Tag Archives: John Calipari

Mike Krzyzewski is as Overrated as Roy Williams is Underrated

When the question of the best coach in men’s college basketball gets asked, many immediately respond with Coach Mike Krzyzewski. He has over 1,000 career wins, five NCAA Championships and is currently the man leading USA Men’s Basketball at the Olympics.

His career numbers are impressive — since the 1983-84 season he has only missed one NCAA Tournament. There’s been 12 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season championships and 13 ACC conference tournament championships.

From the 96-97 to 00-01 seasons Duke won five straight regular season titles. The final three years of that stretch included three straight ACC tournament championships to go with the regular season titles. There were two Final Four’s, with an NCAA Championship in 00-01.

That was easily the most dominant stretch of Coach K’s coaching career.

While Duke won the NCAA Tournament in the 2014-15 season, it’s been six years since they’ve won the ACC regular season, and five since they’ve won the ACC Tournament. That’s a decent drought for a coach considered head and shoulders above his peers.

Back to the question — Who is the best coach in men’s college basketball? How many names were brought up before Roy Williams? I personally don’t put him in my top 5, which is telling since North Carolina is one of three teams I follow closely.

He’s often labeled as a coach who gets by with the talent on his roster, one who lacks the ability to make in-game adjustments. Sometimes it seems as if UNC finishes games with more timeouts than they started with.

Furthermore, there’s criticism that he’s been unable to land top-tier high school prospects in recent years. It’s pretty impressive when you can be accused of relying on your team’s talent, while also being blasted for the lack of it.

Williams has won 16 regular season conference championships, including seven as the head coach of UNC. He has two national championships in eight trips to the Final Four.

Yet, he’s overlooked by the public, underrated amongst his own fan base.

Where Coach K and Duke don’t have an ACC regular season championship in six years, Williams and UNC have three. That’s telling for two elite coaches in the same conference — with a large gap in how they’re perceived by the public.

Coach K very may well be the best coach around, but good ol’ Roy deserves some respect as well.

For what it’s worth, here is my top 5 list of active men’s college basketball coaches:

  1. Rick Pitino (7 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
  2. Tom Izzo (7 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
  3. Mike Krzyzewski (12 Final Fours, 5 National Championships)
  4. John Calipari (4 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)
  5. Jim Boeheim (5 Final Fours, 1 National Championship)

Active wins leaders:

  1. Mike Krzyzewski, 1043
  2. Jim Boeheim, 989
  3. Roy Williams, 783 (8 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
  4. Rick Pitino, 743
  5. Bob Huggins, 719 (2 Final Fours)

While I applaud Krzyzewski for building Duke into the power it is today, I still can’t shake the feeling that too many of his teams in recent memory have underperformed. Top-level talent should produce consistent top-level results — both in the regular season and postseason.

This is why I give Pitino and Izzo the top spots, they’ve done more with less.

Coach K is overrated — somehow the coach who has won more games than anyone, hasn’t won enough. Roy Williams is underrated — viewed as a man just trying not to screw up a program that runs itself.

‘Tis how it goes when you’re the head men at Duke and North Carolina.

E-mail Zak at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @playorbplayd.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bryan Horowitz

The NCAA Values Integrity – At Least When it Comes to Their March Madness Bracket

As conference championship week finished up, we sat eagerly in front of our television sets as we inched closer to CBS going live with this year’s edition of Selection Sunday. Some felt like winners and some felt like losers. This is the nature of the beast when it comes to this High Holy Day in college basketball.

Frank Haith’s Tulsa team felt like a winner. Haith’s Golden Hurricane went 20-11 in the AAC and was considered a bubble team as they tipped off against Memphis in a quarterfinal game of their conference tournament. After losing 89-67 to Josh Pastner’s Tigers, Tulsa’s bubble appeared to have burst. However, as the brackets were unveiled, the selection committee resuscitated Tulsa’s season and paired them against Michigan in a Wednesday night play-in game. You know what they say: Faith in Haith.

Kentucky, of all teams, felt like a loser. After going 26-8 and finishing tied for the regular season SEC conference crown with Texas A&M, the Wildcats beat the Aggies 82-77 to win the SEC Tournament which evened their head-to-head season record with the Aggies at 1-1. John Calipari felt like a loser on Selection Sunday because Texas A&M was awarded a 3-seed in the South while Kentucky was awarded a 4-seed in the East. Kentucky believed that the starting time of the SEC Championship game placed them at a disadvantage when it came to the committee and seeding. Yes Coach Cal., you were screwed out of your rightful place as a 3-seed. Whatever.

On Selection Sunday, Tulsa was on the highest of highs and Kentucky would have seemed to have been on the lowest of lows, but there was an entity who felt even more slighted than Kentucky and that entity was the NCAA. You see, the NCAA agreed to offer CBS the broadcasting rights to a 2 hour extravaganza that would feature the insight of Charles Barkley, because if there’s one person who is considered a college basketball expert and 21st century technological genius, it’s Barkley. Isn’t it?

The reason that the NCAA felt like the real loser is that someone leaked the committee’s full bracket prior to the CBS broadcast airing in its entirety. Some fans and teams found out about the seeding and regions prior to Charles Barkley being able to finish engraving the results on his stone tablets. This compromised information was seen as a complete lack of integrity and the NCAA vows to find the culprit responsible for this breach of trust.

When it comes to their NCAA tournament brackets, the NCAA is all about integrity, but when it comes to the actual important things, integrity seems to be an after-thought for the NCAA.

