Breaking down the Bracket

WRITTEN BY: RODNEY SCEARCE

One great aspect of Can of Corn Sports is the opportunity we provide our readers to contribute to the conversation and tell their own stories.  Middle Relief stories are those written by guest columnists.  If you would like to write something for Can of Corn or have a great idea – please tweet @can_of_corn or email us at canofcornsports@ymail.com.

I’ve taken my time, I’ve analyzed my picks, and I’d like to assure you that I’m confident with my selections.

But, I’m not.

This is by far one of the toughest brackets I’ve ever had to deal with.  There are so many wild cards in play this tournament season.  Here’s a few to keep in mind:

1.)    More mid-majors (and dangerous ones, too) – I’m counting eight (nine, if you want to include the Bonnies) that are all easily capable of winning one game.  A couple of them will surely make the Sweet 16.  Unfortunately, there are so many this year that we see last year’s Cinderella (VCU) set to take on one of the mid-majors most likely to make some noise, Wichita St.  That’s disappointing because both of them could have made a run.  The other six to be careful of when filling out your bracket: St. Louis, Long Beach State, Murray State, Creighton, Ohio, and Belmont.

2.)    UCONN – Which team are we going to see out there?  They’re extremely talented.  The have all the athleticism and size to take on anyone, but they so often this year have played like goofs and made their team look like a joke.  Calhoun is back and they seem to have a chip on their shoulder.  Watch out for them in the second round against Kentucky, they may just break everyone’s bracket.

3.)    Henson’s wrist – I’m a Tar Heel fan and I’d like to say they are going all the way, but if Henson’s wrist limits him, my guys won’t make it out of the Sweet 16.  If something amazing happens and they do, Kansas will destroy them in the Elite 8.  Yes, Henson’s wrist on his non-shooting hand is that big of a deal.

4.)    Fab Melo – This guy just doesn’t get it.  He can’t keep his grades up (“up” is a deceiving word here) and has now effectively ruined his team’s chances of a run.  With Melo now ineligible, when does Syracuse lose?  I think they still cruise in to the Sweet 16, but Vandy takes them easily.  The first team with an effective inside game will beat them.  Hell, we may even have our first 16-seed take down a #1.  I highly doubt it, but I’ve seen Asheville play and they are no joke.  Still, at the same time, I feel bad for Melo.  Syracuse is a really good school and it’s probably much more difficult for him to keep up his grades there than it would be at most other schools.  I bet he now wishes he had taken that signing bonus at Kentucky.  If Calipari can get DeMarcus Cousins through eligibility, he can do it for anyone.

I’ll run through each of my brackets.  With the wild cards in-play and all of the uncertainty, I folded and went with my gut opinions.

South

As much as I’d love to write down UCONN for my Sweet 16, I can’t convince myself to gamble against Kentucky so early.  Unfortunately for Indiana, they aren’t playing in the state of Indiana and quite frankly, they stink anywhere else – I’ve got Wichita State matching up against UK in the Sweet 16.  This one is no problem for Kentucky and they cruise to the Elite Eight.  The bottom half of the bracket is much less competitive.  Baylor and Duke, no doubt about it.  I’ve got Baylor taking Duke because no one on Duke will be able to defend Perry Jones III.  Unfortunately for Baylor, Kentucky can defend Jones and Kentucky will subsequently represent the South in New Orleans.

West

I don’t care who wins between Memphis and St. Louis because at the end of the day, neither beat Sparty.  I keep hearing about New Mexico making a run.  I just can’t convince myself that they will beat both Long Beach and Louisville.  I’ve got Louisville making the Sweet 16.  Murray State is good, but one win against St. Mary’s didn’t do it for me – Marquette tramples them.  Florida wants to welcome Missouri in to the SEC in a potential Round of 32 matchup.  Not happening – Missouri works them and Bradley Beal chucks up the deuces to Gainesville because he’s headed to the NBA.  Missouri over Marquette and Michigan State easily beats Louisville.  The Missouri and Michigan State matchup will be a tough one to call.  In one bracket I’ve got Missouri and another I’ve got Michigan State.  If I had to bet, I’d go with Draymond Green and Coach Izzo.

