http://arthurjohnkyriazisgoogleblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/ncaa-bracketology-2012.html

NCAA BRACKETOLOGY FOR 2012.

Today, as we survey the wreckage of the first and second rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, 2010 version, which has destroyed nearly everyone’s brackets, including mine, it is wise to remember the words of one of the seven sages of Ancient Greece, Heraclitus, who noted that “everything is in flux,” or more modernly, “everything changes constantly.”

HERACLITUS ONE OF SEVEN SAGES OF ANCIENT GREECE "ALL IS FLUX"

Since today is GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY, everything I write today will really be about GREECE and the incredible influence GREECE and GREEK THOUGHT has had upon modern life. Specifically, I will show you how GREECE & GREEK THOUGHT have had a major influence on MARCH MADNESS AND THE NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT. You won’t even believe it, but it’s so.

BETTER ONE HOUR OF FREEDOM THAN FORTY YEARS OF SLAVERY & JAIL

Today marks the 189th anniversary of the birth of the modern Greek nation-state and the uprising against the Ottoman Empire by the ethnic Greeks and Greek-speaking majority of Roumeli against their Ottoman overlords on March 25, 1821. After nine long years, that struggle resulted in the creation of the modern Greek state. And of course, we who are Greek-American have to celebrate it, since the actual Greeks in Greece are temporarily on strike against government austerity measures. Hey, I wish I could retire at 41 with a full salary and benefits too, but as one of my Harvard economics professors once noted, TANSTAAFL “THERE AINT NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH.” (actually, that phrase was coined by sci fi giant Robert A Heinlein, 1907-1988, if you grok me). Frackin’ great line, though.

ROBERT A HEINLEIN & ISAAC ASIMOV AT PHILLY NAVAL SHIPYARD 1944

Many, many effects of that revolution can be seen here in America.

1) The very idea of athletic competitions and tournaments is Greek in origin. The Greeks invented the Olympics in 776 BC. They had them on a four year rotation, along with three other games, the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games, the four being known as the “Pan-Hellenic Games.” The point is the Ancient Greeks had an athletic competition to determine a winner in each event every year. This is exactly what the modern NCAA does. The logos of the NCAA even use Olympic/ancient Greek style laurel wreaths on some of their publicity and trophies, and even up to the present day, the concept of AMATEURISM, the notion that an athlete should not be paid for participating in sports, is uniquely and completely ancient Greek in origin, as the Romans customarily paid their Olympic and other athletes, or compelled them to compete through slavery. It was the Ancient Greeks who prided themselves that competition should be amateur and free of payment, and participated in by free citizens of city-states only for the glory of the competition. This very concept is what animates the entire notion of the NCAA and of college sports; its entire spirit and animus are Ancient Greek in conception and thought. The Ancient Romans had no such distinction; to them, athletes were paid the same as anyone else. Moreover, the concept of colleges today relate closely to the concept of ancient Greek city-states. There are many more parallels, but you get the idea. Winning at sports was the sine qua non of excellence in Greek culture. Note that Christianity for many years discouraged athletic competition—it was a modern development with the rediscovery of humanist thought, and the rediscovery of Greek thought, that athletics made a comeback in modern society. The Greek notion of athletic competition heavily influenced the Romans, who made stadiums, chariot races and gladiatorial combat part of their culture. Consequently, it is very clear that the very notion of having an NCAA tournament every year is nothing if not Greek in origin.

ANCIENT OLYMPIA AT ELIS GREECE SITE OF THE ANCIENT OLYMPIC GAMES 776BC-495 AD

2) Many colleges and college nicknames are Greek in origin. For example, Michigan State is in the Sweet Sixteen. Their nickname is the “Spartans.” They were nicknamed, largely, in tribute to the Greeks of the Greek Revolution of the 1820s, largely due to Philhellenic (Greek-loving) feeling. Most Americans were sympathetic with the Greeks, 1) because the Greeks were struggling for democracy against autocracy 2) because the Founders were largely influenced by Ancient Greece in their models for what a democracy like America should look like and 3) because the Greeks were Christians struggling against the Turkish Infidels, which is what we used to call Muslims in the 19th Century before PC discourse deconstructed plain language and speech sometime in the past 20 years. In fact, Turks used to be called “the Terrible Turk” by people like no less than Prime Minister Gladstone, and the Ottoman Empire, after the Greeks won, used to be called the “Sick Man of Europe,” and the question of how to carve up the fading Ottoman Empire was called the “Eastern Question.” It wasn’t settled finally until World War I, and not really finally until 1923. But that’s another story. So I like Michigan State. Didn’t you watch “300”? “We are SPARTANS!!!”

KING LEONIDAS & 300 LEGENDARILY HEROIC SPARTANS OF THERMOPYLAE BRILLIANTLY DRAMATIZED IN MOVIE "300" (2006) STARRING GERARD BUTLER

3) U. Tennessee remains in the Sweet Sixteen. Vanderbilt is in Nashville, Tennessee, where they have an actual full-scale replica of the Parthenon built which you can go see today. It is complete and accurate to the last detail. In fact, throughout the South, there is more Greek Revival and neo-classical architecture than almost anywhere in the US, especially on college campuses. This is certainly true at Vanderbilt, at Duke, at Kentucky, at U. Tennessee, at U.Va certainly, and many of the other schools left in the Sweet Sixteen.

PARTHENON REPLICA WHICH STANDS IN NASHVILLE, TN TODAY EXACT DUPLICATE OF PARTHENON OF ANCIENT ATHENS, GREECE BUILT BY PERICLES IN 5TH CENTURY B.C.

About the Parthenon

The Parthenon stands proudly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park, Nashville’s premier urban park. The re-creation of the 42-foot statue Athena is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building and the Athena statue are both full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals.

Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 B.C. The originals of these powerful fragments are housed in the British Museum in London.

The Parthenon also serves as the city of Nashville’s art museum. The focus of the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits.

The Parthenon is open year round Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00 – 4:30. Additional hours during June, July & August: Sundays, 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. The Parthenon will be closed on July 4, Labor Day, the Thursday & Friday of Thanksgiving week, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission: Members free; Adults – $6.00; Children 4-17 – $3.50 (under 4 free); Seniors 62+ – $3.50. Phone number 615-862-8431.

http://www.nashville.org/parthenon/

See? And you thought you had to travel to GREECE to see the Parthenon? Nope, you can go to NASHVILLE, TENNESEE AND SEE IT! AND THIS PARTHENON ISN’T IN RUINS!!! (No Turks or Venetians to blow it up in a meaningless war in the 17th century). Oh–and they have some pretty darn good music there, too–and hey, Vandy and U. Tennessee are pretty darn good schools.

4) Many of you have probably watched the show “GREEK” on TV, which details “GREEK” or fraternity/sorority life on campuses around the country. What you probably don’t know is that fraternities and sororities have their origins with the Greek War of Independence. So many college students were in sympathy with the Greeks and their War of Liberation from the Turks during the 1821-1830 period, that many of the campuses and universities founded societies named after Greek letters such as “Phi Beta Kappa” or “Alpha Chi Rho” to celebrate their “fraternity” and “solidarity” with the Greek cause of independence, liberty and freedom. So, if you’ve ever been a fraternity or sorority member, you actually have pledged fraternity, sorority, brotherhood and sisterhood, to the nation of Greece and its sacred causes for liberty, democracy, Christianity, and its ongoing fight against the Turks. Thus the “GREEK” show really is, in actually, about Greece. It even takes place at fictional “CYPRUS-RHODES UNIVERSITY.” Hey, I’ve been to Rhodes, that island rocks, every single hotel opens out to a private beach, and every bar is open all nite long. And Cyprus, even though only half of it is open (the other half is still occupied by a muslim country from the north starting with “T” and ending with “Y”) is the hottest tourist and banking destination in the Middle East. Plus, Garo Ypremian is from Cyprus, and he once kicked a touchdown! He told me so 18 holes in a row at a pro-am golf tournament. “where else but in america could a 5 foot 7 cypriot find work in the NFL as a professional kicker?” he said. To his credit, he was a great golfer.

