First, here are a few things that are cast in stone:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ I’m picking Winthrop over Notre Dame — and indeed, into the Sweet 16 — then rooting against my bracket.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ USC will beat Arkansas and face Texas in the second round.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Screw it, Gonzaga’s going to the Sweet 16. They’ve never let me down as a double-digit seed before. UCLA is going down… for real this time. Unlike some moustached NBA players I could mention, Derek Raivio won’t cry at center court with two seconds left.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Texas A&M will win the national championship.
Now for the things I’m agonizing over:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Should I go with my heart and pick USC over Texas… and perhaps even over North Carolina, into the Elite Eight, before losing to Georgetown? Or should I pick Kevin Durant & co., then (as with the ND-Winthrop game) root against my bracket?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Speaking of Georgetown, should I pick them, even though they’re a “trendy” pick, or should I be bold and go with Washington State instead?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ VCU over Duke? Duke over VCU? Duke to the Sweet 16? Duke to the Elite Eight? Pittsburgh to the Elite Eight? Gonzaga to the Elite Eight? WTF do I do with that corner of the bracket?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Apropos of which, if I have somebody relatively weak coming out of the bottom half of the West, does that mean I have to be boring and take Kansas to the Final Four? Or… Southern Illinois??
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Do I stick with my predicted second-round matchup of #12 Old Dominion vs. #13 Davidson, or do I wimp out?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Since I’m going to pick Oregon to lose to Winthrop in the second round anyway, should I say the hell with it and pick Miami of Ohio over them in the first round?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Florida or Wisconsin? Everyone and their brother will pick Florida. Do I go out on a limb and take the Badgers?
I didn’t notice until just now that, while USC and Notre Dame are in different regions, both of their first- and second-round “pods” are in Spokane. So, if I were in Spokane, I could go to whatever massive big-screen Gonzaga game-watch they’re having on campus Thursday, then watch both the Irish and Trojans in person on Friday. That would be awesome. Harumph.
Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to console myself watching the games on TV while cooing at Shannon’s adorable baby. (Shannon, PJ and Logan are coming to visit us in South Bend starting tomorrow night.) I suppose that’s not so terrible. :)
Speaking of the Irish, Trojans and Zags… after all my fretting about possible first-round matchups between various pairings of my favorite teams, I’d like to thank the selection committee for making it hypothetically possible that we could have a Final Four of USC, Notre Dame, Gonzaga and either Tennessee or Central Connecticut State. :) Hey, I said “hypothetically.”
P.S. Speaking of Gonzaga, here’s a good story from the New York Times about how the Zags pulled themselves up off the floor after Josh Heytvelt’s drug arrest nearly derailed their season. “What Josh did was pretty messed up,” says Derek Raivio. Heytvelt, incidentally, has entered a diversion program that would allow him to clear his record if he displays good behavior for a year — but face near-automatic conviction if he gets in trouble again. Coach Mark Few, according to the Times, “is optimistic that Heytvelt will rejoin the [team] next season.” (Again, hat tip: La Rev.)
UPDATE: Here is WSBT’s schedule of the primary games that will be broadcast in South Bend. Kentucky-Villanova gets top billing Friday night, ahead of USC-Arkansas, so I may need to find a sports bar with DirectTV for that one… or at least go to the law school or Starbucks, where the Internet is fast enough that I can watch on MMOD.
The first-round tournament schedule is out. Key games in my world:
Thursday, 7:10 PM: #1 Ohio State vs. #16 Central Connecticut State
Thursday, 9:45 PM: #7 Indiana vs. #10 Gonzaga
Friday, 2:35 PM: #6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Winthrop
Friday, 9:45 PM: #5 USC vs. #12 Arkansas
Derek Raivio, you’ve just won the WCC championship and led the Gonzaga Bulldogs to their ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. What are you going to do now?
How does, “win some more games” sound?
Go Zags. Beat Whomever.
P.S. More photos:
P.P.S. Lest we forget… the Gonzaga women won too. It’s Zag domination, baby!
UPDATE: Raivio understood the stakes last night: “This is my legacy,” he said afterward. “If we don’t win this game, I don’t think we’re in the tournament.”
