Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

Tomorrow's Cheap Seats will be at beautiful (sort of) old (sort of) Cooper Stadium in Columbus, OH. Why, you ask? Well, when I looked over the pre-season schedule for my beloved Washington Nationals, I noticed that they'll be doing a sort of "farm tour" at the end of Spring Training. They will play two games at the home stadiums of two of their farm teams, the first in Columbus, and the second in Norfolk, VA, before moving on to a couple of exhibitions at RFK Stadium.

Why is this so amazingly excellent? Probably because Columbus is about three hours away from Bloomington, whereas RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, is about 11 hours away. That means...I'm seeing a pro baseball game! The crack of wood on polished leather, the snappy white or grey uniforms, the smell of the grass, and the taste of those most beautiful of food items: the stadium dogs. As for feel...well, judging by the weather we're having around here, it could be a tad cool and wet. You know what, though? WHO CARES! I'M SEEING A BASEBALL GAME!

So, what of the game itself? Well, those pesky Nats, as they were once called, will be taking on their rivals from up I-95 (and US-1 and US-295), the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, being in Ohio, this game has nothing to do with I-95, but that's a minor technicality. The Nationals actually seem to stand a good chance in this game because of their record thus far in Spring Training. True, they're only 11-15, but that translates to a .423 winning percentage, which is on a level with their record last season. Also, their wins have come against teams like the NL runner-up Mets, the AL champion Tigers, and National League rivals Florida, Houston, and Los Angeles. There does happen to be some promise in this team. If they can tap into that promise, they might be able to pull off some surprises, much like last years Florida Marlins.

I'll be sending some pictures along for you folks tomorrow night or Friday night. Take me out to the ballgame, and go Nats!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pack Your Bags! We're Goin' to Hot-lanta!

In 5 days, about 50,000 people will pack the not-so-cheap seats at the Georgia Dome for some Final Four basketball action. Before we get to that, though, let's have a look at how I did on my brackets through the Elite Eight:

Once again, as with every other round in this tournament, I have one pick that turned out to be a complete bust, and today's pick was Kansas. I don't think it's a matter of Kansas being a bad team, though they did look somewhat shaky in their game against Southern Illinois. UCLA's victory over Kansas is an example of the guys from Westwood doing exactly what they need to do to win games. The best example of this so far in UCLA's run was the close victory over Indiana. Right when they looked like they were going to collapse in the final minutes, they played solid defense which helped force the botched inbound play by the Hoosiers. This weekend, they did exactly what they needed to do to play two solid games against Pitt and Kansas. Needless to say, Florida will have a tough test on Saturday night.

Obviously, my best pick remains the Hoyas of Georgetown University. Georgetown went on a massive tear in the last 5 minutes of their elite eight game against the North Carolina Tar Heels to tie the game. Then they played some excellent shut-down defense to hold UNC to a total of 3 points in overtime. After being down for much of the game, the gritty effort showed that Georgetown is definitely ready to take this tournament.

Georgetown will face a tough test in the Buckeyes from Ohio State, who match the size of Georgetown's front three. UCLA will face Florida in the other Final Four game in a rematch of last year's national championship game. It promises to be a good day of semifinal games under the big top in Atlanta. I'll be previewing the Final Four a little more in-depth when it gets to be that time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Let's Talk About Kentucky

So, the news of the day in college basketball yesterday was not Ohio State's 20-point comeback against Tennessee, or the clock issues in San Antonio that could very well have cost Texas A&M a victory over Memphis. The news of the day involved the glaringly empty seat that now sits at the end of the Kentucky Wildcats' bench. For the past ten years, that seat has been occupied by Tubby Smith. For the past ten years, the Cats had 20-win seasons, and had gone to the NCAA Tournament, advancing past the first round every time. Unfortunately, they only reached the Final Four once, in Tubby's first season.

While consistently making the second weekend of the tournament is fine at many schools, the Kentucky job carries a whole new level of expectation. The majority of Big Blue Nation will not be satisfied unless their team gets to at least the Final Four. Cats fans have been spoiled, with 49 tournament appearances, a 100-44 record, and seven championships since the tournament's inception in 1939. In the nineties alone, the Cats made the Final Four four times, including an amazing three straight championship games from '96-'98. The man responsible for three of those Final Fours, Rick Pitino, brought the Cats out of the difficult times created by Eddie Sutton's NCAA infractions and became a hero in Lexington (until, of course, he took over at rival Louisville). When Pitino left, Tubby Smith became "the guy who replaced (blank)," much like Matt Doherty of UNC or Mike Davis of Indiana. No matter how many games he won, or how many recruits he got, he was forever compared to Pitino and UK legend Adolph Rupp.

