Monday, January 03, 2005a chink in Illinois' nearly impenetrable armor; the Fighting Illini lack a bona-fide NBA lottery pick...Arizona was the last team to win an NCAA title (in 1997) without producing an NBA first-round draft pick.
-- Can I hold Rick Pitino responsible for the lack of backseat love? (The Louisville Courier-Journal. They. Get. Letters).
Watching University of Louisville play basketball at Freedom Hall is fun and exciting. I've been a season-ticket holder for over 20 years. I sit at the top of the arena in the next to last row.
Two or three years ago beverage holders were installed on the backs of the seats. In the section I sit in, the holders were not put in for people sitting on the back three rows. Why didn't the last three rows get the beverage holders?
People sitting at the top of Freedom Hall get the shaft when T-shirts and other promotional items are flung to the fans. Why don't the T-shirt distributors go way up in the stands and give people at the very top of Freedom Hall a chance to catch a prize?
And finally, why can't handrails be installed in the aisles that go to the top? Elderly fans and those who have great difficulty negotiating the steep climb to the top love Cardinals basketball and deserve those handrails. Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has handrails.
Paul L. Whiteley Sr.
-- Bucknell yesterday defeated Pittsburgh. Given the Panthers' weak pre-New Year's schedule, Jamie Dixon's club should drop more than a few notches in the rankings. Krauser and Taft, however, continue to impress professional scouts.
-- On the heels of North Carolina State's loss to West Virginia, News & Observer columnist Ned Barnett makes a contrarian argument; rather than demonstrate the Pack's weaknesses, losses to St. John's and West Virginia and an unexpectedly close call against Columbia portend greater strength for Herb Sendek's club. Huh? First, Barnett writes as an apologist -- Hodge was absent from the game against WVU, several players have been suffering from the flu, etc. -- and second as an eternal (if forced) optimist -- the losses will reinforce Hodge's importance to the club's success (as if his contributions weren't previously widely acknowledged) and motivate State to play better. I wouldn't hold my breath.
-- As predicted yesterday, Boston College thrashed the University of Massachusetts behind a strong game from Craig Smith. The Eagles should find themselves in the Top 25 this week.
-- So too should the West Virginia Mountaineers, whose balanced attack has defeated George Washington and North Carolina State, both ranked, in successive games. When, oh when, will Jerry West appear at a nationally televised WVU game? (And when is my next opportunity to see this season's major-conference surprise)?
-- Georgia Tech's losses to Kansas and Gonzaga, North Carolina State's aforementioned struggles, Virginia's return to earth and Wake Forest's evident mortality suggest it is only a matter of time before a prominent columnist (west of the Mississippi, most likely) questions the ACC's dominance.
-- The Arizona Daily Star's Greg Hanson writes-up the no longer theoretical change in the Wildcats' play. I saw it against Wake Forest. And against Marquette. And, last night, against a talented and still-dangerous Arizona State squad. Defense.
This Arizona team, blessed with speed and athleticism, absorbing concepts of defensive pressure like no other Olson club, never let up. It was impressive. The coach has set the tone for this new-and-improved UA team, one that would rather break you down on defense than shoot you down on offense.
Offense wins games (and as the U of A continues to demonstrate, last year's most potent club has still got that love) but defense wins championships (and recent games Arizona has also found that feeling).
The 'Cats remain undisciplined on offense. But this Arizona club is quickly growing on me. Look for Olson & Co. to bust a few brackets come March.
-- I recently suggested Oregon might be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid. Oops. The Ducks yesterday lost to the UCLA Bruins.
-- Another night, another 35. Ladies and gents, Taylor Coppenrath.
-- Is Florida an unlikely bet for the NCAA Tournament? Could Billy Donovan be on the hot seat? Mark yesterday's loss to Florida State on your calendar. I bet it greatly irked an influential booster or two.
-- Following a sub-par game against a lesser opponent, Virginia's crushing defeat to Wake Forest affirms not only the Cavaliers' downside, but also, and as Daily Progress sports editor Jerry Ratcliffe suggests, Sean Singletary's inexperience. Read Ratcliffe's article.
-- In a game between two under-achieving clubs, Providence defeated San Diego State. The Aztecs shot a season-low 34.9 percent from the field, the fifth time in seven games that they have shot less than 40 percent from the floor. In other words, Steve Fisher is today re-thinking his decision to return to coaching.