCAA Tournament bracket, maligned though it may be for apparently causing the crisis in Libya, remains one of the top brackets on ESPN even after the decimation of most of his bracket for the Southwest regional. Those with an especially partisan kind of March Madness will be pleased or dismayed to note that the Commander in Chief's East and West brackets remain nearly perfect, with only Marquette's upset win over Syracuse out of place. Among the president's decidedly uncontroversial Final Four choices only Pitt is out of the tournament; Ohio State, Duke, and national champions Kansas remain intact.
For the president to win out the rest of his bracket he'd need Ohio State to top Kentucky and then UNC; Duke to beat UConn; Florida to top BYU in the Sweet 16; and Kansas to beat Ohio State in the National Championship game in Houston. If all of that happens I would suggest tuning into Sean Hannity on the evening of April 5, to see if winning the White House pool had anything to do with the United States' response to the recent Japanese tsunami.
Missouri coach Mike Anderson, recently linked to the Arkansas Razorbacks, will return to the Missouri Tigers with "a contract extension and a raise", according to a report from ESPN Monday night. Anderson would get an extra $500,000 a year for two additional years, pet multiple unnamed sources. Anderson, an assistant coach under Nolan Richardson for 17 years at Arkansas, was expected over the weekend to bolt Missouri for a return to Fayetteville.
The Post-Dispatch reported on the contract talks earlier today, suggesting that the Arkansas discussions were never as advanced as they seemed earlier in the weekend. There's been no indication that Arkansas ever made an offer, and Anderson's Missouri duties like recruiting have continued unabated.
If Anderson signs the deal he'll have seven years remaining on his contract, at a base salary of $2 million a year. Anderson, 51, has coached Missouri's basketball team since 2006, his second head coaching job after a stint at UAB from 2002 to 2006. He had been an assistant coach at Arkansas since 1985 before taking the UAB job and has been tied to the Razorbacks periodically ever since.
The College Basketball Invitational is no NCAA Tournament—or NIT, for that matter—but its quarterfinals round begins today, and the TV schedule shows Davidson at Creighton and Duquesne at Oregon on HDNet if you're deep in the throes of basketball tournament withdrawal. March Madness, after a fashion, found as follows:
The quarterfinals kick off with Rhode Island at the University of Central Florida at 6 PM, but that won't be televised; at 7 PM, on HDNet, you'll find Davidson taking on Creighton. The Missouri Valley Conference's own Evansville plays Boise State in Idaho at 8 PM, and the HDNet schedule closes at 9 PM when Duquense takes on Oregon at Eugene.
Last year's CBI champion was VCU, who beat out St. Louis University to take the title. The tournament began in 2008; each year it invites 16 teams who weren't selected for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. The University of Northern Iowa, former back-to-back MVC champions, were recently eliminated in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, a competing sub-NIT tournament.
The Missouri State Bears weren't able to make lemons out of NCAA Tournament Snub lemonade Monday—they lost 81-72 to the Miami Hurricanes in the second round of the NIT, struggling to the gate on their way to a 55-40 second half deficit. Adam Leonard scored 26 in the loss, with Kyle Weems struggling from the field on the way to 18 of his own. Durand Scott led the way for Miami, with 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Adrian Thomas's 14 points in the first five minutes of the second half led the way to the Hurricanes' comeback; a late Missouri State rally wasn't enough.
No. 1 seed Alabama holds a commanding lead over New Mexico in another of tonight's games; the winner will play Miami, with the winner of that game going to the NIT semifinals in New York.
Missouri State's loss to Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Tournament finals kept them out of March Madness proper; after one win in the NIT they've reached the end of a season that wasn't quite as successful as it could have been.
The first No. 1 seed of the tournament fell over the weekend, when the Pitt Panthers dropped a crushing, free-throw-laden game to No. 8 Butler by a score of 71-70, but the top of the March Madness standings, such as they are, remains intact—No. 1 overall Ohio State, along with Kansas and Duke, are still around heading into the Sweet 16.
Notre Dame is the only two seed out of the tournament, following its ugly loss to 10th-seeded Florida State, but two third seeds, Syracuse and Purdue, found themselves ejected by double-digit squads. Beyond that, two four seeds—Kentucky and Wisconsin—and one five seed, Arizona, remain.
