Sports Watcher for the weekend of 4/7-8

All times PDT.

Saturday
12:30-3 PM: MLS Soccer, Colorado at DC United (ABC). Finally, the MLS season opener doesn’t compete with the Final Four pre-show. Of course, now it’s up against the first round of the Masters…

4-7 PM: College Hockey, Michigan State v. Boston College (ESPN). The third-biggest championship the NCAA administers. Of course, it’s light years behind even women’s college basketball and isn’t really that far from last place.

7-10 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 69 (PPV). I could write reams on why UFC is whipping boxing’s ass right now, but I’ll save them for a later date. (But a word of advice: If you want to become really mainstream and not elicit comparisons to illegal cagefighting or pro wrestling, dump the steel cage. I don’t know of any fighting organization of any kind that doesn’t use anything more than the classic ropes.)

Sunday
11:30-4 PM: PGA Golf, The Masters Final Round (CBS). You know, if that Tiger Woods gets a few more major wins, maybe, one day, if he’s really lucky, he’ll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, Boston @ Texas (ESPN). Even though Curt Schilling will be Boston’s starter, we’ll still be caught up in Dice-K mania.

Next weekend: Hot NHL playoff action! (cue crickets)

Sigh… this never ends

99% of the time, I’m a – well, not nice guy, but certainly not an absolutely terrible one. 99% of the time, I go on with life just fine, doing work and my own things, and don’t really cross other people the way they sometimes cross me.

The remaining 1% of the time, though, seems to completely overwhelm the remaining 99%.

What is going on here? If college expects everyone to act absolutely perfect all the time, how is it even possible for anyone to leave high school not perfect? If high school and lower levels aren’t to make people perfect, and can easily shepherd imperfect people along past it, shouldn’t college recognize that and not assume that everyone is going to act perfect all the time?

Not as though either level should be in the business of teaching social mores, but if there are going to be people who are coming in without the requisite social mores then, at some level, there needs to be a class in social mores. If school is going to teach those things instead of academic topics, they should at least be upfront about it.

And if Asperger’s syndrome numbers are really on the rise, not just a result of better diagnoses (and maybe even if it is, since that would mean millions of people have been treated inappropiately to their reality), you need to be ready. Everyone needs to be ready.

What were my parents thinking when they didn’t indoctrinate me? Or brainwash me as the case may be? Never assume anyone is going to take the burden off your shoulders, or that anything is going to happen “naturally”.

Sometimes I’ll act out how I feel about certain people’s idiocy. But if it’s that extreme you’ve embarrassed yourself already. The chances aren’t any worse than it otherwise would, it just might have a little more punch.

I’m done ranting, but believe me, you haven’t heard the last of me…

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 3/31-4/1

All times PDT.

Saturday
12-2:30 PM: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Kroger 250 (FOX). The Truck Series graduates from Speed Channel… for a couple of races per year.

3-5 PM: College Basketball, Georgetown v. Ohio State (CBS). At this point, the best thing for my bracket is for Ohio State to go on to win the national championship. My bracket is a mess right now, and I need to come away salvaging something.

5:45-7:45 PM: College Basketball, UCLA v. Florida (CBS). If you think it’s 2006 all over again, you’re wrong. This is only the Final Four, not the national championship.

Sunday
12-1 AM: WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (USA). Nothing like a bunch of players of a fake sport being inducted into a nonexistent hall of fame, especially when you’ve heard of maybe one or two of the people going in, most of the inductions are left out of the hour show, and even that show is on after everyone has gone to bed.

10-11:30 AM: PBA Bowling, Tournament of Champions (ESPN). I’ll be watching the NBA, as ABC has some pretty good games, but I have a policy of putting every championship possible on the Watcher.

12-3 PM: LPGA Golf, Kraft Nabisco Championship (CBS). I support women’s sports in every form, so of course I’ll be watching Dallas and Phoenix. And NASCAR. Haven’t seen the Car of Tomorrow yet. But this is on the Watcher because it happens to be a major and I have the aforementioned rule on championships.

5-8 PM: MLB Baseball, NY Mets @ St. Louis (ESPN2). I pull for women’s basketball huge, so why am I picking Opening Night over the Women’s Final Four? Because without fail, every single year I find myself watching it, and often being fascinated with it. Maybe it’s just the lack of baseball we’ve had all winter.

