CBS analyst Seth Davis chats with The Scores Report

CBS analyst and SI writer Seth Davis is partnering with Coke Zero in promoting their Department of Fannovation Brain Bracket, where 64 hand-picked ideas to improve the fan experience will go head-to-head in single elimination format until a winner is announced. (My favorite is the one where arenas would have actual working decibel monitors pop up on the big screen to encourage the crowd to make more noise.)

Seth took time out of his busy schedule this week to chat with TSR about Kentucky’s youth, Duke’s versatility, tournament expansion and even the NBA’s age-limit rule.

The Scores Report: Hey Seth, how are you doing?

Seth Davis: Doing all right, man, how are you doing?

TSR: Good to talk to you. It’s an exciting week of basketball.

SD: Yeah, it’s always good this time of year. It’s the best.

TSR: I just saw your video of your Final Four picks over at, and it turns out we have the same picks.

SD: That is definitely the most popular combination, it sounds like. I don’t know if that’s a good sign for you.

TSR: Yeah I don’t know either. Is there any pressure when you’re doing these picks, not to pick four #1 seeds?

SD: You know what, there kind of is. There’s a little bit of pressure to look for upsets, but I try to do what I honestly think, and in the past, I’m usually Mr. Upset, but looking at this bracket, I wasn’t feeling it. I wish I felt otherwise. It might surprise people to learn given how brilliant my picks are, when they hand me that bracket in the studio, before the selection show, I take about four minutes to fill out the whole thing. I just go with my instinct and go with what I see, and that’s where my pen led me.

TSR: I wasn’t expecting to put Duke in the Final Four, either, but looking at their bracket – how is this Duke team different from Duke teams in the past that have been disappointments in the tournament?

SD: Well, the main thing is that they have more ways to win, and more specifically, they’re more able to survive a bad shooting night than they have in the past. Brian Zoubeck has to be the most improved player in college basketball over the last month of the season. And it kind of reminds me of what Ryan Hollins did at UCLA when they got to the Final Four. He’d been there for three and a half years and looked awful, and then a light went on in February and he figured some things out and he really made a big difference for them. Their offensive rebounding and defense is much better than it’s been in the last couple of years, so when they get their Big Three clicking, they’re going to be very hard to beat. The biggest problem they’ve been having is that there haven’t been too many occasions when all three play well. [Nolan] Smith has been a little bit up and down, [Kyle] Singler played very poorly the first three months of the season and now he’s been fabulous, and just when he’s turning it on, Jon Scheyer can’t buy a bucket. If they ever get all three of those guys together, then they’re going to be pretty tough to beat.

TSR: It seems like, in the games I’ve seen – I have probably watched 15 or 20 games, I’m a pretty big Duke fan – it seems like two of three are usually rolling and the other one is kind of struggling. Lately it’s been Scheyer, but he did hit a couple of big shots late in the second half of that Miami game.

SD: Yeah, he hit the biggest bucket down the stretch too and then made some free throws. He’s not going to stop shooting, that’s for sure. He’s a pretty tough kid.

TSR: All right, so looking at Kentucky and deciding to take West Virginia instead, is it how they play kind of harebrained at times? Are you a little worried about them?

SD: I just think West Virginia is kind of a hard match up for them. Kentucky can definitely win this tournament, but among the favorites, Kentucky would be the most inclined to lose a game early on that they should not lose. So it’s kind of an interesting dynamic with them, because they’re so talented. People talk about how young they are. For me it’s not how young they are, it’s just that I feel that their young guys are young for their age, if that makes sense.

TSR: Yep.

SD: Just emotionally – DeMarcus Cousins is obviously just immature emotionally. So that’s going to manifest in the tournament. But sometimes being young isn’t a bad way to go because you don’t know any better. You don’t know that you’re supposed to be nervous. So it’s going to be fascinating watching them play and how they react to being in the tournament.

TSR: I played at UW-Platteville for Bo Ryan in the mid-90s –

SD: Oh, did you really?

TSR: Yeah, so I’m hoping that Wisconsin gets a crack at Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.

SD: Well, they very well could. I like that Wisconsin team a lot. I really do.

