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 College Basketball:

2011 March Madness - All #1 and #2 Seeds Eliminated as #3 Connecticut vs. #4 Kentucky and #8 Butler vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth in Final 4 for the National Title

2011 March Madness - First Two Rounds in the NCAA Tournament Produces 12 Upset Losers, including #1 Pittsburgh and #2 Notre Dame

Steely Resolve Leads University of Connecticut Women to Record-Breaking Heights in College Basketball

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Dean Smith Are Like Matching Bookends

John Wooden, the World's Greatest Basketball Coach, Dies, But Leaves Us With a Legacy That Will Live Forever - His Footprint for Success Is Everlasting

John Wooden was much more than a college basketball coach. He was a mentor to young men, and a surrogate father to many young men who were raised by their mother in a single-parent home. He was a maker of champions, and, more importantly, a maker of men. He died this week after living 99 years and leaving a legacy I will never forget.

2010 March Madness - Duke Wins 2010 NCAA National Championship, 61-59, by Ending  Butler's Relentless March to Greatness

The 2010 March Madness showdown is a national championship game basketball fans will be talking about for years to come. In a classic, unexpected battle of David and Goliath, Duke ended Butler's march to greatness by winning Coach K's 4th national title, 61-59. Butler, a No. 5 seed, came into the game with a 25 game winning streak, and left creating a legendary team for the Bears from the Horizon League.

2010 March Madness - The Final Four for the 2010 NCAA Tournament - Duke, West Virginia, Butler and Michigan State

The Final Four teams to compete for the 2010 National Championship will include #1 seed Duke from the East, #2 seed West Virginia from the East, #5 seed Butler from the West, and #5 seed Michigan State from the Midwest. Read how they got there.

2010 March Madness - First Two Rounds in NCAA Tournament Produces 16 Upsets and 3 Overtime Victories

The first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA College Basketball Tournament validated what a lot of fans felt—that their favorite team could win it all. There were 16 upsets among the first 48 games and 3 overtime games as well. Get the full story on who advanced and who went home in the one-and-out tournament.

2009 March Madness - North Carolina Wins 5th National Title, 89-72, as Upstart Michigan State Falters

Coach Roy Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels started their season ranked #1 and ended their season #1 with their 5th National Championship as North Carolina easily beat #2-seeded Michigan State 89-72 in the only game that counted—the match to determine the nation's best team for the 2008-2009 season. Find out why it happened.

2009 March Madness - North Carolina's Pro Talent-Laden Team Crushes Michigan State for National Title

The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Spartan and Tar Heel faithful.

2009 March Madness - Big, Bad, Taller, Tougher Connecticut Falls to Michigan State in the Final 4, 82-73

Raymar Morgan broke out of his late-season slump with 18 points, Kalin Lucas added 21 and the smaller Michigan State Spartans ran roughshod over Hasheem Thabeet and Connecticut in an 82-73 upset in the Final Four on Saturday night in Detroit. The Spartans will face North Carolina for the National Championship game.

2009 March Madness - North Carolina Toys With Villanova and Then Sends 'Nova Home for Good, 83-69

In a classic case of men vs. boys, North Carolina never gave Villanova much chance to breathe, let alone whip up a fresh dose of Final Four magic. Ty Lawson scored 22 points, Wayne Ellington had 20 more, and the Tar Heels, with their four, five, maybe more NBA-caliber players, eased to an 83-69 win Saturday night over the plucky but overmatched Wildcats in the last Final Four game in Detroit Saturday.

2009 March Madness - Final 4 - #1 North Carolina vs. #3 Villanova, and #1 Connecticut vs. #2 Michigan State

Three of the best teams in the country—Louisville, Pittsburgh and Memphis—have something in common with the three worst teams in the country—Grambling, Alcorn State and New Jersey Tech. Players from all six will be among the other 343 Division 1-A teams watching when #1 North Carolina meets #3 Villanova and #1 Connecticut meets #2 Michigan State to vie for the right to meet in the NCAA 2009 National Championship game during March Madness in Detroit (MI). Read the full March Madness results.

2009 March Madness - Michigan State Puts a Big Whupping on No. 1 Seed Louisville at March Madness - Advances to the Final 4

Michigan State is marching on to Motown. The Spartans gave the Final Four a hometown feel, stopping overall No. 1 seed Louisville 64-52 Sunday (3-29-09) in Indianapolis to win the Midwest Regional. Goran Suton had 19 points and 10 rebounds as the No. 2-seeded Spartans (30-6) reached their 5th Final Four in 11 years—the most trips of any team in the nation during that span. Get the full story.

2009 March Madness - Izzo's Michigan State Spartans Make Sweet 16 for Eighth Time in 12 Years

There is an impressive statistic that has been building over time in East Lansing, one that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo treasures above all others. In the last 12 years, every Spartan who has stayed for 4 years has appeared in a Final Four. Thanks to an unexpected scoring binge from senior guard Travis Walton, who has yet to step on to college basketball's biggest stage, Michigan State still has a chance to keep that streak going.

2009 March Madness - Michigan State Makes Short Work of Robert Morris, Dominates 77-62

When Michigan State arrived in Minneapolis for the NCAA tournament, Raymar Morgan said he was ready to "show the world what they have been missing for a while." Those who watched the Spartans' dominating victory over Robert Morris in the first round of March Madness got a pretty good glimpse of what Morgan and the rest of the Spartans can do when they are healthy.

Three #12 Seeds Upset #5 Seeds as the NCAA March Madness Tourney Begins - All 1, 2 & 3 Seeds Advance to the Sweet 16

Fourteen top-four seeded teams made it to the Sweet 16 and three #12 seeds upset #5 seeds during the first two rounds of the 2009 NCAA Basketball Tournament March 19-22. . When you add up all 16 seeding spots, the total of 49 set a record for the lowest ever, besting the prior record of 50 set in 1989. Read all of the results now.

Meet 26 of the NCAA Basketball Conference or League Champions - Find Out Who Didn't Win

Twenty-six of 31 NCAA Basketball league or conference titles were settled Monday (3-9-09). Twenty-three teams won outright championships, 3 wound up in ties with other teams, and playoffs will decide the other 5. Among the surprises: The nation's top-ranked team did not win its conference title.

First 2 Rounds in 2008 NCAA Tournament Produce 1 Major Upset in Every 6 Games

The first two rounds of the 2008 NCAA College Basketball Tournament underscored just how far parity has come in the men's competition as at least 1 major upset occurred every 6 games (8 major upsets and 3 minor upsets in 48 games). Who was smoking hot? North Carolina and Davidson. Who was not? Duke, Georgetown, Drake, Clemson, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Southern Cal. Get results and highlights during the first two rounds here.

The Final 4 for the 2008 NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas

For the first time in the history of the NCAA National Basketball Tournament, all four No. 1 seeded teams made it safely through the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 brackets to the Final 4—UCLA, Memphis, North Carolina and Kansas. Three #1 seeds have advanced to the Final 4 only three times in NCAA history, most recently in 1999. Get the full story.

