Basketball

Buying What Steve Lavin’s Selling?

Posted on March 3, 2011. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Steve Lavin.  St. John’s.  Steve Lavin.  Madison Square Garden.  St. John’s.  And back to Steve Lavin.  Because that’s where it all began for the Red Storm.  We’ve heard a lot about it, right?  You could probably recite the rhetoric and pass a sobriety test. 

“Only one other team in the country has beaten six ranked teams, Texas.  Senior, Dwight Hardy has averaged more than 25 points in his last nine games.  St. John’s will be in the tournament for the first time since 2002.  Steve Lavin has swag.  Want them backwards now?  Officer?”

Steve Lavin Coaching 'Em Up

The new coach has swag.  That’s why New York City’s unexpected favorite sons are winning . . . because they bought in.  All in.  The brand name pedigree of Steve Lavin made the more mature players in the program take notice.  Former Coach with six consecutive NCAA appearances and an overall record of 145-78 at UCLA?  As in John Wooden and Ben Howland UCLA?  Cha CHING.  And if these guys don’t remember him as a coach, they do from watching and listening to Steve Lavin as he was calling the games.  On ESPN.  Cha CHING.

So in addition to the name-dropping power of UCLA, Lavin has the additional ESPN credibility builder.  Add in the age a.k.a. maturity of the players, national coverage of the Big East and mystique of playing in the Garden.  Smack dab in the hub of America’s largest city.  Cha CHING.  Would you like a receipt?  Sounds like a sell to me.  And if you’re still not sure:

Success-starved New York City basketball fans will adore you.

Fans of Big East detractors will adore you too.  America loves the underdog.

You want an opportunity to catch the eye of the Association?  Hello ESPN.

As seniors, this is it.  Not only is it your last chance to impress NBA scouts, it is your last journey wearing that uniform.

WHO’S WITH ME!

Notice that’s not a question.  Because there is NO QUESTION that the AD of St. John’s made the ideal choice.  Even though the program has the 7th most wins in NCAA history (bet you didn’t know that), St. John’s has not been regarded as a top level coaching job lately and their recent history has been anything but pretty:
 

  • Norm Roberts: 32-70 in Big East play, 81-101 overall, one NIT appearance where they were ousted in the first round in 2010.
     
  • Kevin Clark: Named interim coach in 2003 after Mike Jarvis was fired.  His only season was the worst in Red Storm history, 6-21 overall and 1-15 in Big East play, and was highlighted by an on-the-road team sex scandal resulting in school suspensions, expulsions and players kicked off the team.
  • Mike Jarvis: Although he had some success with an overall record of 110-61 and several postseason runs, his coaching staff reportedly paid players, leading to a forfeiting of 43 wins during his time, including the 2002 NCAA appearance and the 2003 NIT Championship.  He was fired amidst these off-the-court scandals.  A black eye on the program.  

Enter former UCLA Head Coach and ESPN Analyst, Steve Lavin. 

Can I bag that up for you?

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Hey Final Four! Where’s The Sexy?

Posted on April 2, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Final Four Weekend Is Here!  Who’s excited?  Anyone?  Going once . . . going twice . . . I’m not buying into the hype of NCAA’s main event this year either.  Unless you are a fan of Duke, Michigan State, WVU, or Butler, you probably aren’t planning your Easter weekend around college basketball.

Why?  There’s No SEXY:  If you love defense and inside play, then you will disagree, but if you lust after the fast paced, up and down the floor, gimme an alley-oop transition game, you won’t get it here.  You’ll get gritty work on the boards and nasty loose ball battles.   Here’s a rundown of each semi-final game:

Butler Bulldogs vs Michigan State Spartans:  The supposed undercard of the two games on Saturday is a matchup between the ambitious young gun leader and the unflappable final four mastermind . . . who wins?  Butler coach, Brad Stevens, doesn’t even look old enough to shave let alone lead a team to the Final Four.  Yet in just his third year at the helm, he has.   Ranked 6th in the country in defensive efficiency, the Bulldogs are riding a 24 game win streak and have to be confident heading into their first Final Four in school history.  But there’s one question . . . 

Is being close to home an advantage?  Not always.  Distractions are aplenty and players can fall victim to the HEY, AT LEAST WE MADE IT mentality and lose focus on accomplishing what you set out the season to do.  Not just get to the Final Four, but win the National Championship.  

