Formula for Success

Saturday, 9 April 2011, 11:17 | Category : Basketball, College
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This high school librarian filled out a bracket for March Madness and was the only person out of about 3 million entrants in the Yahoo! Tourney Pick’Em (me included) who got all four of the Final Four correct.  Yes, she even had UConn winning it all.

So next year we’ll have her write in and give us tips on how to fill out our brackets in stead of Jimmy.  Here is her formula for success…

Inch’s formula included her favorite numbers and team mascots. She titled her entry Di’s 711 XV Cats & Dogs. In the first round she picked the No. 7 and 11 seeds in almost every round. In ensuing rounds she picked according to team mascots, leaning to those with cats or dogs.

Unfortunately, even with these amazing picks, Inch came up short and failed to win the prize money.

Read the rest of the story.

The Improbable Championship Game

Monday, 4 April 2011, 10:13 | Category : Basketball, College
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First of all, congratulations to the VCU Rams. They had an absolutely remarkable run to the final four. They convincingly beat superior teams during their run. Their season probably didn’t belong in the tournament, but that team sure did. It was fun. And I should say thanks because one of my professors pushed a test back from this Tuesday to Thursday because of the potential that VCU (my school) would play for the title on Monday night. I needed that.

The thought of a UConn and Butler title game two weeks ago was extremely unlikely. A month or two ago, it would have been downright crazy for anyone to even suggest the possibility. On March 5th, UConn was 21-9 and had just lost their fourth Big East game in 5 games to finish the season at 9-9 in conference. They were talented, but a .500 win percentage in any conference doesn’t inspire any confidence in any national title aspirations.

Walker's assist total may be more indicative of UConn's success than his point total

At the beginning of conference play, people were talking about how crazy it was that UConn was picked to finish tenth in the Big East after they won their first ten games of the year. They ended up tied for 9th. Then something clicked. The UConn freshman led by Jeremy Lamb began to grow up. Kemba Walker suddenly has an efficient supporting cast and it has improved his game as well. Walker missed over 60% of his shots during conference play and his team struggled through some awful performances as he shot a combined 34.5% from the field with 3.4 assists in their 9 losses. During the NCAA tournament, he has shot 43.2% from the field and doubled his assist total to 6.8 per game. He now trusts his teammates and the Huskies have become a complete team. They peaked at the right time.

Meanwhile, on February 3rd, Butler found themselves at 14-9 after losing to a Youngstown State team that went 2-16 in the Horizon League. It didn’t look like they were going to be dancing again this year and the loss of Gordon Hayward the year before was proving to be even difficult to adapt to than anticipated. I remember thinking at the beginning of the year that there was no way Butler has a top 25 team after they began ranked #18. I was shocked that they only lost to Duke by 12 in a championship game rematch in December. Hayward was Mr. Everything last year. Half the team would be mistaken for actual butlers rather than basketball players. Then they won 11 in a row to get into the tournament and have been the underdog in every game they have played since. There is something about this team that just won’t quit. They looked down and out in the second half against Florida in the second half but they fought back and won in overtime. I have been very impressed with their will and confidence. They too, peaked at the right time.

VCU took down teams from the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac 10, and Big East, but it couldn't beat the team from the Horizon League

Shouldn’t they be the Cinderellas of this tournament? What is more unlikely, a #11 seed from a 3 bid conference making the final four, or a #8 seed from a 1 bid conference making the championship game? Just because Butler has been here before doesn’t mean they aren’t Cinderellas. They still have a tiny budget and are from a small conference. The fact that they are here for a second year in a row is one of the most incredible accomplishments in the history of the NCAA tournament. VCU’s run may have stolen some of the limelight from Butler’s streak, but they deserve all the praise in the world. One thing we know, Butler will not be satisfied with another loss. After watching them scratch and claw through improbable victory after improbable victory, they can definitely win one more.

Final Four?

Monday, 28 March 2011, 16:59 | Category : Basketball, College
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Final Four 2011 Houston

If I told you I had predicted the Final Four, you would call me a liar, and rightfully so, because nobody did. UConn (a three seed is the highest to make it to the Final Four) didn’t take too much imagination to foresee. They played some of the best basketball seen all season in their conference tournament. Kentucky’s appearance surprises more people, but four seeds have made it this far before (heck, Butler last year was a five seed). That side of the Final Four are a surprise, but not special.

The other half are the real surprise, and also the most exciting part of this tournament. Too bad it can’t be Butler and VCU in the championship game, because they both a have a chip on their shoulder that could take them all the way.

Butler Bulldogs, 2010 Mens College Basketball Championsip, Duke, shot at buzzer, Gordon HaywardButler played a less than spectacular season, after going to the championship last year.  Due to America’s passion for the underdog, most people regretted the final score from last year’s final game. This year, despite being an eight seed, Butler has pushed on. Too bad Gordon Hayward wont get to see postseason play this year with the Jazz, but who knows, Butler might get the chance they missed out on last year.

Every commentator made it clear that VCU did not deserve to enter the tournament. I think that was the fuel to VCU’s fire. Not only have they won every game so far, only one victory was by less than double digits. Even if they lose this weekend, VCU has made one thing clear- they deserve to be here.

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