Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This is shaping up to be a fun tournament

This March I will get to make my sixth trip to the NCAA basketball tournament when the regional is played at Reliant Stadium in Houston (and maybe a first round trip as well if things go right).

The NCAA Tournament is easily one of the best events in all of sports. I have had the privilege of going as a fan twice, a member of the media and twice working the event. I have seen the games from the nose-bleeds and five feet from the court. The best part of the tournament experience, is it doesn't matter where I have been sitting, the games are just as exciting.

The way things are going this season, the tournament is shaping up to be a very good, balanced field. There just isn't that one great team that looks like they can run away with it. Kentucky is very good, but they are young and that scares me. The rest of the contenders have all shown a tendency to take a night off. In the Dance you can't afford to let that happen.

That is why this year's field could be a really fun one to see play out. There might be 15 teams capable of winning six straight in March. It just seems this season there have been a lot of top-10 teams losing to unranked opponents. Even when a pair of top-25's hook up, the lower-ranked team has been the team pulling out the win.

There are some mid-majors that can get in the dance and make some noise this year that wouldn't be a surprise. Northern Iowa looks to be tough, as does Butler and St. Mary's. While debatable about actually being a mid-major, Gonzaga is a threat again this year.

While I expect a few mids to make some noise early, I think the surprise this year could come from the mid-ranged seeded teams. Two years ago, every No. 1 seed made it to the Final Four. I could very easily see none make it this year. And while it is unlikely, there might not be a 2-seed advance to the last weekend either.

The way things are shaping up this year, this might be the season for the teams in the 5-9 range to make some noise. That is where you will see might see Baylor, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Georgia Tech and a handful of Big East teams. All are capable of winning a few games and getting a step away from Indianapolis.

The tournament is less than two months away and there is still a lot of basketball to be played. But if the first two months are any indication, this year's bracket will be anything but chalk.

Speaking of the Big Dance...

Just looking ahead at the future NCAA Tournament sites, there are lots of opportunites within driving distance over the next few years to go watch basketball in March.

This year the NCAA Regional will be in Houston, but 2011 is the year I really have my eye on. The Regional is in San Antonio and the Final Four will be in Houston. Tulsa will be hosting as well in the first round, meaning I could cross one thing off my list if I can go watch all three weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Here are the opportunities over the next few years:

2011 Division I Men's Basketball Championship

1st and 2nd Rounds: March 18 and 20
BOK Center, Tulsa, OK
Host: University of Tulsa

Southwest Regional: March 25 and 27
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Host: University of Texas-San Antonio

Final Four: April 2 and 4
Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX
Hosts: University of Houston, Rice University

2012 Division I Men's Basketball Championship

Final Four: March 31 and April 2
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Host: Tulane University

2013 Division I Men's Basketball Championship

1st and 2nd Rounds: March 22 and 24
Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX
Host: University of Texas

South Regional: March 29 and 31
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington/Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
Host: Big 12 Conference

2014 Division I Men's Basketball Championship

Final Four: April 5 and 7
Cowboys Stadium, North Texas
Host: Big 12 Conference

2016 Division I Men's Basketball Championship

Final Four: April 2 and 4
Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX
Host: University of Houston, Rice University

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The BCS Championship game

Here is my running blog of the BCS title game. Just some random thoughts as the game goes. They might not even have anything to do with what is actually happening on the field.

11:35 p.m.
With the pending legislation in Washington right now, Alabama might be the last FBS "National Champion" for a long time as long as they don't determine it with a tournament.

11:30 p.m.
Not that it really matters, but who is No. 2, Florida or Boise? I hope it is Boise. Don't want the SEC to go 1-2.

11:25 p.m.
Blake Gideon probably cost Texas a chance at two national championships. If he intercepts the ball last season against Tech, Texas probably plays for it. This year if he doesn't intercept the ball on the fake punt, everything is then different with Texas' play calling and Colt doesn't get hurt. That has to be tough to live with.

11:10 p.m.
You have to hand it to Colt for stepping in front of a mic and take some questions right there at the end. That couldn't have been easy.

11:07 p.m.
If I am Saban, I frame that shirt, stained and all. I wouldn't let that thing hit a washing machine.

11:03 p.m.
The art of the Gatorade shower has been lost. I have seen too many bad Gatorade showers where the cooler hits the coach. You guys are too big and strong to let that happen. 37-21 Bama, Final

11:00 p.m.
Gilbert and the Texas D made this a much more interesting that it looked like it was going to be at halftime. Just too much to ask after losing McCoy. Game plan and everything had to be changed. Everyone on the offense had to do things differently.

Once again, can't believe they looked at that. Pretty clear cut and the official was right on top of the play.

