Truly “Heartbreak City!!” Gus Officially Leaves CBS…

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2011

Ok, maybe we’re being a little melodramatic, but with the news that Gus Johnson is officially moving on to Fox Sports and the knowledge that CBS/Turner has the broadcast rights to the NCAA Tournament through 2024 (a/k/a eternity), we’re feeling like some sinister executive grinch has canceled Christmas next year.   And the year after.  And the next one.  And the one after that… well, you get the point.

So long, Gus.  For the generation that was raised on March Madness as a national treasure, you will always be the voice of college basketball — far more than that green-jacket-slurping bore Jim Nantz could ever be.  We hope that you are given just as much freedom to bring  your purity of excitement and unadulterated joy to college sports over at your new gig, and you can count on us checking out some Big Ten (on BTN) and Pac-12 (on FSN) hoops next season just to hear you work your magic again.

In the meantime, here are a couple of compilations we found of Gus’ best work.  Enjoy it — it pains us to type this, but there’s no guarantee we’ll ever hear it during March Madness again.

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Morning Five: 05.10.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2011

  1. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Maryland has itself a new head coachMark Turgeon may not be the sexy name that many Terp fans were hoping for, but the fact of the matter is that the guy has throughout his career put a consistently solid product on the floor regardless of talent.  His teams are tough-minded, they play sticky defense, and they win — he averaged 24 wins per year at Texas A&M and 22 wins in his last four seasons at Wichita State.  Not everyone agrees, but the general consensus is that Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a solid if not spectacular hire, but that Turgeon’s chops will ultimately be earned by how well he learns to recruit in the fecund DC/Baltimore prep basketball scene.  We certainly won’t disagree with that, but if Turgeon’s recruiting matches his demonstrated competitiveness, the rest of the ACC is not going to enjoy visiting College Park any more than it did much of the last twenty years — the only difference is that instead of wondering how they scored 75 points and lost by double figures, visiting teams will come out perplexed in how they ended up with bloodied noses, bruises all over their bodies, and put up only 50.
  2. CBS, CBS, CBS… what on earth are you doing?  Last week it was prematurely reported that Gus Johnson was leaving CBS Sports (and by proxy, the NCAA Tournament), when in reality he had only received an offer from Fox Sports that CBS would have an opportunity to match.  Many, ourselves included, presumed that CBS would make the smart decision and keep Gus, the vox populi of college basketball, on board.  And this is why we weren’t business majors… because CBS did no such thing.  The Blinking Eye network let him walk (apparently, politics, in addition to dollars, was involved), and Fox Sports and the NFL are the major beneficiaries.  All we know is that Pac-12 games just got 1000% more interesting next season, and it’s not because Jorge Gutierrez and Trent Lockett are returning to school.  For a very insightful piece examining the ins and outs of  his employment situation, read Awful Announcing’s excellent analysis on the paradox of Gus Johnson here.
  3. We stumbled across this interesting post from Rock Chalk Talk about the state of college basketball, at least as viewed from a partisan Kansas writer.  While we understand where he’s coming from in terms of this statement: “We’re at a point now where the best teams still get the best talent, but they never become a team,” we have trouble seeing the natural consequence of parity as a bad thing.  The beauty of the NCAA Tournament (along with the World Cup and the NFL Playoffs, to name two other worldwide favorites) is that top seeds can be beaten if they don’t bring their absolute best game every given night; underdogs and upsets are what keep the casual fans interested.  He seems to fail to recognize that the transformation of the NCAA Tournament to March Madness began in the 1980s when NC State (1983), Villanova (1985) and his very own Kansas Jayhawks (1988) captured the imagination of American sports fans with their rags-to-riches Cinderella stories.  While it’s true that the quality of college basketball has been hurt by the onslaught of early entries to the NBA Draft every single spring, that problem is not a recent phenomenon.  It began nearly twenty years ago and  accelerated throughout the 1990s to the point where the top 8-10 high school players each year were skipping college altogether by the middle of last decade, thereby hurting the overall product.  The piece makes some good points, but it reads a bit like someone decrying parity and a bad product to explain his team’s #1 seed meltdowns to Cinderellas prior to the Final Four the last two years.
  4. Robert Morris sophomore guard Karon Abraham was suspended for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his second alcohol offense (underage drinking) in the last six months (he also had a DUI conviction last November).  According to head coach Andy Toole, the Colonials’ best player was “shocked” by this decision, and given that he will not be allowed to work out with the team next season, we have to wonder if he’ll consider transferring to another school that will give him  an opportunity to stay on the court (even as just a practice player in 2011-12).  He definitely needs to get his head on straight here, but RMU’s decision is punitive enough to make us think that he might consider it.
  5. VCU head coach Shaka Smart continues to live the dream, fresh off his first Final Four appearance and a nice contract extension, by throwing out the first pitch in a weekend game between the Cubs and Reds at Wrigley Field.  Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t done enough, he also sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch.  Let’s hope he hangs on to his day job for a little longer, eh?

