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2013 Leaf Mini Helmet Checklist

By hagrin - Posted on 13 August 2013

Since Leaf hasn't released a full 2013 checklist for their autographed Mini Helmet product, I decided to try and compile the most complete checklist possible from group break videos on the Internet. Below is the most complete 2013 Leaf mini Helmet checklist you will find until Brian Gray actually provides one. It's a great product where I have only seen 1 bad case out of dozens and that case still contained nothing but Hall of Fame autographs. Here is the list -

Adrian Peterson - Minnesota Vikings
Andy Dalton - College (TCU)
Anthony Munoz - Cincinatti Bengals
Archie Griffin - College (Ohio St)
Arian Foster - Houston Texans
Barry Switzer - College (Oklahoma)
Bill Willis - Cleveland Browns
Billy Cannon - College (LSU)
Billy Shaw - Buffalo Bills
Bob Griese - Miami Dolphins
Bob St. Clair - San Francisco 49ers
Bobby Bell - KC Chiefs
Brett Favre - Green Bay Packers
Budd Grant - Minnesota Vikings
Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
Carl Eller - Minnesota Vikings
Charley Trippi - Arizona Cardinals
Charley Taylor - Washington Redskins
Charlie Joiner - San Diego Chargers
Cris Carter - Philadelphia Eagles
CJ Spiller - College (Clemson)
Dan Dierdorf - Arizona Cardinals
Dan Fouts - College (Oregon)
Dan Marino - Miami Dolphins
Dan Hampton - Chicago Bears
Darren Sproles - New Orleans Saints
Dave Wilcox - SF 49ers
Dave Casper - Oakland Raiders
Deacon Jones - STL Rams
Deion Sanders - SF 49ers/Dallas Cowboys
Derrick Thomas - KC Chiefs
Don Maynard - NY Jets
Don Shula - Miami Dolphins
Doug Martin - Tampa Bay Bucs
Dwight Stephenson - Miami Dolphins
Earl Campbell - Houston Oilers
Emmitt Smith - Dallas Cowboys
Frank Gatski - Cleveland Browns
Frank Gifford - NY Giants
Frank Gore - SF 49ers
Frank Thomas - Other
Fred Biletnikoff - Oakland Raiders
Gerald Ford - Other
Gino Marchetti - Indianapolis Colts
Hakeem Nicks - NY Giants
Jadeveon Clowney - College
Jack Ham - Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Youngblood - St. Louis Rams
Jackie Slater - St. Louis Rams
Jamaal Charles - KC Chiefs
Jason Witten - Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Rice - SF 49ers
Jim McMahon - Chicago Bears
Jim Langer - Miami Dolphins
Jim Otto - Oakland Raiders
JJ Watt - Houston Texans
Joe Montana - SF 49ers
Joe Thiesman - Washington Redskins
John Lattner - College (Notre Dame)
Johnny Elway - Denver Broncos
Johnny Manziel - College
Johnny Unitas - Indianapolis Colts
Julio Jones - Atlanta Falcons
Ladanian Tomlinson - NY Jets
Lamichael James - College (Oregon)
Larry Wilson - Arizona Cardinals
Len Dawson - KC Chiefs
Lenny Moore - Indianapolis Colts
Lou Holtz - College (Notre Dame)
Marcus Lattimore - SF 49ers
Marshawn Lynch - Seattle Seahawks
Matt Stafford - Detroit Lions
Michael Jordan - Other
Michael Vick - Philadelphia Eagles
Mike Singletary - Chicago Bears
Ndamukong Suh - Detroit Lions
New York Sack Exchange (Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam) - NY Jets
Paul Hornung - Green Bay Packers
Percy Harvin - Seattle Seahawks
Peyton Manning - Team N/A
Rayfield Wright - Dallas Cowboys
Raymond Berry - Indianapolis Colts
Rickey Jackson - New Orleans Saints
Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins
Rod Woodson - Pittsburgh Steelers
Roger Wehrli - Arizona Cardinals
Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins
Sam Huff - New York Giants
Stevan Ridley - New England Patriots
Steve Largeant - Seattle Seahawks
Steve Smith - Carolina Panthers
Steve Spurrier - College
Teddy Bridgewater - College
Thurman Thomas - Buffalo Bills
Tim Brown - College (Notre Dame)
Tom Brady - New England Patriots
Torrey Smith - Baltimore Ravens
Trent Richardson - Team N/A
Troy Aikman - Dallas Cowboys
Tyler Wilson - Oakland Raiders
Urban Meyer - College
Walter Payton - Chicago Bears
Warren Moon - College (Washington)
Y.A. Tittle - NY Giants