You knew they would go to the Heisman winner there. As expected he punched it in. Would have been really disappointing if he didn't. Hate it when Heisman winners don't perform in the bowls. Bama 31-Texas 21 2:01 to play.

Any chance they hold them to a field goal???

10:49 p.m.
Herbie just jinxed them. Asking Gilbert to rally the troops was probably asking a little too much. It was fun for a while thinking what if.

10:47 p.m.
No matter what, Texas should have a top 3 preseason ranking next year now that there won't be as many questions about the Horn offense heading into 2010.

10:45 p.m.
Does this just have the same feeling as the last time Texas was here?

10:44 p.m.
This is a huuuge play for Texas. Need a stop on third and long

10:39 p.m.
Do we see Ingram on this drive? They need him here.

10:35 p.m.
That is why they should have gotten Shipley involved earlier in the game. The guy is a playmaker. He is just about the only one Texas has on the field right now. How is Alabama letting him get that open??? There is no one else on the field who can hurt you. 24-21 Bama, 6:15 to play

10:33 p.m.
Herbie, we have a game now 11 points with 7:30 to play. You don't have to make something of it that isn't there. just call the damn game.

10:32 p.m.
Gilbert is getting no help around him. Too many penalties and drops.

10:28 p.m.
College football looks at waaaaay too much stuff for review. I didn't think that was even close live. If you look at any play close enough, you can probably pick it apart.

10:26 p.m.
Texas is going to need points of some sort here on this drive. It need to happen fast as well.

10:21 p.m.
Not a good call on the PI. Let's see how it affects this drive. Another 15 yards against Texas. Both weak calls.

10:20 p.m.
How different is this game right now if Texas takes a knee at the end of the half.

10:17 p.m.
Texas defense playing like we thought they would. Just like the offense was flat after McCoy was hurt, I think it took a little out of the defense as well.

10:08 p.m.
Texas pulling out all the stops. ABC has to love this. It is a game again. Well on second look, I think that was just a lucky bounce on what was just a low squib kick.

10:06 p.m.
You had to figure they were going to find Shipley eventually.

10:01 p.m.
Usually if you are the quarterback at a school like Texas, your first few games are against North Texas, UTEP and New Mexico. Not Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Can't blame Gilbert for not being ready for this. He went to LA wondering what his $500 bowl gift was going to be. He had no concern for the coverages in the Bama secondary or the blitz schemes he was going to see.

10:00 p.m.
Gilbert might be the quarterback of the future for Texas, but at what point do you worry about his confidence going forward? This could be mentally damaging for a long time.

9:54 p.m.
ESPN is showing 30 for 30. The Deuce has World's Strongest Man. Next year, the Southland needs to see if we can get in this time slot for a basketball game. Might be our best shot at a ESPN appearance.

9:48 p.m.
OK. Shipley has to make that catch. Never mind.

9:47 p.m.
Got to find more ways to get the ball in the hands of Shipley. Too good of an athlete not to be involved in the game like this.

9:46 p.m.
A Williams receiver for Texas with multiple drops in the game. Where have I seen this one before???

9:41 p.m.
On my ESPN Streak for the Cash, I decided to go with Ingram rushing for more than 53 yards in the first half. I got the win for that one. Now I need to have a touchdown of 30 yards for more in the second half to give me three wins for the day.

9:38 p.m.
A fan on the field might be the most exciting thing to happen in the second. Half. I hate when tv stations cut away to something else while they are chasing the "idiot" around. I like what ABC did just now. They went to the blimp cam so you could see what was going on, just no closeups to give the guy his moment of glory.

9:36 p.m.
Gilbert has virtually no chance of getting back into this game, but the penalties are not going to help the kid out.

9:30 p.m.
WOW. The ABC scoreboard to start the second half was 0-0. Is Fox running this production?

9:28 p.m.
The Horns need to go a different route with this offense right now. Gilbert may have a great future ahead of him, but that can only go so far. With no McCoy they rest of the way, I don't like the way this second half is going to go.

9:24 p.m.
Was Corso drunk during that halftime report? I didn't understand anything he was trying to say. Just spit it out already. It might be time to send him the way of Beano Cook.

9:20 p.m.
So does Colt pull a second half Willis Reid and try to came back in and play? I would have to think he is going to try and give it a shot. I just can't imagine a senior not going to give it a go. Even if he is just out giving handoffs, I think there might just be a little more life in this Texas team. They are dead right now and they need something to pick them up. I don't think there is any way they come back to win this, but they could at least keep it respectable.

9:11 p.m.
Texas is now down 24-6 at the half and this thing is over. I am sure at this point they are looking for Legendary Texas High School coach Bud Kilmer to give McCoy and injection so he can finish the game. The question is, does Jordan Shipley step in and do his best James Vanderbeek and stop it from happening?

