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March 12, 2012

Ketch's 10 Thoughts From The Weekend

For the first time in my life, or at least as far back as I can remember, I've decided not to overthink my NCAA Tournament bracket. Usually, I not only fill out three or four or five brackets in a variety of double and triple-downs on my forecasting, but I also listen to every single piece of analysis throughout the week in an effort to gain some uncommon edge over everyone else on the planet.

Not this year. Not only am I not second-guessing myself with multiple brackets this season, I've decided to ignore all of the rhetoric that arrives in the aftermath of the brackets being released.

Death by over-analysis? Not me, not this year. Instead, I'm going to lean on all of my notes from the very 10 Thoughts over the last month or so that I hoped I'd remember when fulfilling this exorcise. I'm trusting my own judgment this season, as limited as it might be.

Let's do this.

South Region

Notes on this region that I've made that I need to remember...

"Meanwhile, all Kentucky did in the regular season was run through the SEC with a perfect 16-0 record. Only one of its last 10 games (before the SEC Tournament) was been decided by 10 points or less. This isn't the most talented Kentucky team we've seen under Coach Cal, but it doesn't blink in a showdown with anyone and Anthony Davis can carry the team all the way."

"I'm still buying Wichita State stock. Sweet 16 in my bracket without even seeing the draw."

"Iowa State is going to be a scare for someone in the second round. It out-gutted an incredibly gutty Kansas State twice this season. Plus, the Cyclones whacked Kansas."

"I had zero doubt that soft-hearted Baylor would fold against the rough and tough Cyclones. Perry Jones III is 6-11 and got to the free throw line exactly the same amount of times as you and I did this weekend. Same thing happened against Kansas State in a loss. When the tough gets going, Perry goes running to the three-point line."

"Duke might be the most blood and guts team in the country. They fight you on every possession."

"If Baylor had Kansas State's heart, it would be a team to pick for the Final Four."

"I don't have a lot of confidence in Baylor right now. That simply is not a top-10 quality team. I'm not doubting the talent level in Waco, but the Bears seem like a team that can get spooked when matched up with a real big dog team. A combined 0-4 record against Kansas and Missouri (now 1-5)? Yeah, no thanks.

Therefore, my picks look like this:

Round of 32: Kentucky over Iowa State, Wichita State over Indiana, Baylor over UNLV and Duke over Notre Dame.
Sweet 16: Kentucky over Wichita State and Duke over Baylor
Elite 8: Kentucky over Duke

West Region

Notes on this region that I've made that I need to remember...

"Jae Crowder is the name you might not know, but need to remember a week from now. Marquette plays great defense and has a star putting up superstar numbers down the stretch. Crowder dropped 26 points, 14 rebounds and five steals on Georgetown."

"Michigan State is pounding fools. The gas is on the floorboard right now."

"The more Tom Izzo fights that his team isn't really good, the more I'm thinking about taking a ride to the Elite 8 with them. That was quite a nice little choke-out of Ohio State this weekend in Columbus."

"Missouri is a team that everyone should want to avoid. They make three's and shoot the ball better than anyone in the nation. They've got the moxie to take down anyone on any given night."

Therefore, my picks look like this:

Round of 32: Michigan State over Memphis, Louisville over Long Beach State, Marquette over Murray State and Missouri over Florida.
Sweet 16: Michigan State over Louisville and Missouri over Marquette
Elite 8: Missouri over Michigan State

East Region

Notes on this region that I've made that I need to remember...

"Take Syracuse for example. It just finished a 17-1 run through the Big East with a win over Louisville on Saturday and it hasn't lost this season with Fab Melo in the line-up. This is a team built on tenacity, defense and teamwork, and it seems poised to make a huge tournament run. Consider this quote from senior guard Scoop Jardine, who failed to score in his Senior Day sendoff in the win over Louisville. "I'd rather go out like I did, having zero points and a big win against a Louisville team that we hardly beat throughout my years than to have 30 points and a loss. That's not who I am." Don't be afraid to go all-in with the Cuse."

"Vanderbilt looks like a scary No. 5 or No. 6 seed."

"If Jared Sullinger isn't knocking down shots and getting to the free throw line at least 10 times, the Buckeyes can be had. When he's aggressive and the three-ball is falling, they are tough to beat. Hard to see them riding that formula for six straight wins come tournament time. Of course, if Deshaun Thomas is good for 25 and 13 like he was on Saturday against Michigan, they might be able to survive, although it wasn't enough this weekend."