The very origins of sorority and fraternity life are from the Greek Revolution and Greek War of Independence, and Philhellenism among American college students. In fact, many of those students went to Greece and fought for the Greek cause. In the NCAA tournament, it’s obvious that frat and sorority and Greeks are the main hoops fans. Thank you Greece and Greek culture, again. And here’s to our favorie fraternities, Kappa Tau Gamma (ΚΤΓ), Omega Chi Delta (ΩΧΔ), and our favorite sorority, Zeta Beta Zeta (ΖΒZ). May we all be Greeks forever!

EVERYONE'S IDEA OF COLLEGE FUN IS SUMMARIZED IN THE SHOW "GREEK"

5) Syracuse is a heavy favorite to get to the final four. Syracuse University and Syracuse, NY are named for the ancient Greek city-state of Syracuse. Syracuse was the richest and most famous Greek city-state of the ancient world. Situated on one of the three corners of Sicily, Syracuse was as powerful in its heyday as Rome, Carthage, Athens or Persia, and made a play for hegemony against Rome and Carthage during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Unfortunately for Syracuse, despite being neutral in the 2d Punic War between Carthage and Rome, Rome decided to lay siege to Syracuse in order to plunder its enormous stores of gold. Rome simply needed the money. Archimedes, the most brilliant mathematician and scientist of ancient times, was a native of Syracuse. He famously designed siege defense machines which pulled Roman ships out of the water and crashed them against the rocks, other machines which focused the light of the sun on Roman ships and set them on fire, etc. You get the picture. The Romans were kept out of Syracuse for years by the high walls of Syracuse and Archimedes brilliance. When they finally breached the walls, the Romans were instructed to bring Archimedes alive to the Roman commander, but of course they got it wrong and killed Archimedes by mistake. The Romans plundered billions of dollars in gold, silver and other treasures from Syracuse. P.S. Italy owes that money back to Greece, today, with interest, under international law, in my view. Syracuse was neutral at the time. Also, indemnity for Archimedes’ death is independently owed by Italy to Greece. One supposes that would sort of cancel out any debts owed by Greece to the EU. In fact, one might suppose that Italy should just hand over the deed to, well, Italy, since the interest has been piling up for 2,400 years or so on that loan. Or have I just lost my Elgin Marbles? (many thanks to my good friend the brilliant Mike Reiss on that line).

ANCIENT SICILY WAS MAINLY GREEK CITY STATES WITH SYRACUSE THE LARGEST RICHEST AND MOST FAMOUS GREEK CITY STATE OF ANTIQUITY

THE WAR FOR SYRACUSE AND THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES

source: http://www.livius.org/sh-si/sicily/sicily_t17.html

The philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea (46-c.122) is the author of a series of double biographies in which he compared Greeks and Romans, and tried to explore the nature of some type of man. They contain much historical information. The following text is taken from his Life of Marcellus, and describes how this Roman general captured Syracuse during the war between the Romans and the Carthaginian general Hannibal. During the siege the famous scientist Archimedes (287-212), was killed. The translation was made by Walter Charlton and appeared in the Dryden series.

Marcellus now was a third time created consul, and sailed to Sicily. For the success of Hannibal had excited the Carthaginians to lay claim to that whole island; chiefly because, after the murder of the tyrant Hieronymus, all things had been in tumult and confusion at Syracuse. Therefore, the Romans also had sent before to that city a force under the conduct of Appius, as praetor. […]

At this time Marcellus, first incensed by injuries done him by Hippocrates, commander of the Syracusans (who, to give proof of his good affection to the Carthaginians, and to acquire the tyranny to himself, had killed a number of Romans at Leontini), besieged and took by force the city of Leontini; yet violated none of the townsmen; only deserters, as many as he took, he subjected to the punishment of the rods and axe.

But Hippocrates, sending a report to Syracuse that Marcellus had put all the adult population to the sword, and then coming upon the Syracusans, who had risen in tumult upon that false report, made himself master of the city. Upon this Marcellus moved with his whole army to Syracuse, and encamping near the wall, sent ambassadors into the city to relate to the Syracusans the truth of what had been done in Leontini. When these could not prevail by treaty, the whole power being now in the hands of Hippocrates, he proceeded to attack the city both by land and by sea.

The land forces were conducted by Appius: Marcellus, with sixty galleys, each with five rows of oars, furnished with all sorts of arms and missiles, and a huge bridge of planks laid upon eight ships chained together, upon which was carried the engine to cast stones and darts, assaulted the walls, relying on the abundance and magnificence of his preparations, and on his own previous glory; all which, however, were, it would seem, but trifles for Archimedes and his machines.

These machines he had designed and contrived, not as matters of any importance, but as mere amusements in geometry; in compliance with King Hiero’s desire and request, some little time before, that he should reduce to practice some part of his admirable speculation in science, and by accommodating the theoretic truth to sensation and ordinary use, bring it more within the appreciation of the people in general.
Eudoxus and Archytas had been the first originators of this far-famed and highly-prized art of mechanics, which they employed as an elegant illustration of geometrical truths, and as means of sustaining experimentally, to the satisfaction of the senses, conclusions too intricate for proof by words and diagrams. As, for example, to solve the problem, so often required in constructing geometrical figures, given the two extremes, to find the two mean lines of a proportion, both these mathematicians had recourse to the aid of instruments, adapting to their purpose certain curves and sections of lines.

But what with Plato’s indignation at it, and his invectives against it as the mere corruption and annihilation of the one good of geometry, which was thus shamefully turning its back upon the unembodied objects of pure intelligence to recur to sensation, and to ask help (not to be obtained without base supervisions and depravation) from matter; so it was that mechanics came to be separated from geometry, and, repudiated and neglected by philosophers, took its place as a military art.

Archimedes, however, in writing to King Hiero, whose friend and near relation he was, had stated that given the force, any given weight might be moved, and even boasted, we are told, relying on the strength of demonstration, that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this. Hiero being struck with amazement at this, and entreating him to make good this problem by actual experiment, and show some great weight moved by a small engine, he fixed accordingly upon a ship of burden out of the king’s arsenal, which could not be drawn out of the dock without great labor and many men; and, loading her with many passengers and a full freight, sitting himself the while far off, with no great endeavor, but only holding the head of the pulley in his hand and drawing the cords by degrees, he drew the ship in a straight line, as smoothly and evenly as if she had been in the sea. The king, astonished at this, and convinced of the power of the art, prevailed upon Archimedes to make him engines accommodated to all the purposes, offensive and defensive, of a siege. These the king himself never made use of, because he spent almost all his life in a profound quiet and the highest affluence. But the apparatus was, in most opportune time, ready at hand for the Syracusans, and with it also the engineer himself.

