Don’t Worry

I did not have this affect me. To be quite frank, I don’t twitter anyway and probably won’t in the foreseeable future. I do have a Facebook page, but I’m pretty much never on it during the day. Apparently, the whole episode is related to global politics. In a perverse way, I suppose this could be a clever way to silence dissent. Of course, I hope web security continues to improve so nothing like this happens again for a while. It will eventually, in my view. Just like steroids in sports, it’s hard to stay one step ahead of the people who are concocting whatever schemes we try to stop.

Anyway, the real reason I was away from the blog for most of the week is that I have been interviewing for potential new work opportunities- right now I only do some limited part-time stuff, so I am looking for a bit more steady work. Outside of that, I try to mix in blogging and hard work finding those job advertisements. We’ll see how that all shakes out going forward. I do have one strong possibility I will be mulling over during the coming weekend (possibly out here) Since the unemployment rate dropped slightly, I guess things can only get better than, at least the markets think so. Quite a few economists and/or pundits, however, think otherwise, and at the moment, they’re probably right. Even the President seems to acknowledge that the rate is probably going to head up unless either a lot more people stop trying to work, job cuts suddenly stop for one reason or another, or something else happens to confound current projections.

Whatever. It’s Friday, so we’ll cut the gloom for a couple of days at least! Enjoy Yankees-Red Sox instead.


There Are Two Places…

Thus begins Walter Cronkite’s supposed quote about Colgate University. He might have said and meant it, or maybe he didn’t, just as Yogi Berra joked about his infamous quotations (and later titled a book in the same manner). Doesn’t matter to us Colgate-types who actually lived the school. We wear it like a badge every time Spring Party Weekend comes around. Is it as crazy now as it supposedly was “back then”? I’d have no way to tell you; nobody else in my family has gone there and I don’t know too many older alums.

Actually, I do have one piece of anecdotal evidence to at least put Colgate up there with anyone else’s springtime festivities. Last year, my brother was a freshman at another prestigious liberal arts school (actually, it’s more of a small ‘full-service’ university). His version of SPW was the same week as ours. More students, more endowment, and arguably bigger-name musical acts, all over there, halfway across the country. And when I asked him how it was going early on the Saturday night, he and some of his friends were just about done. Some wouldn’t even wake up for the big concert.

I laughed. That would never happen at Colgate. From mid-afternoon Friday until the bars closed early on Sunday morning, it always was and still is pretty much non-stop anything and everything goes. Somehow, I only really experienced one SPW in this vein- last year. Not much of anything doing my first couple of years (to be fair, the event and Colgate’s social scene generally were undergoing some renovations), then I was abroad as a junior. Maybe it’s a good thing, as I’ll carry some distinct memories for a while to come of times and drinks shared just before the final push to graduation and real life. If that last point’s true, then when someone asks me about Colgate and SPW before experiencing it, my description won’t be a blurred compilation of years or complaints about the event getting worse as my four years progressed.

Of course, I’ll still start him or her off with Walter Cronkite’s quote. After all, he did give us a near mythological reputation to live up to.

Apologies for my relative lack of stories or specificity. Maybe I’ll do that later, but for now, I think that in an era of loose talk on facebook or the blogosphere frequently carrying unanticipated consequences, it’s probably better to keep the details private!

Game, Set & Match (NCAA Championship Instant Reaction)

Ty Lawson celebrates a good play

Ty Lawson celebrates a good play

Source: UNC’s Athletic Department website.

Wow, North Carolina made that look easy.

55-34 at the half, the highest point total and lead any team has ever had in the title game. Michigan State had more turnovers (14) than field goals (12) in the first half, and for the game it was 22 field goals to 21 turnovers. Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, and Travis Walton all held to under five points apiece. A double-digit UNC lead from virtually the first TV timeout-on. Boom. Good night; the 89-72 score being mostly window-dressing and an opportunity for players to pad their stats in the final period.

Seriously though. You gotta give the Tar Heels credit for this performance. Everybody stood out tonight. Ty Lawson had to be stopped for Michigan State to contend. Result? 21 points, a final game record eight steals, six assists, and one turnover. MOP (aka “MVP”) Wayne Ellington- 7-12 on field goals and 19 points total. Oh, and that Hansbrough kid? Yeah, he signed off on college pretty nicely, grabbing 18 points. He also leads a class of seniors that won a school-record 124 games. Thanks to Lawson’s spectacular performance (and you could have made as good an argument for him as MOP as for Ellington), he was once again not very many people’s focus. A reality which pretty much tells you how close to unstoppable North Carolina was in this one- and throughout the tournament. They won every single game by double figures; uber-rival Duke was the last team to do that back in 2001. As Jim Nantz said near the end of the game, North Carolina trailed in games for less than 10 minutes total. Both of those stats are mind-boggling in a tournament known for parity, close games, and upsets.

