Archives for posts with tag: CBS

Well how about that?  Sunday they turned back the clock and put the Redskins-Cowboys game on CBS…kicked it off in the late-afternoon window and the two teams played in a 20-17 nailbiter decided on the final play.  The only thing missing was promos for “Murder………………She Wrote” coming up after “Sixty Minutes”.  Instead of being in a rugby scrum for the NFC East lead, the Skins find themselves with a rare early season cushion–yes, it’s only one and a half games but it’s their biggest advantage since the end of the 2015 campaign.  And if one looks a the upcoming schedule, the Burgundy and Gold face ONE team currently with a winning record the rest of the year.  That “winning” team is 4-3 Houston.

Mr. Smith Goes Underneath- Alex completed 14 of 25 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.  The 23-yard pass to Kapri Bibbs for the game’s first touchdown was his second-longest completion of the afternoon.  Now his average yards per completion for the season may rank 19th in the league at 11.2, but he’s almost one yard better than Captain Checkdown himself-Kirk Cousins (10.3).

Captain Kirk in Exile- the former franchise tagged threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns against the very team that outbid Minnesota for his services last winter in a 37-17 rout of the New York Jets.  For the season, Cousins has a passer rating of 101.8 to Smith’s 91.9.  But Smith has fewer turnovers (two to Kirk’s four).

Peterson’s Presence- Adrian rushed for 99 yards on 24 carries without a touchdown so the Fantasy Football players will be bummed, but once again the Redskins runningback gave the team exactly what they needed and wanted on the ground.  Can you imagine the offense without the offseason pickup?

Third and Troubling- the Skins went 3-for-12 at moving the chains with 10 of their 12 third downs needing at least seven yards.  Not ideal.  Smith went 5-for-7 with three conversions.  Kapri Bibbs led the team with two catches on two targets (and one conversion).  Smith scrambled twice and fumbled once.  His second scramble was the one he’d like back as Alex failed to stay in bounds and keep the clock moving late in the fourth quarter.   For the season the team ranks 23rd in the NFL at 37.5%, better than last year’s 32.1% that ranked 31st in the league.  Yardage breakdown:  0-for-2 on a pair of third and short (under 4 yards needed) runs and 3-for-10 on third and long (7+).

D earns an A- the Redskins handcuffed the Cowboys’ ground game, allowing 73 yards on 22 carries.  They also held Dallas to 5-of-14 on third down and Ryan Kerrigan’s strip-sack led to Preston Smith’s touchdown that proved to be the difference in the end.  It’s less than two weeks from the debacle at New Orleans, but one has to feel good about this unit-especially up front with Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.  Kerrigan also notched his first two sacks of the season after being held in check.  Watch out for #91 as he gets untracked.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins drilled both of his field goals and extra points while Tress Way averaged 37.8 yards per punt–landing five of his six kicks inside the Dallas 20.  Nice to know that part of the game is not beating the Skins in a razor-thin margin league at this time.

Flying Flags- “Don’t Beat Yourself”.  It’s an easy mantra to have, but a tougher one to follow.  The Skins had five penalties (plus one that was declined) for 35 yards, keeping the team in the pack of least-penalized clubs (7th fewest infractions, 8th fewest yards).  Three of the five were on the offense (hold, false start and pass interference) while the other two were on the defense (encroachment and holding).  The early leaders in the clubhouse are holds (12) and false starts (9), with Trent Williams team-high five flags (3 holds and 2 false starts) making the tackle the most-whistled Redskin after six games.  Sunday’s most costly penalty?  Josh Harvey-Clemons’ defensive hold in the fourth quarter that turned what would have been a 3rd & 10 from the Skins’ 11 into a 1st & goal from the 6.  Dallas would reach the endzone three plays later.

Dissecting the Division- the win prevented the Redskins from falling out of first place in the NFC East…and they received an additional gift when Philadelphia blew a 17-0 lead to Carolina at home.  The Skins (4-2) are now a game and a half ahead of the Eagles and Dallas (Philly owns the division record tiebreaker) and are three and a half games up on the last-place New York Giants, who have dropped 19 of their last 23 games.  Conference Playoff Rankings:  the Redskins get the #3 seed while Philadelphia is in 11th place and Dallas holds down 13th (both are within two games of the second wildcard at this time).  The Giants are dead last in the NFC because San Francisco has a better conference record.

NFC Least- the 1-3 week meant that the Skins’ division dropped to 11-16…the worst record of the eight divisions.  The NFC South is #1 (Redskins still face Atlanta and Tampa Bay) with a 15-10 mark…while the AFC West and both Norths are above .500 at this time.  After a hot start the AFC East has returned to the “Patriots with three hot messes” and the NFC West has a pair of six-loss clubs in Arizona and San Francisco that look lost in the desert and by the bay.  Will the Eagles wake up from their early-season slumber?  And will the Cowboys’ trade for Amari Cooper be the jolt their sagging offense needs?  The Redskins are the hunted…for now.

 

So… how IS your bracket faring?  Did you have Virginia playing Purdue in the championship game like I did only to put Arizona in the Final Four when you learned that De’Andre Hunter was done for the year?  Did you bet on the wrong blue-bloods to advance?  Did you out-think the system?  Welcome aboard, friends.  Far from chalk- the NCAA Regionals resemble more survive than advance.

History has a strange way of coming back to bite you.- Virginia was #1 this winter for the first time since 1982 when the top-ranked Cavaliers lost to Chaminade.  Ryan Odom (son of then-assistant and future Wake Forest coach Dave Odom) was a ball-boy for that team.  Fast-forward 35 years and Odom the younger leads UMBC over UVa in not only an upset of the ages, but a smackdown to remember.  This wasn’t just a last-second shot or an errant pass, but a 20-point beatdown.  The Cavaliers go home knowing everybody knows they’re the first number one seed to lose to a #16 (and truth be told, if we still had the old 64-school bracket UMBC would have been a #15 and the Cavaliers would have face 15-19 Texas Southern).  I attended Syracuse and we got grief for 15 years about the Orange being the first #2 seed to lose to a #15…even after other schools had followed suit.  Even after SU had finally won a National Championship.  Tony Bennett will take a long look at himself and his coaching style.  And then he’ll come out of the summer of his discontent focused and ready to lead another Virginia team to 15+ wins in the ACC and threaten again next March.

