Hope you enjoyed the weekend. It was a flurry of buzzer-beaters and bracket-busters that left everyone checking the scores and re-checking their sheets and wondering, "we should have known FGCU was going to make a run."
From the "Talks too much studios" let's make like Aaron Craft and do work.
OK, we know that FGCU is the story of the first weekend, the Eagles knocking off No. 2-seeded Georgetown and San Diego State to become the first 15-seed to ever advance to the Sweet 16. We know their coach Andy Enfield, who married a former supermodel who notched covers of Maxim and Vogue and worked for Victoria's Secret, is in line for a monster raise that befits his many talents. Dude made $138K this season and delivered more bang for the buck than anyone this side of the person who bought the $338 million lottery ticket over the weekend.
Here's what else we believe after watching a season's worth of college hoops in a four-day span:
• College basketball, we miss you. Yes, the tournament and the drama are great, but that's the stage and the setting more than the game.
• The elite Big Ten teams — Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan — are still dancing and have provided some of the best games of the draw, especially Sunday's wins by IU and THE Ohio State, which advanced on Aaron Craft's pure 3 with less than a second left
• The brackets have been as entertaining as ever. Our bracket is perfect in the Midwest, and we have 13 of the Sweet 16. We're happy with this.
• The "First 1 out, last 'dog in contest" has three folks with a chance to sweep both entries — the 5-at-10, WarEagle and BackupQB — each of whom had Gonzaga as the first No. 1 seed to be dismissed and Oregon as the last double-digit seed. There are still other underdogs that could be the last one left, but those three are the winners. We need a tie-breaker. More on this to come.
• We know the Mountain West Conference is a complete and total farce. The league was listed as the top-ranked conference by most rankings and it has exactly as many Sweet 16 teams as the SoCon. Bagel. And nice one-and-done New Mexico.
• We know the tournament is a little less intriguing without Ole Miss shooter, scorer, antagonizer Marshall Henderson. Dude could get a shot off in a crowded elevator and had the Waffle House approach — always open and always ready to sling it — that we can surely appreciate.
• We also know that TNT, CBS and the rest of the folks that broadcast the tournament have done a nice job all the way around. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr are a good announcing tandem. (We could do without Craig Sager dumping a front-end-loader of yellow snow, but still.) We also commend the guys for using the strengths they have at their disposal, and the core group of TNT's NBA studio show of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley is dynamite and has been outstanding TV.
• If you had a Rushmore of breakout stars in this March Madness, we'll list Enfield, Chuck Barkley (who has been aces on his commentary and starred in the credit card commercials), Aaron Craft and the folks making the Oregon uniforms. We dig Oregon's always changing color combos; it's their schtick. But some of the other threads — Cincy's was a debacle; Louisville's was less than good — have left a lot to be desired.
The basketball has been engaging. The storylines have been enjoyable. The announcing has even been entertaining for the most part.
That said, the NCAA tournament is still not without controversy.
First, the seedings for a couple of these teams has been slap puzzling. La Salle got one of the last at-large bids and now has three wins and is a No. 13 in the Sweet 16. FGCU is a complete stunner, so that one was a wash.
But Oregon? There were several folks — notably StuckinKent — who emailed or texted us as soon as the bracket was released that the Ducks were seeded as many as six spots too low. Yes, SIX. And the Ducks, who struggled with injuries in their backcourt, are fully healthy and rolling. Oregon could easily take down top-seeded Louisville, yet the Duckers were a 12 seed.
Plus, the fact Gonzaga got a No. 1 seed seems laughable now. We believed it when the brackets were released, and it likely will be a long time before the Zags are placed on that type of pedestal again. The committee hit 11 of the 16 teams in which the seedings held true, however.
The committee's head-scratching placement though seems secondary compared to the bad officiating that has become the elephant in the room when watching these games. Yes, players and coaches are always going to complain about officials. And the next player who thinks he did commit a foul, point him out, so we can introduce him to any wide receiver who believes he's not open on every pass play ever.