Remember when Frank Haith was still at Miami and was involved with Hurricanes booster, Nevin Shapiro? The NCAA embarked on one of their long, drawn out hunts for the truth. As this hunt played out, it became known that the NCAA had Shapiro’s lawyer on their payroll as they paid attorney Mario Elena Perez between $20,000 and $25,000 for information about Shapiro.

The NCAA’s enforcement director, Julie Roe Lach, was accused of paying Perez in order to improperly obtain information about Shapiro. As stated in the ESPN article:

The NCAA, which is conducting an external review of what it called “improper conduct” by its enforcement arm, said Tuesday that it has nothing further to say about the payment.

“Whether or not Julie approved [the action], it will be part of the external review process,” NCAA spokesman Bob Williams told CBSSports.com. “However, the review is solely focused on enforcement.”

The NCAA has said its enforcement staff worked with Shapiro’s defense attorney to obtain information improperly through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve its investigation of Miami. The NCAA did not name the attorney, but Perez told the South Florida Sun Sentinel she did not collude with NCAA investigators.

But remember, the NCAA values integrity. At least when it comes to their March Madness brackets.

As anyone who follows college sports knows, the NCAA claims to own the likenesses of all of the collegiate athletes. College athletes are forbidden from making money off of their own likeness, but that doesn’t stop the NCAA from cashing in on its stars.

In August of 2013, Jay Bilas went on one of his anti-NCAA rants. This time it was about the NCAA forbidding the players to benefit from their likenesses while at the same time selling merchandise on the NCAA website that was specifically beging marketed with the likenesses of the players.

But remember, the NCAA values integrity. At least when it comes to their March Madness brackets.

In 2012, the NCAA was investigating UCLA and its recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad. During investigations, the NCAA likes all involved parties to stay tight-lipped. They essentially place a gag order on anyone associated with the investigation, because, you know, integrity. That however did not apply to the NCAA and their assistant director of enforcement, Abigail Grantstein.

Grantstein evidently discussed the case in depth with her boyfriend and that boyfriend spoke about the investigation while on a commercial flight. This essentially tainted the case and Muhammad’s attorney had this to say in the LA Times article:

“This puts a far brighter light on the failings of the NCAA process, and it calls into question the impartiality of the decision,” Orr said. “They have prolonged this investigation, trying extraordinarily hard to find some basis to rule Shabazz ineligible — for whatever reason, and I don’t know what that reason is.”

But remember, the NCAA values integrity. At least when it comes to their March Madness brackets.

No program is truly “clean.” To be a “clean” NCAA program is virtually impossible, but the NCAA seems to enforce their rules subjectively and their hammer of justice is even more subjective than their investigative processes.

If you’re a coach at a blue blood program or are considered a blue blood coach, the NCAA takes what amounts to a hands off approach when it comes to their enforcement procedures. In the linked article, Reid Forgrave offered a now infamous quote from former UNLV coach, Jerry Tarkanian:

“The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky it’s going to give Cleveland State two more years probation.”

While Tarkanian may have been exaggerating a little bit, there is still some truth to his comment. While the NCAA is busy placing their handcuffs on Bruce Pearl, Donny Tyndall and Kim Anderson, others like Rick Pitino and Roy Williams will be allowed to continue doing what they’re doing.

There is something to remember about Kim Anderson’s situation and that is that he was not the coach responsible for any of these transgressions, Frank Haith’s coaching staff was the responsible party and we all know what Haith is doing in March. He’s “going dancing.”

But remember, the NCAA values integrity. At least when it comes to their March Madness brackets.

When all of this is considered, it is difficult to have empathy for the NCAA as they moan about being the victim at the hands of an unnamed entity who did not respect the integrity of an NCAA process.

The NCAA can turn a blind eye to things like hookers and fake classes but they apparently draw the line at deep throating their field of 64.

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

*Featured image courtesy of en.wikepedia.org

Bo Ryan Retired His Way

Upon hearing the news of Bo Ryan’s surprising retirement in a post game press conference after a victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christie, I imagine most Wisconsin Badgers fans were just as shocked as I was. I’m sure most thought the time would be coming soon, possibly after this season, but the timing and nature of this surprise exit was a bit peculiar.

Bo Ryan is a basketball coaching legend, and has more than earned the right to retire whenever and however he pleases. My hope is that this was exactly that for him. Sometimes, it is just time. Such an old school and stand-up man as Bo Ryan must have been convinced of that to retire in the middle of the season.

After almost retiring last summer in the wake of taking the Badgers to 2 straight Final 4 appearances, coming within 5 points of a National Championship against Duke just last year after dethroning John Calipari’s undefeated Kentucky Wildcats, it is not incredibly shocking. After losing key contributors Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker to the NBA after last season’s run, the fact that Bo was coming back was exciting, but college basketball knew it wouldn’t be for long. He had since said he may retire after this year, or continue coaching depending on how he was feeling. All Badgers fans were braced for the decision as this season drew to an end. I think the part that catches me off guard is how it happened. In a post game press conference he gives a 10 minute statement and retires, before not taking questions and leaving. Walking off into the sunset, just like that.

Because we are selfish fans we feel as though we’ve been robbed of the opportunity to send him off in fashion. I would’ve liked to watch that game knowing it was Bo’s last game. The ovations and overtures from the Kohl Center crowd would’ve been emotional and inspiring to witness. The media could’ve been assembled and waiting for a glorious send off, bantering with Bo one last time. Badger fans would’ve been glued to the retirement announcement, feeling satisfied they honored their legendary coach in a proper sendoff. Fans will get a chance to honor Bo in some fashion to be sure. For now, we’re left to see how this season unfolds under new head man and long time trusted Bo assitant Greg Gard.

