Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brittney Griner, Dumb Nicknames, Bob Huggins, Etc.

I've been thinking about things lately. Don't believe me? Put this in your pipe and smoke it:

How in God's name did Alabama-Huntsville become a college hockey power? Did you realize they competed in college hockey's Elite Eight over the weekend? Wouldn't this be like New Hampshire A & T becoming a baseball heavyweight?


I have a problem with one of the more memorable scenes from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and I need to bring it to your attention: "Adams, Adamle, Adamowski, Adamson, Adler, Anderson, Bueller, Bueller, Bueller...."

Now, I get going overboard with all the names at the start of the alphabet, but if you're going to include five last names before Anderson, how in the hell can you justify zero names between Anderson and Bueller? It's an impossibility. You mean to tell me that that class shouldn't have included an Atkinson, Baxter, Benson or Bishop before Bueller? Wacky high school comedy or not, this has always driven me crazy.


Been paying attention to that woman giant, Brittney Griner, lately? I sure have. Her games are appointment television. She blocks a bunch of shots without jumping and struts around with an annoying swagger that suggests she's done something impressive. Let me ruin the fun for you: She hasn't. She's just really goddamn tall. Anyway...

Over the weekend she threw up a stat line we may never see again (unless she does it again this tournament): 27 points, 10 blocks...7 rebounds! Does it even seem possible to block that many shots and only come away with 7 rebounds? That particular game featured (an appropriate term for the women's game) 78 missed field goal attempts and 11 free throws. Step it up, Griner!


Speaking of the women's game, Mo Egger echoed everything I wanted to say about Xavier's choke job on Monday, and he wasn't remotely out of line. I wish he would have added this: Women should not be allowed to play basketball. Exhibit A for my argument is Xavier's multiple blown layups at the end of the Stanford game.

Tennis, soccer, volleyball and swimming? Go for it, ladies. I'll even watch on occasion and keep my obnoxious remarks to a relative minimum. But, basketball as a legitimate form of entertainment? Please. I watch women's hoops for the same reason I watch Red Dawn: Both are unintentionally hilarious.


Professional basketball is covered by TNT better than any sport is covered by any other network. Fact. Yet I can't stop shaking my head at TNT's bone-headed decision to put EJ, Kenny and Chuck in the booth for last Thursday's Bulls-Heat game. Aside from opening night, the playoffs and maybe Martin Luther King Day, this was TNT's biggest night of the year, and a golden opportunity to highlight the comedic talents of America's greatest studio show.

And I doubt anyone watched.

There are only two Thursdays every year when even hardcore NBA fans don't care about the NBA: The first day of the NCAA tournament and the Sweet 16. That's it, that's the list. I'm not a clever television critic, but I would give TNT two emphatic thumbs down for this move.


It's probably been seven or eight years since I considered anyone other than Tom Izzo the best college coach alive (really, who else makes it in the discussion?). Anyway, I'm not shattering the Earth with this proclamation (although I think most would find a way to disagree with me), but I find it interesting that Tom Izzo -- undeniable greatness and all -- remains underrated. Even after this past weekend, when the world seems to be lining up to fellate him, Izzo isn't appreciated in the manner he deserves.

Unless Michigan State wins it all, Tom Izzo will once again drift into relative obscurity.

Let's play a game: Quick, name all the outstanding NBA players Tom Izzo's produced...

Still waiting...

Ten more seconds...

Come up with any? If you answered Zach Randolph, you'd receive partial credit (he played one year for Izzo and averaged 10.8 ppg). After that you're looking at two years of Jason Richardson (only one of which where he really made an impact) and a solid four-year career of Morris Peterson.

And after that?

Eh. You're looking at a few Charlie Bells and Shannon Browns and guys who never made an impact at the next level. Since the end of the 90's (when Izzo finally got things rolling at MSU), Michigan State has only put nine players in the NBA and those nine players have combined for one All Star game (Randolph, this year). By contrast, Fresno State's put twelve players in the NBA since the start of the century. Twelve! Fresno State!

Which confirms the following: (1.) Tom Izzo's not the best recruiter on the planet. (2.) Tom Izzo's the best coach on the planet. Undeniably.


Every year at this time I rail against basketball's flopping epidemic and the nature of taking charges. I won't waste your time linking to all of my past columns where I frustratingly wrote (at length) about the absurdity of taking charges. But I will reiterate my main theme: Taking a charge -- which most of the time means standing in place and falling backwards after minimal contact -- is the least natural basketball move a player can make (other than maybe taking a pee while shooting a free throw, or whatever). Trust me, I've been playing ball for 23 years now (often times against current and former college players), and it's never once crossed my mind to stand in front of someone and fall down just to gain a possession. Basketball is all about instincts, and taking a charge is anything but instinctive.

It's also the reason Baylor isn't in the Final Four. For anyone who saw 7'1, 270-lb. Brian Zoubek stand under the rim with his arms straight up as Baylor forward Quincy Acy came storming down the baseline, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Baylor had a two-point lead and a shit ton of momentum before a 7'1 behemoth -- again, standing under the rim -- decided not to challenge a shot, but to fall down because an opponent touched his hip. Zoubek got the call, Baylor relented the lead on the next possession, Duke snatched momentum and won the game.

The charging/flopping epidemic gets worse every year, and it's standing in the way of making basketball the perfect product.


