Afternoon Linkage: The bells of St. Mary's
March, 23, 2010
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com
Phew. Yesterday and today feel a little bit like off days after the madness of the first two rounds of the tournament. In that vein, what better time to take a link-bound look around the college hoopsosphere? We'll be in the midst of too much good basketball in just a day's time; now is our only time to reflect.
- Today's links start in-house, where Diamond has a tremendous account of the way St. Mary's fans have embraced their team's upstart success in the NCAA tournament: "Once he announced that the bus had turned onto Saint Mary's Road, many ran to the school's main entrance and found that the fire truck and police cars that escorted the Gaels back were blasting their sirens and laying on their horns. The hundreds who lined the road mobbed the players at the door of the charter bus and chanted coach Randy Bennett's name. It took the team nearly an hour to get back to the locker room. Samhan, who had come off the bus holding a camcorder to document the wild scene, was so fired up afterward that he went into the gym and put shots up until 3 a.m." The story also features a fellow Eamonn, though this one spells his name in the more common one-n format. Of course, he's every bit as handsome and erudite as you would expect from someone with such a name.
- March is the time of year when celebrities take breaks from their otherwise captivating lives to peer in on this thing we commoners call "sport"; Rush The Court has a list of celebrities' various Twitter comments on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Unsurprisingly, Conan O'Brien's is the best.
- Joe Posnanski looks back at the Kansas Jayhawks and wonders if he should have known something was amiss: "'Oh, we're good,' [Self] said, which seemed an odd thing to say. Good? Well, sure they were good. Everyone knew they were good. They were ranked No. 1 in the country. And yet, he said it more than once and earnestly -- 'Oh, we're a good basketball team' -- and I remember even then thinking about the line in Casablanca: 'You know how you sound, Monsieur Self? Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart.'"
- The big brains at Basketball Prospectus come together for a conversation recap of the first round.
- On that note, Ken Pomeroy tells us what the log5 projections say about the remaining 16 teams in the tournament. The seeding actually correlates quite well with each team's win probability, which is not a good sign if you, like me, want an all mid-major Final Four.
- The Memphis Commercial-Appeal's Geoff Calkins writes that Memphis' NCAA appeal was always just for show, and that anyone who pretended otherwise was fooling herself.
- Apparently, Houston's Tom Penders couldn't save his job by stealing an NCAA tournament berth from the jaws of another mediocre season. And guess who many consider the favorite to be his replacement? I'll give you a hint: His name starts with "B" and ends with "illy Gillispie."
- Hammer And Rails notes that Purdue, despite the Robbie Hummel injury, manages to keep fighting the good fight. It's pretty admirable stuff. Not to get too maudlin, but everyone would be so lucky as to root for a team with that kind of heart.
- USA Today's Michael Heistand discusses the ramifications of expansion, saying that an expanded first round tourney won't be the dealmaker that fans and folks like me seem to dwell on: "While fans fixate on the tournament field expanding, that's a small potato in the stew. First-round NCAA action isn't a big TV draw. More games with teams that couldn't make today's tournament would sweeten a deal — not be key. New early-round games might not be worth much more than what NBC paid for the 1979 tournament, whose Bird-Magic final was the highest-rated college basketball game ever. Just $5.2 million."
- Luke Winn hits us with his tournament's all-first-weekend team, starring Mr. Omar Samhan, the most quotable man on the planet.
- The AP checks in on Duke's relatively quiet first two rounds and finds that the Blue Devil big men are finally complimenting the Devils' big three in a rather formidable way.
- Seattle's Charles Garcia completes what might be the most ferocious dunk that didn't actually count in the game. Be forewarned.
- A Sea of Blue takes stock of Kentucky's dominant first two rounds and starts seeing visions of the school's famous 1996 title-winning team.
- The Only Colors violates its "normal no-cliche rule" in praising Michigan State's toughness during its last-second win over Maryland Sunday.
- On the other side of that coin are the fans at Maryland blog Testudo Times, which have since recovered from the devastating loss and written a fitting tribute to their departing seniors, most notable among them Grievis Vasquez: "They played the game the right way. They are more like the National Championship team than any other team Maryland has had since or before, at least in terms of work ethic. They played like Gary wanted them to, and that's not always easy. Not since Juan Dixon has Maryland had a player as likable as Greivis Vasquez. Before then, maybe not since Len Bias. Walt Williams might be more important for what he did for the program, but biding [sic] Greivis good-bye has been an awfully hard process. His passion and mentality are all that is great about college basketball. Having fun and entertaining the fans, defending his honor and representing his team, but never at the cost of winning." As with any description of Vasquez as "likable," it's a relative term; much of the ACC probably disagrees. But there's no question Greivis was one of a kind. College basketball will miss him.
- As usual, let's close the day with some in-house stuff, too: Pat Forde has tremendous a rundown of the NCAA tournament's first-weekend winners and losers. ESPN Insider maven and all-around chill bro Chris Sprow (Insider link, natch) takes you through what the ESPN Predictor thinks is going to happen in these next two rounds. (For what it's worth, even with all this upheaval the computer is doing quite well in its bracket thus far -- if the Predictor entered a tournament challenge, he (it?) would be hovering right around the 85th percentile.) Andy Katz has a must-read Sweet 16 primer and a chat to catch up on. And Gene Wojciechowski joined me in Milwaukee Sunday and came away with this thesis: It's anybody's tournament.