When, therefore, the Romans assaulted the walls in two places at once, fear and consternation stupefied the Syracusans, believing that nothing was able to resist that violence and those forces. But when Archimedes began to ply his engines, he at once shot against the land forces all sorts of missile weapons, and immense masses of stone that came down with incredible noise and violence; against which no man could stand; for they knocked down those upon whom they fell in heaps, breaking all their ranks and files. In the meantime huge poles thrust out from the walls over the ships sunk some by the great weights which they let down from on high upon them; others they lifted up into the air by an iron hand or beak like a crane’s beak and, when they had drawn them up by the prow, and set them on end upon the poop, they plunged them to the bottom of the sea; or else the ships, drawn by engines within, and whirled about, were dashed against steep rocks that stood jutting out under the walls, with great destruction of the soldiers that were aboard them. A ship was frequently lifted up to a great height in the air (a dreadful thing to behold), and was rolled to and fro, and kept swinging, until the mariners were all thrown out, when at length it was dashed against the rocks, or let fall. At the engine that Marcellus brought upon the bridge of ships, which was called Sambuca, from some resemblance it had to an instrument of music, while it was as yet approaching the wall, there was discharged a piece of rock of ten talents weight, then a second and a third, which, striking upon it with immense force and a noise like thunder, broke all its foundation to pieces, shook out all its fastenings, and completely dislodged it from the bridge.

So Marcellus, doubtful what counsel to pursue, drew off his ships to a safer distance, and sounded a retreat to his forces on land. They then took a resolution of coming up under the walls, if it were possible, in the night; thinking that as Archimedes used ropes stretched at length in playing his engines, the soldiers would now be under the shot, and the darts would, for want of sufficient distance to throw them, fly over their heads without effect. But he, it appeared, had long before framed for such occasions engines accommodated to any distance, and shorter weapons; and had made numerous small openings in the walls, through which, with engines of a shorter range, unexpected blows were inflicted on the assailants. Thus, when they who thought to deceive the defenders came close up to the walls, instantly a shower of darts and other missile weapons was again cast upon them. And when stones came tumbling down perpendicularly upon their heads, and, as it were, the whole wall shot out arrows at them, they retired. And now, again, as they were going off, arrows and darts of a longer range inflicted a great slaughter among them, and their ships were driven one against another; while they themselves were not able to retaliate in any way. For Archimedes had provided and fixed most of his engines immediately under the wall; whence the Romans, seeing that indefinite mischief overwhelmed them from no visible means, began to think they were fighting with the gods.

Yet Marcellus escaped unhurt, and deriding his own artificers and engineers, “What,” said he, “must we give up fighting with this geometrical Briareus, who plays pitch-and-toss with our ships, and, with the multitude of darts which he showers at a single moment upon us, really outdoes the hundred-handed giants of mythology?”

And, doubtless, the rest of the Syracusans were but the body of Archimedes’ designs, one soul moving and governing all; for, laying aside all other arms, with this alone they infested the Romans and protected themselves. In fine, when such terror had seized upon the Romans that, if they did but see a little rope or a piece of wood from the wall, instantly crying out, that there it was again, Archimedes was about to let fly some engine at them, they turned their backs and fled, Marcellus desisted from conflicts and assaults, putting all his hope in a long siege.

Yet Archimedes possessed so high a spirit, so profound a soul, and such treasures of scientific knowledge, that though these inventions had now obtained him the renown of more than human sagacity, he yet would not deign to leave behind him any commentary or writing on such subjects; but, repudiating as sordid and ignoble the whole trade of engineering, and every sort of art that lends itself to mere use and profit, he placed his whole affection and ambition in those purer speculations where there can be no reference to the vulgar needs of life; studies, the superiority of which to all others is unquestioned, and in which the only doubt can be whether the beauty and grandeur of the subjects examined, of the precision and cogency of the methods and means of proof, most deserve our admiration. It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and intricate questions, or more simple and lucid explanations. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearances, easy and unlabored results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required. And thus it ceases to be incredible that (as is commonly told of him) the charm of his familiar and domestic Siren made him forget his food and neglect his person, to that degree that when he was occasionally carried by absolute violence to bathe or have his body anointed, he used to trace geometrical figures in the ashes of the fire, and diagrams in the oil on his body, being in a state of entire preoccupation, and, in the truest sense, divine possession with his love and delight in science. His discoveries were numerous and admirable; but he is said to have requested his friends and relations that, when he was dead, they would place over his tomb a sphere containing a cylinder, inscribing it with the ratio which the containing solid bears to the contained. Such was Archimedes, who now showed himself, and so far as lay in him the city also, invincible.

While the siege continued, Marcellus took Megara, one of the earliest founded of the Greek cities in Sicily, and capturing also the camp of Hippocrates at Acilae, killed above 8,000 men, having attacked them whilst they were engaged in forming their fortifications. He overran a great part of Sicily; gained over many towns from the Carthaginians, and overcame all that dared to encounter him.

As the siege went on, one Damippus, a Spartan, putting to sea in a ship from Syracuse, was taken. When the Syracusans much desired to redeem this man, and there were many meetings and treaties about the matter betwixt them and Marcellus, he had opportunity to notice a tower into which a body of men might be secretly introduced, as the wall near to it was not difficult to surmount, and it was itself carelessly guarded. Coming often thither, and entertaining conferences about the release of Damippus, he had pretty well calculated the height of the tower, and got ladders prepared.

The Syracusans celebrated a feast to Artemis; this juncture of time, when they were given up entirely to wine and sport, Marcellus laid hold of, and before the citizens perceived it, not only possessed himself of the tower, but, before the break of day, filled the wall around with soldiers, and made his way into the Hexapylum. The Syracusans now beginning to stir, and to be alarmed at the tumult, he ordered the trumpets everywhere to sound, and thus frightened them all into flight, as if all parts of the city were already won, though the most fortified, and the fairest, and most ample quarter was still ungained. It is called Achradina, and was divided by a wall from the outer city, one part of which they call Neapolis, the other Tycha.

Possessing himself of these, Marcellus, about break of day, entered through the Hexapylum, all his officers congratulating him. But looking down from the higher places upon the beautiful and spacious city below, he is said to have wept much, commiserating the calamity that hung over it, when his thoughts represented to him how dismal and foul the face of the city would be in a few hours, when plundered and sacked by the soldiers. For among the officers of his army there was not one man that durst deny the plunder of the city to the soldiers’ demands; nay, many were instant that it should be set on fire and laid level to the ground: but this Marcellus would not listen to.

Yet he granted, but with great unwillingness and reluctance, that the money and slaves should be made prey; giving orders, at the same time, that none should violate any free person, nor kill, misuse, or make a slave of any of the Syracusans. Though he had used this moderation, he still esteemed the condition of that city to be pitiable, and, even amidst the congratulations and joy, showed his strong feelings of sympathy and commiseration at seeing all the riches accumulated during a long felicity now dissipated in an hour. For it is related that no less prey and plunder was taken here than afterward in Carthage. For not long after they obtained also the plunder of the other parts of the city, which were taken by treachery; leaving nothing untouched but the king’s money, which was brought into the public treasury.

But nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus; which he declining to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration, the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was then at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate that, as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honored them with signal favors.

http://www.livius.org/sh-si/sicily/sicily_t17.html

Q.E.D. Archimedes was brilliant, the Romans stole all the Greeks’ money, and Syracuse was a neutral city whose neutrality was blatantly violated by the Romans in the 2d Punic War. And the Romans did it for the money. Plutarch is pretty much a reliable source.

