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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When in Internet...

I'm an internet user. This blog is on the Internet. As such, sometimes I do internetty things. One such thing is to use an animated gif to describe how I feel. So in that spirit, in the midst of potential expansion turmoil, Notre Dame, I, on behalf of the Big East conference, invite you to join up in all sports or...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's in a Name?

A few quick name-related bits referencing my alma maters:

The Baltimore Sun ponders the possibility of a name change for UMBC. While they pass through Maryland Tech and Maryland State, as I did, they ultimately thought Maryland University, though in my opinion that's clearly not distinguishable enough from University of Maryland, especially since both would be abbeviated Maryland, and there's no state designation to separate the two like Miami (FL) and Miami (OH). This came after both the Chess Federation and NPR wrote articles declaring "Maryland" the winner of chess' Final Four (both articles have since been updated).

In other news, USF, for their spring game, has decided to go away from the confusion of a green/gold game with teams wearing green and white (or, alternatively, a green/white game when the school colors are green and gold). Instead, they will go by "South Florida" and "Bulls", an interesting development, since USF's style guide states that it prefers USF to South Florida. I guess Coach Holtz, coming from East Carolina, doesn't care quite as much. I've always thought that after the introduction of the new helmets, they could go green and gold, with one team wearing green jerseys and white helmets, while the other wore white jerseys and gold helmets.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Psych Evaluation

What I'm about to say is controversial. There are some who will call me a liar, a charlatan, or even a traitor to my own kind. But hear me out.

Somewhere, way deep down in the recesses of your mind, the part you're embarrassed to even acknowledge, there is a tiny, tiny part of every Eagles fan who wants the Redskins to win Super Bowl.

Yeah I said it.

The Washington Redskins are our division rival, recent doormat, and the team to whom we recently traded our starting quarterback, Donovan McNabb. And I'm saying that Eagles fan want to see them win it all? Am I crazy? Yes. We all are, just a little.

There are some strong attributes to being a Philly sports fan, and an Eagles fan in particular. We only have a few, very reasonable demands. Beat the Cowboys to a bloody pulp twice or more a year, and win the Super Bowl. Beyond that, another undeniable characteristic that Eagles fans share is suffering. See, we've failed to accomplish the second of those demands for the XLIV years of the Super Bowl's existence--a duration which may exceed the average life expectancy of a Philadelphian these days--and as such, disappointment is par for the course. Suffering is, quite honestly, the thread by which we build community, by which we identify ourselves as fans. The pre-2004 Boston Red Sox were the epitome of the lovable loser. The Eagles, then, are the quintessential hatable loser. But nothing brings people together like a shared feeling that the universe is out to get us.

So while we all want to feel the ecstatic happiness of a world championship, the happiness that those who are also Phillies fans felt in 2008, the next best thing is to be utterly and supremely pissed off that the universe has shat upon us once again. And what better way to have that feeling? I'll give you the scenario: Eagles go 14-2, winning all games except the two against a 16-0 Redskins team. Eagles and Redskins meet in the NFC Championship game, and a McNabb-helmed Redskins squad rolls the Birds and goes on to win the Super Bowl. Or, just as bad, Skins win the Super Bowl while the Eagles miss the playoffs, proving what many of us believe is true: It was foolish to deal McNabb, especially in-division. Sometimes, an "I told you so" is nearly as good as a victory.

I'm not saying Eagles fans are going to start rooting for the Skins. I'm not even saying that folks consciously want for this to happen. But search your soul, Birds fans. Some where, way, deep down, you know I'm right.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Never can it be said that chess is a sport. Then again, never can it be said that I don't go hard for my alma maters. So in this post, I'll be talking chess.

You may be surprised if I tell you that this weekend, I was scrimping and scraping for chess coverage. I even went so far as to follow a chess feed on Twitter to get the latest updates. You see, this was the weekend of the President's Cup, also known as the Final Four of College Chess, and UMBC, one of the winningest programs in college chess, was taking on a Texas-stacked field in Mexico Brownsville, TX at UT Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. In addition to the hosts, Texas Tech and old chess rival and powerhouse program UT Dallas were also in attendance. And the Dawgs ran through the field and emerged the undisputed champion, much as they did back in December in the World Series of college chess. UMBC now owns six of the last seven President's Cups.

You might be laughing at me right now. I don't give a damn. Chess is a big deal at UMBC. As an undergrad, in pep band, I played pep rallies for the chess team when they came home with championships. So yeah, damn right we nerd hard in Catonsville.

In other UMBC news, the lax Dawgs got on the board in conference with a victory up in Vestal at Binghamton. This was after an OOC loss during the week vs. Baltimore's wrong black and gold at Johnny U. Stadium. Conference action continues this weekend when the Great Danes of Albany come to town.

This weekend, The Giants/Jets new stadium was broken in by lacrosse's Big City Classic and, fittingly, the First State got the first game, as Delaware took on Hofstra. A couple of high-profile games would follow, including a 1/2 matchup where UVA defeated Carolina, and a 3/4 matchup where Syracuse took out Princeton.

