Bracket Busting

March 16, 2010

Sorry I was gone for a week. It was championship week, so I was in the mancave watching the 800 hours of college hoops that precedes the NCAA Tournament.

It’s funny how within a day of the NCAA Tournament bracket coming out, people ask me about brackets because college basketball “is my thing.” And they seemed surprised when I either don’t have answers for them, or they discover I don’t win a pool every single year.

I do know college basketball. Who’s good, who’s not good, etc. But the NCAA Tournament isn’t like, say, baseball.

Someone asked me how if I knew so much about basketball, why I didn’t do better with my picks, and they asked during a baseball game. That guy was a baseball expert. I told him “You know baseball, you know everything about this team and a lot about the other team. What’s going to happen on each of the next 63 pitches?”

He got the point right away: I know basketball, but if I could predict the future, I’d be a full-time gambler and live like Biff Tannen in 2025 from Back to the Future II.

So if you’re looking for advice, there’s some principles I always use…

  1. The top four seeds are winning their first game.
  2. Upsets are for show, your final four wins you dough. Pick the teams you think are the best and will go far. Teams you don’t think will go far, feel free to pick an upset, relying on your favorite to “clean up the mess” if your upset pick is wrong.

For example, last year, UNC was a powerhouse, so I picked Western Kentucky to upset Illinois and Gonzaga… because I knew that if I was wrong, UNC was going to beat Illinois or Gonzaga. I got the first game right, then Gonzaga beat WKU and UNC beat Gonzaga. If you lose the upset pick, people think you’ve got guts to pick an upset. If you win, you look like a genius. And all you’re really doing is making the obvious pick: UNC to come out of that part of the bracket.

  1. There’s almost always a 5-12 upset, the key is to pick the right one. Usually, the 12-5 that everyone has… is the wrong one. The popular one now is Cornell over Temple. I’d go with UTEP or Utah State.
  2. In a 7-10 game, the “mid-major” usually wins, unless they are BYU. This won’t help you this year, because two 7-10 games have no mid-majors, one is TWO mid-majors, and the only game pitting a mid-major vs major is BYU vs Florida. (I’m taking Florida)
  3. Teams which don’t deserve to be in the tournament usually win a game. This is “the house money principle.” Washington, Cal, Florida, Minnesota meet this description
  4. Another part of the house money principle is that teams who were supposed to be really good, but struggled with high expectations are good bets. Because they were dealing with the pressure of high expectations, and were panicking about missing the tournament. But now they are in. And have nothing to lose. And the reason they had high expectations, is because they were talented to begin with. Teams like Texas, Georgia Tech fit that bill
  5. Teams that were supposed to win their conference tournaments because they won their conference, but didn’t, usually play well in the NCAA Tournament. It’s like a wake-up call. They’d gone a long time without losing, and now they remember how much is sucks and come out hell bent on not losing. That’d be Syracuse, New Mexico, Villanova, UTEP and Gonzaga (although, this isn’t the usual Gonzaga team, they’re not as good as years past).
  6. Teams I hate always seem to win. Maybe this is because I hate a lot of teams, just to different degrees. For the record, the team I hate more than anyone, is Syracuse.
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Career Assessment: Jobs in College Athletics

March 27, 2009

I love working in sports. But sometimes I have to ask myself if I’m in the right field. Especially on occasions when virtually all the other areas of college athletics pack up shop and go boozing after a game, and I’m stuck still working.

So let’s break it down. Best job in college athletics:

Academic Services
Register kids for classes, get them tudors, make sure they are graduating, help them in tiffs with professors, get them out of class for road trips.
Job security: Solid, unless too many student athletes screw up.
Pros: 9-5, watching games like a fan
Cons: Too much like actual work, homework, dealing with whining students. Some athletes are borderline retarded.

This would not be a good move unless I was currently working as a high school guidance counselor. For them, it’s gotta be like the big leagues.

Business Office
Pay bills, handle budgets, reimburse people
Job security: Solid, unless too many people go over budget.
Pros: 9-5 hours, watching games like a fan
Cons: Too much like actual work, lots of paperwork, confusing paperwork, dealing with whining and irresponsible employees.

No way. I hate doing any kind of paperwork and I never save receipts. Filing and me are not friends.

Compliance
Make sure coaches are obeying the rules, make sure student athletes are obeying the rules. Getting kids admitted to school
Dealing with financial aid stuff. Say “No” a lot. Be the fun police.
Job security: Solid, unless people break the rules
Pros: 9-5 hours, watching games like a fan
Cons: Too much like actual work, paperwork, dealing with whining coaches, have to know all kinds of stupid rules. Have to say “no” a lot.

