The Chat House

Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 20, 2006; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, March 20, at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about March Madness and other sports news.

Today's Articles: Area Rivals Provide A Glimpse of Past, Future (Post, March 20)

and

George Mason Knocks Out the Champion (Post, March 20)

Michael Wilbon's NCAA Bracket

Tourney Tracker

Printable Bracket

A Few Choice Picks: Tony Kornheiser

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Please stay with us. Sorry for the delay.

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Washington, D.C.: Is this the best NCAA Tournament in years or what? No 40 point blowouts, everyone's bracket is busted. Has the talent level been affected by so many kids leaving early for the NBA?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I think it is...I wrote in last Monday's column that I thought there would be plenty of upsets and that the good power conference teams aren't even that better than the mid-majors...The games I attended in Dayton on Thursday, all four of them, were fabulous. George Mason had a great game with Michigan State. Georgetown and Northern Iowa was tight. Ohio State struggled with Davidson, even while playing at "home." And North Carolina barely got past Murray State. I was drained from the stress of it by the end of the day...The whole thing has been competitive and tight and entertaining...I've loved every second of it.

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Richmond, Va.: Does Billy Packer get it? Does he not realize that the "Power Conferences" aren't what they used to be? Is it a chip on his shoulder, because he played for the smallest school in the ACC? He made similar comments when Richmond went to the Sweet 16 in 1988 and when they beat Syracuse in 1991, but now the landscape is much different, he has to realize that at come to terms that smaller conference schools may have better shots at success.

Michael Wilbon: I don't think he does get it. Billy, who I think is THE best at what he does, told Tony and me on air last week that he didn't see the MVC teams play. And chances are overwhelming he didn't see any CAA teams play...See, that's not good. But it's understandable because Billy works 6 days a week covering the teams his network puts before him, which are power conference teams...So, I understand how he could not see them...But then, you can't step to the mic with arrogance talking down the littles. Viewers hate that...and many of them come from small schools and they're calling him out for it...

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Reston, Va.: 1982 Grad of GMU. I feel like you probably did the first time Northwestern did great things in football.

Do you agree with Tony K's article on the NIT this morning? For the record I don't.

If you are a young ACC team and it would help to get tournament tough in the NIT I think it helps you to particpate.

Also, I believe there is going to be more parity in the NCAA as the cream of the crop players go pro right out of HS or after one year.

TK just can't bring himself to praise GMU and admitting how bad the Terps were this year once McCray left.

Michael Wilbon: No, I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with every word of Tony's NIT columnette this morn...every word of it. Tony's nearly as bad as Billy Packer on this issue. He sits in front of the tele and can't believe it's not 1969 and Lew Alcindor isn't playing the next game against Notre Dame. So, no, I'm not with that sentiment.

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Arlington, Va.: I think more big time conferences should just play a weak schedule (as most of the mid majors do). It's amazing to finally see what happens when teams play no competition all year long, face no challenges and are fully rested for the tournament, meanwhile the major conferences beat up on each other every single game and are completely worn out at the end of the year. Oh to be a mid major team....to float along the waves of mediocrity... BTW, I'm expecting a complete Wilbon blow up in 5...4...3...2...1...now!

Michael Wilbon: What what you trying to do, induce a blow-up? The issue is totally the opposite of what you are stating. Let's see some of the mid-majors leave home and go play some mid-majors on the road...or make them home-and-home series and let's see who wins. More states should do what Iowa does...which is to mandate schools in that state have to play each other. This way, Iowa had to play Northern Iowa, which would never happen if Iowa had its way...and Northern Iowa won...So you're point, anecdotally, is WRONG!

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Washington, D.C.: Michael, Thank you for doing this on a hectic day like today. My questions: Do you think Laranagra outcoached Williams? I thought North Carolina was not able to adjust to Mason's trapping defense in the early part of the second half? Will we start seeing more mid-majors on TV now?

Michael Wilbon: Though Roy Williams brought up, a number of times, the mistakes that he made as a coach yesterday, I think coaching can be overrated in how the game turned out. Roy Williams, who for my money was coach-of-the-year this season, can make all the plans he wants, but it's of no consequence if his players can't execute...and they couldn't...because the Mason kids have a great defense, ranked 9th nationally this season in opponents' field goal percentage...As for TV, I would hope we could see fewer big-conference teams who are middle-of-the-pack and more mid-majors who know how to play...This can't be that hard to identify...Problem is, you want good games on TV and the big super power teams are afraid to play mid-majors on the road or with neutral referees.

