Rece Davis talks March Madness, Embiid, the Jayhawks and more

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Chatting with ESPN's Rece Davis on college basketball

This morning, misterbrain and myself had the pleasure of interviewing ESPN's Rece Davis, of College Gameday and College Football Live fame. Davis is on the Advisory Board for the Capitol One Cup, the fine folks who gave us the opportunity to interview Clark Kellogg last month. We were able to pick his brain on a variety of college basketball topics.

misterbrain: The bracket is the first thing that comes to mind this time of year. Were you surprised Kansas was able to hold onto the #2 seed this year, even with Joel Embiid being out? Or do you think that's really where they should be at this point?

Rece Davis: No, I think it's where they should be, and I wasn't surprised. Their resume dictated a 2 seed. Some argued that it dictated a 1 seed, given the level of competition and strength of schedule. I thought a 2 was more appropriate because while a lot of teams would have lost 9 games playing against the level of competition Kansas did, they did lose 9, and I thought that number was a little too high to put them on the 1 line. This is always a moving target, because obviously they were tested in a more strenuous manner than Wichita State was. The zero was what carried Wichita State for me. As I told somebody else, if Wichita State had lost one game against their schedule I probably would have had them a 3. There are always factors that go into seeding that transcend other things. For me, it was the zero, for Kansas, the thing that kept them off the 1 line was the "9." I know that makes it sound like I'm a win/loss guy, and that's not necessarily the case, I'm just saying the way all the other things stacked up, that was the one thing that gave me pause. I didn't mean to digress off that. I understand the Embiid question, but they're still a really good basketball team without him, and they lost in the Big 12 Tournament, but they lost to a really good team, who had a near-1 line type of resume, so I wasn't surprised, I think {the 2 seed] was completely justified, and I think they're where they should be in terms of bracket.

PenHawk: How would Embiid coming back after this first weekend change your expectations, if at all, for Kansas going forward?

Davis: I'm not saying it's the difference between them going to the Final Four or not, because Tarik Black, I mean you guys know better than anyone, when he came, he was supposed to be the guy while Embiid took a little time. That happened a lot faster than anyone anticipated, but they've got a very capable guy in the middle with Black and Jamari Traylor providing some help, and Perry has just been a rock of consistency in my judgment throughout the season. So I think they are very capable without him. Having a guy like that return, does it up the probability, or help your chances? Absolutely. The guy's a stud, so it certainly enhances your chances of going to the Final Four, perhaps winning a National Championship if you can get Embiid back, and he's healthy and able to be as big a factor as you'd anticipate he'd be.

misterbrain: Of course, all that assumes they make it through the first weekend. Looking at that potential matchup with New Mexico, do you see that matchup being an issue without having Embiid?

Davis: Yeah, it's become popular, I do think it's a potential problem. You guys can correct me and make me look smart if I'm off in my numbers, but what did he have 18, 6, and four blocks the first time they played? Something like that?

misterbrain: That sounds about right.

PenHawk: yeah, pretty much

Davis: I think that's right because I looked at that after the bracket came out, but I don't have all my numbers in front of me. But, I think that's a big game because they've got a huge front line, as you know. Those two guys are a problem, Kirk and particularly Bairstow. Bairstow's a problem. Not having your full complement of guys against a capable team like that with great players, Kendall Williams is a great player too, but Kansas is a better team than New Mexico, and I think they still probably are with or without Embiid. It doesn't mean they can't necessary beat them. New Mexico is really good, I don't mean that as a slight to New Mexico, but we're talking about one of the elite teams in the country in Kansas. You expect them to be good. You're asking if they're a potential problem without Embiid, but there's a potential problem with him too, because they're good. But the size issue without having a big ticket-taker around the rim could be an issue if that matchup comes to be, and I suspect that's who Kansas will play in the round of 32.

PenHawk: How far do you have Kansas going, and who are your Final Four picks?