2008 March Madness Update: For Kansas Coach Bill Self, the Long Wait Is Over as His Jayhawks Outlast Memphis

The only guarantee going into the 2008 NCAA National Championship Game was that one of two very good coaches—Bill Self of Kansas or John Calipari of Memphis—would win his first national title. In the end, Bill Self, who had more NCAA tournament wins—18—without reaching the Final Four than any other active coach, would lead his Jayhawks past Memphis 75-68 in overtime to win the national championship.

Washington State Learns a Valuable Lesson: When Talent Shows Up and Plays, It's Over

Washington State's three senior leaders—shooter Derrick Low, defender Kyle Weaver and rebounder Robbie Cowgill—ended their Cougar careers on a disappointing note as North Carolina, the No. 1 East Regional seed, eliminated them 68-47 Thursday (3-27-08) in NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament play. Despite not making it to the Elite 8, the Washington State had another great season.

College Basketball 2008 - Get Ready for a Phenomenal March Madness Run This Year

Washington (13-11 on the season and 4-7 in the Pac-10 Conference) upset visiting UCLA 71-61 (20-2 and 9-2) over the weekend to highlight just how competitive the Pac-10 is this year. Going into the game, the Huskies were rated 82nd by Sagarin and UCLA 5th. Just like football this past season, parity is permeating the NCAA and bodes well for an exciting March Madness when the playoffs arrive.

College Basketball - Love Him or Hate Him, Bobby Knight Was as Much an Educator as a Coach

Count me among those who were saddened by the news that Bobby Knight had stepped down as head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. It is doubtful that any major college coach in America was as passionate, as demonstrative and as committed as Bobby Knight was to basketball and his players. Many pundits would not agree with me when I say that Knight was more interested in doing things right than in winning games, but let me make the case for the Bobby Knight haters.

College Basketball 2008 - Sagarin Ratings Provide Statistics to Indentify Overrated Top 25 Teams

The most recent weekly college basketball AP Top 25 Poll (1-18-08) and the most recent Sagarin Ratings (1-17-08) provide some clues about which teams are likely overrated. Here are 4 teams in the AP Top 25 Poll that are probably overrated and will prove it in the near future: No. 25 Villanova, No. 16 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 21 Miami (FL). Learn why in this article.

 The 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament Has 30 Million Americans Involved in Office Pools

March Madness is here. The 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament will have its day, or shall we say several days starting today (March 15) and continuing to the national championship game on April 2. Experts estimate that more than $2.5 billion (yes, billion) will be wagered this year. For those of you who are counting, that is more than was bet on the last Super Bowl, and only 4% of the $2.5 billion will be wagered "legally" in Nevada. The odds of picking a perfect bracket? It is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1.

First 2 Rounds in 2007 NCAA Tournament Produces Just 4 Real Upsets in 48 Games

The first two rounds of the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament produced just 4 real upsets in 48 games. Do not tell Duke, Notre Dame, Wisconsin or Washington State that it was a good tournament. They were all eliminated and humbled by lesser lights with Hollywood's biggest klieg lights focused on them. Duke lost a first-round game for the first time since 1996, ending the Blue Devils string of Sweet 16 appearances at 9. Only North Carolina's streak of 13 straight appearances is better.

The Final 4 for the 2007 NCAA Tourney:  Florida, Ohio State, UCLA & Georgetown

Now there are only four teams left, exactly as the statistics predicted. No more than two No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final 4 in 18 of the last 22 years and now it will be 19 of the last 23 years. And no team seeded below No. 4 has won the championship for 18 consecutive years and this year will make it 19 consecutive years. North Carolina and Kansas, both No. 1 seeds, lost to No. 2 Seed opponents. The Final 4 will be No. 1 Florida against No. 2 UCLA, and No. 1 Ohio State against No. 2 Georgetown.

Florida Becomes the First Team to Repeat as NCAA Champions Since Duke in 1992

The Florida Gators became only the seventh team in NCAA Basketball Tournament history to repeat as national champions Monday night, pushing aside Ohio State 84-75 in a game with all of the excitement of looking at an ashtray. The others were Oklahoma State (1945-46), Kentucky (1948-49), San Francisco (1955-56), Cincinnati (1961-62), UCLA (1964-65 and 1967-73) and Duke (1991-92). For the record, this was the first Final 4 in which all four finalists had 30 or more wins. It was the second Final 4 in which every team was a No. 2 seed or better. And the championship game was only the 5th pairing of No. 1 seeds.

Famous Quotes by John Wooden, the NCAA's Winningest Basketball Coach

Great coaches win games when it counts. Some coaches also make great interviews for the media writers by never shying away in victory or defeat, and giving great quotes. Even fewer have great personalities to go with their victories, and quotes that are insightful, memorable and sometimes so funny we cannot help but smile. John Wooden is one of those coaches. Here are some of his best quotes.

Coach Was Color-Blind, He Only Wanted to Know If You Could Play Basketball

Basketball Coach Don Haskins does not have to wait for his legend to happen. He was the coach at Texas Western in 1966 when his 27-1 team played Adolph Rupp's 27-1 University of Kentucky Wildcats for the NCAA title. Haskins would become the first coach in NCAA history to start an all-African American lineup when the Miners squared off against Rupp's all-white Kentucky team. Texas Western, known as UTEP today, beat Kentucky 72-65 to become the NCAA champion. February is Black History Month.

"Coach Carter" Sends an Outstanding Message About a Coach with Integrity, Honor and Goodness

Samuel L. Jackson plays Coach Ken Carter in a good sports drama with an outstanding message for today's high school basketball players who see playing with the pros as their only objective in life. Carter believes that scholarship and ethics should go hand in hand with outstanding basketball play. This is an incredible story of a coach who will not compromise his values by not compromising his integrity. Coach Carter has the guts and audacity to stand fast and right wills out in the end.

Washington Husky Basketball:

It Was Oh So Close for Washington But Purdue Advances to Sweet 16 - Brockman Gets 60th Double-Double

Purdue was teetering. Desperate Washington was roaring back. The Huskies' close-to-home crowd was screaming. And the stifling intensity that makes the NCAA tournament so popular blanketed the court. Amid all that, JaJuan Johnson stood tallest. As if on a pogo stick, Johnson blocked not 1 but 2 attempts by Washington to tie the game with a minute remaining as the 5th-seeded Boilermakers held off a frantic charge to beat the 4th-seeded Huskies 76-74 Saturday (3-21-09).

2009 March Madness - Quincy Pondexter Leads Washington Past Mississippi State to Advance

Team captain Jon Brockman had a broken nose and a seat on the bench because of fouls. Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon were not fulfilling their roles as Washington's top two scorers in the biggest game of the season. So Quincy Pondexter took charge, scoring a season-high 23 points as Washington Huskies eliminated Mississippi State 71-58 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday (3-19-09) in Portland (OR).

Team Play Allows Washington to Win First Outright Pac 10 Title in 56 Years - Jon Brockman Sets the Tone

Jon Brockman and his University of Washington teammates arrived this year, winning their first outright Pac 10 Conference Championship title in 56 years. Brockman and Justin Dentmon were All-Pac First Team Players. Dentmon was the Pac 10's Most Improved Player, Isaiah Thomas made the All-Pac 10 Freshman Team and was selected as the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year. Lorenzo Romar was the Pac 10 Coach of the Year. Read even more great news in this article.