PLUTARCH - ANCIENT GREEK HISTORIAN - A RELIABLE SOURCE ON THE FALL OF SYRACUSE AND THE DEATH OF ARCHIMEDES

ARCHIMEDES OF SYRACUSE - THE GREATEST MATHEMATICIAN OF ANCIENT TIMES AND DEFENDER OF SYRACUSE VS. THE ROMAN SIEGE

ARCHIMEDES – THE GREATEST MATHEMATICIAN OF ANCIENT TIMES AND DEFENDER OF SYRACUSE AGAINST THE ROMAN SIEGE

MY PICKS THEN AND NOW

Of 32 first-round picks, I only got 19 right, for barely a 59% percentage. That looks good until you realize by flipping a coin I’d get 50%, so basically that’s a 9% winning percentage. Not very impressive. The only two brackets I have reasonably correct are the East, where I have Kentucky meeting West Virginia in the Regional Final, which can still happen, and the South, where I had Duke meeting Baylor in the Regional Final. Of those, I had West Virginia upsetting Kentucky in my original bracket and going to the final four, and Duke beating Baylor to get to the Final Four. In the East bracket, I was totally busted as I had Kansas hitting Georgetown in the regional. Oops! Can you say University of Northern Iowa? In the West, I had Syracuse hitting Pitt. From there I had Kansas and Pitt in the final four, and Pitt v. West Va in the finals, with West Va winning. Well, that clearly was wrong. I did pick Villanova to lose in the second round, although it was to Richmond, and not to St. Mary’s, but I’ve never thought much of Jay Wright as a tournament coach, much less an NCAA coach. He had a good run last year, but usually ‘Nova has done poorly in both the Big East and the NCAA tournaments. Temple, by contrast, has usually done well in A-10 and NCAA tournaments, and Fran Dunphy has coached many fine teams not only at Temple, but at Penn and LaSalle before that.

In light of the first two rounds, I’d have to revise all that. In the East, I think Kentucky-West Virginia, first of all, is sort of the championship within the championship. Second, I believe Kentucky will win. I am also assuming that Kentucky will beat Cornell. West Virginia will beat Washington. In the South, Duke will handle Purdue, while St. Mary’s dance will end at the hands of Baylor, although that’s a bit more of a flip. It doesn’t really matter, since Duke will beat the winner of that game and advance to the final four. So it will be Duke v. Kentucky in that bracket. At this point, Kentucky will beat Duke in a good game, but John Wall is simply better. Also Calipari is a match for coach K.

The Midwest is tougher. Of course, I love the Spartans, and they will beat UNI. Ohio State is still a #2 seed, and they should handle Tennessee. That leaves an interesting Big Ten match up of Mich State v. Ohio State in the Regional Final, which I have to like Ohio State, but then again, Tom Izzo is a terrific coach, so really, it’s a flip. I have to favor Ohio State, but Michigan State has the coaching. Then again, the Spartans will be without one of their key players due to injury. Finally, in the West regional, I like Syracuse to beat Butler, although Butler is good and playing well. I also like Kansas State to beat Xavier, although again, Xavier is good and playing well. Neither will be easy games. That leaves Syracuse against Kansas State in the regional final. Here you have a #1 against a #2, and a real dogfight. I like Syracuse, but both teams are talented and well-coached. I like Syracuse to go to the final four. Out of that bracket, then, I like Ohio State v. Syracuse, and in that match up, I actually think Syracuse has an easier game against either Ohio State/Michigan State than they did against Kansas State, and Syracuse advanced to the final Round.

The final round therefore will be Syracuse against Kentucky, and this will be a terrific game. I like Kentucky here, but it will be a terrific game.

After notes: I was stunned to see Cornell beat an outstanding Temple team, but Cornell is legit—they have a 7-footer with hands who can pass, rebound and shoot, and they’ve surrounded him with a good point guard and several excellent three point shooters who can bomb it from way downtown. So you can play inside-outside all day long, and Temple was stuck double-teaming low or pressing on the perimeter, and getting burned on both ends. Cornell put up 78 points on Temple—and Temple allowed no more than 50 something in the A-10 against great teams like URI and Richmond, and shut down Xavier defensively in the regular season. And Cornell then went out and destroyed Wisconsin for good measure. No wonder Cornell has been on the front page of the WSJ for like a week straight.

Did I mention that Cornell is in ITHACA, NY? You remember Ithaca–that’s the place ODYSSEUS or as he’s known in latin, ULYSSES was from. He was a pretty famous king who went to TROY (another city in NY and also a famous kingdom in ASIA MINOR) to fight the TROJAN WAR, then got lost on the way back.

ULYSSES story of how he gets back to ITHACA is told in the screenplay and movie, “O WHERE ART THOU BROTHER?”, which of course is based upon the novel ULYSSES by James Joyce, which of course is based upon a famous old poem in decapentasyllabic metred Homeric Ancient Greek by an old blind goat named HOMER, called the ODYSSEY.

In ancient times, everyone was required to not only read this book but to memorize and recite it. ALEXANDER THE GREAT so loved the book, he kept a copy of it under his bed, along with the ILIAD.

So yes, even CORNELL has ties to ancient greece, in fact, their very town is the embodiment of all things greek–didn’t they read the poem by Cavafy about returning to Ithaca at Jackie O’s funeral???? Isn’t that in the last collection of poems by her daughter??? Everyone knows what HOME is–it’s ITHACA.

ITHACA LEGENDARY HOME OF ODYSSEUS AKA ULYSSES IN THE ODYSSEY GREEK ISLAND OFF THE IONIAN COAST OF SOUTHERN GREECE

And right across from Cornell is ITHACA COLLEGE–alma mater of my cousin–and of course, the setting for ROAD TRIP, one of the ten greatest films ever made about college life. And yes, everyone has been with a girl like Amy Smart once in their lives. Not. But if you’re Odysseus, you can spend five years with a hot siren, and chalk it up to mental defect or the effect of some goddess like nectar, and still plead the fifth to your wife, who remains faithful for yeah, 20 years.

Cornell is the best basketball team I’ve seen with four white guys on the floor since maybe the Boston Celtics of Bird-McHale-Ainge-Rick Robey-Parrish of the early 80s. Those Celtics had four white guys and they could flat out play. Of course, they got better, NBA championship better, when they got rid of Robey and got Dennis Johnson, who could flat out PLAY, plus he could shut down Andrew Toney, the Boston Strangler and ever-underrate Sixers sharpshooter, as Simmons points out in his recent fantastic book.

–art kyriazis, Philly hoops guy
March 25, 2010

LARRY BIRD OF FRENCH LICK, INDIANA & INDIANA STATE ON COVER OF SI 1977 WITH TWO CHEERLEADERS WHO ARE NOW YOUR MOTHERS OR GRANDMOTHERS

The Sixers have finally addressed the glaring issue of three point shooting, which this blogger-columnist has hammered them on repeatedly (see earlier posts regarding this issue), by trading defensive rebounder and shot blocker Reggie Evans to Toronto for three point shooter Jason Kapono.

Kapono has excellent three point shooting numbers. He’s a career 45.4% three point FG shooter in the NBA and his free throw percentage for career is 84.7%. In addition, he’s 6 foot 8, and averages about 2 rebounds, one assist and half a steal a game, and less than one turnover. He scores about 13 points per 36 minutes, and that’s been about his career norm. He’s 29 years old and he went to college at UCLA, not too shabby.

