Kansas Jayhawks Will Not Be Playing Connecticut on an Aircraft Carrier; Focused on Deal With the U.S. Air Force

LAWRENCE, KS – Officials at the University of Kansas have killed the rumor that the Jayhawks would be playing a basketball game on an aircraft carrier against the UConn Huskies in 2012.  Connecticut officials are still looking to find an opponent for the 2nd Carrier Classic.

The 2011 edition of the Classic featuring Michigan State and North Carolina, has been a long discussed possibility that finally became reality this summer.

The college basketball world is understandably thrilled about the upcoming spectacle and all that maritime-based basketball could mean for the future of the sport.  So, why would KU not want to participate in such a special event?

“We just don’t feel it’s right for us to commit to the Carrier Classic at this time when we have other deals in the works,” Kansas Athletic Director, Sheahon Zenger said in an interview.  When asked to which other deals he was referring, he smiled coyly and said “I believe you know the answer to that.”

Indeed, buzz has been hot about the possibility of the Jayhawks starting their own classic series…on the wings of a modified C-17 cargo jet.

Aerial Allen Fieldhouse?

Details are still fuzzy, but it is believed that a custom-made court will be affixed to the top of the wing span of the military grade transport aircraft.

NCAA officials work to secure a prototype basket on a C-17 at Edwards AFB in California

The game would then be played while the jet ran low-altitude maneuvers over the Nevada desert.  Zenger hopes to have an opponent announced by next spring.

“It’s an exciting time for college basketball and American military vehicles, ” Zenger said. “Who knows what kind of possibilities for sport/war machine partnership are out there?”

Only time will tell if he is right.

 

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.

Dyke-isms: A Guide to Color Commentary

Hello college basketball fanatics, it’s me, Jimmy Dykes. The writers at EJSIC have cordially invited me to write a guess post about the world of color commentary. You hear guys like Dick Vitale and Bill Raftery and myself drop lots of knowledge during ESPN telecast that you, the viewer, had probably never before heard; like big men hedging on screens, or the fundamental way to block out a rebounder.

We make it sound easy and simple, but really, there’s a lot of work involve to become the best in our business. And while we all bring different flavors to a broadcast, there are a few commonalities one must know to succeed. If you follow this guide, you may end up a co-worker of mine.

1. Know the teams you’re covering

All great commentary stars with homework. As a beginner, you should start by reading the team’s beat writer’s articles in the local paper. You may even watch a game or two when you have an off-night. The key to successful commentary is picking up on the small things the viewer at home, i.e. the amateur, doesn’t see.

The last game I called was on Tuesday at Rupp Arena when Tennessee played arch-rival Kentucky. I’ve been following John (when you’re really good, you can call coaches by their first names) since his days at Memphis. I didn’t do too much research. I already know that he lets his posse players play street ball. For Tennessee on the other hand, I read a few newspaper articles and watched some of their games.

Putting in the extra mile, as we like to say in Bristol, makes all the difference in a successful commentary.

2. Developing Key Words and Catch-phrases

Another aspect to add to your game is key words. Nothing screams “expert” to the home viewer more than a few well-timed insider words. I’m talking about words / catch-phrases that convey a deeper knowledge and understanding of the game at hand.

A couple of my personal favorites are “nail” and “tough two.” Players who nail the tough twos in a game are more likely to spur their teams onto victory. It’s common to interject these words at pivotal moments of the game. For example, if a player misses a crucial free throw, I like to turn to my partner Brad Nessler and say, “Gotta nail those.”

You really have to hammer home your key words throughout a broadcast. That may mean repeating them as much as twenty to thirty times. I like to practice before a game by envisioning the players on the floor and seeing myself make the perfect call. I really believe it helps.

My colleague Dick Vitale has made his mark with catch-phrases, Bay-Be. Another close friend, Bill Raftery, stuns viewers with his brilliant “nickle-dimer.”

3. Develop a Useful Diagram

Diagrams are a great way to nail the viewer with information. It allows you, the commentator, to (1) convey a lot of information in a simple form, and (2) pull the attention away from the game and to your vast expertise. True, the commentator should never be above the game, but the few brief moments during a timeout is your time to shine.

One of my favorite diagrams is the NCAA seeding jet. I’ve used it each of the last few seasons to display number one seeds (i.e. first class), bubble teams (rear of the plane), and teams not quite good enough for the big dance (out of the plane). It accomplishes the tough two goals, and it’s really simple. In fact, I’ve made a quick airplane diagram for the commentators at ESPN and how we all fit into those categories.