The Spencer Hawes Saga: Ride the NBA Bench, or Help the Huskies by Becoming a Better Player?

Ah, to be fawned over as a potential 7-foot NBA center. Recently Spencer Hawes, a freshman last year at the University of Washington, was one of 10 players exclusively invited to meet with the media in Orlando (FL), signaling that the NBA considers him a likely top-10 pick in the NBA draft on June 28. Hawes has until June 18 to remove his name from the list of draft-eligible players, and if he can overcome his self-inflated opinion, he will. If he does not return, he will be riding the pine in the NBA, a lot richer but no better as a basketball player.

Article Updates on Wrestling's Chris Benoit and College Basketball's Spencer Hawes

The toxicology report is in and WWE wrestler Chris Benoit's body contained 10 times the normal level of testosterone, according to authorities in an Associated Press story.  Also present were the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone. Spencer Hawes, the 7-foot freshman center for the University of Washington, decided to go pro recently rather than return to the Huskies. This did not surprise a lot of Dawg fans.  Get the full story on both athletes.

Huskies Earn Spot in 2007 NIT Season Tip-Off Semis, Head to Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple

Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies will take a walk on the wild side Thanksgiving weekend after knocking off New Jersey Institute of Technology and Utah to qualify for a spot in the NIT Season Tip-Off Semis at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Washington will meet Texas A&M and Ohio State will face Syracuse with the winners playing in the championship game.

College Basketball: Lorenzo Romar's Washington Husky Recruits Are Among Top 15 Classes

Quietly and without a lot of fanfare, Washington Husky Coach Lorenzo Romar has put together 1 of the Top 15 recruiting classes among Division 1A basketball programs according to Scout.com. The names of the young recruits—Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, Elston Turner Jr. and Tyreese Breshers—will become more familiar in the next two years, but for now pundits have noticed the windfall of talent.

College Basketball: How Can Losing Still Be a Positive? When You Are Playing Good Teams

Washington's Huskies qualified for the NIT Season Tip-Off Semis at Madison Square Garden over Thanksgiving weekend and ended up losing to Texas A&M 77-63 and then to Syracuse 91-85 to finish 4th. The bad news is that the Huskies lost both of their NIT games. The good news is that they played some really good teams so the experience was a total positive compared to last year when Washington got off to a 10-1 start beating a bunch of nobodies.

2008 College Basketball - We Love Our Washington Dawgs With Bite, Not Our Dogs With Bark

The University of Washington basketball season is well underway as Pac-10 league play has started and it appears that the Huskies are in for a very long season. Washington is fortunate to have a workhorse in the paint like Jon Brockman and a pure shooter like Ryan Appleby, but that is not nearly enough to win at the level that will lead the Huskies into postseason play. Find out who needs to step up and why.

College Basketball: Get Ready for a Phenomenal March Madness Run This Year

Washington (13-11 on the season and 4-7 in the Pac-10 Conference) upset visiting UCLA 71-61 (20-2 and 9-2) over the weekend to highlight just how competitive the Pac-10 is this year. Going into the game, the Huskies were rated 82nd by Sagarin and UCLA 5th. Just like football this past season, parity is permeating the NCAA and bodes well for an exciting March Madness when the playoffs arrive.

Pro Basketball:

How to Attack the Lakers "Triangle" Offense? Run Smack Into the Celtics "Angle" Defense - Boston Wins the NBA Title, 131-92

The Boston Celtics recent NBA title effort not only set a record for the largest margin of victory in a championship game—39 points—but also became the greatest one-season improvement in history. A year ago the Celtics finished at 24-58 and dead last in the NBA Eastern Conference. This year they went 66-16, won the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference title before disposing of the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, to win their 17th NBA title.

College Basketball:

April 4, 2011

2011 March Madness

All #1 and #2 Seeds Eliminated as #3 Connecticut vs. #4 Kentucky and #8 Butler vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth in Final 4 for the National Title

Copyright © 2011 Ed Bagley

When you play enough March Madness tournaments, something very unusual will happen, and this year it did.

This is the third Final Four since 1979 when all #1 seeds were eliminated, and the first Final Four when all #2 seeds were eliminated as well. Yep, the top 8 seeded teams were all sent packing as two bluebloods (Connecticut and Kentucky) and a couple of mid-majors made it to the Final Four (Butler and Virginia Commonwealth).

All four teams had stories beyond the game scores.

No. 3 Connecticut had a so-so season, finishing only 9th in the Big East Conference season play, but won 5 games in 5 consecutive days to capture the Big East tournament title. With 4 victories in NCAA tournament action, the Huskies racked up 9 victories in 19 days.

Connecticut also suffered through an embarrassing NCAA investigation during the season that resulted in a 3-game suspension for coach Jim Calhoun next season.

No. 4 Kentucky returned to the Final Four for the first time since winning the national title in 1998. The Wildcats have won 7 national titles, second only to UCLA's 11 national championships. New coach John Calipari said he would bring Kentucky to glory in 2 years, and he has. Calipari has led two others teams to the Final Four – Massachusetts and Memphis.

No. 8 Butler started the season at 4-4 and has now become the first school outside the 6 major conferences to make back-to-back trips to the Final Four since UNLV in 1990 and 1991. The Butler Bulldogs were national runners-up last year, losing the title to the Duke Blue Devils, 61-59.

No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) won an unprecedented 5 games to advance to the Final Four. This year's tournament was expanded from 64 teams to 68 teams, and VCU had to win its play-in game to even get into the tournament.

Eight of the 12 games in Rounds 3 and 4 were upsets, knocking out #1 Ohio State, #1 Duke, #2 San Diego State, #2 North Carolina and #2 Florida.

Here are the 8 upsets in order of magnitude (and surprises):

#11 Virginia Commonwealth nipped #10 Florida State 72-71 in OT in Round 3

#11 Virginia Commonwealth whipped #1 Kansas 71-61 in Round 4

VCU needed an overtime to dump Florida State, and won when Bradford Burgess made a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds remaining, and Rob Brandenburg blocked a shot at the buzzer as the Rams won 72-71. VCU was up by 9 with 7:37 left and almost blew its miracle run.

VCU went 12-for-26 on 3-pointers to literally keep Florida State at bay during most of the game, and Burgess scored 26 points, going 6-of-7 behind the arc.

VCU followed up its Florida State win by stunning #1 Kansas 71-61 in a game that was not as close as the score. The Jayhawks played zero defense in the first half, letting the Rams run up a 14-point 1st half lead on 9 virtually uncontested three-point shots. The best word to describe the Kansas effort was pathetic.

Kansas had pistol-whipped Richmond 77-57 before meeting up with VCU.

Virginia Commonwealth has won the hearts of fans everywhere after knocking off Southern California from the Pac-10, Georgetown from the Big East, Purdue from the Big 10, Florida State from the ACC, and now Kansas from the Big 12. Not too shabby for a team that finished 4th in the mid-major Colonial Athletic Conference with a 12-6 record, and had an overall 23-11 mark coming into the tournament.

VCU becomes only the third 11th seed to reach the Final Four in NCAA history – the others were LSU in 1986 and George Mason in 2006.

