Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NCAA Tournament Play In Game Picks

 I'm all for these NCAA Tournament games on Tuesday and Wednesday.  What I'm not okay with is calling them the "First Round."  To me, they always will and always should be called "Play In" games.  The NCAA is the one bracket with 64 teams on it.  Not 64 lines with 8 other teams shoved in to open nooks and crannies of the bracket. 

While I'm here, I'll also mention that I do believe the Play In games should be all 12 seeds or the last 8 teams in the tournament.  Teams like Liberty, James Madison, LIU-Brooklyn and North Carolina A&T have earned their way in to the field of 64 by winning their conference tournaments.  Teams like Boise State, Middle Tennessee State, LaSalle and St. Mary's didn't do enough to be locks on Selection Sunday and should play on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wouldn't it make a better night of TV if instead of having a game with two 16 seeds battle it out each night, you added Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and Virginia to these play in games? 

All that being said, here are my picks for the tonight and tomorrow's Play In Games:

Liberty (+3) over North Carolina A&T

In picking a game like this you can't go by which team is hotter right now since they both came out of nowhere to win their conference tournaments.  But one thing I look for out of these smaller schools is what's the one thing that each of these teams does best.  In this case, Liberty is good at shooting the three and NC A&T is good at blocking shots.  Liberty is limited offensively in the front court and rely heavily on the three so I don't see NC A&T's interior defense really coming in to play that often.  Also, NC A&T is one of the worst three point shooting teams in the country.  I think this 20 loss fairy tale continues for one more game.

Middle Tennessee State (+3) over St. Mary's

I've gone back and forth on this one.  MTSU has only beaten one team of St. Mary's quality all year and it was at home.  St. Mary's will have the best player on the floor in Matt Dellavedova.  A part of me wants to take St. Mary's because I think he deserves not to have his career end in a play in game.  I also would like to pick St. Mary's so I would have two games to raise my arms above my head and yell "STEVE HOLT!" every time Stephen Holt scores.  But I think MTSU is a bad match up for St. Mary's.  They both are capable three point shooting teams except MTSU defends the three well and St. Mary's does not.  Also, St. Mary's lacks depth and MTSU can run 11 deep at you.  And honestly, a part of me is taking MTSU because in my friend and I's attempt to predict the bracket we had MTSU out in favor of Tennessee.  Usually I take the team I miss to lose in their first game and it never works out for me.

LIU-Brooklyn (-1.5) over James Madison

Jump all over this game now while the line before it moves.  James Madison suspended their best player for the first half of the game for getting arrested this week.  And that is on top of the fact that LIU is the better team anyway.  This is LIU's third consecutive tournament.  Their three best players have participated in the last two.  If the Colonial Tournament wasn't decimated by conference re-alignment and APR sanctions, there is a good chance JMU isn't even here right now. 

Boise State (-1.5) over LaSalle

I went back and forth with this game as well.  I actually changed over to Boise State for the last time while I was in the middle of typing this.  One interesting thing about Boise State is that their losses have usually come when they were massively outscored at the FT line.  Their last few loses were by 6, 4 and 10.  They were outscored at the free throw line by 8, 15 and 14 respectively.  The Mountain West was an outstanding conference this year and Boise played the upper echelon of that conference pretty evenly except for that one area.  LaSalle on the other hand is one of the worst teams in the country at getting to the free throw line.  Now that can be largely due to their reliance on the three point shot.  But as good as LaSalle is at the 3, Boise is actually better.  Wait...I just learned that LaSalle is one of the best teams in the country at defending the three.  I'm stopping before I change again.

I was actually looking for an image of brackets to put at the top of this post.  I did a Google Image search and ended up with more images of the inside of people's mouths than I was comfortable with.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Some Quick Bracket Thoughts

**The "first round" tournament games will always be the play-in-games to me and therefore will be referred to as such.

It's been stated over and over, but Oregon is wildly under seeded.  I understand they got bumped a line for procedural reasons but I don't see how Oregon was not the highest seeded Pac-12 team let alone two seeds lower than Colorado and six seeds lower than UCLA.  They slumped to a 5-4 record after Dominic Artis got hurt but still finished second in the conference regular season and won the tournament.  I honestly thought that once Oregon got a 12, that Cal and Colorado were in trouble.  In the bracket that me and my friend do each year, we had them as a five figuring Arizona and UCLA would be around the 6 or 7 area.  

