Monday, March 30, 2009

Headlines: Headed to WNIT Semis and Frozen Four

Jeff: For those of you who have not been paying attention, the Lady Eagles (23-11) have rolled through three NIT games all against old rivals of Boston College. The Eagles have beaten BU, St. Johns and Georgetown to advance to the WNIT semifinals. A new Big East team, South Florida (25-10) is now headed to Conte Forum on Wednesday as BC's next opponent.

St. Mary's was largely regarded as the first team out in the men's NCAA tournament and they were unable to make the semis in the NIT. It is nice to see the Lady Eagles make a nice run in the WNIT after they may very well have been the first team left out in the women's tournament.

Brian: I agree. The Eagles may have not shot well against Georgetown, but they dominated inside to beat the Hoyas at home. You have to like what women's basketball coach Sylvia Crawley has done with the Eagles program since she replaced Cathy Inglese in 2008.

Two more victories and the Eagles can claim the postseason WNIT title. The Eagles host South Florida on Wednesday, and I hope students will make it out to support the team. If the Eagles can defeat the Bulls, the WNIT championship will be against either Illinois State or the winner of the Kansas at New Mexico game tonight.

Jeff: Unfortunately though Brian, there is no men's basketball or hockey to talk about any more this season so we must turn to the women's team and the baseball team for some Eagle victories this spring.

Brian: Speaking of hockey, the Eagles missed an absolutely crazy opening round of the NCAA Division I men's hockey championship. Fourth seeded CHA champion Bemidji State played the role of giant killers two nights in a row, defeating No. 1 seed Notre Dame 5-1 on Saturday, and taking out No. 3 seeded Cornell in the regional final 4-1. Bemidji State becomes the first non-major conference team to make the Frozen Four.

With BC finally out of the tournament, 4 seed Miami (OH) skated past Denver and topped Minnesota-Duluth for their first Frozen Four appearance in school history. BC had bounced the Red Hawks from the tournament the previous three seasons.

So the Frozen Four field is set this year, with Hockey East teams battling in the first Frozen Four semifinal. (1) Boston University will play (3) Vermont in the first semifinal, and (4) Miami (OH) will play (4) Bemidji State in the second semifinal. This is what drives me nuts about the selection process, having two Hockey East teams playing in the National semifinal and not potentially meeting in the title game. Not to mention BU needing a last second goal to get past fellow Hockey East member New Hampshire in the Northeast Regional final.

There is no question which conference was the best in college hockey this year after this weekend's tournament action. The selection committee should have spread the Hockey East teams out among the four regions.

Take a look at the records for each of the conferences in the tournament so far (and no, the answer to this is not the CHA despite Bemidji State's success so far):
  • CHA 2-0
  • Hockey East 5-2 (with 1 loss coming to another Hockey East team)
  • Atlantic Hockey 1-1
  • CCHA 2-3 (including two 1 seeds - Notre Dame and Michigan - going down in the first round)
  • WCHA 1-3
  • ECAC 1-3
Tough to think about what could have been for the Eagles if they had made the tournament field this year. I'll be cheering for a Catamount-Beaver final in Washington D.C.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

BCI Tournament Pool: And Then There Were Four ...

Can you hear that sound? Yes, that's the sound of my bracket being sunk.

What a finish. If your National Championship pick has to be bounced from the tournament, that is the way to go.

The Leaderboard

1 West Coast Bias 26 30 24 8 - North Carolina 88 136
2 Witty Bracket Name 24 22 16 24 - North Carolina 86 150
3 Andy's Picks 21 24 24 16 - North Carolina 85 133
4 Hoosier Daddy 24 22 20 16 - North Carolina 82 146
4 Adam Garcia 24 26 24 8 - Pittsburgh 82 82
6 conlonc 21 24 20 16 - North Carolina 81 129
6 Omar 25 24 24 8 - Louisville 81 97
8 Tarheel Tourney Pick'em '08 (G 22 26 16 16 - North Carolina 80 144
8 Conte Coffin 22 26 24 8 - North Carolina 80 128
8 Mosakowski's Men 22 26 24 8 - North Carolina 80 128
8 number2 24 20 20 16 - North Carolina 80 128

West Coast Bias is still your leader with 88 points, however Witty Bracket Name comes out of nowhere to claim 2nd place by successfully picking 3 of 4 Final Four teams.

Scenario Planning

Four teams and three games remain in this year's NCAA tournament. And we've come down to three brackets remaining who can take home the BCI tournament pool title.

Here are your possible winners in our bracket challenge:
  • With a (1) Connecticut vs. (1) North Carolina/(3) Villanova final, Witty Bracket Name wins with a Tar Heel/Wildcat win, while I think it moved... wins with a Husky title.
  • West Coast Bias wins if (2) Michigan State advances to the title game, regardless of who wins the UNC/Nova Final Four game.
Straight Bangin'

This week's Straight Bangin' award goes to Witty Bracket Name and claver2010 who each selected 3 of 4 Final Four teams correctly. Both brackets correctly picked (1) Connecticut, (1) North Carolina and (3) Villanova to advance to the Final Four.

Bracket FAIL

Me. It's all me this time. My bracket is a monument of FAIL this round. And I had started off so well. Thus proving it's not how you start, but how you finish.

Jeff vs. Brian

I don't want to talk anymore about my bracket. After picking four of eight Elite 8 teams correctly, I laid the big goose egg in the Final Four. Yep, that's right. Not ONE correct team. This is truly pathetic. Thanks for nothing, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, Memphis and Louisville.

With Jeff correctly picking North Carolina to advance to the Final Four, he is your winner in the Jeff vs. Brian bracket challenge. Congrats.

Thanks to Fear the Stache for keeping my bracket out of the basement.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Headlines: BC Loses Series with Clemson

Jeff: Despite outscoring the Tigers 22-13 overall, the Eagles lost two of three games to Clemson this weekend. We don't talk baseball much here because neither Brian nor I closely follow college baseball, but since the Eagles were playing Clemson, I picked up the Tigers radio broadcast of the doubleheader earlier today. BC won the game last night and played well today but dropped both close games. When I started listening in the middle of the first game, Brian Foley, who was a guest on BC Interruption not too long ago, was a guest on the Clemson radio broadcast. He did a nice job of giving the announcers some info about this Eagles team. Check out his blog at

What was nice about listening to the games this afternoon vs. listening to MLB games is that time between at bats and innings was so much shorter so that there were constantly pitches being thrown. Where I live now college baseball is big time. Easily comparable to college hockey in Boston and, if anything, it is even bigger than that. If the Eagles can continue to battle in the ACC it will be fun to follow the team in the future.

The Eagles are now 6-6 in conference which is impressive given their history in the ACC. Good luck to the team from here on out.

BCI Tournament Pool: Elite 8

OK, OK. So my Gonzaga pick was a little off. Lawson and the Heels straight up dominated the Zags last night to move within a game of the Final Four. In the first half, it seemed like UNC couldn't miss. This is of course good news for the 18 pool participants that picked North Carolina to win the National Championship.

North Carolina was THE pick of this tournament, with 41% of brackets picking the Heels to win it all. Pittsburgh came in second with 27% of brackets, and Louisville third with 10%. Of all the brackets, only 5 have lost their National Champion pick (2 for Memphis, 2 for Boston College and 1 for Washington).

With only 7 games left to play, "let's go to the leaderboard ... Mo!"

