Greg Shaheen is in a Much Better Mood These Days

Posted by rtmsf on April 30th, 2010

You may not have heard because it was such a formality, but yesterday the NCAA Board of Directors approved the recommendation made by its basketball committee to expand the NCAA Tournament to 68 teams.  The committee will now spend the next two months reviewing possibilities as to how to structure the expansion, but one of the key criteria they will consider is to design a system that will remove the stigma of teams who are invited to the play-in game.  Doug Gottlieb interviewed NCAA Senior Executive VP Greg Shaheen on his radio show yesterday, and you may recall that Shaheen was the mouthpiece who set the world on fire with his discussion of 96-team expansion during the week of the Final Four.  It’s good to hear considerably less stress in his voice as he discussed several of the options on the table; not bad for a suit who has morphed from one of the most despised men in American sports to one that everyone now praises.  Gottlieb said at the end of the piece, “thank you,” and we’d be remiss if we didn’t say likewise.  In an era where the almighty dollar seems to always win out, thanks for listening to the fans, Greg. 

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Morning Five: 04.29.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on April 29th, 2010

    1. We asked the question in yesterday’s Morning Five, and today we got the answer — well, not really.  New NCAA prez Mark Emmert simply said (despite the headline of the linked article) he’d reserve comment about tournament expansion until the current 68-team proposal is approved.  That approval will likely come today, so we’ll be on the lookout for Emmert’s tabled comments on the matter, that’s for sure.
    2. You won’t be hearing anything about PTPers or dipsy-doo-dunkeroos or the Bald Dome Index on any of the Turner stations when they start covering the NCAA Tournament.  Dick Vitale has no interest in ditching his analyst’s seat in the studio at ESPN for a color commentating spot at Turner.  No matter your opinion on his announcing style, you’ve got to hand it to the guy: his enthusiasm for this game is still unmatched, he’s still adored by coaches and players, and, considering he’d be 84 the next time he could possibly do color for an NCAA Tournament game at ESPN, his loyalty to his current employer is admirable.
    3. C. J. Leslie has decided to stay at home and play for North Carolina State, disappointing reported fellow finalists Connecticut and Kentucky in doing so.  Leslie, a 6’9 and 205-pound power forward, is ranked 11th in the ESPNU-100 list of high school seniors, and happy Wolfpack supporters are beaming about the prospects of how he’ll meld with point guard prospect Ryan Harrow, ranked at 39th in the same list.  Add underrated 6’4 shooting guard Lorenzo Brown into the mix, and you’ve got an NC State squad that’s gong to be a lot of fun to watch next season.
    4. Chuck Driesell has decided to bid a fond farewell to his assistant coaching position at Maryland to become the new boss at The Citadel.  And if the last name and the Maryland ties didn’t clue you in…yes, it’s Lefty’s son.  Despite a 20-13 (15-5) record in 2008-09, the Bulldogs slipped to 17-16 and 9-9 in a tougher-than-expected Southern Conference last season.  After four years at the helm in Charleston, Ed Conroy now departs for Tulane, so it’s now on Driesell to lead The Citadel to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid.
    5. More on this as it comes in, but Seton Hall forward and recent NBA Draft declarer Herb Pope fell ill and then actually collapsed during an afternoon workout at the school, and was rushed by squad to a local hospital.  The initial AP report (understandably) did not comment on Pope’s status or diagnosis, though one New Jersey-based site states he is indeed listed in serious condition.  We hope for the best and we’ll have more info as it’s available.
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      Chatter From the Fourth Estate: NCAA 68

      Posted by rtmsf on April 23rd, 2010

      If you’re like us today, you’re probably feeling a little bit like you do when you realize that the blue lights in your rear view mirror weren’t intended for you even though you were about +15 over the speed limit.  As the friendly patrolman roars by on your left, that adrenaline-fueled fear of getting a ticket (or worse) melts into a somewhat euphoric state of well-being as you realize that you’ve dodged a terribly unpleasant situation.  We all spent the last two months lying hogtied on the tracks watching the 96-team locomotive steaming toward us, and the surprising (shocking?) news that the NCAA will instead move to only a 68-team scenario feels like Clint Eastwood or Rambo or freakin’ Michael Cera stepped in at the last moment to save the day.  Perspective is everything.

