Saturday, February 27, 2010

College Nicknames

I enjoy playing the game of naming college nicknames. For example, many people stumble on the University of Oregon. It's the Ducks.

Ever notice that most college nicknames end with a s? Chances your school nickname does.

Another fun exercise is to try to name college nicknames without a final s.

I will start with a list and let's grow it. Please email me your names. The following is not in any particular order

North Carolina State Wolfpack
Syracuse Orangemen
Stanford Cardinal
North Dakota Fighting Sioux
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix
Illinois Illini
North Dakota State Bison
Marshall Thundering Herd
UMASS Minutemen

Frankly, I really had to rack my brain to come with these teams. It isn't easy. I know I'm missing some obvious ones. As I said earlier, please help me add to the list.

And if your favorite school nickname doesn't end in a s, your school is unique. Congratulations!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wyoming's School Colors

I have noticed lately that the University of Wyoming sports more of an athletic presence on TV these days. Nothing wrong with giving the Cowboys some love, but this begs an important question. Why do the Cowboys feature brown and gold as their school colors?

I have no problem with gold, but brown, please! Brown reminds of a delivery service with a famous slogan involving the color, you guessed it, brown. Brown is fine for a tie, shoe color or dress, but not on an uniform.

The University of Wyoming is probably a good school. I have nothing against the school, nothing against the state of Wyoming, Wyoming's people (they are hard working folks) etc. But you think the guys and gals at the university could come up with something better than brown.

According to my research, the color scheme goes back to 1895 when as part of an alumni banquet, Brown-Eyed Susans were part of the decorations. Obviously, someone REALLY like those flowers and the colors were adopted as team colors. All based on a flower. You got to love it America.

Well, Wyoming would drop the yellow color in favor of gold. But, apparently, this love fest with brown continues.

I have a sense the Wyoming folks want to stand out with their brown like their neighbors in Boise with the blue turf. At the moment, I cannot recall any major college athletic team with that color. Of course, the National Football League Cleveland Browns have it as part of their nickname. I don't like that color for Cleveland either, but as they say, that's a post for another day.

Wyoming should consider a nice black or red instead of brown. Even cattle are black and red colored.

What do you think of Wyoming's school colors?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Expanding the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Apparently, there are college coaches wanting to push the NCAA men's basketball tournament to 96 teams. My response to that is bad, bad, bad idea.

The NCAA tournament is one of the best in sports. Selection Sunday is a big deal. Do the bubble teams make it or fall off? Cinderellas eagerly await their first opposition.

If it's not broken why fix it?

Expanding the field will hurt interest. Marginal teams will get bids. Bubble teams will have poorer records. Student athletes will play more games. Student athletes will miss more classes. The season will get longer including the tournament.

I get it why coaches and schools want the expansion. Frankly, the tournament is job security for coaches. The tournament (in or out) is how many coaches are judged these days. Plus, coaches may receive additional money for appearances and advancing in the tournament. Schools receive great exposure for tournament appearances. It's a wonderful marketing tool.

People say that there will be expanding TV revenue as well. But at what point will the buyer reach that risk-and-reward theme and choose the risk one?

I am still waiting for the day when a No. 16 seed beats a No. 1. It has yet to happen in the 64-team field despite a few close calls. That scene might be in more serious doubt if the field expands.

What do you think about tournament expansion?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Still Under the Radar?

One of the best kept secrets of the college basketball season has been the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) Panthers.

Sure, they have appeared in that national magazine with the initials SI, but how many folks outside of Iowa can tell me UNI's school colors or where Cedar Falls is located?

But after last night's convincing win over Old Dominion in Bracket Buster play on national TV, the Panthers discovery continues.

UNI is a tough team and poised to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers have already clinched the Missouri Valley Conference and stand 24-3 overall.

They do it with a veteran club, a total team effort and an outstanding young coach in Ben Jacobson.

The Panthers beat teams with the 3-ball, some easy baskets, strong free throw shooting and solid defense. All traits that will do them well in March.

UNI has no star players but ones that can burn you in any given game. The Panthers make life difficult for broadcasters and writers too. They have names like Ali Farokhmanesh, Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Jordan Egiseder.

This team is work orientated. The Panthers bring their hard hats, do their job without a lot of fanfare and go home. And go home with the victory more times than any other UNI team in history.

You like old-school basketball, then you like the Panthers? They prove that you don't have to dazzle to perform well.

