Frankie O's Blog: It's a Man('s bracket) baby!

Frankie O's Blog: It's a Man('s bracket) baby!

Friday, March 18, 2011
9:33 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

That time of year again when one word takes over the lexicon of most adult (by age!) males in this country. The fact that we only use it now makes it more special. But like wearing white pants after Labor Day, I dont want to hear about yours, nor will I talk about mine two days after the Final Four is over. Enough is enough. For now though: Its game on!

I had a more difficult time than usual, since thanks to D-Rose and the Bulls, Ive watched a ton of pro basketball this year and that hasnt left time for a lot else. Not to mention the fact that I always try to watch the Heat when they play a good team so I can watch them lose. That never gets old! So my college basketball knowledge, while not always a strong-suit, is even less so this year. (Yes, even guys who go on TV wearing a red bow tie, have limitations!) This college basketball season did not seem to capture my, or most people that I talk to at the bar, attention. Sure, I have Jimmer Fever, but how many games against great competition did he play? At a time when we were all watching? Add to that, the local college scene is a mess. Illinois was all over the road, leading to a lot of Webber must go discussions (or should I say vents!) from the Illini unhappy faithful. This team had a lot of expectation, played well early, then tripped all over themselves for most of the second half. And they were the good story! DePaul and Northwestern are irrelevant, and most of the lesser-lights are rebuilding. For me, it got so bad, that I didnt once look at Joe Lunardis bubble!

Still on Selection Sunday, the competitive juices, along with the beers, started flowing. Contemplating your bracket is one of the rites of spring and an opportunity to win cash and bragging rights, not necessarily in that order. But most of the time, well almost ALL of the time, my efforts spent on my bracket are just an exercise in futility. I dont know if there is anything that I have spent a considerable time at over the years that has produced less results. I mean besides the diets that is. (Can I help it that the only places that sell food when I get done work sell breakfast, burgers or pizza only? Or that all said food types taste better when washed down by beer?) But hope springs eternal when you hit that send button and gazing at that freshly printed bracket in your hands is a living testament to your sports acumen. At least thats what you think when you go to sleep, the morningafternoon (I work nights!) will bring another reality.

This year, I took the tact of picking teams that I would like to see win, divided by their seed, times the lesser of two evils. Who said this wasnt an exact science? One thing Ive learned through years of paralysis from over-analysis is that, in the end, its whether you pick the winner or not. Style points dont matter. How many times has one of my genius picks played a great game, only to falter down the stretch and lose by a basket? A gazillion! Thats how many! Then I have to listen to chalk boy, who didnt think twice about the game, he just picked the better seed, tell me that he picked the winner. Ugh.

So I put it all together and came out with the number one over-all seed winning. What?! Chalk? Hold on! Along the way, I picked 10 lower seeds to win in the first 32 games. This included 3 12-seeds and a 13!! Who else, besides someone in Jr. high school, do you know who can say that? I didnt think so. Amongst my very Sweet Sixteen, I have a 13 and a 10-seed. After this point though, my common sense screamed to take over and I joined the chalk highway. I didnt go all President Obama and pick 4 number 1s, but I did take two. I finished with a Final Four of Ohio State, Kansas, San Diego State and, against my better judgment, St. Johns. 1,1,2 and 6-seeds. I think Ohio State will beat Kansas in the final. Anyone who knows me understands how difficult it was for me to type that, but I had to stick with my formula.

I understand that none of that is going to happen, thats just the way it is, but I do know, that I will watch every game that is humanly possible and root for the big upset whenever it presents itself. The story of Cinderella is what makes this tournament so great. Like everything else, its about the story and no story is better than one about over-coming adversity or a higher seed. Add to it that upsets blow-up brackets, and that connects all of us in two ways: Were all captivated by this tournament and all it offers. And, after cursing our misfortune, almost all of us can toss our bracket in the garbage, where it belongs and know it will be 11 stress-free months until we need to add the b-word to our vocabulary.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

james-franklin-1207.jpg
USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead