NCAA Discusses Future Changes For Basketball Tournament

The first weekend of the 2011 Men’s Basketball tournament is in the books and the NCAA could not be more pleased.

The expanded field, which saw heavily-criticized pick Virginia Commonwealth storm from the Play-in game to the Sweet Sixteen, has given the NCAA a lot to celebrate.

“When we decided to expand the tournament to 68 teams last year, there was a lot of dissent,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in an interview. “We’re very excited to see how successful this move has actually been.  To say the least”

Emmert went on to say that the reception and success of this year’s tournament so far has given the NCAA reason to consider future changes to continually improve the event.  When asked if that meant a further expansion to 96 teams, he assured reporters that it did not.

“That’s not something we are considering at this moment.  We are more focused on what we see as timing issues.”

He then went on to unveil a plan to shorten the overall tournament from 21 days….to one game.

“The major complaint we hear from the fans is that the tournament just takes too long to decide a champion.  So, we are exploring the option of having all 68 teams compete in one, well-advertised contest.” He went on to add, “We feel this game could outshine even the Superbowl. And that’s very exciting.”

Emmert admitted that this sort of change in format would not be a simple process.  But he assured reporters that the NCAA would do whatever it could to make it happen if they, in fact, decide to go that direction.

More details as they become available.

Putting the "One" in "One Shining Moment?"

 

Why Jim Burr should NEVER officiate another game

Disclaimer: I am a Memphis fan. I have rooted for the program my entire life, I’ve lived in the area my entire life, I own a degree from the university, and I am currently enrolled working on a post-graduate degree. I am not advocating that Arizona was gifted a victory today against my Memphis Tigers. Rather my aim in this piece is solely Jim Burr, a referee who has continually proven his inadequacy in officiating college basketball games.

Jim Burr is a college basketball referee, and he’s been at his job for a substantially long time which is precisely where the problem lies (but more on that later). Burr was most recently at the center of controversy in the Big East Tournament when he and his two other crew members were effectively suspended for the remainder of said conference tournament for their blatant missed calls in the end of the St. Johns v. Rutgers game.

Burr returned to officiating today in the first second round of the 68 team tourney. He made his triumphant return in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Memphis v. Arizona game. Burr and his crew called a tight game today. My argument is not there. No, my argument arose at the end of the game, where, once again, Burr inserted himself into the game unnecessarily.

There were questionable calls throughout the game, especially my favorite charge-block call that really depends on the refs perspective; a completely subjective call. Burr’s first error occurred with approximately 00:34 seconds remaining in the second half. This is a time of schizophrenia in a game; it’s very chaotic. But it is also precisely the time when a referee should be at his best, and Jim Burr has continually proven he’s not.

Arizona inbounded the ball to guard Momo Jones. Memphis trapped Jones in the near-side baseline corner. There could have been a five second call (it was close, but I don’t know if it was definitively five seconds). Instead, Jones, whose back is to the near-side baseline where Jim Burr is positioned, is granted a timeout to escape the trap. And who granted that timeout? None other than Jim Burr who could not see Jones’ hands.

The end-game chaos continues, but with five seconds remaining and Memphis trialing by three, guard Joe Jackson was fouled. He calmly sunk the first freebie. Then Memphis tried the old intentionally missed free throw play. And, somewhat miraculously, it worked. Memphis forward Wesley Witherspoon grabbed the loose ball, but Arizona’s All-American Derrick Williams swatted away the open lay-up. And Arizona won.

But replays showed that Arizona forward Jamelle Horn hit Witherspoon from behind, and Williams’ chest crashed into Witherspoon’s elbow before the shot. And there was Jim Burr, right in the middle, swallowing the whistle he’d blown all game long. I understand that in the waning seconds of a game, refs are unlikely to allow the game to be decided at the charity stripe. That’s not the point of this article. The point is Jim Burr.

Burr has worked 16 Final Fours since the mid-1980s. He’s earned a reputation, among his peers and national sportswriters, as a qualified referee. But therein lies the problem. Burr has joined the club, the proverbial “good ole boy club.” It’s clear, from the last two games he’s worked, that Burr is too old for the job. Can we really expect a 60 year old man to keep up with the fast-paced athletes of modern college basketball?

Quite simply, he’s too old. And he creates too much controversy. March Madness deserves better. The players deserve better. Fans and coaches deserve better. It’s time for old Jim to retire, whether he wants it or not. A tournament as good as the NCAA provides should not be shrouded in referee controversy. It should be about the players and the coaches. It should not be about a referee creating controversy. Unfortunately, every time Jim Burr pulls on the zebra stripes, he creates controversy by inserting himself in the game. The NCAA needs to hold its referees accountable, and that begins with Jim Burr.

One Way Street – NCAA Bracket Predictions

As my esteemed colleagues have done since the NCAA unveiled its bracket for the annual tournament championship, I too will be offering predictions. I’m guessing that’s all the introduction you need so let’s roll out the predictions.

One Way Street: I lecture, you take notes

East

There’s not much else to be said here that hasn’t been previously stated: Ohio State was awarded for being the best team all season with a killer bracket. North Carolina, Syracuse, and Kentucky are all formidable top 4 seeds, and tOSU’s potential second round match-up with all-time Cinderella George Mason ensures the Buckeyes will earn every game this March.

Potential Sleeper: Xavier. The Musketeers enjoyed a quiet season on the national scale, but do not mistake the silence. Xavier could pull an upset in the early rounds; in fact I’ve predicted them to defeat Syracuse in the Round of 32 in my bracket (for whatever that’s worth; i.e. not much).

Jared Sullinger

Player to watch: Jared Sullinger. tOSU’s all-world forward delivers Dyke-ism’s favorite tough twos. Quite simply, he’s a helluva player and the stronger he plays down low the more open (and more dangerous) the Buckeye offense becomes.

Winner: Ohio State. The Buckeyes have senior leadership, a good balance of talent, and one of the best players in the country in Jared Sullinger.

West

The West bracket is also balanced this season, though not quite at the level of the East. Duke, as the one seed, will be the favorite to escape, but San Diego State, UCONN, and Texas form a challenging top four seeds. But Arizona as a five, Cincinnati as a six, and Temple as a seven seed all poise serious threats who can make deep runs.

Potential Sleeper: Missouri. The Tigers are an eleven seed thanks to their woeful road record and struggles inside the conference. But what makes Missouri dangerous is Mike Anderson’s Forty Minutes of Hell style of play. The Tigers like to press and run teams to death. The system also produces turnovers and turnovers are a death nail in March.

Player to Watch: Kemba Walker. UCONN’s All-American showed up early in November with magical performances in Maui, and after a small stumble during the mid-season, Walker turned it on as the Huskies won five games in five days to capture the Big East tournament championship. UCONN goes as Kemba goes, and if a game is on the line in the waning seconds, he’s money.

Kemba Walker

Winner: Arizona. I’m taking an upset in this bracket. The Wildcats have the second best player to watch (and possible #1 NBA draft pick) in forward Derrick Williams. Williams poses a match-up problem for any team, and Arizona’s guards are just good enough to keep the Wildcats in ballgames. I think Williams is the deciding factor in a Sweet Sixteen match-up with Duke with propels Arizona onto the Final Four.

Southwest

Labeled as the third strongest bracket (of four), the Southwest boasts one of the strongest teams throughout the season in the Kansas Jayhawks. The other top seeds include Notre Dame, Purdue, and Louisville; all strong teams. The Morris twins lead Kansas as they attempt to wipe away memories of an early exit last season. The other top seeds all share an interesting similarity: small preseason expectations. Notre Dame was not projected to finish as high or as strong in the Big East after losing Luke Harangody. Louisville faced similar preseason expectations as it waited on a heralded 2011 recruiting class to arrive on campus. Purdue was a Final Four contender in August until Robbie Hummel tore his ACL again which accordingly dampened expectations.

Potential Sleeper: Georgetown. A six seed isn’t much of a sleeper, but the Hoyas struggled late in the season when guard Chris Wright broke his hand. Before his injury, Georgetown was rolling towards the top of the Big East standings. His return will provide help for teammate Austin Freeman. Then again, the Hoyas could be out in the first round like last season.

Player to Watch: Marcus Morris. The better of the Morris twins, brother Marcus has expanded his game from the smooth inside

Marcus Morris

hook shots to include the ability to knock down the three pointer in Bill Self’s high-low offense. Morris, often accused as dirty, provides the gritty toughness to succeed in March.

Winner: Notre Dame. I love the make-up of the Irish. They have experience across the board, and Ben Hansbrough has shown the ability to make tough baskets when the team needs a lift. The only thing that scares me is coach Mike Brey’s less-than-stellar record in the NCAA tournament, but the team plays good enough defense to survive.

Southeast

The weakest region of the tournament displays proverbial choke-artists, Pittsburgh. The Panthers last reached a Final Four when the tournament included eight teams. Some credit is due as the Panthers have maintained a good record and resume despite high preseason expectations, but in a season in which no team is truly dominate, Pittsburgh looks vulnerable. Meanwhile in this bracket, SEC regular season champs Florida were gifted a two seed while the Davies-less Cougars of BYU are the three seed and Wisconsin is the four. This bracket is perhaps the most wide-open of them all.

Potential Sleeper: BYU. I know what you’re thinking: How can a three seed be a sleeper? Technically, they cannot. But after BYU dismissed forward Brandon Davies for violation of the university’s honor code, the Cougars have looked beatable to the point where the national media has lost hope in them. However, they still have Jimmer Fredette, an electric scoring machine. Guard play in March can be a difference maker, and Fredette’s ability to light up the scoreboard is critical.

Player to Watch: Jimmer Fredette. The Cougar guard, as I just stated, is a scoring machine. Fredette has the ability to perform like Stephen Curry did in 2008 riding his success to a top NBA draft pick. Leave him open at your own peril.

The Jimmer

Winner: Florida. Even though the Gators were probably a seed too high, they’re still a good team. The lower half of the bracket is a little weaker than the top half, and I think SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parson spurs Florida into a Final Four for the first time since 2007.

Final Four

In one semi-final, we have Ohio State versus Arizona while the opposite side features Notre Dame versus Florida.

Ohio State defeats Arizona in a battle of future NBA forwards Sullinger and Williams. The Buckeyes’ balance is enough to put them over the top. In the other semi-final, Notre Dame continues their good form with a win over the Gators. Ben Hansbrough and the rest of the experienced roster put the Irish over the top late.

In the finals, Ohio State’s dream season comes to an end just like 2007. Notre Dame rides the wave of success to a somewhat improbable National Championship.

Vagabond Joe’s Tournament Predictions/Preview/Opinions/ Garbled Nonsense

Goooooo, Peacocks!!

For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into the supposed/actual snubs the committee pulled this year. But…wow.

Play-in games:
Nobody cares.

East:
In a word: Brutal. I think if OSU gets out of the region, they will win it all. But, anyone who knows me knows my March motto, “Fuck the Big Ten” when it comes to betting/predicting. Whatever I pick a Big Ten team to do in the tournament, be it win or lose, they do the opposite….so, whatever. I hope Syracuse and UNC meet. I think that would be a great game.

Winner: tOSU (Good luck with that, Matta!)

West:
Despite appearances, there are a number of teams here that have the potential to trip up Duke. SDSU, however, is not one of them. Should be interesting to watch. I don’t see UConn going too far because I feel they are too reliant on Kemba Walker. And in the tourney, if he has even and average game…they could be sunk. Can he sustain it for a long run? Who knows, but I would guess if it ends up being UConn/Duke in the final, Duke cake walks through it. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Winner: Duke

Southwest:
As a Kansas fan, I don’t feel good about this draw. But, then again, I NEVER feel good about Kansas’ draw. It’s Kansas. They find a way to screw up even the biggest gifts. Not that this is a gift. UNLV, Louisville and (God-willing) any one of Purdue, Notre Dame and a healthy Georgetown all scare me. Not piss-my-pants scared. But, realistic concern. If Louisville is hitting even 30% of the 5 million 3′s they take each game, Kansas has no shot.  I love the prospect of facing the Illini, but we’ll have to see if they can get through Vegas. Of course, none of that matters if Kansas can play like they did on Saturday. If they (looking at you, Tyshawn) can keep that up…Houston, here we come.

