DAYTON, Ohio -- They don't tell you the so-called First Four is great basketball. Given the eight teams involved, they don't need to. Your team wouldn't be in Dayton, Ohio, on a Tuesday or Wednesday in March if it were, you know, special. If the universities of Kentucky or Kansas ever play in the First Four, pack up some bottled water and head for the cave in Montana. Armageddon will be right behind you.
The First Four is the province of heroes, fools, dreamers and guys named Momo. It is where the President of the United States will be Tuesday night, not to mention a player whose first name is Four.
FIRST FOUR on truTV Tuesday, March 13 *All times EST Dayton, Ohio 6:30 p.m. -- Western Kentucky vs. Mississippi Valley State (truTV) 9:00 p.m. -- Iona vs. BYU (truTV)
Each year, the dynamics of selecting and bracketing the NCAA tournament change. While the tournament selection committee has a set principles and procedures that apply, there is considerable art within the science when 10 men and women gather to produce the actual bracket.
A few thoughts on Saturday's crop of college hoops:
By any measure, Khem Birch was having a promising freshman season. A 6-foot-9 forward at Pittsburgh who was just the second McDonald's All-American to play at the school, Birch was averaging 4.4 points in 15 minutes, but he was leading the team in blocks and had started the last six games, making him just the third freshman to start during Jamie Dixon's nine years as head coach. Those aren't lights-out numbers, but given the potential Birch had shown, and given Dixon's history of developing talent, Birch had every reason to believe that at some point over the next few years he would have an excellent chance at a lucrative professional career.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The time might come when Jimmer Fredette will need to take a different approach to his local dining.
The college hoops season tips off on Friday in fullcourt-press fashion as most every Division I school will be in action. The ones that aren't will play over the weekend. The biggest contest, of course, will take place aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego between North Carolina and Michigan State, which I've also previewed. Here are five other games worth watching this Veterans Day weekend:
With the impact non-BCS teams have made on the last few NCAA tournaments -- four Final Four teams in the past six years -- there's no denying the level of talent that has landed on teams outside the football majors. This season is no different and you could very easily see a team (or two) from this list pop up in New Orleans. Here's a quick primer to make you a truly national fan of the college game:
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- After Kansas State's players had finally climbed down from the scorer's table, and the court at Bramlage Coliseum had been cleared of the purple mob, and a panel of Wildcats had answered question upon question about just how, exactly, they ended No. 2 Kansas' 20-0 start, Bill Walker concluded Wednesday evening's festivities with a inquiry of his own:
Tuesday's look at the top offensive "Value Add" seasons by a point guard in the efficiency era (2003-present) featured three players from '10-11: Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, UConn's Kemba Walker and BYU's Jimmer Fredette. As amazing as last season was for scoring point guards, it was devoid of any historically great shooting guards or wings. The highest ranked '10-'11 players in my nine-year database of shooting guards/wings were Ohio State's Jon Diebler, at 29th with 6.29 percent value added, followed by Providence's Marshon Brooks, at 30th with 6.25 percent value added.
As the saying goes, it's better to be lucky than good and for five teams this season luck could finally be shining on them. Each of these teams finished in the bottom 50 in Division I last season in Ken Pomeroy's "luck" calculation, which measures the difference between a team's actual record and its expected performance based on efficiency ratings. With combinations of improved personnel, experience and maybe a better bounce or two, watch for these teams to make a leap this season:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The sign looked out of place, as if some Cleveland fan had hopped on the wrong flight and found himself rooting for the recovery effort of an entirely different team.
Jimmer Fredette is not the best player in this NBA draft, or the tallest, or the quickest, or the fastest, or the shortest. But he is the most controversial. It's not his fault. Fredette draws opinions like he drew defenders at BYU -- two come from opposite directions at the same time. He is a gunner and one of the most entertaining college players of the last decade, and this and plus there is the fact that ... he is white?
PROVO, Utah -- Jimmer Fredette had barely taken a dozen steps out the front door of Romano's Macaroni Grill when a voice screamed at him to stop.
Jimmer Fredette stories in the SI Vault
CHICAGO -- There was plenty to talk about in the lobby at this year's NBA predraft combine.
How much does a strong showing in the NCAA tournament help an NBA prospect? The question has never been more relevant, as more than a dozen potential first-round picks had led their teams into the Sweet 16 convening Thursday night.
NEW ORLEANS -- Jimmer Fredette may have scored 32 points, but his last college game was one he'd probably rather forget. In BYU's 83-74 loss to Florida in the Sweet 16 Thursday night, the final three stats of the season's biggest scoring sensation were a turnover, one missed three-pointer and a foul. As he walked off the court to applause with 36 seconds left, Fredette shook his head in frustration, the waggling bandage on his chin -- earned when he hit the floor and cut his face after being tripped in the second half -- the badge of a physical, frustrating night.