East

Syracuse makes it to the Sweet 16 because Kansas State isn’t big enough to take advantage of no Fab Melo.  Wisconsin will try to slow down Vandy and turn it in to another drawn-out boring game, but it won’t happen.  Vandy wins this one, no problem.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they don’t get to play UNC and Duke each game so even if you have them making it to the Sweet 16, they won’t beat Ohio State.  Ohio State will take on Vandy in the Elite Eight because a Melo-less Syracuse can’t compete with them.  Ohio State wins this game.  It’ll be tough, and Vanderbilt could pull it out, but I still like the Buckeyes.

Midwest

I like UNC to beat Creighton and take on the Wolverines in the Sweet 16.  NC State will roll over the Aztecs, but hit a wall against the Hoyas as Georgetown moves on.  Kansas will not have a problem against St. Mary’s or Purdue and I’ll still take the Jayhawks over the Hoyas as they move on to the Elite Eight.  UNC will beat Michigan because Michigan can’t run with them, end of story.  The UNC/Kansas winner will rest solely on Henson’s wrist.  If he’s healthy, the Heels will match up just fine against the Jayhawks in this rematch from the Final Four in 2008.  Roy Williams will get his vengeance and the Heels will march on down to New Orleans.

My predictions for the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, & National Championship

Final Four

Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, and North Carolina will make up my Final Four.  From these 4, I believe we’ll see a rematch from the December 3rd game in Lexington – the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the North Carolina Tar Heels.  Kentucky is more talented and by all accounts, they should win.  However, I will NEVER pick Kentucky over the Tar Heels.  EVER.  I say the Heels get their revenge from the one-point loss at Rupp and cut down the nets for their 3rd time in 8 seasons.  You can discount this as me being a homer, but let’s be honest, the Heels have a real shot and I’m not making any drastic predictions.  However, I’ll go back to my wild cards – if Henson’s wrist is not 100%, UNC will be lucky to even make the Final Four and you may see the Wildcats get Calipari his first championship (only to be taken away a few years later following another NCAA investigation).  – Sorry, had to say it.

Enjoy the tournament.

Comment below with your Final 4 picks and remember to click here and  join Can of Corn’s FREE NCAA Bracket Challenge There will be a prize for the winner!

Rodney Scearce is the Public Relations Coordinator for a major professional sports team.  He earned his bachelor’s from the University of North Carolina and received a Master’s in Business Administration and Master’s in Sport Business Management from the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida.  Having grown up in the Research Triangle, Rodney was born into a basketball culture.  He grew up a fan of the Charlotte Hornets but his passion is college basketball.  He was in the heart of North Carolina for the golden years of Dean Smith and Coach K.  He understands the Tobacco Road rivalry and considers his own involvement a badge of honor.  Though he strongly dislikes Duke, his respect for the program and the rivalry is second to none.  Rodney is a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Carolina Panthers, but will tell you that his expertise lie within college basketball and everything involved with it.   You can follow Rodney on Twitter @rscearce.

MMA: Debunking the Myths

By: Thomas McCulloch

One great aspect of Can of Corn Sports is the opportunity we provide our readers to contribute to the conversation and tell their own stories.  Middle Relief stories are those written by guest columnists.  If you would like to write something for Can of Corn or have a great idea – please tweet @can_of_corn or email us at canofcornsports@ymail.com.

“TELL ME AGAIN ABOUT THIS CAGE FIGHTING STUFF?”

So I was asked if I would write a piece about MMA. With the sport being so young I wanted to take this opportunity and write about some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about MMA that I hear a lot from the casual fight fan. Now I understand that not everyone has the same passion for the sport as I do but I feel that it is important to treat everyone’s interest respectfully. With that being said let’s jump into the first misconception of the great combat sport known as mixed martial arts.

“SO YOU DO THAT UFC STUFF?”

