Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.
Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED… Wisconsin senior Ryan Evans. One of the best things about conference tournament week is that you suddenly get a much larger dose of all the guys who you’ve seen for a just few highlights, or maybe a couple of prime time games. And while I was ready to stamp Wisconsin with the “lucky to make it to second weekend” label, I couldn’t help but find myself impressed with the Badgers’ discipline and the savvy, fundamentals-based game that Evans displayed during UW’s impressive run in Chicago. Plus, you can’t help but love the flat top.
Ryan Evans’ Team Impressed Over the Weekend
I LOVED… Jim Larranaga completing an incredible ACC turnaround. Winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles is a truly great accomplishment, and it seems like so often that we see teams have a great start to conference play and then flare out as we get into the tough March games that really make or break you. Though I still think the Hurricanes are vulnerable, with Shane Larkin leading the way, Miami is definitely capable of a big run, too.
I LOVED… Tournament Week. I’m embarrassed to guess how many hours I spent in front of the TV last week, but it was definitely justified. The Big Ten tourney alone was enough, but additional quality finals in the Big 12, ACC and Big East, among others, made this a vintage Couch Potato weekend.
I LOVED… how Greg Anthony has somehow gotten himself into every other college basketball TV commercial.
With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.
Here are the basic ground rules:
We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.
Here are the results:
We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.
Now it’s getting serious. College basketball teams across the country now fall into one of four camps: bored, because they know their NCAA bid is secure; resigned, because they’ve known for a long time that they’re out; relieved, because they think they’ve played their way in; and downright antsy, because they’ve still got work to do. That last group are the most interesting ones at this time of year, and there are plenty of them out there. We’ll be keeping an eye on all of those games and, of course, commenting on any game we can find on the tube in today’s three-man weave version of BGTD. We hope to hear from you while we’re at it. Here are the games on which we’ll definitely be keeping tabs, though we’ll probably find more throughout the day:
12 PM – Notre Dame @ #13 Georgetown on CBS (regional) – RTC Live
12 PM – #2 Kentucky @ #17 Tennessee on CBS (regional)
12 PM – Michigan @ #9 Ohio State on ESPN
12 PM – Northeastern @ George Mason on ESPN2
2 PM – North Carolina @ Wake Forest on CBS
2 PM – #21 Texas @ #23 Texas A&M on ESPN
2 PM – Mississippi @ Arkansas on ESPN2
4 PM – #1 Kansas @ Oklahoma State on CBS
4 PM – Florida @ Georgia on SEC Network
6 PM – Mississippi State @ South Carolina on ESPN
8 PM – Illinois State @ #22 Northern Iowa on ESPN2
8 PM – Missouri @ #6 Kansas State on ESPN-U
8 PM – Southern Miss @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
9 PM – #8 Villanova @ #4 Syracuse on ESPN
We will start with our coverage at 11 AM. Feel free to drop by throughout the day and ask questions/comment on anything that is happening in the world of college basketball.
11:05: Well it certainly is very orange in Syracuse. And Bob Knight with the first shot of the day mocking fans who would pay $750 to watch this game. Nice. Evan Turner just signed a “Evan Turner” home-made trophy being held by some kid wearing a home-made “Villain” t-shirt.
11:06: Knight just admitted he is rooting for Steve Alford and New Mexico tonight. Not a surprise, but still amusing. I’m sure the BYU players will have something to say to the media after the game.
11:10: We would love to interview the fan who sits in that seat or the row of seats that Erin Andrews just featured. The almost looks like Final Four type seating or what we saw earlier this year for the game at the new Cowboys stadium.
11:17: Hubert Davis calling out the Mountain West and BYU. Can we get Shawn Bradley on the phone to mock UNC? Jay Bilas comes to BYU’s defense by comparing them to and crushing Virginia Tech. He’s not going to be a popular guy the next time he visits Blacksburg. Digger makes the best point of the entire discussion by saying that the reason we are talking up the mid-majors is because the PAC-10 is awful this year.
