In Duncanville, Texas, earlier today, the winningest coach in men’s college hoops made an appearance at a facility to which he’s lending his name and quite likely his time — specifically, a space in the southern Dallas-Fort Worth area to be used for youth basketball and volleyball leagues and other programs meant to foster academic skills, life skills for both kids and adults, etc. It’ll be called Bob Knight’s Fieldhouse and is slated for a February opening. Hey, sounds good, right? Like him or not, the guy’s a legendary coach, to say the least, and of course he’s known for graduating almost 100% of his players. Knight also has a small financial consideration in this undertaking and he’s not exactly known for getting into that many business ventures, so no doubt he’s serious about this and perhaps he’s the right man to get something like this going. So, while we still think that shot back in 2000 on Jeremy Schaap was pretty cheap, we’re impressed with his involvement in this project. And we’re sure Coach Knight is glad that we’re impressed.
But the other reason we’re mentioning this is the dig that Knight got in on the NCAA during his appearance at the facility. In the AP report (via ESPN.com) it isn’t mentioned who asked the question, but whoever it was set him up beautifully. Knight was asked whether the NCAA was going to have any involvement in this project. His response:
“If the NCAA had anything to do with this, the roof would leak, there would be no locks on the doors, and the court would only have one basket.”
The guy never misses a chance, does he? And in the very same appearance, he notes that he hasn’t ruled out a return to the college coaching ranks and therefore the chance to once again be ruled (so to speak) by the organization he hates and at which he is still tossing verbal grenades.
We’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.
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.
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.
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.
Because of the NCAA’s refusal to give us a media credential (or discuss the issue and our side of the case), we were forced to go to today’s open practice to get an up-close look at the teams. As an aside, if anybody has extra tickets for the games in Boston for the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 (in case your team gets cheated by the refs), send me an e-mail at email@example.com and I might be able to take them off your hands.
The guys who don't want me covering the game
Let’s get one thing out of the way. The East Region open practice might have been the most boring 5 hours of my life (not counting lectures). There’s a reason the NCAA makes this event free (outside of the fact that they more than make up for it through the $8 programs, $5 Cokes, and $23 baseball caps). The crowd was 95% white males in their mid-30s or above along with a handful of kids chasing autographs from players who they were looking up during the practices checking to see which ones had the best stats. My favorites were the old guys sitting behind me who kept on commenting on how good Gary McGhee and Brian Zoubek were (the tallest guys on the court) and what outstanding pros they were going to be. Anyways, here are my thoughts and pictures (some pictures are from my iPhone because I forgot to charge my digital camera) from each team’s “practice”.
After months of hype (scroll to bottom), the much-talked about March Madness hubsite featuring Billy Packer and Bobby Knight was finally unveiled to the public today. [Ed. Note: In the interest of full disclosure, RTC is an affiliate of Fantasy Sports Ventures, the company that owns and operates the Knight/Packer site.] The site, which promises to feature analysis from two of the most well-known (and controversial) figures in college basketball history, is still in a little light on content right now, but it should be one of the more interesting sites on which to follow the NCAA tournament (after your morning stop to Rush the Court, of course). Fwiw, we got 38 right on the trivia challenge, doing well on the seeding questions but less so on the historical records of points scored, etc.
While some people may detest the existence of both individuals, we’re actually looking forward to hearing what they have to say about the NCAA Tournament in an unfiltered medium as they are probably two of the more knowledgeable college basketball analysts in recent years (I can’t remember either leaving the likely #1 overall seed off their preseason top 25). Honestly, Bobby Knight might be one of my favorite college basketball personalities. Some people may think he went over the line at times as a coach, but I have no issue with anything he did and I respect the fact that he ran a clean program (remember that Indiana fans?) and graduated his players. As for Packer, sure, we’ve had our issues with him in the past (ok, maybe more than a few issues), but we’re not sure what March would be like without some authority figure taking shots at the Cinderella. Somebody has to be the bad guy, right?
After my trip to Chapel Hill last weekend where rtmsf handled all of the duties for Boom Goes the Dynamite while I mingled with ESPN personalities and college basketball stars, I will be in charge of today’s edition while rtmsf does relationship stuff with his significant other. Pretty weak if you ask me. . .
11:00 AM: Although we are a men’s college basketball site, we feel that it’s appropriate to mention the passing of Kay Yow, the former NC State coach, to breast cancer (or more precisely complications related to breast cancer). We can’t really do justice to her impact on the women’s game so it’s probably better just to refer you to a chronology of her life.
11:10 AM: The Notre Dame GameDay crowd looks a lot larger than what I saw last weekend at UNC. I am not sure if it is just a bunch of camera tricks by the GameDay crew, but they definitely have more signs. It may be that UConn is much, much better than Miami was last week or that the UNC crowd may be a bit jaded, but the Chapel Hill crowd was not as into the GameDay experience as I expected them to be.
11:45 AM: Digger Phelps has been doing a good job of working the crowd, which he also did last week at Chapel Hill (even off camera), taking the homer pick of Luke Harangody as his choice of tough player after the other analysts picked Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Stephen Curry to boos. As expected the crowd went wild with Digger’s pick. A little later in the show, the crowd gave the stereotypical college crowd response to a Duke segment by chanting “overrated”. Not surprisingly, the analysts all defend Duke. Appropriately enough, Bobby Knight calls out the Notre Dame students by questioning their education. It looks like he is getting more comfortable with his role on ESPN.
