Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 Twins Preview

There are two things that constantly make being a Minnesotan extremely frustrating. The first is the weather. Whether it is the stifling humidity in the summer, excessive amounts of rain in the spring, or ridiculously cold temperatures throughout the entire year, there is rarely a time of year when we don’t have something to complain about when it comes to weather. Even today, the last day of March, as I write a season preview for the Twins (and count down to the opener tonight), I look out the window and it’s snowing. Eff.

The second thing that makes living in this state difficult at times is the disappointment constantly caused by our sports teams. And we disappoint in a variety of ways. We miss the playoffs entirely (most Vikings teams lately), lack playoff success (the Wolves for a number of years in a row, the Twins over the past 6-7 years, etc.), or are simply and embarrassingly terrible (the Wolves for the first 10 years and this year, Gopher hoops since we stopped cheating, Gopher football forever, the Twins from 1992-2000, etc). This year’s edition of the Minnesota Twins falls into none of these categories.

I cannot remember a year in which there were more radically different views of what to expect from this team. The so-called experts seem to agree on one thing, though, and that is we’re not making the playoffs. Various media outlets have projected us anywhere from a slightly above .500 team that finishes third in the division to dead last and vying for the worst record in the AL. I have also heard from people I respect for their sports knowledge tell me that we are going to shock the world and make the playoffs. All of this makes me very confused about what I should expect.

The homer in me wants to believe that we have a dramatically improved lineup that is going to score runs in bunches to go with a young, exciting rotation full of guys that the opposition has never seen before, and the most dominant bullpen in baseball. The realist in me, however, knows that this team is going to go through stretches where they can’t hit, and the young pitching staff gets lit up. Which is correct? Well, let’s take a look at this team before I make my final decision.

This aspect of the 08 version of the Twins should be much improved from years past. While losing Torii Hunter will definitely hurt, it appears that the team has made some major improvements at a number of other positions that will lead to a very productive hitting team. The catalyst to this lineup is the young, speedy centerfielder Carlos Gomez, who will hit leadoff. If he can get on base, there are more than enough big bats behind him to get him home…I think. You see, one of the major problems last year was the huge fall in production from the Twins two young stars, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. If they can return to the form that won them the batting title and MVP respectively two years ago, then this team will score a lot of runs.

Those two will not be held solely responsible for driving in runs this year. Another x-factor in this category is the newly acquired Delmon Young. He has all of the tools necessary to become a star in this league, and could put up monster numbers (30 and 100 is not out of the question). In order for this lineup to be really productive, the bottom half must carry their weight. This means you Jason Kubel, Mike Lamb, and Brendan Harris. If these guys can provide a little bit of consistency with some timely hitting, you could be looking at an explosive team. If not, we’re back at the bottom of AL in average and runs scored, which will mean a very long season. There are question marks about the hitting, but overall this should be a strength for the Twins this year.

This team has the appearance of one of the better defensive teams in the league, starting with Mauer and his amazing ability to gun down potential base stealers. Around the infield, Morneau has gotten better and better every year at first, Harris should be a steady (but not spectacular) glove at second, Adam Everett is arguably the best defensive shortstop in baseball, and Lamb is more than adequate at third. The highlight reel plays will be provided by the trio of cannons in the outfield. Michael Cuddyer has already proven himself in right field, regularly throwing out runners for the last couple years. Now we add in two of the strongest young arms in the game with Gomez in center and Young in left. You would have to be either extremely foolish or extremely brave to run on the Twins in 2008.

Starting Rotation
Herein lays the biggest question mark surrounding this team. The loss of Johan Santana is huge and devastating to a team that had grown accustomed to his dominance every 4-5 games. They will now rely heavily on the young arms that we’ve been hearing so much about over the last couple years. Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn. Those are the names of the kids who will, more than any other part of this team, determine the success of the Twins in 2008 and beyond. If even a few of these guys can live up to the hype that has surrounded them in the minors and during Spring Training, this team is in good hands for the foreseeable future. As for this year? Well, you have to expect some bumps along the way. Whether it be lack of major league seasoning, or coming back from injury, all of the Twins young pitchers figure to face some sort of difficulty this year. If those problems dissipate quickly or don’t show up all at once, you could be looking at the surprise team in baseball.

Dominant. That is the word that comes to mind when talking about the Twins bullpen. Joe Nathan is one of, if not the, best closers in baseball. He’s joined by the rubber-armed Pat Neshek, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and Dennys Reyes (among others) in the pen once again this year. If the Twins bats and starters can get a lead to the 6th or 7th inning, you can pretty much bank on a win. The danger here comes from overuse. With the starters expected to take their lumps from time to time, the Twins bullpen figures to get plenty of action, especially early in the year. If that becomes a reoccurring theme, they could be in trouble. If the starters can consistently pitch into the latter stages of the game, these guys in the pen become much more effective and the odds of winning increase greatly.

We’ll go more into this in the AL preview later this week, but when you play 19 games against each of the other teams in your division, the quality of those teams becomes a major factor. A number of years ago, when the Twins were winning division titles regularly, the AL Central was very weak. Minnesota used this to their advantage and it was a big reason why they were a mainstay in the playoffs. Now the tide has turned and the Central appears to be the toughest division in baseball. Many experts are picking the Tigers and the Indians to not only make the playoffs, but make a World Series run. It is because of the high quality of these teams that the Twins aren’t expected to be a playoff factor. Keep track of how these two teams begin the season. If one or the other (or maybe both) struggle, that could open the door for our plucky, young club. If they both start strong, we may have to wait for next year.

So where does that leave us? Here are a few predictions from a guy (me) who has proven to be quite good at this kind of thing:
--The Twins will struggle early in the year, prompting the local media to tear them apart.
--A strong August and September will propel the team to 85 wins and extremely high optimism heading into the 09 season.
--Carlos Gomez will be the most frustrating Twin in recent memory. His stretches of brilliance will be outnumbered by periods of futility as he hits .248 with a dozen highlight reel plays on the base paths and in the field.
--Joe Mauer will return to form, hitting over .330, making the All Star team, and winning a Gold Glove.
--Justin Morneau, finally protected in the lineup, will make a push for a 40 HR season, but finish just short at 39.
--Delmon Young will be the talk of the Twins with his 29 HR and 115 RBI.
--Young will also frustrate Twins fans with his tendency for GIDP’s and lack of clutch hitting.
--Mike Lamb will be a welcomed addition to the team by hitting .292 with 20 HR.
--Nick Punto will fail to hit his weight, but will get a ton of at bats because he’s having an affair with manager Ron Gardenhire.
--Francisco Liriano will struggle early in the year, prompting local media members to question if he’s hurt…those voices will be quieted as Franchise wins 10 games in August and September with an ERA in the mid 2 range.
--Boof Bonser will lead the team in wins with 16.
--Livan Hernandez will get far too many starts considering his ERA will be in the 5 range, but will finally get removed from the rotation in late July—roughly two months too late.
--Joe Nathan will once again be the best closer in the game, but his save numbers will not reflect this because of the team’s lack of success.
--Overall: 85-77, third place in the Central. Mauer and Morneau will be All Stars. Mauer and Everett win Gold Gloves. There is a ton of optimism heading into 2009.

The season starts off with a bang. 3-2 Twins win and are now 1 game up on the Tigers. Looks like my 85 win prediction may have been a bit low. We're going wire to wire in the Central. And yes, it only takes one game for me to drink the Kool-Aid and be fully on board for an amazing season to remember. Delmon had two hits in his debut as did the player of the game and my new man crush Carlos Gomez.

His final line: 2-3, (bunt) single, double, walk, 2 SB, 2 R.
We're comin', we're comin'...

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Q: The second he let go of the ball, DJ Augustin realized that he had just donated a basketball to some lucky fan in the 15th row.

Fuzz: Derrick Rose is like: "No fucking way I'm touching Dozier! I know who that slimy bastard has been with."

Dogg:First off, wow! These guys are freak athletes. Augustine is about 4’8” and looks like he’s jumping 16 feet in the air. Dozier is 6’9” and looks like his head is about to hit the f’ing rim!!!! Atchley (white boy) is taking in the play thinking how good he could be if he was half as athletic as both Dozier and Augustine. The ball probably ended up in the 17th row after Dozier beat that!!!

Side note: Fuzz and Q think Augustine can dunk which he probably can but by no means in a game situation. He never has done it!

Readers Note: Big week for TKOT. Along with Q's Davidson article below(a good read), we're going to have a Twins preview, a Final Four Preview, a AL/NL baseball preview and then hopefully a Q&A with a special guest. Plus, a Picture of the Day everday! Giddy up...

