Poll: Dance With Nantz Or Get On The Gus Bus?

I’m starting to sense that the NCAA Tournament-spawned online popularity of Gus Johnson is transitioning from a quasi-mocking tone to a genuine appreciation for his excitable on-air style. A style that’s a complete departure from virtually all national television network play-by-play guys.

Gus Johnson and Jim Nantz

(Gusgasms Keep March Madness Fans Gushing)

So why have so many people responded positively to what some might consider Johnson’s contrived, showboating style? Because the people who matter obviously think what he does is instead a natural outpouring of affection for the game.

With 96 looming, if any major sporting ever needed more of that right damn now, it’s March Madness.

Your 2011 NCAA Hoops Tournament Final Four Announcer:

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So I want to take your temperature on who you’d prefer in the booth for future Final Fours. That is, to find out if you actually do take Johnson seriously as a candidate to replace Jim Nantz.

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Sports Illustrated: 96 Teams “Increasingly Likely”

Stewart Mandel of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has an extensive update on the prospect of the NCAA basketball tournament expanding to 96 teams. A month ago I reported that the expansion of the tournament will happen, and Mandel’s lengthy examination of the subject doesn’t suggest otherwise.

NCAA Tournament going to 96 teams

(As Bob Knight would say: ‘Relax and enjoy it’)

As I also reported last month, the ultimate decision on the status of the tournament field will be made by the NCAA Board of Directors. Mandel notes in his piece today that, “the Board of Directors is fully expecting to hold an expansion discussion at its next scheduled meeting on April 29 in Indianapolis.

NCAA Board Of Directors

(These women to help decide NCAA Tourney fate)

The deadline for a decision is July 31, so I would expect that May could be an eventful month to that end. Along with that news, Mandel has plenty of interesting, previously unreported tidbits.

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UNC Finishes Off The Boringest Day Of B-Ball Ever

Boringest is a word. Oh, it may not be in your fancy “dictionary” (whatever that is) or anything, but any one word that so perfectly encapsulates the five hours of brain-killing boredom that unfolded today on CBS is an absolutely legitimate part of the American vernacular. And these utterly drama-free contests sent fans scampering for the remote… or the Vivarin.

Knowles Lucas MSU Louisville
(Not even the rarely-seen “Reverse Bavarian Ear-Pooping” could save this snoozer.)

Perhaps we were spoiled by the epic ‘Nova-Pitt game from yesterday, but it’s always such a disappointment when there’s such a lead-up to such a letdown. MSU’s win wasn’t competitive in the last 10 minutes. But UNC? They barely even needed 10 minutes of their own to put Blake Griffin and Oklahoma away.

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Nova, UConn Get First Two Final 4 Bids (w/ Video)

Any grousing about how the Big East didn’t deserve three 1 seeds in the tournament is pretty much dead and buried at this point, isn’t it? Aside from the fact that the original argument relied exclusively on “because it just shouldn’t be that way” rather than “because Memphis/Duke/Oklahoma earned it more than UConn,” it’s been proven true throughout the tournament, and especially today.

Scottie Reynolds Winner
(FTW! No seriously, this was for the win.)

During the early game, UConn held off the same unusually frisky Missouri team that ran Memphis right out of the gym. The final was 82-75, with freshman (eep!) Kemba Walker scoring 23 points on just nine shots from the field (EEP!) for UConn.

That game didn’t hold a candle, though, to one of the best Elite 8 games of all time, as Pitt and Villanova (both Big East, mind you) went toe-to-toe, using every single bit of their 40 minutes before Villanova prevailed, 78-76. Read more…

Spartans’ Ibok Tries To Inbound Ball … For Kansas

A funny thing happened during Friday night’s Michigan State Sweet 16 victory over Kansas, the one game of four that wasn’t an absolute stinker. After a made free throw by a teammate, Spartans forward Idong Ibok went to go inbound the ball. The problem, of course, was that the ball wasn’t Michigan State’s to inbounds … it was Kansas’.

yahoo screenshot michigan state kansas

Clearly, the gaffe — which was first discovered by Yahoo!’s THE DAGGER blog — goes down in recent NCAA legend as one of the stupider plays in memory. No, it’s not Chris Webber for cross-state rival Michigan, or Georgetown’s Fred Brown flipping the ball to James Worthy … but it might have been if any kind of a technical could have been called against him, as opposed to a traditional “delay of game.” And you know what? Maybe they should have called a tech.