I'm a big supporter of the mid-majors but I'm still curious as to how Middle Tennessee State is in over Tennessee.  It's fine they had the #6 Strength of Schedule in the country but I think scheduling is only half the battle.  They have to win some of them.  Their best win was at home to Ole Miss (who as a 12 seed might not have made the tournament without Sunday's win).  And not for nothing, look at that schedule and tell me how that's the 6th best in the country.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled for them and honestly am more intrigued by what MTSU can do in this tournament than what a middle of the pack team from a lousy power conference can do.  I'm just surprised is all.

The selection committee says they don't set up potential match-up on purpose.  I don't believe them.  I was actually shocked that with Kansas as a 1 seed and Missouri as a 9 they didn't try to set that up as a potential round of 32 game.  I started thinking, "Hmm.  Maybe they don't set those up on purpose" as they announce Roy Williams could be sitting there facing Kansas in the second round.  Guess they weighed that as more interesting than rekindling an over 100 year rivalry that was killed just this year.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Breaking Down UFC 158

After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the much anticipated match between reigning welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre and former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz is finally here. It has been impossible not to buy into the hype, the trash talking, and the absurdity that is Nick Diaz but the question is can Nick Diaz really stand toe to toe with the arguably the best fighter in the world?

I, for one, am not convinced. I will say that a small part of me is actually rooting for Diaz. He is the anti spokesperson. The villain. But he is also a real guy, and not a product of the most prominent fight camps or promotions money can buy. And more importantly, this guy is a guaranteed entertaining fight. He wants to brawl, and as he said, he does it because that's his job. This is what puts food on the table for this Stockton, CA native. He says he is not excited to fight. He is not ready. And I like that honesty. But GSP has never been more fired up. The last time he was antagonized this much, he destroyed Koschecks eye socket. If I was Nick Diaz, I wouldn't be excited either.

This card also has two other key welterweight match ups, Condit versus Hendricks for the number one contender and also Jake Ellenberger will try and continue his rise against former UFC contender Nate Marquardt. Below are my main card selections.

Mike Ricci over Colin Fletcher via decision: For the record, I could not care less about this fight and I am still perplexed how its on the main card. Ricci couldn't even win a very lackluster season of TUF where he was destroyed in the finals against Colton Smith. But this event is in his hometown and Fletcher is a striker, which is stylistically a better match than Colton was. It'll be close, and it it'll probably be boring.

Chris Camozzi over Nick Ring via TKO: I will never buy into Nick Ring, despite his record. He has the gayest nickname in all of sports, and hasn't really impressed me in any of his fights. His win over Court McGee was controversial to say the least, and Camozzi is coming off 3 straight victories. I see Ring having his hands full. The promise will be broken.

Jake Ellenberger over Nate Marquardt via decision: I used to like Marquardt, but that was a long time ago. He has a history of coming up very short in these decisive fights, and Ellenberger was on a total roll before being caught by Kampman last June. I expect the Juggernaut to regain his form in this fight, despite being undersized. Nate the Great will gas and lose the last two rounds of the fight.

Johny Hendricks over Carlos Condit via KO: I LOVE this fight. I honestly have no inkling whatsoever how it will go down, and I could see any number of things happening. Both of these guys have fought against the best of the best in the weight class, so both will be ready for this fight. The only difference I see is that Condit has had his title shot already and I think that may make the Bigg Rigg hungrier. He is also better at takedowns, which could prove pivotal in a close fight.

Georges St-Pierre over Nick Diaz via TKO/Doctors Stoppage: I actually believe GSP when he says he will deliver the biggest beating ever seen in the octagon. And Nick Diaz may be the toughest human being on the planet, so I expect him to endure an absolute barrage. Don't get me wrong, I am not counting Diaz out. His long jab may be the most formidable weapon GSP has seen in a while, but in the end I don't think he has the KO power that will be needed to surprise GSP.

2013 Record: 2-3

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Movie Review: Life of Pi

Going to the movies is a completely different escape for me than it was 4 years ago. Although a trip to the theater has been my favorite pasttime since I can remember, it is definitely different after you have a child. Now, the act of walking into the theater, buying an enormous diet coke, and sitting down in peace and quiet is almost as important to me as the movie itself. So take that into consideration when reading this movie review.