One Sorry City- so much for Skyline Chili owning the month.  Xavier and Cincinnati both blew late leads in Second Round losses.  There’s nothing the fan bases of either school enjoys more than taking delight in their inner-city rival’s misery.  This winter it goes both ways.

Conference Call- the Big 12 and ACC each have four schools remaining, while the Big Ten and SEC have two teams left in the bracket.  The Pac-12?  Gone midway through the first round.  Mad props to the Summit, Mountain West and West Coast Conferences for having a school still in the field.  Rumor was the Big East was thinking about taking credit for Syracuse and West Virginia, but it would also mean they’d be saddled with Pitt.

Planting Seeds- they say figures do not lie but liars do figure.  While we’ve lost a pair of #1’s and two more #2’s, seven of the top 16 schools are still in the field.  And if you go one step further, there are three #5’s–meaning 10 of the top 20 schools are still around and as the difference between a #4 and a #5 is often microscopic you could make the case that 10 of the top 16 teams are still around.  While Loyola (Chicago) is a true Cinderella as a #11 (and needed a couple of miracle plays thanks to their 90-something year old Chaplain), Syracuse is far from an upstart despite their place as “the last at-large team in the bracket”.  Just like two years ago when they made the Final Four as a #10 seed, this is a case of a school that is peaking at the right time after a less than awesome regular season.

Different Paths- Kentucky may have been upset at their #5 seed with Virginia, Cincinnati and Arizona in their region one week ago.  Today those three schools have all been eliminated and the talented-but-young Wildcats are the favorites to win the South.  If you go by seeding numbers (5+7+9+11) of the survivors the South has a Madness rating of 32, highest of the bunch (for comparison, the West has a M rating of 23 while the Midwest owns a 19–and the East is one over chalk at 11).  Michigan looks to continue its incredible run (11 straight wins) in a West that has the tournament darlings-Loyola-as well as the gold standard of Cinderellas:  Gonzaga.  But this Bulldogs team is one that knows how to get to a Final Four (see last year).  Kansas is playing in Omaha–but is in ACC country with Duke, Clemson and Syracuse rounding out the regional–and has memories of being upset in tournament games close to home (Kansas City last year, Omaha in 2015, St Louis in 2014, Oklahoma City in 2010).  Villanova has the roughest road with West Virginia looming in a true contrast of styles–and I’m only referring to Jay Wright’s Italian suits against Bob Huggins’ tents and khakis.

Sunday Night Hoops- I still wish they got rid of the late Sunday game.  Did we need to see West Virginia meet Marshall at 9:40 p.m. on a Sunday?  After four days of great hoops, couldn’t we have ended after the 8:40 tilt?  All one has to do is shuffle the times and move the 7:10-9:40 doubleheader to 2:10-4:40.  It would give fans more hoops in the afternoon (especially if one of the early stand-alone games becomes a dog like Saturday) and put a nice bow on the weekend.

Maryland Women’s Season- the Terps ended the 2017-18 campaign with a 74-60 loss at North Carolina State in the Second Round this past Sunday.  This was hardly an ideal campaign:  not only did coach Brenda Frese have to compensate for losing two All-Americans to graduation, but the Terrapins also lost their best returning player to transfer (Destiny Slocum) while three others left the program.  Of those departures, one came back to haunt the Terps:  Kiara Leslie after graduating in three years at Maryland wanted to finish her career near her hometown of Holly Springs, NC.  She finished second in scoring this season for NC State before scoring 21 points against her former team.  Leslie sat out last season with an injury and had already made plans to transfer when Slocum, Kiah Gillespie and Jenna Staiti decided to go elsewhere.  If Leslie had stayed she would have been a big piece on a shorthanded team that lost Blair Watson to injury in January, but that’s why hindsight remains 20-20.  The Terps have another great recruiting class (#3, #32 and #33 prospects are headed to College Park) coming in and if Watson returns healthy this crew will challenge for the Big Ten title again next winter.

 

 

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CBS and FOX have shared the sports broadcasting stage for almost 25 years…as the upstart network actually replace the old guard when they outbid  them for the NFC package in 1993.  While fears of having Homer Simpson giving scores or the cast of “Beverly Hills, 90210” in the announcing booth with Summerall & Madden never came to fruition, FOX has experimented and brought how sports are presented on TV into this century.  And while CBS has kept pace, the old “Tiffany Network” still represents tradition.  Case in point- Saturday’s college schedule saw two thrilling games.  The team of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson announced the nationally televised Florida-Tennessee tilt while the high-octane duo of Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt called the USC-Texas game.  Both games provided plenty of thrills and chills…and the Nessler-Danielson duo presented a national game with a finishing crescendo while Johnson-Klatt gave viewers a high-wire act with multiple exclamation points.  How do you like your eggs?  Evenly cooked with the right accents on the right parts?  Or flame-broiled with every twist and turn highlighted beyond belief?  Thank goodness there’s room for both approaches…and the games are good enough that both are needed.