      NCAA HQ Can Cancel That Security Detail Now

      Yet imagine for a moment if we’d never heard about the 96-team debacle from the inner circles of the NCAA.  Without that particularly bilious perspective to abhor, excoriate, lambaste and dread for months leading up to today, the news that the NCAA was expanding to 68 teams would probably have been met with complete and utter derision across the board.  Four play-in games, pfshaw!  Yet when considered against the alternative, today’s news was met with guarded optimism and in some cases downright celebration.  Was this a brilliant strategem of managing expectations pulled off on us, the unsuspecting public, by the cunning NCAA (probably not), or simply a realization that the organization was treading ever so closely to killing off the goose that laid the golden egg (more likely)?  Either way, the decision is a reasonable and defensible one that we can all live with, so let’s get to the business of reviewing it now and analyzing it to death in coming weeks.

      Here’s what some of the best in the business have to say…

      Luke Winn, CNNSI – More importantly, it represents a major victory for college basketball. The NCAA did the right thing. While I’d prefer a pure, 64-team format without play-in games, 68 teams is immensely more palatable than 96. The sanctity of the NCAA tournament has been preserved for the time being, and that’s something to celebrate, even if Jim Isch, the NCAA’s interim president, admitted that 68 wasn’t guaranteed to be the format for the entire length of the new TV deal. […]  Public reaction had to have played at least some role in them settling on 68 rather than 96. The public’s response to the 96 idea was overwhelmingly negative, and I wonder if Isch, Shaheen, CBS and Turner didn’t want to be regarded as the villains who ruined college sports’ crown jewel.  […]  Eventually, we’ll get back to worrying about how Isch left the expansion door open by saying two words: “for now.” But for now, at least, we can rejoice. The NCAA tournament has been saved.

      Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News – Turns out, they were listening. Nobody came out and said the public’s revulsion at the prospect of a 96-team field was a factor in settling on 68, but if you’d loved the idea like chocolate-chip cookies, we’d be talking about a far different NCAA Tournament next March.  It wasn’t at the start of negotiations that someone with CBS/Turner suggested a 68-team tournament would be workable with the dollar amounts being discussed. That came after the general public declared 96 teams to be a product no more appealing than the XFL.  […]  How should a 68-team tournament work?  That’s fairly obvious. Although it might be most fair to have the teams at the bottom of the field play for the right to be No. 16 seeds, it’s hard to imagine anyone at CBS or Turner Sports, the networks that just agreed to pay roughly $740 million annually to televise the tournament, being thrilled about showing four games that this year might have involved such matchups as Robert Morris-Winthrop or Morgan State-East Tennessee State.  The solution would be to have the last eightat-large teams play for the right to be seeded into the middle of the field—as No. 12s or No. 11s. This season, that might have meant Virginia Tech-Minnesota and Illinois-Florida.  People would watch those games. CBS and Turner saved us from the dread of a 96-team tournament. They deserve something for their money.

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      Selected Thoughts From Final Four Weekend

      Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2010

      You know how this works… here are some random thoughts bouncing around our head as we come out of a pretty damn good Final Four in Indianapolis.

      Welcome to Indy!

