April 30, 2006

Love these picks.

There are just some NFL Draft picks that make sense. Either from a fantasy, fan, or "hey, I remember that guy at State U", perspective, some players and teams just find the right mix to match up and excel.

With that being said I hold no dreams of being Mel Kiper, Jr. I can't recite their 40-yard times or tell you how many times they benched 225. However, I can tell you that there is something I just like about these selections:

Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints
- Its no secret that the Saints want a new facility and should they retain Reggie's services and the region gets back on its feet - then the 2006 pick of the USC running back might have just caused heartache in San Antonio, who will have to wait a longer time for a team. Bush could basically equal Michael Vick in Atlanta, being the main attraction for folks who don't normally venture down to Poydras Street.

Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
- It seems like the Niners have been against the cap since Joe Montana and they haven't drafted well in recent years. However, the team used the TE pass a lot with Eric Johnson. Now they have someone who is doubly freakish. Davis will be a good start for QB Alex Smith to develop a rapport.

Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals
- This Cardinals offense could be f'in incredible. He has plenty of weapons with Fitzgerald, Boldin, and newly acquired Edgerrin James. If he does play in year one, Leinart will only need to make good reads and distribute the ball to his playmakers.

Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
- Chiefs need defense and the Penn State pass rusher is very good. Some guys names you can just picture staying on a jersey for years. This is one instance.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Look, Holmes is a punk bitch, period. However, there is no better team to knock that crap off (outside the Patriots) than the Steelers. Cowher doesn't take guff and those new Super Bowl rings will keep the rookie in check. Just shut up, Santonio and you'll realize you're in a plum situation.

DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Houston Texans
- The Texans' best pick in the draft. Check back with me in October and you'll see.

Tim Jennings, CB, Indianapolis Colts
- Georgia secondary guys are usually great covers that aren't afraid to hit. For the Colts, this will be something they haven't had in a while.

April 28, 2006

$54 million buys some time

18 months back rent on a posh house... $54,000

"Walking around money" in southern California (you gotta eat)... $300,000

Lawsuit for shafting a would-be agent and personal ATM... $3.2 million

"Investigated" when the conference feels damn good and ready... Priceless.

Well, it seems I was a bit off on the rent price for the Bush/Griffin family. My MS Excel math put the payments on the house at $3,835. Turns out the "agreement" was for the family to pay $4,500. It seems too, that the parents put their son's playing career up for colateral when those first payments began coming due. (Which I wonder, can I go to Best Buy and mortgage my future, with college degree in May, for that 103" plasma? - I digress.)

Also mentioned was some $300,000 "walking around" money. Damn. I know that southern California isn't cheap, but good lord. What is the family driving these days? Adding the $3.2 million price tag for the lawsuit, sought by Mikey Mikes and Bush is in a bit of a hole. Of course, signing with adidas will end that discussion.

But the best part about today's column?

"Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said earlier this week that a Pac-10 investigation could start soon, but gave no specific time frame."

$54 million (three straight BCS appearances) sure buys some powerful friends.

And the comment from the NCAA?

April 24, 2006

The Bush House

"That house there, to lease its $3,835 a month. But I don't know nothing about it."
Reggie Bush, aspiring Real Estate Agent

By now, if you follow college football and various blogs, you know of Reggie Bush and his family's house coming under investigation. The $750,000 house was apparently leased by the family for use. No problem there. Where it might be a problem is that the house was apparently owned by Michael Michaels. Michaels, so goes the story, was trying to perhaps steer Bush towards a San Diego-based sports agent. The deal, if it had any sweetheart taste to it at all, would be a violation of NCAA rules. In question would come USC's dynasty and the Heisman that Bush won.

Bush has come out today saying that he knew nothing about the deal, but then only three paragraphs later in the same story on ESPN, Bush added that his parents "leased a house like any other parent". The word "lease" tells me that Bush knew what was happening, I mean, did he not ever visit his parents over the past year? What Bush didn't know was Michaels relation to Caravantes, the SD-based agent. From the ESPN article, it mentions Caravantes as the agent and Michaels as the promotional business-start up looking for his first big client.

