Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Player ratings and the All-American team

The Wooden All-America men's team was announced today and the ten members are: Jimmer Fredette, BYU; Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame; JaJuan Johnson, Purdue; Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State; Marcus Morris, Kansas; Jacob Pullen, Kansas State; Nolan Smith, Duke; Jared Sullinger, Ohio State; Kemba Walker, Connecticut; and Derrick Williams, Arizona.

All of those guys were highly rated recruits coming out of high school, right? Well, many were, but certainly not all.

Of the ten-member team, Fredette and Hansbrough were the two who made the biggest leap from their recruiting rank to All-America honors--both were two-star recruits as ranked by Pullen was a three-star recruit; Johnson, Smith, Leonard, Morris and Williams were four-star rated; and Sullinger and Walker were five-star guys.

Overall, in the NCAA Tournament, the star who has made the biggest leap is Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. Faried was unrated coming out of high school but has shown up on All-America lists and helped his 13th seeded team make it to the second round after upsetting Louisville.

How smart is the next school who hires Shaka?

College basketball not only has a compelling tournament this time of year, lovingly called March Madness, but also has the annual melodrama which is the carousel of coaches moving in and out of programs due to firings and opportunistic hirings. The most intriguing coaching story playing out for us this week is Shaka Smart, head coach of VCU, who is the new darling of media and fans who are anxiously seeking a new coach for their team.

Let’s take a moment to break down the "Shaka story" and look at the facts.
- Smart’s VCU team barely made the tournament and had to play a “play in” game against USC in order to advance into the 64-team field.
- VCU’s inclusion drew public ire from none other than basketball analysts Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale, both of whom blasted the Selection Committee for this decision.
- VCU’s run in the tournament included wins over Georgetown and Purdue, then an overtime win over Florida State in the Sweet 16. That set up a game against perennial power—and one seed--Kansas for the right to advance to the Final Four. And, of course, we all know what happened next.

Smart has suddenly moved, in the space of two weeks, from coach of a team barely in the tournament to the coach everyone seems to want if they have a vacant head coaching job. He, over the course of five games, has moved from a weirdly-named coach of a mid-major to a guy who is about to hit it rich, whether he stays at his current school or, more likely, moves on to a more lucrative compensation package at a major institution (e.g., Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina State.)

The question hasn’t been asked but needs to be asked—is Smart truly worth it? Smart has coached two years—two years—at VCU and has compiled a 55-20 record. Sure, that’s not bad but he’s finished fifth in his league and fourth this year. He lost to teams named Northeastern, Drexel and Georgia State, along with Richmond, Old Dominion and George Mason.

Smart is young, charismatic and a story—the type of story which plays well with the desire of everyone who roots for the underdog to upset the big dog. My question is whether that translates into running a major program where the scrutiny intensifies and the recruiting expectations are heightened. And, what did Smart do, or not do, which suddenly got his team winning in the tournament versus what happened during the course of the regular season?

I’m not begrudging Smart his success but I am questioning the logic of a major institution which will likely court him, once his tournament run is over, and offer far more than the $325,000 per year he makes at VCU. I have a hunch that we’ll see a school, hungry for success and bedazzled by VCU’s run, make Smart a wealthy man. Whether he can then turn that program into a consistent winner, much less be the next Roy Williams or Bill Self, remains to be seen.

If I'm Joe Castiglione at Oklahoma or Mike Alden at Missouri, I'd think long and hard before making a run at Smart. And, it might be a good idea for them to call their counterpart at Georgia Tech, Dan Radakovich, who recently fired Paul Hewitt and hired Brian Gregory, former coach at Dayton. Hewitt was hired at Tech in 2000 after leading Siena to that school's first NCAA appearance. Hewitt had been Siena's coach for three years before going to Atlanta and eventually leading Tech to a Final Four in 2004. After that, the Yellow Jackets went 113-106.

I'm not saying that Hewitt's situation is directly analagous to Smart's but it is an example of a guy who got hot, took a small school a long way, and then reaped the benefits from a BCS conference institution. If I'm a betting man, we'll see Smart's name mentioned, this time next week, for one of those open jobs and he'll soon be long gone from VCU.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Looking back on a 35-3 season...and a stunning upset

Think back five months--Kansas State was the sexy pick to win the Big 12 basketball title, Baylor was expected by many to be a top ten team, and Kansas was picked anywhere from seventh to nowhere in the preseason Top 25. A regular season and postseason later, the Jayhawks are owners of a 35-3 record, a seventh straight conference crown, their fourth conference postseason title in five years, another number one seed entering the NCAA Tournament, and the most wins over a five-year period of any program in NCAA history. They also are front-page news today given their upset loss to 11th seeded VCU--an ignominious end to what had been another storied season in Lawrence.

Let's look back and evaluate what worked, and what didn't, in this season which ended well before the expectations of Kansas fans, and the basketball public.

Slam dunks:

The Morris twins. The brothers from Philadelphia made continued progress and are now set to become first round draft picks should they choose to go to the NBA. They were consistent all season and this team was clearly their team. Marcus ended up as Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus 2nd Team All American; Markieff played his way up NBA draft board projections.

Brady Morningstar. Morningstar, the kid that many Kansas fans questioned early in the season, turned his overall game around just in time for the conference season and was KU’s best all-around performer--defense, passing, shooting and consistency. The ball moved better on offense when B-Star was in the lineup, and he was always the guy assigned to the opponents' offensive threat. He forced guys named Jordan Hamilton, LaceDarius Dunn and Alec Burks, among others, into sub-par games.

Thomas Robinson. Robinson showed flashes during his freshman year of what he would become this year. He flourished under the guidance of assistant coach Danny Manning and was the energy guy off the bench for the Jayhawks. Robinson’s horrible family tragedy, off the court, endeared himself to Kansas fans and helped pull the team even closer together.

Bill Self. Self dealt with suspensions, injuries, off-court tragedy, and a roster stocked with highly recruited kids, leading KU to a seventh-straight conference championship, a fourth postseason conference crown in five years, a number one seed and conference Coach of the Year honors. His team ultimately finished the year tied as the second winningest squad in Kansas basketball history.

Danny Manning and Andrea Hudy. The coaching delivered by Manning to Kansas’ big men, coupled with Hudy’s strength and conditioning program, have made on-court studs of the Morris twins and Robinson.

Missed shots:

Josh Selby. The list has to start here--Selby sat out nine game for impermissible benefits, then was injured just as his game was beginning to develop some consistency. He never recovered and pressed noticeably in the late season/post-season run. Selby did not develop into the missing piece which Self recruited.

Travis Releford and Mario Little. Releford had a very solid non-conference run until he got hurt in the Michigan game. The redshirt sophomore never was the same player and Kansas missed his length and long-range shooting ability the rest of the season. Little was the beneficiary of Releford’s minutes and was the guy who hit the game-winning free throws in KU’s win over UCLA. However, Little never fulfilled the promise of his National Junior College Player of the Year status coming out of Chipola Junior College.


Elijah Johnson. The athletic Johnson seemed to regress early in the season as he battled for minutes, then re-discovered his confidence and his ability to defend, on the ball, when Tyshawn Taylor was suspended. Johnson eventually ceded his starting role back to Taylor but played valuable minutes in the postseason. It remains to be seen whether Johnson can progress to fully realize the potential of his five-star rating coming out of high school.

Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor’s season was mercurial, both on and off the court. He finished with a flourish and was arguably Kansas’ most valuable performer in NCAA Tournament wins over Boston University, Illinois and Richmond. Yet, during the season, he had a stretch where he was a turnover-waiting-to-happen and also endured a two-game suspension. Taylor seemed to be the guy who most exasperated Self, yet also the guy who Self knew the Jayhawks needed in order to be an elite team.

Tyrel Reed. I will admit that I love kids like Reed as no one seemed to care more than the kid from Burlington, KS. One of the most unfortunate byproducts of Kansas’ loss to VCU is that Reed will fall one game short of tying Shane Battier of Duke for most wins by a collegiate player. But, I list Reed here as his foot injury dogged him late in the season and likely caused his shooting woes in tournament games against Illinois, Richmond and VCU when he went 4 for 20. Reed played the most minutes of any Jayhawk this season and hit several key three-pointers during the conference schedule. One has to question, though, the number of minutes Reed logged in the NCAA Tournament if his foot truly did affect his performance as much as it appeared.