But, as I said, it’s Kansas.

Winner: Louisville

Southeast:
The only remotely interesting stories here are just how many suckers Jimmer will be able to light up and St. John’s. St. John’s rides its return to any significance whatsoever into the Tourney for the first time since ’02. And I wish Lavin success. I would love for them to get to the Final Four…but mostly that’s just because it would mean that Pitt is not there.

Winner: Pittsburgh

Final Four:
Since I went all 1 seeds save one (the team I root for) I tend to not care about this anymore.  Even in prediction form.  But, just for completists sake…Let’s just say Ohio State over Louisville in the final.  Why not?

General:
I love all of the Coaches v. Former Team scenarios that could play out. Doesn’t necessarily mean good basketball…but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The Southwest wins as far as ridiculous mascots go.  Terriers, Spiders, Peacocks, Zips….Jayhawks, Hoyas, Boilermakers!  Just try and keep up, other regions.  You can’t.

I think that this tournament will reflect this season. Even the best teams are vulnerable and anything could happen. Hopefully, that will make for an exciting couple of weeks. First 2 rounds should be ridiculous.

Small Arms McGee’s Tournament Predictions

East:
As I said in my Selection Sunday Reaction post, Ohio State didn’t get much of a reward for being the best team all season. Kentucky is certainly better than a 4-seed, and Syracuse is battle-tested. I have Syracuse beating Carolina, who won’t be able to shoot well enough to exploit that zone. I think John Calipari has plenty of ammunition to work his “they don’t respect us” angle that worked so well at Memphis, and will knock off Ohio State early. Syracuse beats Kentucky to advance to Houston.

West:
I had been mentally preparing myself for Duke to be set up with another weak bracket, disguised by playing out west. I was right that they’d get San Diego State, but wrong that their bracket would be weak. If Texas can get out of its own way in the first two games, they could be a challenge for Duke. And if UConn gets there, Nolan vs. Kemba would be fit for pay-per-view. I have K finally getting some revenge against Calhoun for 1999 and 2004, and getting the Lubed Evils back to the Final Four. If Duke gets there, people like me won’t be able to say they got a cakewalk this time.

Southwest:
The committee doesn’t set up made-for-TV moments huh? Right.  We all look forward to Bill Self vs. Illinois in the second round (assuming Kansas finally exorcises its “first-round opponent that start with B” demons).  I have Kansas beating Louisville to get to the Elite Eight and Purdue slipping by Notre Dame. (As an aside, I have a rule these days that requires me to never trust Vanderbilt or Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament. If my predicting ability in the past is any guide, you’ll see Vandy and Notre Dame square off in the Elite Eight.) Anyway, Kansas skates by Purdue relatively easily to get to the Final Four.

Southeast:
The committee thought they had put together a bracket even Pitt couldn’t screw up.  Clearly, they underestimate Pitt’s abilities to avoid the Final Four. This region is the home to my biggest upsets – which are relatively few and far between in my bracket this season. I have Belmont beating defense-averse Wisconsin, then beating Utah State to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where Pitt finishes them off. On the other side I have Florida taking out BYU. (Upset alert: Gonzaga upsets a dinged-up St. John’s team before falling to the Stormin’ Mormons.) Florida edges Pitt to reach its first Final Four since 2007, and more importantly, denying Pitt its first Final Four since the FDR administration.

Final Four
Duke hits its threes and beats Syracuse.  Kansas races past Florida.  Kansas’ frontcourt proves too much for the Plumlees in an intriguing matchup between Coach Hair Dye and  Coach Toupee.  Kansas is your 2011 national champion, and Carolina fans won’t give a shit about Roy Williams wearing a Jayhawk sticker this time.

Enjoy the tournament.  And remember:  never, under any circumstances, pick an ACC team not named Duke or UNC to advance past the second round.

