Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Time To Talk About It

Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67

I guess lets start by saying this is what gives the NCAA Tournament its beauty. It's funny how much delight this score brings to the fans of the other 346 Division 1 basketball teams, while it's nothing but heartbreak for the one. But, that is life at the top. My biggest worry all year long was going into the tournament as the favorite, given KU's past. Even my half-hearted attempt at a reverse-jinx like motivational tactic fell flat on its face. Oh well, atleast I put in more effort than Xavier Henry. One thing is for sure, I felt afraid to cheer against them late in the season to avoid the overwhelming favoritism, but that is no more. I will not hesitate to cheer for a late season loss to Missouri, Kansas State, or whoever. The Tournament is too important. Those possible six games matter 100 times more than the rest of the season combined, which is both the flaw and the beauty of college basketball.

The Game: It's semi-embarrassing that your team was hailed all season for having so many weapons, and yet when the season was on the line, the man I wanted shooting the ball was lil' Tyrel Reed. Let's be honest, this was a complete team effort in gagging away the season. Cole looked like an above-average ape trying to put two hands on the ball at the same time. Xavier played defense like the video game controller that was controlling him fell out of his hands. I never would've thought Cornbread M-Star's season ended with what seemed to be a harmless free throw on February 8th. Tyshawn took my advice and studied the scoring ineptitude of Russell Robinson, but forgot about the passing, defense, leadership and toughness that was supposed to go along with it. Alright, I'm done cleaning out my doghouse.

You may have noticed I didn't mention the name of one Sherron Collins. So many thoughts on Sherron, I don't know where to start. I think the importance he put on winning all year may have been overstated and unnecessary, which put an increasing amount of pressure on him as the game wore on, when it's very important to remain clear-headed. He also seemed reluctant to drive to the hoop the last three games of the season, possibly stemming from knee injury in the first half against K-State, but if that were the case, we probably would've heard word on it already. Sherron is at his best when attacking the rim relentlessly. For whatever reason, we didn't see that when it mattered most. Is he a bit overrated? I would say yes, but deservedly so. Here are the facts: He made incredible plays when it mattered most that led directly to a National Championship. He is the winningest player in Kansas history, despite whatever Morningstar tells you. He played terrible in his final game. Destiny and reality do not always agree.

So what went wrong? All season I've been comparing them to the 2008 National Championship team. I don't think they matched the hunger, or the want, of that team. Russell Robinson and Darnell Jackson made sure everybody kept their focus and did their job every minute of every game that year. Sherron had it, but I have my doubts if anybody else did. So what builds this want in a team? This type of loss. Losing to Bucknell. Losing to Bradley. Sniffing the Final Four but falling short. What doesn't build want? Overachieving all season and fairing well in the Tournament (2008-09). Being number 1 all year. Recruiting 1-and-dones. Cue rant...

I don't ever want a one-and-done player at Kansas EVER AGAIN! It is a set back for the program. It is a stepping stone for players that have very little to no interest in the college game. They play the Tournament with one eye on their stats and one eye on the signing bonus that is 2 months away. In the case of JR Giddens II, he was so hyped coming into the year, that he never even had anything to prove. Show up, wait a year, get paid. I understand Self going after him for this year with the idea that he is the missing piece to an almost complete team. I hope he learned his lesson. The worst part is that they don't breed championships. Carmelo Anthony is the exception, not the rule. Now, if a player leaves after one year following a deep Tournament run that is fine, but no more players that are assured to leave after one year. Get 'em out!

Back to the game for a bit. Continuing with the comparison of the '08 team, KU faced a similar game in the second round that year against UNLV. They played sluggish and held a slim second half lead, when Self made offensive adjustments to have their guards take their men off the dribble and get to the basket. In other words, they decided to out-athlete the overmatched mid-major. This was not an option this year. That's the difference between a Championship team and a team bounced in the second round. You have to be able to play different styles depending on the matchups, again signifying the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. In hindsight, blame for this could be placed on Bill Self for not regulating freshmen Thomas Robinson and Elijah Robinson into the rotation for increased athleticism. I was never for it during the season, so I do not personally hold him accountable. The makeup of the team just wasn't right for this year and this Tournament. Perfect segue into...

