Tag Archives: NCAA

What to Do?

This weekend was a tough one for Philadelphia sports fans.  Our beloved Phillies flamed out in the NLCS against an inferior opponent, and the Eagles forgot how to hold a lead against the Titans.   I could easily write a post full of recriminations of both the Phillies and the Eagles (hello Ryan Howard, how do you not swing at that pitch!? But don’t blame him, as set out in this post on FanGraphs) but those topics have been covered to death by both the mainstream media and in the blogosphere.  Instead of harping on that mistakes that were made (Kenny Britt and his 225 yards and 3 TDs against the Birds), I am asking – where to I turn my sporting attentions after this tough weekend?

The baseball season is over, and with the Phillies already committing $143 million to just 16 players in 2011 there will be no major signings to keep the hot stove hot during the winter.  Very little chance of entertainment or something interesting happening in that area.

The football season does not look promising either.  This Eagles team is deeply flawed, but then again so is the rest of the NFL, and looked lost in the second half against the Titans.  While Sunday’s game should settle any talk of a quarterback controversy, it didn’t provide much hope for the future.  With the Eagles facing just two teams with records currently under .500 the second half of the season could be rough.   While I haven’t given up hope yet, the NFC is a conference of parity, the Birds will need to get their act together to make some noise.  Plus, this week is a bye.

It’s much to early to care about the NHL or the NBA in a meaningful way.  Sure I will catch some games here or there, but these leagues don’t consume my attention until well into the spring (read when they get to the playoffs, with over half the teams making the postseason the regular season is rendered irrelevant).

Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of my favorite team - the Duke Blue Devils.

We are still weeks away from college basketball tipping off, but here again is another sport where I just can’t bring myself to focus more than a small amount of my attention before conference play starts in January. Sure there will be some early season marquee matchups (Duke-Michigan State on December 1 or a rematch of last year’s title game – Duke-Butler on December 4) that will draw my interest, but the season doesn’t really start until you are in conference play.

College football provides me with some distraction, but with Penn State floundering my interest is only in seeing Boise State crash the BCS title party.  What is a sports fan to do? Where do I turn for my sports distractions?

I am counting on Rhett and the Terriers to deliver me some sporting hope.

It appears college hockey, a realm where my alma mater – Boston University is a contender, and world soccer will be my areas of interest for the next several months.  While I can never quit the Eagles, I need more than just one team to fulfill my sporting needs.  So here’s to the Terriers! Here’s to Arsenal and Reading FC!  My sporting hopes lie with you, don’t let me down.

Suggestions are welcomed.

Cape Cod League Baseball

A Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox player warms up while another is at the plate.

After a couple of days off, mostly due to computer malfunctions and a getaway to celebrate my 5th anniversary, The Rally Cap is back and should have posts regularly for the near future.

The starting lineup for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox.

During the getaway to Cape Cod, my wife and I took in a Cape Cod Baseball League game. This has become something of a tradition for us when we visit the Cape during the summer. This past weekend we went to see the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox play the Chatham Anglers.

The first thing I noticed when I went to the game was that Chatham’s team name had been changed.  I remembered them being the A’s (like Oakland’s team).  Turns out that in 2008 MLB enforced its trademarks on team names.  Prior to 2008, there were teams named the Cardinals (Orleans, now the Firebirds), Mets (Hyannis, now the Harbor Hawks), A’s (Chatham), Red Sox (Yarmouth-Dennis), Bourne (Braves), and Harwich (Mariners).  Half of the teams with names associated with Major League clubs chose to change their names due to the constrictive policy MLB was enforcing.  This action by MLB is ridiculous.  The Cape league, as cited in the article link above, has an operating budget of $300,000 per year.  It’s not like it is big business making a ton of money off of trademarks owned by MLB.  My guess is that most of the revenue from merchandise sales goes back into running the Cape League.  It is shocking to me is that MLB, which provides financial support to the league, would deliver an ultimatum to the Cape League teams forcing them to do things MLB’s way or break tradition and change names. As one of the few wooden bat leagues in the country, the Cape League, which has been around since 1885, allows top college players to compete in situations that are similar to what they will face in the minors and in the big leagues.  The league is seen as one of the proving grounds for the best college players and gives teams a chance to scout players when they aren’t hitting with or pitching against an aluminum bat.  Evidence of the league’s success is that in 2009 there were 217 alumni in the majors, including Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria, Chase Utley and Kevin Youkilis.   The league is an important part of baseball’s set up and MLB should be trying to help the league rather than hurt it.

The starting lineup for the Chatham Anglers.

Rant aside, I love Cape League games.  The Cape League is a little slice of Americana.  College baseball players staying with local residents while they play the nation’s pastime on high school fields.  Can’t get more American than that.  The Cape League players are the definition of the Boys of Summer.  Going to the games is fun because the players become part of the community, and the communities on the Cape embrace their local teams.  Some of the games are so well attended that they might rival Marlins games.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a lazy summer day on the Cape than going to the beach and then heading to the ball field to see what is the equivalent of Single A minor league baseball.  I enjoy watching potential stars play against other top flight competition.  I also find the chance to speak with scouts from MLB teams interesting.  Though most wouldn’t tell me what teams they worked for, it was still exciting.

Tommy Toledo delivers a pitch during the 5th inning.