1 West Coast Bias 26 30 24 - - North Carolina 80 168
2 Adam Garcia 24 26 24 - - Pittsburgh 74 162
3 Omar 25 24 24 - - Louisville 73 161
3 Bracketological Beats 21 28 24 - - Pittsburgh 73 153
5 Conte Coffin 22 26 24 - - North Carolina 72 160
5 Mosakowski's Men 22 26 24 - - North Carolina 72 160
7 Coach Handsome 25 26 20 - - Pittsburgh 71 159
8 Furb 20 30 20 - - North Carolina 70 134
9 Andy's Picks 21 24 24 - - North Carolina 69 165
9 Der Springer 25 24 20 - - Pittsburgh 69 157

The Leader

For the second straight round, West Coast Bias is your overall leader with 80 points and a possible point total of 168. Bias has correctly picked 47 of 56 games correctly, having only missed 3 games beyond the first round games. West Coast Bias has a comfortable 6 point lead on our second place bracket Adam Garcia (Adam's bracket can only win the entire tournament with a Louisville-Pittsburgh final where Pittsburgh wins it all).

New to the Top 10 this week is Conte Coffin, Mosakowski's Men and Andy's Picks. All three brackets correctly picked 6 of 8 Elite 8 teams.

Straight Bangin'

This week's Straight Bangin' Award will be split 9 ways. Congrats to Bracketological Beats, Conte Coffin, Hoosier Daddy, Bean, Left Coast Chris, ATLeagle, BCMike, BC'10412 and mlcmnd for picking Missouri to advance to the Elite 8. Only 16% of all Yahoo brackets had Missouri in the Elite 8. Of those 9 brackets, 6 were man (or woman) enough to have the Missouri Tigers advancing to the Final Four.

This award usually goes to a bracket that goes out on a limb and has a great upset pick come true, but with pretty chalky Elite 8 - four 1s, two 2s and two 3s - I have to take what I can get. It's just too bad that Bracketological Beats didn't trust in the ACC and pick Maryland over California in the first round, otherwise this bracket would have had a ...

Perfect Regional

Last time around, we had whittled our way down to 2 perfect regionals. With 2 seed Memphis being upset by 3 seed Missouri, that took out our last two perfect regionals, as West Coast Bias and BC Billy 1979 had Memphis advancing to the Elite 8.

Bracket FAIL Award

We will stop picking on Fear the Stache - still in last place - and turn our attention to southerncomfort and Jeff. These brackets only picked 2 of 8 Elite 8 teams correctly, the lowest point total of the round. And of the two brackets, southerncomfort is actually in a better position than Jeff, having selected Louisville in the Midwest and North Carolina in the South to advance to the Final Four. The only teams Jeff has left are North Carolina and Oklahoma who play in the South regional final tomorrow. Jeff will be rooting for the Heels, his eventual National Champion.

Jeff chalks up this Bracket FAIL award to the ACC who let him down and completed effed his bracket over this year.

Jeff vs. Brian

This week, I currently lead Jeff by 5 points on the strength of picking 4 of 8 Elite 8 teams correctly. As I mentioned, Jeff had a forgettable set of Elite 8 teams - Wake Forest, Boston College, Purdue, Memphis, Florida State, Duke, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Gotta ... little carried away with those ACC teams, eh Jeff?

Jeff's hopes of defeating me this year in our bracket challenge now lie solely with North Carolina.

Also worth noting that Jeff and myself can no longer win this thing. The best I can finish is 3rd (with a Louisville-Pittsburgh final) and the best Jeff can finish is 15th (with a North Carolina vs. Missouri/Michigan State final).

Enjoy the Regional finals and check back on Sunday for an update after the Final Four.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where's the Hype for the East Regionals? and the Big Finish

Brian: The East regional semifinals were played last night at the Garden, and the Big East cleaned up like it was old times with Pittsburgh and Villanova advancing to the Regional finals. The Globe wrote yesterday about how buzz around town was, shall we say, lacking. The response from most interviewed was "What? What tournament?" Can BC and college sports ever win in Boston?

Jeff: I clued you into this yesterday when it was reported on ESPN radio that there was no buzz in Boston for the regional which began there last night. Going to a regional or a conference tournament or a conference championship games is something that you and I have both had the opportunity to do and half the fun of it is not going to the actual game(s) but going out in the city before and after the game and talking basketball/football with fellow fans and alum along with opposing fans and alum. In Boston the regional is fallen victim to the same lack of hype/covereage that BC sports get every season and will conitnue to get as long as the Celtics and Red Sox don't get relocated.

Brian: Still, the Garden looked packed and the BC logo on the court looked particularly nice. We should play some games at the Garden during the year. I have to think the economy is somewhat to blame here too. As we know, the Georgia Dome wasn't filled to capacity for the ACC Tournament. And much like the ACC Tournament semifinals were far better attended than the quarterfinals (since Duke and North Carolina were both playing on Saturday), I would expect the Regional final to be much more hyped and better attended given that former Big East rivals Pittsburgh and Villanova will meet in the final. At least that is probably the best possible Regional final matchup for the city and the Garden (as opposed to a Duke-Xavier final).

Big Finish

Brian: It's been reported that DeFilippo is talking to Villanova AD Vince Nicastro to try to renew the Big East basketball rivalry with the Wildcats. If you can schedule any 3 former Big East foes to renew a rivalry and beef up our out of conference strength of schedule, who you got?

Jeff: Villanova is at the top of the list because its one of those schools that many BC applicants have also applied to with Georgetown being another. Notre Dame would be my third choice and this is mainly because we know that Syracuse and UConn will never schedule us as long as their current coaches are in place.

Jeff: Baseball home opener this weekend against No. 20 Clemson. The two teams are 1, 2 in the ACC Atlantic Standings. After a disappointing midweek loss to Holy Cross, can the Eagles take the series?

Brian: I only have the Eagles winning 1 of 3 this weekend. But with the weekend rotation of JB MacDonald, John Leonard and Mike Dennhardt, wouldn't be surprised if we take 2 or even sweep this weekend.

Brian: More hating on the Eagles out of Raleigh. My boy takes a look at the unbalanced ACC schedule and has this to say about the Eagles, who ranked 11 of 12 as far as having the toughest ACC conference schedule: "Of course, like Virginia in 2006 and Virginia Tech in 2007 — two other teams that benefited greatly from weaker ACC schedules — the Eagles were exposed quickly in the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round to USC." Clemson, Wake Forest and Florida State had nearly as easy ACC schedules this year, finishing 10th, 9th and 8th, respectively, on that list. I guess those teams weren't exposed in the NCAAs though, right?

Jeff: Ha. ACC had a rough first round that has nothing to do with unbalanced schedule this year. BC did beat Duke and North Carolina so BC was just a rare bird this year.

Jeff: Liberty college basketball star Seth Curry is transferring. It is rumored that he is looking at an ACC school to transfer to. Seth and Stephen's dad, former NBA star Dell Curry, played for Virginia Tech. Any chance Skinner goes after Curry and the Eagles land the point guard?

Brian: 0 percent chance. No way. The Currys have ties to Virginia, so if it's not Virginia Tech or Virginia, I'd imagine we are talking about one of the Carolina schools or even Maryland. He'll stay close to home, and it makes too much sense to replace Tyrese Rice with Curry.

Brian: BC was voted one of the top 10 most popular basketball programs in the country by a recent Harris Interactive poll. They are joking, right?

Jeff: What? Has to be a joke. Either that or expect a lot more games to be on ESPN next year.

Jeff: Brian, you still like Gonzaga to beat North Carolina tonight now that Lawson has played a game on his overhyped toe?

Brian: I do. Of the four teams to beat the Heels this year, two of the four run a version of the Flex offense (Maryland and Boston College). Gonzaga also runs the Flex, and if Austin Daye can get going, the Zags can pull off the upset.

Brian: Last one, SI Swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker sat down with Dan Patrick who asked her if she'd like to be the Ashley Judd of North Carolina. She said she would be honored. We can't let this stand, Jeff. To one-up our ACC brethren, who you recruiting to be the Ashley Judd of Boston College?

Jeff: Elizabeth Hasselbeck I suppose.