Next year- The possibilities for a team better built for a deep run are there. The possibilities of an upper-class dominated team are there. The possibilities of a hungrier team are there. I expect a team led by the Morrisi (Marcus was the most consistent player throughout the year) along with the return of Mario Little (should be much improved after struggling with injuries all first year coupled with a redshirt season). I expect them to be joined in the starting lineup by Tyshawn (assuming no transfer) and Elijah Johnson. Reserves-TRobinson, Big Whitey, the Releford Redemption Remix, Cornbread, and Big Shot Ty. This doesn't even include any incoming freshmen, which there are bound to be.

So, there it is KU fans. There's no need to freak out. Heartbreak eventually becomes acceptance which eventually builds character. Bill Self will be fine. KU will win the Big 12 again next year. Now lets all pick a team to adopt for the rest of the Tournament. I'm saddling up with Enter Omar Sanham and the Saint Mary's Gaels baby!

His Dirkness

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 NCAA Tournament First Day Awards

And the award goes to....

~for biggest letdown from the overall favorite: Big East (narrowly edging Kansas).

~for best game of the day: Vanderbilt-Murray St.

~for the second best game of the day: BYU-Florida 2OT.

~for sleeping through 37 Minutes of Round 1's game despite not winning an NCAA Tournament game for 60 years: Baylor.

~for coach that needs to be fired first: Rick Barnes, Texas.

~for most dangerous double-digit seed: St. Mary's.

~for least competitive team aside from 15 & 16 Seeds: Georgetown.

~for the least impressive win: Villanova.

~for the second least impressive win: New Mexico.

~for the team with the least chance of making the Sweet 16: Wake Forest.

~for most game switches straight into a timeout: Greg Gumble, CBS.

~for the best player of the day: Omar Samhan, St. Mary's.

~for the second best player of the day: Armon Bassett, Ohio.

~for coolest player of the first day: Gilberto "Goggs" Clavell, Sam Houston St.

~for the 2nd coolest player of the first day: Brian "Big Country" Qvale, Montana.

~for best player (and play) that went unnoticed: Quincy Pondexter, Washington.

~for best player who cared the least: Ekpe Udoh, Baylor.

~for the best name: Dave "Buttburger", Lehigh.

~for anyone named Rob's favorite player: Rob Robinson, Robert Morris.

~for best shot not to go in: Carleton Scott, Notre Dame- 3 pointer to tie just before the buzzer.

~for the loneliest seed: 12 (10, 11, 13, 14 all advanced).

~for my best pick: Murray St.

~for my worst pick: Not including Old Dominion over Notre Dame on my upsets list.

~for second round upset The Dirkness can dig: Washington over New Mexico.

~for tomorrow's best game: Clemson-Missouri- both teams press.

~for tomorrow's second best game: Temple-Cornell- lots of talk surrounding the Big Red.

~for the odds that tomorrow's games are as good as today's: Very little. Today was one of the all-time best NCAA Tournament days I can remember. Here's to hoping you were able to enjoy and that tomorrow is just as swell.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 NCAA Tournament Picks

The Dirkness' Bracket

Midwest Region:
~1st Round Winners: Kansas, UNLV, Michigan St, Houston, San Diego St, Georgetown, Oklahoma St, Ohio St
~Sweet 16: Kansas, Michigan St, Georgetown, Oklahoma St
~Elite Eight: Kansas, Georgetown
~Regional Champion: Kansas

West Region:
~1st Round Winners: Syracuse, Gonzaga, UTEP, Murray St, Xavier, Pitt, BYU, Kansas St
~Sweet 16: Syracuse, Murray St, Pitt, Kansas St
~Elite Eight: Syracuse, Pitt
~Regional Champion: Pitt

East Region:
~1st Round Winners: Kentucky, Wake, Temple, Wisconsin, Marquette, New Mexico, Missouri, West Virginia
~Sweet 16: Kentucky, Wisconsin, New Mexico, West Virginia
~Elite Eight: Kentucky, West Virginia
~Regional Champion: Kentucky

South Region:
~1st Round Winners: Duke, Louisville, Texas A&M, Purdue, Notre Dame, Baylor, St. Mary's, Villanova
~Sweet 16: Duke, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Villanova
~Elite Eight: Texas A&M, Villanova
~Regional Champion: Villanova

Final Four:
~Kansas over Pitt
~Kentucky over Villanova

National Championship:
~Kentucky over Kansas


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bracket Madness Satisfaction

