Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

March Sadness

This poem was my attempt to creatively channel my feelings of sadness and disappointment that the 2020 NCAA Tournament was (understandably) canceled because of COVID-19.

The visual bracket poem is meant to be read round-by-round rather than one whole region at a time to mimic the flow of a standard NCAA Tournament. I also put the full text of the poem in the description for an easier, more straightforward reading experience. It is still really strange and sad that there is no Selection Sunday happening today.

“March Sadness” by Matt Hubert

No conference tourney titles.
No auto-bid qualifiers.
No number one overall seed.
No one-seeded Dayton Flyers.

No Big Ten earning 10 or more.
No Kansas vs. Baylor III.
No fans rooting for Duke to fail.
No Pac-12 champs. No SEC.

No Selection Sunday to watch.
No “on the bubble” teams get in.
No bracketology this year.
No office bracket pools to win.

No invites sent to the Big Dance.
No Dick Vitale complaints to hear.
No Lunardi bracket breakdowns.
No predictions to make this year.

No filling out 15 brackets.
No chance to do 1 or 2 more.
No buzz Thursday morning in schools.
No students who peek at the score.

No Thursday at noon tip-off time.
No afternoon basketball treats.
No first-round games at neutral sites.
No sparse crowds. No fans in the seats.

No covert watching basketball.
No calling in “sick” just because.
No escape from day-to-day life.
No going back to how it was.

No TVs with b-ball on them.
No four games, four channels, same time.
No bars crowded with fans cheering.
No gamblers betting on the lines.

No buzzer-beating 3-point shots.
No Cinderella stories—none.
No fight songs played by student bands.
No “madness” redefined as fun.

No upset wins to brag about.
No big bracket-busting losses.
No highlight reel recaps to watch.
No slow-mo replays and pauses.

No Jim, Raf, and Grant on the call.
No first-possession “man-to-man.”
No “with the kiss” or “send it in!”
No last second “Onions!” shot. Damn.

No Sweet 16 sleepers to watch.
No second weekend with 12 games.
No star players making star plays.
No chance they become household names.

No Elite 8 blueblood clashes.
No dream matchups when greats collide.
No mascots with unique nicknames.
No Bluejays, Bison, Norse, or Pride.

No Werner ladders propped to climb.
No coach to point to fans above.
No players to help cut the net.
No new champs to feel the love.

No Monday night championship.
No “One Shining Moment” montage.
No celebration to witness.
No one to cue Luther Vandross.

No 68. No Final Four.
No postponement. Canceled for sure.

No March Madness is March Sadness.

NCAA Championship Thoughts

Some quick thoughts from yesterday’s NCAA Championship game, which Kansas won 75-68 in overtime.

1. They say defense wins championships, but you can’t teach free throw defense. Kansas held Memphis to 20 percent shooting at the free throw line down the stretch, which opened the door for the Jayhawks’ comeback victory.

2. Every rose has its thorn and for Memphis freshman Derrick Rose, it was the Kansas defense, especially in the first half. Kansas’ length and athleticism kept Rose out of the paint and the scorebook for much of the first half, limiting the probable lottery pick’s impact.

3. I don’t have a problem with Roy Williams supporting Kansas, a school he coached for many years, even after they beat his North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. But don’t you think he could have done better than that gaudy Jayhawks logo on that black shirt? It looked like he bought a giant sticker logo from the concessions stands and pasted it on.

4. This was almost a case of deja vu. Kansas fans surely recall the 2003 NCAA Championship when two missed free throws by Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick left the door open for the Jayhawks at 81-78. But Warrick made up for the free throw misfires by swatting away Michael Lee’s would-be tying 3-pointer. Derrick Rose was unable to duplicate that feat for Memphis after his missed free throw kept Kansas within one shot — drained by Mario Chalmers — of a tie.

5. Neither of these teams is likely to follow in Florida’s footsteps and bring back its core group from this season next year. Memphis loses Joey Dorsey to graduation, but more importantly, Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts are likely to test NBA Draft waters. Kansas’ Brandon Rush is likely gone as well, joining seniors Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson.

6. Billy Packer was about 3-4 possessions late in recognizing when Kansas’ defense shifted to a box-and-1. It’s time for a change, CBS. And while you’re at it, give Gus Johnson the Final Four play-by-play responsibilities as well.

7. Great game, but a disappointing overtime. Memphis seemed totally deflated after blowing the lead in regulation when the truth is they still had five minutes of basketball left to earn the championship. Despite an NCAA record 38 wins for the season, Memphis won’t be remembered as the team of 2008 in college basketball.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

The Monday After the Onset of Madness

This is what a college basketball hangover feels like. After a weekend of bracket-busting madness, I find my picks ranking me in a tie for dead last over at MattHubert.com. Tied with my mom.

Once again, knowing so much helped me so little when it came to filling out my bracket. The redeeming factor is that my favorite team in the tournament (UCLA) also doubles as my pick to win it all, and they are still alive. Barely. Even the mighty Bruins flirted with disaster, falling behind by 10 points in the second half.

Three double digit seeds won two games apiece in the tournament. Meanwhile the entire state of Indiana failed me by winning just three games combined. Thanks a lot Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana.

Two regions have been nearly without upset. In the East, only 9th-seeded Arkansas beating 8th-seeded Indiana saw a lower seed advance. Ditto in the South where #5 Michigan State over #4 Pittsburgh was the lone surprise. But the West and Midwest regions have made up for it. Twelfth seeded Villanova and Western Kentucky moved on to the Sweet 16 whereas 2-seeds Georgetown and Duke went home early.

For what it’s worth (and at this point, the answer is “not much”), here are my second chance picks for the second weekend of the tournament:



1. North Carolina over 4. Washington State
The Tar Heels will not eclipse the century mark for a third straight game because the Cougars play stingy defense, but Washington State still won’t have enough points to match Carolina’s total with a healthy Ty Lawson running the show.

3. Louisville over 2. Tennessee
I thought Tennessee was ripe for an upset. And after a first round scare against American and an overtime thriller against Butler, I think Louisville is the team that gets in done in a mini-upset.


1. Kansas over 12. Villanova
There’s a reason why Villanova was the lowest seeded at large team in the tournament. As impressive as their comeback win was against Clemson, they received a gift when they received Siena in the round of 32. Kansas will end the Wildcats’ season right here.

10. Davidson over 3. Wisconsin
Davidson is not a fluke team. If the clutch performances of Stephen Curry against Gonzaga and Wisconsin weren’t enough, consider this: the Wildcats haven’t lost a game in 2008. Yes, that’s 24 straight wins since a one-point loss at North Carolina in December 2007. Wisconsin is a strong, tough-minded team from the Big 10, but Curry and company seem to have that magic touch.


5. Michigan State over 1. Memphis
Memphis nearly did itself in at the foul line against a Mississippi State team that had no business being in the game late. The Spartans won’t let Memphis off the hook so easily. Look for the guard combination of freshman Kalin Lucas and senior Drew Neitzel to pull the upset and knock off the first number one seed in the tournament.

2. Texas over 3. Stanford
The Longhorns have the edge on the perimeter and the Cardinal possess the advantage on the inside. In the end, I expect D.J. Augustin to bounce back from an embarrassing airball free throw late in the game against Miami to outperform Stanford’s twin towers, Brook and Robin Lopez.


1. UCLA over 12. Western Kentucky
The offensive highlight of the tournament’s opening weekend belongs to Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers, who hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three to defeat Drake in overtime 101-99. The defensive highlight of the tournament’s opening weekend belongs to UCLA’s Josh Shipp, who made a game-saving shot block to secure the Bruins’ 51-49 second-round win against Texas A&M. In the third round, expect most of the highlights to favor UCLA, who simply has too much talent for the Hilltoppers to overcome.

7. West Virginia over 3. Xavier
West Virginia’s Joe Alexander may be the best player in the West region not named Kevin Love. The 6-8 junior is playing his way up the NBA Draft boards and may be playing his team within a game of the Final Four. Xavier won’t go down without a fight, but the Musketeers showed vulnerabilities against Georgia and Purdue and West Virginia is playing better than both those teams right now.