I have a hard time believing that the lease was market value for the Griffin family. Quick MS Excel math puts a $750,000 home for 6.25% interest at 25-years of payments at $3,835 per month. No matter, that can be found in the lease agreement between the two parties. To that end, I say good luck getting your hands on that one. I don't know California law, but unless you have to file said documents with the county, then you forget ever knowing about that sweetheart deal.

USC has stated they have turned the matter over to the Pacific Ten Conference for them to investigate. Out of the whole scenario, that is my problem. Why is the Pac-10 the authority on this issue? Let's think this out for a second. It's an NCAA violation, who is the governing body that wrote the bylaws of which supposedly the Bush family has violated.

More to the point is to think along this angle: How much will the Pac-10 really look? You mean to tell me the conference will complete their investigation with complete diligence when they could stand to lose the BCS money awarded to USC for qualifying for the Rose Bowl? Your a conference that will have no problem returning over $18 million dollars?

Why didn't USC ask the NCAA to look into the matter? Are they sure they can bully the Pac-10 into a fast, sloppy investigation? If I am the NCAA, I step in now.

Call me cynical, but I don't trust any conference looking into the matter involving their own member school. Especially one that has been an absolute money maker in the last three years.

April 21, 2006

No more Irish to kick around anymore

Growing up a Notre Dame fan, I have to admit I can usually see the downside of an event that should be happening tomorrow. Jimmy Clausen is a highly touted prep quarterback who is expected to announce his decision to sign with the Irish. Clausen apparently will make his decision while in town visiting the campus for the annual Blue-Gold (and Red and Green) Game.

Here is my take on the news: First, the quarterback competition will be fierce in 2007 after Brady Quinn departs after this season. Zach Fraser and Demetrius Jones were already highly touted quarterbacks who signed with the Irish and will hit campus this fall. Clausen did say he hopes to enroll early and participate in spring ball next year.

So here is the quandary. I count three quarterbacks and one ball. Look for the third-most quarterback to transfer after spring ball next year. I have just a hunch that unless Demetrius Jones accepts a position transfer, then it will be Jones looking for another campus.

On the flip side, as an Irish fan, I am giddy. I was in heaven when Holtz was in his heyday in South Bend but then suffered with the Davieham Years – the struggling, bumbling, fumbling Irish. Touchdown drives were more of a result of planetary alignment more than any play-calling prowess. Defense was just as it is today – bend but break. Athletes like Clausen were headed to other outposts without considering South Bend. We were lucky to get about one or two guys to be excited about, but mainly I had to just read about what great character of kids we were getting. Oh, and their stats were decent, too. I am not saying suddenly Charlie Weis resembles Jimmy Johnson and we’re pulling in renegades, but rather I get to hear stats and numbers before hearing about their character (which mainly has been good).

What all does this mean? I love watching the media squirm. Look, Notre Dame is either loved or hated. Mark May? Hater. Beano Cook? Loves us. But more importantly, it’s the CBS Sportsline and ESPN.com hacks that used to butcher the Irish that now have to report the turnaround. No longer are the Irish the Great Paradox – a fading program, but a big win if you beat them. The Irish are on their way back. This time its for real. I can remember life after some of the Davieham better years and the recruiting classes that followed never capitalized on the momentum, especially Ty Willingham’s 10-3 debut. Charlie Weis has ended that. I expect that Clausen’s signing will boost Notre Dame to another highly respected class. I also wouldn’t be surprised if another visitor or two this weekend verbal right along with him.

More importantly, you can sense the momentum gaining by reading columns around the country. Suddenly, the Irish aren’t a punch line. Weis and the team still have work to do before fans like me can get cocky. The defense is still a huge question mark heading into the 2006 season. The offense will now have a year’s worth of game tape available to the country to inspect and devise defenses. Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio State still shut down the offense, but the Irish pulled out two of the games. The talent level is not elite yet, but with the signing of Clausen it does feel like its getting there – in a hurry.

Genius. Motivator. Winner. (Yes, I have a man-crush.)

If anything, Charlie did accomplish his goal in 2005 in that the attitude is completely different. The team believes in itself and now they are simply stockpiling the talent. Good attitude + elite talent can only equal future glory.