The most common mini helmets I have seen pulled have been the Dave Wilcox and the Raymond Wright.

2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Review

By hagrin - Posted on 02 March 2013

Well, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference has officially jumped the shark.

While I have attended the conference in the past, this was the first year that I have watched the webcast and to say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the year so far. Let's go into why the Sloan Conference isn't a "must go" destination for the sports analytics person anymore.

The webcast is an inexpensive $21 and it is relatively a well run webcast. However, you could see that the webcast wasn't nearly that popular as only about 30-50 people ever were in the webchat portion of the stream at any one time. Quickly, it became apparent to me why that was the case. The webcast only showed you the Grand Ballroom where almost all of the "paid advertisement" segments were delivered. Whether it was the SAP Big Data hour long advertisement or if it was a panel member dropping the 3 major PepsiCo brand names, a good chunk of the Grand Ballroom presentations were totally useless to the true sports "geek" or analytics "geek".

As a corollary to the above complaint, I was shocked at how little discussion there was ... about actual analytics. Too much of the panel's discussion was focused on opinions or broad-stroke analysis. Even in the best panel of the conference, the Predictive Sports Betting panel, specific information was nowhere to be found and was extremely broad based. Therefore the conclusion I came up with for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference going forward is this -

There is no longer a need to attend this conference if you are seeking actual information. There are better, free sources for analytic information on the Internet and the only value the conference provides is networking.

As an analytics person, you'll learn more learning Luke Winn's weekly Power Rankings column. You'll learn more by reading the blog entries at KenPom. You'll grasp more about data by perusing TeamRankings.com on a daily basis. You'll learn more reading the Football Outsiders articles.

The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference has gone corporate. It has outlived its real usefulness and the spirit of the event has drastically been altered. Do yourself a favor - spend your money and your time supporting those in the analytics field that actually offer you insight and real analytic information as opposed to hour long opinion-fests.

The KenPom Wisconsin Problem

By hagrin - Posted on 09 January 2012

Update 1/12/2011: Here's yet another explanation as to why KenPom is dealing with the Wisconsin issue and possibly how to fix it by Dan Honner.

It's early in the 2011-12 college basketball season and we already have a huge controversy on our hands! No, it's not the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl or even anything that is directly happening on the basketball court. Instead, the controversy is over Ken Pomeroy's ranking of Wisconsin #1 and #2 throughout the year even though they have already lost 5 of their first 17 games. It's been such a hot topic that KenPom has released a FAQ explaining why the system is rating Wisconsin so favorably.

I love KenPom's work. I am a paid subscriber to his site and it's the best $20 that a college hoops stat head can spend. I loved KenPom's work so much that I have built an in-house rankings system using scraped data from all over the Internet so I know exactly how hard his task is, how unforgiving the data is and how hard it is to "correct" outliers and, even more simply, "should" they be corrected. Being a computer scientist, building a ranking/predictive system really is one of the hardest things to do because you will be wrong and wrong often in a field like predicting sports outcomes and trying to objectively rank teams based solely on statistics.

All that said, the non-computer scientist in me (also known as the @GoodmanCBS side), can't seem to rationalize the current Wisconsin ranking even after the KenPom FAQ. Let's try and talk out why I have problem with my "idol's" rankings.

