Who will be the next touted team to fail to live up to preseason hype? Freshman guard Ryan Boatright's return to defending NCAA champion Connecticut's lineup after his second NCAA suspension (totaling nine games) wasn't enough to right the Huskies' listing ship in 2011-12. Coupled with coach Jim Calhoun on and off the sideline before he retired in late summer, UConn (ranked #4 entering this year) joined the following list of more than 20 disappointing teams, including Michigan State under Tom Izzo three times in an eight-year span from 2003-04 through 2010-11, that were preseason Top 5 selections since 1968-69 but finished out of the AP's final Top 20 poll:
|Preseason Top 5 Team||Season||Preseason AP Ranking||Coach||Record||Top Players|
|Notre Dame||1968-69||4th||Johnny Dee||20-7||Austin Carr, Bob Arnzen, Bob Whitmore, Dwight Murphy, Collis Jones and Sid Catlett|
|Purdue||1969-70||3rd||George King||18-6||Rick Mount, Larry Weatherford, George Faerber, Bob Ford, William Franklin and Tyrone Bedford|
|Southern California||1971-72||3rd||Bob Boyd||16-10||Paul Westphal, Joe Mackey, Ron Riley, Dan Anderson and Mike Westra|
|Florida State||1972-73||2nd||Hugh Durham||18-8||Reggie Royals, Lawrence McCray, Otis Cole, Benny Clyde and Otis Johnson|
|Indiana||1976-77||5th||Bob Knight||14-13||Kent Benson, Mike Woodson, Wayne Radford and Derek Holcomb|
|Kansas||1978-79||5th||Ted Owens||18-11||Darnell Valentine, Paul Mokeski, John Crawford, Wilmore Fowler and Tony Guy|
|DePaul||1984-85||3rd||Joey Meyer||19-10||Tyrone Corbin, Kenny Patterson, Dallas Comegys, Marty Embry, Tony Jackson and Kevin Holmes|
|Indiana||1984-85||4th||Bob Knight||19-14||Steve Alford, Uwe Blab, Stew Robinson, Dan Dakich, Delray Brooks and Daryl Thomas|
|Louisville||1986-87||2nd||Denny Crum||18-14||Herbert Crook, Pervis Ellison, Tony Kimbro, Mark McSwain, Keith Williams, Kenny Payne and Felton Spencer|
|Michigan State||1990-91||4th||Jud Heathcote||19-11||Steve Smith, Matt Steigenga, Mike Peplowski and Mark Montgomery|
|Clemson||1997-98||5th||Rick Barnes||18-14||Greg Buckner, Terrell McIntyre, Harold Jamison and Tony Christie|
|Auburn||1999-2000||4th||Cliff Ellis||24-10||Chris Porter, Doc Robinson, Scott Pohlman, Daymeon Fishback, Mamadou N'diaye and Mack McGadney|
|UCLA||2001-02||5th||Steve Lavin||21-12||Jason Kapono, Billy Knight, Matt Barnes, Dan Gadzuric and T.J. Cummings|
|Arizona||2003-04||4th||Lute Olson||20-10||Hassan Adams, Salim Stoudamire, Channing Frye, Andre Iguodala and Mustafa Shakur|
|Michigan State||2003-04||3rd||Tom Izzo||18-12||Paul Davis, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert, Maurice Ager and Alan Anderson|
|Missouri||2003-04||5th||Quin Snyder||16-14||Arthur Johnson, Rickey Paulding, Linas Kleiza, Jimmy McKinney, Travon Bryant and Jason Conley|
|Georgia Tech||2004-05||3rd||Paul Hewitt||20-12||Jarrett Jack, B.J. Elder, Will Bynum, Luke Schenscher and Isma'll Muhammad|
|Michigan State||2005-06||4th||Tom Izzo||22-12||Maurice Ager, Paul Davis, Shannon Brown and Drew Neitzel|
|Louisiana State||2006-07||5th||John Brady||17-15||Glen Davis, Tasmin Mitchell, Terry Martin, Garrett Temple and Darnell Lazare|
|Texas||2009-10||3rd||Rick Barnes||24-10||Damion James, Avery Bradley, Dexter Pittman, J'Covan Brown, Gary Johnson and Dogus Balbay|
|Kansas State||2010-11||3rd||Frank Martin||23-11||Jacob Pullen, Rodney McGruder, Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels|
|Michigan State||2010-11||2nd||Tom Izzo||19-15||Kalin Lucas, Draymond Green, Durrell Summers, Delvon Roe and Keith Appling|
|Connecticut||2011-12||4th||Jim Calhoun||20-14||Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Ryan Boatright, Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, Tony Olander|
Has there ever been a coach in an elite "Power 6" league with a consistent track record for dramatic player development anywhere close to matching Wisconsin's Bo Ryan? In the next couple of years, Jared Berggren (1.1 ppg in 2009-10), Mike Bruesewitz (1.1 ppg in 2009-10) and/or Ben Brust (0.7 ppg in 2010-11) could join the following chronological list of Badgers who became All-Big Ten Conference selections under Ryan after averaging fewer than four points per game as a freshman:
Why didn't ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla say anything more incisive after Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State's ticking time bomb, committed a "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader" technical foul in the late stages of the Bulldogs' pre-conference loss at Baylor? Fraschilla's window-dressing whitewashing insulted the intelligence of viewers who certainly possess IQs a mite higher than the troubled MSU frontcourter. Perhaps Fraschilla doesn't boast the cojones credentials to do so although it should be an area of expertise for the former coach who reportedly dropped his pants during a locker-room spiel suggesting his St. John's players didn't measure up in the manhood department.
Meanwhile, commentator Len Elmore and his partner, clamoring for substantial facts, couldn't believe rumblings about Seth Greenberg's job status with Virginia Tech amid the Hokies getting hammered at home by Duke. Well, Greenberg deserves plaudits for defeating a nationally top-ranked team from the ACC three times in the previous five years - North Carolina in 2006-07, Wake Forest in 2008-09 and Duke in 2010-11. But here are some "facts" why Greenberg, who failed to recruit the son (Davidson All-American Stephen Curry) of VT's only NCAA consensus All-American (Dell Curry), is among the following alphabetical list of the 10 most overrated coaches from the top six leagues:
Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech - Posted only one NCAA playoff victory and one undisputed regular-season conference championship in his first 22 years. Only five winning league records in 15 campaigns with South Florida and the Hokies.