It’s about time, because the Holtz-era video clips need to be retired with more new memories.

April 20, 2006

E-A Sports, Its in the Game (TM)

Starbury. Entrepreneur. Spoiled. Loser. Knick.

I love the contrast between college and pro ball.

In college basketball, the end of the regular season is punctuated with games that count. Whether it be for momentum, pride, or improving your upcoming conference tournament seeding, the college teams play it all the way out.

Not so much in the NBA. The most pathetic example came just the other night with the Grizzlies-Clippers game. The goal of the game the other night was to tank the game. The “winner” got a date with the fourth seeded, 60-22 Dallas Mavericks in the upcoming playoffs, while the “loser” gets the third seeded, 44-38 Denver Nuggets. Let that sink in just a moment. The Nuggets get a higher seed despite being 16 games worse than Dallas. Why? Denver doesn’t have San Antonio (63-19) in their division, Dallas does.

Back to the point – the game was a farce. Players sat out due to “injury”. The stands were half-filled at best and some other teams around the league had to use gimmicks to fill those half of the seats. (Dallas, as usual, having the coolest giveaway of plane tickets, courtesy of American Airlines, the arena namesake in Big D.)

This gets me thinking. I love sports video games and we have an untapped market.

Should there be a Sim Game: Tank Mode in the next EA Sports NBA platform? Choose this option and your stars come down with “injuries”, plucky rookies suddenly boost their stats and the stands empty out in the 2nd quarter.

Surely, Ballers will pick this up along with their Sim Game: Screw the Fans at Appreciation Day. Choose this and your prima donnas suddenly aren’t available in your starting line up. Then, surprise, they show up in street clothes (pure Baller threads, I am sure, complete with bling) at halftime to a chorus of boos.

You can even go into Coach and/or GM mode!

Coach: Sim Season: Acid Reflux Excuse. Bail out when your team tunes you out.

Maybe everything isn't confined to the NBA:

(Also, available in the College format – Coach: Sim Season: Sudden Back Problems/Exhaustion. Use this when your non-talented freshman blows town for the bling, leaving you with walk-ons and Rudy’s.)

GM Season Mode: Blow Money On Bums. Try to win your league with nothing but malcontents and rookies. The perfect solution to crush an egotistical coach and prove you know nothing about running a team – even when you were the point guard as a player.

Think big! Become David Stern, and run the NBA with an iron fist!

NBA Prez Mode: Hard Baller. Threaten a league city to pull their franchise unless they structure they build another fancy, never-filled arena.

The sky is the limit, folks.

April 18, 2006

Night time is the right time.

"After we're through, they'll wave the white flag."

Apparently the powers that be for television want Notre Dame in primetime. The Irish already open the season on September 2nd at 8:00 p.m. in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. Now, ABC has decided that Michigan State and Notre Dame will clash to the whole country three weeks later on September 23rd after the Irish play Penn State and Michigan in the interim weekends.

Part of me loves this news because it is just the thing to get under all the Domer hater's skin. Seven straight appearances live to the whole country on one network or another. Charlie and The Brady Quinn Heisman Show will get all the publicity. Beautiful.

Another reason is to exact all kinds of revenge for the flag-planting at last year's game on national television. I don't want revenge on some girly regional scale. I want the whole country to hear the story, watch the whipping and then just watch Notre Dame leave the field - no flag needed.

Lastly, the third reason is so I can rid myself of the taste of the last time the Irish hooked up with the Spartans in prime time. 1998. All I remember was Michigan State looked like a national champion that night. It was 42-3 at halftime. No, I didn't bother to commit the details to memory. I just remember one score was a disputed fumble and another was when the Spartan receiver shoved the Irish defender down, caught the ball and walked into the end zone. No flags. That was it for me.

So yeah, put it in primetime. Wipe away a lot of demons in one blow. Now I just need Drew Stanton to remember he isn't that good. And I need the Notre Dame defense to prove it.

History isn't kind

So I just reviewed ESPN and their analysts top five picks for College Basketball in 2006-07. In no order: North Carolina, Kansas, Ohio State, Florida, and UCLA are mentioned by each of the analysts. We have two Final Four teams from 2006, two young teams that lost on the first weekend, and Ohio State which lost four seniors, but gets the best recruiting class in the country, highlighted by 7'1" center Greg Oden.