11:20: “This is the weakest at-large field ever. The weakest at-large field ever.” – Jay Bilas. He should be fun on Selection Sunday.
11:21: Does Digger have a yellow highlighter today? Is this the first time he has went with the traditional yellow for his highlighter?
11:35: Nice feature about Hank Gathers. I still remember hearing about it the day it happened on SportsCenter the night it happened. Still jarring to see the video. Nice shout-out to RTC fan Jeff Fryer. It’s too bad they ran into the buzzsaw that was the 1990 UNLV team. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that “30 for 30″ documentary.
11:45: I love seeing the replay of the Scottie Reynolds shot. Not because I root for Villanova, but because it is the craziest basketball moment I have ever seen in person. Just the ecstasy of the Villanova fans that followed their utter despair after they had almost blown the game moments before.
We are back with our first Boom Goes The Dynamite of the season (not counting our coverage of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon). For those of you who are not familiar with this feature, we will be covering all of the important college basketball being played today in a live blog. So for those of you who love college basketball, we invite you to spend part (or all) of the day with us. If you’re still getting back into college basketball after spending the fall following a sport that does not let an undefeated team play for a title, here is a quick rundown of the major games that we will be following throughout the day:
Noon: #4 Kentucky at Indiana on CBS
Noon: #15 Ohio State at #20 Butler on ESPN and RTC Live
2 PM: #13 Georgetown vs. #16 Washington on FSN and RTC Live
2 PM: La Salle at #1 Kansas on ESPN
4:30 PM: Mississippi State vs. UCLA on FSN and RTC Live
5 PM: Marquette at #23 Wisconsin on ESPN2
6 PM: New Mexico vs. #18 Texas A&M on Fox Sports Southwest
7 PM: Kansas State vs. #17 UNLV on ESPN Full Court
9 PM: #5 Purdue at Alabama on ESPN2
Noon: And we’re live. Like we noted earlier there are 2 big games to watch in this TV session. We’re expecting Kentucky to destroy Indiana, but Ohio State-Butler promises to be much more interesting especially with the absence of Evan Turner.
12:10 PM: Agree with Greg Anthony. DeMarcus Cousins is the key for Kentucky’s title hopes this season. John Wall and Patrick Patterson are almost a given. If Cousins can play consistently (and the Wildcats play a little D), they have a great shot at a NCAA title.
12:12 PM: Phenomenal start for Indiana. Tom Crean could not have asked for anything more than a 12-4 start. Is it possible that Kentucky could have overlooked Indiana. I know the Hoosiers are down, but you have to get up for a trip to Bloomington, right?
12:15 PM: For those who caught that discussion about the relative scoring ability of Matt Howard and Jay Bilas. Here are Jay’s numbers from his time at Duke.
12:20 PM: Kentucky looks really sloppy right now. Have the Wildcats been listening to all the hype?
12:25 PM: Great start for Butler. Up 24-14 midway through the 1st half. William Buford answers a bucket but misses the free throw. Wow. That’s a ridiculous class for Ohio State, but like Bilas mentions how long will they stay there. Gordon Hayward almost converts a ridiculous alley-oop from Shelvin Mack.
12:30 PM: Wow. Bilas thinks Northwestern is still a NCAA Tournament team even without Kevin Coble. I’m not so sure about that. I guess there is a lot of Big 10/11 basketball to be played.
12:32 PM: And Kentucky has taken the lead at 21-19 thanks to a 12-2 run. It figured it would only be a matter of time before they came back, but this is pretty quick. The question is whether the Hoosiers can respond and keep this game tight. If they keep it within 10 at half, the crowd should still be into it.
12:35 PM: Did they just say that Wall has a 3.8 GPA? Has Kentucky’s semester already ended or is that his high school GPA? I have heard it was closer to 2.6 in high school. Is this another Tim Tebow situation?
Before I get started, I want to reiterate our stance against the scumbags who surreptitiously videotaped Erin Andrews in the clips that apparently came out almost 4 months ago and somehow remained unknown before exploding on the Internet one week ago. . .
