Basketball, Basketball, Basketball…. and Hockey

It’s time for the NBA to shine, now that the Super Bowl has come, gone, and disappointed most of us. Bring on another 7-game NBA Finals to get us out of this funk, basketball. This week has a slew of good match ups, but not ones you would have been excited about before this year. With the emergence of the Pacers as the NBA’s best team (by record, at least) and the Trail Blazers, Rockets and Suns heading for the playoffs, we’re getting some exciting non-traditionally contests.

Oh, and there’s quite a bit of good hockey this week as well.

Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks
Tuesday, 7PM @ TD Garden, Boston, MA

These two teams still don’t like each other

It’s been a couple years since the fantastic Canucks/Bruins Stanley Cup Finals, eventually won by Boston, but the there’s still no love lost here. While Vancouver is fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the West, the Bruins are cruising with the second best point total in their conference. A loss at home for Boston would be a bit embarrassing, while the Canucks need something to get them going.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Indiana Pacers
Friday, 7PM @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

Two of the new titans of basketball

The Trail Blazers and Pacers have become two of the best teams in the NBA, led by some young stars that could be the faces of the league sooner rather than later. Paul George (pictured above) burst onto the national scene during last year’s playoffs, when he went basket-for-basket with Lebron James. Damian Lillard was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013 after putting up 19 ppg while never missing a game. Lamarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Nick Batum… you’ve got to believe these two teams could be taking the torch from the Heat and Spurs very soon, if they haven’t already.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Saturday, 2 PM @ Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA

Can Michigan rebound from a loss to Indiana?

It’s the best college basketball matchup of the weekend, as #10 Michigan takes on #17 Iowa in Iowa City. The Wolverines took a beating from Indiana recently, but were about to best the Hawkeyes a few weeks ago in Ann Arbor. Iowa lost an overtime thriller to Michigan State, but have gotten back on track with a 81-74 win over the Illini. This game could have Big Ten title implications, and a win for the Wolverines will set the stage for a huge contest with the Spartans on March 6.

Don’t Miss a Thing

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Tuesday, 7 PM @ Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK 

KD is a favorite for NBA MVP this season.

Current 2nd and 3rd in the Western Conference, this is an intriguing match up. A win could move someone into 1st place, and the way Kevin Durant has been playing, most bets might be on the Thunder. KD threw up 54 points last week, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Damain Lillard might be even better than the Durant-Westbrook combo.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Wednesday, 7 PM @ Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Crosby leads the league in points, and it’s not even close

The Penguins sit in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, while the Habs are in fourth. A big win in Pittsburgh could give the Canadiens the confidence they need to start climbing that ladder to secure home ice advantage in the playoffs. Montreal is strong defensively and kill 85.6% of power plays, so Crosby and Malkin will have their hands full.

Australian Open Men’s Single Semifinals
Friday, 2:30 AM @ Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Oh, the possibilities.

The Australian Open. While we aren’t quite sure who will be playing in the semifinals quite yet, you can bet it will be at least one of these two legends. All but one of the top eight seeds have made the quarterfinals, and with a Rafa-Roger semifinal possibly looming, it’s worth making up early for (or going to, if you’re lucky enough to live in Australia).

Michigan vs. Michigan State
Saturday, 7 PM @ Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI

No love lost in this matchup

In the only game of the weekend featuring two ranked teams, the #21 Wolverines are looking to knock off #3 Michigan State on their home court. Last year the Spartans demolished their rivals 75-52 at the Breslin Center, but then lost a nail-biter in Ann Arbor 58-57.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Sunday, 1 PM @ American Airlines Arena, Miami FL

The shot that cost the Spurs their 5th title

The Spurs lost a heartbreaking 2013 NBA Finals to the Heat, and this will be the first time the two meet since Game 7.  San Antonio is in first place once again, while the Heat trail only the Pacers in the East. You can bet the American Airlines Arena will be packed to capacity, and the Spurs would love nothing more than to silence the Miami fans.

Sweet 16 & Elite 8 – Which region will have the hot ticket?

Nationally known sports reporter and on-air host Chip Brown predicts the hot ticket for this year’s Sweet 16 & Elite 8 games.

75 Years of Madness

2013 marks 75 years since the NCAA Tournament began. Learn more about the history of the Big Dance, and be sure to pick up tickets to see all of this year’s action live on our Tournament page.

