Monthly Archives: March 2011

Butler: The Fans’ Choice

For those of you who have not yet made up your mind about whom to root for on Saturday (and Monday), I’ll make your decision for you.  In fact, the answer is so obvious, I’d be surprised if my inaugural post even applies to anyone out there.  Unless you attend(ed), bet on, or are otherwise closely affiliated with Kentucky, UConn, or VCU, you are out of your mind to pull for any of the three.  Butler is the only program that deserves the random observer’s support.

Before I get into the reasons FOR rooting Butler on, I’ll begin (as is my style) by discrediting any alternative arguments:

1.    Q: VCU is the Cinderella of the 2011 Big Dance.  Cinderella stories are the reason many of us watch the tournament to begin with.  Why not root them all the way across the finish line?

A: Be my guest, if the Cinderella champion is what you’re looking for.  But don’t think for one second that because Butler shined in the 2010 Tournament, they don’t qualify for Cinderella status this year. We’re forgetting, because the 11 next to VCU’s name is a bigger number than the 8 next to Butler’s, that nobody gave Butler a shot before the tournament either.  Sure, they were fantastic last year, but this is not the same Butler team as last year.  Same system, perhaps.  But nobody in their right mind would have chosen Butler to come this far the year after losing the best player in its program’s history.

2.   Q: If VCU or Butler wins, it might be cool for a few weeks, but in the end we all want this Final Four to count for something in the history books. So, shouldn’t I root for Kentucky or UConn?

A: The point is valid when applied to VCU.  Shaka Smart is going to catch the next train out of Virginia when this run ends.  In other words, you won’t see the Rams making a return trip to the Final Four any time soon. But if the last two years have taught us anything about treating Brad Stevens and Butler as underdogs, beware jumping to the same conclusion about the future of the Butler basketball program.  No, they’re not the next Duke, or UNC, or even their latest victim, Florida. But with Stevens locked into a 10-year deal and showing little eagerness to leave, this program has the potential to bring in a great crop of guys to fit his brilliant team-oriented system.

Answer #2: If you’re worried about the history books, you definitely can’t root for Kentucky or UConn.  I have no inside information, but I can say with the utmost confidence that in the next ten years, it will be determined that a number of players on both powerhouse squads should have been ruled ineligible for this weekend’s contests.  Think about it: you’re a top tier talent trying to decide where to go to college. You can go anywhere in the country. If you’re not looking for improper benefits, doesn’t it seem unnatural to choose a coach who has brought ill-repute to the character of the best of his former players, while running the programs for which they played into the ground, and getting a salary bump at each stop along the road? Are we (and his recruits) supposed to believe that Coach Cal learned from his mistakes and is now on the righteous path? Did Calhoun really take his recent sanctions to heart, or does his insatiable desire to win continue to translate into a total disregard for NCAA “rules”.

3.     Screw the NCAA.  This should be one we can all agree on. You can’t root for VCU, because if they win, the NCAA will have undeniable leverage to increase the field even further, thus even further diluting the importance of the regular season in an effort to print more dollars.  You can’t root for Kentucky or UConn because that’s equivalent to approving the underwhelming sanctions the NCAA has imposed on two coaches who don’t feel the need to play on a level court.

I don’t know Brad Stevens and I won’t make the unsubstantiated claim that Butler’s program is squeaky-clean.  I might not be the best judge of class out there (this is a guy who used to worship Coach K and vilify Dean Smith as a child. I was such an idiot!) So I’ll try not to incorporate the fact that they just seem like such a nice group of gentlemen into my argument (too late).  The real reason to root for Butler isn’t the purity of the program (I still feel like it’s so pure), but the purity of its product.  The Bulldogs play the most fundamentally sound brand of basketball I’ve seen…on both sides of the court.  They play the kind of basketball that makes us watch college ranks instead of the NBA. Brad Stevens has come to grips that he is head of a college basketball program, not an NBA prep school, and his players buy into that concept fully.  You can rest assured that the focus of each member of the Butler program will be on the task at hand: a national championship, here and now. If they reach the final, the same might not be said of their opponent, especially if they draw Kentucky.  Sure, they’ll look and act like a team, but I have to think that thoughts of dollar signs and NBA lottery status enters into the heads of their stars this week.  For that reason, if you find yourself rooting for Butler down the stretch of a close game on Monday night, don’t be surprised if your side comes out on top.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion

Del’s Top 2 chokes of the tournament

I always have a bad feeling in my stomach when I look at my completed bracket before the start of the tournament.  The reason : I know every year there are bound to be a handful of chokes. Sometimes the teams that gag are the ones you would least expect.  It really hurts when your champion goes out in the second round or loses to a team that should not even be on the same court as them. But year after year, it always happens. This year’s top chokes go to the following:

Southwest 1-seed Kansas (35-3)-

When looking at it from the Jayhawks’s standpoint….WOW! What a bunch of chokes! I don’t think I have ever seen an easier path to a tournament laid out for a team of that caliber.  Kansas, top 5 the entire year in AP/ESPN Polls, was one of the most dominant teams in the tournament and on top of that had a very smooth course to Houston. Before the tip of the tourney, Vegas gave Kansas the best odds to win the entire bracket.  Although Bill Self’s Jayhawks did make it to the Elite 8 which is a very hard accomplishment, their loss to VCU lead to yet another year that the Jayhawks were a #1 seed and did NOT make the Final Four.  I know that if I were a Jayhawks fan I wouldn’t be chanting “Rock Chock Jayhawk”at all right now!  For the second straight year, Kansas was dominated by a small conference team (Northern Iowa in 2010).  Shaka Smart’s VCU team played a perfect game knocking down 12 from behind the arc, just as they have the entire tournament.  On Kansas’s side of the ball, the Jayhawks were held to 2-21 from 3-pt land and were down at one point by 18.  I’m glad I didn’t take that game because Kansas was the real dog losing 71-61! I wonder what the twins are going to do. I for one think they should stay.

Morris Twins after VCU defeat

Southeast 1-seed Pittsburgh (28-6)-

With this team, I will be short and sweet. I do understand that Brad Steven’s Butler Bulldogs are continuing to beat everybody in this tournament, so I won’t ever knock them, but I have to say that Pittsburgh really blew it.  They had way too many chances and opportunities in this game to pull ahead and they never did. Nasir Robinson’s foul with .8 seconds left in the game was the worst play I’ve seen in any basketball game I have ever played, watched, or even heard about. That’s all I will say about the game, but I will say a few more things about Coach Jamie Dixon.  Yes, I believe he is a great coach…IN THE REGULAR REASON. To be honest, I am kind of sick of all these talented Jamie Dixon Pittsburgh teams getting seeded so high every year and flop in the tourney, usually on the second weekend.  Jamie Dixon’s best chance at the Final Four was with the 2009 squad. But even his best group couldn’t get it done as they fell in the Regional finals.  This team included some great players such as DeJuan Blair (San Antonio Spurs), Levance Fields, and Sam Young (Memphis Grizzlies). The city of Pittsburgh is more than dedicated to their sports teams (Steelers and Penguins), so I know they would love at least one Final Four, but at this rate- that’s not gonna happen. I’m not saying that Dixon isn’t a great coach (he is), but I think that it would be a fair argument to say that Jamie Dixon is a bad tournament coach and a choke!

Here are my top 5 “Takeaways” of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament thus far:

  • Izzo lost in the 1st Round!
  • No-repeat Champion (Florida did it 2006-2007) as West 1-seed Duke falls to 5 -seed Arizona Wildcats 93-77 in the Sweet 16.
  • No 1-seeds in the Final Four.
  • 3 of 4 coaches in this year’s Final Four (Calhoun, Calipari, Stevens) have already won at least 1 Final Four Game.
  • 2 of 11(Marquette and Connecticut) Big East Teams that got a bid to the tournament advanced to the Sweet 16– by beating another Big East Team.

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion

Matt Painter Staying Put, Reggie Jackson Declares

A couple of notes today in college basketball unrelated to the Final Four. We’ll have more on that later this week.