"It's going to take a man's team to knock out Florida State. They are nobody's punk."

Therefore, my picks look like this:

Round of 32: Syracuse over Kansas State, Vandy over Wisconsin, FSU over Texas and Ohio State over West Virginia.
Sweet 16: Syracuse over Vandy and FSU over Ohio State
Elite 8: Syracuse over FSU

Midwest Region

Notes on this region that I've made that I need to remember...

"You guys know I love me some North Carolina. When the Tar Heels are on, they can beat anyone in the college game and they flexed a little muscle in handing Coach K one of the worst losses of his career. When it was 48-24 at halftime, you knew exactly why UNC has to be an Elite 8 team at worst (barring a major upset)."

"Stock down: San Diego State"

"Stock steady sky-high: Kansas and North Carolina (Both in my Final Four right now)"

"Michigan looks good on paper, but I won't take them far in the tournament."

"UNC is damn good. Seems like the good, safe bet right now in whatever region it finds itself."

Therefore, my picks look like this:

Round of 32: North Carolina over Creighton, Ohio over Temple, NC State over Georgetown and Kansas over Purdue.
Sweet 16: North Carolina over Ohio and Kansas over NC State
Elite 8: North Carolina over Kansas

Final Four picks

Notes on my Final Four picks that I've made that I need to remember...

"It might seem like a cop-out, but if you write in Kentucky and Syracuse into your national title game a week from now, I won't be mad at you. Those two teams just look like they have lapped the field, with all due respect to a host of other really good teams like Kansas and North Carolina."

"Kentucky closes games like a national champion. It took a close game against Vandy and choked them out pretty good in the final two minutes of action. It was like watching a python choke out and swallow a prey."

Therefore, my picks look like this:

Final Four: Syracuse over North Carolina and Kentucky over Missouri
National title game: Kentucky 69 Syracuse 65

No.2 - Playing with house money…

So, the Longhorns made it and as it turned out they weren't even one of the final teams in the bracket. There's no play-in game, just the real deal Cincinnati Bearcats.

My initial reaction to the match-up is that this is going to be a tough, physical, hard-fought game that is won on the final minutes, but the Longhorns don't have the juice to pull it off. Nothing about either team suggests that we're going to see a runaway. Whatever the Longhorns are right now, they'll fight your guts out and although they didn't beat Missouri, Kansas or Baylor in any of the seven match-ups they had against the top three teams from the Big 12, four of those losses were by a combined 14 points.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati is playing its best basketball of the season right now. In three of their last five games, they've recorded wins over Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette. Their only losses since Valentine's Day was a one-point loss to South Florida and a six-point loss on Saturday to Louisville in the Big east Final. That's a legit run.

Let's just go ahead and say the obvious… the Longhorns are the underdog in this game for a reason and it'll be an upset if they win. Not the USA over USSR in the 1980 Olympic semi-finals, but an upset nonetheless.

J'Covan Brown probably needs to score 25+ points and get to the free throw line. Myck Kabongo has to show up and give the team something offensively. Clint Chapman needs to keep Yancy Gates to some sort of reasonable production.

Hey, a few weeks ago I wasn't a believer that this team would even make it this far, so the team and coaches deserve credit. The disappointment in this season can completely be re-written in the span of three days this weekend. Like the pair of Tom Penders' Sweet 16 teams that served as the precursor to Rick Barnes' tenure, maybe the Longhorns can take an ordinary season and make it memorable.

How sweet would that irony taste?

No.3 - A funny thing happened on the way to a weekend of ills being cured…

Augie Garrido and Co. just can't catch a break now. This was supposed to be the weekend where the Longhorns got their stuff together.

Loyola-Marymount arrived this weekend with a resume that suggested they'd be perfect fodder for a Longhorn team in need of a ball set perfectly on a tee. Instead, it rained, which cost the series its first two days of action. Then LMU turned out to be far less of a pushover than the Longhorns could have hoped.

So, after 18 innings of uneven play against a team that doesn't expect to contend for much of anything, the Longhorns went 1-1 and finished the weekend with a +1 run differential.

Up next: Texas State looms on Tuesday and then in five days the Longhorns begin conference play against Oklahoma in Norman.