First thing first, lets start with Florida and their hopes of returning to the Final Four.

The only school to repeat as champions in the Three Point Era was Duke in 1991 and 1992. Otherwise, be prepared to face disappointment after the title:

(Numbers in parenthesees represent seedings)
1988 (4) Indiana lost in the first round to (13) Richmond
1989 Kansas went on probation and didnt participate in the tournament.
1990 (3) Michigan lost in the second round to (11) Loyola Marymount
1991 (1) UNLV lost in the National Semifinals to (2) Duke
1992 (1) Duke won title again
1993 (3) Duke lost in the second round to (6) California
1994 (1) North Carolina lost in the second round to (9) Boston College
1995 (2) Arkansas lost in the National Title Game to (1) UCLA
1996 (4) UCLA lost in the first round to (13) Princeton
1997 (1) Kentucky lost in the National Title Game to (4) Arizona
1998 (1) Arizona lost in the Elite Eight to (3) Utah
1999 (3) Kentucky lost in the Elite Eight to (1) Michigan State
2000 (5) Connecticut lost in the second round to (4) Tennessee
2001 (1) Michigan State lost in the National Semis to (2) Arizona
2002 (3) Duke lost in the Sweet Sixteen to (2) Kansas
2003 (6) Maryland lost in the Sweet Sixteen to (7) Michigan State
2004 (5) Syracuse lost in the Sweet Sixteen to (8) Alabama
2005 (2) Connecticut lost in the second round to (10) N.C. State
2006 (3) North Carolina lost in the second round to (11) George Mason

Some trends:
- Only six champions returned as a #1 seed the next year.
- Only five teams returned to the Final Four the next year.
- Twelve times the defending champ lost to a higher numbered seed the next year; including the last four champions.

Now lets consider the probabilities for George Mason, LSU, and UCLA - teams looking to return to the Final Four after making an appearance the previous year:

(Results below the Final Four year represents the team's finish the next season.)

1987 Indiana, Syracuse, UNLV, Providence
- First round, second round, second round, not invited
1988 Kansas, Oklahoma, Duke, Arizona
- Not invited, second round, Final Four, Sweet Sixteen
1989 Michigan, Seton Hall, Illinois, Duke
- Second round, Elite Eight, first round, National Runner Up
1990 UNLV, Duke, Georgia Tech, Arkansas
- Final Four, National Champs, second round, Elite Eight
1991 Duke, Kansas, UNLV, North Carolina
- National Champs, second round, not invited, Sweet Sixteen
1992 Duke, Michigan, Indiana, Cincinnati
- Second round, National Runner Up, Elite Eight, Elite Eight
1993 North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, Kentucky
- Second round, Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen, second round
1994 Arkansas, Duke, Arizona, Florida
- National Runner Up, not invited, first round, first round
1995 UCLA, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, North Carolina
- First round, Sweet Sixteen, not invited, second round
1996 Kentucky, Syracuse, Massachusetts, Mississippi State
- National Runner Up, not invited, first round, not invited
1997 Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, Minnesota
- Elite Eight, National Champs, Final Four, not invited
1998 Kentucky, Utah, Stanford, North Carolina
- Elite Eight, second round, second round, first round
1999 Connecticut, Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State
- Second round, Sweet Sixteen, second round, National Champs
2000 Michigan State, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina
- Final Four, second round, first round, second round
2001 Duke, Arizona, Maryland, Michigan State
- Sweet Sixteen, Sweet Sixteen, National Champs, first round
2002 Maryland, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma
- Sweet Sixteen, second round, National Runner Up, Elite Eight
2003 Syracuse, Kansas, Texas, Marquette
- Sweet Sixteen, first round, Sweet Sixteen, not invited
2004 Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Duke, Oklahoma State
- Second round, second round, Sweet Sixteen, Sweet Sixteen
2005 North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan State, Louisville
- Second round, second round, first Round, not invited

