Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Early, Early NCAA Bracket Thoughts.

Here are CBS's Sportsline's latest projections by seed:

A few thoughts:

I understand that Gonzaga has earned a #2 seed, but I don't expect them to make it out of the first weekend--again. Any team that can slow down All-American Adam Morrison has a great chance to take the Zags out.

I really, really like Ohio State. They have a wonderful combination of inside and outside talent, and I think Thad Matta is doing an excellent job there. Consider them strongly in your brackets.

I can't get my arms around the idea of the Missouri Valley Conference possibly having five teams (and without Southern Illinois) while the ACC only has four. I can't believe that Missouri State, Northern Iowa, and Bradley are all better than Florida State, the fifth ACC team.

The Big 12 is REALLY down this year. How much of Kansas' recent hot streak is due to their improvement and how much is a factor of them beating up a weak conference? Can you believe that the Colonial Athletic Association could have as many teams in the field as the Big 12? Parity--get used to it.

If George Mason makes the field, which seems likely, that will join George Washington and Georgetown as the third team from the Washington, DC area in the field. That would officially make Maryland the fourth best team in the area, a long way to fall from a national championship only four years ago.

Gregg Doyel's projections have nine mid-major schools earning at-large bids (counting Conference USA). It will be interesting to see if their performance in the tournament will justify the selections.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The CourtMaster on the Senior Class

With the college basketball regular season winding up, schools are beginning to say goodbye to their seniors. In my latest Duke Basketball Report column, I look at the senior classes for each ACC team. I was astonished at how many players from the 2002 recruiting class were no longer around. Attrition at this level of college basketball is staggering.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Attitude of Entitlement

That is one of the things that really grinds my cookies in the sports world today--the attitude of entitlement that star athletes develop. It starts when they are barely teenagers if they show some physical gifts early. They can quickly learn that they will be taken care of by people who want to benefit from their skills, and eventually the more talented ones come to expect it as their birthright.

The most recent manifestation of this is the class-action lawsuit filed against the NCAA. This lawsuit aims to have stricken the caps on scholarships for Division 1-A football and basketball players. If the plaintiffs win, schools will then have the right (although not the obligation) to pay for all expenses a student-athlete incurrs during his time on campus, including laundry, phone bills (that has been a problem for some programs who tried to circumvent the rules), and school supplies. Josh Cantor, the author of the NCAA's blog "Double A Zone, writes about the implications of this lawsuit in some detail, and it is worth reading.

Cantor, a former Division III baseball player, is understandably upset about this action, and supports his views with his personal experience as a student-athlete. The plaintiffs, however, feel since they are generating huge sums of money for schools, they should get a bigger cut. That is logically justifiable, but is also selfish and short-sighted.

There are billions of dollars flowing into big-time college sports programs these days, but that money is also flowing out as quickly as it comes in, even quicker at many schools. The additional expense that would be incurred if this lawsuit is successful does nothing but line the football and basketball players' pockets. There is no doubt it could do so at the expense of a tennis team or a wrestling team, sports that would have their budgets slashed if not eliminated to cover those costs.

This comes accross to me as an action advocating for a group of prima-donnas with no concern of the consequences for anybody but themselves. Unfortunately, from covering college sports, I'm all too familiar with that mindset.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

One Domino May Not Fall

A coaching rumor that has had more legs than some coaches this season, now stop me if you've heard this one, goes as follows:

Skip Prosser moves from Wake Forest to Cincinnati
John Beilein leaves West Virginia to replace Prosser at Wake Forest
Bob Huggins rejoins the ranks of the employed by replacing Beilein at West Virginia, his alma mater

It all sounds plausible, right?

What if the Cincinnati job does not open up? As Mike DeCourcy writes in his Sporting News blog, the Bearcats' interim coach Andy Kennedy may be working his way into keeping the job for next season.

What happens with Skip Prosser, who Wake Forest doesn't want to fire because he has a large buyout? After the Demon Deacons crash-and-burn this season, the school may be all too happy to let him leave for greener pastures and rebuild with a new coach. If he doesn't leave voluntarily, what direction with Wake's program go--can they bounce back at all? I'm not optimistic.

I think Beilein would likely be content to hang out in Morgantown for a while, but where does that leave Huggins? Surely not Missouri (too much baggage) or Indiana (not "one of the family). What about star recruit O. J. Mayo, who reportedly will play wherever Huggins lands? That could be an enticing package deal, but Huggins might have to slide down the food chain to get someone to buy it.

The coaching carousel, always a great side-show to March Madness, is getting ready to spin. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The CourtMaster Sorts It Out

In my latest DukeBasketballReport column, I sort out where each of the ACC basketball teams are falling in the postseason picture. Final prediction: five NCAA bids.