Brian: Weak. That's all you got? A co-host of The View? How about recruiting another SI Swimsuit model. Bar Refaeli?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Food Chain: Top 5 Men's Hoops Moments

Brian: We attempt to wrap up this year's men's hoops season with a game of Food Chain.

Food Chain: Top 5 Moments from the 2008-2009 Men's Basketball Season

We consider these 10 top moments from the 2008-2009 Men's Basketball Season and each rank our top 5 moments below. Feel free to share your top 5 moments in the comments section below.

Receiving a 7 Seed to Play in the NCAA Tournament

I think this was a surprise to the casual college basketball fan. How could Boston College end up with a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament after not receiving a single vote in the regular season ending major polls? How could BC have the same seed as Clemson, who wiped the floor with BC the one game we faced them? Even's Joe Lunardi was a little surprised at the seeding.

Still, this was a great accomplishment for a team that didn't come close to sniffing the postseason a year ago.

Topping No. 1 North Carolina

Up until this point, the ESPN talking heads were practically gushing over the Tar Heels. They had already decreed that North Carolina was to become the 8th team to ever go undefeated and win the NCAA title, and the first since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. No one really gave BC a shot at winning this game. The game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would have you believe, as the Eagles led by as many as 14 points with about 6 and a half minutes to play. Rice finished the game with 25 points, Sanders pitched in 22 and Reggie Jackson had 17 points. It was the first win over a No. 1 ranked opponent since Bill Curley and the Eagles took down No. 1 North Carolina in the 1994 NCAA Tournament's second round.

Overtime winner at UMass

There is never any love lost when Boston College and Massachusetts face off in the Commonwealth Classic. BC has dominated the Commonwealth Classic in the 2000s, having won 7 straight from 2000-2006 before UMass upset BC 83-80 in 2007. BC was up 2 before UMass's Tony Gaffney tipped in a bucket to tie the game at 77. In the overtime session, BC jumped to an 81-79 lead on a Josh Southern layup and Joe Trapani and Tyrese Rice hit free throws to clinch the victory for the Eagles. The win pushed BC to 6-2 while UMass fell to 1-6.

Taking Care of Florida State at home OR the Rakim Sanders windmill dunk

Arguably there wasn't a more important game for the Eagles down the stretch than their home matchup with Florida State. BC came back from a 1 point deficit and Tyrese Rice buried a deep 3 pointer with 20.5 seconds left to lift BC over the Seminoles. The win got the Eagles to 20 wins, 3 of those coming against ranked teams. Oh yeah, and there was the SportsCenter highlight reel play from this game as well ...

Duke Survives BC Scare in ACC Quarterfinals

Seems a bit odd to have a loss on a top moments list, but you had to be proud of the effort that the Eagles showed against the ACC's No. 3 seed (and eventual tournament champion). Leading by 7 at the half, Duke crawled back in the game and scored the game-winning bucket with only 34 seconds to play. I think this close loss contributed greatly to the Eagles being awarded with a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. It certainly would have been nice to have won this game - who knows how far the Eagles could have gone in the ACC tournament - but BC played Duke the toughest of any team in the ACC Tournament (and the NCAAs to date). "I ain't playing no more!"

Beating Georgia Tech at home on Sanders's GW Shot

This game got us to 9 wins in the ACC and can be seen as the game that got us over the NCAA tournament bubble. The goat became the hero, as it was Sanders reach-in foul on Lewis Clinch that gave Georgia Tech a one point lead with 12.4 seconds to play. With 1.7 seconds left, Sanders hit an off-balance, fallaway jumper to lift BC to a 67-66 win over the Jackets and into the NCAA tournament.

Beating Virginia Tech at home on the Sanders' GW tip-in

The Eagles led by 2 at half and led for nearly the entire second half before A.D. Vassallo hit two free throws to put the Hokies ahead 66-65. Tyrese Rice misses the runner, no one on Virginia Tech boxes out, and Rakim Sanders comes flying through the lane for the putback with 0.04 seconds to play. The win pushed the Eagles to 17-6 (5-3 ACC) and gave BC a critical home win over an eventual ACC tournament bubble team.

Comeback Overtime Win On The Road at Georgia Tech

BC somehow coughed up a 14 point lead with 6:41 to play as Georgia Tech - led by Iman Shumpert and Gani Lawal - battled back to force overtime. In the overtime session, Rice made a layup with 20 seconds to play to seal the victory. The win stopped a four game skid for the Eagles, and without this confidence builder, this season's end result could have been turned on its head.

Upsetting Duke in Conte and Storming the Court with Dudley

This game had it all. Tyrese Rice scored his 2,000 point as a BC Eagle. You had the Joe Trapani alley-oop slam punctuation mark. The student section (and Jared Dudley) storming the court. The first BC win over Duke in 25 years. Roll that beautiful Bean-town footage!

Brian's Food Chain

5. Comeback Overtime Win at Georgia Tech - this game stopped the bleeding. If we hadn't won this game, our season may have ended up VERY differently ...
4. Taking Care of Florida State - Although not a buzzer beater, Rice's 3-pointer to seal the game was filthy
3. Beating Virginia Tech / the Sanders' GW tip-in - Another crucial win over an ACC bubble team
2. Upsetting Duke in Conte - Happy for the students and the fans that they got an opportunity to storm the court
1. Topping No. 1 North Carolina - Enough can't be said about this win. An upset of the No. 1 team in the country, on the road, to open ACC play. This is another of those games that if it had gone differently, who knows how this season would have turned out.

Jeff's Food Chain

5. Earning a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. The tournament was barely on the radar at the start of the season and a 7 was better than most expected.
4. Beating FSU in a game that seemed to make or break our NCAA hopes since it gave us another victory against a ranked team and our 8th ACC win.
3. Nearly upsetting Duke in the NCAA tournament. I don't have the numbers but I'm sure this was the most watched BC basketball game this season by a large margin aside from the tournament depending on how exactly the ratings are calculated since CBS is flipping between games in most markets. We nearly beat Duke twice in the same season when they were top 10 wire to wire. Despite the poor last shot, it was a great effort by the Eagles and more exciting than the UNC or Duke wins.
2. Beating Duke and the students storming the court.
1. A no brainer. Beating #1 UNC on the road. Still probably the most shocking upset of the entire basketball season for the entire nation. Unfortunately, it was quickly overshadowed in Chestnut Hill by the Jags departure.

Leave your own top moments in the comments section below.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Headlines: Is the NCAA Ice Hockey Selection Process Broken?

Brian: And just like that, a season ends in 44 seconds.

BU1-1 6x6
Zach Cohen (10) (John McCarthy, David Warsofsky)11:01
BU2-1 6x6
Brian Strait (2) (John McCarthy)11:22
BU 3-1 6x6GWColin Wilson (15) (Jason Lawrence, Chris Higgins)11:45

I can't think of a more painful way to have your season - and for Anthony Aiello, Tim Filangieri, Tim Kunes, Kyle Kucharski, Brock Bradford, Benn Ferriero, and Andrew Orpik, a college career - end so abruptly. We watched the game at Hairy Monk in NYC and Boston College and York's boys gave Boston University all they had, which was good enough for nearly 50 of the 60 minutes. And just like that, a three goal span of 44 seconds ended the Eagles season.

Boston University then went on to beat UMass-Lowell 1-0 in the Hockey East championship game for their seventh tournament championship.

The NCAA selection committee announced the pairings for the 2009 NCAA men's hockey tournament, and predictably BC was not one of the 16 teams. Likely one game and one goal too short. From Hockey East, Boston University is the No. 1 overall seed and will play in the Northeast regional in Manchester, NH, along with the No. 3 seeded New Hampshire Wildcats. Northeastern earns the No. 2 seed and has to go to Grand Rapids, MI. Finally, Vermont also earned a No. 3 seed and plays in the East regional in Bridgeport, CT.

