Saturday, April 24, 2010

Holy Upset, Batman! The NCAA Goes to 68 Teams, Not 96 and Kanacevic to Transfer From Hofstra

Well let's start with the bad news. Hofstra freshman forward Halil Kanacevic, a member of the All CAA Rookie team has received his release from Hofstra and will be transferring to another school. Kanacevic, who I think has the potential to be a very good big man, averaged 8.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The guess is that he will transfer to Fordham to follow the Pecora crew there. I think it's a mistake personally if that does happen, because he had a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament next season with the Pride. But here's wishing him good luck.

Now the good news. Early Thursday morning, I was close to finishing an article entitled "Further Proof That a 96 Team Tournament Is a VERY Bad Idea". I had included references from several recent terrific articles from Gary Parrish, Andy Katz, Mike Litos and Joe Lunardi. I thought I had an interesting article for my readers and I was going to finish the article Thursday night.

Then, during the only brief free moment I had Thursday, I checked my Twitter account. And what should I see first, a tweet from Mr MidMajority himself, KW (Kyle Whelliston) which stated "Today is a day of great celebration and relief. Now who wants a quadruple serving of P.I.G.?!" And before that tweet, he had retweeted from the Orlando Sentinel -"NCAA votes to expand NCAA Tournament to 68 teams, signs $10.8 billion, 14-year deal with CBS, Turner."

I felt like Gus Johnson - OHHHHHHH! This was a like a sixteen seed beating a one seed!

You see, we had heard for weeks, hell months, that 96 teams were a done deal. NCAA Vice President Greg Shaheen alluded to it. Jay Bilas, Gary Parrish, Mike Litos, Kyle Whelliston, Joe Lunardi, Andy Katz, Pat Forde, any good national college basketball writer said it was basically a done deal. Even Mike Francesa, Jerry Beach's favorite talk show host said it was a done deal. You even had Gregg Doyel saying "stop your whining" and "Think of another round of tournament games like a batch of brownies. You gonna turn down seconds?"

Well apparently Gregg, the NCAA listened to EVERYBODY's whining and decided that a 96 team batch of brownies would leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. In fact, NCAA Interim President Jim Isch stated "
There was no decision ever to go to 96. " They were able to get a more lucrative contract from CBS/Turner and only add three teams to the tournament in the process. Thus the NCAA tournament teams and conferences will get a bigger share of the pie now.

All I can say is someone said last December the NCAA should go to 68 teams instead of 80 and 96. His article is here. Make sure to read it.

OK, that concludes the crowing part of this article.

Now we will likely get four play in games (otherwise known as P.I.Gs) on that Tuesday instead of the one pitting the two lowest automatic bid teams. Now the question here is how will the PIGs play out. Kyle Whelliston in a tweet on Thursday stated that it will be the automatic bid qualifiers seeded 16 and 17 and the Orlando Sentinel article seems to back that. I noted in my aforementioned December article it will be the last eight at large bid teams in the tournament. In her article Thursday, Dana O'Neill believes that it will also be the last eight large bid teams as well. And here's her reasoning.

...But somehow I doubt the networks paid $10.8 billion to offer a quadruple-header matching up North Texas, Robert Morris, Vermont, Morgan State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UCSB, Lehigh and East Tennessee State, this year's 15- and 16-seeds.

No offense to those programs or their alumni bases, but those aren't the sort of name brands that drive viewership.

Instead, imagine this lineup going head-to-head: Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Illinois, UTEP, Utah State, Minnesota and, let's say, Florida and Georgia Tech.

That's a combination of Joe Lunardi's last three out this season (Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Illinois) and the lowest-seeded at-large teams from this year's bracket.

It's a murderers' row of desperate teams with name cachet and a murderers' row that frankly deserves to suffer a little more for not getting the job done during the regular season.

The winners could slide into either the 12- or 13-seed spot, depending on how the NCAA wanted to set it up.

Dana, that works for me. In fact, to drive home my point, here's what I said in my aforementioned December article as I referred to the teams left out in the 2009 Tournament.

This would work better for many reasons. The first that comes to my head is that it's usually only a handful of teams, say two or three that truly get wrongly snubbed out of a NCAA bid. Last season, you could seriously make a case for Saint Mary's, San Diego State and Creighton not making the tournament. It's been like that the last four seasons by my count (see my aforementioned other teams in previous seasons). This way you can get those teams into the play-in round and we can then see which team truly deserved to be in the dance.
And it makes sense. This should basically really end all the bubble talk we have heard the past few years. There are a few teams that deserved to be in that were snubbed - Hofstra and Missouri State in 2006, Arizona State in 2008 and St Mary's in 2009. And a few teams like Virginia Tech this year that didn't deserve to be in the tournament. Those teams would have all likely made it into a 68 team tournament and they can now prove their worth in a play in game.

Now my friend Grant Hayden says the bubble talk will never end because teams that get snubbed from the 37th at large bid will still complain. But we both agreed that the easy reply to that is that team would be lower in consideration if it was only 34 at large bids, so the complaint is not warranted. That means Seth Greenberg, try to improve on your non conference SOS of 342, ok?

