It is once again time for the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament. The eventual champions will get to bask in the national spotlight. And sure, winning a basketball title is worth bragging about—but we all know the real champion is the institution of higher education that can charge the most tuition and still have enough students to keep its rejection letter printer warm. It's The Awl's annual NCAA bracket by tuition, using the college information resource Peterson's. (Where available, in-state tuition was used.) Since we first began March Madne$$ in 2009, the winning tuition has risen from $38,622 to [...]
In a contentious election year in which Barack Obama’s approval rating sits at right around 50 percent, let’s offer the same caveat as last year: Just because the President is taking ten minutes to fill out a bracket doesn’t mean he isn’t focused on creating jobs. Political TV producers will have to find something else to fill 12 hours of talk today.
With that said, let’s dig into President Obama’s bracket, keeping in mind that in last year’s version, he out-performed 87 percent of the country (despite whiffing on his national-champ pick) and has spent his first term with annual bracket success ratings well into the 80th percentile.
We're about halfway through the conference season, and teams are beginning to sift into tiers of Final Four contention. Now is when talk of college basketball's individual honors starts to heat up, too. Some players who dominated last November have cooled off, while others have seen their stars rise. Interestingly, in each of the past five years (save when John Wall took the Rupp Award in 2010), one player each season has swept all six of the major Player of the Year honors: the Wooden, Naismith, Rupp, Robertson, AP and NABC. Last season, it was flashy BYU guard Jimmer Fredette who took home all the hardware.
Sportswriters traditionally make [...]
The non-conference season is over for most of college basketball, and midterm grades are out. Figuratively speaking, a few teams aced the first half, some have made a habit of relying on extensions and a bunch demonstrated that, frankly, they're not all that bright. None of the preseason top four teams is undefeated, and four of the preseason top 15 teams aren’t even ranked (Memphis, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh and Xavier).
Of course, there's plenty of season left. A whole slew of teams currently flying high will bottom out in the conference campaign, and a few teams no one is talking about will finish in the top half. The pre-conference games [...]
The monolithic entity we call ‘Sports’ has had a rotten run of late. First, there was a month of non-stop coverage of what is consistently the most depressing and least enjoyable aspect of sports—owner-athlete financial bickering—when the NFL locked out. Then we had weeks of breaking coverage of the huge money grab and rivalry-busting of the major college football powerhouses and conferences. Then the NBA managed its own lockout (with attendant financial bickering). Then Tony La Russa and the Cardinals won the World Series, subjecting the rest of us to an entire post-and off-season of the oft-repeated fallacy that St. Louis is somehow a better America. And then we [...]
The Awl Bracket Contest Update: The One Where Readers Find Out That The Tournament Is Still Going On!
Believe it or not, the NCAA college basketball tournament is still going on! In fact, it's a very exciting tournament that is currently taking place! Upsets (teams that are seeded lower and less favored to win, are defeating teams that are higher seeded and more favored to win!) are happening left and right! Here's how crazy it is: Of the almost 6 million brackets filled out on ESPN, only TWO of them correctly predicted the Final Four (the four teams that make it to the semifinals) correctly. That is a very low percentage! I'm not sure if you'll believe this, but none of the intrepid Awl sports fans were [...]
If you are planning to participate in The Official 2011 Awl March Madness Bracket Tournament Challenge Sponsored By The Awl but are still tinkering around with your bracket, fair warning: The deadline is noon eastern today. Hurry it up.
Tomorrow night, when Kentucky plays Louisville in the Final Four, I'll be sitting on my couch in Brooklyn, and filled with the anticipatory feelings of a person who, born in Lexington and brought up to listen to what his grandmother tells him to do, eschewed smart bracketology to pick the Wildcats to go all the way. And I'll be eating beer cheese, a Kentucky specialty, with crackers and chips. It's a simple spread, and ridiculously easy to make, and I invite you to prepare some too, because even if you aren’t rooting for the 'Cats, or don’t care a thing about basketball, beer cheese is delicious—second only to [...]
So how many NCAA basketball games did you watch this year? Two, three? One with a couple of college friends at a sports bar get-together? And now it's tournament time, and you're scrambling to find out which teams to pick in your technically illegal office NCAA tournament pool. I'm here to help, with some advice and pointers, broken down by region.
Of course, the great allure of the NCAA tournament, beyond the sheer zaniness and the last-second shots and the leaping and the raw elation of the winners, is the unpredictability of it all. While there is a method to the Madness, it's important to remember that nothing about [...]
We hear a lot about the teams that play in power conferences like the Big East, Big 10 and the ACC. Stronger teams from the mid-major conferences often get overlooked—which is too bad as many of them would present strong competition given the opportunity.
In basketball, unlike football, a single talented player can be the difference between a competitive team and a truly dangerous one. When a lower-profile program manages to end up with either a superior, pro-caliber player or more than one guy who could suit up at a high major program, that team goes from an upset possibility to a potential Sweet 16 team.