#8 Butler out-defensed #4 Wisconsin 61-54 in Round 3

#8 Butler outlasted #2 Florida 74-71 in OT in Round 4

Wisconsin had no chance against Butler in Round 3. The Badgers, known for their defense, got zip from their offense, missing 15 of their first 23 shots, and 4 of their first 8 free throws after coming in with the nation's best free throw percentage (.82%). Despite their defensive prowess, the Badgers had no answer for Butler's Matt Howard, who scored 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

Florida made it more interesting, taking Butler into overtime before the Bulldogs Shelvin Mack, playing hurt after rolling his left ankle in the first half and suffering a cut on the forehead in the second half, drained a crucial 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining. Mack scored 27 on Florida, including 5 in overtime.

The Bulldogs bled resiliency, coming back from 9 points down in the 2nd half to reach their second consecutive Final Four. Last year mid-major Butler lost the national title to Duke 61-59.

#4 Kentucky held off #1 Ohio State 62-60 in Round 3

#4 Kentucky blasted past #2 North Carolina 76-69 in Round 4

Kentucky used freshman Brandon Knight to put away top seed Ohio State. Knight missed 7 of his first 9 shots but knocked down his second NCAA tournament game-winner, a 15-footer with 5 seconds left, to dump the Buckeyes, 62-60. Knight also scored the winning bucket with 2 seconds left in Kentucky's 59-57 Round 2 win over #13-seed Princeton.

Ohio State's star freshman Jared Sullinger led the Buckeyes with 21 points and 16 rebounds, and teammate Jon Diebler hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 21 seconds left, but in the end it didn't matter.

Kentucky's Wildcats then polished off #2 North Carolina, 76-69, as freshman Brandon Knight exploded for 22 points. Wildcat senior Josh Harrellson, a seldom used reserve from a year ago, scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Harrellson was a big reason why Kentucky made it to the Final 4.

#3 Connecticut put away #2 San Diego State 74-67 in Round 3

The #2 Aztecs of San Diego State could not contain Connecticut's superb junior guard Kemba Walker, who dropped in 36 points – 22 in the second half when it really mattered. Freshman Jeremy Lamb added a season-high 24 points and hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:43 remaining, and San Diego State came up sucking Louisiana pond water.

Connecticut then dusted off Arizona, 65-63, behind Kemba Walker's 20 points and Jeremy Lamb's 19, as the Huskies earned their 9th consecutive win, and 4th trip to the Final 4.

#5 Arizona took #1 Duke to school 93-77 in Round 3

Derrick Williams led Arizona's upset of Duke by scoring 25 of his career-high 32 points in the 1st half, keeping the Wildcats in the game as the Blue Devils led by 6 at the half. In the 2nd half, Williams Arizona teammates took over, outscoring Duke by 22 points to win in a rout 93-77. Coach Mike K (Krzyzewski) of Duke had to be in shock when his Blue Devils, the defending national champions, were done for the year.

2011 NCAA Tournament Results for the Round 3 Sweet 16:

East Regional:

#1 Ohio State was upset by #4 Kentucky 62-60

#2 North Carolina eliminated #11 Marquette 81-63

West Regional:

#1 Duke was upset by #5 Arizona 93-77

#2 San Diego State was upset by #3 Connecticut 74-67

Southwest Regional:

#1 Kansas eliminated #12 Richmond 77-57

#10 Florida State was upset by #11 Virginia Commonwealth 72-71 in OT

Southeast Regional:

#2 Florida eliminated #3 Brigham Young 83-74 in OT

#4 Wisconsin was upset by #8 Butler 61-54

2011 NCAA Tournament Results for the Round 4 Elite 8:

East Regional:

#2 North Carolina was upset by #4 Kentucky 76-69

West Regional:

#3 Connecticut eliminated #5 Arizona 65-63

Southwest Regional:

#1 Kansas was upset by #11 Virginia Commonweath 71-61

Southeast Regional:

#2 Florida was eliminated by #8 Butler 74-71 in OT

March 25, 2011

2011 March Madness

First Two Rounds in the NCAA Tournament Produces 12 Upset Losers, including #1 Pittsburgh and #2 Notre Dame

Copyright © 2011 Ed Bagley

The first two rounds of the 2011 NCAA College Basketball Tournament proved once again that it is not easy getting into the Sweet 16 despite your ranking. Among the 12 upset victims in the first 48 games were #1 Pittsburgh, #2 Notre Dame, #3 Purdue, #3 Syracuse, #4 Louisville and #4 Texas.

Ouch. Not a nice reception for top-ranked teams, not to mention the fact that #2 Notre Dame lost by 14 points to #10 Florida State, and #3 Purdue lost by 18 points to #11 Virginia Commonwealth, which also knocked off #6 Georgia by 18 points after beating Southern California by 13 in a play-in game.

Here are the 12 upsets in order of magnitude:

#11 Virginia Commonwealth crushed #6 Georgetown 74-56 in Round 1

#11 Virginia Commonwealth smashed #3 Purdue 94-76 in Round 2

The Rams, who finished 4th in the Colonial Athletic Conference with a 12-6 record and overall 23-11 mark, came out of nowhere to advance as the surprise of the tournament's first 2 rounds. Now they are 26-11, and headed to the Sweet 16 to tangle with #10 Florida State for a shot at the Elite 8.

Virginia Commonwealth ignored their 11th-seed ranking by taking down Georgetown on 12 three-pointers as Brandon Rozzell canned 26 points to send the Hoyas packing. The Rams victory over Purdue was even more impressive. They were led by Bradford Burgess' 23 points and Joey Rodriquez had 12 points and 11 assists as Purdue, expected to go deep into the tournament, instead went home.

#11 Marquette dusted #6 Xavier 66-55 in Round 1

#11 Marquette outlasted #3 Syracuse 66-52 in Round 2

Marquette, which came into the tournament with a 20-14 record and a 9th place finish in the Big East, did not look like that big of a deal. That said, the Golden Eagles got 19 points from Darius Johnson-Odom and another 15 from Jimmy Butler to take out Xavier. Darius Johnson-Odom also canned a 3-pointer with 25.2 seconds left to leave the Syracuse Orange on the short end of the stick.

#10 Florida State drops #7 Texas A&M 57-50 in Round 1

#10 Florida State stuns #2 Notre Dame 71-57 in Round 2

The Seminoles, who finished 3rd in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 11-5 mark and overall 23-10 record, were 18-7 before their leading scorer and rebounder Chris Singleton broke his foot. No matter. The Seminoles held the Texas A&M Aggies to 31% shooting to win, and then expanded an 11-point halftime lead to 23 against Notre Dame while Bernard James had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Seminoles.

#8 Butler nipped #1 seed Pittsburgh 71-70 in Round 2

Butler won its second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 when Matt Howard's free throw capped a crazy finish that saw 2 fouls called in the final 2 seconds of the game. Pitt was distraught but could hardly blame Butler. The Bulldogs, who tied for the Horizon League title with Cleveland State and UW-Milwaukee, got a big 30 points from Shelvin Mack.

#13 Morehead State ousted #4 Louisville 62-61 in Round 1

The Eagles of Morehead State won 12 of their last 13 regular-season games and the Ohio Valley Conference playoffs before extending their momentum with Demonte Harper's 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining and Kenneth Faried's blocked shot to dump Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals right out of the tournament.