Ohio State was the last at-large team in the tournament, as the Buckeyes finished the regular season with a PairWise ranking good for a tie for 15th. If this was the NCAA men's basketball tournament, you would say that Boston College was in the "First Four Out" category along with Wisconsin, Minnesota and St. Lawrence.

What seems somewhat curious is that some of the at-large teams failed to go deep into their own conference tournaments. In Hockey East, Lowell and BC swept Vermont and New Hampshire, respectively, on the road in the Hockey East quarterfinals, yet UVM and New Hampshire are "Dancing" while the River Hawks and the Eagles are staying home.

In the CCHA, both Ohio State and Miami (OH) lost in the CCHA quarterfinals to Alaska and Northern Michigan, respectively, but both the Buckeyes and the Red Hawks are rewarded for their CCHA tournament mediocrity with NCAA tournament berths.

In the WCHA, Minnesota-Duluth became the first team to participate in the 4 v. 5 play-in game and take the conference championship, defeating Denver 4-0. Yet UMD only earned the 2nd seed in the Midwest/Minneapolis region, a region where - get this - Denver is the No. 1 seed. If the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds advance, UMD will be forced to defeat Denver once again to advance to the Frozen Four.

To make matters worse, each of these conference tournaments take on different formats. The WCHA - like Hockey East - has 10 teams but has an entirely different conference playoff format, with all 10 teams playing in a best-of-three opening round before the "Final Five" play in a play-in game + semifinal + final and third place game format. ECAC also has a third place game, which gives teams another opportunity to improve their PairWise rankings.

The two bloggers at Coming Down the Pipe! go off on this issue of who goes to the tournament and who stays home. They claim it makes no sense that UMass-Lowell and Boston College should be left out of the NCAA tournament's field of 16 while Vermont and New Hampshire make the tournament. There doesn't seem to be any emphasis placed on how you are playing at the end of the season in the conference tournament. And the confusion over the conference tournament formats makes the whole thing even more complicated.

Jeff, I know you don't follow college hockey as closely as I do, but think of this situation in the context of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Possibly to a fault, the men's selection committee plays too much emphasis on the season-ending conference tournaments in determining who makes the field of 65. Should a similar emphasis be placed on play in the season-ending conference tournaments in men's ice hockey? Or is the PWR ranking system and NCAA selection committee criteria OK as is in your book?

Jeff: Does the R in PWR stand for ranking? If so, wouldn't it just be PWR system, not Pair Wise Ranking ranking system? But back to the question, the criteria is OK as it is. It's OK, not perfect, but not bad either because at least it is predictable. The Eagles knew they needed to win at least one more game to get in. They didn't and so they're not. I have no problem with that. If the selection system were going to be improved, late season play should be emphasized and conference tournament runs should enable teams to get into the tournament just as in basketball. You want the 16 teams in the tournament that have the best chance of winning it. Right now, Boston College would've had a better chance of winning the tournament than some of the teams selected.

Brian: I agree that you want the best 16 teams in the country to be in the tournament. The problem is that there are 3 really good conferences (Hockey East, CCHA and WCHA), 1 so-so conference (ECAC) and two really bad conferences (CHA, Atlantic Hockey) that get auto bids.

Things will get a little better next season as this is the last year that College Hockey America will exist. That will mean one less auto bid for a conference that hardly ever does anything in the NCAAs and one more at-large berth.

This probably all sounds like sour grapes but I think it says something when you look at the number of teams from each conference that received berths to the NCAA tournament. Only 4 Hockey East teams make the NCAAs when Hockey East was clearly the best conference in the country this year. Four teams are the same number of teams that the CCHA got into the tournament. The WCHA gets three bids, the ECAC gets two, Atlantic Hockey gets one and College Hockey America gets one.

Also, it is a bit frustrating to have two teams from the same conference in the same regional. I would have serious gripes with the seedings if I was New Hampshire or Minnesota-Duluth, who have to go through conference opponent's Boston U. and Denver to reach the Frozen Four. All the selection committee had to do was shuffle around Boston U. and Denver to keep a max of 1 team from Hockey East, CCHA and the WCHA in each regional.

Hard to find a team I like in this year's tournament, especially with Boston U. and Notre Dame receiving No. 1 seeds. I feel obligated to root for Hockey East, but since I can't stand BU, New Hampshire or Northeastern, I'm going to back Vermont. Oh yeah, and Bemidji State, because they don't have a shot in hell. Go Beavers!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Headlines: The Aftermath

Brian: OK, Jeff. We have time to properly mourn the events of this past weekend. So what happened?

Jeff: Brian, I wish I knew but I just don't. The first half seemed like typical BC with maybe Raji scoring and bearing a little more of the weight than usual. But no one could've predicted the second half to go as it did.

Brian: Well, anytime you get doubled up in the points column in the second half (42 to 21), you aren't going to win many games. You have to look at how absolutely stone cold the Eagles were shooting from the field in the second half (23.1 percent = ouch!). The team's offense seemed to press in the second half by taking really poor shots without first setting up the flex offense. A sign of a young team? They seemed to panic a little with about 10 minutes to play going down 52-44. USC didn't look back from there.

The other thing that stood out for me was how the Eagles got absolutely dominated in the paint. USC's DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson scored a combined 42 points on 18 of 25 shooting, and had 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. Southern was again non-existent with 3 points, 1 bucket, 4 rebounds and 4 personal fouls.

So who is to blame? In this article in the New York Times, it makes it sound like Coach Skinner threw Tyrese Rice under the bus and places the blame for the loss solely on his senior point guard. Do you agree with this?

Jeff: If you are going to blame one individual, then yes, Rice deserves the blame. But should Skinner be blaming one individual? Absolutely not. Guys like us who don't matter and never step foot in the locker room should be blaming Rice for his weak performance, not Skinner. Rice had a great career at BC and after his final game Skinner should have nothing but good things to say about him regardless of his play Friday night.

Brian: Completely agree with this. This was a team loss and Skinner should have had nothing but positive things to say about Rice's four years on the Heights. I must admit I've never fully understood the Rice-Skinner dynamic. Rice seems like a decent enough guy. To a fault, he certainly wasn't the leader that this team needed but you have to praise the guy for four years of service to BC and the basketball program.

Jeff: Looking back at this season it does seem like the team performed above expectations aside from Rice. Agreed?

Brian: Agreed. You have to consider this season a success. Did the team perform above expectations? Absolutely. After being picked to finish 11th in the ACC this season, 22 wins, wins over North Carolina and Duke, and an NCAA tournament berth were more than we could have asked for. The only fault I can see with this team is that perhaps they overinflated expectations for those that follow the program with wins over North Carolina and Duke, and a close ACC Tournament loss to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals.

Jeff: Huge success! Even an NIT appearance would've maybe been considered to be a successful season. The real killer this year was losing to Duke in the ACC Tournament. If we had pulled out that W, everyone would've been happy and Boston College probably would have gotten a 6 seed and played a lesser team in first round. And maybe even advanced?

Brian: Possible, but the 11 seeds were no joke this year. Dayton won their first round game, and Utah St., Temple and Virginia Commonwealth all pushed their first round matchups to the brink of elimination.

I agree though. You have to look at this season as a strong building block for the next two seasons. Next season we return a strong nucleus of juniors in Trapani, Sanders, Southern, Raji and Paris. This season has certainly been a success and this team can only build on the experience of playing in this year's NCAAs.

We turn now to this team's lone senior who played his last game on Friday - Tyrese Rice. What does the future hold for Ty Rice? In this Boston Herald article, the writer claims that Tyrese Rice's decision to return for his senior year was a good one. Did Rice improve or hurt his NBA draft stock this year, and what will be the legacy of Rice at BC?

Jeff: I didn't think Rice would've been drafted last year and still don't think he will be.

Brian: Rice will get drafted, most likely in the second round. My guess is he'll kick around an NBA team's bench for a few years and maybe go on to play in Europe when his NBA career comes to an end. The problem with Rice is that he isn't really a natural point guard and is a bit undersized as a 2 guard. Still, he can shoot from range with the best of them, and I'm sure an NBA team will give him a shot.

As far as legacy is concerned, I think Rice is in the conversation for one of the best guards to ever come through BC. The announcers made this point during the game. While probably not better than John Bagley, John Austin, Dana Barros, Scoonie Penn, Howard Eisley, or Troy Bell, Rice was one of the best guards and most potent scorers in BC history. Rice finishes his BC career with 2,099 career points which is good for 5th all-time behind only Bell, Smith, Barros and Curley.

On to our conference's weekend woes. The ACC went 0-3 on Friday night in the NCAA tournament and all three of the teams that lost were the higher seed. What do you think is the #1 contributor to the ACC's terrible Friday night?

Jeff: I don't know, Brian. I am disappointed in the ACCs performance because I thought the league had good depth this year and now we are already left with only Duke and North Carolina left in the tournament. I expected much more out of the ACC than most people so I have to admit that I was completely wrong on this one. I blew it. The ACC was not nearly as strong this year as I thought they were. We all know what happened in the NCAAs and Virginia Tech and Miami were also bounced from the NIT in blowout fashion.

Brian: I think you can point to tournament experience and coaching experience as a big part of the conference's poor postseason performance. You have to go with veteran coaches in the NCAAs. Both Wake and Florida State have inexperienced coaches and fairly young teams, so their first round exit could have been somewhat predicted. Florida State hadn't been to the Dance in 11 years, and faced a tough, tournament tested team in (12) Wisconsin. All about experience.

In addition, Wake Forest looked horrible down the stretch. So did Clemson for that matter (I personally thought Michigan looked worse down the stretch).

We have no excuse other than possibly being seeded higher than we should have been. I think if we had won the ACC Tournament game against Duke, that would have made a loss like the loss to USC or a loss to the Daytons of the world that much more painful. The wins over North Carolina and Duke in the regular season were a blessing and a curse. They gave Eagles fans way too unrealistic expectations for this team.

The NC State blog Section Six is pissed at the ACC's performance on Friday night. Teams that NC State beat during the regular season went 0-3 last night. Perhaps a better barometer for the NCAA selection committee is whether the team beat pathetic NC State huh? Jeff, your response to this?

Jeff: NC State went 6-10 in conference. The ACC had 7 teams in the dance so naturally they beat a few of the tournament bound teams. Hopefully NC State can win a few more games next year and get into some postseason action of some kind.

The tournament isn't over for Boston College as BC hosts the East regional semifinal and East regional final. Is hosting the third and fourth rounds of the tournament for the first time a good thing for the school and the basketball program?

Jeff: I don't see how it has any bearing on anything. I'm sure the NCAA appreciates it and maybe some money exchanges hands. It in no way helps the program though.

Brian: Perhaps there is some marginal brand recognition from having the Boston College Eagles logo in the floor for the East regional semifinals and finals, but aside from financials for the program, I agree there's probably marginal benefit to hosting a Regional final.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BCI Tournament Pool: Sweet 16 Recap

... and then there were 16. A bit dry and chalky for my tastes, but it is what it is. After the craziness from Friday's opening round upsets, the weekend was surprisingly calm with the No. 1 through No. 3 seeds all advancing to the Sweet 16. Two of the No. 4 seeds advanced in Xavier and Gonzaga. And in the West regional, the No. 5 seeded Purdue Boilermakers bounced the third No. 4 seed Washington Huskies (and Left Coast Chris's National Champion pick). I guess I spoke too soon about the West Coasters owning this pool.

The one surprise of the weekend is the No. 12 seed Arizona Wildcats advancing to the Sweet 16. When the field of 65 was announced, some thought that Zona didn't even deserve to be in the tournament. But they quietly knocked off the Mountain West champs Utah in the first round, and dispatched the 13th seeded Horizon League Champ Cleveland St. Vikings today.

Our new leaderboard (top 10):

1 West Coast Bias 26 30 - - - North Carolina 56 184
2 Coach Handsome 25 26 - - - Pittsburgh 51 175
2 bobble24 27 24 - - - North Carolina 51 167
4 Adam Garcia 24 26 - - - Pittsburgh 50 178
4 Furb 20 30 - - - North Carolina 50 150
6 Omar 25 24 - - - Louisville 49 177
6 Coach Handsome and T-Rice Show 25 24 - - - Pittsburgh 49 177
6 Der Springer 25 24 - - - Pittsburgh 49 173
6 Bracketological Beats 21 28 - - - Pittsburgh 49 165
6 Doug Flutie Likes Guacamole 21 28 - - - Pittsburgh 49 165

The Leader

Our new leader this week is West Coast Bias. West Coast Bias correctly picked 15 of 16 Sweet 16 teams which is quite an impressive accomplishment. The only incorrect Sweet 16 pick was surprising Arizona (this bracket picked Wake Forest). West Coast Bias has a comfortable 6 point lead in the possible points column, and will only relinquish the top spot if this tournament gets a lot less chalky (Bias has all No. 1s and No. 2s in the Elite 8). Way to go out on a limb! I guess I don't have much room to talk though.

Newcomers to the Top 10 include Adam Garcia, Furb, Bracketology Beats and Doug Flutie Likes Guacamole, who turned it on in the second round - probably because I made fun of this bracket on Saturday.

Scenario Planning

If all the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds win next Thursday and Friday, West Coast Bias will increase its lead from 5 points to 13 points.

If you are a fan of chaos and all the lower seeds advance to the 8s, Coach Handsome and T-Rice Show will be your new leader going into the Regional finals.

Straight Bangin' Award

This round's Straight Bangin' Award goes to Furb. After only picking 20 of 32 picks correctly in the first round, Furb turned it around and successfully picked 15 of 16 Sweet 16 teams correctly, only getting tripped up by Arizona.

Speaking of Arizona, BC'10412, Andy's Picks and my bracket were the only ones to have the Wildcats in the Sweet 16. Correctly picking the right 12 seed to advance to the 16s earns these three brackets this round's Straight Bangin' runner up award.

Perfect Regionals

After Friday's games, there were only 15 perfect regionals left in the pool. Now, after the second round of games, we are down to only 2. Congrats to West Coast Bias and BC Billy 1979 who both still have perfect West regionals.

Bracket FAIL Award

Fear the Stache takes the award for the second straight round, after only picking 7 of 16 Sweet 16 teams correctly. That was the lowest point total of the second round. Got a little crazy with the Sweet 16 this year with (12) Western Kentucky, (7) Clemson, (7) Boston College, (6) Marquette, (6) West Virginia and (5) Florida State all penciled into the second weekend. Fear the Stache is currently in last place.

Although not in last place, BC Mike has the lowest possible point total left (103 points). BC Mike lost his National Champion on Friday (a team from Chestnut Hill) and only batted .333 in the Midwest regional (5 of 15 picks correct). Although his Midwest regional is a disaster, BC Mike still managed to pick 10 of 16 teams correctly in the second round, including a perfect 4-for-4 in both the West and South regionals.

Jeff vs. Brian

Jeff correctly picked 25 of 32 games correctly in the first round, and backed that up by correctly picking 11 of 16 Sweet 16 teams. Jeff's possible point total sits at 139, however, as he lost a Final Four and National Championship game participant in Wake Forest.

