During the Glory Years of Cal basketball, Pete Newell had the Bears playing at an elite level year after year. How elite? Newell’s Golden Bears beat John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins eight straight times before Newell retired. He took the Bears to four NCAA Tournaments (1957-60), landed consecutive Final Four appearances (1959-60, and won the 1959 National Championship. Those were to be his final four years in Berkeley, and Cal hasn’t come anywhere near those highs since. In fact, Cal went nearly 30 seasons without a single NCAA Tournament appearance after Newell’s departure, and even considering a few lesser peaks through the Todd Bozeman, Ben Braun, and Mike Montgomery eras, at no point has Cal again been considered among the top programs in college basketball.
Pete Newell Was the Only Coach Who Dominated John Wooden
And that brings us to Cuonzo Martin.
There are many moving parts to putting together a successful basketball program, but time and again everything tends to come down to two questions: Do you have the right guy, and do you have enough money? The right guy, of course, plays a big role in answering the latter question. First, he needs to build an identity (that tends to focus on a specific side of the ball), some attribute, or sometimes just a pace of play. Think about Tom Izzo’s Michigan State teams as physical, Mike Krzyzweski’s ruthlessly prolific motion offense at Duke, or Jim Boeheim’s zone defense at Syracuse. What can we say about Martin’s “brand” of basketball? He’s only in his third season at Berkeley. In season one, the Bears ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. In season two, thanks to the arrivals of Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, Cal qualified for the NCAA Tournament on the backs of the fourth-best offensive efficiency and best defensive efficiency in the league.
In one of the shortest collegiate careers that we’ve quite frankly ever seen, Kansas freshman Milton Doyle has already decided that he’s had enough in Lawrence. That’s right, Doyle, still some seven-plus weeks away from his first Midnight Madness, is transferring from KU due to — can you believe this? — a lack of playing time. Sure, Bill Self was diplomatic when he announced Doyle’s departure on Monday — he said, “[Doyle] thought it was better for him to go to a place where he had a better opportunity to impact a program early in his career” — but the 6’4″ guard played sparingly during the Jayhawks’ recent trip to Europe, and it was clear that he was going to spend much of his first season at KU sitting behind experienced players such as Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Naadir Thorpe in the rotation. Why this should be a problem for a player who was headed to FIU last spring before head coach Isiah Thomas was fired, we don’t know, but it’s painfully stark further evidence of the pervasive attitude of instant gratification that this generation of prep basketball players seems to carry as a birthright.
From a freshman player who should have considered himself lucky to have an opportunity to wear a Kansas uniform to a pair of future freshmen who will no doubt very much enjoy their six months of the college experience in 2013-14, two of the top five players in the Class of 2013 — Aaron and Andrew Harrison — have announced through Nick Jones at the Kentucky Kernel that they will announce their joint college choice on October 29. The date represents the day after the pair’s 18th birthday and presumably gives them plenty of time to take some visits in September and October among their five finalist schools — Baylor, Kentucky, Maryland, SMU, and Villanova. According to Adam Zagoria, the first three on that list are the schools contacting the twins most frequently (maybe they’re just picking up the phone for those caller IDs?).
Mike DeCourcy checked in with Ben Howland just shy of UCLA’s Wednesday trip to China, and if summertime coachspeak is your thing, this detailed article will give you a very good sense as to how good the head coach thinks his team will be next season. It’s well worth the read for the information that you will glean on how Larry Drew II is handling point guard duties; whether Kyle Anderson can man the position if Drew falls through; the development of the Wear twins; the so-called best shooter at UCLA since Michael Roll; and, Shabazz Muhammad’s limitless motor. But the real jewel of the article is when Howland gives a frank assessment of the weight and conditioning status of center Joshua Smith — put simply, after nearly an entire offseason to get in shape, Smith is, according to his head coach, “the same.”
The Lapchick Character Award’s 2012 recipients were announced on Monday with two of the most influential college basketball coaches in history honored along with one of the most revered in the women’s game (Cathy Rush) as well as the high school game (Morgan Wootten). CM Newton and Pete Newell both left their marks on college hoops in different ways, but few have questioned their character along with their contributions. California’s Newell was the one coach whom John Wooden had to get past to ultimately become John Wooden, and the legendary “big man” coach who retired at the absurd age of 44 is one of only three men to coach a team to an NIT title, an NCAA championship and an Olympic gold medal. Newton never cut the nets down as the head coach at Alabama or Vanderbilt, but his teams were always very good and he was instrumental in breaking the color barrier in SEC basketball both in terms of players (recruiting Wendell Hudson, the first African-American scholarship athlete at Alabama) and coaches (hiring Tubby Smith while acting as the athletic director at Kentucky). Both are deserving recipients, and they, along with Rush and Wootten, will be honored on November 15 in New York City during the 2kSports Classic.