That leaves the field with an impressive five high seeds still in the tournament. Marquette, Richmond, VCU, Butler, and Florida State are all still alive, and since VCU and FSU play each other at least one of these teams is guaranteed to reach the Elite Eight.
2010 featured three double-digit squads in the Sweet 16—St. Mary's, who lost 72-49 to Butler; Washington, who fell to West Virginia; and Cornell, who was crushed 62-45 after putting up 87 on Wisconsin in the round of 32. Which of the remaining underdogs will fail to score 50 in their own Sweet 16 game?
NCAA Tournament favorites took a beating Sunday, as high seeds were beaten four times in eight games ahead of the Sweet 16, with a number of other games going down to the wire. North Carolina trailed No. 7 Washington in the first half of their game before coming back to win by a score of 86-83; Duke beat No. 8 Michigan 73-71. Illinois, unfortunately, could not get in sync with the stereotypically March Madness atmosphere, losing to favored Kansas by a score of 73-59, including a 40-30 second half. I can only imagine this is a painful NCAA Bracket Update for some, but I have no choice but to continue. Keep your red pens handy.
No. 11 VCU had the most decisive victory of the night, scoring 52 in the second half to take a game against No. 3 Purdue 94-76. Fellow 11 Marquette topped another number three, stopping Syracuse 66-62. And Florida State stopped No. 2 Notre Dame cold, allowing just 23 points in the first half on the way to a 71-57 victory.
Three number one seeds remain alive and well in the Sweet 16, but the Southwest regional is down to just one single-digit team out of four, with Richmond, VCU, and Florida State still around. That could be good news for Kansas, or it could be the part in the zombie movie where the strongest guy realizes he's run out of bullets and is overrun by the horde.
It didn't take long for Missouri basketball's frustrating 2010-2011 season to get even more frustrating—just days after being eliminated from the second round of the NCAA Tournament reports have surfaced suggesting that head coach Mike Anderson could be headed to Arkansas—and soon. CBS Sports reported the news Saturday night.
Anderson was an assistant coach for the Razorbacks under Nolan Richardson for 17 years before beginning his career as a head coach. He's been Missouri's coach for five seasons, rebuilding a program dinged up by the controversial tenure of Quin Snyder and instituting a fast-paced, popular style of play at Mizzou Arena. Anderson has stated he has no desire to leave Missouri, which has done absolutely nothing to tamp down speculation of an imminent defection in a state that's still trying to get over the Albert Pujols contract extravaganza.
Bernie Miklasz wrote earlier this week that Arkansas AD Jeff Long might not be as eager as Arkansas's "prominent alums" to hand the job over to Anderson, which could lead to an interesting dynamic over the next week.
A No. 1 seed is out of the NCAA Tournament and upset fever has finally hit March Madness, with No. 8 Butler stunning the Pitt Panthers by a score of 71-70. A last-second free throw after a strange set of fouls sealed the deal, with Shelvin Mack's 30 point performance carrying Butler to its seventh postseason win in eight tries, and the possibility of another wild run through the NCAA Tournament waiting for them at the Sweet 16.
Pitt, 28-6, continues a string of tough upsets for the Big East, which has had a tough time in this year's tournament. Gilbert Brown scored 24 on 8-11 shooting to pace the Panthers, but his missed free throw in the last two seconds of the game led to Nasir Robinson's inexplicable foul and Matt Howard's final free throw.
Butler will take on No. 4 Wisconsin, who took out Kansas State 70-65, in New Orleans on March 24. The winner of that game will reach the Elite 8, to take on the winner of the BYU/Florida contest held the same day.
Jimmer Fredette, who scored 34 in a victory over Gonzaga, and BYU are one of the eight teams moving on to the Sweet 16 in the latest NCAA bracket update. Butler's one-point victory over Pittsburgh proved to be the night's only upset, with high seeds Florida, BYU, San Diego State, and UConn all moving on. San Diego State had to work for it, of course—their 71-64 victory over No. 7 Temple came in the game's second overtime.
The Richmond Spiders topped Morehead State 65-48 in an anticlimactic battle of upset specials, while Kentucky ran up a 38-22 second half to beat West Virginia, and Wisconsin slipped past Kansas State 70-65. Wisconsin will have Butler to deal with, just as the Bulldogs get dressed up for their second consecutive year as America's Sweethearts.
