Expertise's Politics and Sports Blog


Thursday, March 17, 2005
March Madness Thursday: Afternoon Session

Well it didn't take long for the bracket busting to start.  #12. Milwaukee beat #5. Alabama in the Chicago Region, and pretty handily I might add.  I don't recall Alabama ever leading in that game, and kept a sizable lead down the stretch, leading by as many as 14 at one point in the second half.  I didn't expect Alabama to make it to Chicago anyway, but I thought they had enough to win that game.  But that's what I get for having faith in the SEC.

Speaking of which, Kentucky didn't make theirs an easy game, only beating #15. Eastern Kentucky by eight.  E. Kentucky played hard, and had a pretty good post game.  That's pretty impressive when they don't have a true center.  They were able to pull it within five, but Kentucky just had too much talent.  I think Tubby Smith wouldn't be at Kentucky next year if he had choked this one.

Oklahoma pulled away from Niagara, as I figured.  And Pacific delivered a solid win over Pittsburgh.  I'm calling this one now; Washington won't make it to Albuquerque.  Write that down.

Right now, Iowa is down by six early to Cincinnati.  I said Iowa would win, and I still think that's possible.  Pennsylvania and Boston College will start up in a few minutes.  Washington and Montana will start up in about 15 minutes or so, and UTEP vs. Utah should be a tossup.  Enjoy.

Posted at 03:12 pm by Expertise
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March Madness Thursday: Noon Schedule.

A number of great games going on right now...

The biggest shakeup at the moment is Wisconsin-Milwaukee leading Alabama by double digits.  I didn't think Alabama would make it to next weekend, but I thought they would seal the deal against Milwaukee, though.

A number of teams are trying to get the jitters out of them early today, as Eastern Kentucky is trailing behind Kentucky, but are still a couple of 3's of getting back into this game.  Niagara is hanging in there with Oklahoma, but I'd expect them to start pulling away anytime now.  The last game, Pacific vs. Pitt, should be a highly charged game and I expect that to be a close one all the way up to the end.

I'll be back around 3:00 PM to update and tell you about the afternoon games.

Posted at 01:05 pm by Expertise
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The Blogosphere: A Caste System?

I've been paying attention over the last couple of weeks to the discussion about inclusiveness of the blogosphere.  The Susan Estrich vs. Michael Kinsley "feud" has sparked a discussion on several blogs about the struggles of women bloggers and whether there is a "good ole boy" network, per se.

There are several reasons why blogs are more popular than others.  A good reason is that bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and Michelle Malkin, for example, are also columnists and have a strong fanbase in which they were able to attract to their websites.  That's why Malkin's blog became such a force so quickly.  Others, like Powerline, became popular mainly by being unrepentant whistleblowers in the face of the mainstream media.  Before Rather, there was their battles with the Associated Press, and I have become a big fan of Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff''s work and scholarly analysis of current events. (What irony: his name is Deacon, yet he's a Terps fan.  Ah well.)

However, most bloggers start from scratch; no fanfare, no readership, and no identification.  In fact, I'm sure several bloggers quit after only a few weeks because blogging at first seems like a hobby, but becomes a tedious chore.  Several bloggers post 3 or more times a day, and all of it is new material.  Some people simply don't have the time or the patience for that kind of writing.  The fact that you check your blog a few hours after you posted what you THINK is a masterpiece, and see the blog looks the same as when you left the computer earlier, can be quite disheartening. 

The blogosphere runs off of a free market system, and that market can be very cruel.  You have two choices; you can quit, or you can dig in your heels and sustain until you get your break.  Say what you will about LaShawn Barber, but the bottom line is she made contacts and did what she could to have people notice her.  Like Malkin, her writings are provocative, and they get people to pay attention to what she's saying and the things she champions.  In a market, you have to sell something that very few can provide; that includes perspectives, backgrounds, and writing prowess.  You have to be exceptional.  If you sound like everyone else in the blogosphere, you're going to have the same ratings as everyone else in the blogsphere.

Is there a blogosphere hierarchy?  No doubt, and at the center of it, particularly on the political conservative side, is Glenn Harlan Reynolds.  What makes his position so unique is that he refers so many blogs that Instapundit becomes a central source for a lot of the blogosphere.  It's very rare that Instapundit doesn't take the lead on the top issue of the day (well, Powerline and LGF completely led with Rather, but possibly because Reynolds was sick that day, if I recall).  Thus, the blogs he links to most generally receives a heck of alot of traffic, which creates a network (Powerline, Althouse, Kaus, Hewitt, etc).  

That's not a bad thing; that's simply how it is.  You got to get in where you fit in.  When a new product with a fresh name comes out, it's always going to be harder to compete with the brand names, because the brands will always have their loyal and faithful base.  Thus, in a lot of cases you have to be significantly better than the brands in order to be truly competitive.  You also have to adapt to circumstances and problems a lot quicker than they have to.  For example, VodkaPundit took some time off this week from his blog, but was able to get some well-known bloggers to step in for him.  Reynolds has done the same in the past.  But how many other bloggers could do the same thing?  Very few.

I'm not a syndicated columnist (although I aspire to be), a lawyer at a big firm, a law professor at a well-known university, a talk radio show host, nor a political consultant or analyst.  I'm just me.  I go to school, I referee, and I blog.  I like politics and sports, which is what I mostly write about.  It's not the easiest road to take in the blogosphere, but it's the road most traveled.  One day, my persistence will get me where I want to go; until then, I'm content with where I'm at and will adjust my little spot in the sphere in order to attract more visitors.  I have a vision, and while it may take a minute, I'll see it through. :)

UPDATE:  This post was featured on Men's News Daily, which is probably the best collection of news and commentary on the internet.  So if you read my article there, feel free to leave a comment on either the tagboard or in the comments section.  Check out the links on the sidebar and click Home in order to see some of my current writings, including the California gay marriage ruling, March Madness, and the continuing fight in Congress over filibusters.

So welcome, and please visit again.

Posted at 05:24 am by Expertise
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March Madness: Round 1 Thursday.

Aiight, this is it.  It's put up or shut up.

Thursday starts the annual sacrifice of 63 teams in nine cities across the country.  In three weeks, we will have our national champion.

That's what makes March Madness special.  There are several NBA coaches and superstars that have won NBA Titles, but was never good enough to lead his team through six straight in order to be called NCAA Champion.  To be an NCAA Champion is to belong to a pretty elite group.

So here are Thursday's games, and my picks (I placed my upsets in yellow font):


Chicago:

- #1. Illinois over #16. Fairleigh Dickinson

- #9. Nevada over #8. Texas

- #5. Alabama over #12. Wisconsin-Milwaukee

- #4. Boston College over #13. Pennsylvania

- #6. LSU over #11. UAB

- #3. Arizona over #14. Utah State

- #10. St. Mary's over #7. Southern Illinois

- #2. Oklahoma State over #15. Southeastern Louisiana


Albuquerque:

- #1. Washington over #16. Montana

- #8. Pacific over #9. Pittsburgh

- #11. UCLA over #6. Texas Tech

- #14. Winthrop over #3. Gonzaga (That's right.  I said it.)

- #7. West Virginia over #10. Creighton

- #2. Wake Forest over #15 Chattanooga


Syracuse:

No games scheduled.


Austin:

- #6. Utah over #11. UTEP

- #3. Oklahoma over #14. Niagara

- #10. Iowa over #7. Cincinnati

- #2. Kentucky over #15. Eastern Kentucky


I don't understand the reasoning of not having an even amount of games on Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday (I think it's because CBS wants to preserve it's Sunday night lineup), but I wish they would have kept it the way it was.  And I definitely hate the idea of naming the regions after cities.  What was wrong with East, Southeast, Midwest, and West?

Why try to fix something that isn't broken?  Ah well.  *shrugs*

Also, I plan to do some updates throughout the weekend, so check back to see what's going on.

Posted at 02:37 am by Expertise
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Democrats threaten to throw GOP in briar patch.

Since some of you have probably never heard Southern fables, have you ever heard the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby?