Greg Gard has been coaching with Bo Ryan since Bo was the head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1994. He joined Bo’s staff before Bo won his 2nd of 4 NCAA Division III titles there that year. He is a man that Bo Ryan trusts to carry on his legacy with this team. It may be the case that Ryan retired in the middle of this season in an effort to ensure Gard got his chance to be the head man after all these years.

As much as Bo has earned the right to retire whenever and however he wants, I believe he has also earned the right to name his successor. I don’t think many Badger fans would disagree with me. Many longtime figureheads of institutions are given this opportunity. I don’t believe Bo Ryan was confident that Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez1Coincidentally, Barry named his own successor, Bret Bielema., a Wisconsin legend in his own right, was going to give Bo that honor. Bo Ryan believed Greg Gard was the best man to take over for him and run the Wisconsin Men’s Basketball program. Barry Alvarez did not.

I could probably coach the bball team too, fyi.
I could probably coach the bball team too, fyi.

When word came out about Bo retiring last summer it made sense. No better time to go out than on top. Bo could only feasibly be coaching so much longer anyways. When he decided to return for this year, we could make sense of that too. The fire still burns. We’ve seen him stalk the sideline and we know he’s got plenty left for another season or two, having been re-energized by the recent deep runs in March.

With hindsight, another narrative begins to seep to the surface. When Bo announced his retirement in the summer, there’s no doubt he intended on Greg Gard being his successor. He as much as said so in his statement. Barry Alvarez did not agree with this, and wanted to look to hire someone that was in his mind a better candidate. After all, this may be Barry’s last big hire as AD.

Greg Gard will coach the Badgers this season thanks to his long time mentor. The task will be tall and the challenges many. This isn’t a team projected to go back to the Final 4. Gard’s success can not be judged fairly on wins and losses alone this year. If he has a chance to win the job, then he can be judged on his record and recruiting progress after next year. I think he’s earned the right to show us. If he’s good enough for Bo, he’s good enough for me.

Basketball in Madison wasn’t exactly great before Bo arrived. Thankfully for Wisconsin fans, Bo knows basketball. They hadn’t won a conference title in 55 years until Bo’s Badgers got a share of one in 2002. Badgers teams would average 25.5 wins with Bo at the helm. Quite a welcome change from the past. With 364 wins coaching in Madison, the Badgers never missed an NCAA Tournament on Bo’s 14 year watch, getting to the sweet 16 or further on half of those trips. They also never finished worst than 4th place in the Big Ten, an amazing feat in itself. He has an all-time best win percentage of .717 in conference play. To think that his tenure at Wisconsin was just the end of an amazing college basketball coaching career with a record of 747-233 with 4 National Championships is quite amazing. He won those titles with his teams at Platteville, with 2 of them going undefeated for the season2Only 3 teams have gone undefeated for the entire season in Division III – Bo Ryan had 2 of them..

Bo isn’t the type of guy to need any type of emotional send off. That type of fuzzy stuff is for us fanatics. He brought his lunch pail to work just like any other day, and afterwards he went home and retired that old lunch pail. He can eat at home now. He could also get a bite to eat at one of many fine establishments in Madison. My guess is there will be many appreciative Badger fans waiting to shake his hand and thank him for the memories. Not many in Wisconsin take what he’s done for granted. I know Greg Gard doesn’t.

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1. Coincidentally, Barry named his own successor, Bret Bielema.
2. Only 3 teams have gone undefeated for the entire season in Division III – Bo Ryan had 2 of them.

Remembering The Shot Heard ‘Round The World at Assembly Hall

While shooting baskets on the gym floor at Shades Valley High School, a medium-sized public school in Irondale, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, a young man dreams of basketball grandeur. All alone in the gym, sweat pouring from his forehead from an afternoon’s practice, the final seconds in the big game of the high school state tourney ticked off in his mind. He takes the pass, fakes left, moves right, lets loose a twelve foot jump shot and …. And the ball twangs off the rim and the player grabs the ball and starts the dream and the count down again.

But no dream could have ever envisioned what one day actually would come true.

Cheerful Chaos

It was a more than crisp day in Bloomington, Indiana on December 10, 2011. In the heat of the afternoon, the temperature was a steamy 32 degrees, up from the night-time low of 14.

Students had started to line up outside Assembly Hall ten hours before tipoff. The moment the doors were unlocked students raced – literally – to their seats. As loud as the place has ever been, the crowd had to be warned twice by the officials to stop screaming obscenities at Kentucky before the game even started. Both teams with identical 8 and 0 records, the unranked Hoosiers were taking on the number one ranked Wildcats, televised by ESPN drawing its top crew and Dick Vitale.

The young man from Birmingham sat on the edge of his chair, waiting impatiently for the announcer to bellow his name. At the other forward, a 6-9 junior from Birmingham, Alabama, number two, Christian Watford. The crowd exploded with noise as the tip off was just seconds away.

Watford scored 20 points that afternoon but people only remember the last three.

The game was a typical Indiana-Kentucky contest – wild, intense, and filled with momentum shifts and changes. Wildcat Anthony Davis missed the front end of a one-and-one with about 20 seconds to go, and Deron Lamb missed a free throw with 5.6 seconds left. Down 72 to 70, Watford inbounds the ball to Verdell Jones III who pushes the ball up the court and to the left side of the basket. Cut off, he spins and fires a pass to the only open man, a trailing Christian Watford.

