March Maidens.

I don’t follow college basketball at all, and even March Madness holds only a faint interest for me, since I’m usually wrapped up in spring training at that point. I do pay attention to one aspect of the tournament though: I pull for the maidens – that is, the teams that have never won the championship before. (In horse racing, a maiden is a horse that has never won a race.) We came close to having a maiden team win last year with Memphis, but they let me down.

Unfortunately, this is looking like a really lousy year for maidens. Memphis has just been knocked off by Missouri, and while Missouri is an even bigger maiden than Memphis (the Mizzou Tigers have never reached the Final Four, and this is just their third Elite Eight appearance), Memphis was Ken Pomeroy’s top-ranked team, so in theory, they had a better shot to topple one or more #1 seeds.

Pitt is the only maiden among the #1 seeds, but of course, they barely got by Xavier, which doesn’t inspire any confidence in me that they’re going to beat this relentless ‘Nova team.

Today was actually the better day of the two Sweet 16 days for maiden teams, as Friday’s four games feature just two maidens: Oklahoma (two title game appearances: a 1988 loss to Kansas and a 1947 loss to WHO THE HELL LOSES TO HOLY CROSS IN ANYTHING? back when the court was 12 feet long and they used peach baskets instead of nets) and Gonzaga (never reached the Final Four). Gonzaga faces UNC, who seem to be the consensus “expert” pick to win the whole shebang.

College basketball might be the most likely endeavor among major team sports where you could very easily see a maiden winner every two or three years. In MLB, we get long droughts, but there are only eight franchises that have never won, two of which are less than twenty years old. (It’s nine if you don’t count the New York Giants’ titles for San Francisco). The NFL and NBA have more maidens, but more than half the franchises in each league have won, and it’s hard to get all worked up about Oklahoma City’s title drought of one year even if we don’t give them Seattle’s win in 1978-79. In college basketball, not only do we have a huge number of schools that have never won – only 34 of 347 schools who play D1 basketball have won it – but it takes neither a long time nor a large number of great players to make a team competitive. Unfortunately, we’re on track for our third straight year without a maiden winner after a great run of five in ten years (Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland, Syracuse, and Florida).

* Speaking of the NCAA, Dayn Perry has a great post on Spolitical about the exploitation of college athletes, specifically those in “revenue sports,” which for most schools means football and basketball. That said, issues like revocable scholarships crop up in baseball as well. You’re a freshman pitcher. Coach works you so hard that by year-end you can’t comb your hair and have to visit Dr. Andrews. You’re out for a year or more and odds are your velocity isn’t coming back. You lose your scholarship. Coach loses … nothing. Yeah, that seems fair. If scholarships were guaranteed for three years, wouldn’t coaches have an incentive to handle players (particularly pitchers) better in at least their first two years at the school?

* So my alma mater has a couple of researchers trotting out the new vegetarian mantra that eating beef boosts global warming. Here’s the part that confuses me: If raising cows means more greenhouse gas emissions, can’t we slow global warming by killing all cows? That seems to be the obvious conclusion here.

* Handshake deals are illegal under MLB rules, folks. The Nats should tell Young’s agent to shove it. An oral agreement is only worth as much as the paper it’s written on.


  1. Kill all Cows! Wow.

    They could have added that probably worse than cows emitting methane that chopping large swathes of the Amazon to graze cows is a huge contributor to rising greenhouse gas levels.

    The economic downturn may help slightly in that growing wealth in Asia led to greater demands for milk and meats.

    If you are thinking of cutting back on processsed meats and red meat here is a link…

    I think I’d have to change 6 meals a week… Less beef, chorizo, bacon, lamb…

  2. As a vegetarian, I definitely agree with you Keith. I mean, killing all cows was the plan anyway, right? (Despite my nefarious plots to save them) And once they are gone, we don’t raise any more. Problem solved. Good to hear we’re on the same page on this one.

  3. I really hope some university comes out with a study on increased methane emissions from humans due to beef consumption.

    As for the Amazon, if 70% of our O2 is produced from the Ocean, I’d bet that destroying the rain forest wouldn’t make a difference in the global climate. It would be like farting in the face of a hurricane.

    Guess what, guys. Global warming doesn’t exist!!! The earth warms and cools because of the sun. The sun dictates the global climate! If I modeled climate delta = sun energy delta, my adjusted R-squared would be .9999999 and I’d bet earth’s continued existence on that!

  4. I’d travel the world telling everyone the sky is purple if I got paid millions for it. I’m look at you Gore.

    But hey, atleast we got $4 billion in taxpayer money going to “green jobs.”

  5. Winning teams have NBA players. Gonzaga may be your team as while Pargo’s NBA future does not look so great these days, Heytvelt, Bouldin, and Daye are NBA prospects.

  6. It’s not as if the cows are going to be raised and then just left there to do nothing. There’s no point in raising more cows than the demand requires. It’s not like there’s some sort of escalating cow crisis. The amount of cows on the planet will just steadily grow as do populations that eat it. C’mon CMU, leave the agricultural science for Penn State and build me my robotic hovercraft already!

  7. Jonathan Small

    Technically, yes, all athletic scholarships are on a year-to-year basis. But I know in football and basketball, if a player gets hurt the coach rarely revokes the scholarship. Actions like that get out on the recruiting trail and will hurt a coaches reputation in a hurry.

    I am not sure how college baseball coaches feel about, obviously they are at a disadvantage with # of scholarships compared to what football and basketball coaches get.

    Keith, I would not mind seeing someone write about why the NCAA feels the need to limit baseball scholarships every chance they get, but basketball and football essentially have a full scholarship for every player.

  8. “If I modeled climate delta = sun energy delta, my adjusted R-squared would be .9999999 and I’d bet earth’s continued existence on that!”

    Maybe if someone else who had not pre-determined the result modelled it they would not get that answer.

    It is an extreme minority position with a healthy chance of being wrong to dismiss it all. I think the odds are, and we’re talking about the substantial majority of peer reviewed science, is that man made additions to global warming/climate change are a fact – or as close to one as we get in anything like this.

    Most objectors object to parts of the science but few dismiss it all. Can people now only treat all issues as binaries?

  9. Sure, Keith, killing all the cows would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

    So would scrapping all gas-powered vehicles, far moreso.

    So would a lot of things.
    I think the goal is to ascertain what does what as accurately as we can, and make the proper choices to prevent the impending catastrophe as best we can.

    Nobody’s suggesting that we scrap everything with a carbon footprint (okay, maybe some are) but appropriate economic offsets to counterbalance the longterm economic effects of inaction are definitely called for.

    SciAm had a great article last June (May?) about calculating the economic costs of climate change and using that to determine what action should be taken. Unsurprisingly it comes down to philosophy and best guess on discounting future economic losses.

  10. Jon UK,
    You are killing me. As for predetermined results modeling, tell that to the UN Climate Change Committee and every other politicized body that manipulates the science. When you can properly model the dependent variable and the various explanatory variables without omitting things like cloud cover, global precipitation, and sun activity, then I might believe PhDs are performing scientific inquiry into the subject.
    Healthy chance of being wrong? Here’s a bet, I’ll buy you 1 million burgers if the climate is materially warmer in London (sunny average temp of 65 in December) by 2200.
    I dismiss the entire episode of global warming because the basic assumption that the Earth operates in a delicate balance in which the past 100 years of meteorological history represents previous millenia of weather data is false. The Earth will survive despite our best efforts to live comfortably. Global warming is basic derivative of Malthus’ population theory which has been proven time and again to be wrong.

  11. Who wants to be the first to inform FQ that we’ve also figured out that the world is round?

  12. Keith, what kind of camera do you use for your scouting videos? The quality looks great and I can’t imagine you carry around hefty equipment. I’m in the market for something small with good quality videos. Thanks.

  13. FQ,

    In your first paragraph,you’re so sure that a natural equilibrium exists, that you’re putting a million burgers on it (i.e., that the Earth will not become materially warmer in 191 years)

    In the second paragraph, you’re portraying as absurd the notion that there ever was an equilibrium to begin with.

    So which is it? This is what strikes me so often about climate change deniers. They feel this need to attack any part of the science as they perceive it, even if their various critiques and assertions are completely incongruent.

  14. UMM, “Who the Hell Loses to Holy Cross,” that team had a player by the name of Bob Cousy. So I guess they were good at one point.

  15. I don’t want to add too much to the global warming debate, except this: the danger of doing nothing so far outweighs the danger of potential lost productivity that it really isn’t a contest. Millions (billions?) of people live near coasts. Bangladesh could be decimated. You really want to risk all of that? Seems like we’re playing with fire by doing nothing. Maybe people who believe in the science behind it are wrong, but I’d rather be wrong on my side, than wrong on the other side. Lives are potentially at stake.

    But I still love me some beef.

  16. Yes, JonUK, everything does need to be binary these days…there is no room for some complex problem that has multiple causes that are difficult for anyone to understand…we now require everything to be boiled down to its simplest form so that we can take a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ position on it and tell the other side that they are Godless morons…haven’t you watched the news (sports or ‘real’) in the last 10 years? I mean what good would come out of having intelligent conversations that allow for issues to be shown to be complex with many different causes and difficult solutions?

  17. He was joking about the cows I thinks people. Housing developments ruin the environment. Go Pitt

  18. Francis Borchardt

    He was joking (halfway). A lot of things affect the environment, however it is not at all clear how severely, how deeply, and for what length of time. The data that has been analyzed to this point is very likely too small a sample size to make any of the sweeping changes climate policy makers propose. Climate tracking data is only entirely reliable since 1972. That is the equivalent of taking a half-season of Josh Hamilton and presenting him as a hall of famer. It is definitely worthwhile to study what the possible effects of an industrialized society might have on the climate, but one should not put the cart before the horse and take action before the prescription is issued, which is the equivalent of what we are now doing. There is also a problem in the way the research base is motivated. So much money out there available for researchers is tied to proving man-made climate change, this encourages scientists to find projects and formulate questions in a way that prove its existence and in turn make more research money available. I tend to think that in the end we will see that about 95% of what we are calling climate change (such as the cooling of the oceans over the last 15 years, the cooling of the air temperature over the last 10, and the overall decrease in major storms over the last decade, as well as the rises beforehand) is very likely natural. I believe that the rapid and rampant industrialization of the earth over the past 140 or so years undoubtedly has had some effect, but I am not sure either how long-lasting it is, nor how severe. The earth is fragile, but it is also durable, much like a human body. A small germ can take you out with a flu, but unless that flu is a mutant super flu it will not kill you or leave you worse-off after a few days. The earth is likely similar. It boils down to the two types of mindsets represented (admittedly in caricatures) of the right and left. Those who believe in the supremacy of the human spirit, and think it always leads to progress, and can defeat all problems want to defeat the earth’s normal cycles. Those who see the human spirit as imperfect, and an extension of the world in which they live want to let earth find its way, because after all, that is the only way in which any habitable climate will be sustainable.

  19. Two Key Concepts from “The Greenhouse Hamburger”, found in the February Scientific American…

    “Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57.”

    “Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas a car driven more than 1,800 miles.”

    I think it’s pretty evident what the solution is. Send the cows to Mars to jump start the terraforming process and alter chicken DNA here on earth so that Super Chickens are produced in the cows’ stead.

    Also, who here slept through High School physics? We’ve cracked the delicate atmosphere balance maintained by photosynthesis and respiration by unleashing carbon in fossil fuels. Humanity’s influence on climate change really isn’t refutable unless your Freeman Dyson. And FQ, you sir, are no Freeman Dyson.

  20. Malcolm,

    I understand what you’re saying but on the other side of that, introducing a cap and trade program during a recession doesn’t seem like the brightest idea.

    Companies will shift jobs overseas.

    Ask California. They have a similar policy, companies just moved to Arizona and Nevada to cut costs.