Brian’s Den Newsroom April 11th, 2018

For anyone who needs a full breakdown of the millions of possible NBA playoff scenarios.

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Welcome to the Brian’s Den Newsroom

Introducing a new feature here at https://www.briansden69.com, the Newsroom. Since there’s going to (hopefully) be a lot going on in my life soon, I think this is a good way to kind of cover a lot of the stories I may not get the chance to talk about, particularly in the sports world. I’m thinking about doing these a few times a week. Let me know your thoughts- good, bad, never do it again? Either way, there’s some good stuff coming up in the near future.

I’d Rather Miss the Tournament than Lose like Cincinnati

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Listen, I know I’m a few days late on this take. So sue me. I’m planning a pretty big move, if you hadn’t heard. but just because I’m tight on time at the moment doesn’t mean I can’t generate scalding takes, and I can’t just sit on this one even if everyone’s already forgotten this game happened: I’d rather miss the NCAA Tournament/playoffs than lose the way Cincinnati just did.

Before everyone gets up in arms, Sports Take Law requires me to establish my own rooting interests: people forget I went to UConn. We did, in fact, miss the tournament. We were the worst team in D-1. Worst offense of all time. Somehow played uglier games than Virginia and Syracuse, who’s entire gameplan is to make games ugly. They were so bad they got a guy who played at UConn and won a title four years ago run out of town (yes, he was very bad and I wanted him gone, but the fact remains). We stink at basketball. You know what we didn’t do, though? Blow a 22-point second half lead in like 30 seconds.

I should also probably state that I hate Cincinnati. They’re UConn’s “rival” in the fact that they’re in the same conference and were both in the old Big East, but they’ve kicked our ass for years, now. I hate that little gremlin Mick Cronin. Guy’s got the worst roid rage of all time despite being like 5’6″ 150 lbs. I have no idea how he gets anyone to play for him. So seeing them totally collapse against Nevada was quite satisfying. One of the worst losses of all time. Cincinnati might as well have been up 50 with five minutes left. They were completely dominating. Nevada had nothing going whatsoever. No game has ever been such a sure thing. But then they just…lost. I’ve never seen a collapse like that. Not the Lakers in the 08 Finals, not the Falcons, not even Virginia. Sure, Virginia panicked after going down 2-0 against a 16 seed, but they just got their butts whupped. Cincinnati had such a stranglehold on the game the announcers had started digging into the garbage time stories with 10 minutes left. It was over. But they lost. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to know you’re going to win but then just stop playing. Talk about embarrassing! Those Cincinnati players must feel absolutely terrible about themselves. Probably going to stick with them until they die. You hate to see it.

But, yeah, I’d much rather just stink than have these losses. These games scar you. I’ve never gotten over Super Bowl 42. I’m willing to bet that one game is the reason I’m such a miserable piece of shit. Then there was Super Bowl 46. And the 2003 ALCS. And the 2010 NBA Finals. And Super Bowl 52. If I was given the option of making it to the big game and losing or missing the playoffs I’d take missing the playoffs 1000000000% of the time. I don’t need that stress in my life. I don’t need one of my teams going down in infamy because they blew it so bad. I mean, one of Cincinnati’s best players fouled out with five minutes left because he was being an idiot. Completely let his teammates and everyone who believed in him down. He’ll never get over it. I’d say it was the worst moment of his life, but after a loss like that, I won’t sit here and say he won’t go into a downward spiral. Anyway, I wouldn’t want any of my guys to have to deal with that. Sure, you have to make a few playoff runs to keep everyone off your back, but no one remembers that the Nuggets missed the playoffs in 2016, only that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead. It’s all about subverting your own expectations and keeping the pressure off, not trying to be a hero only to get dragged back to Earth in the worst way possible. Aim for mediocre, not heartbreak. Unless you can actually win, then do that.

Cincinnati’s loss was so bad no one even noticed Xavier collapsed just as bad. Rough week for Sam Wyche.

