Boom Goes the Dynamite: Final 4 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2009

dynamiteWe’re back for the second to last BGtD of the season and while we’re a bit saddened by that we are looking forward to a pair of great games today. If you’ve been checking our site the past week, you’ve probably seen some of the stuff we have been doing. We have had the best bloggers for the various teams (UConn, UNC, Michigan State, and Villanova) write previews explaining how/why their team will win, our statistical analysis for both the UConn-Michigan State game and the UNC-Villanova game, and our ongoing 64-team era modern NCAA tournament, which is in the Final 4 too with results coming over the next 2 days.

I’m assuming that most of you know the schedule of games today, but here it is for the rest of you.

  • #1 UConn vs. #2 Michigan State at 6:07 PM
  • #1 UNC vs. #3 Villanova at 8:47 PM

We’ll be back around 6 PM for the start of the first game. As always, leave your questions/comments and we’ll be responding to them throughout the day.

5:14 PM: Yikes. That shirt that Blake Griffin is wearing. At least we know that if an agent is giving him any money, it isn’t going towards buying tasteful clothing.

6:00 PM: It’s finally here. In a little under 10 minutes, we should have the starting lineups. I’m going with the chalk here like I said on the Dan Levy show. Hopefully we get a pair of entertaining games.

6:10 PM: Big question for today: Will Clark Kellogg make us miss Billy Packer?

6:15 PM: Phenomenal start for the Spartans. I think UConn is too tough to let this bother them.

6:25 PM: Decent level of play so far. Neither team looks that tentative so hopefully that means we will have a good game. One thing to note is that typically we have a story about how playing in a dome affects some great shooter. I haven’t read anything like that this year partly because Wayne Ellington is probably the only star who is an exceptional shooter, but he doesn’t fall into J.J. Redick or Trajan Langdon territory.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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RTC Book Club: “When March Went Mad”

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

With today being the 30th anniversary of the 1979 national championship game, I figured I would finally release my long-awaited review of “When March Went Mad” by Seth Davis. Seth and his publisher were also nice enough to grant us an interview which is right after the review.

If you are a regular reader of our site, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the 1979 NCAA championship game, which featured Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and is widely cited as the seminal moment out of which modern basketball was born. Although I don’t profess to be a scholar of that game, I always thought my knowledge of the major moments in modern college basketball history (since the 1960s) was pretty respectable so when I received an e-mail for an advance copy of a book about the topic I wasn’t particularly excited (outside of the fact that I had never received an e-mail like that before). When I read through the e-mail and saw that Seth Davis, one of my favorite college basketball writers and a regular reader of Rush the Court (about 2/3 the way down), had written the book I became a little more intrigued so I decided to give it a shot.

when-march-went-mad

One of the first things I realized when I started reading the book was that despite the significance of the game there has not been a lot written about it. The game and the events leading up to it lack the literary canon of some of the other important events in college basketball history such as the John Wooden era and the Texas Western-Kentucky game. In fact, most of my knowledge from the game comes from watching documentaries about Bird and Magic that make the actual championship game seem more like it was simply foreshadowing their great NBA careers rather than the spectacle that it was at the time. In the book Seth Davis goes into detail discussing the lives of both legendary players and provides the reader with background information that helps explain a lot about their personalities and the way they approached the game. Davis traces Magic’s life story including details about how he ended up at Everett High School instead of his original school (and preferred choice) J.W. Sexton High School as a result of busing mandates in East Lansing, MI. He also examines details of Bird’s life that the casual fan (or one outside of Boston–hard to say since I live here) might not be aware of such as his distrust of outsiders and almost pathological shyness early in his career.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Three

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a relatively weak set of 1st round games (except for very late last night), we’re looking to forward to our beloved tournament returning to form with a strong set of 2nd round games. One of the benefits of the lack of shocking upsets in the first round games is that we get a good set of 2nd round games that won’t be blowouts. Right? Anyways, here is your slate of games.

  • 1:05 PM: #6 UCLA at #3 VillanovaRTC Live will be there
  • 3:20 PM: #10 Maryland vs. #2 Memphis
  • 3:35 PM: #9 Texas A&M vs. #1 UConn
  • 5:40 PM: #5 Purdue vs. #4 Washington
  • 5:45 PM: #8 LSU vs. #1 UNC
  • 5:50 PM: #10 Michigan vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 8:10 PM: #12 Western Kentucky vs. #4 Gonzaga
  • 8:15 PM: #7 Texas vs. #2 Duke

We’ll be starting this post around 3:20 so head over to the aforementioned RTC Live before that time for our coverage of the start of round 2.

