2016 NCAA Basketball Bracket Announced

Kansas Celebrates their Big 12 Championship after defeating West Virginia on Saturday, March 12, 2016. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America)
Kansas Celebrates their Big 12 Championship after defeating West Virginia on Saturday, March 12, 2016. They are the top overall seed for the 2016 Tournament. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images North America)

2016 NCAA Basketball Bracket Announced

The 2016 NCAA Bracket was announced on Sunday with 68 teams competing to be crowned the Champion. The First Four games will feature two games on Tuesday, March 15 and two games on Wednesday, March 16. All four of the opening round games will be played in Dayton, Ohio as they have since the tournament was expanded to 68 teams in 2011. The Final Four will be played in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium.

Kansas (South) is the top overall seed with North Carolina (East), Virginia (Midwest), and Oregon (West) as the other #1 seeds. Villanova (South), Oklahoma (West), Xavier (East), and Michigan State (Midwest) are the #2 seeds with many of the top eight teams having a solid case to be on the top line.

First Four

The First Four will begin on Tuesday, March 15 with the first two games and conclude on Wednesday, March 16 with the other two games. All four games can be found on truTV with estimated start times of 6:40 PM and 9:10 PM Eastern Time each night.

#11 Vanderbilt and #11 Wichita State will play on Tuesday for the right to face #6 Arizona on Thursday in the South Regional. #16 Florida Gulf Coast and #16 Fairleigh Dickinson will square off to face #1 North Carolina on Thursday in the East Regional.

#16 Holy Cross and #16 Southern will play on Wednesday night and the winner will have a date on Friday against #1 Oregon in the West Regional. Michigan and Tulsa are both #11 seeds with the winner playing #6 Notre Dame on Friday in the East Regional.

East Regional

North Carolina is the top seed in the East Regional and will face the winner of the Florida Gulf CoastFairleigh Dickinson matchup in the First Four on Tuesday. Xavier is the #2 seed in the East and will take on Weber State in the first round. The East Region is in the two pictures below.

2016 Tourney East Region Part 1

2016 Tourney East Region Part 2

Midwest Regional

Virginia claimed the top seed in the Midwest, though some were surprised with that selection. They will face #16 Hampton in their first round matchup. The second seed in the region is Michigan State and they will face #15 Middle Tennessee. The Spartans will surely be playing with a chip on their shoulder after getting skipped over for a #1 seed. The entire regional can be seen below.

2016 Tourney Midwest Region Part 1

2016 Tourney Midwest Region Part 2

South Regional

Kansas is the #1 overall seed in the entire tournament and will take on #16 Austin Peay to start their tournament. Villanova is the #2 seed and will face #15 UNC Asheville in the first round. The #11 seed will be Vanderbilt or Wichita State with those two playing in the First Four. The entire South Region bracket is below.

2016 Tourney South Region

2016 South Region Part 2

West Regional

Oregon is the top seed in the West and will face either Holy Cross or Southern as the #16 seed. Holy Cross and Southern will play on Wednesday in the First Four. Oklahoma is the #2 seed in the West and will face #15 Cal State Bakersfield. The entire West Regional can be seen below.

2016 Tourney West Region Part 1

2016 Tourney West Region Part 2

Full Bracket

The entire Bracket can be found here.

2016 NCAA Bracket

Final Four

The Final Four will begin with the National Semifinals on Saturday, April 2 and conclude with the National Championship on Monday, April 4. The National Championship game will be shown on TBS at 9 PM Eastern Time and is the first time in 35 years that the game will not be televised by CBS. The National Championship will return to CBS in 2017 and rotate between the two channels through 2024.

Analyzing Illinois’ Hire Of Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against another of his former teams, the Chicago Bears. (Cliff McBride/Getty Images North America)
Lovie Smith as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against another former team, the Chicago Bears. (Cliff McBride/Getty Images North America)

Analyzing Illinois’ Hire Of Lovie Smith

The Illinois Fighting Illini officially hired Lovie Smith on Monday after firing Bill Cubit on Saturday. Cubit’s short tenure ended as bizarrely as it began when he took over for Tim Beckman just days before the start of the season. Now, it ends a month after signing day and his son Ryan was also part of the fallout as he was fired too.