  • As I have discussed both here and here, the Matt Painter-Missouri move seemed somewhat odd to me (along with many  others).  Leaving Purdue for Missouri is pretty much a lateral move in coaching and the only reason to leave was the expected extra $700,000 dollars in his bank account. Well Painter ended that speculation  today by signing an 8-year extension. You can see the joyous reactionary posts on SB Nation’s Purdue blog Hammer and Nails. (I love the Hoosiers clip.)
  • Many underclassmen are declaring for the NBA Draft. Well, add BC’s Reggie Jackson to that list. Most  players will wait and not sign an agent until they get a clear assessment on where they would go. If they get the first-round lock tag guarantee, they go. If not, they come back. Jackson will probably wait for feedback and make a decision based on this logic. For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Chad Ford has him in the mid-to-late first round.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching Carousel, NBA Draft

A Letter Many Fans Know Too Well

A couple of days ago, I put myself in Matt Painter’s shoes and concluded that money would be the only reason he could possibly leave.

SB Nation’s Purdue blog Hammers and Nails writes a letter to Matt Painter asking that he stays. It’s a letter many of us know too well: our favorite coach/player is contemplating leaving and we beg that he stays because we love him so much. All fans can empathize with the Purdue faithful right now.

The letter shows how much Purdue fans appreciate Matt Painter. These situations usually don’t turn out so well and Painter will be introduced as the next Missouri men’s basketball coaching within days. But I know this unbiased fan hopes Painter reads the letter and is back in West Lafayette this fall.

1 Comment

Filed under Coaching Carousel

2012 Conference Rankings Already?

Caulton Tudor of Charlotte Observer already has his projections for his 2011-2012 season!

Hold on there Caulton (is that a real name?). Why try and predict who stays and who goes pro? We haven’t even had the pre-draft workouts yet. Let’s wait it out and not try and predict what 18 and 21-year-old males will do…

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion

Our Favorite Games of the 2011 Tournament

Mayo

This tournament has produced plenty of great games. When trying to pick a favorite, you kind of have to figure what criteria goes into your “favorite” game. Is it an upset? Is it a buzzer beater? Is it a game where a team finally proved that they were the real deal by handling their business the way they should? A lot of this probably changes from person-to-person depending on if you have any kind of rooting interest. Luckily–or unluckily depending on how you look at it–I haven’t had a horse in the race this year, so I have been able to enjoy this tournament as just a basketball fan rather than a fan of any team in particular. And, since my bracket was busted basically after the first weekend, I’ve been able to be just about as objective as I have ever been during March Madness.

I was going to lead this off with the Pitt-Butler game in Round 2 (or is it Round 3? I can’t keep up with the changes in this year’s tournament, but let’s just say round of 32), but the two fouls in the last four seconds of that game really ruined an otherwise great game for me. Such a hard fought contest where both teams were laying it all on the line, and then it ends with two of the most indefensibly stupid fouls that I can remember in this tournament. So that’s out.

From there, I have to go with the Kentucky-Ohio State Sweet 16 game. That game had everything. First, you have the upset aspect: a 4-seed over a 1-seed isn’t the biggest shock ever, but when you consider the youth of Kentucky and the fact that OSU came into the tournament as the overall number one, it is a little more impressive. Secondly, you have multiple potential lottery picks going at it, in Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, and William Buford (OK, Buford isn’t getting a ton of lottery buzz right now so that might be a stretch, but a potential first-rounder for sure). Then, you have the unsung hero aspect, with relatively unknown Kentucky senior Josh Harrellson (I didn’t even think UK had any seniors this year…) rising from obscurity, chipping in a double-double, and containing OSU’s best player in Sullinger. Harrellson had to be Kentucky’s MVP in that game right? Last but not least, the game was in doubt all the way up until the end, with Diebler hitting the three to tie with 20 seconds left and then Brandon Knight closing the door with a 15-footer with five seconds on the clock.

That game had everything. Let’s toss it up to the others to see if they can come up with one better. I doubt it…

Giblin

What about Michigan-Tennessee? Oh, right.

