NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.05.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 5th, 2011

Now that a champion has been crowned, today, we’re bringing you links from the webosphere pertaining to UConn’s title run and Butler’s second consecutive NCAA championship game appearance.

Butler

  • Ronald Nored helped remind the devastated Bulldogs after the game of their familial bond and brotherhood as teammates in the wake of their loss. In the first half, Nored did a great job challenging Kemba Walker, but UConn proved to be too much.
  • Despite Monday’s disappointing performance, Butler has a great deal to be proud of following their surprise run to the championship game.
  • Matt Howard, the pride of Connersville, Indiana, will long be remembered for his dedication to Butler. His hometown made a generous gesture, leading a fundraising effort to send 17 of his family members to Houston.
  • A great breakdown of Howard’s top ten moments as a Butler Bulldog. The big man was a tremendous four-year player for the Bulldogs and his services will definitely leave a void that needs to be filled for Brad Stevens’ squad next season
  • As he’s done throughout his rise among the coaching ranks, Brad Stevens played it cool and modestly after a loss that was hard to stomach, remaining proud of his team for what it accomplished.
  • Shelvin Mack will contemplate his options in potentially leaving Butler a year early to go pro. While Mack’s draft stock rose with each huge performance in the NCAA Tournament, the small sample size should remind him as well as talent evaluators to take a more methodical approach.
  • Someone else who gained some exposure was Blue II, Butler’s live mascot, a seven-year-0ld English Bulldog. Blue II’s Twitter account now features over 6,000 followers, which cramps the style of a certain college basketball blog’s Twitter following.

Connecticut

  • Some 1,800 miles from Reliant Stadium, UConn students soaked up the most improbable of their school’s three national titles. An unranked status at the start of the season proceeded to a roller coaster 9-9 Big East finish before the Huskies reeled off 11 straight wins to win it all.
  • Jeff Goodman argues that coach Jim Calhoun‘s best move right now would be to leave UConn on top and call it a career. Calhoun has accomplished a great deal in his illustrious career, though retirement won’t keep NCAA investigators away from the team.
  • Kemba Walker’s final line of 16 points on 5-19 shooting wasn’t one to remember, but in a ragged game, he did the job. For many neutral fans who watched, the game is one to forget, but the final outcome will be cherished for years by the Bronx native.
  • One breath of fresh air was sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi, who was a rare mark of consistency shooting the ball in Monday’s final, going 5-6 from the floor. Oriakhi is just one of several players in UConn’s stable of young players, but his contributions were pivotal.
  • The trio of Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Charles Okwandu put a forcefield on the paint defensively, as Butler made just three two-point baskets the entire game. While Okwandu is a senior, it will be interesting to see Smith and Oriakhi develop as their careers progress.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 4th, 2011

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.

Butler

  • Many felt that it would be impossible for a mid-major to ever win a national title; nevertheless, Brad Stevens and Butler are about to turn what once was a myth into a reality. If the Bulldogs are able to cut down the nets tonight, the question emerges whether Butler can still be considered is a mid-major.
  • Athletic Director Barry Collier has made it known that keeping head coach Brad Stevens is a major priority. We think that it is unlikely that Stevens goes anywhere, as his personality does not correlate with that of a mercenary head coach looking to go anywhere to make his next buck.
  • Before Butler was able to advance to two consecutive national championship games, a 2007 three-way phone call between Zach Hahn, Matt Howard, and Shawn Vanzant changed the fortunes of the Bulldog program. The phone call revolved around the future of the program’s leadership when then-head coach Todd Lickliter left the school for Iowa. The three decided to give the unproven Brad Stevens a chance, and it has undoubtedly paid off.
  • Matt Howard has been a great player for Butler throughout his career, but with his various quirks and his general personality, he oozees greatness in an indefinable way.
  • The matchup between Shelvin Mack and Kemba Walker will likely decide the national championship. Walker is a fantastic playmaker and an an unbelievable scorer, but we acknowledge that Mack and the Bulldogs will be a tough out for Kemba and the Huskies.
  • While last season against Duke felt more like a David/Goliath matchup for the Butler Bulldogs, this season they enter their national title tilt with UConn not feeling as if they are underdogs. The huge role experience plays in easing the nerves of lower seeded teams makes the argument rational, even if it doesn’t sound like it at first glance.
  • After losing to Butler, giant killer VCU reflects positively on its season. The word “improbable” hardly scratches the surface when describing the Rams’ run, and a Final Four berth is something the team will always get to cherish.
  • Despite falling to the Bulldogs, VCU’s fans remain proud of what their team accomplished. Shaka Smart could have taken the approach of “playing with house money” after Selection Sunday and nobody would have blamed him, but he and his team quickly altered the perception of the Rams.

Connecticut

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 3rd, 2011

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.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Kemba Walker finally admitted what most onlookers believed: he’s getting tired. While his supporting cast has stepped up, he’ll need to reach back for just a little more on Monday.
  • Elite company awaits Jim Calhoun if the Huskies beat Butler. With one more win, Calhoun would become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to win three titles. The others are John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Adolph Rupp.
  • Shabazz Napier cooly made the decisive free throws to put Connecticut up four with two seconds to go. As a freshman at the Final Four, it takes a lot of guts to succeed in a pressure situation like that.
  • UConn’s freshmen starred alongside Kemba Walker, but senior big man Charles Okwandu has fought perhaps harder than anyone in the Huskies locker room for his spot on the team.
  • The news of Nate Miles‘ willingness to speak with the NCAA about his recruitment comes at an inconvenient time for UConn, and at least one columnist believes the gesture is reprehensible and that any new information revealed will be tough to vet.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 2nd, 2011

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.

Butler

  • Butler head coach Brad Stevens is undefeated since he has begun wearing glasses on the sidelines. This should be a non-story, but Butler’s recent success makes one consider the importance of this.
  • Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack will be the key players for Butler in their Final Four matchup with VCU. This is not surprising, as Howard and Mack have been the catalysts for the Bulldogs success all season.
  • The hands-on cerebral approaches of Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart have been huge in leading their respective teams to the Final Four. This approach has proved to be extremely successful considering the success of the two young coaches.
  • Despite being a star player, Butler big man Matt Howard tries to keep a low profile at Butler. This is almost impossible due to the contributions Howard has made for the Bulldogs throughout his career.

Connecticut

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 1st, 2011

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.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Kemba Walkerhopes to have his picture alongside Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton and Emeka Okafor on a wall inside Gampel Pavilion which features UConn’s NBA Draft selections. Assuming the NBA holds its draft as planned despite a looming work stoppage, Walker doesn’t have much to worry about.
  • If you’ve seen footage of Jim Calhoun at a microphone, you can detect his Boston accent without much effort. Calhoun isn’t the only UConn fixture on this season’s team to hail from Beantown, though: Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Shabazz Napiereach graduated from high schools in the Boston area.
  • There’s no love lost between Calhoun and John Calipari. While it’s rare for them to face off against one another on the court anymore, the waters run back to 1993, when Calipari beat out the UConn coach for the services of Marcus Camby, who chose UMass.
  • Caron Butler, one of UConn’s brightest stars now in the NBA, is amazed by Kemba Walker’s spectacular month. Walker’s ability to lead a young team has also left several coaches in awe of what UConn has accomplished.
  • Shabazz Napier may not stuff the box score on a nightly basis, but his fearlessness is just one component that makes UConn a tough nut to crack. It takes some confidence to speak your mind when your coach is Jim Calhoun.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 31st, 2011

