Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sports: and Bruin Fans

One week ago ...

From the CBS coverage with the coverage and commentary by Gus Johnson and Len Elmore ...

From the UCLA band section through a personal video camera ...

Undoubtedly, these Gonzaga-UCLA video links and others like it are circling the globe among Bruin fans.

In post-game Bruin Talk (after the Gonzaga game and after the Memphis game), the host got mostly local calls but he got some from far away. On Thursday night, there was a call from Florida where it was well past midnight. On Saturday evening, the host got the longest long distance call of the night from Japan where the caller said he and a few alumni were watching via the internet on Sunday afternoon in Tokyo!

Steve Lavin, the former Bruin coach, was on the local ESPN radio show the other day and felt pretty much any of the four teams could win the national championship. He said, of course, his heart was with the Bruins. But as a sports analyst, he felt Florida had the best overall talent. He believed LSU causes the biggest match-up problems because of "Big Baby" Davis. Lastly, as a former coach, he couldn't help but want to root for Jim Larranaga and George Mason.

In the Pac-10, there isn't anyone like LSU's Davis. The most capable big guy in the Pac-10 is California's Leon Powe at 6-8, 240. Glen Davis of LSU is 6-9, 310!

In looking over LSU's record they have lost eight times this season. Most of the losses were close games.

Since the start of the SEC season, they have only lost three games: a close one at Alabama early in the conference schedule and twice to Florida (once at Florida and once in the SEC tournament). Undoubtedly, Howland and his assistants are watching film from those three games to see what they did to keep LSU from rampaging.

LSU has FOUR players averaging double digits in points (Glen Davis, Darrel Mitchell, Tyrus Thomas and Tasmin Mitchell).

Thus, perhaps, what the defense has to do is stop two of four and hope for the best.

Apparently, stopping 1 of 4 doesn't cut it. Texas gave up 26 to Davis, 21 to Thomas and 11 to Darrel Mitchell and that wasn't enough. Duke gave up 15 to Davis, 14 to Darrel Mitchell and 10 to Tasmin Mitchell and that wasn't enough.

Texas A&M came the closest to winning and they "held" Davis to 21 points and Darrel Mitchell to 16. On that night, Thomas only got 7 and the other Mitchell only had 2.

Can UCLA do it?


The hard headed sports analyst in me says they haven't faced anyone as dominant as Davis. Bruins can only hope that they can contain two of four and keep it close like A&M and hope for the best.

GO Bruins!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sports: Horray for the CAA's George Mason!

The Huskies seemed determined to prove they were a cat with nine-lives in this tournament.

It finally cost them as eleven-seeded George Mason defeated the one-seeded UConn Huskies in the regional finals in Washington DC, 86-84 in overtime.

The mid-majors have made a bigger splash than expected. It was exciting to see the Missouri Valley Conference get four teams into the NCAA and then have two of them advance to the Sweet 16.

The Colonial Athletic Association got two teams into the NCAA and their first team ever to the Final Four.

On the NIT side, the CAA's Old Dominion defeated the CAA's Hofstra to get into the NIT Final Four which is also another first for the CAA.

Many other mid-majors pulled off upsets or lost tight games to the traditional powerhouses.

As a UCLA alum (1986), I am thrilled to see the once glorious program that has languished for several years make a return to the big stage. I am also a UC Irvine alum (1993) and know the tough times of a mid-major program. Thus, besides rooting for my beloved Bruins, I have followed closely the progress of the "little guys."

I am so pleased to see the experts on ESPN and CBS who complained about the NCAA selection committee "bias" toward the little guys have to backtrack and give the little guys some praise.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sports: UCLA 50 Memphis 45

Was that a football score?

No, it was a basketball score!

The game ball has to go to Ryan Hollins.

If, at the beginning of the season, you had said, Hollins would be one of the key reasons why UCLA will make a run in the NCAA, me and every other Bruin fan would have laughed and said you are crazy.

But a crazy thing happened, he stepped up a few notches in his intensity level and skill (I don't know how many passes he fumbled in his first three years!) and has been a key piece to the UCLA team since mid-season.

Tonight, he was providing offense, rebounds and an inside intimidation factor UCLA was not expected to have when they were picked to finish third in the Pac10 in pre-season polls. One really big play took place in the final minute when he got back on defense on a Memphis fast break that would have cut the lead to 44-41. Instead, Hollins got the steal and Bozeman got fouled and it was a four-point switch with the Bruins having a 46-39 lead.

In post-game Bruin Talk, the host said, we'll talk about LSU tomorrow; tonight, let's just celebrate this win and this team and this coach!

Mighty Bruins
lyric by Barbara Lamb and Don Holley
music by Bill Conte
We are the Mighty Bruins,
The best team in the West.
We’re marching on to victory,
To conquer all the rest.

We are the Mighty Bruins,
Triumphant evermore.
You can hear from far and near,
The Mighty Bruin roar!


U - C - L - A! Fight! Fight! Fight!
UPDATE: Plaschke of the LA Times picked up on the football theme in his column in the Sunday paper. Excerpts:
It was ugly, it was unbelievable, but it was pure UCLA, the Bruins bullying their way to Indiana on Sunday with a team that is less "Hoosiers" than "Pulp Fiction."

For the first time in 11 years, the Bruins are going to the Final Four, this time with cartons of film, cases of bandages and one question.

