Tag Archives: Bill Self

College Basketball Needs the Loathing and Hate of the Missouri versus Kansas Rivalry

Old rivalries die hard. Old rivalries are so ingrained into the fabric of some teams’ psyches that even if two teams no longer play each other, the rivalry continues. Old, dormant rivalries die hard.

This case of old, dormant, raging rivalries is what rears its head each March between fans from Missouri and Kansas.

From the perspective of the Missouri fan, Kansas is being petty for no longer playing the Tigers. More specifically, Bill Self is being petty for objecting to continue the rivalry on the court.

Kansas and Self contend that Missouri ended the rivalry when it accepted the invitation to join the SEC. Missouri left Kansas behind and Self has no intention of letting the programs cuddle. But Self’s Jayhawks continue to be cozy with other former Big 12 members, Nebraska and Colorado.

Kansas fans object to playing Missouri again based on the scorned lover mentality along with the “what’s in it for me” mentality. I mean, seriously, if you’re Kansas, what is in it for you? Missouri just finished up its worse three year period in the history of the program. Why should Kansas feel obligated to schedule another patsy on it schedule?

Now, from the perspective of Missouri, leaving the Big 12 was never anything personal against Kansas. It was just business as they say. The Big 12 was on shaky ground and Missouri jumped at the opportunity to be in a stable conference. Just as Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M did.

But none of this killed the rivalry. Far from it. All of this has only enflamed the rivalry.

As Missouri once again sat home in March, the program and fans were the recipients of some overwhelming superb news. Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 rated recruit in the class of 2017, de-committed from Washington and pledged to play for Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers. Porter Jr. is going home.

[Merenbloom: What Mizzou Assistant Coach Michael Porter Sr. Is All About – Family Values and Humility]

With heads held high and chests puffed out, Missouri fans took to social media to rub Kansas’ nose in it. Look, I get it. Missouri fans haven’t had much to cheer about the last three years and the absence of elite level talent had a lot to do with the misfortune of Kim Anderson’s three year record. Tiger fans have a right to be giddy, to be proud, and to feel like kings and queens of the basketball world. But Tiger Nation needs to slow its roll and put Porter Jr. in perspective before throwing his commitment in the faces of Kansas fans. Kansas gets a lot of players that are similar to Porter Jr. I mean, A LOT of players that are elite.

As Tiger fans were lighting their morning-after cigarettes and basking in the afterglow of signing Porter Jr., Kansas was playing Oregon in the Elite 8. In what amounted to a home game for Kansas, Oregon strolled into the Sprint Center and smacked Kansas in the mouth for 40 minutes. There was no group of fans happier to see this than the Missouri fans sitting at home. I’ll admit it. I was one of those Tiger fans feeling pretty good as I sat on the couch next to my Jayhawk rooting wife. Yea, yea, yea. Dogs and cats living together and all that.

I adore my Tigers. And because of that, I could never root for Kansas. But here’s the thing. As I get older and as I blog from my basement, I have gained perspective. It’s not quite unbiased perspective, but it’s perspective none-the-less.

As Dana Altman and Oregon ride into the Final Four, Missouri fans can’t help but point and laugh at Self. He choked again they all say. Self’s record in the Elite 8 at Kansas is 2-5. He can’t win when it matters most Tiger fans say.

Now for perspective.

Self has been to two Final Fours with Kansas. Self has won a championship with Kansas. What Missouri fan wouldn’t be ecstatic if all of that was on the resume of Missouri basketball?

Old school Missouri fans hold Norm Stewart in god like status. Stewart won 634 games as the coach of his alma mater. But guess what? Stewart never reached the national championship game. Stewart never reached the Final Four. And Stewart, in his 32 years as the Missouri coach, reached the Elite 8 once.

So if you’re a Missouri fan who is claiming that Self under achieves and is a choke artist just spare me. I don’t want to hear it from you. Because, as Missouri fans, you should all know better. A coach isn’t completely defined in March. At least not Stewart.

But after saying all of that, I’ll say this; I get it.

I get it because Missouri versus Kansas is still a rivalry. And it may be one of, if not the best, rivalries in all of college basketball. I mean the teams no longer play each other and the fans are still as passionate as ever with each other.