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.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Much has been made of Kemba Walker‘s spectacular season and Jeremy Lamb‘s breakout in the tournament, but Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Alex Oriakhi share a bond that goes back to before Walker even set foot in campus.
  • Houston has been good to UConn during Jim Calhoun‘s tenure, as the city was home to Jake Voskuhl, Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet before the three players made their respective trips up to Storrs. The Huskies are looking for Houston to give them another great memory.
  • Youth will dominate Saturday’s semifinal between Connecticut and Kentucky, with a probable six freshmen combined in the two teams’ starting lineups.
  • If UConn is the last team standing in Houston, one question sure to be asked surrounds Jim Calhoun’s future with the university. And if the end of his coaching career is nigh, who might succeed him? Former Husky player and current assistant Kevin Ollie might lead that list.
  • More hardware rolls in for Kemba Walker, who was named the recipient of the Bob Cousy Award as college basketball’s top point guard, beating out Nolan Smith, Norris Cole, Jordan Taylor and Jimmer Fredette.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 30th, 2011

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.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Jim Calhoun warns that the shine will eventually wear off of prodigious coaches like Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens. One element both coaches will have to consider in potential moves to higher-profile schools down the line is whether they want to take on the balance of increased scrutiny and higher expectations.
  • The Huskies returned to campus for a couple days to recharge their batteries, but passers-by on campus are still as excited as they were on Saturday. The team arrives in Houston Wednesday night, and its rock star status can’t go to the players’ heads if they want to succeed.
  • Patrick Sellers, a former UConn assistant, left the staff in the wake of the NCAA’s investigation of the program last May. Now coaching in China, Sellers remains pumped for his former employer, and, cleared by the NCAA, can seek work at the Division-I level if he wishes.
  • Calhoun believes there are no great teams in college basketball this season, with which we agree, but gives a reason with which we disagree. Calhoun insists that the transience of college basketball’s top players hurts the game, but without those players, even if they only stay one season, the game would be far less interesting.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.29.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 29th, 2011

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.

Butler

  • Head coach Brad Stevens believes that as long as he remains successful, he will keep being mentioned as a candidate for other jobs across the country. Stevens has been mentioned as a candidate for almost every major opening across the country, but the 34-year-old head coach is intensely focused on bringing the Bulldogs a title.
  • Junior guard Ronald Nored lost his starting spot and has been mired in a long shooting slump this season. However, without the defensive tenacity that Nored supplies off the bench, Butler might not be in the Final Four.
  • Last season, Butler was led by the trio of Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. With Hayward gone to the NBA, Butler has forged on being led by Mack and Howard.
  • Every successful team needs to be led by a point guard. For the Final Four Butler Bulldogs, that role has been filled admirably by Mack.
  • A fun read about how the Chicago Cubs will invite Brad Stevens and VCU head coach Shaka Smart to conduct the seventh inning stretch at a game at Wrigley Field this season.

Connecticut

  • UConn has followed a similar path of peaks and valleys to its opponent on Saturday, Kentucky. Both teams have evolved considerably since squaring off at the Maui Invitational in November. The Huskies’ freshmen have matured at an incredible rate, and Kentucky is feeding off of Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson more than Terrance Jones, who had the ball most of the time in the early going.
  • Kemba Walker was named a first team AP All-American on Monday, joining Jimmer Fredette, JaJuan Johnson, Nolan Smith and Jared Sullinger. A Wooden Award and Final Four MOP award are still in Walker’s sights.
  • VCU gets plenty of attention for its improbable run (and should), but how about UConn winning nine postseason games in 19 days to reach the Final Four? This March run from Jim Calhoun‘s squad didn’t look to be in the cards when the season started.
  • The UConn women’s team is one win away from matching their male counterparts. The UConn double-dip has been accomplished twice, in 2004 and 2009, and comparing the runs is inevitable for Huskies fans, writes The Hartford Courant‘s Jeff Jacobs.
  • At the time of his recruitment, Kemba Walker was considered a backup plan to Brandon Jennings, who spurned UConn and Arizona to spend a season overseas before entering the NBA draft. Jennings is doing well, but second-best has worked out pretty nicely for the Huskies.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.28.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 28th, 2011

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.