Oddly, I could handle the rules part. I could memorize a lot of stupid rules and tell people what they can and can’t do. I could problem solve and find a way to accomplish the goal while obeying the rule. But the financial aid crap would just kill me.

Equipment
Buying gear, issuing equipment, doing laundry, setting up and running football practice equipment. Buying stuff.
Job security: Very solid, but you’d want to quit first
Pros: Lots of free gear. Little office time.
Cons: Business side of budgeting purchases. Dealing with kids losing/wanting stuff. Really horrible hours, washing clothes all the time, intimate knowledge of student-athlete B.O.

I know what these guys go through daily and I’d want no part of it. Sure, the fringe benefit of free gear is awesome. You know what’s not awesome? Folding thousands of towels a week, touching clothes that reek of taint sweat and getting stains out of practice gear after female athletes get a monthly visitor.

Facility/Event Management/Operations
Setting up arenas, fixing broken things in the arena, getting facilities ready for game/practice, scheduling game-day workers
Job security: Very solid, but you’d want to quit first
Pros: Very little
Cons: Horrible hours, working all events, doing scheduling/budgeting paperwork. If your facility sucks, you have to do the impossible. Cleaning dirty venues.

Lots of heavy lifting and lots of cleaning.  Sure, you stand in the corner during games, right next to the action. But there’s also all the times you have to squeegee tennis court. And when someone’s kid vomits on the concourse, guess who’s grabbing the mop?

Strength & Conditioning
Getting student-athletes strong and agile for competition.
Job security: Not bad, but a coach will have serious influence. Injuries/weak play could harm you.
Pros: Get some gear, free Gatorade, free gym membership. Closer to 9-5 hours, watch games like fan.
Cons: dealing with whining athletes. Smelling sweat all day.

While I’d have the opportunity to get huge, we all know I wouldn’t. Plus you have to know all kinds of stuff about muscles and crap. Plus I’d probably get diabetes from drinking Gatorade all day.

Coaching
Recruit athletes, train athletes, game plan for opponents, try to win, have to do media.
Job Security: You don’t win you can get fired.
Pros: Gear, thrill of game day/winning, higher salaries.
Cons: long hours, budgets, convincing recruits to come here, trusting your well-being to college kids (worse with girls).

Awesome if you’re winning. Sucks if you’re losing. And you’re trusting your livelihood to a bunch of immature college kids who might not be as dedicated as you. (Multiply the stupidity of that times 1000 if you’re coaching a women’s team).

Director of Operations
Handle road trip travel, get film for coaches, manage practice schedules, be bitch of coaches.
Job Security: Pretty good compared to coaches
Pros: Gear, possibly sit on bench during games.
Cons: Hours, bitch of coaches, thankless chores no one else on staff wants to do, contracts, paperwork and budget crap.

Glorified manager/secretary. The key phrase is “be the bitch of coaches.”

Fund Raising
Raise money for athletic department, hobnob with the rich.
Job Security: High, unless you’re well short of financial goals without an excuse or caught embezzling.
Pros: 9-5 hours plus most events involve booze, hobnobbing with rich, can watch games like fan
Cons: Sounds like work, asking people for money, getting told to raise more money, badgering people for money.
Need to wear a tie a lot. Have to go to events you might not want to go to. Donors calling you with stupid requests. Lots of meetings

I’m not a good mingler, although I’m better in a sports environment. But there’s no way I could raise the money to build all the stuff I’d want to build. My tactics of getting people to donate would consist of peer pressure and the phrase “c’monnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.”

External
A lot like fundraising, only with more decisions. Work with marketing to trying make athletics an economic success
Job Security: High, unless you’re well short of financial goals without an excuse or caught embezzling.
Pros: 9-5 hours, plus events involve booze, hobnobbing with rich, can watch games like fan. You get all the free stuff athletics hands out.
Cons: Way too many meetings, Have to ruin fun of athletics often, stupid fundraising events. Donors calling you with stupid requests.

Could be in my wheelhouse if I was solely on the creative side and could order people to make my dreams a reality. But the meetings and office politics would be my downfall. I could wear a tie, but acting all professional would really suck.

Sports Medicine
Go to practice, provide medical treatment for injuries, make Gatorade for practice games, deal with anyone coming in with a boo-boo, sickness.
Job Security: Very good
Pros: Spot on bench for games, part of team, free Gatorade and medical supplies. Lots of time off in summer.
Cons: Ridiculous long hours before and after games, Insurance paperwork, setting up doctor’s appointments, whining athletes. Too much knowledge of intimate details of athletes-coworkers, dealing with sweaty/smelly athletes. Hosting visiting teams (more boring hours)

Considering I’d have to have medical training and I got a D in biology, this would never be an option. Plus there’s a lot of taping of stinky feet, and I hear that stretching out female athletes can give you a whiff of even worse odors.