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State College, Pa.: I don't want to rain on everyone's parade, but is a 64-team, single-elimination touranment really the best way to determine a champion? I understand the tournament is exciting (and I enjoy it as much as anyone else), but for all the grief college football gets, can't we at least acknowledge that the NCAA tournament creates some pretty arbitrary results. I mean, are these REALLY the best 16 teams this season, or are they just the best 16 teams of last weekend?

Michael Wilbon: College basketball creates arbitrary results and college football votes don't???

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Louisville, Ky.: How much does the NBA age limit have to do with the unpredictability of the tournament this year?

And, in fear of getting a justifiable smackdown for looking WAY too far ahead, are all bets off once Greg Oden joins OSU?

Michael Wilbon: Good question...Greg Oden and Ohio State ought to be great for a year or two...but late bloomers have a huge impact on college ball now. Who's better, John Gilchrist...is he as good as one of those George Mason starting guards who are also from Maryland? I don't think so...even though Gilchrist helped Maryland win an ACC Tournament...Point is, there are so few kids who skip from high school to the NBA that I don't think that alone will stop the mid-majors from continuing to improve.

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New York, N.Y.: Hey Mike,

How much of an impact, if any, will something like this have on GMU's recruiting efforts going forward? Is it written off as a fluke, or is this something the school can build on in order to draw more talent to the university?

Michael Wilbon: Good question...I think George Mason will now get into some homes it might not have otherwise. This is going to take a year to play out, though, because next year's recruiting effort is mostly set. But if Mason can alwasy flirt with getting into the tournament, the coaches can say, "See, it's not a fluke. But part of this will depend on the previous question about television and other mid-majors.

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Georgetown: So what's you rundown of the GU/Fla matchup?

Michael Wilbon: I'm actually going with Georgetown to Minneapolis...I'm interested in seeing Georgetown's 7-2 center Roy Hibbert against Florida's 6-11 Jokim Noah, who wanted apparently to attend Georgetown for college...We don't get to see growing, improving, legit big men play against each other in college anymore. So this could be a treat, though both are so far from being finished products. It's not Ralph vs. Ewing in 1983, but it should be good...Also, suppose Villanova and Georgetown play each other on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four??? I might pass out. How good would that be?

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Bethesda, Md.: What, exactly, is a "mid-major" and what schools are considered to be mid-majors?

Michael Wilbon: You guys are burning it up with all the perfect questions today (in my humble opinion)...The mid-majors are anybody outside of the following conferences (which also happen to be the BCS conferences---oooh, what a shocker!): Big Ten, ACC, Pac-10, Southwest Conference, Big East, SEC. That's it, that's the list. The othe Division I schools (MEAC, CAA, Patriot League, SWAC, Conference USA, etc.) are considered mid-majors.

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washingtonpost.com: NIT Is NOT For the ACC, Especially U-MD! (Post, March 20)

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Tucson, Ariz.: If Arizona was playing anyone else but Viillanova yesterday they would have won. Do you agree?

Michael Wilbon: Sorry, but since I was covering GMU and GU I couldn't see Arizona vs. Villanova, but I understand it was quite a good game and that Arizona played really well...

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Arlington, Va.: What will this years performance by the MVC and CAA mean for next years tournament selections? Will each conference now get a better chance at at large bids?

I mean, how would Hofstra be doing if they were in this tournament? Or Missiouri State???

Michael Wilbon: Thing is, the mid-major conferences are going to have to do this again or the big boys will call it a fluke and try to gobble up all the at-large bids.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I grew up in Pittsburgh and now live near Washington, so when I saw someone suggesting that the 64-team NCAA tournament may be flawed in some way I quickly looked to see if the address was "State College" or "Charlottesville".

They have a point, of course. The 64-team tourney and all this March Madness stuff is obviously a failure. The NCAA should shift to a BCS format that just has Duke play U-Conn since nobody is interested in any of these other games.

Michael Wilbon: Bingo!

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Columbia, S.C.: Disappointed Terps fan here, but happy for George Mason and (reluctantly) for Georgetown. I know you might not wanna discuss the fourth-best team in the area this year and one that's not the story right now, but real quickly could you evaluate the state of the Maryland program? A lot of fans are jumping off buildings, but I tend to think (or hope) that a two-year slide is just a blip.