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Sunday, March 30, 2008


As the saying goes, it was a nice run. The Davidson Wildcats memorable run through the NCAA Tournament ended Sunday as they fell to the Kansas Jayhawks 59-57. What a run it was though.

Before we recount that amazing 4 game stretch, let’s take a quick trip back in time. The date was November 16, 2007. On a little website called TK on Toast, the following was written:
We’re not the first team to sing the praises of this Davidson team, nor will we be the last. We are very much aware that many fans know about them. We also don’t care. This is a team that will need to be reckoned with as this season plays out. Dell’s kid, Stephen Curry, is one of the best players in the country, bar none. He can create, move well without the ball, and most importantly, shoot the freaking lights out. In other words, he’s the man. They are also doing the smart thing in playing a very tough non-conference schedule (UNC, Duke, and NC State) to let their players see the level that they’ll need to play at come Tourney time. Be ready for them as a 6 or 7 seed after they walk through their conference schedule and Mr. Curry is one of the leading scorers in the nation. Don’t say you weren’t warned…”

Wow, that’s a bold prediction. Amazingly, on that very same website just a month later, this little nugget of information was offered up:
“Sleeper Update: in our preview, we told you to watch out for Davidson as a big time sleeper in college basketball this year. Well they’re 4-5, but it’s an intriguing and promising 4-5. Their five defeats include a four point loss to North Carolina, a six point loss to Duke, and an 11 point loss to UCLA in a game that Davidson led for the first 30 minutes. Those games should give this Wildcat team a lot of confidence that they can hang with, and beat, the big dogs in the tourney. The problem is that by losing all of these early games, they now have to win their conference tournament and get that automatic bid to get into the field of 65. That’s fine. Stephen Curry will dominate the Southern Conference and they’ll be a team to remember come March.”

In case you’re wondering 1) that sound you hear is me tooting my own horn, and 2) yes, I did get hurt patting myself on the back so much. So the “shocking” story that was the lead of every sports cast and newspaper came as no surprise to us here in the House that Toast built. Let’s remember the team that made the 2008 Tourney memorable.

It started with a matchup against former Cinderella and now annual participant, Gonzaga. Everything started out slowly, then Stephen Curry remembered that he’s the man and is borderline unguardable. He dropped 30 in the second half, and finished with 40 for the game. That led to a date with the 2 seed, the Georgetown Hoyas. Analysts and experts everywhere said that Davidson didn’t have the size to play with G-town. Those people must have forgotten that Roy Hibbert sucks. Curry again had the second half magic as the Wildcats toppled yet another team that was supposed to beat them. Up next, the Wisconsin Badgers and their stifling defense. Once again, everyone predicted the surprising run would come to an end. Once again, everyone was wrong. Stephen and the boys shocked Bo Ryan’s club with their lockdown defense and sharpshooting as they destroyed the Badgers. The miracle run finally ended Sunday in a loss to Kansas, but not without a fight. In a game that wasn’t supposed to be close, Davidson had the ball with 16 seconds left and a chance to tie or win the game. Curry, who finally had an off night, couldn’t shake himself free from Jayhawk defenders and the Wildcats’ desperation three at the buzzer was wide left.

Despite the loss, we all owe a lot to Davidson. In a year where all four number one seeds finally made it to the Final Four, we still had that surprise team that made an extremely memorable run. It is because of teams like Davidson and players like Stephen Curry that March Madness exists.

By the way, Curry is only a sophomore...

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Friday, March 28, 2008


Dogg: Must be Duke fans

Q: This is the kind of fan support your school gets when you play in the NIT--one more beer and these two might practice their "sword swallowing" techniques.

Fuzz: Hey Maximus? Mine is longer than yours.

Readers note #1: Feel free to include your own clever caption. We welcome comments.

Readers note #2: For the non-computer skilled people, you can click on the picture to see a bigger and better version of it.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Talking NBA

Five NBA related questions! Yes, that NBA that no one likes. Come on, at least give these a chance. Read on for Q's hatred toward the Dallas Mavericks, Dogg's thoughts on Chris Webber and Fuzz's Eastern Conference NBA Champion.

1) Right now, who is your pick to win the NBA championship and why?

Q: We were talking about this last night, and I'm going out on a limb with the Hornets. I know that they have very little playoff experience, but they have been crushing potential playoff opponents lately. They're also one of the few Western Conference teams that has played pretty consistently all year. The Spurs, Lakers, Mavs, Suns, etc. all have bounced around the standings due to erratic play. Plus, they have CP3, possibly the most well-rounded PG in the league. The guy can put up 40 on you and drop 20 dimes. That, combined with guys like Peja and David West make them very tough.

Dogg: My pick to win the NBA championship is the Los Angeles Lakers. They have the best player in the league in Kobe Bryant and I think they have the deadliest bench with the likes of: Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Jordan Farmar, Vladamir Radmanovich, Sasha Vujacic. This is contingent on Pau Gasol coming back healthy and hoping Bynum can give them solid minutes at the center position after being out so long.

Fuzz: I think if you asked this question to the sports nation, like one of those ESPN Sportscenter nation polls, you’d get an alarming number of people picking a team from the West. It’s a natural answer. The West is far superior than the East and has been for years now. Saying that, I’m going with the Boston Celtics. They have the best record in the league at 56-15, getting number 56 last night with a convincing 20 point win over Phoenix. Their record is a little inflated because of their cushy Eastern Conference schedule but have beaten Utah, L.A., Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Golden State, Houston, Detroit and Cleveland. Pretty much everyone that matters! They have not beaten the Hornets yet but play them tomorrow. They have three very good known veterans and won’t have to give a 100% effort until the Eastern Conference finals, which is a lock for them getting too. The experiment works and KG gets his ring...

2) Which one team misses the playoffs in the West between these teams: Dallas, Golden State and Denver? Why?

Fuzz: Dallas will still get in. Dirk “18 inch” Diggler is a big loss but they have enough talent to grab one of those bottom seeds. They have a 2 ½ game cushion also. Here are the remaining schedules of Golden State and Denver:

G.S.- Portland, at Denver, Dallas, at San Antonio, at Dallas, at Memphis, at New Orleans, Sacramento, Denver, Clippers, at Phoenix and Seattle.

Denver- Dallas, Golden State, at Phoenix, Phoenix, Sacramento, at Seattle, at Clippers at Golden State, at Utah and at Memphis.

Both aren’t the easiest schedules around but I like Denver’s by a pubic hair better. Golden State is a half game up on Denver right now. If you take common opponents out and the times they play each other, G.S. has slight harder draw. This is why I think Golden State misses the playoffs. Plus, A.I. will find a way in somehow because we ain’t talking about practice here.

Q: I really, really, really hope Dallas doesn't make it. Two reasons for this: one, I don't like their team. I hate Dirk and think he's one of the most overrated players in the league. Plus, it would be funny if going out and getting J Kidd actually made them worse. The second reason is that Cuban would absolutely flip out. He'd be signing, tradings, etc. all offseason and that would be entertaining to watch.

Dogg: I believe Dallas will miss the playoffs. I don’t understand why NBA teams feel the need to trade when they are playing good basketball and that is exactly what Dallas did when getting Jason Kidd via trade. It takes time for guys to gel with new teammates and Dallas had a great core of players that have been playing together for years so why mess around with it. I understand you got bounced in the 1st round last year but it’s simple, play better and beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. With Dirk out, they will be on the outside looking in. It’s going to be a shame when Avery Johnson gets fired.

3) Your darkhorse Eastern Conference team?

Dogg: My darkhorse team is the Philadelphia 76ers. I would love to see Denver miss the playoffs and listening to Iverson explain why Denver missed the playoffs and Philly is in the postseason without him. You know he did want to go to a contender! I know what my answer would be and is simply the Eastern Conference is terrible and the Western Conference is as good as it has ever been. I’m sure Allen would come up with a much more brilliant “Answer” than that. About their team, they have as solid as a PG you can find in Andre Miller and a rising superstar Andre Iguadola. Louis Williams has finally developed into a player and they are hot right now and hoping to ride that high into the weak Eastern Conference playoffs.

Q: Well, since I don't think anyone outside of the top three teams in the East has even a remote chance of making to the Finals, I'm going with the Detroit Pistons. Everyone has been talking about the C's all season long and they have the best record. Cleveland gets tons of hype because of LBJ. Not many are talking about DETROIT BASKETBALL. They have been there before, have a very talented and balanced team, and if they can overcome the shortcomings of their head coach, they will be the ones who have the privilege of getting destroyed in the Finals.