And the 30th -37th at large teams should be playing into the round of 64, not the automatic bid qualifiers. Now I know KW disagrees with me on this, because he is the biggest supporter of the current P.I.G., which he calls "The Most Honest Game" in the NCAA Tournament, because it pits two conference champions and the winner gets a $1.2 million win share for their school and conference. And there is a lot to be said about that. Those schools and conferences could certainly use the money. And the city of Dayton deserves a lot of credit for supporting the teams that play in the P.I.G.

However, I have long hated the concept of the current P.I.G because it was brought about by the most dishonest means. When the Mountain West split off from the WAC and created 31 automatic bid conferences, the NCAA decided to not eliminate the 34th at large bid for the men's tournament (which is what the women's tournament decided to correctly do) and decided to create the play in game between the 64 and 65 seeds. These two seeds have always been the lowest rated "automatic bid" qualifiers.

But I have long stated that if you have an "automatic" bid, you should not have to "play in" to the tournament. And as much as win shares help the winning team, the losing team in this automatic qualifier is denied the chance to play in the 64 against a #1 seed.

Thus, the kids that played for Winthrop who lost to Arkansas Pine Bluff in the play in game this season, never got the chance to play a #1 seed. Those kids won their conference tournament. Winthrop had more of a right to play in the round of 64 than say Utah State, UTEP or Minnesota (who all lost their first round tournament games). They deserved years from now to be able to tell their kids, grandkids, whoever that they got to play Duke, Kansas, Kentucky or Syracuse.

Ask those kids if they cared about win shares. They just wanted to get to the round of 64.

But either way, whether it's the four 16 seeds vs. the four 17 seeds or the last eight at large bid teams facing off each other, it's still better than 96 teams. And we are getting now four P.I.Gs either way. Here's hoping they at least keep a doubleheader of P.I.Gs in Dayton. The city deserves that much for its past support.

One last thing. Mr. Doyel, apparently for now the NCAA listened to the "whining" public. The "whining" public likes their brownies the way they are served now. But we don't mind four bacon appetizers first.

PS - Thanks to everyone and I mean everyone who spoke up or wrote an article that said a 96 team tournament was a bad idea. See what happens when you speak or write your mind. Sometimes, people in power DO listen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

No Surprise Here - Frazier Heads to Fordham

Adam Zagoria is reporting that Branden Frazier who had a verbal commitment to Hofstra will be going to Fordham instead, to reunite with Coach Tom Pecora who had initially recruited him for the Pride.

That leaves at least one spot open at Hofstra. It will be interesting to see who Tim Welsh and Steve DeMeo find as a replacement for Frazier.

Finally, A Coach for UNCW!

It took seventy nine days, but it was a damn good hire. The always intrepid Brian Mull was the first to report UNCW is hiring Buzz Peterson, currently the Appalachian State coach, as the new coach of the Seahawks. I am very surprised that they were able to get someone of such stature. Perhaps, the Wilmington alumni boosters and the administration anted up similar to what Hofstra did with Tim Welsh.

If you want to know about Buzz' career, Wikipedia's always a good starting place.

Finally, if you want to see all the coaching changes, Whelliston has Basketball State updated on the changes, including Peterson (Memo to Self - Use Basketball State more often).

Surfing Around the Net

This is the time of year, especially on a day off, I like surfing around the net, looking for interesting articles. I found a few that might be of interest.

  • Cornell and Harvard have several talented players between them and NBA scouts are noticing in this Mercury news article. My man, Marty Blake is featured (wonder if he's talking to Rico Pickett right now)
  • The Dime has the best breakdown that I have seen of Gordon Hayward's chances in the NBA
  • Michael Litos has a fascinating article about the CAA realigning when the 96 team NCAA Tournament hits the fan. It all depends on the complete blowup of the A10, but there is a good chance that will happen when Shaheen and friends destroy the NCAA Tournament. Many people have talked about how conferences will blowup/realign. Kyle Whelliston has talked about a city conference, which I think Hofstra might end up in (sort of A10 meets NYC metro). But Litos has given some good thought into this and here's his take.
  • This article was out a month ago and though I read when it first came out, it went under the radar from what I could tell. But it's a damn good one. It's a study of several talented mid major players who didn't get recruited by big power conference schools but became mid major stars. A definite read. The article that referred to it is also right here.
  • Finally, it's not an article, but if you want to find out how Tim Cluess got hired by Iona, watch the live interview with Iona's Vin Parise here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rico Pickett Declares for the NBA Draft?

This post is for Marty Blake, Director of NBA Scouting. Marty, can you please talk some sense into Rico Pickett. Here's why someone needs to talk to Rico. I saw a couple of Manhattan games this season on TV and the Jaspers game vs. Hofstra, which wasn't one of Rico's better shooting nights). And while Rico is a nice player, he only made the third team All MAAC. He is not NBA draft material.