11:50 AM: Another awful half-court shot. Where does ESPN find these guys? He deserved to be embarrassed like that on national TV for popping his collar. Someone should tell him that hasn’t been cool since. . .actually it has never been cool. Congrats on the airball.
Noon: Wow. All of the GameDay guys except Knight picked LSU to beat #13 Xavier. I guess it’s in Baton Rouge, but Xavier is definitely the better team. Least surprising pick of the day: Digger picks Notre Dame. Knight abstains from picking a team.
12:15 PM: Duke is off to a good start against Maryland after Jon Scheyer opens the game with two 3s. What’s going on with Brian Zoubek? He actually looks like a legitimate center today. I have seen him play several times this year and he certainly has improved from last year, but he has never played like this. If he can do this even for spurts this year, Duke might have a legitimate chance to win the title this year instead of their usual great regular season and flop in March.
12:20 PM: Villanova is tied at 10 with USF 6 minutes into the game. Dante Cunningham has 8 of Villanova’s 10 points. I don’t have much else to say about this game since I don’t have ESPN360 available since I am out of town. If anybody has this game on TV, let me know if anything interesting happens.
1:00 PM: Duke goes into halftime with a 25-point lead despite having one of the ugliest possessions I have ever seen to end the half. Do you remember when the Duke-Maryland games used to be the best games of the season? I still remember trying to figure out where I could go to watch the game on TV my freshman year of college. (My school didn’t believe in providing cable to dorm rooms.) Meanwhile in Tampa, Villanova is struggling against USF (tied at 32 at halftime).
Ed. note – Check out our Boom Goes the Dynamite post covering all of today’s big games until 6pm EDT tonight, when our on-site coverage of ESPN GameDay will continue.
After my first attempt at trying to live blog earlier this week during the Boston College-Wake Forest game, I decided to head down to Chapel Hill to to cover tomorrow’s season-opening ESPN GameDay game (Miami at UNC). All the big names (Dick Vitale, Bobby Knight, Erin Andrews, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, etc.) will be there so it should be a big night. RTC will be courtside to bring the action to you (if your big-screen HD wasn’t enough) along with answering whatever (appropriate) questions you may have for coaches, players, and TV personalities. I’ll have access to the media room, courtside reporters, post-game press conferences, and the locker rooms so if you have any questions, post them in the comment section throughout the day and I will try our best to get you the answers.
We’ll be inside tomorrow night
One early (random) note: I ran into some of the ESPN GameDay crew a few hours ago. It looks like most of them were support staff, but I did notice that Howie Schwab was there, who technically is support staff too. I guess might be considered a F-list celebrity after his now defunct TV show “Stump the Schwab”. Apparently Howie wasn’t sure how to get to his hotel (out of respect for their privacy I’ll avoid posting it online). Being a good Samaritan, I decided to help them out since they knew the name of the hotel and I had an iPhone. I offered to look it up for them on my iPhone, but was completely ignored because apparently the Schwab is above talking to the common folk. I guess Deadspin was right. (To be fair one of the other guys acknowledged my existence briefly then followed the Schwab.) Hopefully the other media members will be a little more receptive tomorrow night. Feel free to leave “Stump the Schwab” jokes in the comment section.
The New York Times with an analysis of the coaching tenure by conference. It is interesting how much longer the ACC coaches tenure has been. The ACC number is obviously boosted by Coach K’s 28+ year run at Duke. I’m not sure if the difference are significant. Does this mean that ACC programs are more successful or that the administrators there are more lenient? Either way I don’t think a conference’s average length of tenure should matter as much to a recruit as a specific school’s track record.
Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater will be heading to Tampa to play at USF. A pretty big pick-up for a team that will likely finish DFL in the Big East.
RTC touched on academics and basketball a few months back, but a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece (h/t to The Big Lead for finding this) goes well beyond that (imagine that full-time journalists. . .) analyzing SAT scores of football players (it is a Southern newspaper) compared to their “classmates”. Anybody who went to school with big-time athletics programs realizes what a joke the term “student-athlete” often is. We’re planning on digging into this issue (with a basketball focus obviously) a bit more in the near future. It also makes you wonder what kind of grade inflation is going on if someone with a reported 890 SAT (I don’t care if that was as a 9th grader) can pull a 3.81 GPA.
A look at Belmont almost 10 months after they nearly knocked off Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I doubt Vince Gill goes to many regular season games.
O.J. Mayo worked out with the Miami Heat on Saturday and according to Chad Ford looked very good in dominating Tyrone Brazelton. Apparently, Mayo has become good friends with Dwayne Wade and combined with this workout it increases the possibility that Miami may select Mayo #2 overall, which would mean that the prior unaninimous #1 pick Michael Beasley may fall all the way to Minnesota at #3. Even Kevin McHale can’t screw that up, can he?
CNNSI.com with a piece on Oregon State’s Craig Robinson (you may have heard of his brother-in-law Barack something) that uses a change metaphor (real original)
In related news, Brown hired Jesse Agel to replace the departed Robinson as head coach.
Cal State Fullerton signed Bob Burton to a 5-year extension thanks to its first NCAA bid in 30 years.
Duquesne lands Morakinyo Williams, a transfer from Kentucky, who (say it with me) “wanted a chance to play more minutes and make a bigger impact”. Williams played 29 minutes last year (that’s a total not per game) and averaged 0.8 PPG and 1.0 RPG (read: impact player)
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.