      Coach K is the Current Dean of Coaches.  But let’s get one thing put to rest right away.  He’s not John Wooden.  For all you presentists out there convinced that the era we’re currently in is tougher than any other previous one, get your head out of your sphincter.  Make all the excuses you want, but Wooden beat all comers west AND east, year after year after year after year (ten times in twelve seasons).  We could go on and on about this, and if the numbers were anywhere near each other (like if K had eight titles to Wooden’s ten), we’d entertain the argument.  But they’re not, and Coach K would probably be the first to chastise you of such foolishness.  Now, with that said, Krzyzewski is a clear #2 all-time with his most recent title.  Tom Izzo came into the Final Four with everyone gushing about his six appearances in the last twelve years, but it’s K who has done it better for longer, now with eleven F4s and four national championships to his credit.  Whenever he decides to retire, and there’s a good chance it won’t be for another decade, Coach K will have far surpassed the man whom he set his eyes on as a target way back in the early 80s — UNC demigod Dean Smith.  What seemed like a herculean impossibility at that time ultimately came to pass, as Coach K is now the Dean of Tobacco Road and the Smith family tree of he and Roy Williams must combine championships at UNC to simply match those of K (something undoubtedly not lost on Williams in his lair at this very moment).  Furthermore, Krzyzewski proved with this year’s team that he doesn’t have to have better talent than everyone else to cut down the nets — his other championship teams were stacked to the brim with future pros, but it will ultimately be the 2010 national titleist that raises his legacy from one of the coach with the best talent to one of the talent with the best coach.

      K: Best in the Business

      Greatest Title Game Ever? Had Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot found net, we’d be on board with this.  The storyline is just too good.  Even better than Villanova taking down big, bad Georgetown in ’85 or NC State’s miracle of miracles two years earlier.  The Jimmy Chitwood/Bobby Plump comparisons would have been endless, and we’re a little more than halfway convinced that we’d have seen our first-ever title game RTC should the ball have gone through.  Unfortunately for most of America, like many life-story endings awkwardly forced into a Hollywood template, reality leaves you waiting for the next moment that never comes — the Hayward shot didn’t magically bounce up in the air and fall back through…  The truth is that the national championship game was a hard-nosed, calculating, defensive-minded drama between two teams where every single point came with a price tag.  But it wasn’t beautiful, and in order to have greatness bestowed upon a game, it usually needs to end with a make rather than a miss.  This is not always the case, but it’s difficult to buy into the GOAT argument when the last made field goal occurred with just under a minute remaining (as a comparison, the widely-accepted greatest game of all-time, 1992 Duke-Kentucky, had five lead changes in the last 35 seconds of overtime).  So where does it rank?  Still pretty high — for our money, this was the best championship game since 1999 UConn vs. Duke (yes, Memphis-Kansas was thrilling, but not for the entire game), and is definitely in the top 6-8 in the post-Wooden era, but let’s keep our wits about us here. 

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      30 Days of Madness: 1974 ACC Finals

      Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2010

      We’ve been anxiously awaiting the next thirty days for the last eleven months.  You have too.  In fact, if this isn’t your favorite time of year by a healthy margin then you should probably click away from this site for a while.   Because we plan on waterboarding you with March Madness coverage.  Seriously, you’re going to feel like Dick Cheney himself is holding a Spalding-logoed towel over your face.  Your intake will be so voluminous that you’ll be drooling Gus Johnson and bracket residue in your sleep.  Or Seth Davis, if that’s more your style.  The point is that we’re all locked in and ready to go.  Are you?  To help us all get into the mood, we like to click around a fancy little website called YouTube for a daily dose of notable events, happenings, finishes, ups and downs relating to the next month.  We’re going to try to make this video compilation a little smarter, a little edgier, a little historical-er.  Or whatever.  Sure, you’ll see some old favorites that never lose their luster, but you’ll also see some that maybe you’ve forgotten or never knew to begin with.  That’s the hope, at least.  We’ll be matching the videos by the appropriate week, so all of this week we re-visited some of the timeless moments from Championship Week.  Enjoy.