I picked 24 of 32 games correctly in the first round, and 10 of 16 Sweet 16 teams and am 3 points behind Jeff. Possible point total is much higher as all four of my Final Four teams are still in play - (1) Louisville, (2) Memphis, (1) Pittsburgh and (4) Gonzaga.

We'll be back with an update after the Regional semifinals.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

BCI Tournament Pool: Opening Round Recap

Brian: Not ready to talk about it yet. We'll have more on the loss and a season wrap-up in the next few days, but not today. Too soon.

Ok, so raise your hand if Cal State Northridge, East Tennessee State or Morehead State made you sweat more profusely than Gary Williams after Greivis Vasquez just picked up his fourth foul? Exactly.

I felt dirty inside rooting for my bracket (Memphis) when I should have been rooting for the Matadors of Cal State Northridge. I think Rick Maese of the Maryland blog 'Tracking the Terps' said it best though:
"It’d ruin all of my brackets, but if you can’t root for a 15 seed to upset a 2, you were probably born with no heart!"
Those teams played well against their No. 1 and No. 2 seeded opponents. I think we are coming closer and closer to a 16 finally breaking through and beating a 1 seed, but maybe I'm just deluding myself.

A somewhat boring first day where chalk ruled ... so you just knew it would open up on the second day. (13) Cleveland State, (12) Wisconsin, (12) Arizona, (11) Dayton and a (10) seed that will remain unnamed here all pulled off the upset on the second day, wreaking havoc on BCI readers' brackets.

On to the leaderboard:

1 bobble24 27 - - - - North Carolina 27 183
2 West Coast Bias 26 - - - - North Carolina 26 184
2 Left Coast Chris 26 - - - - Washington 26 182
4 Omar 25 - - - - Louisville 25 181
4 Coach Handsome 25 - - - - Pittsburgh 25 181
4 Coach Handsome and T-Rice Show 25 - - - - Pittsburgh 25 179
4 Der Springer 25 - - - - Pittsburgh 25 177
4 Jeff 25 - - - - North Carolina 25 143

And 9 brackets tied for 9th place with 24 points.

The Leader

bobble24 went on a tear in the first round. Two perfect brackets so far in the West and East regional, a nearly perfect bracket in the South (Jeff called it but confound you, Hilltoppers!) and a 'meh' Midwest regional bracket that saw two Sweet 16 picks from the ACC crash and burn. I lost count but bobble24 ended up rattling off something like 13 straight wins on the tournament's first day. Impressive. Most impressive.

West Coast Bias is a point back in second but actually has the inside track to the title given that her bracket has 15 of 16 Sweet 16 picks still in play. We are not sure whether bobble24 is located on the West Coast, but the meme of the opening round was the superior knowledge of West Coasters - with West Coast Bias, Left Coast Chris and Omar all topping the leaderboard.

A couple of Coach Handsomes make the leaderboard, although I didn't see the T-Rice Show last night. Oh yeah, and Jeff would hurt me if I didn't mention that he makes the Top 10 this week. However, the first round loss of one of his Final Four teams - Wake Forest - knocks his possible total points way down.

Straight Bangin' Award

This round's Straight Bangin' award goes to Der Springer, who correctly predicted the (13) Cleveland St. upset win over (4) Wake Forest and is currently tied for 4th place. Well played, sir. Runner up goes to the only other bracket to correctly pick the Vikings over the Deacons - conlonc.

Perfect Regionals

Lots of brackets still have perfect brackets, with the majority of brackets getting the West Regional 100% correct. Props to bobble24 (x2), BC Billy 1979 (x2), West Coast Bias, Left Coast Chris, Coach Handsome, Der Springer, I think it moved..., lawrencelancer, Eagle98alum, Tarheel Tourney Pick'em '08 (G, and Fear the Stache.

And Jeff and myself for picking the West regional correctly. We disagree though on who will make it out of the first weekend in the West though ...

Great Bracket Names, Terrible Picks

World of Ricecraft. Great bracket name (would be an even funnier poster), but can thank the Cleveland State Vikings for knocking out a National Championship game participant. If Rice was a World of Warcraft character, what character would he be?

Doug Flutie Likes Guacamole also can't be too excited about Wake's loss.

Bracket FAIL Award

Fear the Stache takes this round's Bracket FAIL Award for forgetting to pick a National Champion. Thanks for bringing down the Facebook group with the same name down a few notches. Also, after the first round, one thing I can say with confidence is that march152009, bcsuperfan94 and Pirate Drinks will not be winning this year's BCI NCAA Tournament challenge.

We'll check back in after we get down to the Sweet 16. Try to enjoy the games this weekend and forget about the events of last night ...

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Survive and Advance" and the Big Finish

Brian: The late NC State head coach Jim Valvano made famous the phrase "survive and advance" during the Wolfpack's magical 1983 National Championship season. I can't think of a more fitting phrase to describe today in BC athletics. Jeff, do you consider this to be the most important day of the year for BC athletics?

Jeff: This is absolutely not the most important day of the year for BC athletics. Winning the ACC and going to the Orange Bowl was much more important. Football is king.

Brian: Jeff, this is the most important day of the year for BC athletics because - guess what - we haven't played for a spot in the Orange Bowl this year! We have a single elimination hockey game against our B line rivals to defend our National Championship ... as well as a first round NCAA basketball tournament game where Trapani, Sanders, Southern and Raji can build on the momentum of winning a first round NCAA game. It could possibly be Tyrese Rice's last game as an Eagle, one of BC's all-time leading scorers. And the Eagles need to play well to justify their seed as a lot of pundits and writers thought BC was seeded way too low in this tournament.

You have to be excited for today. Definitely the top BC athletics day of the year so far.

Let's run down the action tonight.

First up, at 7:30pm we have the Eagles first round matchup against the 10 seeded USC Trojans. Jeff, give me three keys to winning the game.

Jeff: First of all, the Eagles need to rebound as always, then Rice needs to contribute in the first half, not just the second half, and finally, they need to make their free throws. They're FREE!

Brian: Shortly after the hoops game starts, the postseason comes early for the BC men's hockey team. York and the Eagles have what amounts to a single-elimination game tonight against the No. 1 seeded Boston University Terriers in the Hockey East semifinal. With a win, the Eagles live to see another day. Lose and last year's National title defense is a non-starter. There are situations where the Eagles can win tonight and lose to Northeastern on Saturday and still make the NCAAs, but a lot of games would have to break the Eagles way. Eagles fans, meet your new favorite teams in North Dakota and Denver!

Big Finish

Jeff: ranks Boston College's mascot - the Eagle - the #7 best mascot in the NCAA Tournament. Thanks to Cristin for the link. Brian, you agree?

Brian: First, that list is way too redundant. Two Eagles, two Wildcats and two Huskies in the Top 10? What's up with that? Baldwin is one of the coolest mascots in the country and he annually gets snubbed in Capital One's Mascot Bowl promotions challenges. Not to mention Baldwin is MUCH cooler than the UConn Husky, who looks like a white furry ball of nothing. Seriously, that mascot is terrible.

Brian: BC forward Brock Bradford earned All-Hockey East second team honors. Congratulations to Brock. Must be somewhat disappointing though considering the senior started the season on nearly every Hobey Baker short list - a list once the regular season came to an end, he ain't on. Jeff, you agree?

Jeff: Completely. Heismans and other Player of the Year awards have become heavily based on team success and BC ain't got any this year.

Jeff: President Obama picked the Eagles to get out of the first round tonight, but has us losing to Michigan State. Your thoughts?

Brian: Can't take his bracket too seriously because he picked North Carolina to win it all, the only team he worked out with on the campaign trail. And you guys think Jeff and I are homers?

Brian: My boy - jpg - laments that while ACC expansion has been good for the quantity of ACC programs making the Big Dance, ACC programs have lacked the required tournament stamina - with only UNC making the Final Four in the post-expansion era. Jeff, your thoughts?