At least he didn't hire an agent and can back out by May 8th. Here's hoping someone like Marty talks to you Rico. Come back for your senior year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Has the UNCW Coaching Search Taken So Long?

Jerry Beach, the author of the delightfully daffy Defiantly Dutch is equally as funny on his tweets. One of his latest ones early yesterday morning was "This is Day 74 of the #UNCW search right? It's officially lasted as long as the Falklands War!"

I responded with what I thought the reason was for the UNCW coaching saga - "
Reason UNCW coaching search has lasted as long as the Falklands war is potential HCs learn UNCW bball budget is $1.13M"

Brian Mull and Michael Litos have both done an excellent job covering the debacle of the UNCW hiring search. Litos recently chronicled the entire saga. Mull has gone in great detail seemingly on a daily basis with updates on the Seahawks coaching search. Yes, it is his beat. But he does it so well.

Now in fairness to UNC Wilmington AD Kelly Mehrtens, she couldn't hire anyone really until the NCAA Tournament started. But also in fairness, it might not be such a long saga had she and the rest of the UNCW administration let Benny Moss coach out the season, then fire him.

But one day after seeing UNCW's 36 point loss to Hofstra at the Mack Center, Moss was "reassigned" on Friday, January 29. You can call it a "reassignment", but basically he was fired. It was another of those despicable mid season firings that we saw a lot of this season. So I don't have really much sympathy for Mehrtens. She could have done the right thing and let Moss coach out the season. But she didn't. You reap what you sow.

However, the core problem with UNCW unable to find a coach is simply money, or lack thereof. Take a look at Litos' list of what CAA teams spend on their men's basketball budget. Three of the top four teams on that list - VCU, ODU and George Mason combined have won the last four CAA championships. Then take a look at who's last, UNCW.

You simply can't compete when you are spending less than half of what the top teams in the CAA spend on their basketball budget. You can't go out and recruit players across the country. And you can't hire good coaches from other Division I institutions for $250,000 a year. No wonder they have a long laundry list of people they have to talk to about the position and people that have turned down the position apparently.

Yes UNC Wilmington is a state school whose endowment is nowhere near as large as Virginia Commonwealth or Old Dominion or near the enrollment of George Mason. Thus in these tight economic times, perhaps that's all they can afford as the men's basketball budget. But that might have also been the budget for sometime. If so, that makes what Jerry Wainwright and Brad Brownell did at UNCW even more amazing (and if I was Clemson AD
Terry Don Phillips, I would be calling Brownell right now to see how much it will take to get him to coach the Tigers).

But I have a suggestion for Mehrtens. Either give interim coach Brooks Lee the position, who the UNCW base seems to really like, or hire a really good Division II coach with a solid recent history of winning, similar to what Iona did by hiring Tim Cluess. Sell that coach on the fact you will do your best to increase the men's basketball budget so that you might be able to keep that person there for a while. Then uncover every rock, turn over every stone, have emergency meetings with the alumni base, do whatever it takes to work on increasing the basketball funding. It's the only way you will compete in the CAA.

Otherwise, as Litos said yesterday, maybe it's time UNCW considers moving down in conference affiliation to the Southern or Big South. Seahawks are known to migrate.

Update - Clemson to announce Brad Brownell as new head coach. Excellent move by the Tigers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Coaching Carousel, Shady Dealings at Wake and VCU's Sanders Declares for NBA Draft

Even though the great Butler - Duke championship game concluded about a week ago, the College Hardwood season is never done. And that's been in due to large part to all the coaching changes we have seen the past several weeks. It truly has been like a merry go round.

ESPN has a listing of coaching changes and it can't even keep up, that's how amazing it has been. Since the most updated listing, Marshall has hired Tom Herrion (associate head coach at Pitt), Charlotte hired Alan Major (asst coach at Ohio State) and Wake Forest has hired Jeff Bzdelik (formerly Colorado head coach - more on that in a bit). Twenty seven new head coaches.

If this season wasn't bad enough for all the despicable midseason coaching firings, then we have other dandies like Sean Kearney getting fired one season after being hired for the Holy Cross job. Boston College's Al Skinner was allowed to interview for the St John's job all the while knowing he had been fired by his AD at BC, though that had not been made public. Oliver Purnell made out like a bandit leaving for DePaul probably due to the fact he was under severe heat for not winning in the NCAA Tournament again at Clemson.

And you now have the Wake Forest saga. Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman fired Dino Gaudio after three seasons because he expected better postseason performance. Grant you that Gaudio was 1-5 in ACC Tournament and NCAA appearances, but he was 61-31 in his three seasons with the Demon Deacons (27-21 in conference) and they won their first round NCAA game against Texas in this year's tournament before losing to Kentucky. So Gaudio gets fired after WINNING TWO THIRDS OF HIS GAMES.

So who does Ron Wellman apparently replace him with? Jeff Bzdelik, the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes. What is Bzdelik's record at Colorado? 36-58 (10-38 in conference - yes that's not a misprint). No NCAA appearances, no NIT appearances?


