Tag Archives: March Madness

Everybody into the pool! I give you some tips on winning your NCAA March Madness bracket. Federer gets “interrogated” by 50 kid reporters. And SNL with a pretty fantastic sketch on Ivanka Trump

Sing it with me now! It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year…

At least for me it is. After I just spent five amazing days at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week covering the ACC basketball tournament (something I last covered in 2000), I am wiped out but incredibly excited for March Madness. (More on my strange back-in-time week as a sportswriter, including when I ran into Chris Christie twice and nearly got bulldozed by Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson in a hallway, in Wednesday’s post.)

Sunday night we learned who’s playing who, when, and where, and I have to say, usually on these nights I’m bitching and moaning about the selection committee snubbing a team badly, or drastically over or under-seeding somebody. But this year, I think the committee did a real good job. Wichita State and Wisconsin got jobbed, both should’ve been at least a 6 or 7 seed, and I can’t understand how a good Wake Forest team was made to play in the play-in game, but those are minor quibbles.

I know a majority of you are going to be filling out office pools this week, and you want to know which upsets to pick, who’s going to the Final Four, and all that stuff. So as I do every year, I am here to guide you, my fine reader. Last year’s opening rounds were insane (remember this shot from Northern Iowa?), so don’t expect nearly as much drama this time.

But we can hope.

Couple quick thoughts on the bracket; not ready to pick my Final Four yet, that’ll be Wednesday.

— OK, right off the bat a few upsets I like: UNC-Wilmington, a 12 seed in the East, to beat Virginia. UVA has really struggled lately and the Seahawks can really shoot. I could see No. 13 Bucknell beating No. 4 West Virginia (I always pick against Bob Huggins teams), No. 12 Middle Tennessee State (who shocked Michigan State last season) beating Minnesota, and maybe, maybe, No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 4 Florida. Also don’t be stunned if No. 14 Iona beats Oregon, or Winthrop beats Butler.

— As always, some tantalizing possible second-round matchups: Kentucky vs. Wichita State in a rematch from three years ago, when the Wildcats eliminated the then-undefeated Shockers; Duke-Marquette (Coach K vs. his old player, Steve Wojciechowski), and Louisville vs. Michigan. The loaded South bracket could give us Kentucky vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16 (think that might get some decent ratings), Arizona-Florida State in the Sweet 16 in the West would be tremendous, and a Kentucky-North Carolina Elite 8 game looms huge.

— Someone on the committee really, really hates Kansas. The Jayhawks got a brutally tough bracket, stuffed with No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Purdue, and a second-round game with either Miami or Michigan State. I don’t see the Jayhawks surviving all that.

–Meanwhile, my Duke boys, fresh off an improbable ACC Tournament championship, got a real nice draw. They could face old friend Steve Wojciechowski in Round 2, and Baylor in the Sweet 16, but really, Duke should get to the Elite 8 at least, where they’d play defending national champion Villanova. That would be sensational.

The madness begins in just a few days. Can’t wait!

**Next up today, any chance I get to show Roger Federer being awesome, and super-humble, I’m going to take it. The greatest tennis player of all time is in Indian Wells, Calif. this week for a pretty major tournament, and as part of promoting the event he did a “press conference” with 50 local 2nd-graders. It’s pretty hilarious and adorable, especially the end.

As the great Jon Wertheim said on Twitter, you can’t fake this level of engagement. What a great, fun little few minutes this is to watch.

And finally today, I haven’t seen “SNL” in a few weeks but they’re still turning out great, slightly subversive material. Over the weekend they did a fake commercial on Ivanka Trump called “Complicit,” and it’s pretty fabulous. The tagline, delivered with about 20 seconds left, is devastating.

Someone’s going to get killed at a Donald Trump rally, and soon. What a real “parent fantasy” sounds like. And the craziest opening weekend of March Madness, EVER

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I don’t say this lightly, or flippantly, or because I’m trying to drive up pageviews on my blog.