1. Problems at the top are significantly more magnified than problems near the bottom

I love college basketball more than 99.99999% of the humans on this planet. I'm the guy who watches every single minute of ESPN's 24/25 hours of basketball ... live. That said, even I am more interested with the Wisconsins of the world as opposed to the Towsons of the world. Let's take Towson. Towson hasn't even won a game in their last 35 games. Ouch. That said, Towson still isn't ranked at the bottom of the KenPom rankings almost definitely due to the fact that they play in the relatively strong CAA. If Towson doesn't win their next game at home vs William & Mary, they will have almost a 50/50 shot at going winless in conference play this year (currently a predicted 35.1%). Since December 30th, Towson has lost 3 games ... and moved up 3 spots in the KenPom rankings! There are actually 4 teams ranked worse than a team that has lost 35 in a row and who has a 35.1% chance of going winless in their conference.

Does anyone care? Not really. In fact, Towson's ranking could in fact be correct although part of me doesn't think it is (it's either too low or too high, but it shouldn't be 340). However, this emphasizes the point - Outliers at the top of the rankings are magnified by factors of ten.

College basketball is a sport where really the majority of people only follow the top 40 teams and maybe the hardcore fan follows the top 100-150. With only 68 teams making the tournament, fans subconsciously draw a line at those top teams and pretty much ignore the other teams. Therefore, when there is such a glaring outlier at the very top of your rankings, there is a natural reaction to invalidate everything else underneath which is why this seems to have generated so much interest.

2. The ability to win is being undervalued

KenPom is 100% right when he states "The point is, for predictive purposes, simply looking at who a team has beaten or lost to is short-sighted". However, I don't think it's as simple as winning or losing. Some teams, despite their talent, have an innate ability to win and lose games that I do think is measurable by the amount of wins and losses you have.

They say that "winning on the road in college basketball is one of the hardest things to do". Therefore, the reverse must also be true - that winning at home should be one of the easiest things to do. Wisconsin, in the past, has always played beyond their talent level at home. Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin coach, had a record of 152-11 (93.3%) at home compared to an overall record of 242-91 (72.7%). That means, doing some quick math, Wisconsin is 90-80 on the road which is basically a few games within a margin of error of being a .500 team.

With all that said, if a team already has THREE home losses and one to a vastly inferior opponent in Iowa (Wisconsin was a KenPom 98% predicted to win for that game), the ratings must adjust accordingly. Where KenPom and I diverge is that I do think that a loss at home to Iowa and three home losses already, when this is a program that has only lost 11 in 11 seasons, is in fact a predictor of future outcomes since this team has proven more often than not that it doesn't have the same ability to win.

3. KenPom is (one of) the Google of the Hoops Prediction World

Google does everything through cold, unbiased algorithm data crunching. Therefore, when you search for something on Google, you don't always get the best result first. Does this make Google worthless as a search engine? Obviously, no. The same goes for KenPom - don't invalidate all the work just because of one team. In fact, all KenPom really gives its users is just another "tool" and college hoops fans need to make sure they use the full toolset when evaluating teams. Algorithms are an ever evolving thing and I am sure KenPom, in all his brilliance, will try and tinker with his algorithm, see how those changes affect past data and we'll see an ever more complex formula.

One other note - just like the Internet and search results, college basketball is a "moving target". The sport of men's college basketball constantly evolves. The players change, the strategies change, the arenas change and sometimes even the rules change. There is no Golden Forumla to rule us all, but it can provide us a tool to help us sort through the massive amounts of data.

Bonus Note - Gamblers Rejoice

Look, if we all know KenPom is overvaluing Wisconsin, yet Vegas continues to set lines very close to KenPom's simulated predictions, there's value there so stop complaining. Use the "mistake"/outlier to your advantage and fade Wisconsin when the lines don't make sense. KenPom already stated that Wisconsin is going to stay in the top few spots all year long so handicappers will have a great opportunity to fade a disappointing Wisconsin team.