As you may know by now the past week has been a particularly trying one for the sports media overlords in Bristol as they have been hit by the aforementioned peephole video scandal, which their own sister network claims might have been an inside job[Ed. Note: Can ESPN sue its parent company?], and the Ben Roethlisberger fiasco where they waited several days to announce the news that one of the most recognizable athletes in America had a sexual assault charge filed against him. Perhaps the most interesting story out of Bristol this week was that ESPN had decided to blacklist all New York Post staff members from appearing on any ESPN or any of their outlets after the Post ran screencaps of the infamous videos that left little to the imagination. On a basic visceral level, most people would agree to ESPN’s decision as they would be disgusted by the decision of the Post brain trust to run the screencaps.
The situation becomes a little more dicey when 2 other major media outlets (CBS and FOX News) decided to show the actual clips on their news broadcasts. If the front office people at ESPN actually had a policy or stance regarding the use of these illegally filmed clips, they should have taken a similar stance against CBS and FOX staff members. This raises an interesting question: Why did ESPN single out the New York Post? While some may argue that it was the way the Post utilized the images, we find that rather hard to believe. Although CBS and FOX were not as sensational in their presentation of the clips as the Post was they are in fact doing the same thing–using the illegal footage to try and further their story. For our money, there is a simple answer as to why ESPN singled out the Post staff members for their blacklist–because they can.
Ok, we’re ready for the firestorm. The four of you who are still reading this are going to swim the moat and scale the walls of the RTC castle after you read this post. You’re going to want to string up those responsible by their testicles (or in Nvr’s case, his mangina), and ritualistically flog them until they admit that a grevious error has been made. We’re ready for it.
And the reason we’re prepared for such a thing is because the best team of the Modern Era is one that didn’t even win the championship in its given year (cringe). Hell, they didn’t even make the final game! But you need to hear us out, listen to what we’re saying, open your mind to the possibility, and it’ll all make sense soon enough.
Your RTC Modern Era Champions
For the full 64-team bracket, click here. The championship game analysis is below the bracket.
#2 UNLV 1991 def. #1 Duke 1992. You’re probably thinking… but RTC, we already saw this game, we know how it ends up. It was played in the 1991 national semifinals with 90% of the same principal players and themes involved. LJ, Augmon, Anthony, Hunt, Ackles vs. Hurley, Laettner, Hill, Hill, Davis. Tark vs. Coach K. Good vs. Evil. Glitzy vs. Coldly Efficient. Foot Stomps vs. Hot Tubs. Clean vs. Dirty. And you’d be right. The 1991 matchup was the de facto national championship game, and it has gone down in NCAA Tournament lore as one of the greatest games of all-time. Duke, of course, won the game with an 8-1 run to catch and finish off the Runnin’ Rebels, 79-77, after their floor leader Greg Anthony fouled out.
And we’re down to two… the two teams, that in our highly-valued and respected opinion, are the most talented, battle-tested and worthy of the RTC Modern Era.
We’d be shocked if this didn’t inspire some debate, simply due to the fact that all four of these teams were damn near unbeatable in their primes. Still, we had to choose two to advance into the Finals, and while the choices were far from easy, we made them and we’ll live with them. Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), we’re left with one national champion and another team that didn’t even make the finals!
For the full 64-team bracket, click here. The game analyses are below the bracket.
