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Execute or Be Executed: A skunkbear and a Wildcat Remain
Apr 1st, 2018 by Jeffrey Lubeck

Two teams have executed their game-plan to a material degree such that they will play for the National Championship in College Basketball for 2018 in the quaint confines of the San Antonio Dome.  The contest is scheduled for Monday Night April 2nd at 7:20 ET on Turner Broadcasting Network (TBS).  The two teams; the skunkbears from Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Villinova Wildcats from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania have left all participants in the dust during March Madness and now face each other in April Apex.

On paper, Villinova with the Dapper Jay Wright as it leader, were one of a handful of teams favored to visit the Riverwalk as participants in the big event.  The skunkbears, while not Cinderella’s, were not ranked in the pre-season and projected to end up in the middle of the pack in their conference (B1G).  The hope was to attend the dance, and go home satisfied knowing they had a few turns with the music playing.

Funny how on paper does not turn out to be reality.  Villinova and UofM got their game into order and executed it best in the latter half of March.  Both are playing with a freedom of movement and a resolve that is worthy of a champion.  The flaw(s) of the other 66 dancers were revealed at a time unfortunate as its relates to their hope of playing on Monday night for the title.

The demise of the last two dancers came in different ways.  The Jayhawks of Kansas flying high into San Antonio were shot out of the air at the start of their contest by a Wildcat 3-Ball with a level of accuracy not seen prior in NCAA Tournament history.  The Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago executed their game and held a 10 point lead in the middle of the 2nd Half.  However – approaching what would best be characterized as a Major Panic Attack – the Ramblers effectively drove off of a cliff with the skunkbears providing guidance, direction, and a final push.

UofM – the #3 Seed in the West – heads into Monday’s Final as the first team in NCAA Tournament history not having to face an opponent seeded better #5.  Villanova seeded #1 in the East will change that equation.  It remains to be seen if ranking matters.

 

 

 

THE FINAL FOUR SUCKS–Semifinal Game Day
Mar 31st, 2018 by Kindle

After a season of great promise and, at the end of all the bracket-busting, we end up with four teams…. and, once again, the Spartans did not show up: Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and the Loyola Ramblers. All four were conference tournament winners. Two of them were league regular-season champions. It’s the first time in the last five tournaments that all the teams in the Final Four have recorded 30-win seasons.

Oh yes, March Madness and the Final Four can be magical under the right circumstances.  This just isn’t that.  It’s hard to enjoy a game knowing that it fuels a bizarre kind of socially-sanctioned exploitation.  These are the kind of negative vibes that envelop us when our team fails to show.  It is ever thus.

And, if that’s not sour enough for you: the players we first watched in March Madness have long since been retired.  Now I’m not only grumpy, I realize I am a grumpy OLD man!

Yet, the downstream effect is that the games will still be played, viewers will view and money will be made.  So here’s another THRILL IS GONE type thread that few will even read in its entirety.

 Today’s Final Four games feature No. 11 Loyola and No. 3 Michigan at 6:09 p.m. Eastern and No. 1 seeds Kansas and Villanova at 8:49.  TV: TBS

RAMBLERS VS WOLVERINES:

The Ramblers are the fourth 11 seed to make the Final Four. The past three (1986 LSU, 2006 George Mason, 2011 VCU) all lost in the semifinal game, but two stats make Loyola a more enticing 11 seed than ever: The Ramblers are the only one of the four 11 seeds to have an undefeated record against ranked opponents heading into the Final Four (at 4-0), and they have the best winning percentage of the four in tight games (six points or closer), at 72.73 percent.

Michigan is pretty good at forcing turnovers (their opponents average 12.8, ranked No. 39 in the country), without giving up many of their own. Loyola averages 12.3 turnovers a game (266th in DI), which should translate to a fair share of fast-break opportunities for the Wolverines.

Pick: Ramblers roll.

 

WILDCATS VS JAYHAWKS:

The last two 1 seeds standing are, on paper, the best two teams in the Final Four. One of the two was ranked in the top 5 of the AP poll every week this season, and both were in the top 5 in six of the 18 weeks this year.

Villanova is in its second Final Four in three years. The last time the Wildcats made it to the semifinal (in 2016), they won the whole thing with arguably one of the best championship endings ever seen.  This year’s team boasts the No. 1 offense in the country, thanks in large part to AP Player of the year Jalen Brunson, who averages 19.2 points and 4.6 assists a game. But keep in mind; six Wildcats average double figures.

Kansas may have 15 Final Fours to its name, but the Jayhawks haven’t been in the semifinal since 2012, when they lost in the title game to Kentucky. Of those 15 Final Fours, Kansas has just three titles to show. But this year’s team, led by senior guard Devonte’ Graham, has everything it needs to hang another banner in Phog Allen. Kansas is the 11th best shooting team in the country from the floor and the three-point line.

Pick: Wildcats scratch out a win.

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TUS Bracket STANDINGS at game time.

FILLER ALERT–Drew Valentine & Saadi Washingon eager for “Cool and Awkward” FINAL FOUR
Mar 26th, 2018 by Kindle

I think some may have known it in the back of the mind, but it was Ghost of Biggie who called our full attention to the fact that Drew Valentine was an assistant coach for the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.  Here’s a LSJ story worth the read as we await the Final Four fully acknowledging THE THRILL IS GONE.