Conclusion - DON'T PANIC

With all the above being said, who is to say that Wisconsin doesn't rip off 15 wins in a row now? It's January 8th, relax. One outlier in 345 data points is pretty good and I think most of us would say that KenPom's rankings are a very useful tool. Use the information given to you to draw your own conclusions, not piggy back the conclusions of other based on very good, but incomplete information.

Dan Osman Speed Rock Climbing

By hagrin - Posted on 24 April 2007

After going to a bachelor party this weekend in which we did some rock climbing at the Shawangunks Mountain Range in New Paltz, NY, I have an amazing amount of respect for rock climbers. Days afterwards, my forearms are still burning, my body is still sore and I have battle scars all around to remember the experience.

During the rock climbing adventure, we kept talking about Dan Osman. The late Dan Osman, who died cliff jumping, was the closest thing to Spiderman I have ever witnessed. For any of you who haven't seen what Osman could do, watch this video below -

The guy was sick - letting completely go of the mountain face (around the 1 minute mark) with no ropes, no harness, no backup is simply incredible.

March Madness: Day 1 Evening Games

By hagrin - Posted on 17 March 2007

The Day 1 night games, outside of the Duke game were chalk central as the favorites took care of business and were able to "survive and advance".

Vanderbilt took on George Washington during the non-televised game here on the East Coast and it was probably a good thing for GW fans as Vandy lit up the night sky with threes and GW failed to set their alarm clocks and got run off the floor. As I watched the game online through CBS Sportsline, I couldn't believe that this was a 6v11 game and not a 1v16. Vandy just dominated GW in every way and should prove to be an interesting match up against the contrasting style of Washington State.

Ohio State raced to a 21 point halftime lead and never looked back as they wiped the floor with Central Connecticut State. Greg Oden was a man amongst boys as he pulled down 19 points and 10 rebounds and altered numerous shots in the lane during the first half. Again, there really wasn't much to report on in this game as this way a blowout from the opening whistle.

Michigan State, the 9 seed, provided a mild seed upset as they were able to build a 13 point first half lead and hold off a shorthanded Marquette team 61-49. The key for MSU was that they got very balanced scoring and it wasn't just the Drew Neitzel show. With double digit scoring from 3 separate players, MSU, who struggles to score, got enough offense and a supreme defensive effort to shutdown a Jekyll and Hyde Marquette team.

UCLA vs. Weber State was another snooze fest as UCLA won by an impressive 28 points against probably the toughest of the 15 seeds. Aaron Afflalo dropped 22 points and had 8 rebounds which is a great sign from the Bruins best perimeter scorer. More importantly, injured Nick Collison played 32 strong minutes and shot well from the field which bodes well for UCLA having shaken off their unimpressive first round exit in the Pac-10 tournament.

In the other 79-77 game of the night, Xavier, out of the A-10, protected the conference's honor and held off a very game BYU team. BYU got a 24 point effort from Keena Young, but it wasn't enough to outmatch the 17 points from Drew Lavender and 23 from Doellman. Xavier will be matched up in the sexiest 1v(lower seed) match up with in-state rival Ohio State. The end of the game was another example of how you can win close games in the tournament these days with a guard who can penetrate and create his own shot which is what Drew Lavender could do that BYU could not. The dribble penetration was a huge factor in the last 2-3 minutes in the game and we've seen it time and time again in these close NCAA March Madness tournament games.

In what was a revenge game for Indiana, the Hoosiers were able to beat a depleted Gonzaga team and come away with a 70-57 victory. The key to this game was getting the strong scoring production from a third option, in this case, Wilmont for Indiana. Wilmont has 22 points and 7 rebounds which helped supplement DJ White's 16 and Calloway's 11. Gonzaga shot very poorly from the field only hitting on 35% of their shots and getting a putrid performance from Pargo (who shaved his own last name into his head) where he went 1-7 from the field. UCLA should have no problem with Indiana, but if Indiana gets scoring from 3 players, they could be hard to beat.