I also acknowledge the historic performance of Duke's J. J. Redick and express my frustration with coaches' potty mouths.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Tulane Basketball - Growing Up the Hard Way

I've kept an eye on the Tulane basketball program as they have dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina this season. My interest has been piqued because of their new head coach, Dave Dickerson. He was an assistant coach at Maryland for nine years prior to taking the Tulane job. I got to know him a little bit (I wrote about that last April) and was very impressed with him both as a coach and a person.

Needless to say, this season has been a challenge well beyond what Coach Dickerson anticipated. This feature by Kyle of The Sporting News looks at the personal challenges players and coaches faced in dealing with the new reality Katrina brought to New Orleans, the Tulane campus, and their own lives. It is an outstanding piece I strongly recommend for you to read.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

DC a Capitol of College Hoops

Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated wrote a two-part series on college basketball in Washington, DC, visiting George Washington University, then Georgetown University.

Part 1-GW
Part 2-Georgetown

Since I live in the DC suburbs, I'm going to add to Winn's interesting stories with my own brief observations.

GW coach Karl Hobbs has built a very strong mid-major program. His team plays in what amounts to a large high-school gym that can squeeze in 5,000 people, and they are just starting to fill it on a regular basis. They picked the perfect time to have a breakout season since this could be the year of the mid-major. With power conferences like the Big 12, Pac 10, and SEC all down somewhat this year, the door is wide open for teams like GW to jump up in the polls and gain an unusually high seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Colonials' success will make Hobbs a hot coaching commodity sooner rather than later, and GW's ability to sustain their current level will likely depend on another coach when Hobbs moves on to a big-time school.

Georgetown under John Thompson III looks nothing like they did in the Patrick Ewing days when his father coached the Hoyas. Thompson the junior played and coached at Princeton and has implemented princples of the Princeton offense at Georgetown. Rather than relying on aggressive athleticism, and sometimes thuggery like his father's teams did, John III has a group of players that play a fluid offense and a solid defense that relys more on quickness than brute force.

Hoyas fans are beginning to remember the way to the MCI Center, their team's home-away-from-home and starting to give their team something resembling a home court advantage again. Unlike Hobbs, Thompson isn't likely to leave anytime soon, and the Hoyas are moving toward becoming a force in the "Enormous East" once again.

In my opinion, it is a darn shame that these two schools don't play each other. When the Hoyas' program was starting to emerge in the early 1980's, Coach Thompson the senior announced that Georgetown was a "national" program and did not have room on their schedule to play GW or Maryland, the only two local schools that could be competitive with them.

With new blood at both schools, it's time to change that. Just ask fans in Philadelphia how great their Big Five contests are. Seeing GW and Georgetown play again on a regular basis would be a step toward developing something like that in Washington and help make college basketball more relevant in a pro sports town.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The CourtMaster Rules on Rules

In my latest Duke Basketball Report column, I propose some significant rules changes for college basketball. I'm not saying the game is broken, but I do want to make a good thing better. My main target is taking more of the game away from the coaches and putting it back in the hands of the players. Yeah, like that will ever happen.


I also give my take on the "conspiracy theories" regarding Duke's perceived advantage in getting the calls during a game. I actually thought I held the middle ground on that issue rather well, but my friends who edit the DBR obviously disagreed.


Let me know which side of that debate you are on.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Note to Mike Davis: Quit Whining

Indiana men's basketball coach Mike Davis was forced to miss Saturday's 70-67 loss to Iowa because he was sick with the flu.

He wasn't too sick to whine, however.

In this column by ESPN's Andy Katz, Davis complains about the negativity surrounding the Indiana program and whines about how it has his players "playing with no energy."

It's always someone else's fault, isn't it Mike? Davis was thrown into a very difficult situation in 2001 when he assumed the Hoosiers' job after Bob Knight was shown the door. There is still a faction of the fan base that has not gotten over that and will not embrace Davis. Not that he's done much to earn their affection.

Davis has lived for four seasons off a hot streak Indiana had in the 2002 NCAA tournament that included an upset of #1 Duke and a trip to the championship game, where they lost to Maryland. The Hoosiers made this trip with veteran players Knight had recruited along with a special freshman, Jared Jeffries. Shortly after that tournament, Davis started whining about how his efforts had not been appreciated and how he deserved a big contract extension to keep him from jumping to the NBA.

Indiana has failed to make the last two NCAA tournaments, and have been set back this year with the injury to D. J. White. They will probably make the big dance this year, but with a record of 13-8, 5-5 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers still have some work to do.

If they fail, though, count on Davis to tell you why it is everyone else's fault but his own. Hopefully he'll grow up at his next job.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Doyel - "Back off, Coach K"

Gregg Doyel, CBS Sportsline's lead college basketball writer, called out Coach K in a recent column.


Doyel, who I got to know a little bit when he covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, litterally wrote the book on Coach K. His book, "Coach K: Building the Duke Dynasty" was published in 1999 and is worth a read if you haven't done so already. I mention this to point out that Doyel is not just a national columinst who forms his opinions by watching games on TV and occassionally dropping by Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Here's the money line, "You cannot allow people to go around pointing at officials and yelling at them without technicals being called. That is just not allowed. So let's get some things straight around here and quit the double standard that exists in this league, all right?"

