Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chalkier Than A Mouthful Of Tums

This is the chalkiest {read: favored teams winning} NCAA Tournament I can ever remember.

My records only go back to 1991, and I don't have time to check it, but I am guessing that this is the chalkiest state of affairs at this point in the tournament since the introduction of the 3 point line in 1987. Before tonight I noticed that this is the first time since 1995 that not a single double digit seed made it to the Sweet 16. We are also staring at potentially the first year without anything below a 3 seed in the Elite Eight since, well, shit - I don't know, my stats only go back to 1991 so at least before that.

March Madness 07: chalky as hell

Tonight I thought some lower seeds had a chance, but A&M totally bottled it at the end, and 5 seed Tennessee managed to somehow squander a 20 point lead with their opponents best player by a mile having 3 fouls in the first half - amazing.

1v2 and 1v2 on one half, and we may very well end up with 1v2 and 1v3 in the other half tomorrow. Can USC, UNLV, Butler or Vandy actually upset a top seed, or is this the year of the chalk?

Euro 2008 Qualifying Preview

So European club footy takes basically a 2 week break for the next 2 rounds of qualifying matches for Euro2008, to be contested next summer in Austria & Switzerland. With both host nations qualifying automatically, the remaining 14 spots are being contested thusly: the remaining 50 soccer-playing nations of Europe are divided into 7 groups {6 groups of 7 and 1 group of 8}. Each will play the rest once at home and once away, and at the end the top 2 in each group will be qualified for Euro2008; everyone else will watch from the comfort of home.

For about 2 years I have been planning on going to Switzerland/Austria next summer during Euro2008, but now that one of my best mates is living in Brasil it may be a better idea to go there for 3 weeks instead, so we'll see.

Anyhow, it's still fairly early in the proceedings, but already some interesting things are developing. A round of matches will take place on Saturday, another round next Wednesday, and then players will return to their clubs which will resume play next weekend.

A quick and dirty guide:
Current Standings
Schedule of Matches for Saturday & Wednesday

Group A
The team to keep an eye on this week are Portugal, semifinalists at World Cup 2006 as well as Euro2000, and finalists at Euro2004. They currently sit in 4th place in the group- they aren't in trouble yet but sit behind an OK Finland team and legit Serbia & Poland teams. They have an interesting week - home to Belgium on Saturday, who are good but they should still beat, and then on Wednesday night a very tricky away match in Serbia, who currently sit in 2nd place in the group and should beat Kazakhstan on Saturday. If Serbia handle Kazakhstan and then are able to beat Portugal on home soil, they will take control of the group and Portugal will enter a mild panic, especially if they only manage a home draw with Belgium.

Long term it looks like those four teams {Finland, Serbia, Poland, Portugal} will be fighting for the 2 spots, unless Belgium starts to make noise, in which case throw them in as well.

Group B
Initially everyone assumed that the two spots from this group would go to Italy & France, last year's World Cup winners and runners-up respectively, with perhaps WC06 quarterfinalists Ukraine having a chance to nick one of the spots if the Azzurri or Les Bleus completely fucked up. 5 games in and this is now the most interesting group, with Scotland playing well and shocking France 1-0 late last year to leap into first place ahead of France, Italy, and Ukraine. The $64,000 question is: can Scotland keep it up, or will they fade and leave it to the big boys to try to keep Ukraine out just as the original script was written? The only match involving two of the top 4 in these next two rounds is next Wednesday night when Scotland play away to Italy. If they can get a draw then they should be able to hang around for a while longer. If they are able to replicate their shock win in Italy, then look out, the 4 horse race is on. I'm sure the ever-optimistic Scots are already chalking this one up as a loss which starts their decline from contention here. What say you, Trojan & Thistle?

Long term, this group will be fascinating to watch and see if Italy & France can get the spots that the world expects them to get, and if Ukraine and Scotland can battle them and even knock one of them out.

Group C
Joint group leaders Turkey and Greece meet this Saturday in the key matchup of the entire qualifying process in this group. They are the two best teams, two favorites to win the group, and oh yeah, they fucking hate each other, and have been battling to varying degrees for hundreds if not thousands of years. Worth keeping an eye on for this alone, but if one team wins they can take early control of the group.

Long term, it looks like Turkey & Greece will battle with Norway for the 2 spots, with Bosnia-Herzegovina having a longshot chance of contesting {they came very very close to qualifying for Euro2004}

Group D
This group looks pretty boring, with heavy favorites for the 2 spots Germany & Czech Republic already forging out in front. It looks like Ireland are the only team that might be able to put any pressure on them, but even that doesn't appear too likely at this point.

The one interesting thing is that they two powerhouses play each other Saturday, with Germany traveling to the Czech Republic for perhaps the match of the day on paper.

Long term, it looks like these two spots will easily go to Germany & Czech Republic, with Ireland on the outside looking in. The rest of the group is pretty poor, which will only play into the hands of the 2 top dogs.

Group E
Originally it was assumed the England would win the group and Croatia, Russia, and Israel would fight it out for the other spot. But thanks to England's utterly lackluster play thusfar {0-0 home draw with Macedonia and 0-2 loss at Croatia most recently}, this is the most hotly contested group at the moment, with the top 5 teams {Croatia, Russia, England, Macedonia, Israel} currently sitting on 10, 8, 7, 7, and 7 points.

The match to watch is Saturday as England travel to Tel Aviv to play a much-better-than-you -would-think Israel side. Israel did not lose a single match during World Cup 2006 qualifying, but were placed in a very tough group with France, Switzerland, and Ireland and just missed out finishing 4th. So they should not be taken lightly, especially at home. Many think that 1) Israel can beat England outright and 2) if they do England will be at massive risk of not qualifying and also that their manager, Steve McClaren, will be fired. Definitely the most interesting of all the matches on Saturday.

Long term, England has massive soap opera potential, and I am guessing that 4 teams {England, Russia, Croatia, and Israel} will fight it out for the 2 spots.

Group F
Can Spain save themselves? I for one hope so, since at the end of World Cup 2006 I picked them to win Euro2008. They have started out by digging themselves a massive hole, losing 2 of their first 3 matches outright and sitting in 5th place with only 3 points, already a massive 9 points behind group leaders Sweden. Basically their room for error is already gone, and they need to start winning matches outright instead of losing shockers to the likes of Norn Iron {Northern Ireland}. They are home to 2nd place and very solid Denmark on Saturday, and then home to pretty crappy Iceland on Wednesday. The absolute worst they can afford is a draw with Denmark and win over Iceland, and they really need the full 6 points from these 2 matches to get back into the race.