Do you agree with CollegeHoopedia.com on where Fraschilla, Elmore and other "Mouths That Can Bore" rank among the nation's color commentators?
NCAA Division I newbie North Dakota, relinquishing its most notable characteristic, began a rebranding process after shedding the school's Fighting Sioux nickname. The initiative stemmed from the state Board of Higher Education yielding to the NCAA's meddling progressive policy police following a six-year battle over the nickname and logo allegedly being hostile to American Indians.
Lo and behold, the school chose to respect the state's referendum process and resumed using the nickname in mid-season after an intense debate spurred supporters to file petitions demanding a statewide vote on the issue. By season's end, the heavyhanded NCAA responded by saying the school risked forfeiting postseason games if it failed to "take measures to minimize or eliminate the presence of the imagery."
Previous schools failing to show as much spunk as North Dakota and making politically-correct decisions by switching their supposedly demeaning and highly-insensitive nicknames were Arkansas State (changed from Indians to Red Wolves), Colgate (Red Raiders to Raiders), Eastern Michigan (Hurons to Eagles), Louisiana-Monroe (Indians to Warhawks), Marquette (Warriors to Golden Eagles), Miami of Ohio (Redskins to RedHawks), Oklahoma City (Chiefs to Stars), Quinnipiac (Braves to Bobcats), St. John's (Redmen to Red Storm), Seattle (Chieftains to Redhawks), Siena (Indians to Saints) and Southeast Missouri State (Indians to Redhawks).
For those insensitive louts nonpulsed by this holier-than-thou victimization obsession, are they to feel shame at the extent of the alleged discrimination? Rather than bow to pressure, many traditional observers hope the following "Last of the Mohegans" remain steadfast and retain their time-honored monikers: Alcorn State (Braves), Bradley (Braves), Central Michigan (Chippewas), Florida State (Seminoles), Illinois (Fighting Illini), Utah (Utes) and William & Mary (Tribe).
If not, left-wing zealots from PETA (unless they are card-carrying members of the parallel universe People for Eating Tasty Animals) and the Bird Lovers International crowd could possibly be next, feeling empowered to capitalize on this catalyst for constructive social change by making it a heartless foul to have any nickname referencing a precious animal or fowl. What was the cumulative cost for nickname changes and how many mental midgets did it take at the NCAA to concoct this colossal caricature intervention? No wonder it's so easy to ridicule the governing body with a name-calling barrage. In the aftermath of authentic turmoil at Miami (FL), Ohio State, Penn State, Southern California and Syracuse, many think there are more significant issues in intercollegiate athletics requiring correction from the NCAA rather than giving a selective outrage forum to pious pinheads manufacturing a mascot/nickname problem that really didn't exist at any meaningful degree.
Maryland named its court after Gary Williams, the school's all-time winningest coach who guided the Terrapins to the 2002 NCAA title during a span when he became the only mentor ever to defeat the nation's top-ranked team in four straight seasons (2000-01 through 2003-04). Surprisingly, Williams never was courted as national coach of the year by one of the major awards, joining other NCAA championship coaches such as Denny Crum, Joe B. Hall, Don Haskins, Rollie Massimino and Jim Valvano with this dubious distinction.
It doesn't seem possible, but active coaches Billy Donovan (Florida) and Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) never have been named national COY by a major award. Here is an alphabetical list of high-profile retired coaches who never received one of the five major national coach of the year awards since 1955 despite their significant achievements:
Dave Bliss - Compiled a total of 14 20-win seasons with three different schools.
Dale Brown - Led LSU to 15 consecutive postseason tournaments (1979 through 1993) en route to becoming the second-winningest coach in SEC history at the time (behind Adolph Rupp) in both overall and SEC games.
Denny Crum - Won 15 regular-season conference championships in the Missouri Valley and Metro in his first 23 seasons with Louisville; only coach to twice win conference and NCAA tournaments in the same year (1980 and 1986).
Don DeVoe - Compiled a total of 12 20-win seasons with three different schools.
Don Donoher - One of first 10 coaches to take his first three teams to the NCAA playoffs guided his first seven Dayton clubs to national postseason competition; posted double digits in victories all 25 seasons.
Lefty Driesell - One of only three different coaches to guide four different schools to the NCAA playoffs; captured conference tournament titles in four different leagues; only coach to win more than 100 games for four different schools en route to total of 786 victories; had 14 final Top 20 rankings.
Jack Gardner - Only coach to direct two different schools to the Final Four at least twice apiece.
Pete Gillen - Remarkable run with Xavier (winning five Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament titles in six-year span from 1986 through 1991) before posting 20-win seasons with Providence in the Big East and Virginia in the ACC.
Don Haskins - Captured four Western Athletic Conference Tournament championships with Texas-El Paso in a seven-year span from 1984 through 1990 while winning more than 20 games each of those seasons; compiled a total of 17 20-win campaigns.
Harry Litwack - Finished third with Temple in three consecutive national postseason tournaments (1956 and 1958 in NCAA and 1957 in NIT). Posted only one losing record in 21 seasons with the Owls through 1973.
Rollie Massimino - Averaged more than 20 victories annually in the 1980s; participated in 14 consecutive national postseason tournaments with Villanova and UNLV before coaching at small-school level in Florida.
Joe Mullaney - Reached the 20-win plateau nine straight seasons from 1958-59 through 1966-67, directing Providence to the NIT semifinals four times in the first five years of that stretch; won more than two-thirds of his games with the Friars decided by fewer than five points.
Tom Penders - Won at least 20 games with three different schools (Rhode Island, Texas and George Washington) a total of 10 times in a 13-year span from 1987 through 1999 before winning more than 20 games three times in six seasons with Houston.
Fred Schaus - Won Southern Conference Tournament championships each of his six seasons with West Virginia from 1955 through 1960 before posting winning records in Big Ten competition all six years with Purdue.