To sum it up, Brer Fox set a trap on Brer Rabbit, and once it was set, threatened to throw him in the briar patch, which is a wooded area full of thorns.  However, Fox didn't realize that rabbits are so small that they could easily slide around within the patch, and that's where they generally make their homes anyway.  Brer Rabbiit used Fox's ignorance against him, and begged Fox not to throw him in it.  Hence, Fox ended up helping Brer Rabbit escape thinking he was actually hurting him.

Now to today's big story.  The Republicans have announced that they have enough votes to implement the "nuclear option", which will pretty much kill off the filibuster in the Senate.  This means the judicial nominations held up by the Democrats will now go through the Senate by a mere majority vote.  In seeking retaliation, the Democrats threaten to stop all Senate business with the exception of national security and military issues.

Not only would this hurt the Democrats immensely by being viewed as obstructionists, but it would keep the Republicans' two major strengths in focus on the Senate floor the whole time.   The Democrats will continue to shoot themselves in the foot and continue to lose even more of their seats as long as they engage in this sort of childish behavior. 

Democrats are the minority.  Deal with it.

Posted at 03:30 pm by Expertise
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California declares two laws unconstitutional.

California Superior Court judge Richard Richard Kramer ruled that two laws, one created by the legislature and one by referendum, were unconstitutional and same-sex marriages were legal in California.  The legislation was a 1977 ruling that defined marriage as "a union between a man or a woman".  A California proposition passed by over 2/3rds of the state passed in 2000 was also thrown out.

I've read Kramer's ruling.  I'm more inclined to support rulings or opinions like these if they were based on liberty standards rather than so-called equal protection rulings and precedents, such as this one.  Especially the sex discrimination argument, which is about as laughable as anti-school voucher advocates arguing those were illegal because churches would get it and thus violate the Establishment Clause.  However, when you have activist judges - particularly based in San Francisco, no less - any rationale will be used no matter how stupid.

At The Volokh Conspiracy, the blogosphere's guide for judicial rulings and legal opinions, Eugene Volokh reminds readers that opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment warned that homosexual marriage among other things could be declared constitutional through it's passage.  ERA never passed, but both California and Massachusetts legislatures both passed their own versions, and both were used in the rationale of the courts to overturn homosexual marriages.

What both courts did - and Kramer followed Massachusetts's lead on this - is state that gender discrimination exists because both partners denied of marriage was of the same sex.  But that twists the meaning of discrimination.  Same-sex advocates weren't denied a marriage license because they were male, or because they were female.  They were denied because they were two people of the same sex.  Both courts ignored the state granting marriage licenses to both males and females under certain circumstances. 

Just because the qualifications of marriage in a state are based on sex does not mean sex discrimination exists.  By that logic, as BoiFromTroy opines, what's stopping them from declaring unisex bathrooms are unconstitutional?  And I got another one:  why don't they declare unisex sports teams unconstitutional as well?

Let me stop, because that will be next.  Continuing...

Another argument the court made, on pg 11, is that the Proposition can't stand because the "discriminatory purpose" of the Proposition "does not determine whether there is nonetheless a legitimate governmental interest" in limiting same-sex marriage.  Sorry; I find this argument quite weak, because a Proposition doesn't have to include a rationale in order to be enforced by the government.  The mere fact that it was passed by a majority (in this case, a 2/3rds supermajority) means that the courts should be compelled, in my opinion, to find their OWN rationalle in overturning the proposition.  For the judiciary to use a law created by the legislature in order to overturn a law that was passed by proposition through the SAME VOTERS WHO ELECT THE LEGISLATURE is flat wrong.

Courts could use this in the future - and probably have already - in order to justify nullifying propositions.  If a proposition is going to be treated lower than legislation, or even legal prescedents, for that matter, then what's the use of creating and passing propositions?  Lately it seems as if I never hear about any propositions being upheld in court; they're all being overturned.

Finally, you can expect every court that will overturn their respective gay marriage bans to mention Loving v. Virginia, the federal case that interracial marriage bans unconstitutional.  However, the only connection they can make between interracial marriage and gay marriage is the discrimination factor.  The discrimination argument doesn't hold water when you look at race as a physical and genetic factor while homosexuality is purely behavioral.   