Evan Turner wasn't a unanimous AP first team All American; he missed by one vote. I'd like to deliver a face punch to the jag-off who voted five (or maybe more) players over Turner. Remember, basketball All American teams don't require voters to select a conventional lineup of two guards, two forwards and a center. It's simply a vote for the five best guys in the sport. That means that some asshole out there thought Evan Turner wasn't one of the five best players of the 2009-2010 college basketball season. I'm not making that up. Whoever excluded Evan Turner from his (or her) first-team ballot shouldn't be allowed to cover the sport for a living.


Women's shot clocks are thirty seconds; men's are thirty-five. Can somebody please explain this to me? Aside from the flopping epidemic, college basketball's biggest problem is widespread offensive ineptness. Regardless of how hard-fought some of these tournament games have been, a 55-53 slugfest is still endlessly boring.

The game needs to be sped up, scoring needs to increase and the game's magnificent athletes need to be uncaged. Because there is no reason West Virginia, a team graced with a multitude of thoroughbreds, should struggle so much on the offensive end. Which reminds me...


Three games remaining until a champion is crowned. Three boring games. I'm pulling hard for Huggs and everything, but West Virginia plays an ugly brand of basketball. Duke and Michigan State? Not a single next-level player on the roster. And while Butler's Gordon Hayward has the most potential of any Final Four participant, he doesn't often assert himself, and he's still flanked by typical Butler players. Prepare yourself for the worst Final Four since (at least) 2000.

Don't get me wrong, a Butler-Duke title contest would be positively riveting on the David-Goliath scale (an obscure Biblical reference), but the actual game play might put you to sleep.


It appears Kevin Durant is now being called "Durantula." No, really. I'd love to make fun of this, but I'm afraid I'm in the minority here. I have trouble understanding this, but losers everywhere love making up nicknames for established young stars. I can't imagine another trend being more nerdy. I really really hate it. Don't get me wrong, I love nicknames (and especially nickname origins), but only when they come about in a natural fashion (typically in one's youth); they should never be forced. I feel very strongly about this.

Two quick nickname/new media stories that left me scratching my head and contemplating suicide:

1. During a recent Grizzlies-Wizards game (don't ask), the Grizzlies announcers repeatedly called current Wizards guard (and former Grizzly), Mike Miller, "MM33." That's the dumbest goddamn nickname I've ever heard. MM33! No wait...


Could anything be more ridiculous? It's really hard to say and it was obviously an attempt by a nerdy white announcer to create a cool nickname. Not happening. That will never be cool. Not in my lifetime, holmes.

2. Watched NBA Fastbreak for about ten seconds last week before the studio host (maybe Kevin Connors or Robert Flores, not sure) called a triple double a "trip-dub." Did the studio analyst, Jalen Rose, call him out for this? Of course not; he's not exactly a burgeoning broadcasting talent. Without hesitation I changed the channel and threw my remote control 600 MPH into the couch cushions.

Yes, I desperately wanted to be a credible media member for several years, but I was being blocked by dickheads who thought it was cool (or at least acceptable) to say things like "MM33" and "trip-dub." This is a massive effing problem, and it keeps me up on more nights than I'd like admit.

I blame Stuart Scott and Chris Berman.


Finally, we have Huggs. I won't waste your time explaing my embarrassing affinity for the man, but it goes pretty deep (forgive me, he came to town when I was just 9-years-old). Plus, I've written about him several times and I'm not sure what else I have to add. The list of people I can't discuss rationally is pretty short: Marty Brennaman, Nick Van Exel, Bob Huggins, Howard Stern and that's about it. And Larry David, Tony Kornheiser, David Simon, Barry Larkin, Edinson Volquez, Troy Smith, Antoine Winfield, David Boston and Mike Martz probably make the cut, as well. Okay, maybe my list isn't so short, but Coach Higgs is definitely on top.

Do I consider him a god? Do I make excuses for his past failures? Would I lay down in traffic for the guy? Yep. Yep. Yep. I can't help it, he was responsible for so many great moments in my childhood that I'd root for him if he were fighting my Aunt Bunny in a steel cage death match.

Before I post a few tear-jerking videos, allow me one improbably sentence to illustrate how much of a Huggins fan I was: I used to record his postgame radio shows on a cassette tape.

That's how much I loved Higgy, and I won't apologize for it. As Christopher Moltisanti once spoke of Tony Soprano, "I'd follow that man into hell."


I woke up on Monday in search of...something on YouTube. Can't remember what. Somehow, with fate intervening (or whatever), I quickly stumbled upon two Bearcats season-recap videos from the glorious Final Four season of 1992. Against all odds, I didn't cry. But I was damn close.


(Lengthy Reds preview coming before Monday morning.)

-Brad Spieser (

Basketball Is A Sport (Elite Eight Picks)

Me doesnt's have a ton of time this morning, so I'll get right down to it

Four Elite Eight games on the board and winners are everywhere. Follow me to freedom. Every pick below is being considered a lock.

Coach Cal (-4) vs. Huggs

Words: Calipari has KU committed to playing defense, and since they have better athletes than West Virginia (and much more skilled players offensively), this seems like a pretty easy pick. I'm thinking Kentucky 65, WVU 54. West Virginia just can't score. Which means...

Kentucky-WVU UNDER (133.5)

Sentences: This might be the easiest bet on the board.

Kansas State (-4) vs. Butler

Words: As a rule, Cinderella generally goes no further than the Elite Eight (although George Mason spit in the face of that rule a few years ago), and I'm sticking to that again this year. It's been a cute story this year -- all these upsets -- but the Final Four is about the most talented teams facing off on the biggest stage. If you disagree with me, think about how boring a Northern Iowa-Butler Final Four match would have been.