Jeff Withey. Withey rarely saw the court and, when he did, there were flashes of quality minutes sandwiched in the middle of appearances where he appeared lost and over-matched. The biggest question with Withey is whether he has the toughness to garner minutes next year in Self’s system. If the twins and Robinson return, that won’t happen. If one or more of those guys leave, then Withey will have to produce.

Next year:

Is there a team in the country with as many post-season questions as Kansas? Will the Morris twins go pro? What of Thomas Robinson--will his family situation and rising draft stock cause him to declare early? Josh Selby was considered a for sure one-and-done but didn't have the season expected of him--does he return or take his chances professionally? And, if his buddies leave, does Taylor stay for his senior season?

The Kansas lineup could feature the Morris twins, Robinson, Selby, Johnson and Taylor. Or, Self could end up starting Withey, Releford, redshirt Conner Teahan, Johnson and someone else, if all those on the NBA draft boards decide to exit.

On the recruiting front, KU will welcome four-star recruit--point guard Naadir Tharpe. After that, the possibilities are murky--Ben McLemore is still considering KU and Missouri and DeAndre Daniels, once considered a lock for Kansas, now has Duke in the recruiting picture. There is also some noise that Kansas could be in the mix for Otto Porter, a top 50, 6'9", 200 pound forward from Sikeston, MO.

Kansas faced similar questions coming out of their 2008 national championship run given graduations and the early exits of Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur. We'll see if Self can work his magic, once again, and put the Jayhawks in contention for another league title and high seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2011-2012.

Quote of the day

Charles Barkley, stirring up the pot on CBS during the NCAA Tournament, had this to say after yesterday's games: "I'll take Kansas and North Carolina over the Cleveland Cavaliers."

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks and Tarheels, the Cavs didn't make an appearance in March Madness.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A diary of madness - chapter eleven

Reflections on Round of 16 action in the NCAA Tournament:

- The dodgeball shot that Josh Harrelson of Kentucky gave Jared Sullinger of Ohio State was priceless. I'd really like to see those two big duffers go at it in some one-on-one action with nobody else on the floor.

- Best coaching name in the tournament: Chaka Khan, er, I mean, Shaka Smart of VCU.

- What is up with TBS' Craig Sager? First, Sager makes more than necessary out of a comment Kansas' Markieff Morris made yesterday, between practices, to Richmond players. (I saw the clip--it was nothing.) Then, Sager focused on the dust-up between KU and Richmond prior to the game in his halftime interview with Bill Self. You could tell that Self was miffed, and he let the media know that in the postgame press conference.

- Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were more comfortable in the CBS studio last night and tonight. Clearly, having fewer teams to worry about helped these guys step up their game versus the less-than-stellar quality of their commentary last weekend.

- Regional MVPs--Round of 16: Southeast Regional - Alex Tyus, Florida Gators, who went off for 19 and 17 versus BYU; West Regional - Derrick Williams of Arizona, of course, with his dazzling array of vicious dunks, sharpshooting from behind the arc, and 32 points and 13 boards stat line versus one seed Duke; Southwest Regional - Brady Morningstar of Kansas, the senior leader who had 18 points (4 of 7 from three), four assists, and continued his lockdown defense in KU's dismantling of Richmond; and East Regional - DeAndre Liggins, who seemed to have a huge shot for Kentucky whenever needed in their win over Ohio State. Liggins had 15 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals.

- Check out the following stats and tell me there isn't bias involved as part of the whole Duke mystique. The Blue Devils have lost to lower-seeded teams in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011. They, of course, won the national championship last year, sandwiched around these losses, including losing as a one seed to teams seeded 5th (Michigan State in 2005), 4th (LSU in 2006) and 5th (Arizona this year.) My point is that one never hears a member of the media questioning Duke's penchant for losing to lower seeds during March Madness.

- Let's all welcome back Josh Selby's (Kansas) three-point shot.

- I'm getting really, really tired of the Southwest Airlines "Red Tape" commercial.

- Steve Kerr has done a pretty good job on color commentary. Marv Albert? Well, let's just say that the guy has lost a step or two. Overall, I'm underwhelmed with what the Turner Sports contingent has contributed to the tournament other than the use of the three stations to complement CBS.

- Marquette has a long history of loud, fashion-challenged uniforms dating back to the 1970s regime of Al McGuire. The road unis worn tonight looked like they required a power outlet--they were quite bright.

- Methinks Bill Self would've liked to have won that recruiting battle with Kentucky for the services of Brandon Knight. The kid knows what to do with the game on the line. And, he has a 4.0 GPA.

- The Elite Eight will feature the three teams with the most all-time wins: Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A diary of madness - chapter ten

- BYU ran out of gas and looked like a tired team in the overtime against Florida. Jimmer Fredette went 0-fer in the extra period. The result? Florida continued their expected march to the Elite Eight.

- Connecticut has not lost a game this year on a neutral court site.

- And, speaking of the Huskies, everyone was anticipating a fun regional final of Duke-UConn. It isn't going to happen.

- Amazing how everyone seems to shoot poorly against Butler.

- How about the coaching job of Sean Miller this year? Arizona was a tough win for Kansas, earlier in the season, at Allen Fieldhouse. They have progressed significantly since then.

(CORRECTION: Kansas beat Arizona on November 27, 2010, in Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, NV.)

- How much money is Derrick Williams making for himself with his tournament performance? Williams is a projected lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

- Fredette is a tremendous offensive player but settled for far too many long-range jumpers tonight.

- Seriously, CBS, why in the world do you employ Leslie Visser as a sideline reporter?

- The three-man crew of Gus Johnson, Reggie Miller and Len Elmore got in Gus' way.

- In 1997, Arizona was a five seed. They went on to win the national championship.

- Every year Wisconsin seems to make the tournament as a four seed or a five seed. And, every year, we are treated to a five point half like they're putting up in this second half against Butler.

- Another one seed goes down. We're going to have a five (Arizona) against a three (UConn) and a two (Florida) against an eight (Butler) on Saturday in the West and Southeast finals.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mike Anderson

What do we make of this Mike Anderson situation?

It became official tonight that Anderson, coach at the University of Missouri, was returning to Arkansas, the school where he served as assistant coach under successful mentor Nolan Richardson.

Anderson was hired at Missouri in 2006 after a successful stint at University of Alabama-Birmingham. At Mizzou, Anderson took over a program which has been embarrassed by the scandal left by Quin Snyder. In his five years in Columbia, Anderson led MU to an Elite Eight and won a Big 12 postseason conference championship. Yet Anderson, over the past two seasons, has had back-to-back 23-11 records and a fifth and sixth place finish in the conference.

Candidly, it's surprising to me that Arkansas is paying Anderson $2.2 million per year. That pay scale is in the Roy Williams-Mike Krzyzewski range and places Anderson in the top ten salaries of NCAA hoops coaches. Of the other coaches receiving this kind of compensation, all have taken a team to a Final Four and most have won a national championship. Not to demean Anderson's credentials, but there were other coaches out there who may have made the move for this compensation and with a better resume.

Anderson's flirtation with Arkansas came after public pronouncements that he was happy at Missouri. There were discussions going on with Mike Alden, MU's Athletics Director, on a contract extension and pay raise--reportedly to $2 million per year--but Anderson ultimately chose the pull of more dough in Fayetteville coupled with taking over the program once led by Richardson. He may have also realized that fan sentiment in Missouri was beginning to sour and chose to make the move now versus facing the pressure of increased expectations.

I'm sure Anderson will be successful in Arkansas but it remains to be seen how well he'll compete with Kentucky and Florida in the SEC, not to mention Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State. He leaves behind a program in a better place yet still seeking the consistent competitiveness in the conference which was a staple of Norm Stewart's tenure.