“It felt great,” Watford later said, “but you can’t really tell if it’s going in. But I got it off, it felt great, it looked like I got enough rotation on it.”

It went in.

The crowd poured onto the floor as easily as the Gatorade poured onto Coach Crean’s head.

Family had to be hugged. Moments after raising his fist in the air, Coach Crean went racing through the crowd, desperately looking for his wife and kids. Victor Oladipo went into the stands looking for his mother, who had come all the way from Maryland to watch the game. High fives outnumbered the tears among the Hoosier faithful, but not by many.

Just as iconic as the photograph of the net stinging from Watford’s buzzer-beating shot was a lifetime memory a few moments later atop the scorer’s table. Watford, Oladipo and Verdell Jones III and Will Sheehey were perched above the jubilant crowd, all four sporting grins that stretched from Terre Haute to Richmond. Today in Bloomington the kings held court. And the subjects were appreciative. A good fifteen minutes after the game, the noise inside Assembly Hall was still deafening. Like the sound of the bombastic water of Niagra Falls. Like the roar of the engines at the Speedway for the Indy 500. Like the bursting decibel levels of the finale at the July 4th fireworks extravaganza.

This is what Indiana basketball is all about.

Monumental Turn Around

“I hate to lose, but if I’m to lose, losing to Tommy is fine because what he’s done here in four years and having to do it the way he did it where you’re undermanned and now you’re trying to fight,” UK’s Coach John Calipari would say. “For him to have this happen for him and his family, I’m happy for them. They deserve to win the game.”

A win like this had been an eternity coming. The win had at least three major impacts upon the Indiana program under Coach Crean.

  1. The college basketball radar once again had a blip on it called Indiana University. Indiana was 9 and 0 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. The year was the first winning campaign under Coach Crean. It was the first time that the Hoosiers had taken down a number one team since the NCAA tournament in 2002 when they upset Duke by one point. It was only the second time that IU had beaten a top-ranked team at Assembly Hall.
  1. The expectations of the Indiana basketball fan changed. Up until this point, IU fans understood that the program was being rebuilt, from the ground up as it were. There were expectations of playing well, but winning was still a year or so away. The teams that Indiana had beaten on the road to this win were the likes of Stony Brook, Chattanooga, Evansville and Savannah State. But this was Kentucky. Number One Kentucky. Kentucky who should be playing in the NBA Kentucky. Expectations were no longer in the future. Expectations were now
  1. Today Coach Crean lives in the shadow of that shot. Every coach has shadow moments – moments from which everything else is judged. It is as if that moment casts a shadow that makes nothing else seem important unless it equals or eclipses that shadow.

Take Coach Knight. Hired in 1971, Knight’s first season cast several shadows because of the incredible difference in style and quality from Indiana’s recent past. The very next season included a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Final Four. Shadows. Not to be out-done, Knight brought an undefeated regular season to the 1974-75 year only to lose in the NCAA to arch nemesis Kentucky. More shadows. The next season brought the NCAA’s last entirely unbeaten season as the Hoosiers brought the championship trophy home to Bloomington. From that point on, the shadow for Knight’s teams was a championship.

When they are being stretched, the shadows hide mistakes and miscues – like a thrown chair or a punched Puerto Rican policeman. But when they aren’t being stretched, the shadows never quite reach the present – like foul-mouthed tirades, restaurant scuffles, or Neil Reed.

Up until this shot, Coach Crean’s shadow moments at Indiana had been triumphs that stretched the shadows.  Literally assembling his first team from scratch after the recruiting season was virtually over, his first year brought an air of respectability from disgrace. Wins weren’t as important as the desire to do right. Talented recruits began to return to the Hoosier bench. Games became more competitive. And then came the shot.

Watford’s shot was a shadow moment for Coach Crean – a moment that now must either be equaled or surpassed. The shot heralded the return of the era when Indiana could not only beat the best teams in the country, they could be the best team in the country. Now the shadow from the shot demands they prove it with another banner.

Unfortunately for Crean, he will always be measured also by the shadows cast by Coach Knight. That’s why this year is so important. That’s why somehow Indiana players and fans need to boisterously challenge this team to greater heights.

It would be a shame to leave Coach Crean in the shadows.

 

 

Five You Must See: Week 3

It’s week three and the matchups are getting more interesting.  Here are your five must-see games on this weekend’s schedule:

#11 Clemson at Louisville, Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Photo: Bart Boatwright/ Staff - Greenvilleonline.com
Photo: Bart Boatwright/ Staff – Greenvilleonline.com

This game will go a long way in determining who will win the ACC.  Clemson will obviously be the favorite considering they’re the ranked team and Louisville has struggled with consistency in both of their games.  The Cardinals were picked by some to be a possible dark horse in this year’s ACC race.  So far, that hasn’t looked like a smart pick, but a win here would make people forget all about their two losses.  It would also mean they’ve cleared one of the two giant hurdles in their way with a trip to Florida State looming.  It’ll be interesting to see how Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson plays in his first real challenge this fall.  If he and the Tigers win the turnover battle they should have no trouble winning this one.

#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame, Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Notre Dame lost their running back in week one and their quarterback in week two.  Not having Malik Zaire for the rest of the season will really hurt the Irish offense.  It will likely take some time for everyone on that side of the ball to get back on the same page.  Georgia Tech is not the opponent against whom you want to start that process.  The Yellow Jackets, led by Justin Thomas, are the best in the nation at running the triple option.  The Irish defense has their work cut out for them and needs to come up big to give their team a shot at winning this one.

