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Jonathan’s Journal
March 20, 2002


The Pods are the Pits

So the NCAA has seen one year of this “pod” system, and so have we. Everyone knows how unpredictable and sometimes unreasonable the NCAA is, but surely they see that this thing just doesn’t work. In my opinion, it failed in many more aspects that it actually succeeded. For several reasons, this new “pod” system is just crazy:
Pittsburgh got to play in their home city. I don’t care how good of a year a team has, no one should get that advantage. They got to sleep in their own beds, practice at their normal gym, and pretty much follow their normal schedule. This is while other teams had to fly, stay in a hotel, eat out, and get used to new playing and practice facilities. Although it may not sound like a lot, playing in your home city is a whole lot different than, say, sending Maryland to Washington, D.C. That should never happen again. It’s an obvious disadvantage to Pitt’s opponents, in this case California in the second round.
At the Chicago site, Southern Illinois got to play two teams who were seeded higher than was the SIU team. While SIU got to play in their home state, Texas Tech (a 6 seed) and Georgia (a 3 seed) had to travel to reach their location. So SIU played and beat two teams seeded higher. Now the entire reason they won is not because of the home crowd; I think they have a good team. But it sure doesn’t hurt to have your home fans, not to mention all of the general public naturally rooting for the underdog, on your side when the game is on the line.
Nearly the same thing can be said about the Texas Longhorns. UT was sent to nearby Dallas where they knocked off 11-seed Boston College. The Longhorns (a 6 seed) then had to play Mississippi State (a 3 seed) in the second round. Naturally, the crowd was predominantly UT faithful. Texas jumped out to a big lead, but the Bulldogs fought back. Texas held off MSU for a 4-point win. I think a home crowd is definitely worth four points in college basketball.
One of the sites was Albuquerque, New Mexico. So with this new “pod” system, we’ll see at least a couple of the four teams from the West coast, right? Guess not. The four teams from the upper half of the West bracket competing in Albuquerque: Miami, Missouri, Ohio State, and Davidson. The approximate distances from each school to Albuquerque: 1650 miles from Miami, 800 miles from Missouri, 1300 miles from Ohio State, 1400 miles from Davidson. Now I see the logic there, don’t you? Not!
Now what makes one team different from another team with the same seed number? For example, the three-seeds in this year’s tournament were Pittsburgh, Arizona, Georgia, and Mississippi State. Pittsburgh, as I said earlier, was kept home. Arizona was given a fairly short trip to neighboring New Mexico. Mississippi State, with the exception of having to play Texas in the second round, didn’t get a bad deal, having to travel to Dallas. But the Georgia Bulldogs were sent to Chicago, IL. They were by far sent the farthest away from home of any of the three seeds. But why? There seems to be no apparent reason. And because of that, plus having to play Southern Illinois in the second round, the ‘Dawgs are sitting at home this weekend. And the same can be said for the four seeds: Southern Cal, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Illinois. Southern Cal (Sacramento) and Illinois (Chicago) were kept in their home states for first and second round action. Meanwhile, Kentucky was also sent to Chicago and Ohio State, as stated previously, was sent to Albuquerque. Now what makes Illinois, for example, more deserving of a closer-to-home site than Ohio State? They finished tied for first place in the regular season in the Big Ten. While Illinois was making an early exit in the Big Ten tournament, Ohio State was winning the whole thing. It doesn’t make sense! (And the Buckeyes are also paying for it, losing to Missouri in the second round while Illinois advanced to the Sweet 16.)
The bottom line is that we need to go back to the old system. And now. Don’t let it be one of those things where the NCAA wants to have some kind of three-year evaluation period or something. It should be obvious. It’s not fair to teams. It giving some teams advantages that don’t deserve them while shipping teams far from home that are actually more deserving. The NCAA is notorious for doing stupid things, but hopefully they’ll pull through on this one.