Long term, Sweden, Denmark and Spain should battle for the 2 spots, with longshot hopeful Northern Ireland likely to remember that they are Northern Ireland and fade back into obscurity after their famous win over Spain late last year.

Group G
Initially this group looked like Holland would win it fairly comfortably, leaving Romania and Bulgaria to duke it out for the other spot. And 4/5 matches in it looks exactly like that, with Holland in front on 10 points, Bulgaria doing very well in 2nd on 8 pts and Romania in 3rd on 7 pts. The match of this round is Saturday as Romania play at Holland, where Holland are favored to further assert their dominance over this group.

Long term this group is most likely to stay on script, with Holland qualifying at a canter and Romania & Bulgaria battling for 2nd, with a possible but not likely outside bid from Belarus, whose captain is Arsenal's Alexander Hleb.

So there it is. Best of luck to whomever your squad is.

Ulterior Motive

The thinly veiled ostensible raison d'etre of this post:

I have always found cricket intriguing but at the same time ridiculously difficult to understand. A few years back I came across "Cricket Explained {An American Viewpoint}" which does a very good job of explaining the basics. Additionally there is a decent pictorial guide to cricket here, and another decent introductory article here which also has links to coverage of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

The real motivation for this post:

Any sporting competition with this in their opening
ceremony cannot be completely written off

Pakistan 2007 = Colombia 1994 ???

From the Red Sox/Duke/Kentucky/Green Bay/Team X Fans Aren't Nearly As Crazy As We Americans Tend To Think They Are department:

So the cricket world cup is going on right now, which means exactly nothing to America but a hell of a lot to a good chunk of the world. It's like the soccer world cup in that it occurs every 4 years, and is very similar except for the fact that every nation on the planet does not go apeshit for it, only the ones where cricket is played. Hell I was in Barbados once when the Windies {West Indies} were playing a friendly match against I think England, and the entire Island went absolutely and completely batshit crazy over it for 5 days.

So there are 16 teams in 4 groups of 4 and the top two teams advance out of group play to the quarterfinals. Pakistan is a heavy hitter when it comes to cricket. I am no expert, but I do know that cricket is pretty much a national obsession and Pakistan is up there with the best of the best. So the fact that their shock loss to cricket minnows Ireland last weekend meant that they had no chance to advance to the quarterfinals and were eliminated from the World Cup.

So naturally the 3 members of Pakistan Cricket Board Selection Committee immediately turned their resignations in directly to President Musharraf {this should give an idea of how important cricket is in Pakistan - could you see the selection committee of USA basketball resigning directly to the President every time the US Basketball team gets embarrassed in the Olympics? No, you can't}.

"Yeah, whatever Kanu. That's no big deal."

Well, the next day the manager of the team turned up dead in his hotel room, and authorities have termed his death "suspicious".

And Tubby Smith thinks UK basketball fans are demanding?

Damn, it sure sounds like some crazed Pakistani cricket fan offed the coach because the team was shockingly knocked out of the world cup. If so, a fucked up and tragic situation that is very reminiscent of Andres Escobar's murder upon returning to Colombia after the 1994 World Cup. Andres, you see, had the misfortune of scoring the own goal in a 1-2 loss to the USA that knocked Colombia out of the World Cup that they felt like they had a legitimate chance to win {they easily topped the South American qualifying that year behind Valderramma and Asprilla and absolutely thrashed World Cup favorites Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires, leading many to believe that they would go on to win the World Cup}.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wunderbar Tor!

Holy shit what a goal by Eintracht Frankfurt's Christoph Preuß {pronounced Preuss I think} , to beat the biggest {and historically best} club in the league no less:

Also, I hate to say anything complimentary about anyone on Spurs, but their goalkeeper Paul Robinson scored today from a good 80 yards out. Nutty.

Must be some kind of karmic retribution for his unbelievable howler for England last fall:

Friday, March 16, 2007

Two Down, One To Go...

Dook is out.
Georgia Tech is out.

All I ask is that Florida to not repeat as champions. But if they were to also go out sometime this weekend, and I could have peace in my college basketball soul that was never achieved last year, then that would be almost too wonderful for words.

Here's hoping supreme pimp Lute Olson can get his Cats past Purdue and then shock the Gators on Sunday.

Also, be sure to keep up with the tournament over at Burnt Orange Nation: Peter Bean and Co. are all over it with great coverage and analysis.

Arsenal are away to Everton on Sunday morning in their less than exciting quest to ensure Champions League 2007-08 qualification. A goal that isn't a crazy deflection or own goal would be welcome and nice. I'll be taping the game and watching it later, as FC Red Stripes play a double-header: first taking on Team Swarm and then Cold Play. The weather here is supposed to be mid 70s and sunny, so no matter what it will just be great to be outside all day instead of in cubicle world.

Speaking of cubicle world, we got job offers from our new contractual overlords today, so going on the dole and traveling the West will have to wait a few months until they dump us after completing the transition from old contract to new. Corporate America = fun.

Finally, OMAA attended the ACC Tournament last weekend in Tampa, and he reported to me that Virginia Tech has a female student manager who is uber hott. So that is something for all of us to look for tonight.

I'm off to a sportsbar/footy pub called The Final Final to meet up with A10 and his crew to take in the games and imbibe the Friday Happy Hour goodness. I hope that VT student manager is as advertised...

A Happy Weekend To All, wherever you are and whatever you get into.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Bad, The Ugly, and The Good

My day today was very similar to Dawg2K, otherwise known as The Outback Bowl game between Georgia & Purdue that I attended on January 1, 2000, where Georgia went down 0-22 before coming all the way back to win 25-22.

The Bad
The contractor that I work for lost the contract for the services that we provide to the customer 2 weeks ago, so uncertainty has definitely been rampant and morale low at the office. After not hearing a single word about what was going to happen from either our current employers or the new contract holders for 2 weeks, today at 10 the new contractors called, said that they were in the building, and would be interviewing us all starting in 45 minutes. Verrrrrry professional and lots of fun. It was Office Space times 20. My 'interview' lasted 10 minutes: who are you, what do you do here, give us your resume, give us your a paystub, how much do they pay you, what is your salary request, we'll decide whether to make a job offer by tomorrow morning, thanks for your time, have a nice day. No kissing, no AstroGlide, nothing. Hard, fast, cold, calculated, and distant.