Are you ready for some football?

In an Arena filled to the rafters with Bruin fans leaping on their muffler-missing, smoke-belching bandwagon, UCLA defeated Memphis, 50-45, in a regional final that should have been played outside in the Raider parking lot.


The idea that these Bruins suddenly seem capable of winning a national title is no more farfetched than the idea that they could hold an 81-point-per-game Memphis team to 45 points.

Twice last fall, the UCLA football team allowed more points.
Since the Bruins are in Los Angeles, Plaschke reached for a movie analogy, an automobile metaphor and a beach word-picture to finish off his column:
"It was all crazy," Farmar said. "But I was like, man, we'll take it."

So will their town and their tradition, both of which will embrace this unlikeliest of L.A. teams, the gritty little independent movie on the verge of winning the Oscar, the clunky little Pinto passing everyone in the carpool lane.

During the postgame celebration Sunday, guess who was the last Bruin to cut down the first net?

When Bozeman climbed the ladder, he was the only starter who did not yet have a piece. But then he stopped, looked down and motioned toward Janou Rubin, a senior and former walk-on.

Bozeman stepped down. Rubin stepped up. The benchwarmer made the last snip, gestured to the crowd, then disappeared into a swirling, murky, dazzling sea of gold and blue, crashing toward the suddenly visible shores of a national championship.

Go Bruins!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sports: UCLA 73 Gonzaga 71

Did you see that?


I've seen my share of basketball games and this has got to be one of the wildest finishes I've ever seen.

9 times out of 10, the comeback comes up short and you say, they had heart to fight their way back.

Tonight, the gutty little Bruins were left for dead and somehow found a way to get back into the game and then, incredibly, to win it.

It was a team effort.

In post-game Bruin talk, fans often complain about Howland's substitution pattern. Sometimes, it seems guys are going in and out like airplanes at LAX. Aboya, Mata and Roll's numbers: 8 points in 26 minutes. Not impressive numbers but their job is to give the big six some rest so they will have some spring in their step for a frantic finish.

Collison gives them some extra speed on the court and his fearlessness in taking the ball to the hoop may not always get points but it shakes up the dynamics of the game.

Hollins, who started off the season either on the bench or injured, came on strong in the second half of the season gives the Bruins a seven footer in the middle for rebounding, shot-blocking/altering and tonight, 12 points, none more crucial than those two pressure packed free throws late.

Afflalo had a tough night running all over the place guarding (chasing) Morrison and picking up four fouls limited his time on the floor. Yet, he hit a couple of big threes and in the end, he still shared with Farmar most points on the team with 15.

On the go ahead sequence, it was team work, defense and never say die heart: Bozeman knocks the ball loose to Farmar who passed to a Moute for the go ahead lay up!

a Moute has been a pleasant surprise. His 10 rebounds were huge tonight. His final second steal helped seal the game. He started the season a wide-eyed freshman behind Shipp, Bozeman and Aboya on the depth chart for the forward spot. However, injuries to Shipp (season ending), Bozeman (mid-season) and Abboya (beginning of season) meant he had to play and he stepped up such that he won Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.

Farmar is a fierce competitor. He has sprained both ankles this season and tonight he had a sore left wrist and sprained right thumb. He clearly was not 100% tonight but his heart of a lion leadership to take the big shot and to make the pass for the assist (he would end with six assists) was essential.

And then there is Cedric Bozeman. His box score isn't going to jump out as spectacular: 31 minutes, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 points and 1 steal. It was his defense that helped turn the tide. With Afflalo out, Bozeman covered Morrison and did a decent job. And of course, he will now be part of Bruin highlight reel history for "the steal."

It is really great to see Bozeman have the chance to play on. He came to UCLA a highly rated recruit and blew out his knee early in his first year at UCLA. He had to red-shirt another year late in his career at UCLA. This year he was out part of the season with an injured shoulder. He could have given up. Instead, he took up the mantle of the classic role player. Since the beginning of Pac-10 play, he has scored in double figures only twice. Yet, his contributions to the team are part of the reason the Bruins get to play at least one more game.

Can they beat Memphis?

My head says, no. Memphis has too many athletes and are well rested after their easy win over Bradley.

My heart says, yes.

Check out the various UCLA band songs.

The classic one is "Sons of Westwood."

For the school's 50th anniversary, a new fight song, "Mighty Bruins," entered the band play list courtesy of Academy Award winning composer Bill Conti.

U! C! LLLLLLLLL! A! U-C-L-A! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sports: this Bruin fan is nervous

The win over Alabama may have come at a steep price as point guard Jordan Farmar was injured in the game and will not be 100% for the showdown with Gonzaga.

Naturally, he says, he will play. However, I suspect, Howland will have a relatively short leash.

Collison has been the backup point guard and has been gaining minutes and confidence as the season went along. Additionally, Bozeman has played point guard in the past and could share ball handling duties as needed. The Bruins have options but Farmar's leadership and points-per-game would be hard to replace.

Sports: Final Eight of the NIT

Tonight and tomorrow, the final eight teams of the NIT will narrow down to the final four and tickets to Madison Square Garden will be punched.

The mid-majors still have 3 teams alive: Old Dominion, Hofstra and Missouri St.