Eastern Kentucky gave UNC a scare for about a half, but UNC was never really in trouble in a relatively easy 86-65 win. The most important stat from this game is the performance turned in by Tyler Hansbrough who scored 21 and grabbed 10 rebounds for his best game since wearing the mask. With Tyler-like efforts, UNC has a very good chance to advance through their bracket, past Michigan State and on to a potential meeting with Georgetown.

In the last game of the night, Pittsburgh beat up a smaller Wright State team 79-58. Again, like many of the first day games, this was a major snooze fest as Wright State forgot what time the game started and were down 13-0 within a matter of minutes. Pittsburgh got double digit points from 5 players and shot a blistering 54.5% from the field while holding Wright State to 33%.

March Madness: VCU Beats Duke

By hagrin - Posted on 16 March 2007

The upsets were bound to happen, but did it have to happen to my team?

As everyone knows, I'm as big of a Duke homer as there is. Throughout the day I knew that with the lack of upsets that a big one was coming during the night session. Duke, even after being up double digits in the second half (again!), lost on a jump shot by Maynor with 1.8 seconds as the VCU Rams upset the #6 seed Blue Devils. Where as with most of the games I give you just a short overview as to what happened, I have a lot of thoughts about this game.

First, I can't fault the effort - the effort was there last night from McRoberts and Paulus. However, for as good as they played you could only sit there as a Duke fan and think that you didn't get nearly enough from two McDonalds All-Americans. McRoberts had 4 inches on anyone that was guarding him all night long and more athleticism and really should have went for more than the 20+ he had, but you can't fault him because he was rebounding and controlling the paint by himself. Coach K, instead of trying to make the other team play his pace, fell right into VCU's hands and played an undersized 4 all night long to try and play as quick as VCU which meant McRoberts was the only big man on the floor for Duke at times. McRoberts had such a good game that not only did Duke lose this game, but they may have lost McRoberts to the NBA draft next year. If they don't replace McRoberts with Patterson next year, Duke may have a very long season next year.

As for Greg Paulus, what else can you say. I killed him earlier this year and, as if he read my article, has played extremely well since that point. Last night, Greg dropped a career high 25 points, but it still wasn't enough as he couldn't stay in front of Maynor on the defensive end. Unfortunately, in a man-to-man defensive system, Paulus is always going to be a major liability with his below-average foot speed and less than impressive height. The only problem is he was recruited at this size and speed and if you're unwilling to change the system, you have to question why you recruited him. How many times does a Duke team have to be beat by a more athletic backcourt being able to penetrate to the rim at will before either the recruits change or the system changes?

As for the rest of the team, well, I just hope that some of the promising bench talent doesn't transfer. It's possible that you could see Pocius, Thomas and Zubek all transfer out of Duke for a lack of playing time.

As for the game, there were a few turning points. First, late in the game DeMarcus Nelson (who really had a terrible end of the season) drove the lane and never looked to pass while throwing up a floater that missed. Only problem with that play was that you could see Josh sitting on the baseline looking for the lob pass which never came. Instead, McRoberts is pushed in the back and misses a free throw so you end up with one point that possession instead of two. Next, the missed free throws killed Duke again. Paulus, who did have 25 points, missed 3 straight near the end of the game which is unacceptable for a captain point guard who is supposedly a good free throw shooter. Next, was there any doubt that Duke was going to lose that game when Nelson rushed down the court to score and leave too much time on the clock? Sure, you can't pull it out there because you're losing, but you just knew that Maynor, who was penetrating at will, was going to be able to get his own shot. Although all of these points make it sound as if Duke played awfully, Duke was up double digits in the second half and let yet another huge lead turn into a last second heartbreaking loss.

It was tough being a Duke fan this year and I fear that next year is not going to be much better.

March Madness: Day 1 - 2PM Games

By hagrin - Posted on 15 March 2007

After a timid opening set of games, March Madness viewers were expecting the upsets to start raining upon the brackets. However, it didn't start out that way.