Whatever - worst case scenario is we get thrown out on our asses, I go to the unemployment office, go on the dole for a month, and take a month or so off to detox and do some fun road-ruling down to Grand Canyon, up to Seattle, Yosemite, whatever, then go out and get another gig working for another man. So not the end of the world but it was just shitty the way the whole thing went down. A stressful, soul-sapping at the hands of the dark underbelly of corporate America, and uber-shitty day nonetheless.

But I decided in the afternoon that I wasn't going to let it ruin my day. Hell, it was mid 70s sunny and beautiful for the 7th day in a row - it's as if San Diego and the weather in San Diego got into a big fight, and the weather in San Diego moved out and came up to SF to clear her head for a while and figure out her next move. So I walked home and went up on the roof to chill out and let the stress of the day float away as I looked at the bay.

The Ugly
So I come downstairs and fire up the ol' PC, and I browse some of the sites on my daily look-at list. And it was surreal, bizarre, and straight up weird to click over to Dawg Sports and see a giant-ass picture of myself staring at me. Holy shit - I didn't even know there was a picture that big of my goofy ass out there on these internets. At least it was the one taken in the Georgia Dome parking lot after Georgia beat the living shit out of LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship game, so good memories all around - a true Kodak moment. Crazy, but it was so surreal that it made me laugh my ass off which was just what I needed.

The Good
Check that, the Greater Than Great: VCU 79-77 Dook. America rejoice - the most hated team in the land is out, and in the first round no less. Duke down, Gators & Jackets to go.

The games today were pretty weak, but this one was outstanding and I got to chill on the couch and savor it. And mad props to VCU for their penultimate possession, for their point guard did what most teams & coaches fail to do in the situation they were in {or maybe he just heard me yelling to him through the TV}. When your team is tied and you have the ball with about 45-50 seconds left, the smartest thing you can do is run your offense quickly {without rashly rushing} and get a good shot off around the 40 second mark, so that no matter what happens on your possession you do not give the ball to the other team where they will have the final possession {ncaa basketball = 35 seconds shot clock}. The concept is called "2 for 1", meaning with a tie game and 1 minute left, you do what I described so that you get 2 possessions and the other team only gets one- it certainly maximizes your chances to win, or at least maximizes your chances not to lose.

But amazingly and frustratingly, so many teams in this situation do not do this. They run the clock down and shoot with say 25 seconds, giving the other team one possession to tie, lead, or beat you. This places way more importance on that possession that just happened - your ass better score, and then you are much more often behind the 8ball.

So anyways, I'm yelling "2 for 1" at the TV, and damn if the dude from the little school, the cinderella on the big stage, doesn't keep his composure and do the heady smart thing and push the ball and take the shot with something like 39 seconds left. Up two and guaranteed to get the ball back - brilliant. Dook equalized but then they had 10 seconds to win it, and win it they did with 1.9 seconds left. If they hadn't done the smart thing then Dook's equalizer would have much more likely forced OT, and then VCU had a great chance of losing.

Anyhow, it was great to see VCU do the correct thing because so many times teams do not.

That, and Duke being sent out, basically made my day.

And now I'm going out with some friends to have some fun, so it's all good.

Hopefully better games tomorrow.

Oh, and that Comfort Inn commercial with the family that sings their personal version of the "I've Been Everywhere, Man" song is easily the most irritating commercial this year. So, yeah, I'm pretty excited that I will see that fucking thing 32, 786 times in the next 3 weeks.

Et Tu, Kanu?

Sorry- today is 15 March: couldn't resist. I guess that makes me Brutus to March Madness's Caesar. It felt damn weird to walk to work today instead of down to the sportsbar, where right now I would be ordering breakfast rather than typing this. Sidenote - for a lifelong East Coaster, that in and of itself is weird, surreal, and bizarre: going to a sportsbar and ordering and eating breakfast while watching the first round of the tourney. Thankfully I have the Slingbox working for me so I'll be able to follow the action, if only one game at a time.

So I have done some cramming and reached out to a few people for some information. Specific & special thanks go out to Big East Ken for breaking down the Big East teams for me. This tiny amount of information plus all that I know from last year as well as trends and tendencies that I have observed over the years has led me to these sure to be wrong picks:

Florida survives Wisconsin to go to the Final Four
UCLA beats Kansas in an epic battle to go the Final Four
Georgetown frustrates Texas to go to the Final Four
Louisville shocks Ohio State to go to the Final Four

UCLA exacts revenge on the Mighty Gators for last year's title game beat down
Georgetown ends Louisville's Cinderella run by turning Pitino into a pumpkin

I'm picking UCLA to beat Georgetown in the title game mostly because there is a history of teams making it to the Final Four and losing one year, and then the next year getting back to the Final Four and winning it all thanks to their experience. As far as just the matchup, I would think Georgetown would actually win the game. They are basically "The Princeton Offense On Steroids" to use Big East Ken's words, and their style will be so difficult for any team to prepare for and play against. But unlike Princeton in the past, this team plays that style but also has a boatload of talent, so I wouldn't be surprised if they won the whole thing. But for some reason I am going with the 'been there and been close last year, return all of our talent, and this year we will get back and do the damn thing'.

So there it is.

The most important thing to root for, though, is what I first & foremost root for every year: the assurance that three teams that I despise cannot win it all. Every year I am not at peace and do not sleep well until Duke, Florida, and Georgia Tech have all been eliminated. Then I stand up from wherever I am sitting, dance a little jig, drink a beer, and move on with a glowing smile in my face and warm fuzzies in my soul. Sadly this moment never came to pass last year, so it is absolutely imperative that it does occur this year. Another damn Florida Gator National Title would really be unbearable.

Enjoy the Madness, have fun, and Happy Brackets.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

That Being Said, I Still May Be Able To Help You With Your Brackets

This is a little wonky, so some of you will be interested and some will not, but what the hell.

If case you didn't quite understand what a college basketball dork I am/was from that last post, on my computer is an Excel spreadsheet titled "NCAA Braket Analysis, 1991-2006.xls". I figured the best I can offer this year is to share some of this info with you, as it may help you tweak your bracket before you submit it.

Disclaimer: this data should never be used to fill out a bracket; the bracket should always be filled out first using whatever methodology you use. This data can be helpful in perhaps going back and tweaking a few picks here and there to ensure that what you picked falls with the normal range over time of what has actually occurred, so that you don't submit something whose odds of happening are miniscule, thus reducing your chances of taking your co-workers money. Now then...