Who will the Tigers hire? No names have been bounced around, yet, other than Cuonzo Martin from Missouri State. If Alden's willing to offer up $2 million per year, then the Tigers have an attractive position for the short list of good coaches making their marks at mid-majors, or an assistant at a marquee program. This is a very important decision for the MU A.D.--he's got to find someone who can compete with a Kansas State program which has improved under Frank Martin; Texas A&M; Iowa State, and their batch of transfers coming to play for Fred Hoiberg; Texas and the talent they seems to attract each year and; of course, Kansas. Anderson won one game against Bill Self in his tenure at MU--I'm sure the Tiger faithful are hopeful that the new hire can strike a bit more fear into their rival to the west.

MU is an open job which is now competing with Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia Tech--all high profile head coaching positions. And, once again, for the third time in 11 years, we'll get to watch as MU seeks a new coach to fill a seat which previously had been held by the same guy for 37 straight seasons.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Madness - winners and losers

It's now the round of 16 so let's look back at the winners and losers from the first two rounds of action.

Winner: Low seeds. In the Sweet 16, we have a 12 (Richmond), two 11's (VCU and Marquette), a 10 (Florida State) and an 8 (Butler.)

Loser: Bruce Pearl. The coach who took Tennessee to the Elite Eight a year ago is out as head coach of the Vols.

Winner: ACC. The maligned conference has three teams in the Sweet 16--North Carolina, Duke and Florida State. This is the most of any league.

Loser: Pitt. The number one seed Panthers once again did not play to their seed in the tournament.

Winner: Kansas. The Jayhawks made it through the first two rounds of the tournament and now have a 12 and 10/11 standing between them and the Final Four.

Loser: Leslie Visser. Visser's sideline reporting days should be long over.

Winner: Gus Johnson: Johnson's manic calls of tight tournament games are now the things of YouTube legend.

Loser: Vanderbilt. The Commodores are another chronic under-achiever in the tournament, losing this year to Richmond in round one.

Winner: Viewers. The four network approach of CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV was a hit.

Loser: Craig Sager's stylist. Seriously, where does this guy buy his clothes and, more importantly, who provides him with fashion counsel?

Winner: Bill Raftery. The guy has "Onions!"

Loser: Marv Albert: Marv, it's the "Morris twins," not the "Marcus twins." Albert made the mistake, with Kansas' high profile brother tandem, when calling two different Jayhawk games.

Winner: Brad Stevens. Butler's coach proved that the Bulldogs' run to the 2010 national championship game was no fluke and thus cemented his position as the best young coach in college hoops.

Loser: Frank Martin. Look, most of the time I like Martin but his verbal undressing of freshman Will Spradling, at the end of Kansas State's loss to Wisconsin, was uncalled for and embarrassing.

Winner: Jacob Pullen. What a competitor--the KSU guard left it all on the court against Wisconsin, then showed the emotional toll caused by the sudden finality of a tournament loss.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A diary of madness - chapter nine

Monday morning, March 21

After spending Thursday-Saturday watching wall-to-wall hoops, I grab my traveling companion and set out for Tulsa, OK, site of Sunday action featuring Kansas, Texas, Arizona and Illinois. I feel the need to cheer on my Jayhawks and move into a live setting versus staring at a 57" TV screen all day.

- The BOK Center in Tulsa is a nice building but they spent the majority of their money on the exterior of the arena. And, what is up with the brand identity--BOK is short for Bank of Oklahoma but rare is the company who can successfully pull off an acronym as the identity for one's brand.

- Tulsa is, by my estimation, about four-five hours from Dallas and about seven hours from Austin. But, once again, the Longhorn faithful show that they have one primary interest--football. The Texas fan base does not travel for basketball.

- On the other hand, the arena is filled with Kansas blue, as usual. There appear to be about 1,200 members of the Jayhawk Nation at the pre-game pep rally. In the arena, about one-half seem to be cheering for Kansas during the KU-Illinois game.

- The end of the Texas-Arizona game runs counter to the night before when "a foul is a foul" and fouls were called at the end of Butler-Pitt. And, surprise, none other than veteran ref, and Big East Tournament punchline, Jim Burr is involved.

- Bruce Weber and Bill Self shake hands before and after the Kansas victory, but little is said between the two. Self was miffed at the way Weber handled year one of his tenure at Illinois, after Self's departure. Weber's very public mock funeral, imploring the Illini faithful to accept that Self was gone, didn't set well with the Kansas coach.

- If you're a Kansas fan, there are two things to take away from the first two rounds of action--the Morris twins are imposing their will and leadership upon this team and Tyshawn Taylor is playing his best basketball of the season. Taylor showed his value yesterday when the Jayhawks stagnated on offense once he left the game with two fouls. Fortunately, KU kept the defensive intensity up, forcing Illinois star Demetri McCamey into 2-9 shooting, including 1-5 from behind the arc. Overall, the Illini were held to 38% shooting for the night.

- By the way, I refuse to accept the NCAA's insistence that the four play-in games are "round one." It's not--it's the "play-in round." Round One has to be Thursday-Friday when all remaining 64 teams are in action.

Week one of the greatest three weeks in sports is over. And, if there is one headline, it's that no one can predict this tournament. Every year there is a load of analysis and, every year, wacky things happen which is the beauty of the NCAA Tournament.

Let the madness continue...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A diary of madness - chapter eight

Saturday evening, March 19

- If Kansas State wins against Wisconsin, look to the minutes played by Juevol Myles at the end of the first half as a key to the win. Frank Martin went deep into his bench to put Myles on the floor and he responded with a key play and foul shot which provided KSU some key momentum going into halftime.

- A foul is a foul whether it's a minute into the game or the last second of the game. While many of us may not like a game decided by a foul call, both the foul on Butler's Shelvin Mack and the Pitt foul with 0.8 seconds to play were clearly fouls.

- Trivia question--which three conferences have had two member institutions play in the national championship game? (Answer below.)

- How good a coach is Butler's Brad Stevens? The play at the end of regulation was a thing of beauty--attacking the defense and the basket versus the normal isolation play so often called when time is winding down. Stevens' demeanor on the sideline also has to have a positive impact on his players at crunch time.

- Kyrie Irving of Duke is listed as the top draft pick on both ESPN's draft board as well as NBA Draft Express.

- Anyone else getting tired of the Southwest "red tape" commercial? The problem with wall-to-wall tournament viewing is wall-to-wall commercials--the same ones.

- Florida was over-seeded and received a gift tonight with Pitt's ouster. I think the Gators return to the Final Four for the first time since their 2007 national championship.

- Trivia answer: Big Ten - Indiana over Michigan in 1976, Big East - Villanova over Georgetown in 1985 and Big Eight - Kansas over Oklahoma in 1988.

A diary of madness - chapter seven

Saturday afternoon, March 19

- Why are we getting two national games, back-to-back, with multiples tonight on different networks? What happened to the games and choices throughout the day approach? I guess TBS feels it's important to show syndicated re-runs of Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens.

- Kentucky's win affirms the belief that teams which go deep into the tournament feature one or two players who will grace an NBA roster in the future.

- Of the major conferences, the ACC is 4-1 thus far in the tournament; the Pac 10, 3-1; Big Ten, 5-2; Big East, 7-4; Big 12, 3-2; and SEC, 2-3. The Colonial Athletic is 3-1.

- Draymond Green of Michigan State recorded a rare triple-double on Thursday night in the Spartans' loss to UCLA. Green had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He joins Gary Grant, Michigan; Shaquille O'Neal, LSU; David Cain, St. John's; Andre Miller, Utah; Dwayne Wade, Marquette; and Cole Aldrich, Kansas, as guys who have recorded tournament triple-double since 1984, when assists began being tracked nationally. Prior to that, the NCAA recognizes several unofficial triple-doubles--a list which includes Kansas' B.H. Born, Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson, and Michigan State's Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

- Josh Smith of UCLA is a rather large young man.

- Josh Harrellson of Kentucky does not get enough national recognition. Harrellson was a beast today against West Virginia.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A diary of madness - chapter six

Let's see, by my count I've consumed about 23 hours of basketball action coupled with several hours of newspaper sports section reading, internet browsing and junk food consumption. And, day two isn't even finished yet!