Now grant you that in his previous head coaching position at the Air Force, Bzdelik led them to a 24-7 and 26-9 records respectively. This is also included a NCAA appearance in 2005-06 (more on that in a second) and a NIT final four appearance in 2006-07. But before that, he was the head coach at UMBC for two seasons in the late 80's. His record, 25-31. No postseason appearances.

Let's take a further look at his post season and tournament appearances. In 2005-06, Air Force lost in the Mountain West quarterfinal round to Wyoming 57-55. Wyoming was 5-11 in conference in the regular season. The Falcons should not have made the NCAA Tournament in 2006, but yet did and promptly lost to Illinois 78-69. In 2006-07, the Falcons AGAIN lost to Wyoming in the quarterfinals 67-62. Again, no MWC tournament wins for Bzdelik there.

Yes, the Falcons had a nice NIT run that second season, defeating Austin Peay, Georgia and DePaul before losing to Clemson by a point. But in Bzdelik's three seasons at Colorado, how many Big 12 tournament wins does he have? One, which was in his first season there, a win over Baylor in the first round of the 2008 Big 12 Tournament. Otherwise his teams have lost three straight Big 12 Tournament games, having been eliminated in the quarters by Oklahoma in 2008 and in the first round by Texas and Texas Tech respectively the past two years.

So let me get this straight. Gaudio, a coach who took Wake to two NCAA appearances, a NCAA tournament win and the Demon Deacons won 2/3 of their games in his tenure is fired because he is 1-5 in postseason appearances. And he is replaced by a coach, who if we leave out the NIT wins, has one NCAA appearance, is 1-6 in Mountain West, Big 12 and NCAA postseason appearances and has a 36-58 record the last three seasons at Colorado.

Can someone explain to Wake Forest fans why this is occurring? Oh yeah, read this article. Apparently Wellman and Bzdelik are "longtime friends". That's the ONLY explanation why you would fire Gaudio and bring in Bzdelik to replace him.

And to think Wellman extended Gaudio's contract in October of last year, praising him for his work. Why the change of thought now after Gaudio actually winning a NCAA tournament game? Oh yeah, his "longtime friend" was available.

Simply put, this is just downright criminal. Andy Katz and Brian Mull can spin this as much as they want about Wellman being honest about more postseason appearances (in fact I tweeted back and forth with Mull about the Gaudio firing). But after this hiring, there can really be no justification for it. Hopefully someone will hold Wellman's feet to the fire if this doesn't work out for Demon Deacons' fans.

However, I am very happy to hear that Tim Cluess got the Division I coaching position he so deserved when he was named head coach of Iona on Friday. Cluess replaces Kevin Willard, who got the Seton Hall job, which was formerly Bobby Gonzalez' job, till he got fired for basically being a boor. As you all may know, I promoted Cluess for the Hofstra job but he landed in nearly as good a situation with the Gaels. Best of luck Tim!

The other interesting news of the weekend was hearing VCU's Larry Sanders declaring for the NBA draft and hiring an agent. Sanders, a junior, had a very solid year, averaging 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, shooting 53.4 percent from the field and 64 percent from the line. All these categories were improvements for the First Team All CAA and CAA Defensive Player of the Year.

I got to see live Sanders play his best game of the year in front of a national TV audience on ESPNU. In front of eight NBA scouts, including probably the legendary Dick McGuire's last appearance in a college arena before he passed away, it was "The Larry Sanders Show" as he had a career high 31 points in the Rams 81-68 drubbing of the Pride.

But despite that dominating game, I think it's a mistake for Sanders to go pro? Why? Well, in his last ten games of the season, the games that arguably counted most, Sanders only scored in double figures in six of those ten games. His averages for those ten games, 11.7 points, 9.0 rebounds 44 percent shooting from the field and 57 percent from the line.

His consistency is a serious question. And in possibly the biggest game of the year, the CAA semifinal game vs. ODU, Sanders as I described him was "lost out on the court. We're talking Nathaniel Lester lost". Folks, that's not a good thing when you are compared to Nathaniel Lester.

In that game vs. the Monarchs, in 28 minutes, Sanders shot 2 of 7 from the field, 2 of the 6 from line and had only 6 points and 6 rebounds. He also was in foul trouble for most of the game. The scary thing is VCU should have won that game in regulation but lost in overtime 73-69. Had Sanders played well, the Rams would have won. Sorry, but that's not a performance of a NBA first round draft pick. You never saw Eric Maynor put up dud games like that in the CAA Tournament.

However, it is a big loss for the Rams, who also dismissed forward Terrance Saintil from the team. And with the graduation of Kiril Pishchalnikov, that leaves the Rams with only Jamie Skeen as their lone experienced front court player. So much for the Rams being my preseason favorite for the CAA for the 2010-11 season.

Well, maybe Fran Fraschilla is right and Sanders is the second coming of Theo Ratliff. If so, that's a nice career. But what if he falls to the second round or even worse, doesn't get drafted like Shawn James? Remember him, CAA fans? That's who Sanders reminds me a lot of, Shawn James. Another year in school with perhaps a NCAA appearance (minus Eric Maynor this time) would have only helped Sanders' resume.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cluess to Iona!