Fuzz: Q took the finals route with his darkhorse team. I’m going to stick with just the Eastern Conference. I’m going with the Atlanta Hawks, the current 8th seed in the East. And I’m not even talking about them winning a series; I’m talking about them just making the fucking playoffs as my darkhorse. It’s been almost 10 years since they’ve been and if you haven’t noticed in those last 10 years, the East has sucked giant balls.

4) Who's the MVP this year?

Dogg: I would like to see the MVP go to Kobe Bryant. He’s never won one and yes his supporting cast is solid but I believe he’s the best player in the league and if he’s not the most valuable, he’s damn close. The “Most Valuable Player” in the league for me is Chris Paul. He plays with talent similar to what Kobe had the past two seasons and they currently have the best record in the West. Peja has stayed relatively healthy this season and the rise of David West and Tyson Chandler have helped Paul but I believe he’s risen his game to a new level and now holds the title as “best PG” in the league.

Q: Despite the fact that only Kobe and LeBron get any press, I'm going with Chris Paul. The guy has been flat out unstoppable and is the single biggest reason that his team is in playoff contention. On the other hand, I could play small forward for the Cavs and make the playoffs in the shitty Eastern Conference. Similarly, any shooting guard who would be willing to be part of a team system and pass the ball would have the Lakers in contention. But having a point guard with an amazing ability to score and dish at will simply cannot be replaced. CP3 is the man and needs to get recognized for his amazing season.

Fuzz: Kobe Bean Bryant. 28 pts, 6 rebounds and 5 assists a game, plus probably the best defender of the MVP candidates. You can argue back and forth between Kobe, LBJ and CP3---the three best players this year. You can throw out stats and compare all you want but I think you give it to Kobe because he’s never won it. Is that a bad reason? Maybe. But he’s deserved it before and it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it this year. He’s having a hell of a season and his team is winning.

5) Your NBA rant please...

Dogg: Did Chris Webber really retire with a dozen games left in the season? Really, you couldn’t wait until the season was over? Golden State looks like they will hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference and he didn’t want to sit through that? What a chump this guy is and I have lost all respect for him. His knee was bothering him so he calls it quits after 15 seasons. You’ve been complaining about knee problems for 5 years so nut up and finish out the season you turd… I would pay a lot of money for San Antonio to meet Phoenix again in the playoffs. Watch Shaq and Amare spike piledrive Robert Horry into the ground. My last piece of information, the San Antonio Spurs better not win the NBA title otherwise I will be boycotting the league next year!

Q: Though not many people have noticed, the Wolves are comin'. Over the last few weeks, they have been playing like a real, actual NBA team. Granted, most of their wins are still coming against lesser opponents, but still, progress is progress. Now we will get a top 5-8 pick in a potentially balanced and deep draft to go with the manchild Al Jefferson and the rebuilding is well on it's way.

Next year we finish in the middle of the pack, forfeit our draft pick to the Clipjoint, but pick up the additional pick from Boston. Within 2-3 years, we're back as a playoff mainstay. Not bad when you can completely purge your franchise and be back in contention in less than five years.

Fuzz: For all the NBA haters out there, you should really give the playoffs a chance this year. If you wrote off the NBA a long time ago for whatever reason, this year would be a good year to test the waters again. I’m not asking to jump in now for the final 15 games of the regular season. That would be asking too much. The playoffs will be great though. The league for the first time in a while has a bunch of likeable, young, talented players. Out East it’s a three-team race with the likeable Celtics (and the KG factor for Minnesotans), the team oriented Pistons and the one-man circus-amazing act Cavaliers. Lebron James is a treat to watch if you’re unfamiliar. The West playoffs are going to be insane. Too many teams to dive into but pick any Western conference first round series to watch and you’ll be entertained. They’ll only get better after round one...

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Picture of the Day

Fuzz: Ray Felton (#20) is either singing alleluia or just tried to pull the most half ass charge in the history of basketball. One or the other.

Q: Felton obviously read the scouting report on Kobe: "Warning: #24 does not play well with others. Avoid getting in his way and touching him at all costs."

Dogg: I believe all 3 of us were just talking about Ray Felton last night and wondered what the fuck happened to him. This picture gives us good reason to why we haven’t heard a lick from this chump.

Readers note #1: We're trying something new here. It's a little bit of a lull for the sports world so we figured we'd throw up a picture of the day with our comments for a cheap way to have something up everyday. We're still going to write as much as we can but this should fill in for the days that we don't have any stories up. Picture of the Day (POD) will be up every working day. Hopefully all three of us comment each day but no promises. At least one will comment everyday though.

Readers note #2: Five NBA questions to follow sometime today. Stay tuned...

Readers note #3: For the non-computer skilled people, you can click on the picture to see a bigger and better version of it.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Picture of the Day

Manny Ramirez & Kurt Suzuki

Dogg: Kurt Suzuki is trying to get a piece of Manny and Manny of course wants nothing to do with it. Manny probably did end up slapping him like a little bitch across the helmet telling him to get his ass back to Cal-State Fullerton where he belongs. Honestly, how many sports photos turnout looking like something ridiculous is about to happen? Way to many!!!

Fuzz: Manny probably doesn't even care. He probably thinks it's the Japanese way of saying hello. Americans shake hands and the Japanese uncomfortably give you a hug in the midsection. He probably tapped him on the helmet with his open hand saying: "Hello to you Mr. Suzuki."

Q: "Saw you wife at the bar last night, Manny. Helluva dancer, you must be proud. And that guy she was with...I mean, I'm sure he's a close, personal friend and all, but tell me--what the hell was he doing wearing her panties on his head?"

*Readers note: We're trying something new here. It's a little bit of a lull for the sports world so we figured we'd throw up a picture of the day with our comments for a cheap way to have something up everyday. We're still going to write as much as we can but this should fill in for the days that we don't have any stories up. Picture of the Day (POD) will be up every working day. Hopefully all three of us comment each day but no promises. At least one will comment everyday though.*

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Monday, March 24, 2008

What We Saw & What We Will See

Wow, what a great weekend that was. First, I want to thank those of you who followed along and chimed in on Friday’s live blog. I wish it could have been more entertaining, but apparently all the fun was reserved for later. Anyways, here’s a quick recap of what we learned from the first four days of the tournament along with an expert’s opinion on what we can expect for the Sweet 16 games on Thursday and Friday.

Let’s start off in the most predictable region this year, the East. Top seed North Carolina was easily the most impressive team in the field this past weekend. Wins by 40+ and 30+ showed that this Tarheel team is on a mission this year. Not once was a game of theirs in question. Dogg and my’s favorite non-Minnesota team, the Washington State Cougars, also looked impressive as the defense we’ve been telling you about all season on this site was in rare form. Wazzou held a very good Notre Dame team to only 41 points as they coasted into the Sweet Sixteen. As for Indiana, well, Hoosier fans are probably just thankful that this season is finally over. After all of the turmoil that they went through this year, some believed that they’d come together in honor of Sampson and the seniors. Not so. They were thumped in the first round and now must get to restoring a once proud university. Not surprisingly, both Tennessee and Louisville also looked very good in their two wins on the opening weekend. I guess that’s what you get when the top four seeds all advance to the second weekend.

The South region was also surprisingly routine, as the 1, 2, 3, and 5 seeds emerged victorious over the weekend. One of the biggest stories in the tournament comes from the suddenly vulnerable Memphis Tigers. While they looked strong in their opening round victory, John Calapari’s squad almost squandered away their second round game against Mississippi State. They shot under 50% from the free throw line and their struggles showed up the most at the end of the game when State almost completed an amazing comeback. Even more amazing is Calapari’s defiant attitude whenever he’s questioned about their poor free throw shooting. It’s like he’s actually convinced himself that they don’t matter. Regardless, the Tigers are officially on upset watch for their matchup with Michigan State. The only other game of note from this region was the allegedly fantastic back and forth battle between Marquette and Stanford. I wouldn’t know about that because the worst place in the world to watch college basketball—Tiffany’s Sports Lounge—refused to break from their precious Kansas game for 35 seconds so we could see the end of either regulation or overtime. I’m still too mad about this to go on.