In the playoffs with Toronto in 2007-08, Kapono in five games averaged better than 15 points per game, illustrating that the half court game of the playoffs favors his three point shooting skills. This would be of considerable interest to the sixers should they reach again the playoffs. If they have a healthy elton brand (i know that sounds weird) they actually could alternate between brand and kapono, inside and outside, and have a half court game.

So, is Kapono better than Kyle Korver, the three point guy the Sixers unloaded last year for nothing to Utah in a dumb move that created a black hole at the three point shooting position? Well, oddly enough, the answer is yes, Kapono is a BETTER three point man than Korver. Korver is about a 38.9% three point FG % lifetime; while Korver scores 13 ppg per 36 minutes played, Korver is not as efficient as Kapono. Korver needs more shots and misses more shots to get the same number of points. Kapono is an inch taller and has played much better in the playoffs than Korver.

So, in a word, while it took Eddie Stefanski a year and a half, he finished by upgrading the Sixers roster at the three point shooting end with Kapono. If Stefanski could add another perimeter shooter like Kapono, that would be terrific. Someone like a Rashard Lewis type would be ideal.

Mareese Speights made Reggie Evans expendable–Evans played half the minutes this past season he did in 2007-08–however, the Sixers should beware. Reggie Evans and Theo Ratliff, together, earned 2.5 defensive win shares together–a not insignificant figure–and they played 1700 minutes overall during the season–minutes that some other two players or one player will have to play.

No one here is suggesting that Jason Kapono can play defense or block shots like Reggie Evans or Theo Ratliff, so presumably Elton Brand will actually have to play some defense alongside Dalembert and Speights or Young.

At any rate, this is an early Christmas present for new coach Eddie Jordan.

I haven’t commented on Eddie Jordan. He had a good record in Washington, so let’s give him a chance. The hire is a bit suspicious, since Washington is still paying his salary for the most part, so it looks as if Jordan was the CHEAPEST coach with actual skills available, important since the sixers are still paying mo cheeks to sit at home, but maybe it was a choice based on merit.

then again, maybe the moon is made of cheese, and bank executives will gladly welcome government limits on their bonuses and compensation, and maybe we can re-outlaw alcohol and re-impose prohibition after we’re done nationalizing health care and the automotive industry.

Seriously, this is a good first move by Stefanski after hiring Jordan.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Well, no matter that Boston won in 7 incredible games, this has turned into a pleasant surprise, and a rivalry at that.

I remember well the old Michael Jordan-Larry Bird Chicago-Boston series of the 1980s, which were insane, with Jordan scoring infinity points, but Boston having a better team and winning anyway, and these games have been a lot like that.

Without Garnett, Boston has come down to earth, and Chicago has great young players, especially DERRICK ROSE the SUPER ROOKIE who’s really come to play. He only dropped 36 on Boston his first playoff game—Iverson-like intensity in the playoff cauldron. Watching Rose square off against Paul Pierce and Ray Allen was really something.

Chicago has at least six championship banners from the Jordan years, and a lot of titles, and Boston has at least thirteen from the Russell year, another five from the Bird years, and one from last year, so between them these two franchises have about half of the all the NBA championships of the last fifty years. It’s a lot of history and pride on the line.

I know Philly-Boston used to be something, and Boston-LA is always something, but Chicago-Boston is surely something too, and this year’s playoff series between the two was SOMETHING.

Chicago was assisted by at least three ex-Sixers this year—Larry Hughes, Tim Thomas and John Salmons—for different portions of the year. Hughes helped Chicago in the first half of the season, before he was moved to the NY Knicks, while Salmons was a late season acquisition from the Sacramento Kings. Thomas was over the hill, but helped them all year, including during the playoffs.

Everyone will remember the awful trade of Salmons, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson a couple of years back for an over the hill, injured and not so productive Chris Webber—well, to be fair, in 2005-06, Webber’s only full season with the Sixers, he did average 20 ppg, balancing scoring duties with Iverson, and the Sixers won 38 games—and missed the last playoff spot in the east by 2 games. Such is the difference between success and failure in the NBA. Everyone thought that pairing would last forever.

That is until the two of them missed fan appreciation day the next to last day of the season. All the old fat white guys on sports radio suddenly went nuts and demanded they both be traded. Are you kidding me?

By the very next season, Webber played only 18 games, Iverson was back to scoring 30 plus ppg, but the Sixers panicked and traded Iverson after only 15 games, regressed to 35 wins, again missing the playoffs by five wins. Webber’s contract was bought out and I’m not even sure he ever played again.

In the meantime, John Salmons by this past season had developed into a very fine player with Sacramento—at 6 foot seven he was a good defensive player, and he finally had learned the offensive game, pouring in twenty points a game for the lowly Kings.

Chicago, in need of a scoring guard, took notice and picked Salmons up for a song during midseason (where was Eddie Stefanski during all this?) and Salmons helped drive Chicago into the playoffs and the final seed during a late season run.

Watching a guy like Salmons who played his high school ball at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, and who spent his first four years in a Sixers uniform, help drive the Chicago Bulls to a playoff spot, was kind of annoying to me this year. It only got worse during the legendary Game Six of this years Chicago-Boston series, the triple-overtime game in which Salmons dropped 35 points on the Celtics. Now that was showing off.

Does anyone doubt that Salmons could have been helpful at the two guard position this year for the Sixers? I think the case is closed on that one. Salmons is tall, he plays good defense and he can score.

This past year Salmons earned 5.7 win shares, one of those defensive, and averaged close to 19 ppg. His field goal average was .473, very efficient, and his three point average was .415, also excellent, and he averaged 2 assists and only 1.7 turnovers a game. That goes along with 4.3 rebounds a game. Throw in a steal a game and a block a game, and you’ve got a really good player who can do a lot of good things. It’s true Salmons is now thirty years old, but so what? He might be a late bloomer, but if he’s learned to play the game, he’s learned to play the game. And he can play.

Ray Allen is what, a hundred? He was playing for Milwaukee back when the amphibians and the reptiles first walked on dry land. He’s so old that some of the cave paintings in France are attributed to him. I’m not saying Ray Allen is old, but he has grandchildren playing ball in college right now. It’s not that Ray Allen is old, but he’s the only NBA player I know who get’s Social Security checks delivered next to his NBA paychecks.

Seriously, though, Ray Allen is the ageless wonder, a beautiful player who can still play the game beautifully, and for those who think Allen Iverson is washed up or too old, I offer as exhibit one, Ray Allen. Small shooting guards who are pure shooters can play a long time in the NBA—I think here of the wondrous Hal Greer of the Sixers—a Hall of Famer—who played of course with Wilt on the 1967 team that won 68 teams and dethroned the Celtics for the title—and we should be mindful of this fact.

