As we count down the hours until the beginning of March, the RTC Podblast crew is excited to welcome ESPN Sportscenter anchor and all-around good guy Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) to this week’s edition. We recorded before several of last night’s upsets, but we did get some conversation in about Kentucky’s home loss to Arkansas, a discussion about the teams we think are truly most likely to win the national title, and a hard look at the best games in a fairly loaded weekend of action. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts the proceedings. Have a listen.
Scott Van Pelt Riffed on ACC Basketball and What He Loves About March Madness
A Dentist’s Dream in Pittsburgh: As we were watching the early portion of this game we were hoping the Consol Energy Center had at least installed a blood bank somewhere in the wings. This was one heck of a physical battle from the opening tip, but we have to give respect to players from both sides, here. Already this year, we’ve seen a few physical games in which, as often happens, emotions got stirred up and something like a mini-scrap or at least a big verbal exchange happens. Not so, in this game. Both teams took what the refs gave them and it never got out of hand. No elbows, no punches, no shouting matches, nothing. There was one intentional foul in the first half (correctly called) and a tiny exchange of words in the second half, but nothing ever escalated.
Smacked Panthers: Please call the UT basketball offices if you find Scotty Hopson’s mind. Because he lost it agaisnt the Panthers. Everything the guy did (27 points on 10-13 shooting, including 3-3 from three point range) was gorgeous on Saturday. Powerful dunks, aggressive drives and finishes, silky outside jumpers from range…he found a groove that Miles Davis would have been proud of. Just as amazing was that, in the face of such a performance, Pitt showed little fightback and little interest until about 37 minutes had passed, as if the Panthers were just devastated by the Dave Wannstedt resignation.
Badgers Value the Rock: We wonder what Bo Ryan talked to his team about at halftime? First half…three offensive rebounds; second half…TWELVE?!? That’s an unreal glass-crashing effort on their own end. And efficiency, thy name is still Bo Ryan. Wisconsin’s first turnover of the second half didn’t happen until there was only 3:39 left!
Hard on the Huskies? There’s been a lot less talk about Washington over the last couple of weeks, mostly because they lost two games in Maui. They were to Kentucky and Michigan State…not exactly a couple of bran muffins. Right now they’re in a battle at Texas A&M, an incredibly tough place to be a visiting team. If they can pull this one out against the Aggies, look for the chatter to rev up for the Huskies again, and deservedly so.
Hoosiers Rising: The improvement in Indiana is obvious. They’re only down one at the half at Kentucky, though the Wildcats aren’t exactly helping themselves in the shot-selection department (1-7 from three). Indiana fans have been very patient, and the rewards are coming, we promise. What really irks us is that we heard that Scott Van Pelt was at Rupp Arena tonight. We were in Lexington last weekend and in Louisville on Wednesday, and we’ve been hoping to run into that guy on our travels at some point.
Primary Color Commentary:Dan Dakich’s breakdown of late-game strategy in the Wisconsin vs Marquette game was further evidence of why he’s a fantastic color guy, as everyone now knows. And we couldn’t agree more with Jay Bilas‘ mention, when speaking about Scotty Hopson, of how it’s actually OK to give a hot-shot high school recruit a few years to mature and develop his game at the college level.
It’s officially here. . .Selection Sunday is upon us. Time for a bunch of whining and complaining by grown men about how their team that went 20-12 deserved to get in or for Billy Packer to rip some mid-major for getting in at 26-7 over an ACC team that went 17-15. Thankfully, the slate today is a little lighter to let us get some work done on our NCAA tournament preview. We’ll be covering all 4 games today and we will be doing a separate live blog (RTC Live style, but we won’t be inside the Selection Committee room although give it time). Here are the games today in chronological order and a brief synopsis of what is at stake in each game:
1 PM: #22 FSU vs. #8 Duke on ESPN, Raycom, and ESPN360.com: This is only for seeding purposes. FSU is probably a solid #5 after knocking off UNC yesterday. A win here might be able to move them up to the last #4 seed. Duke is pretty much locked into a #2 seed. There is no way they are getting a #1 seed and they won’t fall to a #3 seed because the two teams above them and three teams below them in the rankings all had worse weeks.
1 PM: Tennessee vs. Mississippi State on CBS: This is the biggest game of the day because of its implications on the bubble. I’m guessing 95% of the people who have any rooting interest in this game will be pulling for Tennessee. The Vols are solidly in the field at a #7 seed in most predictions and I can’t see them jumping much higher, which would essentially mean they should be ranked, if they beat a good, but not great MSU team. The Bulldogs on the other hand can wreck a bunch of teams NCAA dreams by winning the SEC title.
1 PM: Texas-San Antonio vs. Stephen F. Austin on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: The winner of this game will end up with a 14 or 15 seed. SFA might be an interesting first round opponent since they actually had a decent RPI for a Southland team (#79) and boast a win over #94 North Dakota State. Honestly though, unless you’re a fan/grad of one of the schools, you’re not going to be watching this over the other two games.
3:30 PM: Ohio State vs. #24 Purdue on CBS: Another game that is about seeding. I think Purdue has moved up about as far as it can after destroying Illinois in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Ohio State has a chance to move up to a 7 if they can win this after knocking off Michigan State yesterday.
Which conference will send the most teams to the NCAA tournament?
Will the SEC really only put two of its teams into the NCAA field?
Will Arizona’s 24-year bid streak finally end?
Which teams will be seeded higher than you think?
Which teams will be seeded lower than you think?