Michael Wilbon: It's not really good right now. Maryland has no star players returning and I have no idea if the freshman class next year will yield one. Everywhere I go I'm forced to listen to Terps fans in despair, many of whom who now want Gary Williams fried like an egg...even though last I checked Gary Williams is the only coach to ever get their school/team into the Final Four, or cut down the nets on the final night of the season...I'm not saying Gary can be criticized...But he also has EARNED the chance to pull the program back up...to the bar he set.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Mike:

Looking ahead a bit to next year ... will Georgetown be a top-10 team?

Michael Wilbon: Why would you want to look to next year when you have next week? This is what sports radio has done...I'm convinced it's sports radio.

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Mid Major: You forgot the A-10.

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, the Atlantic 10 is sort of a swing conference. There have been years where the A-10 has gotten 4 bids, and years where the committee has given the A-10 the back of its hand. But mostly, the A-10 is mid-major land, baby!

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Major vs. mid-major: What about the Big Twelve?

Michael Wilbon: Didn't I list the Big 12 among the majors in the six biggies...Okay, maybe I goofed. One more time: Big Ten, Big East, SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, ACC...those are the "major" conferences.

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3000 miles east of home: The Pac-10 got two teams -- UCLA and Washington -- through to the Sweet Sixteen, both of which you had going out early in your bracket. Is the Pac-10 actually better than the East Coast prognostocati thought this year?

Michael Wilbon: Better than I thought.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello Mike. See Ya on PTI in a lil. Pops only played 13 mins Sat. Didn't get a chance to see the game but wanted to know if Pops could have played his game was beating Duke possible? Go Hoyas and GM.

Michael Wilbon: GW beat this Duke team. NO. Not if GW had Pops and Yinka Dare and were coached by the great man himself, Red Auerbach...just to mention a few GW alums...No, no, no. Duke is indeed that much better than GW. We saw it, there's no more dissection necessary.

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Scottsdale, Ariz.: Any chance you get Packer on PTI this week?

Michael Wilbon: I doubt it. I don't think I want him. I heard he had a half-dozen chances to say, "Look, I blew it this year with this...I'm dead wrong about the MVC and George Mason" and he didn't, which surprises and disappoints me.

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Scottsdale, Ariz.: Now that Tagliabue is stepping down, any idea who the next commish will be?

Michael Wilbon: Maybe Roger Godell?

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Washington, D.C.: This NCAA tourney must be making some serious change for somebody. How much of it do the players get?

Michael Wilbon: Uh, the exact answer would be...not a dime.

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Collegeville, Pa.: Wilbon, which player do you feel is performing the best so far in the NCAA tourney?

Michael Wilbon: Probably, J.J. Reddick. No, I know...Jokim Noah. He's been a beast in both games so far. And Hibbert's been great, stats and impact.

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Durham, N.C.: Billy Packer has long overstepped his welcome. I hope this finally does him in, what are the chances?

Michael Wilbon: Wow...I'm just going to let you vent on this one. I don't really agree with it...but in the interest of full disclosure, about 33 percent of the questions are like this one.

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Ithaca, N.Y.: Michael, it's a real shame Gerry McNamara had to go out like that, isn't it? Is it okay if I block out last Thursday's game in my head forever, and just remember the Big East tournament as being the end of SU's eason?

Michael Wilbon: Not only is it alright to do that, it's what you SHOULD do. That was a fabulous run Syracuse and McNamara had, and it wasn't possible to produce another one. It's not humanly possible, not physically and emotionally possible...which is why I had Texas A&M beating Syracuse in the first round.

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Alexandria, Va.: Boston College over Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen? You must feel stupid now the way BC played and Skinner coached this weekend.

Michael Wilbon: So let me see, BC is in the Sweet 16 and I should feel stupid. You are stupid.

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Using the Term Defending Champions: Wilbon,

It drives me crazy for the announcers to call UNC the defending champions. Yes, UNC won last year but no one on this year's team really contributed to last year's championship team. Maybe UNLV were the reigning champions because the personnel was the same but honestly does any real hoops fan consider the next year team the reigning champs? Take Maryland ... they lost Wilcox, Baxter, Dixon and Blake. Was that team the defending champions the next year? I don't think so ...

Michael Wilbon: Hey, those kids at UNC defended that championship very well...and let's not forget that 4 of Carolina's top 8 players were indeed juniors and seniors, though we know the most talented players were freshmen and sophomores. But the school defends its championship. That's the rightful position.

