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

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to North America, German Rubtsov

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to North America, German Rubtsov

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we feature the Flyers’ 2016 first-round pick who escaped his motherland of Russia for a better situation — no, not the United States, Canada.

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/190, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
If there was any doubt as to why it was important for Rubtsov to terminate his KHL contract to relocate to North America, the questions were answered last week. Rubtsov made waves in his QMJHL debut tour for the Chicoutimi, quadrupling his KHL production in just three games for the Saguenéens, registering four points in three games.

It did not take long for the 6-foot forward to make noise for Chicoutimi, which had the center playing on the wing as he gets acclimated to the North American game. In a 4-3 shootout win over Halifax, Rubtsov immediately put his stamp on the Saguenéens with a two-assist, six-shot performance in which he was named the game’s third star.

Both of Rubtsov’s apples were nothing to write home about, though he made strong hockey plays on both, his second assist in particular in which he scooped up the puck along the boards and pushed it to the blue line. In the overtime period, he twice had serious scoring chances on the same shift, displaying his speed and power on one and failing to score on a breakaway the other. It was a quiet night for Rubtsov on Friday in Chicoutimi’s 1-0 loss to Saint John, but the Russian showered the stat sheet Saturday.

In his third contest, Rubtsov registered his first career QMJHL goal, a power-play tally, and another assist in a 6-4 win over Acadie-Bathurst. Outside of the points, there was plenty else to like from Rubtsov from last week. Touted as a 200-foot player, he showcased his defensive prowess Friday against the Sea Dogs, taking away a passing lane that resulted in a Chicoutimi rush.

There was much to like about Rubtsov’s first week in the Q. Considering the frustrating start to this season with HC Vityaz, Rubtsov will finally get a fair shake at playing time.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Stolarz missed both weekend games against Providence and Hershey because of a lower-body injury believed to have been suffered in his 5-3 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, which was also his 23rd birthday. Head coach Scott Gordon said Saturday night he was “waiting to hear from the doctor.” Lehigh Valley called up Mark Dekanich from Reading to fill in as Alex Lyon’s backup — Dekanich did see game action Saturday.

It looked like Stolarz was on track to start at least three of the Phantoms’ four games last week before the injury. He stopped 25 of 28 shots in Lehigh Valley’s 4-3 over Springfield on Monday, and followed that outing up with 35 saves in a 5-3 victory to the Penguins on Friday night. It’s unclear if Stolarz will miss any time this week.

Battling for the net with Lyon, Stolarz is 9-3 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .921 save percentage and one shutout in 12 games this season. His competition, Lyon, has been strong as well, despite a clunker on Saturday night against the Bruins.

Lyon was yanked against Providence after 27:02 and allowing four goals on 16 shots, but rebounded well Sunday night against Hershey. Lyon stopped 25 of 26 shots against the Bears, and lost his shutout bid about seven minutes into the third period.

The crease is crowded at Lehigh Valley, but if Stolarz should miss time, Lyon has shown this season he’s more than capable of handling the workload.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
Another strong week for Hart, the Flyers’ top goaltending prospect. The 2016 second-round pick picked up two more wins in four games last week for Everett, stopping 113 of 94 shots he faced. On Friday, Hart picked up his sixth shutout of the season, a 33-save blanking of the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 1-0 victory of the Silvertips. In Everett’s 4-3 shootout loss to Spokane on Sunday night, Hart stopped 16 of 19 shots, but did give up 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the loss. He was beaten just once in the shootout. Hart is now 19-4-5 on the season, with a 1.90 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Scott Laughton, C, 6-1,190 , Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Remember Laughton? The 2012 first-round pick had a huge week for the Phantoms last week, as he’s continuing to work his way back into the Flyers’ future plans. Laughton turned in a five-point week, recording points in all four games and picking up his third multi-point game of the season Sunday. He had a goal in three of those four games, and tallied an assist in the Phantoms’ 9-1 blowout loss to Providence Saturday. He helped the Phantoms to a 5-1 win over Hershey on Sunday with a goal and an assist. He’s now up to eight goals and 18 points in 26 games this season at Lehigh Valley.