The Midwest region provided some serious drama in the opening games. We saw two major upsets with Villanova taking out Clemson (many people’s darkhourse), and Siena shocking Vanderbilt (and beating the tar out of them in the process). This all sets up a great 1 vs. 12 matchup in the top half of the bracket as Nova will now get a shot at the Kansas Jayhawks. KU was apparently impressive in their two wins on Thursday and Saturday, though no one cares because Kansas fans are annoying, unintelligent, and selfish (yes, still bitter about the MU thing). On the bottom half of this region we find America’s new favorite underdog, the Davidson Wildcats. Now, I seem to remember reading on some website way back before the season started that this would be a great sleeper team to keep an eye on. Where oh where did I read that? Oh yeah…RIGHT HERE! That’s right bitches, we tried and tried to tell you about Stephen Curry and his Davidson teammates, but no one would listen. All we got was comments about Arizona and Butler. How are those two doing right now? That’s what I thought. Our boy Curry has been unstoppable (especially in the second half of games), dropping 70 points in his two games. Now they try to play giant killer once again against the painfully boring Wisconsin Badgers.

With equal amounts of drama, late game heroics, sketchy officiating, and America’s Least Favorite College Basketball Team, the West region pretty much had it all through the first four days of the tourney. In yet another region, we saw both a 12 (Western Kentucky) and a 13 seed (San Diego) advance to the second round, and both on simply amazing endings. Western Kentucky’s collapse at the end of regulation and then miracle three point winning shot in overtime was arguably the best game of the tournament. Meanwhile, San Diego’s back and forth battle with UCONN was won on a step-back fade away jumper with just a second left on the clock. Both were amazing games that are the epitome of March Madness. In another sort of madness altogether, UCLA barely escaped their second round game against Texas A&M thanks to a mysterious no call against the Bruins late in the game that led to their victory. That no call, combined with the 3-4 other terrible calls that have gone in favor of UCLA late in the season are fueling rumors that sketchy is going on with LA’s favorite college squad. Be on the watch for more “interesting” officiating this coming weekend that manages to help Captain Outlet Pass and Co. into the Final Four. Finally, in a complete shock to absolutely no one, the Duke Blue Devils lost in the second round to West Virginia. In fact, they were extremely lucky just to get out of the first round, relying on a last second layup by Gerald Henderson to thwart mighty Belmont. Good lord they’re terrible and the country as a whole celebrates their exit from the Dance.

So we are now down from 64 to 16 and by this time next week we will have the 2008 competitors for the Final Four. Who’s going to win you wonder? Well considering my expertise has been proven over and over this year, I think you should listen to what I tell you will happen in the eight matchups on Thursday and Friday:

North Carolina vs. Washington State--Despite my love for the Cougars and their lock-down defense, the Tarheels are going to take this game. That said, Washington State will be the first team to hold UNC to under 100 points in the Tourney (I know, not the most impressive feat of all time) and I think the final score will be closer than most will predict. Heels by 7.

Tennessee vs. Louisville--There will be a ton of running and points scored in this game, with both teams likely to be in the 80’s or higher. Ultimately, the Volunteers’ lack of a consistent inside presence coupled with their poor free throw shooting will be the difference as the Cardinals emerge victorious. Louisville by 3.

Memphis vs. Michigan State--A lot is going to be made in the media this week about the Tigers inability to make free throws. More than one talking head will tell you that they are going down. And Calapari, being the brilliant coach that he is, will use this as motivation for his squad and they will roll the Spartans. Memphis by 16.

Texas vs. Stanford--Warning, now entering the DJ Augustin Coming Out Party. Please have your ticket and id ready at the door. That’s right kids, this will be the individual performance that everyone will be talking about over the weekend. DJ and his Longhorn teammates have just enough interior defense to handle the brothers Lopez and move on to an Elite 8 game against Memphis. Texas by 9.

Kansas vs. Villanova--A lot of media folks are going to try and convince you that Nova has a legitimate chance in this game because their guards can matchup well with KU’s. That’s simply not true. Kansas, despite my newfound utter destain for them, has too much depth in their backcourt and will find enough inside scoring to win. Jayhawks by 11.

Wisconsin vs. Davidson--Well, I have a feeling that I better gloat about my preseason Davidson call while I can. As impressive as Curry and his Wildcats have been, I think that Bo Ryan will have a defensive game plan in place to keep him in check as the Badgers grind out yet another ugly win. Wisconsin by 8.

UCLA vs. Western Kentucky--Two words: blowout city. Nuff said. UCLA by 19.

Xavier vs. West Virginia--Back and forth this game will go. The Mountaineers will grab hold of an early lead, up by as many as 13 at one point. Then the Muskateers will slowly work themselves back into the game thanks to some timely three’s and break out layups. Xavier by 1.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Hoops--Live!

Good morning TKOT faithful. Welcome to my attempt at a live, running diary of the college basketball action that will be taking place today. After the jump, you will get my brilliant insights on the games, commercials, and any other random thoughts that pop into my head. Be sure to refresh occasionally because I'll be updating throughout the day (hence the "live" thing). Enjoy.

11:00 am--Alright, it's almost time for games to begin and I am more than ready. I have the TV on CBS, and am loaded up with two laptops in front of me (thanks Fuzz)--one to watch other games on March Madness On Demand and the other to update this site. I also have beer in the fridge and my little brother (Chosman to those of you who post on this site regularly) on his way with burgers to grill...

And there in lies our first problem of the day. We had this all planned out for a great Triple B day (burgers, beer, and basketball). But because this is Minnesota and someone is trying to ruin my day, this was apparently the perfect day for a snow storm. It has been snowing heavily ever since I got up this morning (8:30 in case you were wondering--I'm that excited) and there are no signs of it letting up. This will make for some terrible driving conditions and even worse grilling conditions. It will not deter me though, as I plan to brush off the grill and give it a go later this afternoon. We'll see how it goes.

11:10 am--So yesterday's afternoon games provided very little drama. I swear that always happens. People like me get ridiculously excited about Tournament Day and then sit through boring, predictable blow outs like "Kansas 85, Portland State 61". Oh well, at least the tournament is underway and Marquette pulled off a nice little victory over Kentucky, which pleases the DFTFC. Then the night games rolled around and everyone got to cheer against Duke. We all nearly got our wish until Gerald Henderson went in for an uncontested layup with 11 seconds left to win the game. Chumps. Then, Beasley and Mayo matched up and K State pulled off the first "upset" of the 08 Tourney. I was at Joe Sensor's in Eagan for those games--man, what a place to watch basketball. Great food, beer specials, and every game on multiple big screens. That place was made for March (and Sunday's during NFL season).

The early games for today are Tennessee-American (where the 15 seed American squad will surely hang tight for the first half, fueling speculation that we could have our first major upset on the way, only to fold in the second half and lose by 25), followed by a mid-major party: Gonzaga-Davidson, Miami-St. Mary's, and Drake-Western Kentucky. Personally, I'm looking forward to the Davidson game to watch my boy Stephen Curry light up the Zags.

11:30 am--It's worth mentioning that I have the Davidson game on the TV with Jim Nantz and Billy Packer announcing and the Tennessee game on one of the laptops with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raferty announcing. That's four of the best announcers out there giving me the insight on the first two games of the day--I'd say that's a good omen for this wonderful Friday. In honor of this quartet of announcing royalty, I think I'll have my first beer of the day (and yes, I was looking for any lame excuse to crack number one. So what?). The beer of choice for the morning games is Sam Adams. I bought one of their variety packs because I'm terrible at making decisions. For now, I'm going with the Black Lager. I feel like you need to know these things.

11:45 am--Tate just showed up with the burgers and his laptop. Of course he did. Josie of course went nuts. So now the two of us are sitting here with three computers, beer, and basketball. Good times.

Commercials that aren't going to get old--the ones where a different version of some guy shows up to say that he isn't going to answer the phone because he's an idiot for having a shitty phone service. For some reason those crack me up. Especially the one where the guy calls himself a dillweed. I haven't heard that word since 1994. Oh, and if you have no idea what I'm talking about then either I did a terrible job of explaining it or you don't watch enough TV. I'm going with the latter.

12:10 pm--Tate is hoping that Stephen Curry brings back the hightop fade in honor of his dad. Then we decided that Pat Ewing Jr. should do the same. It's a great look and we figure it is about time for a comeback.

We're also hoping the Gus Johnson announces one of the games today. Apparently he did one or two yesterday, but that shouldn't matter. Considering these are the biggest games of the year, wouldn't you want your best announcers calling as many games as possible? Fly them between two cities over the weekend and let them call two games a day. I know it would be a lot of work for the announcers, but I think this should happen.

12:33 pm--So all four of the games are at the half. Pretty close contests all around, but not a lot of excitement. Probably has to do with all of the mid-major teams playing. They just don't have the star power. Hopefully they stay close so we can finally have a little madness with a buzzer beater or late shot.