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Morning Five: 05.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2011

  1. Clearly the massive news of Thursday, and really, the entire offseason thus far, was the announcement that longtime Maryland coach and ACC curmudgeon-in-charge, Gary Williams, is retiring.  We covered his career impact in our story on him earlier this morning, but our lasting memory of his body of work will be how for a period from the late 90s to the early oos, from Steve Francis to Juan Dixon, from Joe Smith to Lonny Baxter, he made Maryland  basketball must-watch television.  Along with that, the Duke vs. Maryland battles were at the time the best rivalry games in the entire game.  Here’s some of the reverent commentary on Williams’ retirement from around the web: Mike DeCourcy, Seth Davis, John Feinstein.  Happy trails, Gary — you will be missed.
  2. As for the future of the Maryland program, we have a prevailing sense that this could go either way.  The resources, fan support and conference affiliation in the basketball-centric ACC are all major positives, leading some to argue that the Terrapin head coaching job is one of the top 15 or so in the country.  We agree with that sentiment, but the hire will need to be the right one — the DC area is a fertile recruiting base, but Williams ran a clean program that stayed away from much of the AAU nonsense that passes as prep basketball these days.  Whoever the new coach is will need to find a way to circumvent the agents, runners and hustlers with their hands out on the east coast playgrounds; or, like Williams, find enough diamonds in the rough whom he can coach up.  No easy task in a league where you have to deal with Duke, Carolina and a group of promising young coaches elsewhere.  Some early names being thrown around for the job include Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and several others.  Of that group, Brey, from the DC area, makes the most sense; but could Terp fans tolerate having a former Dookie as their head coach?
  3. Not so fast on everybody’s favorite March Madness play-by-play guy leaving CBS.  According to the New York Daily News, Gus Johnson has an offer on the table from Fox to do NFL and Pac-12 games next year, but the Blinking Eye Network will have up to a week to match the offer and retain one of the best assets it has for its NCAA Tournament coverage.  Seriously, we can’t believe that CBS wouldn’t open their checkbooks for this guy — the anticipation among anybody under 45 years old when a “Gus game” is scheduled is off the charts, especially when it involves two evenly-matched teams.  Make it happen, Sean McManus.
  4. Last year’s offseason was headlined by seemingly constant chatter about conference realignment, and with the new television deal that the Pac-12 signed this week for $3 billion over twelve years, we now see more clearly what all the fuss was aboutUtah joins the reconfigured conference on July 1 of this year, and their TV windfall will begin soon thereafter, with expected payouts in successive years of $2M (2012), $10.5M (2013), $15.75M (2014), and $21M (2015).  The Utes made a relatively paltry $1.2M last year as a member of the Mountain West; in four years, they will have vigupled it (go ahead, look that one up).  Simply… amazing.
  5. There was some interesting transfer news on Thursday, with two notable players from NCAA Tournament teams possibly losing a key contributor.  First, UConn wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has decided to leave the Husky program to seek more playing time elsewhere.  The sophomore forward averaged 5/3 in just over sixteen minutes of action last season, but after a three-game stretch in mid-February where he scored 64 points, he only contributed 62 more the entire rest of the season (15 games).  He was also arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago, so perhaps a fresh start somewhere else is best for everyone.  The other big transfer news yesterday came from George Mason, perhaps still reeling a little from the loss of longtime coach Jim Larranaga last month.  Luke Hancock, the hero of Mason’s second round win over Villanova, has requested permission to talk to other schools about transferring.  He averaged 11/4/4 APG last year in a promising sophomore campaign, and it appears that new head coach Paul Hewitt will have his work cut out to get him back to Fairfax next season.
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Gus Johnson and CBS, Together No More

Posted by jstevrtc on May 5th, 2011

Richard Deitsch of SI.com has reported that play-by-play icon Gus Johnson and CBS could not come to terms on a new contract and have thus parted ways. No more Gus Johnson buzzer-beaters at NCAA Tournament time, folks.