3:23 PM: Memphis starts off like they did in the 1st round with a 35-second violation that wasn’t called because Maryland stole the ball as the shot clock expired. Greivis Vasquez just got called for his first foul 57 seconds into the game. That’s definitely something to watch for.

3:27 PM: Nice run by Memphis to silence any of the early doubts after their ugly opening game. This is the Memphis team I put in the Final 4.

3:40 PM: Sorry for the delay. I was busy responding to an e-mail from the NCAA trying to get you coverage from the NCAA East Regional (they’re pretty myopic in Indianapolis). Anyways, back to the game. . . John Calipari has to be  pleased with this start. His Tigers have come out much sharper than they did against Cal State-Northridge.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day One Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2009

dynamite

IT’S. FINALLY. HERE.

If there’s one thing in life you can count on, it’s that every spring the Taxman will ask for his pittance and the NCAA Tournament will have you screaming at the top of your lungs with excitement. There is no more compelling annual event in all of sports. Every year, schools you’ve never heard of take on the ones you’re sick of hearing about and, for just a moment, a mere sliver of time, they stand as equals, where how well you play the game is all that matters. No computers, no RPIs, no BCS, no BS… just an orange ball and five players a side battling for the same goal – to survive and advance. This is why we’re all here. Let’s tip it off…

If you’re just now managing to get caught up to the fact that the Tournament starts today, get a life make your way over to the RTC 2009 Tournament Portal, which has all the information you’d ever want on the games and to watch for. Game previews, team previews, columns, etc. It’s all there.

Mike Lemaire will start the madness with the first group of games at the Noon hour, beginning with two difficult-to-read 8/9 games. Nvr1983 will be back in his usual spot in the cockpit for the second block of games at 2pm. Schedule below (all times EDT):

Noon Block

12:20 pm – #8 LSU vs. #9 Butler
12:25 pm – #2 Memphis vs. #15 Cal St. Northridge
12:30 pm – #8 BYU vs. #9 Texas A&M – RTC Live is there!

2 pm Block

2:30 pm – #5 Purdue vs. #12 Northern Iowa
2:50 pm – #1 UNC vs. #16 Radford
2:55 pm – #7 California vs. #10 Maryland
3:00 pm – #1 Connecticut vs. #16 Chattanooga

Bridge Game

4:55 pm – #4 Washington vs. #13 Mississippi St.

7pm Block

7:10 pm – #7 Texas vs. #10 Minnesota
7:10 pm – #7 Clemson vs. #10 Michigan
7:20 pm – #3 Villanova vs. #14 American
7:25 pm – #4 Gonzaga vs. #13 Akron

9pm Block

9:40 pm – #2 Duke vs. #15 Binghamton
9:40 pm – #2 Oklahoma vs. #15 Morgan St.
9:50 pm – #6 UCLA vs. #11 VCU
9:55 pm – #5 Illinois vs. #12 W. Kentucky

Let’s get it started….

12:07 pm. Hey All, its your faithful RTC intern here, and this will be my first attempt at Boom Goes the Dynamite. I may have technical troubles so bear with me, but I am diligent, and I will be watching all the games starting with Butler and LSU.

12:10 pm. Questionable music selection, but if you aren’t excited by CBS’ tournament memory montage, then there is something wrong with you. Quick update on point guards Ty Lawson and Chester Frazier: Neither player is 100% healthy, but I seriously doubt those two guys will miss a game, they are just too competitive.

12:22 pm. The tip is up and we are under way. Quick start for LSU and Bo Spencer as the Tigers are up 9-0 zip already and Spencer hit a three, then stole the ball and made a layup. Good timeout by Butler coach Brad Stevens, the last thing he wants is for LSU to take off.

12:30 pm. Since the early flurry by LSU both teams have settled in 11-3. It looks like the Bulldogs will have a tough time on the glass. Matt Howard is going to need to play a huge game if they want to win. In other news, Cal. State Northridge has an early 7-2 lead on Memphis…..upset anyone?

12:35 pm. Quick tangent, I know this Tournament is an advertising bonanza, but do the commerical breaks seem longer than usual or is it just me? Its been 13 minutes since the start of the game and they have played less than four minutes of basketball.

12:38 pm. The Bulldogs don’t have anyone that can match-up with LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell, especially now that Matt Howard is out with two quick fouls. It just seems as if LSU is more physical right now. Score checks: 14-6 LSU, 11-11 CSU v. Memphis, and 11-5 TXAM.