Stay tuned to this storystream for daily March Madness bracket updates, or follow along at SB Nation's NCAA Basketball Hub for all the latest NCAA basketball scores and pictures of adult men and women dressed up as Spidermen and Spiderwomen.
Today's NCAA bracket update brings gladder tidings for Illinois basketball fans than yesterday's managed for Missouri fans; the ninth-seeded Fighting Illini got out to a crushing 46-24 start to their second round game against Lon Kruger and the Rebels, making the final 73-62 score not so close as it appears. That hot start carries them into a matchup against another former Illinois coach, when they take on the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks and Bill Self. More NCAA basketball scores in today's March Madness bracket update:
Indiana State, the Missouri Valley Conference champions, fell in their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years by a score of 77-60 to the third-seeded Syracuse Orange, while Michigan throttled ninth-seeded Tennessee by a score of 75-45, which would have looked familiar to the two 16th-seeded teams yesterday. Hampton fell 87-45 to Duke, providing proof that the tournament needs to be further expanded to NCAA executives who see proof in literally everything that happens in the world, while UT-San Antonio managed to sneak past Tennessee, losing to No. 1 overall Ohio State by a score of 75-46.
George Mason’s wild win over Villanova in the newly has prompted no shortage of NCAA Tournament excitement in 2011’s second-ish round of 64, which leads directly to the Patriots’ inevitable re-christening as a cinderella team and their equally inevitable rejection of that term. Mike Lopresti has a perfectly cromulent summary of the phenomenon, which is at its strangest this year considering GMU was the eight-seed in their close victory over Villanova. The 2006 team is impossible to avoid, even when you’re the top seed in your first game and require a strong second half to pull away with it.
I can understand George Mason’s predicament, and they have my sympathy. But it seems like some teams just never shake the underdog label, no matter how many games they win; Gonzaga might as well change its team nickname to the Gonzaga Underdog-Bandwagons, at this point. So perhaps another few years of solid performance will allow “this year’s George Mason” to shake the label 2006’s George Mason applied so stickily, but it’s tough to get all that glue residue off without digging your fingernails into it.
Prolific and startlingly great Tweeter Norm MacDonald (samples: "Its not a true paradox. More a winsome way of viewing quantum entaglement."; "If you are competing with another gent for the same girl and he plays the lute and you dont you are in serious trouble."), who's spent most of his Twitter life contemplating a short story; discussing math and history; and, you guessed it, not talking about Frank Stallone, recently posted a video about his NCAA Tournament picks in which he showed off the end of his bracket.
In the video, which reveals that his Elite 8 is seven-eighths top seeds, he talks about what led him to this entirely unsurprising conclusion. "This guy fed all this information into a giant computer, and he's supposed to be some smart guy... I'm beginning to sense that the people who seeded [the tournament] also probably put it through a giant computer. So his information, their information, probably overlaps drastically, so I have a lot of favorites... I have pretty good faith in it, it came from a computer."
As a rule, picking all top seeds is likely to leave you with fewer friends in your office pool than you started with, but I still highly recommend following him on Twitter.
Depressing though it may be, Missouri's exit from the NCAA Tournament comes on our day-one March Madness bracket update; their exit against sixth-seed Cincinnati by a score of 78-63 leaves the state without a standard-bearer, unless you're willing to adopt the Missouri Valley Conference champs, Indiana State, for tomorrow's slate of games. The good news, for people who like other teams' bad news: Cincinnati gets Kemba Walker and UConn on Saturday. Morehead State's startling win over Louisville is just one of a number of (usually more predictable) NCAA basketball scores in today's NCAA bracket update. Get your pencils and heretofore-blank brackets ready:
In typically brutal 1-16 action, Pitt crushed UNC-Asheville 74-51, which should finally teach those 16th seeds to stay away from the schoolyard after dark; number-two San Diego State clocked Northern Colorado 68-50 with a strong second half, and Florida topped their own 15th seed, UC Santa Barbara, 79-51; third-seed BYU renewed the Jimmer Fredette show for another season by staving off Wofford 74-66, and #3 UConn hammered Bucknell 81-52.