It’s been well documented that Tom Izzo has gotten to the Final Four at a break neck clip.  To get to college basketball’s promised land six out of twelve seasons is remarkable.  But he’s only taken home one title.  So there’s plenty of motivation for Sparty to excel in Indianapolis and at the same time, there’s none of the pressure.  The loss of Kalin Lucas has brought this squad together as a team and as long as Korie Lucious takes care of the ball, they have a shot.  

Duke Blue Devils vs West Virginia Mountaineers:  The perceived elitists take on the perceived hillbillies . . . both with historically sucessful head coaches, this is the Final Four’s main event.  Bob Huggins is quickly becoming a legend in Mountaineer country and would cement his hero status with a National Championship for his hometown. 

Coach K is already an icon and would bookend this decade with titles if his Blue Devils went all the way, giving him four total (1991, 1992, 2001).   This will be a surprisingly physical match up, with the play in the paint the deciding factor.  

Rebounding will be huge and both of these teams rank in the top ten nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.  A less than stellar shooting team in the tournament, West Virginia relies on second and third chances for a big part of their offense.  Duke has a reputation to be a finesse team, but this year they have a sneaky good, physical, defense.  Although when spread out, they can be driven on.  If the Mountaineers game plan to drive into the lane, they can get to the foul line for some easy points,.  Overall, boxing out and rebounding will win this game.  

You would think the focus on defense and rebounding would lend itself to a Big East/Big Ten tempo . . . and even though Butler and Duke can hang with the physical play, you’d be right.  That’s why I pick West Virginia and Michigan State to win close, need to get a lucky bounce here and there type games and advance to the finals.

What do you think?

P.S.  Using the term “sexy” when talking basketball reminds me of one of the funniest Will Ferrell moments EVER.  Here it is for your laughing pleasure:

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What A QUACK . . .

Posted on March 31, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Why won’t money just SHUT UP already? 

Stop talking.  Let the foreign to the sports world concepts of loyalty and finishing what you started, have a say every once in a while, will ya?

Cross your fingers that money was mum Pitt basketball fans.  A 3:30pm press conference has just been called amid rumors of head coach Jamie Dixon being wooed by Oregon University and their chief athletic supporter, Daddy Big Bucks, Phil Knight, the owner of Nike.  Which will confirm one of two things:

A)  Money wasn’t talking, it was SCREAMING at Dixon.  It’s like the drunk heckler in the bleachers that wouldn’t quit yelling at the left fielder.  After a while, he just couldn’t ignore it any longer and took the job.

B)  Pitt wants to put all the Dixon to be a Duck chatter to rest, so they are announcing an extension and a raise to go along with it.   

The word on the street is that the latter is true, thanks to The Angry Fan for keeping me updated.  But do we ever know until we know?  Nick Saban or Ben Howland, anyone?

My personal opinion, which I know you are all waiting for, is that Jamie Dixon would be nuts to go to Eugene.  Who wants to live in a place that is named Eugene?  Doesn’t it sound like a nerdy dork city?  Actually, Pittsburgh sounds like well, the pits, I guess.  So I take that back.  Kinda . . .

No offense, Ducks fans, but what does the Oregon program have to offer besides money? 

Great facilities? Sure there’s the new $200 million Matthew Knight Arena.  But Pitt has the relatively new Peterson Events Center, which has been called one of the toughest places to play in the country because of the Oakland Zoo student section.

Competition?  The Pac-10 was a conference of cinders compared with the five alarm fire that blazed through the Big

Jamie Dixon Should Tell Oregon Where They Can Stick Their Millions . . .

 East.  Why leave arguably the best conference in the sport?

Talent?  Oregon finished 8th in the afore mentioned conference of cinders.  Pitt?  2nd in the Big East.  Next season, Pitt will be returning ALL of their starters, sans Jermaine Dixon.  Plus they have two recruits in the top 150 nationally.  Oregon?  ZIPPO.  Dixon’s staff has a pipeline into the NYC talent pool, where would he recruit out in Oregon? 

Cost of living?  Dixon would need to double his pay to live in Eugene.  The median home price is $225,890 with total cost of living 4.98% higher than the U.S. average.  Pittsburgh’s cost of living?  15.51% LOWER than the U.S. average. 

If Jamie Dixon DID leave to become an Oregon Duck, which again, I highly doubt, he would be a QUACK . . .

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Big Dance . . . Little Work . . . Random Thoughts

Posted on March 18, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, Life, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I know everyone is reading this because YOU ARE NOT WORKING. 

Don’t try to pretend like you are.  March Madness costs employers $1.8 BILLION in productivity during the first week of the tournament alone . . .  

So why swim upstream?  Everyone is doing it.  We might as well jump off the bridge too.  Here’s a few early thoughts:

‘OY WILLIAMS:  Just taking a moment to fathom how far the Tar Heels have fallen.  From National Champions of last year’s NCAA Tournament to almost getting ousted in the first round of the NIT by William & Mary.  OY.  Okay.  That’s it.  Moment’s over . . .

“Coach Dixon, how can I stop Villanova?”

ROBERT MORRIS SCARES THE WILDCAT CRAP OUT OF VILLANOVA:

Ya think Pittsburgh Panthers head coach, Jamie Dixon, gave his former assistant, now Robert Morris skipper, Mike Rice, some defensive pointers to use against Big East rival Villanova in the 2 vs. 15 seed match up this afternoon?  I do . . . 
Alas, the Colonials couldn’t hold on.  Even though they led almost the entire game during regulation, the tournament tested Villanova Wildcats hung around, and showed big time sticktoitiveness (I love that word) to win by three points in OT.  And according to my husband, it’s my fault.  Why?  I merely stated the truth.  When Villanova tied it up as the second half was winding down, I said it’s over.  If Robert Morris were to pull the upset they had to do it in regulation.  He said I jinxed them.  I said no, I’m just always right . . .  

THE LUCK ‘O THE IRISH RUNS OUT:  Notre Dame’s winning ways came to an abrupt end as Old Dominion bounced the Irish in the first round by hanging on in the waning seconds to pull the one point upset win.  That’s gotta be tough.  Mike Brey’s squad had to win their way into the big dance and barely made the cut, just to lose in an excrutiating fashion. 

The Monarchs held the second leading scorer in Notre Dame history, Luke Harangody, to just two points in his 23 minutes on the floor.  Notre Dame hardly sniffed a free throw, getting to the line only three times, and they shot a puny 23% from downtown.  When you shoot too many threes, you aren’t driving to the tin, and you’re not getting fouled.  You live by the three and die by the three.  Notre Dame just shot themselves dead . . .

More upsets and exciting finishes are happening right now!  Don’t get back to work!

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Marquette Vs Villanova: Quick Quarter Finals Preview

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

 Quick thoughts on the Big East quarter final match up between Marquette and Villanova . . .

Villanova goes as Scottie Reynolds goes

GUARDS, GUARDS & YOU GUESSED IT . . . GUARDS:   When the biggest impact guy in Marquette’s lineup is Lazar Hayward at 6-6,  and the engine that fuels Villanova’s high flying offense is 6-2 Scottie Reynolds, its going to come down to which team’s guard play wins out.  Duh . . .

Villanova swept the season series this year by a total of 4 points and they come into their third meeting of the year going in opposite directions.  Marquette has won 10 of 12 against Big East opponents and the Wildcats have lost four of their last six going 4-5 after starting 9-0 in the Big East.

The x-factor is going to be depth.  Marquette only has 8 guys that play double digit minutes while Jay Wright has an 11 player rotation for Villanova.  Will the Wildcats outlast those pesky Golden Eagles?  I think so.

Villanova wins 76-72

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Syracuse Vs Georgetown: Quick Quarter Finals Preview

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Quick thoughts on the Big East quarter final match up between Syracuse and Georgetown . . .

THE O-ZONE VS MONROE:  The story of this game, as it almost always is when Syracuse takes the court, will be

Greg Monroe is the key against Syracuse

whether or not Georgetown can beat the infamous zone defense of the Orangemen.  I fondly call it the O-ZONE.  You would think that outside shooting would be the aerosol to the o-zone, however in Syracuse’s three losses (to Pitt and twice to Louisville) the more polluting factor was the shooting efficiency inside the arc at 55%.  

Can Greg Monroe get it done in the paint?  Will Austin Freeman be hot from outside (47% from dowtown on the season)?  With Monroe, the Hoyas have a big man who can pass like a point guard, so if both he and Freeman are on their game, it’s a one two punch that might just knock out the o-zone.

BUT in Syracuse’s two game season sweep of Georgetown, Monroe had a respectable total of 28 points but just 13 rebounds while also committing 11 turnovers.   The Orange also did a good job of getting to the line for 58 attempts. 

If Georgetown isn’t foul happy and Greg Monroe is on his game, the Hoyas can pull the upset . . . will they?  Nope.