The UNC academic scandal took an ironic twist on Monday as transcript-outing victim Julius Peppersannounced that he is donating $250,000 to North Carolina’s Light on the Hill Society Scholarship Fund in support of African-American students. Even when considering that this is his second contribution to the fund — he also donated $500,000 in 2009 — the timing here is certainly rich. When you consider that Peppers has earned tens of millions of dollars in his highly successful NFL career as a direct result of what may have been academic shenanigans to keep him eligible, his charity certainly seems like a wonderful return on the school’s investment. Furthermore, not even one week after the school made an egregious privacy error in throwing his academic chops to the wolves, Peppers still came through with the money. We’d probably suggest to the Martin Commission, given Peppers’ ongoing and convincing loyalty to the Tar Heel program, that they need not bother knocking on his door for additional dirt. You know, more than what his transcript already suggests.
The history of this conference is pretty lopsided. UCLA has won 11 national championships while all the other schools in the conference combine for five titles with no other school winning more than one. UCLA has been to 18 Final Fours; Arizona and Utah are a distant second with four appearances. As such, you can expect the faces on the Pac-12 Mount Rushmore to be heavily skewed to the blue and gold. In fact, the argument could be made that the Bruins deserve all four spots on the monument to Pac-12 basketball. But, since the Arizona schools joined the conference in 1978, things have tightened up considerably, as UCLA has only won a single national title since then, appearing in just five Final Fours. Still, this is a monument to the history of the sport, and there is little doubt that you can name the first three names on this list without giving it another moment’s thought; they are icons of the game we love. And really, the fourth spot here seems to be a no-brainer also, although there are some interesting people that finish just off the mountain. To the list:
John Wooden, Coach, UCLA(1948-75) – As the head coach at UCLA for 27 seasons, the Wizard of Westwood’s teams of the sixties and early seventies have become the gold standard by which other great sports dynasties are judged. There are the ten championships in the course of 12 years, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. There are four perfect 30-0 seasons included in that span and a NCAA record 88-game winning streak. Still, aside from all that, Wooden is known not just as a great basketball coach, but as a great teacher. His Pyramid of Success is more of a life lesson than anything specific to basketball and he was known for his inspirational lectures and sayings which apply not only to success in basketball, but success in life.
Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Center, UCLA(1966-69) – During Alcindor’s three seasons at UCLA, his team won 88 games, lost just two and took home three straight national championships. He was literally a game-changing athlete (the NCAA banned the dunk in 1967 in part due to his dominant use of the shot) who won the National Player of the Year award in both his sophomore and senior seasons (Elvin Hayes won in 1968) and was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons. Alcindor played at a time when freshman were ineligible for varsity competition, but in 1966 Alcindor led the UCLA freshman team to a 75-60 victory over the varsity team in an exhibition to open Pauley Pavilion. More than forty years after he played his final collegiate game, Alcindor is still widely regarded as the greatest college basketball player of all time. Read the rest of this entry »
By now you’ve probably seen the list published earlier this week by The Sporting News naming their Fifty Greatest Coaches of All Time, across all sports. And most likely you’ve at least seen that the legendary John Wooden tops that list, a selection about which this blogger has not heard one single detractor, not even one with a bad argument. What’s interesting to me is the names from the college basketball world that follow Wooden on that list. Here they are; I added two coaches at the end who did not make the TSN list (though one would think they might) just for the discussion:
The first thing that strikes me is where John Wooden ranks on the all-time Division 1 wins list. 21st??!? It’s always been obvious that in these lofty heights number of wins has never been a great indicator of coaching ability, since teams just didn’t play as many games until the 80s when that number really took off. That would seem to make winning percentage a more important statistic. But not on this list, it appears. If that statistic mattered here, you wouldn’t expect Dean Smith to be quite as high, and you’d expect Adolph Rupp to be higher; you would certainly expect Roy Williams to at least make the list. Final fours? Nope. Dean Smith would be appropriately stationed, but Mike Krzyzewski would be higher along with Rupp, and again you’d think Williams would get on. And so on. No single major statistic appears to have guided the thinking, here.