Jet Diagram

As you cans see from the diagram, locks for number one seeds include three of our best guys: Dick Vitale, Bill Raftery, and Jay Bilas. These guys (like Duke, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Arkansas) bring it each and every night.

The back of the plane has three solid guys who occasionally have an off night: Fran Franschilla, Stephen Bardo, and myself. We may make an errant comment once in a while, but otherwise, we’re solid. Barring a catastrophe, we’re in the tournament.

Out of the plane is three powerhouses experiencing down years (think North Carolina, UCLA, and Gonzaga): Coach Knight, Len Elmore, and Doris Burke. These three folks are usually great commentators who are experiencing a lackluster year due to a partner change (or in Coach Knight’s case having to work with Brent Musberger), or off-the-side-of-the-court problems.

4. Have a Great Working Relationship with your Partner

As a commentator, you can’t do it all. You can carry your partner for 24 miles of the marathon, but a good partner nails the final tough two miles for you.

Brad and I have a great relationship. We help each other with make-up before the game, we share a good meal with the crew, and we often room together on the road. I really can’t think of better guy to sleep in a hotel bed with than Brad Nessler. He doesn’t even pull the cover to his side of the bed.

5. Have a Favorite Player for Quick Reference

The media is supposed to be unbiased. As a commentator, you should work towards that goal. But, you need a quick reference at hand to relate to the fans. My favorite is Arkansas shooting guard Rotnei Clarke. He taught BYU’s Jimmer Fredette everything he knows.

Arkansas' Rotnei Clarke

I use Rotnei to demonstrate fundamental basketball and to show how hard a good player works. The viewers at home relate because Rotnei is a household name.

Other guys have picked out personal favorites to reference as well. Vitale has gone with the entire Duke team for the past decade which is another option. I’ve heard Doris Burke reference Ashton Gibbs and Kemba Walker a ton this season, but I don’t really know either of those players (which explains her poor performance this season).

Well EJSIC readers, I’ve reached my word limit. I hope this guide was helpful. Catch me on Super Tuesday. Until then, yours truly, Jimmy.

The Five Stages of the UNC Fan Experience: 2009-2010 Edition

Stage 1: Excitement

The best thing about being a UNC fan in October of 2009 had to be the expectations, or lack thereof. For the first time in three years we weren’t going to be considered epic failures if we didn’t railroad every team on our schedule. With the 2009 National Championship team we had to listen to the haters’ pour insults down upon us from all directions after beating teams like Valparaiso by a mere 18 points. Even when we did win the National Championship (a game I attended), I didn’t really feel much in the way of excitement. I just felt an overwhelming sense of relief. We weren’t going to become the laughing stock of the NCAA.

Going into this season was entirely different. We had tons of inexperience. We had veteran role players who were going to have to step up and lead this team. Who knew what to expect out of this group?  Of course the media didn’t hesitate to label us a final four contender. I can’t speak for all the fans, but I simply ignored these benign expectations. I was excited. I was excited to see young players developing again. I was excited to see our veterans become real leaders. I was excited to see our coaching staff step up to new challenges. Nobody knew what to expect. So let’s just play some ball.

Stage 2: Understanding

Stage 2 set in just after the 68-66 loss* to Kentucky. The loss came shortly after the Syracuse massacre. I understood where this team was coming from. We had some good players who were going to contribute, but we were going to have to endure some massive runs from our opponents for a while. But, over time our players would learn how to shorten the runs thrown at us. We weren’t going to be a top 10 team this year, but we certainly deserved to be in the top 25. By the end of the year we could be fighting our way through the tournament again. I understood that we were going to have a few “what the hell” moments, but ultimately, we were going to continue to enjoy the success of our program under Roy Williams.

Stage 3: Not Understanding

The beginning of this stage had a very definitive moment. It started with a pass from Donovan Monroe to Jeremy Simmons on an inbounds play in overtime versus College of Charleston. There was two minutes left on the clock when Deon Thompson decided to double team the scrub freshman Willis Hall on the perimeter rather than follow his man (Simmons) under the basket. The play resulted in an easy layup and put the Cougars up by four. It was inexplicable. How could our senior leader make such a stupid mistake? The whole team looked as though they had just given up. Nobody was playing with the kind of heart I was used to seeing from UNC players at this point in the season.

