Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One for One

Entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie, who founded TOMS Shoes, spoke at the University of Kentucky on Tuesday. TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS gives a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what they are all about.

The folks over at TOMS Shoes are asking people to go the day, part of the day or even just a few minutes, barefoot, to experience a life without shoes first-hand, and to help spread awareness of the impact a simple pair of shoes can bring to a child's life.

Why I adore you

Angenette, my wife, is on Spring Break this week. That added to the fact that my hours were recently cut at work, we have spent an ENORMOUS amount of time together since late Saturday afternoon. Granted, I had to work a few hours on Saturday night, this is still the most time that we have seen each other since she was on Christmas Break.

What a hectic schedule she has been keeping. Between being an educator for Fayette County Public Schools at LTMS as an 8th grade Science teacher/team leader and the classes that she has been taking to become a Certified Nurse Aide, she has been going non-stop for the last 6 weeks working on sitting in class for at least 8 hours a day.

Just when you think she has no more to give, she keeps going. We have accomplished so much in her first four days off. Yet, there is so much more that she would like to get done. Where does she get it from?
  • We finished hanging the border in the kid's room (At least all that we had. We need to go and get one more roll to finish it off with.).
  • Cleaned the main living areas of the house countless times. With two children and ALL the times that they have it is a seeming less endless process.
  • Went to Kroger and did a major grocery shop. Thanks to her meal planning, what could have easily been a two-hour long trip to the grocery was relatively quick. Unfortunately though, it was time to restock all of the essentials. We had to buy cleaning supplies, health and beauty products, etc. So it was of course, a drain on our already tight budget.  
  • Angenette has done probably eight loads of laundry plus our bedsheets which are still in the dryer now.
  • Today, I cleaned the front entrance to our apartment. I thought that maybe the maintenance men would come back and clean up the mess that they left behind after demolishing and rebuilding the balcony above us. But of course not.
  • She made my twin sister and I a chocolate cake with chocolate icing for our 27th birthday tomorrow.
Why do I mention all this? Because there has been no rest for my wife this week and that is actually what you are supposed to do on when you are on a break from work.. But due to the strained budget and the fact that we still have no car, we will be here at the house. Being the kind of women she is, my wife has decided to make the most of this.

She constantly amazes me with what she is capable of doing. She is the best thing to have ever happened to me. I love you Angenette!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fun facts about the Final Four schools

By now you may or may not know that the NCAA tourney has dwindled from 65 teams to just four. Unfortunately, the boys in blue. I'm sorry, UK blue, are no longer in there. They were knocked out in the Elite Eight by a very strong West Virginia team.

Anyway, I found these fun facts about the final four teams over on ESPN, and thought that they would be fun to share.

Butler Bulldogs
Location: Indianapolis
Enrollment: 4,512
Colors: Blue and white
School motto says: “Education, Research, Service”
Original name: North Western Christian University, founded in 1855
White House connection: Harry S. New went to Butler and went on to serve as Postmaster General in the Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge cabinets.
Last NBA draft pick: Lynn Mitchem, 1983, ninth round
Mascot trivia: Butler Blue II, a 60-pound English Bulldog, celebrated his sixth birthday last week and even has his own blog. He roams around Hinkle Fieldhouse with a gigantic bone in his mouth during games. Hink is the costumed version of the bulldog.
Duke Blue Devils

Location: Durham, N.C.
Enrollment: 13,662
Colors: Royal blue & white
School motto says: “Knowledge and Faith”
Original name: Union Institute, founded in 1838
White House connection: Reggie Love, the personal aide to President Obama, played basketball and football at Duke and was on the Blue Devils' national championship team in 2001. Oh, and Richard Nixon got his law degree at Duke.
Last NBA draft pick: Gerald Henderson, 2009, first round
Mascot trivia: In the 1920s, nominated mascot possibilities included the Blue Titans, Blue Eagles, Polar Bears, Royal Blazes and Blue Warriors. The student newspaper began using Blue Devils for the sports teams, and it caught on.
Michigan State Spartans

Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Enrollment: 47,278
Colors: Green and white
School motto says: “Advancing Knowledge, Transforming Lives”
Original name: Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, founded in 1855
White House connection: Spencer Abraham, a Michigan State grad, was the Secretary of Energy during George W. Bush’s first term.
Last NBA draft pick: Goran Suton, 2009, second round
Mascot trivia: Sparty the Spartan was named national mascot champion in 2007 after impressing with a skit featuring spoofs of Kiss, Lord of the Dance and Justin Timberlake.
West Virginia Mountaineers

Location: Morgantown, W.Va.
Enrollment: 28,898
Colors: Old Gold and blue
School motto says: “Add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge”
Original name: Agricultural College of West Virginia, founded in 1867
White House connection: William Courtney, a West Virginia grad, served as U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia for Bill Clinton.
Last NBA draft pick: Joe Alexander, 2008, first round
Mascot trivia: Rebecca Durst became the second female Mountaineer mascot in school history this year. She carries a rifle and wears buckskin and a coonskin cap. She does not, however, have to grow a beard.
Credits: Diamond Leung, ESPN

Meet your 2009-10 AP All-Americans - UK Edition

John Wall and Demarcus Cousins were named to the 2009-10 AP All-American First Team today. Congratulations fella's!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Despite the loss, Kentucky is back

Kentucky basketball seemed to be back to its royal status as soon as John Calipari was hired a year ago.

The rock star stature of its coach within the Commonwealth and the Wildcat diaspora spread throughout the world believed that the program had returned to its rightful place among the elite as soon as the NBA-ready players arrived, too.

The loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight Saturday night at the Carrier Dome prevented a coronation. But it shouldn’t be a sign that there is any sort of regression. Kentucky is back, and as long as Calipari is on board there won’t be a significant slide, even with the likely early departures for the NBA for three, possibly four, of the key contributors – freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe and junior Patrick Patterson.

“My teammates and myself are proud of what we accomplished this year,’’ Patterson said in a glum locker room following a 73-66 loss by No. 1 seed Kentucky to No. 2 seed West Virginia in the East Regional final. “We’re not satisfied (with losing in the Elite Eight). We know this is a stepping stone to getting Kentucky back to being a national powerhouse like it was in the years before. Hopefully the teams ahead of us can do it.’’

No one can deny what Calipari did this season in assembling the greatest late signing period class in modern times. Calipari checked egos at the door with this crew, managed minutes, coached a team that could win an uptempo game or in the halfcourt. By the end of the season, they played defense with purpose and passion and won close road games in hostile SEC environments.

You can’t deny the energy that was in Rupp Arena this season. It was palpable. From Midnight Madness in October to the opening tip against Morehead State in November to the regular-season finale against Florida in March.

“We did a lot of successful things this year but we didn’t get the main goal and that was winning a national championship,’’ Cousins said. “I’ve never had this much fun in my life. I wish it would have ended up on a good note for the returning players like Perry (Stevenson), Ramon (Harris) and Patrick who had been through hell the past two seasons. I wish we could have ended it on a good note.’’

The Billy Gillispie era the previous two seasons wasn’t good to watch or enjoyable for the players. Patterson spoke openly about the difference during Friday’s off-day media session. There was chaos throughout last season’s NIT bid. Practices were laborious, not intensely fun. Calipari brought joy back for the returning players while meshing in the celebrated newcomers.

Wall’s beautiful game -- from beating Miami (Ohio), to taking down Connecticut in New York, to his play throughout the SEC -- was something to behold at times. To watch the maturation of Cousins from a hot-tempered man-child to a much more refined post presence was a credit to Calipari and the staff. Cousins was overwhelmingly appreciative of how much Calipari helped him mature and evolve as a player. Wall and Patterson spoke Friday about how Cousins popped off early in the season when pushed and prodded, and how he figured out how to stay on the floor and ignore the temptation to return to aggression.

The fast-breaks, the turnovers, the overall enthusiasm for Kentucky basketball weren’t just good for the Commonwealth this season, but for the sport. College basketball needs Kentucky to be great, just like it needs Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA and Syracuse to matter. It’s tremendous for basketball when new powers, like Butler, are formed. Or when old ones, like West Virginia and Kansas State, are tapped. Or a newly consistent presence, like Michigan State, emerges. But Kentucky has to be relevant for the overall health of the sport. The lightning rod of the sport is still better off when it’s up than being pounded down.

“Everybody put egos aside for this team to make it this far,’’ Bledsoe said. “I’ll look back at this as a special year.’’

