Archive for March, 2008

31
Mar
08

Fynally, Four

UCLA wins

As anyone with two eyes who’s been outside in the past week knows, a champion will be crowned among UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis and Kansas.

In our Fynal Four Bracket Challenge, things at the top of the pile are a bit more murky.

A human held the early lead as Brittany – an old friend of the Cut – jumped out to a quick start. Despite her dominate first round, Brittany has since been replaced at the top by the Pomeroy Rankings – predictor of six Elite Eight teams.

Along the road, PR’s major slip-ups were picking Davidson to lose in the first round and having confidence (can stats have confidence?) in Duke – enough to justify an Elite Eight run. In the East and South regionals, Pomeroy was wrong just twice.

But although things are tight at the top, each entrant in our top 3 has a different champion. Pomeroy has Kansas winning the whole thing, Brittany (just four points behind) chose UCLA and in a three-way tie for third, ESPN’s Fanation, the Sagarin Rankings and RPI, all have North Carolina.

You may have noticed, it’s pretty machine dominated among the heavy hitters.

Other than all the binary code flying about, CBS’s Stewart Mandel and our very own BabyJ round out the top seven.

Everything is set for a fantastic finish. Can the humans take back the lead? After all, these computers haven’t even SEEN a college basketball game this season.

Stay tuned, it could get interesting…

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26
Mar
08

Birds of a feather

Bird/ReggieNot that it’s a rule or anything, but typically you won’t see much NBA coverage around these parts.

Yours truly should probably be the focus of some pre-pubescent sports/sociology experiment, but somewhere between late summer nights cursing Karl Malone and highlowlights of Ricky Davis purposefully missing a bunny to ensure a triple-double, interest was lost.

A former Indiana Pacers fan, I’ve felt abandoned by the pro game for years. I don’t give two shits if Joakim Noah fits in well in Chicago. Shaq traded to the Suns? Wake me when the playoffs start (and the Suns are ousted in round 2nd).

One recurring NBA issue has captured my attention of late though – the ire that Isaiah Thomas has drawn.

It’s not that I disagree with the criticism Thomas receives, he seems most certainly to be a sub-par coach and an even worse head of basketball operations. It’s just that I’ve come accustomed to such travesty over the past 5 years – but in my own backyard.

Here in the heartland, we have Indiana’s own Larry Bird to do a much more spectacular job of running the hometown franchise into the ground.

In the honeymoon period, when all Hoosiers were googley-eyed just to see Larry Legend back in the public eye, he had a pretty successful run as head coach of the team. Bird was even named Clipboard Holder of the Year at the end of the 1998 season.

But the buttery kernels soon popped. When he was named GM in 2003, Larry took over a team that was in its prime. Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance in 2000 and a couple of Eastern Conference runner-ups, the team took a nosedive. And despite all the struggles, throughout it all, one turtle-necked man keeps lurking in the empty seats of Conseco Fieldhouse.

A recap of the last half-decade of disaster:

2003: After signing Jermaine O’Neal to an NBA-maximum contract (great idea, in retrospect), the Pacers trade All-Star center Brad Miller to Sacramento for Scot Pollard – who hides any ability under a ridiculously flamboyant exterior and a name spelled with just one “t”.

2004-05: Small forward Al Harrington, tired of observing scenery in central Indiana, demands to start or be traded. Bird makes the wise (and community-oriented) decision to trade Harrington to Golden State for upstanding citizen Stephen Jackson. Note: This season also contained somewhat of a skirmish this season in Detroit. Perhaps Larry knew what a great right hook Jackson had. Also of note, after the brawl, the team plummeted out of contention.

Continue reading ‘Birds of a feather’

23
Mar
08

Girls rule, boys drool & robots destroy us all

Honesty hour: I was a little skeptical of how this whole experiment in bracketology would work out, but like an east-coast two seed, I must admit defeat. There are some pretty interesting trends emerging from this small sample in the science of selection. (Look at that, I’m so worked up I’m alliterating)

For starters, the current leader — with the most correct picks and the best possible fynal score — is a close friend of the Cut, Brittany. She still has all her Elite 8 picks in play and can finish with an astounding 176 points if the chips fall her way. I spoke to her on Saturday to ask about the approach she used to make her picks and the answer was something about a “gut feeling” or “woman’s intuition.” I think that’s just code for She-Devil Magic.

The stats actually support my She-Devil Magic theory, as three of the four women in the pool are among the top 10. If not for my fifth-place standing, both FynalCut contributors would be positioned behind their significant others. (Yes, place innuendo here)

The only match for our female friends? Robots. Well, math, but we all know that’s just robot DNA. Ken Pomeroy‘s efficiency ratings are up to their old tricks of serving as the top barometer of tournament talent. The bracket we filled out based on his rankings is currently tied for first — losing only Duke from its Elite 8. The RPI and Sagarin ratings are not far behind, in an eight-way tie for seventh place (along with both FynalCut girls and a small child).

