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!

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