As for betting against Butler today, two things scare me: One, K-State's fatigue (which might be nonexistent). Two, Butler wasn't hot when they took down Syracuse; they missed a ton of open threes. If the mighty Bulldogs get hot, we could have a ballgame with sixty seconds left on the big black hanging watch that also keeps score.

But I'm not expecting that tonight. Kansas State has been to businesslike all tournament to take Butler lightly.

Baylor (+4.5) vs. Duke

Sentences: It's possible that Duke wins here (although I'm not buying it), but it doesn't change the fact that this line is way off, probably by eight or nine points. Baylor should be favored tomorrow. Better athletes, more NBA players, deeper I need to keep going? Duke plays lock-down defense, but that won't matter if they can't score more than 50. You want to see something funny? Watch Greg Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers (sounds like a garage band) try to keep up with Baylor when they take off the other way. It won't be pretty.

(Note: Despite mentioning in my pre-Sweet 16 column, I forgot to wager on Baylor at 25/1 to win it all. If this happens -- a legitimate possibility -- I'm giving myself the ol' Brooks Hadlin. Sorry, Mom.)

Locks record: 7-5

-Brad Spieser (

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Definitive Sweet 16 Preview (Loving The Dogs? Really?)

(Note: The picture above doesn't necessarily have anything to do with collegiate basketball, although this author can safely assume Oliver Purnell has lost a few thousand Tic-Tac-Toe matches in similar fashion.)

Incomplete paragraphs about sports and whatnot:

While it's blatantly obvious that Kentucky and Syracuse are on a collision course to square off on the first Monday in April, I give both teams a decent chance to go down Thursday -- Kentucky to Cornell; Syracuse to Butler. And listen, I'm not putting these heavyweights on upset alert simply because of this year's unpredictable tournament. Nope, not at all. I could be crazy, but I think Cornell and Butler are just really good. The same goes for Northern Iowa -- taking on Michigan State -- and St. Mary's, who gets the pleasure of dancing with the Baylor Please Stop Asking Us About Patrick Dennehy and Carlton Dotsons (or whatever their nickname is).

Of the four underdogs mentioned, I consider St. Mary's the best overall team. Ironically, I consider them the longest longshot of the four. Baylor, with a multitude of long-armed superfreaks, is one of the few teams that won't have to send a double teams towards Omar Samhan.

As for Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa, I'm taking the points in each of their games this round, and I'm only a little frightened to do so. I'll probably lose one to a blowout (definitely not Northern Iowa), but I think I have a reasonable shot of nailing two out of three.

I want to make something clear: I am not pulling for underdogs simply because it's fun to pull for an underdog. Aside from the fact that each have a legitimate chance to win, I'm rooting for these underdogs because of their style of play. I'll always pull for teams loaded with shooters, just as I'll always pull for any football team that features a pass-heavy, riverboat-gambler offense (perhaps this means I'm flawed). Take this year's Old Dominion squad, or all of the good Southern Illinois teams of the past decade: Good teams, great defensively, dreadful to watch...and ultimately, they hit their ceiling after a round or two. That style of play doesn't fly when heavyweights bring their A Game.

And while I'm not suggesting Butler, St. Mary's, Cornell or Northern Iowa don't have ceilings (they do, and none of them have a chance to win it all), I am suggesting their style of play gives them more than just a puncher's chance to advance to the Elite Eight.


Here's how screwed up my brain is: I'd love to see Kentucky and Syracuse battle it out in Indianapolis -- I think it could go down as an all-time great -- and yet I want to see both of them fall Thursday night.


One last thought about the dogs of round three: Gritty as they may be, I give Purdue little or no chance of moving past Duke on Friday. They'll struggle to score 60 points and the loathsome Blue Devils will own the glass. In fact, let's just make Duke (-8.5) one of my two locks of the Sweet 16 round. I watched both of Purdue's games and they're running on fumes. They were manhandled by Texas A & M, but somehow managed to steal a victory (just a heartbreaking loss for the Aggies). I just don't see that happening against a Duke team who, silently, is playing better defense than anyone in the tournament (including Syracuse). Purdue is without bangers and shooters, and the hyper-intelligent Chris Kramer/Matt Painter tandem is only worth so much. All the effort in the world won't keep the Boilers within fifteen. Duke wins, 66-49. (I guess that means I love under, too.)

Lock No. 2: Washington-West Virginia UNDER (141)

Words: I'd rather make out with my mother on Easter Sunday before taking the over in another WVU game. Are you kidding me? They don't have a point guard and they can't bury open jumpers. Plus, they never take advantage of their athleticism in transition (thanks, Huggs ). And I don't care how hot Washington's been offensively, they haven't seen anything resembling what the Mountaineers have in store defensively. Just watch: Ten minutes into this game and the Huskies will have something like 11 points.

So, with my locks out of the way, let's move on to the rest of the collegiate basketball contests on the docket...

As mentioned above: Butler (+6) vs. The Cuse; Cornell (+8.5) vs. Kentucky University Wildcats; Northern Iowa White People (+1) vs. Izzo; Baylor (-4.5) vs. St. Mary's.


Kansas State (-4.5)
vs. Xavier

Sentences: I'm pulling for the Muskies, but I just don't see any reason we won't see a repeat of the 71-56 beatdown K-State delivered XU in December. I also have a bad feeling Jordan Crawford will hurt his team by trying to do too much.

Duke-Purdue UNDER (128.5)

Thoughts: It just occurred to me that if any of my ten former bookies were to read this post they might think they're in an alternate universe. I mean, Brad Spieser just doesn't take two unders and three dogs (certainly not when the dogs have names like Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa).

Ohio State (-4.5)
vs. Volunteers

Words: All year long I've considered Tennessee overrated and I'm not backing off that. The Buckeyes seem beatable, but Evan Turner is a lot better than anyone on Tennessee's roster, and I give a decided coaching edge to Thad Matta over Bruce Pearl. I don't love this bet, but a wager on Rocky Top here would be a foolish one. They're not to be trusted.

Locks record: 5-5 (still shaking my head at Texas A & M)


Once again, I'm prematurely calling this bastard quits. It's almost six in the goddamn morning, the sun is coming up, I'd like to eat a bagel, my feet are freezing and I'd like to close my eyes for the next four hours or so. If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with my boss, Jesus Christ.

In your face, sinners!

-Brad Spieser (

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

State Of UC Hoops; Importance Of Outside Shooting

Okay, before touching on the NCAA tournament, I must first tackle the mighty Cincinnati Bearcats, who saw their season end last night in the prestigious NIT.

(And by the way, it's not the NIT Tournament, it's just the NIT; the letter "T" represents the word tournament. So, to clear things up: It's just the NIT...not the National Invitation Tournament Tournament. Get it straight, DirecTV, ESPN, Every Sports Book in Las Vegas, etc.)

Mick Cronin is coming back next season, and I'm actually excited about this. When I recently wrote this piece most of my readers assumed I wanted the little redhead to receive his walking papers. That, boys and girls, is far from the truth. I am not in love with his coaching decisions, and I'm mostly convinced he isn't the answer, but he could be. And the fact that I'm not completely writing off Cronin's ability to right the ship is precisely why this program needs to keep him around another year.

If Cronin leaves, you're talking about four coaches in less than a decade, which is alarming for a program still trying to crawl itself out from under the mess Nancy Zimpher left behind. Four coaches in seven or eight years reeks of instability, and rival coaches love to focus on instability when recruiting against other programs. Don't go to Cincinnati. You don't know who the coach is going to be.

But it's not just about stability; it's also about recruiting. Mick Cronin, warts and all, can still lure in the nation's top players. As for the guy who eventually replaces Cronin (assuming it's in the near future), well, he might not share Cronin's coaching deficiencies, but he might not be able to bring in Big Boy talent. Plus, let's not forget that UC is a destination job for Cronin, whereas it's likely to be a stepping stone job for the next guy in charge (again, assuming Cronin doesn't last long). If you want UC to be relevant again, you should also want Cronin to be your coach.

Whether you like Cronin or not, the fact remains that UC lost a bunch of 50-50 games this year, and since they return nearly all of their key players (Note: I think Deonta Vaughn will turn out to be addition by subtraction), it's reasonable to assume that many of this year's L's will turn into W's next year. If not, then get rid of the little guy. You have my blessing.


But if the Bearcats are going to take the next step, they need to find a shooter. Desperately. Right now they don't have one, and the two-man recruiting class for 2010 is comprised of 6'8 and 6'10 post players. So, what you're about to read might be pointless.

Cornell, Butler, Northern Iowa and St. Mary's account for 25 percent of the Sweet 16 for one reason and one reason only: accurate long-range shooting.

(Before moving forward, let me acknowledge the fact that St. Mary's wouldn't have made the tourney without Omar Samhan [aka, poor man's David West]. Believe me, I get it. The guy is a stud. I love watching him play. Short sentences are prevalent. Anyway, without a bunch of sharpshooters surrounding Samhan there's no freaking chance the Gaels are alive on the tourney's second weekend. Without marksmen like Mickey McConnell, Matthew Dellavedova and Ben Allen hanging around the perimeter, Samhan would get triple teamed, and his team would get smoked. Fact.)

As for Cornell, Butler and Northern Iowa, all they do is shoot the three; that's the entirety of their offensive game. Just as going five-wide and throwing sixty passes a game is the quickest way to respectability in college football, bombing a million threes each game gives you the best chance to compete with the powers of college hoop. I will not argue this. But seriously, when are college coaches going to figure out what seems so obvious to anyone with cable?

Cornell, Butler, Northern Iowa and St. Mary's start twenty players who most BCS conference schools never even considered recruiting. And I understand how players fall through the cracks or develop later in life, really, I do. But that excuse can't be made for all of them. These kids, I assume, played just as much AAU as Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson, and -- despite possessing otherworldly range -- were written off by major colleges because of what they couldn't do. Apparently jumping over someone in a dunk contest is more important than winning a three-point contest.

Don't get me wrong, you need elite-level talent to win six consecutive games in March, but you also need to knock down the occasional jumper. And in a trillion years, the most important skill on a basketball court will still be shooting.

Quick, why won't West Virginia cut down the nets this year? If you answered anything but "They don't have anything resembling an accurate perimeter shooter," you'd be an idiot. Bob Huggins is the coach of a really long, remarkably athletic bunch who will fight you to the death for a single loose ball. They also crush their opponent on the boards and obey their coach. All things considered, they're an easy team to root for (regardless of who their coach is). But they can't shoot a lick. West Virginia is easy to guard, and the next team that shoots 45 percent against them will probably win. Trust me, the 'Neers aren't winning it all.

