Yesterday night, Ashton Kutcher made news with his tweet questioning the decision by Penn State to fire Joe Paterno. Kutcher quickly back-tracked when he was met with a deluge of criticism and has essentially surrendered his account to his publicists at this time. Since that time, very few other well-known individuals (or really any people outside of some rioting Penn State students) have come to Paterno’s defense.
We have already gone down the road of athletes and their freedom of speech/expression, but this is an interesting sentiment for Jordan to have especially since his father was famously quoted as saying, “Republicans buy shoes too,” when asked why he did not publicly support an African-American Democratic candidate Harvey Gantt against Republican Jesse Helms, whom many consider one of the most racist politicians in recent memory. Given that it is a rather interesting political/cultural standing, we find it amusing that the first person to retweet it was former Kansas star Sherron Collins, who would appear to be agreeing with Jeff based on his retweet.
There’s just something about Kansas that spurs all kinds of rivalries. Although it has dominated the Border War with Missouri lately and has traditionally beaten up on Kansas State (until Michael Beasley came along), the Jayhawks have found a new bitter rival to tangle with: the Texas Longhorns. KU’s geographic rivalries will never be replaced, of course. But for now, the most bitter, cold-blooded rivalry in the league is between Bill Self and Rick Barnes‘ programs.
Rick Barnes Always Finds Himself in a Battle With Kansas
And there’s a simple reason for that. It’s all about the competition on the court. Kansas has won seven Big 12 regular season titles in a row, but the Jayhawks have shared two of those crowns with Texas. To illustrate the rivalry a little further, consider the following statistic: since Barnes arrived at Texas in 1998, the two teams have finished 1-2 in the Big 12 seven times. For you math whizzes, that’s more than 50 percent of the time. It began with Barnes vs. Roy Williams, and the fun has continued under Self. Even though this rivalry dates back to the beginning stages of the Big 12, it has seemed to particularly gain steam during the past five years or so. The two teams have produced some of the more dramatic contests in league history. Take a look:
Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.
Ohio State freshman big man Jared Sullinger was namedSporting News Freshman of the Year. Sullinger averages 17.1 points per game for the nation’s top team, and this is far from the last piece of hardware he’s going to receive from this season’s efforts.
Remember John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe? Well, this year, Kentucky has Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. John Calipari has mastered the art of turning freshmen into NBA prospects.
Darius Johnson-Odom, a native of North Carolina, is making his dream come true playing for Marquette in the Sweet 16. Interestingly enough for Johnson-Odom, Marquette’s Sweet 16 opponent is the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Battling a knee injury while being forced to guard the opponent’s top scorer is no easy task, but UNC guard Dexter Strickland has performed the task admirably. While Strickland is not much of a scorer, his defensive tenacity is just as important to the Tar Heels as Tyler Zeller‘s hook shots and Kendall Marshall‘s passing accuracy.
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams has been rumored to take the Oklahoma job ever since the Sooner position opened up. If Oklahoma wants to secure Williams’ services, it will have to open up the wallet.
Butler struggled throughout much of the early portion of the season; however, things began to change for the Bulldogs around February 1. Head coach Brad Stevens attributes this change to the elevation in the play of guard Shelvin Mack.
Some may call the swing offense employed by Wisconsin “boring,” but this offense has been effective for Bo Ryan‘s squad for many years. It should not matter if an offense is not very entertaining to watch. What should matter is if it works.
Brigham Young head coach Dave Rose has seen his star rise in the coaching world during the Cougars’ magical season. The question emerges of whether Rose will return to Provo next season.
After not winning a tournament game since cutting down the nets in 2007, Billy Donovan has his Florida team primed to make another Final Four run. While no players from the ’07 team remain, the program still knows how to get it done late in the tournament.
Butler has won several games down the stretch this season, including its first two tournament games. This clutch success can be attributed to the even-keel demeanor that the Bulldogs exhibit throughout the late stages of a game.
See that number up there… the one that looks like two-thirds of an eight? Yeah, that means it’s the third month of the year, the one we commonly know as March. Starting tonight, the road to the 2011 national championship begins. As slim as that shot might be, roughly 325 teams have a chance to win it all beginning this evening. The Big South and Horizon League Tournaments start with their opening round games tonight, and if the teams playing in those win, and win again, and keep winning, they’ll be standing atop the world of college basketball five weeks from this morning. That’s the beauty of this sport — you’re not voted into a chance at the title through incomprehensible algorithms, relative popularity and a heap of politicking. You just have to keep winning — the championship is won on the court.