That's why I am disgusted when I hear gay rights advocates mention the civil rights advances of the 1960's and try to connect them to their own agenda.  With homosexuality being a behavioral trait, you run the risk of setting a standard of making ordinances, whether state or local, of other behaviors unconstitutional.  If you use the Loving prescedent to justify gay marriages, I don't see how legislatures won't be forced eventually to legalize prostitution, polygamy, incest, etc.  You might think that's insulting and unrealistic, but people were saying the same things about gay marriage 30 years ago, as Volokh showed in the link above.

All I'm saying is, the ends do not justify the means.  If you are going to make a coherent argument in order to throw out gay marriage bans, then do it responsibly and use proper legal reasoning.  The sloppily written opinions of justices in the past, done mostly through good intentions, have opened up a pandora's box of bad legal opinions based on weak reasoning that has been placed upon the nation against their will.  The supposedly good decisions judges make today can be used to make very bad ones tomorrow.

Posted at 05:13 am by Expertise
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Monday, March 14, 2005
Spring Break and Contraceptives.

Instapundit linked to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article on The University of Wisconsin's health department advising college students to have emergency contraception - the morning-after pill - with them while they are on their Spring Break trips.

Then Reynolds said this:

You'd think that anti-abortion folks would approve, unless they just don't like the idea of people having sex, which certainly seems to be the issue in the article. My own criticism -- not echoed in the article -- is that they should be encouraging students to take non-emergency contraceptives with them. I mean, if you're going to be prepared, why not be properly prepared?

Here's an even better idea...why don't they stop acting like whores?

I'm not one that believes no one should have sex before marriage, but let's get real here.  Our society worries so much about contraception access and availability, but fails to encourage kids to make cogent decisions.  One of those is the idea that you don't have to sleep with every man you meet on the beach.

Just a thought. *shrugs*

Posted at 12:32 pm by Expertise
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The Contender, Episode 3: Ishe vs. Ahmed.


(Photo: Yahoo's "The Contender" Page)

Folks, you know it had to come down to this.

This is probably one of the most heated rivalries I've seen on a reality tv show, and that includes the Chris Leben/Josh Koscheck feud from the Ultimate Fighter.  And unlike that feud, this one wouldn't disappoint.

First, the show.  The show starts with how the West Coast were disappointed with Ishe's refusal to fight Ahmed last week.  Ishe still stood his ground, saying he wasn't ready for it and he'll fight Ahmed when he's ready.  He also expressed frustration over Jesse's words at the pre-fight press conference, where both had exchanged words and Ishe had to leave the event to cool off.

Later, Stallone awarded another gold boxing glove medallion to Jesse for winning the fight.  Jesse now doesn't have to fight until Episode 8, by which that time all fighters would have fought.  The West Coast's reward for winning the flag/puzzle competition was Tommy, who is one of the trainers, taking them to a top clothing outlet and buying them all a new set of clothes.

Later, Sugar Ray decides to do some "light" sparring with Ahmed, just to see what he knows and get a feel of him.  However, nobody told Ahmed that it was supposed to be "light", and he connected with some fairly heavy punches and shots to the dome.  Ray wasn't that miffed by it, but a couple of fighters that watched it said it was disrespectful.  Ahmed admitted that he wanted to show Ray what he had and gave him a little more of a taste than the usual sparring, claiming he could make Ray look bad.

Meanwhile, Ishe, tired from all the stress caused in the last episode, went home to his wife and kids.  There he broke down in front of her, saying he was tired of everything that had been going on and he had been training really hard.  She helped snap him back into focus, and get his head right.  It was just in time too, because the next day when the West Coast was ready to give him an ultimatum about his antics, Ishe changed a bit and told them if he was going to fight anyone, it would be Ahmed.

That set up this week's mission:  dodgeball.  Similar to the movie, the two teams were placed on two sides of a tennis court, with the balls lined up by the net.  They had to run from the fence to get the ball, and then hit the opposing team with it.  Last surviving member wins for his team.  Jesse and Alfonso were out of the mission to make it even.

This wasn't much of a challenge, as the West pretty much took down the East team.  At the end, it was only a three-on-one, with Ahmed left.  He hung in there for a while, but eventually got hit, and the West won again.

When it was time for the team meeting, the West simply went to Ishe and asked was he ready.  Ishe simply replied, "You know what I'm going to do." and that was pretty much the end of it. 

