Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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World’s Worst Kept Secret: Gillispie Out at UK

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2009

The world’s absolutely worst-kept secret was confirmed today in Lexington, as Billy Gillispie was ousted as the head coach at Kentucky after two seasons. A press conference is scheduled for 4:30pm EDT.

SPORT NCAA

As we’ve discussed on this site several times, Gillispie’s lack of public relations skills combined with his 27 losses in two years doomed him among the UK administration and heavy-hitters.  You were in the distinct minority if you still thought Billy G. had a chance to survive in Lexington after this season.

The question now becomes, who will UK replace Gillispie with?  We’re on record stating that a deal is already in the books with Florida’s Billy Donovan.  We outlined our logic and reasoning in a post last night.  Now it’s just wait and see time.  If anything interesting comes out of the press conference, we’ll be back.

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Local Media Calls Out Jim Calhoun

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

When Yahoo! Sports first broke the story about UConn alledgedly violating multiple NCAA rules, we were curious whether the media in Connecticut would take on the sacred cow that is UConn basketball. Outside of the occasional activist reporter photographer, there has been a widespread belief even among outside media members (Scott Van Pelt and Bill Simmons and his buddy JackO being the ones that come to mind) that the Connecticut press would not criticize Jim Calhoun for fear of offending the university and losing their credentials to cover the program. Well we have our answer.

In yesterday’s Hartford Courant, Jeff Jacobs rips Calhoun and the UConn athletic department for their handling of the situation. It’s worth a read and we suggest you check out the comment section for the people who in turn rip Jacobs for having this happen right under his nose, but getting scooped by outsiders. I think there is plenty of blame to go around here from Josh Nochimson to Calhoun and his assistants to the UConn athletic department to the UConn administration, who let it happen on their watch. I’m sure the $12 million or less that he brings in makes them UConn President Michael J. Hogan give Calhoun’s program little longer leash than say the women’s hockey team. How far do you guys think the blame goes? And what if any criticism should be levied against the local media for not finding out (or perhaps even investigating) this stuff earlier? Or do we excuse the local media becuase UConn basketball “feeds their family” in the immortal words of Latrell Spreewell and exposing the program would mean less revenue at the paper and potential job cuts (even before the economic downturn)?

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UNC Sees Your Ashley Judd and Raises You Brooklyn Decker. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

In typical Dan Patrick fashion, he spent part of his show yesterday talking to SI swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. I guess he has a good thing going. Why talk about sports to people who actually follow them for their career when you can talk to gorgeous women and occasionally get your picture taken with them (see below) even if you end up having to go home to your wife and children?

dan-patrick-and-the-andrewses

During his interview yesterday, which I’m sure that SI wanted to promote the Swimsuit Issue even though it came out over a month ago, Patrick did the usual stuff about trying to get Decker to compare supermodels to the top 4 seeds. Her list:

  • Gisele Bundchen = UNC
  • Adriana Lima = Pittsburgh
  • Marisa Miller = UConn (without all the text messages)
  • Natalia Vodianova = Louisville (lack of respect for #1 overall–I don’t even know who she is)

Being modest, Decker compared herself to Gonzaga, a school that is up there but has a way to go to catch the #1 seeds. The most interesting thing for us (other than the fact that she has a “crush” on Gisele–Tom Brady and Andy Roddick need to make this happen) is that she would like to become the Ashley Judd of UNC (albeit without actually going to school there).

ashley judd

With Kentucky rapidly descending into mediocrity (at least until they make another big-name hire) and Ashley Judd getting a little older does this mean college basketball could have a new #1 fan and Rick Majerus could find someone new to save him a little money on the hotel bill? All we have to say is that the ball is in Dick Baddour‘s court and this might give SI a new idea for next year’s bodypainting issue even if sales in Durham, NC would plummet.

brooklyn-decker

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Stay Classy, Nolan Smith…

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2009

The most interesting play of the Duke-Villanova game tonight occurred with mere seconds remaining.  Duke’s Nolan Smith must have thought the second-half o/u wasn’t covered yet, because a Duke player would never do something so classless without a reason, right?

Oh, right, play hard to the buzzer.  Even when the other team is dribbling out the clock.  Got it.