As for the epic battle between bloggers and “professionals,” well, those other guys (and girl) are proving why they get paid. (except for you Seth Davis — you’ve got some explaining to do) SI’s Luke Winn and Pete Gillin’s mug from CBS are tied for third just two points back from our leaders, then I am the lone blogger among the top 10, tied with Sports Illustrated’s Kelli Anderson for fifth place. Our own FynalCut creator and Seth Davis are bringing up the rear among sports analysts. Sorry buddy — full disclosure is a part of journalism. At least you can claim to be as good as Seth Davis…

The absolute worst scores, however, belong to the “Places I’ve been” bracket (school in Indiana, brother at Kent State, cousin at Marquette…), a small child is just ahead of that one, and just ahead of a 7-year old: our only two entrants with on-court experience. Former Hoosier Rod Wilmont and Ft. Wayne Mad Ants head coach Jaren Jackson have first week scores of 34 and 37, respectively.

The lessons here: Just cuz you played or coached the game, doesn’t make you any better at predicting it (isn’t that right Bobby Knight? Pittsburgh? Really?); analysts hold the upper hand on bloggers (as if their whole “making money” wasn’t enough); robots hold the upper hand on analysts (proving they will soon replace every job); and fellas, don’t ever, ever underestimate the power that is wielded by women on a daily basis. And that’s a lesson that extends beyond basketball.

[Keep visiting the Cut this week for more thorough breakdowns of the first weekend. We’ll look into what separated the men from the boys, the women from the men, and pretty much everybody from “The Sports Guy” and his wife. Also, a look ahead to what might go down in Rounds III and IV.]

21
Mar
08

Early results…Girls rule

W. Ken.We’re pretty well into our Fynal Four Bracket Challenge, and results are starting to take shape.

So far, one of our female contestants – Brittney – is firmly in the lead.

With 24 games complete, she picked an astounding 23 correctly…only San Diego’s upset of UConn threw her off.

BabyJ is in second with 20 games picked correctly, but after that it gets murky.

When the picks of FanNation are tied for third, you know it’s still early.

Anyway folks, I’ll be live-blogging the Indiana-Arkansas game over at si.com tonight, so come harrass me if you’ve got the time.

More results to come…

19
Mar
08

Like Christmas Eve

Bryce hits itIt’s almost here.

The best four-day weekend since BabyJ faked that STD to get out of his job at Subway and we hitch-hiked to that poncho festival in Montana.

But that’s another story for another time.

We’ve got exciting things brewing in these parts. Our Fynal Four Bracket Challenge is filling up.

Over the next few days, after each round, we’re going to hit you fine folks up with breakdowns of how our test subjects fared.

And boy do we have test subjects.

We’ve got brackets from bloggers representing Web favorites such as Awful Announcing and Storming the Floor.

We’ve got one from former Indiana Hoosier and current NBA-D League player Rod Wilmont.

We’ve also got former Georgetown Hoya, NBA Champion and current D-League coach Jaren Jackson.

We have brackets picked by Sagarin, Pomeroy and RPI rankings, brackets picked by girls (you heard that right) and even some from the casual fans. Not to mention your classic “mascots” and “Places I’ve been or where I know people” methods.

To top it all off, we’ve thrown in the sheets from the good folks at si.com, a few folks from CBS (including Greg Doyel’s chin fuzz) and the only ESPN personalities with enough brass to reveal their picks before the tourney starts: Joe Lunardi, Bill Simmons and Bill Simmon’s wife.

So, it could be said, we have a lot of brackets.

Will the girls outpick the guys? Will the player outpick the coach? Will the bloggers outpick the mainstream media?

You’ll have to stay tuned, your first round recap will be here shortly.

17
Mar
08

Is that a bracket in your pants or are just excited for March?

March is madLike the good people at Sports Illustrated said, “Let the Madness Begin.”

Here at the Cut, we’re going to have some excellent coverage coming up this week:

Yours truly will be live-blogging a few of the first- and second-round games over at the aforementioned si.com, we’ve got a massive bracket experiment going down (see below) and if you behave, BabyJ might even drop some printable bracket knowledge on yas.

It’s going to be a fun week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want to be a part of FynalCut lore (BabyJ and I will probably remember your name), follow the link below and fill out a bracket.

The results are going to be part of quite the in-depth investigation we’ll have throughout the tournament as to who knows their shit, and who is full of it.

Let the best week in sports…begin!

Head here to fill out a bracket. The password is “tourneytime”.

13
Mar
08

And the blogger is…

Mystery menYou may have noticed, it’s been pretty popular lately for bloggers to “come out of the closet,” if you will.

Not to declare their homosexuality (usually), but rather, just to reveal their “real world” identities.

This started when the hilarious and, come to find out, hilariously successful fellas behind firejoemorgan.com revealed themselves as accomplished television writers for hit shows.

Today, SI.com’s Richard Deitsch broke the story of the man behind thebiglead.com. And you’ll never guess who he is!!

Well, he’s a 30-year-old freelancer who lives in Brooklyn. Maybe you could have guessed that one.

But besides keeping Deitsch employed with once-a-month columns, what is the purpose of these revelations?

In the first example, I can see none. You are already rich, famous writers who party with beautiful women. You probably even type on Macs. Why don’t you leave some of the glory for the rest of us, FJM?

The second case is a little more understandable. If I was a struggling freelancer (wait a minute…), I would probably want my name all over the Web. It would probably bring a greater chance of getting hired. No shame in that. In fact, if I were behind The Big Lead, I would probably celebrate the good work I had done openly.

But the question is, as a reader of these sites, why do I care who’s behind them?

Continue reading ‘And the blogger is…’