I really and truly believe it: Someone within the next few weeks or months is going to get murdered at a Donald Trump public event.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, that in America in 2016, we have this incredible powder keg of circumstances that have conspired to make me think this.

But this is what we have: A Presidential candidate, the frontrunner for one of our two major parties, who lies, blusters and incites violence. A candidate who draws thousands and thousands of Americans to his rallies, people who may already have their own prejudices and predilection toward violence.

A candidate who then, from the stage every chance he gets, stokes hatred and violence. And tells those followers that they should “punch someone in the face” or “have them taken out on a stretcher” or says “I’ll pay your legal fees” if you beat someone up.

And what do you know, the acolytes listen and take their cue from their leader. And then the candidate throws up his hands and says, in effect, “What do you want from me? I’m not telling them to do it. And the protesters started it!”

There was more violence at Trump events this weekend, in Arizona and elsewhere. So far the injuries have been minor, and the police have been there to break it up, but this shit is not going away. Not anytime soon.

And pretty soon, someone’s going to have a concealed gun at one of these rallies, or in the parking lot, and tempers will flare, and the gun will go off, and people will be shocked (SHOCKED) that this could happen.

I won’t be. You shouldn’t be either. This is what happens when a person adored and worshipped by thousands and thousands encourages violence.

Someone’s going to die. And it’s completely, totally preventable.

And it’ll be a goddamn shame when it happens. Just don’t be surprised.

Because it’s coming. It’s most definitely coming.

**Next, my good friend Amanda pointed this video to me a few weeks back, and I’m sure all parents of babies/toddlers will appreciate the humor. It’s a short skit from the comedy team “Hamish and Andy” called “Parent Fantasy hotline,” and it illustrates exactly what kind of fantasy new parents really would enjoy…

**Finally… I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. I am without speech. I’m sitting here at 11:16 p.m. Eastern having just watched the most epic collapse in NCAA Tournament history. Probably in basketball history.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the University of Northern Iowa had a 12-point lead with 44 seconds left over Texas A&M Sunday night. I mean, it was over. There was a better chance of a meteorite striking the arena than there was of the Aggies coming back.

And yet, they did. Texas A&M scored 12 points in those 44 seconds to tie the game, then won in double overtime.

It was epic. It was improbable. And it capped off probably the greatest, most exciting first weekend in NCAA Tournament history.

I know, I know, “recency bias” affects all of us. Everything that just happened we proclaim the greatest ever. But this time, it’s true.

We had buzzer-beaters. We had last-second layups. We had dramatic 3-pointers for the win (Wisconsin last night over Xavier). Hell, last night’s game wasn’t even Northern Iowa’s most dramatic game of the weekend! That came Friday night (above), when Paul Jesperson hit a half-court heave at the buzzer to win.

So much incredible action went on, I can’t even begin to recap it. My brain is mush right now, so if some of this doesn’t make sense, my apologies. But some quick-hit thoughts from the weekend:

–Gotta say a few words about my favorite team. Duke tried really hard to blow that 20-plus point lead against Yale Saturday. This Blue Devils team is very fragile, with a huge swing between being great and being awful always nearby. I have said repeatedly that given what this team lacks, making the Sweet 16 was all we fans could hope for. Now they’ve made it; everything else is gravy.

— I so wish Gus Johnson had been calling that Northern Iowa ending, either Friday night or Sunday night. Then again, nah. He would’ve had a heart attack at the end of regulation and they’d have had to revive him during the OT’s.

— Villanova is looking scary good. Kansas, too. And Gonzaga, they were the most impressive team I saw all weekend.

— Not sure who knows less about a topic they discuss all the time on TV: Charles Barkley on college basketball, or Donald Trump on world affairs. We all love Barkley’s personality, but could he watch, maybe one or two college games before March when he’s on TV all the time analyzing?