If there's a break for these Longhorns to catch, now is as good of a time as any other.

No.4 - 1,000 words on the UT football universe…

…. I don't know about the rest of you, but there's no player I want to see more in the season opener right now than sophomore linebacker Steve Edmond. No player on either side of the ball that seems to be owning a bigger BAD MF wallet right now than the former Daingerfield star. Manny Diaz has been to the rodeo before and has seen the clowns, so when I hear him talking about Edmond like a future NFL player before he ever starts a game, it itches my curiosity bone. If this kid… you know… the former five-star prospect… is the guy everyone thinks he is, then this will be his defense this year, sophomore year be damned.

… By my count, the Longhorns go into next season with six difference-makers on defense: Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor, Edmond, Quandre Diggs, Carrington Byndom and Kenny Vaccaro. That number isn't capped at six for the season because I think there are a couple of other guys that could increase the impact factor.

… Over on the offensive side of the ball, I'm not sure you can count any just yet, but Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray all seem like real candidates. If you wanted to chalk a couple of those guys in the "yes" category right now, I wouldn't fight you hard.

… DeMarco Cobbs is expected to see action at some point in the second half of workouts, as is John Harris. Those are two players that absolutely upgrade the two-deep if they are healthy. Cross your fingers.

… I haven't seen or heard anything yet that makes me think Connor Brewer is headed for anything but a redshirt, as long as that remains an option.

… I don't know how things could possibly be going any better for the Longhorns in recruiting right now. By my count, the Longhorns have offered 17 in-state scholarships thus far for the class of 2013 and they have 13 commitments. None of the four guys that haven't committed to them yet have committed anywhere else, which means the Texas coaching staff is undefeated against all challengers this season. Of those four guys that remain available, you could make a case that the Longhorns likely lead for three of the four if they were forced to decide today. That kind of domination has never taken place before in this state, not in the Darrell Royal era and not in any of Mack's classes since 1998. This unchartered territory.

…. If you asked me to handicap the Justin Manning sweepstakes, I wouldn't rate Texas better than 15% at this point, but the longer this recruitment continues the better I like Texas' chances to get back into it. The biggest thing the Longhorns need is time… time to get him back on campus (maybe multiple times)… and time for him to think about where all of the other top prospects are going with or without him. The Longhorns are dominating the Metroplex, which means that he'll hear enough Longhorn stuff in the next 11 months to likely keep his attention. I think his recruitment gets interesting before all of the dust settles.

… If I had to pick commitment No.14 at this point, I'd go with Skyline wide receiver Ra'Shaad Samples. The question is when will the Longhorns ask Samples for a "yes" before they consider a plan B?

… I know what some of you are thinking… "OB is a bunch of homers. All of the practice reports seem so positive. Bah, humbug."… I get it, trust me. Therefore, for those that believe there is just too much sunshine in Austin, here's a look at six guys that you'd love to hear a little more buzz about before the spring game.

1. Malcolm Brown… I think you guys know I love me some MB28, but Joe Bergeron is absolutely bringing it this spring and seems to have surged ahead in the battle for starting running back. Of course, both guys will get a lot of carries this season and Brown has actually been pretty dang good through half the workouts, but Bergeron is creating a higher bar it seems.

2. Dominic Espinosa… The truth is that Dom was pressed into action last year before he was truly ready to play at a high level and he hung in there fairly well for a kid that barely lifted any weights in the off-season as a redshirt freshman. So, we're talking about a young kid that's running out with the first-team offense every day, and he's going to keep getting better and better. The question is whether he's truly best-suited to start at this level in 2012 or 2013. I'm not so sure just yet, but there's a long way until August.

3. Garrett Porter… The fourth-year junior was singled out by Mack before spring workouts started in February, but since then we've seen the Longhorns work in extra rotation work at center with other players because the of the uncertain depth between the top two. It feels like now or never for Porter because the coaches seem destined to improve that area one way or another.

4. Thomas Ashcraft… See Porter. The Longhorns need more depth up-front and Ashcraft hasn't yet carved out a true niche yet. It's year No.4 for the former Cedar Hill star and he isn't better than No.4 in the guard pecking order at best at the moment.

5. Ashton Dorsey… You could probably slip in a couple of defensive tackles into this spot, but Dorsey is the junior of the bunch that seems to have waited his turn to be in this position. Dorsey has had his moments in camp, but you'd like to see more consistently.

