Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, March 22, 2010; 1:30 PM
Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, March 22 to discuss Tiger Woods's Masters return, the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, NBA, the Wizards, the latest sports news, his columns and World Wide Wilbon (which is Not Just Another Sorry, No-Account Sports Blog) the latest sports news, his columns and anything else on your mind.
Mike was also excited to defend his candidates for best sports story, athlete and overlooked story of the decade, which are open for user voting now at World Wide Wilbon.
A transcript follows
New York, NY: While I hate how my Hoyas crapped the bed last week, I have to say I loved all the upsets last weekend. Thrilling stuff. But in th eback of my head, I can't help but think that some NCAA honcho is gonna use them to justify expanding the tourney. "Hey, if you loved those upsets, just imagine how many we'll have with 91 schools!" Assinine, but you know some idiot is thinking it at NCAA headquarters.
Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...Let's jump right into the NCAA Tournament, which has been pretty darned entertaining so far, what with the upsets (sorry, Georgetown folks) and buzzer beaters (sorry, Maryland folks). It's been what I expected, going back to early February when it was clear no super team was going to emerge. I think the tournament is at it's most appealing when it's wide open in this way. And yes, as to this first question, I think NCAA execs and probably TV execs (probably one of my bosses at ESPN) will say this is exactly why the tournament should expand, when it is exactly why the tournament should NOT expand. I did hear a proposal this week which would expand the field to 72 so as to pit teams like Illinois, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, etc. in a first round of 16 teams that would play into something like 12 and 13 seeds. Personally, I don't see the need for that either...but I could stomach it. A full-blown increase to 96 would be nothing more than a wretched money grab. That's too bad...and it's probably coming.
Washington, DC: Michael,
So why did Bozeman get the kiss of death while Calipari, Huggins and the like have emerged with no real problems/penalties? (For themselves I mean, not the schools that hired them.)
Michael Wilbon: The NCAA doesn't take on big fish. The NCAA, as a police entity, is Barney Fife. It'll run down the guy going 58 mph in a 55 mph zone and give him the death penalty, but doesn't have the guts to hammer the guy going 85 mph in the new Porsche who blows the horn while racing past giving the NCAA the middle finger. This isn't new. Todd's a really good coach, but he's not a big fish with a lot of push-back behind him, no established power base of influential boosters and insiders and coaches.
Pittsburgh: Why is the proposed NCAA tourney expansion any different from when the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985? If I recall, the same objections were tossed around then that are being tossed around now.
I say bring on more games and give us more great tourney action. If the 8th best team in the MAC can beat down Georgetown and the Ivy League champ can embarrass a perennial Big Ten power, I see no reason why more teams shouldn't be allowed in.
Wilbon, please don't tell me you're siding with the BCS schools on this one.
Michael Wilbon: There was NO such reaction in 1985 when the tournament expanded. It was clear then, with a cap on conference teams, that bigger was going to be better. That isn't the case now. There aren't 32 more teams we need to see in this tournament. There just aren't. There were probably six teams that had a legit gripe of some kind, including Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Illinois...maybe Seton Hall. Add a couple of teams from smaller conferences and you still can't get close to 32 MORE teams. Please.
Silver Spring, Md.: I'd like to congratulate you on having your Final Four in Kornheiser's bracket still alive. You're the only one who can say that in ANY pool I know about. Brilliant! With that said, you've proven that this year's tourney is GREAT! This year looked like a wide open tourney and I'm so pleased that's how it's turning out! If every game's final 2 minutes could end the same way as the Maryland - MSU game, I'd be thrilled! Go Northern Iowa, Cornell, and the team I'm most impressed with - ST. MARY'S! How does ANYONE stop St. Mary's combo of inside play and outside shooting???
Michael Wilbon: First, thanks. Second, I'm less interested in analyzing this tournament than I am in simply watching it. I was courtside for Murray State's jumper-at-the-buzzer win over Vandy...and Washington basket in the final two seconds, both in San Jose Thursday. I don't know St. Mary's personnel so well that I'm going to go Xs and Os on how to stop them. My picks weren't based on some extensive analysis of every team as much as I felt certain there would be upsets, and I like teams with seniors, teams with senior backcourts specifically. Murray State, for instance, has virtually nobody under the age of 20 and plenty of guys 22, 23 years old on the roster. I thought certain conference was vastly overrated (Big East) and that conferce affiliation didn't mean all that much anyway...And I think that teams than win 28, 30 games like Northern Iowa and Murray State are just plain good. They know how to win. Ball State's in that catagory, too. Murray State nearly made the Sweet 16...I'm very excited about Thursday and Friday of this week...Should be good stuff.