Billy Tubbs - Directed Oklahoma to 12 consecutive 20-win seasons, a Big Eight Conference best; took the Sooners to national postseason play his last 13 years with them before moving on to TCU and Lamar.
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson showed incredible fortitude last season dealing with the deaths of his grandparents and mother in less than a month during the 2010-11 campaign. If he keeps on improving at such a dramatic pace when he reaches the professional level, he could join the following "Magnificient 7" list of All-Americans who posted career scoring averages more than five points per game higher over more than 10 NBA seasons than they did in multiple college campaigns:
Player, School (College Average/NBA Averaqe/Scoring Increase)
Contentment can be elusive. There was more "green" in the newer contracts, but the grass isn't always greener when coaches departed their old stomping grounds for the brighter lights at other Division I schools. Just ask the following mentors for whom things don't look so bright this season:
The nation's NCAA Division I conferences have been in a frenetic restructuring stage. It might sound hostile, but Catholic institutions missed an ample opportunity to assertively advance their "birth-control" cause amid the chaotic quest for megaleagues by "birthing" their own alliance.
Catholics crossing the Obama Administration recently over birth-control coverage is nothing new. Several years ago, a Cardinal from Boston said the Democratic Party has been persistently hostile to opponents of abortion rights, asserting that the support of many Catholics for Democratic candidates "borders on scandal."
But also bordering on scandal were cardinal-faced coaches such as Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Louisville's Rick Pitino persistently trying in such a feeble fashion to abort the defections of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia from the Big East Conference to other prominent leagues in the near future. Excluding Syracuse and West Virginia, the other 14 current Big East members probably won't boast an All-American this season. And embarrassing non-conference defeats at home or on a neutral court show the league is a far cry from its strength last year when it boasted 11 NCAA playoff participants - Cincinnati (lost to Presbyterian and Marshall), Connecticut (UCF), DePaul (Milwaukee), Pittsburgh (Wagner), Providence (Northern Iowa), St. John's (Northeastern), Seton Hall (Northwestern), South Florida (Old Dominion and Penn State), Villanova (Santa Clara) and West Virginia (Kent State). Villanova, only three years removed from a Final Four appearance, might have been by season's end the worst team among the six major universities in Philadelphia (Big 5 plus Drexel). Meanwhile, Notre Dame was mauled against Missouri by 29 points in Kansas City when the Irish still had its best player (subsequently injured Tim Abromaitis).
Brey should have been a candle-carrying visionary praying at Notre Dame's Grotto for divine revelation regarding Catholics democratically strategizing together. Why didn't the Irish spearhead an illuminating alignment with other Catholic-based universities and create what immediately would have been one of the premier basketball conferences in the country? The formation of "The Tradition" could have featured a 16-team tradition-rich league with East and West Dioceses--Creighton, Dayton, DePaul, Detroit, Marquette, Notre Dame, Saint Louis and Xavier in the West; Georgetown, Holy Cross, La Salle, Providence, St. John's, Saint Joseph's, Seton Hall and Villanova in the East.
Lighting the way, the Catholic Conference could have been depicted as the last bastion of ethics and morality promoting a doctrine/philosophy where basketball is king for all of the athletic programs sans Notre Dame. Their non-league scheduling could have focused on being charitable on a regular rotating basis to like-minded Canisius, Fairfield, Fordham, Gonzaga, Incarnate Word, Iona, Loyola of Chicago, Loyola (Md.), Loyola Marymount, St. Bonaventure, St. Francis (N.Y.), St. Francis (Pa.), Saint Mary's, Saint Peter's, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Seattle and Siena.
Rather than worshipping at the almighty-dollar altar akin to the majority of their secular brethren, the Jesuit schools could have shown them how to live (morality) by exercising some basic beliefs (the faith itself) exhibiting ethical and more rigid academic standards.
At the risk of facing excommunication for being too flippant, the commissioner could have been loosely designated as pope, the league home office could have been referred to as the Vatican, coaches could have been called priests, referees could have been regaled as bishops, arenas could have been dubbed as cathedrals, the loop's bylaws could have been portrayed as their creed while game and press conference scheduling could have been the loop's liturgical calendar.
An average of nearly 50 Division I schools annually made head coaching changes since the mid-1990s. The dominoes normally start to fall during postseason conference tournaments. Following is an alphabetical list of active coaches who probably are looking over their shoulders:
Jesse Agel, Brown - Fourth time in as many seasons failing to reach a dozen victories.
Frankie Allen, Maryland-Eastern Shore - Fourth time in as many seasons with more than 20 defeats.
Bobby Braswell, Cal State Northridge - Third consecutive season with at least 18 defeats.
Matt Brown, Missouri-Kansas City - Averaged 20 defeats annually over five seasons with the Kangaroos.
Charlie Coles, Miami (Ohio) - School's all-time winningest coach faces third consecutive season with at least 17 defeats.
Doug Davalos, Texas State - Incurred at least 16 defeats all six seasons.
Matt Doherty, Southern Methodist--Sustained at least 15 defeats all six seasons.
John Dunne, St. Peter's - Averaged 20 defeats annually over six seasons.
Jerry Eaves, North Carolina A&T - Averaged 20 defeats annually over nine seasons.
Lennox Forrester, SIU-Edwardsville - Averaged 20 defeats annually over last four seasons.
Don Friday, St. Francis (Pa.) - Incurred at least 19 defeats all four seasons.
Mike Gillian, Longwood - Only one winning record in nine seasons.
Bill Grier, San Diego - Averaged 20 defeats annually over last three seasons.
Bill Herrion, New Hampshire - Sixth losing record in as many seasons.
Darrin Horn, South Carolina - Third consecutive season with at least 16 defeats.
Jason James, Tennessee-Martin - More than 20 defeats in each of first three seasons.
Brian Katz, Cal State Sacramento - Could be bound for fourth 20-loss season in as many years.
Chris Lowery, Southern Illinois - Fourth straight losing record in MVC competition.
Mark Macon, Binghamton - Averaged more than 20 defeats annually over first three seasons.
Ryan Marks, Texas-Pan American - More than 20 defeats each of first three seasons with the Broncs.
