For all we know, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan may have finally gotten it right with the surprising hiring of St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap as coach on Monday.
Of all the facets of the Oklahoma City blueprint that Bobcats general manager Rich Cho hoped to follow, landing the No. 2 pick in the draft wasn't one of them.
So much of college basketball's preseason centers around the talk of the players and the teams that are expected to have a successful season. Luke Winn has even developed his own formula for determining who will have a breakout year. But rarely do we go back at the end of the year and take a look at who failed to live up to those expectations.
When Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise was announcing Tommy Amaker's hire five springs ago, he called it a "rebirth" for the school's long-dormant basketball program. Given the university's world academic standing, it was the perfect word choice for the situation. Most programs rebuild or reload or recover, but not Harvard, which essentially was starting from scratch, never having had accomplished much of anything in the modern basketball arena. This was to be germination fueled by determination. Harvard needed to become a seedling before worrying about seeding.
While college basketball has morphed into more and more of a young man's game, there's still no replacement for the experience and leadership of seniors. While it's much more common to see a mid-major program nurture a full class into something special by its final season, precious few programs can make do without some dose of fourth-year fortitude. Even national champion Kentucky, with all its early-entry underclassman power, got huge contributions from Darius Miller on its way to the crown.
Given the success that Georgetown has had over the last three decades, it is easy to forget that the Hoyas were a basketball afterthought prior to the late 1970s. It was during the reign of John Thompson Jr. that Georgetown became a basketball school, winning three conference tournaments between 1975 and 1979 before becoming a founding member of the Big East in 1980 and promptly winning the inaugural regular season and tournament titles.
In realignment politics, college basketball programs are the constituents with less cash, and therefore the constituents with little-to-no juice. They are forced to operate within the conference framework that football has wrought -- and football does not care about the quality of any other sport. All of this short-sighted gerrymandering is bound to have a serious effect on the hoops landscape.
Truth be told, no one is safe when it comes to the NBA draft. Not the players whose careers are often scrutinized in accordance with where they were picked. And certainly not the executives whose reputations are forever tied to each selection. Risk is a part of the equation no matter the prospect, even when it's a big man like Kentucky's Anthony Davis, who is widely seen as a "can't-miss" talent.
As NBA front-office types and scouts continue their homework leading up to the June 28 draft, one central purpose will drive their study sessions: risk management.
ATLANTA (AP) -- All three divisions of NCAA men's basketball will see their 2013 national champions crowned during Final Four weekend in Atlanta.
There is a valid argument to be made that the 2011-2012 Pac-12 was the worst power conference ever.
LOS ANGELES -- Zach Randolph was the leading per-game scorer in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers when they traded him to Memphis in the summer of 2009. Randolph was averaging 20.9 points, more than Elton Brand or Danny Manning, but the Clippers had just drafted an aerial acrobat from Oklahoma named Blake Griffin and he happened to play the same position. The Clippers billed Griffin as their power forward of the future. They couldn't have Randolph in his way.
While this spring shined unflattering light on the restrictions players often face in trying to switch programs, the annual coaching carousel showed once again that coaches' freedom to move remains unfettered. This year's carousel wasn't packed with big-name openings, but there was still a significant amount of intrigue generated as men cashed in on NCAA tournament success and conference realignment continued to exert pressure on straggling programs.
Thursday brought the news that Indiana and Kentucky couldn't agree to terms on continuing their nonconference series, and a nation of basketball fans will be denied a probable matchup of top-five teams next season. It doesn't really matter who's to blame -- Should Kentucky have backed down on an insistence on neutral sites? Should Indiana not have pulled the plug on discussions so abruptly? -- because, in a vacuum, each program should operate in what it believes to be its own best interests. At some point, though, people are going to have to start taking a hard and collective look at the good of the game at large, and petty me-first schedule conflicts like this are a big part of the problem.