6. Kendall Thompson… He's just a pup, but the injury to DeMarco Cobbs means that he's close to being counted on right now and he's still trying to find the light switch. The Longhorns like their linebackers at the top of the depth chart, but the water is murky among that second tier.


No.5 - Seven things on the NFL

1. As a Cowboys fan, I can't say I'm thrilled at all that Washington just made a huge power play for Robert Griffin III. Suddenly, the NFC East is a division where the four teams in it will have to go through some combination of Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Michael Vick and RGIII six times each season. Unless you believe that RGIII is going to be a bust, which I don't, things in the division became more complicated for the foreseeable future. Even scarier as it relates to the Redskins is that they apparently have a ton of money to spend this off-season to help support him with a talent upgrade that the top of the draft won't be able to do for the next few seasons. Vincent Jackson is apparently on line one with Daniel Snyder.

2. About a decade ago, I remember bumping into Kyle Shanahan at The Drink pretty much every weekend on the calendar. Just a few years later, he participated in one of our Cole Pittman golf tournaments. Fast-forward a half-decade from the last time I saw him at Avery Ranch gold club and he suddenly has an NFL franchise in the palm of his hands. With the addition of RGIII this weekend, the current Skins offensive coordinator is suddenly in an incredibly high-profile position as the guy working with one of the league's new incoming superstar prospects. If the Skins return to the NFL forefront with RGIII, expect Kyle Shanahan to either be in a position to take over the Redskins when his old man departs or another head coaching position somewhere else. This will be the defining moment of his NFL career as a coach.

3. Speaking of having the world in the palm of their hands, Sam Bradford should be a very happy man today and deservedly so. No excuses from here on out, though. With the draft pick haul they just scored, this team should be loaded in the near future and now they only need to hope that he lives up to his billing. Frankly, I thought he looked awful last year and I think they are making a big risk in assuming he's going to be a franchise guy… no doubt about it. Bradford better not get lapped by RGIII as a player or this will turn out ugly, no matter who they draft with that assortment of picks.

4. If Peyton Manning returns to anywhere near his normal level of play in 2012, either the Denver Broncos or the Arizona Cardinals are about to become instant contenders. Personally, I hope he chooses the Broncos because the following Tim Tebow trade dump will cause the sports world to collapse into a noisy abyss. What happens if the Broncos couldn't find a suitor? How ironic is all of Tebow-mania going to look if he gets dumped because Manning doesn't want to hold his hand and they can't find a team? This could be better than TNT's new re-make of Dallas.

5. Cleveland might not feel comfortable with Colt McCoy as their long-term answer at quarterback, but he might get another year to prove himself by default with the hustle created by the Redskins. Unless they trade down out of the No.4 spot (a possibility) and move into a spot to take a guy like Ryan Tannehill (dumbest idea ever) or make a move for Matt Flynn, the door seems to be open for 2012. The Browns need to get him some help, already.

6. Speaking of Matt Flynn, why in the hell would any team pout a bunch of money into his bank account? Someone is going to need to explain to me when he became a starting quarterback in this league worth a big deal. And don't tell me it was that one single sub-in for Aaron Rodgers at the end of this season. Pure silliness.

7. Free agency is about to kickoff and the NFL has my attention. I can't wait to see what happens, especially with the Manning thing as a precursor. I'd love to see the Cowboys spend some money on a Bren Grubbs or Brandon Carr or both. What do you think Cowboys fans? Grubbs + Carr + Brodney Pool + the draft? Where would that leave us? Is that doable?

No.6 - Thoughts from The Association …

a. Highlight of the weekend: Gerald Green gets sikkkkk!

b. The trade deadline is this week in the NBA and all eyes are on Orlando. Will the Magic trade Dwight Howard or will they risk getting nothing for his talent if he walks out the door in free agency like Shaq did all those years ago? Making things more complicated is the fact that the Magic are fighting for home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. What an awful situation to be in… but you have to trade him for the best deal possible, right? If there's nothing lef but Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, Ryan Anderson and J.J. Reddick, why would the fans even want to show up? The problem they have is that there isn't one big-time free agent-to-be talking about Orlando as a destination and I'm not sure the Magic have the cap room to pull it off. Blah.

