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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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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Whoa Was I . . .

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

WRONG . . .  

I admit it.  When I am right I say so, so I have to fess up when I am not.  And it didn’t take long to figure it out, did it?  I knew at the opening tip when Tyler Hansbrough was not going to give up on that first possession and wrestled Michigan State’s Travis Walton for the ball.  That fire led to a jump ball between the two, which the much taller Hansbrough easily won.  I thought right there that State was in for a familiar experience against this team – domination.   

The senior who came back for one reason only, to win North Carolina’s fifth National Champinship, was focused.  WATCH OUT!  Although the man they call “Psycho T” always looks focused, doesn’t he?  Almost like his eyes are going to pop out of his head . . .

Tyler Hansbrough and Beaker . . . Seperated at Birth?

Tyler Hansbrough and Beaker . . . Seperated at Birth?

TALK ABOUT A CLINIC . . . North Carolina’s first half performance was nothing short of a statement in CAPS and looked like the best half of basketball that I have ever personally laid eyes on.  The much maligned defense – that has been anything but during the tournament – forced 13 Spartan turnovers which led to 17 points.  The Tar Heels led by three touchdowns at the half, which broke a title-game record for largest margin and with 55 points, they set another record for most first half points.

But they weren’t done yet . . .

Ty Lawson induced 8 steals – a record breaking number of thefts – with 7 in the first half, and led all scorers with 21 points.    North Carolina totaled only 7 turnovers the entire game and forced Michigan State into 21 gimmes.  Can’t beat a killer transition team by giving them fast break opportunities and extra possessions . . . Just not going to happen.  

When asked how he felt about the choice he made to come back for his senior year, Hansbrough said, “Sounds like I made a pretty good decision, nothing beats this feeling right here.” 

Congratulations to Michigan State for an inspired run in the tournament and to the North Carolina Tar Heels for fulfilling preseason expectations to take it all the way, bringing the title back to Chapel Hill for the fifth time. 

And for proving me wrong . . .

Just for fun, Hansbrough’s look-a-like has a song that might give One Shining Moment a run for its money . . .

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Pitt Doesn’t Like FREE Points

Posted on March 29, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , |

Is this how Memphis fans felt last year after coming oh so close to the championship just to have Mario Chalmers make a miracle shot to send it into overtime and then take the title right out of John Calipari’s hands after he swore up and down that his players didn’t have to be good at the FREE throw line because they would always come through when the stakes were highest?  The Tigers shot 63% from the stripe while Kansas sunk 93% during that game . . .

Is it something about the Pittsburgh Panthers’ team philosophy where they have to make everything tough?  They don’t want it to come easy?  Does this team have a mental block against sinking FREE throws?  It’s not like they don’t count as much because they aren’t contested shots – they are FREE . . .

I get that this game was to reach the Final Four and not for the National title, however for Pitt’s players and fandom everywhere, it stings.  Granted, the Panthers improved on their pathetic 67.6% team average for the season by going 21 -for-29 and shooting 72.4% but that doesn’t matter when your opponent is over 95% from the FREE throw line.

Yet there Levance Fields stood with two shots to tie the game with 5.5 seconds left and he sinks them both.  Why couldn’t his  teammates have that calm, cool and collected presence at the line throughout the game? 

I said in my Elite Eight Expectations blog that these things had to happen for the Panthers to have a chance to win:

Connect on more shots – they shot 48.1% CHECK

Not turn the ball over as much – Levance Fields went turnover-less and the team had 11 total CHECK

Stay out of foul trouble – No starter had more than three personal fouls – CHECK

But I forgot to mention the damn FREE throws. 

The Panthers were better than Villanova in every one of those categories but one.  You guessed it . . . friggin FREE THROWS!

ARGGHHHH!

Samy Young Consoles Levance Fields After Pitts 78-76 Loss To Villanova

Sam Young Consoles Levance Fields After Pitt's 78-76 Loss To Villanova

I feel sad for the seniors who really had a chance this year to win the title, Tyrell Biggs, Sam Young and Levance Fields.  There’s no doubt Sam Young will go to the NBA.  Maybe Tyrell Biggs plays in Europe.  But I truly hope to see Levance Fields playing for the Association.  He is small in stature, but huge in heart and toughness.  He almost Levanced his team with more late game heroics, but this time it didn’t work out the way it usually does for Pitt. 

Turns out those FREE throws were pretty darn costly . . .

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What Happened To Notre Dame Basketball?

Posted on March 2, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , |

Hail Mary . . .

The Fighting Irish are far, far removed from a preseason #9 ranking and after a loss tonight at home to a Villanova team that was just beaten on their own home court by the faltering Georgetown Hoyas (who entered that game at 5-10 in Big East play), head coach Mike Brey needs to change his last name to pray and start doing a lot of it if ‘ol Harangody and friends think they can get into the NCAA tourney.

What are they praying for?

To win the Big East tournament.  It’s the only way they can get into the big dance.  Sad, but true.   A team that had such high expectations fell flat on their hunchbacks.   Their only win over a team that is currently ranked was against Louisville, and granted it was a 33 point beat down, however based on the entire body of work for this season, that was a FLUKE.  And it all started with a loss to lowly St. John’s.  Guess where?  Madison Square Garden. 

Notre Dame has one more regular season game at home against the very same Red Storm of St. John’s who began the Couldn’t Fight Their Way Out of a Wet Paper Bag Irish’s nightmare of a season.   Mike Brey’s squad should want revenge and then has to take their plight back to the scene of the crime, when the Big East tourney begins in New York City’s Madison Square Garden on March 10th. 

They gotta have faith . . .

Especially if they want to see former Notre Dame coach now ESPN Analyst Digger Phelps dance like this again:

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