Dirkness' Top 10 National Championship Contenders

1. Kentucky- Going in on a hot streak with a player that thinks he can do no wrong in crunch time as well as the big man with the most potential to dominate.
2. Kansas- Tough for a team to be labeled as the overwhelming favorite in a year filled with such parody.
3. Syracuse- Chances dropped with Onuaku injury and then increased without seeing Buckeyes or Mountaineers square them in their region.
4. West Virginia- Destined to play Kentucky in East Final, but was higher on my list until Huggy Bear publicly complained about tournament draw.
5. Ohio St- Get on Evan Turner's back for a piggyback riiiiiiiiide.
6. Villanova- Purely due to being sent to the South region sponsored by the NIT.
7. Georgetown- Played the toughest schedule in the country, play an effective style of ball, and have a big man to lean on.
8. Kansas St- Would probably need somebody else to beat KU.
9. Michigan St- Have the potential, most of which is based on last year, but could just as easily go out in the first round.
10. New Mexico- On the list because I know the least about them, so maybe they have something special.
AND 1. Tennessee- Beat the two best teams in the country already, but in the same eight with two teams already on this list.

Top 10 Most likely First Round Upsets (11th seed or lower):

1. UTEP over Butler (12 v 5)- Tough for small schools to be in the favorite role.
2. Cornell over Temple (12 v 5)- The easiest to pick, but the chic upset pick can oftentimes backfire.
3. Washington over Marquette (11 v 6)- Pac-10's best team versus the 8th best Big East team.
4. Murray St over Vanderbilt (13 v 4)- Racers could be inspired due to a player's mother being killed in a car accident this week.
5. Siena over Purdue (13 v 4)- Purdue might be too motivated after being picked against all week.
6. San Diego St over Tennessee (11 v 6)- Possibly the best matchup of the first round.
7. Minnesota over Xavier (11 v 6)- Don't got it. Could see it.
8. Utah St over Texas A&M (12 v 5)- Aggies vs. Aggies. The Utah St Aggies lost by one point in the first round last year.
9. Houston over Maryland (13 v 4)- Cougars led by the NCAA's leading scorer Aubrey Coleman.
10. New Mexico St over Michigan St (12 v 5)- Spartans have the potential but are not playing good ball right now.
AND 1. Oakland over Pittsburgh (14 v 3)- The Raiders are better than the Steelers?

Top 10 Best Potential 2nd Round Matchups:

1. Georgetown vs. Tennessee- Both teams appear on my possible National Champions list, 'nuff said.
2. Ohio St vs. Oklahoma St- For the matchup of Evan Turner and James Anderson, who might be guarding each other.
3. West Virginia vs. Missouri- Tigers' pressure defense is very tough to prepare for, and the Mountaineers lack a true point guard.
4. Baylor vs. Notre Dame- People love Baylor. I love Notre Dame. Both have been hot.
5. Villanova vs. Richmond/St. Mary's- Nova comes in struggling while either opponent fit the Cinderella slipper.
6. Michigan St vs. Maryland- Two big programs with two big-time coaches.
7. Duke vs. Louisville- An even matchup as far as I'm concerned. Here's to hoping that everybody cheers against Duke all tournament long.
8. Kansas St vs. BYU- A contrast in styles could lead to a highly contested game. Or it could lead to State's big nasties beating up the lil' Mormons.
9. Syracuse vs. Gonzaga- The ultimate Cinderella could get a top seed without its starting center playing only six players. Could depend on how well Vermont plays 'Cuse.
10. Wisconsin vs. Cornell- Teams could switch uniforms and I don't think anybody would notice.
AND 1. Kentucky vs. Texas- For the slim, slim chance that Texas finds its old mojo just in time.

I will hope to get my final brackets up here before the games start for the pleasure of everyone else and the embarrassment of myself. Happy First Round Tournament Day tomorrow and the next!!!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kansas' NCAA Tournament Mindset

By now, I'm sure you have heard all of the post-bracket release chatter about Kansas drawing the toughest region of the four. It was the lead off to every ESPN show on Monday. Now, I believe they have the toughest bracket when examining as a whole, but most of the scary teams come from the bottom half of the Midwest bracket opposite of Kansas. As I stated last entry, I believe Kentucky has the toughest path to reach the Final Four (of the top seeds DBZ), and Ohio St or West Virginia has the biggest gripe. The committee gave those four teams, the best four teams in the country right now, no love. However, I don't see this as a negative thing for Kansas at all, and in fact think this will benefit them.

