Morning Five: 12.01.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

morning5

  1. We’ll have more on this later today, but the AP received the records of the NCAA’s response to Memphis as a result of the Derrick Rose SAT Scandal.  In a succinct statement, it comes down to the fact that the NCAA believes that schools must fear punishment for using sketchy players, and if they don’t, they’ll act with impunity in recruiting those guys.  It’s a very interesting argument, but not one that everyone is buying…  more later.
  2. Very tough news for Villanova, as they will likely lose freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou for the entire season due to a viral infection that is not life-threatening.  This puts even more pressure on Antonio Pena to contribute from the inside.  There were already serious concerns as to how VU would replace Dante Cunningham in the post, and now we’re not sure that the Wildcats can even come close to doing that.  Jay Wright may want to consider the four-guard lineup again.
  3. Seth Davis gives us his weekly Hoop Thoughts — make sure you check out page two for the best of the article.
  4. Mike DeCourcy riffs on the UNC-MSU game tonight, the irrelevance of polls (thankfully this isn’t football), and Alabama’s JaMychael Green (whom we’ve been hyping for a while now).
  5. Occasionally, we’ll find an amusing (often, non-PC) tweet from one of the coaches, players or media folks we’re tracking and we’ll put it up here for your enjoyment as well.  Today’s entry is from UT-Arlington’s Marquez Haynes.  Guess he was hungry?

quezhaynes tweet

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That’s Debatable: Coaches Giving Thanks

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

debatable

Each week RTC will posit a That’s Debatable question or topic that is relevant to the world of college basketball.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, we’ll post the thoughts of our core editing crew (in 200 words or less), but we’ll also be expanding to include our contributors and correspondents as appropriate throughout the season.  We also invite you, the readers, to join us as we mull over some of the questions facing the game today.  Feel free to send us your takes and/or leave them in the comments below.

This Week’s Topic: Thanksgiving week is upon us, and families everywhere around the country will come together to give thanks for the numerous people and things important to them.  What will some of the nation’s top college basketball coaches give thanks for during this week of reflection and thought?

nvr1983 – editor/contributor, RTC

One of the people who should be thankful this Thanksgiving is Thad Matta. When last season ended two of his players were contemplating leaving school early to go to the NBA: B.J. Mullens and Evan Turner. While Mullens was the more highly rated recruit, he hadn’t quite lived up to those expectations. Although Turner was no slouch in high school (he was a 4-star recruit), he didn’t come to Columbus with the same expectations. By the end of last season, both players we predicted to be mid- to late-first round picks. As you all know Mullens decided to leave school early and ended up being selected #24 overall by the Mavericks before being traded to the Thunder where he is averaging 3 PPG and 1 RPG in 15.8 MPG. Turner decided to stay in Columbus for at least one more season and is the early favorite for National Player of the Year after starting the season averaging 21.8 PPG (on 59% FG), 14.8 RPG, 6 APG, and 1.8 SPG for the Buckeyes. If Mullens had stayed and Turner had left OSU wouldn’t be a top 25 team, but because the roles were reversed they could be a top 10 team.

rtmsf – editor/contributor, RTC

While many coaches across the land will give thanks this week for a top recruit or a big win or still having a paying job, BYU coach Dave Rose will be thankful that he’s still around to coach his team.  You see, on June 17 of last summer, Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and as far as pancreatic cancers go, his wasn’t the worst kind, but seeing those two words together (“pancreatic” and “cancer”) is never a good thing.  He had emergency surgery the very next day to remove part of his spleen and pancreas, and after a quick recovery, he now sits as the head coach of a strong 3-0 team with aspirations to win the Mountain West and make some noise in this year’s NCAA Tournament.  Oh, and did I mention that all tests show that he is completely cancer-free?  BYU feels so highly about Rose that the school gave him a 5-year extension through the 2014 season, showing their faith in both his coaching acumen as well as his health.  There’s no greater gift than the one of life, and Rose is undoubtedly living each day as if it were his last — now that’s something to be thankful for!