FINDING FOUR

The first four days of the 2002 NCAA Tournament gave us some great games. Creighton and Florida played a double-overtime thriller. Holy Cross gave Kansas a battle that no one could have expected. Southern Cal and UNC-Wilmington also played a overtime game as well. Florida Atlantic gave Alabama a tough game for 35 minutes. UCLA and Cincinnati also played extra periods. Marquette and Tulsa played right down to the final seconds. Those are just some of the great games we saw Thursday through Sunday. This week’s games are sure to bring excitement as well, as we’ll have only the Final Four left after Sunday. Here’s how I see Thursday’s and Friday’s games going (since my bracket is done anyway):
Thursday:
Duke vs Indiana: In my opinion, this will be the only game that is not extremely close. Duke got a scare from Notre Dame last weekend, and that will provide the Blue Devils with enough motivation to get through this one fairly easily. IU’s outside shooting will keep them in the game for a while. Duke by 15.
Pittsburgh vs Kent State: Kent State is probably a surprise to most being here, while everyone assumed Pitt would be here since they played at home in the first two rounds. Although many may not realize it, the Golden Flashes are better than most of the 64 teams that showed up for March Madness. With Brandin Knight ready to go, the Panthers should be ready to play. They’ll have no home-court advantage in Lexington though. Kent State by 5.
UCLA vs Missouri: No one expected either of these teams to be here, but both have proved themselves worthy of a Sweet 16 appearance. UCLA knocked off Mississippi handily before upsetting #1 seed Cincinnati in the second round. The Missouri Tigers knocked off #5 seed Miami and #4 seed Ohio State to advance. Both teams are trying to make a super-surprise appearance in the Elite Eight. This one should be a dandy. UCLA by 6.
Arizona vs Oklahoma: This will probably be the best game of either Friday or Saturday. Whoever wins this one, in my opinion, will move on to the Final Four. Both won their conference tournaments. Although Arizona’s record is not as impressive, they played the tougher regular season schedule. Most people did not expect OU to be this good, but they are playing as well as anyone in the country. Sooners by 3.
Friday:
Maryland vs Kentucky: Kentucky has come farther than most people predicted. After the up-and-down season the Wildcats and coach Tubby Smith suffered through, some even thought (like me) that they would go down in the first round against Valpo. The play of Prince and Bogans has been the difference for UK. Meanwhile, Maryland continues to take care of business. UK’s on a roll, and Maryland probably has the superior talent. Maryland by 9.
Southern Illinois vs Connecticut: No one is a bigger surprise than Southern Illinois. The home-court helped the Salukis reach the Sweet 16 with wins over Texas Tech and Georgia. Connecticut knocked off a pesky Hampton team in the first round before escaping with a three-point win over NC State in round two. UConn should definitely have the crowd behind them in Syracuse. Connecticut by 12.
Kansas vs Illinois: I’m still not sure if Hinrich will be 100% for KU, but he’ll play anyway. Illinois is another team that got a lower seed than expected at the beginning of the season but definitely has the firepower to make a run at the Final Four. Kansas always seems to stumble along the way somewhere, but will it be here? Kansas got some favorable calls in the first round game against Holy Cross, but it’ll be even here. Illinois by 3.
Texas vs Oregon: Texas had a major home crowd advantage while playing the first two rounds in Dallas. Oregon has proven over and over again that they are deserving of their #2 seed. They won the PAC 10 regular season title and went on the road at UCLA and Southern Cal to win their final two games of the season. The Longhorns have some weapons, especially PG T.J. Ford, but Oregon probably has more. Ducks by 11.


THE FLOOR IS SWEATING

I’ve never seen anything like this before, but this season, I’ve seen floors that have water on them, causing players to slip like never before. The problem this year seems to be caused by the basketball floor being placed over hockey ice. Last season, there was a problem with the floor in Oxford, MS. The weather had changed rapidly, and due to high humidity, some of the moisture had gotten inside the arena and caused the floor to be wet during a Mississippi/Mississippi State game. But this season the situation has gotten out of hand. Several months ago, a game between Michigan State and Virginia had to be cancelled because there was so much moisture on the floor. There was hockey ice under the hardwood which was cited as the problem. Then this past weekend, in a game in the NCAA Tournament, a lot of moisture had gathered on the floor, and the sideline announcer said that the cause was hockey ice located beneath the basketball floor. (I apologize, but I cannot remember now which game it was.) Then, as I was watching Temple and Louisville battle in the NIT Tuesday night, players began to slip more and more as the game went on. You guessed it: hockey ice was said to once again be the cause of the problem. At times late in the game, you could see around two dozen people wiping up the floor. It was especially bad on the side of the floor Temple was trying to score on (though they did go on to win the game). It is slightly understandable in the NIT situation because there was no long-term advance notice that the Cardinals would be playing another home game. But in the other two cases, people in charge of the facilities knew there would be basketball in those arenas on those days likely months in advance. There is no excuse. Not only does it effect the game, but players can be seriously injured on a slick surface. It’s not a good situation and one that needs to be resolved immediately.

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