The question is, does this reduce the validity or credibility of the list? According to TSN, their panel consisted of “seven World Series-winning managers, four Super Bowl champion coaches, and the winningest coaches in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball.” I’m not saying they necessarily got anything wrong — who better to ask about coaches than players and other coaches? It is at least obvious that there’s only one thing the panel considered, at least in terms of how the best coaches in college basketball fell on the list — reputation.
No contest. (credit: scout.com)
The selection of Wooden at the top cannot be argued because he’s got the reputation, the aura, and too much of the overall look of the statistics on his side. After that it’s a crapshoot depending on what you think is the most important determiner of coaching greatness. To the TSN panel, it’s something akin to curb appeal that influenced them. Would Bob Knight not have been higher than 16th on an all-time coaches list were it not for his acerbic nature? Would Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith have been closer together were it not for Rupp’s reputation (whether you think he deserves it or not) as a bigot, and/or Smith having an image bordering on — dare I say it — holy? Is Roy Williams still being punished for his inability to win the big one while at Kansas? And what of Pat Summitt? She’s the only one who could even challenge Wooden in terms of college basketball coaches; her numbers are barely conceivable, and then you throw in her 1oo% graduation rate (yes, that’s right, every Tennessee player on her watch who has completed their eligibility there has also graduated). Should she be higher than 11th on the whole thing? And if you want to talk about the effect of reputation on this list, there probably isn’t a better example than the appearance of the late great Pete Newell. Only 357 games coached, a single title, only two Final Fours, and the lowest winning percentage on the coaches on the above list. But he goes and forms the Big Man Camp — and eventually what he would call the Tall Women’s Basketball Camp (I guess “Big Woman’s Camp” wasn’t an appealing name for such a place) — and finds a way to coach players in a way that didn’t directly show up as wins and losses, and here he is, on the overall list ahead of people like Joe Torre, Tom Osborne, Toe Blake, and Chuck Daly. In addition, if you ask any coach, they’ll tell you that, before he died, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a better coach and man than Mr. Newell. Does he belong on the list?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know one thing — the list generates great discussion (especially in the summer lull), so come on…let’s hear from the Duke fans who think Coach K got screwed, let’s hear from the UNC fans who think Smith-Williams should be 1-2. Let’s hear from the UK fans who think Rupp is too great to be even considered on such a list. Knowing the passion of college hoop fans and the readers of this site, it should be good.
Big East/SEC Invitational. This is so ridiculous. Tonight was the opening night of yet another conference challengeseries invitational that theoretically is a great idea, but is executed all wrong by the powers-that-be. Why don’t the Pac-10, Big 12, SEC and Big East realize that interest will be much greater in these things if they’re made into week-long EVENTS, similar to the way the ACC and Big 10 do it, and they let ESPN carry all the games throughout the week. The Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series is bad enough, considering nobody even knows about it; but this Big East/SEC thing is an abomination. It only involves four teams from each conference, and somehow a team like South Florida gets invited. South Florida… most people don’t even realize that USF is IN the Big East or even carries a basketball program! Furthermore, they’ve decided to have doubleheaders in semi-neutral venues, which only serves to confuse people and create situations where half the stands are empty, even though two top 25 teams are playing (see: UT-Marquette tonight in Nashville). How cool would it be to have three legitimate made-for-tv challenges between all the power conferences in the first three weeks of December, leading into Bowl Week? Make this happen. FYI – the much-maligned SEC went 2-0 tonight, but who wouldn’t beat South Florida?
Tennessee 80, Marquette 62. The score was Marquette by 2 with just over ten minutes remaining. Then Tennessee and, more precisely, Mr. Headband as Yarmulke Wayne Chism, took over the game. The Vols scored on eleven of their next twelve possessions, and Chism was involved in seven of them. Game pretty much over. Chism, incidentally, set a new career-high with 26 pts and 11 rebounds, and it was clear that in the second half he was feeling it. The Vols didn’t get a huge amount of production from anyone else, though, (Tyler Smith had 14/3; Bobby Maze 10/6 assts) but their long arms and athletic defense did force Marquette into its worst shooting performance of the season (38%). Wesley Matthews continued to show his value, as he dropped 30 (15 from the line) on a myriad of drives and scoop shots in the lane. Matthews is #2 in the nation in FT attempts (97), behind only Blake Griffin, which shows just how frequently he gets into the paint and absorbs contact.