Yeah, This Makes Total Sense.

According to Mr. Deitsch, Johnson has been in talks with Fox Sports to work college football games, given the network’s move to increase their profile in that sport. There is no mention as to whether Gus’ position calling college basketball for the Big Ten Network is affected by this. As Deitsch points out, Fox owns a nice big chunk of the BTN, and they’re also (obviously) a player in the recent deal between themselves, ESPN, and the Pac-10, a package that includes 68 college basketball games.

Johnson is by far CBS’ most popular announcer. Again…it is not close. The convnetional wisdom among college basketball fans was that the network would and should only work to increase Johnson’s presence wherever they could, especially when it comes to college basketball, and it would do anything possible to keep him. His departure has hoopheads everywhere wondering what on earth CBS could be thinking, though admittedly we haven’t heard either side of the story, and no details of the failed negotiations are mentioned in Mr. Deitsch’s article.

Nevertheless, college hoopheads are left with no Gus Johnson for March Madness. We’re certain he’ll be around, and we’re praying someone at Turner will scoop him up and find a way to get him back where he belongs by Tournament time, because March won’t be the same until he’s calling Tournament games again. If you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go transfer our old The Cure CDs to MP3 and listen to them until we’re dehydrated. Life is unfair.

 

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The Week That Was: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

What We Learned

It's Foolish To Think That the Big East's 2011 Tournament Record Proves That It Wasn't the Best Conference All Season

  • The Big East is not overrated; it’s just not as good as it was made out to be. The conference sent an NCAA record 11 teams into the field of 68 and Vegas set the over/under of total wins for the conference at 15.5. This year’s March Madness was supposed to be the cherry on top of an historic season, but instead the tournament has been a complete and utter disaster. Only two teams from the Big East will be playing next weekend (Connecticut and Marquette), and the only reason there are two teams remaining is because each squad beat a conference foe to advance to the Sweet 16. But let’s not jump the gun and label the Big East as the most overrated conference in the nation. For one thing, assessing the merits of a conference over a single weekend slate of games is somewhat foolish. That’s a ridiculously small sample size, especially considering during the regular season the conference posted a 34-19 record against tournament teams, according to the New York TimesNate Silver, who’s been spot-on with his analysis this month. The Big East was justified in getting 11 teams in the field — after all, Marquette made the Sweet 16 — but it was just a good conference, not an especially great one. If anything, we’re guilty of overlooking the fact that most of the teams in the Big East lacked NBA talent on their rosters (a key ingredient to any successful Final Four run). When Kemba Walker is your conference’s top NBA prospect, you know you have a talent deficit.

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The Week That Was: Tournament Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2011

Introduction

March Madness is officially here. Introduction over.

What We Learned

What a Run, Young Man.

Connecticut scoffs in the face of conventional wisdom that says it’s better for a team to be well rested before the NCAA tournament. The Huskies won five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament title last Saturday night. And for my money, Kemba Walker locked up the Naismith Award with his play over those five games. Walker averaged 26 PPG and 38 MPG at Madison Square Garden, carrying a team that finished 9-9 in the Big East to the #3 seed in the West. We are a little concerned that Walker went only 2-16 from three during the tournament, but he countered his poor outside shooting with at least nine attempts from the free throw line each game. For those who think Walker has to be running on fumes right now, remember that he had enough left to break some ankles, rise and knock down a J to beat Pittsburgh despite playing all 40 minutes of that game. Because of their 7:20 PM ET tip on Thursday, the Huskies will have had nearly five days off to ready themselves for the Tournament. That’s plenty of time for Kemba to recharge for another run.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 14th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse asks who the best prototype player in the game is, backs the Princeton Tigers, and laments his bad bracket luck. Yeah, Jesse…tell it to Coach Greenberg.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..trying to figure out a unique question. I was having a debate with someone about Connecticut, and in the course of that argument said that “you have to remember, the Huskies don’t have five Kembas.” Well, my buddy (RTC’s own David Ely) asked which player I would take five of in order to form a team that would be the most competitive against a full squad from another school. Think about it, it’s a really interesting question. They have to be able to handle the ball if a team pressed, have to be big enough to compete on the boards (is 6’4 or 6’5 big enough?), have to shoot well enough to keep a D honest, have to be a versatile defender, etc. I think Jordan Hamilton from Texas might be my pick, but here are some of players that came to mind: Harrison Barnes (he’s the prototype you’d think of, 6’8 with some guard skills), Kyle Singler, Derrick Williams, Daniel Hardy, Brad Wanamaker, Scotty Hopson, DeAndre Liggins, Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph. Who would you take?