As for Missouri, Kansas, and Self? You’ll all play each other again. Missouri will find its way back to the tournament and when it does, the tournament committee will place the teams in the same bracket. The tournament is a made for television event and Missouri playing Kansas will be must-see TV. And when this happens, it will be wonderful. The level of loathing and hate will make everything right again in the world of college basketball.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview

At first blush, the Midwest Region seems to be destined to have the top seeds represented in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8; but questions abound for Kansas, Louisville, and Oregon as the opening rounds approach.  Although most of the double-digit seeds in this region don’t appear to pose a serious threat, there’s at least one that may knock heads with the big boys.

Jayhawks are going to Kansas City, Kansas City here they come!

There’s no reason to suspect that the Kansas Jayhawks shouldn’t find their way to KC, but will they be able to go any further?  Bill Self’s team had another incredible season, scattering four losses throughout the year, including bookends in the season opener, and to close the season in the Big 12 semifinals.   Despite their immensely talented backcourt led by Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham, and Josh Jackson, the Jayhawks frontcourt is a bit thin.  Could a potential matchup with Michigan State and the Spartan’s tough frontcourt combo of Miles Bridges and Nick Ward be too much for Landen Lucas to handle on his own?  This is the time of year that Tom Izzo starts working his magic, but if he can’t, top seeded Kansas should be bound for Kansas City, and a shot to advance out of the Midwest Regional Final.

Cardinals need more Dr. Jekyll, less Mr. Hyde

Louisville may be the one of deepest and most talented teams in the Midwest region, and perhaps the country.  However, the biggest issue this team has shown has been its wild personality swings.  Particularly glaring during late season losses to Wake Forest and Duke, the Cards have displayed a propensity to squander big leads.  UofL can dominate the vast majority of a game, only to completely go away from everything that is working.  Those lapses are what terrify and infuriate the Louisville fan base.  What is most shocking is that this tendency manifested early in the season during Louisville’s first loss of the year to Baylor.  The Cardinals let a 22 point lead slip before falling to the Bears in the Bahamas.  That may just be the identity of this year’s version of the Louisville Cardinals.  I suspect that Rick Pitino will tighten up the rotation, which should provide more cohesiveness; and Donovan “Spida” Mitchell is the type of player that can carry a team into early April.  If the Cards are Dr. Jekyll, they could win it all; if they’re Mr. Hyde, it could be a very early exit.

Rough Rhode ahead for the Ducks

Oregon has spent the entire 2016-17 season among the nation’s elite teams, and still has a loaded roster, and excellent coach in Dana Altman to lead them deep into this tournament.  Much will depend on the way the Ducks respond to the loss of versatile 6-10 senior Chris Boucher.  While Boucher was important, this team goes as junior Dillon Brooks goes.  However, the injury essentially cost Oregon a seed line, which is ridiculous since seeding should be based on a team’s body of work.  Will the Duck’s be ultra-motivated by the injury and a little bit of a slight by the committee, or will these late season factors lead to a bit of a malaise?  I’m leaning toward the latter.  Assuming Oregon survives the Round of 64 against Iona, the Ducks may be in for a rude awakening in the Round of 32 against Rhode Island.

Rams are a dark horse?

Don’t sleep on Rhode Island.  As mentioned above, URI could be a serious stumbling block for Oregon should they run into each other in the Round of 32.  The Rams were sitting squarely on the bubble, and then ripped off eight wins in a row, and took the Atlantic 10 Tournament title to ensure a spot in the field.  Dan Hurley’s squad has solid inside-outside balance with E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin; and has shown a ton of grit down the stretch.  In a region that appears to be set up for the chalk to advance, Rhode Island is poised to make a run.  Certainly the opener against the Creighton Blue Jays will be no cakewalk, but if the Rams escape, there’s no reason that Hurley’s club can’t bounce the 3 seed Oregon, and find themselves in the Sweet 16.