12:43 pm. Important things to know from the first few minutes. Matt Howard has two fouls, so do Robert Dozier and Tyreke Evans of Memphis. Texas A&M has come out on fire and is up 18-7 early on BYU.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2009

dynamiteWelcome 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:

Early Games

  • 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

Afternoon Games

  • 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

Evening Games

  • #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.

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02.27.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on February 27th, 2009

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Checking in on the… Big Ten

Posted by nvr1983 on February 3rd, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

Looking Back
It’s hard to believe, but Wisconsin now sits in 9th place in the conference after losing six games in a row. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing up in the Badger State right now with some pointing to a “recruiting hiccup”, but the truth is that the Badgers have just lost a lot of close games including two overtime contests. In fact, this team is 8 points away from being in first place in the Big Ten. They probably aren’t that good, but they’re better than 9th place as they have the league’s 2nd best offense and 6th best efficiency margin. Take them lightly at your own peril.

Illinois was blitzed by Minnesota in Williams Arena this past week, held to the team’s lowest point total in 24 years. It was a fine defensive performance by Tubby Smith‘s team, which had been struggling on the defensive end up until that point. Freshman Ralph Sampson III continues to impress, and has even outplayed the more highly-touted Delvon Roe in conference play.

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Is Stephen Curry Overrated?

Posted by nvr1983 on January 4th, 2009

Since his 40 point explosion in Davidson’s first round victory over Gonzaga last March, college basketball fans have been bombarded with the Stephen Curry lovefest that has been spearheaded by Dick Vitale and ESPN. The WWL and other hoops aficionados loves to point out that Curry was ignored by every major school including Virginia Tech, the alma mater of his father NBA All-Star Dell Curry. Like every other basketball fan we love the way Stephen plays and his sweet stroke from the perimeter that has been augmented by a surprising ability to get to the hoop and finish. Since last March, it has been hard to find anybody that would be critical of the baby-faced assassin from Davidson, but here at Rush the Court we like to let our minds not our hearts analyze the situation.

www.zimbio.com

Credit: www.zimbio.com

Like many NBA scouts, I have had my reservations about anointing Stephen the next great NBA player much to the chagrin of some Davidson fans. However, I continued to marvel (see my post minutes after Davidson knocked Gonzaga out of the NCAA tournament in the first round last year) at his ability to put up numbers despite the best efforts of the opposition (with the exception of the antics of Jimmy Patsos). After watching his performance against Purdue (5/26 FG), his third sub-par game this year against quality (BCS-level) competition, I started to wonder if all those BCS conference coaches and NBA scouts may have been on to something. So I started to crunch the numbers, which led to some very surprising results.

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Drinking and Driving: Tales from Tobacco Road

Posted by nvr1983 on June 6th, 2008

It was just around 2 years ago that a fresh-faced youngster from Duke University decided to pop back a few Zimas (along with his collar) and take a late night drive around Durham before the NBA Draft. Now comes news out of Chapel Hill that Ty Lawson (basically the antithesis of Redick–UNC, black, athletic, no shot versus Duke, white, unathletic, and great shot) decided to do essentially the same thing. Let’s take a look at the results.

Two years ago, J.J. Redick stumbled into the Durham County Jail:

The ACC\'s all-time leading scorer (collar half-popped) 

Polo shirt + bleary-eyed look + messed up hair + semi-popped collar = Perfection

After seeing what the ACC’s all-time scorer did 2 years before, let’s see what Lawson was able to pull off:

Looking a little too clean there, Ty

First off, Lawson looks pretty normal here. He looks pretty composed and is staring straight ahead at the camera. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was his team photo from the look on his face. If Ty wants to move into J.J. territory and possibly land on The Smoking Gun he needs a lot of work. I’m not a fan of the white t-shirt for these photos, but at least spill something on it. Show a little effort, Ty!

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No more OJs at USC?

Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2008

I’m not even sure where to begin with this post. Here at RTC, we have discussed OJ Mayo several times most recently in what rtmsf myopically thought would be a final retrospective on the latest OJ to grace the USC campus. As pretty much everyone knows by now Mayo has been implicated in a rather large scandal involving Bill Duffy Agency (BDA) and Rodney Guillory, who appears to have been essentially hired by BDA to bring Mayo to them.