Even if Kentucky takes a major hit from the draft, you can guarantee Calipari will reload quickly with some of the top players in 2010 and beyond. “I’m proud of my team, they fought and they just kept trying,’’ Calipari said.

“I’m proud of what they’ve done all season, a bunch of young kids that just came together.’’

The Wildcats couldn’t solve West Virginia’s 1-3-1 zone. They gave up 10 3s and made only 4 of 32 themselves. They didn’t play with the same defensive lock-down mentality that they had against Cornell in the Sweet 16 or even close to what they had against Wake Forest in round two. West Virginia was the better team Saturday night.

Bottom line: Kentucky failed to reach its expectations for this particular group, and they likely won’t be together next season. The window was open for a national title, or at the least the first trip to the Final Four since 1998. But as long as Calipari stays in Lexington, there will be an annual run toward the title. That’s what is expected in Chapel Hill and Durham and always has been the norm in Lexington. Now it should be a reality.

Credits: Andy Katz, ESPN


Yesterday, the University of Kentucky basketball team capped off it's 2009-2010 season with a loss in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Tournament to the Mountaineers of West Virginia. It was a very disappointing end to what had been a very victorious season.

The previous season (2008-09) was a very dismal one for the Cats. They finish the regular season 19–12 with an 8–8 SEC record. With an unimpressive regular season and quick elimination in the SEC tournament, UK missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years and instead received an invitation to the NIT tournament where the team was defeated in the quarterfinal round against Notre Dame.

To come from that to where UK finished this season was unimaginable and I am more than proud to be a True Blue Fan this morning. However, the guys did not play the game that they were more than capable of playing yesterday and that is what adds salt to the wound. The following is a story written by Mark Story and published by the Lexington Herald Leader which portrays my feelings exactly.
In the end, Kentucky picked the biggest game of the year to play its worst game of the year.
In the end, Kentucky's wondrous freshmen, who had been so mature, so poised, played so young.
In the end, a great and wondrous season that had taken the Wildcats so far, came up short.
What was it that Bob Huggins said Friday about you had to be lucky to make the Final Four?
This Kentucky team may not have had many weaknesses, but in the East Regional finals, Kentucky was unlucky enough to have all of them laid bare in a 73-66 loss to West Virginia.
■ Inconsistent three-point shooting: Kentucky missed its first 20 three-point attempts and ended up 4-for-32 from beyond the arc.
"It gets a little demoralizing when you miss the shots that we missed," said UK Coach John Calipari afterward.
■ Spotty foul shooting: The Cats made just 16 of 29 from the foul line for 55.2 percent.
"We kept missing free throws," said Calipari. "Oh my goodness."
■ The task of trying to win it all starting three freshmen: Huggins' older, more experienced Mountaineers got into the heads of the Cats, employing a tricky 1-3-1 zone on defense and knocking down big shots on offense.
"They outplayed us," said Calipari, "but I think there were times when our inexperience hurt us."
But then Calipari said this: "It also got us where we are today."
He's right about that. A year ago, Kentucky was losing to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NIT. There was no John Wall, no DeMarcus Cousins, no Eric Bledsoe, no Daniel Orton. There was a different coach.
All that was magically swept away nearly the day Calipari took the job. He sold the program. He mended the fences. He brought in unbelievable talent. He won an SEC regular-season title, an SEC Tournament title. He attained a No. 1 ranking and a No. 1 seed. He took the program back to that seat at the head table.
Then, in the biggest game of the year, he ran up against a savvy old friend with an air-tight plan.
Give Huggins credit. His 1-3-1 zone defense bothered the Cats. It cut off penetration. It forced the Cats to settle for three-pointers. Kentucky settled. And missed. And missed. Kentucky missed its first 20 three-point attempts, before DeAndre Liggins hit a triple with 3:28 left.
You knew West Virginia would play well defensively. Huggins' teams always play well defensively. What you didn't know is that Huggins' team would make shots. While Kentucky was throwing up bricks, WVU was finding nothing but net. The Mountaineers made 10 of 23 three-pointers.
Point guard Joe Mazzulla, pressed into action when starting point guard Darryl Bryant broke his foot earlier in the week, averaged 2.2 points on the season. Saturday, he scored 17.
"He hit some layups that were backbreakers," said Calipari.
There will be those who say this was a backbreaking loss. Kentucky basketball has high standards. And this was the program's fourth straight Elite Eight loss. Calipari's team extended the string that started in 1999 with Tubby Smith and continued twice more. Kentucky still hasn't been to a Final Four since 1998, the longest gap in the program's storied history since Adolph Rupp reached his first Final Four in 1942.
If the game was a near-epic failure, however, the season was a near-epic success. In the moment, though, that was of little solace to the team on the losing end at the Carrier Dome.
With 51.3 seconds left, not long before the West Virginia band struck up Country Roads, John Wall fouled out. He walked off the floor rolling up the front of his Kentucky jersey, probably the last time he'll wear that jersey in a college game.
"I didn't want it to stop here," Wall said afterward. "I wanted to make it all the way."
In the end, Kentucky picked a bad day to have its worst day.
Credits: John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader

Friday, March 26, 2010

Five key things to remember about health care reform

What? Really? You don't understand the new health care reform legislation? You find yourself confused? If you haven't mastered the minutiae on all 2,309 pages of the health care reform bill signed earlier this week by President Obama, there's nothing wrong with you -- even experts are having a hard time getting a grip on all the details.

So we've done the work for you. If you're going to take away just five things from the new legislation, here they are. If you manage to comprehend these five, give yourself an A+.

If you're adventurous and want to take a stab at reading the bill itself, here's the health care reform legislation. But, if like most people you find it incomprehensible, we've given you links to more easily digestible sources of information.

1. Health insurance companies can't discriminate against you because you have a pre-existing condition.

More than 13 million American non-elderly adults have been denied insurance specifically because of their medical conditions, according to the Commonwealth Fund, and the Kaiser Family Foundation says 21 percent of people who apply for health insurance on their own get turned down, charged a higher price or offered a plan that excludes coverage for their pre-existing condition.

Starting in 2014, the new health care reform legislation makes it illegal for any health insurance plan to use pre-existing conditions to exclude, limit or set unrealistic rates on the coverage an individual or dependent can receive.

In the meantime, if you have a pre-existing condition, starting in 90 days you should be able to join a national high-risk pool, according to Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. She also recommends finding out whether your state has an existing state high-risk pool. Here is contact information for the 35 states that have high-risk pools from the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans.

2. Young people can remain on parents' insurance until age 26.

The health care reform legislation requires insurance companies to allow dependent children to stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26. The children can't have jobs that offer insurance, and they must be claimed as dependents on their parents' taxes.

Currently in most states, dependents get booted off Mom and Dad's health insurance policy before their 26th birthday, sometimes as early as age 19. For the rules in your state, see this list from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

3. You could get a subsidy to buy insurance if you make less than $88,000 per year for a family of four.

Starting in 2014, the health care reform bill provides subsidies for people who don't get insurance from their employers and therefore have to buy it on their own. The size of the subsidy depends on your income, whether you're single or have a family, your age, and where you live.

Here are a few examples:

• A 40-year old individual making $30,000 a year in a medium-cost area of the country will get an $850 subsidy toward buying a policy, which should cost about $3,500, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation subsidy calculator.

• A 40-year-old in the same city who has a family of four and is making $60,000 will get a $4,220 subsidy toward a policy that costs $9,435.
You can estimate your own subsidy by using the Kaiser subsidy calculator.

4. If you don't get insurance from your employer, that might change.

Starting in 2014, if your company employs more than 50 people, it will be required to offer you a health plan that covers at least 60 percent of your overall health costs, or the company will be fined $750 per year per full-time worker. That fine could increase to $2,000 if the reconciliation act passes.

In the meantime, groups like Coverage for All, Ehealthinsurance and the Patient Advocate Foundation specialize in helping people find affordable insurance and free care. You can find links to resources including prescription assistance programs here.

5. The health care reform legislation has some benefits for senior citizens, but it might have some disadvantages as well.

The AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, says health care legislation does two important things for seniors: It gives people on Medicare new access to free preventive services such as screenings for cancer and diabetes. Also, by 2020 it will close the "doughnut hole," the gap in Part-D where Medicare stops paying once a senior has spent more than $2,830 on prescription drugs and resumes when the individual's out-of-pocket spending has reached about $4,550.