Still, the calls have been bad at best, and at worst they have been season-ending. Iowa State got jobbed against THE Ohio State (yes, Craft made a big shot but without the bad call, that 3 is likely going to be meaningless), and that was far from the only mistake.
Calling a basketball game is tough stuff. We get it. But it's hard to remember a time when the officiating has been worse.
Here are the two things that drive the slide:
First, the charge has become the default call for officials. Whether they want to reward someone for trying to make the hustle play of taking a charge or not, who knows? What we do know is that it has become laughable, and sadly about 2/3 of the calls are now offensive fouls.
Second, and this is even more flummoxing, referees now are expecting contact. Be it in transition or against a post player or a guy that we all know is going to the basket, officials seem to believe they know a foul is about to happen and blow the whistle regardless.
Tiger on the move
OK, this is starting to get a little bit interesting.
Tiger Woods was only slowed by the weather Sunday, needing just six shots in two holes to take a three-shot lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Heavy rains and high winds — there was a fish in a large puddle in the 18th fairway for crying out loud — forced play to stop until 10 a.m. today, and if Woods holds on he would reclaim his spot as the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world.
Yes, Tiger Woods likely will be back atop the rankings by day's end. It's a journey that will generate a slew of spilt ink. And there will be more than a few discussions about whether he's back (he's not back to his dominating level because, let's face it, other than Barry Bonds, what athlete was better at 37 than they were at 25; plus Woods was at such a pinnacle in the early 2000s, returning to that status would be matching the greatest run in professional golf history).
Either way, it's great for the game of golf and could make the Masters even more entertaining, if that's possible.
And if he doesn't hold on today at Arnie's event, and one of the big names in the star-studded chasing Tiger catches him, it's still going to be entertaining in Augusta. Heck, if you had to pick right now, are you taking Tiger or the field in three weeks. (Take the field of course, but it's getting closer.)
One thing to watch today to see the status of Woods' game — his putting stroke on those 5-to-10-footers. When he's rolling those confidently, watch out. And keep watching, because something special could happen.
This and that
— Speaking of Bay Hill, UTC golfer Steven Fox missed the cut at Arnold's event, one of the several big events that extended an exemption to Fox after he won the U.S. Amateur last August.
— And, if you have not seen Sergio Garcia playing shot from a tree — yes, you read that correctly — well, here you go. And to prove that it truly is good luck only in Haiti as Al Czervik told us in Caddyshack, Garcia made a double bogey on the hole and later withdrew from the tournament.
— Tough loss for the UTC Lady Mocs in College Station against a Nebraska team that was easily the best No. 6 seed out there. Great year for Wes Moore and Co.
— And the Heat keep rolling, winning No. 26 in a row on Sunday with Dwyane Wade sitting out by destroying a Charlotte Bobcats team that is worse than bad. LeBron was awesome in his awesomeness as usual. Also of note, Juwan Howard made his season debut. Yes, that Juwan Howard of the Fab Five, who is playing in his 19th season. Wow, it's been 20 years since Webber's TO and the Fab Five.
— Derek Jeter likely will open the season on the DL for a Yankees team that may finish in last place in the AL East. How desperate and injury-riddled are the Yankees? They are about to trade for Vernon Wells, he of the nine-figure contract who managed all of 36 homers and 97 RBIs in 208 games since signing a monster contract with the Angels.
Feel free to flow with the open mic-ness of a Monday, but if you need a talking point, here are but three:
One, what was the NCAA tournament highlight for you?
Two, how'd your bracket(s) fare?
Three, Alabama fan Harvey Updyke got three years for poisoning the famed trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner. The trees got a death sentence and are scheduled to be removed in late April, a few days after Auburn's spring game. Updyke's sentence states he must spend at least six months in jail — he's already served 104 days — and serve five years of probation, which includes a 7 p.m. curfew and prohibits him from going to Auburn's campus and attending any college sporting event. Does this seem fair? (Nice touch by the judge on the college sports ban, by the way — that's hitting Harvey where he lives.)
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...