Friday, March 24, 2006

Hardware Wars

In the famed words of Emperor Joseph II* in Amadeus – “Well, there it is.”

Let Thursday, March 23 stand as the day that my tournament bracket officially fell off a cliff and caught fire on the way down. Since I’d seen this coming last week, when Sports Guy’s bracket eerily coincided with mine, I’ve decided to go Simmons-style and dish awards:

The John Starks Golden Brick - Duke’s JJ Redick, 3-18 shooting in a loss to LSU. Apparently this was simpler than faxing all the GMs in the NBA with a letter saying, “Take me in the second round.”

The Powerball - Duke’s Shelden Williams, who should buy Redick the car he can no longer afford after his 23 and 13 kept the Blue Devils in the game. He had a man’s game and moved himself up the board.

The “This is Our Year – Starting in October” Award - Gonzaga. I went to bed with them up a dozen. OK, it was a better tease than they usually give us in the Sweet 16, but from now on we’re just going to call this the “Zagged When We Should Have Zigged Award.”

The “Bigger Numbers are Better” Trophy - Two 11’s, two 12’s, and one each of the 13 and 14 seeds won in the first round; three others (#13 Pacific, #14 Murray State, and #15 Winthrop) gave a lot of bracketeers the heebie-jeebies. Then two of the three opponents of those schools lost in the second round – UNC and Tennessee. (Only BC survived, primarily because their second-round opponent was #12 Montana.)

The Routine Thing that Only Seemed Strange - Memphis 80, Bradley 64. Given the setup above, it was a little surprising to see a number 1 manhandle a lesser squad.

Random Bobby Riggs Moment - to Jason Whitlock for this essay. I’m not sure that I agree with the whole “dunking is bad” bit. The macho poseur stuff is the problem with the men’s game, and you don’t need dunks for that. (Think of Dikembe Mutombo’s finger-wagging act after blocks.) But the sudden notice of Candace Parker for her ma’am dunks illustrates something I find a little ridiculous: instead of enjoying it for what it is, people are looking for cosmic significance in the only two rim-touching plays in women’s tournament history.

It’s insulting to the women to only value them inasmuch as they can play like the guys. Really – I think that people enjoyed those plays simply because they were “moments,” and not because they were good plays. (Parker’s ball-handling and passing don’t lead Sports Center, do they?) And deep down, it also illustrates something few people are willing to hear: the women’s game is not as deep, not as athletic, and not as skilled. When was the last time that a double-digit seed made their Sweet 16? (Answer below.) To me, that’s not really a problem. I enjoy the women’s game and I hope that Rutgers can finally stop being the Lady Zags in the NCAA’s. But enough already with the “we’re just as good” business, because it’s patently not true, any more than my roller hockey team could hit the ice and beat a team of pros. That doesn’t stop me from playing anyway, and it shouldn’t detract from the women’s tournament either. In fact, I hope that Parker dunks in every game she plays for the rest of her life, so people can stop acting like it’s the second coming of the 19th Amendment.

The Henry Ford “History is Bunk” Award - according to Sports Center, the last five champions all won their first two games by double-digits. The only two teams remaining to which that applies? Florida and Memphis. Neither has yet played anything stronger than a ninth seed, and Florida’s opponent tonight is #7 Georgetown, who is perfectly capable of beating the Gators.

The “Will You Shush, Already?” Award - Georgetown. By typing the previous item, I probably broke Ashanti Cook’s ankle. Seriously, I ought to be quarantined this year.

The Not Dumb Enough to Be Smart Award - yours truly, I’m afraid. Our pool’s scoring system means that, if you picked every single game correctly, you'd earn 183 points. (It also would mean that you should use your powers for something more lucrative than the NCAA Tournament.) Our winner typically has 140-160. Since my bracket didn’t seem that strong I actually filled out a second bracket and changed my mind a bunch of times. (This is NEVER a good idea.) That second bracket is already totally cooked, at 45. But here’s the twist – it’s not even the worst bracket remaining, because a coworker put up a 44. AND that first bracket? Three of my Final Four are gone, so even if I win out I’ll only have 65. So I was right about that bracket but, given the chance, made even stupider choices. BOTH brackets wouldn’t add up to a competitive total. I shall now jump into a pile of rusty nails.

The Annie Oakley Medal - Texas' Kenton Paulino. Anything WVU can do, he can do better. What a finish.

See, that's what I was talking about - solid in-depth coverage, intriguing stories, and a minimum on the "gee whiz, look at us, we play basketball too!" nonsense.

The Gonzaga Memorial Gack - The New Jersey Devils, who blew a 4-1 third-period lead and lost to Atlanta. They may decide to give Ken Daneyko his jersey back, instead of hanging it in the rafters tonight.

The Nixon Award - to ESPN, for missing 18 minutes' worth of boxscore. Notice a few missing items? Like, half the goals? Compare it to's scorecard for the same game. It's a little silly for the Worldwide Leader to screw up something so simple, unless they stopped caring the moment they gave up the NHL broadcast rights.

Just a hunch - Adam Morrison will go back to school. It just can't sit well with him to leave his college career on such a note.

The Head of the Classiness Award - UCLA's players helped Morrison off the court and consoled him.

Dispatches From the Metal Shop - again, ESPN seems to forget that there are still other teams playing - like the entire NIT. I know it's smaller news, but how about a bracket or something? I mean, Maryland was the NCAA champion a few years ago - did they stop using the Internet, even if it's bad news?

The Real Reason We Build Arenas Award - Go Frozen Four. Any dedicated puckhead has to pay attention to the college game, the source of much of the NHL's young talent. Besides, it is very exciting hockey, and that's the whole point.

And the answer islast year. 13th seed Liberty became the lowest-ever seed to make a Women’s Sweet 16, but they were waxed, 90-48, by LSU. Before that:
2004: UC-Santa Barbara (11)
2003: Notre Dame (11)
2002: BYU (11)
2001: Missouri (10)
This year’s bracket has nobody below an eight (Boston College).

Here’s the men’s list for the same time, btw:
2006: Bradley (13), George Mason (11)
2005: Wisc-Milwaukee (12), NC State (10)
2004: Nevada (10)
2003: Butler (12), Auburn (10)
2002: Missouri (12), Southern Illinois (11), Kent State (10)
2001: Gonzaga (12), Temple (11), Georgetown (10)

Bold indicates winners – very rare, of course, though George Mason has a good shot against Wichita State (7).

*update, March 27, 7:00 pm - I had Franz Josef at first, not Joseph II, and as reliably mentioned by Dave J in the comments, that's the wrong dude. Drat. But howzabout George Mason! They've been recognized accordingly with the bold text.

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