#18 Auburn at #13 LSU, Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS

Auburn hasn’t looked good at all.  That’s mostly because Jeremy Johnson, a guy who most thought would be at least solid, has been solid at best.  Auburn might be able to beat weak teams without good quarterback play, but when facing SEC competition they’ll need Johnson to perform far better than he has.  LSU already has a conference win, but we don’t know much about them other than their running back Leonard Fournette is a beast.  Both these teams will show us what they’re made of in this game.  I guarantee the Tigers win.

#15 Ole Miss at #2 Alabama, Saturday 9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

This is a rematch of last year’s classic that saw the Rebels score 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to topple the Tide.  Tuscaloosa hosts College Gameday this go-around and the home fans are craving revenge.  Nick Saban is the richest man in coaching, both in terms of money and available talent.  He has the winning formula hidden in a secret compartment in his desk.  This will be a good game until the fourth quarter when the Tide pull away.

#19 BYU at #10 UCLA, Saturday 10:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1

Photo: Gary A. Vasquez - USA Today Sports
Photo: Gary A. Vasquez – USA Today Sports

Everyone is setting themselves up for disappointment by rooting for BYU here.  It’s hard not to because of the way they’ve won their first two games, but they’re overmatched in this one.  UCLA’s first ever true freshman starting quarterback Josh Rosen is the real deal.  He makes all the throws with ease.  Head coach Jim Mora is building something special while everyone’s attention is directed at his crosstown rival.  The distance between the established tenth-ranked Bruins and the newly-ranked #19 Cougars will be painfully obvious.

The ‘Better as a Basketball Game’ of the Week

The Florida Gators travel north to Lexington for a game against the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday.  It took triple overtime for the Gators to edge the Cats 36-30 in last fall’s tilt.  This will be another good football game.  Recently though, when these two have met on the hardwood it’s been for control of the SEC.  Watching Billy Donovan try to match John Calipari is entertaining.  You’ll have to wait a couple more months for that.  In the meantime, enjoy watching two programs aim for their first 3-0 start in years (2012 for Florida, 2010 for Kentucky).  Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST on the SEC Network.

The NCAA And Actionable Intent

Should athletes be allowed to return to school after declaring for NBA, NFL drafts? That is the question Natalie Pierre posed on July 6, 2015 on al.com. As Natalie states, this proposal is on the table and seems to have a better than average chance of passing through the NCAA rules committee.

The biggest argument that I have heard in opposition to this rule change is that it would make recruiting even more difficult for the coaching staffs. This argument is difficult to swallow when considering the job jumping that coaches are allowed to engage in. It doesn’t matter if the coach is under contract and it doesn’t matter how close to the end or start of the season the coach decides to leave one job for another.

So that obviously begs the question; why should coaches be granted more individual freedom than the kids are granted? The simple answer is that they shouldn’t be granted more individual freedom. Coaches and the players should have the same level of individual freedom.

If the argument against allowing the athletes to return to school after declaring for their draft is that it will make recruiting difficult, well a similar argument can be made for not allowing coaches to change jobs whenever they please. When a coach leaves, that can quickly change the entire landscape of a team. Player A commits to both a school and a coach and has an expectation of a certain style of play and a certain caliber of teammate. When the coach picks up and leaves at the last minute, *cough* Frank Haith *cough*, existing recruits may no longer be interested in the school and some existing players may want to transfer. For the players that are left, it’s not exactly an atmosphere conducive to winning.

But as the rules stand now, the players are placed at that disadvantage while the coaches are permitted to come and go as they please.

And let’s not sell the coaches short. They are not only masters of Xs and Os, but they are also executive level managers. If this proposed rule change happens, my guess is that the coaches will adjust.

As the article states, some coaches would have no problem with the rule change. Kentucky coach John Calipari believes that allowing the athletes to come back to school after declaring for the draft to be a good idea. He stated:

“We’re finally moving in a direction where it favors the kids and that’s what we should be doing.”

Now I will admit, this is an easy stance for Coach Calipari to make. He is already vilified for welcoming as many 1-and-dones as he does and is accused of ruining the college basketball game. Based on his acceptance of these types of athletes, he would have no problem adapting because he already supports the individual ownership the players take to their careers and supports an environment that leads kids, regardless of how long it takes, to achieving their dreams.

For a coach that is accused of taking advantage of college players and the system, he is the one who seems to have the best interest of the players in mind.

Ms. Pierre offers some statistics about the percentage of college basketball and football players who declare for the draft and are not drafted. This should be considered completely irrelevant to the argument. It is not the responsibility of the school or coach to ensure success for the players. That responsibility falls on the players. The coach does have a responsibility to offer an honest assessment of the player’s skill level, but past that it is completely up to the player.

To the players who leave school early and are drafterd, to you I say, “congratulations.” As for those players who leave school early and are not drafted, I say, “to bad. You made a poor individual choice.”

This leads to a larger point about the NCAA. In the eyes of the NCAA, simply saying you want to do something is the equivalent of action. Ah, the thought police rearing its absurd head. The NCAA claims to be an amateur athletic organization. If an athlete declares for the draft, receives guidance from their coaching staff and receives a draft grade from the professional franchises, so be it. That is not the same as signing with an agent. To me, once that contract with the agent is signed, that is when actionable intent has occurred.

The NCAA’s tentacles have extended well past any reasonable boundary line. Their grasp has extended into what the players want to do rather than what they have actionably done. If they decide to change this rule, I will be the first person to stand and applaud.

Interested in more Campus Pressbox columns like this one?