The 2011-12 chapter of Kentucky basketball closed on April 17, when all five of its starters appeared at a joint press conference in matching blue polo shirts, and announced they were turning pro. The only player comment that drew a rise out of coach John Calipari, who was sitting among them in a black suit, came from Anthony Davis, the 6-foot-11 freshman who was the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player and also swept every national player of the year award. When Davis humbly thanked the coaching staff for "helping me become the great player that I am," Calipari interjected and said, half-incredulously, "Did you just say 'the great player that I am?'"
The Atlantic 10 is a better basketball conference than the Horizon League. The A-10 has more history and more prestige. It has more talent and is on national television more often. It can send four teams to the NCAA tournament in a year where the Horizon sends one, thus generating more revenue; and the A-10's athletic departments, on the whole, spend more money on basketball. If you're a Horizon League team that gets a chance to join the A-10, as Butler did on Wednesday, you take it. It makes too much sense.
When Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, Perry Jones of Baylor and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina surprised the NBA world by staying in college a year ago, the already-building buzz about the 2012 draft only grew louder.
Riding the bus back from the Bobcats' shootaround in Orlando Tuesday, Kemba Walker sounded markedly glum. He was reflecting on his rookie season in Charlotte -- one in which he averaged 12.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds -- and spoke tersely about what he'll remember most from his first-year experience.
Day 1 of SI.com's inaugural Data-Based Coaching Awards was a success on most fronts: The awards show, on an obscure cable network, received respectable enough ratings to get carried for a second day, and the winners seemed happy -- other than the parts where John Calipari kept refusing to admit that it meant anything to him, even though he won in three of eight categories. Players-first, not numbers-first, he kept saying. Oh well. We move on.
How mainstream has efficiency become? In the press conference following the national championship game, Kentucky coach John Calipari searched for words to validate that his team had won on more than talent alone. He chose these: "We were the best team this season. We were the best team. The most efficient team. We shared the ball."
Pat Summitt is no longer the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin's curious answer said plenty about his defensive mindset, if only because the question -- "So how do you see the second season so far?" -- was so generic and non-threatening.
With a swirl of confetti below them and DJ Khaled's megahit "All I Do Is Win" blaring from a loudspeaker above, the Baylor women's basketball team danced on the floor of the Pepsi Center in the moments following its 81-60 title game victory over Notre Dame. The lyrics of the song ("All I do is win, win, win no matter what") were fitting: Baylor is the first college basketball team in NCAA history, male or female, to finish a season 40-0.
How far will a college go to win the NCAA tournament? And why do so few athletes graduate from college?
The University of Connecticut men's basketball team cannot compete for next year's national championship after the NCAA denied the school's appeal of a postseason ban based on its athletes' academic performance.
NEW ORLEANS -- During a discussion last week at Tulane's law school covering the hot topics in college sports, a student asked a great question of a panel that included Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden, NCAA associate director of enforcement Renee Gomila and attorney Timothy Epstein.
DENVER -- The game has never seen anything like her. The 88-inch wingspan, hands as soft as a lullaby, and an above-the-rim athleticism that seems more video game than reality.
In their infinite wisdom, the doubters got to thinking that the title was the fluke. That the 2008 championship was great, sure -- beating John Calipari and Derrick Rose, and all that -- but that it was just one exception in a half-dozen years of Bill Self's Jayhawks being the NCAA tournament's most obedient Goliath. Who could forget the loss to 14th-seeded Bucknell in the first round in 2005? And then 13th-seeded Bradley in the first round again in 2006? And ninth-seeded Northern Iowa in the second round in 2010? And 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the Elite Eight in '11?
NEW ORLEANS -- From the front row of the Superdome, right as Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville Final Four game went to halftime, former Kansas and NBA coach Larry Brown made eye contact with a sportswriter he knew on press row. They proceeded to have an easily interpreted conversation using just their hands.
NEW ORLEANS. -- Jordan Juenemann remembers the last time Bill Self and John Calipari met with the national title at stake. Now a Kansas senior, Juenemann was just another Jayhawk fan in 2008, proud owner of a basketball signed by the whole team. He was in his Hays, Kan., house with his family, nerve-wracked as Kansas trailed by nine late in the contest, a championship seeming to have slipped away.