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Billy Donovan to UK: Strange Sense of Deja Vu

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2009

Nearly two years ago, immediately before the birth of this blog, rumors were rampant that Billy Donovan was ready to leave his two-time defending national champion Gators for the greener bluer pastures of Kentucky after Tubby Smith hightailed it out of Lexington for points northward.  Wildcat fans were tracking planes online, spotters were lurking around the airport, and everyone in town knew someone who knew someone who was sure they’d seen Donovan rolling around Lexington with the blue mist behind him.

donovans-blue-mist
Of course, they were all dead wrong, and UK only got their man – another Billy (Gillispie) – after all the Donovan hysteria died down and he publicly stated he wasn’t interested in the job.  Now, despite admonitions to the contrary, it appears that their second-choice Billy will be shown the door – actually, has already been shown the door – by Kentucky brass.  That’s not really in question anymore.  The bigger query we have is who will UK get to resurrect their foundering program?

Based on our sources in the area as well as some circumstantial evidence and a sprinkling of conject… logic, it is our contention that Billy Donovan will saddle up and take the job this time around.

First of all, the same justifications for Donovan taking the Kentucky job in 2007 are still relevant in 2009 – tradition, basketball school, higher salary, devoted fanbase.  Nothing has changed in that regard.  What has changed is where Florida basketball was then, coming off B2B titles, versus now – two straight NIT appearances have taken quite a bit of the luster off the Gator program to the point where empty seats are a regular occurrence at the O’Connell Center.  He must realize by now that he’s taken Florida basketball as far as it can possibly go, and with Urban Meyer down the hall winning titles just as frequently in the sport they really care about in Gainesville, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll ever reach that white-hot pinnacle again.  Ultimately, the time for a change is much more understandable for Donovan now than it was two years ago.

CAA George Mason Va Commonwealth Basketball

Now, let’s look at what we feel is the biggest piece of circumstantial evidence.  We’ve all heard for most of the week that Alabama is ready and in fact may have already offered Anthony Grant of VCU big money to become the next head coach of the Crimson Tide.  Considering that the Bama offer ($2M+) would more than double his current offer at VCU ($1M), and the additional fact that Alabama has traditionally had a solid basketball program, why wouldn’t he have already accepted this offer?  What on earth could he be waiting on?

Oh, right.  Could it be the possibility probability of his former boss (Donovan) leaving Florida to take the Kentucky job, thereby leaving open the UF job that he was supposed to get two years ago when Donovan took the Orlando Magic job?  You scoff, saying ‘isn’t that risky to put a lot of faith on a maybe?’  Well, maybe.  Then again, maybe not, considering that Donovan and Grant have the same agent (Lonnie Cooper), who is 99.9% likely to have his fingerprints all over these deals.

We’ve also heard from several reliable sources in Lexington that a deal for Donovan to become the next UK coach is already in place, and will be announced as soon as Friday but more likely, Monday.  You combine all of this information into one ball of speculative conjecture, and it seems pretty clear to us…

Billy Donovan is the new coach at the University of Kentucky, and Anthony Grant takes over at Florida.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

RTC interns Matt P. and Mike L. are our NCAA Tournament East Region correspondents.

Isn’t it amazing how perfectly paired the Sweet 16 games look in the South Region? It’s almost as if the best four teams advanced, or something like that. Currently, Ken Pomeroy has both match-ups at nearly 50-50 odds: UNC with a 55% likelihood of beating Gonzaga and Syracuse with an even slimmer 52% of moving on over Oklahoma. Here’s hoping both games come down to the last shot so all the chalk haters out there can’t complain about a boring tournament.

Team That Almost Went Home
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 0.9 seconds, some semblance of transition defense, and an acknowledged timeout away from going to an overtime session with Western Kentucky. Luckily for them, none of that happened and a guy who averages 3.8 points per game hit the shot of his life at the buzzer helping Mark Few’s team advanced. Things don’t look to get any easier though. After WKU’s starting guards, A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, dropped 24 and 25 points each on the Zags, they get to try to slow down a rested Ty Lawson and hot-shooting Wayne Ellington from UNC.

Team That Has Cruised So Far
After their marathon time in the Big East Tournament, Syracuse desperately needed two no-sweat wins in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, in which they only trailed once – a 24 second stretch in the first four minutes against Arizona State. Most likely, the ho-hum affairs end when they meet Oklahoma in Memphis. Guard Jonny Flynn is currently projected as a mid/late first round draft pick, but a dominant performance against Blake Griffin’s team could boost him into lottery contention.