The power conferences have 5 teams participating: Michigan, Miami (FL), Louisville, South Carolina and Cincinnatti.

Since ODU and Hofstra are playing each other, the middies are will get one team into the final four of the NIT.

Missouri St faces Louisville for another spot in the final four.

The pairings can be seen here.

Sports: What does NIT stand for?

There was a huge surge of hits on this blog when this blog ran "NIT bracketology."

The traffic for that has since settled down. However, there are still occasional visits from searches for teams playing in the NIT. Interestingly, there have been a few hits for "what does NIT stand for?"

NIT stands for National Invitational Tournament.

The NIT post-season basketball tournament started in 1938. For more history, check out the history page at the NIT web page.

Eventually, the "March Madness" of the NCAA took the prestige away from the NIT. However, the NIT continued to provide an opportunity for good teams to play a few more games much as the non-BCS college football bowl games.

The NIT sued the NCAA as an anti-trust monopoly. The NCAA decided to buyout the NIT rather than continue with the trial.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sports: 65 to 16, 40 to 16


BCS "power" conferences:
Duke (ACC)
Boston College (ACC)
Florida (SEC)
W Virginia (Big East)
U Conn (Big East)
Villanova (Big East)
Georgetown (Big East)
Texas (Big 12)
UCLA (Pac10)
Washington (Pac10)

Umm, where is the Big Ten?? 8-)

For Atlanta, I still think Duke-LSU will be the key game.

For Oakland, as a UCLA alum, I'm rooting for the Bruins. As a realistic sports viewer, I know the Bruins have simply not faced anybody like Adam Morrison. I'm hoping Ben Howland comes up with a defensive plan. I'm hoping the Cameroon freshmen come up big banging against Gonzaga's front line. I'm hoping Farmar and Afflalo and Collison are able to run the offense. My heart say Bruins! My head says Gonzaga might have so much motivation from having something to prove and UCLA might still be a year away from having the experience to put aside the jitters expected in the national spotlight of a big game.

For Washington DC, the Huskies will get to the Final Four; Huskies as in Connecticut Huskies. However, if the Washington Huskies play just a little over their heads and the Connecticut Huskies are off a little and they were off against Albany and let Kentucky stick around, then Romar's Huskies will seize that moment and make them pay.

For Minneapolis, the key game is Villanova-Boston College. I saw part of the Arizona-Villanova game and both sides were flying up and down the court. This should be another exciting game.

Other conferences:
Memphis (C-USA)
Bradley (MVC)
Wichita St (MVC)
Gonzaga (WCC)
G Mason (CAA)

Of these five, three of them weren't supposed to get this far!


BCS "power" conferences:
Notre Dame
Miami (Fl)
Florida State
South Carolina

Other conferences:
Old Dominion
St. Joseph's
Missouri St.

With the big name teams losing their players to the NBA, the gap between the biggies and the middies has closed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sports: Big West nearly pulls off big upset

Pacific Tigers from the Big West almost ... drat! ... knocked off ACC biggie Boston College. Tigers sent it into overtime on a three. BC sent it into a second OT with free throws. Order in the basketball universe was finally restored in the second OT as Boston College finally pulled away.

In other mid-major watching, Wis-Milwaukee upset Oklahoma!

In a result sure to delight fans in the state of Kansas, Wichita State shocked Seton Hall with an easy win! Yes, it was a 7 over a 10 but I would imagine many so called basketball experts figured the Big East team would beat the Missouri Valley team in this head-to-head showdown.

The Big East got eight teams in. Let's see how many are still playing on this weekend! Let's see how many of the four from the Missouri Valley are still playing!

UPDATE: Mid-major upset watch ...

#14 Northwestern St in a buzzer beater over #3 Iowa was clearly the top upset of the 1st round.
#13 Bradley over #4 Kansas was the second biggest of the 1st round.
#13 Bradley got another one over #5 Pittsburgh!

Bucknell beating Arkansas though only being a 9 over an 8 still was a big deal as an example of the equivalence between a top mid-major program and a middling power conference team.

#11 George Mason beating #6 Michigan State was another piece of evidence of the power of the middies.
#11 George Mason went on to stun #3 UNC in round two!

#7 Wichita State stunned two big program (#10 Seton Hall and #2 Tennessee) teams on its way to the Sweet Sixteen!

Close ones but came up short ...
#14 Murray State fought to the bitter end with #3 UNC but couldn't pull it off.
#15 Penn hung with #2 Texas longer than anyone expected.
#11 San Diego State had #6 Indiana but let it get away.
#16 Albany was competitive much longer than expected against #1 Connecticut. They were in it well into the 2nd half.
#15 Winthrop got beat on a buzzer beater by #2 Tennessee.
#15 Davidson stuck around with #2 Ohio State much longer than expected.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sports: NCAA picks

Of course, there is that other tournament going on besides the NIT!

For the Atlanta regional, I'd say Duke or LSU. I keep hearing about LSU having some really big athletic guys on the front line which could give the Dukies trouble. Texas lost badly to Duke earlier and Iowa has some bad losses on its resume.

As for the Oakland bracket, my feeling is that this could be one of those busted regionals. The top line teams, Memphis, UCLA, Gonzaga and Kansas all have some issues. Memphis and Gonzaga have been beating up on weak foes in their conferences so you wonder if they will flounder at some point. UCLA and Kansas both field very young teams who are still one or two years away from making a serious run. Of course, sometimes being young means you play without fear.