It seems incredibly elementary to us, but we’ve actually had people argue about this with us, so it bears repeating. There’s a strong correlation between winning on the road during the regular season and success in March among elite teams. Mike DeCourcy points out that of the last twenty Final Four teams, nineteen had a winning road record and many of those had a superb (80%+) one. Contrastingly, elite teams that had terrible road records during the same five-year period struggled to get to the Sweet Sixteen — one of fifteen such teams. Are you reading this, Kentucky (3-7), Illinois (3-6) or Missouri (2-6) fans?
The NPOY race has been an especially exciting one this season, and even today, the first day of March, there’s no consensus on which of a number of players most deserves the award. Do you go Jimmer, Kemba, Nolan or Jared? Certainly all have had outstanding seasons, and you really can’t go wrong with the choice of any of the quartet, but CBT takes the next step and handicaps the field. Hint: sportswriters often like the best hook, and the best story in college basketball this year involves a certain LDS guard from Provo.
It’s somewhat hard to believe when you consider all the outstanding players who have passed through Lawrence, Kansas, over the years, but with six more wins this season (a fair presumption), KU’s Tyrel Reed will tie Sherron Collins (2006-10) as the winningest Jayhawk player of all-time. Collins won 130 games in his four-year career, even though he only played in a single Final Four (2008); Reed has a great chance to play in his second final weekend and without question if Kansas makes it that far this March, he will own the record.
Another year has nearly passed by and The Forgotten Five schools who have never made the NCAA Tournament in its entire history dating back to 1939 remain no closer to getting a bid to the Big Dance than they ever have. Northwestern, Army, St. Francis (NY), William & Mary and The Citadel will all have opportunities in the next two weeks to play their way into the NCAA Tournament, but none are anywhere near an at-large bid, and the likelihood of any of these five making a substantial conference tournament run is rather minimal.
Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.
Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:
Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images
Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.
John Calipari – As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.
Paul George – It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.
Greivis Vasquez’ reaction – I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.
In less than 48 hours, our televisions will be taken over by the biggest sporting event the world has to offer. Your TweetDeck (or whatever Twitter application you use) will be lousy with friends, celebrities, and sportswriters tweeting about it. Your Facebook friends will be centering their status updates about it. And, for the next five weeks, when you walk into your favorite sports bars, as you peer at the flat-screens you’ll notice an increased presence of a game to which you might not be accustomed.
It’s World Cup time.
Like the Olympics and the Fields Medal, this is an every-four-year event. It pits nation against nation in the sport that still stirs up the most passion among its fans on a worldwide scale. Imagine if we only got one NCAA Tournament every four years. Well, this is the one summer in four that soccer (the word we’ll use for this article, though we’re aware that most of the world calls it football) lovers get to enjoy their chance to crown a champion. If you follow RTC on Twitter (if you don’t, shame on you, and go click our logo at right), you’ve probably been impressed by our occasional tweet about other sports or even current events. It’s not exactly a long limb we’d be going out on for us to assume that if you’re a college basketball fan, you’ve probably got an interest in other sports, too — though international soccer might not be one of them.
Want to talk to her? Know your World Cup. Yeah, we thought that'd keep you reading.
Worry not, our fellow college hoopheads. We’ve got you covered. We want you to be able to hang in those conversations at those sports pubs. We want you to be able to approach that lovely blonde bespectacled German girl wearing her Deutschland jersey in the supermarket (this actually happened to us a week ago). We want you to impress your friends with your world vision and increased overall sports knowledge. You think those kids in the stands at Duke or Xavier or Utah State are both well-prepared and berserk? Wait until you hear the crowd at a World Cup soccer match. We want you to enjoy that vital aspect of it all, as well. We’re by no means experts on the subject, but to those ends, we give you — trumpet flourish — Rush The Court’s College Basketball Fan’s Guide to Watching the World Cup.
If this England squad is like Kentucky, then Wayne Rooney is their John Wall.
