SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The comparison question is one of the many rituals of draft season, with prospects being asked on a daily basis which current or former NBA player they most resemble.
In three weeks, the No. 1 and 2 picks in the NBA draft are likely to be Kentucky freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the faces of college hoops' first One-And-Done Champs. Their Kentucky team's legacy will be very much tied to how quickly its players left Lexington; there was so much discussion over the merits of John Calipari's one-and-done model that it was bound to be a massive deal if it actually produced a champ.
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.
BOSTON -- Like an incredible restaurant meal you once had that's never quite as good or the first kiss that never again carries that same kind of magic, Ohio State's national TV rout of Duke in late November remains the Buckeyes' unrepeatable ideal. The offense was devastating and exquisitely balanced, the defense comprehensively smothering, the lasting impression one of title-contending validation.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The clock had long since struck midnight and yet America's newest Cinderella darlings had not left the Dance. They had, however, left the ballroom, for the evening, at least. A little more than three hours after turning the NCAA tournament upside down, Lehigh's players and coaches retreated from the Greensboro Coliseum, the epicenter for one of the most stunning upsets in tourney history, to the relative calm of the Doubletree Hotel, where the two men most responsible for the Mountain Hawks' 75-70 shocker over Duke on Friday night were very much looking forward to their well-earned rewards.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The only place that was safe from the Madness Friday night may have been the tiny locker room that the Lehigh Mountain Hawks found themselves in as they awaited the tipoff of their game against Duke. Only minutes before, Norfolk State had become the fifth No. 15 seed ever to beat a No. 2 in tourney history, the first time it had happened since 2001. News of the Spartans' upset was everywhere -- except in Lehigh's locker room, where the players had no idea what had taken place out in Omaha. Head coach Brett Reed knew what had happened but he didn't mention it to his team. Instead, he wrote a message on the whiteboard that speaks just as much to his team as it does to underdogs everywhere and to all those who put their faith each March into the magical powers of the unexpected.
PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't a loss. Far from one, actually. But in the aftermath of Ohio State's 78-59 sleepwalk over Loyola (Md.) Thursday night, the Buckeyes were at a loss trying to explain why it felt like one -- and how a national title contender could be so confusingly inconsistent.
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.
State Of The No. 1: North Carolina
ATLANTA -- Five things we learned from the ACC Tournament:
ATLANTA -- The final memorable moment from a dramatic doubleheader at the ACC tournament came not in front of thousands of roaring fans with the clock running down. The Philips Arena floor saw plenty of those on Saturday, as No. 4 North Carolina snuck past NC State 69-67 and No. 17 Florida State outfought No. 6 Duke 62-59. No, this moment took place in the quiet Florida State training room about 45 minutes after Seth Curry's desperate game-tying attempt just bounced off the rim.
You've got questions, I've got answers. Here's everything you need to know to get ready for Selection Weekend.
With just days until Selection Sunday, the bigger boys get their conference tourneys underway. Here's a primer to this week's biggest conference tournament action, and how each could impact the Field of 68:
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.
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.
Championships of top 10 conferences are considered gold in terms of NCAA tournament selection, but since 2000, six teams have won at least a share of a top 10 league (in Conference RPI terms) and not made the NCAAs. The victims include 2001 Wyoming and Utah (Mountain West), 2001 Southern Mississippi (Conference USA), 2005 Miami, Ohio (MAC), 2007 Massachusetts (Atlantic 10), 2009 Creighton (Missouri Valley) and 2009 New Mexico (Mountain West).
Here are a few thoughts from Saturday's slate of college hoops:
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.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As Mike Krzyzewski walked off the floor Thursday, he allowed himself the tiniest moment of celebration. The Duke coach punctuated his team's 74-66 win at Florida State with a low, tight-to-the-body fist pump.
SI.com's Magic Eight Ball finally came back from its manufacturer this week, with a sticker declaring it repaired and a note of apology from the R&D team. Despite their best efforts -- they use some blend of Tiresian Method, divinatory tarot and a predictive algorithm -- their product failed to see Kemba and the kids coming in February. It's been calibrated and is back in working order.
While we're deep enough into league play to see the shape of the Field of 68 starting to come into focus, any "as of today" projection is going to have its quirks and flaws. There are no conference tournament upsets budgeted into the picture, which makes the at-large pool as large as possible, and more importantly, there are still schedule imbalances that will be resolved and evened out over the upcoming weeks.
