Thursday, March 16, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: March 15, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Talk about suffering Madness: I will
insanely boldly go where no NCAA Tournament prognosticator has gone before.
A 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed.
In the history of the men's NCAA Tournament, it has never happened. It's like the first rule of bracket-picking: The 16 never beats the No. 1. Period. Oh-for-history.
But when the brackets were announced Sunday night, I had a gut reaction when I saw Friday's pair of 1-seed Memphis and 16-seed Oral Roberts:
Upset. (Sorry: U-P-S-E-T!!!)
History, sanity and propriety all insist that I couldn't be more wrong. I was too timid to put it in my original projections. But I've changed my mind. It will happen. I want it to happen. And so do you.
The ultimate upset in sports.
I don't want it to happen because then I can say I was right (well, sort of); I want it to happen because it would be so unforgettably refreshing:
In a tournament field that most people -- fans and experts alike -- think will be dominated by UConn, Duke and Nova, nothing would be as shocking or unprecedented, perhaps in all of sports, as 16 toppling 1.
Mid-major guru Kyle Whelliston didn't scoff at me. In fact, he gave me a couple talking points that back my pick with more than just "gut" and wishful thinking:
• ORU has better offensive stats in FG pct, 3PT pct, points per shot and effective FG pct -- even though Memphis cruised through C-USA.
• ORU fouls less than Memphis does (21.6-20.4) and has better FT pct (70.8-68.4). If the Golden Eagles can keep it close, it's winnable at the line.
• ORU's big guys are actually bigger and bulkier (avg: 6-9, 243 lbs) than Memphis' bigs (avg: 6-8, 231 lbs).
• "Expect a Miracle": That's what it says on ORU's home floor. Could that be any more appropriate?
And here's one more detail: They're playing the game in Dallas, a short drive from Tulsa, in front of an audience that includes Arkansas fans who hate Memphis with lust. The arena atmosphere will be favorable to ORU.
You can dub it a "Memph-dis," but I originally had the Tigers going out in the Sweet 16 to Kansas anyway. Memphis went from not even in the tournament last year to being a 1-seed this year; I don't think the Tigers can handle it. I'm not alone: They're everyone's pick to be the No. 1 seed to fold early.
Um, just not this early.
In the grand scheme of my bracket picks, this kind of 16-over-1 upset call isn't even worth that many points. But it transcends pool position.
And I hope you'll agree:
It's so worth rooting for.
NFL: QBs on Move
Brees to Saints: The over/under is 6; the question is whether I'm talking about years with the team, snaps played without injury or games before fans turn on him.
Implication: No. 2 Pick?! There was a presumption that the Saints would take Matt Leinart. Now, the Saints can either deal the pick or shore up their defense by taking, say, Mario Williams.
So where does Leinart go? Don't let the obvious fit on Broadway with the Jets (via trade) fool you; the Jets are reportedly hot for Falcons backup Matt Schaub and have been talking to the Redskins about Pat Ramsey.
Presuming the Saints keep their pick, that puts Leinart in Tennessee with ex-USC coach Norm Chow (though I thought most fans wanted to see the Titans take Vince Young to understudy under his off-field mentor, Steve McNair.)
Stay with me here: If the Titans take Leinart, that leaves Vince Young or Jay Cutler for the Jets (if they don't trade for a more experienced QB). One of the two will slip past No. 4; the Raiders will be waiting.
More NFL Moves
Culpepper to Dolphins: If he's healthy, the Dolphins got a steal. But that "if" is the difference between being a perennial playoff contender through the end of the decade and more losing.
Lions sign QB Kitna: There's no question he's an upgrade from Joey Harrington. Mike and Roy Williams could be the new Chad Johnson and T.J. Housh.
Keyshawn released; T.O. next? I think most fans believe that T.O. wants to be in Dallas and the Cowboys want T.O. Bill Parcells might be the only coach who can control him -- or T.O. will drive Tuna right out of coaching.
More Bonds Trouble
Bud Selig says he's prepared to take action. The presumption is that means a formal MLB investigation into Bonds. That's not good for Barry. Truth be told, it won't be great for the game. But it is a necessary step.
How surreal will it be when Bonds is inching closer to passing Babe Ruth's career home run total while MLB is simultaneously investigating him? Which story will fans care more about as the lead on "SportsCenter"?
Meanwhile, Bonds is driving a nice cottage industry in publishing. In a new bio due out in May, an adaptation of which appears in the latest ESPN The Mag, Bonds is reported to have told Ken Griffey Jr. he was planning to take steroids to get more attention.
Griffey denies the conversation ever took place, but if it's true, it's consistent with the detail from the first Bonds book that I found most compelling: His motivation wasn't excellence, but spite.
And from the far-fetched rumor mill, there's a story that Barry Bonds might be asked to replace Johnny Damon on the U.S. roster at the WBC, if the team makes it to the final round. Speaking of "if"...
The U.S. is on the brink of a humiliating exit (again). If Japan beats South Korea tonight, Team USA most likely will be bounced out of the championship tournament, whether or not it beats Mexico on Thursday.
Perhaps South Korea and Japan will conspire to ensure Team USA's elimination; more likely, Japan will come out so inspired by its sketchy 4-3 loss to the U.S. earlier this week that it will simply beat Korea, period.
Meanwhile, in the "one-and-done" Caribbean half of the bracket, Venezuela's WBC run is over after its loss to the D.R., which becomes the first team to move on to the semis. I picked VZ to win it all; let's hope that's not foreshadowing of my NCAA picks.
The D.R. will face the winner of Cuba and Puerto Rico (which play an elimination game today). I'm imagining that the Cuban team would like to extend its holiday as long as possible -- strong motivation.
I know that baseball fans are conditioned to only respect "best of" series, but -- in March, at least -- there's something appropriate about "win or you're out."
Brown Rips Marbury
"Look, I've been coaching how many years? I never left a team in worse shape than I got it. Not one. Now think about that. Think about me and think about the guy who's talking," Brown said, referring to Marbury.
Marbury deserves the rip, particularly after teeing off against Brown in the media, but this is the classic Larry Brown M.O..:
• Use the media: I'm still thumbing through the "Right Way" Handbook to figure out where it talks about the "rightness" of fighting battles with players through a cozy, one-sided relationship with the media.
• Blame someone else: The Knicks being worse than last year, having the worst record in the NBA, showing no signs of getting any better -- those couldn't possibly be even partly the coach's fault.
• Lean on history: Brown must sense his Hall of Fame legacy swirling down the drain, dragged down by this awful mess he got himself into. "Never left a team in worse shape?" Well, "never" is about to become "now."
The Knicks' nadir is Isiah's fault. It's Marbury's fault. It's the fault of the rest of the talent. But, make no mistake, a healthy portion of the blame should rest with the coach.
Last chance to join the "Daily Quickie Readers" group in ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge!
We've already topped 6,000, ahead of last year's pace, when more than 6,000 fans came together to create what is believed to have been the largest single tournament pool group in the country. Well done!
Sign up (and tell friends)! I'm personally inviting you to join in the fun. And then you can spend the rest of the month mocking me for picking Oral Roberts over Memphis. ...