Drew Valentine, left, and Saddi Washington, right, both from Lansing and graduates of Sexton High School, will be coaching against each other Saturday at the Final Four. Drew is in his first season as an assistant at Loyola-Chicago, Saddi in his second year at Michigan.(Photo: Photo provide

Their Final Four celebrations still fresh, Saddi Washington and Drew Valentine couldn’t wait to see each other, to share in this remarkable moment. Michigan and Loyola-Chicago, somehow, were days away from meeting in the Final Four.  And that meant Washington and Valentine were days away from coaching against each other in the Final Four. They couldn’t believe it.  They both starred at Sexton High School, Saddi Washington in the early 1990s, Drew Valentine in the late 2000s, and then played at the mid-major level in college — Washington at Western Michigan, Valentine at Oakland, where Washington recruited Valentine.

Their Final Four celebrations still fresh, Saddi Washington and Drew Valentine couldn’t wait to see each other, to share in this remarkable moment. Michigan and Loyola-Chicago, somehow, were days away from meeting in the Final Four.  And that meant Washington and Valentine were days away from coaching against each other in the Final Four. They couldn’t believe it. So, as they often do, they FaceTimed each other Sunday morning from their respective hotel rooms in Los Angeles and Atlanta. “We couldn’t do anything but just kind of laugh,” said Washington, who is in his second season as an assistant coach on John Beilein’s staff at Michigan. “Just really appreciate the moment, that here are two kids from Lansing, walked the same halls in high school, walked the same streets, worked together, coached together. And now we get to share this experience this week. It’s pretty special.”

They both starred at Sexton High School, Saddi Washington in the early 1990s, Drew Valentine in the late 2000s, and then played at the mid-major level in college — Washington at Western Michigan, Valentine at Oakland, where Washington recruited Valentine.  Later, they coached together for one season at Oakland, before Washington left for Michigan. A year later, last summer, Valentine took the job at Loyola. “Our paths have aligned quite a bit, just at different stages of life,” Washington said.  Washington sees Valentine as a younger brother. Valentine sees Washington as a mentor. Both cherish what has become a deep and close friendship.

Several weeks ago, before the NCAA tournament selection show, they joked over FaceTime that they hoped they wouldn’t meet in the first round. When the brackets were announced, they thought they were clear of each other.  Not quite, it turns out.  “Lo and behold, we’re freaking sitting here days away from playing in the Final Four,” Washington said.  “It’s going to be probably the most cool and awkward moment of my life at the same time,” Valentine said. “Playing against one of your mentors and really good friends and people you look up to … I don’t even know what I’ll say to him.”

Living a Cinderella story

Valentine thought Loyola had a chance to make some noise in the NCAA tournament, but this?  “Not the Final Four, man,” Valentine said. “This is nuts.”

The 11-seeded Ramblers might not have made the NCAA tournament at all if they hadn’t won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Since then, they’ve won four games — the first three by a combined four points — to earn their place in San Antonio.

The media attention, all the talk of Sister Jean and 1963, Valentine said, hasn’t caused this team to lose focus. It’s a mature group. If anything, they’ve thrived on it.

“They’re really good kids. We don’t really have to worry about them like that,” Valentine said. “It just seems like, the more media attention we’re getting, the better we’re playing.”

Valentine has been to the NCAA tournament three times before — twice as a player at Oakland, once as a graduate manager at Michigan State, in 2015, when the Spartans made their own improbable Final Four run as a 7 seed.

That team didn’t capture the college basketball world like Loyola has. But it helped Valentine to understand what’s ahead this week.

His parents, Kathy and Carlton, will be there. As will his wife, Taylor, and brother, Denzel, who’s in his second season with the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls play Friday in Orlando, then at home on Sunday.

“He’s going to come on Saturday, take a flight up first thing in the morning,” Drew said of Denzel. “I think he might even fly private home to try to get back. He’s going all out, and he wants me to give him some more (Loyola) gear.”

Life under Beilein

Michigan is not the Cinderella story Loyola is. It is no less a dream come true for Washington, who spent his playing and coaching career at schools where the Final Four seemed as unattainable as it did to Loyola two weeks ago.

Washington led Western Michigan to the 1998 NCAA tournament, where the Broncos upset Clemson in the first round. After playing professionally overseas, he coached at Oakland for 10 seasons, helping to propel the Grizzlies from a low-major to a mid-major, winning in large part with a recruiting pipeline from Washington’s hometown.

“We have an obligation to that 10-year-old kid (in all of us) to make his dream our reality,” Washington said. “That’s what we’re doing right now.

“I’ve just been trying to take each moment in like it’s the last. Because I don’t want to ever assume, I don’t want to get so bogged down with everything that you forget what it feels like to be in this moment.”

He describes his two years at Michigan so far as an “absolute blessing.”

“I don’t know that I could have scripted it any better,” Washington said. “Coach Beilein is he’s just a high-level dude. In all respects in life.”

RELATED:  Saddi Washington, son of MSU basketball great, takes coaching job at Michigan

RELATED:  MSU top 50 basketball players all-time – No. 30, Stan Washington

Michigan has benefited, too. Washington was Beilein’s only full-time assistant on the road recruiting last summer, evaluating and helping to secure a heralded five-member class, before Beilein made two new hires.

