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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Saturday, December 04, 2004

Open Thread: Today's Games

Your comments on today's games? A second tough loss for Indiana (this time to Connecticut) but big wins for Michigan (against Notre Dame) and Miami (against Florida). Quality matches between Hawaii and St. Louis, Oregon and Vanderbilt and Arkansas and Illinois. As I write, Oakland trails Missouri, Pacific is keeping it close against Kansas, and Mississippi is down a handful to Florida State.

Oh, and Kentucky lost a close but never in doubt game at North Carolina.


Research assistants

would be a wonderful addition to the Washington Post sports pages. From today's article by Eris Prisbell on college "basketball's mid-major debate."

During Nevada-Las Vegas's heyday in the early 1990s, players were celebrities, driving glittering cars and comprising one of the best teams in history. A few years later, John Calipari knew his U-Mass. team had arrived on the national scene when he watched on television as Maryland fans chanted "We want U-Mass.!" several days before the Terrapins met the highly ranked Minutemen.

Both UNLV and U-Mass. reached the Final Four during the past 15 years. Yet both competed in conferences -- the Big West and Atlantic 10, respectively -- regarded as "mid-major." The term has been part of the sports's vernacular since at least the late 1980s and vaguely refers to teams or conferences that don't possess the same resources, talent base or offer the same exposure as the nation's top six conferences.

Eric's language -- "since at least" the late 1980's -- covered his bases. But the term "mid-major" has been in use for at least an additional decade. You'd think that the Washington Post would at the absolute minimum check the paper's own archives. From an article published by the Post on November 30th, 1977.

Catholic's Jack Kvancz was particularly delighted yesterday, still sky high hours after a 66-61 upset over Howard.

"Last year we didn't beat a single area team," he chirped, "and now we have a chance to beat two of 'em in three days. If we do, maybe I'll retire for the rest of the year.

"We just had a great, exhilarating game against Howard," bubbled the scrappy Kvancz. "Our gym was packed, everybody screaming. It was everything that basketball's about at the level of our program. For a game between two 'mid-majors,' or whatever you'd call us, it had anything you could ask for."



Friday, December 03, 2004

Next week, a no news

press conference.


"a web of intrigue for recruiters"

What next, recruiting blogs? Below are (long) excerpts from three interesting articles about the use of Internet scouting websites.

Siena men's basketball coach Rob Lanier said he uses the Internet to stay current on the latest news on the recruiting wars.

"It's almost the sports section for a college basketball coach," Lanier said. "It's the equivalent of reading the newspaper and staying informed from a recruiting standpoint. In a lot of cases, we're trying to find out if kids are being consistent in what they're saying to us. If a kid tells us we're at the top of his list, and then we read an Internet interview where he doesn't mention our team, then there's an inconsistency there."

[Will] Brown, the [University of] Albany basketball coach, said his program spends about $3,000 of its annual recruiting budget on various services -- not an unusual expenditure, based on an informal poll of college coaches...

"We've tried a newsletter, but people didn't want it," said Mike Sullivan, editor of rivalshoops.com. "They want their information as fast as they can get it. But there's competition and sometimes mistakes are made. That's the way things change in recruiting. A kid can tell a reporter one day he's leaning toward Syracuse and the next day say he likes Ohio State."

In either form, the services provide valuable information, especially in the wake of recent NCAA legislation that greatly reduces the numbers of days that coaches can go on the road to watch prospects.

"(Recruiting services) are going to cover events that are during periods that (coaches) can't go," Boston University men's basketball coach Dennis Wolff said. "Most of these guys are nice guys and you can call them and ask them their opinion (on a player)."

"If any coach tells you they never get a lead from a scouting service, they're lying." Brown said.

Arizona's coaching staff isn't shy. They'll admit to using Internet sites.

Arizona is always on the hunt for underclassmen. The school, like most major colleges, subscribes to several scouting services. They cross check [them] with the big boys, such as Bob Gibbons, Clark Francis, Dave Telep and Van Coleman.