      Championship Week

      Dateline:  1974 ACC Tournament – Maryland vs. NC State

      Context: If you’re old enough to remember this game, you’re probably not reading this site, so this is for you youngins out there.  When this game was played in the mid-70s, the NCAA Tournament only selected one team from each conference to go to the 25-team event.  It truly was a tournament of champions, but the problem was obvious, in that some leagues such as the ACC, were far better than others.  1974 was also the season where UCLA, who had won the last seven national titles, finally saw its own blood (yes, you read seven correctly).  Their 88-game winning streak came to an end against Notre Dame in January, and the Bruins even lost a couple of games that year in Pac-8 conference play.  Even though John Wooden’s team was still loaded with talent, there were two teams back east that seemed just as good, if not better.  #1 NC State came into the ACC championship game at 25-1, while #4 Maryland was 23-4 and both teams enjoyed serious future NBA talent — NCSU with the spectacular David Thompson along with big man Tom Burleson, and the Terps with an all-star cast including Len Elmore, John Lucas and Tom McMillen.  In a game that many who witnessed still today claim was the greatest game ever played (even over 1992 Duke-Kentucky), NC State prevailed 103-100 in overtime.  The Wolfpack went on to vanquish the mighty Bruins in the Final Four and cut down the nets for their first national championship two nights later.  The Terps, well… they went back home and wondered what could have been, labeled as one of the best teams to never play in the NCAA Tournament.  In large part due to the outcry after this game featuring two of the nation’s very best teams, the NCAA expanded to 32 teams in 1975, opening the door for the at-large bids that have been a key component of the Dance ever since.

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      Morning Five: 03.04.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

      1. George Schroeder argues that the writing is on the wall of the brand-spanking-new Matthew Knight Arena at Oregon — head coach Ernie Kent is dead man walking at the school.  Regardless of the past successes of Kent (two Elite Eights), we think Shroeder is correct.  The sense around UO is that Kent got a little too comfortable in his spot there, and this isn’t the business where comfort wears well when you’re losing Pac-10 games hand over fist.  Especially with a new $200M arena across campus to fill.
      2. Alabama suspended its best player JaMychal Green indefinitely for a violation of undisclosed team rules.  It’s been a very tough year for head coach Anthony Grant in his first campaign in Tuscaloosa, but an NIT is salvageable if the Tide can capture its last game to ensure a .500 season.  They currently stand at 15-14 (5-10 SEC) after beating South Carolina in Columbia last night.
      3. Some early bracket science (note: not bracketology)…  every seed matchup from #1 vs. #16 broken down statistically.  Everybody already knows that the #9 seed wins more often over the #8 than vice versa (54-46), but we bet you didn’t know that #8 seeds are three times more likely than #9 seeds to knock off the top seed in the second round.
      4. A couple of good pieces on NCAA Expansion 96 this week.  George Dorhmann gives us four good reasons that expansion is (say it altogether now…) a bad idea, while Stewart Mandel offers a very informative and insightful article on the multiple layers of decisionmaking and issues involved in this decision.  His key statement that every college basketball fan should take to heart: “This much is certain. Nearly all the various parties with a vested interest in the tourney seem far more open to expansion possibilities than the general public.” Folks, if you do nothing else for the rest of your lives, let interim NCAA president James Isch know how you feel about this possibility coming directly from the fans themselves.  If they’re going ostrich on us, then let’s make sure they hear us through the sand.  Contact him directly at
      5. ESPN’s Rick Reilly joined the ‘when to RTC’ conversation yesterday just in time for Maryland’s RTC against Duke last night.  Using his Ironclad and Unbreakable RTCing Rules, Terp fans will not be eligible for an RTC until the 2022-23 season.  Hyperbole, yes, but we do agree with his primary sentiment in that it’s happening far too often.  We have no  hard data on this, but it’s getting to the point where every school seems to be RTCing at least once a season.  If everyone is doing it for any reason under the sun, then nobody is doing anything unique or special.  The best idea we’ve heard from the twitterati in recent weeks was the idea that a student body would ‘fake RTC,’ as in threatening to rush without actually doing so.  The first student body that actually pulls that one off would forever be in our debt and gratitude.
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      Thus Begins Championship Fortnight…

      Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

      You know why we don’t need NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 teams?  The are a lot of other good reasons, but the simplest reason is that we already have it.  In fact, about 300 of the 347 Division I teams have an opportunity starting tonight to ‘play their way into’ the NCAA Tournament.  It’s easy — survive and advance.  As long as you win, you’re still alive.  And if you win three or four games in (mostly) consecutive days, you’ll see Greg Gumbel reading your name off the Big Board on Selection Sunday.  Keep winning beyond that and suddenly you’re channeling NC State circa 1983.