Adam Zagoria has posted this on his blog and my reliable source confirmed it at the same time. Tim Cluess will be the new head coach of Iona. A fantastic hire by Iona. Simply fantastic.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What Else Can Be Said

It was one of the greatest NCAA Men's College Basketball Championships of all time. Two teams played a really great, exciting game. Twice, Butler was within one shot of winning the game. Can't ask for more than that.

Still blue after seven hours, so the only thing fitting is the song below. Need some Sinatra. This one goes out to everyone like me who rooted for the Bulldogs. One more for my baby, and one more for the road.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Butler Has to Do to Win

This guy must see a lot of CAA games. Or maybe it's Bruiser Flint!

For Butler to beat Duke, there are four things that have to occur. Three will be awfully familiar from my preview to the Michigan State game.

1) Keep the score ideally under 60, and control the ball. The Bulldogs were at their best Saturday forcing turnovers and dictating the pace. Butler made up for poor shooting with points off turnovers. They must do this successfully against the Blue Devils. If Duke scores 70 or more, the game is over. If the score is in the 50's, Butler will win. If the score is in the 60's, then it's anyone's game.

2) Rebounding - The Bulldogs must, must keep Duke in check on the offensive glass, and limit their second chance points. Butler did a terrific job vs. Michigan State in this regard. They need to do it one more time.

3) I know Butler won Saturday without Matt Howard on the floor. But the Bulldogs can't tempt fate twice. Howard must stay out of foul trouble. They will need Howard against Duke's tall front line. He needs to play 30 plus minutes.

4) Hit their three pointers - Butler is due for a really good shooting day from the outside. There is no time like the present. They need a good shooting day to stay with Duke.

Accomplish all four of these things and you have a mid major national champion. Accomplish three of the four and Butler is still in good shape. Less than that, it's trouble.

If Butler was going to ever play a near perfect game, there is no better night than tonight. Go Bulldogs!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

If You Were Under a Rock For the Last 24 Hours

This is all you need to know.

Kyle Whelliston, who was at the game, as usual wrote a great article about Butler's accomplishment. He also put up a tribute on Twitter last night to mid major teams who "had their dreams smashed by the Spartans." Then he allowed others to give tributes to other mid major teams that had their Final Four dreams dashed. The first tweet looks like from someone awfully familiar. :-)

As for that other team Butler will be facing in the NCAA Championship Final, well first, Pat Forde had this beauty of a quote about that team from Durham, North Carolina - "If you thought people were predisposed to root against your team before now, the dislike just went off the charts."

And some enterprising person put this on YouTube. Enjoy and go Bulldogs!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Bulldogs Make the Final! And How They Did It!

As my friend Mal and I sat tonight in Canz, which I highly highly recommend if you are a red blooded heterosexual male, we watched Butler out Michigan State Michigan State. Meaning, the Bulldogs were more physical than the Spartans, which is Michigan State's trademark. And Tom Izzo even said as much after the game.

Besides being more physical, there were three key factors in Butler beating Michigan State.

1) Michigan State outrebounded Butler 34-30. BUT, the Bulldogs had more offensive rebounds than the Spartans did, 11-8. It was the only game in the tournament where Michigan State was outrebounded on the offensive glass. In fact, in three of their four tournament wins, the Spartans had double digits in offensive rebounds. And it's even more of an amazing stat considering Matt Howard only played 15 minutes (though he had 2 offensive rebounds in those 15 minutes, his only 2 rebounds of the game).

2) Butler outscored Michigan State on points off turnovers 20-2. That's how you make up for 30 percent shooting and 23 percent from beyond the arc, and despite Michigan State shooting 43 percent from the field. The Bulldogs had seven more field goal attempts than the Spartans.

3) The Bulldogs shot 17 of 24 from the line while Michigan State was 10 of 18.

Game, set, and match.

To say how great win this is for a program like Butler, well words can't describe it. And we couldn't hear the audio at Canz, because they played music instead of the audio of the game, so we can't even say if Nance and Kellogg had the words to describe it. But that's a slight minus because the beautiful bartenders/waitresses made up for it.

But maybe this can. Butler is the first mid major team to make the finals of the NCAA Tournament since Indiana State in 1979. Yes that Indiana State team. And this time, there will be no Michigan State team in its way. Cause the Bulldogs out Sparta-d the Spartans.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thoughts from This Week. And Oh Yeah, There's a Final Four with a Mid Major Front and Center

It's been a wild week. Coaching wise, you had St John's hiring Steve Lavin (and of course his hot wife), Iowa hiring Fran McCaffery away from Siena, Kevin Willard takes over Seton Hall and of course, Hofstra hiring Tim Welsh. Dominoes fell everywhere. Well except at UNCW, where as Michael Litos put it "Folks at Hofstra may have forgotten how to spell Pecora by the time UNCW hires someone." Great line.