2006 Florida, UCLA, George Mason, LSU

- No Final Four has returned the next year intact. There have never been three teams to return to the Final Four. Two teams have returned only twice (Duke & UNLV, 1991; Kentucky & North Carolina, 1998). One team has returned 11 times (most recent was Kansas in 2002 & 2003). A completely new Final Four has happened seven times (most recent was the 2005 field to the 2006 field).
- 35 different schools have made the Final Four in the Three Point Era. (80 bids)
- The last four Final Fours have had 16 different teams. Before that, from 2000-2003 there had been a repeat team in the Final Four each year.
- Discounting 1987, the first year of the Three Point Era, 2002 and 2004 are the only years in the era that fielded a Final Four in which all schools had previously been to the Final Four in the Era.

Looking Back: Where did the champions place the year before?
(previous year's result in parenthesees)

1987 Indiana (First Round)
1988 Kansas (Sweet Sixteen)
1989 Michigan (Sweet Sixteen)
1990 UNLV (Elite Eight)
1991 Duke (National Runner Up)
1992 Duke (National Champion)
1993 North Carolina (Sweet Sixteen)
1994 Arkansas (Sweet Sixteen)
1995 UCLA (First Round)
1996 Kentucky (Elite Eight)
1997 Arizona (Sweet Sixteen)
1998 Kentucky (National Runner Up)
1999 Connecticut (Elite Eight)
2000 Michigan State (National Semifinals)
2001 Duke (Sweet Sixteen)
2002 Maryland (National Semifinals)
2003 Syracuse (Not in tournament)
2004 Connecticut (Sweet Sixteen)
2005 North Carolina (Second Round)
2006 Florida (Second Round)

Trends (all or most recent in parenthesees):
- One champion was a repeat (Duke, 1992).
- Two champions were runners-up the year before (Duke, 1991: Kentucky, 1998).
- Two champions played in the previous Final Four (Michigan State, 2000; Maryland, 2002).
- Three champions had played in the Elite Eight (UNLV, 1990; Kentucky, 1996; Connecticut, 1999).
- Seven champions had played in the Sweet Sixteen (Kansas, 1988; Michigan, 1989; North Carolina, 1993; Arkansas, 1994; Arizona, 1997; Duke, 2001; Connecticut 2004).
- Two champions lost in the second round the previous year (North Carolina 2005, Florida 2006).
- Two champions lost in the first round the previous year (Indiana, 1987; UCLA, 1995).
- One champion was not in the tournament field the previous year (Syracuse, 2003).

April 09, 2006

Statistically speaking

Gather round, children, let me learn you somethin'.

In another post, I mentioned that I am a firm believer that NCAA basketball as we know it today only dates back to 1987. It was the first time that you had the three point shot, the shot clock, and six wins to win the title all in play simultaneously. Simply put, its the Three Point Era.

So this got me thinking, who are the elite programs of the era. First, what is elite? Tournament appearances and wins are a no brainer, Sweet Sixteen appearances are good, Final Fours are surely a measurement and of course, winning the title is another barometer. So putting the five criteria together here is what I come up with:

You have six elite programs. Numbers next to the teams appear in tournament wins, ("Tournament berths - Sweet Sixteens - Final Fours - Championships") fashion.

Duke, 62 wins (19-16-9-3) is securely firm in their #1 ranking here. However, I would point out that since Coach K returned to the bench after the 1995 debacle, Duke has made only three Final Fours and won a single title. Accomplishments, yes, but worthy of ESPN drool and a seat on a pedestal? No. The Devils made their hay from 1987-1994 going to six (of the eight) Final Fours and two titles.

North Carolina, 49 wins (18-12-7-2) only saw the second weekend and beyond last year, going all the way to the title. Otherwise the Heels last venture to the Final Four came as a surprise #8 seed. They are still elite with double digit Sweet Sixteens and the second most Final Fours of the era, but understand that like Duke, Carolina made their noise a bit earlier in the era (notably 1991-1998: five Final Fours, one title).

Kentucky, 46 wins (17-12-4-2) is in decline according to some irrational fans here in Lexington, however, they still rank third in total wins in the tournament despite missing on probation for three years. Hurting the Cats is a lack of Final Four appearances since 1998. A fact not lost on the Tubby detractors after narrow misses at the Elite Eight in 1999, 2003, and 2005. Clearly, UK's heyday was 1993-1998, going to four Final Fours, winning two titles.

