West crashes Final Four: Congrats to the Pacific North Pest(s)

You can’t spell W-E-S-T without W-E so let’s just log split-it out: W-E did it. Well, they did it, but not without the Birkenstock backing of left-leaners who unabashedly cheered, not so much for players or coaches, but for a geographical region. Rankman Inc. put all his stock in west-coast NCAA teams this year, knowing full well no school near the Pacific Rim had touched a Final Four rim since UCLA in 2008. No school from the West has won the NCAA title since Arizona in 1997, so projecting three teams to this year’s Final Four seemed like a Dick Fosbury flop waiting to happen. Except, if you remember Fosbury, you know he was a mold-breaking Olympic high jumper from …Oregon. (Ok, Fosbury attended Oregon State, not Oregon, but he was close enough to go on a mile run to Eugene.) Sometimes, in life, you just have raise the bar and leap over it backward. To paraphrase the poet Robert Browning,  “Rankman’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a hoop heaven for?” So, two Sundays ago, we took a flying leap and postulated a Final Four of Villanova, Gonzaga, UCLA and Oregon. Two out of four isn’t bad, Gonzaga and Oregon, especially when you consider this marks the first time two teams from the Pacific Time zone have EVER shared the same Final Four. First, it is important...

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TMG bracket “bake off” contest heads for exciting finish

The first TMG bracket challenge begged the following question: Are you smarter than three sportswriters who have covered, combined, more than 70 NCAA Tournaments? With two weekends down and a Final Four to go, know this:  only one of TMG’s co-founders has a chance to compete for the grand prize. That would be moi, DufRankman1, who currently stands t-7 with Gonzaga as his projected champion. That’s right, kids,  Rankman has a chance to finish t-1 in his own tournament. That would be sort of like Bing Crosby winning his clam bake at Pebble Beach. Bad form. Actually, this is NOT what we expected, nor had in mind. And Rankman is rigorously rooting against that odorous possibility, even if it does reflect admirably upon his game-picking abilities. Thankfully, there are still miles to go, though, before you weep. TMG co-founder Jersey Guy is t-19 but his chances broke down like a nag at Churchill Downs when his champion, Kentucky, lost that white-knuckler to North Carolina. TMG co-founder HerbGould is down near the caboose, at t-36, which isn’t going to earn him many FedEx points. Herb lost two alma maters along the bracket way, Wisconsin and Northwestern, with the Badgers’ losing ever-so-painfully in overtime to Florida. Here’s the skinny: Smackyd3232 is our current leader, but he picked Duke as his champion. Basically, he’s leading the Indy 500 but he’s going to run...

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NCAA Weekend wrap: the Sweet 16 (with a side of sour)

Sixteen takes from the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament: 1: Horace Greeley wasn’t the only newspaper man to shout “Go West.”  Rankman’s pre-tournament, geographical finger point turned out to be prophetic. In a story last week read by dozens, Rankman claimed four Western schools were poised to make deep advances into this year’s NCAA Tournament. If not now, when? All four of my touts pulled through: Gonzaga, Arizona, Oregon and UCLA. The West, in general, was titanium. Even UC Davis (Big West) got to log an NCAA win in the history book. The West Coast Conference advanced as many teams to the Sweet 16 as the Atlantic Coast. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s went 3-1, with the Zags still playing. USC, the second-to-last team to make the field, won two NCAA games before UCLA played its first.  The Pac 12 emerged 8-1. Making the Sweet 16 IS NOT enough. To regain national credibility, a team or two from the West must push through to the Final Four. It’s still a fight out there in the non-west world. USA Today devoted a Monday cover story to a conference that did well on the first weekend. “Success Quells Big Ten Critics.” The Big Ten went 8-4.   2: UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball IS the best player left in the field. And that’s saying a lot, because there are terrific players left....

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West Regional: It all comes down to Zags vs. Zona

Outlook:  Top-ranked coaches Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Sean Miller (Arizona) appear to be on a regional final collision course: Few and Miller are on the short list of “best coaches who have never been to a Final Four.” You got to love this region just for the first-time inclusion of Northwestern, which hosted the first NCAA Tournament in 1939 but is only now making its first appearance. A potential second-round match up against Gonzaga, however, could make this a remake of “Gone With The Wind.”   Upset specials:  Arizona fans probably cringed when they saw a possible second-game date against No. 7 St. Mary’s. This will remind some of 1993, when another Bay Area team from the West Conference, Santa Clara, pulled off one of the biggest 15-2 upsets in NCAA history. Good news: St. Mary’s doesn’t have a guard as good as Steve Nash. Upset books: No. 12 Princeton over No. 5 Notre Dame; No.11 Xavier over No.6 Maryland. Hunch: “Dunk City” over No. 3 Florida State. Moving to San Jose: Gonzaga, West Virginia, Xavier, Arizona Regional champs:...