I have a solution to the UNCW coaching mess and Brian Mull inadvertently gave off the idea in his article by linking to this article. Hey Seahawks, how about giving Royce Waltman a try? He can coach and he sure can give a news conference.

I really do feel bad for UNCW fans. Having been to several CAA Tournaments, I have met several UNCW supporters and they are very nice, passionate basketball loving fans. Thanks to this clown, who Brad Brownell needed to escape from, the Seahawks basketball program has been set back for seemingly years. Hopefully the current UNCW admin can get out of their coma, hire someone like Waltman or Ed Conroy from the Citadel and move from there.

Memo to Wagner. Now that Hofstra is taken, here's the man you need to hire.

If you want a little insight on how Hofstra hired Tim Welsh, look no further than Mr. Flying Dutchman himself, Jerry Beach with his post press conference interview with AD Jack Hayes. Always good stuff from Defiantly Dutch.

After watching the press conference online yesterday, as for my take on the Welsh hiring, here's what I simply think.


First kudos to Jack Hayes for jumping on an opportunity. When you read that aforementioned Defiantly Dutch article, Hayes learned that Welsh was interested in the position and set everything in motion. And kudos to President Rabinowitz who understood that to get Welsh, they needed to well, open the vault. But it wasn't just opening the vault to Welsh as you will read shortly.

Hayes also made it clear in the press conference and in Beach's interview that Hofstra is willing to invest in the basketball program. As I noted in my article that first promoted Tim Cluess for the position, it makes sound financial sense to invest in the basketball program. Because if your team is successful as Butler, St Mary's, Northern Iowa have shown this season as well as Davidson and George Mason in the past, you will get an incredible amount of free publicity for your school during March Madness.

Also, it's not just Welsh that Hayes and the Hofstra administration are investing in. Apparently, they have the money to let Welsh bring with him one of the best recruiters in the country, Steve DeMeo (and yup, I had the scoop on that too. Further proof blind squirrels can find nuts). Apparently many of Welsh's assistants from his Iona/Providence days are joining him at Hofstra. They are not just investing in Welsh, but a program.

And to show the further commitment Hofstra is making with its basketball program, I love the fact that Welsh said that they were not going to just recruit locally. Welsh noted they were going to recruit in the places they play - meaning Virginia where most of the CAA games obviously are played. But my favorite moment in the press conference was when Welsh dropped the note about the Atlanta AAU coach that he got Sharaud Curry from stating to him he had five recruits he wanted Welsh to take a look at.

This was Welsh's way of telling the rest of the CAA - "Game on, Boys!"

Upon hearing at the press conference that Hofstra has hired former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese to help evaluate Hofstra's athletics, I also immediately thought that Hofstra is serious about their commitment to athletics. More importantly, Tranghese may be their consigliere to finding them a new conference.

It was a monster day for Hofstra athletics and Hofstra fans. I conversed with several fans via email and they were all "pumped" as one alum put it. The hiring of Welsh and the hiring of Mike Tranghese and the term commitment used over and over again has put a much needed electricity into the program.

Memo to the rest of the CAA - Game on! And oh, It's on. It's definitely on.

Tomorrow, I will be at a sports bar, watching along with the rest of the world one of the more intriguing Final Fours ever. And that's because you have the Butler Bulldogs, some would call the real life "Hoosiers" playing in the Final Four. And folks, they are no Cinderella. They were a five seed and they knocked off #1 Syracuse and #2 Kansas State to get to the Sports Bubble, Lucas Oil Stadium. And they are favored to beat Michigan State. Cinderellas are never favored.

What will it take for Butler to win? Three key factors I think

  1. Rebounding - The Bulldogs must, must keep Michigan State in check on the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Spartans are a terrific rebounding team. They were the best by far in the Big Ten with a rebounding margin of 8.7 which was more than five better than the next team, Penn State.
  2. Matt Howard must stay out of foul trouble. To accomplish #1, the Bulldogs must have their best rebounder on the court for most of the game. If Howard can play 30 plus minutes, Butler is in terrific shape.
  3. Hit their three pointers - Butler needs a really good day from the outside. If Hayward, Mack and Zahn can consistently hit threes, it spreads out Michigan State. They have not shot the ball from beyond the arc well since the UTEP game. Now is the time to have another UTEP type shooting performance.
If Butler can do all three of those things, then we will have our first mid major in a Final Four championship game since Indiana State in 1979. Funny, it always comes down to these "Hoosiers" teams when you are rooting for a mid major to win it all.

Finally, everyone knows the game is in Indy, home of Butler. And Indy is like no other state when it comes to its love for hoops. It may be a monolith of an arena, but I am willing to bet that the crowd will be deafeningly loud for the Bulldogs. You can talk about Tom Izzo all you want, but the Spartans are never going to know what's going to hit them.

As for the second game, Duke has had an easy road to the Final Four, with their only close game being the East regional final win over Baylor. West Virginia has had to endure an upstart Washington team they were down at the half to, then of course #1 seed Kentucky in the South Regional Final. If West Virginia does what it does best, defense and keeps Duke to under 70 points, then the Mountaineers are going to the final. Go with the team with the tougher "Country Roads" and sing your John Denver all the way to the final. West Virginia beats Duke.

