Every day there are three things, none worth devoting an individual post to, but each worth at least mentioning.
1) Bracket react. Want my hottest Selection Sunday take? OK, here goes...
Selection Sunday is more fun when the bracket isn't leaked. For all of the deserved crap CBS took for last year's bracket reveal, and as much fun as we had when the bracket is leaked, yesterday's presentation was solid. The pairings were announced quickly enough, there was just enough drama (you can't, if you're an XU fan, convince me that you were completely comfortable when the names of 67 schools had been read and Xavier wasn't one of them) and some analysis on the back end that I basically ignored while trying to convince UC fans not to hunt down and murder selection committee members. Well done, CBS. And well done, whoever could've leaked the bracket but didn't.
Want more? OK.
The American Athletic Conference is garbage. You know that. I know that. Chances are, the people at UC know that. Yesterday, the committee confirmed what you knew. And I'll guess that the UC/SMU tilt had absolutely no bearing on where either team was placed. It's easy to talk about how the University of Cincinnati needs to get out of the AAC, which they do. What I'd like to see is for Mick Cronin and the scary-looking dude who took over for Larry Brown at SMU to pull an Urban Meyer and publicly tell the other schools in the league to get their shit together.
I'm not going to be fun to be around on Friday night. UC and UD are playing at basically the same exact time. My behavior during a regular season Bearcats game is, to put it mildly, off-putting. I'm less obnoxious during a Flyers game, but still not exactly a person you want to talk to. Throw in the NCAA Tournament and its stakes, and my behavior is toddler-esque. Have both play at the same time in the NCAA Tournament, and we're talking about someone whose act will border of criminal. To my friends who will be stuck with me on Friday evening, I apologize in advance.
For the Bearcats, whom I already wrote about this morning.....I'm still glass half-full, dammit. Throw yesterday away. SMU is a miserable team to play, especially less than 24 hours after the type of bruising, physical game UC won over UConn on Saturday. There were more positives than negatives in Hartford this weekend. Yes, Kevin Johnson looks lost. Yes, a team that appeared to have some nice depth basically has six guys right now. Yes, they looked they just taken a redeye flight yesterday. But their three previous games say them play some of their best stretches of ball of the season, the Jacob Evans the Bearcats have to have in March was on the court on Friday and Saturday, Jarron Cumberland gave them some very good minutes, and hopefully there's an us-against-the-committee mentality they take to Sacramento. No, I'm not exactly excited about potentially watching them try to slow down Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, but uh, hey they played great against Tulsa so I'll cling to that!
For the Musketeers....The XU team I watched play in New York can beat Maryland, especially given how the Terrapins have played down the stretch, how loose they are with the ball, and how much one guy - Melo Trimble - does most of the work for them. Someone asked me over the weekend if I had a team that I felt was most underrated in college basketball. I told them Florida State. This person had had like nine beers at a spring training game and about four shots of something blue afterward so he probably doesn't remember, but I did tell him this.
For the Wildcats....John Calipari team slogs around through mid-winter, gets going late in the season, runs through the SEC Tournament, and looks as good as it has all season just as the NCAA Tournament is about to begin. It's a familiar script. I'm just not sold on them enough on defense to have them in the Final Four, which means they will win the national title.
For the Flyers....I don't like the matchup against Wichita State at all. By the time the tournament rolls around, something like 89 different teams get labeled as "a team you don't want to play in March." UD has gotten that label this year, but Wichita is that team you don't want to play in March, or really any other month.
For the Norse....There are a lot of people who went to NKU but root for Kentucky. I ask this as someone who hopes to root against his Alma mater when (come on, work with me) they play the Bearcats in the Sweet 16, if you're that fan, do you suspend your Wildcats allegiance for something that would make the Northern Kentucky University Norse the biggest story in college basketball? Or do you pat the Norse on the head and then get serious about the real business of Kentucky chasing another title? Would all of NKU's state funding go away if John Brannen's team pulled off the upset?
2) The Bengals are worse, and I'm not sure they can get better. While I was in Arizona, nearly 80 percent of the league's players seemed to change teams, and the Bengals got significantly worse. I'm fine with Drew Kirkpatrick coming back - they're simply too many holes on defense to allow them to open another. Same too with Brandon LaFell, mainly because of the familiarity he and Andy Dalton have with one another. And while I like Domata Peko a lot, it just felt like it was time to move on.
But the offensive line, good God. They couldn't lost both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, and while you can argue that the way the Bengals handled those two players shows an extraordinary amount of faith in their offensive line depth, to me it shows an exceptional amount of stubbornness and shortsightedness.
They didn't value Kevin Zeitler, because he plays a position they don't value as much. Shouldn't that thinking have made them value Whitworth more? Shouldn't Whitworth's desire to hit the open market combined with the Bengals' willingness to allow him to hit the open market made them re-think their position with Zeitler, a player in his prime who was arguably their third-best offensive player in 2016?
They have the rest of the offseason in front of them, including the draft. There's some free agents still out there. But the Bengals' offensive line was dreadful for a good chunk of last season, and their best two linemen are gone. They were 6-9-1 last season with Whitworth and Zeitler. You cannot convince right now that they will be significantly better this season without them.
3) Spring training. I spent Wednesday through Saturday in Arizona with a group of guys on what's my favorite week of the year. We saw two games in Scottsdale, where the Giants play. I can't recommend Scottsdale Stadium enough. Fantastic beer, incredible scenery, and some very good, pre and post game spots.
We saw a game in Mesa, where the Cubs train. Sloan Park is fantastic. The vibe is energetic. The burger I bought in right field was fantastic.
We saw a game in Maryvvale, where the Brewers train. The area is terrifying, but the complex is nice. The woman who works in the team shop is a delight.
We saw a game in Goodyear. The park the Reds play in is fine. The newly-done right field bar is really, really nice. There's just very little atmosphere, and near the ballpark, there's nowhere to go.
I put some photos from Arizona on Instagram, if you care to look. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to.
While I was out there, Anthony DeSclafani did not pitch, and it looks like he might not for a while. The words "patchwork" and "rotation" are starting to be used consecutively. Opening Day is three weeks away. Their best pitcher from a year ago is with the Marlins. Their most experienced one is months away from returning. Their next most reliable guy is having an MRI. Good times.
I'd like for the Reds to not disrupt their plans for the bullpen, which Bryan Price has acknowledged being open to in relation to Michael Lorenzen. If his long-term role is going to be pitching in relief, he should stay there instead of being jerked back into the rotation for a short-term quick fix.
Radio Show: Guests are being worked on as we speak. Lots of Tournament reaction, Bengals free agency analysis, and we'll dive into the Disc dilemma today at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
ICYMI: Your Move, Bearcats.