This seems like as good of time as any to let you know that besides writing this diary, I'm also constantly monitoring the comments section. So if you're reading this and feel like chipping in your two cents or have a question, just make a comment and I'll respond. End shameless plug.

12:46 pm--Some odd and ends for you: While watching Gonzaga's game, Tate wondered if Josh Heytvelt is high. I told him it's not a matter of "if", but "what" he's high on. That's gotta be a great recruiting/PR tool for the Zags. Come the Great Northwest--we have Shrooms!

Another commercial series that's not getting old any time soon: the Bud Light "Dude" commercials. Those are absolutely hilarious. They've even changed the "dude" guy for the latest batch of them (but definitely tried to make him look like the original guy, like we wouldn't notice). Doesn't matter, they're outstanding.

American is hanging tough with Tennessee as the score is tied at 40 with 11 to play. Maybe that second half blow out I predicted wasn't the best call...

12:54 pm--Nike has a commercial with a bunch of footage from famous Tourney games in the past (Jordan, etc.). I'm assuming it's supposed to be inspirational, but the tag line at the end reads "There are no Cinderellas"--what the fuck does that mean? Just another odd commercial in a series of them from Nike lately. According to the Swoosh, Cinderella's don't exist and their better is better than your better. Right...

Curry has scored 11 straight for Davidson to pull them within 4 of Gonzaga. Uh oh.

I think I'm going to attempt to grill at this point. I have a feeling that getting read for grilling will take longer than the act itself. I can't say I've ever had to shovel and brush 4 inches of snow off of the grill in order to cook some meat. I guess I can check that off of my personal bucket list.

1:27 pm--So to the shock and surprise of pretty much no one, the grilling adventure was a complete failure. I went through all of the work of shoveling and brushing and preparing, only to find out that we're out of propane. Obviously. Definitely should have seen that one coming. I thought about running to the store to get a new tank, but I thought it would look nuts to be buying a propane tank during a snow storm.

In basketball related action, Tennessee has pretty much wrapped up their game, winning by 15. Miami is holding a double digit lead over St. Mary's with just a few minutes left in their game. Western Kentucky is pulling off the typical 5-12 upset as they lead Drake by 8 with 4 and change to play. And in the big matchup, Curry just hit a 3 with a minute to play to give him 27 the second half! Davidson by 3...

1:35 pm--In the Davidson game they just panned to a shot of a depressed Adam Morrison. Wow, what a freak. His trashy hair is now down below his shoulders and he's still rocking the trailer park 'stache even though he hasn't been on TV in 2 years (I always assumed the reason for growing it was to get some television exposure). What a tool.

Curry, who looks like he's 12 years old by the way, finishes with 40 points (30 in the second half) for the game as Davidson beats Gonzaga 81-76. Told ya bitches.

1:48 pm--Somebody forgot to tell Drake that, as the 5 seed, they're supposed to get upset. They were playing the role of losers until the last 2 minutes of the game. That's when they realized that they are better than Western Kentucky and finally started playing like it. Now we get to watch bonus basketball and there is a small chance that my bracket isn't completely fucked afterall.

Oh, and the burgers are now being made on the skillet. Not quite the same but it'll do. I know, you care.

2:13 pm--Ooooooooooooohhhhhhh!!!!! The Hilltoppers with the game winner at the buzzer! Now that's what I'm talking about. I don't care that I picked Drake. This is what the Tournament is all about.

Time to eat--a decent little delay is possible.

2:48 pm--Ok, that was delicious and now it's time to do some hardcore basketball watching again. What's on tap for this afternoon? Oh. Butler-South Alabama, Georgetown-University of Maryland Baltimore County, Texas-Austin Peay, and Connecticut-San Diego. Well, at least that UCONN game might be close.

I know the NCAA does this to people like me on purpose. They put all the shitty, boring games on in the afternoon because they assume people actually work during the tournament. It makes sense, I know, but help a brother out here and get me a better game to watch. I'm tired of watching mid-majors run around and miss open shots and turn the ball over.

(Yes, I know it's ridiculous that I'm complaining after the endings to the Davidson and Western Kentucky games from this morning. Short term memory.)

3:12 pm--This is getting a bit boring. Three of the four games have leads of 15+ at the half. UConn-SD is the only close game as they are knotted at 20 with 7 to play. This seems like the appropriate time to end this live blog. I figure most of you out there reading will be leaving work relatively soon, so I'd have no audience. Thanks for joining me today and keep reading.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Madness Begins

Happy Tournament Day everyone! I don't know about anyone else, but this is one of my 3 favorite days of the year (along with Opening Day for the Twins and the day school gets out for the summer). I had trouble sleeping last night in anticipation of today's games. Since all three TKOT writers are extremely busy today/tonight, there won't be any other posts today about the games. So turn on CBS if you have access to a TV and/or log into for live, streaming video of the games and enjoy the day. However, if you find yourself at work on Friday without much to do, make sure you are refreshing this site every half hour. I'm going with the Running Diary (copyright Bill Simmons) during all of tomorrow's action, and will attempt to update roughly every 30 minutes. Enjoy the games and have TK up as one of your window's tomorrow. Peace.

Type rest of the post here

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March Madness here we come...

Below are questions from each region answered by the three of us dillweeds. Enjoy.

EAST Region

Best first round match up?

Dogg- Best first round match up will be Indiana vs. Arkansas. Both teams have been very good at times this year but they both have been very average as well. I believe the departure of Kelvin Sampson has put a huge damper on this team and I see Indiana not showing up in round 1 with their new head coach. Arkansas by 8...

Q: I think the best first round match up has to be Butler vs South Alabama. Two midmajor teams that a majority of the country knows nothing about. If Butler continues to shoot the ball as they have for most of the season, it is very likely that they win this game and upset Tennessee in the second round.

Fuzz: The best first round match-up is Washington State (#4) against Winthrop (#13). Winthrop can win this game. They have a bunch of thugs on their team and Wash St. is a bunch of pussies.

Sleeper team?

Fuzz: As for a sleeper team, I think the obvious choice is Butler. They are 29-3! That is an impressive record. They beat Ohio State and Virginia Tech earlier in the season. Both are NIT teams but both are pretty good teams. Plus, they won't have to meet UNC until the Elite Eight since they are in the lower area of the bracket.

Q: I'm not sure how much of a "sleeper" a 7 seed can be like Butler is, but I like them winning at least 2 if not 3 games and ruining a lot of brackets (just not mine, of course).

Dogg: My sleeper team is Butler. They play very good defense, slow the game down to the pace where most college teams are very uncomfortable and have great guard play with Green and Graves. They’ve played the big dogs the past two seasons so playing Tennessee in a potential 2nd round match up will not be intimidating for this squad. They could make a run towards the Sweet Sixteen, maybe even the Elite 8….

Dream match up in later rounds?

Dogg: Louisville vs. Tennessee would be a great one to see. Tennessee can score points with the best of them and Louisville plays defense that most teams can’t handle. Tennessee bombs 3’s and Louisville guards the 3 point line like no other team in the country. This game would be very intriguing and you always take defense over offense. I would pick Louisville in this game….

Fuzz: UNC and Tennessee is the dream matchup. Both have occupied the #1 team in the land at some point this year.

Q: I know a lot of people want to see the Tar Heels and the Volunteers square off, but I'm not one of them. A Butler/Oklahoma Elite 8 match up would be a dream for me because it would mean that my brackets are in good shape.

Who comes out of this region?

Q: As for a team to head to San Antonio for the Final Four? You'd have to be crazy not to pick UNC, so I'll go with them. As long as Lawson is up and running, they are nearly impossible to defend with inside (Hansbrough) and outside (Ellington) scoring options.

Dogg: Hansbrough and UNC come out of this bracket. Psycho T is the best player in college basketball and is a force on the block. Lawson and Ellington can step up in any big game and they are deep. They will outlast any team in a running game...

Fuzz: I know this will be ripped but I think Louisville comes out of this region. UNC is going to be in everyone's final four but not with this guy. Louisville is a balanced team that went 14-4 in the Big East, including the Big East Tourney. They are a tough team. Pitno is a pretty damn good coach, too. Louisville represents the East bitches!!

Any Additional comments about this region?

Dogg- Washington St. is my team to watch. They are unique in that they can score when they really decide to push the ball but also have the ability to slow the game down to a Princeton type style. They have great guard play with Weaver and Lowe who will both play at the next level so this team should not be overlooked.

