Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:15 AM
Welcome to Bracket Racket, the one-stop shopping place for all your NCAA tournament needs If you have any unfinished business related to the tournament, you might want to get started on it now.
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The games don’t even begin until tonight. But it feels like they’re already over.
Yesterday, we reported the odds of someone filling out a perfect bracket were one in 9.2 quintillion.
Last night, Nate Silver of the spectacularly smart FiveThirtyEight blog weighed in, here: http://nyti.ms/10ae4qV .
Silver, you’ll recall, did more than just “make statistics sexy again,” as the Hollywood Reporter put it. He absolutely nailed the last two presidential elections — getting all 50 states right in November — and just about every Senate race. He was almost that good in 2008.
Now he’s trained his laptop and laser focus on the NCAAs.
Don’t forget to pick up a parting gift.
OR MAYBE NOT
Just like the guys in Vegas — and the NCAA selection committee, for that matter — Silver made Louisville the No. 1 seed overall. Yet like everybody else, he’s not convinced the Cardinals will even make it to the Final Four.
Silver put Louisville’s chance of winning at 22.7 percent, followed closely by Indiana (19.6) Florida (12.7) Kansas (7.5) and Gonzaga (6.1).
Vegas has Louisville at 9-2, followed by Indiana at 7-1, and then Duke, Florida and Miami at 8-1.
The Cardinals were an even bigger favorite — opening in the sportsbooks at 3-1 — until they were banished to the Midwest regional, or what soccer aficionados like to call the “Group of Death.” Also in there is Duke, Michigan State and a few other sneaky-good teams — Saint Louis, Oklahoma State and Oregon — just bristling at the chance to make a bigger name for themselves.
In past years, the selection committee would have bent over backward to keep its No. 1 overall seed, Louisville, away from its No. 2 overall, Duke. But because of a wave of conference expansion and realignment, just keeping regular-season opponents from running into one another in first-round games has become a headache. So the committee members tried to spread the suffering around.
Or maybe a few members came across this Louisville postgame celebration — starring former President Bill Clinton, here: http://deadsp.in/YljoHs — and decided the Cardinals have had enough fun already.
SPEAKING OF POLITICIANS AND FUN!
Imagine what the halls of Congress would look like if members were required to fly their school colors during the tournament!
OK, forget that.
Most of them would just get jerseys made up like the ones parents wear when their kids’ teams play each other — half one color, half the other, like a harlequin’s suit with numbers.
But even pols have loyalties, and alma maters. Unfortunately, they also have constituents of varying stripes back home, too. And judging by the reaction every time one or another is asked for his rooting favorite, you’d think they were facing “Sophie’s Choice.”
Yet intrepid Associated Press congressional reporter Donna Cassata decided to ask that loaded question, anyway.
“March Madness is always an exciting time in the Bluegrass State and I want to congratulate the Louisville Cardinals on their No. 1 overall seed and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for making the NCAA tourney,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said. “While I am disappointed that the Kentucky Wildcats won’t get the chance to defend their title this year, I congratulate them on their No. 1 seed in the NIT Tourney. Here’s hoping the Bluegrass State will bring back two titles this year.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda. But let’s parse this for a moment.
McConnell was raised in Louisville, got his B.A. there, and by most accounts is a rabid Cardinals fan. But he got his law degree from Kentucky. So he could be genuinely unhappy the defending national champion Wildcats didn’t even make the tourney, or delivering a deft, velvet-gloved, backhanded slap (”congratulations on their No. 1 seed in the NIT tourney.” Is he kidding?).
We’ll never know.
So Cassata set her sights on Florida Rep. Sen. Marco Rubio. He graduated from Florida, got his law degree from Miami, and in between comments about the Castro regime in Cuba and promoting his speech at CPAC last weekend, Rubio was crowing on Twitter about both schools heading to the NCAAs with a chance to win it all: “This is going to be a fun tournament for Floridians!”
But Cassata wasn’t taking “both” as an answer. As Rubio was heading in to vote late Tuesday, she grabbed him.
“Florida or Miami?”
“Florida,” Rubio replied.
But as the door was closing, he added, “Hope they “they both end up in the Final Four.”
At least both schools like orange.
BIBLE? CHECK. BUT WHERE’S MY PLAYBOOK?
Not every school is vying for the favors of politicians, of course. Some have even higher powers in mind.
Little Liberty University, to name one, has ambitions to become for evangelical Christians what Notre Dame already is to Catholics, and BYU to Mormons — and just like them, a major player on the college sports scene as well.
“The mission of the university is Biblical world view. It probably permeates every class, to some respect,” head coach Dale Layer said ahead of his team’s play-in game against North Carolina A&T in Dayton, Ohio. “We’ve got a medical school being built; we’ve got a law school. You can major in anything.”
As AP sports writer Rusty Miller reported from the scene Monday, Liberty already has a “win-one-for-the-Gipper” tale that Layer can use for his pre-game speech.
The Flames started 0-8, players quit and fans stopped showing up. They finished the season 10-20, then somehow regrouped and won five straight to grab the Big South title and an automatic NCAA bid. Of course, Layer rarely lacks for inspirational material.
“Our team is built upon the culture of Liberty — not that every player carries a Bible everywhere they go, although some do,” Layer said. “Their head coach does.”
STAT OF THE DAY
STATS advises Liberty coach Dale Layer to keep that pregame speech. He could simply point out that since 2000, teams entering the tournament with losing records have gone 4-1 in their opening-round tournament game. And no need, STATS also notes, to mention that before 2000, those same teams with losing records went 1-14.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It just so happened that (teammate) David Stockton’s dog ate our remote, so we can’t change the channel. So we haven’t really had the opportunity to watch much of that stuff. ... I would have been more pleased if he ate my homework, but it was his choice and he ate the remote,” Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk on how he missed the whole controversy over whether the Bulldogs should have been ranked higher.
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