#12 Richmond whips #5 Vanderbilt 69-66 in Round 1

The Richmond Spiders, the Atlantic 10 tournament champions, rallied in the second half behind Kevin Anderson's 25 points to eliminate Vanderbilt, and then ended Morehead State's run in Round 2, beating the Eagles 65-48.

#5 Arizona sneaks by #4 Texas 70-69 in Round 2

The Wildcats, who lost the Pac 10 tournament championship to the Washington Huskies, gave their star Derrick Williams the ball with game on the line, and Williams responded with a 3-pointer with 9.6 seconds remaining. It was enough to send the Longhorns home early.

#11 Gonzaga thumped #6 St. John's 86-71 in Round 1

The Bulldogs (also known as the Zags) beat St. John's by 15 and then promptly got hammered by #3 Brigham Young by 22 points, 89-67, behind Jimmer Fredette's 32 points and 5 assists. Gonzaga's topsy-turvy performance sent coach Mark Few home reeling, and wishing he had a Jimmer Fredette.

#8 Illinois drops #8 UNLV 73-62

The Illini used Mark Davis' 22 points and 59% from the field to knock out the UNLV Rebels. Then Illinois ran into #1 Kansas and that was it, the Jayhawks won 73-59.

Three other big stories to emerge from the first two rounds included:

The Atlantic Coast Conference's down year has suddenly come up as the ACC has more teams in the Sweet 16 – 3 (#1 Duke, #2 North Carolina and #10 Florida State) –than any other conference.

The Big East, which was widely regarded as the powerhouse conference all year, brought a record 11 teams to the Big Dance, but only two – Connecticut and Marquette are still alive.

The other 9 Big East contenders – Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Louisville, St. John's (NY), Cincinnati, West Virginia, Georgetown and Villanova – all ended up sucking Louisiana pond water on their way home.

And the City of Richmond, Virginia boasts 2 Sweet 16 teams -- #11 Richmond and #12 Virginia Commonwealth.

So now it is Sweet 16 time, and March Madness doubles down with stress, pressure to perform at a higher level, and an opportunity to become part of the Elite 8 that will be left.

2011 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 1:

East Regional:

#1 Ohio State eliminated #16 Texas-San Antonio 75-46

#2 North Carolina eliminated #15 Long Island 102-87

#3 Syracuse eliminated #14 Indiana State 77-60

#4 Kentucky eliminated #13 Princeton 59-57

#5 West Virginia eliminated #12 Clemson 84-76

#6 Xavier was upset by #11 Marquette 66-55

#7 Washington eliminated #10 Georgia 68-65

#8 George Mason eliminated #9 Villanova 61-57

West Regional:

#1 Duke eliminated #16 Hampton 87-45

#2 San Diego State eliminated #15 Northern Colorado 68-50

#3 Connecticut eliminated #14 Bucknell 81-52

#4 Texas eliminated #13 Oakland 85-81

#5 Arizona eliminated #12 Memphis 77-75

#6 Cincinnati eliminated #11 Missouri 78-63

#7 Temple eliminated #10 Penn State 66-64

#8 Michigan eliminated #9 Tennessee 75-45

Southwest Regional:

#1 Kansas eliminated #16 Boston University 72-53

#2 Notre Dame eliminated #15 Akron 69-56

#3 Purdue eliminated #14 St. Peter's 65-43

#4 Louisville was upset by #13 Morehead State 62-61

#5 Vanderbilt was upset by #12 Richmond 69-66

#6 Georgetown was upset by #11 Virginia Commonwealth 74-56

#7 Texas A&M was upset by #10 Florida State 57-50

#8 UNLV was upset by #9 Illinois 73-62

Southeast Regional:

#1 Pittsburgh eliminated #16 UNC- Ashville 74-51

#2 Florida eliminated #15 UC Santa Barbara 79-51

#3 Brigham Young eliminated #14 Wofford 74-66

#4 Wisconsin eliminated #13 Belmont 72-58

#5 Kansas State eliminated #12 Utah State 73-68

#6 St. John's was upset by #11 Gonzaga 86-71

#7 UCLA eliminated #10 Michigan State 78-76

#8 Butler eliminated #9 Old Dominion 60-58

Play-In Games for the First Round:

#16 UNC-Asheville eliminated #16 Arkansas-Little Rock 81-77

#12 Clemson eliminated #12 UAB (Alabama-Birmingham) 70-52

#16 Texas-San Antonio eliminated #16 Alabama State 70-61

#11 Virginia Commonwealth eliminated #11 Southern California 59-46

2011 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 2:

East Regional:

#1 Ohio State eliminated #8 George Mason 98-66

#2 North Carolina eliminated #7 Washington 86-83

#11 Marquette upset #3 Syracuse 66-62

#4 Kentucky eliminated #5 West Virginia 71-63

West Regional:

#1 Duke eliminated #8 Michigan 73-71

#2 San Diego State eliminated #7 Temple 71-64 in 2OT

#3 Connecticut eliminated #6 Cincinnati 69-58

#4 Texas was upset by #5 Arizona 70-69

Southwest Regional:

#1 Kansas eliminated #9 Illinois 73-59

#2 Notre Dame was upset by #10 Florida State 71-57

#3 Purdue was upset by #11 Virginia Commonwealth 94-76

#12 Richmond eliminated #13 Morehead State 65-48

Southeast Regional:

#1 Pittsburgh was upset by #8 Butler 71-70

#2 Florida eliminated #7 UCLA 73-65

#3 Brigham Young eliminated #11 Gonzaga 89-67

#4 Wisconsin eliminated #5 Kansas State 70-65

December 27, 2010

Maya Moore Is Spectacular

Steely Resolve Leads University of Connecticut Women to Record-Breaking Heights in College Basketball

(Ed's Note: This article by Mike Lopresti does a great job of capturing the University of Connecticut's Husky basketball team's record-setting 89th consecutive victory, setting a new record in college basketball.)

By Mike Lopresti of Gannett

It's official now. A record, but how monumental?

History, but how important?

A streak of 89 consecutive wins for the Connecticut women, but is that more impressive than 88 for the UCLA men?

Come to think of it, why is there a need to wonder?

You do not admire a view of something remarkable by trying to decide if it is better or worse than the last remarkable thing you saw. You savor greatness where you find it, and grant it its own legacy.

And so the Huskies stand alone after rolling past Florida State 93-62 Tuesday night, winners of 89 in a row and heaven knows how many more. To look for a way to downsize it with qualifiers seems a monumental waste of effort. Not to mention unfair.

How many people do you know who can do anything well 89 times in a row?

President Obama was impressed, anyway, calling Geno Auriemma an hour after the game.

This was a night of hometown frenzy, with a full house of 16,294 and ticket scalpers on the freezing streets outside. It was a night when Florida State led 2-0 but never again. By halftime Maya Moore had 26 points. Florida State's team had 27.

Afterward, someone held up a banner: "The Sorcerer of Storrs." Meanwhile Auriemma presented postgame door prizes to the crowd. John Wooden never won 89 consecutive games, nor did he announce a Wii for the lucky person in Section 8.

And so the beating goes on, the average winning margin for the streak at 33.3. Auriemma's nickname might as well be "and-0" since that is how his record has ended since April 2008.