My favorite game was Florida-Butler clash because of that epic comeback. Down 11 with about ten minutes to go, Shelvin Mack and the rest of the Bulldogs rallied and forced overtime where they eventually won (with the help of some questionable shot selections from the Gators’ guards). But the comeback wouldn’t have been possible without the unbelievable play from McDonald’s All-American seldom used Chrishawn Hopkins. Hopkins made Brad Stevens look like a genius as he set up Matt Howard for a score and then buried a huge 3 to fuel the comeback. And the overtime was just as awesome. The final minutes of OT had multiple “daggers” as Gus Johnson would call them. Walker for 3 to put the Gators on top by one. Did Mack worry? Nope. Pulled up and matched it. A defensive stand at the end and Butler was on their way to consecutive Final Fours.

A classic game that was just the beginning of the best Elite Eight games in years.

Del

Sorry for the late post, but I often like to arrive fashionably late most of the time anyways.  After watching the tournament, I have come to the conclusion that most certainly (for the exception of maybe a 16 over a 1) any Division 1 basketball team can defeat or knock off any other in this crazy month of madness!  Teams like VCU, Richmond, Morehead St, and even Marquette all proved that and all should be commended and patted on the back for their seasons and for VCU season thus far.  Every year, I see a lot more younger coaches and newer faces in the spot light on the sidelines.  Coach Smart from VCU, although I do agree with Giblin’s earlier post 100%, has done one hell of a job in this tournament. I think it is more than an accomplishment to have already knocked off a Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and now Big 12, and #1 seed Kansas team in route to a Final Four. So far, there have been many great games this year that I have watched/listened to on the radio,

When you think of a favorite NCAA Tournament game, one usually thinks of Cinderella stories, buzzer beaters, last second free throws, clutch three pointers, or even bracket busters, but if I had to pick a favorite game of 2011, I actually would have to go with an old fashion beating.

Florida State coming into the 2011 tournament, I’d say was more in a hole than anything else.  As a Terrapin ACC Fan, I do watch almost every game or at least hear about every score in the ACC, so Florida St. was certainly a team I had seen before.   I knew, although finishing 3rd in the conference, that with Chris Singleton, junior star power forward, out for most of the second half of the season that they weren’t the same team at the climax.  Very inconsistent at times, the Seminoles had their ups and downs of their season.  They defeated then #1 Duke in the middle of the season, but other than that win, the Seminoles really still had something to prove for their resume.

Hamilton's Seminoles first Sweet 16 since 1993

Singleton, coming back for the tournament, but not even close to healthy, must have lifted a spark over them because 3rd Round Game 10-seed Florida State against 2-seed Notre Dame was my favorite game of the tournament.  The reason I loved this game was because to me it really said a lot of the things.  Not to knock on Notre Dame or Mike Brey (who I think kind of stinks in the tournament and should honestly be on the hot seat), but I think this game is a strong example of how the ACC is a better conference than the Big East.  Going into this game, 2-seed Notre Dame (27-7) was one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the Big East finishing 2nd among another 9 Big East teams to make the tournament.  Well, after Florida State was done with them, they looked nothing like a bunch of Surrendering Irish.  The Seminoles (23-10), knocked down seven 3 pointers in the first half and were up as much as 23.  With great defense and leadership from Derwin Kitchen and scoring from Bernard James, who had 14 points, the Seminoles held the fraud Big East Notre Dame Irish 31 percent shooting (7 from 30 from 3 point land) and came up with a 71-57 defeat.  This game I thought was a huge statement for the ACC and Leonard Hamilton’s program at FSU.  I have enjoyed watching Hamilton’s program and how it has grown since he came to FSU after coaching the Wizards in 2002. Although this was not what I had in my bracket, I was glad to see and also enjoyed knowing that Ben Hansbrough will never have a championship like his brother.  I don’t like either of them and am very happy to see Ben fail.  Finally, most importantly, this game gave Florida State their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1993, when they had the great Sam Cassell on their team, who took them to the Elite 8.

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion

What to do? Purdue or Mizzou?

As ESPN has report, Purdue coach Matt Painter met with Missouri officials Tuesday in Orlando and will be making a decision on his future in the next few days.