“You quickly understand the power of the Block M, once you arrive,” Washington said. “Obviously, we worked hard at Oakland and tried to recruit at a high level. It’s just something about the University of Michigan and, when you walk into a gym or when you’re on the phone with a young man and his family, the impact that resonates with that kid or with that kid’s family is indescribable. It definitely helps get in the door a lot quicker and stay a lot longer.”

Washington’s understanding of life as the little guy has given him an appreciation for Loyola’s story and for what Valentine is experiencing.

“It’s hard enough as a mid-major team to have the kind of season that they’re having now and then the pressure of going into your conference tournament and knowing that we have to still win the conference tournament to ensure that we make the NCAA tournament,” Washington said. “And Drew was on one of those teams at Oakland. We’re 17-1 back to back seasons (in the Summit League), but, if we don’t win our conference tournament, chances are we don’t get an at-large bid. To be able to persevere through all that and then be able to come into the big show as an underdog and defy the odds …”

A friendship on many levels

There was a good chance Washington and Valentine were going to be lifelong friends when Washington showed up at Valentine’s knee surgery during his senior football season at Sexton High School.

Oakland had been the first to offer Valentine a scholarship, as a sophomore. They were the only ones not to back away after his injury.

“It means everything,” Valentine said. “Because of that I was given a chance to be where I am right now. Through the recruiting process, my dad always talked about, you’re going to find out toward the end who really wants you. And my dad always talks about, you want to go where you’re wanted, not necessarily where you want to go.”

RELATED:  Drew Valentine returns to Oakland to begin coaching life

Their relationship has known many stages — coach and high school recruit, coach and player, then colleagues, now competitors. Still friends, closer than ever, navigating the same world, having grown up in the same world 15 years apart.

“I think we’re both true hard-working people that just love seeing other people happy,” Valentine said. “My wife talks about all the time that there are certain people that you meet and you feel like you’ve known them for 10 years and you’re just super comfortable. I think Saddi’s really like that. Every since I’ve met him, he’s somebody, you want to be around him.”

Valentine and Washington pick each other’s brains about players, about life, about offense. Loyola and Michigan run similar offenses.

Valentine leans on Washington’s instincts.

“I think Saddi is a really good evaluator of talent,” Valentine said. “You’ll see a kid and he’ll say, ‘Yeah, that kid is going to be good. Ya’ll should recruit him. If I was at Oakland, I’d be all over him.’ That’ll make me think, ‘OK.’ Because just look at the guys he recruited. Look at how they turned out and what he’s doing at Michigan and how clean they do things. It’s just super impressive.”

Likewise, Washington could see the coach in Valentine early on.

“As good a player he was, he’s an even better leader, and I think that’s showing out now,” Washington said. “He’s always had a great pulse and basketball mind. You put that together with his enthusiasm for the game and his competitive nature, it’s a great mix.

“We have a lot of similar personality traits: competitiveness, we can be silly. He’s a lot like my little brother. That bond has just grown over the years.

“Our lives are eerily parallel. It’s just one of those things.”

TUS Bracket standings here

The Thrill is Gone part Tres (Elite 8, Day 2 Game Thread):
Mar 25th, 2018 by USMC Retired

..and so is a Spartan team missing from the Elite 8!!

WE seemed to have survived yesterday’s thread without the earth stopping on its axis (did you know that the character of Bill Nye in that Commercial tells them to run the wrong way?) So, today we look at the ‘Nova vs Raiders @1420 on CBS and KU vs Duck to follow (~1705, they say)

Points to ponder:

The 1st match-up looks to be a mismatch on paper as ‘Nova has a substantial advantage over the Raiders in just about all the statical categories with scoring the most lopsided 85-70. The  2 that the Raiders curry favor are rebounds and blocks where they enjoy an extravagant advantage of 1 in each case.

The 2nd (dinner time fare) is back to the even-steven sharing of the statistics. The only sort-a-outliers are where Duck gets 3 more rebounds and 3 more assists per game. Both score the ball at an 80 point clip and turn it over 12 times.

Conclusion of an ‘ole Marine:

1st Game

As I indicated above, these 2 teams score the basketball.  The Raiders played in the Non-Defensive Big 12 and ‘Nove in the BEastie which to me is about as defensive. There are, however, 3 teams in the Elite 8 from the Big12 and only 1 from BEastie, advantage Raiders. Look for a barn burner with whomever has the ball last winning. Everyone says this tourney is about guard play – the Raiders  have 7 guards who have all averaged >12 minutes with 4 averaging >20. High scorer is K. Evans who gets 17+ a game. But, nobody gets more than 5 rebounds or 3 assists. Of course nobody averages more than 3 t/o, either.

‘Nova’s scoring is spread between 6 guys who all average double digits and who all average >25 minutes a game, with Brunson leading the scoring at 19 and Bridges the minutes at 32. Nova just seems to win, which is why I am vacillating about the winner. “Nova played Radford, ‘Bama, and WVa. winning each by >12. How does that compare to the Raiders trio of SF Austin, Crocs, and PU? 1st 2 are a wash, ‘Bama and Crocs? Neither distinguished themselves although both were ranked at times and they split during the year. So, WVa and PU? To me playing WVa is difficult if you only do it once a year because of their style of play,  but the same holds true this year with PU with HAAS – oops he din’t play. So, it’s still tomato vs tomatoe. I’ll reinforce my earlier statement and say that ‘Nova will win it with a basket as time expires.