It is the place where the "Air Ball" chant was invented. It is or has been home to Crazy Towel Guy, Viking Guy and Bunch of Guys. A man once distracted an opponent's free-throw shooter by rising from his seat and dancing while wearing a dark blue Speedo and nothing else. That guy became a pastor.
Doc Rivers, NBA coach, is unflappable when his team has the ball down two with the clock ticking toward zero. Doc Rivers, Duke basketball dad, is a mess. "It's tougher as a parent," Rivers said. "As a coach, at least you're involved. As a parent, you're just sitting there, and you're scared the whole game."
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- It's a glorious time to be a Duke-hater.
It's about this time every year when public overreaction becomes the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the bubble. Experts and viewers alike are certain teams are in or out -- "They're not an NCAA team!", they state authoritatively -- without actually going through a process of selecting 37 at-large teams and comparing the resume of that specific team with other realistic options.
My biggest annual complaint with BracketBusters is that the games between the best teams are set for TV purposes and/or geography rather than what most helps the teams in their quest for NCAA tournament bids. Generally speaking, the games become net losses for the mid-majors, with the losing team often being hurt (or completely KO'd) more than the winning team gains in profile cred.
As college basketball teams across the country ready themselves for the stretch run, a certain reality is beginning to set in:
Last night on Twitter, I posted the Pac-12's updated nonconference records: 1-23 against the RPI top 50 (the one is Stanford over Colorado State) and 8-41 against the top 100.
A few thoughts on Saturday's crop of college hoops:
Here's a roundup of Saturday's upset-laden day of college basketball:
As a remarkable number of at-large candidates continue to have "None" as their best win of the season, the big bubble question of the week is ... where have all the good wins gone?
Like many of you, I had a hard time watching the big Kentucky-Louisville game on New Year's Eve. Every few seconds, the game was interrupted by a tweet. Not the 140-character kind -- the kind that emanates from a referee's whistle. A total of 51 fouls were called, yielding 70 free throws. That's a lot of standing around. It was not a pretty way to ring in the new year.
You can feel it, can't you? A new year. A new belief. A new chance for your team to be this year's VCU, or this year's UConn, or this year's ... well, your team.
Bubble Watch is back! And while it's awfully early to make concrete judgments about many individual teams, there are some definitive trends from nonconference play that will significantly shape the real bracket you see in March:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Immediate question: Was Ohio State that good or was Duke that bad?
Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, affectionately known by fans and players as "Coach K," surpassed the all-time record for wins in men's major college basketball with a victory Tuesday night against Michigan State at New York's Madison Square Garden.
I am incredibly proud of Coach K's record-setting career as the winningest coach in NCAA history. I am also very proud to have been a student and athlete under him.
NEW YORK -- Mike Krzyzewski became the winningest coach in the history of men's major college basketball at 9:36 p.m. on Tuesday, when his Duke Blue Devils defeated Michigan State, 74-69, at Madison Square Garden. The achievement, however, was not sealed until a minute later, when Krzyzewski walked to the broadcast table and shared a teary embrace with the man whom he had just surpassed, Bob Knight, who had analyzed the game for ESPN. "I know a lot of people don't tell you this, Coach," Krzyzewski said. "But I love you."
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:
Most conferences would be overjoyed to have a national title favorite (North Carolina), another top-10 team (Duke) and the country's best defensive squad (Florida State). But the nation's most venerable basketball league is facing serious depth issues in 2011-12; after the aforementioned trio, there are no sure-fire NCAA tournament teams. The biggest question is not who will win the ACC -- I'd be shocked if it's not the Tar Heels -- but rather, will any sleepers emerge from the middle of the pack?
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke has the best-shooting perimeter crew in the country; I'm convinced of that. Duke could have the best backcourt in the country; I'm just not certain if that will be the case, because Duke isn't certain it will be the case. Whereas one can go to rival North Carolina this fall and see a fully formed team and know how it's going to look in games -- like last year's ACC regular-season champs but better -- the Blue Devils, with their reformulated backcourt, are a very intriguing TBD.
They were the first team in 19 years to repeat as NCAA men's basketball champions and the April 13, 1992 cover of Sports Illustrated summed up the state of Duke basketball at the time with a succinct headline:
Zen Hoop Thought: If someone realizes how immature he is, does that not make him uncommonly mature?