Most of my knowledge on the topic comes from Kelly Naqi’s Outside the Lines report I saw on Sunday morning while I was staying at a beach resort so this isn’t going to be some deep NY Times investigative piece that some of you may be expecting from RTC–we’ll work on that over the summer. Instead, I think it’s more interesting to consider the impact this will have on USC and recruiting/college basketball in general given the hype that Mayo brought with him to USC and the manner in which he handled his recruitment of USC–yes, the way he recruited USC.

Will OJ still be welcome at the USC campus?

According to the OTL report, Guillory gave Mayo cash,  a flat-screen television, cell phones, hotel rooms, clothes, meals, and airline tickets. Given Mayo’s celebrity status, it’s pretty hard to believe that Tim Floyd and others at USC didn’t notice this was going on. Some prescient writers like Gregg Doyel even warned USC about the specific threat as early as 2006, but USC never did anything about it. Floyd and USC just looked the other way and hoped nobody else would notice or at least that nobody would give them up while they raked in the money from the increased attendance and sales of Mayo’s jerseys. The transgressions are not at the same level as those involving Reggie Bush’s family at USC, but these directly involved a player (Mayo) while the majority of the financial benefit in the Bush situation appears to have been reaped by Bush’s parents who stayed at a million dollar house essentially for free.

The big question now is what the NCAA will do about it. There have been several reports over the past year that the NCAA has investigated Mayo thoroughly, but did not find anything. Given the amount of evidence presented in the OTL piece, it’s hard to imagine that the NCAA spent much time digging into Mayo if they never came across any of this stuff. Ever since Yahoo! Sports broke the Reggie Bush allegations, Internet message boards have been abuzz first with what sanctions would be levied against the Trojans and when none came with conspiracy theories about how the NCAA was protecting the Trojans while being much more harsh on other teams such as a dominant football power on the East Coast (Miami). Compounding the fans fury was the seeming indifference of the sports media outside of Yahoo! Sports (read: ESPN) to really go after USC. Fans claimed that ESPN was trying to protect its sacred cow as ESPN had hyped up the Trojans to the point where they ran a week-long segment on where the Trojans ranked historically even before their Rose Bowl game against Texas, which they lost thanks to a super-human performance by Vince Young (I Heart VY). Now that ESPN has decided to join the attack against USC, it will be interesting to see if the mainstream sports media will turn up the heat on the NCAA (still waiting for the SI cover asking USC to cancel its athletic program). For those of you who think I may be going too far, the list of transgressions by USC athletes goes far beyond Bush and Mayo and includes recent charges against athletes ranging from dealing drugs to weapons possession to sexual assault.

While I’m not on board with Pat Forde’s reactionary death penalty column, I think the NCAA should come down pretty hard on USC. I am not sure what the precedent is for multi-sport probation, but given the multiple transgressions by the USC football team and the Mayo fiasco that anybody could have seen coming, its pretty clear that the Athletic Director Mike Garrett has no control over his programs or doesn’t care as long as they win. I would think that a 1- or 2-year probation with a ban on postseason play would send a pretty clear message that the NCAA won’t tolerate this kind of behavior. However, I doubt the powers that be will punish USC that severely, but USC should at least have some scholarships taken away from them in addition to the ones they lost with their poor APR performance. If the NCAA fails to do that, the Internet and the parents’ basements that bloggers inhabit will be all over them and this time the mainstream sports media with ESPN’s support will be behind them.

The story about Mayo’s recruitment is well-known as an associate of his (Guillory) entered Tim Floyd’s office and offered Mayo and his “services” to USC. When Floyd asked for Mayo’s number to speak with him, he was told that Mayo would call him. Perhaps Guillory wanted to make sure Mayo stayed within the minute limits on the plans that Guillory was paying for. Hopefully, this fiasco will convince more coaches not to get involved in these situations as it was obvious from the beginning of this relationship who was in control. At least Floyd seemed in control over the team, but it won’t be too long before some 5-star comes in with his personal coach and pushes for certain personnel moves and demands that the offense runs through him so he can get his numbers to boost his draft status.

The final issue, and potentially the most important in terms of its overall effect on college basketball, is how this will affect the NCAA’s decision on the 1-and-done rule. It’s pretty obvious that Mayo and several other stars like Michael Beasley were never going to spend a minute more than required in college before jumping to the NBA. If it’s going to be like that for the next generation of college stars, I wonder if the trade-off is worth it. As much as opposing fans like to knock Tyler Hansbrough and J.J. Redick, they embody what we used to love about the college game with guys staying 4 years and developing their games and fans identifying teams with players and not just the coaches manning the sidelines. Unfortunately, Tyler and J.J. are not the caliber of player that we saw do that in the 1980s. College hoops fans need to face the reality that we will never see a Lebron James (would have finished his senior year last year) or Dwight Howard (would have finished his senior year this year) having those kind of historic college careers. The question is how much is it worth to bring in guys of that caliber (or Mayo who is clearly several steps below James or Howard) in for 1 year with the risk of it blowing up an athletic program like it threatens to do at USC now. Mayo’s career and eventual legacy at USC may go a long way in determining the future of this rule.