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Morning Five: 11.20.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2009

morning5

  1. AOL Fanhouse reported yesterday that there is an ongoing pattern of NCAA rules violations at South Florida, according to various former assistant coaches and players of the program under Stan Heath.  Many of the alleged violations involve strength and conditioning assistant Terrelle Woody, who was hired in part to ensure the recruitment of Gus Gilchrist to the program in 2008.  The allegations include unauthorized “open gyms” during dead periods, a cover-up of a burglary involving current players, and the providing of excessive free transportation for Gus Gilchrist by Woody.  The details are very specific, and we’d bet that there’s something behind all of this.
  2. Of all the things to lose your job over…  San Diego State athletic director Jeff Schemmel resigned his position yesterday in light of allegations that he used the school credit card to rent a car and pay for gas to meet his mistress in Alabama.  Schemmel made over $250k per year, but we guess having a mistress 2500 miles away taxes your financial picture more than we think.
  3. Villanova big man Mouphtaou Yarou had to fly home from the Puerto Rico Tipoff yesterday prior to his team’s game against George Mason due to a viral infection.  Without Yarou or Reggie Redding (suspension) in the lineup for the Wildcats, Villanova came from behind in gritty fashion to win the game on a late three by Isaiah Armwood.
  4. Yesterday the SI guys gave us their NPOY candidates, etc.; today they draft their collegiate dream teams and banter back and forth about it.  Armstrong’s team has the most NBA level talent, so we’re going with that one as the top choice.
  5. The NCAA defended Memphis’ decision to not release the content of its response to the Memphis rebuttal in the Derrick Rose SAT scandal that we wrote about yesterday.  “In order to… maintain the integrity of the enforcement process, there is no ability for a member school to print, save or download the information contained on the secure web site,” said an NCAA spokesperson yesterday.  Which doesn’t really answer the question in our view.  This NCAA response speaks to the physical limitations of the information, but it doesn’t speak to the paraphrasing and re-telling of it in any way, which Memphis could easily do if they merely said “the NCAA agreed/disagreed with our assessment on strict liability.”  Again, we think that Memphis is handling this the right way, though, because it makes the NCAA look bad, and when Memphis if ultimately punished for this, the Tigers will have won the PR battle over this charade already.
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Memphis Learns Its Fate, Can’t/Won’t Tell Anyone the Results…

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009

Sometimes the NCAA’s policies, procedures and processes are so difficult, convoluted and nonsensical that it’s difficult to even begin to explain why they don’t make much sense.  It took a little while, but we think we have a grasp on the latest chapter in NCAA idiocy covered.  It all comes down to transparency (or the NCAA’s lack thereof).  Quite possibly the biggest complaint that fans of schools investigated (or not investigated) by the NCAA is that the whole process — from how schools are targeted and chosen for investigation, reviewed, and ultimately adjudicated, is shrouded in a veil of secrecy.  Sometimes college sports fans must feel like the NCAA is actually a poorly-functioning arm of the NSA given the way they operate.  Some of the more notorious examples of what we’re talking about from the last few years are no surprise to anyone.  For example:

  • How does Corey Maggette not get Duke into hot water after the fact, but Derrick Rose does for Memphis?
  • John Wall and Ryan Kelly, anyone?
  • Eddie Sutton took down Kentucky over payoffs but Kelvin Sampson is banned for five years over phone calls?
  • Why are some legal doctrines (strict liability) selectively used in some situations but not in others?
  • Can anyone, anyone at all, explain Reggie Bush/USC?

secrecy cartoon

There are many others, but those are a few off the top of the dome.  Why do things seem so inconsistent?  How does the NCAA decide to investigate, and when they do so, what are the criteria they use to make their findings?  Do they use generally agreed upon principles of auditing, quasi-legal doctrine, administrative law, or something else they make up as they go along?  How are penalties assessed and what are the mitigating factors that they consider in making those decisions?  Is every single case a uniquely-judged “case-by-case” situation, making it all but impossible to draw generalizations about how the NCAA rules enforcement folks will act in a given situation?  Or is that ultimately the point — to make it so confusing and inconsistent that any school can get in serious trouble for nearly anything (or the perception that you can)?  Now that we think about it, we already go through this seemingly every year in terms of what the NCAA Selection Committee wants to see on NCAA Tournament bubble teams’ resumes — it shouldn’t surprise us that things out of this shop often seem wildly arbitrary and inconsistent.

