While watching the fourth quarter of the Hawks/Bucks closeout Game 7 on ABC, I couldn’t help but be pleased when I heard the national broadcast team of Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown speak so glowingly about the UCLA basketball program. Bucks second year forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had tipped a ball out of bounds while going for an offensive rebound when Tirico started talking about him and the UCLA program. After the ensuing Hawks’ offensive possession, Mbah a Moute grabbed the defensive rebound, ran the floor, and was fouled going up for a layup. While he was at the free throw line, Tirico took the time to continue his praise of UCLA and the volume of quality NBA players they’ve produced recently under coach Ben Howland. Former coach and current analyst Hubie Brown also joined in on the action. Here’s how their exchange went:
John Calipari managed to resurrect some of the winning ways Kentucky has come to be known for when he came to the Wildcats from Memphis. One thing he doesn’t seem to have done is stimulate his players to perform as well in the classroom as they did on the court. According to KentuckySports.com — via Sports By Brooks live — his players posted a GPA of 2.025, the lowest of the 20 University of Kentucky athletic teams. It is also the lowest for the Kentucky men’s team since 2002 and worst of the nine SEC schools that were willing to provide their team GPAs to the public.
When taking into account the Derrick Rose SAT cheating incident at Memphis, Calipari doesn’t exactly have a clean track record regarding academic issues and his players. While it should be noted that freshman-phenom John Wall had all As and Bs during the fall semester — as Calipari pointed out in December — the fact that Kentucky had so many one-and-done freshmen almost certainly contributed to the low team GPA. Four of the five Wildcats who entered the NBA draft were freshmen and two players posted GPAs below the minimum requirement for eligibility, which is 1.8. However, that minimum requirement only comes into play at the start of an athlete’s second year, so it’s safe to assume if those two were eligible to play, they were first year players.
Considering the four freshmen who declared were probably more concerned with their NBA futures than their midterms, they were probably about as bored in the classroom as Calipari is with the press conference in the picture above. Am I saying this is all a huge deal for the Wildcats men’s basketball program? Hardly, as I’m sure classroom performance is an issue with plenty of major athletic programs. However, given some of the issues Calipari has had with these things in the past, it isn’t exactly the best reflection on him as a coach.
I mean that in the most literal sense possible. UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero doubles as the NCAA Selection Committee Chairman and he was the one who handed Duke and their coach Mike Krzyzewski the championship trophy for winning the NCAA tournament. See:
As commenter J.S. has pointed out, the NCAA tournament doesn’t necessarily yield the best team in the country but rather the tournament champion. I still believe Kansas and Kentucky were the two top teams in the country and that they would have met in a championship had there been a double-elimination format or seven game series. Both those teams made early exits from the tourney and now we recognize Duke as the national champion for the fourth time. Moreover, coach Mike Krzyzewski is now in a class with Adolph Rupp and John Wooden as the only coaches with more than three titles (Wooden has 10, Rupp four).
One of the most discussed moments of the 2010 NCAA tournament was not even a basketball play. During the Duke/West Virginia Final Four game, Mountaineers senior winger Da’Sean Butler slashed to the hoop on a drive but banged knees with Duke monster center Brian Zoubek. Butler dropped to the floor immediately, writhing and screaming in pain; doctor’s later determined he tore his ACL and sprained his MCL. The significant moment came when coach Bob Huggins consoled Butler in a loving father/son way that emotionally touched most viewers. In a halftime interview on CBS during the championship game, Butler explained what was said during that moment:
Butler shared some of the most touching words I’ve heard come from a collegiate basketball player (transcription below in case you can’t watch). Think about what kind of character and heart Butler has to apologize to his coach during a painful and agonizing moment. I’m struck by Butler’s selfless and inspiring attitude. In an age of one-and-dones, Da’Sean Butler serves as a perfect example of players doing things the right way. Butler stayed in school all four years and emerged as a true leader both on and off the floor. He hit game-winning shots in two of three games in the Big East tournament and helped West Virginia knock off Kentucky in the Elite Eight with a strong three-point shooting night. With the type of team-first attitude and high character Butler displayed, I’m confident his knee injury won’t keep him down.
Here’s some of what Butler said in case you couldn’t watch the video:
Were the four West Virginia supporters huddled in primo seats behind the Butler bench. They jumped off the screen every time the action moved down the court because they simply did not belong. How could you miss those out of place yellow shirts?
Those West Virginia fans serve as a reminder that the Final Four (and all tournament sites) involve fans of four teams, not two. Most of us have been on both sides of the situation. My favorite memory was the bitter Gonzaga fan sitting in front of me for the UCLA/Memphis regional final back in ’06, two days after the Bruins launched a miracle comeback and left Adam Morrison crying. My worst memory was the money down the drain for the ’08 championship game after UCLA lost to Memphis at the Final Four in San Antonio. It always sucks to be on the losing end of the first game but at least the fans get a second game to mitigate the disappointment.
I am not above spewing venom upon a disliked subject here at LBS or my radio show. There’s no confusion about that. I also can admit when I’ve crossed the line in going too far ridiculing a given subject. When I picked on Duke recently, I focused my disgust with the favoritism given to them in tournament seeding and favorable officiating — complaints that seem quite legitimate. The Indianapolis Star however crossed the line by printing a cover of their newspaper that included a picture of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski with doodles all over his face. The drawing also had horns and a bullseye on Coach K’s face. Here’s a picture of the cover via Jimmy Traina at SI Extra Mustard’s Hot Clicks:
Coach K called the cover “juvenile.” Amateur was the word that came to my mind so obviously we’re on the same page. Putting together a guide for fans on hating Duke based on complaints that they’re on TV more frequently than any team, favored by the selection committee, or favored by media members is legitimate. Drawing horns on Coach K’s head like he’s the devil is just juvenile, even if it’s a joke. There are other, better ways of getting across your message.
Indy Star ticks off Mike Krzyzewski [SI Extra Mustard Hot Clicks]
Almost every sports fan I know gets excited when they flip their calender from Feburary to March and realizes that March Madness is just a few weeks away. Even though this year’s tournament isn’t even over yet, the NCAA has already started talking about the future. Nothing is set in stone, but the NCAA is looking to expand the tournament from its current 65 team field to one that included 96 teams.
I’m not quite sure what to think about this. In one way, I think that 65 teams is quite enough for this tournament. I think that it allows for some of the best basketball games to be played because you’ve got some of the best teams in the nation playing some teams who aren’t quite as good but at least put up a fight. So what would happen if the other teams were included? Would it even be fair to let some of these teams into the tournament when they might not have a very good shot? I just don’t know.
On the other hand, the expansion would be good. In the proposed format, the NCAA tournament would absorb the 32-team NIT, and that could result in some good competition for NCAA teams. Plus, inviting more teams to the Big Dance would give several more student athletes a chance for fame and the opportunity to live a dream.
I can’t seem to make up my mind about whether this would be a good thing or bad thing for the NCAA but I guess their is only one way to find out — try it. As long as the excitement of the March Madness continues, I guess it couldn’t hurt.
NCAA: 96-team field is the best fit [ESPN]