The University of Kansas men's basketball team squeaked by Ohio State late Saturday night, setting up an an NCAA tournament championship showdown with top-seeded Kentucky.
The University of Kansas men's basketball team squeaked by Ohio State late Saturday night, setting up a NCAA tournament championship showdown with top-seeded Kentucky.
NEW ORLEANS -- With his team having rallied from a 13-point deficit, to reclaim the lead with less than three minutes remaining, Jeff Withey believed for a brief moment he'd just sealed a victory. With 27 seconds remaining in Kansas' national semifinal matchup with Ohio State, the 7-footer caught a pass in the lane, strode forward and finished an easy lay-up that would put his team up by at least a five-point margin. The Jayhawks' contingent of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd went nuts and a whistle blew, indicating a possible and-one. He roared with satisfaction.
NEW ORLEANS -- The facade finally cracked Saturday.
DENVER -- Four No. 1 seeds, but no reigning national champion among them. Powerhouse programs -- all have won a national championship -- that are hungry. Coaches who are considered the best in the business. A player who has revolutionized the game.
Rick Pitino and John Calipari hate each other. Now that I have that out of the way, let's talk about the Final Four.
NEW ORLEANS -- Technically, it is called the Final Four, but a more appropriate title would be Kentucky and the Three Hopefuls. There is simply no doubting the overriding storyline heading into college basketball's culminating weekend. Beating the Big Blue in the Big Easy is going to be very, very hard.
This week, The Associated Press named Jared Sullinger a first-team All-America. Sullinger received the honor last year, too. So I guess the critics are right: He did not improve.
ST. LOUIS -- While watching Florida's Sweet 16 win over Marquette at a local watering hole in St. Louis Thursday, a fellow writer posed the following question to the group: If you were an athletic director with a huge budget, which coach would you hire: Florida's Billy Donovan or Kansas' Bill Self?
ATLANTA -- Maybe he had grown tired of finding new ways to answer the same questions. Or maybe John Calipari was a little loopy because it was past 1 a.m. and he had just endured one of his most stressful victories this season. Whatever the reason, the Kentucky coach opened a window into his mind. He dropped the coachspeak and talked frankly about what it's like to coach the most talented team in the NCAA Tournament.
ST. LOUIS -- It started out exactly like a game between a No. 1 seed and a No. 13 seed should. Bigger, stronger North Carolina asserted its dominance over smallish Ohio. The Tar Heels jumped to a 26-11 lead. The Bobcats missed 10 of their first 12 shots.
If you were to survey all the sporting events in which nobody died or was paralyzed, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better example of mass post-traumatic stress disorder than Big Blue Nation in the aftermath of Kentucky's 1992 NCAA East Regional final loss to Duke.
Crazy upsets? Freak injuries? Dramatic comebacks? What else could happen?
1. Four No. 1 seeds advance: For just the seventh time since 2000, all four No. 1 seeds advanced out of the first weekend of the tournament. Last season, No. 8 seed Butler upset Pitt in the round of 32 thanks to a last-second free throw from Matt Howard. In 2010, it was Ali Farokhmanesh hitting a big three to lead No. 9 Northern Iowa to an upset of Kansas.
The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is about upsets, buzzer-beaters and TV cameras finding players' moms in the stands. The second weekend is about finding the true championship contenders and TV cameras finding coaches' wives in the stands. So now that we have applauded the Lehigh Engineers for performing a Krzyzewskectomy on the tournament, let's get to the top order of business: Making sure the best team doesn't win.
At a regional site during the 2008 NCAA tournament, I sat at a table with an assistant basketball coach at a school in a BCS conference. The assistant had been in on some high-profile recruitments, so he understood what goes on at the top of the recruiting food chain.
Plenty of intriguing themes figured to gather with the teams dancing in St. Louis: the Ohio Bobcats want to become the latest mid-major long shot to reach the Final Four; North Carolina State is making the most of its first NCAA appearance in six years; Kansas survived Purdue's upset bid to advance to its fifth Sweet 16 in the same span; and of course, there's the inevitable "Roy Williams left Kansas" angle. All of that was pushed to the background, however, with 10:56 left in top-seeded North Carolina's win Sunday over Creighton.
