RTC Babe Meets P-Pat and Wall…

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2009

Ed. Note: just to be clear, as some may have taken this post the wrong way, but the players shown here were in a 24-hour diner that is open to all-ages near the UK campus.  They were not drinking nor did they show any visible signs of such.  As mentioned below, this was a chance encounter and the players were extremely nice and respectful throughout. 

So RTC is on the road right now, and where other than the hotbed of college hoops known as Lexington, KY, to spend a summer weekend?  Never one to turn down a shameless photo op, the RTC Babe corraled UK’s Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall for a late-night pic.  She writes about her experience:

We sit at a table that happens to be right beside a crew of several very tall young men. My husband leans over to me and says “That’s P-Pat.” And of course I say, “A P-what?” He explains to me that P-Pat (Patrick Patterson) is a really good basketball player who plays for UK.

RTC Babe’s New Friend P-Pat

She continues:

My husband then tells me, “Hey that’s Wall over there.” He gestures across the room pointing at a crowd.  So of course once again I’m like “Wall??” But this time I don’t even bother asking for an explanation. Instead, since I’m now best buds with P-Pat I tap him on his ginormous arm and go “Hey, I’m supposed to get a picture with Wall too. Do you know which one is Wall?” He describes a guy sitting at a table with a star on his hat. I tell P-Pat that he has to come over with me to ask him. We’re buddies remember? Or I liked to think so at that moment. Instead with one gesture he motions for Wall to come over.

ppat cousins wall
How Many All-Americans in One Photo?

She goes on to say that the three UK players were all exceptionally nice  guys and respectful to her throughout the encounter, even though it was after 3am and the place was filled with drunken idiots, retards and other hangers-on.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

The ACC has been North Carolina’s league for three straight seasons now. With four prolific stars departing from Roy Williams roster, this could be the year Duke re-claims supremacy in the most fabled conference in college basketball. The loss of athletic swingman Gerald Henderson early to the riches of the NBA hurts, but the late inclusion of a young point guard to compliment two potential blue-chip power forwards and the dynamic duo of Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler means Duke has the goods to capture their first ACC regular season title since J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams manned the Cameron Indoor Stadium floor.


Let’s face it: this program hasn’t quite featured the mystique and aura that normally comes with Duke basketball since the heartbreaking loss to UConn in the 2004 Final Four. Duke’s pinnacle has been the Sweet 16 since that crushing blow and critics are lining up over whether coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s Olympic conquests are hurting the program. Still, a top-two ACC finish and an Elite Eight seem like reasonable goals for this Duke team that only lost Henderson, transfer Elliot Williams, quarterback Greg Paulus and glue guy David McClure. Three top-50 recruits and four of the Blue Devils’ top five scorers return for a squad looking to knock an inexperienced North Carolina team off the mantle.

How does everyone’s favorite hoops team stack up schedule-wise? Let’s examine:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8. Duke normally doesn’t back down from challenging their team in non-conference play, so their participation in the NIT Season Tip-Off and neutral/road games against Georgetown, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Iowa State and St. John’s doesn’t surprise me. The Blue Devils normally excel in November and their only formidable foe in the NIT tournament this year is Connecticut. They’d match up in the finals if Duke can slide past Coastal Carolina, Charlotte and most likely an Arizona State team that lost both James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. A November 27 final against UConn at MSG would certainly not lack for entertainment. The ACC-Big Ten challenge pits Duke a difficult road game at the Kohl Center, a venue where Wisconsin rarely loses. Neutral floor games against Gonzaga in NYC and Iowa State in Chicago are included, along with a January 30 visit to Georgetown to face a Hoya team that could be a well-oiled machine at that point. Conference USA favorite Tulsa also makes a trip to Cameron in late February, which has the potential to be dangerous for Duke. The non-conference slate certainly presents challenges, and credit Coach K for agreeing to send Duke to places other than Durham for tests that will certainly benefit the Blue Devils come ACC play.