Quick hits
Tanner Laczynski missed both of No. 11 Ohio State’s showdowns with No. 1 Penn State last weekend. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions split the weekend series.

• Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen rebounded well after a rough outing last Tuesday in an 8-4 loss to Dartmouth, in which he yielded six goals on 18 shots before being pulled.

Madsen responded with a 26-save shutout in No. 6 Harvard’s 3-0 win over Brown University on Friday, and then stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 1-1 tie with Yale.

• Michigan forward Cooper Marody went pointless in the Wolverines’ weekend home-and-home with Michigan State, but did score the shootout winner Saturday night.

Mark Friedman added two assists in Bowling Green’s 3-2 loss to Alaska on Friday, and was pointless Saturday, as the Falcons split the weekend with the Aces with a 2-1 win. With 19 points, the junior blueliner is third on Bowling Green in points.

• Brynäs IF netminder Felix Sandstrom gave up four goals on 24 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over Orebro on Thursday night in his lone game last week.

• Sandstrom’s teammate, Oskar Lindblom, added another goal last week, also in Thursday’s game against Orebro. Lindblom had three shots on net in 20:52 against Orebro. He now leads Brynäs with 31 points and is tied for third in the SHL.

David Kase found himself playing fourth-line center for Piráti Chomutov on Friday and Sunday, partially because of a team need down the middle. Kase did have an assist Tuesday. Sunday, he played just 3:35 against HC Vítkovice Rider and was 3 for 3 in the faceoff dot. He played more Friday (9:25) and saw some PP time vs. HC Karlovy Vary.

Connor Bunnaman had a productive week for Kitchener, adding two goals and three assists in four games. He had a goal and an assist Tuesday in a 4-3 win over Windsor, and then a goal in the Rangers’ 5-3 win over Ottawa on Sunday.

• Phantoms All-Star Taylor Leier had a goal and two assists Friday vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, an assist Saturday against Providence Saturday and another Sunday against Hershey. He now has 19 assists and 27 points in 31 games.

Eagles storylines to watch this week at Senior Bowl

Eagles storylines to watch this week at Senior Bowl

It's time again for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. 

This is the week where the NFL world converges into the smallish Alabama city and takes it over until the game. The North and South squads will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, leading up to the game Saturday. 

This offseason hasn't been as crazy as the last one for the Eagles, but there are still plenty of organizational questions left to be answered. 

Maybe we'll start to get those answers this week: 

Play nice, Howie
Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said at his season-ending press conference that new personnel head Joe Douglas will be the guy who sets the draft board, but Roseman said the responsibility still falls on him. 

That, theoretically, means the Eagles could find themselves in a situation where on draft day, they go against their draft board. 

Douglas came to the Eagles as the result of a long search for a personnel head and comes with an impressive pedigree. But he can only be as successful as Roseman lets him be. Now, we'll have to try to figure out if their relationship is really working. 

Doug's role
The last time Doug Pederson was in Alabama for the Senior Bowl, his full staff was just coming together and he was pretty consumed with trying to learn how to become a head coach and implement his scheme. So he answered a few questions about the players he wanted on the team — and very likely let his opinion be known about the quarterbacks — and went back to his business. 

But as this season wrapped up, Pederson said he'd like to play a bigger role in the entire process. Will the Eagles let him? 

If nothing else, Pederson should at least be more available to give his opinion on players and spend time with them during the pre-draft process. 

Filling the holes 
The Eagles have had decent success finding players at the Senior Bowl. Last year, they got their first extended look at a quarterback from North Dakota State who was soaring up draft boards. 

Aside from Carson Wentz, they've drafted plenty of other Senior Bowl players in recent years: Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe, Lane Johnson, Jordan Matthews and Marcus Smith. 

There are plenty of interesting prospects at this year's Senior Bowl, too. Four possible first-round corners will be in attendance: Cordrea Tankersley, Tre’Davious White, Cameron Sutton and Jourdan Lewis. There are also a few wide receivers to keep an eye on: Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Taywan Taylor, among them.