Hooray for March Madness, the most humbling time of year for sports know-it-alls. Even though there's no relation between winning your office pool and knowing anything about basketball, chances are you've embarked upon this column looking for answers. By the end, you'll realize I
don't know anything either have a lot more to think about.
Yeah, that's it...
Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina are still as good as you thought before last week. It wasn't a great weekend for the top three seeds of the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse and UNC each lost in their conference tournaments, as did the previously untouchable Kentucky. So what does that mean? Well, if a team shoots over 59 percent from the field and goes 11-22 from three-point range like Florida State did Sunday, it has a great chance to beat North Carolina.
If your favorite team has a big man like Festus Ezeli to make Anthony Davis pay for helping with penetrators, and Kentucky shoots 36 percent from the floor, the Wildcats will be in trouble like they were against Vanderbilt. And Syracuse, so long as it runs that cowardly zone, will be vulnerable against a hot-shooting team like Cincinnati was Friday. In other words, stuff we knew already. UK and UNC are still the two most dangerous teams in the bracket, and Syracuse is the same tricky pick it is every year. You may now return to filling out your chalk bracket.
This may have been the least controversial bubble ever. Given the mediocrity of college basketball's soft underbelly, there's no more annoying annual controversy than who didn't make the NCAA Tournament. Sure, VCU found a way to the Final Four after being a questionable at-large selection last year, but there isn't an excluded team with a gripe worth hearing. The closest thing to a snub this year is Drexel, with nothing more than a home win over 12-seed VCU to brag about. You know the Dance is just as big as it needs to be when N.C. State fans saw their snake-bitten Wolfpack were the 68th team announced. When there's room for the Pack to get the long end of the stick, it's time for the fire marshal to shut the door behind them.
Did you think Dan Snyder would lose out on Peyton Manning and RG3? It’s simple: the Redskins didn’t just need a quarterback. They needed someone other than their egomaniacal owner and head coach to be the face of the franchise. So, they traded a piece of their future for what they haven’t had since Lawrence Taylor debacled Joe Theismann. Michael David Smith noted Washington gave up more than the Giants did to draft Eli Manning and the Falcons did to draft Michael Vick. Both trades proved to be worth it, as the Giants won two Super Bowls with Manning, and Vick made the Falcons consistently relevant for the first time in their history. Can Griffin pull both tricks? Absolutely. He’ll just have to topple Manning and Vick along the way.
And Griffin might do just that. There’s no telling how long Mike Shanahan will be in Washington, but can you imagine how dangerous Griffin would be in a scheme based on stretch runs and bootlegs? Hell, do you remember how good Jake Plummer was in that scheme? Or the success Shanny had with athletic quarterbacks Steve Young and John Elway? There’s a reason the Falcons brought in former Shanahan assistant Alex Gibbs to add leg whipping elements of that scheme during the Vick era. Had Vick been able to throw, the Falcons offense could have been revolutionary. Unlike Vick, who threw 342 passes in college, Griffin is ready to be a pro passer, and there’s cap space to get him someone to throw to besides the ageless Santana Moss and better options than Vick’s limited weaponry in Atlanta.
Great for the Rams ... probably. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. The Rams now move down just four slots in the draft, now have three of the first 39 selections in the 2012 draft, and own two first rounders in 2013 and 2014. That sounds great ... until you realize St. Louis hasn't drafted a Pro Bowl player since Steven Jackson in 2004. Someone in the building must remember how little the franchise got from the seven picks it received for Eric Dickerson. The Rams came up big with the trade, but whether or not this deal's a steal depends entirely on their own competence.
The idea of Peyton Manning in Denver makes me chuckle. Smart money still seems to be on Manning signing with the Dolphins -- regardless of this educated guess -- but the Broncos’ desperate attempt to sign him is easily the most hilarious subplot of the sweepstakes. The Season of Tim Tebow will be remembered for the rampant willingness to ignore the eye test, statistics and the good sense to use them both when evaluating a quarterback’s worth. Now, it seems, John Elway wants to push Mr. Find-A-Way-To-Win to the side for an algorithmic quarterback who, since college, has had to fight the notion that he racks up great regular season statistics but struggles to find wins when it "matters." And, if you wanna be technical about it, Tebow has a better postseason record than Manning. But guess what? Not a single one of those people would want Tebow over Manning. So if you’re jumping off the mystical Tebow bandwagon now, when a technically superior option is available, why were you on board in the first place?
OK, there’s maybe one Manning scenario funnier. Titans owner Bud Adams wants Peyton Manning in Tennessee. We know this because he told his underlings, and then told the world he told his underlings. The problem is that Titans GM Ruston Webster has said he’s happy with current starter Matt Hasselbeck and quarterback of the future Jake Locker. Webster’s problem? Trying to tell an 89-year-old man about his two or three-year plan. At his age, it’s ambitious for Adams to plan for two or three o’clock. This may all pass, but anyone who’s tried to get an octogenarian to change the channel can't help but chuckle.
Mark Sanchez's agent must be a magician. I bet, had Sanchez signed that $58 million extension any faster, that his signature would look an EKG. It was one thing for Rex Ryan to stop proclaiming his team would win the Super Bowl. It was another to take such a big step toward ensuring that wouldn't happen. People go over the top when they bash Sanchez, but it couldn't be clearer that he's as replaceable as they come. Which means the Jets needed to replace him, not double down and put more pressure on a guy who may not be equipped to handle it.
The continuing story of LeBron James in the clutch. LeBron scored eight points in the last 1:05 of regulation Saturday night against Indiana, including a three to tie the game with 10 seconds left. In overtime, he hit a triple to bring the Heat within two and assisted on Chris Bosh's game-typing jumper with 1:02 left. Then, after missing a three with 24 seconds left, Dwyane Wade hit a jumper with 0.1 seconds left to win it for Miami. The great clutch play to win the game was a heave, the last act of Wade's attempt to draw a bail-out foul. So what does all of this mean? The same as the All-Star Game and LeBron's pass in Utah -- nothing.