Then, an upset! Louisville fell 62-61 to Morehead State, because we definitely didn't get enough of the Morehead State puns in the first round. Fellow fourth seeds Wisconsin—72-58 over Belmont—and Kentucky—narrowly getting past Princeton, 59-57—will definitely let them hear about it at the reunion. Just one fifth seed, Vanderbilt, found themselves locked in that position's usual existential angst; they fell 69-66 to Richmond, while West Virginia beat Clemson 84-76 and Kansas State stopped Utah 73-68.
As for the lower-seeded games.. I don't want to talk about it. The Missouri wounds are a little too fresh. For all the latest scores, and all the ones I'm not emotionally ready to discuss, check SBNation.com.
The Missouri State Bears learned the identity of their next NIT opponent Thursday night, when the second-seed Miami Hurricanes trounced Florida Atlantic University by a score of 85-62 to move on to the second round. A 15-1 run in the second half, and 23 points from guard Malcolm Grant, showed the Bears just what they'd be up against in their March 21 contest, which airs at 6 PM on ESPN as the opening game in the last night of NIT second round play.
Missouri State beat sixth-seed Murray State in the tournament's opening round on Tuesday, showing no rust after a long week spent watching the NCAA Tournament bubble shrink and then finally pop on Selection Sunday. The Missouri Valley Conference regular season champs will get a chance on Thursday to work on their frustration against a major conference foe; Miami was 19-14 overall, and 6-10 in conference, to finish ninth in the 12-team ACC. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance ended in a second-round loss in 2008.
Proving that it's impossible for the president of the United States to do anything without causing an enormous, asinine political firestorm, Barack Obama's bracket was released yesterday on ESPN, opening up room for amateur firebrands everywhere to voice their opinions. Missouri fans will be disappointed primarily in Obama's reluctance to offer any NCAA Tournament welfare; the president chose just one low seed on our side of the bracket, picking No. 11 seed Marquette over Xavier.
The ensuing reaction was hysterical in the traditional sense of the word. My personal favorite: Sean Hannity decrying Obama's ability to fill out a bracket in the midst of global turmoil. I've never been invited to the Fox News NCAA bracket pool, so I don't know if he usually fills one out himself, but to Mr. Hannity I offer the following expert analysis: This is the kind of bracket you fill out in five minutes before lunch, when people are hounding you to do it. A few local upsets, a lot of high seeds beating low seeds, a promise to send in your $10 eventually, geez, get off my back about it.
Libya and Japan are probably taking up a lot of the president's time these days, but this is not the bracket of a die-hard Bracketology follower or even a guy who thought about each pick. If you're able to get indignant about it, you'd have found some way to get indignant about his failing to fill out a bracket, too. How, after all, can the president of the United States understand real America if he won't even participate in our favorite March pastime? I'm beginning to think he wasn't even born into a stereotypical office environment...
Missouri and Cincinnati will play one of the final games of the March Madness schedule Thursday night as the NCAA Tournament begins in earnest; they've got the 8:45 slot on TNT in the newly complex NCAA TV schedule, which is certainly better than being stuck on truTV. They'll air opposite Michigan State vs. UCLA at 8:15 on TNT; Gonzaga vs. St. Johns at 8:30 on CBS; and Ohio State vs. Kansas State at 8:55 on truTV. The day starts at 11 AM CDT, when Clemson and West Virginia tip off on CBS. Blame that four-game spread on the special hugeness of the NCAA men's basketball bracket.
Friday's schedule is no less complex; the relevant local matchup is Illinois vs. UNLV at 8:15; the Fighting Illini earned a TBS berth, which, at this point, strikes me as exactly as important as the NCAA seeding committee's decisions on the matter. Hated Kansas has its own TBS berth; their game against Boston University begins at 5:45.
As the 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule rolls on into its second day it's my sincere hope that fans have found out, by now, where truTV could possibly be in their cable guides. (Look around the other channels you've never watched before, and never plan on watching again.) Tonight the First Four concludes as UT-San Antonio and Alabama State, who has the lowest NCAA Tournament odds of any team in the field, play at 5:30 for the last 16-seed in the round of 64. At the 8:10 spot you'll find USC and VCU competing for an inexplicably play-in-enabled 11th seed, which seems like a strange competition to have unless you're the NCAA.
After the First Four ends your TV schedule gets significantly more complex and infinitely more rewarding as the NCAA Basketball Tournament for 2011 begins in earnest. I helped a number of people find truTV on their digital cable this afternoon, and for them, if not the NCAA, it is immediately apparent to me that no matter what the tournament insists, it begins when it becomes incredibly difficult to follow all the games at once.