Vanderbilt 71, South Florida 52. We’re not going to spend too much time on this turd of game, but one interesting aspect of it was that the much-ballyhooed Mike Mercer (transfer from Georgia) and Gus Gilchrist (transfer from Maryland, sorta) made their tv debuts. Mercer had 10/3 assts, while Gilchrist added 12/8 off the bench. Anyone expecting these two players to turn USF into a Big East contender should have their heads examined. AJ Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal had twenty each for the Commodores.
This Sweaty Vol Fan Was Outworking Wayne Chism Tonight
It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.
LMU’s Bill Bayno is taking a leave of absence due to a “serious medical condition” related to coaching-related stress. Maybe the 0-10 record with a trip scheduled to Pauley on Wednesday had something to do with it.
Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury was hospitalized yesterday with migraines and flu-like symptoms, although further tests were being done.
Clemson 76, North Florida 36. In the past seven years, Clemson has had starts of 10-0, 17-0, 11-0, 9-0, and now in 2008-09, 11-0 again. In those other four unbeaten starts, the final result was two NITs, one NCAA first round loss, and one losing record. Woo. Hoo.
Texas 88, Texas Southern 72. We’ve said it before, but if Dexter Pittman (19/5) gets going, Texas is a whole different animal. One troubling aspect of tonight’s game is they allowed 0-9 TSU to shoot 58% against them – Rick Barnes cannot be happy about that.
On Tap Wednesday (all times EST). Nothing like a Duke v. UNC-Asheville game (w/o Kenny George) to keep us warm at night. We’re actually very intrigued with how Syracuse responds 48 hrs after losing at home, whether Pitt will dominate a good Siena team, and if St. Mary’s can go into Mac Court and beat a young Oregon team.
NC State (-9.5) v. East Carolina – 7pm
Syracuse (-25) v. Canisius (ESPNU) – 7pm
Duke v. UNC-Asheville (ESPN2) – 7:30pm
LSU v. Nicholls St. (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
Memphis (-22) v. Arkansas-Little Rock – 8pm
Arkansas (-6.5) v. Austin Peay (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
It’s been a while since we did this consistently, but now that we actually know which games will be played more than 24 hours in advance it’s time to get back into our routine of providing you with the best college basketball links we find each day. If you find something that you think would be of interest to other college basketball fans, leave a link in the comment section and we’ll include it in the next Fast Breaks. Some of these are a few days old, but we have some catching up to do. . .
Kevin Armstrong with his very early season freshmen All-American. Having seen Greg Monroe against Tennessee last week (there’s a post coming about that someday) I agree with Armstrong’s assessment of the Hoyas big man although I wish Monroe would become a bit more aggressive, but I guess seeing freshmen like Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley has spoiled me.
We felt bad giving such short shrift to Pete Newell yesterday in our ATB wrapup, so we wanted to take an opportunity to give our condolences to the Newell family and also educate young readers on just how influential a figure Coach Newell was in this game. The vast majority of Newell’s career was before our time as well, but his sphere of influence reaches down through the decades to this very day. Every time a young big man utilizes a drop step or seals his defender in the post, Newell’s innovations and techniques are showing their relevance and timelessness.
Consider some of the interesting facts and highlights of this man’s career:
Like the founder of the game, Dr. James Naismith, Newell was Canadian by birth.
He won an NIT championship at University of San Francisco in 1949, when that tournament meant something. He developed and instituted a successful zone-pressing defense at USF that was widely copied over the years.
He won four straight Pac-8 titles at Cal in the late 1950s (neat stat: the last eight times Newell faced legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, he was 8-0 against the Wizard of Westwood), culminating in trips to the championship game in 1959 and 1960, the former year of which he won the NCAA title against Oscar Robertson’s Cincinnati. In 1960, the Bears lost to John Havlicek/Jerry Lucas’ Ohio St. team, who employed a defense that Newell had taught OSU coach Fred Taylor the previous year. It’s widely known that Newell’s Cal teams were vastly inferior in talent to their F4 opponents, which belies Newell’s ability as a teacher who can get the most from his players.
He was the NCAA COY in 1960 and also led the US Men’s National Team to the gold medal in the Summer Olympics in Rome, making him one of only three coaches to have won an NIT, NCAA and Olympic titles (Bob Knight and Dean Smith are the others).