So here’s the point of this post.  Memphis announced today that it had learned what the NCAA’s response to its appeal in the Derrick Rose SAT scandal was, but according to some bylaw borrowed straight from the Soviet playbook, the school is not allowed to make the response public nor can it/will it (?) discuss these findings.  Memphis is undoubtedly doing some grandstanding here, but it doesn’t change the absurdity of the NCAA’s rule keeping their logic and reasoning secret.  So we now sit in Act III of theater of the absurd while we wait for someone at Memphis to leak the information contained within the document (which can only be viewed on a secret, read-only website administered by the NCAA — sadly, this is not a joke), or for an enterprising news organization to force the NCAA to release the document under open records laws in Tennessee (as recently occurred in a Florida State cheating scandal).

Does the NCAA not understand that operating in this manner in no way engenders public trust and faith in the fairness and equitable nature of the system?  Do they not see that, regardless of the strength of their argument on the merits, John Q. Fan reads this and can only conclude that the NCAA is hiding the ball so as to get its way in the end?  Are they too dense to realize that a simple and consistent application of rules and policies are the first step toward removing much of the thinly-veiled cynicism that those still following big-time college sports have for it?

RTC Applauds RC Johnson's Audacity

RTC Applauds RC Johnson's Audacity

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic.  Kudos go to Memphis Athletic Director RC Johnson for telling the world that the NCAA has responded to his appeal, but sorry, we’re not allowed to tell you what they said or the logic they use for agreeing/disagreeing with it.  That’s incredibly rich, and it gets exactly the right message across.  Memphis is going to pay for this anyway — the NCAA has already cornered itself on the strict liability argument — but at least they’ll go down lobbing shots across the bow at the absurdity of it all.

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10.16.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2009

The countdown clock is under 12 hours, and we’re all absolutely dripping with giddiness for real games in the next month…

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09.14.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2009

In the last week or so, we’ve noticed that the days are distinctly shorter than they were, which means only one thing…  darkness.