- For all the talk about a loose week of practice, Kansas came out tight. The "energy guy," so often referenced by Bill Self, for this game was none other than the forgotten man of the Jayhawks--Josh Selby. Selby played 15 minutes--the most since the Oklahoma game on February 26--and seemed to be close-to-fully recovered from his foot injury. While he only scored four points, they were points made with penetration, coupled with two assists where he drove into the zone and dished for easy baskets.

- CBS/TNT/TBS/truTV need to ditch the funky above-the-action camera angles. Yes, we know you have the cool technology to do so, but it's not an angle which works for following basketball action.

- Quintrell Thomas starts for UNLV and, if the name is familiar, it's because Thomas transferred from Kansas two years ago. Thomas came to KU in the same recruiting class as Tyshawn Taylor and was a fellow New Jersey kid.

- For all the talk of upsets and Cinderella teams, there typically are only eight-nine games per tournament where a lower seeded team beats a higher seeded team. Yes, there are often close games but, in recent history, that ratio of upsets has been very consistent.

- Favorite announcing crews: Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery, Tim Brando/Mike Gminski, Gus Johnson/Len Elmore, Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg, Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner.

- Least favorite announcing crews: Spero Dedes/Bob Wenzel, Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel.

- It was fun to hear Marv Albert call the Kansas game but the guy has lost a step...or two...or three--there were far too many mistakes, e.g., the "Marcus twins."

- Interesting--Indiana State has a nickname which is a tree while Stanford (not in the tournament) has a nickname of a color but a mascot which is a tree. Hmm...

- If the Big 12 wants to get more than five teams into the tournament, then they need to play to their seed when in the tournament. Texas A&M ran into a Florida State defense that they could not figure out and an offensively-challenged Aggie team was exposed.

- Interesting third round match-ups: Richmond versus Morehead State--a 12 seed taking on a 13; Pittsburgh and Butler, two fundamentally sound, well-coached teams; Arizona versus Texas, Derrick Williams against Tristan Thompson; West Virginia and Bob Huggins against nemesis Kentucky and John Calipari; former Illinois coach Bill Self and Kansas against Bruce Weber, a guy who took some verbal shots at Self in the year after his departure to KU.; and Duke-Michigan, two programs who've been in the news this week given the verbal sparring between Fab Five members Jalen Rose and Jimmy King with Grant Hill and the Duke establishment.

A diary of madness - chapter five

Early Friday afternoon, March 18

- Marv Albert is calling the games in Tulsa, OK. It makes me wonder if Albert has ever called a Kansas Jayhawk game in his storied career as a broadcaster.

- Albert's sidekicks are Steve Kerr, former Arizona Wildcat who will call Zona's game later today, and Craig Sager. Sager started his career in Kansas City, working for KMBC-TV (ABC.)

- It's fun watching Texas' Tristan Thompson and Oakland's Keith Benson go at it. Benson was impressive when he played in Allen Fieldhouse last season but his duel with Thompson points out the benefit of playing quality competition, each night, in a major conference. Benson is an NBA prospect but he's not an NBA-ready player.

- If the Vols lose, is this Bruce Pearl's last game as head coach of Tennessee? The less-than-ringing endorsement from his Athletics Director leads me to think that Pearl is out after the tournament. It was only six years ago, at the 2005 Final Four, where I saw Pearl walking through the coaches' hotel in St. Louis, wearing a Tennessee polo shirt, and thinking "well, we now know who got the open Tennessee job."

- Kansas has played nine teams in the field of 68--Arizona, UCLA, USC, Memphis, Michigan, Texas (twice), Kansas State (twice), Missouri (twice) and Texas A&M. Boston University has played three--Kentucky (91-57 loss), Bucknell (52-49 loss) and Villanova (82-66 loss.)

- Key stat for Kansas-Boston: KU's team assist to turnover ratio is 17.9 to 13.5; Boston's ratio is 9.6 to 11.6 meaning that the Terriers turn the ball over more often than they assist.

- Texas A&M has exited in the second round each of the past three tournaments.

- Okay, this Jeep Compass commercial with Muhammed and Laila Ali, and James and Scott Caan, talking about "bloodlines" is just a plain weird use of celebrities/public figures.

- Yesterday it was Leslie Visser with the weird hair. Today, it's Tennessee's Scotty Hopson sporting the Kid 'N' Play 'do. Bad hair runner-up: Oakland head coach Greg Kampe.

- J'Covan Brown of Texas yakking again at an opponent. Just play ball...

- Ah, the familiar voice of Gus Johnson, calling the Villanova-George Mason game. "Ha-HA!"

- Texas' win makes the Big 12 2-1 in three games thus far.

Morehead State vs. Richmond

Yes, as one of our readers points out--a 12 seed and a 13 seed have played each other before and it happened as recently as two years ago.

In 2009, in the Midwest Regional, Arizona as a 12 seed beat Utah. The 13 seed, Cleveland State, beat Wake Forest. Arizona won the game between the 12 and 13, advancing to play Louisville. Yep, the same Louisville who lost yesterday to that 13 seed, Morehead State.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A diary of madness - chapter four

Day one over, March 17, 2011

- 32 teams, 16 games, perhaps the best afternoon ever of the NCAA tournament, and a 12 and 13 seed to play each other on Saturday. Today was a good day one for the 2011 tournament.

- Continuing mystery of the day--did Leslie Visser look in a mirror at any point today?

- Utah State won 30 games but not one of those wins was over a team in the NCAA Tournament.

- Didn't tonight's Missouri loss look familiar? The Tigers were outrebounded 35-27 and any time Cincinnati got the ball inside, they seemed to score. Cincy forward Yancy Gates went for 18 points and 11 boards. Missouri finishes 23-11 but ended the season with five losses in six games.

- Michigan State and UCLA created some late game drama but, overall, the play of these two traditional powers was pretty ugly. Michigan State moved off of the bubble late in the season but, let's face it, they did not deserve an invitation over teams like Colorado, Missouri State and several others.

- Overall, it was nice to have four networks showing each game in its entirety. While frustrating to switch and find another commercial on another game broadcast, I'll gladly take this programming approach versus the prior CBS switching from one game to the other. Can you imagine following this afternoon's dramatic games only on CBS versus having the freedom to switch back and forth?

A diary of madness - chapter three

Early evening, Thursday, March 17

- Over five million entries are playing ESPN's Tournament Bracket contest. And, as of the end of the afternoon of the first full day of the tournament of 64, less than 1% of the brackets are perfect. It's been that kind of day thus far.

- Can you imagine the teeth gnashing in the Commonwealth of Kentucky if Kentucky had lost to Princeton after Louisville's disappointment against Morehead State? They would have only had Morehead State left to cheer.

- When's the last time a 12 seed played a 13 seed in the second round? I don't know...that's why I'm asking.

- His given name isn't "Jimmer," it's James Taft Fredette. The BYU star's mother gave him the nickname Jimmer at an early age.

- Vanderbilt did a less than stellar job at managing a three point deficit late in the game. And, as has become commonplace, the Commodores exited the tournament in the first round. Vandy has lost in the first round the past three times they've played in the NCAA Tournament and four out of the past five times.

- It's been a good day for the Atlantic 10 Conference--both Temple and Richmond won this afternoon.

A diary of madness - chapter two

- This is what it's all about--Morehead State beats Louisville after being down, coming back to take the lead, going down again, and then hitting the three pointer which elicits an "Onions!" from Bill Raftery on TBS' broadcast.

- Morehead State's win means that Kansas, should they advance to the Sweet 16, will meet the winner of Morehead-Vanderbilt/Richmond.

- I'm eating crow about my earlier post regarding Louisville, their press, and their offensive scheme.

- How many commercials are being missed because tournament viewers are switching from network to network?

- Did you know that Morehead State is one of only four public universities to offer a degree in space science? I didn't either. Located in Morehead, Kentucky, this public school has an enrollment of slightly south of 8,000; they play in the Ohio Valley Conference.

- Louisville earns the dubious honor of being the first Big East team to lose in the tournament.

- TBS is two-for-two--twice they've tried to cut away to other action only to have that game go to a commercial on a sister network.

- They're dancing in the street of Morehead, KY--not "streets"...street.