#1 Duke 1992 def. #1 UNLV 1990 - Duke’s back-to-back champions featuring Laettner, Hurley and Hill visit the scene of the crime by playing the last team to beat them in the NCAA Tournament, the 1990 UNLV team featuring LJ, Augmon and Anthony. Not only did that UNLV team beat them, remember, that team murdered them by a score of 103-73. Of course, the 1991 Duke team then got its revenge against UNLV by pulling the unlikeliest of upsets against the 34-0 Rebels in the next year’s national semifinals. Are you ready for Round Three? The 1990 Duke team was young and played like it in the rout against UNLV – although they were led by senior Danny Ferry, he never won anything Laettner was a sophomore and Hurley was a freshman. They were still learning what it took to become a champion, as they had not yet developed the toughness to keep their heads and stare down a physical, athletic and intimidating squad like UNLV. The 1992 Duke team had done exactly that. In fact, they may not have lost a game all season had Bobby Hurley not broken his foot midway through the year – Grant Hill filled in admirably at point as Duke stayed afloat (losing only two games), but it was clear that Hill was still learning on the job. Similarly, 1990 UNLV won the national title, but they weren’t quite the dominant entity that they were to become the following year when they rode a 45-game winning streak into the Final Four. Under this context, Duke 1992 ran out to a quick early lead against the 1990 UNLV team, who came into the game cocky based on their previous thrashing of the Devils with many of the same faces on board. Laettner, who by his senior year had developed a deadly three-point shot, repeatedly took George Ackles out to the three-point line, while a new wrinkle by the name of Grant Hill kept causing matchup problems for Stacey Augmon, unaccustomed to having to guard someone even more athletic than the Plastic Man. By halftime, Duke was shocking the overconfident Rebels by twelve points on the backs of Laettner and Hill. Tarkanian lit into his team at the half, and the Rebels came out very aggressive on defense to force Duke into several uncharacteristic turnovers. After a Larry Johnson dunk where he chin-upped on the rim afterwards, the Rebel fans were raucous and Duke appeared to be on its heels again, holding onto a 2-pt lead. K called timeout and immediately referred his team back to a similar situation they had faced in the prelims against Kentucky (E8), and he ordered his team to once again focus on getting good shots and playing superb defense. K’s admonitions worked, as Duke re-settled itself to slowly work its margin back up to eight points by the under-four timeout. Tark tried to surprise Duke after that timeout by throwing a three-quarter court press on Hurley, but with the ‘point forward’ skills that Hill had developed midway through the season, Duke was able to capably dribble through the traps and throw over the top for several easy dunks by Thomas Hill and Brian Davis that essentially salted away the game. Afterwards, Coach K talked about the character of his charges for fighting through all the adversity of having to play a team they’d already played in the previous two tourneys, while Tarkanian went on a tirade about how the NCAA continually gives his Rebels an unfair shake because they’ hate him.
#2 UNLV 1991 def. #1 Kentucky 1996 – The other semifinal matched Tarkanian’s 1991 UNLV team against the other team widely reknowned as the best team of the 90s, the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats. The odd thing about the 1991 UNLV team compared to their national champion 1990 counterpart is that by every reasonable objective measure, the 1991 version was the superior team. They were 34-1 after the 79-77 upset against Duke, and they had beaten teams by an absurd 27 ppg during the season, including a statement-making game at #2 Arkansas’ Barnhill Arena that was much worse than the final score indicated (112-105 UNLV). Had the Rebels run into any other team than Duke, whom they had humiliated by thirty pts in the previous year’s title game, they most likely would have gone back-to-back. The Kentucky 1996 team was probably the closest thing to that 1991 UNLV team that exists in the Modern Era, with their devastating runs overwhelming teams with athletic, pressure defense from end to end. In this one, UNLV clearly had something to prove from the tip, having lost in the prelims to Duke (F4), a team that to a man they felt they were much better than. Kentucky was simply unaccustomed to facing a team with as many offensive and defensive weapons as UNLV had, and it was clear they were a little surprised by the aggressiveness and strength of the Rebel starters on the defensive end (mirroring themselves). UK fought back behind Tony Delk’s three-point shooting (4 threes in the first half), but UNLV stilltook a 4-pt lead into the half, and Kentucky’s Rick Pitino thought he had the Rebs exactly where he wanted them. Or not. UNLV then went on a devastating 27-9 run to start the second half, fueled by repeated uncharacteristic turnovers from Anthony Epps (and the freshman Wayne Turner, once Pitino pulled Epps) leading to fast-break dunks by seemingly everyone on the UNLV roster. Having faced only one major deficit all year (against UMass early in the season), Kentucky and Pitino were completely shellshocked. Similar to 1995′s prelim loss to UNC in the Elite Eight, Kentucky began to panic, shooting threes nearly every time downcourt, many of which were altogether out of the structured offense. With five minutes left in the game, Kentucky finally seemed to awaken from its self-induced slumber and went on a 12-0 run of its own to cut the lead back to six. That’s when Larry Johnson called for the ball on three straight possessions, stared down Antoine Walker, went right around him all three times and either earned a layup or dunk-and-one in the process. Ballgame. UNLV moves on to the final game despite not having done as much in the prelims, and Big Blue Nation burns up the talk radio circuit demanding Pitino’s head for not having his team ready and losing to a team that Duke had already beaten.
Welcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.
6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.
7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.
8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:
UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title
Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
#6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
#25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title
Late Night Games
San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
#5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)
10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.
Well it’s finally here. The month of March is upon us. Here at RTC, we’ll be coming up with a ridiculous number of posts (I’m not sure how we will be able to do it with our other “lives”) so be sure to check back throughout the month as we will have posts for conference recaps, our unique bubble watch, frequent bracket updates by our resident bracketologist Zach, our favorite NCAA tournament memories, and the most comprehensive NCAA tournament preview anywhere. Ever.
11:00 AM: Just to set the table for today (and before I run out to grab some lunch before the games start), we’ll be following all three of the major games today, which will all be on CBS. At noon, Dominic James-less #10 Marquette will travel to #6 Louisville. Then at 2 PM, #8 Missouri will travel to Lawrence to take on the defending national champs, #15 Kansas. (CBS will also be airing the Tennessee-Florida game at 2. We will be very unhappy if we end up with that game instead.) The last time these teams met, Missouri shocked the Jayhawks with a Zaire Taylor 10-footer to hand Kansas its only loss in their last 13 games. A win here for Kansas would essentially seal the Big 12 regular season title for Kansas since they own the tie-breaker over Oklahoma (thanks to Blake Griffin‘s absence). Finally at 4 PM, #9 Michigan State will go to #20 Illinois. Like the preceding game, a win here would essentially clinch the Big 10 regular season title for the Spartans. In addition, we will be following the aforementioned UT-UF game (hopefully online instead of on our TVs) as well as a handful of bubble match-ups (Providence at Rutgers, Cincinnati at Syracuse, Michigan at Wisconsin, and West Virginia at South Florida).
11:50 AM: If any of you are wondering if I might decide to ditch this and go outside to enjoy the beautiful March weather, here’s your answer. On a side note, I just saw myself on ESPN for the second time this season (thanks to the miracle of HD).
11:55 AM: Wow. I just saw the Blake Griffin play from yesterday where we went over the scorer’s table. Pretty impressive after his concussion against Texas.
Noon: CBS just announced they will be have an interview with Jamie Dixon at halftime. So the Pittsburgh fans might want to tune in for that if a top 10 match-up in their own conference wasn’t enough.
12:05 PM: Rick Pitino is wearing his Colonel Sanders suit for the white out. As the CBS guys mentioned, last year he had to switch at halftime. Let’s see if it is more effective this year.
Welcome back to another edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. I’m back as your semi-regular host after a day off with John Stevens covering for me. Today is a kind of weird day of basketball with the best games later in the day going head-to-head against the NBA All-Star game. So hopefully everyone will be sticking with us throughout the day and the real basketball fans (the ones who actually like defense and competition) will stay with us into the night.
1:00 PM: Our early games today are Illinois at Indiana on CBS and Clemson at Virginia on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com. We’ll be updating you with highlights of those games throughout the day, but like always if there is something going on that we are missing or we make a mistake leave us a message in the comment section.
1:10 PM: Illinois is up 10-7 early. Bruce Weber‘s club must be riding high after their amazing comeback at Northwestern in their last game. Clemson is tied 3-3 in Charlottesville with 15:54 left in the first half. I’m guessing today is Sean Singletary day at UVA today based on the parts of the pre-game that I caught. Singletary, a 3-time 1st team All-ACC player, is one of three players in ACC history (Danny Ferry and Johnny Dawkins being the others) to have 2,000 career points, 500 career assists, and 400 career rebounds.
1:25 PM: Illinois is up 15-7 as we go to a TV timeout. CBS just showed a graphic about Indiana’s tough losses this year by featuring the games they led, but lost. You know the Hooisers are having a bad year when having a lead of 2 points at some point during the game is highlighted as a tough loss. Meanwhile, UVA is up 16-7 with 11:54 as they head into a timeout as well.
1:30 PM: I just noticed the electronic board on the side of the court at Assembly Hall. I guess it’s a nice fan friendly feature and probably generates some revenue through ads, but I think it looks horrendous in this famous arena. I haven’t noticed it at Cameron Indoor, but I think they should avoid it in the historic arenas.
1:40 PM: Jeff Jordan just hit a jumper for Illinois. As we noted before, he was recently was given a scholarship at Illinois. For those of you who haven’t seen him play, we think you might have missed his only big play of the day if his performance this season is any indication of what we can expect today. He’ll probably be out there quite a bit since Indiana is awful so watch for #13 on Illinois.
1:45 PM: UVA is up 22-16 coming out of a timeout with 5:11 left in the first half. Illinois is up 27-13 with a little less than 5 minutes left in the first half. I’ll be focusing on the UVA-Clemson game for now unless the Illinois-Indiana game gets interesting.
1:55 PM: UVA is up 33-25 at half. That 3 by Terrence Oglesby with a little over a minute left in the first half was Clemson’s first of the day after the Tigers missed their first 10 straight. The Cavaliers might have a chance if the Tigers continue to have difficulty hitting from the outside. Trevor Booker has had a big first half with 10 of Clemson’s 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as none of the other Tigers are playing well today. Illinois is up 38-21 at half.
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.
Much is going to be made over the next week over the disclosure broken Friday by the New York Post that Tim Donaghy, a veteran NBA referee, allegedly became heavily indebted through illegal gambling and was using his position as an official to manipulate point spreads by proxy of organized crime. In other words… pointshaving, quite possibly the dirtiest word in sports. The only good news for the NBA was that the news hit on a summer Friday afternoon after a week of wall-to-wall Michael Vick and Barry Bonds-related outrage coverage.
“Kobe, do you think you could help a fellow Philadelphian out here?”
The outcry already predictably ranges from the overtly dismissive from Nate Jones at AOL Fanhouse:
For some reason the ref story isn’t that big of a deal to me. Unless of course it comes out that the ref is 2006 Finals MVP Bennett Salvatore. I feel like there are bad apples in EVERY organization. So it’s not a surprise that one ref out of all of the refs in the history of basketball decided to go down the gambling route.
While some who are critical of the NBA point to this being an organization’s problem, I see this more as probably one man’s human error.
To Bomani Jones of Page 2 accusing NBA brass of negligence for not sniffing this out sooner through its review process:
Should the reports be true, Donaghy worked for a league that couldn’t catch on to what he was doing. For all we know, the NBA couldn’t tell if Donaghy was blind as Jose Feliciano or as connected as Jack Molinas. In spite of having mountains of data on officiating, enough to produce a rebuttal to a scholarly paper about whether foul calls are affected by the race of the referee and the player whistled for the infraction, the NBA apparently couldn’t tell something was awry. That’s all bad for the NBA, and probably worse than it would be for any other league. After decades of cockamamie conspiracy theories and a season that will be remembered more for tanking than playing, the last thing the NBA needs is anything that could give credence to any allegations of shady business. Especially if the shade was brought on by negligence. Absolutely, corruption is worse than incompetence. But what’s worse than both of them? Hiring someone corrupt and not knowing any better.