To reduce the stress and demands of coaching on his body, he retired from Cal in 1960 (at a mere age of 44) with a 234-123 (.655) lifetime record. He spent the next 16 years working as an AD at Cal, then as an NBA scout and later as a GM for the Lakers.
In 1976, he opened his Pete Newell Big Man Camp, which sought to provide training in footwork and fundamentals for professionals entering the NBA and others seeking to improve their post game. The camp was free, and it worked with such notable HOFers (and future HOFers) as Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Shaquille O’Neal (who said, “he’s the best teacher there is”).
He was elected to the HOF himself in 1979, and his legacy is that coaches and players alike believe his contributions to the game to be at the highest possible level. Bob Knight in particular has stated on the record that Newell had more influence on college basketball than any other person in history.
Since we never met Pete Newell, it would be an injustice for us to describe him, so we’ll leave you with a few of the better pieces we’ve found about his life and career in basketball. RIP, Pete.
News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93. He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979. Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history. May he rest in peace.
Photo Credit: LA Times
Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was. Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else. SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough. In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson. People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.
Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land. Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games. No longer. Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%). Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort. So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.
Preseason NIT Action.
Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous. 33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting. The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back. They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far. Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls. MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts. BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
St. John’s 86, Cornell 75. The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75. Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half. E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win. Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53. Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62. Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight. The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced. UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.
Big East Tuneups.
Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year? Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville. Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season. Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game. UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away. AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack. Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.
Other Games of Interest.
Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts. He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont. He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts. AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row. Another 26% FG shooting night. Can we send them back to D2 now?
11:45pm ET — Greetings, fellow hoop lovers, and welcome to the ESPN 24-hour Marathon of Hoops Rush The Court live blog. John Stevens, here, ready to truly kick off the college hoops season in freakin’ insane style. I’ll be live-blogging the entire way — that’s right, baby, the WHOLE WAY! — so if you’re out there watching the games, by all means leave a comment.
Of course, I don’t mean to imply any connection between ESPN and RTC with the title of this post. But a while back it was posted here that ESPN really had a great idea when they came up with this, and I for one definitely appreciate that they’re kicking off their coverage in this way. So the title merely refers to the fact that…well, if they’re gonna broadcast it, I’m gonna watch it, and what the heck, I might as well live-blog it.
Why, you ask? Several reasons. First and foremost, my love for college basketball. This off-season has seemed especially long and I’m happy that my favorite sport is finally back. I’ve also got the next 6.5 days off from my real job, an occupation that sometimes has me up overnight anyway. So what better way to kick off my leisure time. I also assume that the more teams I familiarize myself with, the better served I’ll be when the annual mid-March (read: first-and-second rounds) Rush The Court field trip to Las Vegas happens. We go for the museums, but in case we happen to catch an early-round game on a gigantic TV (or six), well, I’ll know more about who I’m watching.
When RTMSF and I first talked about me live-blogging during this offering by ESPN, as usual he was worried about liability; he suggested I go have a quick physical to make sure I could make it through the next 24 hours intact. The address he gave me, though, turned out to be a guy working out of the trunk of his car behind the local movie theatre. I called RTMSF to verify that I had gone to the right place, and he said, “Yeah, the guy in the beret? Yep. That’s him. He’ll take care of you.” Naturally I fled, so let me just say that even though I haven’t been medically cleared for this, I’m doing it of my own accord.
So let’s do this thing. I’ve got 24 hours of college hoops ahead of me. I’ve retired to the cushy environs of the Rush The Court Eastern Compound and assumed a spot in one of our beautiful leather home theatre reclining chairs that would make Turtle from Entourage proud. I’ve got the three LCD HD’s going. I’ve got a fridge stocked with energy drinks. I’ve got a remote control the size of a law school textbook in my hands. I’ve got snow falling outside. And did I mention the 6.5 days off??? It’s time for some serious hoops. We’ll kick things off with UMass-Memphis in about 15 minutes.
12:09 am — We’re off. Two big pieces of news have already come down today, so let me mention them now. The biggest is the death of Pete Newell, a name that sounds strange to say without the words “Big Man Camp” coming directly after. His influence on the game of basketball is immeasurable. As you’ve seen already, not only did he achieve that rare (as in three people, ever) basketball trifecta of coaching an Olympic gold medal squad (1960), an NIT champion (1949), and an NCAA champion (1959)…he only worked with some of the biggest names in the history of the game via his Big Man Camp, like Abdul-Jabbar, Olajuwan, Walton, O’Neal, and countless others. He might not be one of the names that immediately comes to mind if you were to sit down and come up with a “Mt. Rushmore” of American basketball, but he sure makes a strong case.