"We keep track of everything, not only the high majors but the sleepers," UA assistant coach Josh Pastner said. "We utilize as much as possible. Usually, guys involved are good judges and do it the right way."

But Gibbons, who has been evaluating talent since 1977 and lives in Durham, N.C., feels the proliferation of Internet analysts are giving his business a "black mark."

"The worst thing right now is you got guys who coach teams during the summer who sort of intimidate," said Gibbons, who figures he sees 300 to 400 games a year. "The college coaches feel pressured. If you want to recruit their kids, you'd better subscribe to their services. It's a total rip-off. Who do they see but their own players? They'll rank them more favorably. There is no objectivity."

Critics say Gibbons, who runs All-Star Scouting Service, is threatened because his turf is getting smaller.

"To me, all those sites popping up, they're all jockeying for some position of power and leverage with college coaches and they're being provided special access," Brown said.

"If the NCAA continues to clamp down on recruiting, coaches are going to turn to guys who do these Web sites."

Are you be interested in turning to these web sites as well? If you're thinking about quitting your day job, read about the high life (?) here.

The question remains the same, and Jeremy Crabtree has considered it often over the past five years.

But at some point, what it represented to Crabtree flipped around completely. The question once meant to prevent him from a life of Web site reports about high school football players now reinforces Crabtree's life-changing decision to leave mainstream journalism.

He remembers in every detail one of his editors at the Kansas City Star trying to sway him from leaving his job covering high school sports to join a recruiting Web site.

"Finally, he asked me, `Do you like vanilla ice cream?'" Crabtree said. "He was really serious. He goes, `That's all you're ever going to get: vanilla ice cream. Why would you want to do that?' "

And, to be honest, Crabtree had to consider it. There was a chance he would find devoting his life to gathering the thoughts and decisions of teenage boys was a bland, non-descript existence.

But that's just never happened.



illegal motion?

Here, here, here, and here, Greg Skidmore of the Sports Law Blog writes about liability laws in the event a student, player or member of the media is injured when fans rush the court. His findings?

Numerous courts have held that spectators at sporting events assume the risk of injuries that are related to the sport (i.e., a foul ball at a baseball game, a stray golf ball or a hockey puck). However, at least one court has held that the owner of a sports facility has a duty to use due care to remove risks that are not inherent in the sport. Rushing the court seems to fall into this latter category, increasing the potential for arena liability.

Less than conclusive, eh? (Matters of the law rarely are). Via email, I decided to consult attorney Tom Kirkendall, an expert in, among other practice areas, defending individuals in NCAA Infractions Committee hearings.

With regard to fans rushing the court at college basketball games, liability rules are really not much different from typical principles involving personal injury. In most states, such cases are determined on a comparative negligence basis in which the jury is asked to assess the percentage of negligence involved between the various parties. So, for example, a fan who was injured in a stampede who sues a university for negligent policing of its court would have his comparative negligence assessed by the jury along with the university's comparative negligence. If the fan was an active participant in the stampede, his percentage of negligence could be quite high, which would reduce dramatically the damages that he could recover. On the other hand, if he was a bystander who was simply injured in the stampede, then his negligence would likely by zero and his claim for damages would not be reduced.

Another issue entirely that often protects universities in these types of situations is sovereign immunity laws, which in many states provide that you cannot sue a state-supported institution for this type of claim. Sort of an offshoot of the old adage that "you can't sue City Hall."



corpus-christi!

The Hoops Junkie interviews Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's Ronnie Arrow. Who knew TAMU-CC was one of only a handful of Division One schools on an island?


that's tight

Pitt's Chevon Troutman is an NFL prospect even though he hasn't played football since high school. Antonio Gates, anyone?


willing to reconsider? rather than ham, does gp prefer (oscar) meyer?