In other news:  while I stated that Saturday was the perfect day for chores/apple-picking/antiquing, many will refer to the fantastic finish of Florida-Tennessee.  And that’s exactly what was fantastic:  a fourth quarter where 37 of the game’s 46 points were scored.  Before that?  Two teams that were conscious objectors to sustained offense…and proof that the SEC East may the least again this year (despite multiple hot messes in Alabama’s fiefdom).  And what is it with the Vols and crazy endings?  Seven of the school’s nine losses since the 2014 season ended have been one-possession affairs.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange bounce back from a loss to directional Middle Tennessee to rout Central Michigan 48-17.  Eric Dungey threw for 279 yards while running for 105 more…while the defense pitched a shutout in the second half.  The 2-1 start now means instead of emotionally checking out on the 2017 season, we’re in for the duration.  The trip to nationally-ranked LSU.  The five-game gauntlet against ACC foes that are currently 11-2.  The looming November 25th game against Boston College when a trip to a fourth-tier bowl hangs in the balance.  Break out the wings…

 

#16 Virginia Tech (3-0) looked like it was doomed to repeat its traditional September stumble when they fell behind East Carolina 17-7 in the first quarter…only to score the games final 57 points in a 64-17 win.  Gone are the ghosts of Pirates past…as coach Justin Fuente’s team is 3-0 for the first time since 2011.  Hokie Highlights:  Josh Jackson threw for 372 yards and five touchdowns-while finding Cam Phillips for 14 catches, 189 yards and three scores.   Travon McMillan (72 yards on 11 carries) led a ground game that gained a season-high 287 yards.  The defense tallied three takeaways while holding ECU to 4 of 15 on third down.  Joey Slye made all three of his field goal attempts…and special teams blocked a Pirates’ attempt.  Hokie Humblings:  hold on, we have to find an issue with something in a 64-17 rout?  Tough room.  Next:  Saturday against 2-1 Old Dominion.

 

Virginia (2-1) equaled its victory total from 2016 by crushing Connecticut 38-18 after scoring the game’s first 31 points.  Let the record show that this is a Huskies team still finding its feet under first-year coach Randy Edsall.  And while previous years have seen September promise evaporate in the blink of an eye (or an interception returned for a TD), there have been enough positive signs over the first three games that the next nine games won’t be a disaster.  We think.  Cavalier Congrats:  Kurt Benkert threw for a school-record 455 yards while three of his receivers (Olamide Zaccheus, Doni Dowling and Andre Levrone) reached the century mark.  The running game averaged 5.5 yards per carry behind Jordan Ellis (95 yards on 20 carries) and the offense converted 7 of 12 third downs.  Micah Kiser tallied 15 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery for a defense that notched two takeaways in the first half and pitched a shutout for the game’s first 44 minutes.  Lester Coleman punted just once but posted a 51-yarder.  Cavalier Concerns:  two more explosive plays allowed by the defense for scores-this week a 30-yard run and a 60-yard pass.  UVa was fortunate to recover all three of its fumbles against the Huskies.  Nine penalties for 109 yards will give the coaches plenty of “teaching moments” in film review.  Next:  Friday at 2-1 Boise State.

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Some Marches become memorable because your school steals a game it had no business winning…while others are made by incredible tournament runs that keep the season alive for another weekend.  The select few seasons end with your team playing for it all during the first weekend of April…with the chance to bring home hardware.  This was not one of those years for the area schools…as even George Washington fell Monday night in the College Basketball Invitational (also known as CBI) to UIC (previously known as Illinois-Chicago) in the Quarterfinals (I feel like I should continue the trend and call it the QF).

As the dust clears from a wild weekend–what happened?  If you went into the tournament recognizing Mount St. Mary’s would be overmatched with Villanova, each of the other locals (Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and VCU) had potential red flags.  And each red flag was flown high.  And while the answer opening weekend was less than ideal for each school, as the offseasons begin there will only be more questions until next October 15th.

Maryland (24-9) had issues beginning with its January 1st loss to Nebraska where they did not score for the final six minutes of regulation.  Minus a proven post presence the Terps were reduced to a jump-shooting/drive-and-kick team this winter…and when they were hitting it was great.  But they had too many stretches of wandering in the offensive wilderness-against Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern-and losing Michal Cekovsky to injury limited their options inside further.  The Terps’ 76-65 loss to Xavier saw another one of those extended scoreless stretches (six minutes in the second half)…along with getting hammered on the boards by ten.  As Damonte Dodd graduates and L.G. Gill wraps up his one year with the program as a graduate transfer, all eyes are on Melo Trimble.  Will the 22-year old now projected to land in the middle of the second round by nbadraft.net return for his senior season?  Even if the junior departs, there’s a solid base in College Park with the freshman trio of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson.  Not to mention redshirt Micah Thomas. Will six-foot-ten center Bruno Fernando be the inside answer?  Come back next winter.  

I didn’t know the Musketeers were that loaded- Xavier is the only double-digit team to survive the first weekend, and Chris Mack’s team did so after entering the tournament on a 4-7 lurch where three of those wins came against lowly DePaul (I have yet to check with the NCAA office, but I believe until further review one has to refer to the Blue Demons as “lowly DePaul”).  They hadn’t been the same since losing point guard Edmond Sumner and the NCAA Tournament is a guard’s game, right?  While the victory over Maryland wasn’t a complete shock their dismembering (91-66) of #3 Florida State was.  Along with fellow Big East newbie, Xavier is flying the conference banner in the regional round.

Virginia (23-11) gained the reputation as “London Perrantes plus four guys from the Y” during a stretch where they lost six of eight…and had trouble shaking that status no matter how many good games Kyle Guy and Marial Shayok produced.  Perrantes was the only Cavalier on the roster in March averaging in double figures (transfer Austin Nichols was dismissed in November after scoring 11 points in his only game for UVa)…and Saturday in the 65-39 loss to Florida the rest of the team shot 14 of 42 (33%).  Perrantes leaves Charlottesville having been the pulse of the team that averaged 28 wins and brought home the school’s second-ever ACC Tournament title.  He leaves a roster of players who need to develop over the next offseason…from Shayok and Guy to Jack Salt (the New Zealander had a season-high 10 rebounds against the Gators) and Isaiah Wilkins (limited by illness in the NCAA’s).  The only commit so far is shooting guard Marco Anthony, so the next floor general will have to come from within the ranks.  Darius Thompson, we presume?

