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A Chalky First Weekend Sets up for a Great Sweet 16

 

Chalk.  That reminds me of a 1995 movie called “Powder”. It was about an albino boy.  I almost said a “white” albino boy, but that would have been redundant, right?  And possibly politically incorrect in today’s ridiculously overly sensitive society.  I mean, I understand we should be compassionate and even sensitive to others with certain characteristics, over which they had no control or power, that may have related to things in their life that have caused them hardships.  I really do get that.  Now, with that said, come on!  Let’s all be less sensitive about things.  Let’s be sensitive to things said with hate and anger.  Let’s not be about things said in jest.  Sometimes even when they are not that funny.  God knows I’ve said some things I’d like to reel back in.  Maybe, just maybe, so have others.

Anyway, I got off on a little tangent there, and, clearly, that’s not what you’re here for, is it?

Hoops!  That’s the thing for which you are breathlessly awaiting.  That, and the few of you who are wondering why the he11 I said “Chalk”.

In case you don’t know, back in the old days they posted odds, specifically horse racing odds, on chalk boards.  The odds on the favorite horses would change often meaning you had to erase and re-write, with chalk, no less, the new odds.  Inevitably, the “favorites”, having been erased and re-written several times, would have a different look then the others.  They would have a lot of “erased” chalk around the handwritten odds.  Thus, you could tell which horses were the favorites by the amount of chalk or, more appropriately, powder in and around their odd’s boxes.  (The rug really does bring the whole room together.)

So, to get to the point, finally…  In the East and West brackets the 1, 2, 3, & 4 seeds made the sweet 16.  In the Midwest, you have a 1, 2, 3, & 5 (Auburn)2, and in the South you have 1, 2, 3 and, the lowest remaining seed, 12 - Oregon.  That, my friends, is CHALK.

Interesting nugget (for old school NCAA tourney fans only); according the NCAA Director of Media, David Worlock (link), this is just the second time EVER that the top 12 seeds all advanced to the Sweet 16 since the tournament expanded in 1985. The only other time was 2009.  That was the year that AMAZING North Carolina team featuring 7 pros including Ty Lawson, Psycho T Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green beat Michigan State. (Also the year Jamie Dixon and the Pitt team I loved with LaVance Fields, Dejuan Blair and Sam Young let me down in the Final Four. Sorry got off on a (another) tangent.

Anywho, chalk means we have some great matchups in the Sweet 16:

Duke / Va Tech – VT has already beaten Duke this year, albeit without Zion.  And while that is an accomplishment, let’s just say, Zion do make a difference.

Texas Tech / Michigan – Did you know that Texas Tech is the #3 defense in the NCAA this year?  Want to take a guess at who’s first?  Well, that would be Virginia.  But, #2?  That’s Michigan.  This is a game I’m really excited about.  Full disclosure; I also have a financial interest in Michigan.

North Carolina / Auburn – How hot is Auburn right now?Fresh off their victory in the SEC tournament, they were seriously tested by a New Mexico State team that has lost in the 1st round of the tourney the past 3 years, barely coming out on top, 78-77.They then manhandled perennial NCAA participant, Kansas, and now take on, arguably, the best team in the tourney, North Carolina.Heck, I’m almost as excited to hear what Kenny (UNC) and Charles (Auburn) have to say as I am to watch the game.One other side note (thanks Kevo) Bruce Pearl, Auburn head coach, told SVP, “All I can tell you is take the over.”

Purdue / Tennessee - Purdue dismantled the always well-dressed Jay Wright’s defending champion ‘Nova team, 87-61, behind Carsen Edwards “Jimmer-like” career high 42 points on 9 (NINE!) threes.  They take on a Tennessee team that was ranked Number 1 for a period of time during the regular season. 

Houston / Kentucky – I think it’s only fair to say that I’m a Houston Cougar fan from way back.  Although I will get some argument, generally half-heartedly, Hakeem Olajuwon is still my favorite center of all time.  And for the few of you that don’t know, Olajuwon was the guy taken before a kid from North Carolina named Michael in the NBA draft.  There was another guy also taken before Michael, Sam Bowie, but it’s Olajuwon that people will shrug about and say, “Hey, I can see that.”  Anyway, I think this shapes up to be a very good game too. 