However, the Congressional Budget Office, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the new legislation also presents some downsides. Spending for Medicare beneficiaries will increase 2 percent or less each year, instead of the annual 4 percent increase they received previously. Some analysts worry seniors may start to feel that difference in the future.

Credits: By Sabriya Rice, Elizabeth Cohen, John Bonifield, CNN

Philosopher: Why we should ditch religion

CNN recently spoke with Philosopher Sam Harris. Mr. Harris believes that religion distracts us from important issues. He also thinks that science can be used to prove the best way to live a moral life. While I believe that we should allow our faith to guide us in all areas of our lives, Mr. Harris makes some very good points.
"For the world to tackle truly important problems, people have to stop looking to religion to guide their moral compasses, the philosopher Sam Harris told CNN.

"We should be talking about real problems, like nuclear proliferation and genocide and poverty and the crisis in education," Harris said in a recent interview at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. TED is a nonprofit group dedicated to "ideas worth spreading."
"These are issues which tremendous swings in human well-being depend on. And it's not at the center of our moral concern."

Religion causes people to fixate on issues of less moral importance, said Harris, a well-known secularist, philosopher and neuroscientist who is the author of the books "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."

"Religion has convinced us that there's something else entirely other than concerns about suffering. There's concerns about what God wants, there's concerns about what's going to happen in the afterlife," he said.
"And, therefore, we talk about things like gay marriage as if it's the greatest problem of the 21st century. We even have a liberal president who ostensibly is against gay marriage because his faith tells him it's an abomination.

"It's completely insane."

Harris also said people should not be afraid to declare that certain acts are right and others are wrong. A person who would spill battery acid on a girl for trying to learn to read, for instance, he said, is objectively wrong by scientific standards.
"It's not our job to not judge it and say, 'Well, to each his own. Everyone has to work out their own strategy for human fulfillment.' That's just not true," he said.

"There's people who are wrong about human fulfillment."

Harris placed no faith in the idea that Muslims and Christians will be able to put their differences aside and cooperate on global issues.

"There's no way to reconcile Islam with Christianity," he said. "This difference of opinion admits of compromise as much as a coin toss does."
Credits: John D. Sutter, CNN

Noteworthy Games - Edition: 3.25.10

OK. Deep breaths.

The first night of the Sweet 16 is officially in the books, and it was officially awesome. Four games, one upset, one truly dominating performance by the tournament's new prohibitive favorite, and this year's best postseason game -- a Gus Johnson-narrated double-overtime thriller you can expect to see replayed more than once in the coming years. Let's see: Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

Alongside West Virginia's easy, ugly win over Washington, Butler's unlikely victory over heavily favored No. 1-seed Syracuse led the night off. That was a pretty fantastic start. But if you thought that was as good as the night was going to get -- this was not an unreasonable stance -- you were wrong. That's when Xavier-Kansas State happened.

Where to start? At the beginning, I suppose: Kansas State rushed out to an early lead, and for the first 12 minutes it looked like the Wildcats would handle X easily. But the Musketeers, led by Jordan Crawford, came storming back, drawing the game even at the half. Things didn't separate much after that, leading to a final sequence that would baffle even the most hardened of college basketball watchers. Up by three with a few seconds left, Kansas State tried to foul Xavier point guard Terrell Holloway. By the time the referees called the foul, Holloway was in the act of shooting, giving him -- yes, this was as unbelievable as it sounds -- three free throws to tie the game and send it into overtime. He made all three.

In overtime things got even crazier. Down three with 10 seconds left, Crawford made an absolutely nuts 35-foot 3-pointer to tie the game. Denis Clemente's speed drove him to a great look at the buzzer, which missed, sending the game to another overtime -- the first 2OT game in the Sweet 16 since 1997. XU guard Dante Jackson had a chance to tie the game late before Kansas State finally pulled away thanks to two clutch Jacob Pullen 3s and a couple of key defensive stops. Just like that, the best game of the tournament was over.

The statistical wreckage: 83 possessions each. Offensive efficiency ratings of 119.1 and 118 for Xavier and K-State, respectively. Thirty-two points for Crawford; 26 for Holloway. Twenty-eight points for Pullen; 25 for Clemente; 21 for Curtis Kelly, whose low-post efficiency kept the Wildcats alive in the first overtime. All together, one very special win for Frank Martin and his team, who will advance to face the aforementioned Butler Bulldogs on Saturday night.
Then there was Kentucky-Cornell, which was, despite the gulf in final score, entertaining in its own way. The Big Red, buoyed by a rowdy crowd just 50 or so miles down the road from their home in Ithaca, N.Y., opened up a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes against the heavily favored Wildcats. For just a few minutes, it looked like Cornell could do to Kentucky what it did to Wisconsin and Temple before them.

Then reality set in. The reality was that Kentucky was ready for Cornell, ready for the Big Red's perimeter-reliant offensive attack. UK hedged every screen high, overplayed on every shooter, and was so much more athletic than Cornell that it could recover and prevent interior shots and drives even after playing the Big Red out to 30 feet. In 20 minutes of first-half basketball, Cornell scored 16 points, the victims of a 30-6 Kentucky run to close the half. Cornell finished with 45 points, the third-lowest total in the Sweet 16 since expansion in 1985. It was one of the best and most complete defensive performances you'll ever see, and it wasn't just thanks to athleticism and talent. The Cats were prepared. They executed a gameplan. They were much more than an amalgamation of talent. They were a team.

Tonight's late results mean a few things going forward. First among them: No. 1 Kentucky will play No. 2 West Virginia in the Carrier Dome Saturday night. Kentucky will have to finish much better against West Virginia, and it won't be able to get away with shooting 16-of-26 from the stripe. Likewise, WVU will have to clean up its turnovers. The Mountaineers are the first team since 1970 to win a game in the round of 16 or later despite committing at least 20 turnovers and shooting 40 percent or less from the field. It was a testament to Washington's own sloppy play that West Virginia wasn't challenged more Thursday night. That won't happen Saturday.

Of course, there's also the Kansas State-Butler matchup, which will be as great a contrast in styles as we've seen in the tournament so far. Butler prefers to slog it out; Kansas State loves to get up and down. It'll be a good one.

While we're here, a quick lament: Tonight's loss means we have to bid a fond tournament farewell to Crawford, who -- had his team won -- might have locked up tournament MVP honors after just three games. Crawford scored 28, 27, and 32 points, making big shot after big shot and beautiful play after beautiful play. What's more, Crawford's style is as freewheeling and fun to watch as any player's in the country. You never know what you're going to get -- a pretty pass, an icy old-school finger roll, or an double-onions-order 30-foot 3 to tie the game in overtime. Losing Crawford is a major blow for the sublime enjoyment of this tournament. It's a shame.

The good news? We get to keep Pullen. And Gordon Hayward. And John Wall. And Da'Sean Butler. And we have another night to do it all over again Friday.

Who needs deep breaths? Not me.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for another lap.