The Washington DC path for U Conn looks to be the easiest. I just don't see Tennessee nor Illinois beating them and for that matter even getting to the regional finals. UNC is young but clearly ready for prime time after a fairly easy win over Duke late in the season.

For the Minnesota regional, I'd say the final victor will come from the expected Villanova vs. Boston College match-up in the regional semi-finals.

My final four picks: Duke, Gonzaga, U Conn, Boston College. Duke cuts down the nets.

What say you?

Sports: NIT Update

The NIT is underway.

I'll be tracking the NIT in terms of how well do the "power" or BCS conferences (Big10, Big12, ACC, Big East, Pac10 and SEC) do against the rest.

March 14 games:
Butler over Miami (OH)- both are mid-majors
Manhattan over Fair. Dickenson - both are mid-majors
Rutgers over Penn State - both are from power conferences
Akron over Temple - both are mid-majors though the Mid-America is probably lower rated than the A10
Charlotte over G. Southern - both are mid-majors
Delaware St. over N. Arizona - both are mid-majors
Stanford over Virginia - both are from power conferences though I have to say as a Pac10 partisan, it is nice to see a Pac10 school trample an ACC team!
UTEP over Lipscomb - both are mid-majors

March 15 games:
Notre Dame over Vanderbilt - both are from power conferences
S. Carolina over W. Kentucky - alas, a face-off between a power conference and a mid-major! Score one for the biggies, 1-0
Houston over BYU - both are mid-majors
Old Dominion over Colorado - yeah for the mid-majors, 1-1
Minnesota over Wake Forest - both are from power conferences
Clemson over La Tech - an ACC win over a middie, 2-1
Miami (FL) over Ok. St. - both are from power conferences

March 16 has four games on the schedule of which three will involve mid-majors going up against the biggies. We shall see how they do!

St. Joe's beats Rutgers - A10 over Big East, the biggies drop to 2-2 in the NIT
Hofstra beats Nebraska! - CAA over Big12, the BCS conf falls to 2-3
Michigan beats UTEP - Big10 over CUSA to even things out between the biggies and the middies, 3-3
Creighton beats Akron - two mid-majors but Creighton is from Missouri Valley that got 4 teams into the NCAA but does that make them a "power" conference? For now, no.

All four games on March 17 pit mid-majors versus power conference teams.

3 of the 4 games were won by the power conferences running their record to 6-4 in the NIT.


March 18 had one NIT game and it was a HUGE upset by a small program against a giant. Manhattan defeats Maryland AT Maryland, 87-84.

Majors 6 Middies 5 thus far in the NIT.


March 20 had 6 games involving 7 mid-majors. But only one game had a a major-mid pairing. Miami (FL) from the ACC beat Creighton from the MVC. Majors 7 Mid-Majors 5 in the NIT. Both games for March 21 involve teams from the power conferences.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sports: Big West Tournament, Day 4


Long Beach State (#3 seed) faces off with University of the Pacific (#1 seed) for the Big West Tournament championship in men's basketball. The winner gets the NCAA bid. UOP by virtue of winning the regular season championship would get an NIT bid should they lose tonight but clearly, NOBODY is playing for the NIT tonight!

LBSU is a run-and-gun-three-point shooting team. UOP plays half-court grind it out basketball. The 49ers will rely on their shooters and quickness of feet and passing to get open looks while the Tigers will rely on their big guys in the paint. As is often the case, the team that dictates tempo should win the game.

Aaron Nixon of Long Beach has to be the favorite for tournament MVP whether or not the 49ers win tonight. He dropped 31 on Fullerton on Thursday and 28 on Irvine on Friday and in both games had the key baskets late in the game when the game was on the line.

Television coverage is at 9pm PST on ESPN.

Yahoo! Sport's box score will be found here.

My prediction: LBSU 76 UOP 69.

Game progress

Am not down at the Arena but am on the Internet!

Pacific 42 Long Beach 36. A high score like that suggests it is being played at the pace Long Beach likes.

Looking over the stats: both teams have hit seven three-pointers, not much foul shooting (typical of the slow whistles of the Big West refs), rebounding is close though LB has more offensive boards (7 vs. 4) but Pacific's FG% is 56.7 while LB is only at 37.8. I'm wondering if the higher shooting percentage of Pacific is due to more points in the paint which is where I think their advantage would be?

It's a final: UOP 78 LBSU 70


UOP got a 13-seed in the NCAA and will play Boston College in Salt Lake on Thursday.

In the last bit of Big West news, Pacific's Johnny Gray was named Tournament MVP. Also named to the All-Tournament team was: Christian Maraker of Pacific, Shawn Hawkins and Aaron Nixon of Long Beach, Aaron Fitzgerald of UC Irvine and Fullerton's Jamaal Brown.

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

Sports: Big West Tournament, Day 3

The Tigers beat the Mustangs 68-57. The game was closer than the score indicated. Cal Poly was down only 4 when they missed a three-pointer and the Tigers delivered the knockout with a three-pointer. Down by 7, the Mustangs needed points and went for quick shots and missed and had to foul.

Maraker, the Big West Player of the Year and star of the the UOP Tigers finished with 12 points but also got 5 assists. Cal Poly frequently doubled teamed when he got the ball but he often found the open man.