Kansas, 45 wins (19-11-5-1) has everything to look forward to with a young class next year and could surpass Kentucky at #3, however based on their two previous year's the Jayhawks could lose again in the first round. They meet all the criteria for elite status, however, the Jayhawk program could rival Duke had they not slipped in so many tournaments earlier than expected. The knock against them is that their only title was in 1988, by far the longest title drought of the elite teams.

Arizona, 39 wins (20-11-4-1) comes in next and surprisingly is the only team to have qualified for the tournament in each year of the Three Point Era. Wildcat fans are linked to Kansas fans in that earlier flame outs could have resulted in more-impressive numbers. The good for Arizona is that they lack a dominant period within the era. Their Final Fours are spread out and have come before and after their one title in 1997.

Connecticut, 38 wins (14-11-2-2) is a good example of doing the most with their least (of the elite) tournament appearances. They have never lost in the first round (the only elite with that distinction). When the Huskies make the Final Four, they capitalize, having never lost in a Final Four. Its hard to think of the Huskies as elite for some, having only made their first appearance in the NCAAs in 1990. But Jim Calhoun has truly gotten this program to the elite stage. One complaint? Quit missing tournaments after big years in the tournament. 2007 could be a challenge if Gay and Boone cut out of Storrs like Marcus Williams did.

Elite Trivia

* These are the only teams that have double digit Sweet Sixteens combined with multiple Final Fours and at least one championship.

* Four of the schools (Duke, UNC, UK, and Connecticut) are the only schools to have won multiple titles in the era.

* Since the era began, only in 1987 the first year and last weekend in Indianapolis (2006) has there been a Final Four with all of these teams missing. (Just think if that three by Rashad Anderson was good against Mason. Then we're talking about only one year in 20 without at least one of these schools being there.)

Continuing on...

After the first tier of schools I would admit that there needs to be a second group. If those are the Special Six, then the next group is the Fab Four.

- Syracuse (17-9-3-1)
- UCLA (17-9-2-1)
- Michigan State (13-7-4-1)
- Florida (13-5-3-1)

These schools are borderline elite for some various reasons. First off, Syracuse and UCLA really only miss out by one Sweet Sixteen appearance. They round out the 30-game winners in the tournament for the era when combined with the Elite Six.

I can also argue though that UCLA did miss the tournament altogether in 2003 and 2004, with only a first round exit in 2005. Howland has things going well in L.A. and I can see them joining the list in the next few years. Besides, they do only have the one title in the era. And Steve Lavin haters, his time in Westwood wasn't that bad.

One big argument against Syracuse ended in 2003 with the Orange cutting the nets, but they are a part of the Kansas-Arizona family in that they've had years of bowing out early. (First ever 2-seed to lose in 1991.)

Michigan State and Florida, I would hold out due to their 2002-04 and 2006 struggles after being on top of the world from 1999-2001. Also, pre-Izzo, your looking at seven no-tournaments and only one second weekend appearance.

Florida just jumped into the group with the win in Indianapolis on Monday night. What Donovan does from here will determine Florida's fate. Remember, Donovan made the title game against Michigan State in 2000 only to get bounced in the first weekend for the next five years before winning it all last Monday.

The notable missing: Yeah you got a title, but...

Indiana (18-7-3-1). Yeah, the Hoosiers have a title, back in 1987, but missing two of the last three tournaments and only one second weekend visit since 1994 has them off the radar. They have hired Kelvin Sampson to get them back. Risky move being Sampson with a career losing mark in the tournament.

Maryland (12-7-2-1). If I do this research two years ago the Terps might make the Fab Four into a Five. However, they have missed the past two dances, and Gary Williams has only had the memorable 2001 and 2002 teams. Maryland is at a crossroads of either reviving the program or sliding back to mediocrity.

The Missing in Action:

Michigan (10-5-3-1). The boys from Ann Arbor haven't seen the tournament since 1998. They havent been to a second weekend since the Fab Five minus Webber got the Wolverines to the Elite Eight in 1994. They do have a title in the era, though.