Jeff: It's not the expansion teams fault that Duke has sucked in the dance the last several years. No other ACC teams are expected to ever make the Final Four.

Jeff: On a somewhat related note, the ACC is 5-1 in postseason play with 2 NIT and 3 NCAA wins. What would be considered a successful postseason campaign for the league? 10 total wins? 15? 18?

Brian: Having more teams in the Sweet 16 than the Big East (no one cares about the NIT). Not going to happen this year though given Big East teams got higher seeds than the ACC teams.

Brian: Last one, the baseball team travels to Maryland for a three game set with the Terps. Do they get back in the W column this weekend, and can they pull off the weekend sweep?

Jeff: If they do, who is going to take note anyway? This weekend is about the Dance and the Eagles making the Sweet 16. Second most important is the Hockey East tournament. Baseball isn't even on the radar.

Brian: Baseball is on TV on Saturday but like you said, not many people will be tuned in.

Enjoy all the NCAA tournament action today, and Go Eagles!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fortune Teller: Final Four Bracket

Finally, we arrive at our Final Four. Destination Detroit.

Brian: Last year, Jeff got 3 of 4 Final Four teams correct in the boring all chalk Final Four, while I only got 2 of 4 correct. However, I had Kansas in the National title game and winning it all, so for that, I overtook Jeff for the first ever BCI NCAA Tournament Pool title based on rules that were never clearly established at the beginning (small technicality).

This year, the challenge is much more formalized. Take on Jeff and my bracket for ultimate blog bragging rights. And I believe Jeff promised Raj that the winner will get some face time on the blog. Retail price: $2.99.

We'll publish our first round of standings on Sunday after we get to the Sweet 16.

Jeff's Picks
Final Four: Louisville(Wake in my yahoo bracket), Memphis, UNC, Duke
National Championship: UNC, Memphis
National Champion: UNC

Jeff's Parting Shots
I am very pro-ACC in this tourney as I have always seemed to favor the Big East or ACC when it comes to bracket time. This year is especially heavy since my last minute change made it 3 ACC schools in the Final Four. I don't think my bracket is perfect and don't think UNC will win it all. If I could take all the 3, 4, and 5 seeds instead of UNC, I would. Anyone taking that bet?

Brian's Picks
Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Gonzaga
National Championship: Louisville, Pittsburgh
National Champion: Pittsburgh

Brian's Parting Shots
I know, I know. Since the field expanded to 64 teams, Pittsburgh has never advanced beyond the Sweet 16. Call it a hunch. I think they are one of the most complete teams in the country. Laugh all you want at my Gonzaga pick. All chalk finals are boring, so I decided to spice it up a little. I know the odds are in my favor, but I'm willing to bet that we won't see an all #1 seed Final Four again this year.

Enjoy all the hoops action this weekend, and Go Eagles!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fortune Teller: West Regional Brackets

We preview the upcoming NCAA tournament by taking a look at each of the regional brackets. Last up: the West regional. For a good laugh, take a look at our West Regional preview from a year ago.

Best First-Round Matchup

Brian: I'm going with (6) Marquette vs. (11) Utah State. Utah State was actually in the Top 25 at some point this season, but everyone quickly forgot about the Aggies after they crapped the bed at St. Mary's. They followed up that loss with another disappointing loss on the road at Nevada before finishing the season with four straight wins and the WAC conference title. Utah State has an offense ranked Top 15 nationally, but they apparently don't play defense. Marquette is a dangerous 6 seed, although it all started to unravel for Marquette after their 57-56 loss at South Florida back in early February. I believe we had that one right. Part of me thinks this matchup resembles nothing like a 6 vs. 11 and instead could have been a second round matchup. Location seems to favor Utah State in this one as they have a short four and a half hour trip from Logan, UT to Boise.

Jeff: Is the SEC better than we have thought? Is the SEC tournament champion much better than your average 13 seed in the tournament? Well we'll find out when Mississippi State plays Washington in the 4 vs. 13 matchup. Mississippi St. has a lot it can prove and for the SEC's sake hopefully it will at least be a close game.

Matchup We'd Most Like To See

Jeff: I'd like to see Missouri vs. Purdue in the Elite 8. This would mean both UConn and Memphis are out of the tournament and I would not mind that at all.

Brian: But Jeff, the UConn Huskies are your boys?!

I want to see Connecticut vs. Washington (again) in the Sweet 16. If only because the 1998 matchup between these two teams was legendary, and Nike recently put out a pretty good commercial commemorating the game. The committee must hate the UW Huskies for matching them up against UConn in the Sweet 16. Sounds like something they would have done to BC if they had the opportunity.

Trendy Bandwagon Pick

Brian: The Big XII champion Missouri Tigers. Fresh off their first conference tournament championship, the Tigers are a trendy pick to go far in this regional. A word of caution: while the Tigers won three straight to win their conference title, this is also a team that is coming off a 90-65 drubbing by fellow 3-seed Kansas. Also, with both Oklahoma and Kansas bowing out of the Big XII championship early, it's not like the Tigers faced the stiffest of competition - Texas Tech, Oklahoma St. and Baylor - to win their conference. I expect Missouri to get out of the first round, but they will have a tough, tough second round matchup if the seeds hold and the Tigers get Marquette. Marquette was flirting with the Top 10 for most of the year before they hit the Big East five-headed buzzsaw of Connecticut / Louisville / Pittsburgh / Syracuse / Villanova to end the season. I would argue that Marquette is better than their seed indicates given their extremely backloaded Big East schedule. Just playing Devil's advocate here.

Jeff: I'm not disagreeing with you but I am also hearing a lot of talk about Memphis winning it all so I would say that they are the hot pick in the region. Memphis is definitely not as good as they were last season and did not win it all last year but the teams at the top are not quite as strong this year so Calipari's Tigers can very well make it through the region and win it all.

The Sleeper Pick

Jeff: Northern Iowa! We were the first to introduce you to Northern Iowa when they made it into our top 25 for one whole week.

Brian: (10) Maryland. The Terps have quality wins this season over several high-seeded tournament teams. (1) North Carolina, (2) Michigan State, and (4) Wake Forest ... I guess throw (10) Michigan in there too. If the Maryland that beat Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament shows up, they could give Memphis a scare in the second round. Besides, Memphis hasn't been challenged in some time coasting through their Conference USA sched. If the Maryland that lost to Morgan State back in December ... at home ... shows up, well, this won't be much of a sleeper pick at all.

Watch Out For...

Brian: Keeping in the theme of east coast guys showing the left coast some love, let's go with Washington's freshman guard Isaiah Thomas. (No, not that Isiah Thomas). Thomas and senior guard Justin Dentmon give the Huskies one of the best backcourts in the West regional.

Jeff: Greivis Vasquez. As much as I am not his biggest fan, Vasquez is the player to watch in this region. If he has a bad day, Maryland will not win a single game but if he gets hot the Terps could win several games and maybe ... just maybe even make it out of this region.

Random Fact about the Regional that will do you no good while selecting your bracket:

This wasn't the sort of Midnight Madness we had in mind ... "On the first day of team practice, the University of Maryland (public, founded in 1856) men's basketball team runs laps around the university track at midnight, a tradition dubbed "Midnight Madness" that dates back to 1970."

Jeff's Picks
Second Round: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Purdue, Washington, Marquette, Missouri, Maryland, Memphis
Sweet 16: Connecticut, Purdue, Missouri, Memphis
Elite 8: Purdue, Memphis
Final Four Pick: Memphis

Brian's Picks
Second Round: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Purdue, Washington, Marquette, Missouri, Maryland, Memphis
Sweet 16: Connecticut, Washington, Marquette, Memphis
Elite 8: Connecticut, Memphis
Final Four Pick: Memphis

Fortune Teller: Midwest Regional Brackets

We preview the upcoming NCAA tournament by taking a look at each of the regional brackets. Next up: the Midwest regional. For a good laugh, take a look at our Midwest Regional preview from a year ago.