In game two of the evening, fans of Long Beach were treated to a second nail biter in a row. UC Irvine held the lead but the pressing defense of Long Beach would take its toll and Anteater fans hoped their team could hold on. Eventually, the Eaters lost the lead and looked done and fell behind by 6 late. However, tight defense brought the Anteaters back.

In the Anteater's final possession, a busted play resulted in their regaining the lead 73-72. Long Beach called time out with 10.8 seconds. Two inbound passes resulted in Irvine fouls, but since it was only the fifth and sixth fouls of the half, Long Beach took the ball out from the side with less time left on the clock. Everyone in the arena knew the ball would be in Nixon's hands as he had scored 31 the night before against Fullerton and had already hit five three-pointers and had already scored 25 this evening.

The ball came to him as expected and he dribbled to the left corner guarded by two Anteaters and launched a three at the buzzer. NOTHING BUT THE BOTTOM OF THE NET!!!

UPDATE: Long Beach's Nixon game winner made it to #1 in ESPN's Top Ten championship week moments. HT:

The ref called it in time but to be sure they huddled in front of the replay monitor and after a minute of review, it was official, Long Beach 75 UCI 73.

Long Beach State faces off with University of Pacific on Saturday at 9pm PST with the NCAA bid on the line. ESPN and its various flavors are showing tournament games around the clock (more than 12 hours!) and the Big West Championship game will be their final game of the night.

UPDATE: Sights and Sounds from Day Three

The Marquee has the event for the evening.

The venue's main entrance.

Flags of the USA, California and Anaheim.

Name that tune: what is the Pacific band playing?

Digital stitch of the inside of the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. Click on photo for a larger view. As you can see there were quite a few orange-clad supporter of the Pacific Tigers in the game against Cal Poly.

In terms of fan participation, the Fullerton-Long Beach game was the loudest as Fullerton is close by so many students were there and vocal. Long Beach alumni were loud as well. The Cal Poly-UCSB game was the quietest as those two schools are farther away and expectations for their success was not very high. The UCI-Long Beach game showed the different fan bases the two schools have. UCI's student section was very loud and its alumni section was small and quiet. The Long Beach alumni section was larger and louder than their student section! The UCI student section was louder and larger than the Long Beach students.

Cal Poly running their offense against UOP.

UOP celebrates their victory.

The Anteaters in pre-game warm ups.

The yellow clad CIA = completely insane Anteaters.

Name that tune: the UCI band plays this familiar tune as one of two fight songs. What other school, perhaps a bit more well known to television viewing sports fans, uses the same tune?

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sports: Big West Tournament, Day 2

Took a look at to map out my route to the Big West Tournament (BWT). I was thinking of trying 10E-110S-105E-605S-91E and then finishing with some surface streets. Looking at the map, I opted for merely 10E-5S and some surface streets.

I got to the Anaheim Convention Center around 7:45 hoping to catch a little of the opening game of the evening.

I got to my seats to catch the final 3 minutes of a very exciting contest between Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton. Fullerton and Long Beach are relatively close to Anaheim which meant the Arena was loud with cheering as fans would erupt as their team scored.

I looked at the score board and saw that Fullerton's Jamaal Brown had gone wild. He would eventually finished the night with 30 points. He was unstoppable in the handful of possession I saw. He had taken over the Fullerton offense as the game was nip and tuck down the final stretch. Everyone knew it would be in Brown's hands as they were down one point with the ball and the clock running down towards zero. Brown took it to the hoop and three Forty-Niners collapsed on him and Brown was fouled. Brown missed both free throws!! Long Beach recovered the rebound and the Titans quickly fouled. Long Beach hit both free throws to seal the victory, 94-91.

My seats happen to be on the side of the arena for Long Beach fans and the screaming and cheering and foot stomping was enthusiastic. Welcome to mid-major madness where winning the tournament gets the only ticket to the NCAA! Check out a snippet of the sights and sounds of victory!

The second game was Cal Poly versus UC Santa Barbara. UCSB is a 3 hours drive to Anaheim and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is about 5 hours away. Thus, the crowd was considerably thinner for the second game of the night. Interestingly, there seemed to be more Cal Poly fans!

It was an ugly first half as both sides had no answer for the zone defense. The score stood at a paltry 18 all at the half with both teams shooting percentage in the twenties.

The Mustang band doing one of their routines at the half.

The Gauchos taking the floor for the second half.

Unfortunately, the Gauchos couldn't solve the zone and failed to score for 5 minutes and found themselves down by 11.

Gaucho coach Bob Williams switched to man-to-man to shake things up and his team responded cutting the lead to 5.

With the game getting tight and a foul going against the Mustangs, Coach Kevin Bromley took off his coat and threw it down and went to give the ref an earful. The rest of the night, both coaches worked the refs continuously. My impression is that Big West refs have slow whistles compared to Pac-10 refs.

The small number of Gaucho fans were feeling hopeful that their team was coming back but a few turnovers allowed the lead to balloon once again.

Besides the basketball team and the bands, there are the spirit squads and dance teams. Check out the Mustang cheerleaders in one of their numbers.

UCSB would cut the lead to four in the final two minutes but couldn't capitalize on missed Mustang free throws. The final score Cal Poly 57 UCSB 50.