ESPN.com recruiting analyst Tom Lemming believes that Tyrone Willingham's early dismissal could help Notre Dame football in its quest to steal two-sport star Greg Paulus away from Duke basketball. So too does the Post-Standard's Bud Poliquin, who went to print with a most blogworthy rumor. Mike Krzyzewski may have been at the Christian Brothers Academy gym last night to watch Paulus play and protect his turf in the wake of Willingham's departure. If Coach K wasn't worried, he wouldn't have made the trip.


They Get Letters

Via Newsday:

If Mike Jarvis and the previous St. John's coaching staff were going to pay a player, you would think that they would have the sense to at least pay somebody that was halfway decent. What were they thinking?

Al Marrazzo
Wantagh



Thursday, December 02, 2004

gone in nine seconds

The Connecticut Huskies' first timeout. But of all the beat writers (here, here, here, here and here), Rich DePreta did the best job putting Jim Calhoun's call in historical context.

It was a record-setting evening on a couple of fronts as the University of Connecticut men's basketball team remained unbeaten by thrashing Florida International, 99-48, last night at Gampel Pavilion.

"Our 19 blocked shots were a school record. I think I'll leave a message on Emeka Okafor's cell phone telling him that we have real shotblockers here in Storrs now," [said] UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "And yes, the timeout I called just nine seconds into the game is the second school record. I hate to see a team come out logy (lethargic)."

"My old record for quickest timeout was 22 seconds," Calhoun continued. "It came when I was at Northeastern. And we were playing UConn in the Connecticut Mutual Classic. That game turned out all right. We won by 30."

That was the command performance that ultimately brought Calhoun to Storrs in 1986. And the rest is history.



They Said It

"I would hate to see what their shower scene looks like."
-- North Carolina State's Julius Hodge, on Rashad McCants' comment that playing for the Tar Heels is like "being in jail."

"It feels like I'm in an election. I have to win everybody's vote for somebody to say something positive. I have to give to charity for somebody to say something positive. I can't walk around the street without somebody saying something negative."
-- North Carolina's Rashad McCants


Worst. Poster. Ever.

It's bad enough that Saturday's match between Gonzaga and Massachusetts is termed the "Battle in Seattle." Particularly because yesterday's game (in Spokane) between Gonzaga and Washington should be the real "Battle in Seattle."

But now this. If this poster were in black and white, it would appear Comcast was selling tickets to a 1950's horror flick. And while I'm no fan of Steve Lappas, that's harsh.
The Battle in Seattle?


msm

Gregg Doyel was likely the only (major) mainstream media pundit to cover the Indiana-North Carolina game rather than the Illinois-Wake Forest hoopla, suggesting that the CBS Sportsline columnist either didn't get invited to the Prom or didn't care to go. Did Doyel know something (about Wake Forest) we didn't know?

Dee Brown was significantly more eloquent in his post-game interview than was Bruce Weber. If ESPN is looking for an analyst to replace Mike Jarvis (hint, hint), they could do worse than Brown. But until Dee becomes eligible, how about the "New Guy?"

Mike "Dream Job" Hall couldn't control a talkative Bill Raftery, indignant Jay Bilas (the 10th best analyst on ESPN), or wise-guy Sean McDonough, but he shined last night nonetheless. Witty, funny-looking and knowledgeable, Hall would make a great college basketball talking head.


They Said It

"That should be a great early-season matchup. Unlike this one."
-- Gonzaga coach Mark Few, when asked about Illinois-Wake Forest after Illinois-Gonzaga


grounded...for now

About two weeks ago, I broke a rumor; Zam "Buck" Fredrick was unhappy at Georgia Tech and he and his father were considering a transfer.

Following up on a call from Buck's AAU coach, Zam Sr. met with a coach of another squad (that, like the Yellow Jackets, had participated in last year's NCAA Tournament) to discuss Buck's misgivings about Georgia Tech. The other coach -- demonstrating both good sportsmanship and a concern for the young man's best interests -- suggested Zam Jr. remain at Tech for at least a little while longer.