Team With the Most to Prove
Despite having the player expected to be Player of the Year and first pick in the upcoming draft, there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma. They’ve yet to win that defining game. They seemed to sputter a bit at the end of the season, but much of that is due to Blake Griffin’s injury. But what seems most uncertain is how freshman guard Willie Warren will play when facing the more experienced guards of Syracuse.

Team With Highest Expectations
For Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, a trip to the Sweet 16 might constitute a respectable 2008-2009 season. For a North Carolina team that came in with talk of running the table, it would mean an embarrassing failure. The week off before Friday’s game against Gonzaga has to help UNC’s chances of surviving, giving point guard Ty Lawson a chance to heal the injured toe that hobbled him for much of March. It should be interesting to watch the Josh Heytvelt/Tyler Hansbrough match-up after the Zags center owned Psycho T two years ago, admittedly while Bobby Frasor was still UNC’s main point man. Then, the Heels went as Tyler Hansbrough went. Now, they go as Ty Lawson goes. He’ll be the key to any championship hopes in Chapel Hill.

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RTC Mascot Death Match: Sweet Sixteen Matches

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

Ok, we’re ready for the Sweet Sixteen of Mascot Death Match.  Things are starting to heat up.  Who is your favorite?  Voting will be open the next couple of days.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day One

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

dynamite

Hello everyone, it’s been a long four days since the last games ended on Sunday evening, but we’re back in earnest and ready for what should be a tremendous set of regional semifinals over the next two nights.  Out of the top sixteen teams entering this Tournament, only two have been dismissed.  The “upstarts” are Big 10 Tournament champion Purdue and a little school from the desert you might have heard from before, Arizona.  We’ll be providing you with all the coverage as the weekend progresses…  here’s tonight’s schedule:

7:07 pm.  #5 Purdue vs. #1 Connecticut
7:27 pm.  #4 Xavier vs. #1 Pittsburgh
9:37 pm.  #3 Missouri vs. #2 Memphis
9:57 pm.  #3 Villanova vs. #2 Duke

9:07 pm.  Apologies to everyone, but real world got in the way and we’re just now getting to where we can start the BGTD tonight.  Hopefully you’ll join us for the rest of the evening.

9:08 pm.  What have we missed.  Two good games, apparently.  UConn-Purdue is nearing the finish line, and it appears the Huskies are going to advance.  We thought there was a possibility of an upset there, but Hasheem showed up tonight for 15/15 and when he puts up those kinds of numbers, there are only a handful of teams in America that can compete with UConn.  Pitt has been fighting off Xavier all night long, only recently getting the lead back for the first time in a while.  From what we’ve seen so far, Pitt continues to shoot threes (not their strong suit and miss FTs.  Xavier is doing enough to pull this upset if they can continue to keep Blair in check (8 pts).

9:14 pm.  Jamie Dixon was right to complain about that shot clock violation there – it was still in XU’s hand when the clock turned to zero.  But what is going on with Pitt’s shot selection?  A fadeaway 18-footer from the corner is NOT their strength…

9:17 pm.  And then a timeout on the throw-in…  this team appears out of sync to us.  UConn is finishing off Purdue on the other channel.

9:19 pm.  Blair got the putback tip to go in there, but can you believe he’d miss such a point-blank shot; and then Jermaine Dixon barely drew iron on a dunk attempt?!?  My God, if Pitt survives this game, it’ll be miraculous.

9:21 pm.  Wow, these two teams are hitting 20% and 25% this half (Pitt higher).  SCORCHING.

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RTC Book Club: “When March Went Mad”

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

With today being the 30th anniversary of the 1979 national championship game, I figured I would finally release my long-awaited review of “When March Went Mad” by Seth Davis. Seth and his publisher were also nice enough to grant us an interview which is right after the review.

If you are a regular reader of our site, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the 1979 NCAA championship game, which featured Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and is widely cited as the seminal moment out of which modern basketball was born. Although I don’t profess to be a scholar of that game, I always thought my knowledge of the major moments in modern college basketball history (since the 1960s) was pretty respectable so when I received an e-mail for an advance copy of a book about the topic I wasn’t particularly excited (outside of the fact that I had never received an e-mail like that before). When I read through the e-mail and saw that Seth Davis, one of my favorite college basketball writers and a regular reader of Rush the Court (about 2/3 the way down), had written the book I became a little more intrigued so I decided to give it a shot.

