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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, January 15, 2005

Open Thread: Today's Games

Your comments on North Carolina-Wake Forest, Louisville-Cincinnati, UCLA-Arizona, Syracuse-Providence, New Mexico-Air Force or any one of today's many games?


from the 'roots

-- Sara, of Sara & Ted's "Most Excellent" Women's Hoops Blog, is pregnant! She's due this summer.

-- The "Comeback Crawford?" According to the Associated Press, former McDonald's All-American Joe Crawford has arranged for a meeting with Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith, reportedly to discuss a possible return to the Wildcats. His teammates' reaction, as echoed by senior co-captain Chuck Hayes? "If he comes back, he's got a place. He's still got a locker with a jersey in it." My reaction? Joe failed to register for Michigan State classes by the Friday afternoon deadline, suggesting he is now unlikely to become a Spartan. Some combination of Tom Izzo's sage advice, Tubby Smith's hardball regarding the national letter of intent and third parties' common sense prevailed upon Crawford to wisely return to Lexington.

-- Lisa Hoppenjans of the Winston-Salem (NC) Journal writes-up the evolution of Wake Forest basketball crowds -- from quiet to boisterous, from Joel Coliseum to "Jolt Coliseum" -- during Skip Prosser's tenure. Importantly, Prosser's progress has been more the result of hard work and creative thinking than of wins on the basketball court. One of Skip's first changes was to move the student section from behind Wake Forest's bench to areas by the opposing team's bench and basket. A second was to hire the architect responsible for host Marquette's February 9, 2003 crowd to prepare the Deacs for a game with Duke. The result? "Zombie Nation," "Screamin' Demons," and several other institutionalized crowd-chaos measures.

-- Josh Robbins of the Fort Lauderdale (FL) Sun-Sentinel notes that, contrary to preseason expectations, Miami is on the up and up and Florida State is going down, down, down. Which reminded me to ask of ye faithful readers the following. Why do only the Seminoles have a won-loss record that mirrors that of a mediocre NBA club? Other college teams have learned to win on the road. But much like the Boston Celtics (for example), FSU has, over several years time, been an NCAA Tournament team at home and an Atlantic 10 team on the road. Pourquoi?

-- Dan Wiederer of the Fayetville (NC) Observer hops on the Gregg Doyel bandwagon, reminding his readers that Matt Doherty is responsible for recruiting the nucleus of this year's Tar Heels club. The better a year North Carolina has, the likelier it becomes that Doherty will be signed to a head coaching gig this summer. A true, but ironic and perhaps cruel twist of fate.

-- Is there a grassroots campaign to fire Memphis coach John Calipari? Blogger Eric investigates, learning that Memphis Sports Talk Radio host John Rainman, "The Rainman," owns FireCalipari.com and that a Florida-based NCAA bulletin-board administrator owns FireJohnCalipari.com. Blogger Dave: The floor is all yours.

-- Myles away from a solution, the NCAA is hoping to Brand a set of recommendations for how university athletic departments can cope with soaring costs. But without being able to address a part of the problem, coaches' salaries (antitrust law), the NCAA might as well feign indifference rather than action.

-- Freshman A.J. Ratliff, whose email address continues to include a reference to his status as Mr. Basketball in the State of Indiana, hopes to be the Hoosiers' savior. Ain't nothing wrong with the audacity of hope, but yours truly believes Ratliff's game will be of more help to Mike Davis' successor than it is to the embattled coach.

-- The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Terry Wood suggests the Razorbacks institute measures to limit opponents' spurtability, practice unselfish basketball, and develop a greater trust in their teammates. I suggest Stan Heath be commended for bringing Arkansas back into the limelight and encouraged to seek advise from coaches older and wiser than he on how to take his program to the next step.

-- John Eligon of the Detroit Free Press profiles another freshman to watch: Ron Coleman. The Michigan youngster is a relaxed and talented perimeter player who will help Tommy Amaker return the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament (a year later than expected).

-- With nothing better to write about, beat writers Matt Youmans and Lindsey Willhite pen "you've got to be kidding me" articles about the lack of respect for North Carolina and Illinois (respectively) in the national media.

-- Jim Calhoun signed a contract extension with Connecticut. Among this year's most surprising developments is the Calhoun coaching boomlet, suggesting the Huskies will be able to draw a talented coach to Storrs when Jim finally retires.

-- Billy Edelin still plays basketball. The last two games, with great success. Sooner rather than later, Syracuse will again come to depend on and benefit from his playmaking ability...Before he graduates, Gerry McNamara should thank Edelin for his academic troubles. Billy's absence forced McNamara to demonstrate his potential as a point guard, ensuring the Orange sharp-shooter will receive more attention that he might otherwise have from NBA scouts.

-- More evidence that Tim Floyd is a friggin idiot. His famous last words from yesterday's press conference? "This will be my last pro or college job. My last job, period." In today's job security-less college (and pro) basketball world, such statements are better left unsaid.

-- As lament over North Carolina's lone game against Wake Forest grows and the questions about ACC expansion (re-)surface, Robbi Pickeral of the Greensboro (NC) News & Observer writes a piece on the challenges faced by ACC associate commissioner Fred Barakat in devising a conference schedule. A job that is made all the more difficult by ESPN's love affair with the conference and Fox Sports' bandwagon coverage.

-- Patrick "I've lived up to the hype" Sparks vs. Dennis "I've been weighed down by NCAA sanctions" Felton. Even if Sparks' Kentucky played Felton's Georgia with but four men on the floor, I'd still bet against the Bulldogs.