Therefore, for now, Zam Jr. is staying put at Tech. But much like Will Bynum (who chose not to transfer from Arizona when rumors of his displeasure first surfaced, only to leave the 'Cats a semester later), Fredrick remains a flight risk. Despite what public reports may lead you to believe.

"Where I came from, everyone knew what I could do, and I know what I'm capable of," said Fredrick, who averaged 34.5 points as a senior and set a South Carolina career scoring record. "I'm ready to get in there and play, but with Jarrett (Jack), Will (Bynum) and B.J. (Elder) I learn a lot from them in practice everyday. I try to pick up a little from everybody to make my game better. If I keep working and getting better, I'll be ready when it's time for me to be the man and run the show."


nyc

Traffic problems? In New York City? Who'da thunk it?

The Columbia-Hofstra basketball game was postponed because the Lions were stuck in heavy traffic Wednesday night. The team bus was caught in rush-hour traffic trying to go the 35 miles from Manhattan for the game scheduled at 7 p.m.

The schools were in contact during the delay. They decided it was best to postpone the game to Feb. 14 when it became apparent the Lions would not arrive in a reasonable amount of time. A Hofstra spokesman said a forfeit was never discussed because Columbia's traffic problems were beyond its control.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

They Said It

"[UW-Milwaukee's] Joah Tucker is a bigger, blacker version of Travis Diener."
--Air Force junior Antoine Hood


Open Thread: Tonight's Games

Your comments on Illinois vs. Wake Forest, Gonzaga vs. Washington, Holy Cross vs. Princeton, Massachusetts vs. Northeastern, Clemson vs. Ohio State, Richmond vs. South Florida, Dayton vs. DePaul, Indiana vs. North Carolina or Northwestern vs. Virginia?


Motivation

After losing six straight to Gonzaga, I think U-Dub should have no problem gearing itself up for tonight's showdown against the Zags. But until I read Grant Wahl's mailbag, I hadn't realized that the players aren't the only ones hoping to take down Cinderella.

There's some real venom in the 206-509 rivalry: Gonzaga's staff reported U-Dub assistant Cameron Dollar to the NCAA a couple years ago (sparking an investigation of some legit but relatively minor recruiting infractions), and no one in Seattle has forgotten.


Don't look now,

but Nate Funk has led Creigton to a 6-0 start, including road wins at Missouri, Ohio State and Xavier. Will a fast start be enough to send the Bluejays dancing if Dana Altman's crew falters in the MVC Tournament? Much too early too tell. But the early returns don't look promising. Even at 6-0, Creighton today checks in no higher than 45 in Ken Pomeroy's RPI.


Entertainment, Sports

and (Mobile) Phone Network. ESPN Mobile will start U.S. service in 2005.


dual-use technology

Andy Katz echoes the obvious; Sharif Chambliss was tremendous last night against Maryland and is the heir apparent to Devin Harris at Wisconsin.

Good for the Badgers, a club whose search for a point guard had approached epic proportions. But better (potentially) for the senior, Chambliss, who forfeited his scholarship at Penn State and is paying his own way at Wisconsin. At State, the 6'1" Sharif was a star 2-guard. In the NBA Draft, 6'1" shooting guards don't get much love. But if Chambliss plays point guard for Bo Ryan, he has the opportunity not only to lead the Badgers to a second-place finish in the Big Ten, but also to impress professional scouts and assure his name be called out (likely in the second round) on draft night.


You can't stop bloggers,

you can only hope to contain them. The Big Ten Wonk was quoted in this morning's Greensboro News-Record. Congrats to John.

[Illinois coach Bruce] Weber doesn't have any problems in stoking the fan base. According to Big Ten fan blogger John Gasaway bigtenwonk.blogspot.com, the Illini had even planned to don throwback 1988-89 uniforms in honor of the school's most recent Final Four team, but the threads were too big and baggy. Weber has still vowed to wear a very bright, loud orange blazer tonight.


"It's hard work."

Pitt Sports Blather's Chas notes that the average fan now has access to storylines suggested by a college's media relations department.

