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Off the Dribble by Chip Bremer

Beware the Odds of March (2003)

If you think this has been a crazy year for college basketball, just think what the
NCAA Tournament is going to be like! Of course, in any given year, crazy things can happen
at the Big Dance, and they usually do. But with so many uncertainties heading into the
heart of March Madness, the office pools are sure to be as wide open as the Tournament
itself. For this reason, every college basketball fan that plans to fill out a bracket
sheet should pay attention to every little bit of information they can gather about the
world of college hoops – even columns such as this. There may be others more in tune
with the college basketball landscape, but remember this: it is folly to ignore the Odds
of March.

40 to 1: An ACC team will make it to the Final Four.

Let’s face it: this hasn’t been the brightest of years for the ACC. Duke and
Maryland are not as strong as they once were and Wake Forest, despite having one of the
most successful seasons in school history, is rather inexperienced beyond Josh Howard. NC
State? They’re a longshot to make it past Oklahoma in the second round.

4 to 1: A cardiologist will be needed at each tournament site.

Given the recent medical scares experienced by several coaches, like Cincinnati’s
Bob Huggins and UConn’s Jim Calhoun, there are bound to be even more in the
Tournament because of the extraordinarily poor officiating that’s expected.

80 to 1: Arizona loses more players to transfer before the Tournament.

Wildcats fans should breathe easier because nobody on the current roster is stupid
enough to jump ship this late in Arizona’s run to the championship. It remains a
mystery why Will Bynum and Dennis Latimore jumped ship when they did. It seems that, for
many crybaby hoopsters these days, sitting out a year and a half to get more playing time
is a higher priority than winning a national title.

6 to 1: Kentucky will be the first #1 seed to go down.

Tubby Smith’s club has had a fantastic run this year, but it seems to have gotten
too used to winning all the time. They may have the most balanced lineup in the country,
but they’re ripe for an upset.

8 to 1: Texas will be the first #1 seed to go down.

Point guard T.J. Ford may be the best player in the country, but that may not be enough
to get the Longhorns past a potential second round upset against LSU. The Tigers can beat
just about anyone in the field – just ask Arizona’s Lute Olson.

50 to 1: Kansas makes a return trip to the Final Four.

With Wayne Simien out of the lineup, Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison can only carry the
team so far. I’m sorry, but the "Danny Manning was a one-man team for the
’88 champions" argument just doesn’t apply these days. They also have one
of the toughest draws in the field, with potential games against Duke and Arizona on the

10 to 1: One of Florida’s freshmen will set the Tournament freshman scoring

In case you haven’t noticed, the Gators’ Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh are
two of the most prolific freshmen in the nation. And when you put them into a tournament
atmosphere that lends itself to faster and more dynamic playing styles, scoring records
become vulnerable.

2 to 1: CBS coverage of the Tournament will sink to a new low.

It seems a lot of broadcasters are obsessed with finding new and interesting viewing
angles for basketball games. Some have gone with camera angles from the top of the
backboard, others have done camera angles from the jumbotron scoreboard, and yet others
have been toying with angles from the floor for great lengths of time. But what they
don’t realize is that viewers just want a traditional full court angle where they can
view the entire game. CBS seems so bent on improving the viewing experience that they are
bound to ruin it with whatever gimmick they are considering. It is inevitable.

20 to 1: Gonzaga is going back to the Sweet 16.

The Bulldogs have been quiet this year, but that doesn’t mean that they
aren’t still dangerous. Blake Stepp has become a top-notch point guard and forward
Ronny Turiaf is waiting to explode. Arizona should be extremely cautious!

3 to 1: Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony will announce for the NBA draft shortly after
the Orangemen are eliminated.

Of all the impact freshmen in the nation this year, Anthony has been the only one to
consistently fill the stat sheet and sports page, while leading his team to the top of the
Big East standings. This kid has too much NBA talent to keep the scouts off his back for
another year.

3 to 1: All the teams Digger Phelps claimed were "on a mission" will be
eliminated by the end of the first weekend.

Thank you, Digger, for overusing this statement to describe just about every
upset-minded team in the field.

4 to 1: Games involving teams from the Big Ten and the Mountain West Conference will be
difficult for most people to watch.

It is well known that these two conferences are noted for playing ugly basketball. If
you look at some of their tournament scores, you’ll notice teams scoring in the 40s
and 50s. Some teams even struggled to reach double digits by halftime! In the unlikely
event that a MWC team (Utah, BYU or Colorado State) survives long enough to play a team
from the Big Televen (like Wisconsin, Purdue or Indiana), I advise you to turn to another

10 to 1: All #5 seeds will be eliminated by the second weekend.

Traditionally, #5 seeds have had difficulty making it out of the first round, much less
into the Sweet 16. This year is no different. Notre Dame, UConn, Wisconsin and Mississippi
State all face an uphill battle surviving the first weekend.

12 to 1: A #1 seed will win it all.

There is too much parity in the field this year to make anyone believe there is a
clear-cut favorite. The top seeds have won the last four NCAA titles, but this year may be
a different story.

* * *

ACC Officiating Needs a Tune-up

I have heard complaints that the officiating this year in the ACC was the worst it has
ever been. After watching one of the worst called ACC Tournaments in recent memory,
I’m inclined to agree. Actually, the officiating was so poor; it literally made me
sick to my stomach.

It used to be a common stigma of ACC officiating that the whistles were heard too
often. But recently, conference officials have developed other flaws.

It seems they are focusing so much on reducing rough play under the basket and in the
key, that they are ignoring so many other calls that should be made. Violations such as
carrying/palming, traveling, over-the-back, three-seconds in the lane, reach-ins, moving
screens are often going uncalled, while simple touch fouls continue to pile up at a rapid

But what I am most concerned about is the fact that such poor officiating may have
actually affected some of those tournament games. I am one that firmly believes that
referees should not determine the outcome of a game, but ACC officials such as Larry Rose
seem to take great pride in becoming a pivotal factor in the tournament arena.

Don’t get me wrong. I have always thought Duke to be the favorite to win the ACC
this year and I always knew they had more talent than any team in the conference. But I
would’ve liked to see them earn the championship on their own and not with the aid of
an officiating crew.

Referees are human. This is true. But it seems as though the league could take steps to
ensure that officials will not be affected by how much a coach screams in their ear, how
far a team is behind or how much a team pounds on the floor.

Maybe the ACC should look at a referee-exchange program with another conference. Maybe
the officials should have a review of existing rules before they try to focus on new ones.
Maybe the league could follow the lead taken by the NFL and actually fire some referees
based on their poor performances. Whatever the ACC can do to make their officials call the
game as it is played, it should be done soon. Otherwise, ACC fans will never know just
what their teams are capable of doing without the help of a referee.