The Casual Fan's Guide to 7 Tournament-Bound Schools

The Morehead State Eagles and Alabama State Hornets battle for a rebound.
The Morehead State Eagles and Alabama State Hornets battle for a rebound.
Jamie Sabau, Getty Images

Every year, the NCAA men's basketball tournament field features at least a handful of teams that leaves casual fans puzzled as they start to fill out their brackets. The question usually isn't how far one of these teams will advance, but rather, "Where the heck is that?" This year is no exception. Here's a primer "“ only part of which is basketball-related "“ on seven of the lesser-known schools in the field.

1. Morehead State

Location: Morehead, Kentucky

How They Got Here: Freshman Steve Peterson made a baseline jumper in the second overtime of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship "“ his first points of the game "“ to lift the Eagles to a win over Austin Peay. Morehead State plays Alabama State in today's Opening Round game; the winner moves on to play top-seeded Louisville.

Tournament History: Morehead State is making its sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament and its first since 1984. Coincidentally, the Eagles defeated North Carolina A&T in a preliminary round game that year before losing to Louisville, 72-59.

Notable: Morehead State's players and coaches were recognized by both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly last week. Seven MSU alumni serve in the Kentucky House, including Rep. Rocky Adkins, the majority floor leader. Adkins was the starting point guard on the 1982-83 Eagles squad that won the OVC championship.

Famous Alum: Former New York Giants quarterback and current broadcaster Phil Simms, legendary game show host Chuck Woolery, and country singer Billy Ray Cyrus all attended Morehead State, as did one of the most recognizable voices on the radio today. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition, worked as a radio sportscaster while attending MSU. He graduated in 1990.

Reason to Cheer: You'll be in good company. The Eagles' coed cheerleading team has won 19 national titles, including eight in a row.

2. Binghamton

Location: Binghamton, New York

binghamtom.jpgHow They Got Here: The top-seeded Bearcats won 11 straight games to end the season, defeating defending champion UMBC to win the America East Conference tournament.

Tournament History: Binghamton, which joined the Division I ranks eight years ago, is making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. The No. 15 seed Bearcats play No. 2 seed Duke on Thursday.

Notable: In a recent New York Times article, Pete Thamel wonders whether Binghamton's first trip to the NCAA tournament has come at a cost. Thamel calls head coach Kevin Broadus' recruiting of certain players into question and cites a litany of arrests and suspensions that have plagued the coach's tenure. On a lighter note, Binghamton boasts a 182-acre on-campus Nature Preserve, which includes 20 acres of wetlands.

Famous Alum: Former Washington Post columnist and current PTI co-host Tony Kornheiser graduated from what was then called Harpur College in 1970. Kornheiser, who also provides color-commentary for Monday Night Football, sported a Bearcats jersey during an episode of PTI last week.

Reason to Cheer: Everyone loves a Cinderella story and D.J. Rivera could wear the glass slipper well. Rivera led the America East in scoring but didn't receive a single vote for Player of the Year because the conference's coaches dislike Broadus. He'll have to play the game of his life if the Bearcats have any chance of getting past Duke.

3. Siena

Location: Loudonville, New York

siena.jpgHow They Got Here: Siena won 26 games and the automatic bid from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, defeating Niagara in the championship game of the MAAC tournament. The No. 9 seed Saints play No. 8 seed Ohio State on Thursday.

Tournament History: If Siena sounds familiar, it's because the Saints pulled off one of the bigger upsets in last year's first round when they downed No. 4 seed Vanderbilt. Siena is making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance.

Notable: Siena, which is located two miles north of Albany, was founded by seven Franciscan friars in 1937.

Famous Alum: Ron Vawter, a founding member of the theater ensemble The Wooster Group. Vawter, who appeared in Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, died of a heart attack in 1994.

Reason to Cheer: Traditionally, the Siena men's basketball program has produced legitimate student-athletes. Eighty-six percent of Siena men's basketball players who entered the school between 1998 and 2001 earned their degrees in six years or less, according to the NCAA's latest Graduation Success Rate report. The national average is 62 percent.

4. Robert Morris

Location: Moon Township, Pennsylvania

robert-morris.jpgHow They Got Here: Robert Morris defeated Mount St. Mary's to win the automatic bid from the Northeast Conference. The No. 15 seed Colonials play No. 2 seed Michigan State in a first round game on Friday.

Tournament History: Robert Morris is making its sixth NCAA tournament appearance and its first since 1992.

Notable: Named after the self-made millionaire and signer of the Declaration of Independence who helped finance the American side during the Revolutionary War, RMU was originally founded in 1921 as the Pittsburgh School of Accountancy. The school became Robert Morris College in 1969 and Robert Morris University in 2002.

Famous Alum: It's been a pretty good year for Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. One month after watching the football team he helped build win its second Super Bowl in the last four years, Colbert gets to watch his alma mater in the NCAA tournament.

Reason to Cheer: Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice. If his comments on the school's Web site after the brackets were unveiled are any indication, Rice could deliver a pregame speech for the ages Friday. "We'll try to focus the lads and put bravery in their hearts and purpose in their minds and go," he said.

