by Tom Weppel
By the end of this weekend, we will know who is in the 65-team NCAA Tournament field. About half the field will be determined with the conference tournaments. The other half will then be decided and chosen with at-large slots. Those slots are the ones that create all sorts of debate as to who should be in, and who should be out.
Each year there are a few teams that generate controversy. Of course, everyone thinks they are an expert, or a ‘bracketologist’, to use the term. Plenty of pundits are collecting data, looking at strength of schedule, who beat whom, and who lost to whatever team.
That controversy alone is enough to keep the interest in this Tournament at a pretty high level. The people that love this the most are ESPN and CBS. ESON has given us way too many games to watch, including even the most obscure conferences. CBS loves this as well, since it all builds up for the Tournament, starting next week. All this generates interest and ratings.
In the meantime, this weekend has given us plenty of conference tournament action, but with only a few upsets here and there. For all intents, these major conference tournaments have lost their significance, since we already have a pretty solid idea who is playing in the NCAA.
The Big East Tournament has been ongoing since Tuesday, being played in Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. This tournament forces the New York Knicks to go on a short road trip while the Big East takes over the court. The timing for the Knicks is not the best, as they have once again struggled this season.
Meanwhile, the ACC Tournament is the granddaddy of them all, having started back in the 1950’s. While it has bounced around to a few other cities, this year it is being played at their old stomping grounds in Greensboro, NC. Of course, things are not ALL the same, as the UNC Tar Heels are simply a shadow of what they were a year ago.
Tournaments are being held in all the other major conferences, including the SEC and the Big 12. Most of the teams in these conferences have a good idea whether they will be in or out of the NCAA Tournament field.
By Sunday, we’ll know match ups, seedings, and favorites, as things become quite clear for all those involved. Look for Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, and probably Duke to claim the four #1 seeds for the regionals. In the meantime, there will be plenty of action to watch this weekend…
In this first week-plus of the free agency period, we have seen that a few teams are indeed ready and willing to shell out some bucks to fill their roster needs. The lack of a salary cap has not necessarily broken up the ways and means of a majority of the teams in the NFL so far. While there are a couple that have gone all out, a few others have laid low in signing any veterans.
If there was one team that stepped out of their usual tendencies, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers. Usually, they will build almost exclusively through the Draft. In the past week, though, they went out and did some deals, picking up WR’s Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El, who played with the Steelers previously. They also signed Will Allen and Ryan Clark to fortify their defense and special teams. And so it should be interesting to see how these signings work for Pittsburgh, heading into training camp.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars did two deals, signing former Chargers Kassim Osgood, then snagging former Packer DE Aaron Kampman, who they feel very good about, even though he comes in following ACL surgery in December. Kampman will hopefully bring strength and production to the D-line, who showed us virtually nothing this past season.
There are still a number of ‘name’ free agents available on the market. It’ll be interesting to see if they are signed, by how much, and to whom will they go. It is still very possible team curiosity concerning the future will affect their status, in various ways…
NOTE: Torry Holt was up in Connecticut recently, at the ESPN studios, promoting himself. He says he still feels like he’s got a few years left in him to catch passes. While here with the Jags, he didn’t seem to be as productive as the team would’ve liked. Conversely, my feeling is Holt was never comfortable here. Guess the stage in Jacksonville wasn’t large enough for him…