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It’s time for Western front to make a stand in NCAA Tournament

  To quote Jim Morrison, the former UCLA film student, booze guzzler, lizard king and early Gail Goodrich fan: “the time to hesitate is through. No time to wallow in the mire.” It’s time for the UCLA, and the West, to light someone’s fire in the NCAA Tournament. The hardest thing to hear last week, maybe all year, was ESPN carnival barker Bill Walton calling the Pac 12 “Conference of Champions.” That is all fine and good, and true, but Pac 12 revenue sports have come up drier than the Mojave for more than a decade. The last title in football was USC’s 2004 championship, later vacated by the lords of the BCS. The last title in basketball is now the 20-year anniversary of Arizona’s win over Kentucky in Indianapolis. Let’s put that in context. Arizona won the 1997 title on March 31. Almost two months later, May 22, 1997, a baby was born in Vantaa, Finland who would later matriculate into Arizona’s starting lineup: That baby was current freshman star Lauri Markkanen. You realize how much pickled herring has been consumed in the interim? So, anyway, the NCAA bracket is out and it’s time for the West to win. No more excuses. UCLA’s Lonzo Ball has a sore left thumb? Too bad. You think a bum thumb would bother someone like Steph Curry? Oregon has lost senior Chris...

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TMG bracket contest open for business

​​The Media Guides, Blaudschun, Dufresne and Gould, invite you to put your bracket up against theirs in the 2017 Bracket Challenge.  To participate, go to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge page before Thursday 3/16, sign in, create your own Bracket and then join the TMGCollegesports.com Group. You’re welcome to invite friends and family to join in, as well. We’ll be rewarding our top three finishers! Questions: email TheMediaGuides@gmail.com or call 909-374-7290. More Info: Already Have an ESPN Username/Password? If you have ever subscribed to or participated in an ESPN challenge or fantasy league, you can use your existing ESPN Username and Password to sign in and create your bracket. Don’t have or don’t remember your ESPN Username/Password? You will need to sign up with a username/email and password on ESPN’s site to create your bracket. Creating/Submitting Your Bracket Once you’re signed in on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge site, you’ll be able to create and submit your bracket. To join the TMGcollegesports.com Group From ESPN’s site click on the Groups tab  (on top menu next to Home), enter TMGcollegesports in the Find Groups search bar, click on it, then click on the Join Group button. For additional info see ESPN’s How to Play FAQs   (Original Post re-cap) What do know-it-all media types know about NCAA Tournament picking that you don’t? Answer: nothing. And here’s your chance to prove it. TMG College Sports proudly announces, drum roll...

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NCAA Tournament: How the West was lost (but can finally be won back)

Who said the drought is over out West? Has anyone seen us play college basketball the last 20 years? My Weather Channel aerial map still shows large swaths of parched basins and red areas along certain Pacific rims. But first, some historical backdrop: John Wooden won his 10th, and final, NCAA championship on the West Coast, in 1975. The score was UCLA 92, Kentucky 85. Wooden knew he made the right decision to retire when, the story goes, he was approached by a joyous booster on his way out of the arena in San Diego. “Congratulations coach,” the fan said. “You let us down last year but this made up for it.” What an an idiotic, incredulous, insensitive, stuck-up, snobby statement. The year before, after winning seven straight NCAA titles, UCLA lost in the national semifinals, in double overtime, to North Carolina State. THIS made up for it? Honestly, though, I totally get what the booster was saying. When I was a young UCLA fan, between the ages 7 and 14, the Bruins did win every year. I never once had to ask Santa for it. I actually felt sorry for poor coaches like North Carolina’s Dean Smith, who was never going to win it all while Wooden was employed. My West Coast arrogance continued into professional adulthood when, two decades ago, I became national college basketball writer for...

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Joe Lunardi lecturing UCLA on the NCAA Tournament: Isn’t that precious?

The “Judge Judy” trial pitting UCLA vs. Joe Lunardi might be billed “Blown Gaskets vs. Joey Brackets.” Less than a week before Selection Sunday, ESPN’s resident NCAA Tournament expert continues to have UCLA lagging as a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region. This seems counter to all other available information. UCLA (28-3) is ranked No. 3 nationally by the AP and USA Today voting coaches. They are ranked No. 4 in power rankings postulated by ESPN “insider” Jeff Goodman. Which ESPN expert are we supposed to believe here? UCLA enters this week’s Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas seeded higher in other respected mocks:  Mark Blaudschun of TMG College Sports has UCLA as a No. 2 in the South.  So do bracket men Stewart Mandel of  (Fox Sports) and Jerry Palm (CBS Sports). It’s not so much where Lunardi has placed UCLA, though, as to how he’s doing it. Last week he delivered a 1 minute, 22-second video to justify his Eastwood position on Westwood. It was a condescending, talk-down-to-them piece presented like Mr. Rogers to kindergartners on Sesame Street. “Apparently,” Mr. Lunardi says, “if it says UCLA across the jersey, facts don’t matter.” Wow. It’s not that Bruin fans can’t be needy and whiny—they can. They have a history of thinking their football program is better than it is. UCLA basketball fans, though, don’t need to be...