Credits: Eamonn Brennan, ESPN

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Clinging to an Ivy climber

Need any more motivation to root the Cats on tonight in their NCAA Sweet Sixteen game versus Cornell? Read what this Boston Globe sports columnist had to say about the Kentucky program, its players, Coach Calipari, Coach Rupp, and Ashley Judd.
"You can have Kentucky. You can take Ashley Judd, Adolph Rupp, Sam Bowie, Pat Riley, Coach Cal, Refuse to Lose, the one-and-done freshmen bound for the NBA, and all the bags of cash needed to make the Wildcats run.
I’ll take Cornell and the Ivy League, which has long been a joke in college basketball.
Cornell plays Kentucky at Syracuse tomorrow night, presenting Basketball America with the ultimate clash of hoop cultures.
It’s a 12 seed against a top seed, but that’s only the beginning. It’s a team from a league that is routinely mocked against a team that represents college basketball royalty. It’s a team with a bunch of seniors getting ready to enter a tough job market against a team with a bunch of freshmen bound for the NBA lottery.
Northern Iowa and Saint Mary’s are legitimate Cinderella stories of March Madness 2010, but nothing beats the Big Red theme.
Ivy League vs. SEC? It’s the sweetest of the Sweet Sixteen.
Bill Bradley (Princeton) is the most famous basketball player in Ivy League history. In between his Rhodes Scholarship days at Oxford and a lengthy stint in the United States Senate, Bradley won two NBA championships with the Knicks.
Celtics assistant coach Armond Hill, Brian Taylor, and 1970 Co-Rookie of the Year Geoff Petrie are other Princeton guys who excelled in the NBA. Penn gave the league Corky Calhoun, Phil Hankinson, and Bob Bigelow. Columbia contributed Jim McMillian and Dave Newmark. Rudy LaRusso was a star at Dartmouth. Accordion-playing guard Tony Lavelli, a Yalie, was the Celtics’ first round pick in 1949.
A lot of Ivy League ballers went on to fame in other fields. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino was a sub on the Princeton team with Bradley. Columbia had a nifty guard named Chet Forte who became a big cheese in sports television. Dave Gavitt, the man who invented the Big East and later ran the Celtics, played with LaRusso at Dartmouth. Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby played at Dartmouth, as did Mass. Bay coach Billy Raynor. CBS’s James Brown was a captain at Harvard, as was Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education. Providence Journal sportswriter/author Billy Reynolds shot the lights out for Brown.
Some of those guys are no longer with us, but trust me when I tell you that the rest will be rooting for Cornell to upset the Wildcats tomorrow night.
It’s not too much of a stretch to think the Big Red will be able to give Kentucky a game. Cornell is 29-4 this season, 88-32 in the last four years, including 38-4 in the Ivy League.
Cornell is the first Ivy team to reach the Sweet Sixteen in 31 years (in 1979, Penn lost to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team). After going 17 years without a win against a nationally ranked team, and 4-63 lifetime against top 25 teams, the Big Red last weekend beat a pair of nationally ranked teams by scores of 78-65 (Temple) and 87-69 (Wisconsin). Coach Steve Donahue got his guys ready during the regular season by scheduling games at Syracuse (88-73 loss) and Kansas (71-66 loss).
Donahue is a onetime high school junior varsity coach who has five kids. Kentucky is coached by the one and only John Calipari, a man with more vacancies than the Bates Motel. You can see Coach Cal on those DirecTV commercials, but you’ve never seen him in old Final Four footage because, technically speaking, he’s never been there. Cal’s magic rides with UMass (1996) and Memphis (2008) were both erased by the NCAA.
The contrasts could not be more striking. Cornell spends less than $1 million on basketball and gets it done without athletic scholarships. Kentucky’s men’s basketball budget is $8.6 million — and that’s only counting sanctioned money. The rest is invisible and inestimable. Wonder what they’ll get Cal on this time.
Kentucky has won seven national championships, appeared in 51 NCAA Tournaments, and won 102 March Madness games. The Big Red have made the tourney five times and the only two wins were recorded last weekend.
The Wildcats have guard John Wall, who might be the best player in the country. They also have DeMarcus Cousins (6 feet 11 inches, 270 pounds), who sometimes looks like a young Wilt Chamberlain. Cornell seniors Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman (son of Randy Wittman) are high-profile scorers, and the Big Red have a couple of mastodons in 7-foot Jeff Foote and Alex Tyler (6-7, 235).
The Big Red also have 6-9 sub Mark Coury, who transferred to the Ivy League after starting 29 games for Kentucky as a sophomore. Had he stayed in Lexington, odds are Calipari would have run him out of the program.
Coury is a 4.0 student, which makes him a nice fit alongside freshman Eitan Chemerinski, who has been known to solve a Rubik’s Cube in under three minutes.
The Big Red have history on their side. In December of 1966, in the only basketball meeting of these schools, Cornell went to Kentucky and defeated Rupp’s Wildcats (NCAA runners-up in the spring of ’66) by a score of 92-77. Some folks in Lexington still haven’t recovered from that one.
Here’s hoping Calipari and his guys take the apple in this one. Then we can tell them that Dr. Henry Heimlich is a Cornell man."
Credits: This article was written by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Picking sides has never been easier

If your favorite team already has been bounced or your bracket has been busted, you're free to scour the Sweet 16 for new rooting interests.

And the choices have never been clearer.

At least one charming underdog and one insufferable overdog remain in every regional. We know which way America goes in these instances -- hard in support of the Cinderella story. Nobody went to the movie theater rooting for South Bend Central over Hickory.

So here are your late-March marching orders, college basketball fans:

South Region

Your new favorite team: Saint Mary's

Secondary rooting interest: Purdue, overcoming a disastrous injury and still vying for its first Final Four in 30 years

Third choice: Baylor, exhuming its program after scandal and aiming for its first Final Four in 60 years

Regional villain: Duke, winner of three national titles and participant in 14 Final Fours

Saint Mary's is one of three double-digit seeds still alive.
And that doesn't even include Northern Iowa.
There's been a lot to digest on a campus of 3,500 students. On Thursday, the Gaels won their first NCAA tournament game in 51 years. Then, on Saturday they won another, and suddenly they're in the Sweet 16 and finally out of the shadow of West Coast Conference bully Gonzaga.

Now the world knows where Saint Mary's is (Bay Area, east of San Francisco). The world has been alerted to the Australian-accented team coached by Randy Bennett as well as the XXL T-shirts and XXL personality of center Omar Samhan.

"God," Samhan declared, "is a Gael."

If that's true, God has a lot of company at present. There are plenty of honorary Gaels now, eager to see Saint Mary's match itself against three teams from power conferences in Houston.

But there probably are some honorary Boilermakers, too, now that Purdue has showed its fortitude and resilience after losing arguably its best player, Robbie Hummel, to a season-ending knee injury on Feb. 24. Purdue fans had invested to the hilt emotionally in this team and saw it rise as high as No. 4 in the rankings before Hummel went down.

Dreams of playing in a Final Four just more than an hour down the road from West Lafayette, Ind., seemed shattered. Now they're still alive after tight victories over Siena and Texas A&M. Who, other than God and the Gaels, can't get behind that?

Baylor fans, that's who. The Bears have been rebuilt from probably the darkest scandal ever to stain college basketball -- when Carlton Dotson murdered teammate Patrick Dennehy in 2003, and then-coach Dave Bliss concocted a story that slandered Dennehy in hopes that it would clear the coaches of NCAA violations.

It was, quite frankly, disgusting. The new Baylor is not, even if Scott Drew's recruiting tactics have made him a lightning rod for criticism from his coaching peers.

Yet if Drew is disliked, Duke is just plain loathed in many parts of the country. The Blue Devils do many things the right way, most notably in terms of balancing winning like crazy with academic achievement.

But for a sizable section of Hoopsworld, the Blue Devils win too much, are on TV too much, are celebrated by the media too much, get too many calls, got too little NCAA backlash for Corey Maggette, are overrated by the NCAA selection committee too often and are just a little too pleased with themselves.

In other words, Duke thinks it is perfect. And in this instance, it is: the perfect team to root against in the South.

East Region

Your new favorite team: Cornell

Secondary rooting interest: Washington, a No. 11 seed shooting for its first Final Four since 1951

Third choice: West Virginia, aiming for its first Final Four since 1959

Regional villain: Kentucky, winner of seven national titles and participant in 14 Final Fours

America loves an underdog. An Ivy League school
going up against perhaps the bluest of blue bloods?
Yep, that would qualify.
Really, how long as it been since a Sweet 16 game carried such stark contrast as Cornell-Kentucky?

Kentucky is basketball gigantism. Cornell is the Ivy League.

Kentucky recruits superstars. Cornell does, too -- academic superstars.

Kentucky has up to four freshmen who may go pro as soon as their season is over -- and some of them might have kissed off classes a long time ago, because second-semester grades don't impact in-season eligibility. Cornell has eight seniors with big-boy majors.

Kentucky's John Wall is a wizard with the basketball. Cornell's Eitan Chemerinski is a wizard with a Rubik's Cube.

Kentucky gave its coach an eight-year contract worth nearly $32 million. Cornell gives its coach a reported $200,000 per year.

Kentucky's coach has his face on a limited-edition bottle of bourbon and his name on a limited-edition Ford Mustang. Cornell's coach is lucky to have his name on a parking space on campus.

Kentucky's coach has two vacated Final Fours on the books. Cornell's coach didn't have any NCAA tourney victories to vacate until this month -- and nobody is expecting an investigation in Ithaca any time soon.

Kentucky has a multimillion-dollar practice facility just for basketball, the Joe Craft Center. Cornell guard Jon Jaques tweeted in February that the Big Red had to practice at Ithaca High School one night after the Harlem Globetrotters kicked them out of their modest gym.

Kentucky's average home attendance this season: 24,110. Cornell's: 3,658.