The Only Guide You’ll Need for March Madness 2018

773b17629f714a1b80f19b999bd9faa4-220px-2018_ncaa_mens_final_four_logoHere we are at the end of another college basketball season. Or the start, depending on your level of commitment. I won’t judge. Not too hard, at least. Either way, the NCAA Tournament is starting tonight. Yes, the play-in games count. What better way to warm up? Diving in to the deep end of basketball heaven on Thursday without whetting your appetite first is dangerous to your health. Without prior exposure, getting hit with the same four commercials all day can bury you. You can get used to tuning in to TruTV, even though Tournament games have been on TruTV for at least six years now, so you’re really a giant idiot if you have to ask what TruTV is in 2018 (instances like this make me wonder if I’m the weirdo for retaining information and knowing every channel I’ve ever tuned into). You can slowly expose your body to the terrible food and drinks you’ll endlessly consume over the long weekend. The First Four are a necessary step in the March Madness process, regardless of how bad the games wind up being.

Last year, I gave you a rundown of all 68 teams in the field. Everything you needed to know in one sentence. Why change anything now? Unlike the selection show executives, I see no point in messing with a winning formula. I’m here to guide you in your bracket creation. Need a refresher on who’s in the field? Forget who’s good? Stuck on a pick and need some inspiration? Look no further. With UConn sitting at home for a second straight year, my thoughts on this year’s field are unclouded by bias. It’s time to attack the bracket with a zeal unknown to mankind in pursuit of perfection. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

East Region

  1. Villanova– If Big East games weren’t stuck on FS1 I bet more people would respect Nova.
  2. Purdue– Imagine thinking Purdue was going to do anything in the tournament?
  3. Texas Tech– They’re my annual “All-In on a random team” team, which means they’re out in the first round.
  4. Wichita State– In 2018 PC culture, the fact that Wichita State is able to remain the Shockers is absolutely astounding.
  5. West Virginia– Huggins is making the Final Four this year, I can feel it in my bones.
  6. Florida– Honestly don’t think I watched one second of Florida hoops this season.
  7. Arkansas– Honestly don’t think I watched one second of Arkansas hoops this season.
  8. Virginia Tech– It’s divine March Madness law that Virginia Tech play in the 8-9 game every year.
  9. Alabama– This bracket is a little too SEC heavy for my taste.
  10. Butler– People forget Gordon Hayward almost hit that half-court shot that one time.
  11. St. Bonaventure/UCLA– Not enough colleges have brown jerseys.
  12. Murray State– I still remember being in a random Applebee’s in New York City that time they won on a buzzer beater in the first round.
  13. Marshall– If McConaughey’s there, look out.
  14. Stephen F. Austin– Hey, kind of like Stone Cold Steve Austin, right? Get it?
  15. Cal State Fullerton– How many state universities does California have, 10,000?
  16. LIU Brooklyn/Radford– There are four play-in games. Two of them are in this bracket. This annoys me.

Midwest Bracket (I don’t care if you have it in the same podunk midwest arena, for the love of God call it the North region)

  1. Kansas– Think I could suit up for Kansas and they’d still win the Big 12.
  2. Duke– *sigh* Duke’s probably winning the title this year.
  3. Michigan State– Might have two future NBA All Stars and might lose first round.
  4. Auburn– Auburn stiiiiiiiinks.
  5. Clemson– Trying to figure out the reasoning behind Clemson and Kentucky being the same seed.
  6. TCU– Such a nondescript team.
  7. Rhode Island– Everyone saying Dan Hurley is the next UConn head coach so I’m rooting for whatever result will prevent that from happening.
  8. Seton Hall– Love me some pirate mascots and also Sam Dalembert.
  9. N.C. State– They won the title in ’83, so you know they’ve got the mental makeup to go deep.
  10. Oklahoma– Quite possibly the most fixed selection of all time.
  11. Arizona State/Syracuse– I already know Syracuse will somehow win a couple games purely because they have absolutely no business being in the field whatsoever.
  12. New Mexico State– A popular upset pick, which means they’ll lose by 25.
  13. Charleston– I’m just gonna come out and say it- there’s too much maroon in the bottom of this bracket.
  14. Bucknell– Bison are one of the great American animals, they need more mascot representation.
  15. Iona– I don’t know why, but I always picture Iona’s campus as a big cathedral but they worship Satan instead of God.
  16. Penn– I’m just glad Harvard didn’t make it.