UPDATE 2: More photos, brought to my attention by zosa:
Santa Clara and Gonzaga are underway in the WCC title game.
UPDATE: It’s 40-35 Zags at halftime.
I was flipping back and forth between the game and 24, so let me make sure I have this straight: Derek Raivio is working with Dmitri Gredenko to launch drones that will be used as a delivery system to drop nukes on Danny Pariseau. Right? Sounds good to me! Go Zags!
UPDATE 2: 61-52 Gonzaga with 4:28 left. w00t!
FINAL UPDATE: Gonzaga 77, Santa Clara 68, final.
THE ZAGS ARE DANCIN’!!!!!
The new polls are out, and Winthrop is ranked for the first time ever. Notre Dame is #20 in the AP poll and #16 in the coaches’ poll. Oh yeah, and in Joe Lunardi’s bracket as of this morning, the two teams are matched up in the first round, the #6-seed Irish vs. the #11-seed Eagles.
In other hoops news, George Mason and VCU are underway in the CAA title game; it’s all tied up late in the first half. Later, at 9:00 PM, the MAAC title game (Siena vs. Niagara) on ESPN2, and of course, the WCC title game (Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara) on ESPN. Yeah, so, I’ll be taping 24 tonight. :)
UPDATE: VCU wins, 65-59. George Mason led 57-52, but VCU tied it with two straight steals that started an 11-0 run. So the Rams are going dancing.
It’s been a roller-coaster season for the Zags, to say the least, but after all the thrilling wins and perplexing losses, the ups and downs, the highs (literal as well as figurative) and lows, the bottom line is this: after tonight’s 88-70 win over San Diego in the West Coast Conference semifinals, Gonzaga is one win away from putting the at-large talk to rest and securing the WCC’s auto bid for the eighth time in the last nine years.
The conference championship game is tomorrow at 9:00 PM on ESPN against either #2-seed Santa Clara or #3-seed St. Mary’s. Win and they’re in. Lose and… who knows? So let’s just win.
Gonzaga leads 19-18 over San Diego with 8:06 left in the first half. But the Zags have missed some easy shots. Frustrating.
Also frustrating: the inane commentary by Rick Majerus and what’s-his-name. Ugh. “Sean Mallon has been playing in the shadow of Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista the last couple of seasons”? Um, the Zags have played 31 games (32, including this one) since those guys graduated. I’m pretty sure Mallon has gotten used to playing on this year’s team, even if the announcers haven’t gotten used to talking about it.
Whatever happens to the Gonzaga men tonight against San Diego, at least one Zags team is goin’ dancing: the Gonzaga women earned their first-ever NCAA bid by winning the WCC championship today. Nice!
As usual, “of interest” means “of interest to me personally,” and thus excludes such far-less-weighty contests as Duke vs. North Carolina. :) Anyway…
2:05 PM: Southern Illinois vs. Creighton, MVC title game (CBS)
3:00 PM: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Drexel, CAA semifinal
4:00 PM: Central Connecticut State vs. Mount St. Mary’s, NEC semifinal (Live audio)
4:00 PM: Quinnipiac vs. Sacred Heart, NEC semifinal
5:30 PM: Old Dominion vs. George Mason, CAA semifinal
And of course the big one:
9:30 PM: Gonzaga vs. San Diego, WCC semifinal (ESPN2)
GO ZAGS!! BEAT THE TOREROS!!
UPDATE: In a “game of interest” that I forgot to mention, Louisville beat Seton Hall, which means Notre Dame gets the #4 seed (rather than the #3) in the Big East tournament. At 2:00 PM Thursday, the Irish will face the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between #5 Syracuse and the #12 seed (which will be either UConn or St. John’s, the latter only if they lose to Providence today). If ND wins on Thursday, a likely semifinal date with #1 seed Georgetown would await at 7:00 PM Friday.
Okay, Notre Dame vs. Gonzaga, I could deal with. But this…
But still. That first-round matchup would be far too painful. Selection committee, please, have mercy…
Side-by-side in the law lounge, and in my heart.