Which is why Lance Stephenson can lead UC to the Final Four next year if he just learns to stick a twenty-footer. It's also why I'd never recruit a 7-foot project like Biggie McLain unless I already had a few bombers on the following year's roster. Give me an under-recruited gunner like Ali Farokhmanesh (or any of the Butler or Cornell dudes) any day of the week over a slow-footed giant with bad hands.

The reality is that my Bearcats probably would have made the tourney this year with the second best shooter on any of those teams. Sad but true.


That's about it for me. I wanted to touch on Baylor being a juicy bet to win it all at 25/1 (by contrast WVU is 5/1), CBS analyst Bob Wenzel comparing Butler forward Gordon Hayward to (of course) Larry Bird, the lady who blocks a bunch of shots without jumping and the draft stock of one Jordan Crawford, but I'm getting kind of sleepy. And my back hurts. Deal with it.

Sweet 16 preview to be posted before tip-off Thursday. Horny?

-Brad Spieser (

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tourney Locks: Second Round (Sunday)

Just woke up. Too much celebrating after Scottie Reynolds crapped the bed last night. Today's locks...

Texas A & M (-2) vs. Purdue.

Words: Secretly, A & M was one of the best teams in the opening round; one of the very few who took care of business from tip to buzzer. But they played in that dreaded 5:00 p.m. EST slot on Friday and nobody noticed. I've liked the Aggies all season and I'm riding them today against a gritty Purdue team. This should be a dog fight, but A & M just has too much for the Boilers.

Maryland (-1) vs. Michigan State

Sentences: There isn't a BCS conference team in the field who plays together better than the Terps. Every time I watch them I think, Jesus, Gary Williams is coaching mid-major talent. And he is! They are slow and unimpressive physically, but it's obvious they love playing with one another (and somehow score a shitload of points in the process). I've been doubting them all year, but it's about time I jump on board. They might not have the juice for a Final Four run (although thanks to Kansas and Georgetown, that's not as far-fetched as it appears), they should get by the enigmatic Spartans.

Locks record: 5-3


I also gots...

Cuse (-6.5) vs. Gonzorga

Cornell (+4.5) vs. Wisconsin -- Cornell isn't as boring as you would think (and they're really effing good).

Missouri-West Virginia OVER (139) -- Yes, I took a WVU over; I'm banking on Mizzou's pace.

Cal-Duke OVER (147.5)

Xavier (+1) vs. Pitt -- The Muskies clearly (yes, clearly) hold the talent edge here.

Ohio State (-6.5) vs. Georgia Tech -- Hated Tech all year (and I don't trust Paul Hewitt)

-Brad Spieser (

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Second Round Picks: Stop! Jimmer Time!

I gots two locks today, but I'm betting every game.

BYU-Kansas State OVER (155)

Words: If Kansas State commits at all to transition offense, they'll score an easy 80. However...if they commit to slowing down Jimmer Fredette, the man who turned me into a prophet, this could be a game played in the mid-60's. But I happen to think Kansas State will run with the Cougs, and I happen to think my boy Jimmer will stay hot. And if the Fighting Mormoms advance to the Sweet 16, please brace for the worldwide blow job Fredette is about to receive. If you love Jimmer today, you may hate him tomorrow.

St. Mary's (+5) vs. Villanova

In-depth breakdown: Fuck Villanova

Locks record: 3-3 (and optimistic)


And since I'm a degenerate, I'm wagering on every other game today. Don't believe me?

Ohio-Tennessee OVER (141.5) -- See BYU-K. State game; this game could be in 80's or 60's.

Baylor (-4.5) vs. Old Dominion -- I'm afraid Baylor will win by two, but whatever.

Kentucky University (-9.5) vs. Forest, Wake

Northern Iowa White People (+11.5) vs. Kansas Whites and Blacks

Butler (-4.5) vs. Murray's Liquor -- $10 to the first reader who gets the reference.

New Mexico (+2.5) vs. Washington -- It sure seems like everyone loves Washington today.

-Brad Spieser (

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Definitive March Madness Preview (Nearly 3,000 Riveting Words!)

(Update: I added an extra pick pick below and also went into more depth in my preview of Baylor-Notre Dame, an expected secound round tilt. Please read it. It's the kind of thing that will end up making me look really smart or really goddamn stupid. Anyway, it's less than eight hours before the tip of the tourney's first game, and I can't get to sleep. I might be 29-years-old, but this weekend will always turn me into a sixth grader...and I'll not apologize for this.)

I like basketball. Proof:

1. A lot of people will tell you March Madness is the perfect product, and that the field should stay at 65 teams. Now, I can't argue that the NCAA basketball tournament -- as it currently stands -- isn't my favorite sporting event of the year...because it is. It absolutely is my favorite sporting event of the year. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be better with more teams.

For one, more games equal more gambling. Always a plus. More games also means more potential for crazy shit to happen. And it wouldn't eliminate Cinderella at all; the Morgan States and Sam Houston States and Vermonts would still be sizable underdogs. And an upset by any of those teams would still make for front page news.

In the end, how could anyone have a problem with more tournament games? So what if teams like Cincinnati, UConn, Ole Miss, et al., were mediocre all year, I can guarantee you their tournament games would be as hard fought as a typical Wisconsin rebounding drill. Trust me, more games would work. And you would watch. And you'd be just as unproductive at work.

And you'd love every freaking second of it.

I vote YES on a field of 96!