2nd Game I was of the opinion all year that KU was a shadow of their former selves as I think Self had trouble getting the new kids (the ones with the talent) to buy into team basketball. AND, I’m still not convinced. They beat Penn, Seaton Hall, and Clemson – none of which are the GS Warriors – by very modest score differences of 16(over a 16 seed), 4, and 4. Newman and Mykhailiuk seem to do most of their scoring and rebounding, but against the Hall they gave up quite a double-double (24 and 23 rebounds) to guy named Delgado.

WE all know I’m not a Duck fan, but I think they were seeded 2nd in the correct bracket for them to go to the Final Four. WE know what they bring to the table and it hasn’t changed since they beat the Spartans – it’s just grown – like KU has. I would have preferred to say that based on beating the Spartans in the Sweet 16, that they will be the team to beat, but beating ‘Cuse gives no such certainty. 3rd time to play and beat them this year. As I intimated, Duck moves along.

My miserable bracket and yours are here and, please, remember before you take my sage advice to the tout: I reside in 26th place. Although yesterday I was, unfortunately, 2-0. There is also some differing points of view on the swagger (some would call it wager)

http://theususalsuspects.mayhem.cbssports.com/brackets/standings

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Kindle’s Contribution:

#1 Villanova vs #3 Texas Tech–CBS 2:20PM

NOVA–Villanova’s offense clicks because of the backcourt duo of Jalen Brunson (19.3 ppg) and Mikal Bridges (18 ppg). After dropping 90 points on West Virginia in the Sweet 16, the Wildcats enter the Elite Eight with the nation’s top-scoring offense, averaging 87 points.
TEXTECH–Though they are a No. 3 seed, the Red Raiders (27-9) have been a surprise. Many circled them for an early-round exit from March Madness 2018 after they lost five of their past seven coming into the NCAA Tournament. But they’re back to playing elite defense, holding all three opponents thus far to 66 points or fewer — right in line with their season average (64.6).  So that means the Red Raiders have a chance, but the smart pick here is Villanova.     So my prediction: Villanova goes to the Final Four.

#1 Kansas vs #2 Duke– CBS 5:05PM

In Friday’s Syracuse game, Duke eked out a tense 69-65 victory. Leading the way for the Devils in scoring in that one was Marvin Bagley with 22 points and eight rebounds. Wendell Carter had a nice outing as well with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Over on the other side Kansas kept rolling with an 80-76 victory over Clemson. Kansas is well-rounded with few weaknesses.  They’ve scored at least 80 points in five of their last six.  As for Duke, most folks, myself included, were thinking they’d beat Syracuse by a wider margin.  That game turned into a squeaker.

 This should be a great team game between a couple of teams that can score but can also play defense. Duke has gone to a zone defense this year and that will slow offenses down, but the Jayhawks are a very good shooting team and they will be able to shoot over that zone. Duke is also a good shooting team and they are 8th in the nation in scoring and should get their fair share of points against a Kansas team that has allowed 79 and 76 points in their last two games. This game should also see many free throws.

Duke’s season completely turned around when they switched to a 2-3 zone as their primary defense and now look like a championship favorite. However, that zone still has major holes when Duke doesn’t communicate – which still happens from time to time – and when opponents can stretch them out by hitting threes.  Kansas needs to attack, attack, attack.
Annnnd my prediction??  Kansas (because the marine picked Duck)
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Please note that TUS “opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”
The Thrill is Gone part deux: (Elite 8, Day 1 Game Thread)
Mar 24th, 2018 by USMC Retired

I am, with a heavy heart, attempting to give TUS Members a place to type out their joy or sorrow during the 1st 2 games of the 2018 NC$$ Elite 8.  The Sallys’ vs the Grills and Paris vs Semi-holes. 1st game tips at 1809R on TBS followed by the 2nd (projected @2049R).

Points to ponder:

In both cases these teams are numerical twins in all but wins and losses.

Sally’s and Grills both score it  ~62+ points game, they both rebound it @~31+,  the other metrics are 47-43% FG%, 16 vs 11 assists, ~6 vs 9 steals, and turn it over at a 10 vs ~13 clip. To me the end result is based on the numbers;  a pick ‘em. I also don’t think there is a big difference in how they got to this point, unless it is the Power 5 Conference vs the non-P5C idea, which I am quit sure has been all but buried in 2018.

Paris and the Semi-holes have similar like numbers. They both rebound it at 35 per game, shoot it around 45%, Score in at ~73, assists ~14, steal it ~7, but the Semi-holes turn it over 4 more times and they block 5 more shots. Again I’m not seeing a vast difference for either team and the non-P5C shenanigans doesn’t hold water – this is ACCrier vs BiG Ten.

Conclusion of an ‘ole Marine:

(I will unequivocally state that I want the Sallys’ to win the whole darn thing. Why? none of the rest of the teams left have the same pizzazz or Sister Jean.)

Both the Sally’s and the Grills score it at ~62 points per game, rebound it ~31, she Sallys` shot it better 47-43%, assist it better ~16-11, and Turn it over less 10-12. The Grills get 1 more block and steal it thrice more.

Sallys’ with a buzzer beater

Paris has 8 more wins and 7 fewer losses on the year. Semi-holes went out in their Tourney early, but have played and beaten 3 teams they were supposed to have lost to, based on seedings, etc. We all know what Paris did during the season and BTT, but since arriving in the NC$$ they have won over some very mediocre teams, blowing out 2, but needing a buzzer beater to subdue NASA.