Chuck Martin, Marist - Averaged more than 20 defeats annually over four seasons.
Mike Miller, Eastern Illinois - Lost at least 18 games in six of seven seasons.
Randy Monroe, Maryland-Baltimore County - Appears bound to lose a minimum of 25 games for the third consecutive campaign.
George Nessman, San Jose State - Averaged 20 defeats annually over seven seasons.
Joe O'Brien, Idaho State - Averaged almost 20 defeats annually over six seasons.
Tom Parrotta, Canisius - Sixth non-winning record in as many seasons.
Randy Peele, Winthrop - Third losing record in last four seasons with perrenial Big South Conference power.
Mark Phelps, Drake - Fourth losing record in MVC competition in as many seasons.
Isiah Thomas, Florida International - Bound for at least 19 defeats for third time in as many seasons.
Jimmy Tillette, Samford - School's all-time winningest coach bound for sixth straight non-winning record.
Greg Vetrone, Fairleigh Dickinson - Third season with more than 20 defeats in as many years.
Bobby Washington, Grambling State - Third season with more than 20 defeats in as many years.
Ernie Zeigler, Central Michigan - No winning record in first six seasons.
Naturally, parental pride doesn't necessarily need to stem from athletics. Your child didn't have to be the best, but he had to do his level best.
Still, life goes on. How can a mom and dad express appreciation for all of the memories shared together?
Adding sports as a factor makes the lessons-learned equation more complex. Culminating at Senior Night, it takes a significant amount of resilience to endure withdrawal from all of the devotion and emotion, last-second shots, coping with occasional shooting slump, chance to dance in postseason competition, title dream dashed in close contest, team awards banquet, etc., etc., etc.
Who would have thought the first time he picked up a ball that he would make such a difference and stand so tall? The parent is fortunate to still have a pulse.
It's easy enough to substitute girl for boy in the following poem portraying a parent trying to come to terms with an impending spread-their-wings departure; whether it be from high school to college or from college to the "real world." These reflections might be therapeutic if you went through a similar range of emotions amid whatever success your own flesh and blood enjoyed along the way.
Lord, there's a little thing I need to know
Where in the world did my little boy go?
Packed and ready to depart might seem totally wrong
But it's a calling taking him where he does belong
Perplexed from time to time but one thing I know today
I'm a proud parent beyond words; what more can I say
Kids go through stages but not with this sort of speed
It was only yesterday he was unable to read
Wasn't it just months ago he went from crawl to walk
Hard-headed as a mule; certainly knew how to balk
Took one day at a time raising him the very best we could
Now inspires those around him just like we believed he would
High achiever turning a corner in his life
He has got what it takes to cope with any strife
Boasts a unique eye for talent except his own
Doesn't realize range of skills he has honed
Can't carry a tune but set school shooting star records
Now, the game-of-life clock dwindles from minutes to seconds
So angels above please watch over him daily
Although some of his antics may drive you crazy
He represents everything that I value the most
For that very reason, I'm offering a toast
If he feels sorry for himself and is about to give up
Do not hesitate to give him a gentle kick in the rump
Remembering what I did wrong but at least a couple things right
Always said you could do it; just try with all your might
I just yearn to see all of his grandest plans come true
God, it's my turn to have a great commission for You
Be with him, bless him and give him nothing but success
Aid his climb up that mountain; settle for nothing less
Although I know it is not a sin; don't let him dwell on what may have been
If things press heavy on his mind; minister with words that are kind
After he knows everything for sure, give him an exciting adventure
Comfort him if he is lonely; remind him he's a one and only
Feeling down and kind of blue; show again how dreams come true
When burdened by a bruised heart; present him a brand new start
If he is spinning his wheels; send one who knows how it feels
Embrace him when he is down; turn each bad day all around
When life doesn't seem fair; urge him to kneel in prayer
Guide his steps in the dark and rain; pick up the pieces and ease any pain
Time to share our best with the remainder of the world
It is much like having a family flag unfurled
How can a once young son make a grown man cry
Groping for right words trying to say goodbye
To me, he'll always be a pure and spotless lamb
Cradled in our arms or holding his little hand
If I was Elton John, I'd tell everyone this is "Your Poem"
Simply sing how wonderful life was with you in our home
My soul swells with pride at any mention of you
How long gone are you going to be; wish I knew
Sure don't believe it is at all out of line
To seek to rebound for you just one more time
Although you're going to be many miles away
I will see you in my heart each and every day
So go down that windy path; don't you dare look back
You've found faith; it will keep you on the right track
He's headed for real world and all it offers
But first, here are your final marching orders
Always do the very best you possibly can
Refuse to lose even when you don't understand
There's no telling the goals you will be able to reach
By giving proper respect to instructors who teach
Aspire each and every day you wake
Not to waste a single breath you take
Might as well let all of your ability show
Because those gifts turn to dust whenever you "go"
Don't bury your talents in the ground
Lend helping hand to those you're around
Be ready for the next big thing and the excitement it will bring
If and when all might seem lost; take a quick trip to the cross
Don't ignore your way home by road or by a phone
To get a smile from a frown; dance and let your hair hang down
A truly happy ending can't come from just pretending
I'll never forget the times when you were all you could be
Rose to the occasion and sent playoff game to OT
Cherish all the moments - the hugs and tears
For all your passion play through these years
My little guy is bound far beyond a Final Four
Poised for more success; prosperity at his door
All things are possible; he has found out
How much I love him is what I'm thinking about
If you stumble, put one foot in front of the other
When in doubt, think of your mom, your sister, your brother
Wherever you go, you'll be best from beginning to end
To that most truthful statement, I say Amen and Amen
After you have gone, I'll stroll into your off-limits room
Try to keep my composure when it seems like doom and gloom
But then I'll think of all you are; your smiling face - God's shining star
Gazing at an old picture; touching it soft and tender
You will always be on my mind; but nothing like that wrenching time
When I ask the Lord a big thing I need to know
Where in His big world will His maturing man go?