The last time North Carolina had this much NBA talent returning, the season was 2004-05, and there was little doubt that the ACC was the best conference in the land. UNC and Duke were both No. 1 seeds that year, as they could very well end up this March. But the ACC of seven years ago had depth. Its third powerhouse, Wake Forest, had Chris Paul at point guard and was ranked No. 1 in the nation that November. Its fourth power, Georgia Tech, had the core group back from a trip to the '04 national title game. In N.C. State it had a sleeper Sweet 16 team, led by Julius Hodge, and even on the roster of the last-place team, Florida State, there were two future NBA players, Von Wafer and Al Thornton.
One of the beauties of Twitter is its role as facilitator of instant bar-stool chatter. In this case, one of my followers (@JaredKraus) posed a very interesting question in the wake of Connecticut's incredible run to the national title: Was it the best postseason run ever?
"Kids should be going to college if at least part of what they want to do is get an education. The way it's set up on these one-and-dones. ... To me, it's a sham." -- Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- An almost perplexed smile crawled across the face of Arizona forward Derrick Williams as he walked off the court Thursday. He had sunk a 27-footer to cap the best half of any person in this NCAA tournament, but he couldn't celebrate and probably felt a little guilty about even smiling. After all, his Wildcats trailed by six.
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.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The teeth were clenched, the glare was penetrating, and then Mike Krzyzewski uttered what may turn out to be the most important words of Duke's season. "We're not playing!" Krzyzewski yelled during a timeout early in the second half of the Blue Devils' third-round game against Michigan, which had just trimmed Duke's lead to 39-35. "We're not playing! ... Keep fighting!"
He stood alone near midcourt at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, bouncing a ball and staring at the NCAA logo emblazoned on the floor. While his Duke teammates warmed up for the second half against Hampton by shooting balls at the basket, Kyrie Irving was lost in his own world, his own thoughts, visualizing what he would do in the final 20 minutes of the Blue Devils' opening game in the NCAA tournament.
Since we're in the midst of the NCAA college basketball tournament called March Madness, inquiring minds wish to know: Why do folks strongly dislike (OK, hate) the Blue Devils of Duke?
If you don't like the NCAA tournament, then don't take this the wrong way, but you're probably an America-hating socialist. The tournament is hate-proof. Even when it's bad, it's good.
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.
In 2010-11, college basketball suffered from a recession. The talent level was down across the board. (NBA execs are already lamenting the worst draft pool in years.) Injuries sidelined potential All-Americas (Duke's Kyrie Irving, Purdue's Robbie Hummel) before they could even get going. Young, but talented teams struggled to get their acts together. Coaches and referees made stupefying late-game decisions. Michigan State went 19-14 -- and still made the Dance.
Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Duke earned No. 1 seeds for the 2011 NCAA tournament.
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.
There were dramatic auto-bid snatches (hello, UALR!), one-game playoffs forced (well done, Princeton) and bid thieves subdued (the bubblers thank Butler!), and all anyone wants to talk about is ... Villanova?
Monday night's slate wasn't heavy with games, but it was with meaning for the bubble. The biggest development came in the Colonial, where Old Dominion may have saved someone an at-large spot by holding off VCU. The Rams aren't completely dead as an at-large, but it's hard to imagine their profile will hold up for another week as teams around them win extra games.
The first week of conference tournament season is for mid-major madness, and this season has obliged with a ton of regular-season champs getting trapdoored into the NIT by feisty underdogs. The second week is for the bigger boys, with seeding and selection situations sorting themselves out nationwide.
This part of the season's final week is always fun, as major-conference bubble teams sit and watch and hope smaller-conference teams don't hose them. There are fewer bid thieves than usual this season, but the next couple of days will have some tournament results worth watching:
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.
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.
Consistency and reliability are a way of life in bucolic Blacksburg, Va., in particular when it comes to Virginia Tech sports. Each fall, Hokies fans can count on coach Frank Beamer's football team to contend for an ACC title and BCS bowl berth. And each March, like clockwork, coach Seth Greenberg's hoops team gets left out of the NCAA tournament.
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.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Before our group of 20 media members and conference officials arrived at the NCAA's mock selection exercise last week, we each received a binder stocked with vital information. Among the topics covered:
In the classic 1983 film WarGames, the WOPR computer learns after numerous iterations of Global Thermonuclear War that "the best move is not to play." So when are mid-majors going to learn that lesson?
Well, then. The last thing I expected to do after Kansas State's crushing buzzer-nonbeater Saturday night at Colorado was to have to re-evaluate its NCAA tournament at-large hopes two nights later.