— Thank God there are no more games now until Thursday. I need a few days to recover.

A 12-year-old does an awesome thing with his March Madness winnings. A restaurant tries to help a dumpster-diver. And Fallon dances with the First Lady again

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And a Happy Friday to you all, as spring has finally sprung here in New York.

We start off Good News Friday this week with the awesomeness that is Sam Holtz, a 12-year-old Illinois kid who had the best bracket out of millions of entries in ESPN.com’s NCAA Tournament pool.
But that’s not the most impressive thing about Sam. Last week he found out that because he was under 18, he wasn’t eligible for ESPN.com’s prize of a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to Maui.

However, Best Buy, knowing a great PR move when they see it, gave the kid a $1,000 gift card anyway.
And Sam, showing what a good boy he is, bought himself an XBox One, then used the rest of his money to buy another and donate it to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Said Sam to the Chicago Tribune: “I decided to donate one of the XBox One systems to Make-A-Wish because of my cousin Alec.” When he was real little, he was in Make-A-Wish, and back then [23 years ago], people granted his wish of going to Disney World. I thought I’d kind of repay them for what they did for my cousin [who survived his illness and is now an adult].”

What a wonderful kid. And he gets to go to Hawaii, too, because Scout.com decided to give him the trip ESPN couldn’t.

**Next up, this is from two weeks ago but I just saw it the other night; as usual when a Jimmy Fallon skit goes viral, it’s fantastic. Jimmy and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, with a sequel to their classic “Evolution of Mom Dancing.” The “Shush and Tush” is pretty great…

Dumpster.FINAL

**And finally today, this once again shows the innate goodness in people. A restaurant owner in Oklahoma named Ashley Jiron noticed one night that the bags of discarded food she was putting in her dumpster were being opened, with food being taken out.

“That really, it hurt me that someone had to do that,” Jiron said.

So she posted the note (above) on the dumpster the next night, offering to give the dumpster-diver a free meal and a much more pleasant dining experience.

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Jiron said.

Beautiful. Just beautiful. “You are a human being,” such a simple message we all should remember.

Jump into the (March Madness) pool! I tell you the upsets to pick. And a gorgeous story about a boy with autism, helped by Disney

floridagators

The Madness is here!
Yeah, as usual on the Sunday night of Selection Sunday, the day me and millions of other college basketball fanatics look forward to every year, I’m a little overcaffeinated tonight.
I’ve been poring over the NCAA Tournament brackets, trying to find winners, upsets, and surprises, as well as stuff I think probably will happen, to give you my expert analysis to help you with your office pool. For my full breakdown, I wrote up a bracket analysis for ThriveSports.com; click here to read it.

Do not pay any attention to the fact that in 2012 I got only one Final Four team correct, and last year I got (ahem) zero teams correct. This year I really know what I’m talking about, promise. Besides, who you gonna listen to, a guy like me who watches a ton of games every year, or Alice in Accounting, who picks teams by which mascot is cuter?

OK, here goes:

First-round upsets I like: Stephen F. Austin over VCU (both really good teams, but Austin hasn’t lost since Thanksgiving); Harvard over Cincinnati (the Smart Kids are really good); Providence over UNC; North Dakota State over Oklahoma (I’m a big Bison believer).
First-round upsets I think could definitely happen, but I’m too chicken to pick them because I always pick too many upsets: N.C. Central over Iowa State (Central is legit good); Mercer over Duke (yes, I’m a Duke fan who’s terrified of Mercer, they’re the real deal). I would love to put my Delaware Blue Hens in here, and against just about ANY other opponent, my blue and gold love would shine through. But they ain’t beating Michigan State. No way, no how.

Surprise Sweet 16 Teams:

— North Dakota State: They’re deep, have a ton of scorers, and their coach was hilarious when I interviewed him last week (hey, I never said this was scientific.)
— St. Joseph’s: If they play Villanova in the second round, it’d be an all-Philly affair, and when kids from the same city play against each other, all bets are off.

Sleepers who could make a Final 4 run:
 Iowa State: I know they’re a 3 seed so not really a “sleeper,” but they’re a streaky team that’s really good.
— Kentucky: I would root for the minions of hell before a team coached by John Calipari, but those talented freshmen just might pull it all together.

And finally, my Final 4 picks:
— Virginia. They’re just really, really good, and superbly well-coached. Great guards, great defense.
— Florida. I hate picking chalk but unless Kansas center Joel Embiid gets much healthier, no one in that region’s beating the Gators and Scottie Wilbekin (above)
— Michigan: I don’t feel good about this one at all. I think my Dukies have a shot, and so does undefeated Wichita State, but both are flawed in some way. So I have to pick somebody, so it’s the Wolverines.
— Wisconsin: The Badgers are way more athletic than usual, and they can take down Arizona if need be.
National champ: Florida.

Good luck everybody!

**Next up, this was good for a laugh. A local TV announcer in Arizona, Paul Cicala of KVOA in Tucson, was trying to show his viewers how fired up he was about the PAC-12 championship basketball game in Las Vegas Saturday night.

So to prove how excited he was about it, our friend Paul decided to sign off his broadcast by racing to the arena at full speed. Except, well… just watch to the end and try not to laugh uproariously.

Poor Paul. Gotta love that enthusiasm!

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**Finally today, this story in last week’s New York Times Magazine was recommended to me by several people, but I finally got around to reading it over the weekend. It was fantastic; Ron Suskind’s son developed autism before he was 3, and the only thing that has helped him as he’s grown is an obsession with Disney movies.
They speak to him, he draws the characters and speaks their dialogue, and the author’s relationship with his son, and with Disney movies, is beautiful and heart-wrenching, but ultimately inspiring.

Highly, highly recommend this story.

 

I’m here to help with your March Madness pool (I hope). And the man who literally couldn’t live without his wife

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I watch way more college basketball than the average person. Maybe more than is healthy, but I love, love, love it.
Which is why I think the first two days of the NCAA Tournament should be declared national holidays, and we should all get it off while sitting at a bar eating and drinking with our heads on a swivel, watching all the action.

But since the government hasn’t yet declared that, I’ll just have to be happy watching it all for you.
Since I know you’re all in bracket office pools, let me give the lowdown on which upsets I think you should pick, which to stay away from, and who’s going to the Final Four. (The selection committee did a really good this year, except for screwing over Oregon (terrible to get a No. 12 seed) and Miami (absolutely should’ve been a No. 1 over Kansas).

And oh yeah, my Duke boys got stuck in the toughest bracket.

Still, I’d ask you to please forget that most of my upsets from last year didn’t pan out (except I DID have Ohio beating Michigan), and that I only got 1 of the Final Four right last year.

This has been a crazy season in college hoops, with upsets and surprises galore. The tourney should be no different.

This year, trust me, take these to the bank (a piggy bank, probably):

First-round upsets I feel confident you should pick:
No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Arizona
(Belmont’s got great shooters and Arizona’s on a downswing);
No. 13 South Dakota St. over Michigan (Wolverines have lost 2 straight, and S.D. State is a veteran team with a great player in Nate Wolters);
No. 14 Davidson over No. 3 Marquette (Davidson hasn’t lost since mid-January and is a tournament veteran; they won’t be scared of Marquette).
No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Oklahoma State: (Ducks got royally screwed with seeding, and though OK State is good, Oregon’s better).

First-round upsets I’m not picking but wouldn’t be surprised if they happen:
No. 11 Bucknell over No. 6 Butler (
Bucknell’s really good and have a giant-killing rep in the NCAAs)
No. 11 Middle Tenn. State over No. 6 Memphis: (Lot of people question MTSU being in, this would be an emphatic rebuttal)
No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Syracuse: Just have a feeling about this game; Syracuse was very erratic this season and could be ripe for the taking.

Surprise Sweet 16 teams:
— North Carolina: It kills me as a Duke fan to pick the Heels, but they’ll beat Kansas in the third round.
— Butler: I guess not so much of a surprise, but I like them over either Marquette or Davidson, if they survive Bucknell)
Best first-round games to watch:
— Akron vs. VCU:
Two really fun teams to watch, up and down, great defense, really good stuff.
— Temple-N.C. State: I have no idea what to expect from State, because I’ve watched a lot of their games. This could be a 20-point blowout either way, or a great game.
— UNC-Villanova: Two teams playing great going into the tournament.

My Final Four picks:

EAST: Michigan State (I hate to pick against Duke, but the draw is too tough. And Louisville is overrated)
WEST: Ohio State (almost by default, this region is really weak and I don’t think Gonzaga is ready for a Final 4 run)
SOUTH: Georgetown (Kansas will lose early, and I don’t like anyone better than the Hoyas here)
EAST: Miami (Should’ve been a 1 seed, and I think they take down Indiana in a classic Elite 8 game to reach the Final 4)
NATIONAL CHAMP: Miami (pictured above). Best, most experienced team, with a guard named Shane Larkin who, if you haven’t heard of him yet, you will very soon.

Good luck jumping into the pool, everyone! Can’t wait till Thursday.

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**So this story sounds made up, like a Hollywood fairy tale done by Tim Burton or something (hat tip to my future mother in law for the heads-up on this story). In Cambridge,  N.Y., a burgh I have been in several times, an 89-year-old woman named Gwen Hendrickson (above, left) died last month.

Gwen was married to Norman Hendrickson for 65 years, and when she died, he was naturally heartbroken.
So heartbroken that on the day of Gwen’s funeral, Norman was found unresponsive in the back of the limo when it arrived at the funeral home.

According to this story, Norm had a “do not resuscitate” order on file, and so he was allowed to pass away at the funeral home, while mourners came in to pay their respects to Gwen.

Norm and Gwen’s daughters asked the funeral home director if they could put Norm in a box in the room where Gwen’s funeral would take place.

And then the kids posted a sign on the front door of the funeral home, saying “Surprise, it’s a double header!”
“Those who knew Norm say he also appreciated a good bargain.”

I can’t decide if that was a sweet gesture by the kids or a really bizarre one. At the very least, it was courteous to the mourners, who now no longer had to schlep back there for Norm’s funeral.
But still … that’s kind of creepy, isn’t it?

Duke wins a thriller, and the madness begins. The new late-night wars: Jimmy vs. Jimmy? And “The Daily Show” shines again

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My favorite sports month of the year is here. Pretty much, every day all month, there’s incredible college basketball going on, not just once the NCAA Tournament gets going in a few weeks.

I love all the late-season showdowns, like Sunday’s epic Michigan-Michigan State game won by the Wolverines by a point. I love the incredible, out of nowhere performances, like when Ryan Kelly of my beloved Duke Blue Devils scored 36 points Saturday night in his first game in two months, leading Duke past a very, very good Miami team.

And this week, I’ll love the small conference tournaments getting their one shot at the big time, playing their guts out against their conference foes, all hoping for one ticket to the Dance.

So yes, I’m one of those freaks who will watch South Dakota State and Northeastern and the bigshots of the Missouri Valley Conference, all playing for the right to have a chance to become famous for a few days a few weeks from now.

For most, March Madness doesn’t really start for two more weeks. But after this past weekend’s thrilling games, I’m totally immersed as usual.

God I love college hoops.

And oh yeah, March Madness extends to high school hoops, too. Check out this insane finish and 55-foot buzzer beater from New Rochelle H.S. in New York’s Khalil Edney, to beat Mount Vernon on Saturday.  The good part starts at :25…

** So it looks like we may have a new late-night war on our hands, and Jay Leno is finally getting shown the door.

NBC is apparently ready to throw Leno out the door (again) in 2014 and turn “The Tonight Show” over to Jimmy Fallon, because they’re worried Jimmy Kimmel and ABC are stealing all the young viewers.