The major problem for formerly-dominant programs in this era of college basketball is that there is so much more parity than there used to be. Even as recently as the nineties, there were only a few clear-cut "power" schools. That decade was dominated by UNC, Duke, and Kentucky, with Arizona, Michigan and Connecticut also making noise. This decade, however, has been dominated by no specific team. Between 2000 and 2006, there have been seven different national champions. Teams from "mid-major" conferences have started to find their way into the limelight, most notably George Mason last year and Butler and Southern Illinois this year. Even in Kentucky's own conference, which they dominated for the longest time, Florida has assumed the reins with teams like Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi State turning some heads.

Kentucky fans, not seeming to realize this fairly plain-to-see fact, managed to pressure Tubby to the point that he decided he just had to get out. He went to a Minnesota program where he will be praised as a savior and to a Big Ten Conference whose play better suits his coaching style.

Now, unless the UK Athletic Department finds a way to exhume and reanimate the remains of Adolph Rupp, a similar fate is going to befall the next guy. Given some of the names that have been mentioned by the media, the next guy may already be a legend in his own right at another school. The problem is that a lot of these guys aren't going to want to step out of a place where they're a hero (see: Billy Donovan, Florida; John Calipari, Memphis; Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M) into a place where they will just be "the next guy".

Here's my best candidate for the Kentucky job: Butler's Todd Lickliter. The key to this one is that Lickliter is the coach at a mid-major school. Even the most stellar of mid-major schools are still considered second-class citizens by the general public. Lickliter has many connections in the state of Indiana, which is still a hotbed of high school basketball, and the results that he posted this season will make him an attractive coaching prospect. I'm fairly certain that the directors at Kentucky will be watching Lickliter's game against UK's SEC rival Florida tonight in the Sweet Sixteen. If Butler keeps it close, or even wins, there should be a contract offer sitting on Lickliter's desk when he gets back from St. Louis.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let's Continue With The Madness, Eh?

We've moved the Cheap Seats in front of my TV for this weekend, and we'll be watching The Madness intensely tonight. We have some pretty intriguing matchups to look forward to for the next two days, so let's take a look at what we've got.

Florida vs. Butler: Sure, Butler has some magic to them and they will provide Florida a tough test, but let's look at the facts. Butler has one major star player, AJ Graves. On the other hand, Florida's roster could give many NBA teams a run. It's a simple matter of ratios -- namely the ratio of five amazing starters for the Gators, and one star for Butler. Game goes to the Gators.

Oregon vs. UNLV: This one is one of the more interesting ones. Oregon has been an excellent team this year, and it would be easy to pick them over the Runnin' Rebels. The problem here is that UNLV seems to have found a spark that they haven't had since Tark the Shark was patrolling the sidelines in Vegas. They played good games against Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, neither of whom are pushovers. If the four day break didn't hurt them in any way, I see UNLV getting the upset (again) and playing Florida on Sunday.

Kansas vs. Southern Illinois: The Salukis are strong, but not that strong. Kansas plays such an amazing brand of basketball and has such great talent that it's very hard to imagine them losing this game. True, SIU played strong in their victory over Virginia Tech, but Kansas is on a whole new level from everyone else they've played this season.

Pittsburgh vs. UCLA: Having seen UCLA play twice in person, I'm not one-hundred percent sure they can roll with a team that plays consistent offense. Pitt's Aaron Gray will be looking out for the same moving double-team that frustrated Indiana's DJ White so much last Saturday. Unlike White, Gray will have more options for getting the ball out when the UCLA defense crashes on him. I think Pitt will have the upper hand in this one.

North Carolina vs. Southern Cal: The Trojans are one of the surprises of this season, rising up to contend with cross-town rivals UCLA in the Pac-10. North Carolina surprised no one, using their strong inside presence to dominate their ACC rivals. I think the Tyler Hansborough-Rayshawn Terry connection will propel the #1-seeded Tar Heels past the Trojans and into the Elite Eight.