5. Radford

Location: Radford, Virginia

radford.jpgHow They Got Here: Radford outlasted VMI, 108-94, in the Big South Conference tournament championship to win the league's automatic bid. The No. 16 seed Highlanders play No. 1 seed UNC on Thursday.

Tournament History: Radford is making its second NCAA tournament appearance. As a No. 16 seed in 1998, the Highlanders lost to Duke, 99-63, in the first round.

Notable: Radford was founded in 1910 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women. Men were first admitted to the school in 1972. Penelope Kyle, who was named the school's first female president in 2005, launched the "7-17 Strategic Plan" in 2007. The plan outlines the school's 10-year effort to make Radford one of the top 50 master's universities in the U.S.

Famous Alum: Actress Jayma Mays, who starred alongside Kevin James in Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Reason to Cheer: The Highlanders' center, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Artsiom Parakhouski (art-SEE-um pair-uh-COW-ski), is almost as fun to watch as his name is to say. The Belarusian, who was the Big South Conference Player of the Year, averages a double-double.

6. Morgan State

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

morgan-st.jpgHow They Got Here: Morgan State routed Norfolk State, 83-69, in the championship game of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament to capture the league's automatic bid. The No. 15 seed Bears play No. 2 seed Oklahoma on Thursday.

Tournament History: Morgan State is making its first NCAA tournament appearance.

Notable: The Morgan State University choir, which was led by renowned teacher Dr. Nathan Carter for 34 years until his death in 2004, is one of the most prestigious collegiate choral ensembles in the nation. The choir performed at the White House, at an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II, and took a trip Russia during Carter's tenure at MSU. Last year, the group performed twice at Carnegie Hall.

Famous Alum: William C. Rhoden, who worked as an associate editor at Ebony after graduating from Morgan State, has provided sports commentary as a columnist for The New York Times since 1983.

Reason to Cheer: Jermaine "Itchy" Bolden, the Bears' 5-foot-9 senior point guard, who earned the nickname from his mother because he was fidgety as a baby.

7. Stephen F. Austin

Location: Nacogdoches, Texas

sfa.jpgHow They Got Here: Stephen F. Austin defeated UT-San Antonio in the Southland Conference tournament championship to win the league's automatic bid. The No. 14 seed Lumberjacks will play No. 3 seed Syracuse on Friday.

Tournament History: Stephen F. Austin is making its first NCAA tournament appearance.

Notable: Stephen F. Austin was founded in 1923 as a teacher's college and is named after Stephen Fuller Austin, one of Texas' founding fathers.

Famous Alum: Though he didn't graduate, singer/songwriter Don Henley studied English and philosophy as a student at SFA.

Reason to Cheer: Stephen F. Austin has a cool nickname and an even cooler rally cry: Axe 'em Jacks!

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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Double Play: The Curious Life and Career of Ozzie Canseco

Otto Gruele, Allsport/Getty Images
Otto Gruele, Allsport/Getty Images

“Jose, we love you! Jose, you suck!” It’s 1992 in Louisville, Kentucky, and a man who bears a striking resemblance to major league home run king Jose Canseco is smashing baseballs out of Triple-A ballparks for the Louisville Redbirds, the minor league sibling of the St. Louis Cardinals.

A screen erected specifically for home runs at Pilot Field in Buffalo, New York, fails to contain one 550-foot drive. The ball goes over the screen and past the highway.

“Good job, Jose!”

Before and after games, the six-foot-two, 220-pound slugger will be asked about dating Madonna (he didn’t), antagonized into fights (he avoids them, mostly), and begged for autographs. When he signs his name, fans appear confused. They tell him to stop joking around. Doesn’t he know he’s Jose Canseco, perpetual All-Star and prolific masher of baseballs? Who ever heard of Ozzie Canseco, Jose’s identical twin, born two minutes earlier to Jose Canseco Sr. and his wife, Barbara? And if they are identical, why is it that Jose was earning millions as a member of the Oakland Athletics while Ozzie only made sporadic appearances in the majors?

Ozzie tried to explain all of these things over and over again. Every time he thought people got the message, he would head back out into the world, hearing his brother’s name. Once, a car veered and tried to run him off the road. When Ozzie hit the shoulder, the other driver laughed, as if it were a joke, and then referred to him as Jose.

 

There are relatively few examples of twins who excelled equally in sports. Ronde and Tiki Barber were both selected in the 1997 NFL Draft and had successful careers; Karyne and Sarah Steben, both accomplished gymnasts, toured with Cirque du Soleil and credited their psychological connection with helping them perform difficult aerial feats.

More often, siblings of star athletes idle in the shadows cast by their high-achieving counterparts.

Hank Aaron’s brother Tommie joined him in professional baseball. Hank hit 755 home runs during his career; Tommie connected with 13. There were three DiMaggio brothers, though it was Joe—the onetime husband of Marilyn Monroe—who stood out both on and off the field. Had any of these men looked identical to their famous brother, it would have compounded the comparisons. It’s unlikely anyone ever tried to run Tommie Aaron off the road.