Davis: I have Kansas going to the Elite 8, and losing to Florida, who I have winning the National Championship after beating Michigan State in the Final Four. On the other side, the West has been the most difficult bracket for me to pick, because I think Arizona's a really good team, but without Ashley they scare me just a little bit offensively, but I can't find another team in the West that I truly believe in my gut is going to the Final Four. I think Wisconsin's a really good team, but I can't quite get there with them. The West is what I'm most unsure of. You're never sure of anything, but sometimes you sit there, pick a bracket and you feel good about every pick as you go along. The West is the one that's made me go back-and-forth the most. I have Arizona coming out of that bracket. I think it'll be Florida and Duke playing for the National Championship and Florida winning. You know, my picks are like anyone else, you reach into a hat and pull out numbers and wonder if you're gonna be right. It'll be a fun thing to watch and I think it'll be a very entertaining tournament, but from Kansas' perspective, I think you'll make a good run and play very well in the tournament. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they're in North Texas and have an opportunity to win a National Championship.

misterbrain: Switching focus real quick, just wanted to ask you what it's been like working with the guys on College Gameday, and I was taking a look at it, and Kansas has not only been on it the most times, but has actually hosted it the most times. Has that been a deliberate decision, or have they just had the most compelling matchups?

Davis: A little bit of both. It's one of the great venues in all of college basketball. The fans have never failed to show up and provide a wonderful atmosphere on the mornings that we've been there, and Kansas has had great teams, which really carries the load in primetime, because that game is in the prime viewing spot on Saturday night. Kansas can carry the load there. People watch them play. Not only Kansas fans, but they are a team that transcends the typical allegiances that fans have, so it's a combination of all of it. I love going there, it's my favorite building in college basketball. I think the entire atmosphere, the old feel of the building, the high level of play that Bill Self's teams alway employ, the great traditions there, the great players that have been there, really make it a great venue for us. Then the power of the name brand of Kansas make them a compelling draw on the road. A lot of the time when we go on the road in the Big 12, as we did this year, we go someplace where Kansas is going to be. It doesn't mean it's always that way, it doesn't mean we're showing favoritism, but we are in a business where we want compelling matchups people want to see, brought out by ratings, and Kansas can deliver that. So that's why we end up there for Gameday a lot.

PenHawk: Do you have any specific experiences or specific games that stand out at Allen Fieldhouse, that are memorable for you?

Davis: I was there for, well a couple Kansas fans might not want to remember this, but the atmosphere was great when I was there when Acie Law hit his big shot for Texas A&M. I was there for Wayne Simien's senior night when we were there several years ago. It's just always a great atmosphere to go in. Some of the guys at Kansas laughed at me the last time we were there, because when we walked in, you know there's no cheering in the press box, but when I walked in I gave a little, I don't care if other fans get mad, I like to call it the Phog, I know it's Allen Fieldhouse. I don't know if anyone noticed, but just for them I called it Eddie Cameron Indoor Stadium when we were at Duke a couple weeks ago, but I walked in and I did a Rock Chalk chant, just by myself, just for fun.

misterbrain: I wanted to ask you about the Capitol One Cup you're involved with, if you could just explain a little bit more about it, and how you got involved with the Capitol One Cup

Davis: Well, I think because I cover both college football and college basketball, the people at Capitol One were very gracious in reaching out to me and asked if I would be interested in being on the advisory board with people like Clark, and Doug Flutie, and at one time Robin Ventura was with us before he went off to manage baseball. We've had Kenny Finch, Lisa Leslie, we've had a great  group of people who care very much about college sports and being a part of it, and I was very gratified when they asked me to be a part. We talk all the time about sports providing opportunities for young people, but that's supposed to be the number 1 goal, and Capitol One has put its money where its mouth is in that regard by offering $400,000 in scholarship money for athletes to continue their education, and how that comes is through the Capitol One Cup. We award points over every sport, both mens and womens, in which the NCAA awards championships, 39 sports in all, and we compile the standings on an academic calendar basis. At the end of the fall, the standings come out, the end of the winter and the end of the spring. There's an opportunity for fans to get involved, because we at the Capitol One Cup believe it represents the ultimate bragging rights for a school's fanbase. They can say it has tangible evidence to support it, that their school has the best overall athletic programs. We provide opportunities for the fans to keep up, interact with those of us on the advisory board, and join in the general conversation about college sports by going online at capitolonecup.com, if they like they can do it on Facebook, or they can tweet @CaptiolOneCup. It's a great program that provides tangible benefits to the young men and women who play sports, and it also gives the fans the opportunity to do what all sports fans want to do, and that's brag on their school and their programs. Right now the Penn State women and the Florida State men lead the way.

PenHawk: Thanks a lot for your time today, Rece

misterbrain: thank you

Davis: Thank you, guys

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