Most of us knew the premise of Life of Pi without having seen it due to a very descriptive trailer and promos. But arguably my favorite part of the movie came before Pi (Piscine) Patel and his family embarked on a journey to Canada from India on a Japanese shipping boat with all of the family's animals from the zoo. The story is told by a now adult Pi to a writer who had heard glimpses of this fabulous tale of survival. He starts by discussing the origin of his name, the family zoo, and his adolescence. This is brief, but essential as it sets up the internal struggle that Pi had between his own naive morals and beliefs and that set forth by his father. Pi had a fairytale view of life that was immediately shattered when his father let the Bengal from the zoo (Richard Parker) tear a goat to shreds in front of him to teach him a lesson. But it wasn't until after the tragic sinking of the Japanese shipping boat that Pi's beliefs would be tested.

Pi finds himself in a lifeboat at sea with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and the previously mentioned Richard Parker. I must say, this is where the movie lost me a little bit. Not just because not much happens in the following hour, but because I had a hard time relating to the teenage Pi played by Suraj Sharma. I have an easier time embracing solitary plot lines (see Into the Wild, 127 Hours) when I feel connected to the character. Because I wasn't connected to Pi, who spent way too much time screaming in vain, I found myself waiting for stuff to happen. Luckily, Ang Lee did a remarkable job making this part of the movie as visually stunning as possible, so it wasn't exactly boring.

A brief stop at a floating island overrun by meerkats could have probably been a few minutes longer, but instead it was a welcome pit stop right before Pi & Richard Parker washed ashore in Mexico. Pi becomes distraught when the tiger disappears into the Mexican jungle without so much as a glance back to acknowledge their joint feat. However, at no point did I ever really feel that the two were connected so this didn't register for me as much as it should have.

Later, as he recounts his journey to Japanese insurance agents he is met with disbelief in his fabulous tale of survival at sea for 227 days. This is when he is encouraged to tell the real story, which he offers as a parallel tale on a boat with a cook, a sailor, and his mother. At the end we are left to decide, much like the agents, which story we deem to be more likely. When he asks the writer which one he believes, the writer responds saying the one with the tiger because "its a better story" to which Pi replies, "and so it goes with God."

3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Look Back at Joe Schmo 3

Chase Rogan - Season 3's "Schmo"

Last night Joe Schmo Show's third season wrapped up.  I thought it was very good television but I felt it could have been even better.  Here are my gripes:

-The Joe Schmo Show is a mean spirited show.  There is no way around it.  That's a large part of why I watch it.  They are making one of these fame seekers go through the ringer of a fake reality show trying to make them look as ridiculous as possible.  I don't know if we've gotten more sensitive as a society in the 8+ years between Seasons 2 and 3 but it almost got nauseating how over the top in their praise of Chase got just to make what they were doing seem less cruel.  To be honest, this was by far the cruelest season of the three.  The first season was a contest for money.  The second season was a fake dating show.  This season they took a guy looking to get out of his current job for an exciting life as a bounty hunter. This show just wasn't going to change his life monetarily, he thought it was a chance to change his day to day life even after the show was over.  That's messed up if you think about it.  I just wished they called a spade a spade here and comment on how ridiculous Chase looked and how incredible it was that he bought all that stuff they threw at him.  Instead we were peppered episode after episode how smart he was and how great of a competitor he was.  Sure, casting probably did underestimate Chase's athleticism but the guy thought winning a two week reality competition was getting him a job as a bounty hunter. 

-"Allen - The Buddy": This role should have been the most important one on the show.  If you've seen the first season you know that the job Brian Keith Etheridge did committing to being Matthew Kennedy Gould's friend and confidant is what made the final reveal of that season both heartbreaking, funny and awesome.  "Allen" was supposed to be this guy but their relationship never amounted to more than the two more level headed members of their alliance.

- "Karlee - The Deaf Girl": I know they were spoofing on Marlee Matlin's turn on Celebrity Apprentice but personally thought the whole character was in bad taste.  Don't get me wrong, there was some good comedy mined from her character (more so from her interpreter) but Jo Newman was easily the least impressive cast member.  She had the hardest job on the show but she was a constant threat to blow the whole thing up.

Some of the things I did like:

-Lorenzo Lamas: I was surprisingly upset when he was "voted" off first and happy he was added back to the game later.  He really sold everything the writers set up for him and was the biggest source of comedy from the actors in the house.

-Spirit Animals: No part of the show made Chase look as ridiculous as he did as when he was looking deep into his llama's soul. 

I'd probably place it as the second best of the three.  Season 1 was a masterpiece and more than any of the Schmos who followed, Matthew Kennedy Gould will always the first person you think about when it comes to this series.  Time has already forgotten the Schmos from Season 2 and think in a few years time will forget Chase Rogan as well.