1. North Carolina over 3. Louisville


1. Kansas over 10. Davidson


2. Texas over 5. Michigan State


1. UCLA over 7. West Virginia

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Winning Six in a Row

The 2008 NCAA Tournament field is set. Between now and the tournament tip-off on Thursday, experts and analysts will break down dozens of factors that contribute to success in the tournament: quality guard play, a low-post presence, 3-point shooting, free throw shooting, rebounding, turnovers, senior leadership, star players. You get the idea.


Some combination involving all those factors and more will eventually result in a national champion, but let’s face it. No one knows exactly what that combination will be. The only guaranteed formula that results in a championship year after year is to win six games in a row.


That is not an easy feat, especially when teams will be facing quality opponents in each round of the tournament with the possible exception of round one for top seeds. Still, one team has to win six pressure-packed games in a row. Eight teams in the field haven’t managed to string together that many wins in a row all season. It’s hard to imagine that changing now for Boise State, George Mason, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, UNLV and Winthrop.


Of the 57 teams in the field that have managed a streak of six wins or better, only 18 repeated a second streak of six wins or more. Four teams – UCLA, Georgetown, Xavier and Butler – have three streaks of that length.


Of course, one should also examine the strength of teams beaten during a streak, but in terms of sheer length, some teams stand out. Four teams – Kansas, Memphis, Drake and Davidson – have enjoyed win streaks of more than 20. And Davidson’s current 22-game win streak is the longest of the 14 active streaks of six wins or more.


Wisconsin, Duke and North Carolina are the only teams to register two streaks of more than 10-straight victories. Meanwhile, Kansas and Memphis have active seven-game streaks after amassing streaks of 20-plus wins earlier in the season.


The most important streak of all, however, starts (or continues) this week for someone. It will take some luck, some talent and six more victories.


All the tournament teams are listed below along with their winning streaks of six or more.


1. North Carolina: 18 games, 11 games (active)
*16. Coppin State: 8 games / Mount St. Mary’s: 6 games
8. Indiana: 13 games
9. Arkansas: 6 games
5. Notre Dame: 10 games
12. George Mason: N/A
4. Washington State: 14 games
13. Winthrop: N/A
6. Oklahama: N/A
11. Saint Joseph’s: 6 games
3. Louisville: 9 games
14. Boise State: N/A
7. Butler: 9 games, 8 games (twice)
10. South Alabama: 13 games, 6 games
2. Tennessee: 11 games, 9 games
15. American: 6 games


* will be decided by Tuesday’s Opening Round game


1. Kansas: 20 games, 7 games (active)
16. Portland State: 9 games
8. UNLV: N/A
9. Kent State: 7 games, 6 games
5. Clemson: 10 games
12. Villanova: 6 games
4. Vanderbilt: 16 games, 7 games
13. Siena: 6 games (active)
6. USC: 6 games
11. Kansas State: 6 games
3. Wisconsin: 10 games (active), 10 games
14. Cal State Fullerton: 6 games (active)
7. Gonzaga: 8 games, 6 games
10. Davidson: 22 games (active)
2. Georgetown: 8 games, 7 games, 6 games
15. UMBC: 9 games


1. Memphis: 26 games, 7 games (active)
16. Texas-Arlington: 8 games
8. Mississippi State: 9 games
9. Oregon: N/A
5. Michigan State: 11 games
12. Temple: 7 games (active)
4. Pittsburgh: 11 games
13. Oral Roberts: 11 games
6. Marquette: 7 games
11. Kentucky: N/A
3. Stanford: 7 games (twice)
14. Cornell: 16 games (active)
7. Miami (FL): 12 games
10. Saint Mary’s: 7 games, 6 games
2. Texas: 11 games, 8 games
15. Austin Peay: 6 games (active), 6 games


1. UCLA: 10 games (active), 9 games, 7 games
16. Mississippi Valley State: 9 games (active)
8. BYU: 9 games, 6 games
9. Texas A&M: 8 games, 7 games
5. Drake: 21 games
12. Western Kentucky: 11 games, 6 games (active)
4. Connecticut: 10 games
13. San Diego: 7 games
6. Purdue: 11 games
11. Baylor: 6 games
3. Xavier: 11 games, 7 games, 6 games
14. Georgia: N/A
7. West Virginia: 8 games
10. Arizona: 6 games
2. Duke: 12 games, 10 games
15. Belmont: 13 games (active)

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Fill Out Your Bracket Today

The field of 65 has been announced. Now it’s time for you to fill out your bracket. Head on over to MattHubert.com to enter “March Mattness 2008” and compete against the picks of others for a chance to win a free t-shirt – not to mention worldwide bragging rights.