Perfect storm for the Cyclones

Over the last few seasons, Iowa State has been a huge disappointment (I know they’ve killed my bracket), but the path the Cyclones face may be tailor-made to make amends.   I loved the Steve Prohm hire when Fred Hoiberg bolted for the NBA; and although it took some time to come together, ISU has the pieces in place to do some damage this year.  A rare senior-laden team in college basketball, the Cyclones are in great hands, particularly with Naz Long and Monte Morris.  After several bitter tournament showings, look for Iowa State to get past #4 seed Purdue, to set up another Big 12 showdown with rival Kansas in the Sweet 16.

North Carolina Central and UC Davis will square off on Wednesday for the right to be the first roadblock for the Jayhawks on their way to a cozy spot in Kansas City.  There should be a lot of answers about the Midwest Region when the Round of 32 wraps up on Friday evening, but don’t be surprised if there are even more questions.

E-mail Damon at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DamoKnowsSports.

Photo via Flickr/Brett Hurd

Jeff Rosen and the Kansas City Star are Attempting to Hold Bill Self Accountable

Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks have wrapped up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season championship, but that isn’t the story that is taking up precious time as Kansas City sports fans gather around their watercoolers. If the Jayhawk’s dominance of the Big 12 isn’t what’s receiving the focus of Kansas City area sports fans, then surely, it’s Self’s apparent lenient stance on would be disciplinary issues. But that isn’t truly the case either. What is catching the ire of these fans is the apparent blind eye that the Kansas City Star sports department has given the legal and disciplinary issues surrounding Self’s program.

Many Kansas City area sports fans believe that the Kansas City Star shows favoritism towards Kansas basketball. Most, if not all, of those fans cheer for the Missouri Tigers. See? The teams don’t have to play for the rivalry to still be going strong. The truth of the matter is that the Star has reported on all of the recent allegations against Self’s Jayhawks.

The Star has written numerous articles regarding the situation involving Josh Jackson and McKenzie Calvert. The newspaper reported on the allegations against Legerald Vick. Kansas City Star reporters also didn’t shy away from reporting on the suspected rape of a 16-year-old girl which was suspected to have occurred in a university dormitory. Five players, including potential player of the year Frank Mason, were listed as witnesses to the alleged rape. The Star also reported on the domestic violence allegations filed against Carlton Bragg as well as reporting on the drug paraphernalia that he was found to be in possession of.

Kansas City Star sports editor, Jeff Rosen, has taken heat on social media over how his sports department has handled all the turmoil surrounding the Kansas basketball team. Among the criticism that Rosen has endured is the belief that he and his staff have not held Self accountable for the actions of his players or for the disciplinary measures Self has chosen to apply to his problem players. But the Star recently published the following article – Editorial: Off-court troubles have cast a cloud over Kansas basketball.

In response to Self’s nonchalant public attitude surrounding the current environment in Lawrence, the Star’s staff had this to say in their collective editorial:

In fact, the real disappointment was Self’s public response to these incidents.

His supervisors aren’t off the hook, either. Everyone from the Board of Regents on down should insist on the highest standards of behavior from all students, especially those who wear the school’s name on their shirts — and the people who coach them.

There is only so much a media outlet can do in situations like this. In defense of Rosen and the Star, the newspaper continues to write articles on these situations and continues to ask follow-up questions to Self. Rosen can’t make Self answer the questions posed by his team of reporters. But what Rosen can and has done is have his staff continue to press Self on these issues.

 

Fans from rival programs may not like the answers being spouted by Self, but that isn’t Rosen’s problem. It would be Rosen’s problem if he was ignoring the issues surrounding the Jayhawks and/or ignoring Self’s reluctance to be transparent. But neither of those things are the reality of the situation. Rosen and his writers are doing their jobs and we should all allow them to continue doing so. Who knows? With a little patience, they just may be able to crack Self and his nonchalant attitude.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Alabama Football is Too Big To Fail

As the NCAA was peering over the shoulder of Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss football coach was consistent in his vehement refutation of all of the claims against him and his program. Freeze went as far as to imply that the NCAA’s investigation was based on religious persecution as he compared himself to his Lord and Savior. Motivation aside, the NCAA has accused Freeze of having a lack of institutional control to go along with 15 Level I violations.