BYU finds itself in an unusual position this week. The Cougars are not only in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years, but also may be on the verge of becoming America's team.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In the world of television, a strong Thursday-night lineup is critical. Young, affluent viewers tend to tune in en masse on Thursday, and restaurateurs and purveyors of beer, corn chips and movies covet one final crack at that key demographic group as it makes weekend plans. So kudos to the advertisers who bought time on CBS and TBS on Thursday night, because the NCAA tournament will deliver the kind of star-studded lineup Thursday TV hasn't seen since Cliff Huxtable, Sam Malone and Jerry Seinfeld shared the same night on NBC in 1991.
If this week is anything like last week, then we are one lucky group of Hoopheads. The first three rounds were chock-full of great performances, exciting finishes and all kinds of crazy plays. Last week I predicted we'd see the kind of surprising results we've come to expect from this season. This week, however, I peered into my crystal ball and envisioned a return to form. Here's how it will all play out.
A well-aged pro hoops chronicler such as myself is liable to get a "what's wrong with the NBA?" question at any time during the year, but the advent of March Madness seems to throw the inquiry into sharp relief.
Many people who will watch the NCAA tournament this week are just tuning in to college hoops for the first time this season. Real hoopheads like us, however, have been locked in since the start of practice in October. Nothing we see over the next three weeks is going to surprise us. We've trained ourselves to expect the unexpected.
Each March, college basketball's regular season fades from memory as fans and players gear up for the NCAA Tournament and all the hoopla that comes with it: The brackets. Cinderellas. Buzzer beaters.
Andy Glockner offers his NCAA seed- or bubble-related thoughts from Friday's conference-tournament games. All times are ET.
Andy Glockner will offer a full edition of the Bubble Watch each morning, then provide updates as the action plays out. Check back throughout the day for ongoing bubble analysis. All times are ET.
This has probably been the most ... well, let's be kind and just say "ordinary" -- the most ordinary college basketball season. First of all, as the Super Bowl drifts into February and NFL television ratings soar, poor little college basketball gets ignored for longer and longer. Didn't you have the feeling this year that Dick Vitale didn't arrive in our consciousness until he suddenly appeared like a bald Cupid on Valentine's Day?
Player of the Year: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
Brigham Young University suspends star player Brandon Davies for breaking a school honor code by having premarital sex.
Brigham Young University officials on Thursday stood by the decision to dismiss a standout player on the Cougars' highly ranked men's basketball team, saying they are treating Brandon Davies just like they would any other student.
Brandon Davies is "extremely remorseful" after admitting to violating his school's honor code banning premarital sex, a newspaper says
Since Duke was the latest team to lose its No. 1 ranking, it's only fitting that we begin this week's mailbag with a pair of e-mails from Blue Devil Nation, one searching for hope, the other expressing concern.
The most dangerous team in college basketball over the next seven days is ... Milwaukee?
I wish I could just write about seeds and bubble teams today, but last week's headlines preclude it. At the very time of year when the world finally turns its sights to college hoops, our beloved sport suffered twin black eyes with the revelations regarding NCAA investigations at UConn and Tennessee. There seems to be a lot of confusion about these two cases -- what happened, how they're related, and where both schools go from here. Here are answers to the main questions last week's events raised:
If the NCAA tournament is supposed to be such an exclusive ticket, why does no one want to make it?
The battle in the Mountain West was the main story Saturday, but far from the only one. This was a huge moving day for a number of teams across the land. Here's a look at what it all means.
SAN DIEGO -- On the Monday before San Diego State's nationally televised, 80-67 home loss to BYU, Aztecs coach Steve Fisher e-mailed a letter to his student section, "The Show," urging them to be respectful of the visiting Cougars, writing, "We cannot cross the line into topics that are out of bounds and distasteful, particularly making fun of one's religion." If there was any notion that Fisher's plea would be heeded, any hope for decorum in Viejas Arena for the long-awaited visit of The Jimmer, the biggest star and leading scorer in college basketball ... well, that went out the window shortly after 9:25 a.m. on Saturday, when the doors opened and The Show poured in after camping outside for as many as three days.
You can hear the thumping getting louder each day, like the sound of a ball pounding on the floor as the dribbler gets closer. Two teams from a non-power conference on a collision course to a big game with enormous implications -- in the conference, in the polls, and most importantly, in the NCAA tournament bracket.
We begin with an appropriately geeky question from Overland Park, Kan., former home to the NCAA's headquarters.
The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah, is a happenin' place these days. The hometown Utah State Aggies have won 80 of their last 82 games there. The team just completed an 18-game winning streak, one shy of the longest in school history, before losing at Idaho Wednesday night. The Aggies are 12-1 in the WAC and 22-3 overall, with their only other losses coming on the road against BYU and Georgetown. They're currently ranked 21st in the AP poll and 32nd in the RPI.