ACC stands for Annoying Conference Collapse- nine schools made the field of 68…and one by one each went down over the weekend.  While nobody had Wake Forest or Miami making the Final Four, Louisville and Notre Dame had each been in the top ten during the regular season.  And both were gone by the end of the weekend.  Same with Florida State and…Duke?  Granted-they lost to South Carolina in Greenville, SC-but the way the Blue Devils had been playing down the stretch their faithful were confident in (and their detractors were fearful of) a Final Four run.  Only North Carolina somehow pulling victory not only out of the jaws but out of the esophagus of defeat against Arkansas kept the league from going 100% sour before the Sweet Sixteen.

Virginia Tech (22-11) ranked last in the ACC in rebounding…and that was before losing top rebounder Chris Clarke to a season-ending ACL injury.  So it was no surprise that the Hokies got crushed on the glass in their 84-74 defeat against Wisconsin…especially when the Badgers blew up everyone’s bracket by bouncing defending national champ Villanova two days later.  But let’s sit back for a second…Virginia Tech made the tournament for the first time in ten years.  And despite a rapidly thinning bench, coach Buzz Williams’ team entered selection Sunday having won six of nine.  While Zach LeDay and Seth Allen have played their final games in maroon and orange, there’s a solid nucleus that has plenty of starting experience (truth be told, LeDay and Allen were coming off the bench by the end of the season).  Another recruiting class for the energetic Williams comes to Blacksburg…and next winter they try to post the school’s third straight winning conference record for the firs time since 1986 (three moves ago, or when they called the Metro home).  Even with a loss to the Badgers, the Hokies’ glass is more than half-full.

From Much-Maligned to Sweet Revenge- the Big Ten was undervalued early and often this winter, culminating with a Selection Sunday slap in the face to multiple teams.  How’d they respond?  Purdue fought back the ghosts of brackets past with two solid wins (including a great punch-counterpunch victory over Iowa State) and their first Regional trip since 2010.  Michigan continued its great play that started well before its 4-0 sweep through the Big Ten Tournament (6-2 in final eight regular season games)…and bounced Oklahoma State before upsetting Louisville.  Wisconsin?  The conference runnerup after being given a #8 seed found a way to eliminate defending champ and overall number one seed Villanova.  Instead of misery this March is filled with magic for the Big Ten-as the league’s three teams alive are tied with the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  Maybe it was because their tournament was held in DC…

VCU (26-9) had issues shooting the three all season…tying for 248th in Division I.  Against an underseeded St. Mary’s (the Gaels were a #7 despite finishing the regular season 22nd in the writer’s rankings) in Salt Lake City the Rams were held to 2-of-13 from outside the arc in an 85-77 loss.  One wonders what sort of seed they would have received if VCU had managed to hold off Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals.  One doesn’t wonder about the force of nature that was JeQuan Lewis:  the senior went down shooting in his final game, leading the Rams with 30 points.  While the Rams return juniors Justin Tillman (2nd in the A-10 in rebounding) and Jonathan Williams (2nd on the team in assists), coach Will Wade won’t as the 34-year old wunderkind gets swept away to rebuild LSU.  Caveat Emptor:  the power conferences are littered with former VCU coaches, from Anthony Grant at Alabama to Jeff Capel at Oklahoma.  And Shaka Smart just went through an 11-22 campaign at Texas.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange finished the season 19-15 much like their inconsistent play mandated:  tipping off an 11am Saturday NIT game.  While Tyler Lydon is off to the NBA, longtime #1 assistant and “coach in waiting” Mike Hopkins is headed to Washington as the Huskies’ head coach.  This allows Jim Boeheim to stay after the 2017-18 season that was originally agreed upon as his retirement date (you know, after the probation that stripped the school of over 100 wins and 2 Big East Tournament titles).  Betty White applauds…

Bracket Busted- my CBSSports.com bracket did not lose a game the first weekend–because the computer site froze between 11:30am and 12:30pm. Epic fail, kids…but let that be a lesson to procrastinators worldwide. Get it done early…and watch suckers like me freak out at the last moment.

Conference Carousel- the ACC’s flameout (especially after last year’s incredible success) in the Big Dance this year reminds me of the Big East in the 1980’s.  1985 saw the league send three schools to the Final Four and post an 18-5 record, before going 4-4 the following March while getting shut out in the Sweet Sixteen.  The Big East bounced back in 1987 with a 14-5 record, two Final Four teams and a third that reached Regional Final.  So  2018 is on notice…

Sunday Night Special- I understand that TNT, TBS and TRU own the first Sunday of the tournament and thus are putting their games on at night for the biggest audience.  But could we move the 9:40 game to 4:40?  The 8:40 game (Duke-South Carolina) was the perfect cherry on Sunday’s games–making UCLA-Cincinnati seem like the cherry’s stem. It’s there but you don’t want to look at it…especially for those of us who have consumed 47 games over 48 hours of watching over four days.

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Selection Sunday comes and goes with the usual joy (Northwestern is going dancing!), customary disappointment (so you’re telling me a Syracuse team that went 2-11 on the road and lost to sub-500 Georgetown and St. John’s at home belongs?) and hair-splitting (Duke beats UNC twice and doesn’t get the #1 seed??).  Not to mention storylines waiting as we begin a new countdown to Thursday.

Finally, the First Four is just that.  That’s right- no more referring to the first weekend as the second and third rounds!  I conscientiously objected over the years and called them the “round of 64” and “round of 32”.  And yes, I skipped the Tuesday and Wednesday doubleheaders in the “new countdown” because that is how the NCAA treats these eight schools that make the field. Mount St. Mary’s, New Orleans, North Carolina Central and Cal-Davis:  welcome to the kiddie table.  Please make room for Providence, USC, Kansas State and Wake Forest.  I know Dayton sells these games out and goes the extra mile to make the schools feel special, but it’s kind of lame that a school/fan base has to fly to Dayton only to turn around and go to Buffalo, Tulsa and Sacramento for a game that takes place less than 48 hours later.  Have the First Four schools play at those eventual sites on Tuesday/Wednesday;  if anything you’re just cutting travel costs and letting them experience the true tournament.