OMAHA, Neb. -- During the final TV timeout, John Pelphrey leaned forward and tapped a reporter on the shoulder. "What are they shooting?" he wanted to know, they being the Spartans of Norfolk State. Pelphrey was sitting courtside to scout Florida's next opponent. He'd been scribbling notes -- and sure, probably concentrating on No. 2 Missouri. But like everyone else, the Florida assistant coach was suddenly swept up in what he was seeing. The 15th-seeded Spartans led Mizzou by four. At that point, they'd hit five of six three-point attempts in the second half. But maybe more important than the statistics, they'd had an answer for everything the higher-seeded Tigers threw at them.
The 2012 NCAA tournament is finally here, and with it the endless speculation that accompanies each bracket. The 68-team field has been dissected from every angle, and the hunger for information is insatiable. Can Kentucky defend its top overall ranking? Can UNC recover from an injury to John Henson?
It's nice that every NCAA tournament team is given a clean slate, by which I mean the ad-free courts, which provide temporary relief from the eye-ache of the conference tournaments, whose floors were covered in stickers like steamer trunks from the Golden Age of Travel, or possibly the Golden Age of Traveling (a violation abetted by the stickers themselves, which are slippery as new ice).
Is your brain scrambled from trying to decipher all those names and all those seeds and all those brackets? Fear not. Your resident Hoop Thinker has arrived in the nick of time. Let's take a spin through the four regions and see what comes to mind.
We like to say there are no sure things in the NCAA tournament, but of course there are. As you watch a game while pretending to work, somebody will hit a ridiculous shot that blows your cover. You will fall in love with a player because of his name. (My favorite: Long Beach State's Peter Pappageorge.) When the afternoon games start on St. Patrick's Day, Budweiser stock will rise six percent. You will cheer against John Calipari because it makes you feel patriotic.
Dozens of teams to choose from, brackets, office pools. Why are we all so obsessed with March Madness? Let us explain.
President Barack Obama, a well-known basketball fan, will treat British Prime Minister David Cameron to a little March Madness Tuesday as the two head to Ohio to catch an NCAA men's tournament basketball game.
Say the name out loud three times.
When he heard a pair of familiar voices speaking some unfamiliar language early in last year's NCAA tournament, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus sensed something interesting was happening on his network. "I thought we had some magic when in a space of a fairly short period Marv Albert did a promotion for the Masters and Augusta National, and then shortly thereafter, Jim Nantz did one for 'Hardcore Pawn,' said McManus. "And I have never heard Jim Nantz say three words so slowly."
I used to consider myself a reasonably qualified expert at filling out NCAA brackets. While I rarely won an office pool (only your co-worker's buddy's nephew is allowed to win the office pool), I usually held my own, particularly in identifying early-round upsets. It wasn't a case of in-depth knowledge about the actual participants as much as applying lessons learned from previous tournaments. I favored teams that won big nonconference games and finished strong. I shied away from wildly inconsistent clubs. I looked for unsung mid-majors heavy on seniors or blessed with capable big men. You wouldn't want take my picks to Vegas, but you would be surprised just how many purported stunners I saw coming.
State Of The No. 1: North Carolina
State Of The No. 1: Michigan State
ATLANTA -- Five things we learned from the ACC Tournament:
This is the time of the year when everyone can channel their inner Dick Vitale. Just make sure not to startle your co-workers if you start yelling, "Awesome, baby!"
The NCAA says it has contacted the FBI after point-shaving allegations were lodged against Auburn University's men's basketball program.
My alma mater, Northwestern, is on the bubble. You already know this, just as you already know that Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament, largely because every sports media outlet seems to be overflowing with Northwestern alums like myself who can't stop talking about it.
Bruce Weber is about to get fired. It is not a tragedy. He has made a lot of money to coach a game, and now some other coach will get paid a lot of money to coach. But there is something sad about Weber's demise (and if you're watching closely, demise is not too strong a word), something that goes beyond Weber or the job he has done with the Illinois basketball program.