Which mid-major teams will the big boys hope to avoid in the first round?
Let me know what you think and I’ll give you my thoughts in a little bit.
12:45 PM: Why does CBS drag these Selection Committee people onto the show? I know they’re trying to hype up the Selection Special at 6 PM, but they add absolutely nothing. They just give generic, PR firm answers. I almost prefer the bickering that ESPN has arguing whether or not a team deserves to be in.
Welcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.
6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.
7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.
8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:
UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title
Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
#6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
#25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
#23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title
Late Night Games
San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
#5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)
10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.
John Stevens is a featured writer for RTC. His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.
So of course now there’s speculation that Bob Knight is headed to yet another school where all he’ll have to do is change the logo on his red sweaters and he’s good to go. I obviously don’t know if he’ll end up taking the position, but despite Knight’s feeble attempt to downplay the issue, I think we can say for sure that he’s considering it.
Questions, Indeed… (photo credit: daylife.com)
Note how the initial reports stated that “a friend” of Knight’s stated that he was interested in the job. Ok, fine. But the General’s response to this? He didn’t say anything about whether or not he’s talked to friends about the job, he never said anything about how his friends would NEVER talk to local media about Knight’s speculation over a job, he never said anything about how he flatly didn’t want that job. In fact, he’s made it a point to reiterate his previous statement of “I never said I wouldn’t coach again, I’d be interested if the right situation came along,” though he adds that he hasn’t had any contact with anyone “at Georgia” about that particular vacancy. “I haven’t talked to anyone from Georgia about it” is not an answer to the question. “Are you thinking about taking a job that an alleged friend of yours said you were interested in?” Woodward and Bernstein would call that a non-denying denial. Seems like Knight’s had contact with SOMEONE or else he’d be angrier and more direct in his lack of interest. And he’d most certainly have this “friend” publicly flogged.
Another interesting wrinkle is the timing of this Pat Summitt situation, with her 1000th win coming up sometime soon. Summitt didn’t get it on Monday, but as you likely know, they had Knight, as the all-time-winningest NCAA men’s coach, calling that game with Brent Musberger for ESPN. I wonder how easy that is for Knight to be around. I’m not saying he begrudges Coach Summitt anything, but the worship for the Tennessee coach has increased so much lately ahead of that pending 1000th win. You don’t think a competitive guy like Knight wouldn’t mind a little of that reverence and adoration, himself? To go down as the ONLY NCAA men’s coach to get into the quadruple-figures, and therefore don the implied “best-coach-ever” mantle that comes with a number like that? I think Knight would consider that to be an absolute acquittal and justification for everything he’s ever done, and that might be to tasty a legacy to pass up.
It was either this, or a shirtless Bruce Pearl. (photo credit: afrothunder.wordpress.com)
On Monday’s “Tirico and Van Pelt” program on ESPN Radio, the first question Mike Tirico asked Coach Knight was about the possibility of Knight taking the Georgia job. You know Coach Knight’s response (as above). But later on in that interview, in my opinion, came a more telling moment. Mr. Tirico asked Knight about how he communicates with his son Pat after incidents like the one Pat just had down at Texas Tech, and specifically inquired whether the conversation more resembles that of a father-son interaction or if it is more like two coaches talking shop (a great question). In his response, Knight hesitated for a moment, and then stated, “I just can’t stay away from it, Mike…” and explained that he basically let Pat consult him with basketball-related questions from time to time. I don’t blame Pat Knight for this, of course — I mean, who wouldn’t occasionally call up their winningest-NCAA-men’s-coach-ever-dad for some coaching advice if they had the chance? — but does Bob Knight’s response to the Tirico question sound like a man who is ready to leave the coaching profession behind? When your name comes up as a possible candidate for a coaching job and you’re saying things in interviews like “I can’t stay away from it,” no matter how you try to downplay your interest, I’m going to call you on it.
For what it’s worth, I totally agree with rtmsf’s earlier piece about Knight not being a good fit for Georgia (that second photo makes me think I’m personally a GREAT fit for UGA, but I digress). He’d be a basketball coach going to a football school and I can’t see Bob Knight going anywhere where he doesn’t have the biggest office and, as Mel Brooks would say, the biggest schwartz, as it were. And, as Mark Schlabach reported in a phone interview on ESPN.com on Monday night, the current president of the University of Georgia is Michael F. Adams. And who is Dr. Adams good friends with? Dr. Myles Brand, the current president of the NCAA…and the man who fired Knight from Indiana in 2000. Methinks the current UGA administration and Mr. Knight might not see eye-to-eye on a few matters.
The Smiling General. (photo credit: lubbockonline.com)
But Knight has never been one to back down from a challenge. It might not be the best idea for Knight to go to UGA. It’s also not a great idea to throw chairs across floors, physically threaten your AD, or hurl plants in your office, but that didn’t stop him. Listen, I have no problem with Coach Knight taking the reins at some program. I can’t blame a man who think he still has it in him to achieve excellence — and indeed, further cement his “all-time” status by breaking that 1000-win barrier. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be known as the all-time greatest at what you do. I’d miss his wit on the GameDay set, but who knows, maybe he’ll take this job and be reborn and make everyone forget about Dennis Felton and Jim Harrick. I don’t think it’s the best fit, but he could certainly prove me and rtmsf wrong. In my view, though, despite his attempts to downplay the issue and make it seem like he’s not interested, I think we have a lot of evidence to the fact that he’s either considering the job…or he likes the attention, and at least wants us to think he’s considering it.