No such worries for Maryland (24-8) regarding a Dayton destination, although there was a little more suspension this March than on the previous two Selection Sundays.  In 2015 and 2016 the Terps were listed among the first matchups in the bracket; this year they were the second to last school to read its name on TV.  Coach Mark Turgeon said, “I don’t know what their (his players’) reaction was because I was going crazy.  I got up so fast I almost fainted.”  Maryland gets a #6 seed in the West Region and a first round date with Xavier (21-13) Thursday in Orlando.  The Musketeers enter the tournament minus offensive catalyst Edmond Sumner (torn ACL in January) and are 4-7 since February 5th.  Three of those four wins came against lowly DePaul.  6:50 tipoff Thursday.

Virginia (22-10) also is headed to Orlando…but as the #5 seed in the East Region and a First Round showdown with UNC-Wilmington.  The 29-5 Seahawks bring a potent offense (10th nationally at 85.1 points per game) as well as a seven game winning streak.  UVa has won three straight round of 64 games under coach Tony Bennett; the stickler might be the fact that if they win the Cavaliers would likely face Florida.  I’ve been told by multiple sources that the University of Florida happens to reside in the same state as the city of Orlando, although many will tell you that the Magic Kingdom technically has jurisdiction. 12:40 gametime Thursday.

Virginia Tech (22-10) is in the same half of the East Bracket, getting the #9 seed and a First Round date with Wisconsin in Buffalo.  Having seen the Badgers’ big men Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ during the Big Ten Tournament (they lost to Michigan in the championship game), one’s going to wonder how the Hokies will hide the worst rebounding margin in the ACC.  Don’t worry-likely awaiting Buzz Williams on Saturday will be overall number one seed and defending National Champ Villanova.  9:40 start Thursday.

VCU (26-8) heads West as the #7 seed and goes to Salt Lake City for a Thursday evening game with St. Mary’s.  Yes, the Gaels who were actually ranked entering Selection Sunday will be the lower seed.  Three of their four losses were to top seed Gonzaga…and coach Randy Bennett’s team allows the second-fewest points per game in Division I.  Was the committee that miffed that they’d have to include Rhode Island in the field that they elected to punish the Rams in this manner?  7:20 tipoff Thursday.

Mount St. Mary’s (19-15 and not to be confused with Mt. Saint Mary’s) gets the Big Spin before the Big Dance and a date in Dayton with New Orleans Tuesday…although many fans and alums would much rather have a date with Dayton in New Orleans.  The Privateers boast a 20-11 record and a big man by the name of Erik Thomas;  the six-foot-five senior averages 19 points and 8 rebounds while making 59 percent of his shots.  The Mountaineers will have their hands full on the glass, as they rank 341st in the nation in rebounding margin while UNO is 63rd.  The winner gets to go from Dayton to Buffalo to face Villanova Thursday.  6:40 start Tuesday.

 

Missing the Field-

Alma Mater Update- the Orange went 18-14 en route to a #1 seed in the NIT.  Ironically the lack of wins away from the Carrier Dome ensures that they will play up to three more games in that building.  And it’s not just the NCAA that has a sense of irony:  less than one week after coach Jim Boeheim proposed moving the ACC Tournament from Greensboro, NC because it had no value SU draws UNC-Greensboro in the First Round.

Richmond (20-12) will play at Alabama in the NIT Tuesday.  The Spiders were unable to hold off a late charge by VCU in Saturday’s Atlantic 10 Semifinal and lost in overtime to the Rams-the third time they’ve been bounced by their neighbors in the A-10 tourney since VCU joined the league.  It’s always intriguing to see how a power conference team approaches the NIT after missing the NCAA cut; the Crimson Tide are in the “other tournament” for the third straight year and have lost on the road the previous two seasons.  It’s a good thing spring football practice doesn’t begin until next week.

George Mason (20-12) and George Washington (19-14) are headed to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) after Friday night losses to their Commonwealth Capital brethren in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals.  Wednesday at 7 the Patriots host Loyola of Maryland (15-16 with six losses in their last eight games) while the Colonials will entertain Toledo (17-16 with a 4-7 record away from home) at the same time.  It’s the second CBI for both schools:  George Mason was the 2013 runner-up while George Washington fell in the 2010 First Round.

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Brent Musburger announced this week that the January 31st game between Georgia and Kentucky will be his final one behind the mic, ending a career in the national sports spotlight that began in the 70’s when he hosted the NFL Today.  For fans of a certain age, autumn Sundays meant a 12:30 ET appointment with Brent, Irv, Jimmy the Greek and Phyllis George.  He took over Final Four announcing duties from Gary Bender in 1985 as the NCAA Tournament was taking off, and is believed to have coined the term “March Madness”.  In addition, the guy simply dominated the 80’s.  NBA Finals?  College Football’s biggest games?  Brent was there…looking live.  While he carved out a nice post-CBS career as ABC/ESPN’s voice for college football and basketball, 80’s Brent was the announcer you wanted to watch and the announcer you dreamed of becoming.  Here’s looking live at you…one more time Brent.

Alma Mater Update-

There’s a pulse…but the Orange find themselves in the growing ACC middle class as they near the halfway point of their conference schedule.  That theory “they need to go 12-6 to make the NCAA’s as an at-large”?  Yeah.  I’m hoping for a 10-8 and a trip to the NIT.  It doesn’t help that #6 Florida State comes to the Carrier Dome still stinging from a beatdown by Georgia Tech.  Five of SU’s final ten games are against ranked foes and five of their games are on the road.  The Orange need to win a few of those to keep things interesting.