Big things can come in small packages. What diminutive dandy Erving Walker (5-8) may lack in height, he compensates for with heart. Florida's floor general brims with self-confidence and mental toughness, which at least partially explains why he defied the odds to excel in a big man's game the past four years.
The nation's premier little big man is the principal reason why the Gators are the only credible SEC team capable of keeping up with colossal Kentucky this season. That's one of the reasons he ranks among the top players in NCAA history 5-8 or shorter.
With the recent passing of celebrated singer Whitney Houston, trivia buffs should know she had a mighty mite brother, Mike Houston (5-8), who averaged 5.3 ppg for Fairleigh Dickinson in 1981-82 and 1982-83 after attending a J.C. in Kansas.
South Florida, the beneficiary of a favorable first-half schedule in Big East Conference competition, was enjoying its best season since joining the league in 2005-06. But a seasoned observer, sizing up the remaining Big East slate, would dare anyone to bet on the Bulls reaching the NCAA playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
If they do, senior Augustus Gilchrist will need to finally live up to the billing accorded him when he joined them with Terrelle Woody, an aide/personal trainer at the private Maryland prep school where home schooler Gilchrist played as a high school senior.
NCAA legislation has slowed the "strings attached" element whereby standout high school players are reunited with prep connections at the collegiate level.
Rather than tolerating the groveling by defending champion Connecticut for concessions stemming from its scholastic shortcomings, the NCAA should possibly consider the alternative and make allowances for quality teams boasting textbook student-athletes such as Harvard and Northwestern.
UConn, barred from the 2013 tourney due to years of sub-par academic results, requested a waiver. The Huskies' plea-for-mercy proposal reduced the number of regular-season games they will play next season from 27 to 23, forfeited the revenue awarded to the Big East Conference for participating in the playoffs and prohibited coach Jim Calhoun from meeting off-campus with prospective recruits during the fall 2012 contact period.
UConn's bottom 10 academic ranking among the 300-plus DI schools had it creatively trying to swap games and money for academic integrity prior to the school hiring a new athletic director. Meanwhile, Harvard (ranked #1 this year in U.S. News College Compass among the nation's best colleges) and Northwestern (#12) were excelling on and off the court.
Harvard, which has supplied more U.S. presidents (seven) than Lincredible NBA players (three), should have received an at-large bid last season despite losing an Ivy League playoff game in the waning moments. This year, the Crimson is a cinch to secure its first NCAA berth in 66 years, going to Lin-finity and beyond. In non-conference competition, Harvard and Princeton defeated Florida State, which is challenging for ACC supremacy after beating North Carolina and Duke.
Northwestern, struggling to secure its first winning record in Big Ten Conference competition in 44 years, is in a more precarious situation than Harvard as the Wildcats aspired to participate in the NCAA playoffs for the first time. But Northwestern might have a shot for an at-large berth if it reaches the 20-win plateau for the third straight season.
While UConn struggled to appear in this year's tourney, let alone 2013, school president Susan Herbst lauded the "great strides in our academic approach over the past few years." We're taking for granted she isn't including suspect signee Nate Miles, who described a cynical and broken system of big-time recruiting. According to Miles, MOP Kemba Walker's original college roommate before he was expelled after a female assault twice received standardized test assistance from a UConn booster.
Amid the Linsanity of the New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin becoming Harvard's first NBA player in 58 years (he scored 30 points in a narrow loss at UConn two seasons ago), it's pretty safe to say anyone comparable to Miles isn't on the rosters for Harvard and Northwestern. Wouldn't it be refreshing to raise the tenor of the debate by being assured the nerds were rewarded instead of wondering what classes UConn's players are steered to these days to raise the program's grade-point average? Surely, the NCAA realizes that the average fan makes a point of appreciating colorful institutions with traditional classroom excellence more than those still trying to get their mercenaries to color within the lines.
At least one juco jewel needed to shine bright if Kansas' string of seven straight regular-season Big 12 Conference championships was going to come to an end. Joining KU in the national Top 10 polls most of this season were two teams counting on junior college recruits to help knock the Jayhawks off their lofty perch--Baylor (point guard Pierre Jackson from Southern Idaho) and Missouri (center Ricardo Ratliffe from Central Florida CC and guard Matt Pressey from Navarro, TX). Jackson, not more highly-acclaimed Perry Jones III, is the Bears' go-to player at crunch time. Ratliffe has a chance to set an NCAA single-season record for field-goal percentage.
Jackson and Pressey needed to help keep Kansas' turnover-prone Tyshawn Taylor from continuing to offset his suspect ballhandling by being KU's leading scorer. Pressey's brother, Flip, triggering Mizzou's lethal fast break, has a sterling assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7), a figure significantly better than his KU counterpart.
Despite Taylor's resiliency and increased point production this season, he emerged as one of the most erratic Jayhawks point guards in 30 years since they struggled a couple of campaigns at that position after four-time All-American Darnell Valentine departed. Taylor, whose judgment has always been questionable since suffered a dislocated left thumb in a skirmish with several of the school's football players, has a mediocre career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5.
Taylor's ratio doesn't measure up to the competence exhibited by KU playmakers in the last several decades such as Ryan Robertson (2.4), Mark Turgeon (2.4), Aaron Miles (2.3), Jacque Vaughn (2.3), Adonis Jordan (2.2), Cedric Hunter (2.1), Kirk Hinrich (1.8), Jeff Boschee (1.7), Sherron Collins (1.7), Kevin Pritchard (1.7), Steve Woodberry (1.7), Mario Chalmers (1.6) and Rex Walters (1.6).
Oddly, UNLV is the only school to have more J.C. recruits help it reach the Final Four multiple times than Kansas (Terry Brown, Jeff Graves, Darrin Hancock, Alonzo Jamison, David Johanning, John Keller, Bob Kivisto, Archie Marshall, Lincoln Minor, Roger Morningstar and Hal Patterson). At least one former junior college player was named an NCAA All-American in 21 consecutive seasons from 1963-64 through 1983-84.
Basketball simply doesn't have borders any longer. The top two scorers for Horizon League champion Valparaiso this season - Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk - are not North America natives. No school has benefitted more from an influx of foreigners over the years than the Crusaders, who are also getting significant support from New Zealand product Richie Edwards.