In short, Boston-Chicago was a wonderful, marvelous series, a beautiful thing to witness, pure basketball at its best, overtime game upon overtime game, each with its own storyline. Neither time yielded or gave quarter. It’s nice to see pro athletes play that hard and that long and give effort on that scale. Again, it’s reminiscent of the days of Jordan and Bird and when they first met in the late 1980s—those playoff series were wars between Chicago and Boston. This latest series was no less.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion philadelphia phillies

1) Tom “Odysseus the Wise” Izzo is Italian, which means that he’s practically greek, which means he’s practically Spartan. On the way to the final four, in round two, the Spartans of Michigan State defeated the Trojans of USC. The Spartans defeated the Trojans. Funny how that battle always comes out the same, millennium after millennium. Michigan State baffled USC throughout with their famed “Trojan Horse” defense, with Raymar “Achilles” Morgan’s ally-oop, the Kalin “Ajax” Lucas’ give and go, the “Nestor” low post kickout and the “Odysseus” trick ball play. Magic “Homer Hercules Son of Zeus” Johnson sat on the coach’s side on the bench, singing their tale of triumph in fifteen syllable heroic poetic rap to all that would listen. Plus, their fans hectored the USC Trojans during the entire match, telling them to go back to Paris when they were from. Plus there was this blind guy Ty Reesias on the sideline predicting that USC would lose. Bottom Line: the Spartans could play the Trojans a thousand times, and the Spartans would always win. History is history. It’s not true that Brad Pitt was at the game doing research for his sequel to Troy, the movie. Besides which, Tom “Socrates Plato Aristotle” Izzo is one of the smartest and greatest coaches ever in NCAA history. Plus he probably has actual Spartan blood in him and he has the wisdom of a thousand greek philosophers, and can coach some ball.

2) East Lansing is a rocking college town. And Michigan State coeds are the most beautiful in all the land.

3) What in the world is a “Tar Heel”?

4) Most schools ban smoking in all buildings. At the University of North Carolina, smoking is required in all buildings. After all, tobacco pays for everything in North Carolina. In fact, babies are given their first cigarettes at age one in North Carolina per state custom. Also, cigarettes are given away at all UNC home games to undergrads.

5) “WE ARE SPARTANS!!!!”

6) Anyone who doesn’t believe the Spartans will win, is condemned to be thrown into the bottomless pit of King Leonidas.

7) Three hundred Spartans are worth two million Persians, and four millions UNC players.

8) Thermopylae save the Western World from Freedom, along with the Three Hundred Spartans, who obedient to their country’s laws, lie dead there. The Spartans of Michigan State will save the US from another Southern NCAA champion and give us a Big Ten Champion.

9) All Spartans are superior genetically, because the defective ones are thrown off the mountain at birth. This includes Michigan States hoops players.

10) The Spartans have a detailed conditioning program that starts from age four. You should see what the Michigan State Hoops players do.

11) The Spartans never lose a battle. This is well known. Michigan State hardly ever loses a ballgame that matters.

12) Michigan State is playing a home game. The Final Four and Championshiop Game are in Detroit.

13) Detroit has an immense Greek population, and many of them are Spartans. And they have a rocking Greektown. Spartans love to party after they kill their opponents.

14) East Lansing, Michigan is the coolest place on earth, and home of the Spartans of Michigan State.

15) Michigan is a sensible place full of sensible people.

16) Michigan gave us Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, and all of Motown.

17) North Carolina has given us nothing culturally, unless you want to count segregation as a cultural institution.

18) Izzo is very nearly Rizzo, Philly’s most beloved mayor ever. Frank Rizzo was cool. Tom Izzo is cool.

19) The Big Ten actually go to class and get degrees, unlike their brethren in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

20) Michigan State has beaten a series of excellent, higher ranked teams to get to the finals, including UConn, all of which are better than UNC.

21) Michigan State has a number of experienced seniors on its roster who have played together for a while. Again, this is a big advantage in this era of players leaving after a year or two for the pros.

22) This one is for King Leonidas, and also for the auto industry and the unemployed auto workers of Michigan.

23) Gov. Granholm of Michigan told the boys, come home victorious with your shields, or dead upon them.

24) The best reason the Spartans will win—they are unfraid to lose, unafraid of death, unafraid of anything, and totally playing with house money at this point.

25) Because this is America, and we root for the UNDERDOG. So what if the TAR HEELS have amassed an army of two million and the Spartans are but three hundred? What does this matter to the SPARTANS????? Did they not fight and win the moral battle at Thermopylae? Don’t they still make movies about those guys 3,000 years later?

My money’s on the SPARTANS!!!!!

P.S. What IS a Tar Heel?

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Collectively, the Big Five of Temple, LaSalle, Penn, Villanova and St Joes have made more than a dozen final four appearances since the NCAAs began in 1939; Villanova was in the first NCAA tourney back in 1939, and in every decade of the NCAAs, one or more of the big Five has had an impact on the tournament each and every decade the Tournament has been running, whether it was Temple getting to the Final Four twice in the fifties, St. Joe’s to the Final Four in the sixties, Villanova and Penn to the Final Four in the seventies, Villanova winning the NCAA in the 80s, Temple dominating and getting #1 rankings and seedings in the 80s and 90s and getting to the elite 8 three times, and Villanova getting #1 seeds and reaching the elite 8 in recent years, and St. Joes getting to the final four in the last decade and getting a #1 seed.

Folks, we have the best college basketball in the country, bar none. Collectively, the Big Five does better in NCAA than almost any other region or school, excepting possibly Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and a handful of other such bigtime programs–and yet Duke has only won three NCAA titles in 14 Final Four trips, etc. The Big Five is not doing so badly.

I really like the underdogs of the NCAA–Marquette in 1977 with Al McGuire, the late Jimmy Valvano and North Caroline State (who can forget the triple overtime opening round win over Pepperdine?) in 1983, Rollie Massimino and the Villanova Wildcats upending Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 1986, and so on.

My personal favorite big five upset of all time has to be St. Joe’s beating #1 seed and #1 in the country DePaul and Mark Aguire in 1981 in the first round of the NCAA (maybe it was the 2d round).

This brings us to 2009. Villanova and Temple are in. Villanova had a very good season, but lost to Louisville in the semis of the Big East tournament. Nova’ had a good RPI and a good strength of schedule, but still, they got a #3 seed, which I thought was pretty generous for a team that really hadn’t won anything–they were third or fourth in their conference, and finished third/fourth in the tournament of their conference. Even if it’s the best conference in basketball, does finishing fourth in that conference make you the 12th best team in all of college basketball? I think a #4 seed would have been more appropriate. The NCAA worships the big east a little too much.

Next, Temple. Temple got an #11 seed, which puts them against Arizona State, a #6 seed. Now Temple actually won something–they won the A-10 Tournament. Second year in a row, in fact. Also, best player in the conference, Dionte Christmas, plays for Temple. Also, Temple has by far the toughest non-conference schedule of any A-10 team. But they beat all of those teams too, except maybe Villanova, and they gave them a tough time. Maybe if Nova’ didn’t insist on playing at the Pavilion, but at the Palestra, it would be a fair game.

Temple’s RPI is very good, and their strength of schedule is very good. In fact, if you look at most of the teams seeded from around #7-#10, Temple’s RPI and strength of schedule are BETTER than most of those 7-10 seeds. Take Michigan for example, a team that didn’t win anything, lost 13, won only 20, and was an at-large from the big 10. Michigan has a higher seed than Temple but why? Michigan’s RPI is worse, their strength of schedule much worse, and they have a much worse record than Temple.

I could pick out many more examples (UCLA?) of this, but the point is that Temple plays a big-time schedule, has been in the elite eight in three of the last twenty years, and has been ranked #1 more than once in the last twenty years, including most of 1987-88. They’re a good ballclub, and deserved at least an 8-9 seed matchup in the first round.