Close game, and I hate to say it, but Paris moves along

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My miserable bracket and yours are here

http://theususalsuspects.mayhem.cbssports.com/brackets/standings

Kindle’s Take:

Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers vs. Kansas State Wildcats 6:09 PM ET

History will be made on Saturday. A No. 9 seed has never played a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Three opponents capable of putting up big offensive numbers, including a Nevada team that ranked among the nation’s most efficient scoring lineups, could not reach 70 points against Loyola.  In addition to outstanding defense, Loyola flourished this season with methodical ball movement and savvy shot choice. The Ramblers can dictate the pace on offense with any one of four shooters averaging better than 55 percent from inside the 3-point arc, and three dangerous long-range shooters in Donte Ingram, Clayton Custer and Marques Townes.

Kansas State may be even more comfortable playing a low-scoring style than the Ramblers. The Wildcats successfully pulled UMBC and Kentucky, two teams with outstanding perimeter-scoring options, into veritable rock fights.  Bruce Weber’s Wildcats have out-muscled and frustrated opponents through the NCAA Tournament, forcing them into long scoring droughts that give Kansas State cushion to build leads. Falling behind 8-to-10 points to a K-State bunch that ranks No. 307 in tempo, according to KenPom.com, is comparable to trailing a faster opponent by 20.

Loyola doesn’t panic, having rallied from deficits in all three of their Tournament wins.  Loyola’s outstanding shooting will make the difference, and Porter Moser will coach a team into the Final Four 20 years after his late mentor, Rick Majerus, did the same. Midnight has not yet arrived for Cinderella.

Sister Jean and the Nash Ramblers roll on.

#3 Michigan Wolverines vs. #9 Florida State Seminoles 8:49 PM ET

This is far from Leonard Hamilton’s most talented team in Tallahassee but his Florida State group is balanced, deep and can play just about any style of basketball you can throw at them. The Seminoles have managed three straight massive upsets to reach an improbable Elite Eight berth and few can claim to be as deep as they are.

The Wolverines equaled a school record with their 31st win of the season in a romp over Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, controlling everything on both ends of the court from the opening tip to the final buzzer.  Their last loss was all the way back on Feb. 6 and, while Michigan needed an improbable Jordan Poole buzzer-beater to even make it to the second weekend, it might be hard to find a team playing as well as this one on both ends of the court.  There is more that could be said but even mentioning them here is considered an affront to the sensibilities of the TUS psyche.  It is even reported that threatening letters are being sent to Cindy Wakeley for daring to pick the Wolverines to win it all.   It follows that things will only get worse.

Harbaughshians advance to the Final Four.

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MSUBeachwalker’s Take:

While the thrill is certainly gone, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed “Sister Jean & crew”. Fun to see how much respect & enjoyment is there ( & it doesn’t hurt that Drew Valentine is in the bench.).

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Once again, former law enforcement has created a better picture of today’s events;  however, in defense of the my ineptitude, I will remind that I used to destroy stuff more than not.  (And no, I didn’t send any letters of a threatening nature to a certain young lady)

 

PS There are also 2 good Lacrosse games on starting @ 1130 on the U. Which is what my flat screen will be pointed.

Ferris State University, the top seed in the Division II men’s basketball tournament, takes on Northern State (of South Dakota) for the D-II national championship at 3 p.m. at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. The game will be televised live by CBS.

A friend of mine (slightly older, who broke his ankle in bootcamp (badly) and never got to enjoy SEA) asked what he would look like when/if he achieved Jean’s age;  I said look in the mirror.

Thrill Is GONE Day 6–Sweet 16 Day 2 Game Thread
Mar 23rd, 2018 by Kindle

Loyola-Chicago and its game-planning nun are headed to the Elite Eight. So too are Kansas State, Florida State and Michigan in this maddest of Marches.  And the Sweet Sixteen continues tonight when 4 more teams will join them.  I offer a glimpse of the match-ups below.  Have you examined your bracket lately?  I’m sure IBelieve or 89 Chemistry could correct me statistically but I am going out on a limb and declaring this the craziest March Madness we have seen.  NorthForkRancher says if you have any picks remaining in your South bracket you must have made your choices based on where a cow crapped on the squares.  The amount of chalk that has been erased in all regions is simply amazing to me.  By far the hardest thing to take, after months of raised expectations, was another gut-punching second round loss by MSU.

If you think the THRILL is gone for members of TUS, consider what it is like for Gavin Schilling since last Sunday when the Spartans were officially eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  He didn’t even get into the game; the final game of his career.  Schilling said he was healthy. He could’ve contributed but wouldn’t venture a guess at why he never left the MSU bench. “He was a different type of hurt. His red, watery eyes proved that,” reported Corey Tucker for LSJ.  “Visibly emotional and in the moment, the 6-foot-9 forward from Chicago said he wanted to digest what had just transpired.” When asked to reflect, Schilling offered up what he could. “It’s tough. Like I said, I didn’t see this ending this way,” he said, referring to fellow seniors Ben Carter and Nairn. “It’s tough for me. It’s tough for all of us. This is our last college game. We had goals set for each other. Unfortunately, we didn’t accomplish those goals.”