Saturday-

1 p.m.-

George Mason (13-7, 3-4 Atlantic 10) at UMass (12-9, 2-6).  The Patriots have to shrug off an 87-68 loss at home to George Washington…and quickly.  The Minutemen lead the A-10 in lowest field goal percentage allowed and are second in defending the three, and Mason just shot 1-for-8 from outside the arc in their loss to the Colonials.  UMass is also the only team to beat Dayton in league play thus far this winter.  GMU’s best win is a road triumph at Richmond…can they continue to shine away from Fairfax?

 

2:15 p.m.-

Maryland (18-2, 6-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (15-6, 3-5), ESPN2.  Williams Arena is one crazy place to play;  Vanderbilt is perhaps the only other major school that has a similar home court advantage.  That said, the Golden Gophers have lost four straight and what appeared to be a fight for first place in the conference has turned into the Terrapins visiting the site of last winter’s worst loss.  Remember when the winless-in-the-conference Gophers beat a stacked Maryland team with Final Four hopes?  The Terps who returned this season haven’t either.  Minnesota features a fine point guard in Nate Mason who is second in the Big Ten in assists…while the Terrapins counter with a “double-barrel” offense of Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan where each can and will direct the attack.  Maryland may be unbeaten on the road, but now that school is in session they’ll finally get to meet the opposing students in the Big Ten.

 

4 p.m.-

George Washington (11-9, 3-4 Atlantic 10) vs Saint Louis (6-14, 2-6).  Consecutive wins have the Colonials getting off the mat… and the Billikens despite their recent road win at George Mason are definitely not world-beaters this winter.  Don’t expect a ton of style points in Foggy Bottom:  GW’s 13th in the A-10 in shooting while Saint Louis is last.  Both teams also have trouble taking care of the ball as each has turned the ball over 285 times this season (tied for second most in the conference behind Duqesne).  Neither defense takes advantage of opponents miscues both teams are near the bottom of the A-10 in steals. 

 

Navy (11-10, 6-3 Patriot League) vs Holy Cross (11-11, 5-4).  Make no mistake about it, there is no hotter team in the Patriot league than the Midshipmen. Six straight wins have turned the winter around and Navy is tied for second place halfway through the league season.  Shawn Anderson won’t need to score 30 like he did against Army last weekend, but he’ll need to better his previous performance against the Crusaders:  zero points on one missed shot over 26 minutes in a 51-50 loss January 2nd.  Malachi Alexander led Holy Cross with 17 points that night and is coming off a 20-point performance in a loss to Loyola-Maryland.

Howard (5-15, 2-3 MEAC) vs Savannah State (8-12, 5-2).  Just when you thought the Bison were back on track, they deliver a clunker like Monday’s 74-39 loss at North Carolina Central.  You want to say that the 28% shooting from the field was an aberration against a better team (the Eagles are second in the league)…but the Tigers are not far behind UNCC.  Troyce Manassa and Dexter McClanahan provide a 1-2 punch on the perimeter that may have Howard going dizzy by the end of the afternoon.  To say the Bison need better ball movement would be an understatement:  the team’s 8.4 assists per game rank 351st (dead last) in Division I.

 

6 p.m.-

Richmond (12-8, 6-2 Atlantic 10) vs Duquesne (9-12, 2-6).  The “other” school in the Commonwealth’s capital boasts the most efficient offense in the A-10 (leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio) and a matchup nightmare in “point-forward” T.J. Cline.  The Dukes have dropped four straight, three by double figures.  Two of their top three scorers (Mike Lewis II and Isaiha Mike) are freshmen…and league play on the road is doubly cruel to its young.

 

8 p.m.-

Georgetown (11-10, 2-6 Big East) at #11 Butler 18-3 (7-2), CBS Sports Network. Hinkle Fieldhouse was the site of the Indiana State Championship that you remember seeing in “Hoosiers”.  The Bulldogs are 11-0 in that building this season.  The Hoyas are coming off an upset win over 16th ranked Creighton (albeit a weakened one minus Maurice Watson Jr. and his 9 assists per game) but have not won consecutive conference games in over a calendar year.  Coach John Thompson III’s team took Butler to overtime earlier this month in DC, and that was with Rodney Pryor shooting 0-for-8 from the field.  What hurt the Hoyas that day was the Bulldogs hitting 10 of 20 three-pointers.  Ball security will be a pivotal:  Butler leads the Big East in turnover margin while Georgetown ranks 9th in the conference.

 

Sunday-

1 p.m.-

#12 Virginia (16-3) at #1 Villanova (19-2), FOX.  Even with the Wildcats loss to Marquette, this is a major interconference matchup worthy of Brent and Billy Packer…or at least Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery. Prepare for some top-notch perimeter play:  UVa leads the ACC in three-point shooting  while ‘Nova leads the Big East at defending the three.  The Cavaliers will have their hands full with Josh Hart, while the Wildcats have to contend with London Perrantes (who’s taken the team on his back in ACC play by averaging 15 points per game against league foes)  The big question for UVa:  which Isaiah Wilkins will we see?  The big man who notched 13 points and 9 rebounds against Notre Dame or the kid who was held to 5 points and 4 rebounds in 29 minutes in the loss to Florida State?  Just as important- will Jack Salt be able to contain Villanova big man Darryl Reynolds (71% shooter but a footnote in the offense)?

 

2 p.m.-

American (5-15, 2-7 Patriot League) vs Colgate (6-16, 4-5), CBS Sports Network.  Consecutive losses have the Eagles tied for last place in the conference…and after facing the Raiders AU has to deal with the meat-grinder that is Bucknell-Lehigh-Boston University (combined 20-7 in league play).  Coach Mike Brennan’s team won the January matchup in overtime thanks to solid play from freshmen Mark Gasperini and Sy’eed Nelson.  Colgate also turned the ball over 17 times in that game.  AU could use more of the same Sunday.