 

Al’s Completely Biased NCAA Tournament Bracket Thoughts

Never one to quibble about originality, I am hot on the heels of Small Arms McGee with my thoughts in the aftermath of a SethNonSelection Sunday I am now calling “Weakest Year Ever Day Brought to You By Weakest Committee Ever.” In my mind, this has been one of the ugliest years in basketball, with everyone swimming in a sea of mediocrity that was most notable for the number of dolphins identified as sharks (aka the Big East teams). In keeping with the season, one of the ugliest selection committees in basketball created a truly lopsided bracket that puts the hammer down on OSU, the supposed No. 1 overall seeds. (I was going to link to the Meet the Committee page to laugh at how ugly they are, but apparently they’ve taken that page down due to fear of backlash or personal threats to their families made by Seth Greenberg. So now I’m laughing at them.)

Seth Greenburg's Tears for Fears

So, here are my thoughts on the brackets.

East
I was worried that Gene Smith’s ties to Ohio State would mean that their road to the Final Four would be strewn with rose petals ala Duke last year, so I was shocked to see how difficult that bracket is. However, it’s difficult for everyone, I think. I used to wonder why UNC always gets put in these difficult brackets until I saw that one of the committee members is from Wake Forest, and their feelings about UNC border on some sort of psychotic pathos. I’d almost rather have someone from Duke be in charge of our seeding. UNC might end up playing Ohio State, but I’m not optimistic. Unless Roy told the team to hold back and not wear themselves out in the ACC Tournament (knowing that Duke had the Number 1 seed once they made it to the ACC Tournament final, just as I had expected–not even a loss would have stripped them of that seed), UNC looked wretched in all three of its ACC Tournament games. A fall before the Sweet 16 is looking likely for the Tar Heels.

West
I don’t expect Duke to be challenged in the West. They put some teams that on paper look like they could challenge Duke, but Duke should come through all that unscathed and make it to the Final Four. If Texas makes it past the second round, I’ll be shocked. If Arizona and Tennessee make it past the Sweet 16, I’ll be even more shocked. Pearl is too out of control and Arizona has the same problem that UNC does – youth and inconsistency. Duke has gotten their second wind now and should be able to beat any of them. And, of course, one of the weaker 2nd seeds, SDSU, will be right there to fall apart in the face of Singler’s nipple twisting intimidation and Seth Floppy.

Southwest
This could be the most exciting bracket of them all. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Kansas this year, which probably means they’ll win it all. Why? Because I stopped being able to make decent predictions about the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1990s. I hate Pitino, but Louisville always makes whatever bracket they’re in exciting. I don’t think Florida State will make it out of the first round because they have no offense to counter their defense. Sure, they beat Duke, but that’s because Duke went in there overconfident. After they beat Duke, they got scouted more and people began to see that defense doesn’t always “win championships.” If Singleton plays and is healthy, they might make it to the Sweet 16, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Southeast
Could the announcers on CBS yesterday have been more scathing about Pitt’s number 1 seed? I couldn’t help laughing. I think they were upset that it wasn’t Notre Dame. No one thinks that Pitt can make it to the Final Four, and I agree. The Big East really needs to put its money where its mouth is in this tournament, but I don’t see Pitt as being the one to do that. I think Wisconsin will have no trouble with Belmont – unlike lots of UNC fans, I don’t think that “almost beats” count as wins. I’m hoping St. John’s takes out Gonzaga so we don’t have to put up with them after the first round. They always mess up my bracket. ODU could make some noise this year; they’re the sleeper of the CAA but they haven’t had many tough opponents.

Overall
I still can’t decide who’s going to win it all, though. I don’t feel as strongly about Kansas as everyone does and I fear that if Singler is out of his slump, Duke could beat any one of the one seeds. OSU would be most likely to challenge them, but by virtue of their being in the toughest bracket, they could lose before they face Duke or be so exhausted that they just lay down and die in the face of a Duke that will have cruised into the Final Four (even with out Kyrie “The Toe” Irving). Of course, if Duke loses early, we’ll hear nothing but wails that there should be an asterisk on the game because they didn’t have the point guard on the All-Galaxy team–otherwise they would have beat all their opponents by 40+.