So let the coronation begin of a team that actually lived up to the hype, both prior to and during the season. And as I write this, wild parties and street celebrations have broken out in Chapel Hill which undoubtedly will last into tomorrow and maybe beyond (update: they actually cleared out around 2 or 3 AM, per local police). While President Obama picked the ‘Heels, and I didn’t on my facebook bracket, I did have them in The Beer Lodge league and made a late rally to finish second, two points behind. As for facebook, I finished in the Top 14% but unfortunately outside the top-50,000 people. All things considered, I guess my friends are right about me having decent sports knowledge, at least compared to most Americans. But obviously I still have a long way to go! And based on percentile, Obama only finished in ESPN’s top-20%! Okay, I don’t think I could fare as well as him at his day job.

Other Way Around

North Carolina didn’t completely hold down Willie Warren, as the previous entry suggested would be important. They did virtually silence Tony Crocker and nobody else could buy a basket. Ergo, game, set, and match.

Didn’t see the other game as I was at a party for my parents’ 25th anniversary. It actually falls on April 1st, and that’s no lie– although we’ll have to see whether the same can be said for the conficker virus. Things went pretty well, the food was good, and just as planned, we surprised them with my brother coming over from college in the midwest. But when I found at what Michigan State did to Louisville, all I could say is whoa. Good defensive team? Yes, like a few others in the Big Ten this season? Hold the Cardinals to 52 points and win by double digits? Maybe five people saw that one coming.

So now we get a killer Final Four. Michigan State and UConn, two teams that have played each other twice before in their histories. They split those meetings, and went on to win the national title in the same seasons. This time, the winner obviously gets to play for it on Monday. Beyond the aforementioned display against Louisville, Michigan State is a team nobody wanted in Detroit simply because in addition to the playoffs, the Huskies will face maybe 50,000 Spartan fans. Don’t be fooled by the limited ticket distribution (plus those given to students). The likes of StubHub will make it a very unpleasant environment for UConn. On the 30th anniversary of Magic and Co. In a city/state badly damaged by the Big Three’s uselessness and desperate for something good (besides the Wings, whose success is practically expected).

Source: Deseret News

North Carolina gets Villanova, and while they’re a better all-around team, they might have a tough time with the Wildcats D, Desire, and Determination. The bookies still apparently love the Tar Heels, and I do have them winning in my Beer Lodge bracket, but I think 10-11 odds are a little too overwhelming for a team that’s definitely human. Speaking of that bracket, I could possibly still move up from 4th into the top-3, but not sure about winning (even though I’m a point behind) because I only have Villanova and UNC left in play. Facebook bracket percentile is still nice, but probably even less potential to move up…

I’ll give my thoughts on the games later this week, but for now, some external previews. ESPN has thumbnails for each team if you subscribe to Insider, while Andy Katz has a longer preview for everyone. Dan Wetzel focuses on the very different angles each team has going into the weekend.

Saw most of the U.S.A.’s draw against El Salvador. Ugly first hour, nice comeback to save a point led by Frankie Hejduk and Jozy Altidore, and it could’ve been all three but for a goal-line clearance on Brian Ching’s late bicycle kick. Hejduk might be getting better with age, and he says going surfing has a lot to do with it. Altidore, of course, is probably America’s bright hope for the future, though he needs to get some more playing time at club level before he can expect to start, much less live up to the hype on a consistent basis.

Frankie Hejduk heading home the equalizer.

Frankie Hejduk heading home the equalizer.

Thanks to for the picture.

Oh, and as noted in the Tribune article and a press release, Henry Kissinger is now helping to lobby for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to be held in America. I’d love to see us host it, not least because we might be ready to win by then!

This image was found on the U.S. Soccer Federation website.

The U.S. plays Trinidad & Tobago next in Nashville on Wednesday, and I’d expect an American win from this one.

My Bracket…

Is pretty much now wrecked. I had Louisville winning the region and ultimately the national title. Gotta give Scottie Reynolds major props though. He went almost coast-to-coast in five seconds for the winning floater with under a second to go. Not to mention that the whole Villanova team went 22-23 at the free throw line. That’s how you answer a physical team like Pittsburgh, that’s how you win close basketball games, and it’s even more impressive given the stakes. They’re a team I wouldn’t mind seeing win it all, although I could say the same for just about any team left in the tournament. All of them have shown the ability to play fundamentally sound basketball- when’s the last time we heard American teams described that way?

For UConn, it was about keeping poise. They only made eight field goals in the second half, but played stout defense, kept Missouri from capitalizing on the turnovers their traps caused, got a few of their scores at timely moments (i.e. to extend a 1/2 point lead to 3/4), and yes, made 10 straight free throws in the final moments. Kemba Walker (23 points, including a couple of amazing plays) and A.J. Price (18 points) stood out in particular at some of these phases. The fact that UConn did this without huge games from Hasheem Thabeet and their other big men does not bode well for either Louisville or Michigan State, one of whom they will face next Saturday night.

Speaking of which, Louisville vs. Michigan State and UNC-Oklahoma are gonna be terrific games tomorrow. Michigan State just found a way late to knock out Kansas last night, while the other teams demolished their opponents. In fact, after seeing what Oklahoma did to Syracuse, I could really see the Sooners beating UNC. As well as Tony Crocker played (28 points) in support of a typically outstanding effort from Blake Griffin (30 points and 14 rebounds, and what a dunk that was right after SU misfired on a try of their own), I still think the Tar Heels are just a little deeper. As this short blog piece notes, North Carolina had better stop Willie Warren. Allowing Griffin and Crocker to ‘get their points’ is one thing. Allowing three players to torch you is probably pushing it.