-- More bad news for St. Louis. And to think, I once, long ago, pegged the Billikens a team with NCAA bubble potential. Brad Soderberg isn't yet on the hot seat yet. But if SLU's malaise continues into next season, I don't expect to see him on the bench in 2006-2007.

-- The Charlotte Observer's David Scott gives the term "mid-major" a go: "A major conference will usually send three or more teams to the NCAA tournament. A mid-major will sometimes have as many as two teams in the tournament. A low-major will almost never send more than its automatic qualifier." Not exactly. The MVC and WCC have and could both send three teams dancing. Yet neither is a major conference.

-- Good News: Quin Snyder and the Missouri basketball team have established a record for team grade-point average in the fall semester (2.91). Bad News: It's less likely the Tigers get rid of Snyder than I originally thought.

-- Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports is writing a book about Jerry Tarkanian. I (too). Can't. Wait.

-- Problems between Gary Williams and John Gilchrist have come to light. See here and here. When Williams has to tell us he is "on the same page" with his starting point guard, we know they are not on the same page. Not regarding the NBA. Or Gilchrist's identity. Or academic failings.


Friday, January 14, 2005

the excerpt edition

-- According to the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, college basketball is more popular than ever. (Tell me something I didn't know). I don't have an "SI Exclusive" membership, but Blogger Chas of Pitt Sports Blather was kind enough to post an excerpt on his site. Enjoy!

Television has certainly noticed the difference. At a time when the Nielsens for many major sports are declining or flat, college hoops ratings are up 12% on CBS (compared with this time last season), 10% on ESPN and 25% on ESPN2. "In our world double-digit growth is more than significant. That's a major change from one season to the next," says Burke Magnus, who has coordinated ESPN's college basketball programming for the past five years. The ratings are up despite a proliferation of games: The ESPN family plans to televise 303 men's games this season, including 18 that have been added on Wednesday nights in place of locked-out NHL games. And that doesn't take into account the 510 additional games available on ESPN's Full Court satellite and digital-cable packages for the most addled of hoopheads.

Meanwhile, thanks to prodding from the TV networks and the NCAA tournament committee's increased focus on strength of schedule, coaches now have more incentive than ever to arrange the kind of marquee intersectional matchups that fans want to see. Back in the 1980s John Thompson's Georgetown teams would load up on cupcakes like St. Leo and Hawaii-Hilo. Now even notorious Syracuse fraidy cat Jim Boeheim is willing to take on Oklahoma State and risk an early-season loss. (The Orange fell to the Cowboys 74-60 on Dec. 7.) "I'm finding more teams are willing to play anybody," says Mike Aresco, the senior vice president for programming at CBS Sports. "We've never had so many good nonconference games, like Kansas-Kentucky and Connecticut-North Carolina [on Feb. 13], scheduled in January and February."

Three of the most electrifying games this season have been No. 16 Gonzaga's takedowns of No. 8 Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and No. 14 Washington, prime contenders, respectively, for the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-10 titles. Such matchups might not have happened in years past. "As a coach you control a certain number of games, so you'd better do something to show you'll schedule the way the committee wants," says Zags coach Mark Few. "In the end you'll be rewarded, either by getting into the tournament or drawing a high seed." Even better, the tournament committee's recent changes to the Ratings Percentage Index -- which will reward teams more for road wins than for home wins -- should only increase the willingness of powerhouses to venture into the lairs of other heavyweights, as Georgia Tech did on New Year's Day when it dropped a 70-68 overtime thriller at Kansas.

-- Blogger Ryan of Hawkeye Hoops is some sort of mathametics whiz. After he ran a few computations, the blogosphere's premier statistician suggested Ryan's numbers were "the most accurate thing out there for assessing individual offensive performance." (You must-)Read about Ryan's calculations here. On this blog, I'll cut to the chase, his results. But first, the necessary explanation/excerpt.

The numbers I'm going to use are floor percentage and offensive rating.

Both numbers use individual possessions in their calculation. Individual possessions occur when a player has a scoring possession (see below), misses a field goal or free throw that the defense rebounds, or commits a turnover.

Floor percentage measures the percent of a player's or team's possessions that end in a scoring possession. A team scoring possession is a possession in which the team scores at least one point; individuals have scoring possessions when they contribute to a team scoring possession, by making a field goal, assisting on it, getting the offensive rebound that leads to it, or by making free throws.

Offensive rating is a ratio of a player's points produced to his individual possessions. Points produced is a number [author Dean] Oliver created that gives players credit for contributing to the offense through assists, field goals, free throws, and offensive rebounds.

Floor Leaders
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Chris PaulWake Forest.55013722.1
Nate RobinsonWashington.57414022.0
Jarrett JackGeorgia Tech.51012921.3
Raymond FeltonNorth Carolina.49312321.1
John LucasOklahoma State.56214621.8
Jeff HornerIowa.50813120.2

Shooters
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
J.J. RedickDuke.52114024.9
Travis DienerMarquette.57915929.9
Ben JacobsonNorthern Iowa.52813124.4
Gerry McNamaraSyracuse.47812923.8
Adam HaluskaIowa.54513817.7

Slashers
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Julius HodgeNorth Carolina State.59712830.1
Francisco GarciaLouisville.51913024.6
Rashad McCantsNorth Carolina.52413223.3
Keith LangfordKansas.52411924.4
Pierre PierceIowa.46410331.3

Inside-Out
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Hakim WarrickSyracuse.57112225.7
Ike DioguArizona State.61813727.8
Joey GrahamOklahoma State.55812528.0
Paul DavisMichigan State.57612325.3
Taylor CoppenrathVermont.62113332.4

Post Men
NameSchoolFloor%O Rating%Poss
Shelden WilliamsDuke.55911522.0
Eric WilliamsWake Forest.60712523.9
Sean MayNorth Carolina.61012828.2
Luke SchenscherGeorgia Tech.55511719.7
Ronny TuriafGonzaga.57512327.1

-- Charlie Villanueva is finally playing passionate basketball, or so says the Manchester Journal Inquirer's Phil Chardis. Now if only he could help the Huskies win a few games.