East

  • In what was thought to be a transition year for Kentucky, head coach John Calipari has led the Wildcats to the Final Four. Due to the personnel and roster turnover from last season, it can be argued that this season is Calipari’s best work.
  • The Final Four matchup between Connecticut and Kentucky is made even more interesting due to the history between John Calipari and Jim Calhoun. However, both men have acknowledged that the feud is behind them.
  • John Calipari has seen his Final Four banners from his tenures at UMass and Memphis get taken down due to NCAA violations. Kentucky president Dr. Lee Todd insisted on Sunday that “this banner will not be taken down.”
  • Kentucky junior guard DeAndre Liggins was undoubtedly a pest for North Carolina. Liggins was a stalwart defensively, got into the heads of several Tar Heels, and made the shot that seemingly lifted the Wildcats to the Final Four.
  • While Sunday’s loss stings for North Carolina now, it can be argued that the loss will eventually benefit the program. If Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all return to Chapel Hill, UNC will enter next season as a title contender once again.

Southeast

  • With two Final Four appearances already under his belt at the age of 34, Butler head coach Brad Stevens is moving up the coaching pantheon at a rapid pace. Considering the success of the past two seasons, we can assume that Stevens is just getting started.
  • Butler forward Matt Howard takes a workmanlike approach to the game of basketball. This approach embodies Butler basketball, and he’s not through yet.
  • The Bulldogs have experienced two close calls with injuries in their last two games. The anxiety that fills Butler fans’ hearts when someone comes up limp have been as heart-stopping as the Butler’s unexpected heroics.
  • An interesting piece about whether Miami (FL) should go after Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart to be the Hurricanes’ head coach. This is interesting due to the fact that Frank Haith is still gainfully employed by the Hurricanes and was thought by many to have one year left to translate the Durand Scott/Malcolm Grant/Reggie Johnson trio into some postseason success.
  • Even with his Elite Eight loss to Butler, Florida head coach Billy Donovan is still proud of the season his Gators put together. After embarrassing early season losses to Central Florida and Jacksonville, the Gators put together a run that mimicked the 2006 and 2007 editions of the Florida Gators.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.26.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 26th, 2011

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.

East

  • Kentucky/North Carolina is a power matchup in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels defeated the Wildcats in their showdown last December. Since then, both teams have matured, thus setting the tone for a battle of epic proportions.
  • Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger said he will return to Columbus for his sophomore season. This is a bit of news that we will not believe until it is set in stone. Ask again in a month or so as the draft entry deadline nears.
  • Against both Princeton and Ohio State, Kentucky guard Brandon Knight struggled mightily with his shot, but came up big when it mattered most. We would imagine that the Wildcats will need a much more consistent performance from Knight if they wish to get past North Carolina.
  • Marquette showed some fight in the second half of Friday’s game against North Carolina. It was too little too late, as the Golden Eagles had a terrible first half in which they scored only 15 points.
  • Despite early season struggles, North Carolina center Tyler Zeller believes that the Tar Heels knew they could get deep into the tournament all along. Zeller and his teammates will need this confidence, as they are slated to face a red-hot Kentucky squad on Sunday.

Southeast

  • When Butler went through a swoon in January, head coach Brad Stevens called good friend Mark Few for advice to get his team through the tough time.
  • This Indianapolis Star columnist is not attributing Butler’s run as “magic,” but merely as the best team winning. The Bulldogs need to be on their game if they want to beat Florida to advance to their second straight Final Four.
  • Hailing from little Connersville, Indiana, Butler forward Matt Howard has been the heart and soul of the Bulldogs throughout this season. Howard has been so unselfish that point guard Ronald Nored has, at times, had to beg the big man to shoot more.
  • Florida guard Erving Walker has put the Gators on his back more than once this season. The junior from New York City stands much taller than his 5’8 frame would suggest.
  • Once an afterthought at Georgetown, forward Vernon Macklin has made a big difference for Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators. It is tough not to root for a kid like Macklin, who has battled adversity throughout his collegiate career.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.25.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 25th, 2011

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.