After an 11-4 lead, Belmont missed a three pointer and the tide turned from there as Georgetown ran away with a relatively easy victory. Belmont was game for about 10-15 minutes, but the height and athleticism was too much for Belmont. Not much to say about this game other than Georgetown took care of business.

Oral Roberts was fitted for the glass slipper by many people filling out their office pool brackets. However, if you followed my advice, you would have been all over Washington State. Washington State was training 26-18 right before halftime and cut the lead to 28-26 on an impressive run right before the break. Going into halftime on the huge run carried over to the second half and WSU never looked back. Oral Roberts seemed out of sync and looked like the tried implementing a game plan that didn't suit their team in an attempt to turn the tempo away from WSU's comfort zone. It's a really good sign that WSU's shooters woke up in the second half and they were able to put up a 70 spot as there are questions about how much they can score.

Butler faced off against Old Dominion in another potential upset game. However, with the game 32-29 ODU winning, Butler hit 4 consecutive three pointers en route to a 17-0 run and just blew out ODU at the end of the game. ODU tried to respond during that run by taking outside shots outside of their system and Butler pounced on the misses. With the way Butler controls the pace, it should be interesting to see if the Maryland pressure can effect the Butler guards.

Finally, Texas A&M got a scare from UPenn, but just as CBS switched their east coast coverage to this game, UPenn forgot to score the basketball, Jones got two follow dunks and Acie Law took over the ball game as the 68-52 final didn't indicate how close this game was with 10 minutes to play. A&M turned up the defensive pressure when it had to, but you would like to see a more consistent effort from the Aggies when they play Louisville. I have A&M advancing, but if I was a betting man, I would say that Pitino's Cardinals could be ripe for the upset in the friendly confines of Lexington, Kentucky.

Hagrin's Picks: 3-1 (5-2 Total)

2007 March Madness

By hagrin - Posted on 15 March 2007

March Madness: Day 1 - 12PM Games

By hagrin - Posted on 15 March 2007

It's started. See everyone in April. This is my month.

I wanted to give a quick recap to the 12pm EST games if you were at work and didn't get to watch them. In game one, Maryland and Davidson went back and forth all game long, but Maryland was able to prevail over Davidson. Stephen Curry, the Davidson freshman, scored 30 points, but it wasn't enough to out duel the rest of the Terrapins. This was a game of runs with a couple of 10-0+ runs by both teams. Maryland showed a lot of guts being able to fight back every time Davidson hit another 3 pointer and a lot of teams that escape that tough first round game get the wake up call they need to make a deep run into the tournament. Watch out for Maryland Gator fans.

In what can be described as a complete joke, Louisville pressured Stanford out of the gym and won by over 20 points and the game wasn't even as close as the score indicates. Stanford had no answer for Louisville's pressure, speed or athleticism. The wonder twins of Stanford were actually benched at one point for ineffective play and Stanford should be embarrassed by their effort. They shouldn't have made the tournament and their performance today just shows me that the committee was extremely wrong to select the Cardinal as one of the last teams into the tournament. Louisville poses an interesting challenge to Texas A&M in the next round. Oh, and the crowd - VERY pro-Louisville and in fact extremely loud for a 12PM EST start time.

Lastly, Bobby Knight and Jarius Jackson come up small in the tournament as Boston College, the team that looks to have no heart at times, beat the Red Raiders to every loose ball and pulled away late for the win. Sean Marshall, who I despise after he screamed in JJ Redick's face at BC last year, came to play today and knocked down a lot of big time outside shots. ACC Player of the Year, Jared Dudley, was studly as he was able to avoid second half foul trouble after picking up 3 first half fouls and played a great all-around game.

Check back for updates on the second set of afternoon games for all of you at work still.

Hagrin's Picks: 2-1 (thanks Stanford).