On Sunday, in case you missed the sound bites, he divided the public into three parts: women happy about Connecticut, men happy about Connecticut and "all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record."

Not to quibble with his charge that some dismiss this feat because of gender — because he's absolutely right — but I have found no outrage out there among the non-believers. More like indifference.

Tuesday, Auriemma clarified. "I'm not going to call anybody any names," he said.

"I never asked for more attention for my team. I just asked for everybody to admire what these kids do and how they do it and how hard it is to do it.

"Like or not like it, we made you pay attention. If you want to go back, go back. But for this little period of time, you paid attention. And you didn't have to, but you did."

The man who flew here from California did, anyway. He knows a little something about long winning streaks. He's the grandson of John Wooden.

"My grandfather would be absolutely thrilled," Greg Wooden was saying before the game. "He thought — especially the last 10 years — that the best basketball was being played on the collegiate level, and it wasn't by the men."

John Wooden considered the women's game to be closer to how UCLA won 88 in a row, his grandson said. Fundamentals, passing, unselfishness.

"Especially, Connecticut," he said.

Greg Wooden had never seen a women's game in person before. He had trouble getting out Auriemma's name. But he flew across a continent because he felt like someone from the family needed to be here.

"It meant the world to us," Moore said.

Talent doesn't hurt. It's always nice to have the best player in the nation, speaking of Moore's career-high 41 points Tuesday night. Florida State coach Sue Semrau said Moore reminded her of Kobe Bryant.

But what takes Connecticut from dominance to the stratosphere is a steely physical purpose that nobody can match for 40 minutes.

The Huskies never blink. Never even think about blinking. With that relentless consistency, they make fine neighbors for Wooden's UCLA in the pantheon of college basketball.

The intangibles, Moore called them, and why would anybody belittle a team that owned those? "If you value those things, I don't see any debate," she said.

Here's a subtle sign of Auriemma's approach: His players are the Huskies, not the Lady Huskies. They're a basketball team from the University of Connecticut, not a feminine derivative.

And now they've won 89 in a row. Historic greatness knows no gender. So what now?

"I'm ready," Moore said, "for the next game."

December 26, 2010

Meet Two of College Basketball's Greatest Coaches

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Dean Smith Are Like Matching Bookends

(Ed's Note: Mike Lopresti researched and wrote this terrific article on Duke's Mike K and North Carolina's Dean Smith, two of THE greatest coaches in college basketball history. This story by Lopresti in USA Today is superb.)

By Mike Lopresti of Gannett

Look up in the college basketball sky. Notice the astrological phenomenon we won't see again in our lifetimes?

No, not a full lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, two men who built empires eight miles apart, shining brightly side by side with the same number of victories. They're both at 879, but not for long.

Krzyzewski will be in front for good with the next Duke victory, probably Dec. 29 against UNC Greensboro. Then he'll be off to one day break Bob Knight's Division I men's record.

So we shouldn't let this moment pass to see how they look together. It's almost like Mars lined up next to Jupiter.

"He built a program when no one else knew what the hell a program is," Krzyzewski told reporters about Smith this week, as he pulled even.

Krzyzewski is 63, and seemingly in his prime, winning international gold medals when he isn't winning national championships. Smith is 79, and said to be suffering a serious loss of memory.

Krzyzewski was born in February, in Chicago. Smith was born in February, in a small town in Kansas.

Krzyzewski came from West Point. Krzyzewski had two losing seasons in his first three at Duke, and there were serious questions if the Blue Devils had hired the right guy. Smith was hung in effigy at North Carolina.

Krzyzewski needed six seasons at Duke before he got to the Final Four. So did Smith at North Carolina.

Krzyzewski needed 11 years to win a national championship. Smith needed 21.

Krzyzewski has won 77 NCAA Tournament games. Smith won 65. John Wooden won 47.

Krzyzewski has been to 11 Final Fours. So has Smith. Wooden went to 12. Nobody else has been to more than seven.

Krzyzewski's program once showed remarkable consistency by advancing to seven Final Fours in nine years. Smith's program once showed remarkable consistency by advancing to 13 straight Sweet 16s.

Krzyzewski has won four national championships, and lost four title games. Smith won two championships, and lost four title games.

Krzyzewski won the 2008 Olympics gold medal in Beijing with a bunch of NBA pros. Smith won the 1976 Olympics gold medal in Montreal with a bunch of collegians.

Students camp out for Duke games in Krzyzewskiville. Students stand and cheer for North Carolina games at the Dean Dome.

Krzyzewski's Duke program annoys some people with its blue-blooded image. Smith's North Carolina program annoyed some people with his four-corner offense.

Krzyzewski has had only two players stay four years at Duke and not graduate. Smith's graduation rate at North Carolina was better than 96%.

Krzyzewski beat Smith 14 times. Smith beat Krzyzewski 24 times. But in their last 22 meetings, Smith barely had the advantage 12-10.

"Look, I love Dean, and we competed really hard against one another," Krzyzewski said. "I think the ultimate thing a competitor can say about another competitor is that he respects him 100%."

Krzyzewski mentioned the golden age of coaching in the ACC. Maryland had Lefty Driesell, who won 786 times as a college coach. North Carolina State had a national champion in Jim Valvano. Virginia had Terry Holland, twice in the Final Four. Georgia Tech reached the Final Four with Bobby Cremins.

"The league was amazing," Krzyzewski said, "and the head of it was Dean.

"We all made each other better, because you had to be good to survive."

So as the two titans of Tobacco Road share the identical victory number for a few days, the big question is obvious. Which one was better?

A. Krzyzewski.

B. Smith.

C. Impossible to answer.

Krzyzewski has more championships and will win more games. Knight's 902 victories are just down the road. But then again, he has lost 25 more games than Smith, too.

Neither has been more relentless in excellence than the other. Neither more of a legend for his game and his school than the other. Or less.

As we see them now, Krzyzewski is enjoying a brilliant run in the twilight of his career. Smith is suffering the vulnerabilities of age that not even brilliance can stop.

Who's the better? You can have first pick. I'll be perfectly happy with the loser.

June 6, 2010

His Footprint for Success Is Everlasting

John Wooden, the World's Greatest Basketball Coach, Dies, But Leaves Us With a Legacy That Will Live Forever

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

I was saddened by the news that John Wooden died this week.

Anyone who has ever played basketball has heard of John Wooden. He built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports as the coach of UCLA, and became one of the most revered coaches ever. He was certainly the most revered coach in all of basketball. He was 99.

A precious few of the thousands upon thousands of kids and young men who played basketball in high school and college were lucky enough to call John Wooden "Coach".

Those who did enjoyed success at the college level that is unprecedented in the last century.

John Wooden was much more than a college basketball coach. He was a mentor to young men, and a surrogate father to many young men who were raised by their mother in a single-parent home. He was a maker of champions, and, more importantly, a maker of men.

My heart goes out to John Wooden's family, and to all who loved and respected this man for the ages.

I never played high school or college basketball. I never met John Wooden or saw him play or coach a game; however, I have a special bond with Wooden. He was born and bred in Indiana, and I was born and bred in Michigan. We are both Midwest boys.