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The 75th Anniversary of March Madness

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Saint Mary’s and the Glass Slipper — The Secret to Their Success


Virginia Commonwealth shocks #1 Kansas in 2011

The NCAA tournament bracket has been unveiled and we’re a few days from the first games tipping off. Casual observers and fervent basketball fans alike will be watching the tournament early on to catch what could be the next Cinderella team that makes a run and knocks off one of the big programs. Rooting for the underdog, the little guy, the unknown – it’s intrinsic in all of us. A large part of the March Madness draw is the exuberant joy you see that comes from the players, coaches and fans when they win a big game. Feeling like a part of the excitement is what sports fandom is all about and the NCAA tournament gives you a level of real emotion and key moments that is unmatched anywhere else.

The first thing fans will do when the bracket comes out is look for their team. What seed? Against who? Where? Then after those questions are out of the way its “OK, now where do I go to fill out my bracket?” and “Who is going to be this year’s George Mason? This year’s VCU.” Taking a look at every team you could classify as a Cinderella team makes one realize there might be no formula. It’s like trying to guess who fits into the glass slipper by just looking at everyone’s feet. You have to play the games (have everyone try the slipper on) before you see who your emotions will go with.

I tried to figure it out anyway. Over the last 10 years, there have been 22 teams that were seeded #9 or lower that reached the Sweet Sixteen and it has fluctuated greatly. In each of the 2010 and 2011 tournaments, four lower seeds made it. In 2007, none did.

First, what lower seed produced the most Sweet Sixteen teams?

#9: 2 teams (UAB, Northern Iowa)

#10: 7 teams (Auburn, Nevada, NC State, Davidson, Saint Mary’s, Florida State, Xavier)

#11: 4 teams (George Mason, Washington, Marquette, VCU)

#12: 7 teams (Butler, UW-Milwaukee, Western Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona, Cornell, Richmond)

#13: 2 teams (Bradley, Ohio)

#14-16: None

So 10 and 12 seeds have had more luck reaching the Sweet Sixteen then a #9 seed has. Might seem strange, but #9 seeds have to play #1 seeds in the second round, so that becomes a bit more difficult. Of all those teams, only three won their Sweet Sixteen games (Davidson, George Mason and VCU). Of those, two made it to the Final Four and not a single lower seed advanced to the National Championship game. So 10-11-12 seeds make up most Cinderella teams with the median being an 11 seed (which both Final Four teams were).

Where did all these successful lower-seeded teams come from? Is there one conference that continues to deliver when it comes to underdogs? The short answer is no. The 22 teams came from 15 different conferences and no conference had more than two.

What about the type of school? Of the 22, the split is pretty even with 12 teams being public while 10 were private. Not too telling. However, what about the general idea of the underdog and Cinderella? It seems as the ones most classified like that aren’t from a big public school with other large sports programs. While Arizona might be classified as a Cinderella school for this purpose, we certainly can’t call them that even with the low seed. Let’s restrict it to schools you’d actually consider for that type of title.

When you take all the components of these lower-seeded teams that made it to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond over the last decade, there’s only one school in 2013 that matches the description when it comes to seed, conference, and that Cinderella feel: Saint Mary’s.

The Gaels are a #11 seed, the same as Final Four participants George Mason and VCU. Saint Mary’s comes from a conference that has seen a lower seed reach the Sweet Sixteen (the Gaels did it themselves in 2010) and it’s a small private school with less than 3,000 undergrads. While it has the right formula, Saint Mary’s will also be playing in a First Four game against Middle Tennessee. A win over the Blue Raiders and then #6 Memphis would likely set up a match up with #3 Michigan State. Yikes.

You might have the right components to be Cinderella in 2013, Saint Mary’s, but good luck.

Post script: After writing this I started wondering where the usage of the “Cinderella” term came from. After a little research I found a Pat Forde excerpt in the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia on the subject. While it seems to have been used as early as the late 1930s, it gained popularity when City College of New York became the first and only school to win both the NIT and NCAA tournament in 1950. Disney’s “Cinderella” premiered that same year.

SEE ALSO: TicketCity’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Contest and tickets for all NCAA Tournament games