 

6:30 p.m-

Virginia Tech (15-5, 4-4 ACC) vs Boston College (9-12, 2-6), ESPNU.  What is it with the Sunday evening window and the Hokies?  They’re here again…and instead of Clemson it’s a duel against another sub-500 ACC team in the Eagles.  Virginia Tech was crushed on the boards in their their loss at #9 North Carolina 43-22;  while nobody’s even close to the Tar Heels on the glass in the ACC this winter Tech will have to fare better against the BC bigs.  The Eagles have lost four in a row but boast guard Jerome Robinson;  the 6-foot-5 sophomore is third in the league in scoring at 20 points per game.  With two games against Virginia over the next three weeks, the Hokies can ill afford a stumble to their former Big East foe.

Not all Selection Sundays are created equal.  2016 was amusing in more ways than one…and often for the wrong reasons.  Time to sort out the seeds, snubs, TV turnovers and leaks…

More is Less– thank you CBS for filling two hours with a half-hour worth of material.  I know how much the TNT guys love college basketball for the one month they actually cover the sport, but outside of who has the coolest three piece suit did we need extended studio shenanigans?  I could see a 90-minute show if you have more interviews with coaches and actual analysis…but yesterday’s viewers were the first losers of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Paging Daniel Ellsberg– the bracket was actually busted before CBS could complete it’s wacky analysis segments.  Someone at the NCAA or CBS accidentally released the full tournament field…and it took off on twitter.  Whoever did that, shame on you.  And thank you for allowing me to fill out my sheet instead of having to sit through another CBS studio segment.

Planting Seeds– Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon are the #1’s.  In a year where the top ten has been a volatile commodities market, there’s less of a difference between the ones and twos than in normal seasons–but I thought Michigan State deserved a #1 instead of Virginia or Oregon.  I also thought that the Jayhawks should have been placed in the Midwest (Chicago being a little closer to Lawrence than Louisville) bracket…and it felt like the Big Ten was devalued:  Maryland, Purdue and Indiana each getting #5’s?  Did they count having Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois in the league that much as a dead weight?

Shocks– Syracuse (19-13, 9-9 ACC) lost five of its last six games…went winless in its conference tournament and also lost in December to Georgetown and St. John’s.  Vanderibilt (19-13, 11-7 SEC) had an RPI of 61 while losing to Mississippi State and Tennessee.  Tulsa  (20-11, 12-6 AAC) lost twice to dumpster-fire Memphis in March…the NCAA must be looking to give the Golden Hurricane a bid before coach Frank Haith repeats the magic that got Miami and Missouri into hot water (and probation).  Just like UCLA reached the Sweet Sixteen despite not meriting inclusion in the field of 68 last year, expect one of those schools to win at least two games…

Snubs– Monmouth (27-7, 17-3 MAAC) missed out despite a pre-conference schedule that included wins at UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown.  We want schools to be ambitious–yet don’t reward a school that does just that.   Perhaps a 70-year old in the committee was put off by the Hawks “creative dancing bench” (“that will show those young punks not to clown around on the court during a game”).  St. Bonaventure (22-8, 14-4 Atlantic 10) finished the regular season with a five game winning streak that included triumphs over Dayton and Saint Joseph’s…only to get bounced by Davidson in the A-10 Quarterfinals.  St. Mary’s (27-5, 15-3 WCC) and San Diego State (25-9, 16-2 MWC) dominated their leagues after posting wins over Pac-12 schools but find themselves bound for the NIT as well.

Taking the “Sunday” out of “Selection Sunday”– Was the committee even in session yesterday?  Or did they have an extra-long brunch?  Because somehow Kentucky beat Texas A&M on a neutral floor yet was seeded lower than the Aggies two hours later.  Michigan State’s placement as a #2 seemed to not take into account their Big Ten championship win.  Tulsa felt like they were simply a last-second fill-in for Memphis after the Tigers lost the AAC title game.

NIT-picking:  George Washington (23-10, 11-7 Atlantic 10) was at least one win-perhaps two- away from the NCAA’s…and the Colonials face Hofstra in the NIT First Round Wednesday.  Smith Center is a great place to watch a basketball game and metro accessible (Foggy Bottom–Orange/Silver/Blue line stop) as well.  This would be a great appetizer to Thursday’s viewing buffet.  That Virginia Tech (19-14, 10-8 ACC) is in postseason play at all is a minor miracle given the nasty nacho plate Buzz Williams inherited two years ago.  They get a chance to build on their late-season surge (a six game winning streak before the ACC Quarterfinal loss to Miami) by hosting Princeton Wednesday.

First things First– I’m excited that the First Four will be just that…and not the “first round”.  I’m still perplexed that it has to be in Dayton…meaning the winner of Holy Cross and Southern Wednesday has to fly to Spokane for a Friday game.  Why not let the schools go to the first weekend sites to begin with and play their games there?

Upset Insurance—CBS and the NCAA in no way whatsoever attempt to massage the brackets in a way to maximize TV audience interest. But somehow they have a potential Michigan-Notre Dame game in the first round if the Wolverines survive the First Four…while Texas-Texas A&M and Villanova-Temple are possible second round showdowns. Call it upset insurance…if the seeds hold you have better matchups on paper, while if the bracket breaks just right you have a more compelling storyline.

 

Maryland (25-8, 12-6 Big Ten, lost in the conference tourney semifinals)– the Terps get a #5 seed in the South and a first weekend destination of Spokane, Washington.   They’re in a bracket with South Dakota State (who doesn’t like the Terrapin/Tortoise-Jackrabbit/Hare matchup?) with the other first round game pitting Cal against Hawaii.  Just to show the committee has its eye on the second weekend as well, should Maryland advance to the Sweet Sixteen their likely opponent would be #1 seed Kansas.  Hey…didn’t coach Mark Turgeon attend that school?