UNLV (7-5-3-1). No Tark = no program. Period. They round out the champions of the era, but have had nothing since the Shark days.

April 08, 2006

Final Four pictures

I know, I supposedly closed the topic of college basketball for the season, but I finally got my Final Four pictures back.

Everything begins with the tickets. Your currently looking at $1,200 worth of glossy printing paper with fancy graphics and logos, complete with holograms imbedded to make the tickets authentic. After having a near heart attack getting these babies from EBay we finally got them and were headed towards Indy.

So we arrive in Indianapolis and first off, we lucked out on the parking. We exited near the Dome and when we pulled off we saw nothing but $20 and $25 lots for parking. But we pushed on and found a $5 lot only about six blocks from the Dome. Heck yeah! We milled about, waiting for the 6:07 tipoff time for Florida and George Mason. The time finally arrived and we proceeded to the gate. This picture doesn't really do justice to the crush of people that were in line to get in. Basically your fitting 43,000 people into a space of a city block. It was crowded. But this is our entrance. The Road to the Final Four ended at the RCA Dome, and we were heading in, anxious to see the view from our seats.

Well, here is the view and really, a camera with a stock lens doesn't do much justice. I would guess we were about 150 feet from center court. The interesting part is that we technically faced the side stands that you see in the lower left hand corner (view the hand rail for reference), so you had to watch the whole game at a 30 degree angle. Had this been a Colts football game, our tickets would have been at about the 50-yard line, beautiful seats. All in all, it was lower dome, but at an angle your not used to seeing on TV. Of course, you could remedy that just by watching anyone of the jumbo trons which showed the CBS feed sans Nantz and Packer commentary.

As mentioned before, I love the Final Four. See you all in Atlanta.

April 07, 2006

Sometimes, simplicity works best

Look, I am not an athlete. Way back in the high school days maybe, but now, no way, but this spot from Nike just can't help but make you want to train...or at least love AC/DC a little bit more.

Goodbye Indianapolis, Hello Atlanta

Like most everyone else, I love to take a peek at next year right after we crown the champion. For Florida, celebrations will carry for them for the next month. For the other 300+ schools next year began some time ago when they walked off the court after their last loss.

Before we look into the crystal ball, lets take a look back at the 2006 tournament. This tournament in my mind will be known for the George Mason Patriots and their improbable, well-documented run to Indianapolis. Sure, Florida is your champion, but years from now when my little sports geek kid will view the record book, he/she will come across the name “George Mason” and a flood of questions will ensue. The scene in Indianapolis was that of pure elation by the Mason fans. They added the electricity to the event that was sorely missing come Monday night.

This tournament will also be remembered for the outstanding game winners in the earlier rounds of the tournament. Northwestern State sinking a three-pointer to send Iowa home in the first round. Tennessee’s Chris Lofton’s fade-away 19-footer to advance the Vols into the second round. Texas’ Kenton Paulino making a 28-foot three pointer at the buzzer – only after West Virginia’s Kevin Pittsnogle hit a three to tie the game – to lift Texas to the Elite Eight. Adam Morrison of Gonzaga on the floor, crying at the enormity of perhaps his last game in a college uniform after losing a nine point lead with just under three minutes to play to UCLA.

We had our moments for sure, but its time to look ahead…

The 2007 Final Four will be at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. For starters, I am addicted. I love the Final Four, especially on “semifinal Saturday”. The host city rolls out the red carpet and fans of the four teams gather in a party. Everyone is great to be around, people offer to take your camera to get you in the picture, too. It’s just a fun event. I will be in Atlanta. I might be by myself this time because I just get so much out of it, more than any other human.

Early predictions?

I am always a sucker to make a prediction or two that usually bite me in the arse when I come back to take a look at them next year. First off, I must say that the teams that made it to Indy are all very young and could again be in Atlanta. LSU, UCLA, and Florida could return significant percentages of their team’s scoring and identity. Only George Mason loses three senior players and will more than likely struggle to even get back in.