Frankly, i would have given Temple about the same seeding as Xavier, and higher than Dayton, a team Temple dominated during the season.

I believe Temple and Villanova will both win. Arizona State is a fine team and that game could go either way, but Temple will win this year. Villanova has a ridiculously easy first round game. Their second round matchup will be much tougher

Also, I really like the fact that the new President offered his own “bracketology” on ESPN. that was pretty cool. I don’t think we’ve had this sports minded a president since Jack Kennedy, an old football player, was going to the harvard-yale and army-navy games. A lot like Teddy Roosevelt, too.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

A very unusual thing happened the other night–something that hasn’t happened in a long time–the Sixers beat the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant playing, in LA, 94-93 on a three point buzzer beater by Andre Iguodala. I’m pretty sure some of the many celebrities that watch Laker basketball were stunned and sullen as they filed out of the building into their ferraris and maseratis and hybrids. This win capped off a four game win streak for the sixers, who have looked very fine indeed without Elton Brand weighing them down.

Coach Tony DiLeo has finally woken up to the fact that he has a three point shooter on his bench named Donyell Marshall, and has been deploying Marshall in key situations in games lately to, uh, shoot the three ball, something I’ve been lobbying for all year long. Notably, this strategy has been working quite well. When Marshall and Royal Ivey hit the three, Young and Iguodala and Speights can go to work inside without drawing double teams, or else Marshal and Ivey get free looks from the three line.

Even thought the Sixers lost in Phoenix last nite 125-116 and have three more games on the road this western trip, the Sixers are now 34-32, hold the 6th seed in the NBA east, and project to a 98% chance of making the playoffs. They are five games ahead of the Bucks who are 9th in the NBA east with 16 games to play, and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls who are in the 8th seed, and 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit, which continues to struggle without Iverson, who is hurt and out.

Speaking of the Bulls, ex-Sixer John Salmons dropped 38 points on the Celtics the other night in beating the Celtics. Even though he only scored 14 as the Sixers beat the Bulls in Philly, Salmons has become quite a much better player, and the Sean Webber trade is beginning to look worse and worse in hindsight. Salmons has become a great player and Webber was just a bust. Salmons could have been the two guard the sixers are now needing, and all we had to do was do nothing but hold onto him and let him develop. The Sixers have let a lot guys like Larry Hughes and John Salmons get away from them over the years, and after a while, you have to wonder, who is evaluating the talent around here? Would you keep Willie Green and Lou Williams and trade away John Salmons and Larry Hughes and Kyle Korver????

i don’t think so….but yet that’s the way this franchise has gone the past few years. They’ve let some explosive scorers leave for very little in return.

In addition, Eddie Stefanski, the GM, does not seem anxious to re-sign andre miller the point guard, who right now based on win shares and everything else, is the most valuable sixer on the team other than Iguodala.

If you take miller away from the sixers, the team cannot run the floor as well or as effectively, and they will need an entire season to adjust to a new point guard. It would be wiser to just re-sign Miller and let him play here until he can’t play anymore, and then work a new guy into the mix. Miller deserves it.

Also, Miller is durable. He has played something like 530 consecutive NBA games, the longest such streak in the NBA. Right now, he is more durable than Allen Iverson, or at least as durable as AI was when AI was in his prime. Miller is the youngest 32 year old I’ve ever seen play, he’s fast, he’s durable, he doesn’t get hurt, and he plays about five years younger than his age, and his game is beautiful to watch.

This signing is a no brainer. Dump elton brand, re-sign andre miller. please. please please.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

The Sixers stood pat at the trade deadline and promptly came out of the all-star break looking awful, dropping five of six. Meanwhile, Miami, which is in a position to catch Atlanta for the #4 see in the NBA east playoffs (the Sixers are 6th, Miami is 5th, and Atlanta is 4th), made a major move, obtaining Jermaine O’Neal from Toronto, though they had to give up some talent to get him. O’Neal always give the Sixers problems because he’s a good big man who’s mobile and can outplay Dalembert one on one. He will likely give Atlanta problems as well in the playoffs, incidentally.

In the meantime, looking from a distance, the Sixers have not really capitalized on the big event of the season, which is the decline and fall of the Detroit Pistons. While Orlando has risen up to join Cleveland and Boston as division leaders, the Pistons now have a worse record than the Sixers, and this was a Detroit team that last year was the #2 seed playing the Sixers and defeating them at the #7 seed. Right now
Detroit is the #7 seed BEHIND philly and fading out of the playoffs.

When a major team like this is out of the playoff picture, your GM should be approaching them about obtaining one of their players at the trade deadline, like a Rasheed Wallace, who can hit the three and rebound, and doesn’t have that much time left on his contract. He could have helped the Sixers. Or even Allen Iverson, who while obviously in the decline phase of his career, could have helped the Sixers coming off the bench, or playing the two guard, a position that has been a problem for the Sixers this year. Iverson could have helped the Sixers playing alongside Andre Miller, with Iguodala up front and Dalembert and either Young or Speights playing the power forward.

Even if AI only played 20 minutes a game, he’d help.

But the Sixers have done nothing. They instead committed everything to a gigantic blunder by signing Elton Brand, who is hurt, injured and will never be better, I predict. Even if he comes back, this is starting to look like the Jeff Ruland situation all over again. A hurt player who will never play like he did pre-injury. Or Glenn Robinson. Or Chris Webber. Or any of ten other guys that have come to this ballclub hurt and making a bundle. The guys who can play and never get hurt, like Barkeley and AI, we seem to give away for nothing.

Or Brad Doughery or Moses Malone.

How about this team?

Brad Dougherty, Moses Malone, AI, Charles Barkeley, Wilt Chamberlain.

You think you could win a few championships with that team?

That’s the five greatest sixers in history traded for virtually nothing.

For those five NBA hall of famers, the Sixers received; Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland, Andre Miller, Jeff Hornacek, Darrell Imhoff and some other throw in players.

Those are five ok players, but not hall of famers.

Malone, Barkley and Chamberlain are 3 of the top 10 all time NBA rebounders of all time, incidentally, while if you add AI, you’ve got four of the top 25 scorers in NBA history as well. Dougherty, though he was finished early by his back, was a stud every year he was in the league, 20 ppg and 10 rebounds or more. The Sixers could have had Dougherty AND Barkeley for ten years straight. They would have won five championships in all likelihood with that combination. Even against Michael Jordan that combo wins.

The late Timmy Ling, my dear prep school classmate and friend, used to make fun of the Sixers’ drafts when we were in high school. During those years, the Sixers took some #1 draft picks as follows;

1969 – Bud Ogden
1970 – Al Henry
1971 – Dana Lewis
1972 – Freddie Boyd

Ling was relentless making fun of Ogden, Henry, Lewis and Boyd, and justifiably so. While other teams were drafting some of the greatest players in history in these years (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for example) the Sixers basically decided, we aren’t going to get into a bidding war with the ABA, so we’ll just draft nobodies and pay nothing to no one. It was horrible, and got worse when Billy Cunningham walked to the ABA in 1973. The franchise hit bottom when they won only 9 games in the 73 season, still an NBA record for futility. Shortly thereafter, came George McGuiness and Dr. J and the big turnaround, but it was a bad stretch.

