A bunch of questions (and even a few answers) as a nation works on its bracket and CBS works on unfreezing Dan Bonner and Jim Spanarkel ...
OK, Kansas vs. the field. Whom are you taking?
Gun to my head? I'd have to go with the Jayhawks. I don't love Bill Self, either (he gave an interview yesterday on CBS and seemed to struggle to figure out where the camera was, always a little unsettling) but I think this team is good enough that he'll just stay out of the way. And we know about the killer Midwest bracket, but still. Did you watch the Big 12 title game? Kansas State is good. The Wildcats are Final Four good, even. Kansas handled them. A soup-to-nuts masterpiece of team play. And this was in a game that (big picture) meant nothing to Kansas and a lot more than nothing to Kansas State. Scary. Bottom line? Every other team in the field has at least one weakness, and Kansas has none. Works for me.
(And if Sherron Collins is on the board when the Celtics pick in the first round and they pass, Danny Ainge might have some splainin' to do in a couple of years. Just looking at some online mock drafts, and he's going late first/early second round. Don't fall into the Gerald Green trap again. Teams love to take the guy with untapped talent over the guy that has proven over three or four years that he actually knows how to play basketball. Happened with Ty Lawson last year and it'll happen with Collins this year. And it'll be a mistake again. I'm not saying that Collins is going to be a 10-time All-Star, but at worst I think he's a solid rotation guy for a really good NBA team. Remember that when guys who averaged 4.6 points per game but have a 48-inch vertical go 15 spots before Collins.)
My vote is for the Midwest. Can anyone else figure out why the No. 1 team in the country has the toughest road to Indy? Ohio State has the best player in the country, Tennessee already has beaten Kansas this year (with six scholarship players), Maryland was the co-champ of the ACC in the regular season and Georgetown is a legit Final Four team. Oh, and the other team Kansas lost to this season? Oklahoma State, also in the Midwest. Just a loaded group.
Full disclosure: Like most of America, I hate Duke. Hated Christian Laettner, hated Bobby Hurley, hated Wojo and his floor-slapping. I think Mike Krzyzewski is about 74 percent fraud, truth be told. For all the books and commercials and Dick Vitale backrubs, the guy has won exactly one national title since 1992, or as many as Jim Harrick and Nolan Richardson. Coach K has been Bobby Cox for the last 18 years, always there but almost always short at the end. And for someone who never has had a college team to root for, being able to root against Duke has given me a lot of joy. A grown man should never take pleasure in watching a college kid cry, but I hope for the chance to watch Kyle Singler weep sometime in the next three weeks. I hope, I hope ...
Great. Can we get an answer on worst region?
Sorry, I was getting there. The South, of course. Terrible. One of the worst I've ever seen. There is NO WAY that Duke doesn't get to the Elite Eight. Cal/Louisville winner in the second round and then a possible matchup with fourth-seed Purdue (without Robbie Hummell — and the Boilermakers are losing to Siena in the first round) or fifth-seeded Texas A&M (which is going to lose to Utah State. Book it. You get that double-digit seed vs. double-digit seed second-rounder every couple of years. We are about due. Utah State vs Siena for the right to play Duke in the Sweet 16.) Easy street. Gee, I wonder how this region was put together? It's not like CBS has a $6 billion contract with the NCAA, and I'm sure CBS wouldn't want Duke in the hunt, particularly in a year when there is no North Carolina, UCLA, Indiana or UConn.
You really think CBS and the NCAA made a secret deal to give Duke an easy path to the Final Four?
Probably not, but I still don't get it. I also don't understand why CBS thinks we all love Duke. Of course, CBS also thinks that we loved Tiger Woods (pre "clutch"), Peyton Manning, Kevin James and "Simon & Simon." Well, we did love "Simon & Simon," but you get the point. You and I both know that Duke vs. the winner of the play-in game will be on prime time Friday night, and 90 percent of the country will be stuck watching a 40-point stinker. But don't worry, after the game Coach K will salute the "courage" of the opponent and the CBS studio guys will marvel at his class.
Does Seth Davis play Mitt Romney in the TV movie or is it the other way around?
Tough call. How about we cast them as a father/son duo with a bitter history but a common love for forensics in "CSI: Salt Lake City."
Best guess for a possible "Danny Manning in 1988" kind of performance?
Evan Turner. Fully capable of averaging a 25-12-12 over six games.
Worst guess for a possible "Danny Manning in 1988" kind of performance?
That would be Mr. Rasheed Wallace. Hey, he's still got two years of college eligibility left. Any chance Danny Ainge can lend him to a school for the next month? He could give Kansas 10, 12 minutes off the bench. Another hideous performance vs. the Cavs yesterday (1-of-8 from the field, a plus/minus of minus-17 in 17 minutes) for the man that told us just six months ago that the Bulls' 72-win season was in serious jeopardy. But keep playing him 20 minutes a game, Doc. I'm sure Sheed will get going at some point. It's only been 65 games.