And in the oddest contrast imaginable between them: Kentucky started Mark Coury 29 times under Billy Gillispie in 2007-08. Cornell has started the UK transfer once.

Now, there are many likable things about these Wildcats. Their coach spearheaded an effort to raise more than $1 million in relief funds for earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Many of the players have engaging personalities, and there are numerous stories in the commonwealth about how they've reached out to young fans, being generous with their time and gracious when encountered in public. They are fun to watch playing the game. And although they might not have the academic chops of the Cornell kids, some of them play genius-level basketball.

All those things are well and good and worth applauding. But America's team in the East Regional is Cornell, with Washington as the backup. If the regional final matchup is between John Calipari and Bob Huggins, well, at least the Mountaineers will be playing for their first Final Four since Jerry West was a kid.

Midwest Region

Your new favorite team: Northern Iowa

Secondary rooting interest: Tennessee, aiming for its first Final Four after kicking star player Tyler Smith off the team in January

Third choice: Michigan State, which has won two national titles and played in seven Final Fours

Regional villain: Ohio State, which has won one national title and been to 10 Final Fours and has superstar Evan Turner after having superstars Greg Oden and Mike Conley three years ago

The plucky Panthers from the Missouri Valley Conference are in with three Enormous State Universities, all of which spend money and build facilities in profligate fashion. The difference in athletic budgets is roughly the difference between a middle-class neighborhood and a gated community.

Last year UNI dropped baseball to help make athletic ends meet, after dropping men's swimming and men's tennis earlier in the decade. Michigan State's budget is more than $75 million. Tennessee crossed the $100 million threshold for the first time this year. Ohio State was the original $100 million athletic empire.

None of the Enormous State Universities would have had even a passing recruiting interest in Northern Iowa shooting guard Ali Farokhmanesh, the face of the tournament to date after shooting down No. 8 UNLV and No. 1 Kansas in successive games. None of them would even think of paying a coach as successful as Ben Jacobson a salary of $150,000 -- in fact, that might be what Ohio State spends annually on chewing gum for coach Thad Matta.

Now the question is whether any of the Enormous State Universities can beat UNI.

West Region

Your new favorite team: Butler, aiming for its first Final Four in its hometown

Secondary rooting interest: Xavier, also from outside the "big six" conferences and aiming for its first Final Four

Third choice: Kansas State, trying to make its first Final Four since 1964

Regional villain: Syracuse, gunning for its second national title and fifth Final Four

Butler's mascot chews on a gigantic bone while walking
around the set of Hoosiers, aka the home of the Bulldogs.
How can you root against that?
Xavier's insistence on not being called a mid-major is fine -- in fact, it's admirable on one level. But it also means the X cannot wear the underdog's cape as comfortably as Butler. So embrace the Bulldogs, folks.

They come from the Horizon League and play in the most quaintly excellent gym in America, Hinkle Fieldhouse. At home games, their live mascot carries a humongous bone in his mouth through the stands, and fans can pet him as he waddles past. Their coach looks as if he's 17 years old.

The Bulldogs' best players almost invariably are homegrown Hoosiers, many of them unrecruited by in-state powers Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame (although that is changing as the program builds). They adhere to the timeless tenants of the game -- share the ball, take care of the ball, guard as though your scholarship check depends on it.

And 10 years ago, they were beaten on a last-second basket in the NCAA tourney by Florida on its way to a Final Four in Indy. A lot of players on that Butler team believed they should have been there. Maybe this year they will be.

The Musketeers are attempting to become the first Final Four team from the Atlantic 10 since Massachusetts in 1996. They have a rookie coach who looks as though he's 22 years old. They're fun to watch.

Kansas State at long last has a chance to emerge from Kansas' shadow and already has made its deepest run since 1988. The Wildcats have a coach whose head appears ready to explode at least six times per game.

And then there is Syracuse, which put 35,000 fans in the Carrier Dome for a game this season. Who can root for a team that does that? Its coach last smiled during a game in 1978, but the video evidence of that has been destroyed.

Bottom line: It is your duty as an underdog-loving American to root for Butler. And Northern Iowa. And Cornell. And Saint Mary's. Unless, of course, you have money riding on it.

Credits: This article was written by Pat Forde of ESPN.com.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A little NCAA Tourney humor

Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris - Hallelujah

This is a video of Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris performing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." I ran across this song again today while "surfing" YouTube. I still remember very clearly when and where I heard KD Lang's version of this song for the first time. This is a different take on it.

The Great Thing About the Health Care Law That Has Passed? It Will Save Republican Lives, Too (An Open Letter to Republicans from Michael Moore)

To My Fellow Citizens, the Republicans:

Thanks to last night's vote, that child of yours who has had asthma since birth will now be covered after suffering for her first nine years as an American child with a pre-existing condition.

Thanks to last night's vote, that 23-year-old of yours who will be hit one day by a drunk driver and spend six months recovering in the hospital will now not go bankrupt because you will be able to keep him on your insurance policy.

Thanks to last night's vote, after your cancer returns for the third time -- racking up another $200,000 in costs to keep you alive -- your insurance company will have to commit a criminal act if they even think of dropping you from their rolls.

Yes, my Republican friends, even though you have opposed this health care bill, we've made sure it is going to cover you, too, in your time of need. I know you're upset right now. I know you probably think that if you did get wiped out by an illness, or thrown out of your home because of a medical bankruptcy, that you would somehow pull yourself up by your bootstraps and survive. I know that's a comforting story to tell yourself, and if John Wayne were still alive I'm sure he could make that into a movie for you.

But the reality is that these health insurance companies have only one mission: To take as much money from you as they can -- and then work like demons to deny you whatever coverage and help they can should you get sick.

So, when you find yourself suddenly broadsided by a life-threatening illness someday, perhaps you'll thank those pinko-socialist, Canadian-loving Democrats and independents for what they did Sunday evening.

If it's any consolation, the thieves who run the health insurance companies will still get to deny coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions for the next four years. They'll also get to cap an individual's annual health care reimbursements for the next four years. And if they break the pre-existing ban that was passed last night, they'll only be fined $100 a day! And, the best part? The law will require all citizens who aren't poor or old to write a check to a private insurance company. It's truly a banner day for these corporations.

So don't feel too bad. We're a long way from universal health care. Over 15 million Americans will still be uncovered -- and that means about 15,000 will still lose their lives each year because they won't be able to afford to see a doctor or get an operation. But another 30,000 will live. I hope that's ok with you.

If you don't mind, we're now going to get busy trying to improve upon this bill so that all Americans are covered and so the grubby health insurance companies will be put out of business -- because when it comes to helping the sick, no one should ever be allowed to ask the question, "How much money can we save by making this poor bastard suffer?"

Please, my Republican friends, if you can, take a quiet moment away from your AM radio and cable news network this morning and be happy for your country. We're doing better. And we're doing it for you, too.


Michael Moore

The Shrine Down the Hall - Bedrooms of America's Young War Dead

Seeing the bedrooms of these fallen soldiers, who will never come home again and turn down their sheets, lay in bed and watch tv, spread out on the floor with a board-game, and chat on the phone, really touched me in a way that nothing war-related has in so very long.

Please take a moment to check out these pictures by acclaimed New York Times photographer Ashley Gilbertson. WOW!!!


Top Dogs, Underdogs Fill NCAA's 'Sweet 16'

Old dynasties and new faces are still alive in the NCAA men's basketball tournament after an opening two rounds full of upsets, overtime, buzzer-beaters and nail-biters.

When play begins Thursday and Friday in the round of 16, three No. 1 seeds will still be alive ... but so will a No. 10, a No. 11 and a No. 12.

Sunday's action included another win by Cornell, a No. 12 seed that has handled two higher-ranked teams so easily you'd be hard-pressed to call the wins over Temple and Wisconsin upsets.

In other Sunday outcomes that defied the oddsmakers, No. 6 seed Xavier knocked off No. 3 seed Pitt and No. 5 seed Michigan State topped No. 4 seed Maryland.

There were predictable results, too: No. 1 seed Syracuse dismantled No. 9 seed Gonzaga, No. 2 seed Ohio State held off No. 10 seed Georgia Tech and No. 3 seed West Virginia got past No. 10 seed Missouri.

And in an overtime thriller, No. 4 seed Purdue — playing without injured star Robbie Hummell — managed to edge No. 5 seed Texas A&M, 63-61, to lock down the last spot in the Sweet 16.