Paying recruits is among the specific allegations that comprise Freeze’s alleged transgressions on the recruiting trail. This allegation becomes stickier when one of those recruits in question didn’t make Ole Miss his home. A logical assumption is that if the recruit accepted payment from a program that he turned down that it’s easy to believe that the same recruit accepted money from the program that he ultimately chose to play for. This is what’s been suggested to have occurred with Leo Lewis. Lewis allegedly accepted money from Ole Miss only to turn around and commit to Mississippi State. And it’s at this point that the NCAA finds itself in the same philosophical dilemma that it has placed itself in time and time again.

As a governing body, the NCAA has been anything but fair and balanced. The NCAA has a history of playing favorites and turning a blind eye to justice when the member institution is considered to be a blue-blood program. To say that the NCAA has shown a lack of institutional control when levying justice is an understatement. This certainly doesn’t make the NCAA judiciary arm different from any other governing body but that also doesn’t excuse its practice of selective enforcement.

Alabama has been a recent beneficiary of the NCAA’s protocol of selective enforcement. There was a long paper trail documenting the funneling of benefits between former Crimson Tide player Luther Davis and D.J. Fluker. Davis acted as the go-between for Fluker, NFL agents, and financial advisors.

Yahoo Sports was able to authenticate text message records, Western Union fund transfers, banking statements, flight receipts and other financial material linking both Davis and the five college football players. Yahoo Sports also found that three NFL agents and three financial advisers engaged Davis in transactions totaling $45,550. The three agents were Andy Simms, Peter Schaffer and John Phillips. The financial advisers were Jason Jernigan, Mike Rowan and Hodge Brahmbhatt.

Even with the case that could be made against Alabama and some of the individuals close to the program, the NCAA lacked the time to go after Nick Saban and Alabama. And that poses the million-dollar question; what is the NCAA afraid of? To me, that’s an easy question to answer. The NCAA is afraid of going after one of its blue-bloods because it’s afraid of what that could mean to its overall brand. Alabama is worth too much to bring down what Saban has built in Tuscaloosa.

It is true that the NCAA placed Alabama football on probation once before, but that wasn’t under the shadow of the current economic landscape of college football. Alabama has too much market and intrinsic value in the modern day business model. Simply put, Alabama football is considered too big to fail and, because of that, the Crimson Tide are essentially allowed to make its own rules.

The Fluker accusations were not the only ones surrounding Alabama. There was also the situation that former assistant coach Bo Davis placed Alabama in. And when I say “placed Alabama in,” I really mean the situation that Davis placed himself in. Davis was accused of contacting recruits during the dead period and the NCAA did engage in a small investigation. Based on its lack of action against Alabama, the NCAA considered this a case of no-harm-no-foul once Davis resigned.

Davis submitted his resignation on April 28. He was then paid $316,666.66 on August 19. The reason given for this payment was “to resolve disputed claims related to his separation from the university.” Once that payment of $316,666.66 was factored in, Davis made more than the $475,000 that Alabama had set his 2016 compensation at. That strikes me as a payoff to keep his mouth shut about what he witnessed and took part in while on the Alabama coaching staff. But like I said, Alabama is considered too big to fail.

The NCAA has a rich and storied history when it comes to wielding its selective sword of justice. In addition to what the NCAA has allowed Alabama to get away with, there are numerous examples of the NCAA engaging in questionable enforcement procedures when it comes to its basketball programs.

Going all the way back to when Roy Williams was the basketball coach at the University of Kansas, the NCAA went easy on his Jayhawk program when investigating the ties between Tom Grant, Myron Piggie and JaRon Rush.

Once Williams left the Jayhawks for the North Carolina Tar Heel job, he played dumb as the NCAA questioned how he ran his Kansas program. Again, nothing substantial came out of this NCAA investigation.

How about the FBI investigation that Bill Self’s team found itself attached to? Yes, I said FBI investigation. Did this receive much attention from the NCAA? It did not.

And there was the ticket scandal that occurred at Kansas while Lew Perkins was the athletic director. This included the concealing of income statements that were provided to the NCAA. But, as you probably guessed, nothing came out of this.

The NCAA had an issue with one of its investigators, Abigail Grantstein. Grantstein, who graduated from Kansas, was eventually fired for bungling the investigations into UCLA recruit Shabazz Muhammad and Kansas recruit Josh Selby. Both UCLA and Kansas got off easy.