9:08 p.m.
You could tell Saban isn't even excited about this game because Colt is not in there. It has even taken the edge out of him. He is not even interested in the game anymore.

9:03 p.m.

9:00 p.m.
A minor victory for the Longhorns. Crazier things have happened, but I just don't see them coming back. They can at least feel somewhat good about their chances.

8:57 p.m.
If Mark Ingram wore No. 23 instead, would people still compare him to Emmitt.

8:55 p.m.
If Texas can hold them here to at least a field goal, they can consider this still a ballgame.

8:51 p.m.
I will not recognize this victory for Bama. I put is in the same category as the Rockets two championships. Put a big * next to this one.

8:46 p.m.
This game really has lost its shine. How does ABC keep anyone around after halftime. Can't wait to hear the enlightening conversations Herbie and Musberger have.

8:41 p.m.
Well that should just about do it for this game. I don't think they can sneak VY into the game as the unknown "third stringer" 14-6 Bama 2nd quarter.

8:37 p.m.
Texas is going to have to create something on defense. I don't see the offense putting a drive together. I love how Herbie is trying to keep it interesting. "This is a young man with a great arm and he will be able to throw it around if Davis wants to open up the offense."

8:32 p.m.
Anything else good on TV tonight? 7-6 Alabama 2nd quarter.

8:27 p.m.
If Gilbert can't go, they just need to put Shipley in the shotgun and go Wildcat the rest of the way.

8:24 p.m.
Kirk Herbstreet has gotten worse the longer he has worked with Musburger.

8:20 p.m.
That is ball game. There is no way Texas comes back to win this game if Colt is not in the game.

8:11 p.m.
If Colt is going to be out the rest of the way, Texas has to come away with more than six points there on those two possessions. Even if the defense plays lights out, those two series might have cost them the title. 6-0 Texas 1st quarter.

7:40 p.m.
Wow. Can't believe Saban just called that fake punt. I thought he was going to be the difference maker in this game, but not because he was going to make decisions like that.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Boys back in postseason

Last week we knew the Cowboys were back in the playoffs for the first time in two years. Now we know the opponent and where.

With a win over the Eagles, the Cowboys win the NFC East and get a first round home game and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The problem is, the first round opponent for Dallas is Philadelphia.

I guess that is why I am not as excited about the playoffs as I probably should be. It is not even about the whole "you can't beat a team three times in one season." I don't buy into that theory. It only gets talked about when it doesn't happen. No one keeps track of the times someone has beaten a team three times in one season.

What makes me nervous is Philly. The recent history between the two has not been kind. Yes the Cowboys took both games this season, but you don't have to look far to find a 44-6 beating at the hand of the Eagles to keep Dallas out of the playoffs last season. Andy Reid and Donavan McNabb have been a thorn in the side of the Cowboys for a long time which is one reason why I despise them so.

Two years ago I thought it was the year. Dallas had a great season end after the first playoff game in a loss to the Giants. The aftermath of that game was not pretty and spawned the creation of this blog. But that year they went into the playoffs losers of two of their last three and couldn't turn it back on after playing so well all season long.

2006 was much the same. Dallas backed into the playoffs losing three of the last four after an 8-4 start to the season. They ended up having to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs and lost a heart-breaker to Seattle.

That is why I am hoping this year is different. Dallas has won three straight including two wins against playoff teams (New Orleans and Philly). They are peaking at the right time which is something they have not been able to do the last three years.

They started the run with a win on the road at New Orleans against an undefeated Saints squad no one thought Dallas would beat. They then knocked off Washington on the road followed by today's win against Philly.

The best part about the last two games is they have done it with a stifling defense. By blanking both Washington and Philly, the Cowboys recorded the first back-to-back shutouts in franchise history. Take a moment to let that sink in -- first time EVER. That is not just the JJ era, but Tom's boys as well. The Doomsday Defense never had consecutive games like Dallas just did.

When you look at the playoff picture, there is reason for hope. Just like the Cowboys last two trips to the playoffs, the top contenders are not going in on a high note. Top-seeded New Orleans is riding a three-game losing streak after having visions of a perfect season. Minnesota is not playing much better. Sure they thumped New York today, but it was a lame-duck Giant squad that had nothing to play for. The previous four weeks, Minnesota has just one win to show for its efforts. Even the fourth seeded Cardinals are just 2-2 in their last four.

That is why there is reason to be optimistic about a playoff run. That is also what makes Saturday's playoff game even more nerve racking. In a year when things look like they might be setting up for the Cowboys, you have the Eagles standing in the way. Today's result really means nothing as far as how the playoff game will be played. You can't expect the Cowboys to shut out the Eagles again, and you can't expect Philly to play this bad again. I never felt comfortable about the game this week and I won't ever feel comfortable about next week's game until it is over.