(Yes, wrestling fans, I know I left out WrestleMania but included the HoF ceremony. I only list wrestling as a joke when there’s nothing else on.)

The 2007 Mid-Major Conference

Refer to this post if you don’t know what this is about or to catch up on the rules.

This year, six conferences produced multiple bids to the NCAA tournament: the MVC, MWC, WAC, A-10, CAA, and Horizon. These conferences are guaranteed one spot each in the Mid-Major Conference.

Four teams reached the Sweet 16, all from different conferences; only one of these teams did not come from a multi-bid conference. (In my view, Memphis’ trip to the Sweet 16 is tainted by the fact there were no major teams in its pod.) Of the three multi-bid conferences that did not produce a Sweet 16 team, all had one team win its first-round game and one team lose its first-round game. (This also applies to the three conferences to produce Sweet 16 teams as well.)

This leaves only one spot in the MMC to be determined by my discretion, with no conference restrictions.

Without further ado, the eight members of the 2007 Mid-Major Conference:

Butler (Horizon League)
Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley Conference)
UNLV (Mountain West Conference)
Memphis (Conference USA)
Nevada (Western Athletic Conference)
Xavier (Atlantic 10)
Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association)
Winthrop (Big South Conference)
Honorable mentions: Appalachian State, Akron, Marist

Davidson, Appalacian State, and Winthrop were the main contenders for the last spot. Davidson’s case was hurt by a big loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the fact that it would lose a tiebreaker to App State. I wanted to reward the strong year for the SoCon with an MMC spot, especially since I considered App State’s resume to be awfully strong to dismiss completely for an NCAA bid, but getting demolished by Ole Miss in the first round of the NIT didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Winthrop finally broke through the glass ceiling and won its first NCAA Tournament game; that must deserve special recognition. Rest assured, App State would be the first team in if the MMC were nine teams deep.

Marist makes the honorable mentions because it’s the only team from a conference not producing multiple NCAA bids to win its first round NIT game.

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 3/24-25

All times PDT.

Saturday
9-11 AM: Women’s College Basketball, Bowling Green v. Arizona State (ESPN). ESPN has this really weird concept, when they’re showing the women’s tournament, called “showing every Sweet 16 game to the entire country.”

11:30-1:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Rutgers v. Duke (ESPN). If the Duke-haters are going through withdrawl since Coach K got pwned by VCU, at least the women have a cupcake path to the Final Four.

1:30-3:30 PM: College Basketball, Ohio State v. Memphis (CBS). Memphis will lead the Buckeyes for awhile before ultimately collapsing improbably.

4-6 PM: College Basketball, Kansas v. UCLA (CBS). Two of the most storied programs in college basketball, and they’re probably reduced to carrying Florida’s water.

6-8 PM: Women’s College Basketball, NC State v. Connecticut (ESPN). According to ESPN’s advertising, NC State’s run is inspiring for some reason. Hell if I know why.

8:30-10:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Florida State v. LSU (ESPN2). “Hmm… we’ve got a game the majority of which will be played after midnight on the East Coast. Who should we have playing there?” “How about an East Coast team against a Central Time Zone team?” (Actually, Stanford was upset by 10-seed FSU in the second round.)

Sunday
8-9 AM: Drag Racing, NHRA Lucas Oil Series (ESPN2): Oh wait, you say April Fools’ day is still a week away?

9-11 AM: Women’s College Basketball, Marist v. Tennessee (ESPN). Marist has had two improbable upsets over overrated BCS teams. Now they face… Pat Summitt. Welcome to reality, Foxes.

11:30-4 PM (or 2-4 PM, see below): College Basketball, Midwest (Florida v. UNLV/Oregon) and East (Georgetown v. North Carolina/USC) regional finals (CBS). Watch Florida basically get coronated into the Final Four, and then watch an actual college basketball game. Or vice versa. Who knows?

Only if Florida is in the first CBS game
11:30-1:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Mississippi v. Oklahoma (ESPN2). Courtney Paris has a double-double in all but three games of her collegiate career, including 60 straight. So naturally she’s due for a letdown.

Honorable Mention: 10:30-3 PM: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Racing, Food City 500 (FOX). If your bracket’s busted and you don’t care what happens from here on out, why not watch some history instead? This is the first NEXTEL Cup race to use the “Car of Tomorrow”, the next generation of stock-car racing vehicle. Expect the sloppiest race you’ve ever seen, of course.