Anytime I am asked about MMA the first question, almost 100% of the time, is “So you do that UFC stuff?” This question, more than any other, gets under the skin of any hardcore MMA fan. Why you might ask? Simple, the sport is MMA and the league is the UFC. Think of it this way if I grabbed a baseball and asked you to go outside with me to play I would not ask you “Hey, you want to go out and play MLB?” That would be awkward and most likely you would look at me funny and think I was a moron. The same goes for a true MMA fan when they are asked about the sport. The UFC has done a great job at marketing their brand and making it synonymous with the sport, but please for the love of all that is good, next time you talk about the sport say “MMA” not “UFC”.

“YOU JUST HAVE TO BE A TOUGH GUY TO BE GOOD AT MMA”

A lot of people that look at MMA from afar see it as two people in a cage beating the crap out of each other with reckless abandonment until one falls and that is the end of the contest. This could not be farther from the truth. To be a success in MMA it takes a lot of work, the top guys in the sport spend countless hours in the gym working on strategies and techniques to win their next fight. Most fighters train two to three times a day, five days a week. They train wrestling, Brazillian jiu-jitsu, and some style of stand-up fighting discipline. As the sport continues to grow and become more popular, some of the best athletes in the World are taking their shot at becoming a mixed martial artist. Olympic athletes such as Ben Askren, freestyle wrestling; Hidehiko Yoshida, Judo, and Joe Warren, Greco Roman wrestling, are now fighting and establishing themselves in the sport. With a bigger audience, more sponsorship money, and the paychecks getting bigger, these amazing athletes are finding a way to continue in a competitive sport as a professional. With this trend continuing the sport as a whole is becoming more legitimate as true sport.
The above misconceptions are just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t want to come across as a pouting hardcore MMA fan so I won’t continue my rant! I hope this has opened your eyes to the sport of MMA if you are a casual outsider to the sport. If you love the sport as I do, you understand my frustration with these misconceptions. The next time I write I promise I will be a lot more positive.

Originally from Independence, MO, Thomas McCulloch is a graduate of the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO.  He has been an avid fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for the past 16 years.  He currently works as the Director of Communications for the Titan Fighting Championship and is the Co-Founder and CEO of In the Cage MMA (learn more at itcmma.net).  In the past he worked as the Producer and Co-Host of the Fight Show Live on Sports Radio 810 WHB.  Thomas has firsthand experience with the sport of MMA from several different sides of the sport and his longtime love of the sport combined with his professional experience grants him a unique perspective on Mixed Martial Arts.  You can follow Thomas on Twitter @TitanTMAC

2012: The Year of Nike

Written By: Matt Vinson

One great aspect of Can of Corn Sports is the opportunity we provide our readers to contribute to the conversation and tell their own stories.  Middle Relief stories are those written by guest columnists.  If you would like to write something for Can of Corn or have a great idea – please tweet @can_of_corn or email us at canofcornsports@ymail.com.

2012 may be the last year of Earth, but Nike is doing everything in its power to make sure it is THEIR year.  To start with, Nike swooped (more like swooshed) into the NFL’s offices and pulled off a biggie. Nike ousted Reebok as the official provider of the NFL’s uniforms for the next five years, as the NFL carved up the apparel categories.  Reebok, which had a decade long partnership as the NFL’s sole provider of apparel, has to be kicking itself.  The Nike deal, valued at 1.1B (according to Sports Illustrated and Fortune magazine) continues Nike’s foray into football apparel.  Already known for their outlandish or stylish musings (depending on your side of the coin) of college team uniforms such as Oregon, Nike now has the biggest stage of all to promote their brand.  In a nation where jersey sponsorship has yet to catch on like the motherland, Nike essentially now has the only “jersey sponsorship” that matters.  While the likes of Best Buy, Home Depot, and Chase cannot yet put their logo on an NFL jersey, Nike’s own swoosh trademark will be prominently displayed on EVERY jersey of the most watched US sport.  And as Reebok tries to go out with a bang…

This attempt to be game changing is way too late.  Take a peak below at some of the mock up Nike jerseys made to look like their college Pro Combat counterparts. (Quick note, these are not officially proposed by Nike)

Looking to maintain the position as the superior athletic brand, Nike is never willing to shake a few things up in order to expand their reach.  The entire NFL jersey opportunities are exciting if you are like me, and welcome the change to many of the boring traditional looks many teams sport (I’m looking at you Indy and KC).