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Final 4 Preview: UCLA-Memphis & UNC-Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis (6:07 PM): Coming into the tournament UCLA was picked by most analysts to win the championship, but after close games in the 2nd round and Sweet 16 several pundits (including your favorite college basketball blogger) wrote them off. The Bruins responded with what may have been their best performance of the year, a 76-57 beatdown of #3 seed Xavier. While super-frosh Kevin Love has given them consistent performances throughout the tournament (hence the West Regional MOP designation), the rest of the team has been up-and-down. The one thing that has carried this team has been that they play great D the entire 40 minutes. However, if the Bruins want to cut down the nets on Monday in San Antonio Ben Howland’s crew will need solid performances out of Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp, who has played poorly in 6 of his last 7 games.

On the other side, Memphis was getting ripped apart by every analyst the entire season for their poor free throw shooting heading into the Sweet 16. It’s true that nobody will confuse the Tigers for a bunch of J.J. Redicks at the free throw line, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re up 50-20 at half (on Michigan State). The Tigers followed up that massacre with a demolition of #2 seed Texas, who was playing a virtual home game in Houston. In that game, Derrick Rose established himself as the premier point guard in college as he totally dominated 1st team All-American D.J. Augustin. Despite all the athleticism this team has, Rose is really the catalyst for everything and that’s certainly saying something on a team that features C-USA POY and 1st team All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts. However, the key for Memphis may be Joey Dorsey who has a penchant for picking up quick fouls (note: Final 4 games tend to be officiated closely; see last year’s semi where Oden and Hibbert barely played in the first half). If Dorsey can avoid foul trouble, he will be a force inside. If he gets in foul trouble, the Tigers will have to rely on Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggert. (Fortunately for Dorsey, there is nobody left in the tournament who can dominate Dorsey on the inside if he decides to run his mouth like he did last year before playing Greg Oden.)

This is the part where I normally would feature the key matchup, but in this case there are just so many interesting matchups: Derrick Rose vs. Darren Collison; Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Russell Westbrook/Josh Shipp; and Joey Dorsey vs. Kevin Love.

- Rose vs. Collison: Collison is an outstanding college PG, but he’s out of his league here. We all saw what Rose did to Augustin and Texas. He’s just at a different level than any of the PGs in college. While he can get a little out of control at times, his physical skills (size, speed, and strength) would put him near the top of NBA PGs in those categories, which means he’s a nightmare match-up for almost any PG. In addition to this, Rose has shown that he can hit the outside shot and create havoc defensively because of his physical skills. Rose will have to watch out for Collison’s outside shot because he shoots a high percentage even if he doesn’t pull the trigger that often. If Rose is making his jump shot, he’s basically unguardable and could dominate this game. If he does, Ben Howland may have to switch things up and put Westbrook on him. I don’t think it will matter. Advantage: Rose.

- Douglas-Roberts vs. Westbrook/Shipp: This will be an interesting match-up as it features several really athletic players. Douglas-Roberts usuallly has a big edge in almost any match-up, but I think that the UCLA guards have the length and athleticism to bother him. I think Shipp will spend most of the night against CDR, but UCLA might use Westbrook on him occassionally. Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in the country, but CDR’s 4″ height advantage and long arms might be too much for Westbrook to overcome. The key to this match-up is whether Shipp can score. If he does, this match-up might shift more towards a neutral decision, but he hasn’t done it lately and that’s what we’re going with. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts.

- Dorsey vs. Love: This will be a battle of contrasting styles as Dorsey is more of a bruiser in the paint while Love has an excellent all-around game. There is no question as to who will “win” this match-up in terms of the box score and individual match-up. The big question is whether Love will get Dorsey in foul trouble early taking him out of the paint to open up the basket to UCLA’s perimeter players’ drives. Advantage: Love.

The real key to this game is the pace. If Memphis can turn this into a running game in the 70s or 80s, they should win. If UCLA can keep it in the 50s, it will probably come down to free throws and. . .well you’ve heard it a million times in the past month.

