It's time for another round of the Blue-White Roundtable. Your truly came up with the questions this week. So if you don't like them you can stuff it.
How is your bracket doing?
In a word, awful. I had Wisconsin and Virginia going to the Elite Eight. That didn't work out so well. Eleven of my sweet sixteen teams are still alive so I have a chance, but I pretty much better nail it from here. The sad thing is I was doing well until Sunday when Wisconsin, Texas, Virginia, and Virginia Tech all lost. C'est la vie.
The 2007 NCAA Tournament is marked by a distinct lack of Cinderella teams and upsets. Only two double digit seeds made it past the first round. Of the sixteen teams left, 14 of them are a #5 seed or better. Only six at-large bids were given to mid-major schools this year. In 2006 they got eight. In 2004 there were twelve. Is the NCAA ruining the tournament by shuffling the mid-major schools to the NIT?
I kind of suspected this was going to happen a few years ago when the NCAA took over the NIT. The NCAA tournament is becoming more and more like the BCS in football. It's about ratings and getting the bigger schools with the bigger fan bases into the tournament. The smaller schools are being sent to the equivalent of the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
It absolutely is killing the tournament. The thrill of March Madness is seeing the smaller schools like George Mason make a run. They can't do that when they aren't even invited.
Of the six Big Ten teams that made the tournament, only Ohio State is left, and they just barely got past Xavier. Do you think the Big Ten is falling from the ranks of the elite basketball conferences or was this just one down year?
Maybe we'll see another letter from Jim Delany. I think the level of basketball has definitely dropped over the past few years. Last year we didn't get a single team into the sweet sixteen. But it hasn't been that long since the Big Ten had an impressive showing. In 2005 Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Illinois all made the elite eight with Illinois going on to the finals where they lost to North Carolina. They will come back. It's all cyclical.
On Saturday, Michigan fired head basketball coach Tommy Amaker after six seasons. He took over a program decimated under NCAA sanctions, led them to four winning seasons, a 109-83 overall record and 43-53 record in the Big Ten. The Wolverines scored NIT bids in three of the past four years. Obviously that wasn't good enough for Michigan, but as a Nittany Lion, would you take that?
Hell yeah I'd take that right now. I think most Penn State fans would take NIT bids over this losing streak we're on now.
Michigan is under a different standard though. They expect to win conference championships every two or three years and compete for the Final Four a few times each decade. I can't help but feel bad for Amaker. He took over a program in the shadow of scandal. It was a complete mess. He at least returned respectability to the program. Unfortunately, respect doesn't put people in the seats or win trophies.
Let's talk some football. Spring practice starts up this week. There are several starting positions up for grabs: Linebacker, free safety, defensive line, offensive line, and running back to name a few. For a lot of guys it's do-or-die time. They have been riding the bench for a couple years and their eligibility is running out. If they don't come out of the spring with a starting job they probably won't get one at Penn State. Who are the biggest do-or-die players?
Austin Scott is a big one. He came to Penn State with the promise of being a Heisman trophy candidate. Four years later he's never even started a game. He's going to get a strong push from Evan Royster. If he sprains an ankle or tweaks his knee again, he may lose his turn to be the starter.
Several guys in the defensive backfield are about to enter the most important three weeks of their college careers. Tony Davis is going to see a lot of pressure from sophomore A.J. Wallace. Guys like Spencer Ridenhour, Knowledge Timmons, Devin Fentress, Bani Gbadyu, Travis McBride, Lydell Sargeant, and Cedric Jefferies are all fighting for playing time and there is only one spot open this year. The winner will most likely start for the next two years. The losers will either transfer or ride the bench.
Here we are in March. Everybody knows our biggest need is running back in this recruiting class, and so far nobody can confirm we have even offered a scholarship to a running back. Should we be concerned the staff is going to strike out two years in a row at bringing in a blue chip running back?
The message boards are in a total panic. I'm not. It's still early. Besides, I think there is a lot going on behind the scenes we don't know about. Even though they haven't handed out offers yet, I'm sure they're in contact with players and coaches. The opportunity to get immediate playing time as a running back at Penn State is too great an opportunity to pass up. We'll get a big time running back or two this year before it's all said and done.
Which of the NCAA tournament teams still alive looks the most impressive?
Kansas, North Carolina, USC, and Memphis have cruised in all their games so far. I picked Kansas to win it all so I'll stick with that for now.
Which of the NCAA tournament teams still alive doesn't deserve to be there?
The Buckeyes are the luckiest bastards on earth next to Notre Dame. God I hate them both.
Coke or Pepsi?
I thought PSU stands for Pepsi State University since it's the only beverage you can buy on campus. I think I went four years without drinking a Coke while I was there.