In other NFC East stadium news, Texas Stadium was imploded this weekend. Let's have a moment of... rejoicing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

My earlier post is proof positive that you can use numbers to prove or disprove anything if you use them right. While everything I said there is technically correct, it was almost fitting that I wrote it on April Fools Day. It paints a picture of the college basketball landscape that is simultaneously accurate and misleading.

There are two reasons why that post doesn't encapsulate the entirety of what should be studied when thinking about college basketball expansion. In one part, I was looking at the wrong things. In another, I was looking at the right things in the wrong way.

First, what I think I was looking at wrong: I looked at the 96-team field as it compared to the 65-team field in terms of the field's makeup of major conference teams vs. smaller conference teams. Perhaps a better comparison would have been what amount of tournament teams make up each of the major conferences.

This year, three of the big six conferences--the Big East, Big XII, and ACC--sent half of their teams to the 65-team dance. The Big XII tipped the scales this year at 7/12, or 58.3% dancing. In a 96-team field, all of the big conferences, with the exception of the Pac-10, who had a down year, would send at least half their teams to the tournament. You'll recall I analyzed the Big East two different ways previously: One with all 16 teams, and one using just the nine that play major college football. Of the nine, eight, or 88.9%, make it to a 96 team tournament. An expanded field would certainly reward mediocrity and worse in the major conferences.

The other mistake I made is one in which I examined the reality, but not the perception. The numbers before refuted the fact that "everybody" gets in by showing that they proportion of  even a 96-team field to the 347 teams that play Division I basketball was on par to other college athletics. Here's the problem with that logic: To the average viewer, the number of schools that play D-I ball is much smaller than 347. Even with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3(60) and ESPNU, and other channels like CBS College Sports and MASN showing college games, a much smaller proportion of teams matter. There are other teams that are on the radar to their alumni and their locals, and even in those cases, fans of those teams likely have at least a passing interest in the local big-conference team, or attend a big-conference school for grad school ::sheepishly raises hand:: For consistency's sake, let's place the perceived number at 125. That number includes all of the big-six conference schools, plus the schools from the other five conferences that put multiple teams into the 65-team tourney this year: Mountain West, Conference USA, West Coast, Atlantic-10, and the WAC. Using that number, suddenly the tournament seems a lot less exclusive: 52% of teams from those conferences would dance in a 96-team field, up from 36% in the 65-team field. Interestingly, the proportion--65 of 125--looks eerily similar to the 68 of 120 who go to bowl games in the "everybody plays" world of major college football. If one were to restrict even further to the major-football-playing big six conference schools, a whopping 46 of 73, or 63% of teams would see post season play.

Again, a 96-team field would reward mediocrity and worse. The numbers tell you that; it all depends on how you look at them.

Say It Ain't So!

I'm in the process of writing another numbers post (it's open in another tab, in fact) but I had to interrupt myself to say: Damn. Just damn.

I weighed in on the Donovan McNabb situation a couple of posts back and said that wherever he may be traded, I wish him well. It looks like I'll be challenged on that with the intradivisional trade to the Redskins.

As division teams go, I probably hate the Skins the least. One reason is that they haven't been a threat as of late, but I've also got strong family ties to the DMV, with my mom being from DC and a good deal of that side of the family still living in the urrea. So this is less devastating than if he had gone to, say, the Cowboys, but a whole lot worse than going out of division, or better, out of conference. This also guarantees he'll be headed back to the Linc this coming season. That'll be interesting; we've seen TO's reception, and we've seen B.Dawk's reception. My guess is something in between, and it may depend on how well both the Eagles and the Redskins are doing at that point in the season.

So good luck with your new team, Donovan. I hope you do well--just not better than the Birds.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fun with Numbers

If you ever ask me, I'll openly admit it: I hate math. Yet somehow, I tend to be quite good at it, which serves as an asset: I can turn to numbers if ever I need to get a point across, support or disprove a theory, or show that I know what the hell I'm talking about.
*writers note: All numbers are as accurate as an internet search or my own counting allowed for. Replicate at your own risk.

So let's turn to a number I'm not liking particularly much right now: 96. Ninety-six, in addition to being a city in South Carolina, is the number to which the NCAA Tournament seeks to expand. I firmly believe it should remain at the current 65, or at worst, 68, adding three play-in games so each region gets one. The NCAA has done a study that concludes that expanding to 96 teams makes the most sense, so I figured I'd do a study of my own.

The hypothesis which which I begun was that the potential of expansion would be more about adding teams from the Big East or ACC than from America East or the NEC, as I postulated here. While Doug Gottlieb made it a point of noting during the halftime show of what could have been the last NIT that there's no way of knowing who would have been in a 96-team tournament this year, to me it's pretty elementary. A 65-team NCAA Tournament + a 32-team NIT = (roughly) 96 teams. I realize there's the play-in game to work around, but as you'll see in the work I did, that really didn't factor into the equations any.