Click for instructions on how to enter.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

March Madness A-Z

The buzz is in the air. March Madness is still several days away, but it’s never to early to prepare. What’s everybody talking about? Here are 65 people, places and things listed from A-Z to help even the most casual basketball fan get ready for the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the best event in sports today.



The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, will play host to the 2008 Final Four.

Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is arguably the greatest college basketball player of all-time. In his three seasons at UCLA (freshmen were ineligible to play back then), his Bruins teams went 88-2 and won the national title each year. Alcindor also earned tournament Most Outstanding Player honors each year from 1967-69.

Anonymous players always seem to come out on the big stage. Some of the tournament’s greatest performances came from players who never went on to make a significant splash in the NBA. In the past 20 years alone, MOPs have included Anderson Hunt, Donald Williams, Miles Simon and Jeff Sheppard. The four players combined to play 23 games in the NBA.




Bands from the various colleges and universities provide the soundtrack for the tournament. Everyone wants to hear their school’s fight song as their team marches on through the bracket.

The Big Dance is one of the most prominent nicknames for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Everyone wants an invite, but only 65 teams receive one. Thirty-one schools win automatic bids by winning their conference tournament (or Ivy League regular season championship). The other 34 spots are at-large selections determined by a special NCAA committee.

Jay Bilas is a basketball analyst who splits time between ESPN and CBS. His business approach to basketball and knowledge of the game has helped him become one of the college basketball’s most prominent voices in recent years.

Bracketology is defined by dictionary.com as the practice of predicting the field of the NCAA basketball tournament; by extension, parsing things into discrete one-on-one matchups to determine a winner.

Brackets turn into an art form this time of year. All the matchups weave together in a symmetrical pattern leading to the championship.

Bubble teams are teams on the fringe of being selected into the tournament. The bubble bursts for those teams that don’t quite make it. Those that are given at-large berths are then under scrutiny to vindicate their inclusion in the tourney.

Buzzer beaters are part of the thrill of March Madness. There are always a few fantastic finishes that come down to the buzzer. If you’re lucky enough to hit one of those shots, your highlight will be replayed every year at this time when they recap the most memorable moments of tournaments past.


CBS has covered the NCAA Tournament since 1982. Unless you have DirecTV, CBS is the place to watch the games on TV.

Cinderella stories provide hope for the little guy. Tales of Cinderella champions like the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack and 1985 Villanova Wildcats are told this time of year, as are the magical runs of small schools like Gonzaga in 1999 and George Mason in 2006.

Coaches are the faces of colleges and universities, where star players often leave after one or two years of school. Roaming the sidelines, these men all vie for a chance to reign supreme in their sport.

Conference supremacy is one of the subplots of the tournament. The power conferences are the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Southeastern Conference and Pac 10. They all want to have the most teams in the tournament as well as the most teams advancing through each round. Meanwhile, the other conferences, often referred to as mid-majors try to spoil the party for the big guys.

Cutting down the nets is a tradition that started back in 1947 by North Carolina State. Today, school’s advancing to the Final Four each cut down the nets. The coach usually goes first and the players follow, each clipping a piece as a keepsake of their tournament run.


Daytime games are rare in sports today when primetime TV ratings are heavily coveted, however, March Madness tips off on a Thursday shortly after noon Eastern Time.

Decreased productivity is a yearly consequence of the NCAA Tournament. Estimates suggest that the tournament costs employers than 1.4 billion dollars because workers spend time filling out brackets, watching and talking about tournament games.

Duke University is the New York Yankees of college basketball. They are traditionally one of the favorites to win it all, and have a devout fan base as well as a large segment of the population that loves to see them come up short.