First Round Upsets
Year 15v2 14v3 13v4 12v5 11v6 10v7
2006 0 1 1 2 2 2
2005 0 1 1 1 1 1
2004 0 0 0 2 0 1
2003 0 0 1 1 1 2
2002 0 0 1 3 2 1
2001 1 0 2 2 2 2
2000 0 0 0 0 1 2
1999 0 1 1 2 0 4
1998 0 1 1 1 1 3
1997 1 1 0 1 0 2
1996 0 0 1 2 1 2
1995 0 2 1 1 1 1
1994 0 0 0 2 1 2
1993 1 0 1 1 1 0
1992 0 1 1 1 0 2
1991 1 1 1 1 2 2

Now look over your brackets and just compare the numbers that you have with this historical data. There is no need to adjust anything unless what you have is waaaaay out of range. I just try to make sure that I'm not way out of bounds. As most folks know, a 16 has never beaten a 1 seed. A 2 seed has only lost 4 times in the last 16 years, and never 2 in the same year, so for example if you have three different 2 seeds losing to 15 seeds, then you might want to adjust your picks and play the percentages. The 5/12 games get alot of publicity, but don't forget that a 13 seed beats a 4 seed more years than not, and the 11 seeds do pretty well against the 6 seeds. The 8v9 games are not listed because to me a 9 seed beating and 8 seed isn't really an upset. Again, just be sure that you are somewhere in the ballpark, or even on the edge or just a little out of bounds, but if you have all four 11 seeds beating the 6 seeds you may want to adjust. Hell it may happen this year, but if I was in an office pool I would want to maximize my percentages against the others and save the totally wacky-ass bullshit for talk at the sportsbar.


#1 Seed Losing In The Second Round
Year Number
2006 0
2005 0
2004 2
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 2
1999 0
1998 1
1997 0
1996 1
1995 0
1994 0
1993 0
1992 1
1991 0

All four 1 seeds get through to the 2nd weekend more often than not, so if you have this then there is no need to worry. But if you have one, or even have the stones to pick two #1 seeds to lose to the winner of the 8v9 game then the data says you are not crazy and to rock on with your bad self. If you have 3 or all 4 #1 seeds going out in the 2nd round, you may want to think about adjusting your picks.

#2 Seed Losing In The Second Round
Year Number
2006 2
2005 2
2004 2
2003 2
2002 1
2001 2
2000 3
1999 3
1998 1
1997 2
1996 0
1995 0
1994 1
1993 2
1992 1
1991 1

As you can see, the #2 seeds fare much worse than the #1 seeds. I won't get into why I think this is so, but you may want to think about having a 2 seed eat it in the second round, as all four haven't made it through to the Sweet Sixteen in a decade.


Seeds Below 5 In the Sweet 16
Number Seeds
5 6,7,7,11,13
6 6,6,6,7,10,12
5 6,7,8,9,10
4 6,7,10,12
5 6,8,10,11,12
6 5,6,7,10,11,12
8 6,6,6,7,8,8,10,10
7 6,6,10,10,10,12,13
5 6,6,8,10,13
6 6,6,6,10,10,14
3 6,8,12
3 6,6,6
4 6,9,10,12
5 6,6,7,7,12
5 6,6,7,9,12
3 10,11,12

Look at your brackets and count up the number of seeds below #5 seeds that you have in the Sweet Sixteen. In the last 16 years this number has always been between 3 and 8, so ideally you would want to be in this range, but if you have 2 or 9 then I wouldn't worry too much. I also have listed the breakdown of the seeds that advanced each year in addition to the number of teams that made it this far.

The main trend to notice in this set of data is how well the 6 seeds do, as well as the winner of the 7v10 game {more on that in the next section though}. Historically 6 seeds have had success in the 2nd round against the winner of the 3v14 game, which by and large boils down to the fact that 6 seeds often upset 3 seeds in the 2nd round. In fact, every single year sine 1992 at least one 6 seed makes it to the Sweet Sixteen, and often more than one do- the vast majority of their 2nd round wins come over 3 seeds. If I didn't have any 6 seeds in the Sweet Sixteen I would strongly consider going back and picking at least one of them to make it to the second weekend. The trick, of course, is picking the right one...

Bottom line at this point you don't want your bracket to be too chalky {you have all the top seeds advancing}, nor do you want it to be such an upset-o-rama that it is way outside the norm.

Double Digit Seeds In The Sweet 16
Year Number Seeds
2006 2 11, 13
2005 2 10,12
2004 1 10
2003 2 10,12
2002 3 10,11,12
2001 3 10,11,12
2000 2 10,10
1999 5 10,10,10,12,13
1998 2 10,13
1997 3 10,10,14
1996 1 12
1995 0 n/a
1994 2 10,12
1993 1 12
1992 1 12
1991 3 10,11,12

Look again at your Sweet 16: do you have any double digit seeds {10 seed or lower} in there? Every year except 1 of the last 16 at least 1 has made it.

Notice the trend here of how well the 10 seeds are represented. What does this mean? It means that if a 10 seed beats a 7 seed and matches up with a 2 seed in the 2nd round, that 2 seed should be on upset alert, because in 10 of the last 16 years at least one such 10 seed has gone through to the Sweet 16. For all the hype that the 12 seeds get in beating the 5 seed in the first round {the media always point out the the "classic 12 over 5 upset"}, the 10 seeds do even better than the 12 seeds in the 2nd round. Last year was the first year in almost a decade that all four 2 seeds made it to the 2nd weekend. Also, if you look back up at the data set before this one, and look at all of the 7 and 10 seeds, that tells you that the winner of the 7v10 game has a great shot of getting past the 2 seed and onto the Sweet Sixteen. I always pick what I think the weakest 2 seed is to lose {or if I think a 7/10 winner is especially strong, or if a 2 seed is a team that I hate and really would love to see go out, like Dook, Florida, or Georgia Tech}.


Seeds Below #3 In Elite Eight
Year Number Seeds
2006 2 4, 11
2005 4 4, 5, 6, 7
2004 2 7, 8
2003 1 7
2002 3 5, 10, 12
2001 2 6, 11
2000 5 5, 6, 7, 8, 8
1999 3 4, 6, 10
1998 1 8
1997 2 6, 10
1996 2 4, 5
1995 2 4, 4
1994 1 9
1993 1 7
1992 3 4, 6, 6
1991 2 4, 10

Many beginners get to this point and have all #1 and #2 seeds. Check your bracket for the number of teams seeded 4 or below in your final eight. You definitely should have at least one, and if the data is an accurate predictor, not more than 5. Personally, I would be comfortable with between 1-3.