Things just snowballed from there. They should have sown pockets onto our shorts. Everybody, including our coaches, adopted a ho-hum attitude about the season. “We just need to work harder” seemed to be the common theme. I kept waiting for the bleeding to stop, but it never did. Some people thought the win against North Carolina State was an indication that we were turning things around. Well, and I mean this with absolutely the most disrespect possible, N.C. State is terrible. Nobody should be losing to us by more than ten points this year, twice. I can’t really fathom how a team can be that much worse than we are currently. Somehow they have managed to reach a new, wholly undiscovered, level of sucking.

Stage 4: Meltdown

This was really a private stage for me. I tried to separate myself from those that I cared about out of fear that I may inflict physical or emotional damage upon them. It all started during the UVA loss at the Smith Center when Will Graves was given the responsibility of guarding Sylven Landesberg. Just writing that last sentence was difficult. I am using a bold font right now as an indication of how hard I am pressing down on the keys. Will Graves couldn’t guard a gay octogenarian playing in their socks. Who in their right mind thought he could guard one of the ACC’s most prolific scorers? I am telling you, I lost it. I started swearing at everything. “F@#K YOU, COUCH.”

Now, I know that I am not a coach. I don’t know as much about basketball as the UNC coaching staff (or any other coaching staff for that matter), but somebody must have been slipping them stupid pills this season. Every decision seemed to be exponentially worse then the preceding decision. John Henson gets put out on the perimeter. Marcus Ginyard’s punishment for playing like a freshman in high school is more playing time. Leslie McDonald’s reward for being the only guard to limit himself to one turnover in ACC play is less playing time.

I could go on like this for pages, but I won’t. It’s too damned embarrassing. Too many things contributed to the meltdown. However, there is one thing that trumps all others, free throws. I could literally sit in a gym for 48 straight hours, with no food, water or sleep, shooting free throws continuously, and never shoot up an air ball. Whenever one of our players steps up to the free throw line, I can’t help but think about Chris Farley tearing apart that dinner roll in Tommy Boy. We are a complete disaster…..strike that, catastrophe.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Believe it or not, I am at peace with our suckage. I have managed to find a strange comedic value to the whole season. I have joked with friends about how God is punishing us for Roy’s decision to throw a Presbyterian fan out of a game. It makes some sense. Did we get too smug? Is there some validity to the “holier than though” sentiment that gets thrown at us on a near daily basis? Maybe God is putting us in our place. How else do you explain the injuries, the depth at which Roy’s foot is positioned in his mouth, the free throw air balls, etc? The only thing that seems to have carried over from last year is the womanly play of Deon Thompson. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it may be the thing I miss the most from this season. I get a good laugh every time he gets rejected by somebody half his size. I catch myself having a hearty chuckle every time he shoots a fade away shot from 18 feet.

The season is figuratively over and I am still a fan. I am still going to support the team in the future. This is a comforting feeling. It reaffirms what I learned after the 2001-2002 season. I am not a fair-weather fan. I can handle us sucking. I like knowing that. I have accepted that this season did not go well, and I’m okay. Just don’t let it happen again next year, God.

Duke Sucks!

Breaking News: The Sky is Falling!

If only the rest of this team had this man's heart.

This has nothing to do with the white stuff that literally is falling on a daily basis now. This situation is much more dire. Roy Williams and the University of North Carolina, winners of 2 National Championships in the past 5 years, are pulling a complete 180 from the 2005-06 season.

That was the last time UNC lost 4 starters to the NBA in a single year. Think about that, we’re talking about twice in a period of 5 years that UNC lost 4 players from one team to the NBA. And there were other players in between those two seasons who also went on to the NBA. That’s incredible.

But this year, UNC is doing what UNC under Roy Williams doesn’t do. They’re losing pretty regularly. Some of that had to do with the strength of their schedule. Playing a true road game at Kentucky, Texas in Dallas, Syracuse in New York, and Michigan State at home is by far the toughest out of conference schedule any team played this year. They also beat a solid Ohio State team early on.

Going into the ACC, UNC was ranked and had some quality wins under their belt. But then 2010 happened and the sky fell. Literally. On December 30th, UNC pounded Albany. On January 4th, their next game, they blew an 11 point lead with 3 minutes on the clock and have been in a tailspin since.

Now, standing at 2-4 in the ACC with 6 road games left on the schedule, UNC might be on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament. Roy Williams, for the first time in his career, could be looking at a trip to the NIT.

So what happened?