Syracuse Wins 72 – 68

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Oh How The Husky Have Fallen . . .

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Where Am I? The Twighlight Zone?

In the span of one year, the Connecticut Huskies have gone from:

Losing a classic, six overtime thriller against Syracuse in the Big East tourney to being on the wrong end of a 22 point opening round smackdown by Big East bottom feeder St. John’s.

Having a number one seed heading into the NCAA tournament and reaching the Final Four to checking the mail for an invite to the NIT

That’s quite a fall . . .

UConn had beaten the Red Storm in nine straight meetings but couldn’t make it ten. They weren’t even close.  At all. 

The tale of the tape:

The Huskies could only muster nine field goals in the first half

They racked up 20 turnovers for the game

They were 6 of 18 from the charity stripe

And their defense allowed St. John’s to shoot at a 50% clip

No wonder they lost 73-51 . . .

On the day after UConn’s women broke their own record of consecutive wins with 71 straight, the men couldn’t get it going . . .

Geno Auriemma must be embarrassed for Jim Calhoun.  With their NCAA hopes dashed – the Husky men sit back and wait for their NIT invite.  Fingers crossed . . .

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The Undefeated Trifecta Is Complete

Posted on April 8, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

With the 22 point lashing UConn gave Louisville in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Game, Geno Auriemma has led his Huskies to a THIRD undefeated season under his reign.  Not one.  Not two.  But THREE.  There are only five undefeated seasons in the history of Women’s NCAA basketball, and UConn has ownership of three of them . . .

Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball with 1002 wins under her belt at the University of Tennessee, has only one season with an unblemished record, 1998.  The other was Texas in 1986.

In addition to three seperate seasons without a loss, Auriemma has led UConn to an NCAA record streak of 70 consecutive wins and an unprecedented double digit margin of victory in ALL 39 games this year.

Geno Auriemma In A Familiar Position . . . Cutting Down The Nets

Geno Auriemma In A Familiar Position . . . Cutting Down The Nets

With five titles in the last ten years and six overall, Connecticut is second only to the eight championships Pat Summitt has brought to Tennessee.  Can you say DOMINANT?

The question is, with two programs controlling the sport, is women’s basketball weak?  Is the competition that bad?  Why are there typically no Cinderellas in the women’s tournament, like there are in the men’s?  You can bank on a handful of teams being in the final four every year.  Where’s the parody?  Where’s the challenge?

Should Geno Auriemma transition to the men’s game?  He seems to have women’s basketball on lock, why not take his game to the other chromosome?  Do you think he would be as successful?  Does he have a certain je ne sais quoi that helps him lead women to success?   

I don’t know, but I do know one thing . . . he’s good.  The king to Pat Summitt’s queen of the women’s basketball empire.

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DeJuan Blair Declares – Selfish Pitt Fan Rant . . . Sort Of

Posted on April 7, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, Life, NBA, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , |

 

DeJuan Blair

DeJuan Blair

I SUPPOSE HE’LL BE OKAY . . .

I mean, I keep trying to justify the fact that I think DeJuan Blair needs to stay another year.  My rationalization?  Saying that I don’t want him to end up like Chris Taft, who ultimately just wasn’t ready for the NBA after his sophomore year.  Blair’s story will be different though, because he’s not lazy.  The bruiser  that’s 6’7″ but plays like he’s 7’2″ will make an instant impact since he’s willing to work hard in the paint, as his 12.3 rebounds per game document very nicely.  But how much better can he get if he stays another year?

Not wanting him to declare is selfish in a way, no?  What do you think? 

It’s only because I hate the thought of losing the opportunity to watch him with the Pittsburgh Panthers for one more year.  Now not only do Levance Fields, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs leave as seniors, but the unique and powerful talent that is DeJuan Blair is following.  No “official” announcement has been made yet and according to a CBS Sports report Blair won’t be hiring an agent, however it looks like he is going to end up entering the NBA draft.

I guess that’s the price fans pay for good talent in successful programs – the risk that you may not have as much time to cheer them on and watch them develop as players.  I was ecstatic last year when I heard Sam Young was maxing out his eligibility!

Makes it a conversation about why people make the decisions they do, right?

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From the Vault… A Tribute to Jamie Dixon

Posted on April 7, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , |

In honor of University of Pittsburgh Panthers’ Jamie Dixon winning the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award, I thought I’d share a couple of gems from Dixon’s college playing days.

Levance Fields isn’t the only one who knows how to sink a game winning shot.

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