So, there you have it. My completely biased and basically irrelevant thoughts on March Madness. See y’all in Houston (I wish).

Selection Sunday: Small-Armed Reaction

The NCAA Tournament field was unveiled last night.  Thank God Charles Barkley was there, because his lack of professionalism and preparation made the committee look a little closer to competent by comparison.  Look,  I know TNT and TBS are carrying some games this week – and I’m happy about the additional coverage – but why do we need Chuck talking about “that Jimmer kid out west” and making it painfully obvious that he did zero prepwork for his One Shining Moment?  I don’t have a problem with Ted Turner wedging himself into the March Madness mix.  Just swap Chuck out for Ernie Johnson and things might be okay.  He was turr’ble last night.

Anyway, on to the field itself.  Obviously, there are some much-discussed head-scratchers like UAB and VCU.  Maybe you can make a case to say Colorado deserved a spot.  But I don’t get too hung up on “who’s in, who’s out” because the bubble was simply awful, so trying to field a group of 68 teams this year must have been a real challenge.  This was clearly not the year for expansion.  If anything, last night made the case for contraction.

The bigger problem I have with the committee is similar to what we saw last year.   Teams continue to be poorly seeded (this year more than last) and regions are wildly unbalanced (not quite as bad as last year).  Last year, you’ll recall the outrage about the supposed third 1-seed Duke being given a very advantageous bracket, while overall 1-seed Kansas received the most challenging region.  When Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis after squeaking by a feisty Butler team, many pointed to their relatively easy path as being a major reason for their title run.  Similarly, Pittsburgh (again, the third 1-seed) seems to have received the rock-star treatment this season.  Pitt’s draw may not be quite as ridiculous as what 2010 Duke received, but it’s still pretty remarkable when you look at it beside the other three regions.

Seeding was the real story this year.  Kentucky trounced their opponents in the SEC tournament and finished their season on a very strong note.  Their struggles on the road during the heart of the season were well-documented, but it seemed the Wildcats were putting it together at the right time, closing the season at a very high level.  The committee saw it differently, as Kentucky received a 4-seed in the toughest region of all, the East.   (Oh, and as a bonus, they face the Ivy League again, so get your “hicks vs. pricks” jokes ready, my fellow Elitist Jerks!)

To make it to the Final Four, Kentucky would have to go through #1 overall seed Ohio State and possibly Syracuse or North Carolina.  Compare that to Florida, the team Kentucky boatraced Sunday afternoon to take the SEC tournament title.  The Gators received a 2-seed in the aforementioned and relatively soft Southeast region.  Kentucky ended the season #7 in the Pomeroy ratings, while Florida was #19.  Both are quality teams, but the seeding gap (especially factoring in regional strength, location, etc.) is hard to overlook.

Texas is another team who ended up a 4-seed despite having a very strong season.  Granted, they may be the anti-Kentucky, peaking in the middle of the season and closing meekly.  But still, they had a quality resume and finished #4 in the Pomeroy ratings.  Their path?  A match-up with Duke in the Sweet 16, followed by (if chalk holds up) San Diego State or UConn.

Or how about Washington?  They end the season #15 in the Pomeroy ratings and draw a 7 seed, potentially playing recently-red-hot-but-now-entirely-uncertain North Carolina in Charlotte in the second round.  It almost makes you believe that “east coast bias” crap those crunchy hippie nutjobs talk about.  Almost.

Oh, and while we’re in the East, how about the reward Ohio State received for being the best and most complete team in college basketball all season.  32-2, #1 in Pomeroy, and they get North Carolina, Syracuse, and Kentucky.  And let’s not overlook a potential matchup with a legit George Mason team in the second round.  If the Buckeyes make the Final Four, they will look back and know they fought for it.

