SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS : FEBRUARY 17
By Leo Haggerty

DOES ANYONE HAVE A CLUE

NCAA BASKETBALL SELECTION COMMITTEE

Am I the only one that thinks the NCAA Selection Committee has just opened up the bottle with the genie inside and can’t coax him back inside?  You would have thought they would have learned from the firestorm that the NCAA Football Selection Committee had to fight through this year with the Penn State debacle.  Not a chance, my friends.

What the Committee has done is to open itself up for some huge criticism and I don’t think they realized it when they decided to do this.  If the situation occurs that I describe below, the media vultures will be circling in droves.

Let’s use the four number one seeds as an example.  Let’s say there’s a case where one or more of them go undefeated the rest of the way during the regular season.  Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that all four of the number one seeds are unsuccessful in winning their respective conference tournaments.  Do you keep those four on the first line or do you start moving teams down like they have done with Villanova, the eventual national champion, last season.

This is why you keep your deliberations secret until Selection Sunday.  It’s bad enough the committee gets roasted, and sometimes rightfully so, by their last four into the Big Dance.  Now, they could get lambasted for how they rank the top 16 teams in the country heading to March Madness.

In my humble opinion, definitely not too smart to say the least.  Contain the Madness to the court and not to the committee room.

WHAT’S HOT

GONZAGA

The Bulldogs, at 26-0, are the only undefeated Division I Men’s Basketball team left standing.  For that reason, the Zags are the #1 team in the latest college basketball poll and rightfully so.

Don’t even try to bring up the fact that Gonzaga plays in the 10 team mid-major West Coast Conference.  This season, the argument that the WCC is weaker than the major conferences doesn’t hold up and here’s why.

The second place team in the WCC, Saint Mary’s College, is ranked #22 in the country with a 22-3 log.  Oh, and by the way, the Gaels are 12-2 in conference play with those two defeats coming at the hands of Gonzaga.

Brigham Young (18-9 and 9-5) and San Francisco (18-9 and 8-6) are both having extremely respectable seasons as well.  As you can see, the upper end of the WCC is as competitive as any conference in the country.

To put icing on the cake, Gonzaga has played one of the most rigorous out-of-conference schedules in the country.  Victories in home games with San Diego State and Washington plus a cross-country win at Tennessee along with neutral site contest successes against Florida and Iowa State and Arizona have shown the Zags can play, and will schedule, anyone.

With all that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ask HC Mark Few, strictly off the record, if he would like to lose a game before the NCAA tournament begins and the answer would most likely be an emphatic yes.  I don’t think anyone wants to have to win six games during March Madness along with the added pressure of keeping an unblemished record intact.

Gonzaga may not have that luxury.  The Bulldogs are playing extremely well right now and may run the table the rest of the way.  Even if they stumble in the final four conference games or the WCC tournament in Las Vegas, the Zags have done enough to secure a #1 in The Big Dance.

WHAT’S NOT

BROOKLYN NETS

As hot as Miami was during a month-long stretch in the National Basketball Association, Brooklyn is as cold.  The Nets are in the midst of a frigid 14-game losing streak and it’s not looking any better for the future.

Brooklyn now embarks on a 8-game road journey.  The Nets, starting February 24th, will travel west to take on Denver.  Then it’s off to Golden State and Sacramento and Utah and Portland.  Finally, they head back east for a stop in Memphis then off to Atlanta and culminate the road trip with a tilt with Dallas on March 10th.  That totals up to a bunch of frequent flyer miles.

If the Nets don’t win against Milwaukee on February 15th,  there’s a good chance Brooklyn could be staring at a 22-game losing streak when the cross-town Knicks come calling on March 12th.

Hopefully, by mentioning this, we bring the Nets good luck.  As soon as I wrote about the Heat’s 13-game winning streak, Miami took one on the chin.  Yeah, I know.  That article changed the South Beach karma from good to bad.  Maybe this article will help change the Brooklyn karma from bad to good.  Will let you know around the Ides of March.

LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

NFL RULE CHANGE

The Crystal Ball definitely sees some discussion about changing the overtime rules especially after the way Super Bowl LI came to a conclusion.  As it stands now, it’s just not an even playing field in extra time.

The National Football League needs to look at what is done on the collegiate level where both teams get a chance to be on offense.  That’s the only fair way to conduct an overtime.

All that needs to be done is some minor tweaking to what the NCAA uses for its overtime.  Instead of the team starting at the opposition 25-yard line, put the ball at midfield.  That way, a team has to make at least one first down to get into reasonable field goal range and, more importantly, the other team gets a chance to at least match the score starting from the same 50-yard line.

Also, if a team scores a touchdown, they must go for the two-point conversion.  That way, the game will come to a reasonable end and not go six or seven overtime possessions.

With all the rule changes in the NFL to increase offensive production, you knew as soon as New England won the toss who the winner would be.  Atlanta should have got the opportunity to possess the ball at least once before deciding on the winning team.  The victor in an NFL contest, especially the Super Bowl, should not be determined by the toss of a coin.

The Crystal Ball sees discussion on that point but not necessarily a decision coming down immediately but there is change on the horizon.  You can bet it the “shoe was on the other foot” and the Patriots didn’t have a shot on offense, the cries would be longer and louder on this point.

With that being said, the Crystal Ball rest.