East

  • People are quick to forget that the Ohio State basketball program was in disarray when Thad Matta arrived in Columbus. Considering this, it can be stated that Matta has been nothing short of a miracle worker.
  • Kentucky freshman forward Terrence Jones has had a theme play out over his solid freshman campaign- he plays very well in big games. This should be good news for John Calipari and the Kentucky faithful, as Friday’s game versus Ohio State qualifies as such.
  • It is hard not to root for a guy like Buzz Williams. The Marquette coach has had an interesting career that has included stops at small schools like Oklahoma City University, Texas-Arlington, and Texas A&M-Kingsville.
  • An interesting Q&A with North Carolina freshman point guard Kendall Marshall. Marshall has been nothing short of spectacular since taking over the point guard reigns from since-departed Larry Drew II.
  • Can Ohio State survive and advance if their star, Jared Sullinger, does not shine? We say they can, due to the fact that William Buford, Jon Diebler, and David Lighty are fully capable of carrying the Buckeyes on any given night.

Southeast

  • The craziness of March Madness has Butler in position to reach the Final Four again. It will not be easy though, as they will have to get through the Florida Gators.
  • Butler’s strong defense threw Wisconsin off their game. If the Bulldogs defend that well against Florida, they will probably advance to next weekend in Houston.
  • Florida guard Kenny Boynton slowed Brigham Young‘s Jimmer Fredette just enough for the Gators to get the victory. Pretty impressive for Boynton, who was recovering from an ankle injury.
  • After an almost four-year hiatus from winning big-time games, Florida head coach Billy Donovan proved on Thursday night that the Gator program is back to being one of the premier in all of college basketball.
  • Even though its season is over, Brigham Young head coach Dave Rose made a point to praise the toughness of his Cougar squad. BYU enjoyed a 32-5 dream season that may not be duplicated soon.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.24.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 24th, 2011

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.

East

  • Often overlooked due to the star power that Ohio State has accumulated during his career, David Lighty has been the heart and soul of this season’s Buckeyes. The fifth-year senior will leave Columbus with three Big Ten championships, an NIT championship, and four trips to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Kentucky head coach John Calipari believes that other programs “Want to be us. Not beat us.” While that statement may seem a bit arrogant, it does make sense when thinking about the pageantry and tradition that goes along with the Wildcat basketball program.
  • While he does provide Marquette with some scoring, swingman Jimmy Butler prides himself on being a defensive stopper for the Golden Eagles. His coach, Buzz Williams, calls Butler, “the smartest player I’ve ever coached.” High, high praise.
  • North Carolina junior center Tyler Zeller has finally been healthy all season after missing significant time during his first two seasons. A healthy Zeller has been beneficial to the Tar Heels, as he has contributed 15.2 points per game along with 7.1 rebounds. Without Zeller’s presence in the post, UNC would probably not be a Sweet 16-caliber team.
  • Despite already having a tremendous season, Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight believes he is just finally living up to the high expectations that come with playing point guard for John Calipari. Interesting enough is that those expectations are not from Calipari, but from Knight himself.

Southeast

  • Growing up in the shadow of Gene Keady and Bob Knight has not turned Butler head coach Brad Stevens into the same type of loose cannon as the two legendary coaches. Instead, Stevens is known for his calm, steady, and studious approach that he takes to coaching the game of basketball.
  • Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor has been an elite performer all season for the Badgers. This is not surprising when considering that the junior craves for pressure situations where he can showcase his bravado.
  • Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons has gone through quite the maturation process, which has allowed him to fulfill his vast potential. Despite his success, Parsons continues to raise expectations for his team and himself.
  • There is not a team in the nation that is held to the strict honor code that Brigham Young is held to. Despite the loss of big man Brandon Davies due to a violation of this code, the rest of the Cougars have learned to live by its precepts and focus primarily on winning basketball games.
  • After resting his ankle earlier in the week, Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton believes he is “100 percent” for Thursday’s game with Brigham Young. Boynton will be an important player for the Gators in slowing down the BYU guard attack.

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