Dunks were banned by the NCAA from 1967 to 1976, but expect plenty of above the rim action this year. Nothing electrifies a crowd more than a thunderous slam dunk.




The Elite Eight refers to the fourth round of the tournament. Eight teams vie for a chance to advance to the third and final weekend.

Emotions run high in March as coaches and players are put to the test under the national spotlight. Tears will fall, fists will pump and adrenaline will flow as teams battle against the inevitable fact that players on 64 teams will see their championship dreams fall short.




The Fab Five was the nickname for the University of Michigan’s recruiting class of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King that led the Wolverines to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 1992 and 1993, losing in the championship game each time. Webber turned pro after his sophomore season and Howard and Rose followed after their junior years. Michigan’s Final Four banners have since been forfeited due to violations.

The Final Four occurs on a Saturday. Four regional champions square off in semi-final matchups with the winners advancing to compete in the championship game on Monday.

Foul trouble will surely play a role in at least one big game. In football, a penalty can cost you 15 yards and a first down. In hockey, a penalty will get you a few minutes in the penalty box. But five fouls disqualifies you from a college basketball game, so star players have to avoid fouling out or they run the risk of watching the end of the game from the bench.

Free throws are either the easiest or most difficult shots to make in basketball, depending on the player. Pressure free throws late in a game often decide the fate of a team.




Guards may be the most important players in the tournament. While basketball is a big man’s game, point guards are the floor generals, directing traffic and controlling the ball most of the time. Strong guard play is an essential ingredient to success in March.




History is a big part of the lure of the tournament. Some interesting historical facts:

  • A 16-seed has never defeated a number one.
  • All four number one seeds have never made it to the Final Four in the same year.
  • As an eight seed in 1985, Villanova was the lowest seeded team to ever win the tournament.



Individual matchups are an essential part of the bracket system. Scouting comes to a forefront as coaches try to find the best matchup and use it to their benefit.




Gus Johnson is one of the best play-by-play announcers in sports today. His enthusiasm and excitement captivate audiences and he is a perfect fit for March Madness.




Mike Krzyzewski leads all active NCAA coaches with three national titles. Additionally, he has led Duke to 10 Final Four appearances in his 28 years there. He is also the all-time leader in NCAA Tournament victories with 68.




Joe Lundardi is ESPN’s resident bracketologist. His study of college basketball and the history of tournament seeding enables him to predict the field of 65 nearly perfectly each year.




Mascots ranging from the Stanford Tree to Syracuse’s Otto the Orange to The Blue Blob of Xavier do more than star in “This is SportsCenter” commercials. They’ll be out in full-fuzzy-bodied force come tournament time.

Most Outstanding Player is the NCAA Tournament’s award for the best player. Many sports name an MVP, but the MOP is the award given to the tournament’s standout performer.




The National Championship gold-plated plaque is not really a trophy, but in a world of glitz and glamour, it’s refreshing to have such a simple symbol of success.




Office pools galore make March Madness interesting to the serious and casual fan alike. Everyone wants bragging rights for having the most correct picks.

One Shining Moment” is the theme song played at the conclusion of the tournament by CBS. It is played over a montage of highlights from the tournament, ending with a shot of the newly crowned champions.

The Opening Round is a game played between the teams determined to be the 64th and 65th best in the tournament. On a Tuesday night before the first round begins, these teams play for a chance to advance and play a number one seed.




Billy Packer has been the color commentator for every Final Four since 1974. A polarizing figure, Packer has been involved in a number of controversies during his broadcasting career.

Bruce Pearl is the head coach the Tennessee Volunteers. In just his third season with the Vols, Pearl has taken his team to its first number one ranking in school history. The charismatic Pearl made waves in Tennessee when he showed up bare-chested with a V painted on his chest in support of legendary Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols.

Predictions will start to fly fast and furiously as soon as the brackets are announced. Be weary of the “sleeper” pick that every “expert” is predicting to advance far in the tournament.




Quitting is not part of the NCAA tournament lexicon. “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” were the famous words of Jim Valvano at the ESPY awards in 1993. The legendary coach led the North Carolina State Wolfpack to the 1983 title. His memorable speech was given just months before he died of cancer. To date, the V Foundation, a cancer research foundation in his honor, has raised more than $70 million.




