March 14, 2006
Allan Ray:
Great news for those of us who picked Nova to win it all: VU's 2nd-leading scorer cleared to play in Friday's game vs. 64/65 winner.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
MORE.  MADNESS.

Conventional wisdom is emerging about the NCAA Tournament bracket. Here's some analysis of what is bubbling to the top:

Duke, UConn, Nova rule: There's a heavy consensus that these three No. 1 seeds will all advance to the Final Four. Meanwhile...

Everyone hates Memphis: Most fans see Memphis (which wasn't even in the tournament last year) as the most vulnerable No. 1 seed. There are arguably four other teams in their own region that could beat them.

(I wish I were bold enough to follow through on my gut instinct that Memphis will lose to 16th-seeded Oral Roberts in the first round. Hmm: There's still time to update my bracket. Hint: Check back tomorrow.)

The West's trendy pick? UCLA. I'd say "Beware the sexy pick!" but I myself have UCLA winning the region. (If you are scared of "trendy," there's the populist pick to win the West: Gonzaga.)

Tennessee is overrated: Most fans can't understand how the Vols ended up with a 2-seed. Hard to see them getting by UNC or Michigan St. in the Sweet 16 (if UT even gets that far).

BC is underrated: Fans watched the way BC showed no fear of Duke in the ACC tournament title game; noted their Big East experience as an antidote to Nova's grittiness; and eyed that weak other side of the region.

Top "16" sleeper: Milwaukee Fans seem to like 11th-seeded UWM's Sweet 16 experience; a first-round date with overrated Oklahoma; and a potential second-round game with inconsistent Florida.

Watch the "National Bracket": Consult the "consensus" bracket that aggregates the picks of everyone in ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge; it outperformed 90 percent of individual entries last year.

For a complete analysis of all things NCAA Tournament, check out the special-edition Tourney Quickie.

"Play-In" Madness
Love the NCAA "Play-In" game: The best part is that it doesn't even register on pools. It's simply "Winner of Monmouth-Hampton."

Who is the fan who complains, "But if I just got that extra point from picking Monmouth over Hampton, I'd win my pool!"

Sure, the game doesn't exactly spark chills, but consider this: It's the only NCAA game you've got to watch Tuesday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET). More fans will have access to this game than Thursday's 5:10 p.m. ET game between UCLA and Belmont.

Meanwhile, is anyone else confused? If Duke is the top overall No. 1 seed, why aren't the Blue Devils playing the winner of the 64-65 game?

Ripping Mid-Majors
As fashionable as it was in February to give the mid-majors some love, now it's trendy to rip them. As if it's Bradley's fault that Cincinnati or Michigan spit the bit last week.

I think one point is worth clarifying:

If the mid-major teams lose in the first round, that is not an indictment of their selection as at-large teams. That would be as foolish as saying Kansas or Syracuse were unworthy of selection in 2005 because they lost to Bucknell and Vermont in the first round.

If you swapped Cincy, Michigan or any other big-league snub for Bradley, Air Force or George Mason, most pool sheets would have them losing, too.

They can gripe about who got taken instead of them, but the fact remains: If they had taken care of their own business, they wouldn't have been in this position.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
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... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Fidel Castro: Jeered by fans at WBC's DR-Cuba game in P.R.
Gary Walker: Texans waive team lifer/two-time Pro Bowl DE
Jaret Wright: Allows 8R in 3 IP; spring ERA: 12.91. Yikes!
 
What are we talking about here, really? Quibbling about one-and-done teams? All other factors basically equal, giving mid-majors an extra shot over yet another big-league team is in the best interest of the sport.

(Meanwhile, kudos to Craig Littlepage, selection committee chair, for ripping his critics for not knowing their stuff. Although, he, too, could have come armed for Sunday's fight with a few more stats. But it was an ambush.)

Women's Madness
You don't have to follow women's college hoops that closely to understand the concept "Toughest Women's Bracket Region Ever."

That's the key reaction after top-ranked UNC was paired with Tennessee as the No. 2 team in the Cleveland region. "Yikes" is an understatement.

Vols coach Pat Summitt immediately played the "disrespect" card. Usually, the "D" card is ludicrous; in this instance, she might have earned an exemption:

"That's a slap in your face ... I guess it's my fault for putting together the toughest schedule in the country year in and year out. But as far as I'm concerned we got no respect and I don't understand it."

If the top two teams in the men's RPI were in the same region, can you imagine the outrage?