Seeds Below #2 In Final Four
Year Number Seeds
2006 3 3, 4, 11
2005 2 4, 5
2004 1
2003 2 3, 3
2002 1 5
2001 1 3
2000 3 5, 5, 8
1999 1 4
1998 2 3, 3
1997 1 4
1996 2 4, 5
1995 1 4
1994 1 3
1993 0 n/a
1992 2 4, 6
1991 1 3

In each of the last 13 years and in 15 of the last 16 years, at least one of the Final Four participants has been lower than a 2 seed. Also in 3 of the last 4 years at least 2 of the spots have gone to 3 seeds or lower. I would just make sure that you didn't have zero here {all four spots being either a 1 or a 2 seed} or a four{all 4 slots being 3 seeds or worse}

The Seeds Of The Final Four Participants
Year Seeds
2006 2, 3, 4, 11
2005 1, 1, 4, 5
2004 1, 2, 2, 3
2003 1, 2, 3, 3
2002 1, 1, 2, 5
2001 1, 1, 2, 3
2000 1, 1, 5, 8
1999 1, 1, 1, 4
1998 1, 2, 3, 3
1997 1, 1, 1, 4
1996 1, 1, 4, 5
1995 1, 2, 2, 4
1994 1, 2, 2, 3
1993 1, 1, 1, 2
1992 1, 2, 4, 6
1991 1, 1, 2, 3

If you have all four of the #1 seeds in your Final Four, then you are brave, for it has never happened. On the other hand, last year was the first time ever that none of the #1 seeds made it, so you never know.

I have seen the final four seeds wonked thusly: add up the seed #s of your final four members. In 14 of the last 16 years the number would be between 7 and 13, with wacky year 2000 having a high number of 15 and last years wackiness being an extreme outlier with at total of 20.


Seeds Of The Championship Game Participants
Year Seeds
2006 2, 3
2005 1, 1
2004 2, 3
2003 2, 3
2002 1, 5
2001 1, 2
2000 1, 5
1999 1, 1
1998 2, 3
1997 1, 4
1996 1, 4
1995 1, 2
1994 1, 2
1993 1, 1
1992 1, 6
1991 2, 3

Basically, the data says that you should have at least one #1 or #2 seed in the title game. If you have a 4 seed against a 6 seed here, then I applaud you for your moxie but the numbers say you won't win your office pool. In fact, then numbers say anything 3 v 3 or lower will not happen even though that sounds pretty feasible.

Seed Of The NCAA Champion
Year Seed
2006 3
2005 1
2004 2
2003 3
2002 1
2001 1
2000 1
1999 1
1998 2
1997 4
1996 1
1995 1
1994 1
1993 1
1992 1
1991 2

The outlier here is one of my favorite teams ever, the 1997 Arizona Wildcats, who amazingly beat three different #1 seeds en route to their championship, making them the only team to ever accomplish that feat and establishing a record that can only be equaled but never surpassed.

So there it is, by the numbers. Again, I am not saying to fill out your brackets to meet these requirements, but to fill out your brackets and then cross check them against this data, which should not be viewed as requirements but as a guideline or baseline or whatever you like.

I like this information because I find that it helps to know basically the number of upsets that likely will happen in each round. The trick, of course, is choosing where to pick your upsets and where to have the favorites advance. That, my friends, is what separates the office pool contributors from the office pool collectors.

Happy Brackets and best of luck. Unless you have Florida or Dook winning the national title that is - then I hope that you fail miserably.

A Stunning Development. If You Know Me Personally You Might Want To Sit Your Ass Down

This college basketball season:

I have watched a grand total of one half of one game, Texas-UConn back in November or maybe early December.

I didn't even follow goings on by watching SportsCenter, College Game Night, looking at polls, seeking out information on line etc. Not even UConn or Arizona, my 2 favorite teams by a mile.

This Thursday & Friday will be the first time in my life that I didn't not take vacation days (or skip class) and post up at a sportsbar for 12 hours each on Thursday and Friday, then again on Saturday & Sunday for 8 hours each, for a grand total of 50 hours in an 80 hour span.

I didn't watch the Selection Show on Sunday.

Not only have I not filled out my brackets yet, it is Tuesday night and I haven't even looked at one. If you named a team I couldn't tell you whether they were even in the tournament, let alone what region they are in or what seed they are.

Those that know me have by now fainted and are passed out on the floor. For the rest:

In college and several years thereafter, I watched upwards of 250 games each season. I kept a giant 3 ring notebook with a page for every team from a major basketball conference and one for each of the good mid-majors too; on the page was their schedule and result of every game, as well as random notes and observations. I also kept my own weekly poll of the top 50 teams as I saw them, with each of the top 25 or so team's losses listed out in a separate column, because it helped me to know who had beaten the top teams and racked up quality wins. I always wanted to try to see any team that I thought had any chance of making the NCAA tournament at least 2 or 3 times; this meant that often I stayed up until 2 a.m to watch the Long Beach States, Pepperdines, Gonzagas, Nevadas, Northern Arizonas, and Utah States of the world. ANd as the East Coast Pimp for the PAC10, I always watched the late night Thursday PAC10 game of the week. I hand wrote out and filled in brackets. For the conference tournaments. You get the idea.

All of that in preparation for the NCAA Tournament, which was a 3 week orgy of bliss, especially the first 4 days which were like a 96 hour Christmas Day. I enjoyed having all that knowledge in my brain from watching so many games, because the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups and the best way to understand matchups is to have watched the teams play and learn what their tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses were; this is much more useful than just seeing scores, results, and rankings. It would then be fun, for instance, when others would be randomly picking upsets out of their ass because there are always upsets, but I would be picking them because I knew that a highly ranked team couldn't do shit against a team that played a solid 2-3 zone, or I would tell anyone that would listen in 2001 that I thought Utah State would beat Ohio State because they had a point guard named Bernard Rock that was the best player in the country that no one had ever heard about, who was quicker than any point guard that OSU had faced all year, and who was capable of putting the team on his back and bossing a game. And then smiling when it happened at all of the dudes at the next table in the sportsbar who told me I was fucking baked when we were chatting early in the game. It was also fun to be hip to great players and dangerous teams long before they did well in the tournament and were on the tip of everyone's tongue, in the same way that you feel cooler than the average cats when you get hip to a band long before they blow up and become loved by the masses. Hell yeah I know that Harold "The Show" Arceneaux is a total badass: I told you that shit last week- pass the pretzels.