Video
Film games/practices for coaches, cut and edit clips for football coaches, assist with tech issues for whole building, make cool videos for jumbotron/website, acquire film on opponents. Set up football meeting rooms for film
Job Security: Pretty high.
Pros: Better hours than sports info. Some goof off time. Use of technology for personal gain.
Cons: Stuff breaks, having to film rainy, hot, or cold practices, more stuff breaks, coaches think you can do everything in two minutes. Have to help people with anything tech related. Marketing always wants you to do stuff even though you’re understaffed and need to just take care of coaches.

I’ve seen how these guys are treated, and there’s simply not enough time in the day to do everything you’d want to do in this position. Plus the burden of coaches wanting the impossible and having to explain technical things to those less intelligent than you can be extremely tiresome. Good opportunity to play video games and watch sports during the day, though.

Marketing
Try to get people to come to games, try to get sponsors to give money, run in game promotions.
Job Security: Fantastic.
Pros: Hours are great compared to sports info. No quantifiable measure if you’re incompetent. Free stuff. Use of creativity.
Cons: Meddling from everyone who thinks they know how to market, dealing with fans and people bitching about the music. Lots of stupid meetings

I could never go to the dark side. I’ve never heard anyone say ‘our marketing department is awesome.’ No matter what you do, people would always meddle in your business. Too many stupid things to do, too many meetings, too much ‘busy work.’ Most awesome ideas are not feasible. Everyone complains about music. I’d probably end up mailing it in and working as little as possible if I was in marketing. Then again, I could probably get away with it.

Sports Info
Make media guides, write on website, keep stats.
Job security: high.
Pro: Free gear, internet time, road trips get you out of the office, comfy seat at games.
Cons: long hours, people asking you to do stuff like jumbotron, website, camp brochures, etc. Media guide deadlines. Some meetings.

I get the best of a lot of worlds here. The hours suck, but I have a great seat, free gear, can use the internet all day. I write about sports for a living. We go on road trips. I don’t have to go to all the practices and can sleep in late a lot. Busy as hell post-game, but experience the joy of winning and feel like part of the team. Plus, with my communications degree and with newspapers a dying medium, this is still the gig for me… until Supreme Dictator of Sports becomes available.


Four Days of CBS

March 19, 2009

It bugs the crap out of me that CBS can be close to getting it, but fail during the NCAA Tournament.

Example: Regional TV coverage where you get one of three/four games going on simultaneously? Not awesome.

Last Saturday, there were 19 college basketball games and 18 were on TV*. With my remote, I could pick which one I want to watch. Regional coverage… I’m boned. I can only watch CBS local, and one game at a time online. When there are 2/3 games.

You have CBS College Sports… show a freaking game on it.

More customers would demand CBS College Sports in there area if they found that one of the games was on CBS College Sports.

March Madness On Demand: Watch any game of the tournament live. This is awesome. The Boss Button on it used to be awesome. Now, not so much.

*-Winston-Salem State vs NC Central, two five-win independants, playing for nothing wasn’t on.


Oh the Hypocricy!

March 16, 2009

So I’m looking around NCAA.com, and I see this. THIS is NCAA.com’s official  bracket challenge:

NCAA.com's OFFICIAL Bracket Challenge

NCAA.com's OFFICIAL Bracket Challenge

And THIS is the NCAA’s official NCAA Tournament Bracket, direct from the home office in Indianapolis, distributed to those in the NCAA and at host sites:

I know people, okay?

I know people, okay?

Now, that’s a small picture. Look a little closer… right… THERE:

What's THAT say?

What's THAT say?

Let’s zoom in.

The fine print

The fine print

“The NCAA opposes all sports wagering. This bracket should not be used for sweepstakes, contests, office pools or other gambling activities.

uh… Except Ours!

The NCAA.com bracket challenge is actually a pre-tournament challenge to see if you can correctly guess what the bracket will be, and not a bracket challenge to see who advances through the NCAA issued bracket. But in order to do this challenge, you’re essentially running a pool on who advances through the REGULAR SEASON and Conference tournaments, aren’t you? How is this NCAA-run own sweepstakes/contest okay, and a sweepstakes for who advances through the NCAA Tournament bracket not okay?


Selection Sunday

March 15, 2009

WED: 11
THU: 24
FRI: 26
SAT: 17
SUN: 4

After 82 games in five days, I can finally move my secondary TV back to the bedroom.

This bracket sucks. There’s only four “mid-major” at-larges, out of 34.

This is because the NCAA added two regular season games, which lets .500 major conference teams get into the tournament.

