My 2015 March Madness Picks

Last year’s bracket did fine considering it was a crazy year. Picking Mercer to beat Duke was enough credibility for me to roll my bracket on the internet again.

I have Kentucky winning it all and that sounds boring I know. The Wildcats are just that good. Sure, Kentucky will be tested (I have them playing Wisconsin in the semifinals and Virginia in the title game), but they should pass those tests. This Kentucky team is obviously superior to the team that scrapped past Wisconsin a year ago and came up short in the title game with UConn.

Virginia was the team I struggled with the most as I don’t know how healthy it will be. I just think the Cavaliers have gone too far to have another season end before the Final Four, though Michigan State and even Belmont could give them problems.

To the picks.

Midwest

My Midwest is crazy outside of Kentucky rolling through. Valpo is a solid team as I have it moving on to the Sweet 16. The Crusaders can defend and shoot 3s and that is a lethal combo. Texas is another surprise team here as the Longhorns are among the leaders in blocks in rebounds. When you look at their losses you see that most came to good Big 12 teams on the road and at Kentucky. Wichita State is the next hidden gem in the region as the Shockers have been waiting for a shot at Kansas for a long time. No way they let this slip.

In contrast the West is more predictable.

West

The East is about Virginia staying healthy. I added some upsets from the winner of Boise State/Dayton and Louisville having another deep run.

East

The South can be anyone but I like Utah as it is one of the few squads who can defend and score. This is also Gonzaga’s best chance at a deep tournament run. For a good upset, I’m going with Eastern Washington to shoot the 3 over a bigger Georgetown team.

South

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College Volleyball Tournament Preview 2014: Happy Huskies

Can Colorado State be the mid-major that breaks through in this year's tournament?

Can Colorado State be the mid-major that breaks through in this year’s tournament?

The D-1 women’s volleyball tournament is here, and I’m a little late making my picks.

The bracket was not kind to Big Ten powerhouses Penn State and Wisconsin placing them in the same region. This means a rematch of last year’s championship match will most likely occur in the regional final.

Overall, Stanford is the top seed but Texas and Washington are right behind.

Through the RPI, the matches I was able to catch, and the college volleyball social media guide I did in August, I have to pick Washington to win it all over Stanford in the final. The Huskies gave the Cardinal its only loss and can do so again. Plus, Washington was one of the best schools in promoting volleyball over social media.

As far as upsets I think Nebraska is vulnerable to Kansas State, Creighton should have a good chance over Kansas and my big upset special is Long Beach State making it to the Sweet Sixteen through UCLA. My round one upset is Lipscomb over Ohio State.

I really wanted to pick Colorado State over Texas as the Rams have been the best mid-major this season. Just couldn’t do it so prove me wrong Rams. The selection committee did the Rams no favors with a likely meeting with rival Colorado in round 2.

Here are all my picks.

VB1

VB2

VB3

VB4

Potential for Shockers This Saturday

Navigation Solution 10-24
The past two weeks of college football have been incredible but this Saturday it appears things will be coming back down to Earth. Just two games involved top 25 teams and three of those four schools are outside the top 15. Still, the games are important as someone is probably going down. Ohio State is one such candidate as it could falter at Penn State. In terms of conference races, watch USC at Utah as it will make an impact on the PAC-12 South.

A couple of volleyball games to watch includes UC-Davis at Cal State-Northridge Friday night in Big West play. The big one though is Nebraska at Wisconsin on ESPN2 Sunday. The Badgers are currently on top in the Big Ten and it’s rare for ESPN2 to air a regular season game in volleyball.

Damage Report from Upset Saturday

Last week was boring. This Saturday was everything a college football fan could want and more. There were so many upsets today that the college football playoff is getting harder to predict. After today you’re looking at Florida State, Auburn, Baylor, and Notre Dame as your four. Yep, we have hit chaos in early October. In the BCS this occurred in November. That’s the bad part of picking four teams instead of two.

Loser: Prestigious Programs

I’m talking Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and USC level of prestige. All lost to schools who are still trying to prove themselves nationally. Mississippi State, Ole Miss, TCU and Arizona are very much alive for a playoff spot. Arizona State’s loss to UCLA may be too much to overcome.

Winner: Hail Mary Passes from Arizona Teams

Both Arizona and Arizona State have now defeated a PAC-12 team this year on a desperate pass from midfield. California saw its undefeated season disappear two weeks ago to Zona. Now, USC may fall out of the Top 25 after failing to bat down the ball against Arizona State. The Sun Devils scored on a 46-yard pass as time expired. It appeared that the Trojans simply waited for the pass to come down. That’s how a Hail Mary can work.

