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

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”

Inside Doop: Union inch closer to playoffs after tie in Toronto

Inside Doop: Union inch closer to playoffs after tie in Toronto

The Union left the country for a big game over the weekend and did not return to the United States with a win as they hoped.

But they did come back with a hard-earned point against the top team in the conference as well as the first MLS goal from their marquee summer signing, while inching closer to the playoffs. Here’s a look at Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Toronto FC and what lies ahead with three regular-season games left.

Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. It took Alejandro Bedoya almost two months to score his first MLS goal … but what a goal it was. After collecting a pass from Fabian Herbers midway through the first half (just barely avoiding being offside), the U.S. national team starter took one dribble and fooled goalkeeper Clint Irwin with a clever chip over his head and into the net. You don’t see those kind of chip goals often and when you do, they’re usually delivered by big-time playmakers — the kind of guys the Union don’t usually have but do now with Bedoya. Head coach Jim Curtin’s decision to play Bedoya at the No. 10 attacking midfield spot with Tranquillo Barnetta injured also paid big dividends and showed the Union have more midfield options going into the playoffs … and into next season.

2. Coming into the game, a big storyline centered around center back Ken Tribbett, who got the start at center back about a month after getting pulled at halftime vs. Toronto. Another centered around right back Keegan Rosenberry, who was trying to bounce back from a rare off game in Portland the previous week. But, in the end, both players had some very good moments and helped limit the Toronto attack for much of the game, especially in the first half. Much of that had to do with another Curtin lineup decision as the Union head coach put two defensive-minded midfielders in front of the backline: Warren Creavalle, who also had a great hustle play that nearly led to a second goal right before halftime, and Brian Carroll, who’s now made two straight starts after missing six straight games with Plantar fasciitis.

3. Saturday’s game didn’t end without some late fireworks from the league’s hottest player, Jozy Altidore. Riding an eight-goals-in-nine-games streak coming in, the U.S. national team star struck the post in the 87th minute and was taken down in the box by C.J. Sapong in stoppage time on what initially looked to be a clear penalty. If you look at the replay from Sapong’s perspective, however, you could probably make the case that Sapong was going for the ball before getting impeded by Altidore. Either way, the idea of a ref not making a call that would likely decide a game (on a play that wasn’t a real goal-scoring opportunity) took some guts, especially as he got lambasted from the home team and its fans.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The brutal three-game road trip ends Saturday as the Union, after a loss in Portland and tie in Toronto, take on the rival New York Red Bulls (7 p.m., The Comcast Network). As conservative as it might sound, another point would probably make it a mildly successful trip considering the caliber of opponent. Either way, the Union’s playoff hopes and seeding will likely come down to their final two home games against Orlando and the Red Bulls. At this point, the best they can likely hope for is to hold off Montreal, D.C. United and New England for the No. 4 seed in the East, which would ensure them an opening-round home game. Luckily for them, Montreal and New England both lost this weekend, and although D.C. picked up a big win, they did so against another team in the playoff hunt in Orlando.

2. Another week means another question about captain Maurice Edu’s health. It’s now been more than two months since he returned to the practice field and almost a month since he started playing rehab games with the Bethlehem Steel. With only three games left in the season, it’s hard to see him becoming a starter after being out so long with a stress fracture. It also doesn’t help his case that Carroll and Creavalle are both playing well at his position. But if Edu’s healthy, there’s no sense not utilizing him as a midfield reserve or even as an emergency defensive replacement. The question, as always: is this the week he finally makes his season debut?

3. While Curtin’s lineup decisions played well in Toronto, one interesting one was not playing Roland Alberg. With Barnetta out, many Union fans probably expected Alberg to start at the No. 10 position — or, at the very least, come off the bench. But with the Union never falling behind, Curtin probably didn’t feel the need to bring in such an offensive-minded player. It was an understandable move considering the context but one that was surely disappointing for Alberg, who despite having nine goals in just over 1,000 minutes, has played only 19 minutes over the last three games and has started only once since the beginning of August. By now, you have to wonder what role the dynamic Dutchman will have in the playoffs — if he has one at all.

Stat of the week
With his seventh assist, the rookie Herbers moved into the top 10 in franchise history in career assists. He’s tied for ninth all time with Barnetta, Alejandro Moreno and Conor Casey.

Quote of the week
“I kind of even surprised myself.”

— Alejandro Bedoya, on his first MLS goal

Player of the week
Gotta give it to the guy who scored one of the best goals of the Union’s season, right? The Union now hope there’s more to come from Bedoya during the final stretch of the 2016 season.