The hiring of Lovie Smith is no doubt a surprise at this point in the off-season, but there are good things that he brings to the Illini. We take a look at the good and bad sides of his hiring.

The Good

  • Lovie Smith is a big name coach – New Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman wanted a big name hire and he got it with Lovie Smith. It is good for the program to be able to bring in a recognizable coach, but as always, how it ends up depends what is produced on the field.
  • Smith brings stability – The contract for Smith calls for $21 million over 6 years, with his base salary increasing by $1 million per year in 2018, 2019, and 2020. No buyout figures have been released, but it is not hard to imagine they would be pretty hefty early in the contract. More importantly though is that Illinois has a coach they will probably keep around for longer than a few years. Tim Beckman stayed three years after going 12-25 and would have been there at least for a fourth season if not for worrisome allegations against him. It is hard to see Smith not getting at least four season as well in Champaign.
  • Smith knows the state of Illinois – Smith coached the Chicago Bears from 2004-2012 finishing his tenure with an 81-63 record as well as a 3-3 playoff record. He coached the Bears to Super 41, a game they lost to Indianapolis 29-17. That NFL head coaching experience will resonate with college players…
  • Smith knows NFL talent – Smith’s ability to recruit NFL talent is not he main priority for Illinois. They will want to see how he does on the field, as well as off the field given their previous coach’s issues. Still, with Smith knowing what it takes to make a roster in the NFL, that will be enough for some recruits to head to Champaign.
  • Smith has previous college and Big Ten coaching experience – Smith has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, but he did spend over a decade in the college ranks on the defensive side from 1983 through 1995. He even had a stop at Wisconsin in 1987 as the linebackers coach and in 1995 at Ohio State as the defensive backs coach.

The Bad

  • Lack of collegiate head coaching experience – This is a concern because being a college coach involves recruiting. Some coaches love it and others do not care for it. Except for the NCAA mandated quiet and dark periods, recruiting is a near non-stop process. In addition, there are limits on how many hours per week the coaches can spend with the players, something that is not present in the NFL.
  • The College versus NFL playing styles – For the most part, the NFL does not have a ton of variation in the amount of offensive schemes to defend against. Yes, there are spread offenses in the NFL, but not nearly to the extent in the college game where talent discrepancies can accentuate defensive breakdowns. Smith may find that some of his defensive schemes work well on the collegiate level while others may need to be scrapped.
  • He does not have his players in place – This one is not on Smith at all, but it is still a major negative for him in his first year. He will not have his preferred type of players for offense and defense thanks to this change occurring a month after signing day. He will, however, have spring practice to help put his schemes in place going into the summer months.

The Unknown

  • Being a big name coach does not mean success – Lovie Smith may be a popular name among the football ranks, but that does not mean he will be a great or even good college head coach. How well and quickly he adapts to the college game will dictate the amount of success he has. This is an unknown because some coaches have been successful going from the NFL to college (i.e. Pete Carroll from New England to USC) while others have not been as successful (i.e. Bill Callahan from Oakland to Nebraska.
  • Smith’s recruiting base – Smith is from Texas, but does that mean anything in the way of recruiting at this point? Smith has never recruited, but that does not mean he cannot do so. He does have the NFL background to help with some recruits, but what about the others who may see something beyond the NFL? It is a mixed bag at this point for Smith in the recruiting department.

Lovie Smith’s hire is a peculiar one by the Illini at this point in the year, but that does not mean it is a bad hire. The good, bad, and unknown of his hiring will not be fully seen by the end of the first year or even the second year, but it is worth seeing how the above points play out over the next few seasons.

Chicago Fire Drops Opening Day Match To NYC FC

Chicago was unable overcome a 3-1 halftime deficit as they lost opening day to New York City FC (Photo courtesy of Chicago Fire's Twitter account.)
Chicago was unable overcome a 3-1 halftime deficit as they lost opening day to New York City FC (Photo courtesy of Chicago Fire’s Twitter account.)