The patsy game against St. Francis - PA. Game Notes are here (PDF), but there isn't much to them. I mean if you like to see what the suggested storylines are, that's fine.

I think that has been an oddly fascinating thing about everything being on the net. The transparency with which athletic departments provide "suggested" storylines regarding a team for writers and game commentators. Stuff that has been going on for years, usually with the fans blissfully unaware of where some of those weird storylines or stats developed, now know it before the stories are written or the games are broadcast.

My recommendation? Reporters and columnists ought to avoid regurgitating talking points developed by a particular school or conference. Why? Because bloggers will soon hunt down lazy beat writes and mock them. Incessantly.


Tyme to Ty the Knot?

A week ago, we learned students at Cameron Indoor Stadium might not be so crazy about two-sport star Greg Paulus.

"I think he needs to evaluate his options, but at the same time he's got an opportunity to play basketball for Coach K and the best program in the country," Greg's dad, Dave Paulus, told Rivals.com the other day. "However, at some point you also have to ask the question, 'Which sport do you think he can play at the professional level?'"

The answer would appear to be football...

Rumors are running high in South Bend that Paulus is leaning toward Notre Dame, which would allow him to play both sports.

But with Ty Willingham now out at Notre Dame is Greg Paulus (finally) in at Duke?

We know Mike Brey introduced Paulus to Willingham. But will Coach K introduce Ty's dismissal as evidence Paulus should play basketball at Duke? You better believe it.


pundits gone wild

Mike DeCourcy has no love for Midnight Madness...

If there is one thing about this sport that does not work, it is the start of the season. Baseball has opening day. The NFL has its big kickoff weekend. By comparison, college basketball sneaks into its schedule.

while Jay Bilas has too much love for the new Big East...

The ACC may well have made the Big East the best and most powerful basketball conference in the country...The Big East turned predator itself, filching Marquette, Cincinnati, Louisville, and DePaul to help form a new 16-team basketball conference for 2005-06 -- four additional teams that can and will make great cases for inclusion into the NCAA Tournament field.

With Syracuse, UConn, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Seton Hall all going to the Tournament last year, and Notre Dame going the year before, it is not hard to imagine the new Big East putting nine or ten teams into the NCAA Tournament in a single year.

and Gregg Doyel missed an opportunity to inform readers of Joakim Noah's lovely family.

In his college debut against FAU, Florida's Joakim Noah had 11 points and nine rebounds -- in 10 minutes.

Mom was named Miss Sweden in 1978 (and hasn't lost a beat) and pop played professional tennis, winning the 1983 French Open.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Voting Irregularities in Ohio?

Take a look at this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Notice how Dayton received eight points.

Both last week and the week before last, Dayton was not among those receiving points. What then, you ask, have the Flyers done to merit newfound love?

In two games, both at home, Dayton has lost to Eastern Kentucky and beaten Coppin State. Not exactly a stellar record.

But wait (wait, don't tell me), Ronald "Fang" Mitchell, the Eagles' coach, is the representative of the Mid-American Athletic Conference to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Could the Coppin State coach be responsible for Dayton's inclusion in the latest poll?

We'll never know.

Despite the controversy surrounding secret voting by the coaches in other sports, particularly football, Mitchell doesn't want to publicly reveal his ballot for the Coaches Poll.

"I don't see what purpose that would serve to publicize the votes," Mitchell said. "We are just voting. It's our opinion."

But if the shoe fits, I'll wear it. "Fang" gave Dayton all eight of the school's points.

Via an email from reader Andrew.


acc/big ten challenge predictions

Game Title: Overrated!
Duke > Michigan State...Because the Spartans are worse than the Dukies.

Game Title: Who Cares?
Florida State > Minnesota...Texas A&M-Corpus Christi the Gophers are not.

Game Title: First to 60 wins!
Maryland > Wisconsin...In beating a Badgers team that came ready to play (by virtue of their loss to Pepperdine) the Terps demonstrate they're one of the three best teams in the ACC.