There's little question that Villanueva wants to play. His performance against Oklahoma's formidable front line made that obvious. "Charlie was battling," guard Marcus Williams said. "I've never seen Charlie battle like that."

Villanueva, averaging 15.7 points and 9.8 rebounds over UConn's last six games, really had two of his head coaches watching him at the Lloyd Noble Center, since Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson was Villanueva's coach last summer on the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the World Championships for Young Men. He saw an improved Villanueva Monday night.

"Charlie is getting it now," Sampson said. "If I'm Jim Calhoun, I'm leaving here feeling good because of him. I coached him this summer and his deal was always going to be just the decision he has to make to be great. To come in here and get 14 rebounds? That team has a chance to win the Big East and Charlie will be a big reason why. I told him I was really proud of him. I think he's going to have a great year."

Calhoun thinks the dramatic change in Villanueva's play actually began when he played only 13 minutes against UMass in a game when UConn really needed him.
"Charlie really thought I was kidding," Calhoun said. "He thought that Emeka was gone and that I had no choice. He really didn't know me that well, and that if he didn't start playing some defense and start competing the way he's capable of, then he would be playing 10 minutes a game. I don't care who he was.

"He found out I was for real. He came into the office (after the UMass game) and he expected me to say I'm sorry, and I said, 'Next game it'll be 10 minutes. You can go anywhere you want. You can go to the NBA. I know you're supposed to be a really great player, but once I get you here, I don't know anything about your reputation - and to me you don't look like a terrific player. I think you're tremendously overrated.' I said, 'Unless you understand that I really mean a) you're not going to play for us unless you play a particular way, then b) you're not going anyplace. Yakima is not a great place for a professional career.'"



usc has a dream

-- Edgar Thompson of the Palm Beat (FL) Post profiles ESPN's "Bracketologist," Joe Lunardi. (Gotta love the media writing about the media). Joe's current full-time gig? Assistant vice president of communications at St. Joseph's. He also serves as the Hawks' radio color analyst and has worked 290 consecutive men's basketball games. And counting.

-- Ben Smith of the Fort Wayne (IN) Journal-Gazette rips into Indiana-Purdue of Fort Wayne administrators for firing Doug Noll with 13 games left in the season. Big-time basketball at IPFW? Smith thinks this is a ridiculous notion. As do I.

-- Time (of all news sources) has today's must-read on how George Raveling, then a 24-year old former All-American basketball player at Villanova, came to stand on stage next to Martin Luther King during the March on Washington and ended up with the original typewritten "I Have a Dream" speech.

-- North Carolina State lost a "must-win" game to Duke yesterday evening. Add Julius Hodge to the growing list -- Ryan Gomes, Lawrence Roberts, etc. -- of seniors who probably regret their decision not to turn pro early.

-- Herb "back on the hot seat" Sendek needs Tony Bethel to get healthy sooner rather than later.

-- The University of Southern California will hold a press conference this afternoon to announce the hiring of Tim Floyd as the school's new basketball coach. The school will also hold a news conference on Monday to confirm that Floyd did not change his mind (again) over the weekend and will indeed lead the Trojans.

-- Ahead of the Wake Forest - North Carolina game, Rob Daniels of the Greensboro (NC) News & Record covers Wake's version of Krzyzewskiville. Chris Paul will visit the faithful tonight to demonstrate his appreciation.

-- Looking for "little things" to motivate his Fighting Illini, Bruce Weber noticed his team had lost a few first place votes in the latest AP poll. He made sure his players were aware of the slap in the face and told the media "I don't think anyone respects us." Memo to B-Web: You're no longer coaching an underdog. Time to start acting and talking like a juggernaut.

-- My name is Ben Howland and I am a candidate for Coach of the Year.

-- Too bad Memphis last night defeated Marquette. The win robbed eager columnists and bloggers of the ability to this morning make jokes at John Calipari's expense.

-- Gregg Doyel dribbles in favor of Tulsa hiring Matt Doherty. A very persuasive suggestion, so much so that I'm now of the opinion that Doherty deserves a higher profile gig than the one with the Golden Hurricance. As for Nolan, he too ought to be welcome at Tulsa. The "winningest coach available," Richardson is an instant recruiting and public relations boon -- for some schools, all press is good press.

-- Tom Kensler's ground-breaking research suggests Kansas owes its success to the Jayhawks' senior class. More evidence that nothing gets by those Denver Post staff writers.

-- The Herald & Review's Mark Tupper, himself a blogger, observes that the coaching carousel of two years ago worked out well for 14-1 and third-ranked North Carolina (Roy Williams), 12-0 and second-ranked Kansas (Bill Self) and 17-0 and first-ranked Illinois (Bruce Weber). The numbers speak for themselves.

-- A freshman to watch: LSU's Glen Davis. The big fella amassed 28 points and 14 rebounds in the Tigers defeat of the Gamecocks.

-- Jamie Dixon gets a much-needed public relations boost.

Pitt is playing on national network television three times in the next two months. If Pitt and CBS Sports had their way, the Panthers would have played another national network game on the road. The only problem was some high-profile teams declined CBS' offer.

CBS tried to make games at Duke, Michigan State and Illinois, but none of those schools wanted to play host to the Panthers, a university source said yesterday.