TSR: They’ve got an interesting style – they could really pack it in defensively, and I don’t think Kentucky can shoot the three all that well. And Kentucky gets so many points in transition, but Wisconsin is really good at getting back, so that could be an upset too. I just look at that Kentucky team and I’m like — I don’t trust you guys.

SD: Yeah, a lot of people feel the same way. But I’ll tell you what, they’ve lost – what – two games all year?

TSR: Yep.

SD: They’re pretty good.

TSR: I kind of felt the same way about that Memphis team in ’08. I don’t know what it is about those freshman point guards.

SD: Yeah, but again – Memphis was within one free throw of winning a national championship.

TSR: That’s what I’m saying – I was wrong about it. And I’m worried about being wrong again.

SD: (laughs) That’s funny.

TSR: What about Bobby Huggins – are you worried about flameouts in the first couple of rounds when he had highly-seeded teams at Cincinnati?

SD: I don’t think that translates from year to year, to be honest. I think he’s got a good team. It’s kind of ironic how perceptions work, isn’t it? If Da’Sean Butler’s desperation heave, which banked in accidentally, then we’re all talking about how West Virginia got bounced early in the Big East tournament. So it’s funny how the bounce of the ball can really take things either way. He’s a very good coach, they’re a very tough basketball team, and I would have not necessarily anticipated a week ago or two weeks ago picking them to go to the championship game, but just looking at the matchups, I think toughness is a great asset to have in the NCAA tournament and I think they have it in spades.

TSR: I want to ask you about tournament expansion. Do you think it’s a good idea?

SD: Well, competitively I think it’s a bad idea. What I will say is that I would not criticize the NCAA for doing it if they feel like they can get more money. It’s incredibly expensive to run athletic programs. The vast, vast majority are in the red. And if it means that they’ll be able to meet their expenses, and not have to cut non-revenue sports, I would not criticize them for that. But I think a lot of people are trying to make the argument that there are a lot of good teams that should be in the tournament and I think most of us are seeing the opposite – that there are a lot of mediocre teams that are getting into the tournament. I just think you diminish the achievement of getting into the tournament – basically, everybody would get in, and I just think that would diminish the achievement of getting into the tournament if you do that.

TSR: What do you think about the NBA’s one-and-done rule – do you think it’s hurting the NCAA or helping?

SD: There is no question – and this is maybe a contrarian viewpoint – but it seems to be a very obvious thing to say. Let me ask you this question: What is better for college basketball right now – John Wall playing for Kentucky or John Wall playing for the New Jersey Nets? The one-and-done rule has been a huge boon for college basketball. It has meant that players who would not have otherwise played in college, played in college. Now are there issues of academics and some other things? No doubt. But from a marketing and business perspective, it’s been a huge boon for college basketball. Now, I personally, Seth Davis, I’m opposed the age-minimum rule because it denies opportunities to kids who deserve to have the same opportunity LeBron James and Kobe Bryant had. My answer to the NBA is that if you don’t these guys in your league then stop drafting them. So there’s obviously a market for their services; college is not for everybody. We don’t seem to get too up in arms when baseball players are drafted straight out of high school or when Michelle Wie turns pro as a golfer when she’s still in college or coming out of high school. I think they should have an opportunity to pursue their dreams and make money whenever they want to do that.

TSR: It seems like players should be able to go straight to the pros or two years of college. That way, they’d have to attend some classes their second and third semesters to stay eligible. This one-and-done rule is tough from an academic standpoint. But you’re right, it’s great to have John Wall in the tournament.

SD: Those issues are very legitimate, though I would again point out – how many kids are we talking about here? We’re talking about six to twelve kids every year who even have the option of even thinking about going to the NBA straight out of high school. I think Bob Knight said that it was the worst thing that ever happened to college basketball, and I think that’s just a wee bit overstated, don’t you think?

TSR: Yeah. So your Final Four picks – Kansas, Syracuse, West Virginia and Duke. Who do you have in the Finals?

SD: I have Kansas beating West Virginia in the championship game.

TSR: That’s exactly what I’ve got.

SD: Those seem to be pretty popular picks.

TSR: I thought I was going out on a little bit of a limb, but I guess not.

SD: Yeah I guess not.

TSR: All right, take care, Seth.

SD: It was great talking to you, I appreciate it.

Photos from fOTOGLIF

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