When it came time to lay down the challenge, Ishe added a little twist.  He called Brent out.  The West was shocked, and most initially thought he had chickened out.  Brent came out, and Ishe whispered in his ear to pray for what he's about to do.  Stallone demanded to know what was going down, and Ishe told Brent to walk back.  Ishe then called out Ahmed, and they stared each other down.  It got so intense that Stallone had to threaten them with disqualification if they threw a punch, and they eventually had to be separated by the rest of the fighters.

So the fight was Ishe Smith vs. Ahmed Khaddour.  Coming into this fight, both guys were undefeated.  Ishe, from Las Vegas, was 14-0 with 7 KO's, and Ahmed, born in Lebanon, raised in Denmark, and now resides in Hollywood, was 15-0 with 9 KO's, hence someone was going to taste defeat for the first time.  That was about the only thing they had in common, as Ishe was a family man with a wife and a son that and solidly Christian, while Ahmed was a pretty boy with a fiancee', no kids and loved the extravagant life.  It was like two magnetic poles retracting from each other.

The press conference was suprisingly calm and organized.  That was probably because the two who were causing the most problems were finally in front of the podium.  Ishe remained calm and surprising modest, mainly saying he just wanted to get this over with, while Ahmed talked about how he was going to knock Ishe out and run him off.  Ahmed also took some digs at Ishe for going home to his wife when he was having problems.

This was no doubt the most aggressive fight of the three that aired.  It wasn't about combinations or speed; just power, and both launched it at will.  As soon as the bell rang Ahmed charged out and started throwing hooks to the head and the body.  Ishe shook it off and started throwing his own, and unfortunately for Ahmed, Ishe connected more. 

It seemed as if Ahmed's only goal was to knock Ishe out, while Ishe had a semblance of a game plan; stay calm, absorb Ahmed's punches, and then come back with your own.  Huge shots rocked both guys; in fact, there was one in the third round where I thought Ishe might go down from.  But he absorbed it and kept coming with his own.

Ahmed on occasion got uber-aggressive, and it resulted in some dirty tactics, like holding Ishe's head down, and not breaking clean once the ref requested it.  It got some boos out of the crowd, and the Ishe chants started.  Ahmed also clowned around too much, making faces and taunting.  During one incident where he pulled Ishe by the head and Ishe went to his knees, Ishe's wife was yelling from the crowd about his behavior.  Ahmed responded with a disrespectful gesture.

But Ishe through all of that wasn't flustered too much.  Ahmed probably won the first and fourth rounds, but the others were definitely won by Ishe.  Ishe was simply better prepared, and had the fight thought out.  It went the distance, and Ishe Smith won the unaminous decision.

After the fight, Ahmed didn't start anything, and just went back into the locker room.  His ego wasn't hurt too bad, as he was talking about how Ishe didn't hurt him and he didn't get a scratch.  He wants a rematch with Ishe, and says his boxing days aren't over.  Whether you like Ahmed or not, he put on an entertaining fight, and he's tough as nails.  This was one of those fights where you would like to see continue and maybe go 10 rounds instead of five.

Check out the next episode which is Sunday at 8PM EST on NBC.  It'll be interesting to see how everyone reacts to this fight, and to see what the East team can do in order to finally get a victory in either the missions or the fights, so they won't lose another member.

My Other Contender Posts:

1.  The Contender Quarterfinals:  Ishe vs. Sergio
2.  The Contender, Episode Eight:  Jimmy vs. Joey
3.  The Contender Episode Seven:  Juan vs. Tarick
4.  The Contender Episode Six:  Anthony vs. Brent
5.  The Contender Episode Three:  Ishe vs. Ahmed

Posted at 04:38 am by Expertise
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Sunday, March 13, 2005
Looking at the NCAA Tourney Field.

I don't like it.

The actual bids are alright (I have problems with a couple, as you will see later), but the seeding and location of a number of teams is absolutely horrible.  You can tell the selection committee went into the proceedings with no kind of standard and simply placed teams whereever they wanted.

For a number of them, they did think it was cute to pit a number of teams in the first round, namely some intrastate matchups.  However, they did it at the expense of a long travel for some of those teams.