Each February, the ESPN mothership in Bristol, Conn., dictates one week in the college basketball season as “Rivalry Week." The games over that particular stretch of days contain some of the biggest and baddest conference match-ups in the nation. Typically, North Carolina against Duke in one featured game, Kentucky and Florida in another, perhaps Syracuse meeting Connecticut, too. But few of these games really ratchet things up to 11. You may see a cut chin or some yapping, but the stakes for really getting into it with a conference foe, especially late in the year when NCAA seeding and participation and jockeying for conference preeminence are at the [...]
Another long college basketball season came to an end last night in perhaps the most unsatisfactory way imaginable. Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun—one of the game’s least likeable and hardest to root for figures—walked off the floor in glory as Butler, everybody’s Cinderella, thoroughly humiliated itself in its biggest game. It’s impossible to sugarcoat just how bad the final was; it was without a doubt the poorest championship game in memory.
An odd end to what was an odd and, ultimately, probably pretty forgettable season. Here, at the end, let's look back at some of the major moments and storylines and how they may appear to us in the [...]
After four bustling days of NCAA tournament action, a few truths have become clear: the Big East Conference was every bit as overrated as it looked before the tournament began; the era wherein referees’ decisions were considered sacrosanct is over; and Virginia is for basketball lovers.
Of the preposterous ten Big East teams that we were told deserved at large bids to the tournament (University of Connecticut earned the automatic bid), only one remains in the field. And the two Big East teams left, UCONN and Marquette, each played and defeated Big East teams in the Round of 32, meaning that, in theory, had [...]
Details of the Second Official Awl NCAA Bracket Tournament Challenge—remember last year?—are coming later today! [UPDATE: It's here!] In preparation, our college-ball expert, JL Weill, offers some guidance on filling out your bracket.
[INTRO FOR COLLEGE HOOPS FANS] Oh joyest of joys, the NCAA brackets are out and that can only mean one thing: the actual tournament games are only days away! I wait the entire year for this, my unofficial national holiday. A few years back, I decided that if I was going to have to work every Memorial Day and Fourth of July (I was working for a major sports league), then by golly [...]
After two weeks of exhilarating games, we're down to four teams—and what a four it is. All four are among college basketball's most elite programs, with 49 Final Four appearances and 13 NCAA titles between them. While the Kentucky Wildcats will enter the final weekend as the favorite, all four schools have a legitimate chance to bring home the 2012 national title. Let's look ahead and examine why each of these four squads might—or might not—win it all.
We're now two weeks away from Selection Sunday, and Bubble Watching appears to have become the number-one pastime in the country. Judging from the sheer number of ‘Bubble Watch’ segments out there, every major sports outlet wants to try their hand, apparently. But then that's all part of the fun of the NCAA tournament process, and the anticipation and prognostication over who's in, who’s out and who’s sweating it will last until the CBS crew finishes announcing the brackets. In the spirit of fellowship, let's enter the fray and do some Bubble Watching of our own.
UCONN (17-11, 7-9 Big East) As the defending national champion (and preseason top [...]
In the language of coaching, there's rarely a distinction given between a “good” and a “bad” loss. Listen to some post-game press conferences and the line is almost always the same: a loss is a loss, whether the difference was one point or 31. But anyone who's ever been a part of a team sport knows this is just bunk—if you've ever been on the receiving end of a real, honest-to-goodness beatdown, you know that it leaves a mark. Taking a licking inside the lines can make a team question whether it's actually capable of winning. Winning is often an act of mental fortitude, and one part of a [...]
Since 2006, when the NCAA relaxed the rules on programs participating in so-called “exempt” early-season tournaments, there's been a proliferation of made-for-TV preseason events. This year, it seems there’s been a supernova of them: large and small, exotic locales and more familiar ones. Organizers try to pack as many as a dozen games into a few days to maximize competition and, more importantly in their eyes, occupancy at the resorts and venues that host.
Travel tournaments date back to the 1960s, but they really gained prominence in the '80s when big-name programs began using the events to boost name recognition and to spend some quality time bonding. Of course, [...]
It doesn’t take much to build a winning basketball program. Just wins and consistency and star players and loyalty and, oh right, lots and lots of wins. Big wins. Tournament wins. And yet, there are programs across the country that have done the winning part but still been thwarted on the way to lasting prominence by some unlucky combination of coaching attrition, failures in recruiting and/or the wrong bounce of the ball happening a few too many times.
This is what makes Butler University so fascinating. With this year's return to the Final Four, Butler is emerging as a legitimate basketball power—a title very few so-called “mid-major” programs [...]
Wow! Now I don't want to speak for everyone here, but I think we can safely say that the first two rounds of this tournament (I'm ignoring the nonsensical practice of calling the play-in games the first round. Is anyone who's not being paid by the NCAA actually calling it this?) have been pretty crazy! Equally exciting: the The Official 2011 Awl March Madness Bracket Tournament Challenge Sponsored By The Awl! Let's go through some of the highlights.