Category Archives: NCAA Tournament

Opening Day!

Well, sort of. The season started last week in Japan, and most teams don’t play a game until tomorrow, but tonight belongs to the Nationals and Braves at the opening of their new ballpark. Since I’m still waiting for Rutgers to announce their schedule (and if the rumors are correct, Kansas State also) the OoC Schedule Review will continue to be postponed. So while I enjoy the second half of Kansas-Davidson, let’s talk a little baseball.

  • One of the benefits of starting the season on ESPN is I guess they feel the need to talk you up. Jayson Stark is calling for the Braves to win the World Series. Peter Gammons says they’ll make it there, and several other contributors say the Braves will win the division or wild card.
  • Now I don’t know about all that. I got my copy of this year’s Baseball Prospectus the other day and I can’t say enough about it. What I’ve mainly taken away from the Braves’ section is what I thought anyway, and it’s always nice to have someone confirm your gut feelings with data. Basically, it goes something along the lines of “if the rotation doesn’t implode upon itself like it did last year these Braves have a real shot”. Of course, the top 4 of the rotation looks like it’ll be Hudson, Smoltz, Glavine, and Hampton. Yes, that Hampton. Smoltz and Glavine are old; the former will start the season on the DL, and the latter was horrendous at the end of last year. That said, when Smoltz is healty he should pitch well, which is something I’m not sure we can say about Glavine anymore.
  • That said, something that caught my eye in Stark’s article was that Teixiera represented a 60-run improvement for the Braves last year. That tells not only that Tex is good, but also that Scott Thorman and company were very, very bad at the 3-spot last year.
  • As for the Nationals, the read on them seems to be “going in the right direction”. Of course, BP wrote that before they cut John Patterson. So the Nats opening-day starter will be former-Brave-turned-Dodger-turned-Royal Odalis Perez. The Royals declined their option for him, which should tell you something right there.

Anyway, some thoughts on the NCAA tournament while I’m here:

  • The thing that is annoying me the most is the NCAA’s brilliant plan to continue to have the Sweet 16 and rounds thereafter in football stadiums. This year, they’ve moved the courts to the middle of the field so they can sell more seats in the football seats in the stadium. In a word, it’s stupid. Most of the fans are so far away from the court that I doubt they can really see anything and, worse, it makes the arena really quiet. Take Houston versus Charlotte, for instance. The former was held at the Texans’ stadium, while the latter was held in a basketball arena. Both featured large contingents of fans that were playing in the games. Which was louder? Charlotte, by far, because the games were being played in a dome designed for basketball! Probably a better experience all around for everyone.
  • I’m going to ahead and post this even though there’s less than a minute left, so I just wanted to make sure I mentioned that if Kansas wins it will be the first time 4 #1 seeds have reached the final four.

“Sports That Could Possibly be Abbreviated ‘Bball’ for $500, Alex.”

Immediately after getting home from work, some friends and I took in the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game.

It wasn’t exactly a clinic. Ohio State looked lost most of the night and had trouble getting any sort of outside game that was desperately needed against Florida’s zone defense. Unlike the game in January, the favorites came out on top this time around.

After the end of the night (and hence the lateness of these posts), I poetically segued from the end of one season to the beginning of another. I recorded the Braves’ opener (10:00 am PDT) to view tonight and kept myself willful ignorant of the results.

What a thrill to be back into baseball. I never got into the groove last season – I left for Europe when the season was still young and came back to a team that was realistically out of the playoff hunt. I watched the remaining games, but without my usual zeal. As I watched yesterday’s game, I found my baseball senses were still in great shape – twitching as though I were behind the plate calling the balls and strikes, cringing at the bad swings at fastballs best described as “on the same plane as the batter’s eyeballs”.

Some of the Braves looked a lot more ready for opening day than others. Particular examples that stand out are Edgar Renteria, Chipper Jones, and of course, Brian McCann. Chipper got on base 3 times, McCann was completely himself (i.e., the best young catcher in the National League), and Edgar hit the tying and go ahead home runs. Andruw looked like he was trying to hit the ball to Pittsburgh most of the time, and the bottom of the order after McCann looked completely out of sorts. (I still prefer Chipper batting 4th and Andruw batting 3rd, honestly.)

John Smoltz pitched well, but he was on the hook for the loss after the 6th. Getting him off the hook was Edgar, who took an 0-2 fastball from Brett Myers in the 8th and just belted out beyond the center field fence to tie the game.

The so-called “Big Three” relievers had an interesting debut today. Mike Gonzalez came on in the 7th and proceeded to watch Brett Myers on four straight and give up a double. He then found the strike zone again and struck out the next two Phillies (including Ryan Howard) and retired the side.

Wickman pitched the tied ninth and got two quick out before allowing a double. They opted to walk Howard this time (one of the cases where I agree with that call) and got Utley to hit pop-up into foul territory that was corralled by Chipper.

Kelly Johnson coaxed a lead-off walk in the 10th, and after failing to get a bunt down, Edgar decided to take the next pitch into the right-center field bleachers. A perfect bottom of the inning by Chad Paronto later and the Braves secured the 1-0 start to the season.