A diary of madness - chapter one

Early afternoon, Thursday, March 17

- At 1:53 p.m. CDT we have our first thriller--a late basket by Butler gets the win over Old Dominion. Why are these two schools playing each other, as an eight seed and nine seed, versus playing majors?

- West Virginia's win reinforces the value of a tournament tested, great hoops coach. Clemson took it to WVU early but Huggins made adjustments to get the eight point win.

- Bill Raftery to Verne Lundquist: "You've had a few career double-doubles, eh?" Lundquist chuckles knowingly.

- Butler's win elicits an "oh my" from Tim Brando, obviously paying homage to retired colleague Dick Enberg.

- The coach of Butler, Brad Stevens, looks older now that he's wearing glasses. (Tongue planted firmly in cheek...)

- Why is Leslie Visser still employed by CBS? And, what the heck is going on with her hair!?

- Louisville's press is reminscent of Missouri, only they do it much better. And, they spread the floor on offense and use the dribble drive very effectively.

- Kenneth Faried of Morehead State is a rebounding machine. But, he and his Morehead State mates are wearing down due to altitude in the Pepsi Center coupled with Louisville's withering pressure.

The madness begins

The morning got off to an inauspicious start when I found out the cable splitter I'd purchased doesn't help me get different cable signals from the same outlet. (The rationale for the purchase, of course, was to track progress of different NCAA Tournament games on different networks at the same time, particularly tonight when Missouri and Kansas State play at the same time.)

After that, prep work of beer purchased and snacks obtained were done in time to catch the 11:00 a.m. CDT pre-game on CBS.

Now, it's time to catch a "Ha HA!" from Gus Johnson, an "Onions!" call from Bill Raftery and a "the rim was unkind" from Tim Brando.

Let the madness begin!

NCAA Tournament Over-analysis: edition two

It's here--Madness,'d better make those last few selections of which nine seed will beat an eight and get in your picks before this morning's deadline. (Admit it--how many of you are frustrated that the games begin at 11:00 a.m. CDT, versus 11:30 a.m. in prior years, meaning you have 30 minutes less to analyze your selections?)

- Speaking of lower seeds advancing, Villanova holds the all-time most wins as a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats have 14 wins, all-time, as a lower seed followed by: Michigan State, 12; UCLA, 11; and Purdue, Boston College, LSU, Kansas, Temple and Louisville, all with nine.

- UNC-Asheville's win over Arkansas Little Rock in one of the "first four" play-in games was not their first in NCAA Tournament history. UNC-A won in 2003, their first win ever in the tournament.

- President Obama picks Kansas to beat Ohio State in the national championship game. That match-up would be a first between the Jayhawks and Buckeyes in tournament play.

- Kentucky and Marquette have played each other the most, of any match-ups in tournament history. The two schools have faced each other eight times in tourney play followed by the six times for Kentucky-Ohio State, UCLA-San Francisco and Kentucky-Utah. There are several five-time match-ups: Duke-Connecticut, Duke-Kansas, Duke-Kentucky, Kentucky-Louisville, North Carolina-Michigan State and North Carolina-Villanova.

- One of the more entertaining games of the day is likely to be Kansas State-Utah State. The Aggies--the Utah variety--feel snubbed at their 12 seed given their 30-3 record. KSU is trying to bounce back from a somewhat lethargic performance in the Big 12 tournament to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament. This is Jacob Pullen's last rodeo as leader of the Wildcats and his performance will likely dictate how far KSU can go in a bracket which includes a possible match-up with Wisconsin and, eventually, Pittsburgh. (Pullen did not practice on Wednesday, due to flu-like symptoms.) I think this will be a close game throughout with KSU pulling away late to win by six.

- Missouri is the lower seeded team but opened as the favorite for tonight's game against Cincinati. The match-up is now labeled a "pick 'em" by Vegas oddsmakers. Cincy does not shoot the ball well (.436) and is an average free throw shooting team, but feature two forwards who are tall, athletic and physical--a formula for defeats for MU during the regular season. MU should have a distinct advantage in the backcourt and will succeed, as usual, if they can get the Bearcats' guards sped up and turning the ball over. If Cincinnati does a good job getting the ball inside to Rashad Bishop, Ibrahim Thomas and Yancy Gates, then it could be a long night for Mike Anderson and team. MU wins this one by three.

How are you spending the day--at work, tracking the opening round action on or, or, like me, taking a day of vacation and hunkered down in the man-cave? File your reports with a response below--we're anxious to hear from you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NCAA Tournament: Overanalysis--edition one

- If you're tired of the tried-and-true NCAA Tournament bracket pool, here's a new game to try. Find seven friends and arrange for a "draft" prior to the start of round three of the tournament on Thursday, March 17. Each player selects a number from 1-8, which determines the draft order. Each player then drafts eight teams, i.e., the player who selects first then waits to select 16th, the player who selects second then waits to select 15th, and so on (following the "S" curve.) In our draft, each player contributes $25 for a total pool of $200. Prizes are awarded for correctly picking the national champion ($50), most wins overall ($50), most teams in the Sweet 16 ($50), and lowest seeded team advancing farthest ($50 for a team seeded at least 11 or lower.)

- In case you decide to fill out your bracket according to team nicknames, here are the best: East Region--There are Golden Eagles, Patriots, and more than one Tiger and Wildcat, but the best has to be the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners; West Region--More Tigers and Wildcats plus some Bison and Bears, but let's go with the Aztecs of San Diego State; Southwest Region--The Jayhawks are the #1 seed but the most fun nickname has to be the Peacocks of St. Peter's of Jersey City, N.J.; Southeast Region--The region of the Bulldogs (Butler, Gonzaga and UNC-Asheville) also has the Monarchs of Old Dominion, the best from this region of 16.

- Texas has an RPI of 11 and is ranked 4th in Ken Pomeroy's power ratings, yet is a four seed. Go figure...

- Third round (Thursday/Friday) upset specials: East--Georgia over Washington; West--Oakland over Texas; Southwest--Richmond over Vanderbilt; Southeast--Utah State over Kansas State.

- Missouri is a one point favorite in their opening game against Cincinnati even though the Tigers are an 11 seed and the Bearcats are a six seed.

- Wacky match-ups, as orchestrated by the Selection Committee: UNLV, coached by former Illinois coach, Lon Kruger, plays his former team, followed by a possible Kansas-Illinois match-up, which would pit another former coach (Bill Self) against the Illini. If Missouri beats Cincinnati and Bucknell beats Connecticut, then the Tigers and Bison would meet--a match-up of another Big 12 team with the school which upset Kansas in 2005. And, of course, Kansas' first opponent is another "B" school--Boston.

- If you buy into the theory that teams which have to travel farthest are at the biggest disadvantage, then pay attention to the following: Washington playing in Charlotte, N.C.; Temple and Penn State playing each other--in Tucscon, AZ; Richmond traveling to Denver, CO; and UCLA journeying to Tampa, FL.

- If you're thinking of picking a 16 seed to beat a one seed, don't--it hasn't happened yet and it won't happen during this tournament.

Quote of the day

In the aftermath of being snubbed by the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Committee, Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg had this to say: "I'm just disappointed. You almost wonder if someone in that room had their own agenda and that agenda doesn't include Virginia Tech. Just plain and simple. I totally wonder it, if someone in that room has an agenda. The explanation was so inconsistent with the result that it was almost mind-boggling."

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Wow, there's plenty of material here as we digest the work of the NCAA Mens Tournament Selection Committee along with the indignation of Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale over teams like VCU and UAB making it while Colorado and Harvard stay home.

Here are some immediate thoughts about all things March Madness:

- Shouldn't "Bracketology" be granted its rightful place in the dictionary?

- The work of the Selection Committee was inconsistent, just like the officiating in last night's Kansas-Texas game. For example, in some cases, the Committee rewarded body of work. In other cases, the Committee placed greater emphasis (e.g., Connecticut) on performance during the post-season tournament.

- Conspiracy theorists will opine--perhaps rightly--that the epicenter of the college athletics universe is in the Big Ten. Conference commissioner Jim Delaney was the puppetmaster last summer during the conference realignment discussions. And, Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith is the guy who chaired the decisions made by the Mens Tournament Selection Committee.