The other bit of far-less-important news is that Tyler Hansbrough is a no-go against Kentucky on Tuesday night. Not surprised at this. It wasn’t discussed much last year, but quite frankly Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson outplayed Hansbrough; hoops fans who wanted to see how Hansbrough would respond will have to wait a while, unless UNC and UK end up meeting in the tournament somehow. It’ll have to happen in the NBA — and Kentucky fans hope it won’t be next year.
12:20am — We’re through two TV timeouts and this has been a YMCA game. More turnovers than field goals. Lots of threes gettin’ jacked up. UMass has come out in the “sagging man-to-man” which is daring Memphis to bomb away from the outside. They’re more than happy to oblige, which is why they find themselves only up one point almost midway through the half. This will probably be the trend in a lot of these games in the next 24 hours — sloppy Y-ball for the first half, then guys relaxing into their roles in the second and things becoming a little more organized.
12:45am — Memphis’ athletes are starting to assume control with about 5 minutes left in the first half. Tyreke Evans is an absolute pest on defense and despite the strange anatomy of his jump shot, it’s kind of nice to watch. UMass is relying on the drive-and-kickout right now, and Ricky Harris is keeping them in it. Memphis’ turnovers are helping, too. UMass only down 6 right now…
12:58am — Memphis with a 33-25 lead at the half. UMass is still in this game for two reasons: 1) Memphis’ shot selection, or lack of desire to work inside the paint. Robert Dozier is indeed the Tigers’ leading scorer with 12, but he’s 0/3 from the 3-pt line, and he has zero attempts from the line. 2) As soon as Memphis expanded the lead to double-digits and looked like they were about to out-athleticize the Minutemen, UMass showed an ability to grab a loose ball or force a Memphis turnover and capitalize on it. If UMass can calm themselves (no small feat in this environment), they can stay close and may find themselves within striking distance late. If Memphis calms down and plays to their strengths (size and athleticism), they could put this one away rather easily.
1:01am — We have a Tom Brennan sighting! He is very subtly giving a nod to his past at the University of Vermont, with the dark green blazer and yellow tie. He agrees with me in his assessment of the game so far — “It’s a mess.” Amen, sir.
1:15am — Shooting stats for the first half: From 3pt range…UMass 3/13 (23.1%), Memphis 1/12 (8.3%!!!). Egad.
1:22am — The second half starts with not much new…hectic pace, lots of bad shots. UMass is actually outhustling Memphis to every loose ball but they’re giving up some easy points off of turnovers. Memphis has decided to exploit their athleticism by picking up full court, but UMass seems ready; props to Coach Kellogg for prepping his team for this. Unfortunately for the Minutemen, on their last four possessions, Memphis has gone inside (a couple of ill-advised threes led to offensive boards) and the lead is now 11.
1:31am — Tony Gaffney is playing his butt off for UMass with 9 points and 12 boards, but Memphis is starting to look a little too long and quick. Tyreke Evans got an earful from Coach Calipari after a terrible three-point attempt, has gone inside on his last two touches, and scored twice. He’s got 17 now. Still…UMass continues to frustrate Memphis on defense…it’s still only 11 at the under-12 TV timeout.
1:42am — RTMSF just called me to tell me he’s going to the St. Mary’s game. Jackass.
1:46am — Memphis is starting to wear down the Minutemen and are getting some easy layups, and the lead is 61-44. The UMass players are standing straight up on defense. Coach Kellogg calls a timeout 2 seconds before the under-8 TV timeout — definitely a testimonial to the fatigue of his squad.
Calipari is begging his team not to chuck threes. It’s hilarious. Every time one of his players goes up for a long-range jumper, Calipari assumes the expression of someone who has just had his face farted on. His players have gotten the message, though.
1:56am — I’m not sure I’m on board with the Memphis home uniforms. The front is a clean white, and the back is a slightly darker beige/grey. UMass is of course wearing their away maroons, so at times, on the hi-def, it looks like there are three different teams on the floor. Maybe I’m getting a little chippy because it’s a 21-pt bulge (70-49) with five minutes left. And because RTMSF is going to the freakin’ St. Mary’s-Fresno State game.
2:04am — 76-49. Tony Gaffney’s played his tail off for UMass (14p 20r) but Memphis’ seemingly interchangable parts have put a lid on this one.