Monday, March 17, 2008

NCAA Blogging: One Two Three Four FIF!!

You know, I haven't really been watching much college basketball this year. Don't know why, really, beyond a general malaise with all things sports related which stems fom a recognition, a growing realization, that the whole thing is a corrupt and corrupting bargain that I'd be better off staying well clear of. A massive scam to enrich the wealthy and distract the masses by playing on their tribalism. That, plus the U of M hoopsquad really sucked it up (Odd how I only get intellectually curious when my teams are losing, isn't it?). Still, the Big Dance is coming to my neck of the woods this year.

I've been furiously trying to play catch-up in order to fill out my brackets.

Looks like it might actually be a good little section of the tournament, too. Can't tell yet, exactly who's going to be there. Although it looks like the Jayhawks seem like a lock to get there. A lot of people seem to think they're do this year. I, however, am loathe to go against my simple guideline of always counting on Kansas to choke and choke early. But even if they revert to form then there's plenty of other good teams like the Clemson team I'm rather taken by (They're a #5 seed and, in case you haven't seen an NCAA tournament in the past twenty years, we'll get to why that's important in a bit but they have that intriguing combination of solid stats and right-now momentum that I look for when trying to see which lower seed's going to go far.) or Vandy whom they'll have to get through to there that might make it to Ford Field.

Granted, there are alo some clunkers out there like the Badgers or the Hoyas who play the kind of cloying, grinding, down-tempo ball that makes you wistful for a Pistons-Spurs series. But that's one of the things I like about college ball: there are distinct differences between the teams and their strategies. You know, for example, that Wisconsin is going to slow it down while a team like Clemson is going to push it up. You get to see the contrast and the clash between teams that aren't just running the same scheme, towards the same end. It's, you know, interesting. And since I might have an opportunity to score some tickets to the regional, I might just have a chance some of those teams up close.

One team I won't see, however, is the Spartans (Which is, you know, good. It is hard to overestate the depths of my loathing for the old Agricultural College. Hate Sparty so much.) since they've been shipped out to Denver for the South region. Meanwhile Portland, UNLV, USC, and Cal State are in the Midwest.

By the by, isn't it time they gave up the directional brackets - it's not like they actually make sense - and named them after some famous college ballers or something? I mean, instead of a West regional have, say, a John Wooden bracket. Instead of the South, it's the Smith. And so on. You know, something to honor the past like the Norris Division. Or whatever. Just an idea.

That MSU doesn't have a chance to play in Detroit while, say, Georgetown does isn't so good for Michigan State's chances since they don't get a shot at what are essentially two home games to get to the Final four, it also might not be so good for the city itself. There won't be a wave of green clad psuedo-Greeks descending on the town for a few days, going to shows and casinos, eating at the restaurants downtown, and pumping massive amounts of cash into the local economy.

On the other hand, while the folks from East Lansing, the metro area, and around the state who follow the Spartans won't be showing up, I highly doubt Ford Field is going to be anything less than packed. Wisconsin, for one, I know travels well. And March Madness means plenty of fans buying plenty of tickets. Which means not drawing those spectators from the area surrounding and including the Metro area but those folks - and the dollars they bring - from outside of the region. That's an infusion of cash not cannibalizing from a cash-strapped and jobless state (Seriously, the economy in Michigan sucks. It's not just bad, it's awful. Unemployment higher than the national average, among the leaders in foreclosures, restrictive tax policies that dissuade investments and start-ups, key markets depressed, and on and on. Oh well, the entire country will be joining us in the crapper soon enough, I guess.). Along with plenty of folk hopefully getting a chance to enjoy the sights the city has to offer - Ford Field, for one, is a world class venue - and helping to prove there's more to the city than bad jokes. You know, like the hip-hop mayor.

Not having the low-hanging fruit of a trip down I-94 dangling in front of them, I don't rate MSU's chances very highly. The talking point already streaming from Sparty nation is that they're a fifth seed, the same seed they were when they won the title in 2005. But of all the higher seeds, number 5s are among the most likely to fall. Since the tournament expanded there's only been three years when a 5 hasn't been upset, in the first round, by a 12. The dog wins that match-up about a third of a time. Which isn't really all that much but considering the supposed imbalance between a team that just misses out cracking a top four seed and either a struggling team from a power conference or an overachieving team from a midmajor, it's impressive. And means, on average, that a 12 SHOULD beat a 5 each and every year. And although MSU has managed to compile a flawless record - 4-0 so far - as a #5, that just means that they're overdue.

In other words, go Temple.

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