Game Title: Yellow Alert!
Georgia Tech > Michigan...I'd like to call this match the other way, if only because Michigan doesn't deserve to be down three. But the game is in hotlanta.


progress @ connecticut?

Pundits write a lot of prose. But every year, national writers produce a handful or articles whose accuracy -- or lack thereof -- goes a long way towards determining the dynamics of college basketball.

Andy Katz's just-published piece on Marcus Williams falls into this category. If accurate, it suggests Williams is poised to lead a talented Connecticut squad to great heights. Syracuse is challenged and Pittsburgh eclipsed in the Big East. Several teams are unable to snag a victory against the Huskies, undermining their case for an NCAA Tournament bid and perhaps costing a coach or two his job.

If incorrect, Connecticut will lack a mature point guard, undermining the potential for Calhoun's club to live up to its Top 10 billing. Syracuse becomes the Big East's 800 lb. guerilla. Pittsburgh and Connecticut follow, but both are vulnerable to conference foes, primarily Boston College. Connecticut loses a game at home in January or February, enabling the Big East to send an extra team to the dance.


They Said It

"We haven't executed offensively, at all. I have no idea why."
-- Indiana coach mike Davis


the chimps trace evolution

The Big Ten Wonk (who, were he a member of Fox Sports Net, would be the BDBBP) suggests Arizona's Lute Olson may have been the first coach to employ the phrase "Dookie V."

An intriguing thought. So I put the chimps to work. They first found reference to "Dookie V" in major city newspapers in the spring of 2001.

-- On March 29th, the Bergen County (NJ) Record's Adrian Wojnarowksi noted that "one Pac-10 coach refers to Vitale as 'Dookie V.'"
-- A day later, Newsday's Joe Gergen clarified: "Lute Olson has referred to college basketball mouthpiece Dick Vitale as 'Dookie V.'"
--The Richmond Times Dispatch's Jerry Lindquist subsequently jumped into the fray on April 2nd, adding little to the discussion: "Like most coaches from the left coast, Olson thinks teams from that part of the country don't get their fair share of TV exposure. Hey, Lute, it has to do with the three-hour time difference, baby!"
-- Finally, on April 6th (suggesting it takes four days to deliver a paper within the state of Virginia) the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot's Bob Molinaro argued West Coast fans should suck it up: "Arizona coach Lute Olson, who calls Dick Vitale 'Dookie V,' is resentful over what he sees as an Eastern bias among college hoops media. He has a case. But that's what Olson gets for setting up shop in a desert."

More recent references to "Dookie V" also credit Arizona's Olson with coining the phrase.


Great, but what does Howard Stern

have to do with NCAA March Madness basketball?

Very happy to hear that Sirius Radio will broadcast every game of the tournament for the next three years. But the Associated Press article on the subject is written from the perspective of a business beat writer covering an industry rather than a sports reporter covering a story.

Is it too much to ask of ESPN or the "ESPN Wire Services" to "contribute" to AP articles by customizing them for college basketball?


Monday, November 29, 2004

They Said It

"I don't really care about rankings. I wish we played it like the NBA. They just play. At the end of the season, they let you know who's No. 1."
-- Washington guard Nate Robinson


onward and upward

ESPN.com recently put a blogger in charge of ESPN Insider. Get excited!

Not only does Insider have (nearly) nowhere to go but up, but I sense Reemer's appreciation for technology, the blogosphere and the average sports fan will do wonders for ESPN's premium service.

Oh, and his first (public) move as blogger-in-chief is a darn good one.

If You Read ESPN.com, I'd Like to Know

My responsibilities have shifted from working on League Manager, our Fantasy Football engine, to Insider, our paid-content site.

We've got some really stellar content in Insider, and would like your feedback, especially if you visit ESPN.com frequently but are not an Insider.

Specifically, we're wondering about these things:

If you are not an Insider, why not? Do we need to do a better job of showing you what Insider offers? Or, is there not enough that has compelled you to buy? What content or tools would be worth it to become an Insider?

