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March Madness

March 21, 2013

Our annual love affair with the NCAA Basketball Tournament starts today. Starting today, we will sit down and watch matchups that we would not think about watching back in December. We will be introduced to a number of basketball programs and the storylines that develop during the tourney. Here are some of the early storylines that caught my eyes.

I spoke last week of how good the Big Ten is this year. Nothing during the Big Ten Tournament changed my mind. This is the best conference in the nation. Will it play out during the tournament? I think so, as I can see Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, or Michigan winning it all. And I think one of them will.

On the local front, there is a chance that Roy Williams of North Carolina may end up coaching against his old team, number-one seed Kansas, this weekend. First, the Tar Heels need to win the No. 8/No. 9 seed game over Villanova.

Let me stay local. Davidson is again a trendy upset pick. The Wildcats, coached by Bob McKillop, are as good as ever. It would not surprise many if Davidson wins a game or two.

Staying local. Does Duke bow out early again? Did you know Duke hasn’t made a Final Four as anything but a one seed in 16 years? And the Blue Devils have had their share of early exits. Visions of 2012 crop up immediately. Duke is in the same exact spot in the bracket, both in seed and actual location as when it got beat by Lehigh a year ago. Few have Duke getting out of the Midwest Region. I think the Blue Devils will surprise.

The pressure is on Gonzaga. The Zags’ are a number-one seed program now and are no longer considered mid-major. They are in the tournament every year but have only made two Sweet 16s since 2001. I see them making the Sweet 16 but not the Elite 8.

I saw where the Mountain West Conference got five bids this year. This conference has yet to advance a team to the Elite Eight. I believe one of these schools will win three games to make it that far. I like New Mexico and San Diego State.

If you are a masochist, keep your eyes on UCLA and Minnesota. Rumors are out there that Ben Howland (UCLA) and Tubby Smith (Minn.) have to win a game or two or they will be fired even though they made the tournament.

I love the Saint Louis story. The Billikins have only lost once since the coach who built the program, Rick Majerus, passed away. They are a number-four seed and are loaded with seniors who are dedicating the season to the beloved Majerus. Watch these guys. A solid sleeper pick.

First round upsets always happen and I have read many forecasts of South Dakota State, a 13 seed, beating fourth-seeded Michigan. If any 13 beats a No. 4 seed, it will be the sixth straight year that’s happened. I don’t see this one happening but there are three other regions. I think people either like South Dakota State’s nickname, the Jack Rabbits, or love watching Michigan lose games.

These are just a few storylines. There will be more. There always are.

Thankfully, we love the stories just as much as the games. It all starts today.

What Ever Happened To Sportsmanship?

I am noticing more and more that there is quite a divide between the sports of college football and college basketball when it comes to sportsmanship. If you watch the upcoming NCAA Basketball Tournament, I think you will notice the same.

The sports seem to be headed in opposite directions in terms of that decorum. In football, it is now possible for a team to have a touchdown taken off the board if a player “styled” on his way to the end zone. Heck, I saw Kansas State got flagged for excessive celebration at a crucial point in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl when a player just saluted the home fans after a touchdown.

Watch the tourney starting this week and you will see basketball players taunting the opponents after making a three point shot or a dunk. And the taunts will be more demeaning than a simple salute.

Like our immigration laws, the rules are there for referees to adhere to. Just like the government chooses not to prosecute illegal immigrants, the college referees chose to not follow the rule that states an unsporting technical can be assessed if a player is, “using profanity or vulgarity; taunting, baiting, ridiculing another player,” or, “inciting undesirable crowd reaction.”

I have always enjoyed emotion displayed within sporting events. But some college basketball players are going too far. Watch and see during the tournament. I prefer to admire players who act like they have made a three before or have dunked before over players who over-celebrate and taunt.

Panthers Are Laying Low

The Carolina Panthers have yet to make much of an impact during the current NFL free agent signing period. A week has come and gone and the Panthers have signed a pair of cornerbacks.

Carolina’s top signing thus far is veteran corner Drayton Florence from the Detroit Lions. He is slated to step into a starting slot.

D.J. Moore: once a Bear, now a Panther

What worries me here is that the Lions’ pass defense is worse then the Panthers. The other signer is D.J. Moore from the Chicago Bears. Moore played in 13 games with two starts for the Chicago Bears last season and had 29 tackles and two interceptions. He served as the Bears nickelback for a large portion of the season. The 25-year old played all four seasons in Chicago after being selected in the fourth round in 2009. He’s played in 43 games with three starts, recording 133 tackles and 10 interceptions, including two touchdown returns.

Moore could potentially replace nickel back Captain Munnerlyn, an unrestricted free agent who’s exploring the free agent market. It looks like the Panthers are laying low and letting the price tags of potential free agents drop a little more.


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