And Midwest boys were raised in the heartland of America, and share common values, ethics and mores. The best of us are men of character with integrity, common sense and are at our tallest when we stand up for what we believe in. John Wooden was such a man.

The Midwest and its regional culture has produced some of America's most famous men and women, including Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg, Walt Disney, Warren Buffett, Henry Ford, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Frank Lloyd Wright, The Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, Paul Harvey, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Harry Truman, Herbert Hoover, Ulysses S. Grant, Crazy Horse, Johnny Carson, Benny Goodman, Charles Schultz, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Bob Newhart, Richard Pryor, James Dean, Eli Lilly, Ann Landers, Abigail Van Buren, and David Letterman to name a few.

John Wooden certainly belongs on this list of distinguished people born and bred in the Midwest.

When Wooden graduated from grammar school, his dad Joshua gave him a Seven Point Creed to live by:

1) Be true to yourself.

2) Make each day your masterpiece.

3) Help others.

4) Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

5) Make friendship a fine art.

6) Build a shelter against a rainy day.

7) Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

John Wooden never forgot his Seven Point Creed because he lived it.

I have read and studied John Wooden's book, Wooden on Leadership, a masterpiece that details his 15 fundamentals that led to his "Pyramid of Success".

Besides the Bible, reading, comprehending, retaining and applying Wooden on Leadership could be the most important ingredient in your march to success in the game of life as well as the game of basketball or any other sport.

Dan Guerrero, UCLA's athletic director, has said, "there will never be another John Wooden." I am not so sure of that. I never like speaking in absolutes (never), but I could say that there will never be another John Wooden in my lifetime, and I am 66 years old.

So just how much did John Wooden accomplish in his basketball career? Appreciate these statistics for openers:

In high school, he led his team to 3 consecutive Indiana state championships, and was a 3-time All-State selection.

At Purdue University, he led the Boilermakers to the 1932 National Championship in his senior year and was selected College Basketball Player of the Year, was selected to All-Big Ten and All-Midwestern teams, and was the first player ever to be named a 3-time consensus All-American.

He played for 4 different professional teams in the then National Basketball League (now National Basketball Association), was the scoring champion in 1933, and during one 46-game stretch he made 134 consecutive free throws.

His high school coaching record was 218-42 (84% win percentage).

As a coach at UCLA for 27 years, John Wooden had a 620-147 record (81% win percentage), won 19 Pac-10 titles, won 10 NCAA National Championships with 7 consecutive national titles from 1967 to 1973, and put together an 88-game winning streak.

As if this was not enough success to last at least two lifetimes, from his first title in 1964 to his 10th title in 1975, his UCLA Bruins were 330-19 (94% win percentage) with four perfect 30-0 seasons.

He was the first person ever voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Player (in 1961) and as a Coach (in 1973). Only Lenny Wilkens and Bill Sharman have since been so honored.

No wonder John Wooden became known as the "Wizard of Westwood" although he personally disdained the nickname.

And, get this: Wooden never made more than $35,000 a year salary at UCLA, including 1975, the year he won his 10th National Championship, and he never asked for a raise. He was offered 10 times that amount to coach pro basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers and turned it down.

Wooden, a lifelong Christian, read the Bible daily. John Wooden was an incredible college basketball coach, a builder of champions and men, and a source of common sense and wisdom. A man who never lost his cool in triumph and defeat.

Here are some excepts from an Associated Press story on Wooden:

Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"It's kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released through UCLA.

"He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."

"He was always the boss. He always knew what to say," former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes told the Associated Press. "Even in the heyday of winning and losing, you could almost discuss anything with him. He always had that composure and wit about him. He could connect with all kinds of people and situations and always be in control of himself and seemingly of the situation."

Walton and Wilkes were among former players who visited Wooden in the hospital this week. Wilkes came twice and said Wooden recognized him and that the coach's mind was "sharp as a tack" until the end although his body was "very, very frail."

Wilkes said he recognized what he called "that little glint" in Wooden's pale blue eyes. He was in the room with Wooden's son when Wooden asked to be shaved.

"His son made the comment that when he got shaved he was getting ready to see Nellie," Wilkes said, referring to Wooden's late wife.

During his second visit Wednesday night, Wilkes asked Wooden if he recognized him.

"His glasses fogged up and he had to clean his glasses," Wilkes said. "He looked at me and said, 'I remember you, now go sit down."'

St. John's coach Steve Lavin followed a similar career path as Wooden, coaching seven years at UCLA after serving as an assistant at Purdue.

"Even though we anticipated this day, the finality still strikes with a force equal to a ton of bricks," Lavin said.

"There was the common affinity we shared for Purdue and UCLA and that forged a unique bond. I turned to him for perspective at every critical juncture over the past 20 years. Ninety-nine years of goodness and now he's back with Nell."

Wooden was a groundbreaking trendsetter who demanded his players be in great condition so they could play an up-tempo style not well-known on the West Coast at the time.

But his legacy extended well beyond that.

He was the master of the simple one- or two-sentence homily, instructive little messages best presented in his famous "Pyramid of Success," which remains must-read material, not only for fellow coaches but for anyone in a leadership position in American business.

He taught the team game and had only three hard-and-fast rules - no profanity, tardiness or criticizing fellow teammates. Layered beneath that seeming simplicity, though, were a slew of life lessons - primers on everything from how to put on your socks correctly to how to maintain poise: "Not being thrown off stride in how you behave or what you believe because of outside events."

"What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player," was one of Wooden's key messages.

"There will never be another John Wooden," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "This loss will be felt by individuals from all parts of society. He was not only the greatest coach in the history of any sport but he was an exceptional individual that transcended the sporting world. His enduring legacy as a role model is one we should all strive to emulate."

Wooden began his career as a teacher during the Great Depression and was still teaching others long past retirement. Up until about two years ago, he remained a fixture at UCLA games played on a court named after him and his late wife, Nell, and celebrated his 99th birthday with a book he co-authored on how to live life and raise children.

Asked in a 2008 interview the secret to his long life, Wooden replied: "Not being afraid of death and having peace within yourself. All of life is peaks and valleys. Don't let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low."

Even with his staggering accomplishments, he remained humble and gracious. He said he tried to live by advice from his father: "Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books - especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day."

While he lived his father's words, many more lived his. Those lucky enough to play for him got it first hand, but there was no shortage of Wooden sayings making the rounds far away from the basketball court.

"Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow," was one.

"Don't give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you," was another.

Born Oct. 14, 1910, near Martinsville, Ind., on a farm that didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing, Wooden's life revolved around sports from the time his father built a baseball diamond among his wheat, corn and alfalfa.

Baseball was his favorite sport, but there was also a basketball hoop nailed in a hayloft. Wooden played there countless hours with his brother, Maurice, using any kind of ball they could find.

"My reaction is sadness yet at this point we have to celebrate maybe the most important guy in the history of the game," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun told the AP. "There has been no greater influence on college basketball not just about the game but the team.

"He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if he's not as important as Dr. Naismith, he's right next to him."

The bespectacled former high school teacher ended up at UCLA almost by accident. Wooden was awaiting a call from the University of Minnesota for its head coaching job and thought he had been passed over when it didn't come. In the meantime, UCLA called, and he accepted the job in Los Angeles.