Speaking of Big Ten teams, how in the world did some of these squads receive such inflated seeding?   Penn State and Michigan State as 10 seeds?  Illinois as a 9?  I’m starting to wish Jim Tressel would fire Gordon Gee and Gene Smith.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to laugh at Seth Greenberg.  He routinely schedules  a quilted Northern® soft non-conference slate, hangs around .500 in the ACC, and then cries on the second Sunday night of March.  Back in the day, 8-8 or 9-7 in the ACC would be certainly good enough.  But that was when the ACC had more than three really good coaches.  Look, I know the Hokies had some really terrible injuries and without them Virginia Tech would probably be safely in the Big Dance.  But stuff happens, and you have to adapt.  His team fell short yet again, and we all expected Seth to complain.  The difference this year was that Greenberg didn’t stop at hoarse-voiced whining.  He essentially floated the theory of some sort of anti-Virginia Tech conspiracy.  Greenberg said:

“Just disappointed. You almost wonder if someone in that room has 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. I guess they even brought up our non-conference schedule. Kansas State, Purdue, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Penn State, St. Bonaventure that was supposed to be big and Mississippi State that was projected to win the SEC. I’d say that’s a pretty significant slate and challenge. So they must not have looked at it very closely. But I guess they did. I feel for these kids. Doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this year … but it’s extremely disheartening. You would hate to think that politics would be involved, but it makes you wonder.”

First of all, Seth, if you think the committee is capable of organizing and carrying out a conspiracy, you’re giving them too much credit.  Second, play somebody.  Third, get your guys motivated for games against teams NOT from the Triangle.  Fourth, there’s a phrase you need to become familiar with: “Man’s game, bitch.”

When play starts this week, most of what you have just read will no longer matter.  As I’ve said before, the NCAA tournament is the greatest event in sports, and no matter how hard they try, the committee just can’t ruin it.  So, call in sick Thursday and Friday, crack open a beer at 11 a.m., and root for your favorite team and your Cinderella pick.  And by all means, check in at EJSIC for more tourney coverage (from the other guys) and nonsensical, self-absorbed drivel (from me).

 

The Emperor’s New Clothes (or Why I Hate Duke)

Duke and Coach K - An example of what happens when a morality tale becomes real life

I’m an old-time UNC fan. When I showed up in Chapel Hill as a freshman in the fall of 1978, Bill Foster was the head coach at Duke and our hated rivals were N.C. State and UVA. I had had the privilege of meeting the Duke basketball team in the spring of 1978 because they stayed in the Hyatt Hotel in Winston-Salem for the ACC Tournament that year and I worked in the only gift shop in the hotel at the time. They were all super nice guys. I shook Bill Foster’s hand and wished them well in the tournament, although I was really hoping I could meet the UNC team and that UNC would win it all.

During my four years at UNC, Duke did little to raise our ire, except for one incident in which Mike Gminksi elbowed Dave Colescott in the eye in a Duke-UNC game that wasn’t very memorable otherwise. When a seemingly friendly, meek, mild-mannered new coach showed up in Durham in 1980, he barely registered on the radar because from 1980-1982, we all wanted UVA and that sniveling, whining Terry Holland destroyed.

In 1986, Duke played Louisville in the National Championship game. I remember it well. I was visiting my parents and my father and I sat down to watch it, fully prepared to pull for the ACC team. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but by the second half, my father (who is one of the best sports alive–always willing to cheer an ACC team on) and I were so filled with loathing for Coach K and his team that we began cheering for Louisville and we were elated when they won. I think that, even then, it was that combination of arrogance and entitlement radiating from the Coach and the players that so angers basketball fans now that made us start pulling for Louisville. Anyway, it was on that day that my hatred for Duke and Coach K was born. My father also points to that date as his turning point. I only pulled for Duke twice after that and it was in the 1990 and 1991 games against UNLV. Given how I feel about Duke now, I almost wish I could take those games back.