If you are an Insider, what do you like about it? What would you like to see more of?

I'm basically looking for any thoughts you have on the product. Your feedback will help us shape the product and bring you content and tools that you are interested in.

Please leave your comments here or email me at kareem at reemer dot com.

Thanks!

PS> If you run a sports blog, I would really appreciate it if you could do me a favor and link to this post--I'd like to cast as wide a net as possible. Thanks!

Ask and ye shall receive.


Watch

the video.

An All-American? To be determined. An Emmy-winner? I hope so.


A Freudian Slip

"Rich" Pitino inspires her.


From here on out

I will refer to him as Travis "Big Game" Niesen.

The Santa Clara star scored only eight points in games against Duquesne and Pacific, but dropped 26 and 31 versus North Carolina and Stanford respectively.


Entertainment, Sports, and Poker Network

Off Topic: During the hockey lockout, ESPN2 has been airing poker tournaments in lieu of the missing NHL broadcasts. For the most part, the poker games have drawn better ratings than the hockey contests did last year.

Looking for a holiday gift for your poker fiend of a friend or family member? Look no further. A tremendously readable and enjoyable book.


They Said It

"The development of basketball around the world has grown far more rapidly than anything we've ever seen. The only one of our seven continents that we haven't really had a really good player come from is Antarctica. And I got a note the other day from a guy about a 7-foot penguin that can just play his (rear end) off."
-- Texas Tech coach Bob Knight


Sunday, November 28, 2004

A Smug Sigh of Relief

Earlier this year, CNN/SI's Luke Winn suggested (and the Detroit News' Jim Spadafore and ESPN's Jeff Shelman considered it possible if not likely that) Northwestern would this season play in the school's first NCAA Tournament. My reaction?

Yes, the Red Sox might win the World Series. But even with the cosmos out of alignment, the Wildcats will not be dancing come March.

Read My Lips: If Northwestern makes its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament this year, I will eat my shorts. Or grab a magic marker and write Dickie V on my forehead in big black letters. Or both.

Upon reading my pledge, the SportsProf noted I might be sorry.

You might have to get ready to eat 'em, Yoni. Street and Smith's and Blue Ribbon both have them as a bubble team come march, and while they did lose Jitim Young, they are deeper than they've been before and they'll have an inside presence. Give Bill Carmody a center who can play, and Bill Carmody will get his team to the Big Dance.

I'm not (sorry). Only four games into the Wildcats' season, I'm already (all but) right! By virtue of Northwestern's three point victory over Portland and the club's losses to New Mexico State, Utah State and (today) Colorado.


Fly higher as an Eagle,

For Kyle is the wind beneath their wings?

Monsieur Whelliston came to Beantown -- without dropping by to say hello (cue Stephanie Tanner: "How rude!") -- and inquired about the future of the Boston College Eagles.

Once they're free of the lane-clogging brawl-ball of the Big East, the Eagles will have a chance to cut their teeth against the very best - the Tobacco Road squads - on a year-in year-out basis. If they can manage to escape the good-team-in-a-great-conference trap that Clemson finds themselves in every year, maybe they can hang around and compete. Give them a few years of increased recruiting and funding, maybe they can start contending. Maybe even winning. It's a valid question: could the Boston College Eagles realistically become one of the top teams in college hoops someday?

I wish, but no. Desire is a prelude to success and the Boston College administration prefers not to field a Top 10 squad. Yes, you read that right. BC bigwigs are against greater athletic success and its attendant drawbacks.

First, the college's primary reason for changing conferences wasn't for greater athletic opportunity, but for a better academic reputation. From the Boston Globe:

BC was intrigued by linkage to schools with strong academic credentials. That, as much as anything, was behind the strong push by the administration to switch conferences, a move that [athletic director Gene] DeFilippo had to embrace publicly.