2. Since I was a teeny tiny boy, this time of year always brings about an annoying trend: Every TV or radio host complains that his guest is being too boring with his or her Final Four picks. Inevitably, Guest X predicts three No. 1 seeds and a No. 2 seed (or whatever), and the annoying host always says, "C'mon! Be a little bold with your prediction!"

This drives me nuts. Isn't the objective -- especially if you're an ESPN college basketball analyst -- not to be different, but to be right? I'm kind of like Marlo Stanfield: My name is my name.

My opinion matters to me. I like it that people want to know what I think -- and if I predict Syracuse, Kentucky and Kansas to make the Final Four, don't give me crap because I didn't give you Cornell, Clemson, Villanova and Michigan State. I like being right about this stuff. In related news...

3. Advice: When filling out brackets, only pick sleepers if you know a little something about them (or everything about their opponent). Usually what happens is this: Some dope picks Sam Houston State to win in round one for the hell of it, and loses. Meanwhile, some other No. 13 seed eeks out a win you didn't predict and now you're stuck with two losses instead of one. Sticking with the top four seeds (and probably the top five) in each region is generally the smart play.

4. I watched ninety seconds of the Warriors-Lakers match last night and received plenty of usable material for this section of my March Madness post.

After Stephen Curry embarrassed a Laker defender with a nifty step-back high banker, the camera zoomed in on Kobe Bryant, who was sitting on the bench. Kobe's reaction? He leaned over to Adam Morrison, and said, "That mutha fucka awesome." I am not deaf, nor am I an expert lip reader, but I would bet my mother's life that those were his exact words. I can't tell you why I love that so much, but I can't stop thinking about it. Which makes for a nice little transition for me...

Stephen Curry was an otherworldly college player, and although he didn't play point guard much back then (at least not when Davidson made it to within an eyelash of the Final Four), he was clearly capable. Stephen Curry is the greatest college three-point shooter ever. And again, he's also a good NBA point guard as a rookie. Fact and fact.

So why in the hell did Davidson's coach, Bob McKillop, run Curry right into a double team on the most critical play in the history of the program? Watch the video. Steph Curry can get his shot off over every guard in the NBA, and yet his dumb coach -- down two to eventual champion Kansas -- instructed a freaking high screen with a big post player with no perimeter skills. In other words, whoever was guarding the big white screener was now going to help swallow up Stephen Curry and force him to give up the ball. Which Curry did, roughly five seconds before the end of their season. To recap: Bob McKillop drew up a play that guaranteed the tourney's best player would pass the ball on a possession where his team needed a bucket.

Maybe Curry would have bricked a step back three, or dribbled off his leg. And maybe Kansas would have sent a double team anyway. Regardless, I'd like to point out, two years later, that I still haven't forgiven Bob McKillop for robbing us of, potentially (and I'm not overstating this), the greatest moment in tourney history. Jackass.

4. Remember 1993? I do. That's when a fierce rivalry was going down: Elite Eight vs. Great Eight. Back then, some of us called it the Great Eight, while others preferred the Elite Eight. It was pretty annoying, really. But then, one day (probably '96 or '97), the rivalry went away and America agreed to call it the Elite Eight. Had to get that off my chest.

5. Before I get to my round one locks -- and believe me, I have more than a few -- allow me to, without any real flow, speak a few words on this year's field...

*Syracuse, Kentucky and Kansas are markedly better than every other team in the field. Are they sure-fire locks for the Final Four? Of course not. But picking against them because of a flaw (such as Kentucky's youth/outside shooting or Syracuse's depth) is kind of dumb. All 65 teams have flaws, but the aforementioned trio have the least of them. They also have the most next-level talent, best defenses and guard play. You'd be a fool not to pick one of these three squads to cut down the nets.

**Just because Duke was gift-wrapped a relatively easy bracket, and just because everyone in America seemingly hates them (Hell, I hate them) doesn't mean they suck, either. They're pretty damn good, and if they were a No. 4 seed, we'd all be discussing how dangerous they are. For yet another season Duke isn't overly deep or athletic, but they have a roster most coaches would die for. I have the Blue Devils going down in the Elite Eight to Baylor (and they could go down sooner), but it shouldn't surprise anyone if they make it to Indianapolis.

***It's too bad Villanova revealed their warts at the end of the season, because I've thought they were overachievers all year. Great coach + marginal talent only gets you so far in March...especially when you're not sneaking up on anyone (like Nova won't be). Whether it's round two or three, I'm betting against Nova and winning money. This also means, for all you office pool maniacs, that Scottie Reynolds is nowhere near talented enough to lead his team to six (or even four) consecutive March victories. Trust me.

****Prepare for Jimmer Fredette's coming out party. Who? Jimmer Fredette, BYU scoring machine. He's got the catchy name, the skin color and the Mad Bomber style of play that both media and fans adore. I'm not sure if they'll get by Kansas State in round two (and they should get by Florida in round one), but he has a legitimate chance to be the Wally Szczerbiak or Bryce Drew of the 2010 tournament. I'm rooting for it, too, because, for two months now I've predicted that Jimmer Fredette is giving somebody 40 points in the tourney. Don't let me down, Jimmer. And if you do, you should consider a name change.

*****I don't know if Richmond will beat St. Mary's, but I know their lead guard, Kevin Anderson, is plenty good enough to do it all by himself. Keep an eye on that boy. Love him.