Tonight’s Games

No. 1 KANSAS vs. No. 5 CLEMSON, Friday 7:07 p.m. CBS

Clemson dominates the ACC in football.  Kansas dominates the Big 12 in basketball.  Kansas is deadly in the full court and thrives on open 3’s either on the initial or secondary break. CLEMSON DOES NOT WANT TO RUN WITH KANSAS!  Kansas can play very good defense, because of the way they switch everything.  But, they can also get a little lazy.  The Tigers have the ball handlers and shooters needed to attack Kansas.  Eli Thomas should be able to score on the interior, especially if Azubuike (Kansas’s starting center) isn’t 100% (he says he is almost 100%, but will wear a bulky knee brace). However, Clemson likely will need at least 80 points to win this game. Kansas has lost 7 games this year. In 6 of those games, their opponent scored over 80 points. Kansas has won 29 games this season and in only 2 of those games, their opponent has reached 80 points.  KenPom has this game as a virtual toss up (54%), with Kansas winning 72-71.  I’ll go with that.

No. 1 VILLANOVA vs. No. 5 WEST VIRGINIA, Friday 7:27 p.m. TBS

Tonight, in Titletown, the West Virginia Mountaineers will run up on arguably their toughest test this season, the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova is two years removed from a National Championship. For the Wildcats, the guard tandem of Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges score 19 and 18 points per game, respectively.  Brunson is the 2017-2018 Big East Conference Player of the Year and Bridges is a dynamic swing-man.

To counter that, the Mountaineers have a great defense.  They’re especially talented with their signature full court press, and their innate ability to appear to surprise and overwhelm teams with it.  Villanova will have to earn victory.  However, Jevon Carter, a terrific two-way guard for W. VA, isn’t ready to go home just yet and shot-blocking center Sagaba Korate should feel the same way.  Even though I have Nova on my bracket, I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t like Bob Huggins so it stands to reason that his team will win.  Pick: West Virginia.

No. 2 DUKE vs. No. 11 SYRACUSE, Friday 9:37 p.m. CBS

This could be ugly.  Two teams playing zone.  One coach trying to claim he did not steal the other’s zone.  When they played in Cameron a month ago, the final score was 60-44 Duke.  Duke is the nation’s best offensive rebounding team and Syracuse can get annihilated on the defensive glass.  (Reportedly, Coach K is sorry he doesn’t get to face MSU.)  Prediction:  Calling it for the Blue Devils.

No. 2 PURDUE vs. No. 3 TEXAS TECH, Friday 9:57 p.m. TBS

Never has a Texas Tech men’s basketball team made it further than the Sweet Sixteen but if there ever were a team of Red Raiders that could do it – it would be this team. Their opponents? A team they don’t meet but once every third time that the planets align, the Purdue Boilermakers, one of two BIG teams to reach the second weekend.  If you’ve been living under a rock, you wouldn’t know that Isaac Haas broke his elbow during the Cal State-Fullerton game. You also wouldn’t know that he attempted to strap on what essentially looks like something Barry Bonds used to wear during his days in San Francisco. When the NCAA refused to clear it for player safety reasons, the fine folks at Purdue Engineering’s Honors Program swung into action. They claim to have made a brace which is NCAA compliant. Indeed, Isaac was seen practicing with the team yesterday with new brace on. Now, Matt Painter has gone on record saying that this is just the first step. Isaac has to prove he can contribute by pulling down rebounds with both hands and being able to shoot right-handed. But, to even be out there trying, if you don’t love that, I can’t help you.  For Purdue, expect Isaac Haas to be out.. You’d have a better chance of having a perfect bracket than Haas has of playing on tonight. (Yet another prediction!!)

The Red Raiders are coached by Chris Beard and they play an aggressive, efficient defense that makes you earn every point. This is exactly why Purdue took on West Virginia in a preseason scrimmage. Purdue has looked much better (most of the time) against pressure type defenses this season.  Texas tech played in many close games and rarely blew anyone away.  They’re going to make you be patient and earn every point.  Purdue will make their runs, Texas Tech will make theirs, and the team with the ball last may very well be the winner.  I just hope it’s PURDUE.

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TUS Bracket Challenge STANDINGS

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I was O fer 4 last night.  Can I get to 50% in the Sweet 16 or will I bomb it again?

Sweet 16 Bitterness
Mar 22nd, 2018 by Kindle

The agony of defeat.

I confess I am still bitter about Michigan State not playing this weekend, as March Madness starts back up tonight with a four-game Sweet 16 slate that includes an exciting matchup between two of the three remaining Wildcats in the tournament: No. 5 Kentucky and No. 9 Kansas State. After a wild first week in the South region, Kentucky managed to survive the Boise pod with wins over No. 12 Davidson and No. 13 Buffalo and is now the highest seed still alive in that portion of the bracket. It’s the first time in history that the four highest seeds in a region have ever been eliminated prior to the Sweet 16, giving UK a clear path to San Antonio for the Final Four.

I will probably watch parts of all four games and sleep late tomorrow, assuming the workmen remodeling the condo unit above us don’t start too early.

TONIGHT’s 4 Games–My Picks

No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago

Why Nevada will win: One of the best offensive teams in the country, the Wolf Pack’s ability to score means a game is never over — even if you put them in a 22-point hole, as Cincinnati did in the Round of 32. Four starters average at least 13 points, and they’re all 6-7, which can create matchup issues. Kendall Stephens set the Mountain West record for three-pointers in a season (126) and has made five or more in a game 13 times.