Illinois is in Chicago, UNC goes to Syracuse, and Duke goes to Austin.  That's not surprising.  The surprising one is Washington getting the #1 seed in the Albequerque Region.  Thus, you can not tell me that the selection committee does not listen to the analysts on CBS and ESPN along with the network sports websites, because no one even talked about Washington grabbing a possible #1 seed until Kentucky went down in flames today in the SEC tournament. 

So Wake Forest not only got a #2 seed, but they also was sent out west to Albequerque.  How in the world did they fall so low by simply losing to NC State?  I don't agree with that seeding whatsoever, and I'm sure there's heat on Chris Paul for getting suspended right now.

But at least Wake got a #2 seed.  Definitely the team that caught the worst seed placement by far was Louisville.  Louisville was the Conference USA champion and was ranked 6th in the nation.  How did they end up as a 4 seed having to go to Albequerque?  That's crazy.  Meanwhile, UConn - who was defeated by Syracuse in the Big East semis - got a #2 seed...in Syracuse.  Syracuse, who was ranked pretty equally with UConn throughout the year, got a #4 seed in Austin.  Florida didn't get a good deal, as they won the SEC Championship as well and ended up with a #4 seed.

I did support them giving UAB and Iowa State a bid into the championship, as both of them had great records and fought tough competition throughout the year.  However, Northern Iowa had no business getting a bid to the tournament. 

It's real simple; a mediocre team from a power conference gets dibs over a mediocre team from a mediocre conference.  I find it hard to believe that the Missouri Valley Conference got three bids (Southern Illinois, Creighton, Northern Illinois) without any of them beating a ranked team.  Meanwhile, Notre Dame will go to the NIT despite roughly having the same record yet beating UConn, Villanova, and Syracuse and playing nine games against a ranked team.  That should tell you that the RPI polling system should be trashed.  Not fixed, trashed. 

But, it is what it is.  Let's try to enjoy March Madness while it lasts.  It should be fun.

Posted at 09:08 pm by Expertise
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Here's my picks for the NCAA Tournament.

There are only six conference championship games left, and all of them will be decided by tomorrow.  However, all of the finalists of the major conferences are pretty much locked, and the remaining two's losers won't go to the Dance, so I'll give you 63 teams.

This is based on what who I "think" the tournament will grant bids to, not necessarily who I feel should get them.  In the cases of teams like Holy Cross and Davidson, I will leave them off the list. I think because of their outstanding conference records and winning streak during the season, they should have gotten a bid, but the committee won't see it my way.  Nevertheless, I hope they prove me wrong.

First, the 25 Conference Champions, which get automatic bids:

Pennsylvania Eastern Kentucky Central Florida Winthrop Chattanooga
Niagara Old Dominion Creighton  Gonzaga  Oakland 
Louisiana-Lafayette  Wisc-Milwaukee  Fairleigh Dickerson  Montana  Bucknell 
Vermont  Louisville  Delaware State  Washington  Ohio 
George Washington  Syracuse  Texas-El Paso  New Mexico  Utah State 


Now, the remaining 38, which are receiving at-large bids or their conference title tomorrow:

North Carolina Duke  Wake Forest  Georgia Tech  NC State 
Boston College  Connecticut  West Virginia  Pittsburgh  Villanova 
Illinois  Michigan State  Wisconsin  Minnesota  Iowa 
Kansas  Oklahoma  Oklahoma State  Texas Tech  Pacific 
Cincinnatti  Charlotte  Utah  Arizona  Stanford 
UCLA  Kentucky  Florida  Alabama  LSU 
St. Mary's  Nevada  St. Joseph's  Iowa State  UAB
Southern Illinois  Notre Dame  Texas     


















So there it is.  That should be 63 teams.  The last two spots are reserved for the SWAC champion, as Alabama State matches up against Alabama A&M (Isn't it funny that two Alabama teams are playing for the SouthWestern Championship?), and the Southland Champion, as Southeastern Louisiana faces Northwestern State.

I say again:  NCAA Selection Committee PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG, but if you're going to do it, do it with teams that are actually worthy of getting in.

Posted at 06:11 am by Expertise
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