Perhaps the real cake topper in how the NCAA operates was on display as Miami basketball was being investigated. The NCAA had Nevin Shapiro’s attorney on its payroll as Maria Elena Perez was caught sharing privileged information with the NCAA.

The NCAA claims to stand for integrity and claims to support what is in the best interest of the college athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The NCAA cares about itself and what it considers to be in its best interest. And what’s in the best interest of the NCAA is for its blue-bloods to remain successful.

If your school isn’t on par with Alabama football or Kansas basketball, you had better hope that your school doesn’t offer a recruit an impermissible cheeseburger. But if your school is on par with Alabama or Kansas? Let the payments and benefits flow.

This is what will help contain the damage that would have otherwise have been inflicted by an in-depth NCAA investigation into the former Ole Miss football recruits. We should expect the NCAA to go just far enough as to take down Ole Miss, but not far enough to clean the entire situation up. If the NCAA did go all the way with the investigation, a school like Alabama could get caught in the cross hairs. And that’s the last thing the NCAA wants.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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Bill Self: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

The Man

The son of a coach, played his college ball at Oklahoma St, began his coaching career immediately following his collegiate eligibility.

The Myth

He uses questionable recruiting tactics, can come off as a whiner who takes things personally, is a better recruiter than game day coach.

The Legend

All he does is win.

The Coach

Bill Self is in the middle of eleven shared or outright Big 12 championships. I don’t care what conference you’re in, that is down right impressive. Think about this, the last time Kansas failed to at least share the conference crown was the 2003-2004 season. And they still finished second.

His critics will say that 11 conference championships in a row is all well and good, but what has he done at the national level? Self’s Jayhawks have been to three Elite Eights, two Sweet Sixteens, were the National Championship Runner Up and have won the National Championship once.

Could his teams have done more? Sure, it’s possible, but come on, which fan base in America wouldn’t trade their team’s last 11 years for Self’s and the Jayhawk’s? If they are being objective, none would.

And if you look back on his entire Division-I coaching career, his record is even more impressive. In 18 years at the Division-I level, Self’s teams have never finished lower than third in their conference. In his third and final season at Tulsa, he guided the team to the Elite Eight.

Let’s go back and focus just on his tenure at Kansas . If we use the criteria that a Sweet Sixteen appearance or better constitutes a successful season then 63.6% of Self’s Kansas teams would be considered a success.

I would like to put this in historical context and compare Self’s time at Kansas to what Bobby Knight achieved at Indiana, Mike Krzysewski at Duke, Tom Izzo at Michigan St., Roy Williams at Kansas and Dean Smith at North Carolina. A couple of points before diving in: I left John Wooden off, because there isn’t a coach alive that had the success he did, and yes, my list is completely arbitrary.

Bobby Knight’s Indiana teams had a successful season 48% of the time. Mike Krzysewski’s Duke teams had a successful season 63.6% of the time. Tom Izzo’s Michigan St. teams have had success 63% of the time. Dean Smith’s North Carolina teams had success 57% of the time. Roy Williams at Kansas may be the best historical barometer for Self and Williams had success at Kansas 60% of the time.

While comparisons like these don’t tell the entire story, they do help put praise and criticism into perspective. To me, Bill Self is in the upper echelon of coaches when looking at all of the responsibilities a coach has. I believe Self makes his money with the level of recruits he brings in. And, in my opinion, his in game coaching can be seen as his primary weakness. But a coach only has to be a better tactician than the coach he is coaching against at any given moment in time. Case in point: nobody would suggest that Krzysewski is a poor in game coach, yet his level of success matches Bill Self’s.

The irony of my writing this article is that I am a Missouri Tiger fan. Tiger fans will read this and think i’m a closet Jayhawk fan. Kansas fans will read this and claim i’m envious of their program. The truth of the matter is that having a favorite team should not cloud one’s ability to recognize greatness. Bill Self has achieved greatness. It isn’t a Kansas thing, it’s just a Bill Self thing.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

*Feature image courtesy of mensbasketballhoopscoop.com

Three Guys Walk Into A Bar: An A.D., A Consultant and A Megalomaniac

As CFB Roundtable’s Senior Big 12 writer, @gat_attack, wrote on November 6, the Big 12 needs Kansas football to be better than what they have become. I am here to say that I am in 100% agreement with her. This is not to say that I wish doom and gloom on Kansas State or Iowa St. It is also important to the balance of power in the Big 12 for those teams to be at least average, but Kansas brings something different to the equation.