MIssouri State shook off its NCAA Tournament snub with aplomb in the first round of the NIT, topping sixth-seed Murray State by a score of 89-76 to move on to the second round of what is known, outside waggish circles, as the National Invitation Tournament. Jermaine Mallett picked up 23 impressively efficient points and six rebounds to pace the Bears, who won the regular-season title in the Missouri Valley Conference but nevertheless found themselves on the wrong side of the March Madness bubble.
Missouri State, the third seed in the tournament's Region 1, will take on the winner of tonight's contest between Miami and Florida Atlantic University in the second round of the tournament. Their local number-one seed, Alabama, won a blowout in their own first round game, battering Coastal Carolina by a score of 68-44. With two three-seeds of four being upset in the first round of NIT games—Colorado State fell to Fairfield, and the College of Charleston knocked out Dayton—the Bears have at least avoided one pitfall on the way to consolation tournament glory.
If you believe the NCAA, March Madness began with yesterday's First Four contests and continues through today's completion of the NCAA Tournament's new first round. But the thousands of companies who hand out NCAA Bracket blanks and the millions of people who fill them out every year seem to have a different idea—even Yahoo! won't close its tournament pick-em contest for another day. The NCAA can call it the first round all it wants, but for the people who it seeks to convert it looks like they've just added a bunch of play-in games.
UNC-Asheville's overtime win against Arkansas-Little Rock was exciting, but even great basketball failed to supplement all the truTV hyping and tournament-renaming enough to make the First Four into a March Madness staple in its first year of existence. There's still time, but right now it seems like fans are just too wedded to the existing tournament structure to deal with the changes. There's something so much grander about the flurry of round-of-64 basketball that has recently kicked off the tournament; if the NCAA knows what it's doing they'd be wise not to futz with something that works so well.
The NCAA Tournament schedule has gotten much tougher to follow, between the NCAA instituting its impressively arbitrary First Four round and the TV schedule fragmenting among four separate networks, but I've made it my goal to read through it so you don't have to. The First Four start today, at 5:30, on truTV, the artist formerly known as Court TV. That's when North Carolina-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock meet up for the chance to win a 16th seed in a relatively traditional play-in game. Tradition is thrown to the wolves at 8:00, when Clemson and UAB compete for a 12th seed.
On Wednesday Texas-San Antonio and Alabama State are your 16th-seed competitors at 5:30; Virginia Commonwealth and USC play the 8:00 game. After that the meat of the NCAA Tournament begins, and people who look to truTV for weirdly gleeful courtroom and true-crime drama-documentaries will be out of luck for most of March.
Missouri State fans: be advised that their NIT contest against Murray State will take place at 7:00; it's televised on ESPN3.com, if you have the right cable or satellite provider. (It's still televised at ESPN3 if you don't have the right cable or satellite provider, it's just less enjoyable for you.)
March Madness predictions are, at times, a weirdly totemic, arcane business. People make predictions based on the feel and design of the NCAA Bracket they printed out; they pick teams based on animal names or the way one number (strong, solid 12!) feels against another; they choose based on a mass of subconscious tics they only half-understand. But as far as arcane prediction methods go, I don't think you can improve on this March Madness prediction—via NBA Jam. The Kansas Jayhawks are the Charlotte Hornets, which would be bad news only if you had hot-spots on, or if you didn't want KU to move to New Orleans.
More facts to be gleaned from this set of power rankings: Kemba Walker, like Reggie Miller, has a super-high clutch rating; Kentucky, like the Phoenix Suns, can shoot the three-pointer no matter who racked up the most injury-points in the third quarter; and nobody, I mean nobody, played as the Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA Jam: TE except for me. If you want to extrapolate even more from these, an NCAA bracket prediction begins to develop—if you have Syracuse going deep, watch out when teams begin to elbow Terry Porter early and often. He loses his shooting touch once he's in the red.
Missouri's fall from the top ten in the country to an 11th seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament is well-documented, but their March Madness odds have never been laid quite so bare for me: Ken Pomeroy of Basketball Prospectus has officially put them down as 833:1 shots. He starts off by giving them a 43% chance to win their first-round matchup against Cincinnati, and it only gets uglier from there.