South Region

  1. Virginia– So, so, so boring, but also good.
  2. Cincinnati– If you win the American Conference tournament but no one watches, did it really happen?
  3. Tennessee– I can’t be the only one surprised that they were randomly good this year.
  4. Arizona– Haven’t seen anything this under-seeded since the first time I tried playing Farming Simulator. Bada-bing!
  5. Kentucky– “I know I only recruit highly touted one-and-done guys so we’re young by design, but you can’t blame me, we’re a young team!”- John Calipari after they lose.
  6. Miami– If The Rock has eligibility left, they might make a run.
  7. Nevada– As Greg Gumbel would say, you gotta watch out for all the Wolfpacks out there.
  8. Creighton– Just assume they have a white senior with 2,000 career points.
  9. Kansas State– Starting to feel like I didn’t watch enough college basketball this year because I have literally no opinion on so many teams.
  10. Texas– If they make a run, is Texas Officially Back?
  11. Loyola-Chicago– My sources tell me they play stifling D, which is the first step towards a Cinderella run.
  12. Davidson– Wish college Steph was still around.
  13. Buffalo– Western New York needs something good to happen, just once.
  14. Wright State– Hey, uhh, more like Wrong State, amirite?
  15. Georgia State– Ludacris went to Georgia State.
  16. UMBC– I’m salty they beat UVM, but they also have a fellow Curran on the roster, so I think I’m on-board.

West Region

  1. Xavier– The least-confident one seed in recent memory, which means they’ll win the title.
  2. North Carolina– Kind of forgot they won last year.
  3. Michigan– B1G playing in NYC a week early is the worst thing to ever happen to college basketball.
  4. Gonzaga– The Official Brian’s Den 2018 Champion Pick.
  5. Ohio State– It’d be funny if they played Michigan in the Elite 8. Because they’re rivals, you see.
  6. Houston– Is Houston Street (the New York street, not the closer) being pronounced differently than the city of Houston the most needlessly New York thing of all time?
  7. Texas A&M– Ampersands need to make a comeback.
  8. Missouri– If Mike Porter, Jr. is really all that, Xavier’s getting screwed 2nd round.
  9. Florida State– Always underwhelming in the tournament.
  10. Providence– SMH, the FBI’s investigating the NCAA and aren’t indicting the headquarters of the- BRIAN’S LAWYER HAS ADVISED HIS CLIENT TO REFRAIN FROM MAKING ANY INFLAMMATORY REMARKS FOR HIS OWN SAFETY.
  11. San Diego State– Is San Diego State guilty of appropriating Aztec culture?
  12. South Dakota State– I, for one, am tired of the stranglehold the Dakotas have over American athletics.
  13. UNC-Greensboro– They’ve got a pretty cool logo.
  14. Montana– Have to imagine Montana is a fertile basketball recruiting ground.
  15. Lipscomb– Apparently Lipscomb is in Nashville? Who knew?
  16. NC Central/Texas Southern– Calling it right now- Texas Southern’s making the Final Four.

UConn Men’s Basketball Being Investigated for Potential Recruiting Violations

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ESPN– The University of Connecticut is the target of an NCAA investigation into its men’s basketball program.

University President Susan Herbst said in a statement Friday that the school will cooperate in a “thorough and transparent manner reflective of the model athletic and academic institution we continually strive to be.”

The university didn’t specify the allegations and said it would have no further comment, but would “address and respond appropriately as the inquiry moves forward.”

Hearst Connecticut Media, which first reported the investigation, cited unidentified sources saying the inquiry was related to recruiting.

Letttt’sssssssssssss goooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!! I know I should react differently to my alma mater getting dragged into a potentially serious recruiting scandal, but I can’t help it. I guarantee this is just another case of a player taking a bunch of money. Oh no, not that! How can I possibly live with the moral implications of supporting a team that pays the players that produce millions of dollars of revenue for the school? I’d never recover.