Bite Of The Underdog

But throughout the first two rounds of the tournament, the bite of the underdog was felt. No. 9 seed Northern Iowa stunned overall No. 1 seed Kansas Saturday, 69-67.

And besides Northern Iowa, the Sweet 16 lineup includes No. 10 seed Saint Mary's (victorious over Richmond and Villanova) and No. 11 seed Washington (a winner over Marquette and New Mexico).

Then there's Butler. The Bulldogs aren't an out-and-out surprise — this is the third time in eight years that they've reached the Sweet 16, and they're a No. 5 seed — but they are representative of the recent rise of "mid-major" teams from smaller schools that have bedeviled the power conferences in recent NCAA tournaments.

And the tournament's topsy-turvy first round included eight wins by lightly regarded "double digit" seeds — No. 10 or higher.

Sweet 16 Matchups

So the pairings are set for the next round of play.

In the East bracket, powerful Kentucky will be the next opponent up for confident Cornell, while Washington gets a shot at West Virginia.

In the South, Duke will contend with Purdue, while Baylor squares off with Saint Mary's.

In the Midwest, Ohio State plays No. 6 seed Tennessee as Northern Iowa tries to stay on its roll against Michigan State.

And in the West, Xavier gets No. 2 seed Kansas State while Syracuse faces Butler.

If you're counting by conference, that's three from the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue); two from the Big East (Syracuse, West Virginia), Big 12 (Kansas State, Baylor) and SEC (Kentucky, Tennessee); one from the ACC (Duke) and Pac-10 (Washington); four of those pesky mid-majors (Northern Iowa/Missouri Valley Conference; Butler/Horizon League; Xavier/Atlantic Ten; Saint Mary's/West Coast Conference) and one from the Ivy League (Cornell).

Credit: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124986888&ft=1&f=1001

Dear President Obama #426: “Signed, sealed, delivered...uh...on Monday”

Tom Foreman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who works over at CNN. His work covers a wide-range of topics for the network and he can be seen reporting for programs including Anderson Cooper 360° and The Situation Room.

Mr. Foreman has committed to writing a letter to President Obama every day as long as he is in office. The topics are completely random and there is almost never and agenda to them. This is today's letter. I found it particularly entertaining.
Dear Mr. President,

Did I get this right? I read an article in USA Today which was all about the Post Office maybe giving up entirely on weekend deliveries, and it said the prime opponents of the measure are young Americans. How can this be? I sort of think most people under 30 are not entirely sure what a post office is, so how can they oppose this cutback?

The postal service amazes me. I know that plenty of people have gripes and have made jokes about it over the years, and Cliff Clavin was admittedly a terrific character. But it astounds me to think that I can scribble a note to someone thousands of miles away, stick it into an envelope, slap on a stamp, and for 44-cents have it delivered to the object of my correspondence!

Can you name one other thing that is so cheap and effective? And no cracks about my girlfriends in college, please. Well, ok…e-mail is better, I’ll admit that. But e-mail is still a relatively recent phenomenon and when you and all your political pals finally get around to taxing it (which you will…don’t try to fool me about that!) I suspect it will be word-for word no cheaper and perhaps even more expensive.

I love getting letters. Even these days. Even as I frantically thumb on my BlackBerry, and text on my phone, and flash semaphore messages to the folks on the Virginia side of the river. Letters just have a wonderful permanence about them, which is kind of strange to say considering that they are written on paper. They’re not like Stonehenge, for crying out loud.

Still, I like them and I get a little thrill every time I flip through the day’s stack of mail, and I’ll miss it if Saturday gets taken off of the route, so to speak.

So ponder this a bit, give me a call and let’s chat it over. Maybe we can come up with some clever new plan to offset the costs and keep the Saturday cards and letters coming. Wouldn’t that be something? Or I suppose you could write me a letter…but, uh, hurry.


NCAA Tourney Sweet 16 Fun Facts

Sweet 16 seeds:

There are three No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke)
There are three No. 2 seeds (West Virginia, Ohio State and Kansas State)
There is one No. 3 seed (Baylor)
There is one No. 4 seed (Purdue)
There are two No. 5 seeds (Michigan State and Butler)
There are two No. 6 seeds (Xavier and Tennessee)
There is one No. 9 seed (Northern Iowa)
There is one No. 10 seed (Saint Mary’s)
There is one No. 11 seed (Washington)
There is one No. 12 seed (Cornell)

RPIs of the Sweet 16 teams:

4-West Virginia
6-Kansas St
17-Northern Iowa
22-Ohio State
28-Michigan State
35-Saint Mary’s

Conference records (conferences with two or more wins):

Big 10 is 7-2
Big 12 is 7-5
Big East is 6-6
ACC is 5-5
SEC is 4-2
Pac-10 is 3-1
West Coast Conference is 3-1

Won-loss records of the seeds:

No. 1 seeds are 7-1
No. 2 seeds are 7-1
No. 3 seeds are 4-3
No. 4 seeds are 4-3
No. 5 seeds are 5-2
No. 6 seeds are 4-2
No. 7 seeds are 1-4
No. 8 seeds are 2-4
No. 9 seeds are 3-3
No. 10 seeds are 4-3
No. 11 seeds are 3-3
No. 12 seeds are 2-3
No. 13 seeds are 1-4
No. 14 seeds are 1-4
No. 15 seeds are 0-4
No. 16 seeds are 0-4

Four teams that have the toughest road thus far:

Washington beat a No. 6 seed (Marquette) and a No. 3 seed (New Mexico)
Cornell beat a No. 5 seed (Temple) and a No. 4 seed (Wisconsin)
Northern Iowa beat a No. 8 seed (UNLV) and a No. 1 seed (Kansas)
Saint Mary’s beat a No. 7 seed (Richmond) and a No. 2 seed (Villanova)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A win of epic proportions

As I sit here, drinking my lemon flavored Hawaiian Punch, all I can think is: "Did that really happen."

The answer. Yes it did.

This year's NCAA tournament has been defined by its upsets. Eight double-digit seeds moved through the bracket in the first round. Then, #10 seed Saint Mary's beat Villanova(#2) and #11 Washington shoved aside New Mexico(#3) to advance to the Sweet 16 .

Usually, if I am going to post a recap of the previous days hoops action, I will do it all in one post. Today though, I will do that post and this one. This post will be dedicated to the second round game where the #1 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks loss to the #9 seed in the Midwest, the Panthers from Northern Iowa.

To say that the Panthers win was a shocker or a bracketbuster simply does not do it justice. This win was one that will go down in the record books.

In the stinging end, KU fans are left to recriminate over a night of poor shooting (just 6-of-23 from 3-point range, with Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor combining to go 0-for-11). And a night of sloppy ball handling (15 turnovers).

Winning the tempo tug-of-war, ninth-seeded Northern Iowa (30-4) grounded the high-flying Jayhawks with in-their-jersey defense, then withstood a furious rally to become the first team to beat a No. 1 seed in the second round since UAB and Alabama did it to Kentucky and Stanford in 2004.

Ali Farokhmanesh, Northern Iowa's first-round hero, had the biggest play of all.

With Kansas charging and its fans roaring, the fearless son of an Iranian Olympic volleyball player caught the ball on the wing after the Panthers had broken Kansas' press. The shot clock still in the 30s, he hesitated for just an instant, then cast his bracket-busting shot with 34 seconds left on the game clock.

Trailing 66-62, Kansas had one last chance, but Tyrel Reed was called for an offensive foul and Farokhmanesh sealed it with two free throws with 5 seconds left, sending the Panthers to the round of 16 for the first time.

Fast Facts:
  • Kansas is the first No.1 seed to lose before the Sweet 16 since Kentucky and Stanford both accomplished the feat in 2004.
  • Only once has the No. 1 overall seed won the national title and that was Florida in 2007.
  • It's the 13th time a No. 1 seed of any kind has lost in the second round, and third time it has happened to the Jayhawks.
  • Northern Iowa is the first Missouri Valley tournament champion to reach the Sweet 16 since Indiana State in 1979. The Sycamores, led by Larry Bird, eventually went on to play in the national championship game against Michigan State.
  • The Panthers also became the first MVC team since 1962 to defeat a
    top-ranked opponent (Kansas finished the season ranked No. 1 in both polls).
  • -- ESPN Stats & Information

    Next up is the Michigan State-Maryland winner in St. Louis -- and another chance at history.