How do you think UNI will fare in March?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Remembering Hilton Magic

Last night, I attended my first game at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa since the early 90's. Back in those days, the Iowa State Cyclones rarely lost a home game.

Coach Johnny Orr was leading the Cyclones then and after one particular game, a beat writer described the Iowa State victory as Hilton Magic. The term would have a long life.

Orr put Iowa State on the basketball map. He would enter Hilton Coliseum to John Carson's Tonight Show theme. Orr would walk all the way to the visiting team's bench and clinch his fists to an adoring crowd. Orr became a celebrity. Orr was a big part of Hilton Magic.

His teams could play too. Visiting teams didn't want to come to Ames to battle Orr, his players or the crowd.

Sadly, Hilton Magic appears gone. People still refer to it, but Hilton Coliseum isn't that scary environment any longer. The last few years under Greg McDermott, visiting teams have racked up some wins. Case-in-point, the Cyclones are a .500 team this season at 13-13.

But thanks for the memories Hilton Magic. It was a magical ride.

What are your favorite Hilton Magic moments?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Virginia Program is on the Rise

Ralph Sampson is a definite reminder of Virginia basketball glory. If Tony Bennett's start as basketball coach is any indication, Bennett might help lead the Wahoos to some more glory. Something Virginia have yearned for in a good while.

Virginia was picked next-to-last in the ACC preseason ratings. The Wahoos have surprised the so called experts with a 5-5 (through Feb. 16) league mark and a 14-9 overall record.

Bennett has brought his signature defensive style to the ACC and the players have responded. There have been some bumps in the road (including lately), but fans are excited about Virginia basketball again.

Bennett preaches team, team and more team. He learned from his father Dick and Wisconsin Bo Ryan that you can become successful with a group of hard-working players even without stars.

Sylven Landersberg is a very good player and a go-to guy and might be considered the star. However, you probably won't hear that from Bennett. I think he enjoys coaching teams without stars.

I like Bennett's style. He talks about players serving each other and being humble. One of his players even mentioned the word humility one day. When was the last time you heard that from a college basketball player?

Virginia has an excellent chance to make a postseason tournament. The building blocks are definitely in place.

Howver, it's too early to know if Bennett and Virgina can compete against the Dukes and North Carolinas consistently in the ACC. But under Bennett, if Virginia does arrive there, it will be as a team.

What do you think of Bennett's chance for success with the Wahoos?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Carolina Blues

North Carolina won its third game in the ACC today. Yes, the same Carolina team that won the national championship last year and seem to compete for the title each season.

The victory over North Carolina State keep the Tar Heels out of last place in the conference. They are only 3-7 (14-11 overall).

Forget about defending the national championship , Carolina probably won't even make the tournament.

How bad Carolina has slipped this season came home to me about two weeks ago when it played Virginia in Chapel Hill. Virginia just crushed the Tar Heels in their backyard. Yes, that was surprising but something else caught my eye. Toward the end of the game coach Roy Williams put his deep reserves in. That act has happened many times before, but when they were doing the crushing. I then realized how far Carolina has fallen.

New players and injuries have plagued Williams' team. The Tar Heels are getting a taste of what average or below average teams often experience.

It's a sickness, but Carolina is having difficulty finding a cure. One problem is that the Tar Heels don't have much experience being sick.

Apparently, this season it is time for such experience.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Your Team is on the Bubble

March Madness is quickly approaching. Teams are trying to build their resumes for a possible NCAA tourney run. Many are on the bubble. Oftentimes, that is the case with my teams.

The bubble situation begs a certain question. Would you rather have your team make the NCAA tourney and lose in the first round or make the championship of the NIT? It's somewhat similar to the game show Lets Make a Deal in that you can take the sure thing (the NIT) or the curtain (and a possible magical NCAA tourney ride).

You might be thinking, Paul, this is a no brain er. Well, as one college football voice says, "Not so fast my friend."

Yes, in most cases, I want my team to play in the NCAA. There is nothing like the anticipation, playing the what-if game and actually winning the first game.

But what if you have a fairly talented young squad composed of mostly sophomores and freshmen? Will a one-and-done deal, benefit your club in the future? How about doing the NIT in hopes of more practices and games to get your team ready for a stellar season next year?

Of course, if your team is upper class heavy, the NIT serves no real purpose. Motivation would be a major problem.

So if your team falls off the bubble this season, will you be crushed or will you look at the possibility in the NIT?