Day Three of the BWT has Pacific facing Cal Poly in the early evening game and UC Irvine meeting Long Beach in the second game.

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sports: Big West Tournament, Day 1

UC Santa Barbara easily defeated UC Riverside 76-44.

UCSB will face Cal Poly in the quarterfinals tomorrow.

Cal State Fullerton held on to beat Cal State Northridge 73-63.

The Titans will face the Beach on Thursday.

No upsets were contemplated and none occurred.

For the quarters, if UCSB, the 5-seed were to beat Cal Poly, the 4-seed, that wouldn't be much of an upset. I'd expect a close game in the 60s with UCSB prevailing. Fullerton as a 6-seed beating Long Beach State (3-seed) would be a surprise considering that LBSU has been on a roll of late. Fullerton can put up points but so can Long Beach so a game in the 80s would be about right. The Beach has been hot and should take the Titans down for the third time this season.

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sports: Big West Tournament, T-Minus 1-day

The top four seeds for the Big West Tournament (BWT) are Pacific, UC Irvine, Long Beach State and Cal Poly.

Pacific is the number one seed and the regular season champion. They are the prohibitive favorite to win the tournament.

Pacific went 8-1 since February and are perfect in the second half of the conference schedule.

Pacific's top player is Christian Maraker who won Big West Player of the Year and is a three time First Team All Big West. Johnny Gray is also First Team All Big West. Anthony Brown and Steffan Johnson were named to the Big West All Freshman Team.

The Anteaters are the number two seed but have not been playing well. Since February they have gone 4-4 in their conference games after going 8-0 in the first half of the season. This could be a case of how teams adjust for the second meeting. Of the four losses, two of them were close games (against UCSB and Cal Poly) but the other two were deflating defeats in particular the regular season ending blowout administered by the Beach on Irvine's home court.

The Anteaters rely on Aaron Fitzgerald (Big West First Team) at the point guard spot. Ross Schraeder, an honorable mention, is their three-point bomber hitting 47% from behind the arc. Darren Fells leads the team in rebounds and provides some presence in the paint also received an honorable mention. Adam Templeton made the Big West Freshman Team.

The third seed, Long Beach State, is the other hot team in the conference beside Pacific. Since February they have gone 7-2 and are currently on a 5 game winning streak.

Jibril Hodges leads the Beach with 14.5 points per game and received First Team honors. Shawn Hawkins and Kejuan Johnson made Second Team and provide Long Beach with double digit per game point production. Senior Hawkins leads the team with 6 rebounds a game.

Cal Poly is the fourth seed and like Irvine has been stumbling with only a 4-4 record in conference in the second half of the conference season.

The stars on the Mustangs are Derek Stockalper (First Team), Dawin Whiten (Second Team), Chaz Thomas (All Freshman Team) and Trae Clark who won Big West Freshman of the Year. In the Anteater game, I attended last month, it was Clark who won it for Cal Poly late in the game.

There are basketball board comments and flame wars if you want to hear from serious fans of the Big West. handicaps the field this way: Pacific (45%), Irvine (35%), LBSU (15%), Others (5%).

I graduated from UC Irvine (PhD, 1993) so I'm rooting for the Anteaters. Rip 'em Eaters, zot, zot, zot!

However, as an objective sports fan, Pacific and Long Beach are the two hot teams right now so my breakdown would be Pacific 50%, Long Beach 35%, Irvine 14%, Everyone else 1%.

The 5-8 seeds play tomorrow. I'll be heading to the BWT on Thursday and Friday. If the Anteaters make it to Saturday, I'll be there cheering them on to hopefully their first ever NCAA appearance!

UPDATE: Kyle Whelliston over at ESPN believes Pacific is the favorite. He highlights UCI's hot 3-point shooting and their stumbles in the 2nd half of the season says they are also worth watching!

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sports: Big West Tournament, T-Minus 2-days

Got my tickets today for the Big West Tournament (BWT)!

The cost is $50 for all 7 games of the men's tournament.

I ran an eBay search for ACC Tournament tickets and found that all-session tickets ranged from $450 to $2400!

As I ponder the economics of these tournaments, I wonder if the BWT loses money on this event?

How much does it cost to rent out 4-days at the Anaheim Convention Center?

That is the expense side of the ledger.

How about the income side?

There are television rights: KVMD, ESPNU and ESPN are showing the games. The BWT is getting only a fraction what the ACC gets from TV!

There are ticket sales. I called the box office to find out when they would send out tickets. The agent said each school sends out the tickets directly. She added that each school is required to sell a minimum of 200 tickets. I suppose all the ticket sales up to a certain point goes to the convention center. Perhaps, beyond the 200, the convention center might share ticket sales with the conference.

During the days of the tournament there will undoubtedly be branded sale of t-shirts, cups, caps and other collectables and the revenues could be split between the schools and the conference.

The BWT sells sponsorship rights. On the information sheet that came with my tournament tickets were the logos of ESPN Zone, Disneyland Resorts, Newport Rib Company and Sirius Satellite Radio (probably a fee for sponsorship as well as radio broadcast rights). There was also a discount coupon for shopping at Macy's. I would predict that their banners will be prominent at the convention center and in published materials.

How else does a small conference make money on this event?

Enough about economics, let's talk hoops!

UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside play Wednesday night.

What are their prospects?

UC Riverside went 5-22 overall and only won 3 games in conference but one of those wins was against Big West champion Pacific. Dedrick Bates, a junior guard got honorable mention for the All-Conference team.

Cal State Northridge won only 4 games in conference with a 11-16 record overall. Three of their players received honorable mentions: Mike Efevberha, Jonathan Heard and Calvin Chitwood. There big win this season was their season opener when they defeated USC.

Cal State Fullerton, 15-12 (5-9) are lead by Brown and Brown as in Bobby Brown (1st team All-Big West) and Jamaal Brown (2nd team All-Big West) who scored 17.5 and 16.5 points-per-game. The Titans started the season with high expectations as they were picked in both coach and media polls to win the Big West.

UC Santa Barbara finished 6-8 in the Big West and 14-13 overall. Cecil Brown and Chris Devine are their two 2nd team All-Big West players.

UCSB split their regular season meetings with UCR while Fullerton swept Northridge.

UCSB should advance and face Cal Poly and Fullerton should win to meet Long Beach on Thursday.

Of the four teams in the bottom half, Fullerton has the potential to make a run at the title. Fullerton was the 2nd highest scoring team in the conference. Unfortunately, they had the worst defense. If they manage to play some defense they might pull off an upset or two.

Prospects for the top half of the conference in tomorrow's post.

related posts
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1
Preview, part II
Preview, part I

Sports: NIT Bracketology

UPDATE: Here is 2007 NIT Bracketology.

UPDATE: The 2006 NCAA brackets have been announced. Thus, shortly afterward, the 2006 NIT brackets were released.

I've indicated with a $ symbol that the teams below received NIT bids.

Of the 40 bids, 7 were automatics. Of the remaining 33, I correctly predicted 23.

Of the 10 I missed, 4 were NCAA bubble teams (Cincy, Hofstra, Michigan and Florida State) that I thought would get into the NCAA but didn't, 4 were teams I had in the NIT (Minnesota, La Tech, Penn St. and Butler) but I thought lost their spots due to losses by regular season champs in one-bid conferences and 2 teams (Wake Forrest and Oklahoma State) I didn't monitor at all as possible NIT candidates.

Group 1 - teams on the NCAA bubble and when it bursts they land in the NIT:
Big East
Cincinnati-NCAA? NO! NIT instead.
1. Vandy $
2. Maryland $
3. Virginia $
4. Miami $
Big 12
5. Colorado $
Missouri Valley
6. Missouri State $
Northern Iowa - NCAA? YES!
Bradley - NCAA? YES!
7. Creighton $
Hofstra-NCAA? NO! NIT instead.
8. George Mason - got into NCAA!!
9. Old Dominion $
Mountain West
10. Air Force - got into NCAA!!
11. BYU $
12. Utah State - got into NCAA!!
13. UTEP $
14. Houston $
15. Charlotte $
16. La Salle
Group 2 - virtual locks for NIT:
17. Clemson $
18. Virginia Tech
Xavier-NCAA bound!
19. Temple $
20. St. Louis
21. St. Joes $
Big East
22. Rutgers $
23. Louisville $
Big 12
24. Nebraska $
25. Kansas St.
26. Iowa State
Mid American
27. Akron $
28. Miami-Ohio $
Metro Atlantic
Iona - going to NCAA!

Group 3 - on the bubble for the NIT which will burst if a regular season champ falters in their post-season conference tournament and gets an automatic NIT bid:
Big East
29. Notre Dame $
30. Stanford $
31. USC
32. South Carolina $
33. Georgia
34. Butler got into NIT
Sun Belt
South Alabama - Going to NCAA!
Big Sky
Montana-Going to NCAA!
Mountain West
35. UNLV
36. Louisiana Tech got into NIT
Big Ten
37. Penn State got into NIT
38. Northwestern
39. Minnesota got into NIT
40. Northeastern

Group 4 - teams who won their regular season but come from a one-bid conference and would get an NIT bid if they lose their post-season tournament:
America East-Albany-NCAA bound!
34. Atlantic Sun-Libscomb-lost in finals
35. Big Sky-Northern Arizona-lost in finals
Big South-Winthrop-going to NCAA!
Big West-Pacific-NCAA again!
Horizon-Wisconsin Milwaukee-going to NCAA!
36. Metro Atlantic-Manhattan-lost in semi-finals
Mid-American-Kent State-next up NCAA!
Mid-Continent-Oral Roberts-going to NCAA!
37. Mid-Eastern-Delaware St.-lost in finals
38. Northeast-Fair. Dickinson-lost in finals
Ohio Valley-Murray St.-going to NCAA!
39. Southern-Georgia Southern- lost in quarterfinals
Southland-Northwestern St.-Going to NCAA!
Southwestern-Southern-Going to NCAA!
40. Sun Belt-Western Kentucky-lost in finals

Wait listed: DePaul, Marist, Hawaii.

Will update as post-season tournament results come in!

UPDATE: NIT-ology is also tracking who will get into the NIT!

UPDATE: Lunardi is also updating his list.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Culture: And the winner is ...

As usual, I've seen very few of the nominated films but here goes as it is a birthright of bloggers to opine whether or not we know any better! My picks are in bold.