Fuzz- The East region is a pretty tough region in my mind. Maybe the toughest. UNC could be playing Indiana second round and Indiana was ranked near the top 10 all year until Sampson got booted. They could just turn it on.

Q- The East will be tough, but it is not the toughest. Sure you have the #1 overall seed in Carolina, but I think there are some very overrated teams in this bracket, starting with the 2nd seeded Volunteers. Sure they score a lot of points, but they also give up a ton and don't shoot free throws all that well either. Not a great combination for tournament success. Strong arguments could also be made about Louisville and Washington St. (the 3 and 4 seeds) not being very tough as well.

MIDWEST region

Does Kansas finally break through to the Final four? Why or Why not?

Fuzz: Yes, they do. Bill Self and the Jayhawks seem to have a hot team entering every tourney but come up short every year. Not this year. They have the depth and the will to get to San Antonio. Guys like Chalmers, Rush and Robinson know to well what it feels like leaving the tourney too early and this year the wait is over.

Q: If you take out the fact that this is Kansas, they would appear, on paper, to have a team that absolutely should go to the Final Four. They have the best and deepest backcourt in the nation with Chalmers, Robinson, Rush, and Collins. Combine those guys with above average big men in Kahn, Arthur, and Jackson and you have possibly the most talented team in the land. The problem is the name on the front of the jersey. This is the same school that has produced uber-talented teams over the last two years and have been bounced in the first round by Bucknell and Bradley. Nevertheless, I'm going to say that they finally get that proverbial monkey off their back with a trip to San Antonio this year. Not because this team is necessarily that much better than in previous years, but rather because of the lack of talent in this region. For instance, Georgetown, the 2 seed, has not been consistent and their star player, Roy Hibbert, has proven that he can absolutely disappear at crucial times (such as fouling out with 0 points and 3 rebounds in the Big East semi's).

Dogg: I believe Kansas does breakthrough to the Final Four this year. I don’t see a real threat to them in their bracket is the first reason and secondly they are that good this year. They have the best 7 man rotation in the country and if Mario Chalmers decides to be the player he can be during crunch time I see them playing in the National Championship. They don’t really have a weakness except maybe for their tournament jinx but with a little more experience and Bill Self probably itching to reach a Final Four they are primed for a big time run at the title.

Who has the better game: Mayo or Beasley?

Dogg: I believe Beasley will have a better stat line when it comes to points but Mayo leads his team to victory. This will go with my answer to my sleeper team in this region who is USC. They were up and down most of the year but I really like all the Pac 10 teams this year as I believe from top to bottom that this was by far the toughest conference. Thanks to FSN on Thursday nights and Saturday nights we are blessed with late night Pac 10 basketball and it was exciting every night out because most of the teams were legit. I believe Mayo and Beasley will rise up on the national stage for this game but USC is just a much better team than Kansas St. The supporting cast for USC can actually play basketball and other than Bill Walker, Kansas St. doesn’t have another player who should be playing college basketball at any level.

Fuzz: Beasley will have the better offensive statistic game but Mayo’s USC team will win this game. Beasley could have 40 and they could still lose. Mayo will get his 20 and Beasley will get his absurd stat line that seemed to be the norm for him. Even though I see Kansas State losing, I’m not sold on USC either. I think USC wins this game but gets stuffed from Wisconsin the next game. USC will get owned by Bo Ryan’s D. Anyways, what really matters is that Beasley needs plenty of time off to get up to Minny and start house shopping. Needs to get comfortable with his surroundings.

Q: In the made-for-TV match up between USC and Kansas State, I have Beasley with the better game (Jay Bilas guaranteed that he'd get 30+ on ESPN last night), but Mayo and the Trojans will win the game because of OJ's unselfish play. Mayo has gotten a reputation for being a me-first player, but he'll shatter those thoughts and have the country raving about him as USC wins no fewer than 2 games.

Sleeper team?

Q: I'd love to say Davidson is the sleeper, considering we've been pimping them on the site all year, but I'm just not sure with the draw they got. A potential Gonzaga-Georgetown-Wisconsin run is a very daunting task. So instead I'm going with Clemson. The four or five times I've seen them play this year, they have looked really good. They have a great combination of guard play and physically imposing size to play with anyone in the region. Their free throw shooting may be their ultimate downfall, but don't be surprised if they pull off an Elite 8 run.

Fuzz: Q doesn’t like when sleepers are high seeds, but I’m putting Vanderbilt down here. Yes, Vanderbilt the #4 seed. I’m putting them down because I’ve literally heard nothing about their chances since the brackets have come out. Out of the top four seeds in each bracket they have to be the least mentioned. I bet a lot of people pick them to lose early because of the non-media coverage. They did beat Tennessee and have a pretty good team. If Vandy makes the Sweet 16, they’d more than likely play Kansas to get to the Elite Eight. Even though I personally think Kansas will advance, Kansas is far from a guarantee this time of the year. Vandy could make a run.

Who do you have representing this region?

Fuzz: Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Dogg: Kansas and Bill Self represent big time throughout the tournament and think they are one of 3 teams who have a shot at winning the title. We all know their fans will be supporting their team because they are one large click who live and die KU hoops. I personally know several who attended KU and trust me when I say their fans will be cheering louder than ever this season.

Q: As stated earlier, I've got to go with Kansas. I'm not a big fan of the Hoyas or the Badgers, and picking Clemson to represent the region is a call that is way too bold for me to take. KU's depth is going to be the key to them squaring off against UNC in a match up that will get hyped to no end.

SOUTH region

Who's the best Point guard in this bracket?

Q: Wow, what a loaded region for playmakers--great question. Let's make sure everyone's clear on the options for best PG in the South: Rose (MEM), Neitzel (MSU), Fields (PIT), James (MU), Crawford (KEN), Augustin (TEX), and whichever guard out of Oregon you deem as the point. Holy cow. Well with all due respect to the clutchness (made up word) of Neitzel and the excitability (another) of Rose, I'm going to have to go with DJ Augustin out of Texas. I may be a bit biased since I just spent the last 3-4 days in Kansas City watching the Big 12 Tournament and got to see him up close and personal, but I think DJ is the real deal. He can score, pass, defend--he does it all. Plus, I think he'll be the catalyst that gets Rick Barnes' club to the Final Four.

Fuzz: Let’s run through a few of the names of PG’s in this bracket: Derrick Rose, Drew Neitzel, Dominic James and DJ Augustin. That’s a good group. D-James is overrated but still deserves to be on this list. When he’s on, he’s as hard of a player to stop as anyone in the country. Unfortunately for James and Marquette, he’s off more than he’s on. Neitzel is probably the PG with the biggest kahuna’s in that list. Gamer is overused, but he’s just that. Rose is an extremely talented freshman who plays for a system that favors good point guards. Memphis runs and runs and runs so a good PG can really excel. Rose has done just that.

That leaves DJ Augustin, my pick for the best PG in this bracket and even the nation for that matter. DJ is unreal. There is a reason why Texas didn’t fall off after Durant left; it’s because of this animal. Bob Knight called him the hardest guy to guard in the nation the other night. Texas could be Final Four bound if he simply does what he does best---be the best PG in the nation.

Dogg: Yeah, there are a few good PG's in this region but my clear cut best PG and maybe best player in this region is Dominic James from Marquette. I still don't know how he only got 2nd team all Big East but Marquette is a fringe NIT team if he's not on the court. I know he tends to disappear at times but when it's national television time it's D-James time! He will lead Marquette so a Sweet Sixteen berth this year.

What's the most intriguing possible Sweet 16 matchup?

Dogg: I see Marquette playing Texas and seeing two undersized but explosive PG's duking it out with James and D.J Augustin. Both teams can look like the best team in the country but both have looked relatively mediocre at times especially the Golden Eagles. I like Marquette in this matchup and think this is their year to make a legit run.

Fuzz: Memphis vs. Michigan State would be an interesting game. Memphis plays like the Phoenix Suns and Michigan State plays like a small town high school team playing zone and box & one’s. Michigan State would try to control the tempo almost at an uncomfortable to watch slow-down level and Memphis would try to do the same but at the opposite end of the spectrum. I could see Memphis players getting very frustrated with this game. It simply would be a pro-typical Big Ten team playing against a pro-typical Conf. USA team.

Q: In the Sweet 16, I'd love to see Stanford-Texas. It may not have the flash and boatloads of points that a game like Memphis-Pittsburgh would, but for a real college basketball fan, this would be highly entertaining. Both teams have numerous players that are currently big time stars (and others that will be soon) and it would be interesting to see who would prevail--the Cardinal with their twin towers Brooke and Robin Lopez, or the Horns and their dynamite backcourt of Augustin and AJ Abrams. I'm getting excited just writing about it.

