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.
LOS ANGELES -- Tex Winter stood at the podium, a broad smile masking the damage a 2009 stroke had inflicted on his mind and body. Winter was there to accept, along with Dr. Jack Ramsay, the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, an acknowledgement with a name that is self-explanatory. Yet there is one honor that continues to elude the man credited as the innovator of the triangle offense: A spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
The Early Warnings list is a New Year's tradition on SI.com, created with the intention of putting ranked teams that aren't playing adequate D on notice. Last season, not enough of them took heed: Of the eight teams then in the Associated Press' top 30 that made the list, only Oklahoma fixed its issues ... and only Oklahoma made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Michigan won one NCAA game; Boston College, Cal and Minnesota lost in the first round; and Notre Dame (which was then 13th in the poll), Baylor and Arkansas went into free-falls and missed the Dance altogether.
MANHATTAN, Kans. -- There was a class observing Kansas State's practice last Tuesday, and so, for the sake of decorum, coach Frank Martin spared junior forward Curtis Kelly of what might have been an epic reaming, instead pulling him aside afterward and informing him in hushed-but-serious tones, that the effort he'd just put forth was unacceptable. "For a guy as good as you, to have only one rebound" -- a long board that fell into his hands -- "and one basket in two hours and 45 minutes" Martin said to the 6-foot-9 transfer from UConn, "should let you know that you had no interest in practicing today."
The latest subject of our Hoops Q&A series is Kansas State's Denis Clemente, a 6-foot-1 senior guard from Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He played his first two seasons at Miami, then transferred to K-State after being dismissed from the Hurricanes in 2007. Last season he led the Wildcats in scoring (15.0 points per game) and assists (3.5 per game) as they finished 21-12 and fell just short of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Underrated: South Dakota State The Summit League champions have lost just two games this season, and one of them was to one-seed Maryland (the Jackrabbits led at the half before losing 68-56.) Otherwise the balanced, disciplined and versatile Jackrabbits have beaten everyone they've faced, including Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Gonzaga. With guards who can post up and posts who can hit the three -- six players have hit 20 or more threes this year, and as a team the Jacks make 8.2 threes a game -- the Jacks present a lot of matchup problems. "We're not a bunch of little engines that could that somehow had this miraculous season," said coach Aaron Johnston. "We have a bunch of really good players who play exceptionally well together."
What's the power of a missed call? Ask Virginia Tech, which should have had the ball down three against Duke had Jon Scheyer been called for his back-and-forth pivot/moonwalk in the final 30 seconds Saturday in Blacksburg. Instead of having a chance to tie, the Hokies went on to lose by seven, and in today's updated bracket, they are the second team left out of the field of 65.
If you needed an illustration of the Butterfly Effect as it pertains to college hoops, look no further than Saturday in the ACC. The second halves of games at Duke and Clemson may end up changing a lot about the eventual NCAA tournament bracket.
Underclassmen always impact the NFL Draft, and the league is bracing for a record number of non-senior entrants into the 2009 event. The talent at several positions, including quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback, would be significantly upgraded with an infusion of underclassmen talent.
DETROIT -- As Stephen Curry dribbled the ball down court with less than 16 seconds left, a chance for a historic NCAA tournament upset and improbable Final Four berth resting squarely on his shoulders, 57,563 Ford Field spectators watched wide-eyed in anticipation.
Tennessee takes over as the No. 1 overall seed this week while Memphis sits a spot behind the Vols. There were five other contenders -- North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, UCLA and Texas -- for the other two top spots. I went with the Tar Heels and 'Horns. The latter may come as a surprise; however, Texas has gone undefeated in February and its 19-point win over Tennessee on Nov. 24 has never looked better. Victories over the Jayhawks and Bruins don't hurt, either.
One of the biggest misconceptions about college basketball -- usually perpetrated by college football fans -- is that the regular season means nothing. Maybe in late February and early March there are some important games as teams vie for the last few NCAA tournament bids. But November? December? Meaningless.
Last year, within the span of a single season, the Big 12 witnessed the arrival and departure of arguably the most dominant freshman in college basketball history. Now everyone wants to know who will be "this year's Kevin Durant." No contradiction is seen there. Maybe one should be. We are, after all, coming off a season that saw much ink similarly spilled on "who will be this year's George Mason?" The answer, depending on one's point of view, was either "no one" or "Georgetown and/or UCLA," the Hoyas and Bruins being the scrappy underdogs who, as lowly twos, represented the lowest-seeded teams to advance to the 2007 Final Four.
Wearing a black "No. 10" Texas jersey, Vince Young received a loud ovation from the crowd at Royal-Memorial Stadium as he jogged on to the field for the coin toss prior to last Saturday's Kansas State-Texas game. Their appreciation for the 2005 Heisman runner-up likely grew that much stronger once the game kicked off.
By Monday morning college basketball's coaching carousel involved 50 teams; 46 jobs have been filled and Rick Majerus is ominously circling as a candidate for St. Louis' vacancy. While late April is the beginning of the honeymoon period for fresh hires, fans no doubt hold certain expectations for the winter: that the new coach will either breathe life into a moribund program, lift a team from major-conference mediocrity to the Final Four or maintain the school's winning tradition while somehow eclipsing his predecessor's achievements. The over-optimistic faithful would also like these things to happen immediately, if at all possible. After all, Bruce Pearl made Tennessee's turnaround look so easy ...
1. Unheralded Zach Johnson won the Masters on Sunday, holding off Tiger Woods, who never got it going in the final round and finished in a tie for second. Once again, Tiger failed to win a major in which he didn't enter the final round with the lead. Well, at least we finally know the terms of his deal with the devil.
The three-week Kentucky coaching saga can be retraced, most easily, as a series of plans. First was the Escape Plan -- Tubby Smith's pre-emptive strike that saw him relocate to the relatively pressure-free zone of the Twin Cities before the angry mob could chase him out of Lexington. Then came UK's Plan A, which was to lure favorite son Billy Donovan and his two title rings from Gainesville with a blank check and innumerable perks. This failed, as their double-ringed savior was only a tease. Plan B was to hire Rick Barnes from Texas, and this was aborted by one or both parties, as he pulled himself out of the running. On Friday, the Wildcats went through with what was apparently Plan C, inking Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie to a seven-year, $2.3 million-per deal, introducing him at a glorious pep rally and pasting his mug on two sizes of downloadable desktop wallpaper.
It's February, which means the 'Bag has reached the point where we've been on the road long enough that we have no idea where we are in the morning when the alarm clock goes off. Yet, there are indeed benefits to so much travel, not least picking up those little nuggets that you can only learn on the road. To wit: