Tag Archives: Michigan State

The Madness is here! My annual quick-hit guide to help you win our NCAA Tournament pool. And a man gets small revenge on a litterbug, hilariously.

Say it with me now: It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Well, it is for me, anyway. Outside of the U.S. Open in late August this is as excited as I get about a sporting event. Yes, it’s time for March Madness, baby! Sixty-eight teams had their name called on CBS between 6-6:30 p.m., and now we all get to pretend we know what we’re talking about so Ted from human resources will call our names in a few weeks and tell us we’ve won the office pool.

As I try to do every year, I will try to guide and help you, dear reader, with your office pool or ESPN pool or CBS Sports pool or whatever pool you’re into, since, while I don’t watch nearly as much college basketball as I used to, I still watch a lot and read a lot about it. (And I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about my beloved Duke Blue Devils, their insanely non-human star Zion Williamson, as we go along here.)

So without further ado, some quick-hit thoughts on the bracket, which I have to say, is pretty damn good. Usually me and other college hoops fans spend an hour or so on Selection Sunday evening complaining about this team’s seed, how come so and so got left out, and other mistakes. But they did a really, really good job this year.

OK, onward to some first-round upsets you should pick, some dark horses who may go far, and some great matchups I hope happen. As always in this Monday column, I’m not sure I’m ready to pick a Final Four yet, I need at least 24-48 hours to study the bracket some more.

–OK, first off, all the No. 1 seeds are outstanding, and three of the four got very tough brackets, I think. The easiest region is the Midwest, where North Carolina has a cakewalk to the Elite 8, where they’ll play Kentucky, giving me yet another game where I wish both teams could lose, mutually assured destruction and all that. But the other three regions are incredibly difficult.

— First-round upsets I really like: Belmont as an 11 seed will beat Temple and then take out Maryland, a very young team. I really like No. 13 UC-Irvine over a Kansas State team that might be missing its best player (go Anteaters), and I might be crazy enough to pick Yale over LSU, because LSU’s coach Will Wade is suspended right now, Yale is very very good, and I’m scared to death LSU might beat Duke.

I definitely like New Mexico State, who’s won 30 games and is crazy-experienced, to beat Auburn.
One more upset I like but I’m not sure I can bring myself to pick yet: No. 12 Liberty over Mississippi State. Not because I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’m not sure if I can ever possibly pick Jerry Falwell’s school to win something. I hate him so much.

— A team you absolutely, positively should root against? No. 15 seed Bradley. Why? Just read this. Disgusting and disgraceful.

— Lower-seeded sleepers who could make a run: The afore-mentioned Lobos of New Mexico State, who will beat Auburn and then Kansas to get to the Sweet 16; No. 6 seeded Buffalo, who will take out either St. John’s or Arizona State, then possibly beat Texas Tech (I know, I’m wavering on that one, because I love Buffalo’s team but Tech is really, really good).
I like Wofford, too, as a 10 seed, but beating Kentucky in the second round is going to be very, very tough.

— First-round games that’ll be super fun to watch:

1.Marquette-Murray State should be terrific, with two amazing guards in Markus Howard (Marquette) going up against Ja Morant of Murray State. (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. EST, on TBS)

2. Wofford-Seton Hall will be all kinds of fun; the Pirates from Jersey are playing extremely well right now. (Thursday, 9:40 p.m. EST, CBS,
3. Utah State-Washington will be fascinating; the Aggies from Utah State are an outstanding, veteran team and the Huskies have slumped at the end of the season after being regular-season champions of a putrid PAC-12 conference. (Friday, 6:50 p.m. TNT)

— Best games we hopefully will see in the Tournament: Duke-Michigan State in the Elite 8 (if anyone got screwed in the seedings, it’s the Spartans, who could’ve made a strong case for a No. 1 seed) would be epic. Kentucky-UNC, as I mentioned earlier, would be a classic. Virginia-Tennessee in the Elite 8 would be tremendous, I have no idea who’d win that one.
Gonzaga-Florida State would be a rematch of last year when FSU drubbed the Zags; both teams are better this season.

–OK fine, best guess at a Final Four, if you made me choose right now: Duke in the East (duh), Michigan, maybe? in the West, Tennessee in the South, and the Tar Heels of North Carolina in the Midwest. But I don’t feel good about those at all.

Happy bracketing, y’all!

**Finally today, this gave me a good laugh Sunday. Not sure what city this is (looks like Asia based on the store writing) and some people on the Internet are saying it’s fake or staged, but I’m choosing to believe it’s real.
Because people who litter and throw shit out their window deserve to have what happened to this driver, happen to them.

Outstanding stuff.

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A No. 16 seed beats a No.1, and four incredible days of NCAA Tournament action have me exhausted but happy. And Fox News, perfectly explained, in one video

There are times as a writer where you don’t know where to start a story because there’s just nothing interesting in your material, and you’re reaching, clawing through your notebook hoping to find something that doesn’t stink.

Then there are times, like when you’ve watched four days of sensational, amazing, exhausting but oh so much fun NCAA Tournament, and you’ve got so much in your brain you could start with, you really don’t know where to start.

A warning: If you don’t care about college basketball or the NCAA Tournament, this blog will be a whole lot of words that won’t interest you. I’ve got a non-NCAA Tournament item at the end if you want to hang in there.

OK, of course I know where we have to start. We have to start with the University of Maryland Baltimore-County, a small school in Catonsville, Md., that scored for my money the biggest non-Olympics upset in sports history Friday night. UMBC, a No. 16 seed, did something no other 16 seed had ever done: It beat a No. 1 seed.

And not just any 1 seed, a dominant 1 seed like Virginia. I have to say, watching the game from my couch Friday night with a new friend, we were sitting there in shock, not just because a 16 was beating a 1 (I always knew it would happen someday, the difference between 16’s and 1’s isn’t as big as it used to be), but HOW it happened. I always figured the titanic upset over a 1 seed would happen with a 40-foot crazy buzzer-beater or something like that.

But this, this was a blowout. The Retrievers destroyed the Cavs, and it wasn’t even close the final five minutes. My buddy Scott turned to me with a minute to go and said “This is crazy! It’s anti-climactic, there’s no drama because UMBC has been so far ahead the last 10 minutes!”

It’s true, the score never got into single digits the last 10 minutes of the game. What a moment, what a wonderful, crazy moment for some scrappy, overlooked players who no one thought could win.

Sure, UMBC wasn’t able to keep it going, losing a close one Sunday night. But man, they have given all of us a memory that will last a lifetime.

— Laughed out loud at this Tweet by @netw3rk after the Retrievers lost Sunday night: “UMBC didn’t get eliminated, they just live at a farm upstate now.”

— So many other great stories in the Tournament so far, but after UMBC’s stunning upset my next favorite thing has been Loyola-Chicago, and their remarkable pair of wins over Miami in the first round and then Tennessee in Round 2.

They’re a veteran team who hasn’t been anywhere near this far in more than 30 years, and suddenly they’ve slayed two Goliaths and they’ve got a 98-year-old team chaplain named Sister Jean Delores Schmidt (above) who is just the most adorable thing ever. When a reporter asked Sister Jean Sunday how it felt to be a national celebrity, she replied “Not to correct you, dear, but international.”

Loyola, a team whose players used to hand out free hot dogs coupons to students to get them to come to games,  is in the Sweet 16 with a great shot to win, and I’m just pissed that next game they’re playing my other favorite story of this tournament…

— Nevada! Two phenomenal comebacks by a No. 7 seed, including coming back from 22 points down to win Sunday over No. 2 seed Cincinnati. Their coach, Eric Musselman, was a tad excited after the game, and I’m so proud that I know a grad, my excellent friend Kristen, and I’m rambling now but it really was a hell of a comeback by them Sunday.

— Oh yeah, Duke, the team I root for. Honestly there was so much other great stuff this weekend that I’m glad my Blue Devils didn’t cause me much stress. Two outstanding wins, pretty easily attained over Iona and Rhode Island, and Trevon Duval played outstanding. He really is the key to Duke going further. Marvin Bagley III was phenomenal, the bench contributed well, but the freshman point guard Duval is the whole key. If he’s playing great, Duke can win the title.

— So Saturday night, last game of the evening, Houston-Michigan. Cougars up by 2, and Devin Davis Jr. of Houston steps up to the foul line with just four seconds left. Davis misses both.

And then this happened…Jordan Poole for the win.

**And then, in a moment of pure class, watch as Michigan star Moritz Wagner notices a despondent Davis standing on the court, in shock at how his team just lost. And Wagner stops and does this. Absolutely, that kid has been raised right.

— A couple of words about the two biggest disappointments this weekend. Virginia, obviously, was humiliated, losing to a 16 seed and getting embarrassed along the way. I have to give much credit to their coach Tony Bennett, who handled everything with class after the game, but wow, this is going to be hard to recover from. He’s built an amazing program in Charlottesville but this is three of the last four years they’ve gone out early in March after having a tremendous regular season.

— And then there was Michigan State, who laid a big egg Sunday against Syracuse. Absolutely no excuse for a team as talented as the Spartans are to lose to the Orange, and miss so many open shots. Lot of things have to go wrong for Michigan State to lose that game, and lots of things did.

–Finally Two absolute trends in this year’s Tournament: 1, Teams shoot way, way, way too many 3-pointers. I mean, I know it’s been getting worse and worse every year, but oh my goodness the number of horrible 3-pointers I saw in the first two rounds. Guys, it’s OK if you take a short jumper or try to drive! I promise, even in Trump’s America, it’s legal to take a 10-footer!

The other big trend seems to be these replay reviews taking longer, and longer, and longer. I swear to God the other night in the, I think it was Gonzaga-Ohio State game (I may be wrong they’re all blending together), there were a couple of five-minute delays while the officials watched 11 replays.

Hey guys, just make a call! I know it’s important to get it right, but I’ve had relationships that lasted less time than these reviews!

Just had to get that off my chest. Thank you. What a fantastic four days of game. Man, I do love this sport.

**And finally today, I promised you something non-NCAA Tournament related at the end. An organization called Now This put together the absolutely perfect explanation, in one short video, of why Fox News is so phony and fraudulent.

Watch as the exact same decision is reached by Presidents Obama and Trump, and how they react. Just genius.

Everybody into the pool! I give you tips on the 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket. And a pretty awesome wedding proposal that took a year to create

North Carolina v Duke

It’s the most wonderful time, of the year…

Come on everybody, sing it with me!

Screw Christmas or the Fourth of July, for diehard hoopheads like me, Sunday was the glorious first day of March Madness, three weeks of non-stop college basketball that will leave me smiling from ear to ear and working that remote as feverishly as a teenager playing “Call of Duty.”

Selection Sunday was great, as usual, my Duke boys got the No. 1 seed they deserved, and the selection committee screwed up enough to have plenty of people outraged (Dayton barely gets in, and UCLA and Texas get in over Temple? That makes zero sense).

As usual here on the blog, I’m going to break down some of the early-round games and tell you which upsets I think you should pick, to give you the best shot at winning our office pool. Sure, I don’t get them all right, but last year I told you Harvard and North Dakota State would both score huge upsets, and they did! (Click here for proof of my Nostradamus-like forecast).

Some quick-hit thoughts to help you smash Ted from accounting:

First-round upsets you should definitely pick:  No. 12 Buffalo over No. 5 West Virginia (Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo team is really good, and Bob Huggins-coached teams rarely do well in the Tournament); No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 Utah (Utes are sliding and playing terribly at the end of the year), No. 13 UC-Irvine over No. 4 Louisville (Louisville is very erratic and the Anteaters are for real).

First-round upsets that wouldn’t stun me but I’m not willing to pick: Harvard over UNC (oh man would I love to see Dukie Tommy Amaker and Harvard beat the Heels), Eastern Washington over Georgetown.

Sleepers to watch (lower-seeded teams that could go much further than anticipated:): No. 7 Michigan State (Izzo in March, need I say more?), No. 11 Dayton, No. 7 Wichita State.

Second-round matchups that would be awesome: Wichita State vs. Kansas (big brother vs. little brother in the state; KU refuses to play Wichita State); Gonzaga-Davidson (Davidson will absolutely give them a game, they play tough teams every year); Michigan State-Virginia (rematch of last year’s terrific Sweet 16 game; MSU’s not as good as last year and UVA is better, but Spartans are playing great right now and UVA’s limping in).

Is there any way Kentucky loses before the Final Four? Not really. In my heart I’d like to say Notre Dame and Maryland could knock them out, but the Wildcats got a pretty cake draw.

Can’t give you my Final Four picks yet because I haven’t studied the bracket enough. But Kentucky’s gonna be there. They’re not winning the title, but they’re at least making the Final 4.

Good luck in your pool; I’ll spend the next three days worrying about Robert Morris or North Florida (one of whom will be Duke’s first-round opponent. Hey, don’t laugh, my boys lost to Mercer last year and Lehigh two years before that; anything can happen.)

And that’s why I love March Madness so damn much: Because anything can happen. Maybe this is finally the year a 16 beats a 1 (Lafayette over Villanova, anyone?). Maybe some kid we’ve never heard of becomes instantly famous for a last-second shot.

Anything can happen. Can’t wait till Thursday.

**Finally today, I thought all of the unique marriage proposals in the world had been used up, but this guy’s was pretty great.

It takes a couple minutes to get going (you can skip to 2:30 and not miss much), but once it does I find it really sweet and charming.

And of course, she said yes…

Another good veto by Florida’s Governor. And a plea to Tom Izzo: Please stay

So that’s two vetoes in a row for newly-independent Florida governor Charlie Crist.
When we last left the former Republican here on Wide World of Stuff, he had actually listened to the howls of outrage and vetoed a controversial new education law that was as stupid as it was short-sighted.

Now, no longer beholden to the lunatic fringe on the right, Crist has vetoed a disgusting and despicable law passed by the Florida legislature. The bill, HB1243, would’ve required women wishing to have an abortion to hear details about the fetus from their doctor, and would’ve forced them to have, and pay for, an ultrasound and view the image, with rare exceptions.

This was a dreadful piece of legislation, an absolute invasion of women’s privacy at a time they’re making a very difficult decision men like me have no concept of.

The law was designed to, I suppose, guilt women who chose of their own free will to have an abortion, into changing their minds.

It’s reprehensible to think this could’ve become law, and I commend Crist for vetoing it.

He’s not going to win this Senate election he’s in, I believe. But at least he’s salvaging his reputation and proving he’s not the Jeb Bush clone we all thought he was.

Here’s the great story on Izzo from HBO’s Real Sports from a few months ago:

**With the exception of Notre Dame’s Mike Brey (Formerly of the University of Delaware, thank you) and, of course, Mike Krzyzewski, there’s no college basketball coach I respect more, and like more, than Tom Izzo.

The Michigan State boss is everything you’d want in a coach: intense, dedicated to his profession, fiercely loyal to his players, and absolutely a winner. He’s led the Spartans to six Final Fours and one national title in 12 years, a ridiculously consistent mark in this era of one and done players and tremendous parity in Division I hoops.

Everything I’ve read about him, and seen, makes me think he’s a good, decent man, who is a credit to his profession.

Which is why I am really, really, really hoping he stays at Michigan State, and doesn’t jump to the NBA to coach the possibly LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers. As I write this, news reports say Izzo is torn about which way to turn.

He’s been offered the Cavs job, but you’d think he has no way of knowing whether LeBron James will be there when he arrives (I’d be shocked if James told Izzo one way or the other by now; no way that could stay quiet for a month).

Izzo is so good for college basketball, and for Michigan State. His kids don’t get into trouble with the law, and they play tremendously hard on both ends of the floor. Izzo has always struck me as a guy who loves the college game, with its high and lows. Would he really want to subject himself to 82 games with millionaire pros, especially when his MSU team this season is a national title contender?

Far be it from me to tell a man I don’t know what to do. But I really, really hope he stays at MSU and continues his legacy as one of the best college coaches ever.  The NCAA would be a lot poorer if he’s gone.

Watch that clip I’ve embedded above, a typically excellent HBO Real Sports piece on Izzo. Tell me that’s not a man perfectly at home.