Cupcake City: Only six true cupcakes on the slate for Duke this season as UNC Greensboro, Coastal Carolina (part of the NIT), Radford, Gardner-Webb, Long Beach State and Penn travel to Durham (although I should count Charlotte the way they played last season). A program with Duke’s stature doesn’t have to schedule Gonzaga in NYC or travel to Chicago to play Iowa State, but they do anyway. Unlike Washington, Duke will be battle-tested for conference play and their computer numbers will give the Blue Devils a boost when it comes to seeding debates. Duke is usually in the top-ten in RPI every single season and there’s a reason why.

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Billy Gillispie Busted Outside Lexington

Posted by jstevrtc on August 27th, 2009

Lexington media is reporting — downright shouting, to be sure — that this morning Billy Gillispie got hosed for another DUI.  Like we didn’t see that one coming right down I-75…


Credit: lex18.com

Even though Gillispie was collared at 2:45am, he told the cop that he and his passenger had been golfing.  I’ll be interested to see if there’s an additional charge of night putting…you know, putting at night (does anyone get that??).  Actually, we’re still in a recession and it IS the day after Ted Kennedy died, so using Rick Pitino’s logic, nobody should be covering this.  But I’ll bet he doesn’t mind so much.

If you click the link above, there’s video coverage by the Lexington affiliate, just click the camera beside the title.  From our friends at KentuckySportsRadio.com, here’s the mugshot:


More on this later.  It’ll be interesting to see if this affects his current legal dispute with the University of Kentucky.  Right now John Calipari has to be kicking back in a comfy chair, laughing like crazy and thinking, “And the world thinks that I have a past??!?”  Given the events of the past couple of days, we’ll be watching, say, guys like Murray State’s Billy Kennedy and Western Kentucky’s Ken McDonald to see if they happen to lose their minds and do something to raise the bar in the craziness competition that has evidently broken out among basketball coaches in the Bluegrass State.

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Pitino Hurts His Own Cause

Posted by jstevrtc on August 26th, 2009

The Rick Pitino 3pm news conference has just ended.  If you didn’t get to see it, you didn’t miss much (video highlights posted below).  All we saw was a frustrated man. 

Pitino basically just wanted to get up in public and tell the media why he doesn’t like what they do (at least when they say negative things about him), and then thinks he has the authority to go tell them what they SHOULD be covering.  He made a couple of references to how he didn’t understand why the media was covering the release of the Karen Sypher tapes “on the day that Ted Kennedy has died.”  He seemed ticked off that the New York media had been reporting on the subject today, and was surprised that they would do so, because — Pitino’s own words — the New York media had always treated him with respect.  (Ed. note – Pitino made no comment on the Boston media.)  His frustration on this point was compounded since he describes himself as “a proud New Yorker,” which has never been disputed.  And he reiterated his faith that the truth will come out during the upcoming trial.

I agree with Pitino that there really isn’t much actual NEW information to be reported by these news outlets — Pitino specifically singled out Fox 41 in Louisville during the press conference.  They seemed to want to take Sypher’s rape allegation (which was all but squashed by the Louisville police, in terms of its credibility) and report it as a new story, when in fact people have known about that particular facet of all of this for a while, now.  What I don’t understand is why, when (as Pitino admitted during his rant) he has his legal team telling him not to talk, when he has the authorities telling him not to talk, when he most likely has his friends and family telling him not to talk, Pitino hears this advice and thinks, “Right!  I’ll call a press conference!”  If you have faith in the trial, then let the trial do the talking.

pitino white suit

Now, I have no comprehension as to what’s going on in this man’s life — that is, in his home, within the confines of his marriage and regarding his relationship with his family.  That’s nobody’s business but his own, though Pitino openly admits that there have been problems and that his wife is certainly struggling with all of this, to say the least.  Who couldn’t understand that?  No question that whole clan is in hell right now.  And if you’re Rick Pitino, it’s beyond frustrating to turn on the news and watch them try to take what appears to be, at this point, OLD information and report it in a way that makes it look like something new has developed.  The unfortunate fact is that this is par for the course and it results from a bad decision that Pitino himself made back at that restaurant.  This treatment from the media is something he’s just going to have to endure.