I say amen and bravo to this move. Fallon, though he possesses the horrible habit of cracking himself up on live TV, is quick, funny and has great bits all the time on his show. I’d love to see him and Kimmel go at it, because Kimmel is really funny, too.

But Mr. Fallon, I wouldn’t go celebrating just yet. Ask Conan O’Brien how loyal to its promises and plans NBC is, eh?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**Finally today, been a while since I’ve highlighted the consistently awesome work of “The Daily Show.” Late last week Jon Stewart and the gang took on the kerfuffle between the White House and legendary journalist Bob Woodward.

I used to worship Woodward, who of course was 1/2 of the reporting team that helped bring down Richard Nixon during Watergate. But in recent years he seems to have turned into a caricature of himself, and takes himself way too seriously.

So I enjoyed this little takedown very much…

A slice of life story from the fish counter. As the Madness begins, a tribute to Gus. And a unique method to stealing pot: pretending to be a mailman

Just a small slice of life story from the supermarket…
So I walk up to the fish counter Wednesday. Early evening. There’s no one on line in front of me, and a 20-something kid in a Yankees hat is manning the counter, and he looks my way.
“Can I have two tilapia fillets, please?” I ask.
“Absolutely,” he replies. Then a pause. “And thank you for saying ‘please.’ Seriously.”
I laugh and say of course, I’ve got manners, no big deal.
“You don’t understand, it is a big deal,” he says. At this point he was really getting fired up. “You’re the first person all day who’s said ‘please.’
I looked at my watch. It was 5:45 p.m. I ask what time he started working.
“Noon. And just because you said please, I’m gonna give you the two best fillets I’ve got.”
I laugh again and said thank you, and a minute later I walked away.
Then I started to think: Six hours this guy had been working at the supermarket, dealing with probably, what 50-75 customers, and not one of them had simply said please when they got their cod or swordfish or whatever.
Not one person.

I’m not going to go off on a rant here about the lack of civility in America, but I just found that so sad, that no one could take the three seconds to be polite to the guy at the fish counter. It costs you nothing to say please.

**The NCAA Tournament begins today, in the eyes of most people, this afternoon (those play-in games were exciting, but to me it doesn’t feel like the real beginning).

It will have everything we’ve grown accustomed to over the last 30 years: drama, big upsets, close calls, and thrilling excitement.
But sadly, this year on CBS it won’t have Gus Johnson. Never has a sports announcer been more perfect for an event than Gus was for the NCAA Tournament. He was always so excited, and made his calls in such dramatic fashion, that you couldn’t help but get excited with him.
He had his detractors, but man, he was so much fun to listen to. Sadly, after last year’s tournament he and CBS couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract, and now he works for FOX, who have no NCAA Tournament games for him to call.
It won’t be the same without ya, Gus. Watch the video above and tell me he doesn’t get you psyched.
(By the way, here’s a fantastic story from SI.com’s Tim Layden on March 14, 1981, the day “March Madness” really began, when NBC first used the “switch to exciting games at the ending” technique that’s become so common now. Cameos from a young Bryant Gumbel in the story, too!)

**Gotta give Calvin Coolidge Wiggins (that’s really his name) of Michigan credit for creativity. My man figured out a pretty cool way to steal some drugs. He apparently was tired of having the marijuana he mailed through the U.S. Postal Service being seized before it got to its delivery point. So he posed as a postal inspector, walked into a post office branch in Romulus, Mich., and walked out with dozens of packages, many of them containing pot.

The best part is, before being caught, Wiggins said he’d done this a bunch of times before.
Pssst, Calvin, there’s gotta be an easier way to get drugs. Try UPS!