- Seriously, how did VCU and UAB make it into the tournament? Those teams weren't even in the "bubble" discussions of the past week or two.

- Charles Barkley needs to step up his game once the tournament begins. His analysis was beyond weak tonight on CBS' Selection Show.

- Jay Bilas showed why he is the best college basketball analyst tonight given his factual, insightful and indignant undressing of the tournament committee on ESPN's Bracketology show.

- Not surprisingly, the app world is capitalizing on our infatuation with March Madness. The Apple market and Android marketplace both offer apps devoted to filling out brackets and following the tournament.

Stay tuned to this space for further tournament analysis which, hopefully, will provide a bit of a different spin on what you'll get through your usual sports media outlets.

Let the madness begin!

Wrapping up the Big 12 tournament

- Kudos to the City of Kansas City, the Host Committee, the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and all concerned who helped make this past week a special one in Kansas City. K.C. simply knows how to host the conference's Mens and Womens Basketball Tournaments with historic Municipal Auditorium and Sprint Center sandwiching the fun Power & Light District.

- Kansas-Texas games in the past have featured a mutual respect for one another. Yesterday's game was characterized by pre-game trash talking and some "chippiness" on the court by both teams.

- The officiating gaffe in the Rutgers-St. Johns game in Big East tournament has garnered the most national attention this past week. But, officiating quality, as a whole, seems to be incredibly inconsistent in the college game. As an example, in yesterday's KU-Texas game, the first half had rhythm and flow because of the lack of whistles. In fact, Kansas wasn't even in the bonus in the first half. The officials must have had a committee meeting at halftime and decided to change the way they were calling the game as there were five fouls called in the first minute and 30 seconds of the second half. That's one foul every 18 seconds! The quick whistles changed the flow and for no apparent reason.

- It's hard to quibble with the All-Tournament team of the Morris brothers, Tristan Thompson, Alec Burks and Jordan Hamilton. However, I'm not sure any player was as valuable to his team as Tyrel Reed was to Kansas. Reed forced Colorado's Cory Higgins into 1 of 11 shooting on Friday night and hit a couple of key three-pointers. Yesterday, Reed once again seemed to hit a three when it was most needed and his fast break dunk in the first half was the play which seemed to most energize the crowd, and his team.

- Yesterday's atmosphere was great but did not compare to last year's very equal crowd split between Kansas and Kansas State. The KU-Texas crowd had to be 90% blue and sounded like a game at Allen Fieldhouse, minus the decibel level created by the low ceiling and layout of that building.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kansas-Texas: what to watch

84-74. 88-84. 80-68. Kansas and Texas have played three times in the finals of the Big 12 Tournament and, each time, KU has emerged the victor. And, each time, the game was considered a great game--even a classic--given the circumstances.

In 2006, a group of Kansas freshmen named Rush, Chalmers and Wright paid back Texas for a regular season 25-point loss in Austin. That championship game, played in Dallas, was the coming out party for that talented group of recruits who shared the regular season title with the Longhorns. In 2007, KU came back from a huge first half deficit to beat Texas in Oklahoma City. And, that was a Texas team featuring a kid named Durant. Then, in 2008, KU and Texas played one of the best college games seen in Kansas City, making shot after shot, and christening the first league tournament in Sprint Center with a 12 point Kansas victory. That Jayhawk team won a national championship three weeks later.

So, once again, we get the Jayhawks and Longhorns in the league final. What should you look for today?

- Tyrel Reed. The under-appreciated Reed, playing on a foot which will need post-season surgery, held Colorado's Cory Higgins to 1 of 11 shooting while also draining two three pointers at crucial points in the Kansas victory.

- Gary Johnson. The Texas senior seems to be everywhere on the court--he tips balls away, grabs rebounds, moves his feet well on defense, and makes garbage baskets. He's the kind of guy you hate to play but who you want on your team.

- Revenge. Kansas clearly wanted to play Texas again since the Longhorns beat KU in Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the year. Texas is tired of hearing about Kansas' string of tournament championship wins over their school.

- Thomas Robinson. Robinson has had a bad tournament. He only played nine minutes against Colorado, has been lost too often on defense, and has not supplied the energy off the bench like he did in the regular season. The Jayhawks need a solid game from Robinson tonight.

- J'Covan Brown. Brown has been a Kansas nemesis, most recently going off for 23 off the bench on January 22 in Lawrence.

- Matchups. Brady Morningstar will take on Jordan Hamilton. Dogus Balbay will hound Reed. Tyshawn Taylor/Elijah Johnson (whichever starts) will go against Cory Joseph. And, Tristan Thompson and Johnson will be paired against the Morris twins. Interesting matchups all, complemented by who comes off the bench for each team--Josh Selby and Brown, Robinson and Matt Hill, Mario Little and Alexis Wangmene, and Taylor/Johnson and Jai Lucas.

- Atmosphere. Sprint Center isn't Allen Fieldhouse but the crowd will be blue, blue, blue. The exits of Kansas State and Missouri on Thursday meant a buyer's market for Kansas fans. A key will be that the crowd is loud and into it early as Kansas cannot afford another sluggish start--something which plagued them on Thursday morning and last night.

- Prediction: Based upon what I've seen the past two days, I'd pick Texas. Based upon what I read about game readiness, I'd pick Kansas. Thus, my head says "Texas" but my heart says "Kansas." I'm following my heart--Kansas 82, Texas 77.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quote of the day

Barry Switzer, former head football coach at the University of Oklahoma, had this to say about Jim Tressel and his suspension, for two games next season, at Ohio State University. Said Switzer, "Jim Tressel's situation, that's jaywalking to me. These things don't surprise me. This stuff has gone on forever."

Dunks and turnovers - Big 12 Tournament edition

- Dunk: Sprint Center, Municipal Auditorium and the Power & Light District. The vision of Kansas City leaders is evident whenever the Big 12 Mens and Womens Tournaments come to town. The complementary venues of Sprint Center and Municipal Auditorium, combined with the P&L entertainment district and College Basketball Experience, make a perfect multi-block area for college basketball fans to congregate and have fun. For those of us who attended one too many tournaments at Kemper Arena, the experience is light years better--both inside and outside of the arena.

- Turnover: Team mascots. I'll give a shout-out to Chip, the Colorado Buffalo, as my mascot-of-the-day but he had little competition. OU's mullet-headed horse was nowhere to be found, Kansas State's Wildcat head-on-human body creeps me out, and the Texas Longhorn is okay but the attraction of that cheer squad is, ahem, the other members.

- Dunk: Kansas State's fans. The Wildcat faithful get my vote for the most vocal, in a good way, yesterday.

- Turnover: I know that the vast majority of Colorado alumni are in Denver and the western U.S. but, seriously, can't this school get more than three or four rows of fans into Sprint Center?

- Dunk: Tad Boyle. It's hard to beat any team three times in one year but even harder when it's a team who was on a roll like Kansas State. Let's give it up to CU head coach Boyle and his guard tandem of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.

- Turnover: Officiating. I know it's a difficult profession but, honestly, there were tons of perplexing calls yesterday afternoon and evening.

- Players of the day: Mario Little of Kansas, who made a crucial basket and free throw late in KU's victory over Oklahoma State; Burks and Higgins combining for 52 points in CU's win over KSU; Jordan Hamilton's 22 and 10 double-double; and Texas A&M's David Loubeau, who continues his impressive play for Texas A&M.

- What to look for tonight: In Kansas' two victories over Colorado in the regular season, the Jayhawks outrebounded the Buffs 74-44, a +30 margin. If KU continues to exploit its inside advantage, the 'Hawks should win their third over CU this season. Texas beat Texas A&M by a combined 41 points in the previous two games between these rivals this year. Both turned in impressive defensive performances last night but the Longhorns simply have too much offensive firepower for the Aggies. Don't expect a 20-point Texas win but the 'Horns should advance, setting up, yet again, a Kansas-Texas tournament championship game.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fouls and turnovers

- Fouled out: The officiating crew of the St. Johns-Rutgers game in the Big East tournament. Tim Higgins, Jim Burr and Earl Walton failed to call an obvious foul on St. Johns, late in the game, then compounded the mistake by missing a traveling call which would have given possession back to Rutgers with 1.7 seconds to play. St. Johns won the game, 65-63.