-- Two days later, Steve Sneddon still can't get over the UTEP-Nevada game. Guess it really was a must-see.

-- Eric Crawford of the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal checks-in with the first of what is sure to be many articles about how the more things change (Bob Huggins' recovery) at Cincinnati, the more they stay the same (the Bearcats' winning games).

-- My best wishes to Penn State's Marlon Smith. May he recover from whatever it is that is keeping him in serious condition at Hershey Medical Center.

-- The underrated Stu Dorando of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pens a nice read about former St. Louis University and current Washington coach Lorenzo Romar's recruiting success. For old time's sake, Dorando includes a "What might have been" at SLU.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

down under

-- Go Tubby! It's your luncheon. Ole Miss' Tip-Off Club is going to party like it's your luncheon.

-- The gang of 500 cares little about Andrew Bogut. The Utah star therefore has to search far and wide -- all the way to Australia -- to find a puff piece about his NBA prospects.

-- ESPN's "experts" are up with their latest Power Poll. Only Dick Vitale would rank Kansas ahead of both Illinois and North Carolina.

-- A few days ago, Bloggers Dave and the SportsProf weighed in on Doug Gottlieb's suggestion that Eddie Sutton and Jerry Tarkanian belong in the Basketball Hall of Fame. As usual, I disagree with Gottlieb. While I'm young enough to understand only why Sutton deserves admission, I'm old enough to remember why Tark doesn't merit more than a moment's consideration.

-- The Albuquerque Tribune's Jeff Carlton, himself a blogger, pens a nice profile of Air Force's Chris "no relation to Randy" Mooney. The fourth-youngest head coach in Division I, however, better vacate the Falcons' bench sooner rather than later. A good coach can amass a few successful seasons at the AFA, but is sooner or later doomed to a season or two of mediocrity by lackluster recruiting. Such is life when your players are expected to serve in the military upon graduation.

-- As it turns out, Swede import Christian Maraker came to Pacific by chance. This fun story and more in the piece the Associated Press' Janie McCauley wrote about the success Bob Thomason is having out West. Thomason's making little progress, however, with respect to my friend's request that the school's name be changed; "I can't believe the Friars lost to an ocean." (Then again, given Providence's 2004-2005 campaign, last year's first round exit seems desirable).

-- The Daily Howler: UCLA's victory over Washington generated a new meme. Ben Howland is turning the Bruins around. A premature conclusion? Yes. But a wrong one? No.

-- The aforementioned seven schools that requested copies of Joe Crawford's transcript from Kentucky? Michigan State, Clemson, Arizona, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma and Illinois.

-- Indiana-Purdue of Fort Wayne today fired Doug Noll , purportedly for going 40-119 in five-plus years. I say, however, that Noll was let go because he failed to come up with a nickname as cute as "ooey-pooey."

-- Marcus Stout, a former teammate of Joe Crawford, was recently named the Atlantic 10 rookie of the week after nailing six three pointers in a game against Richmond. His coach's response?

Dereck Whittenburg: "I'm just happy to have him, and that Michigan and Michigan State were too dumb to recruit him."

Marcus' response (Told to a reporter after the game, then paraphrased and emailed to this intrepid blogger)? With two All-Americans on my (Detroit Renaissance) team, I was never asked to score in high school.


Number Two?

-- The Orange County (CA) Register's Todd Harmonson reports that USC isn't expected to announce Tim Floyd's hiring until tomorrow at the earliest, but that the Trojans are moving closer and closer to inking the former Iowa State coach. Not so says the Los Angeles Daily News' Scott Wolf, as he notes that a scheduled news conference to introduce Floyd was abruptly canceled yesterday after the Trojans learned that their would-be coach has "serious reservations." Why the last minute change of heart? Wolf offers two hypotheses. The first relates to the possible availability of a head-coaching job at LSU, the second to the drastic overhaul necessary to turnaround USC. I'll add a third, the mystery deterrent that drove Rick Majerus away. An NCAA investigation, perhaps?

-- Imagine you are the athletic director of a university with a rich basketball tradition (Arizona or Indiana would do) and you this summer find yourself looking for a new head coach. Who would you call? GW's Karl Hobbs, Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie and DePaul's Dave Leitao are on this blogger's short list. It won't take many more games like the one Billy's Aggies played last night against Texas for Gillispie to become the hottest of college basketball's rising stars.

-- After losing to Minnesota, Purdue is winless in the Big Ten. Ditto for Virginia in the ACC, whose loss to Miami should get the "Gillen is gone" rumor mill churning once more. Whereas Dan Monson's hot start and conference victory will buy him time, Pete Gillen's 2004-2005 troubles and conference loss all but seal his fate. In retrospect, the win over Arizona only served to unwisely raise expectations at Virginia.

-- CNN/SI's Luke Winn gives a shout-out to Blogger Ken Pomeroy's efficiency stats in breaking down North Carolina's dominance following the Georgia Tech game. If Illinois is the best team in America, UNC is 1a. Or vice versa. But, either way, I'd sure like to see a game between the Tar Heels and the Fighting Illini. As would Stewart Mandel. (Though Stu, Natalie Portman is taken, by a friend of a friend...of a friend. And, as pitiful as that sounds, I'm not making it up).

-- Blogger W.C.G. kindly breaks down Alabama's struggles following last week's loss to Vandy. A solid analysis that need not be revised following the Tide's close win against Arkansas.

-- Geoff Calkins of the Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal is less than pleased with what has become of John Calipari's program. A predictable result of Calipari's players generating more police reports than victories, Calkins column is among the first signs that John's failure to make good on his early-contract promises is beginning to turn friends into foes.