Vanderbilt vs. Georgetown: Vanderbilt has a lot of heart, and that heart propelled them past a strong Washington St. team after two overtimes in Sacramento. That same heart will give Georgetown a tough run in the Sweet Sixteen. However, I still think Georgetown is one of the strongest teams in this tournament, with big man Roy Hibbert and sharpshooter Jeff Green leading the charge. Vanderbilt will be close, but not close enough. Georgetown moves on to meet UNC.

Ohio St. vs. Tennessee: Both of these teams have surprised people in this tournament, but for different reasons. Many people had Long Beach St. over Tennessee as their first round 5-12 upset. The Vols responded to that by posting a 121-86 beating. Ohio St., on the other hand, needed a missed flagrant foul call and a missed free throw just to force overtime against Xavier. I think now that Bruce Pearl understands that he can frustrate OSU's Greg Oden, he'll try his best to get the freshman fouled out. If Oden is riding the bench for most of the game, I don't know if Othello Hunter can pick up the slack. I know it goes against my original bracket, but I'm going to go with Tennessee in this one.

Texas A&M vs. Memphis: Memphis is a strong team with a great coach and a stellar record. They're also in Conference-USA. Texas A&M is the second-strongest team in a strong Big Twelve, and they have one of the best shooters in the country. The key, as it has been all season, will be Acie Law IV. If he's shooting like he normally does, this game is over. Texas A&M goes to the Elite Eight.

Well, there you go. The Sweet Sixteen begins tonight with Ohio St.-Tennessee, Texas A&M-Memphis, Kansas-SIU, and Pitt-UCLA. See you 'round, folks.

Monday, March 19, 2007

My Bracket: Post-Round 2

After the incredible 30-2 first round on my bracket, things took a slightly sour turn with my second round predictions:

My two worst picks came out of the Big Ten. I seriously thought that my Hoosiers had a shot at the UCLA Bruins, and they came oh-so-close to proving me right. Details about that in my previous entry. I also thought that Wisconsin would breeze by UNLV in front of a friendly crowd in Chicago, but it seems like the loss of Brian Butch hurt the Badgers more than anyone could've anticipated. UNLV is playing like the Jerry Tarkanian-coached teams of yore and they never gave Wisconsin a chance.

The two results that surprised me the most came out of the East Region, where USC took down a seemingly invincible Texas team, and the Vanderbilt Commodores, in a game I had the distinct pleasure of attending, took out the Washington State Cougars after two overtimes. The effort by Vanderbilt was monumental, especially considering how the Commodores haven't played at this level in a very long time. I think the play of the game for Vandy came during the first overtime when Wazzu got a fast break in the final minute. Vanderbilt's star Derrick Byars raced down the court and blocked what would have been the go-ahead basket, helping send the game into the second, deciding OT period.

The last two mistakes on my bracket were a strong Virginia team getting one-upped by an inconsistent Tennessee team, and the fact that I had Creighton, first round losers, going to the Sweet Sixteen. In Creighton's stead, the Tigers of Memphis will face the toughest test they've had all season in Texas A&M.

In review, I had the play-in correct, went 30-2 first round, and a 10-6 second round, and I already have incorrect results for two Sweet Sixteen games. That puts me at 41-10 for this year's tournament. I'll come back some time during the week with a preview of the Sweet Sixteen.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Almost-Comeback of the Tournament

The view from the Cheap Seats will no longer be of Indiana Basketball -- at least not until October. The Hoosiers got right to the edge, but could not take the final step against UCLA. Thus, the team will remain in Bloomington until Novermber, instead of getting ready to go to San Jose.

The first half of the NCAA Second-round game in Sacramento was really hard to explain, but I'll give it a shot. Great defense, plus inconsistent offense, equals a nasty, low-scoring game. I've seen some ridiculous things in my twenty-odd years on this planet, but a 20-13 first half in college basketball is way out there. These two teams had amazing offensive capabilities, with guys like Afllalo, Mbah-Amoute, and Collison out there for UCLA and White, Wilmont, and Ratliff out there for IU. However, if you these guys can't get a shot off, there's obviously no way they can score points.

Luckily, the second half was a decidedly smoother one to watch. IU still made some interesting mistakes here and there, but they found their stride around the 8 minute timeout. Then UCLA did something that has become a norm for them: collapse towards the end. Indiana, consistently down by 10 or more, managed to tie the game at 49 with a minute to go. Lance Stemler, who seemed to be morally against effective shooting for most of the year, hit two key three-pointers. UCLA couldn't get a ball to go through the rim if they climbed a ladder and placed the ball above the basket. Everything was pointing towards a comeback and upset.