Then starting about 5 or 6 years ago my interest started to wane a bit, mostly because so many more underclassmen were leaving early for the NBA {and so many had no business doing so, but that is not to the point}, and as a result teams had so much less continuity than in prior years. Any freshman or sophomore that kicked ass would leave, and more and more team's entire identities were changing not every 2 to 3 years but every single year. This was naturally disappointing. Case in point was Texas in 2003, an awesome team that I was really high on and loved to watch, that had no senior starters. They made it to the Final Four, and star sophomore TJ Ford, the best and most exciting player on the team, said that he was 110% committed to return to Texas for his junior year. Shortly after Texas lost in the Final Four, Ford announced that he was entering the NBA draft. The next season, although Texas was very good, I was disappointed and less enthusiastic than I would have been each time I watched them because the team was not nearly as exciting and good as they would have been with Ford. I know that is only 1 example, but this seemed to be happening more and more all over the place, and as a result my insane level of interest began to slide.

The last couple of years I followed the sport more casually, then ramped up in February and by March I had a mini version of the notebook going and was a geeked as ever.

Last year I couldn't get into it so much, and didn't watch much at all until early March, and then I ramped up in the final week.

But this year I never could get into it, and when I would try to watch I found that it couldn't hold my interest for more than a few minutes. I wondered all year if the fire would be lit in March, and I am frankly as surprised as anyone that it hasn't been.

I am guessing that a good part of it is moving to SF: being on PST means that the early weekend games are at least half over by the time I get home from work, and the fact that there are so many new and fun ways for me to spend my free time probably directly resulted in far less nights sitting on the couch watching ball.

I also wonder if any of it has to do with the fact that every year I get a year farther away from these kids in age, like the bizarro meaning of the epic line in Dazed And Confused about high school chicks: "I keep getting older, and they stay the same age". But I still like college football {although my insano passion for watching every CFB game in America each week has also subsided a bit as well to be honest}, and I love watching Arsenal matches more than ever, and half the team is college aged kids, so who knows if this is relevant or not. But I do think as I have gotten older I have become interested in various and different things, and at the end of the day some things naturally get squeezed out. I guess in some respects my following of soccer has replaced college hoops; these two have been inverse to each other over the last 10 years, while college football has basically stayed the same.

I have already had lots of the usual people ring me up this week to ask me for my insight and opinion on the brackets, and to say "thanks alot asshole, I'm SOL now" because I don't have any good dope to give them, but I now know less about the teams this year than damn near anyone.

So it's unchartered territory for me this year. I will be super awkward to be at work on Thursday & Friday, watching only 1 feed on CBS on the Slingbox and following the rest of the games online. But I know one thing: I will be much, much less bitter this year about losing whatever pool I end up entering to some old lady who picks the national champions because their uniforms are her favorite color or because her niece went to that school.

The real question I wonder about is: will the fire get lit on Thursday at 9 a.m.? Will I be off hiking/biking/exploring Northern California all day Saturday & Sunday, or will I be inside a sportsbar glued to the games? At this point I really don't know what will happen.

Lights Out! Guerrilla EDSBS Radio!

I hadn't yet listened to Orson Swindle's new radio show starring Peter Bean, but I realized today that it airs right when I get off work. It was yet another beautiful day, so after walking home I did my usual of walking up to the rooftop to chill out, take in the views, and detox from the work day. But I stopped off in my apartment, grabbed a cold beer, and looked up the number to and dialed the EDSBS radio show.

And damned if they weren't kind enough to have me on. It was actually pretty natural, like speaking to two old buddies, not as nervous-inducing a situation as calling a nationally syndicated radio show would probably be. Also knowing that since it is a webcast cursing is not only allowed but encouraged, I could remove the f-bomb filter and just talk like I was shooting the shit a bar or tailgate with my buddies. It was actually quite fun.

After my call I went downstairs and listened to the rest of the show, then went back and listened to the part before I called up. I must say that they do pretty damn well, and I am amazed that both are able to take the time to do it since they already blog like mothers each and every day. Plus it is pretty cool that I now know what DC Trojan's voice sounds like.

If you want to listen the broadcast is here {click on the play button}- some dude named Rajun Cajun Rebel is worth the price of admission alone, which is $0 by the way, but dude is funny. Or perhaps you may be interested to hear what I think is the best most badass way for a man to die, which is, of course, Death By Univision. If you do want to cut right to the chase and laugh at my stupid ass and my strange sounding to me voice, I think I'm around the 45 min mark, but if you are well versed in the CFB blogosphere then you will enjoy the whole show, several of the characters in it are in there for your enjoyment.

Major Kudos to Swindle and P Bean - the show is cool and fun, and I think my new Tuesday routine after work may be to grab a beer, hit the rooftop, and shoot the shit with those fine lads for a few minutes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday Review

First off, let me just say that Sunday was my favorite day in any given year, simple because it is the first day of Daylight Savings Time, which means that instead of it being dark when I get out of work, I once again can enjoy a few hours outside, and specifically I can get back in better shape by riding the bike over to Marin Headlands during week.

Secondly, I can't say it any better than Myles, so I'll just borrow from him:

AN ARSENAL-FREE weekend has been enjoyable.

It's a big relief to be removed from the anxiety of watching the team that can't score. It was fun to relax and just watch a few games on the box.

Now then...

Inter Milan 2-1 AC Milan
I was right: this game was only 30% as good as Barca-Real, but was still pretty good. AC Milan went up 1-0 on a wonderstrike from Ronaldo, who for some crazy reason is wearing number 99 - perhaps he is a huge Wayne Gretzky fan? Anyhow, a great shot from 20 yards out with his off (left) foot and perhaps Inter's unbeaten season was going to end at the hands of their oldest rivals. Nope. De La Cruz got the equalizer appromixately 8 seconds after coming on as a sub, and then Zlatan put them 2-1 up with 15 minutes to go. You can't say it wasn't deserved, they had the better of it overall. Can anyone beat Inter now, or will they go the whole season unbeaten?

Celtic 0-1 Rangers
Didn't see this match, but apparently Celtic dominated, outshooting Rangers 19-4, but Rangers but the ball in the net to steal a win from their old rival. Probably the highlight of their season, since they are still 912 points behind Celtic in the table and have no chance of winning the league.

Bayern Munich 1-1 Werder Bremen
Didn't catch this one either, but I'm guessing that Bayern can't be too pleased with this result.

FC Red Stripes 5-1 SF Scousers
We started with only 4 players versus their 6 (in a 7v7 league) but soon went up 1-0. After a few minutes we had our 7 players and it was on. Red Stripes were a well oiled machine today, and your boy scored 2 and assisted on 2.