But it's all about the Bulldogs right now. Go Butler!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Last NIT Ever? If So, A Nice Way To Go

As I watched Dayton defeat North Carolina for the NIT Championship tonight, an ominous headline came across the WWL's bottom ticker (WWL=World Wide Leader=ESPN) - "NCAA concludes expanding to 96 teams is a better option than 68 or 80 teams." After the end of the NIT game, I read up on the story. That brilliant voice of reason, No Clue At All Vice President Greg Shaheen stated going to 96 was "a better fit logistically and financially."

A better fit financially? Well yeah if you are the No Clue At All, of course "better fit financially"= MORE MONEY! As for logistically, well the No Clue At All can try to tell teams that have to scramble out for Tuesday and Wednesday night regional sites that it's better "logistically".

And the article noted that a 96 team tournament would also end the play in game venue, which is the Dayton Arena. As much as I don't love the P.I.G, (and I really don't) at least the Dayton community rallies around it. Great, go to 96 teams AND take that away from Dayton and Kyle Whelliston.

As the WWL notes, "the plan still needs to be approved by the Division I Men's Basketball Committee and passed on to the board of directors." Maybe there are voices of reason in either NCAA body, but again it's the No Clue At All, so I am not holding out hope.

And if any of those people read this site, I have written a couple articles in the past few months on why a 96 team NCAA Tournament will be a disaster. So take a quick read on the two articles below and then move on with the rest of this article.
Very simply put, if you read the second article, the 96 team tournament will water down the term "upset" once and for all and the second aforementioned article listed above gives clear evidence on that. There was a reason the NCAA went from 48 teams to 64 teams in only a few short years.

But even with all that, the No Clue At All has decided to press on with this god forsaken idea. And we will have to hope that the Division I Committee or the Board of Directors are made up of mostly Joe Lunardi's or Kyle Whelliston's relatives.

Back to the main gist of this article. After a surreal trip into New York City knowing that Hofstra had a new coach before just about anyone else did, we got to the "World's Most Famous Arena" for probably the last NIT Semifinals anyone would ever see.

We got there early in the first half of the Ole Miss - Dayton game. And basically the crowd in the beginning was red for the most part, which are the colors of Dayton and Ole Miss. The three of us, Tieff, Mal and me first sat near the Flyers basket, as you can see from the picture of the band with their bicycle flyer helmets. Cool!

And the first half was a forerunner of things to come on the night. Though the game was exciting and you could see both teams are very talented, there was a lot of sloppy passing and even worse, horrible shot selection. This is probably why both teams were in the NIT instead of the NCAA Tournament.

As Tieff noted to Mal and me, teams now just are three point shooting happy. And instead of working the ball around, Ole Miss and especially Dayton chucked up a lot of bad three pointers. The picture of the scoreboard shows you how bad Dayton was at shooting threes in the first half.

Yet somehow, Dayton was ahead at the half 34-30. All three of us were impressed with the athleticism of Flyers' junior forward Chris Wright, who has a NBA future written all over him.

We decided to move to the opposite side of MSG because there were more open seats than where we were currently seated (more on that later). At the start of the second half, The Flyers went on an 11-4 spurt and were up 45-34 with about 17 and a half minutes to play. Dayton had hit its first three shots and made all of its four free throws.

At that time, Mal turned to me and said "Game over". Having seen Dayton fall apart in so many second halves of games this year, I turned to him and said "No, Dayton will somehow allow Ole Miss back in the game." Sure enough, in the span of a minute, the Rebels made an 8-0 run and cut the lead down to three, 45-42 with 16:34 left. Mal turned to me and said "Game still over." I just laughed, knowing Dayton had given away second half leads before like a 15 point second half lead vs. Xavier in the A10 Quarterfinals.

The game stayed very close for the next seven minutes, with Dayton nursing a 51-50 lead with 9:46 left. But then the Flyers went on an 8-0 run to go back up by nine, 59-50 with 8:14 left. For the third time, Mal turned to me and said "Game over!" And I replied nope, seen this before and I know what's coming.

And sure enough, the Rebels chipped away, helped by a few Dayton turnovers and the Flyers taking a page out of Hofstra's playbook and dribbled down the clock on several late possessions which resulted in missed shots. And when Ole Miss' Chris Warren hit two free throws, the lead was now only two 64-62 with a little over a minute left.

The Rebels got the ball back off a Chris Johnson miss and had a chance to tie with free throws. But Murphy Holloway missed the second free throw and Dayton was up one 64-63 with 36 seconds left. Then after the Flyers' London Warren hit only one of two free throws, Ole Miss again had a chance to tie. But Trevor Gaskins inexplicably missed an easy layup. The Flyers for once held on in a close game, in large part due to Ole Miss giving up the game more than Dayton did. The Flyers won 68-63.