-- Duke played its last true road game in February of 2004. Woah. No other program could get away with such a feat without getting called out by ESPN's talking heads.

-- One of whom, Dick Vitale, feels compelled to scratch the back of a colleague, Steve Lavin, in a "c'mon, hire my buddy," column. With which I happen to agree. Lavin put together a string of Sweet Sixteen appearances at UCLA. Sure, he might use too much hair gel and lack an ability to develop talent. But that was then. And even if now only amounts to raising a school's profile and leading them to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, he'd be a wise pick for a mid-level Atlantic 10 or Conference USA program. Including Massachusetts, dare I say.

-- Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports pens a column about the North Carolina - Georgia Tech game, noting that the Tar Heels grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in the first half alone. More importantly, he quotes Melvin Scott to accurately explain UNC's success: "[We've gone] from being the most selfish team I've ever been a part of to the most selfless team I've seen."

-- The Louisville Courier-Journal's indefatigable Rick Bozich suggests Joe Crawford just didn't get Tubby Smith's coaching philosophy. I tend to agree. A Kentucky freshman departing for lack of playing time after averaging 13 minutes a game? Please. UK is playing hardball with the former McDonald's All-American, threatening to leave him with but a season and a half of collegiate eligibility (and before the rumors begin, let me note that Crawford is not yet NBA material). Should Michigan State bite, even with a lower return on investment? Sure, says the Lansing State Journal's Todd Schulz, provided a lack of PT wasn't all that drove the former Detroit Renaissance star away from Lexington. Todd's best guess? That Joe was homesick. My take? Joe's pop wanted his son to see more action. Listening to the wrong crowd in Detroit, he told Joe to transfer to MSU. But Tubby's threat not to let Crawford out of his national letter of intent threw a monkey wrench into pop's plans. And now young Joe has until Friday to enroll in spring semester classes at MSU, return to Kentucky, or choose an alternate path.

-- On a related note, Michigan State was one of seven schools that asked for Crawford's transcript. Michigan, however, was not.

-- Welcome back, Wayne Simien. Thanks for helping us beat a pesky Iowa State team on the road. We became a much better supporting cast in your absence, but please, please, don't go away again.

-- The Arizona Republic's Norm Frauenheim notes that the gang of 500 has taken to Ike Diogu, making the Sun Devils star as good a bet as any to win national player of the year honors. Amen.

-- Maybe I should have stayed up to watch UTEP-Nevada. Steve Sneddon of the Reno Gazette-Journal makes it sound like it was among the year's most entertaining games.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Open Thread: Tonight's Games

We haven't had one of these in a while. But as there are numerous great games tonight, including the must-see match between Georgia Tech and North Carolina, I thought it (past) time to hear your thoughts.

Click below to comment on all of tonight's games.


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yellow & green

-- Is anything Bruin? Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests that "the seat [Ben Howland] was sitting in was certainly starting to warm up" before UCLA's upset of the Washington Huskies. Perhaps. But I believe even impatient Westwood fans will give the former Pittsburgh coach the time he needs to lead the Bruins back to the Final Four.

-- The Forward's Andrew Muchin writes that the heir apparent to Travis Diener at Marquette, Israeli Niv Berkowitz, "chats with his family by phone and with his girlfriend via the Internet using Web cams." ESPN Radio's Tom Keegan reveals that Niv, son of Israeli legend and would-be NBA veteran Mickey Berkowitz, came to Tom Crean's program via his father's old college roomie, NBA agent Eric Fleisher. Having played but two minutes of college basketball, Niv is already drawing comparisons to Pistol Pete.

-- Penn State's athletic department is trying anything and everything to get students to home games. Up next, a promise JoePa will retire if enough fans cheer on the men's basketball team.

-- The Detroit News' Tom Markowski expects Kentucky's Joe Crawford to transfer to Michigan State, Michigan or Detroit Mercy. Fair enough. Yesterday I opined that Crawford ought to consider Connecticut. Today, I'll note that a trip out West, to Oregon, would reunite Joe with former Detroit Renaissance teammate Malik Hairston. I'm sure Ernie Kent could find a scholarship for a former McDonald's All-American.

-- The Modesto Bee picks up Caulton Tudor's column on Thursday night's game between Duke and North Carolina State, a match the "worldwide leader" a couple days ago moved from ESPN2 to ESPN. Tudor suggests the duel is a "must-win," and I agree, but not because a loss might cost the Pack an NCAA bid. (At least not yet, anyway). Rather, because Julius Hodge and Co. need a victory to restore their swagger. Not to mention their preseason hope for a Top 15 ranking.


and on the seventh day, he rested

Commentary will have to be shorter and sweeter, but I give myself (only) 25 minutes to recreate this morning's post...Go, go, Google search!

-- More bad news at Memphis: Guard Jeremy Hunt on Monday got into a heated fight with his ex-girlfriend. Police were called, but no charges were filed. I'd suggest Hunt and Tameka Rodgers avoid employing Sean Banks as their mediator.

-- Jonathan Okanes of the Contra Costa Times, a voting member in the AP poll, reveals his ballot here. Lacking West Coast Love, Okanes ranks Washington the 24th best team in America. He also hands out the midseason hardware, awarding Hakim Warrick POY and Bill Self COY honors.

-- The Scripps Howard News Service's Gary Parrish has a nice, but short, write-up on Quemont Greer. Who, you ask? Try Conference USA's leading scorer. Greer's averaging 21.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, numbers that suggest he may be a more valuable player than either the much-hyped Travis Diener or Francisco Garcia.

-- Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton last night tied Henry Iba for seventh place in career coaching victories. Sean Sutton waits in the wings.