Every year at this time, there's moaning about how soft the bubble is. This year, though, those gripes may have merit.
DURHAM, N.C. -- We were ready to count them out. Again.
Just when it looked like the Duke-North Carolina game wouldn't have luster, the Tar Heels went on a tear and the Blue Devils floated back to Earth. North Carolina has now won 10 of its last 11 games, and it came within a Cory Joseph jumper of winning 14 out of 15. Duke, meanwhile, has won two straight since that shocking pratfall at St. John's, but that loss, combined with the lingering uncertainty over whether Kyrie Irving will return, has punctured this team's aura of invincibility.
If things are like this a month from now, I do not envy the selection committee.
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.
Here's a fun little parlor game: If the 2010-11 college basketball season were a movie, what would you call it? Open Season? Upset in the Air? Lack of True Grit? The Kids Are Not All Right? The Mid-major Strikes Back? The Hurt Locker Room? How about ... Gone With the Wins?
Five years ago, Doug Elgin and Tom Yeager were the talk of college basketball.
As St. John's pushed its lead over Duke to 66-45 eight minutes into the second half, a sold-out Madison Square Garden rose to its feet as the teams went to a television timeout. While Mike Krzyzewski tracked down the nearest referee to chastise, his slick-haired adversary on the other side of the scorer's table ran out to meet his players, arms flapping above his head to help draw the crowd even louder.
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.
On Sunday afternoon, as Butler lost to UW-Milwaukee for the second time this season, there was a lot of Twitter banter about how the Bulldogs' at-large hopes were dead. This came on the heels of Saturday night's 140-character declarations of Gonzaga's demise after the Zags dropped their second straight road game against modest opposition.
If bracket life were 100 percent objective, San Diego State would be a No. 1 seed this week. Losses by Duke and Syracuse caused a thorough re-evaluation of the top two seed lines and yielded some fairly interesting results. The chart to the right lists the 1-seed candidates in RPI order.
Five thoughts on Florida State's 66-61 upset of No. 1 Duke on Wednesday night, which was the Blue Devils' first loss since March 3, 2010 ...
The Pac-10 and SEC were expected to be somewhat down this year, but at least the pecking orders and possibilities in those two leagues are moderately clear. This year's ACC? Not so much.
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.
When you check this week's bracket, you may notice something. Like a pesky double-digit number of bids for a certain megaconference that many of you outside the Northeast think is overrated.
College basketball seasons may not fit squarely into one calendar year, but that doesn't mean 2010 didn't feature more than its fair share of compelling storylines. Here are the top 10:
Bubble Watch is back and your satisfaction is 100 percent guaranteed!
A week ago, college basketball was Duke and everyone else. Now it's just everyone else.
Our leadoff question this week comes from Steven Howard of Pittsburgh. He asks:
With the advent of the age limit for the 2006 NBA draft, commissioner David Stern got his wish: taking professional scouts out of high school gyms and ensuring America's top prospects play at least one year of college basketball.
In the aftermath of Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman's gut-wrenching two missed field goals that cost the Broncos a possible chance at a BCS championship, a friend remarked, "That's not how the movie's supposed to end."
Here are five things we learned from Duke's 84-79 win over Michigan State on Wednesday night:
Duke and Michigan State will meet at Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight in the final game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The contest lost a bit of luster after Michigan State fell to Connecticut in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational, which dropped the Spartans from No. 2 to No. 6 in the AP poll, but it is still a huge event and potential Final Four preview. Here are five key questions entering the game, plus my prediction.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was coming up on 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning when Kansas State forwards Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly stood in a hallway inside the Sprint Center, muttering to each other as they waited to enter the interview room. At that moment, Samuels and Kelly looked like a couple of Wile E. Coyotes, wondering where that pesky little Roadrunner had gone after leaving them splattered in the dust.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We haven't reached Thanksgiving yet, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 29. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
As the 2010-11 season nears tipoff, here are SI.com's three preseason All-America teams, as well as honorable mentions.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 29. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
Player of the Year: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
DURHAM, N.C. -- Before the Duke Blue Devils began practicing one day last week, their coach, Mike Krzyzewski, stood in front of his players to explain the presence of the 200 or so onlookers who would be watching the workout from the upper deck of Cameron Indoor Stadium. The visitors were executives from around the country who had paid to participate in a weekend leadership seminar that Coach K was conducting through Duke's Fuqua School of Business.