Tonight: The NCAA's Other National Champion Problem

Tonight: The NCAA's Other National Champion Problem

The NCAA Tournament is the most overrated post-season in sports because
it fails at the most basic level, which is to crown a true national

26 years ago, the
Villanova Wildcats men's basketball team pulled off what is considered
one of the biggest upsets in sports history, defeating top ranked
Georgetown to win the National Championship. It was the first year the
NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, and the No. 8 seed Cats navigated
the field to go from almost certain also-rans to being named the best
team in the land in a matter of weeks.

At the risk of alienating a generation of Nova fans, and as
incredible as that feat was, winning six games in a row at the end of
the season should not suddenly earn a team the title. With a 19-10
record entering the Tournament, Villanova wasn't in the top 20, wasn't
even one of the top teams in their conference, and actually lost to the
Hoyas in two previous meetings. If there was any justice, the Wildcats
would have been forced to beat them again, maybe even twice, before they
could finally claim they won it all.

On its face, the now-68 team tournament is one of the most democratic
ways to determine a champion. No team sport has a more inclusive
playoff, with automatic berths going to all 33 conference winners, and
35 at-large bids awarded to the best of the rest. The tournament itself
is designed to give the highest seeds the theoretical easiest path to
the final without reslotting the entire field after every round.

That's all fine and good, but then how do we wind up with Virginia
Commonwealth in the final four, or Butler in back-to-back finals? You
can simply make the case they won their games, therefore they deserve to
be there. The Bulldogs especially look like less of a fluke on the
strength of consecutive championship game appearances.

Maybe, maybe not. The truth is, there really is no way to tell for
sure. Coming into the tournament, No. 8 seed Butler played just one
ranked opponent this season, a 12- point home loss to Duke. They lost
five games in the Horizon League, a conference that sent no other teams
to the dance. Their 23-9 record wasn't strong enough to earn them a spot
on the final AP Top 25, yet suddenly we are to believe they currently
have one of the top two programs in the nation.

They've vindicated themselves to a degree with tournament wins over
Pitt, Wisconsin, and Florida. Still, only one of those finishes was even
remotely convincing. They needed help from the Panthers, and overtime
to squeak by the Gators. Then they drew one of the most ridiculous
match-ups ever in the Final Four with No. 11 VCU. Yeah, that's legit.

What it boils down to is an issue with the single-elimination aspect
to the tournament. Does one basketball game produce the best team?
Sometimes it does, but often enough it does not. If No. 1 Kansas said,
"Let's run that one back," would VCU beat them again? Could they beat
them in a best-of-three series, even if the Jayhawks spotted them the
first game?

Who knows, but that's the point. The NBA doesn't leave things up to
chance. Eventually, somebody came along and realized a three-game series
wasn't enough, and again, as recently as 2006 somebody decided even a
five-game series didn't quite do the trick either. That's an extreme
example, but at no stage in the history of the NBA playoffs did anybody
think it was wise for a club to advance after one victory.

Of course, the NCAA will never change the current format, except to
expand and further dilute it. In fact, I'm not even advocating a new
system. This thing is wildly popular, and I must concede it's at least
fair (other than the new, randomly placed play-in games), even if
imperfect. Plus, without denying entry to an overwhelming number of
schools, some maybe even deserving of an opportunity to compete for
their sport's ultimate prize, it isn't logistically possible to play a
round-robin or best-of series. It would simply take too much time.

So, what then?

Well, if you enjoy March Madness, who am I to argue? Even I get a
kick out of the first weekend, watching schools I've never heard of
crush the dreams of schools I don't care about. Maybe those upsets are
meant to serve as a reminder that this is all in good fun, because as
the tournament drags on, and you realize the chances that the actual two
best teams will meet in the final round are miniscule, it all seems
relatively meaningless.

Which is ironic, because while the flawed BCS is crucified every
December as it attempts to pair the best two teams in college football
to play for the National Championship, the NCAA Tournament gets a pass
because it's exciting, and perhaps more importantly, people like filling
out brackets. At the end of the day though, their champion deserves the
same scrutiny, if not more.

The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver


The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver

I’ve been saying it since early 2000s: The Eagles will never, ever win a Super Bowl again until they go out and get a big-time wide receiver. 

The one year they had one -- 2004, with Terrell Owens -- they got to the Super Bowl. But they never got there earlier, with the likes of Na Brown, Todd Pinkston and James Thrash; nor later, when they blew it with T.O. and failed to land Big-Time Receivers like Roy Williams, Erik Moulds, Javon Walker, or Peerless Price. 

We face a similar situation today.  The Eagles are 4-2 and just beat the Vikings, the league’s last undefeated team. But the team’s lackluster receiving corps threatens to derail the season, and with it the crucial first year of Carson Wentz’s career. Missing out on the playoffs in their rookie year because of receivers who can’t catch the ball is the sort of thing that ruins young quarterbacks for life. 