-- Shavlik Randolph has begun practicing again. Now if only he could regain the confidence he had as a McDonald's All-American, Duke would be set for another March Madness run. Shav's injury delayed a simmering storm of criticism about his poor play this season.

-- No Trent Johnson, no problem. The Nevada Wolf Pack are off to their best start in two decades.

-- Yesterday I suggested Connecticut was a guard removed from the Top 25. But after putting the chimps to work, I can no longer hold Marcus Williams accountable for the Huskies' troubles. Jim Calhoun's starting point guard is among the nation's leaders in assists, averaging 7.3 per game. In this case, however, numbers likely lie. Watching Connecticut, I can't help but feel that the Huskies lack team-oriented guard play.

-- The Daily Herald's Lindsey Willhite uncovers the following-day article about Illinois' very first men's basketball game, played ninety-nine years ago today.

-- Villanova defeated Providence, suggesting the Wildcats have a place in the NCAA Tournament and the Friars do not. Maybe Ryan Gomes should have declared early for the NBA?

-- Illinois' players turned down ESPN's request to spend two weeks filming behind the scenes footage of the fighting Illini for the network's television show, "The Season." Bad for basketball fans, but good for Illinois. B-Web's club could go without the additional distraction.

-- The Daily Breeze's Jim Thomas previews UCLA's "what are they really made of" trip to the desert. A win against either Arizona or Arizona State would go a long way towards securing the Bruins a place in the NCAA Tournament. But I expect little more than two moral victories.

-- NBA scouts are now circling Kansas' J.R. Giddens. Another short-term benefit of Wayne Simien's injury to the Jayhawks' supporting cast.

-- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Dan Raley previews Washington's game against Oregon. Sorry Nate-Rob, but the article is about last year's infamous dunk. Read on.

-- The Detroit News Rob Parker commends Tommy Amaker for not whining about Michigan's injuries to the local press corps. Here, here.

Time's up. Grmph. I missed more than my fair share of articles.


blogger ate my post

Ugh. Had a lengthy morning summary ready for you, only to have Blogger crash. Lost everything. Sigh.

And so I have only a fun fact for you today. According to The Sporting News, the top 10 teams in free-throw percentage were a combined 46-47 as of January 1st.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

sign this man

-- Wisconsin tonight defeated Ohio State. Maybe if the Buckeyes actually signed Thad Matta to a contract, he'd help his squad win close games. Halfway into the season, Matta continues to be paid under a verbal agreement he reached with recently retired athletic director Andy Geiger.

-- My brother's comment when informed of my recent post about Brad & Jen's blind date: "Funny. But Yoni, don't go all 'Sports Guy' on me. With every month, Bill Simmons writes less and less about sports and more and more about pop culture...Remember when MTV played music?"

-- Today's Worst Press Release: "Utah State Leading The Country In Field Goal Percentage For The Second Straight Week."

-- Louisville destroyed Southern Miss, suggesting Larry Eustachy still has his work cut out for him. The Golden Eagles relied on Rashaad Carruth (25 points) for much of their offensive production. But to no avail, as USM suffered its fourth consecutive defeat, the worst in the school's history.

-- Clark Kellogg recaps this weekend's games, but adds little to the summaries and analysis you read elsewhere.

-- Starting point guard Dwight Boatner has left Colorado State for personal reasons. His departure should has little impact on the MWC title race.

-- Sherman (no relation to Dean) Cain of the Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer argues college basketball is better off without high school phenoms. Why? Because the absence of Dwight Howard, LeBron James and others in the college ranks enables greater equality between "majors," "mid-majors," and "low-majors" and increases the likelihood of enjoyable and unpredictable upsets.


off topic: brad & jen

According to the latest issue of Time Magazine, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston met on a blind date in 1998.

Why are my blind dates never with the likes of Aniston?


a second opinion

-- See both sidebars for the long-awaited and much-anticipated update to the Blogroll. If I missed your site (and you were kind enough to add a permanent link to this blog), email me. Included in this update? A link to a second Wonk, also an Illini fan (!), a handful of team and school blogs, and several other interesting reads.

-- According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Tim Floyd has signed a contract with the University of Southern California. The hang-up preventing a public announcement? The New Orleans Hornets. The NBA squad has yet to approve the deal, demanding to see evidence from USC detailing how much Floyd will be paid and, therefore, how much less the club can expect to have to compensate its old coach.

-- ESPN's Joe Lunardi has written his first "Bracketology" of the season. Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington represent the PAC 10. Gonzaga and Boston College check in as three seeds, while Pittsburgh is -- and I am not making this up -- a two seed and Connecticut -- ditto -- a four seed. Lunardi better shape up before season's end.

-- Chris Walton's muscle strain should not keep him from contributing the rest of the season, according to a Drexel University abdominal specialist San Diego State had sought out for a second opinion. Here's hoping Pops Walton serves as the play-by-play man or on-air analyst for an upcoming Aztecs game. His commentary on Luke Walton, then at Arizona, was, well, biased.

-- Major Parker, Billy Donovan's first recruit at the University of Florida and the Gators' current staff assistant, a few hours ago pleaded not guilty to five counts of cocaine distribution. Not exactly "Gatorade."

-- Mike Lucas of the Madison (WI) Capital-Times has a nice piece about Dan Monson and the under-the-radar Gophers. My suggestion for Minnesota fans is to enjoy the victories while they last. In the Big Ten, wins won't come easily for Monson's mix-and-match crew. Even if the Gophers currently rank No. 1 in both overall field goal percentage (.514) and 3-point field goal percentage (.420).