To using this incident as a proactive agent of change, as Mark Cuban suggests in blog maverick:
Every company of any size has had a problem(s) that its CEO and stakeholders have lost sleep over. Its the law of big numbers. If enough things go on, something is going to go wrong. Products get recalled or are tampered with. There are workplace disasters. There is corruption. No industry is immune. Churches, consumer products, law enforcement, cars, planes, trains and plenty more. No profession is immune. From the CEO who misrepresents corporate numbers or events at the expense of shareholders, to the doorman who tips himself from the cover charge at the expense of the club owner, people of every profession make bad decisions. Shit happens. Bad Shit happens. When it does, there are two options. Cry over it and do nothing or recognize the problem and do the best you possibly can to not only fix it, but make the entire organization stronger.
Whatever his previous failings, and his handling of that little Suns-Spurs brouhaha immediately jumps to mind, Stern obviously understands what is in danger of being lost. You. The fan. The guy who is left wondering what, if anything, you saw in the NBA was real. He understands this poses a far more insidious danger to his league than Vick does to the NFL or Bonds to Major League Baseball. They can make Vick go away. Bonds eventually will go away. Doubt is far tougher to suspend. Which is why the NBA has scoreboard on every other sport for the worst of the bad weeks.
There was no detectable change in betting patterns in Las Vegas casinos on NBA games during the last couple of years, according to Jay Kornegay, who runs the sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton and spoke by telephone today. “We usually hear something if there’s some unusual movement or unusual betting patterns. . . . There’s usually some kind of discussions about them. We don’t remember anything like that,” Kornegay said. Kornegay said he wasn’t concerned about taking action on NBA games in the future. Sports book betting makes up only about 2 percent of all betting action, he said “We are a very well-regulated industry out here, and I have all the faith in the world in our system,” he said. “I’m more disappointed than concerned. It doesn’t just shake the NBA; it shakes the whole sports world.”
But in another way, this is really good for the league. Fine, some games–most likely regular season ones, which everyone agrees mean nothing–were competitively tainted. Yet this most ordinary of sports scandals might serve as a reality check on all the stupid shit people say about the NBA. This is how things are weird in a sport; the commish doesn’t write the script for the postseason in advance, the refs are programmed to give close calls to whoever garners the highest ratings, and China isn’t secretly controlling the whole thing from behind the muslin curtain.
To Marty Burns at cnnsi.com discussing the referees’ collective feelings:
“We’re angry. We’re angry. That’s for sure,” he said. “It’s not fair that one guy, one bad apple, brings down the whole officiating [staff]. It’ll trickle down to the college game, too. Every controversial call at the end of a game, somebody will question it… “I am sick of having to defend ourselves. We just got over the IRS thing, and now we have to defend ourselves all over again.”
To the deserving self-aggrandizement of Unsilent at Deadspin for “calling it” (did he have money on which ref it was?):
Just as I predicted Donaghy was identified as the target of the FBI’s gambling investigation. [...] Of all the refs I heckled last year there were only two that could really piss me off. One was a dick (Steve Javie) and the other was either the most incompetent referee alive or a soulless shell of humanity with mob ties. I have no idea whether he had money riding on any of the seven Wizards games I watched him work this season, but it sure would clear things up a bit.
To Jack McCallum at cnnsi.com quoting pejorative attacks on the man’s character:
The league source close to Philly put it this way: “He’s the kind of guy who is always in fights. When he was a kid, you’d see him throwing rocks at cars. He’s just an asshole. No one likes the guy. He’s always in fights on the golf course, that kind of thing. He’s a very antagonistic guy. When you have too many enemies, one of them comes back to bite you.”
In other words, a little bit of everything. Already we’re seeing evidence of every local NBA paper taking a closer look at games in which Donaghy worked. Feel free to interpret “worked” in any way you choose there. We’ll be back tomorrow with a closer look at how we feel sports gambling potentially impacts sports at both the collegiate and professional levels. Our essential conclusion is that this sort of thing happens a lot more than we all think. Unfortunately.
Update: Simmons puts his ten cents worth here while Henry Abbott at TrueHoop and Dan Shanoff call for transparency.
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George Mason’s band director, Dr. Michael W. Nickens, has his swagger on. Pic via @davestipe on Twitter.