      Tickling or Madness?

      There will be thirty conference tournaments played from coast to coast (and all points in-between) in the coming days, with the Big South, Ohio Valley and Horizon all starting postseason action tonight.  The Atlantic Sun and Patriot will get going tomorrow, and by Saturday night, we’ll have already crowned the first three automatic bids.  Twenty-seven more (plus the Ivy) will be decided over the course of the following week of play.  It seems like a lot to keep up with (and it is), which is why we’ve come up with an internal tracking matrix (below) that we’re happy to share with everyone.

      During our nightly ATBs, we’ll be keeping you updated as well, but here’s the high-level view of the world.  Strap in folks, because March is here!

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      Morning Five: 02.18.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

      1. In an era of slashing budgets, it was surprising to hear that Fordham University is planning on heavily increasing their basketball expenditures in an effort to become a major player in the NYC metropolitan area and the Atlantic 10.  Perhaps given the pathetic status of local high-major programs at St. John’s and Rutgers, it’s a reasonable gamble.  The Rams are searching nationally for a new head coach, and if a higher salary and recruiting budget will draw a dynamic young coach to The Bronx, then perhaps this could elevate the program to an NIT level.
      2. Chalk Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim up as another coach who supports expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.  The argument he makes is that there are “eight or nine teams” in the major conferences and to leave them out (he specifically cites UConn – 12th – and UNC – 9th) means that the “64 best” are not invited.  To which we say… stick to the coaching, Coach.  If the horrid Tar Heels and the schizo Huskies are good examples of teams that will be getting in under the new 96-team format, then Boeheim’s spouting off has already made the case against the change.
      3. Mike DeCourcy argues that the USBWA made a mistake in leaving off Malcolm Delaney and Matt Bouldin from their list of final sixteen candidates for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.  In reviewing the list, though, we’re not sure who he would suggest they leave out.  Delaney over Jon Scheyer or Dominique Jones?  Bouldin over James Anderson or Robbie Hummel?  We’re not really seeing the obviousness of this.
      4. While we’re on DeCourcy, if you’re interested in who he thinks the most underrated and overrated pro prospects are in college basketball this year, here’s your chance.  We here at RTC love, we mean LOVE, Sherron Collins‘ game at the collegiate level, but we can’t get on board with him as the next Jameer Nelson in any way, shape or form.  At that size, it takes a special talent to excel in the NBA, and we’re just not sure that Collins meets that threshold (which is to say nothing about his heart or will, which are huge).
      5. Did you guys hear that the NCAA has decided to expand the Tournament to 4,096 teams?  We’ve got our money backing the Xenon International School of Hair Design in this bracket.
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      Morning Five: 02.12.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