-- North Carolina State is desperate. The latest sign? Herb Sendek is hoping Will Roach's return will right his sinking ship. Fat chance. (Though, given time, Julius Hodge will lead the Pack to the Sweet 16).


the gang of 500

-- Both the Louisville Courier-Journal and WTVQ Channel 36 this morning reported that freshman guard Joe Crawford yesterday expressed his desire to transfer from Kentucky. The McDonald's All-American would be welcome at any university in America. My suggestion? Connecticut. After yesterday's loss to Oklahoma, it is apparent that Jim Calhoun's club is a guard removed from the Top 25.

-- Jim Boeheim became the first coach with 300 Big East victories. He gets my vote for the Hall of Fame.

-- Jeff Shelman, of ESPN.com and Minneapolis Star Tribune fame, cast a Top 10 vote for Boston College in the AP poll. In a move that portends a bright future -- and post-season present? -- for UCLA, Shelman also ranked the Bruins 22nd.

-- Eli Saslow of the Washington Post has a lengthy must-read on Joe "how the mighty have fallen" Forte. Will the former UNC star rise again? Hard to tell. But, at the bare minimum, he sounds more mature in his interview with Saslow.

-- Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch paints JamesOn Curry in a positive light, all but suggesting his drug arrest was a blessing for the Oklahoma State guard. Kindly personal, the article eschews college basketball rhetoric in favor of a substantive view of Curry and his family.

-- Crediting coach with Kansas' toughness, Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post affirms that the Gang of 500 is quite fond of Bill Self.

-- As they are of Larry Eustachy, whose feel-good turn-around story -- both personal (alcoholism) and professional (USM) -- provides easy ink for beat writers. See, for example, Eric Crawford's piece in the Louisville Courier-Journal previewing the Southern Miss - Kentucky game. (I hope to watch).

-- Jeff Pinkham of the Burlington (VT) Free Press notes that UVM (57) is ranked higher in the RPI than Maryland (59), Miami (60), Indiana (62), Utah (63), Florida (66), Texas Tech (69) and Notre Dame (71).

-- John Wagner of the Toledo Blade interviews a proud but cautious Dan Dakich about his 9-2 Bowling Green State University Falcons. An impressive start, but my money remains on BGSU to play their way into the NIT rather than the NCAA Tournament.

-- Brett Hait of the Nashville City Paper writes up Doug Gottlieb's praise for the Vanderbilt Commodores. The media writing about the media. Gotta love it. (Though Gottlieb is right, Vandy has been dandy).

-- Injury Update: Michigan's Chris Hunter and Brent Petway are in worse condition than originally thought. Tommy Amaker can't catch a break. Florida's Matt Walsh will be a shell of his former self if he returns for the end of this season, or so says Billy Donovan. A bad break for a bad coach.

-- J.P. Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer notes Mike Krzyzewski is "encouraged" by the NCAA's response to National Association of Basketball Coaches proposals for recruiting reform, even as Division I vice-president David Berst points to "a trust gap" between the NCAA and the NABC.

The Division I Management Council refused to allow coaches to give players limited extra benefits. For example, coaches were suggesting that programs be allowed to buy birthday or wedding gifts (up to $50) for their players; pay for parents' tickets and parking to home games; and pay for an annual parents' trip to a special game, such as senior night or the NCAA Tournament.

Berst said the council couldn't see giving that kind of freedom to one sport and not others. But other proposals were forwarded for further consideration by the management council April 11-12. The items would have to pass a second time with the council before the Division I Board of Directors takes a final vote on April 28.

Items that will get further consideration are: allowing greater contact between a coach and a prospect who has signed, permitting coaches more contact with the athletes year-round, allowing coaches to observe players in voluntary athletic activities outside the playing season, and letting schools conduct limited tryouts with recruits.

I'm with the NABC. All the proposed changes (detailed in the excerpt above) make sense. And while I'm sympathetic to a "slippery slope" argument regarding "limited extra benefits," I find the NCAA's restrictions a bit much. Because there is a huge difference between easily verifiable perks for parents and murky and dangerous gifts to student-athletes.

-- Hawkeye Nation is losing it. See, for example, here and here. I'm of the opinion that Iowa was never as good as the school's Top 15 ranking and not as bad as current critics would have you believe after an 0-2 start in conference play.


One Man's Top 10

From Illinois' perfect start to Kansas' victory at Kentucky and North Carolina's destruction of Maryland, here's one guest blogger's Top 10 power poll. My name's Mike and I write regularly at All Sports All the Time. Yoni asked me to contribute during his absence and I figured an early poll would inspire debate. This post is not my prediction for the Final Four, but a look at the teams I believe are the nation's 10 best at this point in the season, with an early read on their future prospects.