During the latter part of the first game, the crowd started really filling up with fans wearing powder blue for the North Carolina - Rhode Island game. Now if you know your college team colors well, both North Carolina and Rhode Island wear powder blue colors. So when both teams went out on the court for warmups, if you had not seen the teams enter out from the entrance ways, you would not know which team was which.

And when the teams' starting lineups were introduced, we made a surprising discovery. North Carolina, as always, had a good turnout. But the largest fan base that turned out for the semifinals happened to be Rhode Island. We happened to be sitting in the Rhode Island section and a large chant of "Let's Go Rhody!" started up during their player introductions.

I mentioned to Mal then that the crowd had to be 10-12,000. I hadn't seen that many people at MSG for a college basketball tournament game in a long time, outside of a Big East Tournament game. And I have seen a lot of Preseason NIT , Coaches vs. Cancer, Holiday Festival, NIT and St John's games in the past several years. For once, it didn't seem like the "Empty City" or my St John's game experience in February. It felt somewhat like the glory years of St John's games. It was loud and it was fun, especially in the second game.

And the Rams' fans surrounding us got into the game early. The game was tied at ten after the first five and a half minutes. You could already notice a few things about the game. First, Rhode Island couldn't keep North Carolina off the boards. And second, North Carolina couldn't hit the side of a barn from beyond the arc.

And that was basically the first half in a nutshell. The game was tied 30 all at the half. And the second half wasn't much different. The teams traded the leads several times through the first ten minutes of the second half. And the game was tied at 46 with ten minutes left. Rhode Island had done a better job in the second half rebounding, but North Carolina's outside shooting woes continued and actually got worse.

The Tar Heels actually took a five point lead, 51-46 as Deon Thompson hit one of two free throws with 7:27 left. But led by Keith Cothran, the Rams would respond with a 13-3 run over the next nearly six minutes to go up 59-54 with 1:47 left. It looked like we were going to have an all A-10 final.

But Rhode Island went ice cold from the field and from the line over those last 107 seconds. Meanwhile Larry Drew would score all five of his teams points in a 50 second span to tie the game at 59 with 55 seconds left. Everyone was now standing in the arena for the final minute of play.

The Rams' Delroy James was able to drive the lane and draw a foul with 28 seconds left to play. James had a chance to give the Rams a two point lead. I even took this picture to note to the critical point in the game with the entire crowd up on its feet.

James missed both free throws. However, North Carolina would miss its opportunity to win the game in regulation and we went into overtime. In overtime, it was more of the same. The Tar Heels took the lead in overtime. The Rams came back and took the lead 65-63 on a Marquis Jones layup.

But the Tar Heels came back on a pretty three point give and go play from Larry Drew III to Tyler Zeller as Zeller was fouled as he hit the basket. The free throw put Carolina back up one 66-65. Two Deon Thompson free throws extended the lead to three 68-65. But Cothran again hit a jumper to cut the lead to one, 68-67 with two minutes left.

This brought us to the exciting conclusion. After Carolina turned the ball over, Rhody had a chance to take the lead. But Cothran missed a jumper and the Tar Heels had the ball with a 1:18 left. For some reason, North Carolina would wind down the clock and Drew missed a shot. But the old rebounding bugaboo tripped up Rhode Island again. Thompson grabbed the Drew miss, tried a tip in, missed, but North Carolina grabbed the rebound with 40 seconds left. Roy Williams called timeout with 22 seconds left with the Tar Heels up 68-67.

Now with only five seconds difference between the shot clock and the game clock, we all thought Rhode Island coach Jimmy Baron would tell his team to foul. But they inexplicably didn't. Drew would miss a jumper with 8 seconds left but Rhode Island wouldn't gather in the rebound till LaMonte Ulmer got it with a few seconds left. He tried to drive up court but, tripped, fell and turned the ball over.

But Tieff yelled "He was fouled!" And so did many of the Rhody fans. But no call was made and North Carolina held on for the 68-67 nailbiter win. However, we had sat ourselves right behind by a seating area with TVs and Mal turned them on during the game. Several Rhode Island fans ended up seated there, but we were able to watch the TVs. We clearly saw the replay and it appeared as Ulmer was trying to corral the ball and drive up court, a Carolina player grabbed his heel and that's why he tripped. Oh well.

But the result of the non call didn't damper my spirits from watching the game. I soaked in the loud Rhode Island contingent and the large crowd itself. It turned out the crowd was 11,689 for the NIT Semifinals. Perhaps many of the schools were on Spring Break and thus the large crowd for the semifinals. Only 9827 came out for the championship game tonight, won by Dayton. And that in itself was fitting, since Dayton won the first ever NIT Championship in the current Madison Square Garden in 1968 and now apparently will win the last ever NIT championship in the Garden.

However my last NIT memory will be that nearly 12,000 people came out for the NIT's apparent Semfinals swan song on Tuesday night. It was a fitting tribute to a grand dame, the oldest college basketball tournament in the country.

And on that Tuesday night, it showed what city basketball could be like. For one night, NYC felt like the center of the college basketball universe again. Let's hope it can be again.