Sports and Morality; I Am I and You are You

The Socialist Mind Of Doug Gottlieb

Mississippi St Stipends And The Altruistic Web They Weave

The Federal Government Is Knocking On The Door Of The NCAA

*feature image courtesy of lockerdome.com

Best and Worst: Final Four and Championship Monday

Duke bball picture

It’s all over. Nothing left to debate, ok, wait. Nothing left to debate? Nah, there is plenty to talk about after the Final Four weekend and the National Championship on Monday night. There were plenty of great things that occurred with the Final Four and a just a few things that were not so great. Overall, I thought the championship round was a good one to watch in 2015.

Best: Michigan State making the Final Four as a number seven seed. Do we even doubt the coaching brilliance of Tom Izzo anymore? I won’t. I didn’t really doubt him at the beginning of this tournament anyways, but he put together a run that was fun to watch. It did help that Villanova bowed out early to help pave the way for Sparty’s run to the Final Four. Watching Trice, Valentine, and Dawson play hard, tough nosed basketball was a thing of beauty. However, watching Izzo get his troops ready for battle was fun to watch as well. He made them believe that they could compete with anybody, that anything was possible. They say a team takes on the personality of its coach and it was very apparent that this is what happened with this year’s version of Michigan State. The players bought in. How can you not buy in? Coach Izzo is a proven commodity. It was his seventh Final Four appearance, but certainly not his last. It would not surprise me to see him back in the Final Four or cutting the nets down on a Monday night next year.

Wisconsin ruining Kentucky’s chance at history. If there was EVER a team that people got behind as the tournament progressed, it was Wisconsin. You had a team that had a perception of playing hard nosed defense, being very deliberate on offense, playing as a team, and having a coach that was about as no-nonsense as a coach can be. It provided for some great drama. They got a second chance at a Kentucky team that had beat them in a close game the year before, but this year they also got to crush the Wildcats dreams of being undefeated. Kentucky was certainly the bigger hyped team, they had height, talent, and a coach that was known for getting one-and-done players to sacrifice their own game for the good of the team. Wisconsin played disciplined, Sam Dekker made some more timely buckets, Frank “the tank” pulled players away from the basket and used his considerable skills to keep the Wildcats off balance enough to pull off the upset. Bottom line is that Wisconsin made plays, Kentucky did not.

The amount of NBA type of talent on the floor was another thing I enjoyed watching. I say “type” of talent simply because you never know how some of these players and their “game” translate to the next level. Watching Towns of Kentucky dominate in the middle during the tourney was amazing to watch, seeing Frank Kaminsky use his footwork to create shots and to watch him pop shots from the 3-point arc made me wonder how he would be at the next level. Willie Cauley-Stein was blocking shots and running down the court stride for stride with a guard showed me that he could possibly be a player on the NBA level. Jahlil Okafor of Duke, who, for me is the best big prospect in college this year showed how he could dominate in the blocks. Okafor has immense hands, a big lower body which will help him bang with NBA big men, he has to improve his footwork and develop some more low post moves, but he has all the basics that an NBA GM wants to see. Now, he had some problems with fouling in the championship game, and that affected his output for the game, but I would take Okafor in a heartbeat. Question I have about some of the Kentucky talent is this. Do you draft either one of the Harrison twins? What about Dawson from Michigan State? Did Sam Dekker convince people that he’s a lottery pick? This will all play itself out in the next couple months.

Worst: Now there are not many things I would consider bad from the weekend and from Monday night, but they do revolve around game behavior and post-game comments. I realize that things get said in the heat of battle during a game and most of it is not PG variety. I’m fine with it, trash talking is part of the game, but complaining about call after call after call is not something I like seeing. Wisconsin was yapping after every call in the title game. It almost took away from my enjoyment of the game. They acted like NBA guys who are shocked that they fouled anybody, anytime. Hey Badgers, you do foul, it’s not the refs fault. There was talk that the refs had it in for Wisconsin and purposely were calling fouls on the Badgers and not as much on Duke. What? I agree that the officiating in the title game was a little sketchy, and everybody points to out-of-bounds call that the refs used replay with as an example. Ok, I got you there, but EVEN if the Badgers get the ball there they had not shown anything to suggest that they were going to score. Just because you have the ball, does not automatically mean that you will score the next basket. Fans want to make to make that leap with that particular call, but if they settle down and realize how the team was playing in the last 10 minutes of that game they would see that scoring in that situation was going to be a difficult proposition for them.

Bo Ryan showed that he can get a little sour when things don’t go his way. Ryan is a guy that needs to control things, he’s not what I would call a guy that evolves with the game of basketball. He didn’t like the physicality of the game and let that be known in post-game comments. “There was more body contact in this game than any game we played this year, and I felt sorry for my guys…” Ryan said. Let’s try and keep classy next time Bo. I know you’re disappointed in losing the title game, but there were other things that caused your teams defeat. How about an offense that isn’t really a come from behind type of offense or how about your teams inability to knock down shots? The Bo let it be known his feeling on the one and done type of player. He called them “rent-a-player”. Is this true? In a sense, yes, but it is the state of the game right now. Many coaches, including Coach K of Duke have come to terms with this state of the game. The players in college basketball have a certain amount of control right now, Bo Ryan, a man who likes control, can’t control a one and done player. As much Bo Ryan would want that type of talented player, that player doesn’t want Bo Ryan. He will either figure out how to evolve with this state of the game or the times just may pass him by.

Overall, it was a great weekend of Final Four action. The good certainly outweighed the bad and in the end, we were given a truly worthy champion in the Duke Blue Devils. Here’s to hoping that 2015-2016 is just as good.