Didn't think it was possible, but the weather Sunday was even better than Saturday. 75 and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. After Red Stripes I went to Baker beach for an hour or so, and even got warm enough to go into the ocean. If you are not familiar with the ocean in NoCal, it is fucking cold. After a while I was really hot lying on the blanket, so I opted for the kamikaze 30 yard sprint into the water and dive, because any other method would surely result in chickening out once the water level got up near the, ummmmm, waist. In a word, it was, uhh, refreshing. Or maybe even invigorating. Upon the first 4 seconds of my diving in, my manhood reverted to 8 year old boy status, my right calf, which I strained a bit during the soccer match, rolled up into a super tight cramp-ball, and I'm pretty sure that my heart stopped beating for a few seconds. After the initial shock I managed to stay in for about 2 minutes, then it was back to the blanket to lay out, dry off, and see if my family jewels would come back from the dead. But it did feel good to go in the water and rinse off the post soccer match funk & slime.

In the afternoon I came home, cleaned up, and then 2 of my girl friends {and Red Stripe teammates} came over to have lunch, watch the Real-Barca match that I taped for them, and try to hear me out that Raul is actually much better looking than Cristiano Ronaldo, whom they think is the sexiest man alive. They're not giving up on CR, but they do now accept that Raul is a hottie in his own right. I was getting tired of them going on and on about CR, and simply wanted to point out to them that there are dudes out there who are better looking than him- just trying to help them out the same way that they help fix my fucked up haircuts or bring to my attention that my pants are all too short, look silly, and need to be replaced as soon as possible.

We then adjoined up to my rooftop where we spent the late afternoon drinking mimosas, basking in the sun, and chatting about life. Good stuff. The weekend ended with a random call at 9.30 p.m. from my cousin, who was not only in town from central California, but his sister {also my cousin obviously} had flown in for the weekend, and did I want to come out for a drink? Of course. Drinks, conversation, and great comraderie until 1 a.m. then home to crash and dread going to work on Monday. A wonderful day and a great weekend, and much needed after a stressful week.

I hope yours was the same.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Marin Headlands: Georgia 1-1 Florida

Today was Ice Cube.

First morning in almost 3 weeks with no alarm clock - slept in until 10: perfecto. Coffee, read some on-line, then clean up the apartment a good deal before grabbing lunch from the corner store and settling in for El Clasico at 1 p.m., and what a match it was.

After that is was time to get out and enjoy the sunny, beautiful 68 degree day. I packed up the rucksack and rode my mountain bike down to the water, over to the bridge, across the Golden Gate Bridge, up to the Marin Headlands, and down a fire road to perhaps my favorite place of all around here, and one of SFs best kept secrets, Kirby cove.

Best kept secret in SF

Black sand beach just west of the Golden Gate, somewhat sheltered from the wind by the surrounding cliffs, and never busy because you cannot drive down to it - you either have to bike or hike. And the views? Absolutely amazing. Foreground: waves crashing into the black sand at your feet. Mediumground: sailboats, cargo ships, luxury liners, and oh yeah, the Golden Gate Bridge from below, but still pretty up close & personal. Background: the city of SF. On a warm sunny day it is as good as it gets.

Stress Level about to be zero

I unpack Son Of Dawg Blanket {legendary Dawg Blanket, which survived a few epic Derby infields, is in the trunk of my car} and settle in for an hour of late afternoon sun, relaxing and reading my Spanish For Dummies book.

That didn't take long

After the sun goes behind the huge cliff to my west, I decide to pack up and bike back to the road and then bike all the way to the top of Hawk Hill and watch the sunset. This bike ride is no joke, from 0 feet to 980 feet, but I am very familiar with it. Although fairly out of shape, I manage to make the mondo climb with a full rucksack on my back not only without stopping but without resorting to my Granny Gear: felt like a total badass until right before the top some dude on his feather light road bike blows past me like I am standing still. But not even Lance dusting me could get me down, as the views and vistas on the way up are pretty amazing.

Looking East from the top of Hawk Hill:
GGB, Alcatraz, SF bay, SF

Furthermore, the sunset from the top of Hawk Hill was just incredible. There was a bank of fog across the mouth of the bay on the oceanside of SF, and it went out to sea and then transformed into a really cool low cloud/fog bank all the way across the horizon, which the sun set into shortly thereafter.

Looking South from top of Hawk Hill: Twin Peaks, Outer Richmond, Baker Beach, Seacliff

If you ever are in SF on a nice sunny day and have a car, definitely go up there to watch the sunset - it is amazing because on one side of Hawk Hill you have the view of Point Bonita, Rodeo Beach, the ocean, and the sunset, and on the other side you have an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz, the bay, and SF itself. It is as good a 2 for 1 special as you will ever find. Actually, 2 for free.

Looking West from top of Hawk Hill:
Point Bonita, Rodeo Beach, Pacific Ocean

Trippy refraction of El Sol

So I am dorking out watching the sunset...

My not-so-great-at-videos camera really didn't do it justice

...and feeling high on life when a family walks past me and the mother says "University of Georgia?" to me. I quickly figure out that she sees Son Of Dawg Blanket, rolled up and tied on to the back of my rucksack. "Absolutely" I reply. Turns out the whole family is from Athens and moved to Phoenix 3 years ago. We chat for a few minutes and then they are on their way. I am left to smile, because the last time I was in the Marin Headlands, over on my way up Hill 88, was a whole different story.

Fog Tsumani over Lands End, Cliff House, Ocean Beach

Biked back down in the dark and it looked like I finally bit off more post-sunset reflection time than I could chew. The west side of the bridge- the side for bicycle traffic - has been closed off. The hours are posted as 3.30 to "dark", and I have cut it close before, but "dark" is not an exact time and on this day I am too late. Shit. So I do a hike-a-bike down the steps and on the pedestrian bridge over to the east side {pedestrain side} just to see if by some miracle it is open, although I am assuming that that gate closes at the same time that this one does and I am therefore fucked. I start thinking of what to do: probably bike down to Sausalito in the dark and see if there is a late ferry that I can take back over to Fisherman's Wharf or the Ferry Building inn SF, or maybe try to call Solon and see if he is up for a rescue mission.

I get to the gate and it is indeed closed, and there are about half a dozen frustrated pedestrians who clearly are stuck and who missed their chance to walk back. Before the frustration of the situation fully sets in, somehow the gate starts to automatically open in a total big brother fashion and I see pedestrians on the inside of it basically exiting out to where we are - they must have parked on this side and are walking back to their cars.

Before I can even decide whether I should try to sneak in or not as they are coming out, an even more big brother voice suddenly comes over a loud speaker:

"No pedestrians are allowed to enter the gate! Only bicyclists are allowed to return. If you are a pedestrian I repeat: do not enter the gate! Only bicyclists may return."


