The Afternoon Extras: Two Reasons Not To Expand NCAA Tournament

The Afternoon Extras: Two Reasons Not To Expand NCAA Tournament

Eh, so here we have the Extras for Monday. They're a little late as you may have noticed, which is why we scrapped the morning portion and went with afternoon. We're clever like that around here. Anyway, with March Madness right around the corner, we thought we'd look at one of the major developments about the tournament and give our take on the matter. 

1. Watered down playoffs

Here's an experiment you can do at your own desk. Pull out your NCAA Tournament bracket. Read through the schools and count how many teams have zero shot at winning a National Championship. Whatever your own criteria is for determining which teams have no chance at all, that number will inevitably be 30 at the minimum, and I think that's being generous. Either way, we agree half the field already isn't qualified to be there.

So why expand? If all they're really denying these bubble teams is the opportunity to play a few extra, meaningless games, which should not be confused with competing to be number one, what is really the point? The first couple rounds are watered down already. There are always a handful classic upsets, and those are fun to watch, but the it's hard to argue the drama will still be there the first time Penn State defeats George Mason on a buzzer beater for the right to play top seeded North Carolina. Awesome!

And while we're on the topic of "bubble" teams, let's make it clear what that term mens exactly. They are the same as All Star "snubs" or athletes who belong in the "Hall of Great." People enjoy making lists, and once a list is completed, we need a list of the things that it could be argued should be on that list. Once we're finished picking 65 teams, everybody wants to know who was 66. That doesn't mean the entire structure of the tournament needs to be uprooted to accommodate Illinois. It's just human nature.

2. Complicated brackets

I don't follow college basketball too closely, so when it comes time to fill out my bracket, there are automatically a few schools I've never even heard of, let alone seen play. The whole process is a crapshoot for a casual fan. As soon as somebody hands me a sheet and there's twice as many games to pick, PEACE! Oh yeah, I could just guess like everybody else, but why bother at that point? At least if you hit the Power Ball, you never have to work again.

And if it's too complicated for me to undertake the arduous task of choosing names out of a hat, how is Betty at the office going to handle it? Imagine trying to explain to somebody who has never watched sports in their life what a bye is. In the unlikely event they figured it out, it's going to make the entire process feel more daunting than it used to be, causing some people to conclude it's not worth the effort, diminishing interest in the event overall.

Another set of the population they are alienating are the visually impaired. I happen to be blessed with incredible eyesight, so I can't really sympathize with those of you who wear reading glasses, but I would imagine it can be a nuisance squinting to view all the names on a piece paper that was printed by the 20-year-old copy machine at the office. It'll take a magnifying glass to fill that thing out.

In all seriousness, why mess with something that's as perfectly symmetrical as the tournament is? What could be more democratic than 64 teams ranked 1-64 (forget the play-in game) vying to be the last team standing? As soon as you add byes and change the formula for the sake of a few extra teams, you're taking the chance that unforeseen flaws will pop up, or it will alter the competition just enough that it's somehow not as fun.

The only benefit I see is more money is involved, which is why this will get pushed through no matter what the fans want.

LINKS

7. Matt Stairs, now camping with the Padres, is one pinch hit home run away from tying the Major League record. Here's hoping the Phillies legend makes his mark on baseball history as well. [Yahoo! Sports]

6. The Sixers will fire their head coach, and maybe even their general manager, but the product on the court will not improve much or at all. Talk about stating the obvious. [CBS Sports]

5. Examining a realignment plan for Major League Baseball that would potentially separate the Yankees and the Red Sox, or perhaps even allow teams to change divisions based on their economical needs. How 'bout they just institute a salary cap? [St. Petersburg Times]

4. Andy Martino tells us Kyle Kendrick is doing the most important thing he can to regain the success he experienced in his rookie season: he's growing up. No doubt about that last part. By the way, give it up for another 4 innings of shutout ball on Sunday. [Inquirer]

3. Every Big East team has some flaws, and for Villanova, its their inability to defend. Given some of their recent performances and their lack of reliable scoring options, I'm not seeing a long stay in the tournament. Sorry. [Sporting News]

2. For once, spending didn't get the Cowboys in trouble. In preparation for an uncapped where player movement would be limited, Dallas came into the new league year leading the NFL in dollars committed to 2010. They have to be concerned somebody could steal Miles Austin though, who remains a restricted free agent. [Pro Football Talk]

1. Addressing the rumor that would swap Ryan Howard with Albert Pujols, which Ruben Amaro calls completely bogus for the record. What exactly would be the benefit for the Cardinals, who like the Phillies, would still need to negotiate a new deal after 2011. [Finger Food]

COMMENT OF THE DAY

Flyers do get a chance for revenge though against the Rangers when they wrap up the season with a home & home against them. My bet is that the Flyers will have a real shoot to knock the Rangers out of the playoffs and that would be really sweet.

- MG

COMMENT OF THE WEEK

I expected a 3 for Nova and a 4 for Temple, considering the conferences they're in, but this shake-up shows just how much the weigh conference schedule and strength.

Nova did have the same record as last season, despite the rough finish against heavyweight competition (4 of those losses against top 3 seeds in the overall bracket), and they had a #3 seed last year.

Temple can't say the same about their schedule. Yea, yea...they beat Nova for once, but Fernandez doesn't go off if Redding is on him like glue.

Overall, Temple's seeding sucks in that bracket. Wisconsin, and Kentucky for possible 2nd/3rd game matchups? Not favorable. Nova has a real nice seeding in comparison, with a possible Duke rematch to decide the region.

May all Philly teams represent us well.

- Benjamin

kulp700level@gmail.com

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.