A package arrived this week from Baltimore, signaling the end of an acrimonious, two-and-a-half-year negotiation. It contained Grant Wahl's Magic Eight ball, which he would use to guarantee a national champ, two months in advance, during his tenure as SI's chief college hoops writer. Wahl moved to the fútbol beat in 2009, taking the Eight Ball with him and then making a series of absurd demands for its exchange. At one point Wahl threatened to break off trade talks and pawn it in Zurich during reporting on the 2022 World Cup bid; last week, he finally agreed to swap the ball for the actual Che Guevara flag worn by Adam Morrison at the 2007 Coachella Festival and an advance-screener DVD of Rashad McCants' acting debut in The Booster Club. I had to cash in many a favor to obtain those items.
PROVO, Utah -- The chant started up with about a minute left in the game, gathering timbre as the entire Marriott Center crowd took it up: "You got Jimmered!"
Cold weather got you down? Or are you just feeling an uncomfortable chill because you know your favorite team doesn't quite have the pieces it needs to mount a run in the NCAA tournament?
The exact moment cannot be pinpointed, although it was somewhere between when BYU's Jimmer Fredette scored 39 against UNLV, 47 against Utah, pulled up for a 30-foot three against TCU, and dropped 42 on Colorado State, that he became a national cult figure who no longer needed a last name. Just "Jimmer," or "The Jimmer." My colleague Seth Davis is a proponent of the latter, having tweeted during that Colorado State game, "The Jimmer has 21 pts and it is not even halftime. Halftime is the only thing that can guard The Jimmer."
Of all the major season-ending awards, coach of the year is the hardest to define. Most people seem to believe the coach of the year should be based on a one-year evaluation period where the main criterion is exceeding preseason expectations. But to me, there should be a lot more to it than making a bunch of poll voters look dumb. If that's the most important measurement, half the coaches in Division I should get a trophy.
I'm not sure if it's the end of the holidays or the constant pummeling from winter storms, but when I opened my mailbag this week, I inhaled a strong whiff of gloom. Is there no end to this darkness? Where is the proverbial light at the end of this long and ominous tunnel? Didn't John Lennon promise us that it's getting better all the time?
The holidays may be over, but that doesn't mean you have to stop unwrapping presents. And there's no better way to ring in the New Year than by reading the annual Hoop Thoughts Stock Report. Who's headed up? Who's headed down? Everything you need to know about where (and where not) to invest is right here.
We begin, appropriately enough, with a query from Sin City asking me to predict the future.
Following previews for the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC), here is the Best of the Rest: notable players and teams from the remaining 25 Division I leagues.
While the most important college basketball news out of Turkey this week was the report that Kentucky's top recruit, Enes Kanter, allegedly received a salary from his Istanbul club team that would make him ineligible in the eyes in the NCAA, there were seven current, eligible college players competing there in the FIBA World Championship. The last of them, Cal's Max Zhang, was eliminated on Tuesday when his Chinese national team lost to Lithuania, allowing us to do a complete assessment of what -- if any -- impact our collegians had in the FIBA tourney:
It's ironic that BYU basketball is caught in the crosshairs of the latest athletic conference shakeup where, depending on the day, things can look radically different and not add up at all. For several seasons, the Cougars have been that kind of enigma: an imposing regular-season team with postseason production that has failed to match. Now, with its basketball future possibly hanging in the balance, this would be a good season for BYU to deliver on its annual promise.
Every year, it seems like there are some high-profile early entrants from non-BCS schools that shake up the competitive landscape, but this season's losses feel particularly heavy. When you lose talent like Nevada's Luke Babbitt, Xavier's Jordan Crawford, Ohio's Armon Bassett, UTEP's Derrick Caracter, Fresno State's Paul George and Butler's Gordon Hayward from the pool, you're going to feel an impact.
For non-seniors testing the NBA draft waters, 2010 was the Year of the Scramble -- to declare for the draft by April 25, gather information about their stock, try to schedule workouts between April 29 and May 7, and then make a major life decision by May 8. This mad rush was the result of the NCAA pushing up the draft deadline from its traditional spot in mid-June, in hopes of solidifying the college landscape just one month after the season's conclusion.
The NBA Draft Limbo Period is laughably short this year. The official window between the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft (April 25) and the deadline to pull out (May 8) is 13 days, but unofficially, it's even tighter. NBA teams don't yet have the official list of underclassmen in hand, can't begin working players out until April 29 and can't schedule workouts that conflict with class times. Realistically, all the draft prospects have is 10 days in which to decide if they'll sign with an agent and stay in the draft. These are the 10 college teams with the most at stake during that hurried process:
Opening salvo: The word that comes to mind is "unprecedented." I don't know if I'm an official historian of the tournament, but it sure seemed like no opening-day I've seen before. There was that one day in the early '80s where there were a few buzzer-beaters right in a row, and that was considered a seminal moment, but today was just unbelievable. I'm honestly sitting here trying to remember what the early games were -- it's all a blur.
If I had to guess the identity of just one player who would rocket from roundball recognizable to mainstream superstardom this weekend, it would be BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.