Any thoughts on Jennifer Hudson taking over the "One Shining Moment" duties?
Terrific. Swell. Look, I'm all for tinkering with the three best minutes of the sports year. Any chance we can get Daughtry to work as a sideline reporter during the Final Four? How about Ryan Seacrest covering Amen Corner at The Masters?
If you could ask Dan Guerrero (head of the selection committee) one question, what would it be?
"Do you realize that you look exactly like the late character actor Bruno Kirby? Uncanny."
But my second question would probably be this:
"You told us all about how important a team's finish to the season was in relation to the strength of its seeding. That's why Duke was given the overall 3 seed over Syracuse. So how, then, does Villanova (loser of five of its last seven) get a 2 seed while Temple (10 straight wins) gets a 5? Oh, and Temple has a higher RPI and beat Villanova by 10 points this season. How did this happen?"
Best first-round game?
I'm tempted to pick San Diego State vs. Tennessee, but I have no faith in Steve Fisher. How about Murray State vs. Vanderbilt? Doesn't do it for you? I'll go with Cornell vs. Temple. Everyone's favorite Cinderella taking on a potential Final Four team.
Hey, why can't there be a camera in the room during the actual tournament selection?
That would be the third question for Mr. Guerrero. We aren't exactly electing the Pope, right? So as long as we aren't hiding anything, there shouldn't be a problem. Leave a camera in the room the whole weekend and see what happens. That previous sentence, of course, was the plot for 11 Shannon Tweed films from 1988-94.
(I consider this semi-related, so bear with me. Why aren't the totals for the Academy Award ballots released? Don't you want to know how close "Avatar" came to "The Hurt Locker" for Best Picture? Why doesn't this happen? Possible embarrassment? I think Stanley Tucci will get over the fact that the world knows he got 12 votes for Best Supporting Actor. Fine. I'm half a man and you don't care about the Oscars. I suppose you didn't once wander over to HBO over the weekend and watch "Terms of Endearment," which was on three or four times. I'm not afraid to admit that I did. And guess what? Debra Winger dies. Consider. Yourself. Spoiled.)
How many points a game would Kevin Durant have averaged at Texas this year?
This was the topic of a half-hour phone conversation between my brother and I the other night. Remember, Durant would have been a senior at Texas (think they would have been higher than an 8 seed?) He's averaging 29.7 for the Thunder this season, so I think we have to look at that as the lowest possible number. I'd go with 38.8. You have to factor in blowouts and gimmick defenses, I guess. But I bet he'd be higher than 40 a game in conference.
Best story that everyone is talking about?
Cornell. We all got a kick out of Pete Carril and those Princeton teams over the years, but they were never a real threat. They could put a scare in a team, and maybe even win game, but they were never more than a supporting character in the tournament. A nice first-weekend diversion. But there is a simmering thought Out There that maybe Cornell is more. The Big Red stood nose-to-nose with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, right? They shoot, as a team, 43 percent on 3-pointers (best in the country.) In a year when parity seems to rule, isn't it possible that a team such as Cornell could sneak into the Sweet 16? Who doesn't want to see the Ivy League champ vs. John Calipari and Kentucky? And don't forget the ugly battle the two schools had over signing John Wall.
Worst story that everyone is talking about?
The bubble. For me, there isn't a team that has a huge beef this season. Illinois? A 10-8 record in a down Big Ten and an RPI of 75. Seton Hall? No great wins. Virginia Tech played nobody in its pre-ACC schedule. I guess if I had to take one team out and put one in, I'd swap Florida and Mississippi State, but I can't get worked up over it. Not a single injustice.
Are you ready for 96 teams next year?
Sure, who doesn't want to break down which team deserves the 22 seed in the West region?
Will you be once again be putting together a bracket that ranks the wives of the coaches?
Of course. Why mess with tradition? Let's keep things semi-classy here and just say that in this bracket Syracuse keeps a top seed but we may have to bump Duke down a few spots. And this season I'm even adding the play-in game, which we will refer to as the Lois Tarkanian Invitational.
Who makes the Sweet 16?
Midwest: Kansas, Maryland, Georgetown, Ohio State
West: Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Minnesota
South: Duke, Siena, Baylor, Villanova
East: Kentucky, Temple, Marquette, West Virginia
Midwest: Kansas, Georgetown
West: Syracuse, BYU
South: Duke, Baylor
East: Kentucky, West Virginia
Kansas, BYU, Baylor, West Virginia
Kansas and West Virginia.
And the winner is?
Kansas. Collins as Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.