Opening Line: Memphis -1.
Prediction: As we said, this game will likely decided by the pace of the game. Everyone likes to talk about the Bruins’ defense, but the key may be the Tigers’ defense. While they are more known for their athleticism and dribble-drive motion offense, the Tigers can play phenomenal defense. If you need evidence, ask Tom Izzo about the first half of their Sweet 16 game when the Spartans looked terrified to bring the ball up the court. The Tigers use their athleticism to put a lot of pressure on the dribbler and fill passing lanes. Collison and Westbrook will be pressured all night, but should provide more resistance than Michigan State or Texas provided. It will be interesting to see how UCLA utilizes Love and his ability to throw the outlet pass to try and avoid this pressure. In the end, I just think Memphis is playing on a different level than the Bruins right now. This all depends on whether the Tigers can carry over their momentum from Houston to San Antonio. I’m going with Memphis pulling away midway through the 2nd half to win by 5 as they hit enough free throws at the end to advance to the championship game to face the winner of. . .

Kansas vs. North Carolina (8:47 PM): The juicy and delicious backstory to this game is ol’ dadgummit Roy coaching UNC for the first time against his former employer Kansas. Although Roy didn’t recruit or coach any of the current players on the KU roster, there are still numerous friends and acquaintances associated with the program who remain stung by Huckleberry Hound’s quick 180 from not giving a sheit about Carolina to taking the job one week later. Naturally, we tend to side with the KU boosters when they rail on Roy because it’s true – he can’t have it both ways. Like Pitino when he took the job at Louisville, you dance with the devil you came with, and both of these gentlemen made professional decisions that they undoubtedly knew would lead to their sanctified statuses at KU and UK being called into question.

So what does this mean for tomorrow’s game between a bunch of players who were all in high school when Roy Williams alighted for Tarheel blue? Not much. We expect that the Kansas players know how much this game means to its fans, and they might come out a little stronger than they otherwise would have, but in terms of the effects on the game over forty minutes, we don’t see it mattering all that much. As always, it comes down to the matchups.

In looking at the numbers and the talent on the floor at positions 1-5, it’s difficult not to like Kansas. Their offensive and defensive efficiency are both in the top five in the nation. Their scoring balance creates a conundrum (whom to stop?) for a defensively-challenged UNC team, as four starters average between 12.7 and 13.1 ppg. And their experience (2 srs, 2 jrs, 1 soph in the starting five) also trumps the younger Heels (2 jrs, 3 sophs).

The player by player matchups tell a slightly different story, though. On the perimeter, we love the way that Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and forward Brandon Rush have been playing, but nobody in college basketball has the quickness and wherewithal to stay with UNC’s Ty Lawson when he ignites the engine on fast breaks. The x-factor we see in the backcourt is Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He has a tendency to run hot/cold, but when he’s hitting his outside jumper the Heels are damn near unbeatable. In their only two losses of the year Ellington went 9-30, and KU’s guards must make sure to rotate out on him to eliminate his open looks.

In the post, nothing more needs to be said about Tyler Hansbrough. The way he’s playing right now we’re going to just pencil him in for 25/12 and wonder how Kansas plans to counteract him. The trio of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Robinson and Sasha Kaun collective are talented enough to challenge Hansbrough, but once again, the x-factor will be whether UNC forward Deon Thompson can hit his open looks that will come as a result of triple teams on Hansbrough. Whether x-factors Thompson and Ellington will knock these shots down will go a long way to determining who will ultimately win this game.

Opening Line: UNC -3
Prediction: In our view, this game will be a test of just how good Kansas’ defense actually is. Assuming they let Hansbrough get his numbers, will KU then be able to put the clamps down on everyone else, especially the two x-factors mentioned above – Ellington and Thompson? Should Kansas limit those players to poor shooting nights while also corralling Lawson’s fast break opportunities, then the Jayhawks will have a very good chance and probably should win the game. But this is a weighty task, and we have a feeling that there are too many things that need to happen for Kansas to win this game. Therefore, our prediction is that either Ellington or Thompson will have a good game, Lawson will break free enough times to get some easy points, and the Heels will run away with the game early in the second half, winning by 10+ points. Part of the reason for our assessment here is that we simply think UNC is purring too well right now to be denied, but what most worries us about Kansas is what they exhibited last week against Davidson, the same thing we’ve seen throughout the Bill Self era. KU played tighter than a Promise Keeper’s new wife on their wedding night, and it’s that tendency that is pushing us to lean toward the Heels.

FYI – Vegas Watch has its breakdown of the odds for the F4 games here. Pretty interesting reading, and we’re not a “sharp.”

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