I even say "NICE!" out loud I am so happy, probably to the extreme consternation of the walkers left behind. I cross the bridge on my bike in the dark for the first time, and it is pretty beautiful as I am able to look long and hard at the view of the now dark bay and now lit up city, whereas when you cross the bridge in the car at night it is a series of occasional brief glances in between making sure that you are staying in your lane and not crashing into the car on front of you, whose driver is doing the exact same thing.

Rode home in the dark to complete a really great day.

Do this with your S.O. if you are in SF on a sunny day.
Trust me, many brownie points will be yours.

Oh, and the forecast for tomorrow is even better: Sunny and 72. Might have to go back to the beach after my soccer match tomorrow.

The Best Match I've Seen Since...

... probably the world cup quarterfinals last year.

100,000 in the Nou Camp for El Classico as the giants battle to begin the final run-in for the Primera Liga title. In addition, with all of the good Argentine and Brasilian players representing both sides, this dish had a heavy dose of El Super Classico spice to boot.

And they wasted no time. It was high energy from the start. Madrid score kind of against the run of play in the 5th minute as RVN slots home easily after a defensive gaffe from Thuram sees the ball fall right at his feet with much of the goal open. Classic RVN fox on the box clinical finishing, although interestingly this shot was from 1 yard outside the box {dude scored only 1 of his 150 ManUtd goals from outside the box}. After seeing the best part of RVN's game we saw the worst 2 minutes later, when he ran at Oleguer, who withdrew his leg & foot as RVN tried to go by, but it did not a stop RVN from a world class simulated dive that even fooled the referee into awarding a free kick. Still-teenage Argentine wunderkind Lionel Messi equalizes in the 11th minute from an outstanding pass from Eto'o and it is GAME ON. Not a minute later Real earn a penalty when Oleguer kicks Guti in the box. RVN slots home for 2-1, and we're only 13 minutes in. Barca have a bunch more chances, and Eto'o looks totally sharp except for his final ball - he could have easily had 3 goals himself in the 1st half alone. But he looked 50 times better than at Liverpool in midweek. Hard fouls all around, and amarillas tarjetas start to come out. Real's Sergio Ramos was a lucky boy not to get a straight roja when he would up and kicked the fuck out of Ronaldinho, who the GolTV announcer is simply calling "dinho". In the 28th minute R10 has his point blank shot after a great run & give & go w/ Eto'o saved, but the rebound comes out to Messi who blasts it into the roof of the net from about 10 yards out - a much more difficult finish than he made it look. My Espanol is slowly improving, but even I could understand the new score as stated by the color commentator: "Messi dos, Van Nistelroy dos". Barca created several other chances but couldn't finish, and Real created a few themselves. Then 10 seconds before halftime Oleguer gets a 2nd yellow and he is off. Barca are reduced to 10 men, and shortly thereafter it is halftime. What an amazing half of football. No bullshit the score could easily have been 6-3 to Barca. Tons of exciting chances, end to end action, hard ass fouls, several yellow cards, and the even the dreaded red mist.

There was no way the 2nd half could live up to the first with Barca down a man and chasing, but it was still very compelling. Eto'o off for ex-Arsenal defender Sylvinho as Barca had to sacrifice to shore up their D {and still returning Eto'o would have only been good for 60 minutes, so this was a smart move in my opinion}. Still lots of action, and most notable Mamadou Diarra of Madrid was extremely fortuante not to be sent off. After a few hard fouls in the first half, he had two really hard fouls misway through the 2nd half that each easily could have been {and in the eyes of the 100,000 Catalans in the Nou Camp should definitely have been} yellow cards. This was notable because typically when a team is up a man the referee is much more likely to award them a card and specifically a 50/50 2nd yellow to send them off and even things up a bit. 10 v 10 for the last 30 minutes would have been absolutely epic. As expected, Real had the better of it with the man advantage, and RVN had not 1, not 2, but 3 different would be go-ahead goals stopped by absolutely world class saves my Matt LeBlanc Victor Valdez. Barca created the occasional good chance and came close a few times themselves.

Fifteen minutes to go and former fortunate Ronaldinho-hacker Sergio Ramos gets his head on a free kick from the touchline and deflects it perfectly off the crossbar and in - absolutely unsavable. 3-2 to Real Madrid and Barca were up against it.

Even after playing the whole 2nd half a man down and chasing the ball a good bit they were able to create a few great chances in the last 10 minutes and came really really close to equalizing, but couldn't. Somewhere in there Diarra had another really hard foul that finally resulted in a yellow card, and he really should have been off by that point but wasn't. Dude is very, very lucky to still be on the field. 4 minutes of added time, 15 seconds into which Messi drives past the Real defense and smashes a perfectly placed shot in the far corner to draw Barca level- what a mondo exciting finish! 3-3.

In the 93rd minute Ronaldinho had the ball near the corner with two men staring in his face. He takes them on and schools the first defender so badly that dude falls over, then he drives past Diarra who pushes him to the ground in the penalty box - pretty clear actually. Holy shit! This totally epic match is going to end on a last second penalty with Barca getting a 2nd goal in extra time with the last kick of the game a la Zizou against Engerland in Euro2004? Nope. The ref goes Lee Corso {not so fast my friends!} and doesn't award the penalty; instead he calls R10 for a foul. Diarra lucks out again - dude must have stopped off in the Chapel in the tunnel leading out to the field in the Nou Camp and prayed HARD today - what a lucky, lucky boy as the Brits say.

So 3-3 was your final. An Exhibit A advert for footy, especially for people who don't like, it don't get it, think it is boring, etc. Barca certainly had the better of it in the first half, while Real had the better of it in the 2nd, but overall I would say that Barca outplayed Real and that all things considered Real were a bit fortunate to come away with a point. I'm really not kidding that the final score of this match could have been 8-7.

Eto'o looks really close to being "back"; pre injury he would have scored at least 2 of 3 really great chances if not all three. And nutty to think that if not for the heroics of Barca keeper Valdez, RVN could have had a ridiculous FIVE goals in the Nou Camp {I wonder if any opposing player has ever scored 5 in the Nou Camp?}. Oh, and I guess Messi is back to 100% fit after his broken foot. Holy shit he was a dynamo today. Like Cesc, so scary to think that dude is still only 19 years old, and further evidence that aptly named Argentina coach Peckerman was an absolute moron not to play him at all in that World Cup quarterfinal against Germany last summer.

If the Inter-Milan match tomorrow is 30% the match that this was, then it will be 2 hours well spent that is for sure.

A demain mes amis...