Listen, theoretically, cheating is bad. I don’t really care, personally, and literally every single college basketball and football team that’s worth anything gives the top level recruits bags of unmarked bills, but hey, if you want to feel good about yourself you can say cheating is bad. You know what’s definitely bad? Being barely over .500 in the American Conference and, barring some miracle, missing the NCAA Tournament two out of the last three years. Kevin Ollie SUCKS. His “offense” is grade-school level at best. No UConn player has actually gotten better in their time in Storrs since Shabazz Napier, who, you know, wasn’t coached by Ollie until his senior season. His excuse for every loss is that the team isn’t “tough enough.” He never takes responsibility for his terrible game-planning and in-game “strategy,” despite the fact that he’s the coach and it’s his job to put the team in position to win, thus making virtually every loss his fault. And while I understand how many injuries there have been this season and the limitations being stuck in the AAC puts on the recruiting pool, but it’s also his fault the roster is trash. It’s literally 100% his fault UConn basketball sucks, which it never should. Which is why this potential scandal pumps me up. I’ve seen that the state of Connecticut doesn’t really want to pay his buyout and another coach at the same time. Well, virtually every big time university puts in some kind of “rules violation clause” that allows them to dump a coach caught up in something like this, so we just have to keep our fingers crossed that whatever happened happened under his watch. I don’t even care who the replacement coach is, because any organism capable of independent thought would be an upgrade. A scandal like this also gets UConn’s name back out there. The R.J. Barretts and Zion Williamsons of the world aren’t thinking about a mediocre team in a mediocre conference with a mediocre roster with a less than mediocre coach. But when it’s confirmed that you get paid to play there? Now we’re talking. Now there’s some intrigue. Now they’re thinking, “well, I used to question why I would spend my one year in college on a remote campus in the middle of Connecticut that’s surrounded by farmland and becomes a giant wind tunnel in the winter, but now that they’ve given me $100,000 and a new car, I’m sold!” One and done guys don’t care about getting caught, and nor should they. Once the penalties have run their course, this little scandal can only help UConn return to relevancy. So please, NCAA, do your worst.

So Are People Still Upset Alabama Made the Playoff?

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Remember when people thought Alabama wasn’t one of the four best teams in the country? I do. I remember having to write about how foolish it was that there was a sizable percentage of the population that thought Ohio State should have made the playoff over Ohio State. I’m not usually one to say I told you so, but I told you so. Obviously Alabama was a top four team. 90% of the roster is going to the NFL and they have the best college coach since color TV was invented. Alabama destroying Clemson last night was the most obvious result in college football history. Oh, you’re going to question Alabama’s legitimacy and give Saban even more motivation to beat the team that beat them in last year’s championship game. I apologize if you weren’t smart enough to see a complete demolition coming. It must be hard not understanding how football works.

I don’t want to be confused with a mouth breathing Alabama homer, though. I don’t particularly like them, I just recognize their inherent greatness. The Sugar Bowl was a terrible game for the most part, made even worse by the amazing Rose Bowl that preceded it (I think the Rose Bowl has the highest amazing game percentage of any annual sporting event. Literally every game is a classic). And Alabama predictably making the championship game doesn’t necessarily prove that the playoff works perfectly in its current state. How easy would it be to give this exact same take if Ohio State made it over Alabama and beat Clemson? The only thing it would prove is that both teams are better than Clemson (I don’t think people outside the northeast truly realize how bad that loss to Syracuse really is). And it’s great that we wound up with a championship game that has two of the three best teams in the country (R.I.P. Baker Mayfield), but the same team beat both of these teams, and that team turned around and lost to a team that finished 13-0 and outscored its opponents by roughly 50 points a game. It’s so easy to do this after the season when we’ve seen the results of bowl games where half the teams don’t care, by why the hell wasn’t UCF more involved in playoff talks? If you watched them for one second this year you would have known they were legit. They beat one of the best teams from the big, bad SEC, but they’re still not good enough? Huh? Because they didn’t play anybody? First of all, as the only American Conference homer on the net, back off, and second, it’s really not their fault everyone they play stinks. Alabama player Mercer and the SEC was bad this year. Did you see any SEC bowl games? Nine SEC teams made bowl games and only two besides Georgia and Alabama won. They stink. The SEC is dead. But playing Vanderbilt is really more impressive than playing Temple? Why? If the selection process was purely concerned with picking the best teams with the most talent, that’s understandable. But then there never should have been a debate about Alabama in the first place. And the committee always said it was a combination of talent and resume. Well UCF beat everyone in front of them, and most of the time by a pretty wide margin. Why are they less worthy than a team that lost to Iowa, or two teams that lost to Auburn, a good team that didn’t win their conference, or a team that lost to Washington State? Either expand the playoff or make up your mind on the kind of language you want to use as an excuse to pick the blue bloods over upstart teams. If you want to make the playoff the four teams with the most future NFL players on it, I’m fine with that. Just say that’s what you’re doing. Don’t say it’s inclusive and all about resume and then ignore the team with the best resume. Don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining.