Continue reading

Grading the Early College Basketball Season

In the last week of October, we previewed six teams for the then upcoming season: North Carolina, Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Memphis. Now, a month into the season, I would like to hand out grades for the six teams. Each had different expectations before the season and they will be graded based upon those expectations.

North Carolina 7-1 null

Grade: B

Analysis: The Tar Heels entered the season with high expectations from the voters. However, the fans seemed to have much more realistic prospects concerning the young Heels. When watching Roy Williams’ team, it’s obvious to even a novice basketball fan that they are full of raw talent which makes them a dangerous team. Larry Drew II has stepped his game up and filled in for the departed Ty Lawson in a way some may not have expected.

Where the Heels have struggled the most this season is the turnover department where they average 17.3 per game. As also expected with young teams, Carolina has shown signs of not being completely able to put a game away. In the end, Coach Williams will mold the team into a dangerous group by late February.

Kansas 6-0 null

Grade: B+

Analysis: The preseason championship favorites have not disappointed early in the season, but they haven’t been the dominant team some may have expected. Their five games against inferior competition have been complete blow outs, but they did struggle against Memphis in St. Louis. To be fair, most teams usually don’t face such competition in the second game of the season.

The Jayhawks have seemed to struggle when All-American candidate Sherron Collins has been off the court. Tyshawn Taylor hasn’t been as consistent this season as Bill Self may like, but Marcus Morris and Cole Aldrich have been very stable down low. As with North Carolina, the Jayhawks have way too much talent to disappoint.

Syracuse 7-0 null

Grade: A

Analysis: The Orange are undefeated behind the steady zone defense of Jim Boeheim despite the departures of Johnny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris. After losing their exhibition to Lemoyne, very few people would’ve believed the Orange had it in them to beat both California and North Carolina in route to the 2K Sports Classic Championship.

Can Syracuse keep up the early season momentum? It remains to be seen, but the next test is looming December 10th against another up-start group in the Florida Gators. With the zone defense and steady play from their experienced leadership, I’m betting on Boeheim’s boys to continue the good season.

Kentucky 7-0 null

Grade: B

Analysis: It’s very apparent John Calipari’s Wildcats are absolutely loaded with talent, but the mixture of holdovers and freshmen has yet to gel. Out of the seven games, only one was against a team from a big-six conference: Stanford, in which the ‘Cats won 73-65.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Kentucky’s “struggles,” has been the defense. Calipari has always trademarked his teams with strong defenses. Since the Sam Houston State game in which Kentucky gave up 92 points in Rupp Arena, they’ve only given up 63, 49, 65, and 57. So, it appears the talent-laden Wildcats are learning to use their skill and athleticism to create havoc defensively. We should learn a lot about their progression in the next two games when they play host to two top fifteen teams: North Carolina and Connecticut.

Wisconsin 5-1 null

Grade: A-

Analysis: As the Sensei pointed out in his season preview of the Badgers, Bo Ryan’s boys never seem to be the early season trendy pick, yet they always find away to finish in the top three of the Big 10. Their lone loss came to Gonzaga in Hawaii which isn’t a bad loss at all. They now boast two wins over talented ACC squads in Maryland and Duke (the latter which helped the conference win its first ever ACC/Big 10 challenge).

Statistically, the Badgers are strong defensively as they usually are. One obvious weakness so far this season has been the three-point shooting where they are a hair above 29%. Expect Wisconsin to continue its solid play throughout the season and be a tough out in March.

Memphis 4-1 null

Grade: B+

Analysis: No one anticipated the Tigers to be major contenders this season with the departure of John Calipari and leading scorer Tyreke Evans, but maybe they’re better than originally expected. The Tigers gave the number one Jayhawks everything they wanted in St. Louis before eventually falling by two points. Duke transfer Elliot Williams and JUCO signee Will Coleman have provided solid play for first year head coach Josh Pastner.

Two concerns stick out to me. The first is Wesley Witherspoon. He was basically non-existent in the Kansas game and he’s too talented to disappear at big times. The Tigers need the versatility he provides. The second is how much do we take from the Kansas game? Are the Tigers legitimate or did Kansas have a night off? I think it’s a mixture of both, but until Memphis beats a quality opponent (and they have plenty of chances with Tennessee, Syracuse, and Gonzaga left on the schedule), they’ll have to settle for being a fringe top 25 team.

Overall, the college basketball season has been pretty good so far. It’s had March-like upsets and quality play which can be uncharacteristic of early season basketball. We should all continue to look forward to the remaining non-conference games before the rivalries start in January and February.