The Knicks' Jeremy Lin has burst onto the scene to become an international phenomenon. His stunning rise from undrafted, twice-cut NBA point guard to the toast of New York has spawned a wave of coverage that continues unabated. For the latest news, commentary and tidbits about Lin from across the Web, check back here daily for regular updates.
Here are five quick thoughts on No. 6 North Carolina's 88-70 win over No. 4 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday evening, one that saw the Tar Heels clinch the ACC's regular season title.
The Buckeyes were pretty much the overwhelming choice to be the dominant team in the Big Ten Conference this season.
BOSTON -- How could the Celtics ever justify trading Rajon Rondo after he produced an outrageous triple-double of 20 assists, 18 points and 17 rebounds?
Here's a quick roundup of Saturday's slate of college hoops:
You are a hardcore college basketball fan. You don't want palaver and platitudes, clichés and coachspeak. You want to know what people who are in the know really know. You want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the hardcore truth.
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Fury fuels the noise among the Kentucky blue-clad masses whenever a call goes against the home team. The uproar is a mixture of pride and desire, cascading from the furthest reaches of cavernous Rupp Arena. To understand Wildcat basketball is to have your ears ring courtside when 23,000 faithful believe their beloved team has been wronged.
Of the many famous bubbles the world has seen, from Housing Bubble to Dot-Com Bubble to Stock Market Bubble -- from Bubbles the Chimp to Seinfeld's Bubble Boy -- none has had the strange charisma or single-name star power of The Bubble, a fickle mistress still tormenting athletes well into its sixth decade.
A few things I believe to be true about the NCAA tournament: Point guards matter, and it's more important to have a steady one than a flashy one. Games get played even more in half-court settings, deflating the number of possessions. Because it's a single-elimination setting, the significance of every possession is amplified. A handful of sloppy possessions can bring an early end to a good team's season. Turnovers matter.
WASHINGTON -- The reaction du jour from the debacle that was No. 20 Notre Dame's performance at No. 11 Georgetown on Monday night, a 59-41 loss in which the Irish had their lowest scoring output since 1983, is going to be to write off the Fighting Irish.
Here are a few thoughts from Saturday's slate of college hoops:
Since New Mexico entered the rankings for the first time this week (No. 18 AP, No. 21 coaches), it's appropriate to begin this week's mailbag with a blast from the past regarding the Lobos' coach:
Here's a look at a few notable contests from an eventful Tuesday in college hoops:
With Selection Sunday just three weeks away, the mythical eye test will start rearing its ugly head as experts (and, of course, the NCAA selection committee) determine exactly who the 37 "best" at-large teams are for the NCAA Tournament.
Here's a quick rundown of Saturday's slate of college hoops:
Well now, that didn't take long, did it?
In the last week, Jeremy Lin has gone from an unknown professional basketball player struggling to get time on court to an overnight sporting and media sensation. CNN takes a closer look at the first U.S.-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, and how he's becoming more popular with every game.
Sports business analyst Rick Horrow tells CNN's Anna Coren how Lin's popularity has skyrocketed from dolls to T-shirts.
Today is a landmark day at the University of Connecticut, where the school's president, Susan Herbst, announced that she has hired a new athletic director. He is Warde Manuel, a 43-year-old former football player at the University of Michigan who spent the last six years serving as the AD at the University of Buffalo. Manuel replaces not only Jeff Hathaway, who was forced out of the position last summer, but also Paul Pendergast, who had served as an interim AD while Herbst conducted her search.
Here's a look at the highs and lows of Saturday's slate of college hoops:
I missed on Jeremy Lin, too. And like the front offices and coaching staffs of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, I'm kicking myself for not realizing what was right under my nose. The truth is, I had a better look, or at least a longer look, at him than any NBA talent evaluator, and I still never dreamed that Lin, the New York Knicks' suddenly brilliant point guard, would go from garbage time to prime time faster than a crossover dribble.
