Thursday, March 21, 2013

3/21: March Madness Thursday! (And more)

Greetings! Before we get going on the March Madness schedule (in "what to watch for"), let's take a look at the top stories from Wednesday...
  • The Miami Heat won their 24th consecutive game last night in Cleveland. Seems like a great story, right? Well, consider that they were trailing by twenty-seven points in the 3rd quarter. 27! That's insane, and the Heat went on a massive 37-10 run over about an 8-minute stretch to take the lead and steal the game. Lebron finished with a triple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and even on a night where he shot 8-22 from the field, he was the best player on the planet. The fact that they were trailing by 27 to the Kyrie-less Cavs is an issue, but when the Heat have it going, they have it going. 
  • Two NFL legends will be playing in different places next year. Ed Reed reportedly told the Houston Texans that he would sign a deal to move to the AFC South champs. Reed is the best safety that I've ever seen (not exaggerating) and while he certainly isn't the same guy as he used to be, it'll be very weird to see him in a non-Ravens uniform. Brian Urlacher will also not be returning to Chicago this season. He was reportedly seeking a 2-year, guaranteed contract and the Bears balked, which caused the two sides to part ways. Urlacher basically can't run anymore, but he can still stop the run on the interior, so he'll get a job somewhere.
  • In the "First Four" match-ups on Wednesday night, James Madison moved on to the real 1st round with a 68-55 win. It's utterly meaningless because they're going to go down in a heap in 2 days, but that's a great win for that program. La Salle knocked off Boise State 80-71 to move on to face K-State on Friday. This one matters a bit more as the Explorers have a legitimate chance to compete in the game, and they've already beaten Butler this year. La Salle shot a blistering 63% from the field on the night including 11-21 from three, and that pace was kind to them.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers 3B/SS Hanley Ramirez will be sidelined indefinitely with a broken thumb. Reports are conflicting between a 2-week timetable and a 2-month timetable, and that is bad news for LA, who needs the old Hanley back to realize their expectations. Stay tuned for a better diagnosis. 
  • And finally... a note that no one outside of myself will care about. Michigan's leading tackler from last season, rising Junior LB Jake Ryan, tore his ACL yesterday in practice and will likely miss the season. This is a dagger because he's the best returning defensive player on the roster for a national title contender. Bah. 
What to watch for on a very busy Thursday in College Hoops...
  • 12:15 - #14 Valparaiso vs. #3 Michigan State (CBS) - It's Izzo's time of year, and I think Sparty coasts to an easy win. Valpo does have history (think Bryce Drew) but I don't see it. 
  • 12:40 - #11 Bucknell vs. #6 Butler (TRU) - I went with Bucknell in my bracket, but this is going to be a tight game. These teams are mirror images of each other, and it'll be a pleasing brand of ball.
  • 1:40 - #9 Wichita St. vs. #8 Pittsburgh (TBS) - Pitt is criminally under-seeded, but I like Wichita a lot as well. This is one of the best games of the day. 
  • 2:10 - #13 New Mexico St. vs. #4 St. Louis (TNT) - Casual fans probably see St. Louis as a 4-seed and immediately think "upset alert" but they are a legit, physical team, and they'll win comfortably. 
  • 2:45 - #11 St. Mary's vs. #6 Memphis (CBS) - St. Mary's won the "First Four" game easily, and I'm really Anti-Memphis. Matthew Dellavedova is one of my favorite players in the country, and I think he takes them to an upset win. 
  • 3:10 - #14 Davidson vs. #3 Marquette (TRU) - This is a big-time "Upset Alert" game, and I've seen many people pick Davidson outright. They are certainly better than a 14-seed, but I think Marquette escapes with a close win. 
  • 4:10 - #16 Southern vs. #1 Gonzaga (TBS) - My national title pick starts the journey.... Go Zags!
  • 4:40 - #12 Oregon vs. #5 Oklahoma State (TNT) - This is my pick for "best game" of the day. Oregon as a 12-seed is an absolute joke, and I think they are the better team outright. With that said, OK State is a nice squad and Marcus Smart is a lottery pick. This is a fun one. 
  • 6:50 - #16 North Carolina A&T vs. #1 Louisville (TBS) - The overall #1 team facing the play-in game winner. Always a classic (lol).
  • 7:15 - #13 South Dakota St. vs. #4 Michigan (CBS) - Strike up the band playing "The Victors", and let Trey Burke go to work. Nate Wolters is a heckuva player for SDSU, but they won't beat Michigan. 
  • 7:20 - #11 Belmont vs. #6 Arizona (TNT) - This is an interesting game. Belmont is one of the darlings of the Mid-Majors this year, but Arizona is a quality team. I like 'Zona in the game, but it'll be tight. 
  • 7:30 - #12 California vs. #5 UNLV (TRU) - Another 5/12 coinflip. UNLV has high-major talent, but they've struggled at times and are semi-weak in the backcourt. Cal is better than a 12-seed IMO, and I'm taking them in a tight one. Nothing would surprise me. 
  • 9:20 - #9 Missouri vs. #8 Colorado State (TBS) - I love Pressey for Mizzou, but CSU is going to give them all they can handle here. 
  • 9:45 - #12 Akron vs. #5 VCU (CBS) - If Akron had their starting point guard, this would be a legitimate upset spot.... but they don't. The Zips will have trouble beating that VCU press.
  • 9:50 - #14 Harvard vs. #3 New Mexico (TNT) - New Mexico is incredibly legit, and they should cruise past the Ivy League champs. 
  • 10:00 - #13 Montana vs. #4 Syracuse (TRU) - Montana will be seeing nightmares of that 2-3 Zone when they close their eyes on Thursday night. Cuse by 20. 
Enjoy the slate!

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