Ozzie Canseco plays for the Oakland Athletics in a Major League Baseball game
Otto Gruele Jr, Getty Images

Born on July 2, 1964, Osvaldo “Ozzie” Capas Canseco and Jose Canseco would soon be another sports sibling story.

The two were barely a year old when their parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba. Both grew up learning to play "the great American pastime." Jose, an outfielder who could wallop a ball out of sight, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 1982 straight out of high school. After polishing his skills in the minor leagues for three years, he briefly debuted as a late-season call-up for the Athletics in 1985. His official rookie season came in 1986, when he went on to hit 33 home runs and knock in 117 RBIs, resulting in Rookie of the Year honors.

Ozzie, who had played as much baseball as his brother, decided to take a year for college. Instead of being a power hitter, Ozzie had gravitated toward pitching. The New York Yankees drafted him in 1983. After four largely unimpressive years on the mound in the minor leagues, he was released by the Yankees and picked up by the Oakland Athletics organization in 1986 to further develop his skills.

It amounted to a genetic experiment in sports: Two men, nearly identical in build—Jose was an inch taller and perhaps 10 pounds heavier—who played the same game for the same amount of time. In 1989, the two even suffered the exact same injury to the hamate bone in the hand. Yet it was Jose who became a sensation, earning exponentially increasing millions and stats for the Athletics and the Texas Rangers, while Ozzie struggled to get called up.

The problem, according to Ozzie, was that he had pitched for too long, refining a skill that wouldn’t pay the same dividends as an outfielder and star hitter. All those years pitching put him behind Jose and behind the game. When he was finally called up to the Athletics as an outfielder in 1990, the difference in ability when compared to Jose was obvious. After 20 homers and 67 RBIs with the Huntsville Stars farm team, he managed only a .105 batting average in nine MLB games during his first season, striking out in 10 of his 19 at-bats. Meanwhile, in 1988, Jose became the first MLB player in history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season—a feat only three players have replicated since. When Ozzie struck out in his first Athletics game, Jose hit two home runs.

 

Pundits tried to break down Ozzie’s deficiencies. Superficially, he had everything Jose had, including a powerful build that was likely bolstered by steroids. (Jose admitted to using performance-enhancing substances in his 2005 tell-all book, Juiced; Ozzie was arrested for driving in a car that contained vials of steroids during a traffic stop in 2003. Jose later told VICE that Ozzie "used the same type of steroids I used and in equal amounts.") But experts pointed out that Jose was more flexible, with a better range of motion in his swing and a faster sprint. He seemed to be more aggressive during play, too. These were subtle differences, but enough for Jose to make three World Series appearances while Ozzie toiled in the minors.

Ozzie Canseco bats for the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game
Otto Gruele Jr, Getty Images

Dejected, Ozzie headed for Japan to play for the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes to sharpen his game against different kinds of pitches. Playing for the Japanese equivalent of a farm team in Osaka, he quit midway through the season to return to the U.S. minors, joining the Louisville Redbirds, the Cardinals Triple-A team. In 1993, he got a chance to jump on the Cardinals for six uneventful games. When Bernard Gilkey came off the disabled list, Ozzie was bumped back down. In frustration, he briefly quit baseball before signing a contract with the Triple-A arm of the Milwaukee Brewers and, later, the Florida Marlins.

After being released by the Marlins in 1996, he remarked it was the first summer he had not played baseball since he was a kid. While other people may have confused him for Jose, baseball’s management did not.

 

If Ozzie was never quite his brother’s equal on the field, he found parity in other ways. For years, rumors circulated that Ozzie would show up in place of Jose for autograph signings. The two also got in nearly equivalent legal trouble for a 2001 nightclub brawl in Miami Beach that ended in probation and a civil lawsuit against both.

In what was probably their most audacious attempt to fool people, Ozzie reportedly showed up for a 2011 celebrity boxing match claiming he was Jose, who had performed in prizefights against the likes of Danny Bonaduce. Promoter Damon Feldman claimed he had paid Jose $5000 and that he was confused when Ozzie finally removed his shirt. (He lacks the bicep tattoo sported by his brother). Feldman had him escorted out and filed a complaint for breach of contract, winning a default judgment against Jose for the $5000 advance and travel expenses. Feldman later expressed doubt he had ever actually met Jose. (On Twitter, Jose Canseco denied Feldman’s claim that he had sent Ozzie in his place.)

In 2015, Ozzie was named the hitting coach for the Sioux Falls Canaries, a Double-A team in South Dakota. Not long after, he and his brother once again confused onlookers when Ozzie fooled his on-air correspondents into thinking “Jose” had arrived to film a segment for his role as an analyst for an NBC broadcast. It was a bit of levity that may have indicated that the years removed from the field had allowed Ozzie to feel more comfortable—both in his own skin and his brother’s.

It was a long time coming. Speaking to Sports Illustrated in 1994, Ozzie lamented the peculiar reality of resembling his brother in every aspect but the one that mattered to him most. “It’s difficult to explain my existence as Ozzie Canseco on a daily basis,” he said.