Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Wonk's "49 games, one couch" project
After a day of digesting the brackets and engaging in profound contemplation, here's how Wonk sees the first weekend....

Best first-round game
Syracuse vs. Vermont, Hakim Warrick vs. Taylor Coppenrath.

Other first-round games worth noticing
Kansas vs. Bucknell (remember: Bucknell won at Pittsburgh--and their karma is in order because they played in the first game of the year!)

Pacific vs. Pittsburgh ("UOP," we who're familiar with Stockton, CA, call Pacific--Pitt is actually the lower seed in this 8-9 game)

Alabama vs. UW-Milwaukee (see always-excellent blogger Chris West for in-depth coverage of the Panthers--more here)

Best potential second-round games
LSU vs. Arizona (Baby Shaq vs. Salim Stoudamire and Channing Frye)

Washington vs. Pacific-Pitt winner (neither team will be intimidated by the 1-seeded Huskies)

Villanova vs. Florida (two teams who finished as strong as anyone...except Louisville)

Utah vs. Oklahoma (Andrew Bogut vs. Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray)

Head to Indy! Or Worcester or Oklahoma City or Charlotte....
Yesterday Wonk urged every Big Ten fan who has the opportunity to set off for Indianapolis, where on Thursday you'll be able to see both Iowa vs. Cincinnati (2:50pm, local time) and Illinois vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (9:40pm). (The other teams in Indy are Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Texas, and Nevada.) Your intrepid blogger repeats the suggestion: get thee to Indy! All-session tickets (good for four games Thursday and two Saturday) are $150 for the lower level and $90 for the upper. For whatever reason the Ticketmaster link doesn't appear to be operable as of this morning but longtime readers may recall an appliance known as the "telephone." Call (317) 239-5151 (Ticketmaster) or (317) 262-3389 (RCA Dome) and go!

OFFICIAL bracket of Big Ten Wonk fans!
Indefatigable college hoops blogger Yoni Cohen has a spiffy NCAA Tournament Bloggers Bracket that any self-respecting Wonk fan will want to call home for the next three weeks. (You'll love the Genie!) It's up and running so link right now and tell Yoni Wonk sent you!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Iowa blogger Ryan of Hawkeye Hoops fame, take a bow! The conventional wisdom has at last come around to what you were saying six long weeks ago: the Hawkeyes really are better without Pierre Pierce....More on Iowa's first-round opponent, Cincinnati, here and here.

Michigan State assistant coach Doug Wojcik will be the next head coach at Tulsa. Tom Izzo says his team can make some noise in March: "I think we're a dangerous team because I don't know who's going to be our leading scorer so I sure as heck know they (the opponents) don't know."

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan says he's glad his team is in a Friday-Sunday bracket and gets an extra day of rest after going to the finals of the Big Ten tournament....Fretting about the Badger guards here.

Minnesota coach Dan Monson says Iowa State guards Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock compare favorably to the more renowned Illinois guards....The Gophers' journey to Charlotte for first- and, potentially, second-round play marks a homecoming for Vincent Grier....St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere says, unlike past squads in Minneapolis, this is "coach Dan Monson's kind of team, a bunch of scrappy young men who will do anything they're told."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber was named the winner of the Henry Iba Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association yesterday. He is the first Illini coach ever to win the award. Meanwhile, Weber says coping with the death of his mother while preparing his team for postseason play has left him "punch drunk." (Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald compares Weber to an "exhausted marathoner.")...Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tom Green says he and his team are "quite frankly terrified" of the Illini and indeed may not even come out of the locker room Thursday night. "We may just forfeit," Green said before curling up into a ball with a stuffed knight and sobbing profusely in front of a room full of stunned reporters. No, just kidding: Green voices predictably plucky underdog speak here and here. Fairleigh Dickinson will play in front of more people in the RCA Dome Thursday night than in all the rest of their home games combined. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Ron Rapoport notes that FDU is only 63 years old. (Update! Wonk says: so what? At just 49 years of age, Wisconsin-Milwaukee is younger than some Wonk Cousins!) Fellow Sun-Times columnist Carol Slezak says: "out of all the No. 1 seeds, it looks to me like Illinois has the easiest road to the Final Four."...Former NC State great Derek Whittenburg, now coach of Fordham, talks about Illinois and the history and current prevalence of the three-guard lineup....Dee Brown dental coverage (har!) here and here. BONUS reach! For his part, Wonk takes mouth-related maladies as a good omen for the Illini. In the 1989 regional final in Minneapolis, Kendall Gill took a Syracuse elbow to the mouth and bled all over the place. (In that kindler, gentler era, he stayed in the game and play continued). And that team went to the Final Four. Cause-and-effect or post hoc ergo propter hoc? You make the call!

BONUS fun fact! Only four of the nation's top ten teams in three-point shooting are in the tournament. But all ten of the nation's top ten teams in rebounding have been invited to the dance.

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So many players we don't want to see bald
Welcome to Day 2 of Wonk's EXCLUSIVE coverage of Big Ten Players We Don't Want to See Bald!

Longtime readers will recall an idyllic bygone era known as yesterday, when your intrepid blogger noted that Iowa rebounding machine Greg Brunner has shaved his head in honor of a pledge he had made to do so if the Hawkeyes made the tournament. This made Wonk speculate aloud that: a) this probably won't be a good look for Brunner (UPDATE: it's not); and b) there are likely many other players in the conference we don't want to see bald.

And how! Judging from the reaction of the alert readers, the very idea of some Big Ten stalwarts sporting reflective lids fills Wonk's readers with Edvard Munch-level horror! So without further ado....

Early leaders: players we don't want to see bald
Zach Morley, Wisconsin
Nick Smith, Illinois

Alert reader Doug K. says of a hypothetically bald Smith: "He would look like the vulture in the old Bugs Bunny cartoon. You know, the one who had to bring home something for dinner for his mother."

Keep those nominations coming!


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