An exciting opening day MLS match between the Chicago Fire and New York City FC saw City hold on for a 4-3 victory. All seven goals in the game were scored by different players and there was no shortage of opportunities for even more goals.

The Fire had an early chance in the second minute as Kennedy Igboananike put a nice pass through to Gilberto, but his shot was blocked after a cut back and the attack petered out. It was not long before City had their first good chance about a minute later as a blocked shot in the box fell to David Villa, but his shot was right at Matt Lampson.

David Accam used his speed in the sixth minute to beat his man, but his shot was saved by City’s Josh Saunders and Arturo Alvarez’s follow up was well over the bar. City opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Thomas McNamara picked up the ball outside the box and hit a wonderful goal to the top right corner off the post as there was no chance for Lampson to make the save.

Gilberto had another chance to score just a few minutes later after getting behind the defense. There was contact in the box and Gilberto went to ground, but no penalty was given by referee Armando Villarreal. The 17th minute saw Khiry Shelton get a shot off, but Lampson was there to prevent the deficit from doubling with a relatively easy save.

Razvan Cocis leveled the game in the 19th minute with a beautiful run from midfield while Alvarez delivered wonderful ball over the defense and it was easy for him to bury the goal in the bottom right. Cosis tired to make it a 2-1 lead for the Fire in the 23rd minute after a City turnover in their final third, but his attempted chip was not nigh enough and easily caught by Saunders.

City made it 2-1 in the 29th minute thanks to a blunder in the box by two Fire defenders. Joao Meira and Michael Harrington both went to clear the ball, but collided and it fell for Taylor to slot it home. Meira hit Harrington in the forehead with his boot and caused a laceration, but Harrington came back on the field after getting patched up.

City made it 3-1 in the 36th minute after Shelton was able to burst past his defender and also dribbled past a caught out Lampson while he maintained his balance to but the ball in the back of the net. Gilberto had another chance in the 41st minute, but his shot was blocked by Saunders again while Saunders came up big again in the 42nd minute getting his boot to Accam’s chance. Accam had one final chance before halftime, but once again the ball was saved by Saunders.

The Fire started the second half with Jonathan Campbell coming on for an injured Gilberto, who had a very good first half performance. Gilberto’s absence led to David Accam being moved up top.

The Fire were able to get right back in the game thanks to Accam’s pressure on City defender Ethan White. Accam got the ball away from him, forced Saunders to commit to him, and set up an easy goal for Igboananike in the 49th minute.

Accam had a chance to level the score a short time later after getting behind the City defense, but could not keep his feet as he was unable to even got a shot away. In the 60th minute, Alvarez put in a nice cross to Accam, but his shot was not strong enough and the post was covered well by Saunders. City were able to restore their two goal lead with McNamara hitting a cross in the box that found Mix Diskerud and he blasted his volley to the lower right corner.

Accam nearly made it a one goal deficit again with a free run in the 67th minute, but Saunders came up with yet another big stop and the ensuing corner led to nothing for the Fire. The Fire were awarded a penalty in the 72nd minute thanks to a hand ball by Shelton in the box off a corner kick. Accam took the penalty kick and sent Saunders the wrong way to make it 4-3.

City nearly put the game beyond doubt in the fifth minute of stoppage time. David Villa was one on one with goalkeeper, but Lampson stopped his shot and the game remained 4-3 to City. That is how the game would finish as the Fire could not mount one final attack.

Notes and Analysis

  • Both managers were coaching their first MLS game with Patrick Vieira coming out on top ahead of Veljko Paunovic.
  • Frank Lampard was not in the lineup for City as he missed the match due to injury.
  • The Fire had 12 corners to just one for City.
  • City played a high line with their back four and it led to 7 offsides for the Fire. It also caused problems for City as the David Accam was able to use his speed to get past the back four defenders.
  • Full game stats can be found here via MLS’ website.
  • Jonathan Campbell made his MLS debut to start the second half when he subbed in for Gilberto.
  • Joey Calistri also made his MLS debut when he came on in the 81st minute for Razvan Cocis.

Chicago faces Orlando City on the road Friday night while City faces Toronto FC in their home opener on Sunday afternoon.