Support Our Advertisers


Entries in Conference Debate (2)


Tournament Takeaways: What The First Weekend Taught Us

Ali Farokhmanesh

One Great Season

One of the best opening weekends in recent NCAA Tournament history drew to a close shortly before 8 p.m. ET Sunday, and if you're anything like me, you've already begun counting down every tenth of a second for Thursday's Sweet 16 round to get here.

What did the first two rounds show us? Besides the fact that I can't fill out a bracket with even the slightest bit of success, plenty:

+ No one is invincible. Kansas, not just a No. 1 seed, but the tournament's top overall seed and heavy favorite to win its second national championship in three years, learned that the hard way. The Jayhawks had a star or a budding star at every spot on the floor, but they might not have taken seriously enough the one thing Northern Iowa seemed to have more of: heart.

+ The Big Ten is back. Isn't that what we said in the first week of January, after the college football bowl season? It is, and the same is true on the hardwood. With No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Georgetown out of the way, Ohio State is the logical pick to rule the Midwest, though it might need to knock off league foe Michigan State -- gimpy guards and all -- in the Elite Eight. And not enough can be said about Purdue's gutsy overtime defeat of Texas A&M, making the Big Ten the only conference to send three teams into the next round. Gritty Chris Kramer doesn't want his career to end just yet. The Purdue senior is straight ballin'.

+ Cornell is legitimate. So is Xavier. Those are two fine basketball teams. That Cornell-Kentucky matchup will be one of the most interesting Sweet 16 games in recent memory. And the Muskies are no longer a precious little mid-major. The Muskies can beat anybody. I loved that rookie coach and hometown fave Chris Mack jabbed a Minneapolis writer after XU took it to the Golden Gophers Friday.

+ Despite the Big Ten props, I do agree with most analysts -- Len Elmore and Seth Davis, in particular -- who say the best-conference debate is a waste of time. Conferences aren't playing conferences. Individual teams are playing other teams in high-pressure, single-elimination games where personnel matchups are critical. That said, what up with the Big East?

+ Looking ahead, if Kentucky and West Virginia win their third-round games in the East, they'd meet in what would no doubt be the best regional final of the tournament. If those teams do make the Elite Eight, that could very well be a de facto national championship game.

+ On the TV front, CBS once again did an outstanding job showing 48 games over 80 hours, and switching to late-game situations. One complaint I did hear came from a colleague in the Bay Area who was disappointed to have to watch the last minute of Sunday's Duke-Cal yawner instead of being switched to the thrilling Xavier-Pittsburgh and Purdue-Texas A&M finishes that unfolded simultaneously at other locations. But overall, I thought CBS got it right again and I hope The Eye continues to broadcast America's greatest sporting event for as long as I'm alive.

+ The Miller Lite commercials are still awful, the Capital One viking ads have never once been funny, the new Dos Equis spots are just as strong as last year's successes, the girl in the Palm commercial is beautiful, Rhys Darby has already jumped the shark with those bad HP ads and Southwest Airlines appears poised to annoy us with their shirt-lifting baggage handlers for two more weeks. More on that from OGS contributor Steve Susi soon.


The Superior Conference Conversation, Take 7,843

One Great Season

NEW YORK -- As you know, I'm not a big fan of the cheap and easy insults that fly around the blogosphere. Many, but not all, bloggers clamor for access to pro and college teams with little success, and while I'm a new member of the community, I feel like a 15-year news career means I'm qualified enough to assert that the mean-spirited nature of the genre doesn't help their cause.

Trash talking behind the safety of your laptop with somebody who you'll never see face to face is not a good look this fall.

An intelligent, or at least open-minded discourse is what I prefer, but then I have to remind myself that we're talking about college football. Fans of this particular entertainment form are not reasonable people. I'm not saying that to be cute; I really think fans of all sports can be idiots.

I once wore my Cleveland Indians cap to an interleague game at tradition-steeped Cinergy Field, Astroturf and all, against the Cincinnati Reds. It was sometime around 2000. It was a little later in the season, and I think the Indians were contending for a playoff spot. I watched a great battle between lefties Denny Neagle and Chuck Finley. Another lefty, Russell Branyan, came to bat with a man on first, two outs, and his Indians trailing, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.

Branyan lined a shot into the left-field corner that was an easy double. The Indians' third-base coach waved his guy home, but the left-fielder grabbed it cleanly, rifled a frozen walnut to Barry Larkin, who relayed home for the game-ending out at the plate. My squad lost, but more importantly, I'd just watched a great baseball game on a gorgeous Friday night in a playoff atmosphere at an otherwise boring ballpark.

And when trash talkers busted me for the logo they saw on my hat, it just sounded, felt and looked so juvenile. Does anyone's life truly get better or worse because a sports team full of people you'll never meet won or lost?

My point is this: root for your squad, for sure, but relax for a second and accept that you have nothing to do with your favorite team's success or the failure of its rivals.

I bring this up because although I've quickly become a fan of, the Comments section after a Big Ten preview post has devolved into that oh-so-tiresome-my-conference-is-better-than-yours shouting match.

When will people start to accept the cyclical nature of things? All things come full circle. Do we not remember that elites like USC, Oklahoma and Penn State, for example, were down for a spell before a recent resurgence in the last decade?

I'm all for a hearty and spirited debate, but don't change the rules after it's started. If you want to blast Ohio State for losing four or five big games in the last three or four seasons, or the Big Ten overall for its inability to win bowl games, go ahead and do it. But if someone fires a shot at your squad for its own shortcomings in recent years, don't talk about all-time winning percentages, because that's a conversation for which Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State will all be glad to pull up a chair.

Follow | Subscribe | Donate