Is Barnes the Best "All-Rounder" of a Player?

I LOVED…..two perfect buzzer beaters. Kemba Walker and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas gave us a couple of doozies to salivate over this week, and I liked them for different reasons. With Kemba, it was the ridiculous move. Yes, he had a post player on him, but that stepback was so comically absurd (Pitt’s Gary McGhee fell down) that the only critique might be that he exerted too much energy getting more space than he needed. He’s still my POY, by the way. With Thomas, it was the perfect setup. It was an incredible game (a TITLE game), overtime, swings for both teams…and a perfect ending. Thomas played the clock absolutely perfectly, and the backboard lit up just as his J swished through the hoop. Oh, and by the way, Gus Johnson was on the call (watch to get excited for this coming week): “Thomas….shake….crossover….stepback…..AHHHHIAAHHHH!!!!! AT THE BUZZER!!! YOUNG!!!…..ZEKE!!! (someone told Gus that Thomas was named after the NBA great PG)…….. COLD!!!! ….. BLOODED!!!!!”

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IX

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 31st, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week, Jesse kicks Purdue while they’re down and questions Peyton Siva’s true motives, but applauds Bob Huggins and — as all human beings with ears indeed should — Gus Johnson’s all-too-short turn at the desk.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a coach thumbing his nose at the politically-correct answer. West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins had an interesting development recently when forward Dan Jennings just walked away from the bench during a game. Now, you could just say the kid’s off the team. Or that it’s “unfortunate” and you’re “dealing with it internally” — that’s one of my favorite coach-speak phrases. But no, Huggins gets rolling and says: “The truth of the matter is that he’s been a non-entity. We started him to try and get some other guys motivated and he did work hard in practice for a while, but look at his career stats.” Ouch. If leaving the team didn’t hurt enough, that one should sting Jennings for a while.

Huggins Did Not Mince Words When Answering Questions About Jennings. Anyone Surprised?

I LOVED…..The great diversity of POY candidates this season. You have Jimmer “When I don’t score 40 it’s an off night” Fredette on a solid BYU team. The Mountain West competition might not be great, but man that J is pure. Then there’s a classic NYC guard in Kemba Walker, who has made UConn perhaps the biggest surprise of the season. And finally Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, who keeps coming to play in the big games and leads the nation’s No. 1 squad. We have the shooter, the slasher and the post player — all on intriguing teams, all very different, and all still very much in the mix to be named top dog. My pick? If UConn is a top-15 team after the Big East season, it’ll be tough to beat Kemba.

I LOVED……Roy Williams’ rabbit ears. You can have your own opinion on Williams, but you can’t deny that he’s a bit sensitive to criticism on occasion. Recently it was some unhappy callers on his radio show who prompted this response at a press conference: “Don’t call me next week and say how good we are; keep your [darn] phone calls to yourself.” Could he stay mad at the fans for long, though? Wait for it…..wait for it…..just a few days later: “Do I wish that I would have just let it go and not said a word?” Williams said. “You’re darn right I do. I wish I had not said one word. I wish that I would have just kept swallowing it. I hate that I said that.” And all of Tar Heel Nation lived happily ever after.

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Highlighters & Headsets: The Jimmer Show

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2011

Highlighters and Headsets is an occasional look at the coverage of college basketball – from television to print (they still make paper?), blogs to bracket busters, and Gus Johnson to Gameday – written by RTC contributor Steve Moore. He welcomes your comments, column ideas and Dickie (V) jokes at smoore71@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @smoore1117.

With a Mountain West matchup taking a national stage for the first time, I’m sure there were plenty of college hoops fans – and mainstream sports fans (even Simmons was watching) – searching the cable guide for CBS College Sports Wednesday night.