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M

Why Texas A&M will win: They’re huge. Three starters —Tyler Davis, Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg — are taller than 6-9. Davis (6-9, 270 pounds) and Williams (6-10, 241 pounds) in particular take up a lot of space. It’s tough for opposing teams to score just because of A&M’s length. Not to mention five players average double figures, which means they have a balanced attack. The Aggies team everyone was predicting in the preseason to make a deep tourney run seems to have finally showed up; it helps that they’re finally healthy and suspension-free.

No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State

Why Kentucky will win: No matter what you think of the Wildcats’ inconsistency or how this roster stacks up to previous teams “used car salesman” John Calipari has had, they’re the prohibitive favorite to get out of this region because they have lots of five-star talent who are starting to play their best basketball. Freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 23 points and 6.5 assists in the NCAA tournament, lifting a team whose offensive production was in question at various points this season.

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State

Why Gonzaga will win: (Jud still has one team to root for!!) The guy who is arguably their best pro prospect, 6-8 sophomore forward Rui Hachimura (11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), comes off the bench. This team might have lost a lot from the Final Four but they also returned some very good — and improved — players, led by 6-10 sophomore forward Killian Tillie (12.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg). They’re balanced, they know how to score (84.2 ppg, 10th in the country) and won’t be intimidated by the stage. Mobile 6-9 forward/center Johnathan Williams (13.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) provides matchup problems for pretty much everyone.

Schedule

Time (ET) Matchup (TV) Odds Pick
Sweet 16
Thursday, March 22  
7:07 p.m. No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (CBS) NEV -1.5 LCHI
7:37 p.m. No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (TBS) UM -2.5 UM
9:37 p.m. No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (CBS) UK -5.5 UK
10:07 p.m. No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State (TBS) GONZ -6 GONZ
Friday, March 23  
7:07 p.m. No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Clemson (CBS) KU -4.5 KU
7:37 p.m. No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 5 West Virginia (TBS) NOVA -5.5 NOVA
9:37 p.m. No. 2 Duke vs. No. 11 Syracuse (CBS) DUKE -11.5 DUKE
9:57 p.m. No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (TBS) PUR -2 TTU

 

TUS Bracket Challenge Standings (prior to game time)

And There Is Good News!
Mar 18th, 2018 by Jeffrey Lubeck

NCAA Officials are reviewing video in order to determine that MSU did not return to the LCA to face Syracuse after leaving 2 minutes early in their victory over Bucknell on Friday.

Regardless, the Orange of Syracuse walked by, avoided, and skirted logic, and almost certain NCAA Tournament death to advance to the Sweet 16.

Instead of Syracuse being gunned down by MSU, the entire Spartan basketball program brought their guns to the game only to shoot themselves in the foot – repeatedly.  The only non-MSU personnel injured in the event was the Grimm Reaper who had attended the game in order to inform The Orange of their impending doom.  Instead the Reaper was hit by 13 straight errant MSU bullets to end the game and his stay in Detroit.

There is good news that comes with MSU’s abysmal performance, and premature exit from the NCAA Tournament. An Izzo led team will not be at risk of being humiliated yet-again to a Coach K. and Duke team  in upcoming Sweet 16 game in Omaha.

Even if we had somehow squeaked by Syracuse (or win and advance as some have be stating was good enough lately), the Blue Devils and Coach K. were next.  Somehow the storyline of our stubborn and inflexible MSU getting throttled by the adaptable DUCK and Izzo moving to 1-8 against Coach K. felt like the real heartbreaker about to be experienced.

Thoughts?

JJ AND JAB’S MSU NO JINX NCAA HEARTBREAK GAME THREAD:
Mar 18th, 2018 by JustABum

Today’s NCAA Tournament Second Round game against Syracuse is slated for a 2:40 p.m. tipoff on CBS with Ian Eagle calling the play-by-play, Jim Spanarkel serving as the color analyst and Allie LaForce on sidelines. Or, you can listen to Will and Matt on the SpartanSportsNetwork.com and spare your TV screen from the brick.

Part I

The Past: Jim Boeheim leads one of the nation’s top defensive scoring team (63.1 pst/ game) against Tom Izzo’s sophomore laden Spartans. This will be the sixth meeting between the Hall of Fame coaches, and Boeheim has had Izzo’s number prior to March winning the last four games. However, during March Madness their only meeting in 2000 was a Spartan victory. Will the wizard of two-day tournament prep prevail, or will Syracuse’s 2-3 zone D sink the sophomores and break our Spartans’ hearts?

Is today’s game outcome predicated by the past?  Or,  will the game be decided solely by the players?  A little of both in my mind will lead to one team feeling the heartbreak of March Madness.

Let’s consider Michigan State’s slow start and shaky opening round performance against Bucknell. The Spartans (30-4) were favored by 14.5 points, but only knocked off the Bison by four points, the smallest margin of victory among the top 3 seeds in round one. Was that the bi-product of an extended layoff following the Big Ten Tournament, or did JL ‘s source in the parking lot see the MSU bus making an early departure?