Now how could facing a bigger challenge than another team be a good thing? Well, realistically, it doesn't make sense. Tangibly, it does not make sense. So how does it make sense? Mentality. Instead of going into this tournament with the mindset of being the overall favorite, with anything short of a National Championship being considered a choke job, they go into it with an extra chip on their shoulder. Remember, these kids are watching the exact same sports shows we are watching. They are wandering why we got screwed just as much as Kansas fans everywhere. Hopefully, this means that they are not focused on 10 of the 13 talking heads from ESPN picking Kansas to win it all. I will forever be convinced that a team will play with more heart when their attitude reflects an "us against the world" mindset. Mentality.

Let's take a look at the recent history of KU bringing a 1 seed into the Tournament: 1995- Lost to 4th seeded Virginia- don't remember. 1997- Lost to 4th seeded Arizona- possibly best KU team ever losing to the eventual National Champion. 1998- Lost to 8th seeded Rhode Island- worst of the batch, especially since in came to the dislikable L'Odom. 2002- Lost to 1 seed Maryland in the Final Four- Nothing too shabby. 2007- Lost to 2nd seeded UCLA- technically an upset, but UCLA was the better team. 2008- National Championship. The trend seems to be on the upswing, with most of the big upsets occurring in the 90's, but I assure you if you asked an avid Big East fan their perception of Kansas, it would not be too kind. Perception.

I see this tournament as Kansas' chance to forever move past their mantra of being soft favorites come March. Maybe it's just me that is still caught up on this. Maybe most Kansas fans moved past it with the 2008 National Championship. But, they were not the favorite in that tournament. They were a one seed, but the lowest ranked of the one seeds. They thrived in the underdog role once reaching the Final Four. They almost gagged with being the huge favorites against lil' Davidson. I now want that exact same path for every future KU team because I've seen it work. Triumph.

A National Championship completely erases anything ugly from the recent history of Kansas basketball. They would find themselves sitting atop this generation of College Basketball. They have an opportunity to triumph over their perceived image, in the exact situation that led to that image. Hopefully, the tough draw has provided them with the correct mindset necessary to win it all. Mentality. Perception. Triumph.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

NCAA Tournament Thoughts

The brackets have just been released and I'm debating whether my favorite sports time of the year are the days between Selection Sunday and the first game tip-off, or the actual first four days of the Tournament. I love me some brackets. They get me feeling like this....

I plan on doing many entries over the next week, so for now I'm just going to throw down some early thoughts and discoveries on what we got here:

~I'll start by stating for the record just how against the idea of Tournament expansion I am. I think its a terrible, terrible, terrible, turrrrrible idea. You're altering the most perfect thing in sports if you do.

~All I hear about is how tough a job the selection committee, but I think they gave a lame effort, especially concerning the 1-2 seed matchups. Matchups should go 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5 in terms of overall rankings. Yet, somehow, the two best 2 seeds (West Virginia and Ohio St.) got matched up against the top two overall seeds (Kansas and Kentucky.) The chairman even admitted that West VA was the top rated 2 seed in the tournament, yet drew the second overall team in Kentucky. Matchups should have been as follows: KU-Villanova, Kentucky-Kansas St, Duke-Villanova, Syracuse-Ohio St. I'm available and would love a seat on the committee by the way...

~I don't understand why the committee removed the use of teams' last 10 games as a part of the evaluation process. Opposed to College Football, where I believe the season should be judged as a whole, College Basketball is all about the Tournament, and the teams playing the best right now should be selected.

~My rank of the toughest regions overall: 1. Midwest, 2. East, 3. West, 4. South

~I think Kentucky got stuck with the toughest path to the Final Four, when examining possible Texas-Wisconsin-West Virginia path. They have to hope Texas doesn't regain their swagger (or find where Dexter Pittman is hiding). They will be forced to play fundamentally sound against Wisconsin, led by the most underrated coach in the country, Bo Ryan. West Virginia comes next, and lets just say that last night I imagined my National Championship matchup to be Kentucky-West Virginia. I hope that showdown occurs. It reminds me of the Michigan St-Iowa St Elite Eight game from 2000, where the two best teams may have met before the Final Four (Shout-outs to Mateen Cleaves and Marcus Fizer).