Second, consider BC's football program. Absent Miami, the Eagles could have dominated Big East pigskin. But with Miami and Florida State in an expanded ACC the Eagles are an also-ran. If the BC administration so highly values athletic elitism, why make a move that all but assures its football program will never attain Top 10 status?

Third, think back to the experience that drove basketball coach Jim O'Brien away to Ohio State (and forget what you now know about Obie).

Jim O'Brien wants out and is whispering vows to leave BC...O'Brien, a BC alum, is furious. He feels that the administration pulled the rug out from under him by recently rejecting two recruits: South Boston's Jonathan DePina and West Roxbury's Elton Tyler...

By NCAA eligibility standards, DePina easily qualifies to play while Tyler, who will take his SATs again, is only partly qualified...It must be stressed that BC admission standards are not the same as the NCAA minimum eligibility requirements...

BC admissions gave DePina and Tyler the thumbs down. That snowballed into O'Brien losing The Three AAU Amigos: DePina, Tyler and Worcester's Mike Bradley. Bradley became incensed when he was accepted by BC, but his AAU teammates were not. So he ripped up his letter of intent to attend BC.

Fourth, let Rev. William P. Leahy, the 25th president of the college be crystal clear about priorities.

"We don't want to accept a student here just because he might give us a good year of athletic competition. I don't think that's fair. We want student-athletes who we think can graduate. Sometimes we are wrong in our judgments. But I don't want us selling our souls for the sake of athletics. That is not what this institution is about."

Are high academic standards a prelude to Final Fours? No. Witness Duke. But BC's admissions guidelines make the scenario Kyle envisioned highly unlikely.


How good is Washington?

With star guard Brandon Roy on the bench in street clothes, the Huskies soundly defeated -- in my eyes the game was never in doubt -- an under-appreciated Alabama squad in the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout.

Teamwork. Experience. Leadership. Spurtability. There aren't ten teams in the country better than Lorenzo Romar's squad.


Shallow waters

Gregg Doyel justly takes Rick Pitino to task for deciding not to recruit Rajon Rondo and Chris Lofton. If this year's Cardinals fail to reach the Elite Eight, it won't be for lack of effort from Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia.

It will be for lack of depth, a result of Pitino's poor planning. Although he signed with Louisville, Sebastian Telfair was always a likely bet to skip college altogether. And as Donta Smith saw his stock rise and rumors of an early NBA Draft entry materialize, Pitino should have either nipped Donta's notion in the bud or learned from NBA execs that Smith was a probable pro. Either way, Rick should have planned for the worst. He didn't.

If Rick's reign at Louisville proves less successful than his time at Kentucky, analysts will look back and recognize Pitino's inability to capitalize on the presence of Dean and Garcia as a critical failure.


I'm no fan

of Florida's Billy Donovan. But in his conversation with the Providence Journal's Kevin McNamara Billy Boy made a very good point. The media builds preseason expectations. If a team fails to meet those expectations, the coach and his players are assigned blame. Not the pundits who guessed wrongly about what was to come.

Last year, the Gators began the season ranked in the top 10. In the season's first week, Florida beat No. 1 Arizona in the Hall of Fame Game and took its place atop the polls. Donovan told anyone who would listen that his group of one senior and 11 freshmen and sophomores wasn't ready for prime time. No one listened.

The Gators struggled to a 9-7 SEC record, yet still won 20 games. Then their top overall talent -- Danish forward Christian Drejer -- abruptly quit the team in February to sign a pro contract back home. His loss shook the young team, but the Gators still scratched out the 20 wins. When fifth-seeded Florida lost to 12th-seeed Manhattan in the NCAA Tourney, the Gators were labeled underachievers. After all, they were ranked No. 1 back in November, right?

"This is how the polls work," Donovan said. "Last year, we got to number one early in the year and we weren't number one. We didn't deserve that, but that's what happened. So last year we started out ranked eighth in the country, won 20 games and lost to a very good Manhattan team that clearly outplayed us. But the media never says 'We probably rated Florida too high.'"