      1. Bowling I and Theory of Softball??  Pete Thamel of the NYT as usual is all over the Binghamton report that came out yesterday exposing the unsavory lengths that their athletic department was willing to go in order to have an NCAA Tournament-caliber basketball program.  Meanwhile former head coach Kevin Broadus remains on PAID administrative leave at the university awaiting a decision on his future there.  How can he have any future whatsoever given these findings?
      2. Quick, do you know how many teams currently have undefeated conference records?  If you said nine, then you either came here yesterday or you’re fibbing.  John Stevens wrote an article discussing each of those nine teams and the likelihood that they’ll get through conference play without a blemish.  Hint: the Princeton Tigers (4-0 in the Ivy League) will not.
      3. The New York Daily News reported yesterday that Rick Pitino was interested in the Nets head coaching job, which would make sense considering that they’re likely to have John Wall (and possibly Lebron James?) coming to the tri-state area in the near future.  Pitino responded with a great quote — “there’s not an ounce of truth to [the report],” which, knowing Pitino, means that he was clawing at the possibility of leaving Louisville as soon as possible.  We’ve all been to this dance with Pitino before, but Gary Parrish put it in the starkest terms when he compared it to asking the pretty gal to a middle school dance.
      4. UConn’s Jim Calhoun will be back on the bench Saturday when his Huskies play Cincinnati.  His team went 3-4 in his absence, with wins over St. John’s, DePaul, and somehow, Texas.  What shouldn’t be forgotten, though, is that his team was already 2-3 in the Big East prior to his departure, and in the last six games he coached (including a loss to Michigan), the Huskies’ efficiency margin was -3.3 points per 100 possessions.  How did replacement coach George Blaney do in his seven-game tenure?  The Huskies’ efficiency margin on his watch was -2.1 points per 100 possessions.  So before UConn fans start blaming Blaney for any of the team’s inadequacies this season (a la Pete Gaudet at Duke in 1994-95), they should be careful to examine the entire picture first.
      5. We were anxiously awaiting someone to take up the mantle of supporting the idea of NCAA96, and leave it to Gregg Doyel to be the advocate.  Some of his points are solid — in particular, the nearsighted “tradition” argument.  But the one that really doesn’t make sense to us is the explanation he gives for keeping the “crappy teams” in.  He must not have read our seminal work on the matter, published last week.  See, the problem isn’t that “crappy teams” like Vermont, Bucknell and Davidson would get into the Big Dance; it’s that sub-.500 BCS conference teams like Miami (FL), Alabama, Oklahoma and Washington would get in.  And we don’t want them in — those teams are not good enough, no matter how you evaluate them.  If the NCAA96 implementation would reward strong regular season play for mid-majors whom would otherwise be shut out, we could get on board with it.  But you, us, Gregg and the dog all know that’s not why this will be happening — the majority of the additional 31 spots will go to BCS teams.  And that’s truly crap.
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      Morning Five: 02.08.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

      1. Want to know what’s wrong with UNC this year?  One ACC coach laid out all of the dirty laundry about Roy Williams’ team in an interview with the Washington Post.  Since the coach was speaking as someone who had faced Carolina once already this season, and the article came out Saturday morning, this means that it was one of the following four: Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Oliver Purnell (Clemson), Sidney Lowe (NC State) or Dino Gaudio (Wake Forest).  Lowe lost to the Heels in their only game and Gaudio still seems too new to make those kinds of statements about that program, even anonymously.  That leaves Greenberg, Hewitt and Purnell, and our money is on Greenberg.  For some reason it just sounds like him (and the WaPo probably has a closer relationship with him than the others).
      2. Florida State announced on Sunday that they will be vacating wins from ten sports that involved 61 athletes accused of academic misconduct during the 2006-07 academic year.  Most of the news will focus on football coach Bobby Bowden losing 12 wins from his career total, but of interest to us is that the basketball program will lose all 22 of its wins from that year as well — one from the ACC Tourney, and two from the NIT.
      3. Based on everything that Isiah Thomas says here about his lack of interest in the LA Clippers job, we fully expect him to see him stalking the sidelines (and the interns!) at the Staples Center next season.
      4. NCAA 96: a voice of reason on expansion of the NCAA Tournament from an unlikely source, the Commissioner of the Big Ten, Jim Delaney.  The key takeaway from his discussion with TSN is ‘let’s learn more about this.’  Exactly.  The more time spent talking to stakeholders as well as THE FANS is simple but seemingly missing from this idea — it helps to remove avarice from the equation and gives reasoned consideration to the premise that just because an idea will be profitable makes it a good thing.
      5. Pat Forde writes that if the COY award were handed out today, there would be no doubt who should win it — Jim Boeheim.  He won’t get any argument from us.  Syracuse received 83 votes in the preseason AP Poll (good for 31st) and 111 votes in the ESPN/Coaches Poll (25th).  The Orange are now 23-1, leading the Big East Conference, and could potentially be Boeheim’s best team ever.  That’s right.  Look through this list and find a better team.  It’s hard to do.
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