Arlington, VA: Boy, what a fantastic weekend of basketball! Think how much better it will be next year when all Big East teams make it into the 96 team field, and a North Carolina team that is one game over .500 makes it in, and Virginia Tech - fresh off its 100 point drubbing of Roanoke Middle School - finally gets the respect that they've been denied...
...I'm sorry, I can't even fake it. Is there anyone who watched four almost perfect days of basketball this weekend and thought to himself: "This would be better if we had more mediocre big conference teams."? This is the most exciting tournament I can remember. Any thought of toying with it makes the veins in my neck pop out.
Michael Wilbon: Very well said. Thank you.
Takoma Park, Md.: Your comments on Tiger Woods got me thinking. Not because anything you said about him, I think you were pretty spot-on.
My question is regarding calling yourself a golf fanatic when you don't watch golf when Tiger is not playing. That is the definition of a fair weather fan, is it not? Or a fan of an individual golfer, not the game of golf. I am giving you in particular a complete pass because you do actively play the game. I actually think you are a golf nut, so the fact that you don't watch when Tiger is not competing really makes me pause.
I follow road bike racing ala Lance Armstrong (Tony and him are spending some quality time together, lol!) and followed the sport before he was racing and still do now that he is over the hill (yeah, I said it!). I still watch because I love the sport and love watching the pros do what they do. But there were a ton of temporary fans of Lance but barely fans of the sport and made no effort to engage the sport as a whole.
Is professional golf really doing enough to make other golfers compelling so as to keep people watching in the absence of Tiger?
Michael Wilbon: Remember, I said I'm not watching NOW and Tiger isn't playing. I also wrote that I watched all the time, the last 15 years, when Tiger wasn't playing. I don't exactly have an explanation for why it's different. When he was injured last year, I watched virtually every single week. So, that ain't the definition of a fair weather fan. Now that we know he's coming back I wonder whether I'll watch the next two weekends before The Masters...
San Diego: Q1: On TK's show (and other places) you opined essentially that who would win a large number of games in the NCAAs was anybody's guess because there were no candidates with overpowering talent compared to anyone else. Do you expect that there will be still more upsets going forward?
Q2: The Cornell team has already made millions for their conference and their school, and yet those players will get only piddly meal money and not much else. Will this stark example ultimately move the NCAA closer to the day when athletes get some fair share of the wealth they earn?
It's not a cotton field, it's a basketball court.
Michael Wilbon: The answer to your question about Cornell is very simple: No. Upsets? Are there any more possible? I think the word "upset" is completely overused. Whatever happens from here on out wouldn't really surprise me, including Syracuse and Kentucky and Duke going on before the regional finals, even though I have all three reaching that point...
Annapolis, Md.: What did you think of Tiger's interview? Why last night?
Michael Wilbon: There was no reason to stop the presses because Tiger talked. And he talked yesterday because The Masters is coming up, because he's playing for the first time, and because he'd like to head a lot of stuff off at the pass. And this, in today's world, is how you do it. You conduct an interview with an entity that will beam it around the world 24/7 so that everybody sees it and you can say before you play, "I've already answered that and I'll take golf questions if you have any." I thought Tiger was pretty candid, I thought Tom Rinaldi did a terrific job in a difficult situation. I don't think Tiger said much that he didn't say in his prepared statement. There were no revelations. It was more personal, there was more detail. I thought he did as well as a person can do in that situation...
Burke, Va.: Ok Michael, take the sweet sixteen teams left and give us chatters your final four, two and winner.
Michael Wilbon: Goodness, I don't know. I'll give you my Final Four, which doesn't change from the bracket I have on line. And by the way, I don't take any credit here, largely because there were two upsets I just FELT in my gut but didn't have the courage to make officially: Northern Iowa over Kansas and Ohio over Georgetown. I felt certain in both situations but said, essentially, "Naaaaaw, that'll look stupid if I make that pick." Should have done it, didn't have the guts. Anyway, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kentucky, Baylor is my Final Four. I've got all four still alive. Why change now? I don't have a bracket in front of me so I can't exactly play out the Sweet 16 for you...Sorry.
Washington, DC: How good is the Cornell team, and beyond the reality that every team has a chance, what kind of odds would you give them against John Wall and Co.? Thanks
Michael Wilbon: Cornell's good. Very good, very talented, underrated athletically, highly skilled. I'd give Kentucky, if I was playing the oddsmakers game, a 60 percent chance of winning. In no way would I go any higher than that, and a Cornell victory would not surprise me.