2007 March Madness - 1st Round Selection Help - #6 - #8 Seeds

By hagrin - Posted on 15 March 2007

We gave you a breakdown of seeds 1 through 3, the breakdown of #4 seeds and the breakdown of the #5 seeds. Thursday is rapidly approaching and I'm stuck writing huge SQL queries to update our business database so I'm going to give you a short recap of who you should pick for the rest of the opening round games.

#6 Seeds
Louisville is playing Stanford less than 80 miles from their campus and most people think that Louisville is going to easily win this "home" game. However, Rupp Arena may not be as pro-Kentucy as it might be anti-Pitino. Plus, Stanford has a lot to prove, has good enough guard play and the depth inside. Louisville is the trendy pick with the nation so I'll fade the public and go with Stanford. Stanford has come across country once this year and beat Virginia at Virginia so they are road tested and have succeeded.

I'm a huge Duke homer. VCU causes matchup problems for Duke, but Duke rarely loses to mid majors (unless you're Earl Boykins from Eastern Michigan) - Duke wins.

Vanderbilt and George Washington is a nasty matchup to pick. Vanderbilt has the outside shooting to make it to the Sweet 16. They also have a road record that makes you think that having to travel across the country is going to spell disaster for them. I'm picking GW in the upset because of the tournament experience and Vandy's inability to win away from home.

Notre Dame and Winthrop has a similar feel to the Vandy/GW game. Winthrop is the sexy pick this year for people picking upsets, but I watched this team struggle against a below average VMI team. I think Notre Dame has the better team and should pull out the win.

#7 Seeds
Almost every one of the 7v10 matchups is a complete toss up. You're better off just picking names out of a hat then following the advice of the so called experts. Here's my quick analysis -

Georgia Tech has 1 true road win all year. They are a competely different team away from home and the entire country has GaTech. I have UNLV.

Gonzaga is playing without Heytvelt, this is a revenge game for Indiana (Gonzaga beat them last year) and DJ White will be the best player on the court. That being said, guard play will win out and Ravio and Pargo are better than anything Indiana has. Gonzaga has played a tough schedule, traveled a lot of miles and they are well rested after the WCC tournament. Gonzaga should win.

Nevada is dealing with serious injury problems. Fazekas is battling injuries and Nevada is down one starter. Look for Nate Funk to take over and Creighton to win the game.

BC and Texas Tech might be the worst matchup of the opening round. BC lacks heart, Texas Tech lacks consistency. BC might not have enough scoring to beat Texas Tech, but I give the edge to BC because the game is in North Carolina and I think they are familair with playing in that area. Texas Tech has beated A&M this year, but then they throw up absolute goose eggs against bad teams. I'll take the more consistent BC team.

#8 Seeds
Again, this is another toss up year for 8v9 matchups.

Arizona has far superior talent than Purdue. Arizona is the Tin Man of the NCAAs - no heart. However, the scouts will be out to watch Marcus Williamss o he might decide to actually play. Arizona wins a very close game.

Nardi is hurt for Villanova and when Reynolds has to play point guard, the offense doesn't flow enough through the Villanova big men. Kentucky has the superior athletes, but can Randolph Morris not pick up two fouls during the national anthem? Take Villanova assuming Nardi plays - if you hear he won't go, switch your pick to Kentucky.

Michigan State plays a banged up Marquette team. Izzo rarely has two bad tournaments in a row and I can see MSU dominating the glass in this game. MSU gets the edge in a disgusting, low scoring 8v9 game. Get out the football pads for this one.

Xavier vs. BYU ... snooze fest. I give the Mountain West no respect after the debacle that was Air Force the last two years, but BYU is tournament tested - but so is Xavier. Xavier played really well at the beginning of the year, but I'm not sure that carries over into the tournament. I think BYU wins this game, but I have Xavier currently on my sheet of integrity thinking that a potential shot against in-state rival Ohio State might be enough to motivate them. I'm taking Xavier to win, but wouldn't be surprised if the 30 year olds from BYU beat Xavier up inside.

Good luck tomorrow everyone!