Which made me think, what would I do if I were in Matt Painter’s shoes?

Leaving his Alma Mater?

I’ve been at Purdue, my alma mater, for 6 years and just signed a contract extension through the 2016-2017 season. I make $1.3 million a year with up to $1 million more in incentives. I have made the NCAA tournament for five straight seasons and have won a Big Ten conference tournament along with a regular season championship as well. I lose my top 2 players in JaJuan Johnson and E’Twan Moore, but my injury-stricken fan favorite Robbie Hummel returns. The fan base loves me and wants me to stay. To top it off, I was born in Indiana. Wait, why am I looking at Missouri again?

Answer: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

I have no other reason to go to Missouri. The fan base expects me to compete with Kansas. Unrealistic.  I am following Mike Anderson who had strong success in his tenure. They aren’t expecting a rebuilding job. They are expecting immediate results. Mizzou fans want to be elite (even though the program has never been to the Final Four).

To me this seems like an easy decision: stay at Purdue. Maybe Painter is being pretty savvy and leveraging this into a raise.  It’s a common move. But if he is contemplating leaving, I think he’s making a big mistake.

1 Comment

Filed under Coaching Carousel

Selection Sunday Sentiment Still Remains True

After going from the First Four to the Final Four, Virginia Commonwealth University has become the darling of the 2011 tournament and Shaka Smart has become a household name. Their run has been incredible and I have been as impressed with them as anyone else.

But let’s get something clear, this run should have never happened. VCU did not deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. They didn’t. Not over Colorado. Not over Virginia Tech. Not over St. Mary’s. They were not one of the best at-large candidates: plain and simple.

Shaka should be congratulating his player on another NIT win.

Some people will mock the ESPN analysts like Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale for lambasting the Selection Committee for their VCU pick on Selection Sunday. But they were right. Sure, Dickie V will start apologizing and saying he was wrong because he is a kiss-ass. But he shouldn’t backtrack. VCU didn’t beat nearly as many good opponents as the other at-large candidates. They had very bad losses (Georgia State!). And they ended the season 3-5 in their last 8 games.

“But look at what VCU did in the tournament! They beat five power conference teams from five different conferences! They beat Kansas!”

The question isn’t whether they could compete and win games in the tournament. The question is whether they proved during the course of the regular season if they were one of the best at-large candidates and deserving of an NCAA bid. And they didn’t. Who’s to say that Colorado, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s, or any other candidate couldn’t have reached the Final Four? They all could have. But we’ll never know because VCU took their spot. Undeservingly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion

Let’s Kick It Off: Best Coaching Job of the Tourny

Hello everyone…

It is correct that I am upset that Bruce Pearl was fired. Yes, I love Bruce Pearl–I think he’s an excellent basketball coach whose record speaks for itself at Tennessee and the other stops he’s made throughout his career. He’s also one of the more entertaining coaches out there–just a straight shooter, doesn’t give the same old line of BS that some of the vets in college basketball get away with. My thing is, if you don’t think this stuff is going on at almost every program in the country, you’re dreaming. Bruce got himself into trouble for lying about a secondary recruiting offense, then there were a couple other alleged incidents after. Tennessee’s athletic program is a mess right now and just couldn’t handle it. That’s all well and good, but 2 things: first, the guy made UT’s basketball program relevant again–does that buy him any leeway? and second, how do guys like Jim Tressel keep their jobs while guys like Bruce Pearl or getting fired. I guess a 30-point loss in the first round of the tournament doesn’t help…

Tragic end at Tennessee

Tragic end at Tennessee

Anyway, I guess that is my introduction to the blog, and since I’m fairly certain that a) no one is reading this quite yet and b) no one really cares about what my personal history is, let’s get to some blogging!

First question: Of the Final 4 teams, which has had the best coaching performance of the tournament?