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Northwestern’s pending NCAA bid puts final nail in the curses coffin

I planted Shamrocks in the back yard this week (true), but not with any hope of producing a four-leaf clover for my favorite, flummoxed, tortured sporting franchise. The market on jinxes and hexes is, in fact, drying up. I saw a witch doctor on the corner this week holding a sign “Homeless since Cubs won.” These days, outside of the Cleveland Indians’ office,  you can’t find a pagan priest not on the dole. Forget about flowers–where have all the curses gone? Wednesday night, to the thrill of my journalism colleagues with degrees from the prestigious School of Ann-Medill-Margret, Northwestern basketball defeated Michigan on a last-second basket. Fans stormed the court in Evanston as fast as Northwestern sportswriters stormed Twitter. Stewart Mandel, in attendance as an alum and history recorder,  penned an excellent story for Fox Sports about the night HIS school finally clinched (likely) its first NCAA Tournament bid. Mind you, Northwestern hosted the first NCAA Tournament in 1939, but has never played in it…until now. Official word won’t be delivered until Selection Sunday on March 12. In the bible, Moses delivered the good news from on high. In basketball,  it comes from Greg Gumbel. “THOU SHALT NOT HAVE TO PLAY TUESDAY IN DAYTON!” “It’s really happening,” Mandel wrote. “I wouldn’t believe it, except I saw it with my own eyes.” This was a glorious night for Northwestern and...

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Updated: Following the bouncing Ball Brothers: does father know best?

LaVar Ball has every right to brag about his talented basketball sons, who have helped put a little Meadowlark Lemon into our lovely hills of Chino. (Update: Brag about your SONS, LaVar, not yourself. It’s one thing to say you think Lonzo is already better than Steph Curry. Telling USA Today that, in your heyday, YOU could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard this year from someone not running for high office. You don’t think we can’t look things up? Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. You averaged 2.2 points one year at Washington State. Stop this kind of talk NOW. This is not about you, remember, this is about your boys. Or maybe it is about you?)   Mr. Ball may have already reached the tipping point with media types like myself, however, who love a good “Hometown Buffet” story until we can savagely turn on it. (Update: Scratch “may” from that sentence. The media has already transitioned from a tipping, to ripping, point. Twitter trolls have started a “LaVar Ball Says” hash tag. LaVar is getting hammered on social media.) We may be 10 minutes from our first “Wrecking Ball” headline. (Update: it was more like five minutes.)  Making Chino Hills famous, first off, has been no easy trick. (Update: I’m starting to wonder now about the fine line...

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In order to win it all, does Gonzaga need to lose it now?

“I don’t always choose watching college basketball in late-February and early March but, when I do, I prefer Gonzaga.” –Rankman Let’s up the ante on that two more Bing Crosbys. No one who ever paid a child’s tuition to rival Saint Mary’s has appreciated more what has risen along the bank-shots of the Spokane River. I wasn’t on board for the 1999 squad that cracked its tournament egg en route to a no shame loss to eventual national champion Connecticut. After that, however, you’ll see my deadlined face in a lot of NCAA, press-row, back drops. That was me, in the corner, losing my 2003 religion in Salt Lake City when Arizona drew its last breath against Gonzaga in double overtime. It remains one of the top-five NCAA Tournament games I’ve ever witnessed. That was me, also, chasing down Gonzaga Coach Mark Few in a hallway seeing if he would be interested in replacing Steve Lavin at some hoop-hole called UCLA. (He wasn’t, but Ben Howland was). Adam Morrison, in 2006, in Oakland, crying at half court after his team blew a 17-point lead to UCLA in the regional semifinals? I was close enough to hand Adam a hankie. There I was again, center court, in 2013, when top-seeded Gonzaga was felled by No. 9 Wichita State in Salt Lake City. Knowing that Few was a lost cause, I...

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Tuesday will forever be a diamond-shaped day for love and lovers

Tuesday, of course, connotes a special day for love across the country. Some people think Feb. 14 has become too commercialized, syrupy and over-hyped, but to me these eternal, show-of-love words will never grow stale: Pitchers and catchers report   Years ago, when he played shortstop and center field for middle-earth Orange County, we called it Bobby Valentine’s Day. Anyway, if you love baseball you most likely have YOUR team. Maybe you inherited it from your father, or stumbled upon it honestly. In my day, you most definitely had a baseball card collection of your team. My love of the “California” Angels was largely born of accident, serendipity and geography. In 1966, as I recall these 50-some years later, my bookworm older sister won Angels tickets in a local library raffle. Local is the operative word here. We grew up in La Habra, then a city of avocado trees that was a stone’s throw away from Richard Nixon’s Whittier. La Habra was also located, conveniently, to a spanking new stadium opening in Anaheim. This new stadium would house Gene Autry’s Angels, who had been renting Dodger Stadium while their next-door-to-Disneyland edifice was being constructed. So, there you have it—it all came together. I got the raffle ticket my sister would never use in a million years—my guess is she has still never set foot in a sports arena, stadium,...

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