c. Doug Collins finally released the kracken and it might have saved the season for my beloved 76ers. For the first 1 ½ seasons in the league, the entire city of Philadelphia has debated the topic of Evan Turner's NBA career… what position should he play… is he any good… should they have drafted size instead with the No.2 pick. If you watched Rookie/2nd-year game at the all-star weekend a few weeks back, you saw what Collins finally conceded… his second-year guard is best with the ball in his hands. Earlier in the week, Collins named Turner his starting point guard for the rest of the season and the former Ohio State star is finally living up to his draft credentials. The 76ers clobbered the Knicks on Sunday, while Turner produced 24 points on an incredibly efficient 6 of 9 shooting, while also collecting 15 rebounds. The lead in the division is back to three games over the Celtics. In Evan The Kid, I trust.

d. Remember Linsanity?

e. Ricky Rubio tore his ACL this weekend after a collision with Kobe Bryant. We're all losers in this one because he's just a ton of fun to watch.

f. Interesting stat of the weekend: Oklahoma City is 23-6 against teams from the Western Conference this season, while Miami is only 7-5 against teams outside the East. The Heat have been great all season, but a 24-4 record against the East and it's eight teams with sub-.500 records shouldn't be ignored.

g. MVP watch

1. Kevin Durant
2. LeBron James
3. Derrick Rose
4. Chris Paul
5. Kobe Bryant

g. Ketch's weekly NBA Power Poll

1. Oklahoma City
2. Miami
3. Chicago
4. San Antonio
5. L.A. Lakers
6. Memphis
7. L.A. Clippers
8. Orlando
9. Indiana
10. Philadelphia

No.7 - That's what he said…

Here's a look at some of the best Tweets of the week on my Timeline:

@benmaller "Story: Browns GM not interested in Peyton Manning. Reaction: Peyton would rather play in war-torn Afghanistan than Cleveland."

@greggdoyelcbs "After breaking Cuse drug thing, @CharlesRobinson had the point-shaving deal? Please never investigate me, C-Rob"

@RuiterWrongFAN "By the time the season ends Kyrie Irving will have more game winning baskets as a rookie than LeBron did in 7-championship-less seasons"

@KevinSDS "Now over 100 million smartphone users in the U.S. --- mobile, mobile, mobile"

@TFLN "(631): Come over so we can hookup and eat tacos. Those are 2 things you can't possibly turn down."

@KDTrey5 "B.I.G RT @SexxyMichie: @KDTrey5 Tupac or Biggie?"

@ActuallyNPH "That Kirk Cameron is hilarious!"

@JayBilas "Bill Raftery on a former coach at Big East Tourney: 'Can you believe this? That guy called my room at 2:45am! So, we went out for a drink.'"

No.8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…

… Hell yeah: Game. Of. Thrones. The latest trailer (The more you love) … 20 days away.

… FTMFW! The most interesting people of SXSW

… Austin is apparently super-cool. The most interesting people of SXSW "> 21 Jump Street Premiers in Austin tonight . Opens nationally this weekend.

… Bobby Brown must be one hell of a father because his daughter apparently wants nothing to do with him . Well, at least he'll have the New Edition gang to tour with forever.

… WTF Moment of the Weekend: Johnny Depp as the wrestler Sting as Tonto

… DECLARATION: "most crowd-pleasing movie of all-time.".

… Ummmm, Rihana might be crazy and in serious need of some positive male influences, but she can sell the hell out of some underwear. I'll have three, please. Oh wait, that's an Armani jeans commercial?

No.9 - The List: Biggie Smalls

Fifteen years ago on Friday, the notorious one was murdered. The rap game has never been same since the loss of Pac and Biggie. RIP.

*Note: Very not safe for work. I repeat… VNSFW*

10. Everyday Struggle
9. Juicy
8. Gimme Tha Loot
7. Machine Gun Funk
6. Kick in the Door
5. ho shot ya?
4. I Bullsh*t and party
3. Hypnotize
2. Warning
1. Big Poppa

No.10 - And finally…

Down goes Tiger, down goes Tiger!

In the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the hopes of an all-time weekend at Augusta might have gone down the drain, as Tiger Woods pulled up lame in the final found, quitting before he could play a full 72.

"I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse," Woods said. "After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary."

Uh oh. That's all I got. Uh oh.


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