They got it right in 1973 with Doug Collins, but in 1974 the Sixers drafted Marvin Barnes, who I think is dead or in rehab now, but anyway, Barnes was about 7 foot, but had a drug and rap sheet as long as could be, and he ended up in the ABA and in jail much more than on the court. In 1975 the sixers drafted Darryl Dawkins #1 right out of high school.

Dawkins in today’s NBA would have been a star. In the condensed NBA of the 70s, he was only ok. He wasn’t as good as the best centers, and consequently was underrated at the time. Today, he’d be a star in the expanded NBA.

In 76 and 77 the Sixers drafted #1 Terry Furlow and Glenn Moseley, non-entities, but in 1978 they picked Mo Cheeks, a legend. 1979 was a miss, but 1980 got them Andrew Toney with the #1, and Andrew Toney became the Boston Strangler. Though his career was shortened by injury, Toney would have become a Hall of Famer with longevity.

And, of course, 1984, #1 pick was Charles Barkeley, who was the quintessential hall of famer and probably the Sixers’ best player since Wilt and before AI.

Even though Sir Charles is a DWI man, and spit on girls while he was here, and is overly fond of guns, we still like him because he’s a bit of a buffoon, and a bit of a thinking man’s man. Also, he lived to rebound and score, and he rebounded and scored because that’s what he lived for. 20 ppg and 10 rebounds pg were his calling card, and he punched those in every season like clockwork.

and no one his size (as short as he was) ever led the league in rebounding once, let alone several times.

When he played alongside moses malone, who was basically the same kind of player as Sir Charles, the two were an unstoppable force.

But the Sixers broke them up with trades, and also traded away Dougherty; Dougherty, Malone and Barkeley would have been the core of an unstoppable basketball team. You’re talking three guys who clocked 10-15 win shares every year routinely.

And we wonder why the Sixers never win championships or make the playoffs like they used to. For a while they wanted to trade Dr. J too.

Getting back to the now, Eddie Stefanski has watched and done nothing while Atlanta, a horrible team, passed the Sixers by this past year. He made noise about signing Josh Smith of Atlanta, but never got serious. Instead, Atlanta got him back, signed Bibby from Sacramento and added both a point guard and three point threat and made the playoffs last year; this year they are the fourth seed and playing much like the sixers, a young, running team, except that Atlanta are better at it than the Sixers because they can shoot the three. If I’m sitting down comparing Atlanta to the Sixers, I’m saying Atlanta has the better squad right now, up and down the lineup. It’s not close.

And because it’s not close, and because you want the 4th seed if you can’t have a LeBron, a Howard, a Garnett like Cleveland, Orlando or Boston, you have to compare what you do have to what the competition has, and try and get better at the trade deadline. Miami did this but Philly did not. I see this as weakness from the GM and a refusal to invest in the team. Furthermore, weakness caused by commitment to Elton Brand.

I had a lot of comments in the AI post, below, about what’s wrong with Elton Brand and why the salary cap dump of the AI trade was botched by the Brand sigining. In a word, the Sixers moved too quickly to lock up their salary cap room with the wrong guy. they should have waited for someone better and waited another year if necessary.

It wasn’t necessary to fire mo cheeks. Cheeks’ record was mainly due to Brand playing a poor brand of basketball; once he was pulled from the lineup, the team played better automatically. While Tony DiLeo gets some credit, the fact is the team played better because subtracting Brand was addition by subtraction.

Cheeks is the guy who got them to the playoffs last year. It remains to be seen if DiLeo has the necessary skills to get the Sixers to the playoffs and actually win two games if he gets there. I doubt that he does.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Big Five Basketball has been dying a slow death in Philadelphia the past few years, unnoticed and unmourned by the schools involved and by the sportswriters, telecasters and other media figures who once celebrated it so ardently. At its height in the 1970s and 1980s, all of the Big Five games were at the Palestra of Penn, a neutral site, many of those games were locally televised, and often there were doubleheaders, meaning you could see two basketball games for the price of one, perhaps a non-Big Five matchup paired with a Big Five Game.

The unraveling of the Big Five has been well-documented. It started with Villanova’s demands after it’s national title in 1985 for Big Five home games at the Pavilion and to be released from its contractual obligation to play all of the required Big Five Games. Once all the dust settled, the restructured Big Five agreement no longer required the games to be played at the Palestra, but rather alternated to home and home series between each school involved, and even that was negotiated by the schools involved, e.g. Villanova might want two home games for every away game.

Consequently, for example, although Villanova recently won a “Big Five” game against Temple this year, it really wasn’t a “Big Five” game in the traditional sense of the term. The game was a home game for Villanova, held at the Pavilion at Villanova, meaning it was a home game for Villanova with few or no Temple fans. Temple has a good team this year, but there’s an enormous difference in playing a Big Five Game at a neutral site like the Palestra in front of a crowd of half your fans and half their fans, and playing the same game at the Villanova Pavilion in front of a hostile audience.

Villanova has completely dominated “Big Five Play” as we now know it in recent years, but they’ve done so by playing two or more of the annual Big Five games at Villanova’s Pavilion each year, thus giving Villanova home court for two of those Big Five games plus a large gate share. The main reason for this is that Villanova is more concerned about their national ranking and Big East ranking than they are about the Big Five.

Well, I have a modest proposal to salvage the Big Five as we once knew it and put it back on the road to what it once was. It will involve a bit of radical surgery, but it might be the best thing overall.

My proposal is as follows; expel Villanova from the Big Five for the next five years and replace them with Drexel. All Big Five games will once again be at the Palestra, a neutral site. The new Big Five will be Temple, LaSalle, St. Joes, Drexel and Penn. Drexel will be delighted with the arrangement and Villanova might actually come crawling back asking to be let in on the new/old terms of playing at the Palestra at the end of five years. Then you could have a six team league of Big Five teams.

The situation is pretty clear; since 1985, Villanova has gotten too big for its britches. Unfortunately, they mistook a Cinderella season in which they overcame unbelievable odds to win an NCAA championship for a sign from the heavens that they were better than everyone else in the big five, and ever since, Villanova has been spending more money on recruiting, coaching and building a big-time program, all in an ill-conceived quest to be a nationally ranked team each and every year, oblivious to the fact that the odds against Villanova ever winning another NCAA title again are stratospheric (especially with Jay Wright, a great recruiter and great regular season coach, but a poor NCAA tournament coach at the helm).

The rest of the Big Five is under no such illusions. St. Joes’s even after it’s national run with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West under Phil Martelli remains a locally minded program that aims to field a good team every year without having its head in the clouds; Temple with Fran Dunphy has continued the tradition set by his predecessor of attaining A-10 excellence and making the NCAAs each year and building from there, and Temple continues to put out more good NBA pros than Villanova does year in and year out; Penn continues to be the class of the Ivy League, though currently they are going through a rebuilding time; while LaSalle is struggling they have shown signs of coming around again; and finally, Drexel has really shown signs that they are truly a major college program to be reckoned with.

At this point in time, Drexel is a better fit for the Big Five than Villanova. Drexel is better suited to playing its Big Five games at the Palestra by geography and location, and Drexel would benefit by joining the Big Five in every way. Villanova can continue to have home and home series with any and all of the big five schools—they just won’t be Big Five games.

Finally, it should be incumbent upon the new Big Five to get a TV or cable contract to televise the new Big Five locally so that the new Big Five games are televised locally in the region. A new generation of fans should be built up loyal to philly college basketball.

These are modest proposals, but necessary ones. The Big Five must be saved.

–Art Kyriazis, Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009