******Nobody knows a thing about New Mexico State, and yet they receive a No. 12 seed over two teams everyone loves, Siena and Murray State? Huh? This seemed crazy when the field was announced, but even crazier when Vegas posted the lines: In some casinos New Mexico State is a 14-point underdog to Michigan State, while No. 13 seeds Siena (a 4-point dog to Purdue) and Murray State (a 3-point dog to Vandy) are considered virtual coin flips in their games against higher seeded teams. Who is this New Mexico State team, anyway, and why was an underachieving No. 5 seed like Michigan State essentially handed an easy opening-round win?

(Putting the previous paragraph in context, Big East tournament champ West Virginia is only a 17-point favorite against its first opponent, Morgan State. Strange.)

******You never hear a girl say, "I have to take a piss." Just saying.

*******The Big 12 is no joke. Listen, I know teams like Baylor and Kansas State and Texas A & M have no basketball tradition to speak of, but it doesn't mean they're not really good. Because they are. And Kansas is powerhouse. And Missouri and Oklahoma State are really solid. It's very possible that in five days the so-called experts will be raving about the Big 12's dominance.

********As much as I love Baylor, they might not get by Notre Dame in the second round. Shortly after Luke Harangody went down, the Irish committed to playing grind-it-out offense and physical defense. For a team who always sped the game up and tried to goosh a million threes a game, this was pretty radical. But they had to do it. And, shockingly, it worked! Now Harangody is back (and coming off the bench), and the loud-mouthed ball hog is mostly playing by the rules. If he doesn't revert to his old ways, Notre Dame will be a tough out.

Both Baylor and Notre Dame are Final Four worthy. I'm a little more than angry that these two are squaring off in round two. Don't get me wrong, both teams deserved the seeds they received, but neither deserve to face one another so early; that's how well the Bears and Fightin' Green Midgets are playing at the moment. The last time I was this bothered by a potential second-round match was 2003, when Marquette and Missoui, as expected, battled one another in a hotly-contested overtime shootout that felt more like an Elite eight matchup than a round-of-32 match. This could be one of the better games of the tourney.

*********I'm expecting Texas and Wake Forest to produce the most boring game of the first round...and yet they could produce the most exciting. Nobody ever said Rick Barnes and Dino Gaudio weren't overseeing immense talent. Anything is possible here. Jesus, I love March Madness.

**********Siena is really good, and they've won a game in each of the last two tournaments (with the same group of guys who are seniors this year), and everybody seems to love them. Them folks out there love them darn Siena Saints. And so do I. But let's just settle down with this talk of Siena being better than Purdue simply because Robbie Hummel is out. Robbie Hummel is a nice player, but this isn't a Kenyon Martin situation. Purdue is a deep team who defends like crazy and fights for every loose ball. They also have an outstanding coach in Matt Painter who, at 39, has slapped together an impressive March resume.

ALSO...Purdue got stomped in the Big Ten tourney by Minnesota, and everyone directly attributed it to Hummel's injury. It's also fresh on everyone's mind, which puts the Boilers on upset alert. I could see buying into this if Matt Painter weren't their coach, or if senior guard Chris Kramer weren't a lunatic. Purdue doesn't quite qualify as one of my locks (to be revealed in four seconds), but I expect them to beat Siena...and I'll certainly be wagering on them.

***********Syracuse guard Andy Rautins isn't among Chad Ford's Top 100 NBA prospects. That, boys and girls, is the height of stupidity. Oklahoma's Willie Warren is 28th on the very same list. That, boys and girls, is fifty-thousand miles beyond preposterous. Rautins is far superior to Warren, and I'll bet you right now the Canadian will have a better NBA career than the enigmatic Sooner. I'm not sure what scouts aren't seeing in Rautins, but I see a guy with good size for a combo guard (6'4), excellent passing ability and range, and maybe the quickest pair of hands around (nine games with 3 or more steals this year). And for a guy with a full complement of all-around offensive skills, he's really unselfish. Maybe too unselfish, but I won't hold that against him. Anyway, if you're looking for a player to vault up draft boards this March, pay a little extra attention to Andy Rautins.

***********I'm taking Doug Gottlieb's advice on this whole Temple-Cornell thing. He says the Owls will take care of the Big Red, and his argument makes a lot of sense. Both teams share the exact system, except Temple features superior talent. Cornell has ten guys who shoot over 37% from long distance, yet Temple is pretty dang great at defending the three. Good enough for me. Betting Temple seems logical.

Final Four picks: Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse and Baylor.

Championship: Syracuse over Kentucky.

(Worth mentioning: If anyone trips up Syracuse, I'm riding Kentucky hard to the finish. UK has far and away the most talented team in the field, but I just don't think they shoot well enough to beat Syracuse's deadly zone.)


Okay, boys and girls, here we go with the first round locks. I feel extremely confident this year, so it would be wise to bet your life savings on the following games, and I guarantee a profit...

Missouri (+1) vs. Clemson

Words: Text I sent out during the selection show: "Lock of millennium: Missouri over Clemson. Mike Anderson vs. shitty Oliver Purnell. Big 12 vs. shitty ACC. Line isn't out yet and I PROMISE a winner." The tribe has spoken.

But hang on, I want to stroke Mike Anderson a little more: The dude brought three tourney wins to UAB in two years (think about that for a second) and had a grossly undersized Missouri team last year just a few possessions short of the Final Four. I know he's black and everything, but Mike Anderson can coach.