For starters, let's agree on definitions. The "Major" schools to which I refer are those in the Big Six--football's BCS--conferences. I realize there's some dispute there. For example, teams like Xavier and Gonzaga, and even conferences like the A-10 and Mountain West can lay legitimate claim to major status, but I'm going to exclude them and here's why: When speaking of the haves and the have-nots across all of sports, the money that these schools have access to through their participation in major college football and specifically the BCS eclipses the potential from the other schools and conferences, despite their basketball acumen. And while the BCS means nothing in college hoops, the differences therein are often replicated in TV contracts.

Which brings about an interesting point. Nearly half of the schools that play basketball in the Big East don't play major college football. Don't you worry, I've got machinations to account for that.

So first of all, I learned that my initial assumption, at least this year, was incorrect. In the current 65-team tournament, 32 of those teams are from major conferences, or 49.2%. That percentage drops to 44.6% if you exclude the Big East non-football schools (while Notre Dame doesn't play Big East football, I keep them in the equation, since they do play major college football and thus have the aforementioned access).  But when the field is expanded to 96 teams, utilizing this year's NIT, those percentages become 47.9% and 42.7%, respectively. In each case, that means that less of the field is taken up by the big boys. And while that difference may or may not be statistically significant, it does say that at the very least, chances are not being taken away from the other schools by expanding the field.

Let's look beyond the major conferences and look simply at multi-bid leagues. This will sweep in some of the others that are "have"s simply in the college basketball sense. This year, in addition to the A-10 and Mountain West, Conference USA, the WAC, and the WCC put multiple teams into to Big Dance. Certainly multi-bid leagues are getting the advantage from an expanded tournament, right? Interestingly enough, the answer is again no. Those 11 conferences made up 47 of the field of 65, or 72.3%. Looking at the field of 96, you've now got 65, for 67.7%.

Clearly the numbers aren't on my side with this one. But I've got another. With 96 teams participating, clearly EVERYONE gets in, right? We're turning college basketball into the "everybody gets a medal" reality of youth leagues. So I figured I'd take a look at some comparable leagues in Division I. I think we'll all agree that FBS football, where over half of the teams go to bowl games, is an outlier. Beyond that, it seems FCS football may be the most stingy, where even with the expansion of the tournament from 16 to 20 teams only 18% of teams go to the post-season tournament, though that number increases to 21.5% when one excludes the Ivy League and SWAC, which traditionally do not participate. College basketball is next, with the women's tournament--are they talking of expanding that as well?--inviting 18.4% of participants and the men's tournament currently inviting 18.7%. In men's college soccer, 24.2% of the teams compete in the 48-team tournament, while the 16 teams that compete in the men's lacrosse tournament represent 26.2% of the field. Baseball invites the most, where their 64 team tournament comprises 30.3% of the 211 eligible teams. An expanded, 96 team field for college basketball means 27.7% of schools that compete at the Division I level go to the postseason tournament. It's a bit high among the benchmarking sports, but by no means is it ridiculous. Looking at the pro ranks, basketball and hockey are the biggest offenders, where 53.3% of the NBA and NHL makes the playoffs. Playoffs in the NFL and MLB comprise 37.5 and 26.7 percent of the league, respectively.

With all of the science behind it, I begin to see why, other than dollars signs, of course, increasing the field to 96 makes a bit of sense.

Good thing I was never a science major. I still say hell no.

Bonus Coverage

Right now, at 6:53pm, seven minutes before the tip of the NIT final featuring Carolina and Dayton, I am going to do my best to predict what we'll hear from Roy Williams, should the Heels win the NIT championship. First of all, he will be asked a question about if it is a disappointment winning the NIT after winning a national championship. The response:

"Well, we knew it was going to be a tough year. We lost some great guys this last year. We knew we had a young team, and when you have a young team, you struggle a little. There came a point in the season where we knew the ACC Tournament was going to be our only chance to get into NCAAs. Once we lost in that, you know, you kind of know your fate from there. But the goal has always been to win every game in front of us, and that's what we were able to do here. We're proud of this team, and we know we've got a lot to build on to get ready for next year."

5 for Fighting

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm an Eagles fan and you may be surprised that I haven't weighed in on the Donovan McNabb situation in Philly yet. It's honestly because I don't have much to say about the situation that I couldn't say on my Twitter feed (by the way, add me: @80mins): DAMMIT PHILLY, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?! KEEP HIM!!

To say a little more about that, I hold this belief for two reasons: One is that, admittedly, I'm loyal to a fault. I'm an Eagles fan first, and I'm a Donovan fan because he's our QB, but because of all he's given us, I'd love to see them do right by him as well. I want to see Donovan McNabb retire as an Eagle.

I really only have one desire for the team each year: Win the Super Bowl (ok, two, Beat the Cowboys being the second). It hasn't yet been done. But while McNabb hasn't done it, I currently have no reason to believe that right now, Kevin Kolb or Michael Vick give us a demonstrably better chance at that than McNabb does. Don't get me wrong--I live in North Carolina. I saw how pleased Panthers fans were to see Jake Delhomme go, despite all he has given to the franchise and its fans. If it were truly time for McNabb to go--i.e., he was garbage--I'd wish him well and welcome the trade. But I think he's still got plenty left in him. Regardless, while I'm an Eagles fan first, I'll cheer for #5 wherever he may land.
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