It was weird watching this – they showed occasional highlights from last season. Normally, I’d remember these, but it was a reminder this year that even though I tried to keep up online I really had no idea what was going on. What I knew even before I left, though, was how terrible the bullpen was. If this website existed back then it would probably have several posts dedicated to the so-called “reliever” by the name of Chris Reitsma, one of the few people I’ve ever truly hated. (He was that bad.) Needless to say, had he been pitching today, the Braves probably would’ve lost 7-2.

The funniest part was listening to the announcers skip around the topic, saying everything they could about the bullpen last year without out-and-out saying, “Boy, those guys really sucked.” Here was the most damning factoid they presented: John Smoltz had a damn fine year last year at 16-9. He had 10 no-decisions, 6 of which were caused by blown saves, a stat the Braves led the league in last year. Yes, that’s right, with competent relief, he could’ve easily had 19 or 20 wins. Considering neither Cy Young award winner last year had 20 wins, that’s saying something. (Though perhaps it says more about the over-importance on a team-based stat for a pitcher’s performance, but that’s a post for another day.)

Anyway, it’s April, so like the fans of every baseball team, I’m feeling optimistic about this season. Well, except for fans of the Nationals. They don’t have much to look forward to.

Thoughts on the Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball Team (and more!)

In no particular order:

  • So how about that Thad Young? On his way to a career high 25 points against UNC on Thursday, he hit 10-18 from the field and 5-6 from beyond the arc. He decided to grab some rebounds (2 offensive, 4 defensive) and two steals while he was it. Easily his most dominant performance of the year, it’s something of a double-edged sword – if he keeps playing like that, it’s increasingly likely that he’ll be one-and-done (although in my opinion this was likely even when he wasn’t do so well).
  • Speaking of dominant performances, as a team this was easily Tech’s best of the year. Good things tend to happen when you’re shooing over 60% from the field in the first half, of course. Tech shot 10-22 from beyond the arc, which Anthony Morrow rediscovering the stroke in the first half that led him to lead the ACC in 3-point percentage last year. (He ended up 4 of 10, though, but still had a season high 18 points). Perhaps more importantly, Javaris Crittenton had a season high 11-assists and low (for him) 5 turnovers. 3 guys had 6 rebounds each, and Ra’sean Dickey actually acted like a center for most of the game.
  • Tech has probably done enough to get into the tournament, but I think everyone would feel better if they beat Boston College today. Winning on Thursday in the ACC tournament would help as well.
  • Thanks to unbalanced schedules and the fact no one can win on the road, mad crazy tiebreakers are coming into effect for the ACC Tournament. Tech, with a victory against Boston College, will be a 6 seed if Duke loses to UNC on Sunday. If Tech loses, they’ll end up at 7-9. It’s easy if Clemson loses @Virginia Tech – Tech would be tied with FSU at 7-9, and Tech’s season sweep of FSU would give them the 7 seed. If Clemson wins, it gets complicated and I don’t remember who wins. The top of the ACC is even more confusing since Virginia managed to lose to Wake Forest yesterday. It’s possible for Virginia, UNC, VT, and Boston College to end up at 11-5. They all get byes, sure, but still. Even if BC loses, (and since they’re playing, I hope they do) they’ll still not have to play on Thursday due to a victory over 10-6 Maryland.
  • Speaking of unbalanced schedules, I’m glad that Virginia Tech and Boston College are competing in the ACC. I really am. But I still think back to the salad days of my youth (read: my freshman year 4 years ago) when the ACC had a full round-robin schedule. You have a pretty good idea where you stand after playing everyone twice, and it was one of the things that made ACC basketball really special. Of course, the ACC is still the best conference, but yeah.
  • What on Earth happened to Conference USA? They had pretty much established themselves as a multi-bid league even after Louisville and Cincinnati left, but Memphis has a ridiculous 5 game lead.
  • On Mid-Majors: it appears the only multi-bid mid-major leagues this year will be the A10 (which, at 14 teams, is a much more egregious violation of good naming than the Big Ten), MVC (though only 2 this time, since Missouri St. and Bradly failed to knock off Southern Illinois and Creighton), and probably the Mountain West. In other words, it’s a good year to be a middling major conference team.
  • Speaking of the Missouri Valley, why on Earth do they have their own TV station? Several of those games have had margins of less than 7, and they have an absolutely packed house of 16,000 in St. Louis in what is probably the most well-attended mid-major tournament. But thanks to their TV channel, I’ve only been able to see the highlights. Not even the title game will be on ESPN. C’mon guys, let the rest of us see what’s up with MVC basketball and perhaps people will understand it better.
  • On the ACC bubble situation: I think FSU and Clemson are pretty screwed unless they make some noise in the ACC Tournament. Hopefully that won’t be at our expense.
  • One last thing: being on the west coast and having a job is going to really hamper my enjoyment of the first 3 rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Thank goodness for March Madness On Demand, which will hopefully not get me fired. Sign up soon to make sure you have access to the “VIP” queue when waiting for games.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. It’s nice to be doing this again. Hopefully I’ll have something positive to post about after the game (3:00 EST, FSN).