Overall thoughts on this region?

Q: Top to bottom, this is the most difficult and balanced region in the tournament. You have the consistent high level of play from Memphis, Texas, and Stanford, as well as a number of those "next level" teams that could easily go on a 5 or 6 game tear in Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Marquette, and Kentucky. Oh, and don't forget about a couple of potential Cinderella's in Temple and St. Mary's. This quarter of the bracket is absolutely loaded and I wouldn't be surprised to see any two of the previously mentioned nine teams battling it out for the right to go to the Lonestar state.

Dogg: Memphis doesn't make the Final Four is my thought. I selected Oregon in my draft for teams because if they can get by Miss. St. they can run up and down with just about anybody. They can score but aren't deep. Stay out of foul trouble and they might just be the spoiler once again for Memphis.

Fuzz: With Memphis as the #1 seed, this bracket is the widest open of all the regions. Out of all the #1’s most would agree that Memphis would be the most vulnerable. Memphis scores a healthy amount but also gives up its fair share. They are also a horrendous free throw shooting team, which doesn’t bode well come tourney time since most games are close ones. So, that leaves the door open for Texas. Texas is also a very good team but has the most losses out of any #2 seed with bad losses to Missouri, Texas Tech and an overrated A&M squad. So, that leaves the door open for Stanford. How many brackets has Stanford fucked this decade? Exactly. So, that leaves the door open for etc... This is the hardest bracket to pick in my opinion.

Who do you have taking this region?

Fuzz: I like the Longhorns. They played the Jayhawks very tough in the Big 12 championship game and Kansas could be the best team in the country. I think the Free Throw stat comes into play for Memphis. Calipari seems like one of those coaches who think this stat is overrated. He just blows off FT drills some days. “Shit, we’ll just outscore them so it doesn’t matter.” I could see him saying something like that. I think it bites them in the ass and Texas rides to the Final Four.

Dogg: I have Marquette in a huge surprise!!

Q: I have the University of Texas Longhorns representing the South region with Damian James as a sleeper Regional MVP.

WEST region

Who is the best coach in this region?

Q: Oh man, what a loaded first question. I'll give our readers one guess as to the moderator of this roundtable. Here's a hint: he waited until Duke's region to ask the question "Who is the best coach?" Well I'm not going to give you the satisfaction, Fuzz. I'm taking Ben Howland at UCLA. The guy has an amazing track record for success in both the regular season and the NCAA Tournament. Here are some stats for your ass: overall record of 290-143 (.670 winning percentage), including 122-44 (.735) with the Bruins. Won the Big Sky regular season twice and the Big Sky tournament once. At Pitt, he won two regular season Big East crowns and one Big East tournament title. Since coming to UCLA he has taken home the Pac 10 regular season title three times and has twice been victorious in the Pac 10 tournament. The guy flat out wins (went to the last two Final Fours and has his team poised as a #1 seed again this year).

Fuzz: This region boasts some pretty decent ones, but my pick is Coach K. Weird. Since Coach K took over 27 years ago, he’s had three losing seasons, three National Championships and 10 final four appearances. Plus, he’s one of the most hated coaches for fans out there and it’s more reason for me to love him.

Dogg: The best coach in this region is a complete landslide with Ben Howland. He leaves Pittsburgh for UCLA and with mass amounts of pressure on him; he has led UCLA to two straight Final Fours and probably a 3rd straight this year. He recruits, has guys leave early and then develops new stars the next year, recruits again and it he doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

What is the best first round game?

Dogg: Arizona/WV is the most intriguing game for me. There are 3 superstars in this game (Joe Alexander, Jared Bayless and Chase Buddinger). Two of them play for Arizona but WV has a much deeper and more balanced team so I'm taking WV. Watch out for WV to give Duke a nice run in round 2.

Fuzz: 5-12 game---Drake vs. Western Kentucky. With Drake already being a Cinderella story, they’ll be picked heavily against in this game. Everyone usually picks an upset in the 5-12 game and Drake seems like the safest #5 seed to go down. Will Drake keep the glass slippers on or will they be another 5-12 statistic?

Q: The best first round game in the South come courtesy of West Virginia and Arizona. Not many people in the country know about Joe Alexander and the Mountaineers, but they will soon. This team is talented, well coached, and has a shot at pulling off a huge upset of Duke in the second round (you know, if the Blue Devil can manage to squeak by Belmont, which is by no means a guarantee). On the other hand, many so-called experts are bitching and moaning about the fact that the Wildcats shouldn't even be in the tourney. That doubt always seems to put a chip on teams' shoulders and pushes them to play well above expectations (i.e. when UNC "shouldn't" have gotten in a few years back and then went to the Final Four). It would not shock me if Arizona took out WV in the first round and then Duke in the second round. I think the moral of the story is that the winner of this game WILL beat Duke in the second round and I will be happy.

Who is the most overrated team?

Fuzz: My two cohorts will probably say Duke. Actually, I know they will. This is a softball question for them to once again rip down Duke. They take any chance they can...believe me. Personally, I think it’s Georgia. Yes, they are a #14 seed but they don’t even belong here. Screw this automatic conference tourney bid bullshit. They aren’t even close to the top 64 teams in the country, which they preach it is. The Gophers are better than the Bulldogs.

Q: Most overrated team? Easy--the Duke Blue Devils. They blow, enough said.

Dogg: I believe Drake is the most overrated team in this region. I've seen them play twice and yes they do play hard but they rely heavily on the 3 point shot and don't have a lot of athleticism to guard anybody big or quick. I like Western Kentucky to beat Drake in round one.

Fuzz: One out of two ain’t bad right?

Who is your pick to win this region?

Q: My pick to win this region is UCLA in a cakewalk. The only game they're likely to get is in the Elite 8 against Xavier and even that game won't be all that close. Howland and the Bruins stroll into San Antonio for a ridiculous 3rd year in a row.

Fuzz: UCLA. They’re a Final Four machine. This would be their third straight Final Four and I see it happening. UCLA, Kevin Love and his outlet passing get through a fairly easy bracket to reach San Antonio as my last team.

Dogg: I'm taking UCLA because Duke lives behind the arc and if they do match up in the Elite 8, Kevin Love is going to own the block. UCLA will guard the 3 point shot and are as athletic as Duke so they will be able to contain penetration and kick tactic they like to use.


Who wins it all? Over who?

Fuzz: If you weren’t paying attention my Final Four is: Louisville, Kansas, Texas and UCLA. I see Kansas winning it all over UCLA. Alfalfa finally gets to cut down the nets after years of disappointment.

Q: So that makes my Final Four UNC, Kansas, Texas, and UCLA (I know, real original). I have UNC and Texas advancing to the final game with the Tar Heels leaving as the 2008 National Champions.

Dogg: I'm taking UCLA over Kansas. UCLA has the easiest road to the Final Four so they should be the healthiest team going into the Final Four, which usually plays a factor on the outcome. I'm waiting anxiously to see Ben Howland holding the trophy while "One Shining Moment" is played.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

What I'm rooting for

Below are a few things that I'm rooting for right now.

1) I’m rooting for Francisco Liriano aka “F-bomb” aka “The Franchise” aka “our only #1 quality pitcher” to be the opening day starter. Reports in the locals this week have Gardy leaning toward Livan Hernandez as your March 31st (19 days away!) starter. I don’t like that. Livan was the add-on fatty we added late in the off-season to help us eat innings---not be our #1 guy! And everything I’ve been hearing is that Liriano has a great chance to make the rotation out of spring ball rather than be sent to the minors for more rehab work. So, if F-bomb makes the five-man rotation, why not start him against the Angels that first game? By the way, it’s a nationally televised game. The sports nation is going to feel pity on us when we roll out 8.00 ERA Livan for our first game. Liriano is clearly our best pitcher and having him run onto the mound in the first game would give fans a sense of hope---Liriano is back baby!

2) I’m rooting for the Minnesota Vikings to get going on this whole back up quarterback situation. They’re acting like college students with this procrastination method they’re implying. Half-heartedly looking for someone to bring in. This isn’t the night before a term paper due at your 8:15 class Chilly, this is about the future of your job. The Vikings employ three quarterbacks in their franchise. Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger and Darrell Bevell. One looks like an overmatched small college quarterback, one looks like Kyle from “Road Trip” and the other is a 38-year-old offensive coordinator.