~~No idea how Duke got a higher seed than Syracuse with more losses in a way worse conference. Then they are awarded with the easiest region? Despite that, I will not be picking Duke to go far.

~Greg Anthony embarrassed himself on national television by picking all 1 and 2 seeds to make the Elite Eight right after they were announced on CBS. Greg, you realize a robot could make those picks right? Anyone sharing the same picks as Greg: Please don't talk to me the next four days. That includes you Digger.

~4 of the 5 Chalk Monsters on ESPN picked Kansas to win it all. Scary. If they can overcome the high expectations by, lets say, atleast getting to the Final Four, then it is inarguably time to separate KU's questionably soft stigma into Roy Williams-era Jayhawks and Bill Self-era Jayhawks.

~Beware of the upsets that are being overpicked, especially the ones called out on the Selection Show. Remember, those teams are watching the show, which can provide an edge in motivation throughout the week.

More coming this week including a breakdown of KU's path to the Final Four, first round upsets that I like, and possible second round matchups that have me excited.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Big 12 College Basketball Postseason


All Big 12 First Team

G Sherron Collins, Kansas
G Jacob Pullen, Kansas St.
F James Anderson, Oklahoma St.
F Damion James, Texas
C Ekpe Udoh, Baylor

Player of the Year: James Anderson, Oklahoma St.

All Big 12 Second Team

G LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
G Donald Sloan, Texas A&M
F Marquis Gilstrap, Iowa St.
F Curtis Kelly, Kansas St.
C Cole Aldrich, Kansas

Coach of the Year: Scott Drew, Baylor

Big 12 Tournament Predictions

1st Round
Colorado over Texas Tech
Missouri over Nebraska
Oklahoma St. over Oklahoma
Iowa St. over Texas

2nd Round
Kansas over Colorado
Missouri over Texas A&M
Kansas St. over Oklahoma St.
Baylor over Iowa St.

Kansas over Missouri
Baylor over Kansas St.

Kansas over Baylor

NCAA Tournament Seed Projections

Kansas - 1st overall
Kansas State - 2
Baylor - 4
Texas A&M - 6
Missouri - 7
Texas - 8
Oklahoma State - 8

Mucho more coming the next couple weeks on the Conference and NCAA Tournaments, including reactions to the field, predictions for the tournament, and breakdowns of Kansas games as they come.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kansas vs. Kansas St. Round 2!

Ding! Ding! (Apollo Creed style)

My main question for tonight's game is does it matter?

There seems to be more pressure on Kansas, out of fear of facing a 3-game losing streak and a share of the Big 12 title all on the line at Missouri on Saturday. Thus, the game is much bigger for Kansas, and could serve as a springboard going into the tournament or a reason for them to start doubting themselves. Therefore, I will make the statement that KU cannot win the National Championship if they lose tonight, due to them not showing up for such a big game.

Kansas State is really coming in with nothing to lose in this game. Let's face it, every Wildcat supporter would be thrilled with reaching the Final Four this year. This is still very attainable with a loss tonight, and will most likely be staring at two seed. The key player tonight is Dennis Clemente, who's streaky shooting could be prove to be the difference when coupled with what I see as an even frontcourt matchup. Beard (Pullen) is more consistent in getting his, so if Clementine flings fire, then K-State wins.

Kansas' loss at Oklahoma State was somewhat of a fluke, which happens all the time in college basketball. If a team can't miss, they will win the game most of the time. Oky State's 60% shooting was something of a mirage, in the fact that I don't hold it against KU as bad defense. They hit numerous transition threes that they had no business making, and weren't forced to hit a shot the last ten minutes of the game due to tight officiating. The only way it becomes a deal is if they lose tonight, thus a big game for the Jayhawks.

I'll say this about tonight, I feel less confident then I did going to K-State and winning. People are saying the Senior Night will propel the Hawks to a victory, but I believe it just provides an added pressure for the home team and for Sherron Collins. I'm also worried that nobody is picking the Wildcats in a game I could easily see going either way. That being said, I will join everyone else in picking Kansas in a close game. Sherron Nasty does not want to deliver his speech after a loss and wills his team to a victory.

Kansas 67, Kansas State 63