As the final eight seconds ticked off during his team's home game against Memphis on Feb. 1, Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy was overcome by an ominous feeling. Last season, the Golden Eagles lost three games on buzzer-beating three-pointers. Three weeks before, Southern Miss had a chance to win at Memphis, but sophomore guard Cedric Jenkins missed a potential game-winner with three seconds left. Eustachy's teams had played Memphis 17 times during his seven-plus seasons in Hattiesburg. They had lost every one.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Scoop Jardine sat on a couch in the Syracuse locker room. In one of the best games of the college basketball season, his Syracuse team had just beaten Georgetown 64-61 in overtime and Jardine had changed into a shirt that may be a collector's item someday. Like, in three months.
College basketball's most delightfully confounding story rolled on Saturday night, as Missouri used a game-ending 11-0 run -- and at least one dubious charging call -- to beat back arch rival Kansas, 74-71. The victory moves Missouri back into a tie for first-place in the Big 12 and inches head coach Frank Haith another step closer to possible national coach of the year recognition.
As college basketball teams across the country ready themselves for the stretch run, a certain reality is beginning to set in:
A few thoughts on Saturday's crop of college hoops:
The NCAA's national coordinator of officials for mens basketball fired off a scathing memo on Thursday urging referees across the country to do a better job of enforcing sportsmanship rules.
MILWAUKEE -- Almost one year ago, while Butler was in the throes of a three-game Horizon League losing streak, having fallen to 14-9 overall and not looking much like NCAA tournament material, the Bulldogs sat in a locker room after falling to Youngstown State and started being honest with themselves. They'd deviated from their old defensive ways. Coach Brad Stevens told his team, "I've got to get better"; senior guard Zach Hahn told him, "No, we've got to get better," and the rest of the Bulldogs followed suit, vowing to plot a course back to the NCAAs. You know what happened after that -- the 14 straight wins, the trip back to the national title game. Butler proved quite adept at self-diagnosing its problems, and then solving them.
The undefeated Murray State Racers were confronted with a most precarious predicament last Wednesday night. They trailed by nine points with just under 13 minutes remaining in their game at Morehead State. The 6,000-plus fans who packed Ellis T. Johnson Arena stood on their feet, anticipating their team was about to hand its Ohio Valley Conference rival their first loss.
A few thoughts on Saturday's crop of college hoops:
The most unexpected trade on draft night is turning out to be a win-win for San Antonio and Indiana.
Here's a roundup of Saturday's upset-laden day of college basketball:
Picking All-Americas is relatively easy; you just select the best players, who most often come from the best teams. Choosing a coach of the year is more difficult, as one must consider candidates from multiple standpoints -- how good is their team, how much has it exceeded preseason expectations (from polls and statistical projections), and how responsible is the coach for building that team? To ignore the recruiting and talent-evaluation processes that went into assembling contenders would be silly; getting players, in college hoops, is half the battle.
Are we already at the midway point of the 2011-12 college basketball season? Are those seed lines and brackets coming into view? Before we ready ourselves for the home stretch to March Madness, here are my awards for the best and worst -- and everything in between -- from the first half of the season.
LOS ANGELES -- A late-night family dinner was just what Chris Paul needed. At least here he knew the support was universal, the love always there as long as his wife, son, parents and brother were on hand on the 11th floor of the downtown Cooper building. The menu would be inspired by his North Carolina upbringing, the chef preparing more than one kind of fried chicken (buttermilk and Southern) to go with homemade macaroni and cheese, pork sandwiches and a variety of other home-cooking delights.
Like most of you who live and breathe college football, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling sleep-deprived and a little bit depressed. As I wrote Monday night, Alabama's title-game performance was incredibly impressive, but the end-result made for an utterly unsatisfying season. Meanwhile, TV ratings were down for four of the five BCS bowls. Attendance was down across the board. And worst of all, after covering eight quarters and an overtime of Alabama-LSU field-goals, I was stuck in a crowded Superdome tunnel waiting to get on to the field when Trent Richardson finally scored a touchdown.