4-6 PM: Women’s College Basketball, Georgia v. Purdue (ESPN2). Bet you never thought of Purdue as a power women’s team. I never thought of any Big Ten team as a power women’s team.

6:30-8:30 PM: Women’s College Basketball, George Washington v. North Carolina (ESPN2). Hey, it’s George Mason all over again!

After college basketball: Mid-Major Conference Naming Ceremony (Da Blog). One mid is in the Elite Eight, one lost in the Sweet 16, two are still playing in the Sweet 16, and the rest never made it out of the first weekend. That’s good enough to name the members of the first MMC.

Sports Watcher’s coming back. Deal with it.

I have made exactly three posts in the month-and-a-half since leaving the residence halls, all on college basketball. Unless I get some ideas on how to proceed on any other topic, I’m going to revive this feature and start moving towards a sports-centric blog. Past posts have offered other ideas as well as first introduced the concept of Sports Watcher. I’m thinking of putting up a poll on potential projects to be featured on Da Blog but most of the time college is probably going to be too much of a pressure on my time. You may still direct Da Blog towards any topic you wish by leaving a comment to this post.

Gonzaga: The Mid-Major Duke?

This should piss off fans of teams in mid-major college basketball conferences.

The West Coast conference has signed a new agreement with ESPN for various sports coverage through 2011. For the most part, it seems to make sense – 10 games on ESPNU per year between all sports, for example.

But then there’s the seven intra-conference college basketball games, each year, split between ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC, plus the semifinals and finals of the WCC tournament. That doesn’t make so much sense.

It should be obvious this is entirely because of the success of Gonzaga. Exactly two WCC games on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC this season covered the Zags – one of them being the other conference semifinal – out of 11 all-WCC. But what, exactly, is the rest of the WCC doing to deserve such national attention?

I’ve seen people look at the WCC’s conference RPI and declare them to be in the top tier of mid-major conferences. This year the WCC is the 14th-highest rated conference in all the land in a down year for the Zags, according to kenpom.com. Factor out Gonzaga, and they fall to 17th – behind the MAC, Patriot League, and Big West.

Last year, the only non-Big Six conferences the WCC didn’t beat were the MVC, MWC, WAC, CAA, and A-10. But factor out Gonzaga in a year they were RPI #10, and the WCC falls six spots – below the C-USA, MAAC, Horizon, MAC, Big Sky, and Sun Belt. It’s evident that the WCC without Gonzaga is near the top of the second tier, and in fact, in 2005 the WCC was behind only the Big Six, the MVC, and the pre-Big-East-robbery C-USA – after factoring out another banner year for the Zags.

But seven WCC intra-conference games? Including spots on ABC, which barely shows any college basketball? Sure, most if not all of them will involve the Zags, but can we control the salivation just a little? Is there any other way for a mid-level mid-major team to get on ABC? Do teams like Duke get this many games against weak opposition in front of such a large national audience?

Without Gonzaga, the MVC, MWC, WAC, CAA, A-10, Horizon, and MAC all have beaten the WCC both this year and last year. With or without the Zags, the MVC has consistently beaten the WCC every year since 2004, and both this year and last year has beaten at least one Big Six conference in the Conference RPI.

But the conference that gives the high majors fits every year signed an extension with ESPN in October for “an expanded number of national appearances” – 28 in all, but 10 of those are on ESPNU, you know, the network no one gets? Only 8 appearances on ESPN(2) are guaranteed each year, and exactly 5 intraconference games this year, all on ESPN2. (According to one report, every game regular ESPN is showing this year involving two mid-major teams involves Memphis or the Zags.) The MVC continues to have the semifinals of its conference tournament on local/regional television – the SEC is the only Big Six conference without a national audience for its semifinals, unless you count the Pac-10’s national agreement with FSN. Even the MWC and (in a holdover from its major days) C-USA have their semifinals on CSTV. The Horizon League has theirs on ESPNU, as does the frickin’ OVC. And need I remind you of the WCC getting their semifinals on ESPN2?

Since that “beneficial” agreement, the Valley has seen Southern Illinois become the #6 team in the RPI. Since 1999, the last year for which kenpom.com has information, the highest the Zags have been able to muster is a #9. In fact, the last time a team outside the Big Six or C-USA was in the RPI Top 6 was #3 St. Joe’s in 2004, also the only time it’s happened since ’99… perhaps because they nearly went undefeated that year. Oh, and even C-USA has only done it three times since 1999. Oops.