As for this March Madness, it’s been exciting and historical. Extremely close contests have entertained TUS. Heartbreak struck often, and I am personally referring to my brackets:

http://theususalsuspects.mayhem.cbssports.com/brackets/standings

Part II
The Present: Syracuse (22-13) comes into this match-up highly confident, with two NCAA Tournament wins already under its belt. The Orange knocked off Arizona State 60-56 in the First Four earlier in the week and then took down TCU 57-52 on Friday. Defense has been the key. Cuse’s mystical 2-3 zone defense ranked 11th in the nation, and remains a puzzle for unaware teams to solve. Syracuse limited its last two opponents in the NCAA Tournament to 54 points on 40 percent shooting. Arizona State and TCU, like MSU, were prolific scorers this season.

Of the 10 questions Michigan State players were asked Saturday on the NCAA podium, four were zone-related. Michigan State players talked Saturday afternoon about “limiting the turnovers,” about “keeping the ball moving,” about “making smart plays,” about playing with patience and refusing to get frustrated by the unique brand of defense they will face.

Limiting turnovers is not a far-fetched possibility for our Spartans. Over the last three games MSU has averaged just under 13 turnovers. A seasons best. Syracuse is not much better at keeping the ball with 12 turnovers during the same 3 game period.

We  know the Spartans led the Big Ten in nearly every offensive category this season. MSU shoots 41 percent as a team from the 3-point line. That’s the sixth-best rate nationally. And, inside MSU also made 55.7 percent of their shots inside the arc. That ranks 22nd nationally. However, today’s match-up looks to be a low scoring affair unless MSU figures out how to handle Syracuse’s zone defense.

Part III

This may have been better served as an off day rather than game day thread. I would like to touch on the heartbreak that is this tournament. Face it, only one team can win and everyone else is left heartbroken. My (JJ”S) worst two days (sportswise) in any given year are when the Spartans exit the tourney and if we lose to Penn State in football. I ask all members to share their most devastating loss. Mine are the 1986 Kansas fiasco and the 1990 Georgia Tech debacle. Also, don’t you find it ironically annoying the amount of plays that are now reviewed. If these policies were in place back then, JUD would have possibly been in two more Final Fours.

 

Go Green!

2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Day 3: What Is Next After 2 Days of Madness with a Touch of Insanity?
Mar 17th, 2018 by Jeffrey Lubeck

King George III

Tony Bennett Head Coach of UVA

It is day three of Round 2 for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament.  With Overall #1 Seed Cavaliers of Virginia (UVA) losing to the Retrievers of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) on Friday night by 20 points (74-54) the Madness of March has reached unprecedented levels.

Two of the unthinkable have now occurred.  King George III lost the colonies and the number one seed of the overall tournament lost to the lowest seed (i.e., #1 vs. #16).

An excellent analysis as to why UVA lost written by Marc Tracy is available [here].

Through the first two days and 32 games of Round 2,  nine (9) of the lower seeds have pulled (what technically is) the upset.

The Spartans of Michigan State and Bucknell tangled – the Spartans winning by four (82-78).  With less than 2 minutes left to play and up by 16 points it appears MSU decided to leave the game and Little Cesar’s Arena early in order to beat the crowd to the parking lot and their awaiting bus.  In the meantime, the Bison’s sank 5 three balls in 1:18 to close the gap to 3 points.  A few made free throws by MSU players who were not yet seated on the team bus and the clock left Bucknell one possession short of winning or forcing overtime.

For approximately 16 minutes of the second half of the MSU Bucknell contest, Rugby was introduced as a demonstration sport; sponsored by the England-Wales Path a Better and Friendlier Society Commission.  In short, the contest turned ugly. So much so it appeared the referees lost control of the game for this segment.  While it may seem counter intuitive, the nauseating migraine inducing unrelenting Land Grab consuming commercial interruption presentation by CBS Broadcasting may have saved College Basketball.

#2 Seed (and B1G family member) Purdue steamrolled California State Fullerton 74-48.  With the Acorns and the skunkbears winning their contests on Thursday, the B1G Conference in undefeated (4-0) going into today’s games.  The only conference with multiple bids.  The records by Conference to-date are listed [here] . Unfortunately, Boilers star Isaac Hass broke his elbow and is out for the remainder of the tournament.  The story is [here]. Highly placed sources tell TUS News that Hass remains medically eligible and will continue to compete as a Wall in the Border Wall Selection contest; which enters the Elite Eight competition next week in Douglas Arizona.

As for the Bracket contest, below are the leaders heading into today.  To view all results click [here].

It should be noted that The Marine’s three most favorite teams of all time; DUCK, Jelly, and scUM play today. CNN and the NY Times report that The Marine will not golf today so that the game for all three can be watched live. The listings for all of today’s events is below.

Today’s Games, Times, TV Network, Teams and Announcers – March 17th 2018
12:10, CBS: No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 9 Alabama (Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Dana Jacobson)
2:45, CBS: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Rhode Island (Harlan/Miller/Bonner/Jacobson)
 5:15, CBS: No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Buffalo (Brian Anderson, Chris Webber, Lisa Byington)
6:10, TNT: No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Loyola Chicago(Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore Ros Gold-Onwude)
7:10, TBS: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 Seton Hall (Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin, Evan Washburn)
7:45, CBS: No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Ohio State (Anderson/Webber/Byington)
 8:40, TNT: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Florida (Dedes/Smith/Elmore/Gold-Onwude)
9:40, TBS: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Houston (Nessler/Lavin/Washburn)
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