Loser: Wisconsin

The Badgers are a lock to drop out of the Top 25 after a bad loss to the Wildcats of Northwestern. Northwestern has lost to Northern Illinois of the MAC but has now defeated Penn State and Wisconsin on consecutive weeks. For Wisconsin, the Big Ten West favorite, its odds of making it to the Big 10 championship game became extremely difficult.

Winner: Marshall

The Thundering Herd destroyed Old Dominion 56-14 and should move into the Top 25 for the first time since 2002. Marshall has scored at least 40 points in every game this season and is currently 5-0.

Loser: South Carolina

The Gamecocks are looking at a Music City Bowl appearance as a best case scenario. My Kentucky Wildcats scored 21-straight in the fourth quarter to beat South Carolina in Lexington 45-38. South Carolina is 3-3 and still has to play Auburn, Florida and Clemson. A 6-6 season would be an achievement.

Winner: College Football Fans

All of the upsets we’ve been expecting the past month occurred in the first three days of October. We wanted to see how the college playoff system would work and now we have an ideal scenario to test it out. Plus, the upsets have been fun to watch.

The Best of College Volleyball on Social Media and the Worst

Who knew "kill" would be so peaceful and elegant in cursive?

Who knew “kill” would be so peaceful and elegant in cursive?

While college football and college basketball are the main sports I follow, I try to give some love to the Olympics sports when I can here at the nc2anerd. Volleyball is a particular favorite as its games are right there in the basketball arena.

If a school knows how to promote itself, volleyball can be a revenue producing sport. With the women’s volleyball season starting the same weekend as football, let’s take a look at where volleyball programs are breaking through the football blanket to make a name for themselves in social media and where they’re failing to do so.

McNeese State

The most hilarious volleyball promotion on social media was this You Tube clip of the McNeese State players putting on knee pads and walking down a hallway. Are these Cowgirls going to play a volleyball game because we never see a ball, net, or court for that matter? It’s as if they were denied access to arena the day of shooting. I thought the music change in the middle was a mistake the first time I watched it too.

At lease McNeese State made a promotional video unlike these two schools.

Penn State and Wisconsin

The fact I lumped these two together is a bad sign. Penn State defeated Wisconsin in last year’s title game to win its fifth championship in seven years. Yet both schools have been lackluster in their social media promotions. Wisconsin has had more swagger on Twitter showing off their “finalist rings.”

Besides that and a few “Throwback Thursday” photos, both schools have been quiet and unimpressive on the promotion front. Football as is a big reason why as both schools are football powers in the Big 10.

Texas

The No. 1 seed in last year’s volleyball tournament was Texas and the Longhorns are pretty blunt about how they feel about volleyball compared with their heroes on the gridiron.

Wow, a 3.4 GPA is all it took? That’s what I had in college with only moderate effort. Sorry Mom.

Texas is complimenting their women’s volleyball team here but it also comes across as reinforcing the stereotype that women’s sports are only there to balance out the bad academics of the men. Texas missed a golden opportunity to promote its four players on the preseason All Big 12 team last week. Contrast this with Kansas State (only one player on the list) who quickly jumped to promote their star setter.

Now that is how you showcase your best players Texas. To find a school placing stock in its volleyball program you need to to select one that either doesn’t have a football team or just has a bad one. This brings us to…

Purdue

The Boilermakers went all out to promote their volleyball photo day. Even set up a site for behind the scenes access. Slow motion videos capture the work that went into their team poster.

Sam Diving from Purdue Athletics on Vimeo.

The school is also using social media to sell tickets. Purdue created the BumpTo1000 hashtag as an effort to double the number of season tickets from a year ago. Purdue went to the elite eight last year before falling to Wisconsin in four sets. With their top two leaders in attack percentage returning in Kiki Jones and Faye Adelaja, this could be Purdue’s chance to knock Penn State off the Big 10 Throne.

Minnesota

Purdue isn’t the only Big 10 school trying win over publicity for volleyball. The Golden Gophers have a three-game ticket plan where fans choose from a hierarchy of opponents.

Group one consists of the three schools in the conference with the most volleyball tradition and it moves on down from there. It’s a very interesting ticket plan for an obsessed volleyball fan.

Minnesota reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 but lost their two kill leaders from last season.

Washington

Out in PAC-12 country the Washington Huskies are predicted to not win the conference, just like last season. That’s fine for the Huskies as they won the PAC-12 in 2013 and made it to the Final Four in the tournament. Washington’s volleyball program is nestled in a nice situation as the school’s football team is not overpowering. Check out its short promotional video. Something Penn State and Texas don’t have.

Washington has expanded into sand volleyball in 2014, a very promising sign that the school is committed to being a power in the indoor sport as well. Senior outside hitters Kaleigh Nelson and Krista Vansant return as the two leaders in kills and were named to the All PAC-12 preseason team.

Marquette

Marquette does not have a football team meaning volleyball is large and in charge in autumn. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these ticket prices.