 

 

Goliath’s Tale: Why Kentucky Deserves to be Remembered

America loves the underdog. Maybe because this nation was born as a scrappy fighter, colliding with a nearly invincible Goliath and coming out on top. When the giant falls a collective shout of glee is heard across the land. Tonight, the Wisconsin Badgers took their turn as the beloved little man and sent a colossus home by defeating the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four.

As Madison reveled in joy the formerly undefeated Wildcats descended in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium clearly crushed about the defeat. Outside of the Big Blue Nation not many will take time to notice the heartbreak of John Calipari’s team. After all the greater story is the unexpected victory by Frank Kaminsky and company.

While the underdog celebrates let us turn our thoughts to the slayed monster. What of his tale?

The narrative of the 2014-2015 Kentucky Wildcats will most likely be one of a team that danced with immortality and only to fall short like so many other great teams before them. This Kentucky team deserves to be remembered for so much more than that.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison began the season surrounded by whispers about their failure to follow in the “One and Done” tradition of many heralded Calipari recruits. They end this season with praise for Aaron’s innate ability as a clutch player and Andrew’s evolution into a true leader. The Harrisons deserve to be remembered for their redemption.

Tyler Ullis arrived as pint sized novelty. The talk around the Chicago product was that he was a nice backup plan after a higher ranked point guard committed elsewhere. As the season progressed Ullis morphed from a curiosity into a consummate floor general. Conversations about him started and ended praising his calm demeanor and superb ability as a floor general. Ullis deserves to be remembered for proving his critics wrong.

Willie Cauley-Stein surprised nearly everyone when he returned for his junior season. The formerly inconsistent center blossomed into the nation’s most versatile defender. Cauley-Stein deserves to be remembered for defying logic and enhancing his chance at success at the professional level.

For the past fifty years Kentucky basketball served as one of basketball’s greatest villains. Adolph Rupp is often remembered as the standard bearer for the days of segregated basketball. The program is known for scandals just as much as championships. Current Kentucky helmsmen John Calipari is the most polarizing figure in college basketball whether it be for rumors of shady dealings or his embrace of contemporary basketball culture.

Since November this Kentucky team has defied the negative perception attributed to the program. Nine coveted recruits willingly sacrificed playing time for the good of the team. They played hard and with relentless energy on defense. Most of all, the team was comprised of good natured and lovable young men. All of them deserve to be remembered for one of the greatest seasons in college basketball history.

History mayremember the triumph of Bo Ryan’s team but the giant they slayed deserves posterity just the same.

The Matchup Everybody Has Wanted To See All Year.

The college basketball nation will get the game that everybody has been calling for on Saturday night.

The #1 Wisconsin Badgers will take on the undefeated #1 Kentucky Wildcats in a showdown Saturday evening. This game has all the makings to be an instant classic that will be talked about for years to come. The Badgers seem to be the one team that has the makings to ruin the Wildcats perfect season to become the only team in the last 39 years to end their season with a goose egg in the loss column.

When talking to reporters, Wildcat head coach, John Calipari, gave credit where credit is due.

“And I’ve said all along I thought the three best teams were us, Wisconsin and Arizona — and Duke,” Calipari said. “And other teams are right there, but those four seem to be a little bit better than the others.”

And so he is right. The Badgers (35-3) will most likely represent the toughest team that the Wildcats (38-0) have played all season long. Going into Saturday, there are several things you need to look at.

For the Badgers, this will be their fourth time going into the Final Four in school history, repeating from last year’s success but would come up short to the Wildcats 74-73. The Badgers and coach Bo Ryan hope to have learned from last year, make it past the Wildcats and get into the national championship game, in which it will be the Badgers second appearance, in which the won against Washington State back in 1941 for their one and only title.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats will be going into their 17th Final Four in school history. If they get past Wisconsin, they would have made their second consecutive appearance in the championship game, losing to UConn last year 60-54.

Like I said earlier, this should be an instant classic and one for the ages. This should go down as one of the best college basketball games to be played in March Madness history. The nation will be glued to their television sets, or on edge of their seats at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. What could possibly be the keys to this game? Well, let’s take a look.

History will continue to be made or broken

As if you haven’t heard this all season long, the Wildcats have all the works to be the first undefeated team in 39 years since Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers back in the 1975-1976 season, in which the Hoosiers finished 32-0. For a young group of gentlemen that the Wildcats have, could this be added pressure for them? Can they stand the heat with this undefeated be lingering over them that they might crack under the pressure and the Badgers will take full advantage of this?

It’s not like this has loomed over their heads all season long, but in a big time game such as the one on Saturday, that pressure could break them.

The 3-ball doesn’t seem to be a huge threat with both teams

Going deep for both teams has not been the strongest point throughout the season for both schools. The Wildcats shot 34.7 percent from beyond the arch, and the number has decreased to 31.3 throughout the tournament. However, the Wildcats went 4-8 in the Elite Eight against the Irish. Maybe the 3-ball shooting has made a turnaround at the right time.

That 4-8 statistic can bode well for the Wildcats as the Badgers have allowed their opponents to make 37.4 percent of their 3-point shooting. However, the Badgers have responded in hitting 36.4 percent.

Under vs. Upper

As you know, the Wildcats are stacked with underclassmen.The Wildcats 16-man roster includes 11 underclassmen in which four freshmen lead the way with Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Trey Lyles.

However, the Wisconsin Badgers has been lead the way by the majority of their upperclassmen. Seniors Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson, and Josh Gesner, and junior Sam Dekker all have lead the way for the Badgers the entire season with a little help from Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig as the only underclassmen to start.