when-march-went-mad

One of the first things I realized when I started reading the book was that despite the significance of the game there has not been a lot written about it. The game and the events leading up to it lack the literary canon of some of the other important events in college basketball history such as the John Wooden era and the Texas Western-Kentucky game. In fact, most of my knowledge from the game comes from watching documentaries about Bird and Magic that make the actual championship game seem more like it was simply foreshadowing their great NBA careers rather than the spectacle that it was at the time. In the book Seth Davis goes into detail discussing the lives of both legendary players and provides the reader with background information that helps explain a lot about their personalities and the way they approached the game. Davis traces Magic’s life story including details about how he ended up at Everett High School instead of his original school (and preferred choice) J.W. Sexton High School as a result of busing mandates in East Lansing, MI. He also examines details of Bird’s life that the casual fan (or one outside of Boston–hard to say since I live here) might not be aware of such as his distrust of outsiders and almost pathological shyness early in his career.

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Sweet Sixteen: Midwest Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

Looking back at the Midwest Region 1st/2d Rounds…

Best Game:  undoubtedly the game of the Tourney thus far, the Ohio St.-Siena game had not one, but two, game-changing threes by the underdog Saints to keep their hopes alive. 

Shocker:  Wake Forest’s complete and utter failure to show up for its game against Cleveland St. last Friday night.  With three first-rounders on the team, there is no excuse for a team to be this mentally out of it (which they were much of the last six weeks of the season). 

Cinderella That’s Not Really One:  Arizona was one of the last teams invited to the Dance, but we all knew that their talent was better than most #12 seeds if they could just put it together.  They received a favorable draw in the first two rounds, playing an overrated #5 Utah team and a true Cinderella #13 Cleveland St., but if they really want to impress us, beat Louisville tomorrow night. 

Region MVP (so far):  Cole Aldrich, Kansas.  A player who gets a trip-dub automatically wins the MVP from us.  Aldrich terrorized Dayton for 13/20/10 blks on Sunday. 

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Rating the Sweet Sixteen Announcers

Posted by jstevrtc on March 26th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

It looks like CBS has made its selections and placements for the Sweet 16 announcing crews.  I think this is important for a couple of reasons; first, because we got us some heavyweights going at it this weekend and these matchups deserve top-drawer announcers; and second, because when you consider some of the tournament’s great moments, the announcing calls are just as much a part of the history as the actual visual images.  It’s good to have the big boys behind the mics in case a legendary event happens.  That said, let’s take a look at, and rate, the pairings.

The New #1 Crew
The New #1 Crew (image credit: daylife.com)

SOUTHJim Nantz (pbp) and Clark Kellogg (color)
Games:  North Carolina v. Gonzaga and Syracuse v. Oklahoma (Friday)
Grade:  C+

This is the premiere crew, as CBS would have you believe.  I give this pairing a C+ because I think these two gentlemen are still working on their rhythm with Kellogg having taken over the seat previously occupied by Billy Packer.  Jim Nantz, despite being one of the consensus nice guys in television and a man who has more than put in his time as far as being a basketball announcer, has just never done it for me as a play-by-play man.  He’s always struck me as a big-picture, in-the-studio guy, the captain of the whole ship.  I have nothing against Kellogg or Nantz as individuals, but because they’re still feeling each other out this late in the year, I don’t think it’s the “premiere,” automatic, Final Four crew any more.  Plus, Syracuse v. Oklahoma is going to be an absolute war, and I think it’s a game that’s just tailor-made for Gus Johnson at the play-by-play mic, or Raftery doing color, or — God help us all — both.

Lundquist and Raf. (image credit: ning.com)

EAST Verne Lundquist (pbp) and Bill Raftery (color)
Games:  Pittsburgh v. Xavier and Villanova v. Duke (Thursday)
Grade:  B

I’ll admit, there’s really no reason to give this pairing anything other than an ‘A’ except for my own sour grapes.  I always loved the pairing of Lundquist with Len Elmore.  Plus, if CBS reunited them, it could slide Raftery over to the seat next to Gus Johnson and blow the speakers out of your television.  Both Lundquist and Raftery still give me the impression that they’re still amazed to be getting paid for doing this for a living, and when that comes through, it always enhances my enjoyment of a game they’re calling.  Especially Raf.  Those tag-lines that we all know — “The Kiss!” or “A little lingerie, Mr. Lundquist!” or “Onions!!” — just never get old to me.  Also, if a legendary moment presents itself, you know neither of these guys is going to drop the ball.

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