Along with this bombshell of a sponsorship deal, Nike recently released the plan for its ultimate personal activity counter known simply as the Nike+ FuelBand. As Nike explains, Life is Sport. Make it Count.  The stylish armband acts as a calorie/step/time counter while offering much more.  With the idea that every movement you make should be counted as activity, Nike seeks to help people track progress in making their life more active.  By setting goals and dynamically tracking you statistics throughout the day, and by combining this great armband with the today’s app based society, Nike has hit the ground running (pun intended) with a great product.  However, not only is the product itself attractive and useful the marketing behind the product has been brilliant.  Partnering with social media guru Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty (@DigitalRoyalty) Nike rolled out the revealing and preordering of the FueldBand at an extravagant launch party which included the likes of Lance Armstrong, Derek Jeter, and Kevin Durant.  (Martin’s description of the launch can be found here http://www.amyjomartin.com/2012/the-scoreboard-for-life/.

The social media aspect Nike and Digital Royalty brought to the launch shows the brilliant grasp of the use of all forms of media that Nike has.  With expected ad revenue of $260 million for Twitter this year, it is no surprise Nike was one of the first lucky brands to be designated to have their own Twitter Brand Page (Nike Basketball actually had their brand page before Nike as a whole).  It is no surprise then to find the current state of the brand page focused on this exciting new piece of equipment.

Nike just gets IT.  With it only being January 25, of this early year of Armageddon, Nike has already built excitement for the coming year(s). They understand the importance of social media, and this understanding will lead to their outstanding year. The Year of Nike!

Originally from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Matt Vinson graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in Engineering Technology.  He completed his graduate work at the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at UCF where he received a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and a Master’s in Sports Business Management.  His education gives him a unique perspective of applying a highly analytical and technical mind to the field of sports business and marketing.  Matt has worked for Lockheed Martin, UCF Athletics, and the Orlando Magic and is currently employed as a Digital Coordinator for High 5 Sports Marketing in San Francisco, CA.  Matt is intrigued by the innovative ways sports organizations and leagues are utilizing social media to not only connect with fans, but also create new marketing opportunities.  You can follow Matt @MatthewVinson and add him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/MatthewVinson.

The Baylor Dilemna

 

Submitted by: Nick Freeman

For weeks now, all of college football has been talking about expansion. Most of the expansion talk has revolved around Texas A&M and their determination to join the SEC. A few days ago, the SEC voted to let Texas A&M join their conference but, only if there is threat for legal action. The problem is many of the teams in the Big 12 are considering legal action, with Baylor leading the charge. The question is, why does Baylor care if Texas A&M joins the SEC when they didn’t say a word when Nebraska went to the Big 10 and Colorado went to the PAC 10, which is now the PAC 12.

I believe Baylor is worried about the conference breaking up, if it does break up, they know the chances aren’t good that they would get invited to a major conference. Of the 10 teams currently in the Big 12, Texas A&M is trying to go to the SEC. Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas tech are all being mentioned as candidates to join the PAC 12.  Mizzou, Kansas, and K-State are rumored to be candidates to join the Big East. That leaves Baylor and Iowa State with nowhere to go. Baylor has a student body of roughly 12,000 students. For a comparison Alabama has a little over 27,000 students. Baylor just doesn’t have the size or the money a big conference would be looking for, so who can blame them for trying to stop Texas A&M from leaving?

If all of the conference expansion actually occurs, it will change college football as we know it. Rivalries that we have followed for years will cease to exist. They will be replaced with rivalries we have to fly halfway across the state to see. Suppose Texas goes to the PAC 12 and Texas A&M goes to the SEC to watch Texas play USC you have to go clear to California if you’re a Texas fan and to Texas if you’re a USC fan. You can’t just drive an hour and a half and go to College Station from Austin. Aside from that, if the Big 12 breaks up, the bowl system will have to be completely reconfigured. In a few weeks, Oklahoma will decide whether they are going to the PAC 12 or not and we will know the future of the Big 12. Hopefully, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe can come out of his cave perform a miracle and keep conference armageddon from happening.