Bill Raftery is a college basketball color commentator known for his many catchphrases such as “Man-to-man!” and “With the kiss!”

Regionals in the NCAA Tournament are named East, Midwest, South and West. While I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the regions will be named McDonald’s East, General Motors Midwest, Coca-Cola South and Starbucks West, it’s nice to have something non-corporate for the time being.

Rivalries permeate college basketball, especially within the conferences. When rivals meet during the tournament, the stakes are raised and wins become even more meaningful. The rivalry between North Carolina and Duke is widely regarded as the fiercest in college basketball. Despite the success of both programs, the teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament.




School colors are as diverse as the rainbow. Every arena hosting first-round action is filled with fans of the various teams competing.

Seeds are the way teams are ranked for the NCAA Tournament. Teams are seeded 1-16 with one being the best in four different regions. One plays 16, two plays 15 and so on down the line. It’s set up for the top-seeded teams to have the easiest path to the championship, but upsets inevitably alter the course of the tournament from round to round. The tournament is not re-seeded at any point.

Selection Sunday is one of the most events in sports that doesn’t involve any actual competition. The field of 65 is announced and everyone begins to break down the matchups.

Spring and March Madness go hand in hand as hope springs eternal, so it’s only fitting that the first round kicks off on the first day of spring in 2008.

The Sweet 16 refers to the third round of the tournament. Teams that win their first two games advance past the first weekend to play on in the Sweet 16.




Team nicknames in college are varied to say the least. There is the Stanford Cardinal and the Louisville Cardinals as well as everything from Golden Flashes (Kent State) to But you’ll likely have plenty of tournament teams to pick from if you like Wildcats (32 schools including Arizona, Kansas State, Kentucky and Villanova), Bulldogs (39 schools including Butler, Drake, Gonzaga and Mississippi State) or Tigers (45 schools including Auburn, Clemson, Memphis and Missouri).

Text messaging makes it easier than ever to relay score information during the tournament. It wasn’t long ago, that the only way to find scores was on TV or in the newspaper the next day.

Three points. Dunks may make highlight heels, but a shot from farther than 19’9” is good for an extra point. The 3-point shot has become such an integral part of the college game that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t introduced nationally until 1986. Beginning next season, the NCAA will move its 3-point line back a full foot to 20 feet, 9 inches. Expect plenty of 3-balls to fall during the final tournament at the current distance.

Three weeks is the duration of the tournament. Unlike the Super Bowl, which is two weeks of hype for one big game, March Madness delivers 64 games on eleven days spread over three weeks.

Tournament experience is a phrase you’re likely to hear often throughout the tournament. Teams with players who have played in the tournament before often feel they have a competitive advantage based upon their experience of years gone by.

Tradition is a big part of college sports, in general, and the tournament, specifically. Some “basketball schools” steeped in tradition include UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina and Duke.




UCLA has won an NCAA-record 11 national championships. Ten were won under coach John Wooden and the 11th came in 1995 under Jim Harrick. The Bruins made it back to the Final Four each of the past two seasons, losing to eventual champion Florida each time.

Undefeated seasons are rare in all team sports. The last college basketball team to do so was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. The UCLA Bruins had back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1972 and 1973.

An undisputed champion results from the grueling tournament that forces a team to win six games in three weeks against stiff competition. Unlike college football, there is no argument about who is number one at the end of tournament.

Upsets can be bracket busters as low-seeded teams knock off powerhouses predicted to play into the Sweet 16 or beyond.




Dick Vitale is the unofficial bald-headed spokesperson of college basketball. Working for ESPN, Vitale does not get to broadcast tournament games, however, Vitale represents college basketball more than any announcer represents any other sport.




John Wooden is the legendary former coach of UCLA. The 97-year-old “Wizard of Westwood,” Wooden is widely regarded as one of the smartest and most genuine men in the history of the game. He coached UCLA to a record 10 national championships, including seven in a row from 1967-1973.




X-factors are little things that make a big difference in a game or throughout the tournament. Turnovers are always a costly X-factor, especially late in the game.