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
    Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote”
    Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow”
    Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”
    Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line”
    David Strathairn in “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Of these films, only saw "Walk the Line." I thought Phoenix was great at Cash but here in LA, all the buzz is with Hoffman.

UPDATE: One of the locks of the evening came through.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
    George Clooney in “Syriana”
    Matt Dillon in “Crash”
    Paul Giamatti in “Cinderella Man”
    Jake Gyllenhaal in “Brokeback Mountain”
    William Hurt in “A History of Violence”
I saw Cinderella Man and Crash. Giamatti was fantastic. The ensemble cast of Crash was extraordinary and it rightly won that SAG award for ensemble cast. I can see why they chose Dillon as his character was complex and Dillon pulled it off well. However, for me, in Crash, the scenes with Michael Pena had the most emotional power from moments of incredible tenderness and moments of violent peril.

UPDATE: A bit of a surprise but Clooney graciously tipped his hat to the others in the catagory.

Performance by an actress in a leading role:
    Judi Dench in “Mrs. Henderson Presents”
    Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica”
    Keira Knightley in “Pride & Prejudice”
    Charlize Theron in “North Country”
    Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line”
Only have seen Walk the Line. Loved Witherspoon. She can do romantic comedy and she can do serious stuff too and is adorable in comedy and believable in drama. However, the buzz about Huffman's role is very strong.

UPDATE: SAG had split between Witherspoon and Huffman so no real surprise here. It was a coin toss and I'm happy Reese won it for her super performance as June Carter Cash.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
    Amy Adams in “Junebug”
    Catherine Keener in “Capote”
    Frances McDormand in “North Country”
    Rachel Weisz in “The Constant Gardener”
    Michelle Williams in “Brokeback Mountain”
Have seen NONE of these films. The buzz seems to be with Weisz though I've heard a few people mention Adams.

UPDATE: Weisz won as expected.

Achievement in directing:
    “Brokeback Mountain” - Ang Lee
    “Capote” - Bennett Miller
    “Crash” - Paul Haggis
    “Good Night, and Good Luck" - George Clooney
    “Munich” - Steven Spielberg
The DGA gave their award to Lee which is usually the best indicator of who will win.

UPDATE: The DGA should know!

Best motion picture of the year
    “Brokeback Mountain”
    “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Have seen Crash and Munich. Munich is a very effective spy thriller-action movie but its explorations of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was uneven. The buzz is obviously with Brokeback Mountain which I haven't seen. Let me go ahead and make my pitch to encourage readers to see Crash. It is at times over the top and it has the most foul language - I heard a radio report that some watchdog group counted the number of expletives used in this year's Oscar films - and its device of having all the characters "crash" together is a bit strained. However, the performances by the ensemble cast are amazing. The visuals, the pacing, the music and the relationships are all riviting. The exploration of the racial attitudes move beyond the usual black-white boilerplate and the characters are much more complicated than they first appear - kind of like real life. Thus, my heart says, CRASH. But my head says Brokeback Mountain has the momentum.

UPDATE: No question about it, a huge upset but clearly if Brokeback wasn't going to win, it would be Crash taking the prize. I wonder how close was the voting?

Culture: What American City Are You?

Saw this quiz over at Virginia Postrel's blog.

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
You're totally weird and very proud of it.
Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick

Have to say, I've never been to Austin, Texas. May have to visit sometime!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Culture: Southern California Curling Club!

At the moment, it is a Yahoo! Groups with the plan being to have an Open House to introduce people to the game and gauge the level of interest.

When: April 23rd, 2006
Where: Ontario Ice Rink in Ontario, California.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sports: Big West season winding down

Pacific controls their destiny in pursuit of their 3rd straight regular season Big West title. If UC Irvine wins their final game and Pacific loses their final two then UCI wins the title outright. However, if Pacific wins even 1 of their final 2 games, the worst they can do is tie for the regular season title and since Pacific holds all the tie-breakers, they get the number one seed in the post-season tournament.

As it stands, the BWT is the only ticket to the NCAA.

As for the NIT, should Pacific fail to win the BWT, they might have the RPI (less than 100) to get into the NIT. It is doubtful that UCI would get an NIT bid with their over 100 RPI.

UPDATE: Pacific mauled UCSB to clinch their 3rd straight Big West regular season championship. UCI plays in the semis Friday, March 10, 9PM with ESPNU coverage. If they win, they play again Saturday, March 11, 9PM with ESPN coverage. I think this game is the last tournament game in championship weekend. I plan to be there Friday night! And if the Anteaters advance, I'll be there Saturday night!!

Here is the BWT schedule:

image source:

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sports: Lunardi does NIT Bracketology!

UPDATE: Here is 2007 NIT Bracketology.

Joe Lunardi gives his run down of the 2006 NIT.

Believe it or not, this blog has consistently gotten a few hits a day from people looking for NIT Bracketology.

Anyway, I'll have to take closer look at Joe's list and see how similar the lists are.

Indeed, he correctly highlights the huge number of potential bubble teams because the NIT has pledged to take regular season champions who loss their post-season tournaments thus losing their NCAA bids. Also, I suspect some of the around .500 type teams from the major conferences might dislodge some mid-major programs with more wins but poor RPI and SOS numbers.

It's March 1 and the madness has begun!

UPDATE: My most current 2006 NIT Bracketology.