I think it would be smart for Chilly to grab a good enough veteran to push T-Jack. Just my opinion folks. It will also be a safety blanket in case T-Jack isn’t the answer, which everyone seems to be predicting. A 2nd round pick for Sage Rosenfels is probably too much. Some people might not think so because draft picks are never guaranteed to pan out. However, a second round pick for a below average veteran QB is too much for me. However, the Vikings do have two 3rd round picks and two 6th round picks along with their current picks. Would a 3rd and a 6th do it? I would do that. Or if you do think you’re that close for competing for a title, give up that second round pick but for a better QB. Second round picks are pretty valuable and could get you someone with a better resume. Would a first day pick be too much for like a Kurt Warner? I don’t have the answer to that but I’d rather have him than a J.P Losman, Mark Burnell, Chris Wienke or Bryon Leftwich, the only guys that are available right now. Either way, T-Jack needs some pressure and we need a plan B bad!

3) I’m rooting for Big Al Jefferson to develop some sort of illness that prevents him from playing the rest of the season. That’s right, I’m on the tanking bandwagon. If it’s a case of the shits (like Harry from “Dumb & Dumber”) or a herpes breakout (like 1-4 US teenage girls I guess) or Kidney stones (like Al Swearengen from “Deadwood”), anything to keep him off the court, I’m all for. Actually, I don’t wish the Kidney stones on our favorite player. The Doc stuck a two-foot rod up Swearengen’s penis to try to remove them---not cool. Make something else up T-wolves, just something! Tanking doesn’t promise you anything but it increases your odds. Having a better chance at a game changer like Michael Beasley or a Derrick Rose fits this team a lot better than another wing player like OJ Mayo or the Euro fuck. Our wing players aren’t rock stars but we have a good amount of solid ones (McCants, Foye, Brewer, & Gomes). An influential post like Beasley or a penetrating point guard like Rose, balances out our team. Anyone up for kidnapping Al for the next month? I’d be down.

4) I’m rooting for the newly acquired psycho wingman Chris Simon to flip out another NHL player. I don’t wish injury on anyone but a cheap shot that suspended him again would be an interesting scenario for this market. Minnesota is known as the nice State. The “we do things right up here” State. Adding Buffalo Bill to the roster at the trading deadline didn’t fly so well in Wild Hockeyland. The move was ripped by almost everyone. Now, I’m the jackass cheering for him to blow a fuse on the ice. He hasn’t played much but when he does, keep your eyes peeled. The fucked up thing is, I’m truthfully rooting for this. I want to see the uproar when he takes off a guy’s head like in Mortal Kombat.

5) I’m rooting for my roommate Q to come around on Tricky Nicky Punto. Dogg & I are trying are best to convince him that Punto is going to have a bounce back year. 2/3 of TKOT has faith in the diving into first base little speedster with the big heart. Q doesn’t. For example, Q brought up the fact that Punto is hitting .077 this spring. Then I proceeded to point out that Ichiro is 0-21 this spring and that all good hitters come around. He didn’t buy it but we’re still trying our best people. He’ll come around sooner or later. As the old cliché goes: Nick is #8 in your programs but #1 in your hearts. So true.

6) I’m rooting for the snow to go away so I can get on the golf course, grill outside and beat the shit out of my friends in “bags.” That’s how I do.

7) I’m rooting for Jason “Bobby Marley” Castro to win American Idol this season. One, I have him on my fantasy Idol team. Two, I think he’d be the first contestant ever to win the show and celebrate by smoking a J. on stage. This would immediately strip him of his million-dollar contract but I think he’d still do it. He’d say he would be fine because all he needs is his guitar and a street corner to live on man.

8) I’m rooting for the NBA Western Conference standings to end just like it is. First round playoff matchups would be: Lakers vs. Golden State- another #1 choke job? Probably not, but Golden State did it last year and could easily do it again. G.S. is 14 games over .500, so they aren’t a slouch team. You never know, but I think Kobe would will the Lakers to win this series. Houston vs. Dallas- battle of Texas. Dallas comes in as the #6 seed with a major role reversal from last years #1 seed. Maybe they play loosey goosey and play spoiler here. Houston is on a 20- game win streak and every team in history with a streak as high as theirs has gone onto win the NBA title. Well, they easily could get beat in round one. The West is so awesome this year…again. San Antonio vs. Phoenix- Revenge factor for the Suns after Horry bodychecked Nash last year that caused Amare and Diaw to get suspended for a game that gave the Spurs all the momentum to finish them off for good. One of the biggest bullshit rule enforcements ever. Will the trade for Shaq payoff in this series? We’ll see. Utah vs. New Orleans- Paul vs. Williams. Two of the best young pure point guards going head-to-head. Enough said. I don’t know how many NBA fans are out there, but these matchups would be entertaining as hell.

9) I’m rooting for Lucas & Lindsey and Nate & Haley.

10) I’m rooting for the PGA to keep John Daly on tour. Some people think his actions are bad for the game. I don’t think it’s hurting it. He’s a colorful character that makes Golf more interesting. He respects the game and is not doing any inappropriate to the course or the fans. He’s doing all the hurt to himself. Last weekends tournament, Daly got cut but stayed the weekend to “hangout” around the area, especially Hooters. His actions were called into question and here was his response: "I love Hooters. I had a few beers and some chicken wings. It was Saturday. I wasn't even playing in the tournament." Please keep him around.

11) I’m rooting for Duke to win the NCAA Championship. Surprised? Probably not. I don’t give a shit what any of you say; they have a pretty good shot. This year is wide open as ever. Now, I will say a few things do need to fall into place for them to get the last image in “One Shining Moment.” First off, they can’t have an off night shooting behind the arc after the Sweet 16. I think they are good enough to have an off shooting night and get to the Sweet 16. ESPN braketology has them as the #2 seed in Midwest bracket. They would play #15 Bellmont first round. Assuming they win, they would play either #7 Gonzaga or #10 Texas A&M. I just don’t see them losing before the Sweet 16 to those types of teams. So, beyond those first two games, their bread & butter (shooting threes) needs to be on or they will be bounced.

The second thing that needs to happen is they have to get lucky with teams in their bracket that don’t have a ton of size---a major weakness of this Duke team. Staying with the ESPN bracket, Tennessee is the #1 seed, Wisconsin is the #3 seed, Notre Dame is the #4 seed and Butler is the #5 seed. Sorry to break it you, but they have as good as chance as any of those teams representing the Midwest in the Final Four. I’d be nervous if the #1 seed in their bracket was a UNC or a UCLA. They’ll have a hard time competing with the big frontcourts. However, the tourney is full of surprises so maybe a team with some size gets bounced early and Duke shoots the lights out (which they can) for three weeks. I’m waiting to see the brackets to put them all the way, but they are on a short list of mine to win it all. I’d probably only favor 3-4 teams above them to cut down the nets (copyright Steve Lavin).

11) I’m rooting for Ben to kill Locke. Locke’s pissing me off. He’s the only chump that wants to stay on the island (for obvious reasons) but he’s taking down everyone with him with his personal agenda. Ben is the sneakiest dirty bastard on that island and will find a way to dethrone Locke’s power. That is a guarantee. Just think, Sayid had Ben figured out when he was a black man named Henry Gale from Minnesota about two seasons ago. Should have listened to him...

12) I’m rooting for politicians to be moral upstanding citizens. In the latest case of shadiness, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer solicits a hooker for his pleasure. Seems like a hell of an idea when you’re married with three daughters and are the Governor of one of the great States in this country. Way to think that one out pal. Below is the lady he was seeing:

Maybe it was money well spent...kidding...kind of...

13) I’m rooting for the Vikings to take Calais Campbell DE from Miami in the upcoming draft. If you remember, our very own resident draft guru, “The Bag,” had Calais at the 6th overall pick in his “Voices from a Stranger” column about a month ago. Since then, Calais has dropped in a few mock drafts I’ve seen in the teens. Mel Kiper even has him going to us at #17. We have a glaring need at DE and CC would be a nice addition to our team. Let’s hope he’s not like the stereotypical Miami player that find themselves more in police blotters than at charity events.

14) I’m rooting for May 17th, 2008. It’s the day Spencer Tollackson graduates.

15) Finally, I'm rooting the State of Minnesota to get out of this sports funk. We're the fucking laughing stock of the nation in the sports world. We have GM's and coaches that are punchlines. Every team is either really shitty or not quite there. Vikings and the Wild seem closer than the Twins and Wild. Gopher hoops is a few years away also. We don't have one team in this market that has everyone fired up. Please let that happen soon...


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