Let’s just see how the veterans do against the newbies of the college basketball world at such a big stage in the tournament.

Kaminsky vs Towns

Depending on whether or not that Calipari or Ryan decide to match these two up together, all eyes will be on them. Kaminsky leads the team with 18.7 ppg and 8.0 rpg and is pretty much the Badgers go to guy every time the Badgers have the ball, while Towns is pretty much a guarantee to be a top three pick in this summers NBA Draft. The only thing Towns has to worry about is not get into foul trouble early in the game or the Wildcats will lose their top guy in the paint.

A close game

Seeing as how this maybe the game you don’t want to miss of the tournament, I can’t see how this game is going to be a blowout. I believe this will be one of the tightest games you will ever watch.

What do I believe is going to be the difference maker in this game? I believe it is going to come down to free throw shooting.

According to most Vegas bookmakers, the Wildcats are a five-point favorite. That’s not surprising.

The Badgers go into Saturday’s game taking 19.2 free throws a game and making 14.7, creating a good chunk of their points all season. What could hurt the Wildcats is the fact that Wisconsin doesn’t foul all that much, having their opponents go to the charity stripe 11.5 times a game. One thing that the Wildcats could best the Badgers at is creating the problem of fouling for the Wildcats with their talent on the wing. The Wildcats are shooting 24.5 free throws a game and hitting 17.8 of them.

We are going to be in for a real treat come Saturday. We have the pleasure of witnessing one of, if not, the greatest game to be played in Indianapolis. May the best team win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best and Worst: Elite 8 Weekend

The NCAA Tournament is something made for television. There is drama, drama, oh, and more drama as the tournament progresses through the different rounds. This year has been no different than any other year for the NCAA. Here are some of the best and worst from the Elite 8 weekend.

Best: The big team match-ups. When you go through a weekend where you have great team match-ups from major programs, it is a delight to watch. When Arizona took the floor against Wisconsin on Saturday, there was revenge on the Wildcats mind for their loss to them last year in overtime during the Elite 8 round. The Badgers, on the other hand, wanted to show that they were not an afterthought for people wanting to see an Arizona/Kentucky match up in the Final Four. I was one of those people wanting to see that match-up. I’m a Pac-12 guy, writer, and was wanting to see how the Cats would stack up against Big Blue, but to my dismay, it’s not going to happen. Wisconsin showed their prowess to shoot the three ball in the second half and simply couldn’t miss. They made 10 three pointers in the second half to break the backs of the Arizona Wildcats. It was truly a spectacle watching Sam Dekker and his mates in the back court drain three after three after three. Now, it’s Wisconsin’s shot at defeating Kentucky.

Notre Dame and Kentucky was certainly one of the best things of this weekend. Watching the Irish in a position to pull off another major upset in college sports was incredible. The Irish came to play, played hard, tough, made big shots, and kept the Wildcats off balance for most of the game, but we know how this played out. To beat Kentucky, you have to be up big, making them start to panic. That didn’t happen. Letting the Cats hang around and feel that they are not out of the game is something you can’t let happen. The Irish did and paid the ultimate price for it.

Coach Calipari. As much as he is looked at as a pariah in college sports, can people start recognizing what a great coach he is? Please. Some people will say “Anybody could win that talent.” Well, Coach Cal has figured out a way to get these high school All-Americans to come to Kentucky and play team ball. He gets them to put their own personal stats aside to benefit the concept of “team”. He does all he can to get them to “The League”, even has his own pre-draft camp, so GM’s can come in and look and drool over his talent. Calipari has figured out how to play ball in the one and done era of college basketball. If he’s only going to have them for a year, why not get the most out of them while they are at Kentucky? The players love him and have shown to be extremely loyal to him and the program. He does have baggage and a reputation that precedes him, but if people want to hang on to that baggage to condemn him, then they need to also recognize what he has done on the positive side since he’s been at Kentucky. That probably won’t happen, but there are always to sides to an argument. Don’t forget that college basketball fans.

Watching Kentucky dismantle West Virginia. Some may say that this game was over before it started, and they may well have been right. This game was a highlight reel from the get go. Blocked shots, lock down defense, lob passes for big dunks and basically the Mountaineers look like a freshmen high school team. West Virginia was not helped by the mistimed comments by their freshman point guard Daxter Miles Jr saying that they were going to end the Wildcat season. You don’t put bulletin board material out there for a team like Kentucky. They will want to make you look stupid, and that is what they did to West Virginia.

Worst: The Pac-12 not being able to get somebody to the Final Four. Now, in all honesty, the Pac-12 really had only one team that had a legit shot at getting there. Arizona. The Pac-12 was a down conference this year in basketball and getting a team in the Final Four would have been a nice accomplishment for Arizona and the Pac-12. The tournament is about match-ups and Arizona ran into a team that had too fire power for them.

Notre Dame had Kentucky, had them. I think the time out that they wasted at the end, should have been held onto like precious gold. The shot that Jerian Grant had at the end of the game could have been much better if they could have had a time out to use to set something a little better up. They had six seconds and that is enough time to get a better shot off than a double clutch fade away three pointer from the corner with Kentucky bigs running down the court with you. I’m not saying Notre Dame wins the game by having that time out, but they would have a chance at a better shot to win the game. One of those things about Kentucky being in many big games compared to Notre Dame.

In the end, there were many more positives out of this Elite 8 than negatives for fans, media, and anybody else to focus on. The Final Four has what everybody wants, big name teams from big name conferences. Watching Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, and Michigan State battle it out for the title will be something to watch for every college basketball fan.