With all that said, Alabama will clearly win the title. Georgia doesn’t win national championships. They’re close enough to qualify as an Atlanta team, they don’t have a chance. Especially playing in Atlanta. Too much history, too many expectations. All it means is that Alabama wins again and we have proof that the playoff doesn’t need to be changed since the underdog four seed won so anything can happen. Oh, well. At least it’s almost my birthday.

Are People Actually Upset That Ohio State Didn’t Make the Playoff?

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So the College Football Playoff foursome was announced yesterday, and, even though I’m sure you’ve heard every possible take about it, but I just had to throw my two cents out because, well, I’m very narcissistic and think you care about my opinion. Anyway, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama all made it, putting an end to the weeklong “Alabama or Ohio State?” debate that saw the good people of America be held hostage by two of the three worst college football fanbases (if only Penn State was in the mix, then it could have been the unholy trinity). Most reaction I’ve seen has been pretty measured and reasonable, but I’ve seen a couple thinkpieces that make me want to bang my head against the wall until I think like a retired NFL player. It’s baffling to me that anyone thinks Ohio State should have been in.

Listen, it’s obviously an imperfect system. Even though the playoff had been gathering momentum for years, when they introduced it three years ago it kind of felt rushed. Well, now that we’ve seen it works it’s time to do some tinkering. I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say expanding to 8 teams is necessary. The Power 5 conference champions then three at large teams, including any undefeated mid-major team. If this year’s playoff was Clemson-Oklahoma-Georgia-Alabama-Ohio State-USC-UCF-Wisconsin I think everyone would be happy. But only four teams make it, and it should be the four best teams. Period. Alabama is better than Ohio State. They just are. Yes, Ohio State is hot. But they also lost by 15 to Oklahoma, not the worst result ever, and by 31 to Iowa. 31!!!!! TO IOWA!!!! Iowa is terrible. They won one game after beating Ohio State. Outside Clemson’s bizarre loss to Syracuse it might be the single worst loss of the season by any team. Iowa has, what, five or six guys that’ll play in the NFL? Ohio State has five or six first round picks! They should have destroyed Iowa. They should have destroyed Wisconsin, but stopped trying after they went up 14-0. How can you look at this team and say “yeah, they’re definitely one of the best four. Have been all season?” Alabama was literally ranked ahead of them every single week. Alabama has more talent than everyone but Clemson. Did they struggle down the stretch? Sure. Did they have a brutal schedule? You betcha. Do they always get the benefit of the doubt? Yes, and for good reason. Would you be surprised if Alabama won the title? I wouldn’t. Honestly whoever wins the Sugar Bowl is winning the championship. Remember when Ohio State played Clemson last year? Clemson won 31-0. The B1G stinks. Ohio State played a soft-ass schedule and somehow lost two games. Alabama played a gauntlet of a schedule and only lost once. Pretty cut and dry, if you ask me. Yeah, Alabama didn’t make their conference championship game, but why should that really matter? Not playing that extra game didn’t turn them from the second best team in the country into the fifth. That’s asinine. They’re there because the deserve it, end of story. Now expand it to eight so we can debate who the ninth best team in the country is.

Also, for what it’s worth, USC is better than Ohio State and should have been getting the hype Ohio State got.