Valpo's spanning-the-globe foreign invasion has included: Lubos Barton (Czech Republic), Ali Berdiel (Puerto Rico), Broekhoff (Australia), Antonio Falu (Puerto Rico), Benjamin Fumey (Germany), Joaquim Gomes (Angola), Raitis Grafs (Latvia), Samuel Haanpaa (Finland), Shawn Huff (Finland), Mohamed Kone (France), Calum MacLeod (New Zealand), Moussa Mbaye (Senegal), Roberto Nieves (Puerto Rico), Stalin Ortiz (Colombia), Marko Punda (Croatia), Michael Rogers (Jamaica), Oumar Sylla (Mali), Van Wijk (Netherlands), Antanas Vilcinskas (Lithuania), Zoran Viskovic (Croatia), Hrvoje Vucic (Croatia), Ivan Vujic (Croatia) and Cameron Witt (Australia).
Barton, Berdiel, Gomes, Grafs, Ortiz and Viskovic were all-conference selections in the Mid-Continent Conference before the school switched to the Horizon League. The Crusaders' foreign aid next season will include redshirt center Vashil Fernandez from Jamaica.
Among other squads counting on multiple foreigners in order to enhance their national postseason tournament prospects are:
California - Jorge Gutierrez (Mexico) and Emerson Murray (British Columbia, Canada)
Creighton - Gregory Echenique (Venezuela) and Jahenns Manigal (Ontario, Canada)
Gonzaga - Elias Harris (Germany) and Kevin Pangos (Ontario, Canada)
Miami (FL) - Raphael Akpejiori (Nigeria) and Kenny Kadji (Cameroon)
New Mexico - Cameron Bairstow (Australia) and Hugh Greenwood (Australia)
Rice - Ahmad Ibrahim (Lebanon) and Arsalan Kazemi (Iran)
Saint Louis - Cody Ellis (Australia) and Rob Loe (New Zealand)
Saint Mary's - Matthew Dellavedova (Australia), Jorden Page (Australia), Kyle Rowley (Trinidad), Clint Steindl (Australia) and Mitchell Young (Australia)
Syracuse - Kris Joseph (Quebec, Canada), Bave Moussa Keita (Senegal) and Fab Melo (Brazil)
UNLV - Carlos Lopez (Puerto Rico) and Brice Massamba (Sweden)
Vanderbilt--Festus Ezeli (Nigeria) and Jeffery Taylor (Sweden)
You can work on your geography by assessing the comprehensive list assembled by CollegeHoopedia.com of foreign players impacting college basketball.
North Carolina fans who know their hoop history (such as UNC's all-time worst defeat was by 43 points against the Lynchburg YMCA Elks in 1914-15) were particularly blue after the preseason #1-ranked Tar Heels were humiliated at Florida State by 33 points, 90-57. That moody blue is because no NCAA Tournament champion ever lost a pre-NCAA Tournament game by such a wide margin. Following are the six NCAA titlists, including Carolina '93, to lose a pre-NCAA playoff road contest by more than 20 points:
Champion (Losing Margin) Pre-NCAA Playoff Defeat UCLA '65 (27) at Illinois (110-83) North Carolina '93 (26) at Wake Forest (88-62) Villanova '85 (23) at Pittsburgh (85-62) UCLA '75 (22) at Washington (103-81) Duke '91 (22) at Charlotte vs. North Carolina (96-74) Maryland '02 (21) at Duke (99-78)
Magic Johnson was untouchable as a tall player offering monumental matchup problems for opponents by showcasing the unique skill set of a point forward. Johnson (6-9) averaged 17.1 ppg and 7.9 apg while shooting 46.3% from the floor in his two-year college career before leaving Michigan State early for the NBA.
Royce White of Iowa State might be a poor man's version of Magic, but the 6-8, 270-pounder, a transfer from Minnesota after a couple of theft incidents, certainly has "borrowed" some Magic-rich traits with his adroit ballhandling and smooth moves to the basket. When isolated, White is incapable of being stopped from getting to the goal. He is the nation's only player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks. But White, who takes medication for an anxiety disorder, makes Cyclones fans overtly anxious when he tries to shoot away from the basket, hitting less than half of his free-throw attempts. In a recent home game against Texas Tech, he birthed a couple of unplanned nothing-but-air deliveries from the less-than-charitable stripe as unsightly as most Planned Parenthood workers.
Fab Five ringleader Jalen Rose (6-8) of Michigan was a similar point-forward player but didn't carry near the weight of White. An overlooked versatile player in this rare category is 6-9 Louis Dunbar, who paced Houston in assists as a senior in 1974-75 before becoming a long-time Harlem Globetrotter known as "Sweet Lou." Unlike White, mid-range shooting wasn't as much of a problem for Dunbar, who averaged 22.3 ppg and shot 48.2% from the floor in his "sweet" three-year college career with the Cougars.
UCLA is counting on a comparable point-forward phenom, Kyle Anderson from renowned St. Anthony High School in New Jersey, to turn the Bruins' fortunes around next season.
In 2003-04, Oral Roberts (16-11 record) became the first school in 73 years to boast two freshmen as all-conference first-team selections in the same season when guard Ken Tutt (20.7) and forward Caleb Green (17.3) combined for 38 points per game. After a fresh pair of first-teamers subsequently happened at Ohio State in 2006-07 and Kentucky in 2009-10, it occurred again this year in the SEC. Here is a chronological list of leagues to feature a pair of freshmen earning first-team acclaim:
NOTE: Three of the OVC's 10-man all-league team in 1954-55, three of the MAAC's 12-man all-conference squad in 1981-82, and three of the Pacific-10's 10-man all-league squad in 1999-2000 were freshmen.
