How appropriate that the 100th post drops on Hoops Marinara the day before the 2008 NCAA Tournament begins. But there is no time to sit and reflect on the blog's modest introduction to the world over the past year. With apologies to the Super Bowl and Mount St. Mary's, which won the play-in game Tuesday night, tomorrow is the greatest day in sports. It kicks off a roller coaster weekend where coaches' job security, players' legacies, fans' dangerously high blood pressure and gamblers' house payments are all on the line.
Inevitably, some first-round games will be clunkers. Those #1 seeds will be blowing some poor opponent out by halftime and CBS will switch to a different game. How do you know when one team has the game in the bag? Well, consulting The Bill James Lead Calculator would be a start. James created an easy formula for determining when the comeback ship has sailed and it becomes officially safe to leave the building at a college basketball game. It's so intriguing that I already have it memorized! Read the full article to get the full enjoyment, but in a nutshell, here's how it works:
1. Take the number of points one team is leading by and subtract 3.For example, a 12-point lead with one minute left in the game is statistically insurmountable according to James. That seems like pretty common knowledge, but at what point does a 25-point lead mean you don't have to worry about your team screwing things up? With 7:44 remaining, that's when. I think it will come in handy ... or at least improve my quick math skills while hoping someone proves James' formula wrong.
2. Add a half-point if the team in the lead has the ball, otherwise, subtract a half-point if the trailing team has the ball.
3. Take that resulting number and square it.
4. Now compare it to the time remaining: if the number is greater than the number of seconds left in the game, the lead is 100% safe, set in stone, locked-in.
Now for the picks. I cannot justify any of the standard 5/12 or 4/13 upsets this year. And the upper tier of teams are too superior to get booted out very early either. The middle rounds will be where this tourney earns its keep. But I do love the 10-seeds this season ...
(1)North Carolina, (8)Indiana
(5)Notre Dame, (4)Washington State
(10)South Alabama, (2)Tennessee
(1)Kansas, (9)Kent State
(1)Memphis, (8)Mississippi State
(5)Michigan State, (4)Pittsburgh
(10)St. Mary's, (2)Texas
(1)UCLA, (9)Texas A&M
(7)West Virginia, (2)Duke
(1)North Carolina, (5)Notre Dame
-Possibly the most exciting, highest-scoring regional final games of all-time. Even with Wisconsin on, I might sneak a peak at one of these games. UNC and Tennessee are destined for a classic collision.
*These two games would be the opposite of clashes in style. But the UW-G'Town contest would be interesting as a matchup of experience (Butch, Flowers, Landry, Krabby) versus tournament experience (last year's Final Four run for the Hoyas). Gotta vote the alma mater through.
-I don't trust Texas or Memphis. Even though I know nothing of Stanford besides the Lopez twins, I'm picking Texas to lose because I already have too many top seeds advancing. Pittsburgh is finally healthy and they have good players at every position. Same as Memphis, only better disciplined.
*Very excited for this matchup. Very similar teams here (both Badger killers) and Big Ten could really earn some bragging rights here. I had Duke picked, but I will go with my heart, not my head.
(1)North Carolina vs. (2)Tennessee
(1)Kansas vs. (3)Wisconsin
(4)Pittsburgh vs. (3)Stanford
(1)UCLA vs. (6)Purdue
(3)Stanford vs. (1)UCLA
I like UNC over UCLA in the championship game. The Tar Heels have Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough on the inside, a great point guard in Ty Lawson and plenty of athletes in the stable. UCLA conters with phenom Kevin Love on the blocks, Darren Collison running point and great finishers in Westbrook and Shipp. The difference is Wayne Ellington for UNC and UCLA's lack of consistent outside shooting. They've gotten too many breaks already.
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Those "Minnesotan Badgers" are proving themselves to be winners. Jordan Taylor and Armond Battle both scored 20 points as Benilde-St. Margaret's advanced to the Minnesota Class 3A State Tournament for the second straight year. Mike Bruesewitz led his team to a Section 4A Championship as well, scoring 11 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. (Not a bad game for Rodney Williams either).
On another prep note, the Illinois Associated Press announced their All-State teams recently. For Badger fans, note junior Diamond Taylor earned honorable mention in Class 3A. Tons of D1 talent at the Class 4A level too. The Big Ten has already claimed eight players from the first and second teams in those divisions, including four headed to Illinois. Up to three additional players may wind up in the conference as well. The lower classes (1A & 2A) feature some names you might recognize as one-time interests of the UW staff.