That was a quote from a January 21, 1984 press conference when Coach K was complaining about North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Can you day double standard?

Friday, February 10, 2006

I'm Podcasting on ACC Nation

I appear with my friends Chris Graham and Patrick Hite on their latest podcast of ACC Nation this week. Also included in the program are the following:

Gary Hahn, Voice of the NC State Wolfpack
Adam Lucas, publisher and executive editor of Tar Heel Monthly
Luci Chavez, covers Duke for the (Raleigh) News and Observer
Jeff White, covers UVa. for the (Richmond) Times Dispatch
Patrick Obley, covers Clemson for The State

ACC Nation does a great job covering the ACC and I would recommend checking out the programs, even when I'm not on :)


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Deep is the Big East?

I'll tell you how deep. Louisville and Notre Dame might not qualify for the tournament. I'm not talking about the NCAA's big dance, I'm referring to the Big East conference tournament. I like to call the league "The Enormous East" because 16 teams is just too many for a college conference. If you can't work out a schedule to play each school at least once, which the Big East is unable to do, then you've simply got too many teams.

That doesn't mean they're not good, however. South Florida appears to be the only bad team in the Big East, but that was expected. I doubt anyone thought Louisville and Notre Dame would be scraping just to qualify for a trip to the league tournament at Madison Square Garden, which only the top 12 teams get to make.

During the preseason, Louisville coach Rick Pitino warned anyone who would listen that his team could struggle this year. Given the fact that they reached the Final Four last season and still had star Taquan Dean on the roster, few people listened. After all, coaches love to downplay expectations for their own teams and treat everyone else like they are the rebirth of the UCLA dynasty. It looks like Pitino was not just blowing smoke, however. Dean's health, actually lack of such, has been a problem, but the more fundamental issue is the Cardinals' problem scoring points. They went through a five-game stretch last month when they failed to break the 70-point mark and lost four of them.

Louisville did earn a critical 89-86 overtime win over Notre Dame last Saturday. Taquan Dean hit a last-second three-pointer to force overtime, a finish which was all too familiar to the Fighting Irish this season. Notre Dame is 1-8 in the conference, but their largest margin of defeat is only six points. Their eight losses in the league have been by a combined 26 points, hardly what I would call the luck of the Irish.

It's hard to imagine a team with two players as good as Chris Quinn and Torin Francis sporting a 10-10 overall record. It's possible Notre Dame might not even qualify for the NIT, which would end their season on March 4. It's also possible they could get on a roll with their favorable upcoming schedule to qualify for the Big East Tournament and squeak out enough wins there to earn an NCAA bid.

Nothing in the Big East is easy this year, and if you don't believe that, just ask Rick Pitino or Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Where Does J. J. (Redick) Fit In?

I contributed to this discussion of J. J. Redick's prospects in the NBA along with television analyst Dan Bonner (one of my favorites) and others. BTW, the writer, Chris Graham, is co-host of the radio program "ACC Nation," and I am scheduled to appear with them this week. Check out their podcast on Friday.


Monday, February 06, 2006

The CourtMaster on Hate

In my latest Duke Basketball Report column, I take on the issue of fans hating their rivals, especially in the Duke-North Carolina and Duke-Maryland rivalries. I've been guilty of it myself, but I'm trying to reform and I tell you why.

I also give a reason why I think Maryland basketball has slipped over the last two seasons, briefly examine the benefits Duke received from its overwhelming advantage in free throws in their last two games, and discuss the problems the Blue Devils' Shelden Williams is having stopping opposing centers from scoring.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jim Calhoun--Hall of Famer...and Bad Guy?

That's a question I have asked about the Connecticut coach more than once. His coaching credentials are outstanding with two national championships to his credit and a current #1 ranking. There are issues, however.

I first started wondering about Calhoun when he landed star recruit Rudy Gay from Baltimore, essentially buying influence with Gay's AAU coach by schedule an exhibition game between the Huskies and the totally outclassed AAU squad. There there was the way he lobbied, at times bullied, for point guard Marcus Williams to be reinstated to school and the team after legal problems dealing with the theft of laptop computers on the Storrs campus. He then stole recruit Doug Wiggins from St. John's, convincing Wiggins to renege on a verbal committment to the Johnnies.

Why does he often act like a bully in his press conferences and attack those who have the nerve to question anything he does? Because he can, I suppose, and there has been little resistance to it. There is now, though. Jeff Jacobs, a columnist for the Hartford Courant, took Calhoun on in a recent column, going into great detail that paints the coach in a very bad light.


After reading this and matching it up to my observations and suspicions, the answer to the question is yes, unfortunately, Calhoun appears to be a bad guy.