I don’t seem to be alone… A search on Google for “the missouri valley is a (major OR high-major) conference” returns 1.1 million hits. By contrast, “gonzaga is a (major OR high-major) team” gets only 631,000 hits. In other Google news, “gonzaga sucks” gets 77,800 hits, comparable to 59,600 for “gonzaga is overrated”. They have a long way to go to catch the 1.06 million for “duke sucks” or the 511,000 for “duke is overrated”. As for the Valley, “the “missouri valley” sucks” gets 18,900 hits, to 23,300 for “the “missouri valley” is overrated” – both of which outpace Gonzaga if you take the quotes around “missouri valley” out, though. Hmm…

Coming Soon: The Mid-Major Conference

If you don’t follow college basketball at all – if you seriously pick 16 seeds to win first-round games over 1’s and pick teams based on whether you like their names or mascots – this post is NOT for you. It gets into a lot of esoterica that you probably wouldn’t care for. But if you’re one of those people who have been clamoring for me to put up some of my numerous projects, today is your lucky day!

Turn on any random regular season college basketball game, and chances are it’s a game involving teams from one of the six high-major conferences. If you get some other conference you probably live in or near it. It’s teams from the six biggest conferences that get the most NCAA Tournament bids, and it’s teams from those six conferences – the same ones that make up the BCS conferences in college football – that get the most attention. They’re the teams from the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Pac-10, Big 12, and Big East.

But… there are a lot of conferences outside the Big Six. Conferences with names like the MEAC, the SWAC, the WAC, the Southland, the Big South, the Big Sky, Horizon, America East, Atlantic 10… that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Every year, teams from these conferences shock the world by beating Big Six conference teams in the NCAA tournament. They valiantly fight their way to bids in the NCAA Tournament, even if they don’t win their conference, and people get mad at them because they think all the bids should go to Big Six teams. Teams like Gonzaga have consistently proved the mettle of teams in the mid-majors by beating the odds and having high levels of success.

In fact, if you took all the best teams from the mid-major conferences and put them in one super-conference… that conference would probably have to be considered on a level with the Big Six conferences, maybe better.

So, at the end of the season, after the Final Four, I will name the eight teams to make up the 2007 Mid-Major Conference. It won’t have any bearing on anything right now – there’s no reward, monetary or otherwise, and it isn’t anything more than something on paper – and probably won’t even be heard of beyond the small group of people who read Da Blog. The goal is to recognize eight teams whose quality of play competes with those in the best conferences in the country.

There are some simple, but restrictive rules governing the selection of the MMC teams, with restrictions higher on the list taking precedence:

  • The Mid-Major Conference shall consist of eight teams representing the best of college basketball, outside the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, and SEC conferences.
  • No conference shall have more than one team in the MMC.
  • Any conference that produces at least one at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament will be represented.
  • Any team that makes it to the Regional Semifinal (“Sweet 16”) or later in the NCAA tournament will automatically be represented. In the case of a conflict between two or more deserving teams under this criterion, the team to have advanced the furthest shall be counted. If two teams from the same conference advance the same distance in the NCAA tournament, the tie is broken by head-to-head record and respective distance traveled in the conference tournament.
  • If conferences with automatic spots under the third criterion have no qualifying teams under the fourth, the tie is broken in this order: whether or not any teams won their first-round tournament game, head-to-head record, respective distance traveled in the conference tournament.
  • If spots remain in the Mid-Major Conference after these criteria have been exhausted, or if there remains a tie in a conference under the third criterion after the criteria in the fourth or fifth criterion have been exhausted, the remaining selections will be made by my discretion. Being in the NCAA Tournament is not a qualification for being selected to the MMC, and in fact it is possible (but rare) for a team that won its first-round game to not get in the MMC while a team that settled for a long NIT run does. This is the “Northwestern State Rule”: getting lucky in one game doesn’t get you an automatic spot in the MMC.

Update on the below "Update"

I never did get around to writing up any sort of defense. I’m going to be leaving the Seattle University residence halls over the weekend and will likely not really bother much with Da Blog until the summer, because of restrictions on my Internet access.

About the only thing I’m certain to take on for Da Blog is a project that I’ll provide more details on before too long.