With Syracuse’s 78-53 takedown of Rutgers at the Carrier Dome last night, Jim Boeheim took sole ownership of second place on the Division I all-time wins list with 903 victories, passing Bob Knight. These first few months of the season have been eventful for Boeheim, whose ascent up this list has been the focus of tremendous media attention and occasional scrutiny this season. In weighing in on Boeheim’s ranking among the greatest coaches of all-time, Rob Dauster notes the affect that a single Keith Smart jumper has had on Boeheim’s perception. If that shot doesn’t fall, Boeheim is two wins ahead of Knight, has the same number of national titles (two) as the man who many consider the greatest game coach of all-time, and many writers have a lot less material come March.
Buzz Williams‘ 48-hour suspension from the Marquette basketball team has now ended, and the fiery coach will rejoin the team in preparation for Georgetown. Williams’ suspension stemmed from assistant coach Scott Monarch giving apparel and rides to a Golden Eagles recruit. Monarch, a close friend of Williams, was summarily fired. Williams was not found to have had any knowledge of the violations, but he took the school-sanctioned leave as the program is ultimately his responsibility. Marquette defeated UConn in overtime during Williams’ absence from the team.
Pittsburgh‘s two losses to Michigan and Cincinnati had a very similar feel to them, and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ray Fittipaldo outlines three major factors that hurt the Panthers in both games: a lack of rebounding in the second half, especially from the center position; struggles against talented, aggressive guards on the perimeter; and, opposing teams limiting the Panthers’ transition game. If Pitt can’t solve these issues soon, the team will have major struggles in league play. Syracuse has a strong interior presence, Louisville has excellent high-energy guard play, and Georgetown will absolutely look to control the game’s tempo, just to name three teams who will look to take advantage of these weaknesses.
Syracuse.com‘s Mike Waters was asked about his all-time Big East team in his weekly mailbag. This is a fun exercise that I’m sure will come up on many sites and blogs this year, especially around Big East Tournament time. Waters weighs in on a number of Big East greats before settling on a strong starting five consisting of Sherman Douglas, Ray Allen, Chris Mullin, Derrick Coleman, and Patrick Ewing. When a conference could have a second team of Allen Iverson, Kerry Kittles, Carmelo Anthony, Donyell Marshall, and Alonzo Mourning, you know that they’ve been doing something right for a very long time.
Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 22nd, 2012
With all due respect to the legions of legendary players the Big East has produced in its storied history, the Big East has always been a coach’s league. This makes perfect sense given that the conference was conceived by, and molded through the eyes of a coach. It was the vision of that coach which propelled the Big East and college basketball to new heights beginning in the early 1980s. The Mount Rushmore of the Big East resides in its foundation and backbone. In many ways these are the four fathers of the conference. They all made long-term and lasting contributions to the league, and their statures grew in-kind with that of the conference as a result. These four men are your pillars.
Dave Gavitt: It is impossible to conceive any reference to the success or history of the Big East without Dave Gavitt at the forefront. A true visionary who gave life to the Big East Conference when he founded it in 1979, Gavitt relinquished a successful coaching career at Providence where he led the Friars to the 1973 NCAA Final Four to devote his attention to building the league as its first commissioner. It is hard to imagine where smaller Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence , Boston College and Villanova would be today without Gavitt’s influence. He believed that there was an audience for college basketball, a belief that probably saved the relevance of college basketball in the northeast and one that transcended his league, leading to the national television attention and marketing of the sport as we currently know it.
Jim Calhoun: The long time Connecticut head coach epitomizes the tenets of the Big East. A New England-born no-nonsense guy and tireless worker who always appears ready for a challenge, Calhoun was hired by Connecticut in 1986. He has led the Huskies to three National Championships, including last season’s historic double where Connecticut came out of nowhere from a ninth-place regular season conference finish to win both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. The Huskies have made 22 NCAA tournament appearances and four Final Fours under Calhoun’s watch. Further, in this age where football and football money are deemed king, it is important to note that Connecticut has major Division I college football today as a result of the success Calhoun and Connecticut had on the basketball court and not vice versa.
Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 17th, 2012
Once upon a time the Georgetown Hoyas struck fear in the hearts of any opposing player or fan who dared step into their path. With all due respect to Kid Rock, the Hoyas were the original American bad asses, exuding their bad-assness one rejection at a time.
For a generation, with centers and centerpieces like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and Othella Harrington, Georgetown protected the rim with ferocious tenacity. The thing that resonated most about Georgetown then was that their thirst for physical domination appeared to be personal and satisfying. Whether at home or on the road, they took pleasure in the pain they delivered, playing the game with a collective scowl and a knowing smirk.
People either loved Georgetown or hated them.