The arrogance and obnoxiousness of K and his minions along with the pictures of refs with farm animals that keeps them all in his pocket, which have been covered so well by others like the Sensei and I’m Just a Number to You, fan the flames of my anger and loathing. However, what kicks it up a notch to completely irrational hatred is the fact that I feel that Coach K is a fraud (as are many of the Duke players) that the mainstream media, especially ESPN, has been perpetrating and sustaining for years. Not only that, but Coach K uses a dastardly mastery of spin to feed on the fraud. It’s like an amped up version of  story of the Emperor’s new clothes. Why amped up? Well, in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the emperor is merely a naked stooge convinced that he’s wearing gorgeous garb, but in this real-life version, Coach K is a willing participant in the fraud. He uses his ads and his official website to further the idea that he’s not only the best coach in the land, known for brilliant coaching and revolutionizing the game, but he’s the elder statesman of college basketball, an embodiment of all that is right and good in the sport.

Bullhockey. Several years ago, a writer who is often associated with the Carolina Water Cooler and the Inside Carolina basketball message board (and whose name I’ve forgotten) wrote several blog posts detailing why K is neither brilliant nor revolutionary (unless you include stealing the flop from European soccer and using it to draw fouls on opponents who are about to win the game or slapping the floor). He said many of the things that I’ve thought for years and I wish I could find the original articles. Coach K does have the old school style of emphasizing fundamentals like layups and foul shooting, but it’s not anything special. Nor is jacking up threes. I of course understand why being great free throw shooters is so important to K – if you’re going to draw fouls and win the game based on free throws, your team needs to be good at them. I also understand that three-point shooting is the kind of thing that makes the media act like a bunch of slobbering dogs having their tummies rubbed into ecstacy. Hence their love affair with the elfin-eared J.J. Redick.

The fact is that, since 1980, many of the Duke teams have not been that special. K’s been riding his back-to-back championships for years, the second of which was won by a guy who should have been removed from the game for his intentional foul with malice aforethought. K feeds the myth that his team is invincible by not playing any OOC teams that are any good and by not traveling to many opposing teams’ courts. He also schedules teams that he can beat by 35 points to make the victory look more impressive in this new era of believing that a team is only good if it decimates its opponents – even if those opponents have just recently started a basketball program or the words Division III are associated with their names. Until this year, Duke had never lost in the Big 10 challenge, which sounds impressive, until you see that while other ACC teams were taking on Ohio State and Michigan State, Duke was playing Indiana and Michigan in their down years.

Then there’s the NCAA Tournament. The media loves to tout all of his trips to the NCAA, his astonishing (and usually undeserved) number 1 seeds and all the trips to the final four and the final game, but if you look at it another way, that’s actually a story of ineffectiveness. From 1980-2009, Duke has been in 11 Final Fours and only won 3 championships. They’ve also been seeded No. 1 11 times and only won 3 championships. They’ve taken gifts from the NCAA selection committee (such as their No. 1 seed in 2005) and still exited before the Final Four–often in the Sweet 16 and before. If any other coach had that record, he’d be ridiculed as a failure.

What gets me the most, though, is this elder statesman crap. This is a guy whose players stomp on opposing players’ chests and punch people in the nose to prevent them from making a layup. And, instead of keeping a low profile after the incidents, he takes to the media microphone and implies that his players’ violent actions were the fault of the opposing team. What’s infuriating about this is that it starts a firestorm of discussion about how long you should keep your starters in a game you’re winning, puts the other team on the defensive and completely deflects the fact that K keeps all his starters in for as long as possible, even when he’s playing the Durham School for the Deaf and the Blind and Sampson County Community College in the early part of the season. Meanwhile you can just feel the smirks emanating from his Holiness’s office on the Duke campus.

One of the biggest frauds ever

So, there you have it. Duke’s coach is a cheating, hypocritical, fraudulent spinmeister who can turn seemingly decent guys like Gerald Henderson into mob-like goons. (Beware, Kyrie Irving.)  Meanwhile, every time you turn around, you have to hear about what a great guy he is and how Duke is the most prestigious team in college basketball (with the basis for that honor being skewed by only looking at the years when Duke was a success). Add all this to a succession of overhyped underperforming, violent, whiney players like Greg Paulus, Brian Zoubek, Chris Collins, Wojo and Josh McRoberts and the recent gift the NCAA Selection Committee gave Duke in the South region and you’re left with one question. What’s not to hate?