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Rebel Flag Costing S.C. NCAA Tournament Games

Even though South Carolina is something of a hotbed for basketball, you wouldn’t know it by watching the NCAA Tournament and looking at the sites for games. That’s because of one reason: the Confederate flag. NCAA rules ban any state that continues to fly a Rebel flag from hosting certain NCAA post-season events such as the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And that means no tournament games for South Carolina and Mississippi.

Confederate flag

It’s obviously a touchy subject in those states, even if the reasons for continuing to have the flag are pretty indecipherable for those of us on the outside looking in. But columnist Ron Morris of the COLUMBIA (SC) STATE made a pretty compelling case for why South Carolina is shooting itself in its bare, slack-jawed foot by continuing to fly Old Dixie.

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Vasquez’s Memphis Trash Talking Fails Miserably

You can hardly blame the sports media for overhyping, at every single possible occasion, the importance of public smack-talk by teams before they play an important game. Not only does it make the media’s job of filling inches and radio time that much easier, but it also lets the media feel like they’re part of the game now, even when they aren’t. Whatever “bulletin board material” comes from the pre-game interviews probably has about zero effect on the game itself.

Memphis wins
(Not the team you want to talk trash about)

That said, if you’re going to question a team’s credentials, don’t do it if they’re eight seeds better than your team, and really don’t do it to the point where you suggest their team’s no better than yours. Coaches (and 99% of America) know this, and that’s why their players are coached to be boring, generic talking point robots; let’s keep the embarrassment on the court, etc. etc. But then there’s Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez, whose only problem has ever been, um, “caring too much.” Someone asked him a loaded question about Memphis’ strength of schedule, and the star Terrapin answered with the kind of honesty that makes coaches want to quit.

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Speed Read: Like You Are Working Today Anyway

O Glorious Day! The zenith of nascent spring has arrived! Today, you can call in sick to work (tell them you need to prep for your World Series-winning colonoscopy), crack open a beer before 9:30 am on the West Coast, and stare intently at teenagers in short pants for four straight days without so much as a cocked eyebrow from your loved ones.

Final Four Memphis Tigers fans

(2008 Final Four coverage from SPORTSbyBROOKS)

(Hint: timing’s everything on this one. One weekend in the wrong direction and you’re stuck programming your GPS to stay 200 yards from schools for the next five years.)

Here’s what you need to thrive today:

Television schedule
Watch online
Watch on your iPhone
Nevada Council on Problem Gambling

Final Four Tickets

(2007 teaser from SPORTSbyBROOKS coverage)

Here’s your morning NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament storylines:

Since you now have a few hours to kill, here’s the hail of bullet points to distract you while considering why you’re getting sex advice from China’s last eunuch (and how they tested for this):

Francisco Rodriguez of Venezuela

Manny Ramirez

Which #1 seed falls first?

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Kan. Senate: KU Won’t Play Teams Starting In “B”

If you’ve been watching college basketball the past three days, you probably noticed that, among the other teams on upset runs (Temple, Syracuse, enter your own favorite here), Baylor is getting some notice. The Bears are on a tear, and they’re one win away from a Big XII title and return berth in the NCAA tournament after upsets of both Kansas and Texas. The state of Kansas didn’t exactly take the news all that well: According to THE GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPION, Kansas state senator David Wysong sponsored and pushed through a resolution that says Kansas no longer has to play teams whose name starts with the letter “B” in March.

Kansas fans swearing

(What you didn’t know is that the expletive started with the letter “B”.)

If it makes Kansas feel any better, this Baylor upset thing is happening to other teams, too. Unless Missouri wins the conference title, the Bears will pull off three-straight big upsets. So, why are Wysong and his colleagues stoking up so much attention? Well, maybe they have other matchups in mind. Think about it: This resolution also gives the Jayhawks an out if they have to play Butler, Boston College, Boston University, Bowling Green … the list goes on and on. And there’s precedent for this “KU being upset in March by a team starting in ‘B’” thing. Remember Bucknell and Bradley? Clearly, Wysong never saw those teams coming.

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St. Mary’s Hopes Extra Game Brings NCAA Bid

Heading into selection weekend, the NCAA tournament bubble is probably more crowded that at any time in the last few years. With so many teams jockeying for position, how do you stand out in the eyes of the committee, especially if you melt down spectacularly in your conference tournament?

Patty Mills

Well, if you’re Saint Mary’s, you schedule an extra game that just happens to fall two days before selection Sunday. In an unusual, but completely legal move, the Gaels have added one more home game this Friday against Big Sky doormat Eastern Washington. Coach Randy Bennett says it has nothing to do with showcasing his team to the committee with star Patty Mills in the lineup, who missed the weeks leading up to the WCC tourney with an injury. Right.

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