The power of the Big 12 lies in the South. Tipping the scales on the football field and balance sheet are Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU, Texas and i’ll even throw Oklahoma St. into the mix.

Kansas has the ability to bring television sets to the Big 12. The Jayhawks have the ability to bring revenue to the Big 12 in the form of a slice of the Kansas City market.

As it stands, Kansas City is a Mizzou and Nebraska town when it comes to football. Some may contend that Kansas State should be included in my statement, but my eyes see more Tiger and Husker gear around town than Wildcat. No, I don’t have numbers to back that up, but just take my word for it. That means that during football season, Kansas City is all about the SEC and Big Ten. I won’t lie, I do take joy in watching the SEC Network while in Lawrence, KS.

So what is it going to take for Kansas to regain at least a portion of what they once were under Mark Mangino or even Glen Mason? It’s as simple as one thing. A coach.

ENTER CHUCK NEINAS

Who is Chuck Neinas? He is one of the major power brokers in athletic department job searches. Neinas served as the Big 8 commissioner from 1971 – 1980. He also served as interim Big 12 commissioner from 2011 – 2012. Neinas now owns his own search firm, Neinas Sports Services, that assists college athletic departments in their search for executives and coaches. Simply put, Neinas knows his stuff.

The list of coaches who owe a thank you note to Neinas include Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Les Miles and Mark Dantonio. Has Neinas been successful? Absolutely.

ENTER THE KANSAS JAYHAWKS AND SHEAHON ZENGER

Zenger is a football guy. He played and coached at the collegiate level prior to going into administration. He is now tasked with hiring a football coach at a basketball school. Zenger’s decision to include Neinas is a smart move. But there is an elephant in the room. That elephant’s name is Bill Self.

The belief around Kansas City is that Bill Self will not play second fiddle at KU. This is not something that is overly documented, but the whispers and back room publications attest to this belief. Bill Self is the ego that Zenger and Neinas will have to coddle.

Something that made Mark Mangino so successful at KU was his willingness to know his place. Yes, he had the reputation around town to be a bit of an ego maniac and to have a personality that was a bit obtuse. But he never allowed those attributes to manifest themselves into extravagant financial demands for his KU football program. Will Weis’ replacement demand a financial commitment to the KU football program? If so, how much will Bad Bill allow Zenger to deposit in the football account?

How does Neinas maneuver around Bill Self’s megalomaniac tendencies while also earning his $50,000 search fee? Carefully, very carefully. Kansas City based journalist, Hearne Christopher Jr., touched on Self’s ego this past July. Hearne offers some subtle and not so subtle nuggets on Self.

Neinas ultimately has one responsibility and that is to make the institution that has contracted him happy. What constitutes happy can vary depending on the athletic department. For some, happy means a coach that wins at a high level with the cost not being an issue. For others, it means an affordable price tag. And yet, for some, happy is a combination of these characteristics.

Which category of athletic departments does KU fall into? That appears to be the million dollar question…or possibly hundred thousand dollar question.

If I had to make a wager on it, i’d say they go cheap and keep Bill Self happy. Cheap can be successful, but the probability of success is not as likely as it would be if legitimate Power 5 conference money was spent.

ENTER CLINT BOWEN

The easy choice is to promote interim head coach Clint Bowen to head coach. Bowen played defensive back under Glen Mason and was an assistant coach for both Mangino and Weis. He is also a lifelong Jayhawk fan as he was born in Lawrence, KS. In KU terms, Bowen is a True Son. He bleeds crimson and blue enough to know where football stands in the KU sports hierarchy. Does this understanding underscore the support which Self offered Bowen?

Assuming that Bowen is Zenger’s chosen man, that will beg one question: Why employ the services of Neinas just to hire the man already on campus? My short answer is: appearances. Please note, if this does in fact become the case, KU will not be the only program to make a smoke-and-mirrors type of hire.

This is not to say that Bowen would be content to lead a sub-.500 program, but he would be the safest choice for Bill Self’s ego.

Explaining My Bracket

 

Before the incredible creator and organizer of this blog, Mr. Josh Flagner (@RailbirdJ), has anything to say, yes, I am a HUGE Ohio State homer. I am a student at The Ohio State University and I love my school and my team an incredible amount. Now, does that have anything to do with the Buckeyes winning the National Championship in my bracket? Maybe, but I am going to try to defend my choice to the best of my abilities.

First of all, here is my bracket:

Hayden's Bracket

As you can see, it’s not too risky because I really don’t believe in picking upsets just for the sake of picking upsets. Any team can upset any team, but unless there is solid evidence as to why they will do so, I am not going to pick a random upset just “because”. For some people it works, and they get lucky. I’d rather be good than get lucky.

My first round upsets go as follows:

Cincy over Creighton, Minnesota over UCLA, Mizzou over Colorado State, and Villanova over UNC.

Why? Well, I guess I’m going by conferences. UCLA plays in an incredibly weak Pac 12 while Minnesota has been ok in the Big Ten, by far the best conference in college basketball. Cincinnati plays in the Big East, a great basketball conference, while Creighton plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri plays in the weak SEC, but plays Colorado State from a weaker Mountain West. The Villanova over UNC upset doesn’t follow this criteria quite as closely as the others do, but I truly believe that UNC is uninspired and plays in a much weaker ACC than we are accustomed to. While it may not be the most sound logic in the world, I just think that teams with tougher competition know how to beat teams that haven’t played anybody.

My round two upsets are as follows:

Wisconsin over Kansas State, VCU over Michigan, Minnesota over Florida.

These upsets weren’t really based on any formula, just the simple “this team is going to beat this one” logic. Wisconsin has beaten some of the top teams in the NCAA tournament including Indiana twice, Ohio State, and Michigan. While I cannot stand their slow style of play, Bo Ryan’s boys will handle Kansas State rather easily. We’ve all seen what Shaka Smart is capable of and while he should be in Los Angeles soon coaching the UCLA Bruins, Smart is going to take his Rams to victory over a struggling Michigan team. Michigan looked like Final Four contenders at a certain point, but since have failed to amount to much of anything. Some say they peaked at the wrong time and I’d definitely agree with that statement. Florida looked awful yesterday and has looked awful at various points throughout the year. Unable to win a SEC Championship in a terrible down year for the SEC, the Gators are going to be shocked when a hungry Golden Gophers team comes around and beats them up.

Round Three looks a little something like this:

No Upsets.

I know it’s shocking, but I just don’t see any upsets happening in the Sweet Sixteen. Oklahoma State could take down St. Louis, but the Billikens have come on EXTREMELY strong as of late. Wisky could definitely beat Gonzaga, but again, I just think they have too much firepower for the big, slow Badgers. The game I am very wary of is Kansas beating VCU. I honestly think that Bill Self’s team could be headed back home after this game, but I could also be very wrong. The Jayhawks have laid low in terms of media hype for quite a while after a losing skid, but surprisingly jumped back on the bandwagon and were able to secure a number one seed. That streaky Kansas squad could make an immediate comeback and get blown out of the water early on. Watch out for that upset, one that I just wasn’t sure enough about to put on my bracket.

Round Four upsets:

Ohio State over Gonzaga and Georgetown over Kansas.

I wouldn’t really call Ohio State over Gonzaga an upset, but in terms of the Bracket, Gonzaga is a one seed while Ohio State is a two. Ohio State may be the dark horse to win it all after an atrocious start to the season. They haven’t lost since a drubbing in Madison, Wisconsin, have beaten Michigan State twice in that time, and took down Indiana in Bloomington on Senior Night. Aaron Craft is finally playing up to his potential and the Gonzaga Zags may not know what is coming their way. Kansas will not make the Final Four no matter what. That team we saw in the midway point of the season is going to comeback, it’s just a matter of when. Otto Porter and Georgetown, from the rough and tough Big East, are going to take down the Jayhawks on the way to Atlanta. If it’s not Georgetown, it will be somebody else, but again, Kansas is not cutting down the nets on their way to the Final Four.