First, let’s list some of the participating teams and define those squads in terms familiar to college hoop fans. As you’ll see, by the way, national soccer teams have some of the best nicknames you’ll ever hear. The best? Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions. I mean,COME ON…
Zach Hayes is a regular RTC writer and resident bracketologist. You can follow his sports-related thoughts at Twitter.
Too often during the month-long period between the Final Four and the early entry deadline of the NBA Draft, the media, hoops blogs and talking heads only focus on the underclassmen that have put their name in the hat. Was it the correct decision? Should he come back to school instead? Did that player sign with an agent? These questions should be forwarded and debated, but it seems a distinguished group of players are left out of the national dialogue during this time: college seniors.
While most drafted seniors are plucked closer to the end of the second round than the lottery (there’s a reason they stayed in school four years, let’s face it) it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged. There’s an extensive list of four-year college players that have made a memorable impact for the Association. Thus, this article will be devoted entirely to those that battled on the college hardwood for four years, examining their impact on the collegiate game during their long stay and determining how they can have a lasting influence at the next level.
Damion James (Texas)– I wouldn’t rule out another senior sneaking into the first round, but it’s looking likely that James is the lone four-year player to be picked in the top-30. A unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 first team, James averaged a double-double during Texas’ disappointing campaign and passed Nick Collison’s conference record for rebounding. NBA scouts will drool over James’ ferocity in the glass and his superb athleticism. He also features an unblockable mid-range jumper that’s improved in accuracy over his development from a dependable role player to a superstar in one of college basketball’s most premier conferences. While James may not have a defined position at the moment, he will likely build a lengthy NBA career just based on his drive, athleticism, explosiveness, innate rebounding ability and mid-range jumper. James suited up in burnt orange with everyone from D.J. Augustin to Avery Bradley and his name should be lifted to the rafters at the Frank Erwin Center.
Quincy Pondexter (Washington)– Displaying awe-inspiring glimpses of potential throughout his first three seasons in Seattle, Pondexter finally molded into the player that every Washington fan so desperately wanted during his senior campaign. Bumping his scoring average over seven points per contest, Pondexter led his Huskies out of the Pac-10 abyss and into the Sweet 16. Pondexter’s consistency- a constant battle that eventually turned into a strength- was never more evident than during Washington’s Pac-10 Tournament final win over California and first and second round triumphs over Marquette and New Mexico. Pondexter poured in a steady 18 points in each contest and shot a clip under 50%, even notching a key offensive rebound and extending his season two days more with a short bank shot that sent the Huskies to the second round. There’s little doubt in my mind Pondexter will continue to harness that natural talent at the next level. His extensive wingspan, ability to score in transition and comfort with defending multiple positions provide just a glance into Pondexter’s value.
With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.
Here are the basic ground rules:
We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.
Here are the results:
We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.
In one of the least surprising announcements of the past few weeks, Cole Aldrich announced that he would forgo his senior season at Kansas and enter the NBA Draft. While Aldrich had a relatively disappointing season (a 3rd team All-American and a flame out in the 2nd round against Northern Iowa) he will still cash in on NBA millions as he is an almost certain top 10 pick (10th overall pick gets $1.87 M per year). The big question with Aldrich is not his ability (almost nobody questions that he could be a legit NBA center especially with how weak the position is right now), but we wonder how effective he will be when he often struggled to assert himself in big moments for the Jayhawks even when he had Sherron Collins, one of the best point guards in the country, bringing the ball up the court every night. His numbers were solid (11.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 3.5 BPG–ok, the blocks are impressive), but hardly the stuff you would expect from a junior who was projected at one point in the season to be a top 5 pick. If Aldrich can’t dominate against inferior opponents with a great point guard, how will he do against NBA centers who are every bit as big as him when he won’t be playing with a point guard who is significantly better than his opponent. While we certainly enjoyed watching Aldrich play during his time in Lawrence, we have this gnawing feeling that he never really reached his potential there and can only hope he does so at the next level.
Sylven Landesberg of Virginia has decided to leave the school and turn pro this year. He was already suspended for academic problems, and there was little expectation that he would be able to come back next year anyway. The problem is that he’s by no means a first round lock, and may not even be a second rounder either. According to this report, though, he may opt to play in Europe or Israel, though.
