Rant off the bat...
The pod system strikes again.
The "pod" system, quite possibly one of the dumbest ideas in NCAA Tournament history, has caused more confusion in two years than thought possible. Last year, we had the simple problem of not knowing where and when teams were playing until the day of the game, just because no newspaper could reasonably figure out how teams from the same region were playing in different cities (an aside: Oklahoma City is not in the East and Spokane is not in the South. I'm glad I got that off my chest).
Now this year the NCAA has a potential disaster on its hands. If BYU wins two games, an unlikely but not impossible scenario, the Cougars would then have to switch regions because they are currently feeding into a Friday-Sunday regional from a Thursday-Saturday sub-regional, and the Mormon-owned school can't play on Sundays.
So, let me get this straight. The NCAA saw they'd placed BYU in a Thursday-Saturday sub-regional, and under the old system this meant they'd feed into a Thursday-Saturday regional, so they assumed they were fine. They forgot about their stupid pods, and only were clued in when BYU officials called and pointed out the mistake to them.
The NCAA should take this as a hint to scrap the pod system. The benefit of creating excitement at early round sites is offset by the homecourt advantage some teams receive and the confusion that people filling out brackets must endure.
March Madness is great, but Pod Madness must stop.
• Hey, Dick Vitale didn't pick Duke to go to the Final Four. This shocks me, not because I think Duke is good (I don't) but because Vitale is obviously on the Blue Devils' payroll. Throughout the ACC Championship, he praised Chris Duhon's senior leadership, even though Duhon has been awful this season, and was even benched at a point for a lack of leadership. He also told us frequently how much he liked J.J. Redick, who is the next coming of Mike Dunleavy, Jr., just without the ability to create his own shot (by my count, only one of his baskets came off his own move). Next season, I'm going to make it a goal of mine to not watch a Duke game if it is being announced by Vitale.
• CBS has a real potential problem on its hands, and we saw the start of it yesterday. The network, which has exclusive rights to the men's tournament, had to break into yesterday's SEC Championship to cover President Bush's press conference at the U.N. If the U.S. goes to war in the next few days, it would definitely affect coverage of the NCAA Tournament. There have been talks about shifting the tournament to one of Viacom's other networks, but the best option for fans has to be putting early rounds on ESPN and ESPN2. Hopefully Viacom and Disney can get together and get something done before Thursday.
• For my last installment of Tiger Tracks, I'm going to go off on a tangent and talk about CAA Champion UNC-Wilmington. The Seahawks are an 11 seed in the South, facing defending champion Maryland in the first round. While UNCW has to be happy with the high seed (a seed that suggests they could be on their way to Gonzaga/SIU type respect), the opponent isn't a great matchup. The Terps strength is guard play, and they may be able to shut down Brett Blizzard, the two-time CAA Player of the Year. Still, I plan on picking the Seahawks for the first-round upset. Go CAA!
eBay Item of the Week
• Tickets and hotel reservations for the Final Four. The seats are Section 621, Row 15, Seats 13 and 14, and the hotel is the Fairmont, only five blocks from the French Quarter. Current bid is $500. Ends March 23, 5:49 p.m. PST.
• Syracuse will make the Final Four. So will Kentucky. I'll have the rest of my picks later in the week. But I'm sold on Syracuse and Kentucky.