My Final Four:

Louisville, Ohio State, Indiana, Georgetown.

How we got here:

Many people picked Miami to beat Indiana, that’s not going to happen. Miami is a decent basketball team in a down year for the ACC. Sure they beat Duke, but they also lost to Boston College. Outside of Duke, Miami hasn’t played great competition and when the Hoosiers come a-callin’, the Canes won’t be ready to answer. Louisville has shown their might, winning the Big East Championship, and may be the best team in this tournament. Duke has shown their flaws and Rick Pitino’s group is certainly going to  expose them. Georgetown just got the luck of the draw in terms of an easy road to the Final Four. Trashing Florida Gulf Coast, San Diego State, Minnesota, and Kansas, the Hoyas really were never challenged on the way to Atlanta. Ohio State had tough match-ups with New Mexico and Gonzaga, but they found a way to overcome both opponents. Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, and Sam Thompson have certainly found their way at just the right time, and the Buckeyes are primed and ready for a showdown against the Louisville Cardinals.

In the National Championship Game will be…

The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers.

When I said the Big Ten was by far the best conference in college basketball, I meant it. There will be two Big Ten teams in the Final Four, and they’re going to be the best two teams in the Final Four. Ohio State could very well be beaten by Louisville, but if I didn’t have faith in my Buckeyes, what would I have? They won’t lose in the Semi-Final two years in a row. They’ll find a way to beat the mighty Cardinals and make it to their first National Championship since Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. lead the Buckeyes to the Title Game in 2007. As for Indiana, they should take down Georgetown pretty easily. Their size will be too much, their stars will be too much, and their experience will be too much for the Hoyas.

In the National Championship Game, the Ohio State Buckeyes will beat the Indiana Hoosiers 75-74. Ohio State knows Indiana like the back of their hand. They’ve played these guys twice, and they’re going to know exactly how to handle the mighty Hoosiers. In their last matchup, Ohio State used Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott to rattle Indiana into 14 turnovers. They’re going to use that same tactic and regardless of Tom Crean’s gameplan to stop it, the best on-ball defender in the nation, Aaron Craft, is going to take down the Hoosiers almost single handedly.

So there you have it folks.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are your 2013 National Champions.

We all know that March Madness is named as such for a reason. It truly is a coin flip, pick out of a hat, tournament that anyone can win for any reason. I have reason to believe that my Buckeyes can get it done, but I also have reason to believe that Indiana, Louisville, or even VCU could take home the title as well. If I was completely unbiased, however, I would still pick Ohio State to win it all. They hit their stride at the right time and have played the toughest competition in America.

Of course, I am probably going to lose all of my bracket challenges, but it’s all in good fun. Some people have different methods to the “Madness”, and as you can see I went with conference supremacy. No method is truly accurate. Some who flip a coin see better results than those who research the teams and the games through and through. Regardless of who you pick, it’s all so much fun. Whether your bracket bleeds with red ink or is perfectly green, we can all enjoy this amazing little thing they call the NCAA Tournament.

I would really LOVE to see some of your thoughts on my picks as well as your own picks for March Madness. Let me know in the comments section of this page or on Twitter @H_Grove if you think I’m a genius or a basketball buffoon!

With New Team Can Calipari Oust Self This Time?

April 7, 2008. San Antonio, Texas. NCAA National Championship. Coach John Calipari has his Memphis Tigers up by nine points on the Kansas Jayhawks with 2:12 remaining in regulation. All that he and his team have to do is play good defense and hit clutch free throws to climb the ladders and cut the nets. But Kansas’ head coach Bill Self gives the Jayhawks the motivation to make an amazing comeback aided by Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts missing four of five free throws in the closing moments. That sets the stage for Mario Chalmers’ game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime. And the rest is history. Kansas used their momentum and pulled away from Memphis in overtime to win their first national championship in twenty years.

Now, Calipari and Self have their teams matched up again in the culmination of March Madness. But this time Continue reading With New Team Can Calipari Oust Self This Time?