With Rutgers and Purdue as the 3- and 4-seeds in this "Region of Death" (to swipe a phrase from the World Cup), that would be like Duke, UConn, Gonzaga and BC all being in the same region on the men's side.

NFL Madness
Perhaps lost in yesterday's bracket mania was an otherwise exciting rally of NFL free-agent signings. The most prominent:

Ravens re-sign Jamal Lewis, which begs the question why they went out and also signed Broncos RB Mike Anderson, who must be wondering what he has to do to stop being a platoon RB.

Dolphins sign LT Shelton, which begs the question whether Nick Saban is poised to land QB Drew Brees, who reportedly favors the Fins (via Miami Herald).

Browns wooing LB McGinest, which begs the question how much more of an extreme makeover Cleveland could have this offseason. (They've already signed two new O-lineman, Ted Washington for the DL, WR Joey J to mentor Braylon Edwards and even a new punter.)

Edge James to Cards, which begs one question (why?!), but also begs the question of how much more effective those WRs can be with a real threat in the backfield.

Lloyd, Randle El to Skins, along with S Archuleta and LB Carter, which begs the question: Has Dan Snyder's increased alternative revenue-sharing entitled him to more cap room than everyone else?

Hutchinson gets Vikes offer, which begs the question of how the Seahawks are going to afford both of their MVPs.

Eagles sign DE Howard, which begs the question from fans: When is the team going to get some help to upgrade the offense?

WBC Madness
OK, who had South Korea in his WBC office pool?

South Korea moved to 2-0 with a 7-3 win over the U.S. By now, if you still think the U.S. is a lock to win the WBC title, you're crazy. Not when they still can't get consistent pitching from Dontrelle Willis (3R in 3 IP).

Meanwhile, the other half of the WBC 2nd Round is coming down to a must-see Wednesday "Final Four"-style thriller: The winners of the two games advance to the semis.

That means that either Venezuela or the D.R. is going home; same with Cuba and Puerto Rico. Will VZ's use of 7 pitchers in Monday's must-win (where they delivered a shutout) hurt them against that powerful D.R. lineup?

(What? You don't have a WBC office pool? Never mind: Back to your NCAA brackets, everyone...)

NIT Madness?
I don't know what Cincinnati fans are complaining about: They got a No. 1 seed in the NIT, along with Maryland, Michigan and Louisville. Nothing squeaks "Respect!" like a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

I'm torn: Would the greater irony be one of those four NCAA "snubees" winning the NIT title -- or a mid-major team (say, one of the two from the Mo Valley) winning it all? Would that really prove anything?

If you're filling out an NIT bracket ... (Wait: If you're filling out an NIT bracket, I want to know (a) do you want the name of a good therapist and (b) how can I get me a piece of that?)

As I was saying, if you're filling out an NIT bracket, watch out for the dreaded annual NIT "Letdown" Effect, where a hopeful (but snubbed) Big Dance team, spirit broken, loses its first NIT game.

(Either that, or it's the opposite, "I'll-Show-You" Effect, where the team -- motivated beyond belief by spite -- wins the whole thing.)

Remember the NIT rallying cry:
We're No. 66!"

Tourney Challenge
Don't forget to sign up for the Daily Quickie Readers group of ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge.

We're already at 4,000 entries -- one of the largest single pool groups anywhere, but still off last year's pace of 6,000 entries. Click here to sign up!

Cincinnati:
Memo to Cincy fans, FSU fans, Michigan fans and any other fans of teams that were snubbed: Time to get over it. The rest of us have moved on.
 
 
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Temple's John Chaney to retire: Who wants to bet he, too, is rooting against Memphis (and nemesis John Calipari) tomorrow? Happy retirement!

Bonds Watch: Yesterday, he was spraying line drives. How dare he? Barry's extreme makeover into Tony Gwynn has begun.

More Bonds: New poll shows that only 49 percent of fans think he's Hall-worthy, and only 41 percent want to see him play this season.

Larry Brown takes passive-aggressive shots through the media at Stephon Marbury. Yawn: What else is new?

Remember when the Lakers and Kings were rivals? Sacto has won 12 straight at home, and with a W tonight they'd vault L.A. for 7th in the West.

In what might be the biggest waste of time ever, Duke was named No. 1 in the final AP poll. Won't keep 'em warm if they don't win the title.

Huge congrats to my high school alma mater, Whitman (Bethesda, Md.), which shocked the world by beating powerhouse Roosevelt for the boys' state hoops title.





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