  • What, no Matt Doherty?  Carolina celebrated its 100 years of basketball with a blowout extravaganza two Fridays ago featuring such UNC luminaries as Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Phil Ford, Larry Brown, Antawn Jamison, George Karl, Julius Peppers and a bunch of other dignitaries, both past and present.  The tribute video they presented at the beginning of the evening should be mandatory viewing for every recruit that steps into Chapel Hill (sidenote: 2010 #1 Harrison Barnes and several others were there), but the featured event was the scrimmage, nicknamed the “Professional Alumni Game,” where the White team (starters: Raymond Felton, Brendan Haywood, Marvin Williams, Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse) defeated the Blue team (Vince Carter, Jawad Williams, Dante Calabria, Sean May and Ed Cota) 113-92.  It sounds great and all, but it was the trotting out of that old Carolina/Dean Smith warhorse, the Four Corners offense, that just about made this writer puke.  Let’s sully one of the greatest collections of collegiate talent ever put together in a single place at a single time by reminiscing and celebrating one of the biggest abominations the game has ever witnessed.  For you youngsters, the 4C was largely responsible for the implementation of the 45-second shot clock in the mid-80s, and is widely ridiculed as one of the worst inventions of the modern game.  Bad, bad idea, Heels.  As another sidenote to this Carolina joyfest, did anyone else feel that MJ’s acceptance speech at the HOF induction last weekend was completely petty and mean-spirited?  From our cheap seats, it appears that more than one Jordan Myth was defused this weekend (h/t TBL).
  • Memphis Appeals.  Last week Memphis sent its timely notice of appeal to the NCAA based on the Derrick Rose Scandal, arguing that the Tigers’ 38 wins and NCAA Tournament runner-up appearance from 2007-08 should not be removed from the history books.  Among the findings that led to the penalties, the only one that Memphis is appealing is the violation involving Derrick Rose’s SAT score.  This is presumably because it is also the most difficult one to prove (cf. with Memphis getting cold-busted for providing illicit airfare and hotels to Reggie Rose).  The school, now represented by “NCAA defender to the stars” Mike Glazier, has thirty days to present its arguments to the NCAA Infractions Committee, and their argument is going to undoubtedly hinge on the seeming inconsistency of Derrick Rose being cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse prior to his freshman season only to be later deemed ineligible after the fact.  Sadly for Memphis, in this case and in the real world, what is an apparent inconsistency is incongruent with the fact that the justice system (and the NCAA) doesn’t work like that.  The bottom line is this: so long as the Clearinghouse made a good faith effort to determine the basis for Rose’s initial eligibility (and we presume it did), the revelation of later evidence indicting Rose’s SAT provenance has no bearing on the initial assessment.  The NCAA had no basis to believe that Rose had cheated on his SATs until the allegations surfaced after his freshman year.  The real-world analogy would be if the police did a cursory investigation of someone related to a crime and found no evidence to initially support their involvement, only to receive credible information a year later that the person investigated might have indeed committed the crime.  Rose was no more “cleared” than any of us are - there is no ”get-out-of-jail-free” card that we can present in perpetuity; if additional information comes to light, it is entirely reasonable for conditions to change in response.  Furthermore, the fact that Rose then ignored three letters from ETS (who administers the SAT) questioning his score, and two other letters from the NCAA requesting an interview, does not help his case.  Unless he plans on showing up to the NCAA hearing on Memphis’ behalf with evidence to the contrary (LOLable), we’re afraid that Memphis is going to be forced to eat those 38 wins and the $600K they stand to lose here.  Maybe Josh Pastner could simply request that Rose write him a check?
  • Back To Renardo Sidney.  The NCAA stated last Friday that Mississippi St.’s Renardo Sidney is not certified to play this season because his family did not turn over the financial documentation that they requested as part of the investigation into how the Sidneys afforded to live in high-end homes in the LA area.  Or as they put it, Sidney is “not certified due to non response.”  The NCAA went on to say that if or when the Sidneys send the information requested (and not a stack of random papers they found in someone’s locker), then his certification will be re-evaluated.  What does all this mean?  Basically, the NCAA doesn’t want to get caught with its pants down again, as in the cases of OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose where they certified players as initially eligible only to watch as those same players danced on the NCAA Clearinghouse’s grave en route to the NBA.  Sidney’s attorney is threatening lawsuit, and we suspect that his argument “that the Sidney family has to establish the existence of non-violations” probably has some merit, but none of this may matter given we’re only two months from the first games and the justice system moves slower than molasses.  It’s unlikely that MSU will risk playing Sidney while the wheels of justice are turning simply because they don’t want a Rose giveback of all the Ws they’re anticipating this season.
  • Vegas Watch: Big Ten.  VW got his third installment of the major conference previews up today, and once again we were invited along for the peep show.  What’s interesting about the Big Ten ratings is that we all pretty much agreed that Purdue is the best team in the conference in 09-10, but (at least for our money) Michigan St. is the team more likely to do damage in the NCAA Tournament.  Another good exercise, and the league is looking at being way up – up to seven solid NCAA bids this season.  For the ACC and Big 12 ratings and discussion, see these posts.
  • Quick HitsSlam Magazine: finished its Top 25.  Arizona St.: more than just Harden and PendergraphParrish: why Butler is no Boise.   Goodman: 25 players you should know for 09-10, and his all-americans (John Wall for POY = bold).  Incredible Shrinking Center: Memphis’ Pierre Henderson-NilesJim Griffin: RIPJohn Pelphrey at Arkansas: agreedSeton Hall: extends Bobby Gonzalez to 2015Florida St.: haven’t we heard this song before?  Travis Ford: wow, how do you get a 10-year extension after one year on the job?  Larry Eustachy: Gillispie has a diseaseFreshmen: here’s the top 20 for 09-10Memphis: down to 8 scholarship playersBlue Ribbon: go ahead and order it.
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Team of the 2000s: Wrap-Up and Honorable Mention

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2009

teamof2000(2)

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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