An evening basketball update…
Syracuse upset #10 Georgetown at the Carrier Dome this evening. The Orange, who were in Lunardi’s bracket this morning anyway, now definitely appear to be on the right side of the bubble, especially considering that they’ve officially won 10 f***ing games in the Big East. ;)
Less shocking was Central Connecticut State’s 79-54 win over Wagner. The Blue Devils finish the conference regular season undefeated at home, which is a good sign, since as the #1 seed, they’re guaranteed home-court advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament (which starts Thursday — see the One Stop Shop and click “ne” for details).
Last but not least, Gonzaga and San Diego are underway early.
UPDATE: Gonzaga wins! And Santa Clara and Pepperdine are in overtime. If the Waves win, Gonzaga wins the West Coast Conference regular-season championship outright, and gets the #1 seed in the WCC tournament. If Santa Clara survives, the Zags share the title, and get the #2 seed. Either way, they get a double-bye into the semifinals, which are Sunday in Portland. It’s a two-game season now… Go Zags!
UPDATE 2: Santa Clara loses! The Gonzaga Bulldogs are your 2007 West Coast Conference regular-season champions!! WOOHOO!!
I actually feel kind of bad for Santa Clara, though. Talk about a choke — in a conference that has been dominated by Gonzaga for so long, they had the regular-season title (and a guaranteed NIT bid, at least) in their grasp, and let it slip through their fingers with two straight road losses to bottom-feeder teams in the final weekend. Sucks for them.
For Gonzaga, though, another outright title… awesome.
On the other hand: I wonder if this will end up being bad news for the Zags. Could the Broncos’ late collapse motivate, rather than demoralize, them heading into the WCC tournament, and inspire them to win the auto bid? Hmm. Let’s hope not. GO ZAGS!!
According to ESPN’s Bubble Watch, both USC and Notre Dame are now NCAA Tournament “locks,” as is Tennessee. Joe Lunardi — who, incidentally, is promising daily Bracketology updates from now until Selection Sunday — has the Irish as a #6 seed (with a first-round matchup against my mom’s and Dmytro’s alma mater, Illinois), the Trojans as a #5 seed (against VCU in round one), and the Vols as a #9 (against Texas Tech … Bruce Pearl vs. Bobby Knight!).
Gonzaga remains a bubble team, according to the Watch, but is one of Lunardi’s “next four out” and probably needs to win the WCC Tournament this coming Sunday and Monday. The Zags can build momentum for that effort with a win tonight at San Diego (10:00 PM EST) in both teams’ regular-season finales.
And speaking of building momentum for conference tournaments: Central Connecticut State, which saw its 12-game winning streak snapped nine days ago, only to start a new streak on Thursday, hosts Wagner at 7:00 PM tonight in (again) both teams’ regular-season finales.
If Gonzaga and CCSU win their conference tourneys — they’ll both be favored — and if the projections of USC, ND and UT as “locks” are accurate, that’d be five of my seven favorite teams in the NCAAs (and all of my Big Three). Now if UConn and Buffalo could just make miraculous runs in the Big East and MAC tournaments, respectively… :)
It’ll be a battle for fourth place in the Big East — with a potential first-round bye in conference tournament at stake — when Notre Dame hosts #16 Marquette at the Joyce Center this afternoon (3:30 PM, ABC). Can Mike Brey’s Irish finish the season undefeated at home?
“What did you say, Brendan Loy?!? Fire me?!? Hell no!!”
A few other games of interest today:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Winthrop tries to complete its undefeated Big South season at Coastal Carolina, a team that almost beat ‘em at home. 2:00 PM.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Gonzaga looks to keep its at-large hopes alive, and build some momentum heading into the WCC tourney, at San Francisco. 3:30 PM.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Creighton looks to solidify its at-large profile once and for all by beating Wichita State at home and finishing 13-5 in the MVC. 5:05 PM.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ USC hosts Cal in its final home game of the season. After this, the Trojans travel to the Washington schools, and then comes the Pac-10 Tournament. 8:00 PM.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Missouri State hosts Drake in another MVC finale, a must-win for the bubbleicious Bears’ at-large hopes. 8:30 PM.