But today’s press conference highlights something that Pitino has never learned, and that’s the fact that he is not “above” the people to whom he is speaking.  You can’t come out there and tell the media what they SHOULD be reporting, like the poor economy (it’s been covered a little already) or the death of Ted Kennedy (not the domain of local sports reporters).  People don’t like to be told how to do their jobs any more than he does.  You can’t get up there and talk about how you’re from New York and expect people to be impressed by it; it’s not going to gain you any extra credibility. 

Rick Pitino is a great basketball coach, and for the most part he’s pretty media-savvy, which makes today’s press conference all the more puzzling.  If you don’t think there’s any real news to report about a bad decision you made several years ago — don’t go out and create it. 

We’ll continue to review the newly-released tapes and be back with more on this issue as events warrant.

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Buzz: Karen Sypher Tapes Released

Posted by rtmsf on August 26th, 2009

WLKY in Louisville has released the infamous Karen Sypher police tapes where she talks about getting an abortion, threats against her family, and the like.  The Sporting Blog is currently reviewing the tapes and will update whether anything interesting comes out of them, but oddly coincidental, we’ve also received word that Rick Pitino has called a 3pm EDT news conference this afternoon.  Perhaps there’s something else in those tapes that he knows he’ll have to answer to? 

Stay tuned…  this story just won’t die.

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Gazelle Group Back Up To Its Old Tricks

Posted by rtmsf on August 25th, 2009

Take a look at these two news reports, spaced about seven weeks apart this summer:

Exhibit A (July 9, 2009): 

The next chapter of Isiah Thomas’ coaching career will start amid familiar territory for the Hall of Famer: the Big Ten. FIU’s new coach is prepping to debut Nov. 9 at Ohio State in the opening round of a Coaches vs. Cancer tournament.

Exhibit B (August 25, 2009):

Isiah Thomas’ coaching debut at FIU just got a little tougher.  FIU’s first season under the Hall of Fame player will begin Nov. 9 at defending national champion North Carolina, part of a Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. It’s also the opener for the Tar Heels, according to the schedule released Tuesday by the Atlantic Coast Conference.

What in the name of Anucha Browne Sanders is going on here?!?

2k sports classic cvc

Look no further than our old friends, the Gazelle Group.  Yes, the entity that decided that the meaning of the word “tournament” is factually and legally ambiguous, (updated for 2009) has decided that a UNC-FIU opener would be more interesting to more eyeballs than an Ohio St.-FIU game, and as such, has switched the openers for both schools as part of its sponsored Coaches vs. Cancer tournament event.    Controversy does seem to follow Thomas wherever he goes, but we’re putting this one squarely on the shoulders of the Gazelle Group.   In comparison, these guys make college football bowl organizers look fair and transparent.

FIU’s AD Pete Garcia is no more impressed with GG than we are.  He claims that the event organizers “bullied” FIU into signing the contract under the pretense that they would face OSU, and you know what, we believe him.  He stated that Gazelle Group organizers approached him last week asking him to change teams, and FIU refused.  When they received the press release today showing UNC as their opening opponent, they were shocked, and now they’re threatening to pull out of the CvC altogether.  As for the Gazelle Group, they’re hiding behind their contract language (which does clearly state FIU will play OSU or UNC), but it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if they promised one thing and did another while they were busily redefining that a basket will be worth 4 points and a player will receive 11 fouls this year.  

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Washington Huskies

Posted by zhayes9 on August 25th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

Just one summer ago, Lorenzo Romar was firmly entrenched on the hot seat. In the past two seasons, the once proud Washington program compiled a lackluster 34-27 (15-21) record, the 2006-07 campaign ending without postseason play and the 2007-08 season concluding with a first round CBI loss to Valparaiso. The Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson era in the middle of the decade- complete with two Sweet 16’s, a #1 seed, a conference tournament title and one of my personal favorite NCAA Tournament games ever– seemed like ages ago for the purple-clad Washington faithful that were pining for their first Pac-10 championship since 1985.