- Fouled out: The NCAA. How in the world can this bureaucratic body rationalize why they suddenly ruled Perry Jones III of Baylor ineligible, only hours before tonight's game with Oklahoma? The supposed violation was a pre-enrollment situation, meaning it was not an institutional mistake. Did it truly take five months for college athletics governing body to figure this out?

- Turnover: Is there no better talent in Big 12 country than Doug Bell and Brendan Manser? The between-game and halftime shows on the Big 12 Network are incredibly weak.

- Foul: Pat Knight forced the issue at Texas Tech and urged the school's administration to announce his firing, even though the Red Raiders had at least one tournament game to play. Knight thus becomes the first major coaching casualty of the post-regular season of 2010-11.

- Turnover: There has never been an official on the NCAA Rules Committee. How can one not have an official--the person actually enforcing the rules--on the committee which sets the rules?

- Turnover: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were still in the running for an NCAA Tournament berth but lost, by one, to Oklahoma State when they were unable to get off a shot late in the game.

- Foul: Ricardo Patton. Remember Patton? The coach who flirted with but never tasted consistent success at Colorado ended up at Northern Illinois. And, after four years, NIU has fired Patton, who went 35-83 during his tenure there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Winners and losers

Winner: The Hansbrough family. Ben, senior guard at Notre Dame, was selected Big East player of the year. His older brother, Tyler, won a national championship as a senior at North Carolina. Can younger brother Ben pull off the same feat for the Irish, who some are predicting as a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament?

Loser: Jim Tressel. Ohio State suspended Tressel, the head football coach, for the first two games of the 2011 season after he acknowledged that he did not inform OSU of potential NCAA rules violations. Tressel was also fined $250,000.

Winner: Marcus Morris. Morris, a junior on the #2 Kansas Jayhawks hoops squad, was chosen Big 12 Player of the Year. Those who saw Marcus, and his twin brother Markieff, as freshmen would have been hard-pressed to have predicted this honor two years later.

Loser: The word "winning," given how it's become part of the Charlie Sheen lexicon.

Winner: Hopefully, college basketball fans. This year, the NCAA Tournament will be broadcast across four different networks--CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV. Viewers can select which games they wish to watch versus reliance upon CBS' decision to cut from one game to the other.

Loser: Sunspots. Those in the Kansas City viewing area who watched KCTV-5 on Saturday understand.

Winner: Roy Williams. The North Carolina coach was named Coach of the Year in the ACC. It's hard to argue with the recognition given the Tarheels' 7-4 start followed by a 17-2 finish and first place finish in the conference.

Loser: Miami Heat. C'mon guys...quit crying.

Winner: Cam Newton. The Auburn QB looked good in his "pro day," in front of NFL executives, and redeemed himself for a poor NFL Combine performance.

Loser: Zack Greinke. The former Kansas City Royal and Cy Young winner will begin the season on the disabled list because of a fractured rib he suffered while playing pickup basketball in the offseason.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Over-and-under achievers...or bad predictors?

Now that the NCAA college basketball regular season is complete, it's time to look back at the preseason predictions to see which outlets were closest to the current set of rankings, and which teams have been the biggest disappointments and over-achievers.

A review of Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Athlon and Lindy's preseason publications showed that Duke and Michigan State were the odds-on favorites for the #1 and #2 slots--Duke was chosen as the preseason favorite by three of the pubs and was second in another while Michigan State was #1 in SN and #2 or #3 in the others.

Who were the biggest surprises, based upon current rankings and/or the lack of mention by these four publications? BYU would likely qualify as the biggest surprise, given its current status as a possible #1 or #2 seed compared to its lack of mention in preseason top 20 lists, or low ranking on those lists. Another surprise is Texas, a non-top 20 team by SI, SN and Athlon. Ohio State over-achieved, according to the predictors, as most had Michigan State and Purdue as the top two teams in the Big Ten. Kansas was not expected to win their seventh straight conference championship nor was Notre Dame expected to be a top ten team.

As for disappointments, look no further than the Big 12's Baylor, selected #8 by SI, #16 by SN, #10 by Athlon and #15 by Lindy's. Another Big 12 squad, Kansas State, was predicted to win the league and finish in the top five or top ten by all four publications. The biggest disappointment, though, has to be Tom Izzo's Spartans, firmly planted on the NCAA Tournament bubble even though these four pubs thought highly of them and had them ranked #1 through #3.

It's not that these magazine writers and editors did a bad job of predicting, it's that too much emphasis was placed on late season 2010 performance (see Kansas State) or the media fell in love with the prior season's Cinderella story (see Butler, selected #12 by SI, #19 by SN and #8 by Lindy's.) Re-predicting at the end of December would likely provide a better set of potential final rankings versus the guessing game engaged in by the media when these various publications close their deadlines in late summer prior to the coming season.

The beauty of all this? We now get to decide a true champion--in the coming week we'll engage in post-season conference tournaments leading into Selection Sunday, a week from today, and the 68-team field which will then determine the real #1. Let March Madness begin!

Breaking down the Big 12

- This is the last season of the current membership of the Big 12 conference. And, in the 15 seasons of Big 12 basketball, Kansas has won or shared 11 of the titles, including the past seven in a row. The longest stretch for KU without a title was 1999-2001, when Texas and Iowa State (twice) won the conference crown. Over the course of its conference dominance, Kansas went undefeated once, 15-1 three times, 14-2 four times, 13-3 twice, and 12-4 once.

- The Kansas City Star announced its All-Big 12 team, Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year. I agree with the first team of Marcus Morris, Kansas; Jacob Pullen, Kansas State; Marcus Denmon, Missouri; Alec Burks, Colorado; and Jordan Hamilton, Texas. I also agree with Kansas' Bill Self as Coach of the Year. My one small beef is with the Star's pick for Player of the Year--Jacob Pullen. I would select Pullen as the MVP, given the value of his leadership and performance to Kansas State's late season surge. However, I'd select Marcus Morris as Most Outstanding Player given Morris' consistent performance throughout the Big 12 season and his status as the "go to" guy on the conference champion.

- How do you overcome 24 turnovers? If you're Kansas, one of the ways is to dramatically outrebound your opponent. In yesterday's KU-Missouri game, the Tigers forced 24 Jayhawk turnovers. Yet, Kansas pulled down 20 more rebounds than Missouri--a gap which was consistent with the difference in game one between the two teams. In the two games played between KU and MU this season, Kansas had 86 boards compared to Missouri's 48. Given Kansas's shooting average for the season, that equates to approximately 42 points.

- If today were Selection Sunday, the Big 12 would only get five teams in the NCAA Tournament--Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Missouri. Colorado, Nebraska are on the bubble and listed on Joe Lunardi's (ESPN) "last four out," as is Baylor. The Bears needed a win against Texas last night and now must win no less than three games in the Big 12 Tournament to get in. Colorado could get in with two tournament victories but that will require beating Kansas State in the quarterfinals.

- Speaking of Selection Sunday, how do the Big 12 tourney contenders rate in the various computer rankings through yesterday's games? The Sagarin rankings, which may be the best predictor of all, have the teams as follows: Kansas, #2; Texas, #8; Kansas State, #25; Missouri, #27; Texas A&M, #34; Nebraska, #55; Colorado, #56; and Baylor, #71. The RPI has Kansas, #1; Texas, #14; Kansas State, #19; Texas A&M, #30; Missouri, #31; Oklahoma State, #54; Nebraska, #72; Baylor, #76; and Colorado, #79.