Washington, DC: Where would you rank Kevin Durant in the NBA MVP race? I don't think anyone expected OKC to make the playoffs, let alone compete for possibly the 3rd or 4th seed in the West.
Michael Wilbon: Ahhh, a good NBA Question. Okay, LeBron, Carmelo, Durant, Kobe, Dirk...
Washington, D.C.: Seen anyone play in the past four days good enough to turn around as sorry a situation as the Washington Wizards?
Michael Wilbon: By himself? Of course not. LeBron James didn't get Cleveland to the playoffs his first two years in the league. I'm an Evan Turner guy. I think he's the best cornerstone in the league...But is he going to take team that needs as much as the Wizards do deep into the playoffs. No chance. But I'd take him first.
Blacksburg, Va.: How great is CBS coverage of NCAAs? I couldn't imagine the tournament without their commentators, the look, the scoreboard -- everything. I think if another station gets the rights, it will be tragic.
Michael Wilbon: That's a really silly overstatement. First of all, half the announcers have outs in the contracts and would move with the tournament to the new broadcast partner. Second, it's folks like you who said the NFC broadcasts were going to be ruined by Fox when they left CBS. How did that work out? The tournament not only survived leaving NBC for CBS, it thrived...You think there aren't smart people at all the networks? At HBO and USA Network and Turner who can do the same work, better work? Directors and producers have jumped back and forth; they do all the time. That's just silly loyalty which means nothing. The tournament, wherever it goes if it goes, will look and sound terrific.
Bethesda, Md.: Here's a dreamer's question, because I know those days are gone. Give me your all NBA team for guys who, by age, could be starring in the NCAA tournament right now. Durant, for sure. Mayo. Even Blatche.
Michael Wilbon: Wow...I'd have to see a roster of NBA players in their third year or less...I know this, John Wall wouldn't be starting at point guard. Blatche is too old. He's been in the NBA, what, five years? No, he'd be done. Derek Rose would be a junior, so he'd be starting at point. Durant at the three. Maybe Mayo at shooting guard. How about Taj Gibson of the Bulls at power forward...Is this Andrew Bynum's fourth year? I think it is. He'd be the center. So, Rose and Mayo in the backcourt (with Tyreke Evans coming off the bench), Bynum at center and Durant and Gibson at the forwards. Didn't Stef Curry come out a year early, too? You've got James Hardin at Oklahoma City coming off the bench to shoot threes. Yeah, that would be pretty good stuff, but we're never going to see it again. Oh, wouldn't Blake Griffin be a senior? You know what? Griffin and Durant would be the forwards...You could have Michael Beasly, who was pretty darned good in K-State and would be a senior now, right? No, a junior. Wow. Nice question.
washington DC: The Washington Dc area produces a wealth of basketball talent. Why don't more of the talented high school basketball youth end up attending Maryland or Georgetown?
Michael Wilbon: Because kids want to go away to school. Every big city loses most of its talented kids. NYC, Chicago, Atlanta...their kids are scattered everywhere. You don't think I wish Evan Turner had stayed in Chicago and gone to Northwestern? Look, I went to college 30 minutes from where I grew up, but that's becuase the best journalism school in America happened to be located there and I'd have been crazy to go elsewhere...But I understand why kids who have the chance want to leave home...and I think in the vast majority of cases, they should leave.
Vienna: The earlier post on Tiger and fair-weather fans got me thinking about another issue: when Tiger hit the big time, there were tons of predictions about how his presence was going to bring a whole slew of minority players into the game. Here we are 10-15 years later--plenty of time for very young kids to catch the bug and develop their talent--and yet there don't seem to be any more minority players than when Tiger started. Will this always be the sport of the country club set?
Michael Wilbon: It didn't mean kids who were 14 were going to take up golf and be great right now. It means kids like mine, who is 2, will grow up knowing the door to golf is open to them. Tiger will have his influence on minority kids. And he has had it on adults...like me, who came to golf late. The pool was empty when he jumped in. It's not anymore. It's not instant, like everything else we want to be.
Okay, gotta run because Tom Izzo is our guest on PTI today and he has to tape at 3 eastern, so gotta dash...40 minute drive from my home in Scottsdale to Tempe where our studio is...Have a great week everybody. See you Monday...MW
5 Good Minutes: Lance Armstrong doing '5 Good Minutes' sometime this week on PTI?
Michael Wilbon: I would hope not. News value of that would be what?
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