My guess would be that the overwhelming answer to this question if you asked the general population would be Shaka Smart from VCU. I mean, kind of hard to argue with that right? The guy is making himself more money for the inevitable next job offer coming at the end of this tournament with every victory–which is funny considering every college basketball pundit was up in arms that VCU was even included in this tournament. Smart is undoubtedly going to be a hot name in the off-season, which basically tells you how overrated both players’ and coaches’ performances in the NCAA tournament are. I love Shaka’s intensity, though, and his animation on the sidelines. You can tell the guy connects with his players. When it comes to VCU though, it is your typical case of a team getting blazing hot at the right time. I mean, how much does coaching have to do with a team going 9-15 from three-point range in the first half. Don’t get me wrong, I like everyone else have become a Shaka Smart fan, but the question is: who’s been the best coach of the tournament?

This guy.

For my money, give me Brad Stevens all day long. I am continually blown away by this guy. From the moment he took over at Butler, at age 31 by the way, all he has done is win. The run that Butler made last season is well-documented. Conventional wisdom might say their run last season takes away from what they have done this year, but I couldn’t disagree more. Consider that they lost probably the best player to ever come through their program from last year’s team in Gordon Hayward. Consider they got utterly disrespected with an 8-seed in this year’s dance. Consider they have been a legitimate underdog (remember there was a ton of love for Old Dominion at the start of the tourny) in every game of this tournament. Brad Stevens has conditioned his team to play in all kinds of games–they can play up-tempo, they can slow it down, they can slug it out with a team like Pitt or Wisconsin, they can play a finesse game with a team like Florida. That is all coaching. Sure, it helps that they have some experience in guys like Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, but these guys have gotten to where they are because of a coach like Stevens.

Butler has been unflappable in close games in this tournament–three out of their four wins by three points or less. Utterly unheard of. Again, that confidence comes down from the coach. Not letting the situation get too big for you and keeping your cool under pressure is instilled in a team by its head coach. Having faith in your teammates in crucial situations is instilled by the head coached. Stevens has created an impressive culture at Butler where they know they aren’t the most talented team on the court; but they are the smartest, they work the hardest, and they truly believe they are going to win every game. On a side note, has anyone else noticed that Butler plays perhaps the best team defense of any college basketball team I have ever seen? For pure basketball fans out there, their weak-side slides and the way they beat the man to the spot and go straight up is a thing of beauty. Let me tell you something, no one does that anymore. Not collectively as a team, anyways. And not to belabor the point, but once again that’s all coaching. Stevens has gotten his team to buy into a philosophy that is all about the team and all about winning. And doesn’t he seem like a guy who is going to stay at the same place for a long time? I’m sure now that I’ve said that he’ll be gone in a year, but couldn’t you just see him staying at Butler forever? Just a sense I get.

Don’t get me wrong, all four coaches in this Final 4 have done an impressive job. Sometimes coaches who have a history of success get forgotten about in this topics of conversations–check to see how many NBA Coach of the Year awards Gregg Popovich has won. Jim Calhoun’s record speaks for itself, but it’s hard to put him up there when he has one guy doing so much for him in Kemba Walker. John Calipari is a guy who gets a bad rap for getting these one-and-done guys–but in terms of what that means for a coach having to reload every year with new, young talent and still win… it’s actually very, very impressive. Again, hard to put him above Stevens or Smart given the talent gap there, but it’s worth noting that Calipari is probably one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball even though he is held in fairly high regard.

That’s it for me. What’s next?

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinion

Welcome to Every Month Should be March!

I have been wanting to start a blog for a while now, but didn’t know what the focus of my blog should be. It then came to me: college basketball. I have been watching college basketball for as long as I can remember(maybe Danya Abrams and Billy Curley in the NCAA tournament?) and it has always been my favorite sport to follow.  I will be joined by my high school buddy Del (don’t get him started on Maryland’s NCAA title team with Juan Dixon) and my college friend Mayo (he might be a little upset that Bruce Pearl was fired).

Anyways, we all know this isn’t the greatest time to start a blog about college basketball but we feel we are going to be entertaining throughout the year and hope you enjoy the blog!

** Special shout-out to Everyday Should be Saturday–kinda inspired our blog title and we only hope we can do as good a job covering college basketball as they do covering college football.

Leave a comment

Filed under General