Then there was the group that repped the Hoyas because it was the cool thing to do. At the same time Georgetown basketball was a phenomenon. Beyond tangible. Even the word, “Hoya”, seemed to illicit some force of nature that had the power to overwhelm. They played with attitude and with a frenzied rage but seemed to be having fun at the same time. Michael Jordan probably pioneered the crossover appeal between sports and entertainment, but that was more due to his exploits and innovation on the court than his personality or background off of it. The Hoyas fused the relationship between college basketball and hip-hop culture. They had swagger. They had Allen Iverson. Everyone else had uniforms and sweats, Georgetown had gear.
Players like Iverson had Game and Gave the Hoyas Cred
The fact that Georgetown could care less about image made it all work. They left that to the media, fans, and rap videos. Just kept bruising and winning. Yesterday’s Hoyas were molded in the image of their head coach, John Thompson. Stern and stoic, Thompson got more accomplished with a look than most could with an instruction manual. Like his players on the court, Thompson’s presence on the sideline was palpable. He knew he had the intimidation factor working. Like a savvy catcher handling a fireballer, Thompson did not discourage a hard one up-and-in every once and awhile. He had just enough control to be dangerous and Georgetown was Goliath to everyone else’s David. Except, in true form, the Hoyas wrote their own script and David got swatted out of the gym on most occasions.
Normally the McDonald’s All-American game (rosters here) would only be worth watching for the occasional ridiculous dunk or the lack of defense, but the circus in Lexington and the fall-out in Memphis makes this one pretty interesting. At least 3 potential Memphis commits (DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry, and an uncommitted Lance Stephenson) are playing in this game. With John Calipari‘s decision to ditch Memphis for Lexington all of these guys are in play. Everyone knows that Stephenson will go the the highest bidder still hasn’t announced his decision, but Calipari’s decision puts Cousins and Henry back in play.
Note to Doug Gottlieb (if he’s reading): Nice job trying to bring some knowledge on SportsCenter this morning about how Xavier would stay at Memphis anyways because his older brother C.J. Henry would be joining him, but their father already said that both of them are not going to Memphis.
One more thing before we come back around 8 PM for the game, which will be broadcast on ESPN. John Wall, the #1 overall recruit according to several services, is ineligible since he is a 5th-year senior. I just wanted to get that out of the way before someone starts a rant against him being left off the teams. I haven’t seen much film of these guys outside of YouTube clips where they never commit a turnover, miss a shot, or fail to switch on a screen so if you guys have seen any of them, let us know what you think of them.
8:00 PM: Judging by what Len Elmore and his partner (no idea who he is) the economy has hit ESPN’s clothing budget. Not surprisingly the Memphis commits do not want to talk on camera about the Memphis situation, but Cousins has suddenly listed Kentucky as a potential destination.
8:05 PM: Nice. Derrick Favors lost his starting spot for the game because he forgot to put his jersey on underneath his warm-ups and had to run back to the locker room to find it while they announced the starting lineups.
8:10 PM: Whoa. Len Elmore just said these guys go to school to play basketball. What happened to the academics? The student-athletes?
8:12 PM: “John Henson‘s body type is similar to Brandon Rush.” I was actually going to go with a really tall skeleton, but ok. . .
8:14 PM: Lance Stephenson just double-dribbled on a fast break. How is that possible?
As you may have heard, for the first time ever the Final 4 will feature four #1 seeds. Although some people have been complaining about the lack of surprises, I was quite content watching Davidson make it to the Elite 8. As for the top 4 teams in the country making it to the Final 4 being the latest sign of the college basketball apocalypse, I really don’t see it as being much different than several other years where only #1 and #2 seeds made the Final 4. Would you really feel any different about this Final 4 if Texas had beaten Memphis? I doubt it unless you are a Longhorn or Tiger fan. Anyways, with a little more than 36 hours until the tip of the first semifinal I thought I would whet your appetite for the potentially great games we may see on Saturday and Monday night. On to the game. . .
With the exception of the 1992 Duke-Kentucky East Regional Final, a case can be made that Duke’s upset of UNLV in the 1991 National Semifinals was the most significant game of the past 20 years. This was the game that put Duke and Mike Krzyzewski over the top going from lovable losers to the team to beat most years. While the Blue Devils still needed to beat Kansas in the championship game (featuring Grant Hill’s alley-oop dunk from Bobby Hurley), most college fans will remember this as the de facto championship game much like the Miracle on Ice (the US had to beat Finland to win the gold). To put this game in context, you have to remember that UNLV had crushed Duke the year before in the championship game 101-71 (a record 30-pt margin).