Enter stud freshman Isaiah Thomas. Add in a large dose of senior double-double machine Jon Brockman. Sprinkle in an overachieving supporting cast and a raucous Bank of America Arena and you have the ingredients for that long-anticipated Pac-10 title. Sure, the Huskies fell in a heartbreaker to Purdue in the second round of the tournament, but the Washington basketball program was back in a big way. The Lute Olson departure and subsequent mess at Arizona also prompted five-star point guard Abdul Gaddy to de-commit from the Wildcats and join Washington for the upcoming season.

Will the Huskies repeat as Pac-10 regular season champions? Let’s dissect the route that Romar and his team must take to accomplish such a feat:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 2.5. With a lacking Pac-10 and a non-conference schedule that appears extremely easy at first look, Washington’s computer numbers could suffer in February and March when seeds are being discussed. The quality wins may not just be there, and Romar has nobody to blame but himself for the lack of challenging non-conference contests. After a meeting with Central Washington, the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic will bring Wright State, Belmont and Portland State to Seattle. Other home games include such powerhouses as San Francisco, San Jose State, Portland, Cal State Northridge and Montana. The Huskies will have to travel to Lubbock to take on a Texas Tech team still finding its bearings and Texas A&M visits Seattle just prior to conference play. Even a trek to Anaheim to take on Georgetown should find the Huskies favored.

Cupcake City: Washington’s frosting-filled schedule means the matchup with Georgetown is crucial. Lose to the Hoyas and Romar won’t have one single significant non-conference victory to tout unless one of those two Big 12 teams surprise (A&M is the most likely). It’s never too early to be projecting where teams may stack up in relation to seeds and brackets. Even if Washington wins another conference title, the Pac-10’s RPI will not stand out and the Huskies non-conference RPI could be in the 200’s. Don’t think the committee won’t pay attention to that number.

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Buzz: Hold Those Betting Sheets, Delaware…

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2009

A three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia today heard two hours of oral arguments on the legality of Delaware’s proposed plan to institute sports gambling in time for the opening of football season in two weeks.  Their decision to overturn the lower court’s holding allowing such wagering in Delaware sent ripples through the Northeastern corridor, as gambling savants from Connecticut to Virginia will have to cancel their planned fall weekend trips to Dover.  At issue was the expansion of wagering options that Delaware has proposed, including single-game bets using point spreads in multiple sports.  Under previous interpretation of law, the state is only allowed to offer parlay-style gambling on professional football games – any expansion beyond that is illegal.  Today’s ruling leaves little wiggle room for the state, as an appeal is unlikely to be considered by the Supreme Court.  So… does this mean a Final Four in Wilmington is back on?

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Indiana is Making a Mistake Here…

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2009

You probably heard Sunday that the Indiana University Athletic Hall of Fame has plans to induct one Robert Montgomery Knight into its annals on November 6 later this year.  You remember him, right?  The foul-mouthed, bombastic, red-sweatered former coach of Indiana and Texas Tech who has over 900 wins and currently spends his time on ESPN feigning tolerance of the charlatans Vitale, Phelps and Packer.  For the love of Kent Benson, why on earth would Indiana willingly subject themselves to this man’s narcissism?  Don’t they know this can only serve to embarrass the university?  From the NY Times:

The question now becomes, will he show? Knight has a long and successful history with the Hoosiers, but his tenure was marked by controversy and he was fired in 2000, with the administration citing a “pattern of unacceptable behavior.”

Exactly.  A pattern of unacceptable behavior which has in no way improved by the passage of time.  There are two options here, and neither looks good for Indiana.  The first option (and probably the preferred one if IU really thinks about it) is that Knight continues ignoring his association with Indiana basketball, and he doesn’t show up.  Sure, IU will have to deal with the embarrassment of Knight’s absence at his own HOF induction, but trust us, that’s far better than the alternative.