It was 51-49, UCLA, and Indiana was ready to go down the floor and tie or take the lead. Stemler was inbounding the ball after a kicked ball by UCLA, and he threw it in just in front of Earl Calloway. Guess what else was just in front of Earl Calloway. UCLA's defense, which stole the ball away. In Lance's defense, this was the second Division 1 tournament game he'd ever played. The energy of the team was climbing inoxerably, and the resultant jitters caused the error. IU had plenty of time to score a basket, but the boys wanted to get it done right then and there. Lance's pass was intercepted, and UCLA ended up drawing two intentional fouls in order to jump ahead for good.

So, what does this mean for the Hoosiers? Well, there's an upside and a downside to the end of this season. On the downside, two of the most energetic players on the team -- Errek Suhr and Earl Calloway -- will be moving on to the life of a college graduate. Likewise, this year's best shooter, Rod Wilmont, is probably heading to the NBA. On the plus side, the loss of Wilmont should be no problem, because AJ Ratliff should be stepping into that hole and Eric Gordon will take Ratliff's spot. Another big plus will be the addition of Eli Holman to the team, giving the Hoosiers 5 big men to rotate on and off the bench. I think the key to next season will be either finding a new point guard in the recruiting class, or seriously improving the point play of Armon Bassett. The kid is a good guard, but he makes some key mistakes when they put him in the 1-spot.

All things considered, though, next year should be quite an interesting one for the Hoosiers. Look for a deep tournament run for the Cream and Crimson this time next year.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Bracket, Post-Round 1

Ok...this isn't about me lording the superiority of my bracket over you. Oh wait! Yes it is. See, I didn't enter any pools or contests or anything with my bracket this year. Thus, this is the only place where I can really show it off. Here it is in all it's glory (green checks = correct, red x's = wrong):

There is a lot of green on this bracket, and not much in the way of red. My worst pick was obviously Creighton over Nevada, because that ruined the first two rounds in that section of my bracket. I had seen Creighton's conference championship game against Southern Illinois, and I thought the Jays had what it took to upset both Nevada and Memphis. Obviously, I was wrong.

I also thought that, after hearing a lot about BYU beating Air Force and hearing nothing about Xavier, BYU would be able to handle the Musketeers. Wrong again, says the scoreboard. Still, 30-2 is definitely not bad considering the way most of my brackets turn out. All of my Final Four teams are still in it. In fact, all of my Elite Eight teams are still in it. I have three regions that are still 100% perfect.

Why the hell did I not enter a pool?!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Madness: Game 1

The view from the Cheap Seats looks upon an empty ARCO Arena with the scoreboard reading 70-57, Indiana over Gonzaga. Let's review what the last post said, shall we? Indiana's defense -- specifically Earl Calloway -- will overpower the guard play of Gonzaga. Check. DJ White will block shots. Check. Everyone else will rebound. Check. AJ Ratliff and Roderick Wilmont will drop 3's all over the place. Check.

The one thing I actually didn't mention is DJ White's beautiful turnaround jumper. The thing is a work of art that you just don't see many forwards in this world of college basketball employ, and DJ used it to absolute perfection tonight. That turnaround is really on par with Kareem's skyhook, in my opinion, as far as how well executed and unique the shot is.

As I walked into ARCO Arena this afternoon, I was quite nervous about the game. I knew everything that the Hoosiers had to do to win the game, but I wasn't sure if they could execute well enough to take the victory. Gonzaga wasn't nearly as good as they used to be, but they're still a dangerous team with dangerous players and a dangerous home-court advantage. Sure, Sacramento is 800 or so miles away from Gonzaga's campus, but they still have quite a following. Also, the UCLA fans wanted the underdog to face them on Saturday. Also, I suppose we can't discount the fact that some people still think Kelvin Sampson is a horrible person or that IU is a pack of cheaters. Whatever the reason, I will tell you that there were quite a few people cheering for the 'Zags.

Luckily, IU did manage to execute as they were supposed to and the defense caused quite a few of Gonzaga's shots to be just enough off their mark that they'd miss. Holding a team that averages 78 points a game to 33% field goal shooting is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Also, Indiana held a 40-27 advantage in rebounding, which is usually a key ingredient for a win. There were some silly turnovers and a couple of shots that should or should not have been taken, but they ended up not mattering in the grand scheme of things. The bottom line was that IU did what it had to do to win the big game.