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Saratoga, N.C.: Wilbon, will TO and Tuna play nice or are they headed for Self-Destruction?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I think TO will be fine for one season...And Tuna will do whatever he has to do to make it work...But don't think this marriage will last forever.

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Fairfax, Va.: Tim Duncan was not always Tim Duncan. He developed in college into a great player ...

... watching Hibbert reminded me of Duncan back in college, its a little scary.

Get in front of this kid and tell us about him!

Michael Wilbon: Read the paper, dude...I wrote about Hibbert in Sunday's newspaper and another little bit about him today...Get with it, homey!

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washingtonpost.com: George Mason Knocks Out the Champion (Post, March 20)

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washingtonpost.com: Today's Article: Area Rivals Provide A Glimpse of Past, Future (Post, March 20)

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Packer is Right: I've sent in a couple questions today stating that the mid-major mania is noting more than a media frenzy, and that the power conferences still rule the game(check the Final Four listings back to 1979). Don't want to face the facts?

Michael Wilbon: You think re-stating the obvious makes you some sort of savant? You feel like a big ol' man, now. The examination of the issue, which thinking people tend to do, centers on whether there is a shift taking place now, and why it is the power conferences remain the power conferences. I guess you thought Georgetown was always a power conference team? They were in something (I think) called the ECAC-South, or something...What was that but mid-major? And Georgetown, with 5 No. 1 seeds since 1979, is behind only North Carolina and Duke...So how would your arrogance explain Georgetown? Seriously, you might want to think of exceptions and trends before you put on your cape every morning.

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Falls Church, Va.: Wilbon, what do you think will be Tagliabue's greatest legacy?

Michael Wilbon: Maintaining labor peace. Baseball, the NBA and the NHL can't claim that...And, pro football strengthened its hold as America's real national pasttime.

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College Park, Md.: WBC finals tonight. Will you be watching or could you care less whether Japan or Cuba wins?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I will watch. I always watch Cuba's baseball team when I can. I got to see them in person in 1984 during the Pan American Games, and I became fascinated with Cuba's team then...and went to Havana and got to watch the team play in the early 1990s.

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Arlington, Va.: Packer reminds me of the time John Madden said late in the Rams-Patriots Super Bowl that the Pats were nuts for starting a drive late in the game deep in their own end. Why is it that these dinosaurs like Madden and Packer get a lifetime pass from the network when they are wrong more often than they are right!

Michael Wilbon: Madden is the best ever, in my opinion, at what he does. And Packer is the best, in my opinion, at what he does...I think Doug Collins is the best basketball analyst at any level...but Doug doesn't do college ball and Billy does. I'll still take Billy Packer telling me about a college game any day.

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Chicago, Ill.: Wilbon -- you got to talk to the folks at ESPN about replaying your show later. They show at 4:30 locally then replay it at 5:30 on ESPN news. My question, how does this help anyone? I get home from work at 6 p.m!

Anyway, who is your guest today? Though I'm destined to miss it.

Michael Wilbon: Our guest today is George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga...and if I could dictate the time of shows on ESPN, you think I'd be DOING a show or running the network, bro?

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San Antone, Tex.: What about Tony Parker for MVP? He's carried this team over Duncan and Ginnobli's injuries, and hasn't had the support that Nash or Nowitizi have.

Michael Wilbon: Really, Tim Duncan doesn't play for the Spurs anymore? Bruce Bowen not there anymore? Robert Horry not coming off the bench? Did Nazr Mohammed take a leave of absence? What? Steve Nash lost three starters from last year's team: Amare Stoudamire, the Suns' best player and only true big man, Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson, who the Hawks thought enough of to give up two No. 1 picks and Boris Diaw, who because of playing with Nash is now the best player in the league. Nash has incorporated SEVEN new players into the lineup and they're going to be the No. 2 seed in the west.

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Aside to Packer Is Right: The BCS cartel schools are in control because of BCS football. The day the NCAA stops coddling the BCS cartel is the day the cartel breaks away and leaves the NCAA television-less and broke.

Michael Wilbon: You and I could not agree more. In fact, that statement is so on-point and in the NCAA's face, that we'll go out on a high note. Glad we could chat today on college hoops. And Monday, I'll be coming back from Minneapolis but we'll be able to chat same time, same channel. Though I have no affiliation with either school, I would certainly like to see George Mason and Georgetown win their games this weekend, screw up my brackets and get to the Final Four...What a treat that would be for basketball fans here, the schools, their alums and boosters.

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