UNLV came into this game undefeated and was widely expected to become the first team since Bobby Knight’s 1976 Indiana Hoosiers (featuring Quinn Buckner, Kent Benson, and Scott May) to go undefeated. Many experts were already speculating about where this UNLV team ranked all-time not unlike what happened with a certain football team from Massachusetts this year (minus the videotaping, but probably with more hookers). Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels came into the game 34-0 beating their opponents by an average of more than 27.5 points while averaging a ridiculous 98.3 PPG. They were led by Larry Johnson (National POY), Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony, and Stacy Augmon). Some of our younger readers may not realize how great these guys were in college so we’ll just say you should think about what Memphis did to Michigan State in the 1st half of their Sweet 16 game this year. Now imagine a team doing that every game. That’s what this UNLV team was like for the entire season. UNLV ran through the tournament with the exception of an 8-point victory against a Georgetown team that featured Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.
On the other side of the ball, Duke came in with a respectable 30-5 record, but was only the #2 seed in its own region. After the championship game the year before nobody expected this game to be close. Duke had added Grant Hill to their roster, but he was only a freshman and nowhere near the player he was by the time he was a senior that carried a YMCA team to the 1994 championship game. In addition, the Blue Devils had lost 2 of their top players (Phil Henderson and Alaa Abdelnaby) from the year before to graduation. This was Duke’s 4th consecutive Final 4 appearance and 5th in 6 years, but they had failed to seal the deal and were becoming the Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills before there were the Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills. In the NCAA tournament, Duke advanced to the Final 4 through a relatively easy bracket thanks to some early-round upsets (beat a 15, 7, 11, and 4 seed to win the Midwest Region).
Thanks to the miracle of YouTube we can bring you footage from that game including a pregame and postgame clip.
[Editor's Note: For some reason the embedding isn't working properly except for the last video. All the videos are still up on YouTube. If you click anywhere in the box except on the "Play" button, it will load in an outside window. Sorry for the inconvenience, we're trying to figure out how to fix this.]
-Pre-game buildup and interviews with Tarkanian and Duke assistant coach (and current Harvard coach) Tommy Amaker
-Player introductions and opening minutes
-From 2:30 left in 2nd half until Laettner goes to the line.
-Laettner at the line with scored tied at 77 to post-game celebration.
-Newscast and reaction.
By the next day, the media knew they had witnessed one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history. As the years passed and we only saw a few teams of the caliber of that UNLV team (’92 Duke and ’96 Kentucky), the upset grew in legend to the point where in 2000 The Sporting News ranked it as the 4th best biggest NCAA tournament upset ever and the ESPN Page 2 readers ranked it as the 4th greatest sports upset ever. I think the Page 2 poll is way off as I consider it a huge upset, but probably not in the same class as the others mentioned in that list. However, I think TSN probably comes pretty close as ridiculous as it sounds for a #2 seed beating a #1 seed to be such a big upset.
We all know what happened afterwards. Duke went on to win the first of their back-to-back titles and grew into one of the most powerful sports programs of the past 20 years while Jerry Tarkanian was fired by UNLV in 1992 and floated around the basketball universe including stops at the San Antonio Spurs and Fresno State. UNLV never reached the same heights again and only has had a measure of success with Lon Kruger getting them to the 2007 Sweet 16.
rtmsf addendum: This is a great recap of the climate surrounding this game. The 91 UNLV team was considered an absolute juggernaut. We for one will never forget the highly anticipated 1-2 regular season matchup between #1 UNLV and #2 Arkansas at the old Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville (a place where the Hawgs were nearly unbeatable at the time). UNLV absolutely blitzed the Hawgs to open the second half, never looking back in a display of athleticism and prowess virtually unmatched in all of our years watching college basketball.
One other point on this 91 Duke-UNLV game. Two months after the game, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a photo of UNLV players Anderson Hunt, Moses Scurry and David Butler sitting in a hot tub drinking beer with convicted felon and noted “sports fixer” Richard Perry (see below).
Perry had been involved in a point shaving scandal at Boston College in the 70s, and there was no shortage of similar conspiracy theories being thrown around at the time based on UNLV’s confounding loss to Duke in the national semifinals. Where there’s smoke there’s fire goes the saying, and the DOJ even felt there was sufficient cause to open an investigation into the possibility that some UNLV players may have fixed the game. To date, we’ve never heard anything come out of these allegations, but there are some who remain convinced something fishy went on during that game.
A final point that nvr1983 touched on but sounds completely absurd today is that, at the time of that 91 game, Duke was “America’s Team.” The hatred and vitriol enabled by the last 15 years of Dookie V. and ESPN had not yet taken hold, and most of the basketball public was happy to see the plucky guys from Durham (who were indeed becoming the Bills of college basketball) finally break through and win a title against the bullies from UNLV. My, how things have changed.