Now Kelvin Sampson's boys have a huge test to face in the UCLA Bruins, defending national runners-up and number 2 seed in the region. I'll be previewing that one when Saturday rolls around, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, congratulations to the Hoosiers.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How About a Rematch?

I'm not quite in the Cheap Seats right now, but I am sitting in front of the window of my hotel room, watching the Goodyear Blimp float gracefully over Sacramento's ARCO Arena. It's getting to be about time for Washington St. to play Oral Roberts up on Sacramento's north side. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

Tonight at 6:45 local time (9:45 for you insomniacs out east), the seventh-seeded Hoosiers will be taking on the tenth-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs -- a rematch of a 90-80 Gonzaga win in Salt Lake City's Huntsman Center during last year's tournament. I already gave you a bit of a preview of tonight's game a couple of entries ago. To reiterate: Gonzaga's best big man is awaiting trial for drug possession, so he won't be wearing a Gonzaga uniform for a while. Micah Downs has taken over fairly well for Heytvelt, consistently scoring 15-20 points in a game. However, this has been exclusively against West Coast Conference defenses. Not only did Indiana have a strong Big Ten-style defense to begin with, but they brought in Kelvin Sampson's tough style of defense. DJ White will be blocking shots, Earl Calloway will be pressuring defensively, and the rest of the guys will be rebounding.

Oh yeah...IU still has the best 3-point shooting in the Big Ten. Watch out for Rod Wilmont and AJ Ratliff in this one.

Alright, folks. I'm going to go back to my March Madness On Demand window (go to for this wonderful service). I'll be back either tonight or tomorrow morning to recap the game.

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Bracket

I sat in the Cheap Seats and studied the brackets. This is my opinion on what will happen in the Big Dance (blank bracket from

(click to enlarge)

I will explain my Final Four and NCAA Champion only. The rest of it, you'll have to ask about in the comments section.

Florida: Pretty self explainatory. They started the year on the wrong foot with a loss to Kansas in Las Vegas, but the Gators have jumped back into last year's Final Four form since then. They even went on a little rough streak towards the end of the season, just like last year's team. Joakim Noah will no-doubtedly be the spark plug that runs Florida's engine in this tournament. Whenever he is in the game, there is a notable difference in the level of intensity that this team has. The other key is how well the guards can shut down the other team with defense and 3-pointers. Horford, Brewer, and company should have an easy time with Purdue and Butler, and should be able to simply outplay Wisconsin.

Texas A&M: The game plan is easy for Texas A&M: get the ball to Acie Law IV. Law has been so good and so clutch throughout the entire season that there's no reason to think he won't knock the spirit out of any opponent with a clutch three-pointer or two...or seven. There are other players on this team, too, and they are all good. However, Law is still the key. Penn will be no issue for this team. Louisville will cause them issues, but i don't think the Cardinals' run will continue. Creighton will surprise people in the first two rounds, but the same fate will befall them that befell Louisville. The obvious surprise of A&M's road to Atlanta is a victory over Ohio State -- excuse me, the #1-in-the-nation Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are amazingly strong. Greg Oden is amazingly strong. Mike Conley is an amazing point guard. Everyting points to A&M losing this game. That is why Acie Law will step forth and shock the nation under the dome in San Antonio. The clutch three will play a huge part in this game.

Kansas: Watching Kansas play basketball is sometimes akin to watching a master painter work his magic on canvas. They move the ball well, cut to the basket, shoot the three, and play defense so well. Bill Self built the Illinois team that Bruce Weber took to the Final Four, but he has the reins this time and will get his first Final Four appearance. The big win over Florida in November was a sign of things to come, and the Jayhawks have rarely disappointed. They cruised through the Big 12 regular season and tournament and they are going to stay on that roll, culminating with their final victory against the team that gave them their first big victory: Florida. Sasha Kaun is a dominant force for KU and will run step-for-step wlth Joakim Noah. The Hawks' guard play will be amazing as always and will knock the Gators out of their title defense. If KU is going to be so dominant against Florida, Niagra, Kentucky, Southern Illinois, and Indiana will have no chance against Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk.

Georgetown: Last year's tournament win over Ohio State was a big sign of things to come. Stellar play from Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert has propelled this team through an amazingly solid Big East including wins over Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Louisville. With a coach named John Thompson (JT the third, this time) and a forward named Patrick Ewing (Jr.) waving the banner for the Hoyas, it's just like old times on the west side of Washington, DC. Belmont will be a breeze. Texas Tech will provide little resistance because they have a good coach coaching mediocre talent. Washington State is good, but in a Pac 10 that doesn't prepare you for the size of Georgetown. UNC's Tyler Hansborough, who is obviously the key player for the Tar Heels, will have a very tough time with Hibbert, who is several inches taller than the Heels' sophomore. Acie Law's stretch of clutch three-pointers will be all spent after the big game against Ohio State, so A&M will have a really tough go at the Hoyas. Finally, the Kansas Jayhawks, with the inside game of Sasha Kaun being stifled by Hibbert and the three-pointer being their only option, will not be able to pull out from under Hibbert's shadow. JT3, Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, Pat Ewing Jr, and the rest of the guys will bring Hoya Paranoia to the big dome in Atlanta and the glass basketball back to the Verizon Center in our nation's capital.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Put on Your Dancin' Shoes...

We're putting on our dancing shoes here in the Cheap Seats. But before you tie those laces, let me share my opinion on IU vs. Illinois, round 3. Indiana played like dopes at certain points, blew a great opportunity at the end of regulation, and couldn't pull in enough rebounds -- or do anything -- in overtime. Sure, the officials were dumb, and I hate Illinois, but IU lost that one on their own.

And now...the tournament! First, we'll talk about the #1 seeds. Florida, SEC champs, defending national champs, 29-5 up until now, including two wins over Kentucky and a blowout of Ohio State. Kansas, 30-4, champions of a strong Big 12, wins over Florida and Texas and Texas A&M. North Carolina, 28-6, champions of a VERY strong ACC, swept arch-rival Duke, beat Ohio State back before Greg Oden's wrist healed. Ohio State, 30-3, champions of what some people are calling a mediocre Big Ten, has one of the most dominant front courts and dominant point guards in America, two big wins over Wisconsin. All of these teams are great and could take the glass basketball home.

There is one big common thread through all of these #1 seeds: They won both the regular season and tournaments in their respective conferences. True, Georgetown did the same, but a late-season loss to Syracuse (who we'll discuss in a bit) put the kibosh on their #1 seed. UCLA was in the discussion for a #1, but really weak losses at Washington and vs. Cal in the Pac 10 tournament knocked them down. Memphis would stand a better chance of receiving a #1 if the C-USA weren't terrible this year.

On the other end of the bracket, the list of snubs is quite an impressive one, and they could hold their own tournament that will probably have games just as exciting as those in the real tournament. Oh yeah...they do have that's called the NIT and gets all the media attention of a grass field. As for the people who will be contending for that one, the aforementioned Syracuse probably has the best shot at winning. Their toughest competitor in that one will probably be either Big East rival West Virginia, or one of the teams from the SEC West that didn't get to go to the NCAAs. As to why Syracuse is in the NIT, i could only imagine that there are some strange drugs going around the selection committee. Syracuse is tied in the Big East with Marquette and ahead of Villanova, both of whom are in the dance. The Orange also have wins against both of those teams -- at Marquette's home court in that case. Syracuse also has their big win against Georgetown, which is something that neither Marquette nor Villanova can claim. You can imagine that the Orange -- not to mention the ever-vocal Jim Boeheim -- will be mad when they start NIT play and probably crush the heck out everyone who enters the state of New York (excepting Buffalo for the NCAAs).

Other notable snubs are Drexel, who was hurt by a fourth-place finish in the Colonial, West Virginia, who may have gotten snubbed thanks to a missed travel call in the Big East tournament, and Air Force, who simply stopped playing at the end of the season.

So, what does this mean for my most favorite of basketball teams: the Indiana Hoosiers? Well, IU received a #7 seed in the West Region and will take on, for the second year in a row, the #10-seeded Bulldogs of Gonzaga University. Last year's matchup took place as part of the second round of the tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gonzaga came out on top thanks to foul trouble to IU's Marco Killingsworth and Adam Morrison's stellar play to move on to the Sweet Sixteen. This year's first rounder in Sacramento, California, will have a very different look. Gonzaga no longer has Morrison, and their star player Josh Heytvelt has been suspended from the team. There are still quite a few good players on the Bulldogs' roster, but they all happen to be guards. The Dogs' inside game left the team with the marijuana and 'shrooms found in Heytvelt's car. Indiana, however, has quite an impressive inside game. Foul trouble to Mike White made him a non-factor in the Illinois game, but he still had some strong minutes, and DJ white was still able to put up good numbers despite the Illini's defense. Look for IU's lockdown defense to kill the Zags' guard play, and the Whites to knock down the inside shot for IU.