- The Big 12 tournament has some interesting first round match-ups and potential quarterfinal match-ups. Kansas will face the winner of Nebraska-Oklahoma State, two teams which played KU tough during the regular season. Colorado must beat Iowa State in round one, if it hopes to advance to the NCAA, but then would face Kansas State. The likely scenario in the upper portion of the bracket is a semi-final game between KU and KSU. In the lower portion of the bracket, Missouri opens with Texas Tech, a team they beat by eight but who gave the Tigers a tough game in Columbia. Baylor opens with Oklahoma, a team they split with during the regular season. Look for the quarterfinals to feature a rematch of Baylor-Texas and Missouri advancing to play Texas A&M. My predicted semi-final games are Kansas-Kansas State and Texas-Missouri. In the final, I see KU with a revenge victory over Texas, the team which stopped the Jayhawks' 69 game home winning streak.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Turnover: KCTV-5 and CBS

If you ever wondered what the world would be like when tons of people are upset, and had a common outlet for their frustration, then today is your day. KCTV 5 (CBS) cut away from the Kansas-Missouri basketball game today, with 3:46 to play, in order to show the Michigan-Michigan State game. The subsequent outrage, from Kansas and Missouri fans alike, sent the Facebook world and Twitter world into social media overdrive.

The online assault on the local CBS affiliate caused a response...but, a response which then set off round two of social media zingers given KCTV's lame attempt to excuse the mistake. And, let's call this for what it is--a horrible mistake by CBS nationally and locally.

The national mistake was cutting away from the first game of the day in a market which is full of Kansas and Missouri alums and fans. It's common practice to cut away from one game in order to get to another which is of higher interest locally. The exact reverse of that happened today--instead of KU-MU, Kansas Citians were treated to unranked Michigan playing unranked Michigan State.

The local mistake was twofold: one, why didn't the local affiliate make more of an attempt to correct the wrong by getting corporate CBS to cut back to KU-MU, and two, once the crime was committed, why didn't KCTV run a scroll at the bottom of the Michigan-Michigan State telecast, acknowledging the issue and apologizing for the mistake? The lame attempt at an excuse was feeble, late in coming, and disingenuous.

Shame on CBS and KCTV-5.

Dimes and dunks

- One could institute a new drinking game based upon how many times Digger Phelps of ESPN says "get it done." (Diggers says "get it done" and a contestant has to take a drink.)

- When ESPN set up its GameDay schedule months ago, the match-up today of Texas and Baylor looked pretty appealing as both were predicted to contend for the Big 12 title. Now, not so much even though this game, along with Kansas-Missouri, will determine whether KU shares the Big 12 title or owns it outright. A Texas victory combined with a Kansas loss means the two teams tie for the league crown--UT would own the #1 seed going into next week's Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.

- Who would have thought, a month ago, that North Carolina would be playing for the conference title tonight against Duke? The Tarheels are 11-1 since Kendall Marshall took over as point guard, showing yet again the importance of having the right guy at this vitally important position.

- James Naismith's Rules of Basketball are in Kansas City just in time for next week's Big 12 tournament. The rules are being displayed at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

- Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Alabama, Colorado, Washington State, and Baylor as the first four teams out of the tournament. The two Big 12 teams on this list must win today to make the tournament--Baylor over a Texas team which would help the Bears' RPI and Colorado winning against fellow bubble team Nebraska at home. Both BU and CU could make it by winning the post-season tournament next week but, let's face it--no team who has to play four straight games over four days is going to win the conference tourney. My prediction: Baylor loses today and makes no noise next week in Kansas City, thus ending up in the NIT; Colorado beats Nebraska in Boulder, then wins a game next week to ensure its seeding in the field of 68.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March Madness advertising

For the first time ever, March Madness will be seen over four different channels later this month. This is an advertising sales challenge, right? Not so fast--according to officials at CBS Sports, commercial inventory is "virtually gone."

The upcoming tournament will be seen not only on CBS, but also on TNT, TBS and TruTV, which means that hoops junkies can see each game of the tournament, rather than the past regional broadcast format. Viewers will be able to switch to the game they want, rather than relying upon CBS to switch from game-to-game, which has been the past approach.

While the new format is a boon for viewers, it's a challenge for media planners, buyers and marketing execs. Brands involved with the tournament have to figure out how to purchase it across cable, where to place ads on each outlet, and how best to measure success. The networks have to determine contingency plans should ratings guarantees fall short of what's been promised to advertisers.

The approach is unique but will be the precedent for tournaments to come. CBS and Turner are spending $10.8 billion over 14 years for the rights to broadcast the three-weeks of March Madness, which has been expanded to 68 teams (from 65), on both television as well as digitally. Thus, the stakes are high given the rights fees coupled with the $600+ million spent (in 2010) on March Madness by advertisers.

This years, familiar brands like Coca-Cola, AT&T and Capital One will continue their NCAA Tournament involvement. The broadcasts will also feature Enterprise Rent-A-Car, The Hartford, LG Electronics, Infiniti and Unilever, among others. And, while the NCAA has long forbidden corporate signage in-game or in-arena, the new broadcast format opens up more places for advertising brands to be seen--in regular commercial pods as well as "at the half" and "pre-game" studio shows.

Let March Madness begin!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breaking down the Big 12

- I suspect that Kansas coach Bill Self sent colleague Frank Martin a text or e-mail today, thanking Martin for the Kansas State win over Texas in Austin last night. The Wildcat victory means KU is in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and controls its destiny with a Senior Night home game against Texas A&M tomorrow, and a Border War clash at Missouri on Sunday.

- Texas is not finishing the season with momentum heading into the conference tournament. The Longhorns are losers of three of their last four games and must journey to Waco on Saturday for a game against under-achieving Baylor. This is very much a "get well" game for the Bears who are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble after tonight's loss at Oklahoma State. Even with a win over Texas, Baylor may need a tournament win in Kansas City to make it into the NCAA Tourney field of 68.

- Missouri has played itself out of a top four berth in the conference tournament. The Tigers lost tonight against Nebraska in Lincoln--their seventh conference road loss. MU, on the road, is losing by an average of eights points per game in conference. At home, the Tigers are winning by twice that margin--16 points per game.

- Texas A&M owns the tiebreaker advantage over Kansas State. I suspect that both teams will finish at 10-6 in the league but A&M will get the three seed and KSU the four seed. That means, like last year, that Kansas and Kansas State could face each other three times--twice in the regular schedule and once in the Big 12 tourney.

- Colorado has two very win-able games left--at Iowa State and at home against Nebraska--which could give the Buffs a 9-7 conference record and a 20 win season heading into the conference tournament.

- Kansas is not only #2 in the polls but also has the #2 RPI, following BYU. Texas has dropped to #13 in the RPI and Kansas State is #21. Following those three are Missouri, #28; Texas A&M, #30; then a big gap to Oklahoma State at #59; Baylor, #75; Colorado, #77; and Nebraska, #80.

- I don't want to state the obvious but Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Missouri are locks for the NCAA Tournament. Conventional wisdom is that six will go from the Big 12. Up until tonight, Baylor looked to be the sixth team with Colorado making a play as well. But, what of Nebraska? With recent wins against Texas and Missouri, the Cornhuskers are 7-8 heading to Colorado this weekend. Will an 8-8 record, coupled with a win in Kansas City next week, get them into the dance? Doc Sadler and crew have to be stewing about last Saturday's overtime loss at Iowa State. If the Huskers win that game, they could be firmly established as an NCAA participant.

- Who's your pick for Coach of the Year in the Big 12? Rick Barnes was the front-runner until a week ago. Tad Boyle is being mentioned given the job he's done in Boulder. And, Mark Turgeon deserves consideration for taking a less-than-talented Texas A&M team and placing them in the top four in the league. But, not surprisingly, the guy who gets my vote is Bill Self. Self lost two lottery picks and his captain and team leader from last year's conference champion and #1 NCAA Tournament seed. Yet, the Jayhawks have weathered those defections coupled with a star recruit who's only played in 17 games, injuries (Travis Releford, Thomas Robinson, Josh Selby), suspensions and family tragedy and are now in position to win their seventh consecutive Big 12 title.

- How about your first team All Big 12? My picks are Marcus Morris (Kansas), Jacob Pullen (Kansas State), Alec Burks (Colorado), Marcus Denmon (Missouri), and Jordan Hamilton (Texas.) Yes, I know most will put LaceDarius Dunn from Baylor on the first team but Denmon means more to Missouri than Dunn does to a disappointing Baylor team. Pullen weathered a trying first half of the year and is now averaging over 27 points a game in the 'Cats last five games--all victories.