Speaking of coaching ability, Oliver Purnell doesn't have any. He's an uninspiring goof who coaches team that possess no mental toughness and routinely underachieve. Clemson's talent suggests they should be a No. 3 seed; instead they're just another forgettable No. 7 who will get bounced by their first opponent.

Syracuse (-17.5) vs. Vermont

Sentences: Aside from the obvious -- a No. 1 has far more talent than a No. 16 -- consider this: It was just 2005 when Vermont took down Syracuse in round one, and I think Jim Boeheim will use that as motivation for his players to avoid a repeat of five years ago. I also think Boeheim would like to throw his fan base a bone and beat the bloody hell out of the team who ruined everyone's March not so long ago. And if everything I've just written is complete bullshit, and you still bet on Syracuse, at least you've got money on a great team at a reasonable line.

Wisconsin (-10) vs. Wofford

Stuff: I like Wisconsin a lot. They might be boring, but they're not terribly unathletic (like they are perceived) and they have playmakers and shooters outside. They also don't make mistakes and they fight like hell on defense. The Badgers might lose to Temple in round two (it'll be a bloodbath), but they will murder Wofford on Friday. I'm thinking something like 70-48

Baylor (-11) vs. Sam Houston State

Things: This is now the third mention of Sam Houston State in this post, and that's because they've been on my mind quite a bit since Sunday. I don't know a single thing about them, but I know Baylor is awesome. Baylor plays with an edge -- with a big giant chip on their shoulder -- and they also have big boy talent. It appears they've become the chic Final Four pick, and sometimes that scares me, but not with this bunch. Baylor has the Eye of the Tiger, and they're about to win by thirty. Easy money, kids. Easy money.

Notre Dame (-2) Old Dominion

Words: Old Dominion won at Georgetown and played Missouri to within the Monarchs are no slouch. But, as stated a few hundred words ago, I love what Mike Brey's done with this Irish squad. Which leads me to another lock...

Notre Dame-Old Dominion UNDER (122)

Sentences: Old Dominion only cracked 80 points in four games this year. That's remarkable. It also tells me they don't have a prayer of scoring with ease against Notre Dame. The Rudy Ruettigers went 6-1 down the stretch and squeezed the life out of the following opponents: Pitt (53 points); Georgetown (64); UConn (50); Marquette (60); Seton Hall (56); Pitt (45); West Virginia (53). It might be a gay game to watch, but it will still win you American dollars.


Other bets that don't qualify as locks: Along with Temple (-3.5) and Purdue (-4), I'm also jumping on the following: A & M (-3), BYU (-4.5), Georgetown (-13), San Diego State (+3), Richmond (-1.5), UNLV (-1), Marquette (-1.5), Murray State-Vandy OVER (141), Louisville-Cal OVER (149.5), Michigan State-New Mexico State OVER (148.5) and Xavier (+1).

That's all for now, my people. I really won't mind if I don't win money, so long as I don't lose any. I actually kind of mean that. March Madness will be glorious if I get one buzzer beater, a legitimate Cinderella still alive in the second weekend and a No. 1 or 2 seed receiving the scare of their life in round one.

Good luck to all of my fellow degenerates out there. Let's make this March a winner! My round two picks will be revealed late Friday or early Saturday. Stay tuned...

-Brad Spieser (

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Laveranues Coles Was A Waste Of Dollars

Since I'm catching up on things and adjusting to a new schedule and whatnot, I'm still behind on several topics.

Such as...

1. The Bengals recently released Laveranues Coles. As much as I enjoy being right about my predictions -- and I really enjoy being right -- I hate when it means one of the teams I follow will suffer. For example: I hated everything about the ridiculous contract the Bengals gave Laveranues Coles last offseason, but I still wanted to be proven wrong. I root for the Bengals. I'll always root for the Bengals. And if the two men who beat up my mother were the starting defensive ends, well, I'd still support the Bengals. That's just how it goes. But it doesn't mean I'm a blind optimist, either. I take too much pride in having a knowledgeable opinion, and I refuse to get sucked in by glowing quotes from head coaches on blatantly biased websites (like or in fluff pieces written by nerds who get bullied by players (like 99% of all beat writers).

I'm not saying I was the only person who thought the Coles contract was an awful idea, but it sure seems that way. It's hard not to. When you consider that every piece of feedback I received regarding Coles was of the disagreeing variety, it's easy to see why I felt obligated to write the very words you're reading.

Listen, I'm right more than I'm wrong. And my opinion should matter more than it does. If those last two sentences make me an arrogant jerk, so be it. At least I don't kiss Coach Marvin's ass just because he gave me an extra second of his time. Nobody in their right mind should've been excited about Laveranues Coles coming to town, and everybody should've been flat-out pissed at his ridiculous contract. I'd harp on this a little longer, but I have more gloating in store...

2. (Item temporarily removed due to UC's unexpected run to the Big East quarterfinals, but let's just say it was a big fat I told you so regarding Yancy Gates. Item to be posted at the conclusion of UC's season, which I hope is the first week of April. Until then, I'm staying positive. Go Cats!)

3. Due to the temporary removal of item No. 2, I'm leaving you with something that's been on my mind lately, mostly because I've eaten quite a bit of Benadryl Cold tablets over the last few days: Have you ever noticed that the word drowsy is only used when referring to side effects of medication? It's true. You'll never hear anyone say, "I'm drowsy, I think I'll take a nap." Think about it.

That's all for now. If the Bearcats keep winning, I'll delay my Yancy Gates post and explain why the great majority of spring training articles are completely worthless.

-Brad Spieser (