1. Illinois: The Fighting Illini have blown everybody they have played out of the water. A pretty impressive feat that will be hard to top during Big Ten play. Dee Brown and Deron Williams have been unbelievable but without Luther Head Illinois would be nowhere near as good. Can great guard play lead Bruce Weber's club to St. Louis?
Early Thought: Nope. The Elite Eight is as far as they go.
2. Kansas: Beat an overrated Kentucky team on the road in an arena in which they had never before won without their star player. Wayne Simien's injury could be a blessing in disguise for the younger players and when he returns, watch out.
Early Thought: Look for the Jayhawks in St. Louis. Bill Self's team has an excellent shot at winning the title.
3. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons' guards are as good as they come but, unfrortunately, Skip Prosser's club doesn't play great defense.
Early Thought: While they'll contend for an ACC title, Wake is an unlikely bet for St. Louis because of their weak defense and lack of inside production.
4. North Carolina: Aside from an opening loss to Santa Clara, the Tar Heels have looked like the best team in America. Marvin Williams provides much-needed depth. Imagine if JR Smith hadn't of jumped directly to the NBA.
Early Thought: Should continue to improve over the season. Look for Roy Williams to get his first title in St. Louis.
5. Oklahoma State: This team plays ferocious defense but struggles to score at times. Holding Washington State under 30 was amazing, as was their sound defeat of a very good Syracuse team.
Early Thought: The Cowboys' occasional scoring droughts will catch up with them in the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight.
6. Syracuse: The Orange start five national champions. Combined with the emergence of sophomores Terrence Roberts and Daryl Watkins, this team is loaded. At 16-1, with their only loss coming to Oklahoma State in a game in which SU shot miserably from the free throw line but still had a chance to win with five minutes to play, Jim Boeheim's team looks really good.
Early Thought: These Orange might no longer be men but they will play like them in March and are primed for a return to the Final Four.
7. Gonzaga: So much for the underdog mid-major team. With early victories over Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, and Washington this team is for real. The duo of Turiaf and Morrison gives the 'Zags the inside-outside combo every team wishes it had.
Early Thought: A sleeper Final Four Pick, but I look for Gonzaga to lose in the Elite Eight. Still, it'd be another banner season for Mark Few.
8. Texas: The Longhorns' two losses are by a combined three points to Wake Forest and Iowa. Texas is extremely young and will improve drastically as the season progresses.
Early Thought: The Final Four awaits these young guns. Everyone in the nation will recorgnize Lamarcus Aldridge in March.
9. Georgia Tech: A top-tier ACC team that hopes to repeat last year's NCAA Tournament run, the Yellow Jackets looked bad against Gonzaga.
Early Thought: An early Tournament upset waiting to happen, experience and all.
10. Mississippi State: The team nobody is talking about with the big man nobody is talking about, Lawrence Roberts. This club will more than challenge Kentucky in the SEC East; I expect MSU to defeat Tubby's team and win the SEC.
Early Thought: Sweet Sixteen it is.

So there it is, one guest blogger's top 10. Many of you might ask why I left out Duke and Kentucky. I think that as the season progresses both teams will be exposed as overrated. Thanks for reading, please check out my blog, and feel free to comment on this post below.


Monday, January 10, 2005

back in the saddle

-- With Keith Langford in uniform against Kentucky and his mom in the stands cheering him on, a burglar broke into the family home in Fort Worth, Texas, stealing Keith's two Final Four rings, two Big 12 championship rings and NCAA tournament and preseason NIT watches. For shame.

-- New Mexico forward Danny Granger underwent surgery today to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. The University's press release described the procedure as "minor." But any operation on Granger, a legit All-American candidate and pro prospect, is of major importance to the Lobos' future. An SAT analogy, if you will. Granger: New Mexico as a)Villaneuva: Connecticut, b)Gomes: Providence, c)Stoudamire: Arizona, d)Jack: Georgia Tech, or e)Vitale: ESPN. (The correct answer is b). Without Granger, UNM is bound neither for the NCAA Tournament nor the NIT.

-- I'll sort out the impact of this weekend's games in later posts. You can expect me to adopt both a contrarian opinion on the PAC-10 (the sky is not falling) and the consensus view on the Kansas Jayhawks (I'm in the Moody of praising Giles).

-- Damon Bailey remains a legend in the State of Indiana. Where is he now? Living just outside of Bedford, the town whose high school team he led to the state title, with his wife and three children. "Babyface" owns a business that provides supplies to coal mines.

-- Of all the columns I could have linked to about the big game between Kansas and Kentucky, I chose Chuck Woodling's piece for the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World. Do the math.

-- Via the Huntington (IN) Herald-Press, a note on Paul Michelson catching the Austin (TX) American-Statesman red-handed. (If you can't find the error in the first reading, rinse and repeat).

Ironically, [Tom] Penders received inspiration from a former referee, Pete Pavia, who had died of cancer in 1991. Pavia fought the disease for 13 years, adhering to a strict lifestyle of exercise and nutrition that allowed him to return to refereeing and eventually work the 1996 Final Four in Dallas.

-- The Eugene (OR) Register-Guard titles Nicholas Geranios AP's piece on Ronny Turiaf "Tower of Power" while the (Olympia, WA) Olympian titles the article "Gonzaga's tall drink of water." Under either heading, a pleasant read. I'm glad to see the AP branching out to feature pieces on non-major conference stars. (Even if Turiaf hardly qualifies).

-- Former Missouri player Wesley Stokes makes good. Or not.

-- Only in (North) Texas would a school's basketball coach air his weekly radio show live from El Guapo's.

-- Corky & Steve on Arizona's demise. Both writers will author more thoughtful pieces given a few days to respond to the 'Cats collapse against the Cardinals.

-- John Perrotto of the Beaver County (PA) Times expresses his frustration with Duquesne basketball. Every year, fans utter "wait 'til next year." Kyle, your thoughts? Mine? 1918. In other words, John, suck it up. Others have had it worse.

-- Darn it. In late November, ESPN's Reemer asked for input on how to improve ESPN Insider, the network's pay-for-play service. I emailed him a length response, noting, among other thoughts, that I would be willing to pay for premium content -- e.g. the work of Andy Katz or the Sports Guy -- but not for columns by the "worldwide leader's" less eloquent authors. The result? (I hope not. Ugh). ESPN today put Katz behind the veil of exclusivity. From now on, his Daily Word will be available to paying customers only. Shoot. Me. Now.

-- Bart Fisher of the New Britain (CT) Herald authors a column you should not emulate. That former Senator Everett Dirksen is "quotable" is not just cause for Brett to quote him four times in a single piece. Particularly when a third of the column is an excerpt of a College Basketball Partnership press release.