Which is… that Knight actually shows up in Bloomington on November 6.  Why is this a bad thing for IU?  Because if Knight does anything masterfully besides coaching a motion offense t0 19-year olds, it’s knowing how to utilize the media to upstage people he doesn’t respect.  Can’t you envision The General riding into town on a white horse and spending the entire day taking veiled not-so-veiled shots at Indiana brass, only to be replayed a hundred times on ESPN (his current employer) and YouTube throughout the 09-10 season?  Knight knows how to play to a crowd of supporters, and the good people of Bloomington would undoubtedly oblige his tirade in much the same way they always have.


If Indiana really believes that Knight will gladly accept their olive branch and all else is water under the bridge, then we can only surmise that those in charge of this decision weren’t around for the debacle of Knight’s final days in Bloomington.  That, or their memories are very short.  Nothing good will come of this, IU.

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Team of the 2000s: Wrap-Up and Honorable Mention

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2009


Direct Links to the Top Ten.

1.  UNC
2.  Kansas
3.  Florida
4.  Duke
5.  Michigan St.
6.  UConn
7.  UCLA
8.  Memphis
9.  Syracuse
10.  Maryland

Intro.  Welcome back.  We wanted to use this post to wrap up the loose ends with an endeavor such as this one.  Let’s talk about our methodology, the teams who were easiest/most difficult to place, the Memphis quandary, and the teams who were on the outside of the top ten looking in.   As always, feel free to disagree in the comments.

Defending Our Methodology.  One of the more interesting things about releasing these rankings has been the reaction from various fan bases. Some have been very measured in their response and criticism (such as the people in Lawrence, Kansas) while others have been a little more vitriolic (fans of another program in the center of the country). Most of the criticism has been directed at our methodology. There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion on this, so let’s clear it up immediately.  Some people have misinterpreted our table (below) as if the listed criteria were all considered totally and equally in how we ranked teams. Nothing could be further from the truth – rather, the table  was intended to be used as a tool showing the universe of relevant statistics that our panel might find useful when making their decisions.  There was no formula that a panelist was obliged to follow – instead, each panelist had complete discretion to consider or ignore any statistic he deemed important (or irrelevant).  Once each panelist submitted his list, we then took a holistic view of the world when determining where to rank certain teams.  Obviously we all considered winning percentage, NCAA Tournament success, conference achievements, etc., but in varying degrees.  That’s what makes these debates work – while one panelist may think that the NCAA Tournament is all that really matters and wants to weight teams almost exclusively on that metric, another panelist may want to give more substantial weight to the regular season.  Here’s the thing, though – reasonable minds always differ, and both conclusions are completely ok.  We believe that this sort of subjective analysis – review the available stats, pre-rank a list, reconvene to discuss, finalize the rankings – gives such a ranking system more credibility than simply weighting and re-weighting a formula until everything “feels” right.  For those of you who wanted a completely “objective” ranking system… well, here’s an example we did last spring that shows how the BCS formula would have applied to the NCAA Tournament.   Hint: F4 participants Villanova and UConn wouldn’t have even been invited to the Ball. In sum, we think that our methodology resulted in a solid, defensible list of the top ten programs of the 2000s.  Not everyone can be happy, but we’re comfortable with the results.

team2000s final list

Hardest Teams to Peg.  There were three teams that the panel had the hardest time nailing down – #4 Duke, #5 Michigan St., and #8 Memphis.  Both Duke and MSU received a #1 vote in our initial analyses, although to be fair, those were outliers among the panel.  Memphis was equally contentious, with half of the panel initially placing the Tigers in the top seven, while the other half didn’t even have them ranked at all.  It probably makes sense that we’ve received the most criticism based on these difficult-to-peg teams.