An announcement about Memphis joining the Big East Conference in 2013-14 means that the Tigers will have been members of five different leagues in 42 years (Missouri Valley 1968-73, Metro 1976-91, Great Midwest 1992-95 and Conference USA 1996-2013). But there have been other schools, including fellow MVC/Metro/Great Midwest/C-USA members Cincinnati and Saint Louis, with even more wanderlust. Consider:
Saint Louis - five in 23 years from 1974 to 1996 and six in 33 from 1974 to 2006 (Missouri Valley 1938-74, Metro 1976-82, Midwestern Collegiate 1983-91, Great Midwest 1992-95, Conference USA 1996-2005 and Atlantic 10 2006-12)
After 105 years steeped in history amid off-the-chart contempt, the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri expired for the foreseeable future as Mizzou departed the Big 12 Conference for the SEC. KU has a commanding edge in nearly every category (winning percentage, victories away from home and close games decided by single digits), but the Tigers have been enough of a tormentor to make the series as energetic and entertaining as you'll find anywhere. Their border war stacks right up there with the more nationally-acclaimed "Clash of the Titans" between Duke and North Carolina.
It was shortsighted of KU and Mizzou to let their rivalry end. They simply join top six conference members DePaul/Illinois, Maryland/Georgetown and Cincinnati/Ohio State as potentially great natural non-league matchups that their fans can't enjoy.
If bruised egos heal in the near future, perhaps sounder minds will prevail with Mizzou annually opposing KU in Kansas City much like it does in St. Louis against Illinois. But Mizzou can't complain if the Jayhawks continue to act like a jilted lover because the self-centered Tigers fail to oppose competent in-state foes such as Missouri State and Saint Louis.
By almost any measure, KU has a superior program to Mizzou. But Jayhawks coach Bill Self should rein in his rhetoric as the divorce dialogue intensified or at least take a crash course in college basketball history. When comparing the significance of the Kentucky/Louisville rivalry to the pending termination of KU's home-and-home conference conflicts with the Tigers, Self said: "Well, they've always played every year (out of league). That's all they know."
Well, Self needs to "always know" that UK and Louisville went 61 years from 1923 through 1983 without a regular-season matchup before they came to their senses and saw the light. Speaking of light, KU and Mizzou simply have to shed one lightweight apiece to keep a good thing going for the sport in general and for their fans specifically.
By toning down picking on patsies, there is plenty of room on their respective non-league schedules to keep playing each other. For instance, KU had colossal contests last season with Towson, Florida Atlantic, Howard and North Dakota while Mizzou met mighty Mercer, Niagara, Binghamton, Northwestern State, Navy, Kennesaw State and William & Mary. If the century-old KU/Mizzou spectacle returns, it could immediately surpass Kentucky/Louisville and go atop the following list of the nation's best 25 nonconference rivalries if only because of longevity:
- Indiana/Notre Dame
- Brigham Young/Utah
- Iowa/Iowa State
- St. Joseph's/Villanova
- Georgia/Georgia Tech
- Florida/Florida State
- Clemson/South Carolina
- New Mexico/New Mexico State
- Utah/Utah State
- La Salle/Villanova
- Florida/Miami (FL)
- Iowa/Northern Iowa
- Colorado/Colorado State
- Providence/Rhode Island
- Idaho/Idaho State
Stripping away the veneer, it was difficult for the average Missouri fan to invest much time exhibiting an abundance of faith in Frank Haith after he was hired as coach to replace Arkansas-bound Mike Anderson. Mizzou followers were dismayed after coach Matt Painter didn't leave his alma mater (Purdue) to accept the job and Haith's good-guy reputation was tainted by strip club partying with a Ponzi schemer booster at Miami (FL), where he never had a winning ACC record in seven seasons with the Hurricanes (43-69 overall league mark).
But Haith's timing was impeccable as he quickly turned a faith-building corner by impressing brothers Flip and Matt Pressey to stay with the Tigers rather than tagging along with Anderson, the college roommate (at Tulsa) of their NBA father (All-American Paul Pressey). Haith rewarded the gifted guards with significantly more court time and the Presseys responded accordingly.
Haith, giving his seven-man rotation an average of more than 25% additional playing time than they had their last year under Anderson, laid the groundwork to win one of the national coach of the year awards. The potent Pressey pair enjoyed almost 50% more minutes between them than they did in 2010-11.
Overcoming a major obstacle, Haith was forced to deploy a four-guard lineup after 6-8 forward Laurence Bowers incurred a season-ending knee injury. The previous year, Bowers paced the Tigers in rebounding and was runner-up in scoring.
Upon earning national acclaim, Haith joined the following list of five coaches who did so in their debut season for a school after serving in a similar capacity the previous year with another DI institution: Eddie Hickey (Marquette '59/after leaving St. Louis), Tom Davis (Iowa '87/Stanford), Eddie Sutton (Kentucky '86/Arkansas), Kelvin Sampson (Oklahoma '95/Washington State) and Matt Doherty (North Carolina '01/Notre Dame).
The prospects for Missouri reaching its first Final Four hinged on the Tigers securing another faith-building milestone - a "home state" berth in the St. Louis regional. It was "Home Sour Home" for Mizzou 30 years ago when the #2 seed Tigers, featuring All-Americans Ricky Frazier, Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold plus national coach of the year Norm Stewart, failed to capitalize on a St. Louis venue and lost in the 1982 Midwest Regional semifinals, 79-78, against Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma contingent in the debut season for Hakeem Olajuwon with the Cougars.
The most illuminating item about Jim Boeheim passing Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) to rank fourth among the nation's all-time winningest coaches is that the bespectacled "Baron of Upstate New York" has a stunning streak of nothing but winning records in 35 seasons with Syracuse. His worst worksheet was 16-13 in 1981-82 when the NIT-bound Orange dropped four of its last five outings.
Rupp never had a losing record in 41 campaigns but did post one breakeven mark with UK (13-13 in 1966-67). When assessing this topic, keep in mind the following mentors among the all-time biggest winners each had multiple non-winning seasons: Phog Allen (four non-winning records), Jim Calhoun (six), Lefty Driesell (four), Lou Henson (eight), Hank Iba (eight), Bob Knight (two), Mike Krzyzewski (four), Lute Olson (three), Dean Smith (two) and Eddie Sutton (two).
Boeheim entered this season with the best record among active coaches in close contests (189-117 mark in games decided by fewer than six points, 61.8%). He is atop the list of five major-college coaches in history with winning marks every year in college careers spanning more than 20 years.