Don’t make the same mistake again, Howie Roseman. Go out and get Alshon Jeffrey. Or Torrey Smith. Or better yet, Alshon Jeffrey AND Torrey Smith. I don’t care what it takes- and it’s not like the Eagles are ever having draft picks again anyway. 

Of course, none of this would be a problem if we’d traded for Anquan Boldin. I’ve wanted the Eagles to get Anquan Boldin for 10 years, and they never have- not even this year, when he was a free agent, and he went and signed with the Lions and helped beat us two weeks ago.  

So in conclusion: Do whatever it takes, Howie. Start a bidding war. Just keep offering #1 picks until the Bears or Niners say yes. 


In an event I’d have considered considerably less likely than either the prospect of a Cubs world championship or the election of a woman as president of the United States, Joel Embiid on Wednesday night played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. It took almost three years, but Embiid finally passed Andrew Bynum on the Sixers’ All-Time Games Played List. 

But Embiid was not the MVP for the Sixers’ opener. That title goes to the older gentleman who charged at Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with two raised middle fingers, as he screamed an f-bomb at him. 

Yes, he was thrown out of the arena, though had it been up to me I’d have given the guy a ticket upgrade, and possibly a job with the team. The greater point is, how many times did you see fans in courtside seats flipping the bird at opposing superstars, in the three years Sam Hinkie was in charge? Exactly. The passion for the Sixers is back. 

My ideal scenario: The Sixers trade for Russell Westbrook, and the cover of next year’s team yearbook is Westbrook and that fan, side by side, flipping the bird together. 


Other Philly sports takes: 

- It’s so, so pathetic that Pittsburgh keeps changing the name of its hockey arena. 

- I heard they were doing E-A-G-L-E-S chants at the Sixers home opener. Awful- they should keep that stuff where it belongs, at Phillies games. 

- I can't figure out how to pronounce Big V's full name so for now I'll just call him "Winston Justice.”

- My thoughts on the WIP lineup changes? It’s about to time they gave a shot to an ex-Eagle in the mid-day, and an overweight out-of-towner in the afternoon. 

Follow @FakeWIPCaller on Twitter. 

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

USA Today Images

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Lawyers for a former Penn State assistant football coach urged a judge and jurors Thursday to find the university liable for how it treated him after it became public that his testimony helped prosecutors charge Jerry Sandusky with child molestation.

McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other damages, saying he was defamed by a statement the school president released the day Sandusky was charged, retaliated against for helping with the Sandusky investigation and misled by school administrators.

Sandusky, a former defensive coach at Penn State, was convicted in 2012 of sexual abuse of 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. He maintains his innocence.

In closing arguments Thursday, Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad emphasized that McQueary had said he was damaged by public criticism that he did not to go to police or child-welfare authorities when he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001. Instead he reported it the next day to then-head coach Joe Paterno.

"Mr. McQueary was not damaged by any action of the university," Conrad argued. "Mr. McQueary, as he testified and as he recognized, if he was harmed, was harmed by national media and public opinion."

McQueary testified he has not been able to find work, either in coaching or elsewhere, but Conrad blamed that on an inadequate network of contacts and the lack of a national reputation.

Judge Thomas Gavin will decide the whistleblower count, a claim that McQueary was treated unfairly as the school suspended him from coaching duties, placed him on paid administrative leave, barred him from team facilities and then did not renew his contract shortly after he testified at Sandusky's 2012 trial.

McQueary was not allowed to coach in the school's first game after Paterno was fired, a home loss to Nebraska.

"That sends a very clear signal to those in your network that the university doesn't want you to be supported," Strokoff said. "`Stay away, you're a nonperson.'"

Penn State has argued it put McQueary on leave out of safety concerns, as threats were fielded by the university.

Strokoff said there was no evidence of multiple death threats against his client, and called McQueary's treatment outrageous.

"He should not have been the scapegoat," Strokoff said.

Jurors will decide the defamation claim and a misrepresentation allegation that two administrators lied to him when they said they took his report of Sandusky seriously and would respond appropriately.

Conrad insisted they did take steps to inform McQueary about the actions they were taking, which included meeting with Sandusky and an official from the children's welfare charity he founded, and telling Sandusky to stop bringing children into team facilities.

"No one told Mr. McQueary, `You cannot go to the police,'" Conrad said.

The defamation claim involves a statement issued by Penn State then-president Graham Spanier expressing support for the two administrators, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz, when they were charged with perjury in November 2011 for allegedly lying about what McQueary told them in the weeks after the 2001 incident.

The perjury charges against them were dismissed earlier this year by a state appeals court, but Curley, Schultz and Spanier still await trial in Harrisburg on charges of failure to properly report suspected child abuse and endangering the welfare of children.

McQueary lawyer Elliot Strokoff said Spanier's statement could have led people to conclude McQueary was a liar.

"If the charges are groundless, then the grad assistant lied," Strokoff said. "And that's defamation."

Conrad said Spanier's statement indicated the charges against his two top lieutenants would be proven groundless.