    NCAA Tourney: First Round Highlights

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Biden Buries, Then Unburies, Irish Prime Minister's Mother

    We thought you put your foot in your mouth Elisabeth. That was nothing compared to this.

    From NPR.org

    Yesterday evening at the White House there was a St. Patrick's Day reception that included, among others, President Obama, Vice President Biden and Brian Cowen, the prime minister of Ireland, a title officially called the Taoiseach.

    Biden is Irish and the nation's first Catholic vice president, and so he was in an especially ebullient mood. But, as we've seen before, he can sometimes be too ebullient.

    Here's what he said, courtesy the office of the White House press secretary. Check out the fourth graf:

    Good evening, everyone. Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, the Taoiseach, Mrs. Cowen. Welcome to the White House and welcome, all of you, to the White House.

    You know, as I said to some of my friends at the Vice President's residence this morning at a breakfast, there's an old saying -- there's an old saying that goes like this: If you're lucky enough to be Irish, well, you're lucky enough. (Laughter and applause.)

    I was telling the Taoiseach earlier today, one of my favorite cartoons to explain to the Irish-Irish what we American-Irish are like was one handed to me, Mr. President, by Pat Moynihan about 15, 18 years ago. It was The New Yorker Magazine and it was a picture of Pat and Mike sitting in a pub in New York. And Pat looks at Mike and says, "Mike, don't you wish you were in a pub in Dublin wishing you were in a pub in New York?" (Laughter.) You understand that about us, you got it all straight, Taoiseach.

    But the Taoiseach knows a lot about it. His mom lived in Long Island for 10 years or so -- God rest her soul and -- although, wait, your mom is still alive, it's your dad passed. God bless her soul. (Laughter.) I got to get this straight.

    AC360 Picture of the Day

    Everyday over at Anderson Cooper's blog at AC360 they post a picture and ask viewers to provide the caption. This is yesterday's picture and some of the entries. I thought that this was really humorous.

    Elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus stop near the U.S. Capitol for a photo op on the National Mall as they parade through town to announce the circus's arrival for performances in Washington, DC.

    "Let's put on a great show for the clowns here!"

    "Why are we doing a show here? This place is ALWAYS a circus?"
    "'Hey Rush...
    'Yeah Newt...'
    'I think the way we've been acting all these years is changing the way we look.'
    'I dunno. Maybe'"

    "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus join the health care debate for the greatest show on earth."

    "What? No kidding? We have better health care than their constituents?"

    "I hear this town isn't worth peanuts anymore!"

    "'I thought we were headed to the circus? This is the Capital!'
    'Yep, then we're headed in the right direction.'"

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    All about me!

    Many of my entries lately have been dedicated to basketball. What can I say? I am an avid sports fan - especially basketball - especially in March. So, when I logged in this morning, I decided that my first entry of the day, the one that I try to squeeze in before the kids wake up, or shortly thereafter, would be an update on me.

    First off, an update on my health. Two weeks ago, I went to St. Joseph and had the lumbar puncture, the Cisternogram, and the MRI. Since all of the dye that had been injected into my spine had went up into my brain and came back off as it should, my Neurosurgeon determined that the fluid that was on my brain, had beem there for some time. He then gave me to options. One was to have a fairly invasive procedure to have a shunt inserted which would serve a dual purpose. It would drain the excess fluid that is already up there and it would also divert the flow of the spinal fluid away from the enlarged ventricle. The other was to let the fluid stay where it is and manage the pain from the resulting headaches with prescription pain relievers. For obvious reasons, I chose the latter.

    Work has been much of the same lately. After my tiff with my boss over getting the days off that I needed for the above mentioned procedures, I wasn't even sure that I was going to have a job anymore. Not to mention the fact that I had a cash issue that same day. Thank goodness, it all worked out though. Now, we have two new empoyees and instead of the usual 23-26 hours that I am scheduled. I only got scheduled for 20. Not sure what is going to happen but I guess that only time can tell. I am not terribly fond of that job, but it is a job and it gives us the money that we need to buy groceries and the necessities that we need. Not to mention that it affords us a few small luzuries.

    I still can't believe how blessed I am. GOD has provided so much for me and I know that even the health troubles are in HIS master plan for a reason. I have a beautiful wife who is so smart and so talented. I have two children who are so smart and have personalities beyond imagination. And best of all, THEY ARE ALL HEALTHY! Thank GOD for that and thank GOD for them.

    - b

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Tracking Down Relatives, Visiting Graves Virtually

    While I have to say that I think this concept is slightly odd, in my opinion, it is a wonderful service that I am sure has bought closure to many folks.

    From NPR.org:

    Anne Cady spends her Saturdays at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, searching for tombstones of people she never met. She admits that most people don't understand her hobby.

    "Some people think it is kind of ghoulish," she says. "Others totally understand that it is just very peaceful. I've always enjoyed being out in cemeteries and mixing that with my love of puzzles. You know, there couldn't be anything better."

    Cady is one of thousands of people who volunteer to take photos of tombstones for the Web site FindAGrave.com. The site links up people from across the United States — all over the world even — who want a photo of a tombstone but don't have the cash to get there and take the photo themselves.

    On The Hunt

    Camera slung around her neck, Cady laces up her shoes and heads to the cemetery. Among the graves she's hunting for today is that of Jesse Veith, a World War I veteran who fought in France in 1918.

    She walks for almost an hour, stopping occasionally to glance at her notes. She knows she's getting close. She repeats the number "1556" out loud, like a mantra, as she combs through one section of the graveyard. Then she shouts.

    "We have Jesse Veitch!"

    But there's a problem. The tombstone reads V-E-I-T-H, not V-E-I-T-C-H. Cady isn't surprised. "These stones are not always perfectly right — they did a less-than-pristine job of getting names right."

    Still, she takes a few photos and continues trudging through the cemetery.

    Finding Graves Online

    Jim Tipton started FindAGrave.com about 15 years ago as a place to post photos of tombstones for famous people like Al Capone and Karl Marx. Then people started putting up pictures of tombstones with only marginally famous names on them.

    "At some point, I said, 'I am sick of drawing the lines of who is famous and who isn't. I'm just going to accept everyone,' " Tipton says. The floodgates opened. Since then, Find A Grave volunteers have taken over a half-million photos of tombstones.

    "We're now adding names at 40,000 a day or something like that, which is higher than the death rate in the U.S.," Tipton says. "So we are kind of gaining ground on U.S. burials."

    A Family Member Found

    Cady's search for Veitch's tombstone was requested by his cousin, Teddi Smith. Smith, 63, started tracking her family history almost a decade ago.

    "I would love to be able to sit down with my mother at this point and ask her a zillion questions, but those are questions that I'll never get answered," Smith says.

    Her parents died when she was 20, so Smith has had to learn about a lot of her family through historical documents and Web sites like Find A Grave. She lives in Florida, and although she never met Veitch, she says getting to know family members like him — whether dead or alive — makes her feel more whole, more connected.

    "There's actually an emotional attachment that you get when you actually see the picture of the grave marker," Smith says. "You can put that in your family tree, and they are no longer just a name and some dates."

    On the Find A Grave Web site, Smith finally sees Cady's photos of Veitch's tombstone. She's ecstatic.

    "Oh my goodness," she breathes. "Oh my goodness. That is just beautiful. I have
    goosebumps everywhere. Yeah, it's misspelled, but yeah, that's him."Now that she has seen the grave, Smith can call Arlington National Cemetery and get a new headstone — with the right spelling. And once the new one is up, she says, she's
    going to want another photo.

    Noteworthy Games - Edition: 3.14.10

    There were four games yesterday. All four were conference championships. In one game a team was playing not only for a conference championship but for its only chance to get into the NCAA tourney, an automatic bid. Another game featured a team that had beaten three teams, one of them unranked, and the #11 and #5 ranked teams in the nation to reach it's conference championship. By the way, did I mention the team doing so was unranked? Next up, you have a team that is always on the national radar. Finally, a team that has been a NCAA tourney bracketbuster on numerous occasions.

    I know that I have had a bit of a love affair for Minnesota lately. I also realize that the last two days, I have started off talking about them. So...why should today be any different? The Golden Gophers took on Big 10 powerhouse Ohio State yesterday and got their asses handed to them in the championship game. Final score, 90-61.