For Tom Izzo’s bunch, I think it’s simple. No track meets or else Louisville will tear them apart. A tough, relatively slow, physical game is exactly what the Spartans need, so the first few minutes will be crucial. If they have to chase a 10 point deficit early, the tempo could quickly become too fast for them.

As for that bracket, I wonder if I can even finish in facebook’s upper 30%, much less the top 10%…

Sweet 16 Picks

First, a quick congratulations to Japan for successfully defending their WBC title. Good event, even if the basketball kinda took my attention away from the later rounds. Baseball is clearly growing as a global sport. I promise not to let anything other than work do that for hockey at the 2010 Olympics or the World Cup that summer! Also, Ken Davidoff’s idea of the Tokyo Dome hosting the next WBC final is a good one. Doing it in March would be an issue given the long flights so close to the start of a new MLB season, not to mention time zone differences which would hurt TV viewership in North America and the Caribbean. Maybe sometime in the not-too-distant future though…

Okay, time for picks, courtesy of my top-9%/34,790th place facebook bracket.

Midwest: Louisville over Arizona (I had Wake getting this far…) and Michigan State to beat Kansas (I expected the Spartans to play West Virginia but Dayton knocked the Mountaineers out in the first round). Louisville will win the regional final.

West: I nailed the four teams to make it to Phoenix. UConn will beat Purdue while Memphis takes out Missouri. Only Marquette’s win over Utah State denied me a perfect first two rounds in this region. I picked Memphis to beat UConn but I’m not so sure about it after seeing the Huskies dismantle UT-Chattanooga and Texas A&M. Memphis played well against Maryland too, but I think Connecticut may be peaking again at just the right time. Final prediction once I see the regional semis, but for now I will stick with my bracket and say Memphis pulls it out. Both teams are as complete as you can get.

East: I expect Pittsburgh to beat Xavier (I predicted Florida State would be the Panthers’ opponent, but Xavier won a pretty good second-round game with the Seminoles). It will be an all-Big East affair as Villanova beats Duke to get to the regional final (I thought Texas would beat Duke with their interior game… oops). Another great regional final, and while a Villanova win wouldn’t shock me because of their workmanlike attitude (mixed with Scottie Reynolds and co.’s pretty good talent), I do think Pittsburgh is better with their core of Levance Fields, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair, so they will prevail.

South: Again, I correctly picked the four teams who would make the regional semis down in Memphis. As that city’s legend would say, Thank you, thank you very much. Okay, moving on from the predictable joke, North Carolina should beat Gonzaga. Good game because Josh Heytvelt of Gonzaga is a strong inside player to deal with Tyler Hansbrough, but unless UNC switches off its intensity or Ty Lawson’s toe injury flares up again (he expects to play), they simply have too many options for the ‘Zags to counter all of them. Meanwhile, Syracuse vs. Oklahoma might be the game of the round (so fittingly, we come to it last!). Not quite a head-to-head matchup between Blake Griffin and Jonny Flynn because they play different positions, but two teams playing really well right now. I picked Syracuse in my bracket because of lingering momentum from the Big East tournament and the favorable draw they got for the first two rounds (which didn’t tax them too much). But Griffin continues to play at a high level, and Syracuse’s multitude of big men might not stop be able to stop him even if they were all on the court at one time. So it will probably come down to how well both teams’ guards play. Flynn and Eric Devendorf have played inspired basketball throughout the Orange’s run, and I’ll stick with them to pull it out again. Not so in the regional final, however. UNC knows neither Syracuse nor Oklahoma would be an easy opponent, but this is what they’ve been thinking about all year. A chance to get to another Final Four, avenge last year’s ugly performance against Kansas (which was over before halftime), and send Hansbrough and the other potential NBA-picks out in style. They might fall short of the title next weekend, but I do think they’ll at least get there.

Who Knew?

That you could be in almost 35,000th place on facebook and still be in the upper 9% of brackets. I guess that’s what happens when there aren’t many upsets. And a couple that I predicted might happen didn’t materialize.

Still, it means we’ll get some monster match-ups in the Sweet 16 and probably beyond. Does UConn-Memphis or UNC vs. Oklahoma or Syracuse grab you? Also, Darren Rovell reports that nobody will be winning the big jackpot I mentioned over the weekend. So I’m not going to have to imagine that I could do what somebody else actually did, even though apparently someone on facebook still has a chance to get a perfect bracket.

More good news from a friend. Apparently, I’m definitely still ahead of the president, which Jake Tapper confirms (I doubt ESPN’s contest is too different from the ones CBS/Facebook or Yahoo are running). Come the end of the tournament, I wonder how many people will make facebook groups poking fun at that sort of stat? Hopefully, while his bracket scores may improve with all the high seeds he had getting this far, his and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to deal with the banking crisis does even better.

Sweet 16 and Elite 8 picks coming next time, plus a review of the World Baseball Classic final.