From the "Talk Too Much studios," let's go.
The madness of March
There were two entertaining games last night - Western Kentucky edging MVSU and BYU completing a historic rally to top Iona - and with them, the ball was tipped in arguably the best week in sports. There will be two more games tonight as four teams aim for the final two spots in the field of 64, which begins at noon on Thursday with a full-blown Shoney's breakfast bar of hoops.
So are you ready? Is your bracket ship-shape? Have you entered the 5-at-10 Overrated/Underrated Challenge? (Send us who you think will be the first No. 1 seed to get bounced and the last double-digit seed left in the field. Either e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or put it in the comments below. You could win some Final Four stuff. The 5-at-10's picks are Syracuse/Xavier.)
OK, as for your bracket, let's review a few things?
Do you have a No. 12 seed winning? If you do - and you should - you should ride them to the Sweet 16. (And we like Long Beach State a lot.)
Do you have all the No. 1s in the Final Four? Know that only once has all four top seeds advanced to the Final Four. In fact, according to Vegas there is a better chance of none of the No. 1s making the Final Four (roughly 5-to-1) than all the No. 1s making the Final Four (82-to-1).
Do you have a team seeded worse than No. 4 winning it all? That's happened only three times and not since 1988 when sixth-seeded Kansas won it all.
Do you have Kentucky winning the whole thing? Not a bad play, since according to our man RJ Bell of pregame.com, Vegas has Kentucky twice as likely as any team in the field to win it all.
Do you have some power programs in the finals? Good, Vegas is offering an even-money bet that the winner will be either from the power five of Kentucky, UNC, Ohio State, Michigan State and Duke or from the other 59 teams in the bracket. Who you got?
We're roughly 24 hours away from the Madness hitting full speed. Giddy-up.
5-at-10 Bracket rules
We've won a few tournament pools in our time (they were simply for fun and price, no prizes awarded, of course) and we're entered in a couple this year. That said, we've lost more than we've won and we've lost to a variety of picking plans. Some people pick the nicest uniforms. Some pick the most ferocious mascots. Some people pick which teams have the cutest coach. (Seriously, although finding photos of all 64 coaches seems like more research than looking to see who's good. But that could explain why Jim Boeheim has perpetually underachieved in the tournament. Let's just move along.)
Here are our ways of handicapping teams and tournament chances:
- Defense never slumps. Great offensive teams are fun to watch but great shooting teams can slump (especially in huge arenas with tough backgrounds). Defense, however, is constant whether you're playing at your neighborhood gym or the Georgia Dome.
- Experience counts. Teams with older lineups get a slight edge. Teams with rosters loaded with tournament experience get a little bigger edge, especially in the first weekend.
- Stars shine. Let's call this the Kemba Walker/Danny Manning corollary. Great players routinely deliver great moments on this great stage. Look for game-changers and you should have a pretty good idea who will get the last shot for each team in your Elite Eight. If you don't, well, you better know if the head coach is dreamy.
NFL free agency
Wow, the ink - and the cash - was flying Tuesday afternoon in the first day of NFL free agency.
Some names you know that were making a lot of money:
- WR Vincent Jackson signed with Tampa Bay
- WR Reggie Wayne resigned with Indianapolis
- CB Terrell Thomas resigned with the New York Giants
- CB Cortland Finnegan signed with St. Louis
- DE Red Bryant resigned with Seattle
- QB Jason Campbell signed with Chicago
- WR Pierre Garcon signed with Washington
- CB Carlos Rogers resigned with San Francisco
Other than the role call above, here are the three things to know about free agency so far:
- The Titans are making a mad push to land Peyton Manning. It would be such a win-win for the Titans and Manning, and if he does come to Nashville, the No. 18 (or maybe even a No. 16?) Titans jersey will become the top-seller in the NFL.
- The Bucs had the most cap room and appear to be using it. In addition to Jackson, who got a five-year, $55 million deal, the Bucs are close to adding CB Eric Wright and G Carl Nicks.
- The Buffalo Bills are trying to land Mario Williams, the biggest defensive name on the board. If the Bills could land the former No. 1 overall pick, it would be very similar to Reggie White signing with Green Bay a generation ago.
This and that
- Dwight Howard went for 24 points and 25 rebounds in the Magic's overtime win over the Miami Heat. Amid all the trade talk and confusion - the NBA trade deadline is 48 hours away - Howard's numbers were somewhat of a back story. Well, this is not a back story: Last night was the 40th, and since 1977, there are only four players who have 40 career 20-20 games. Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwan, Chuck Barkley and now Howard.
- Shhhhh. The Lakers are starting to play. And after scoring 37 points and grabbing 16 boards last night, we are starting to understand why the Lakers were unwilling to trade Andrew Bynum.
- Nice win for Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin and the Vols last night in the first round of the NIT. Sure, say what you want about the "Not Interested Tournament," but this tournament for this team in The Conz's first year has a lot of value.
- Part one of our SEC ace David Paschall's spring practice capsules is here (More March mania: SEC West football). Enjoy, and the East capsules will be in Thursday's TFP.
- Related football note: According to GeauxTigers.com, none of the kickers - including female soccer player Mo Ison - trying to walk on to the LSU football team made the cut.
- Chipper Jones backed away from the injury talk and the retirement talk Tuesday. We figured as much and we'll stand by the statement that Jones will be pretty solid this year - health willing. Something like .280-15-70 and an anchor in the clubhouse. There is not a more professional hitter in the game right now.
- The Chicago Bears traded two third-round picks for super-talented Dolphins wide out Brandon Marshall, and before you could say, "Wow, that seems like a steal for the Bears," word started leaking that Marshall was involved in a bar fight in NYC over the weekend. He has even been accused of punching a woman, and if the allegations are true he could face a multiple-game suspension. At the very least, the "Chico Bail Bonds" Bears is a fitting spot for Mr. Marshall. Enjoy.
The Madness is here. And we're all stoked about it.
Now's your chance to call your shot. (And don't forget about the 5-at-10 Overrated/Underrated challenge.)
Give us you prediction and let it fly.
Do you think Syracuse will still make a run without Fab Melo? Do you think Alabama can make a run? Do you UNC is finally going to live up to its potential?
Bring it and call your shot.