Now, the next couple of games for IU in my bracket my have some people surprised. I have the Hoosiers knocking down a terribly inconsistent UCLA team in the second round and taking down the somewhat less-inconsistent Pittsburgh Panthers in the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Kansas in the Elite Eight. If the Hoosiers play to their potential, I see no reason why this outcome couldn't take place. The trick will be to see if Kelvin Sampson can snap these players out of the funk induced by the seven years of Mike Davis' tutelage.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hinkle Fieldhouse

The view from the Cheap Seats today looks upon one of the greatest -- if not THE greatest -- buildings in all of basketball thanks to a wonderful photo gallery posted by the Indianapolis Star ( Hinkle Fieldhouse, the original home of Hoosier Hysteria. Built during the Roaring Twenties, this is one of the oldest barns to still host the game, and that nostalgia drips from every corner of the building. The hanging floodlights, the exposed steel arches and, most importantly, the frosted glass windows that allow natural light to bathe the court all make this one of the greatest experiences for any fan of the game. When you sit in the Fieldhouse, you can almost see Bobby Plump hitting his last-minute shot to push Milan past Muncie Central, or a young Steve Alford tossing long-distance baskets for the New Castle Trojans, or even Gene Hackman patrolling the sidelines for fictional Hickory High School in the movie "Hoosiers" (based on Bobby Plump and Milan HS). Though the IHSAA basketball finals have moved on to the retro-modern Conseco Fieldhouse, the spirit lives on in the bricks and steel of Hinkle.

The Butler Fieldhouse under construction.

March 1, 1947: Lawrence Central defeats Manual to win the Indianapolis Sectional of the Indiana State Basketball Tournament

Hinkle Fieldhouse as it is today...much the same as it was in the days of old.

Full gallery available here (scroll down to "Hinkle Fieldhouse" under the "Photo Galleries" list)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fighting the "System"

The view from the Cheap Seats is being muddled by ridiculously long and billowy shorts. In a stroke of genius that could only come from an upstanding company like Nike, the men's basketball teams from Arizona, Florida, Ohio State, and Syracuse will be modeling what has been named the System of Dress. The uniforms will look something along the lines of...

What you may notice right off the bat is the shorts -- and I use the word "shorts" quite loosely. Quite frankly, they're huge. They're unnecessary. I haven't even mentioned the fact that when you pair really long and baggy shorts with a really tight, sleeveless jersey, you look like you're wearing a dress. I don't know about you, but I definitely don't want to see Joakim Noah or Greg Oden -- or any other basketball player for that matter -- in a dress.

Now, not all is wrong with Nike's latest pet project. One thing you may notice on the Ohio State in Syracuse jerseys is...nothing! After several years of stylized stripes going every which way on all of nike's uniforms (see: any picture of Ohio State's team before now), they have stripped the tops down to their bare minimum: a color, a name, and a number. Florida's uniforms are a little more complicated, with a ugly, yet subtle, gator skin pattern adorning the fabric. There are two possible outcomes of this once we get to see the uniforms on TV (these four teams will debut the uniforms during the Big Dance): the minimalist approach of the shirts will look really good, or it'll look like we're watching an intramural game. My vote goes on the first outcome. Stay Tuned...

Of course, there are all sorts of issues with these jerseys. Obviously, they are much tighter than the flowing jerseys that basketballers have been wearing since Michigan's Fab Five brought their hip look to the game in the early nineties. If you are a lean, mean, fighting machine of a small forward or point guard, these jerseys will do you all sorts of justice. However, even on the basketball court, not everyone is the greatest of physical specemins. If you're a power forward with a little extra weight on you, this is not something you're looking forward to wearing. I haven't even mentioned the fact that these things will be on sale to the general public -- you know, that overweight American public.

Another glaring aesthetic deficiency is those damn undershirts. Here is a simple fact for you: nobody wears long sleeves when playing indoor basketball. I'm going to assume that nobody in their right mind will wear the long sleeves, but you never know. The strangest sleeves are those underneath the Syracuse jersey. For one thing, I'm fairly certain that color-blocking that works so well on the jersey will definitely not translate to someone's arm. For another, there has to be some sort of rule against a design that complicated. I never did like the shirt-under-jersey look started by Patrick Ewing, and this is a whole new, scary evolution of that concept.