Player to Watch:  that Melo Trimble has been banged this winter is no secret…the sophomore has had hamstring and back issues crop up sporadically during Big Ten play.  Over the last eight regular season games, Trimble has shot 31% from the field (after hitting 46% of his shots over the first 25 games of the season)…and his assist-to-turnover ratio in that span is a shell of its former self:  from 133/62 (2.14) over the first 25 to 36/26 (1.38) over the last eight.  Good or bad…the Terrapins fortunes offensively begin with #2.

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate:  while everyone is waiting for Diamond Stone to return to the against-Penn State version (39 points and 12 rebounds against the Nittany Lions), Robert Carter Jr. has been heating up:  over the last four games the forward is making 60% of his shots while averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds.  If he can stay out of foul trouble, the junior will provide matchup nightmares for opponents already preoccupied with Stone in the post and Trimble on the perimeter.

Road to the Penthouse: the Terps benefit from the extra day (they play Friday) off…as well as playing on the other side of the country.  Having played in the same Cancun Tournament as the Jackrabbits, they’re ready for South Dakota State and dispatch Cal in the second round.  After a week of answering Kansas questions coach Mark Turgeon notches a win over his alma mater…and then beat a turnover-prone Miami team two days later to reach the Final Four.  Houston, baby!

Road to the Outhouse: you know about the “5-12 curse”?  The Terps are confounded by 6-foot-9 freshman Mike Daum (15 points per game on 20 minutes per contest) and the big men get in foul trouble.  The Jackrabbits turn Trimble over and Rasheed Sulaimon has another 2-for-15 shooting night.  The road to the Final Four ends 2400 miles away from College Park.

 

Virginia (26-7, 13-5 ACC, lost in the conference tourney finals)– the Cavaliers get a #1 seed in the Midwest and a first weekend destination of Raleigh, North Carolina.  They’ll play Hampton in the First Round (the Pirates winning the MEAC for the second straight year) with Texas Tech/Butler the 8-9 matchup in their bracket.  Best news?  Tony Bennett’s team was recognized for a great season and gets their second #1 seed in three years.  Worst news?  Recent nemesis Michigan State (Spartans ended the last two UVa seasons) is the region’s #2.

Player to Watch:  Malcolm Brogdon may have shot 6 for 22 against North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game…but the senior remains their #1 offensive weapon (averaging 20 points a game this month).  While he’s yet to shoot over 50% from the field in an NCAA Tournament game (his career numbers are 19-of-59, 32%), in order for the Cavaliers to advance they need Brogdon to produce.

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate:  all season the Cavaliers have looked for that “other guy” to complement their power trio of Brogdon, Anthony Gill and London Perrantes- only to have the likes of Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall and Darius Thompson remind one of Gunther at the coffee shop:  shining in some episodes, absent in others…and never seriously a Friend.  Senior center Mike Tobey has spent his entire Cavaliers career on the fringe… played anywhere from 13 to 18 minutes a game while averaging 6.8, 6.9, 6.4 and 6.8 points per game.  He’s capable of 15 points and 20 rebounds against Louisville in the season finale–but also capable of 17 points and 16 rebounds over three games at the ACC Tournament.   If the 7-footer can provide another post presence, UVa will be tough to contain.

Road to the Penthouse:  Playing in Raleigh gives them the comfort necessary to dodge first-weekend obstacles…and they exorcise their recent March demons by beating Michigan State in the Regional Finals (in Chicago, no less).  Avenging their ACC loss to North Carolina in the National Semifinals sets up a title tilt against Duke–and Grayson Allen trips over his own feet while trying to get off a last-second shot.  BANNER!

Road to the Outhouse:  After a confidence-inflating victory over Hampton, the Cavaliers are confounded by Butler’s up-tempo offense (Bulldogs rank 22nd in the nation in scoring).  Kellen Dunham sinks three after three and UVa can’t keep pace in a shootout.  North Carolina fans arriving early for their game with Providence are in attendance…and while Tar Heel fans are far too dignified to say anything derogatory, the Cavalier faithful can’t look them in the eye as they stagger out of the arena into another offseason of head-scratching.

 

VCU (24-10, 14-4 Atlantic 10, lost in conference finals)- the Rams get a #10 seed in the West and a trip to Oklahoma City where they will play Oregon State Friday.  Lurking around the corner?  Oklahoma and Player of the year candidate Buddy Heild (providing the Sooners beat Cal State Bakersfield).  From what I understand the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City happen to be located in the same state.

Player to Watch:  Melvin Johnson leads the Rams in scoring, but JeQuan Lewis initiates play on both sides of the floor…running the offense (4.8 assists per game ranked 4th in the A-10) while spearheading the defense that finished 9th in Division I in steals per game.  The junior catalyst is also the team’s best three-point shooter (41% from outside the arc).

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate:  Graduate transfer Korey Billbury came to VCU after three seasons at Oral Roberts.  This winter the guard is second on the Rams in scoring and rebounding while shooting over 40% from three point range…and scored a team-high 19 points against St. Joe’s in the A-10 Finals.  Will this senior shine in March?

Road to the Penthouse:  the Rams upset an Oregon State team that’s reaching the tournament for the first time since Gary Payton was a student in 1990…before their trademark havoc turns Oklahoma inside-out.  Buddy Hield can’t get untracked and the Rams advance to play Texas and Shaka Smart in the Sweet Sixteen.  Smart does chest-bumps with both teams during pre-game introductions.

Road to the Outhouse:  Oregon State behind Gary Payton II (son of you know who) survives the Rams havoc.  By the way, the Beavers also boast high flying Stephen Thompson Jr. (son of the Syracuse guard).  After further investigation, Jarmal Reid is not JR Reid’s son–nor is assistant coach Kerry Rupp the child of the late HOF coach Adolph Rupp, but one had to check.  Leading scorer Melvin Johnson’s two game slump (14 points on 5-13 shooting and 2-9 from three point range) continues…and VCU gets bounced by the Beavers.

Portions also appearing on WTOP.COM.