Coach Seasons Closest to Non-Winning Record Jim Boeheim 35 16-13 (Syracuse in 1981-82) *Jerry Tarkanian 31 16-12 (UNLV in 1980-81) and 19-15 (Fresno State in 2001-02) John Wooden 29 14-12 (UCLA in 1959-60) Lou Carnesecca 24 17-12 (St. John's in 1987-88) Peck Hickman 23 13-12 (Louisville in 1957-58)
*Tarkanian also compiled seven more winning records in as many seasons for two community colleges in California, where he won five consecutive state championships after notching a 14-13 mark in 1961-62 at Riverside City College to begin his coaching odyssey.
Here's to you, Mr. Robinson! Kansas junior forward Thomas Robinson, making incredible strides since an inauspicious freshman season two years ago, seemed to be the consensus mid-season choice as national player of the year. In a "Beasts of the Baseline" battle, he could gain an edge over Kentucky center Anthony Davis with a big game against Missouri when Allen Fieldhouse welcomes equally physically-imposing Ricardo Ratliffe, who was leading the nation in field-goal shooting (73%).
Robinson, a native of Washington, D.C., was anything but the country's most dominant player in 2009-10 when he averaged an anemic 2.5 points per game. If Robinson emerges as national player of the year, he will have posted the lowest first-year scoring average for any such honoree since the initial award by UPI in 1955.
Robinson, overshadowed last season (when he averaged a modest 7.6 ppg) by twins Markieff and Marcus Morris (combined for 30.8 PPG and 15.9 RPG before leaving school early to become NBA first-round draft choices), is a classic example why fans shouldn't put too much stock in freshman statistics. But Robinson is in plenty of good company among players who endured growing pains before blossoming into stars. He could be on the low end of the following list of nine national players of the year who averaged fewer than eight points per game in their first varsity campaign:
Shane Battier, F, Duke (7.6 ppg as freshman in 1997-98)
David Robinson, C, Navy (7.6 ppg as freshman in 1983-84)
*Sidney Wicks, F-C, UCLA (7.5 ppg as sophomore in 1968-69)
Marques Johnson, F, UCLA (7.2 ppg as freshman in 1973-74)
Jimmer Fredette, G, Brigham Young (7 ppg as freshman in 2007-08)
Danny Ferry, F-C, Duke (5.9 ppg as freshman in 1985-86)
Gary Bradds, C, Ohio State (4.7 ppg as sophomore in 1961-62)
Ed O'Bannon, F, UCLA (3.6 ppg as freshman in 1991-92)
Kenyon Martin, C, Cincinnati (2.8 ppg as freshman in 1996-97)
* Junior college recruit.
Who among the following standouts has amassed sufficient cold hard facts to become the next national player of the year?
Thomas Robinson, F, Jr., Kansas (17.8 ppg, 12 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg, 54.6 FG%)/Odds: 5-to-2 If Robinson continues to improve, he could compile higher NBA career scoring and rebounding averages than KU assistant Danny Manning, the 1987-88 co-national player of the year who averaged 14 ppg and 5.2 rpg with seven different pro teams in 15 seasons.
Anthony Davis, C, Fr., Kentucky (14 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.5 spg, 4.9 bpg, 65.1 FG%)/Odds: 10-3 Attracting more attention than SI's annual swimsuit issue, he rejects and influences more shots than an NHL All-Star goalie. Astonishingly, he boasts more blocks by himself than about 300 DI teams. With only three games scoring more than 18 points, Davis needs to demonstrate he can do more offensively.
Jared Sullinger, F, Soph., Ohio State (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.6 spg, 56.1 FG%)/Odds: 10-1 After shedding baby fat, slimmed-down version looks better at first glance than last year's chubby freshman. Shooting range has improved to complement his lethal low-post moves, but back spasms have prevented him from taking his overall game to the next level. After committing 10 miscues against Michigan State, he has twice as many turnovers as assists and was the Buckeyes' leading scorer just three times in an earlier 13-game stretch.
Tyler Zeller, C, Sr., North Carolina (15.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 54 FG%, 71.2 FT%)/Odds: 10-1 Aging like fine wine to help offset teammate Harrison Barnes still trying to live up to last year's preseason billing. Runs the floor exceptionally well for a tall player but still needs to be more assertive at crunch time.
Kevin Jones, F-C, Sr., West Virginia (20.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 52.8 FG%)/Odds: 20-1 Superb offensive rebounder entered national-player-of-the-year picture after scoring at least 22 points in six consecutive contests. Could join Walter Berry (St. John's) and Troy Murphy (Notre Dame) as the only Big East Conference players to lead the league in scoring and rebounding. Difficult to assess his impact because the Big East is so far down from a year ago.
Doug McDermott, F, Soph., Creighton (22.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 61.3 FG%, 82.9 FT%, 50 3FG%)/Odds: 20-1 Beset by double- and triple-teaming from pesky Missouri Valley Conference opponents, three modest scoring outputs of fewer than 16 points in a recent five-game span kept his national profile from escalating to where he could realistically challenge Robinson the same way MVC alumnus Hersey Hawkins (Bradley) did with Manning in 1987-88.
MIA: Baylor forward Perry Jones III, exhibiting the heart of an insect while scoring in single digits nine times this season, should be among the top candidates but he plays way too passively to try to avoid an injury that would cost him dearly as a probable top five NBA draft choice.
In military lingo, it's a HVT (high-value target). No school with a bull's-eye on its back has incurred more defeats as nation's top-ranked team than North Carolina, which fell for the 30th time as #1 earlier this season when the Tar Heels bowed at UNLV, 90-80. The reversal marked the 17th such setback for Roy Williams (11 with Kansas), who only trails Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (25) and Carolina's Dean Smith (18) for most losses coaching the country's top-ranked club.
Notre Dame has 10 victories over the nation's top team but its triumph against Syracuse in mid-January was the Fighting Irish's first in this category since 1987, when Digger Phelps and Company clipped North Carolina, 60-58.
The next setback for Kentucky will mark the 28th time the Wildcats had a top-ranked squad knocked off its lofty perch since AP national rankings were introduced in the late 1940s.