Best First-Round Matchup

Brian: (5) Utah vs. (12) Arizona. Zona just barely made the field of 65 but have a potent offense with Jordan Hill (18.5 ppg), Chase Budinger (17.9) and Nick Wise (15.1 ppg) leading the way. The Wildcats defense? Meh. Quietly, Utah won the Mountain West conference and have quality wins over the Zags, LSU, BYU and San Diego State. This one certainly doesn't feel like your typical 5 vs. 12 matchup.

Jeff: Boston College vs. USC. This is a game a lot of people outside of our bubbles of BC and ACC basketball are actually talking about after USC's Pac-10 run and BC's marquee wins this year capped with that near miss against Duke in the conference tournament..

Matchup We'd Most Like To See

Jeff: This is a no-brainer but Boston College vs. Louisville. If BC is still playing 10 days from now I'll have nothing to complain about.

Brian: Homer picks to follow:

1) Boston College vs. Michigan State, so that Josh Southern can get what he wants, and
2) Boston College vs. West Virginia. That would be the third time in three tries that the Eagles have faced a former Big East foe in the NCAAs since jumping ship for the ACC. Current record against Big East teams post ACC expansion? 0 and 2.

Trendy Bandwagon Pick

Brian: Michigan State. Some think that Sparty deserved a No. 1 seed, and MSU will be on a mission to get back to Detroit for the Final Four. The Spartans own the offensive glass, and are one of the top 10 best defensive teams in the country. If the seeds hold through to the 8s, Louisville vs. UCLA will be a great matchup.

Jeff: Arizona. A lot of people are looking at Arizona playing a Mountain West Conference team and are throwing out the fact that Arizona is a 12 seed. Right now the Wildcats are a pick 'em against the Utes. For comparison, all the other 5 seeds are favored in their matchups.

The Sleeper Pick

Jeff: Dayton is a good pick that not many people are going to be taking. After getting by West Virginia, beating Kansas is also possible.

Brian: E-A-G-L-E-S. Eagles, Eagles, Eagles. BC will need a complete 40 minutes to beat Sparty, but if Rice, Sanders and Trapani all catch fire, I think they can pull off the upset and get back to the Sweet 16.

Watch Out For...

Brian: USC's star freshman forward DeMar DeRozan. 13.6 points per game, 5.7 boards. DeRozan and Taj Gibson will create some tough matchups for the Eagles.

Jeff: Josh Southern against Michigan State

Random Fact about the Regional that will do you no good while selecting your bracket:

This will be the 25th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for the (12) Arizona Wildcats. Since 1985, Arizona has gone 39-23 in the tournament including the 1997 National title. Before 1985, the Cats only made the NCAAs three times (1951, 1976, 1977), never advancing past the Sweet 16. Over the past two seasons, though, Arizona has failed to get out of the first round.

Jeff's Picks
Second Round: Louisville, Siena, Utah, Wake Forest, Dayton, Kansas, Boston College, Michigan St.
Sweet 16: Louisville, Wake Forest, Kansas, Boston College
Elite 8: Louisville, Kansas
Final Four Pick: Louisville

Brian's Picks
Second Round: Louisville, Ohio State, Arizona, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Kansas, Boston College, Michigan St.
Sweet 16: Louisville, Arizona, West Virginia, Boston College
Elite 8: Louisville, West Virginia
Final Four Pick: Louisville

Fortune Teller: South Regional Brackets

We preview the upcoming NCAA tournament by taking a look at each of the regional brackets. Next up: the South regional. For a good laugh, take a look at our South Regional preview from a year ago.

Best First-Round Matchup

Brian: For me, it is a toss up between the 8 v. 9 matchup (LSU vs. Butler) and the 7 v. 10 matchup (Clemson vs. Michigan). Louisiana State has something to prove after losing 3 of their last 4 games to particularly 'meh' SEC opponents. Butler started the season 22-2 and has been ranked for most of the season, but finished the season 4-3, including WTF losses to Loyola Chicago, Wisconsin Milwaukee and Cleveland St. in the Horizon league tournament. The way I see it, that game is a toss up.

Clemson vs. Michigan is another intriguing matchup - yet another chapter in the ACC vs. Big Ten Challenge. Clemson was ranked in the Top 10 for a good portion of the season but slid all the way to a 7 seed after going 4-6 in their last ten and losing to ACC teams they should have absolutely buried - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech. Michigan is one of 25 so-so Big Ten teams to make the tournament this year. They have some impressive victories including wins over UCLA, Duke, Purdue and Illinois, but the Wolverines also didn't finish very strong down the stretch ... 5-5 in their last 10 and a stretch of 7 losses in 9 games from January 14-February 10.

Jeff: Illinois vs. Western Kentucky is the best first round game in this region. Illinois's ranking and seeding seems to solely be a result of beating Missouri before conference play began and having a good recent history of basketball success. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky is looking to make another run in the NCAA.

Matchup We'd Most Like To See

Jeff: I'd like to see regular season ACC Champ North Carolina play SEC regular season Champ LSU in the second round and I'd love for the Heels to win by 30+.

Brian: Not many great, great potential matchups in this bracket for me. If I have to choose, I'd like to see North Carolina play Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. This is one of the best Gonzaga teams in the Dance in a long time. The Zags only have 5 losses this season - all to tournament teams - and have quality wins over Washington St., Tennessee, Tennessee, Oklahoma St., and Maryland (and oh, by the way, also pushed Connecticut to overtime). Despite Lawson still being questionable for the Heels opening round matchup, a lot of people are still picking North Carolina to win it all.

Trendy Bandwagon Pick

Brian: Syracuse. Everyone is high from sniffing Syracuse all week and the tournament selection committee is no exception. The Orange rode their success in the Big East tournament all the way to a No. 3 seed. No way they lose their first round matchup (the BCI kiss of death was just given to Syracuse), but after that, will they have any gas left in the tank to beat the Arizona State/Temple winner in the Round of 32?

Jeff: You are absolutely right, Brian. It is Syracuse.

The Sleeper Pick

Jeff: Western Kentucky. Are you surprised that is my pick?

Brian: Nope, not surprised in your WKU pick, but think it might be a year too late. Personally don't see many first round upsets in this bracket. I am liking Arizona State to get through the first weekend, so I'll go with the Sun Devils in this category. This would be a serious kick in the nuts for the NC State Wolfpack nation seeing Herb Sendek get his team back to the Sweet 16. I just don't think Syracuse has anything left in the tank.

Da Belle O' Da Ball

Brian: Blake Griffin, the presumptive National Player of the Year.

Jeff: I have not had the opportunity to watch much Big 12 basketball this season for whatever reason so I am looking forward to watching Griffin play.

Random Fact about the Regional that will do you no good while selecting your bracket:

Morgan State University is the fastest growing university in the state of Maryland. (Full disclosure: had no idea Morgan State was located in Maryland). Morgan State is making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance after winning the MEAC tournament title for the first time since 1977.

Jeff's Picks
Second Round: North Carolina, Butler, W Kentucky, Gonzaga, Arizona St, Syracuse, Clemson, Oklahoma
Sweet 16: North Carolina, Western Kentucky, Syracuse, Oklahoma
Elite 8: North Carolina, Oklahoma
Final Four Pick: North Carolina

Brian's Picks
Second Round: North Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Gonzaga, Arizona St., Syracuse, Clemson, Oklahoma
Sweet 16: North Carolina, Gonzaga, Arizona St., Oklahoma
Elite 8: Gonzaga, Arizona St.
Final Four Pick: Gonzaga