The game itself was a pitchers’ duel.  Yarmouth-Dennis’ Tommy Toledo, a righty from the University of Florida,  had his second good start of the season, giving up just 2 runs.  Chatham’s starter, Derek Self out of the University of Louisville, also gave up just 2 runs.  The Sox had the better of the offense throughout the night, racking up 12 hits to the Anglers’ 6 and were able to get at the Anglers’ bullpen to score 2 more runs and secure the 4-2 victory.

The experience was thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to seeing more games in the future.  It will be interesting to revisit this post in a few years to see if any of the players have made a mark in the majors.

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The Field of 68… Or How Will This Affect My Bracket

A mock 68 team bracket. From CBS Sports.

Yesterday afternoon the NCAA announced its new plan for an expanded 68 team NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Their decision and its timing were both shrewd maneuvers by the NCAA. They chose to announce their new plan during one of the two days a year without majors sports, and they chose to blend the two most popular potential formats for the newly dubbed “first round.” One of the most popular formats would have had the 8 lowest seeded, automatic qualifiers (teams from small conferences such as America East, Big Sky, NEC and MEAC) play 4 games to determine who would be the 16 seeds. This would have expanded on the current “opening round” format, as the two lowest seeded teams currently play for the right to be the last 16 seed. Under this scenario, at-large teams would benefit the most. More spots would be available, taking teams off the bubble. The other format suggested was to have the last 8 at-large teams play for the right to be the final 4 at-large teams in the tournament. In all likelihood, the teams that won these games would have been slotted in as 11 or 12 seeds.

By choosing to blend the two formats, the NCAA avoided thoroughly angering both the large conferences and the small conferences. If the NCAA had chosen either format, there would have been backlash from the conferences affected. I believe that if the smaller schools and conferences were forced to contest all of the play-in games we could have seen a repeat of lawsuits and potential Congressional interference similar to the what is taking place with the BCS. In forcing 4 of the lowest seeded teams to play for 16 seeds, the NCAA is hoping to create better match-ups in what has now been renamed the 2nd round (previously the first round, I know this is getting confusing). Basically, ever team between 11/12 (wherever the NCAA decides to put the at-large play-in winners) and 16 will be seeded 2 slots lower than they would have in the previous format. This should lead to better match-ups between the lowest seeded teams and their higher seeded counterparts. If the NCAA had chosen to make the at-large teams play all 4 play-ins, the power conferences would have been up in arms and several important fan-bases would have been angered. Since in the end, this is all about money the NCAA did not want to anger fans of teams that sell a lot of tickets. The decision to make the last 4 at-large teams play for the last 2 at-large spots does create come compelling basketball between middling teams from the power conferences. The standard of basketball will likely be higher in these games than in the games between the future 16 seeds, and in theory, the winners will be better teams providing better match-ups for the higher seeded team waiting to play them. One positive I could see about the new format is that mid-majors could benefit.  With the last four at-large teams playing, perhaps a few mid-majors might sneak into the tournament by winning the play-in games.

While, on the surface this might seem like a perfect compromise, I think the NCAA chickened out with this decision. While the early indication is that coaches seem to like the compromise, I think the play-in games (or as the NCAA has now dubbed them, the First Four) should have been between the last 8 at-large teams. This would have produced the most compelling basketball, and would have ensured the best television ratings for the NCAA. Since it is all about money, and television rights are the largest source of that money, why wouldn’t you want to make the best match-ups in the play-in games? I also think that the NCAA penalizes the small schools with this decision, assuring that one more school from a small conference will not see the full-fledged tournament. If the NCAA doesn’t want to include the smaller conferences, then there should be some restructuring of the divisions. Perhaps the smallest Division I conferences should be a new Division I-AA, similar to football. Given that there are over 300 teams that play Division I basketball, this could be a workable solution. Nobody seems to be unhappy with the current division of NCAA football (I’m not saying football is perfect, there should be a playoff).

Short of a landscape changing new order, I say let in the small schools. If they win their conference championship, why not allow them to compete against the other conference champions for the overall NCAA title? We don’t relegate the weakest division or conference champions in professional sports to play-in status. If we did that, the NBA Eastern conference would almost never make it to the NBA Finals and the 82-80 San Diego Padres from 2005 would not have made the playoffs. Instead of penalizing the small schools, I say make the bubble teams work for it. As I mentioned before, this would produce more compelling games and would mean that the small teams still get their one moment in the limelight. The middling teams from power conferences bound for the play-in games had all season to show they were worthy of making the tournament and weren’t quite up to that task. While these teams are undoubtedly better than the conference winners from the smaller conferences, they are just as unlikely to win the NCAA title. As Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said to ESPN, “I always thought it should be the last four in. I think if you’re one of those teams, you ought to just be happy to be in.’’  I wholeheartedly agree with this comment.

As for the bracket ramifications, it will make running the office pool infinitely more difficult. With teams being selected late Sunday and the First Four games taking place on Tuesday or Wednesday, the amount of time to fill out the bracket is cut in half. It will also make the bracket much more complicated visually and will lead the casual fan into utter confusion. I can already see my co-workers missing picks and scratching their heads as they try to fill out their bracket. Many of my co-workers had a difficult time filling out the bracket in its previous format, I can only imagine the chaos that will ensue.