Looking past the Final Four teams of this year, I would say North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, and Ohio State get quick mention. All are expecting great recruiting classes to hit campus. For KU, UNC, and Memphis they have a young nucleus coming back to compliment the newcomers. The young Heels and Jayhawks, especially, didn’t get a good experience in the 2006 tourney, both losing on the first weekend.

The next category you have is the “wait and see” gang. A myriad of teams fall into this group. Either they are waiting to see who will go pro, or they lose some key players but return enough to get back. Connecticut, Villanova, Gonzaga, and Texas leap forward here.

Everyone else would have to surprise during the next season to be considered threats. Maybe a good description for this group is the “don’t see it, have to believe it”.

Lastly, who wants to step into the role of George Mason in Atlanta? It could very well be a team that Mason beat twice during the regular season that returns four starters – the Wichita State Shockers.

Just remember though, with the NBA and agents pulling kids away – selling impossible dreams for some – this could all be subject to change. But it’s still fun to look like a fool in April come next March.

April 05, 2006

Gator bait

Dominant. Devastating. Vegas?

Florida 73, UCLA 57

The rest of the Final Four field amounted to chum for the Gators. You have to go back to Michigan State's run in 2000 to find the last time a team won both games of their Final Four appearance by double digits.

Florida could be a beast if everyone gets together and decides to make a run at back-to-back titles.

From my seats in Indy, I could sense a Gator championship around the 12 minute mark of the first half. The boys from Gainesville were simply on a mission. After dispatching Cinderella (George Mason) on Saturday, they turned UCLA from juggernaut to also-rans in the span of 48 hours. The Bruins had just destroyed LSU and I was starting to waver on my original prediction. Nevermind said the Gators, running rough shod over the boys from L.A.

I won't take anything from UCLA. They are young and if they keep everyone, they too could end up in Atlanta next year.

However, it still says 2006 on my calendar and I am only left with one question. With Florida now having as many titles in basketball as football, and with two Final Four visits since their last football championship, what kind of school is Florida, football or basketball?

April 02, 2006

The View from Indianapolis

Alright, maybe its not the best title for a blog entry with no pictures (yet), however, from our view (ection 139, Row 25, Seats 104-106) I saw two teams advance that were men among boys on Saturday

Florida 73, George Mason 58
This game wasn't a total surprise. I will give Mason credit for making a run in the first half when it appeared that Florida might beat them by 30. The Gators jumped out to a 16-6 lead and Cinderella was turning back into her tattered clothes in a hurry, but the boys from Fairfax, VA pulled it together and got the game back to within one point (25-24) and only five at halftime, 31-26.

At the half, I said the telltale words to my LSU buddy: "First five minutes of this are crucial for George Mason. They're going to have to weather the storm."

Turns out they couldn't. Lee Humphrey hit four consecutive threes and the Gators were on their way to Monday night.

UCLA 59, LSU 45
I have no idea what happened to LSU. I knew the Bayou Bengals weren't the best shooting team and I told my friend that the key to a win would be Darrel Mitchell from outside, but it didn't matter which Tiger took the shot, they weren't going in.

Not so if you were a Bruin. If you needed to know how this game went you only needed to see one possession in the second half. Jordan Farmar throws up a three-pointer with the time running out on the shot clock from 25 feet and he drained it. That made it 48-27 Bruins and it was over for sure then. I have never seen the RCA Dome evacuate so quickly.

So at least I got my earlier prediction right: It will be UCLA vs. Florida for the national championship on Monday. After Saturday's games I am just hoping for a competitive basketball game. Being a Kentucky fan, I could care less who wins. Apparently an early indicator is who can get that 16-6 lead as both Florida and UCLA held the same score leads in the first half of their games.

Either team winning is really a no-win situation. Florida's fans are obnoxious people. Period. Same bunch that threw oranges when Kentucky scored a touchdown one year - that only brought the score to Florida 47, Kentucky 7. Florida fans are also confused as I kept seeing so many Gator fans wearing football jerseys.

UCLA fans are arrogant as hell but I would be to with 11 national championships. At least their attitude is justified. I normally took UCLA fans to be a wine and cheese crowd, but they were there in vocal force at the Dome (helps when your beating your opponent to a bloody mess).

I just want a good game. We as fans deserve it after Saturday.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.