Florida State / Gonzaga – Boy, boy, boy do we have good one here. A good ole rematch from last year’s Sweet 16. Mark Few and the fighting ‘Zags will be looking to avenge that 15-point lost to the ageless Leonard Hamilton (seriously he looks GREAT for 70-years-old) and his long athletic Seminoles.

leonard hamilton.jpg

The Bulldogs are the only team in the country who can say they beat the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils while fully healthy.

I am not counting the game where Zion blew threw his shoe 90 seconds into the first meeting with North Carolina like an 18-wheeler blowing a tire on Interstate-30, and Duke was without freshmen Cam Reddish and Tre Jones when they lost to Syracuse 95-91 (OT) in the Carrier Dome in January.

However, Florida State is not the best matchup for Gonzaga (See last year’s game). This one should be all kinds of fun.

Virginia / Oregon – Raise your hand if you thought a team from a Power-5 conference, THE Nike school, would be the “Cinderella” of this year’s tournament? Well here we are, The Oregon Ducks are the only double-digit seed to make it this year’s Sweet 16, but history is not on their side this year.

Teams who lost to a 16-seed as a 1-seed are undefeated in the NCAA Tournament the following year. Albeit, it’s only happened once… And it was last year… and Virginia almost lost to a 16 again this year…

We’ll see if Dana Altman can pull another Final Four run out of his rear end, but the chips are stacked against him.

Michigan State / LSU – Yet another doozy! We have Tom Izzo, aka Mr. March, aka Mr. Final Four going up against the up-and-coming Will Wa…wait, he’s been suspended for (allegedly) paying recruits… Who is LSU’s coach right now? Doesn’t matter! That LSU team is LOADED with talent The Tigers have veteran point guard leading the way, even if Tremont Waters did travel on his game-winning bucket over Maryland.

However, Izzo has solid point guard of his own and the Spartans are always a tough out. This one will be scrappy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few flagrant fouls aren’t exchanged before it’s all said and done.

Honestly shoutout to Will Wade, if you are gonna pay for the players you might as well make sure it’s worth it. This roster is full of NBA-looking dudes. Why didn’t I think of this when I picked LSU you to lose in my bracket to an Ivy League school (insert face into palm).

Speaking of brackets, I should probably tell you how you’re doing in the JPP Bracket Challenge, I mean that is all you really care about.

The women came out swinging! Kim had a stellar 1st round, posting the highest score after the first two days with 24 bonus points! Ok, the first round wasn’t all chalk. 

Anyway, it was the girls in charge after the 1st round with Kim, Cindy, Alana and the androgynous Dook Vitale holding the top 4 spots.

However, she would cool down over the weekend. Cindy now sits atop the list with 77 total points. She holds a narrow one-point-lead over Dook. Then, the top five is rounded out with Bonhammers 2 (73), Charles (73), and Alana (72).

After the 2nd round the girls are still representing with Cindy at 1, the aforementioned Dook at 2, and Alana at 5.  Bonehammers2 and Charles fill in the rest at 3rd and 4th respectively.

Now, I bet you are asking yourself, “I wonder how the JPP guys are doing? I haven’t heard them mentioned yet.”

 Well, what had happened was…

 Kevin is atop the three stooges (barely) with a score of 52. We don’t have get into specifics on where that ranks among all the brackets, but it ain’t good. Then, bringing up the rear, with an impressively low score of 39 is the one and only L.J. I say impressive just because he is the only person who managed to get out of the first two rounds without cracking 40 points. Well done L.

 If it wasn’t for Duke can’t shoot! Pops would be able to keep L.J. company down there in the basement. But luckily, he is still within shouting distance sitting in the second to last spot with 46 points.

 Remember that scoring goes up by round.  So, each win this next weekend will count 4 (Thurs / Fri) and 8 (Sat / Sun) points.  What I’m saying is, I’m saying there’s a chance.

Peace, love and hoops.  See you next week!