Of course, what more could you expect from the company that brought you this?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Indiana vs. Illinois, Round 3

The view from The Cheap Seats…well, there isn’t one right now. Come Friday evening, though, the view should be filled with the colors of the Big Ten’s newest, and possibly most heated, rivalry. Barring a miracle upset by the Nittany Lions of Penn State, the Indiana Hoosiers will be taking on the Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois in Chicago’s United Center.

Now, I don’t need to tell you that there will be plenty of Orange and Blue in the building, as Chicagoland is U of I’s home away from home in the non-conference schedule and in the postseason. What some may not realize is that Chicago has one of the biggest – if not the biggest concentration of IU alumni outside of the state of Indiana. In fact, for a little historical reference, the Chicago branch of the respective schools’ alumni associations started IU and Purdue’s traditional football rivalry. Believe me, the Indiana fans will show up in force.

Just to spice things up a bit, there will probably be a few Wisconsin and/or Michigan State fans watching with plenty of interest to see whom their team will be facing on Saturday. To put that little detail into perspective: Michigan State and Illinois have battled quite a bit over the past few years – one could imagine that their fans have grown a slight distaste for the other school’s colors; one of Wisconsin’s three Big Ten losses came at the hands of Indiana, complete with IU students rushing the court; Michigan State may have gotten a share of revenge with the primetime victory over IU a couple of weeks ago, but you know the Green and White are still smarting from the blowout they suffered back in January in Bloomington’s Assembly Hall.

Plus, there’s the little detail that tickets are kind of expensive for the Men’s Big Ten Tourney. You think those fans are going to leave before what could be an epic for the ages? Neither do I.

Here’s my mildly biased preview of the game. Indiana’s chief problem against The Chief has been outside shooting this season. In fact, IU has been very inconsistent with 3-point shooting outside of Assembly Hall. One might say that the Hoosiers will be fine because they’ve found their touch again in games against Penn State and Northwestern. I say that the Hoosiers will be fine for two big reasons: Mike White and Ben Allen. Allen finally found the basket against Minnesota and has been pulling down rebounds and getting a few blocks in the last weeks of the season. Mike White has turned himself into a dominant inside force with some tough low-post moves and solid dunks. When you put one of those guys inside with DJ White and his turnaround jumper, the options will open up for the Hoosiers.

All I know about Illinois is that they have only one or two good players (Pruitt and Randall), their mascot just got canned, and I don’t like their coach. That said, Weber will have them ready to take on the Hoosiers and their fans will be making plenty of noise. My prediction: this one will be close and it could even go to overtime, but I think Indiana will take this one and move to the Big Ten semifinals.

Big Ten Tourney Preview

We’re looking down from the Cheap Seats at the bracket that will be played out in Chicago’s United Center between March 8 and March 11. The seeds have worked out to give us some really solid matchups and we could get a couple of surprises. That said, here’s what I think of the Big Ten Tournament (blank bracket from

The outcome of this bracket comes down to one very simple truth: Ohio State is really good. On a neutral floor, I don’t think any Big Ten team can stop them unless Greg Oden’s leg falls off. Michigan already had their shot and blew it, which is a trend that will continue on Friday. Purdue is close, but not close enough to OSU’s level. Indiana falls into the same boat as Purdue on that one.

The major surprise of this bracket is the quarterfinal game between Michigan State and Wisconsin. My reasoning here is easy: Michigan State was 3.9 seconds and a hell of a Kammron Taylor 3-point basket away from upsetting Wisconsin in Madison. Michigan State, specifically Drew Neitzel, really want to make a run into the postseason. On the flip side, Wisconsin lost its best inside presence in Brian Butch and his dislocated elbow. MSU’s inside of Suton and Naymick will force UW to win from the outside, and I don’t think they can do that. It will be another thriller, but with Sparty coming out on top this time.

The problem that Wisconsin will have on the inside should not translate to Michigan State's subsequent game against Indiana. If you want the details of that, check "Indiana vs Illinois, Round 3". Also, on the outside, Michigan State's shooting comes almost exclusively from Drew Neitzel. MSU has some impressive freshmen, but they're freshmen. Most of Indiana's outside shooting comes from fifth-year senior Rod Wilmont and junior AJ Ratliff, with junior Lance Stemler and senior Earl Calloway providing a few shots here and there. The only freshman that IU relies on is Armon Bassett. This is a simple matter of experience overcoming potential and translating to victories.