Easiest Teams to Peg.  On the other hand, the top three teams – #1 UNC, #2 Kansas, #3 Florida – were unanimous in order (although not in ranking).  Every panelist rated those three in the same order relative to one another, and the lowest any of the four teams were rated was fourth.  Interestingly, criticism died down on the placement of these teams.  Perhaps our panel was representative of what Average College Basketball Fan would choose as well?

What About Memphis? After the news that the NCAA vacated Memphis’ 38 wins and title appearance from the 2008 season, there was some buzz about what we should do with our list.  By our estimation, Memphis was rated as the #8 program of the 2000s, but if we removed that year, they most undoubtedly would have dropped out of the top ten.    After some internal discussion, we’re unwilling to go there.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First and foremost, we don’t want to.  We watched Memphis play its way into the national finals, we saw Derrick Rose clang his first FT with nine seconds left, and we remember the shocked look on Calipari’s face in the interview room afterwards.  We also remember Michael Redd’s shooting in 99, Marcus Camby blocking everything in sight in 96, C-Webb calling timeout in 93, and several other vacated performances over the years.  Those games and moments happened.  They’re seared into our memory.  The NCAA can vacate whatever it wants, but we’re not going to join forces with them in their legal fiction.  Which brings us to our second point on this topic.  The NCAA’s application of these penalties is so wantonly inconsistent that if we gave credence to this one while ignoring such wholesale violations known to the general public – Sam Gilbert at UCLA and Reggie Bush at USC should immediately come to mind – that we’d be doing our readers a disservice.  We recognize that cheating at some level happens nearly everywhere, but our stance is that if the NCAA doesn’t catch it and punish the school prior to the games affected, then we’re not going to join them in their after-the-fact erasures.  Sorry.  Memphis stays at #8.

The Celebrated RTC Panel
The Celebrated RTC Panel

Honorable Mention (in no particular order).