Youth is on display in this tournament as players as young as 17 and 18 compete on a national stage. Freshmen were once not allowed to play varsity basketball in college. Today, many of the top rated players are in their first year of college. For some, this will be their only appearance in the tournament before turning pro.




Zags is the unofficial nickname of Gonzaga University. They are technically known as the Gonzaga Bulldogs, however they are popularly referred to as Zags and the school has become the poster-child of small school success in the NCAA Tournament. After making a shocking run to the Elite Eight in 1999, the Zags’ basketball program has regularly been ranked among the top 25 in college basketball.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Easter Basketball

When I looked at the calendar a month or so ago to find the start of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, I was surprised to find that it coincided with the Catholic Church’s Holy Week.

Being a Catholic myself that meant that I wouldn’t spend March 23 simply watching eight games determining the second half of the sweet 16. I’d spend it celebrating Easter, only the biggest day of the year in the church.

Schedule conflictions and religious convictions aside, March 23 seemed like a very early date for Easter to me, so I did some research and found that I was right. Dating back to 1875, March 23 is the earliest date that Easter has been celebrated. And 2008 will mark just the second time it’s happened. Easter also fell on March 23, 1913.

That means it’s been 95 years since Easter came this early! World War I hadn’t even happened yet, let alone March Madness. Back then, the NCAA didn’t have a tournament to crown its champion. In 1913, Navy was voted national champions by the Helms Foundation after posting a 9-0 record—for the entire season. Today it takes six games just to win the NCAA Tournament.

In the past, several Final Fours have been played on the Saturday before Easter with the championship following on Monday. But only twice in the past 30 years have teams played NCAA Tournament games on Easter Sunday.

In 1989, Illinois beat Syracuse 89-86 and Duke defeated Georgetown 85-77 in two regional final games held on Easter.

The most recent games played on Easter also came in the regional finals of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Michigan State edged Kentucky 94-88 in two overtimes and North Carolina defeated Wisconsin 88-82.

With Easter coinciding with second round action in this year’s NCAA Tournament, a record 16 NCAA teams will be competing on Easter. So after church and a search for your Easter basket, basketball won’t be hard to find. Celebrate the holiday with friends and family and the most exciting event in sports.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

How Often Do Championship Games Actually Live Up to the Hype?

After watching three of the first four BCS bowl games turn out to be blowouts, I began wondering about the chances that LSU-Ohio State would also be a blowout similar to the Buckeyes-Gators championship from last year. And that got me thinking about championships in general. How often does the final game of the season actually live up to the hype of a championship?
I did some research and compiled tables (see below) from the past nine championship games (the first BCS champion was in 1999) in college football, the NFL, the NBA, college basketball and Major League Baseball. If we set parameters of a “close game” as 7 points or less in football, 6 points or less in basketball, and 2 runs or less in baseball, only 22 of 45 championship-deciding games have been close in the aforementioned sports since 1999.


It’s hard to compare across sports because obviously basketball games are higher scoring than football games, and baseball games are much lower scoring. Perhaps there’s some statistical expert out there who knows how to formulate a stat that could eliminate the variables and compare the scoring margin across the sporting world. But until that person steps forward, I’ll just offer the data and my observations.


Comparing football to football, the BCS championship games don’t quite stack up against the most recent Super Bowls. The average margin of victory in BCS title games is 15.33 whereas the Super Bowl margin of victory has been just 12.0 since 1999.


Judging the World Series and NBA Finals is also difficult because, unlike the other sports, they decide their champion in a series. But judging by the final game of the series, they are slightly more likely to be close games. In the case of Major League Baseball, no deciding game has been decided by more than 3 runs in the past nine years. Unfortunately, five of those years saw the World Series end in a four game sweep, which significantly lessens the drama and intrigue of the closeout game.


The Nielsen TV ratings indicate that the BCS is performing strongly. While the Super Bowl remains the standard by which all televised sporting events are measured, the BCS ratings average is greater than all of the other sports listed.


What does all this mean? I’m not completely sure, but basically it seems to suggest that even if the game Monday night is a blowout, I’ll probably be watching. Yeah, sounds about right.
(Click the images below to view full size.)

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.