Missouri's a flighty team, and that has downside—like, for instance, when they spent most of 2011 tumbling out of the Top 25—but it also makes high-odds games like this a little easier to stomach. I don't think this is a team that can win the NCAA Tournament, but if it's having a good week it could get deep enough into March Madness to avoid premature, uh, madness.
At least it beats Alabama State, who finishes with a one in 1090873445634 chance of winning the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2011. Those are, to the institution's credit, slightly better odds than the team has of winning the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament, or the post-apocalyptic 2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament, in which Alabama State's practice gym houses a rag-tag band of survivors who've created a micronation from which to fight the zombies and legislate the new-world order. (It's a serious distraction.)
NCAA Bracket 2012 is here.
With the NCAA Tournament just about to begin I'd be a little surprised if you didn't already have 10-20 2011 NCAA printable brackets staring you in the face, but SB Nation is excited to be your blank bracket provider of last resort—we have this handsome edition available for immediate downloading, printing, and defacing. As a bonus, this annotated March Madness bracket will also serve as a reminder of just how many college sports blogs we've launched in the last few years.
For those of you turning your last-minute bracket in, I have one suggestion—be That Guy. Pick all the higher-seeded teams to beat all the lower-seeded teams in every round, all the way to Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, and Pitt meeting in the Final Four. This is the March Madness Blandness strategy, and nobody has ever been embarrassed by choosing it. And the poor sportsmanship angle is a great mask for your real status as an NCAA bracket novice. It's like bidding $2 on The Price Is Right after the guy to your left just bid $1. That is: It's awesome.
Missouri basketball was dealt a disappointing hand on Selection Sunday when the team, who'd hovered in the low single digits in most bracketology efforts since losing to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Tournament, was seeded 11th in the West bracket after a season that saw them ranked as high as ninth in the country. They draw fourth-seed Cincinnati.
Rock M Nation has already done their homework. Cincinnati strikes me, in their notes, as a team who's gotten where they are by being the opposite of the Tigers—they got off to a slow start, dealing with some early conference losses and a no-name non-conference schedule before ripping through the end of their conference season to remain fresh in the selection committee's minds.
SB Nation's Cincinnati Bearcats blog, Down the Drive, is still in the process of recovering from the team's brutal 89-51 loss to Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament. The NCAA Tournament is as good an incentive as any team can have to forget a thrashing like that, although it would be in Missouri's interest for them to remain preoccupied.
Missouri State basketball's status in on the bubble was seriously in doubt the moment they lost to the Indiana State Sycamores in the Missouri Valley Tournament finals—they were one of Joe Lunardi's last four out for the rest of bracketology season—but Selection Sunday's big NCAA Tournament bracket revealed what Bears fans had worried about all along: The MVC regular-season champs weren't among the 37 at-large bids revealed, and will be left to fill out 2011 NCAA brackets from the outside looking in. Indiana State will represent the MVC as a 14th seed, set to take on Syracuse.
Missouri State was 15-3 in conference play to seal the regular season title in the Missouri Valley Conference, but Kyle Weems and company couldn't outshoot a dogged Sycamores team in a low-scoring MVC final, and a 25-8 record wasn't enough to counteract the NCAA selection committee's long-suspected antipathy toward (or indifference to) mid-major teams. Formerly known as Southwest Missouri State, the Bears last reached the NCAA basketball tournament in 1999, when they lost in the Sweet 16 to Duke.
Selection Sunday 2011 promises to fill up your TV schedule like few other sports events, but with an NCAA Tournament berth on the line the Missouri State Bears are unlikely to mind their favorite shows being preempted for one last round of Joe Lunardi-infused bracketology. That is, until the art of NCAA Tournament bracketology finally hardens into the depressing history of NCAA Tournament brackets. They're the ones who will find this year's event the most pressing; meanwhile, the MIssouri Tigers will see if their late-season slide cost them—that is, just how much their late-season slide cost them—while the Missouri Valley Conference champions the Indiana State Sycamores will get the chance to see what it's like to sleep in on Selection Sunday for the good reason, for once.
Missouri State is widely thought to be on the wrong side of the tournament bubble, but nothing will be certain until Selection Sunday finally winds through its hours of preview programming and shows us the actual bubble-bursting, hope-swallowing real deal on CBS.
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