Dang, $70 for courtside seats is almost as expensive as the Milwaukee Bucks. The Golden Eagles lost in the second round last year to Illinois. Unfortunately, Marquette has just one senior on the roster so it will be a challenge for it to improve on that finish.

Morehead State

Smaller schools, such as Morehead, are also promoting volleyball stronger than the finalists from last season. Take a look at Morehead boasting about its Ohio Valley Conference titles.

With #EagleEmpire you know you’re a volleyball school.

New Hampshire

The Wildcats won the American East last season and are the favorites to do so again. The conference let New Hampshire Outside Hitter Abby Brinkman take over the league’s Twitter account in July and there were plenty of highlights.

Abby made this picture the banner photo for the conference for a weekend to put some muscle into the American East.

Buffalo

Things got silly for the Bulls at their media day. It’s an early candidate for selfie of the year.

Southern Mississippi

Want to know what a coach thinks of a player? Well Southern Miss just comes out and says it in its tweets.

The WINNER: Hawaii

The best volleyball program on social media leading up to the season has been the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine. First, the school is making a strong effort to honor its coach, Dave Shoji, who is celebrating 40 years at the program. Picture after picture has been used to show Coach Shoji at the time of each significant achievement in his tenure. To national championships to reaching 500 wins.

The woman on the right must be really glad the school brought back that picture.

Most of all though is the passion of the Hawaii fans. Look at how many were at last year’s first round win against Idaho State.

Over 8,000 fans were on hand for that first round game. That’s more than three times the attendance at Penn State’s second round game against Utah and more than twice of the second round game at Texas. Did I mention Texas was playing arch rival Texas A&M in that game? Whoops.

For volleyball to grow it needs to have schools see it as a companion to football and not as a side item. Hawaii and the Big West Conference have been the leaders on that process so far.

That’s why I’m picking Hawaii to beat Washington in the championship at Oklahoma City this December. Not because of talent but because of fan support and passion.

Will it happen though with eight newcomers? The Rainbow Wahine should be hungry after being caught off guard against BYU in the second round in 2013. They were the No. 11 overall seed last year and return some key players from their team that beat Texas in the regular season. Hawaii is deep in outside hitters with Nikki Taylor, Tai Manu-Olevao and senior leader Kalei Adopho.

Either way, Hawaii will be the most interesting team to follow in women’s volleyball this season. With its fan support you can count on that.

The Budget Games: Week 1

College football is a game but at the same time it’s a business. That’s where the budget games come into play. I define budget games as anytime a far superior team makes a deal for an inferior team to come to their house.The powerhouse school gets an easy win, a great fundraising opportunity with their boosters, and a great chance to showcase the program to recruits and fans. The inferior teams receive a fat check between $500,000 and one million dollars and the exposure from playing a big name team.Budget Games new

It may not be sexy to play a game where the outcome is never in doubt, but these are the budget games punk. Where the odds are never in your favor.

1. Buffalo at No. 2 Ohio State

Tiny Buffalo from the Mid-American conference will make the trek to Columbus where it will be slaughtered on national television. At least the Bulls will be paid a million bucks to take the pounding.

Is this game worth watching? Yes.

Buffalo did go 4-8 last year but put up a fight against SEC juggernaut Georgia last season before losing 45-23. The Bulls have plenty of returning starters and Ohio State’s coach Urban Meyer is under a great deal of pressure thanks to off the field issues with his players. The Buckeyes will win going away but I doubt it will be 70-3. Enjoy the check Buffalo.

2. Massachusetts at No. 23 Wisconsin

UMass is entering its second year as an FBS member meaning teams like Wisconsin see an easy way to pad to their win total and become bowl eligible. How much did it take to line the Minutemen up for the beating in Madison? How does $900,000 sound? That’s a lot of coin but I doubt it covers the added expenses of playing FBS ball. Should have stayed in the FCS Minutemen.

Is this game worth watching? No.

A few college football magazines have UMass as the worst team in the FBS and this game should show why. Wisconsin will score at will in this one impressing their boosters, pollsters, and recruits. No one else should watch this execution.

3. New Mexico State at No. 15 Texas

Poor New Mexico State does not have a conference until the Sun Belt lets it in next year. Until then the Aggies need to find cash through being a punching bag to college football’s wealthy juggernauts. Texas, a team trying to find games for their Longhorn Network, saw a great opportunity to help out NMSU’s financial problems while pounding the #$%@ out of it.

Is this game worth watching? No.

Texas vs. a school that could not get into the Mountain West Conference to save its life. I think I’ll pass.

Honorable mentions

Louisiana Monroe at Oklahoma, Louisiana Lafayette at Arkansas, Central Michigan at Michigan, Elon at Georgia Tech.