    In all fairness though, this was their fourth game in as many days and they had overcome some huge obstacles to make it into the championship game. Those obstacles being the #11th (Michigan State), and #5th (Purdue) ranked teams in the nation. Did I mention that they did all of this as unranked team? Coach Tubby Smith and company, to you I tip my hat. You have nothing to be ashamed of!

    Next up we have the nail-biting, barn-burner that featured the University of Kentucky and Mississippi in the Southeastern Conference final. Words really could not do this game justice, and so here are the highlights from ESPN.com.

    John Wall scored 7 of his 17 points in overtime as the Wildcats won their 26th SEC tournament title and first since 2004. UK is now 8-0 in games decided by five points or less and/or OT.

    Eric Bledsoe led the Wildcats with 18 points and has scored in double figures in four straight games.

    DeMarcus Cousins, whose tip-in at the buzzer in regulation sent the game to overtime, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season.

    In short, Kentucky(#2) rallied from five down with 2:28 left in regulation to beat Mississippi State. Final Score: 75-74

    Temple beat Richmond to win its 3rd straight Atlantic 10 title. Final Score: 56-52

    In a ACC tournament filled with upsets, it took a gritty effort from Duke to hold off a determined comeback from the (tournament) seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech, who were trying to become the first team in tournament history to win four games in four days. In the end though, there was just to much Duke. Final Score: 65-61

    And the winner is.....(Part 2)

    As of noon yesterday, four conferences had yet to crown a conference champion. The following teams won their conference championships yesterday and punched the final four tickets for automatic berths into the NCAA tourney yesterday.

    ACC - Duke

    Atlantic 10 - Temple

    Big Ten - Ohio State

    SEC - University of Kentucky

    How apple would explain sexuality to kids - very clever!

    The Mad Hatter's Secret Ingredient: Math

    From NPR.org:
    The first numbers that come to mind when thinking about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland might be how much money the movie is raking in at the box office.

    But numbers also appear to be woven in among the talking rabbits and smoking caterpillars of the original stories. Author Lewis Carroll was also a math teacher in Oxford, England, and mathematicians say the Alice books are full of algebraic lessons — such as why a raven is like a writing desk.

    That's the riddle the Mad Hatter asks Alice. And, as Weekend Edition Math Guy Keith Devlin tells NPR's Jacki Lyden, "That particular scene — and lots of other scenes in Alice in Wonderland — were a reflection on the increasing abstraction that was going on in mathematics in the 19th century."

    Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, was a very conservative, traditional mathematician, Devlin says, and he didn't like the changes some were bringing to the discipline of mathematics.

    "To him, algebra was all about numbers," Devlin says. But in the 19th century, people were developing all kinds of bizarre new algebras, where x times y was not equal to y times x.

    So why is a raven like a writing desk? Because the new mathematics didn't make sense to Carroll. "Lots of things that every common-sense person would say are different in this new mathematics turned out to be the same," Devlin says — a point Carroll found ripe for satire.

    Missing Time At The Tea Party

    So underneath the madness of the Wonderland tea party lies math — and some snark. Alice finds the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse at their tea party, but Devlin says Carroll deliberately left out one character.

    "One of the big developments that was going on at that time ... was work by an Irish
    mathematician called William Hamilton," Devlin explains. Carroll wasn't a fan of Hamilton's work, a new arithmetic called quaternions. "Quaternions were numbers — not to deal with counting things, but to deal with understanding rotations.

    "Back in Victorian times, when Hamilton himself was doing this work, he tried to understand his new arithmetic in physical terms," Devlin says. "He said one of the four terms that was involved in these numbers had to be time. So time was inexplicably, inescapably bound up with these new numbers."

    Yet it's the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse at the tea party — the character Time is absent. (You can read the chapter here if your memory needs refreshing.)

    "What Hamilton said was if you take this time parameter out of these new numbers, then the numbers would just keep rotating around — they won't go anywhere," Devlin says. "It was just like the characters rotating round and round the tea party, round and round the table."

    "In fact, when the Hatter and the Hare try to squeeze the Dormouse into the teapot, they're trying to somehow get away from this complexity — throw away another of the parameters, if you like — so that life can resume as normal."

    Devlin says Carroll's message is that we "get rid of all of this complexity in the first place, and let's just go back to the familiar old geometry that we've had since Euclid for 2,000 years."

    Fictional Math

    The hidden math in Alice may come as a surprise to many, but mathematicians have always known Carroll was slipping some numbers into his fiction.

    "We knew that Carroll was actually a mathematician," Devlin says. "Last year, in fact, a scholar in Oxford called Melanie Bayley wrote a complete dissertation analyzing Alice In Wonderland, and she identified a number of mathematical allusions in the story."

    Without Carroll's secret ingredient, Alice might never have achieved her fame. "The very first version of [the] Alice in Wonderland story — that he wrote for the real Alice — had none of the mathematics," Devlin says. "He added a lot of new material and it's all of that new material where you find the mathematical allusions.

    "Almost certainly what he did was said, 'Here's this cute story that I've written for this real Alice. I'm going to take that and I'm going to use it to do this wicked satire of what I think are these crazy, stupid developments in mathematics that are getting us away from the real, solid mathematics that I've loved all my life.' "

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    And the winner is...

    Twelve more teams punched their tickets and earned a berth into the NCAA Tournament yesterday by winning their conference championships.

    American East - Vermont

    Big 12 - Kansas

    Big East - West Virginia

    Big West - UC Santa Barbara

    Conference USA - Houston

    Mid-American - Ohio

    MEAC - Morgan State

    Mountain West - San Diego State

    PAC-10 - Washington

    Southland - Sam Houston State

    SWAC - Arkansas-Pine Bluff

    WAC - New Mexice State
    There are several conference championships that will be played out today. Those teams will earn automatic bids to the NCAA tourney.

    ACC - Duke vs. Georgia Tech

    Atlantic 10 - Temple vs. Richmond

    Big Ten - Ohio State vs. Minnesota

    SEC - UK vs. Mississippi State

    Best of luck to all these teams. I will be cheering on two in particular. Good luck to Tubby Smith and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They have made an improbable run in the Big Ten Conference and win or lose today, I think they have certainly made a case for a bid in the NCAA Tourney.

    Finally, best of luck to UK in the SEC Championship game today. They play a very feisty team in Mississippi State whose NCAA Tourney hopes rest on whether or not they can pull out a win today vs. UK and complete a run of the table in the SEC tourney this week.

    More later!

    - b

    Noteworthy Games - Edition: 3.13.10

    I love my Wildcats, LORD knows I do, but I cannot help but start off with Tubby Smith and the tenacious Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Minnesota held the Boilermakers(#5) to the worst first-half in Purdue's record books and rolled to a 69-42 victory in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.. It was the fewest points by Purdue in a half since the school started keeping track in 1950. Only a late layup by Patrick Bade allowed the Boilermakers to avoid the worst defeat ever in a Big Ten tournament game. Minnesota led 37-11 at the break and by as many as 34 points in the second half.

    "I thought it was a very impressive and dominating performance," Smith said. "It's as good a half as I think I've been a part of as a coach."

    The Golden Gophers will play Ohio State(#7) on Sunday for the Big 10 tournament championship.

    Going into the SEC tourney, UK had two losses in the course of the regular season. One to South Carolina which they were able to avenge in late February. The second loss came at the hands of Tennessee in the two teams second match-up of the season. Both contests were decided by less than twelve points. Yesterday UK got a chance to avenge that second loss of the season in the semifinal round of the SEC Tourney. This time, it wasn't even close. UK handed the Volunteers their most lop-sided loss under Coach Bruce Pearl.

    Of the loss, Pearl, said "We got outplayed at every position, and Kentucky's the No. 2 team in the country for a reason. They're a really, really good team. We just did not have the energy after playing two games and coming back and playing this third game. We just didn't have it."

    The Vols fought tooth and nail but in the end, the Cats were just too much. Final Score: 74-45

    Kansas State(#9) has not won a Big 10 tournament title in 30 years. After yesterday, make it 31. Kansas(#1) continued it's dominance winning its seventh Big 10 tournament title. Final Score: 72-64

    Ohio State(#7) needed two overtimes to come away with the win and advance to the Big 10 final on Saturday. The Fighting Illini of Illinois put up a strong battle, but it in the end, they had no match for Ohio State's Player of the Year contender Evan Turner. Final Score: 88-81

    Duke (#$) had to fend off an extremely pesky Miami of Ohio team to advance to the ACC Tourney final where it will meet Georgia Tech. Final Score: 77-74

    More later!

    - b