  • Pittsburgh.  Pitt was an oddity when it came to evaluating them for our countdown.  There was considerable variance among the voters as to where the Pitt program landed, and because of that they were one of the first teams to whom we awarded this “honorable mention” status.  Still, after the votes had been submitted, in the ensuing discussion it wasn’t that hard to move Pittsburgh out of the Top 10.  Make no mistake, it’s been an excellent ten years for the Pitt program, but in order to make a decade’s-end Top 10 list there are certain things you simply HAVE to get done.  Of their eight trips to the NCAA tournament, six of those saw Pittsburgh with at least a 4-seed (five of them were #3 or better).  The result?  Zero trips to the Final Four and only one Elite Eight.  It’s not like the Panthers didn’t have their chances.  True, it’s not easy to lose a coach like Ben Howland (who took Pitt to the Dance in 2002 and 2003) and the program deserves credit for a hire like Jamie Dixon, who didn’t miss a beat. And it’s not easy to lose to a Howland-coached UCLA team in 2007 in a #2-vs-#3 seed Sweet 16 game when you’re playing them in San Jose.  But if you want to be considered among the elite, you HAVE to beat 10th-seeded Kent State in the Sweet 16 when you’re a #3 (2002).  You HAVE to beat Pacific in the first round of 2005, even if you are on the low side of an #8-vs-#9 game.  You CANNOT LOSE to 13th-seeded Bradley in the second round when you’re a 5-seed (2006).  And perhaps the most painful — when you’ve earned a 1-seed after an incredible 28-4 season playing in the Big East, when you’re playing in your first Elite Eight in 35 years, you MUST beat the 3-seed, even if it is an in-state rival in the form of a very tough-nosed Villanova squad.  Dixon faces a bit of a rebuilding task in the upcoming season, but they ended the 2000s strong.  It’s because of that strong finish, that trend of improvement, that people – especially Pittsburgh fans – may be surprised to not see the Panthers in the Top 10 for the last decade.  As we start the new decade with the upcoming season, Dixon has the Pittsburgh program poised to move into that elite category.  As far as the last decade, though, they came up just short.
  • Illinois. On three of our personal Team of the 2000s rankings, Illinois barely missed the cut, meaning if the Bruce Weber-led 2005 squad managed to topple North Carolina for a national championship, they’d likely be included in the top ten. Illinois has also flamed out a bit at the tail end of the decade, finishing with a losing record in 2007-08 (16-19) before rebounding to a 24-10 mark in 2008-09 and eventually falling victim to a 12-5 upset by Western Kentucky. Bill Self and Bruce Weber have built a phenomenal program throughout the decade, though. The 2004-05 team featuring Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown and James Augustine was one of the top teams of the 2000s, flirting with an undefeated mark until Ohio State knocked them off in Columbus, then pulling off one of the most sensational comebacks in NCAA Tournament history in the Elite 8 against Arizona. Illinois has tied or won the Big Ten three times in the 2000s and finished as high as second three more times. What holds Illinois back from garnering a spot on the list? They haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament or won a conference title since that special 2004-05 campaign. Borderline teams have experienced more success in March, both in the Big Dance and in conference tournament play, than Illinois. For example, Maryland has two Final Fours, a national title and never finished with a losing record in the decade. Illinois hasn’t won the Big Ten Tournament since 2004-05. With packed recruiting classes ahead and a top-notch leader in Weber, Illinois will look to turn around a program that hasn’t been nearly as feared since watching Carolina cut down the nets on that fateful April night four years ago.
  • Gonzaga. The Zags undoubtedly were the most successful mid-major of the decade (moreso than Xavier and Butler), but their overall profile simply didn’t have enough juice to vault Gonzaga into the top ten. They dominated the WCC, winning the league eight times en route to an average of 26+ wins per year, an outstanding 80% winning percentage, and ten straight NCAA appearances.  But when it came to the NCAAs, Mark Few’s squads were only able to make it to the Sweet Sixteen four times.  And how many times in the decade were they able to advance past the third round?  Um, try zero.    Nevertheless, we believe that Gonzaga rates a tick higher than other such notable programs as Louisville, Wisconsin, Arizona and Oklahoma (all of whom made one F4) because they were so consistently good despite their scheduling limitations.  The worst Zag team (2006-07) still had 23 wins, and as a result of the weaker schedule of the WCC, their average NCAA seed was easily one of the lowest on our list.  Yet, as we all know, Gonzaga has tried to load up on high-impact RPI games during the nonconference slate, and we give them credit for that.  Fans of the other programs may quibble with this selection, but we can live with including at least one mid-major for consideration as the Team of the 2000s, and Gonzaga is our choice.
  • Arizona.  The obvious question here for Wildcat fans is how can a team that made the NCAA tournament every year for the past decade (and 25 straight if you don’t take away their vacated 1999 appearance) not be considered one of the top ten programs of the 2000s behind four teams that failed to make the tournament twice, two teams that failed to make the tournament three times, and another team that failed to make the tournament four times?  While the answer probably won’t satisfy Wildcat fans, it comes down to a few key things for us:
  1. Barely having a winning percentage at 70% despite playing in the Pac-10. Save the whining, West Coast people. The Pac-10 has only been one of the best conferences in the nation once in the past decade (2008 comes immediately to mind).
  2. Averaging 1.7 wins per NCAA Tournament appearance, which is lower than any other team in the top 10. The only team that they are close to is Syracuse and the Orange have a national title (wouldn’t be in the top 10 without it).
  3. Mediocre performance in the Pac-10. The Wildcats had 2.5 regular season conference titles (one being a split title) and 1 postseason conference title (since it was started in 2002). Like we said before, the Pac-10 might have the most attractive co-eds in the nation (although the SEC has a strong case), but the Pac-10 pales in comparison to the ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, and the Big 10 over the past decade in terms of the quality of their basketball teams.
  4. You could argue that the Wildcats got lucky with many of those NCAA tournament bids, most notably two years ago when they got in ahead of an Arizona State team that had a very strong case for being in above their rival.
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