South Florida’s Dominique Jones is exploring the option of entering the NBA Draft, but he’s leaving open the possibility of a return to school. He will have until May 8 to decide this year. He averaged 21 PPG this year and had a mid-season series of explosive games that really caught people’s attention. He’s currently projected in the late 1st/early 2d round window.
Kansas’ Xavier Henry hasn’t yet made a formal decison, but his coach Bill Self stated today that his star wing is ready from a skills standpoint to move on the NBA. KU is already losing Sherron Collins to graduation and Cole Aldrich is expected to make his decision in the next week, but we’re sure that Self will reload quickly and have the Jayhawks back in the title hunt very soon.
In a maneuver that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us unless Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt is looking for a way out of Atlanta, he will talk with St. John’s on Wednesday about the possibility of becoming the next head honcho of the Red Storm. He is a New York guy, but this would be in no way a lateral move, as Georgia Tech has been light years ahead of the Queens-based program for the better part of two decades.
Money must really talk, otherwise how else to explain leaving a successful CAA program for a moribund A10 one? Fordham has offered its vacant head coaching position to Hofstra’s Tom Pecora, and Pecora is expected to visit the school on Wednesday and could formally be named the coach at that time. You’ll recall that Fordham recently upped its basketball budget in an effort to lure a bigger-name coach to its Bronx campus.
This one is for our readers, who are with the exception of a few notable gadflies, the most knowledgeable and erudite group of college hoops fans around. Rather than just giving our opinions on some of the big controversies and issues of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, we want to throw it at you guys. What do you think? Each of the below polls will allow comments, so let’s build some discussion through there.
Q1: Does Last Weekend’s Performance Show That the Big East Was Overrated?
Our answer on this one is a resounding yes. Eight teams down to two, and four of them among the top twelve seed positions? The Big East was historically good last year but they failed pretty miserably on the big stage this year.
Q2: What Was the Biggest Surprise of the Weekend?
A lot of good choices here, but we have to go with Cornell’s margin of victory. It doesn’t shock us that the Big Red are in the Sweet Sixteen, but the way in which they completely solved two of the better defensive teams in the country in Temple and Wisconsin is astounding.
Kansas has been sent packing by Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
This has to be the biggest second-round upset in the history of the event. The Panthers weren’t afraid to get physical with the Jayhawks, and forced them into 15 turnovers while committing only nine themselves. Kansas was of course the overall #1, and their departure means that Kentucky probably takes over as the favorite to win the title. They play Wake Forest in a second round game in New Orleans later tonight.
Ali Farokhmanesh hit a three — his fourth on the day — with about 25 seconds left to put the Panthers up four just as they were looking their shakiest. He then sank two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to put a lid on the Panthers’ amazing performance, giving him 16 points on the day. Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor went a combined 0-10 from three-point land, while Farokhmanesh, Jordan Eglseder, and Johnny Moran combined for 8-16 shooting from behind the arc.
The Panthers’ dismissal of the Jayhawks brings to mind the tournaments of 2000 and 2004. In 2000, a pair of #8-seeds got the best of two top-seeded squads. Stanford was the #1 seed in the South region and was beaten by the #8-seed North Carolina in the second round. Arizona was the #1 seed in the West and also suffered a second round loss. They were beaten by #8 Wisconsin, and both Wisconsin and North Carolina went on to the Final Four. In 2004, two #1-seeds went down in the second round on the same day — Kentucky (#1 in the St. Louis region) lost to #9 UAB and Stanford (top seed in the Phoenix region) lost to #8 Alabama.
Take a look at the Midwest bracket. The region that ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb rightly called “The Region of Death” is now wide open, with #3 Georgetown having been dispatched by Ohio University on Thursday night. #2 Ohio State and #4 Maryland are the two top seeds left, but every supposed underdog team will play with renewed vigor, knowing there are no Jayhawks with whom to deal. The Buckeyes will take on #10 Georgia Tech and Maryland will play #5 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The winner of the Maryland/Michigan State game gets the Panthers in the Sweet 16.
We tweeted it after the UNI vs UNLV game, but it's worth repeating: Ali just bumayed.
More on this throughout the evening. Oh, and if you’re a favorite today…you better come strong.