Now, if you go 9-9 in the Pac 10 or Big Ten, with those two extra games, you can be 21-11, 20-12, 19-13 and be in the NCAA Tournament instead of 19-11, 18-12, 17-13 and be out of the tournament.

It’s a complete and total joke that some of these big conference teams got in. Didn’t the regular season already prove that Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Arizona couldn’t compete for a championship?

We already KNOW that Maryland isn’t as good as Duke, UNC, Wake, Florida State and Clemson. Because they played them ELEVEN TIMES and lost NINE.

We know that Minnesota and Wisconsin aren’t as good as Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue.
Wisconsin: 2-5 vs Mich St, Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State, plus losses to UConn, Marquette, Texas and two to Minnesota. That’s 4-10 vs NCAA teams. We know they aren’t capable of going to the elite 8.

Minnesota is 0-5 vs MSU, Illinois and Purdue. 3-8 vs NCAA teams (taking out Wisconsin)

Arizona: 6-11 vs the top 75 of the RPI (and two of those wins are against teams who didn’t earn at-larges)

Oklahoma State: 4-10 vs top 50, 9-11 vs the top 100. They got a great RPI by LOSING. Against Oklahoma, Michigan St, Mizzou, Kansas, Washington and Gonzaga they went 1-8. Wins over Siena, Texas A&M, Texas (but losses to Texas and Texas A&M). They are mediocre.

We’re saying “Oh, well, they played a ton of tough teams and got a couple victories, they’re an NCAA team.” That’s rewarding mediocre teams for losing to good teams. And that’s stupid.


Another 24 on Tap

March 13, 2009

No, not Jack Bauer.  Friday’s TV games for me:

11
Michigan State-Minnesota (ESPN)
UNC-Va Tech (ESPN2)
-Va Tech has to win or they are toast

12
LSU-Kentucky (CBS)
-Kentucky has to win or they’re toast

1:30
Georgia Tech-Fla St (ESPN2)
Ohio St-Wisconsin (ESPN)
-winner locks up a bid

2:30
South Carolina-Miss St (CBS)
-South Carolina has to win or they are toast

3
Houston-Memphis (CBSC)

3:30
Holy Cross-American (ESPN2)
Patriot Final


5:30
UAB-Tulsa (CBSC)
-Winner is alive, loser is clearly toast
Temple-Xavier (A10 AA)
-Temple needs a win, or things are bleak

6
Louisville-Nova (ESPN)
Maryland-Wake (ESPN2)
-Maryland has to win or they are toast

6:30
Tenn-Alabama (CBS)

7:30
UCSB-CS Northridge (ESPNU)

8
West Virginia-Syracuse (ESPN)
BYU-San Diego St (CBSC)
-San Diego State can put themselves on the happy side of the bubble with a win
Dayton-Duquesne (A10 AA)
-Duquense could play their way onto the bubble with a win

8:30
Duke-BC (ESPN2)

9
Arizona St-Washington (FSN)
Florida-Auburn (CBS)
-Loser is toast.

10:00
Pacific-Long Beach (ESPNU)

10:30
USC-UCLA (FSN)
Utah-Wyoming (CBSC)

11
La Tech-Nevada (ESPN2)


Hoops (Good and Bad)

March 12, 2009

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

“The man who is responsible for the song “One Shining Moment” making it onto CBS’ airwaves all the way back in 1987, has passed away today. CBS released a statement on the death of TV Exec, Doug Towey, who at the time of “OSM’s” inclusion in the tournament was a Creative Director at the network.

I may have written an actual post if I wasn’t busy watching 11 college basketball games all day. So this will have to do. Until Saturday or Sunday, I suppose, since there’s TWENTY FOUR games on tomorrow:

11
Providence-Louisville (ESPN)
Xavier-Saint Louis (A10 TV online)
Baylor-Kansas (ESPN2)

12
Kentucky-Ole Miss (CBS)

1:30
Marquette-Villanova (ESPN)
Michigan-Iowa (ESPN2)
Temple-St Joes (A10 TV online)

2
Arizona State-Arizona (FSN)

2:35
Georgia-Miss State (CBS)

4
Penn St-Indiana (ESPN2)

4:30
Washington vs Stanford (FSN)

5
UNLV-San Diego St (CBSC)

6
NC State-Maryland (ESPN2)
Pitt-West Virginia (ESPN)
Tulane-Memphis (CUSA TV online)

6:30
Alabama-Vanderbilt (CBS)

8
Dayton-Richmond (A10 TV online)
USC-Cal (FSN)
TCU Utah (CBSC)
UConn-Syracuse (ESPN)

8:30
Arkansas-Florida (CBS)
Texas Tech-Missouri (ESPN2)

10:30
Wyoming-New Mexico (CBSC)
UCLA-Washington St/Oregon (FSN)