All Eyes, Including Our Boy Steve's, Were On the Marriott Center On Wednesday Night

While unable to watch live, I did set the DVR and decided to see how this mid-major network handled its moment in the sun. By the time I pressed play, the Twitter explosion had already told me how the Jimmer show went down in Provo. But since I usually leave the on-court analysis to my RTC colleagues, the suspense wasn’t really what I was after.

Having only seen the occasional glimpse of action on CBS College Sports, I hopefully enter with no bias or prejudice. Hell, I don’t even know who’s on the call tonight. We’ll soon find out.

PREGAME: First disappointment: Realizing I don’t get CBS College Sports (CBS-C from now on) in high def. I understand they broadcast in it, and that some carriers offer it, but if you want to be a major sports network, you need to FORCE everyone to carry your HD feed (I’m looking at you, Fox Soccer Channel).

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The Week That Was: Jan. 17-Jan. 24

Posted by jstevrtc on January 25th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Get ready college hoops fanatics. Get ready for the stampede of casual fans that are about to crash the sports bars once the NFL season comes to a close. They’ll have to find something for their sports fix and they’ll turn to college basketball. So be prepared for people asking things like, “Who’s that big guy for Ohio State? He looks pretty good.” Or “San Diego State’s in the top five? Really?!?” Just try to smile and nod at those fools. No need to let them ruin the season’s stretch run.

What We Learned

TWTW Loves Jimmer and Kawhi, But Prefers E'Twaun and the Boilers Traveling to Columbus This Week

Even with SDSU and BYU squaring off on Wednesday, TWTW feels that if there’s only one game you watch this week, make sure it’s Purdue at Ohio State, tonight at 9pm ET. Matt Painter’s squad is one of our favorites and TWTW thinks they’re a good bet to pull off the upset. Purdue rebounded from back-to-back losses at Minnesota and West Virginia to grind out a win over a plucky Penn State squad and then took care of business against reeling Michigan State. It would have been easy for the Boilermakers to fold at the first sign of trouble this season. They have the built-in excuse of Robbie Hummel’s injury, and no one really believed they could sustain their early-season success once they hit the meat of their schedule, but seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore wouldn’t let that two-game losing streak turn into a prolonged swoon. Johnson scored 25 points in the win over PSU, while Moore poured in 26 against the Spartans.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 24th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week Jesse decides to liberate us of our Kentucky readers — seriously, Jesse, why do you hate our website? — takes pleasure in Clemson’s frustration, and finally figures out that Matt Painter is a top-notch leader of men. Wildcat and Tiger fans, we’ll make sure Jesse gets your hate mail.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..looking at the countdown to March Madness last week and seeing it was just a mere 54 days until my favorite three weeks in sports. Then I heard a Gus Johnson cackle – OhhAhhWOWWW!!! — on CBS this weekend. In fact, it made me go back and watch this highlight compilation — just to get my Gus fix.  The Madness is drawing near.

I LOVED…..Syracuse’s zone. I had a buddy bring this to my attention this weekend while ‘Cuse-Nova was on TV, and it’s so true. College basketball is the game of constant change, what with players graduating, coaches moving, etc. But the 2-3 zone is one piece you can bank on every year, without fail. Jim Boeheim stands by his trademark D, and though at times it might be mediocre, it’s never bad. How amazing is it that teams still can’t completely figure it out after all these years?

The Boeheim Zone Often Vexes Opponents, Even Still

I LOVED…..the transformation of Washington’s Isaiah Thomas. As a west coast resident I probably see way more of the Pac-10 than most, but this has been stunning. UW put Thomas at the point after Abdul Gaddy went down for the year, and he’s suddenly changed from a sometimes-too-selfish scorer into a pint-sized version of Steve Nash. Here’s a guy that averaged 2.6 and 3.4 assists a game his first two years, and had more than six dimes just once this season prior to Gaddy’s injury. Since then? Try 9, 8, 7 13, 10 and 8. Plus, he’s averaging 20.2 PPG over those six games. Take a look if you get a chance, because I swear Lorenzo Romar’s staff made him stop practicing and watching nonstop tape of the Phoenix Suns. Lots of over-penetration while keeping the dribble and a pass-first mentality that just wasn’t there before.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #6 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#6- Where An Apoplectic Gus Johnson Happens

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