Minnesota officials called later that night, saying they couldn't get through earlier because of a snowstorm, and offered him the job. Though Wooden wanted it more than the UCLA job, he told them he already had given UCLA his word and could not break it.

The Bruins were winners right away after Wooden took over as coach at UCLA's campus in Westwood in 1949, although they were overshadowed by Bill Russell and the University of San Francisco, and later Pete Newell's teams at California.

At the time, West Coast teams tended to play a slow, plodding style. Wooden quickly exploited that with his fast-breaking, well-conditioned teams, who wore down opponents with a full-court zone press and forever changed the style of college basketball.

Still, it would be 16 seasons before Wooden won his first NCAA championship with a team featuring Walt Hazzard that went 30-0 in 1964. After that, they began arriving in bunches, with top players such as Alcindor, Walton, Wilkes, Lucius Allen, Gail Goodrich, Marques Johnson, Michael Warren and Sidney Wicks coming to Westwood.

Each of Wooden's players would learn at the first practice how to properly put on socks and sneakers. Each would learn to keep his hair short and face clean-shaven, even though the fashions of the 1960s and '70s dictated otherwise.

And each would learn Wooden's "pyramid of success," a chart he used to both inspire players and sum up his personal code for life.

Industriousness and enthusiasm were its cornerstones; faith, patience, loyalty and self-control were some of the building blocks. At the top of the pyramid was competitive greatness.

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are," Wooden would tell them.

Wooden never had to worry about his reputation. He didn't drink or swear or carouse with other coaches on the road, though he did have a penchant for berating referees.

"Dadburn it, you saw him double-dribble down there!" went a typical Wooden complaint to an official. "Goodness gracious sakes alive!"

"Many have called Coach Wooden the 'gold standard' of coaches. I believe he was the 'gold standard' of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Coach Wooden's name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders - in any profession - of his generation."

Wooden's legacy as a coach will always be framed by two streaks - the seven straight national titles UCLA won beginning in 1967 and the 88-game winning streak that came to an end Jan. 19, 1974, when Notre Dame beat the Bruins 71-70.

After the loss, Wooden refused to allow his players to talk to reporters.

"Only winners talk," he said. A week later, UCLA beat the Irish at home by 19 points.

A little more than a year later, Wooden surprisingly announced his retirement after a 75-74 NCAA semifinal victory over Louisville. He then went out and coached the Bruins for the last time, winning his 10th national title with a 92-85 win over Kentucky.

After that victory, Wooden walked into the interview room at the San Diego Sports Arena to face about 200 reporters, who let their objectivity slip and applauded.

"When I think of a basketball coach the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden. He had a great life and helped so many coaches until well in his 90s," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told The Associated Press. "Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He's the best of all time. There will never be another like him, and you can't say that about too many people."

The road to coaching greatness began after Wooden graduated with honors from Purdue and married Nell Riley, his high school sweetheart.

In a 2008 public appearance with Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, in which the men were interviewed in front of an audience, Wooden said he still wrote his late wife - the only girl he ever dated - a letter on the 21st of each month. "She's still there to me," he said. "I talk to her every day."

He coached two years at Dayton (Ky.) High School, and his 6-11 losing record the first season was the only one in his 40-year coaching career.

He spent the next nine years coaching basketball, baseball and tennis at South Bend (Ind.) Central High School, where he also taught English.

"I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession," he once said. "I'm glad I was a teacher."

Wooden disliked the Wizard of Westwood nickname, preferring to be called coach.

"I'm no wizard, and I don't like being thought of in that light at all," he said in a 2006 interview with the UCLA History Project. "I think of a wizard as being some sort of magician or something, doing something on the sly or something, and I don't want to be thought of in that way."

Wooden served in the Navy as a physical education instructor during World War II, and continued teaching when he became the basketball coach at Indiana State Teachers College, where he went 47-17 in two seasons.

In his first year at Indiana State, Wooden's team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to the NAIB tournament in Kansas City. Wooden, who had a black player on his team, refused the invitation because the NAIB had a policy banning African Americans. The rule was changed the next year, and Wooden led Indiana State to another conference title.

It was then that UCLA called, though Wooden didn't take the job to get rich. He never made more than $35,000 in a season, and early in his career he worked two jobs to make ends meet.

"My first four years at UCLA, I worked in the mornings at a dairy from six to noon then I'd come into UCLA," he told The Associated Press in 1995. "Why did I do it? Because I needed the money. I was a dispatcher of trucks in the San Fernando Valley and was a troubleshooter. After all the trucks made their deliveries and came back, I would call in the next day's orders, sweep out the place and head over the hill to UCLA."

Nell, Wooden's wife of 53 years, died of cancer in 1985. Besides his son and daughter, Wooden is survived by three grandsons, four granddaughters and 13 great-grandchildren.

April 8, 2010

March Madness:

Duke Wins 2010 NCAA National Championship, 61-59, by Ending Butler's Relentless March to Greatness

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

There are a lot of basketball fans who hate Duke but I am not one of them.

Fans do not hate Duke because Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a bad person and a bad coach. They know Krzyzewski is a good person and a great coach.

Fans do not hate Duke because the Blue Devil players are bad and play dirty. They know Duke's players are good to great players and they play hard but not dirty.

Fans do not hate Duke because the school is in North Carolina and Duke is part of the big-time Atlantic Coast Conference. They know North Carolina is a great state, and also home to the ACC's North Carolina Tar Heels, North Carolina State Wolfpack, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Fans hate Duke for one reason and one reason only—Duke wins. The Blue Devils win a lot of basketball games and championships.

Coach K has compiled a 795-220 record (78+ winning percentage) during his 30 seasons at Duke. After 3 re-building years, he has led Duke to 4 National Championships, 11 Final Four appearances, 12 ACC Conference Titles, 12 ACC Play-off Championships, and 26 NCAA tournament appearances in the last 27 years, with 15 consecutive appearances from 1996 to 2000.

As if on cue, Coach K and his Duke Blue Devils won their 4th National Championship a few days ago in one of the most exciting final games in NCAA Tournament history, beating the upstart Butler Bulldogs, 61-59.

Butler, coached by Brad Stevens, played its way into the championship game by upending #1 seed Syracuse and #2 seed Kansas State. It was not an accident or a string of good luck. Butler is for real, and has been for 3 years. Never mind that the Bulldogs play in the humble, mid-size Horizon League.

Stevens became Butler's head coach 2 years ago. He did not re-build and win. He won from day one, going 30-4 in his first year, 26-6 in his second year and 33-5 this year. His 89-15 record (an 85% winning percentage) is an NCAA record for the most wins by any coach in his first 3 years.

Along the way he won 3 consecutive Horizon League Titles, going undefeated at 18-0 this year. Butler smothers you with defense as all 5 players play as one, moving like a wave across the sea. Stevens is just 33 years old.

Coach K is in a long line of people who think Stevens is already on his way to becoming a great, winning college basketball coach. Although young, Stevens paid his dues as an Assistant Coach at Butler for 6 years.

Because Butler won its last 25 games to get into the title match with Duke, it was natural that the contest was billed as "David Against Goliath", and it lived up to the hype. No less than 70,000 fans showed up to watch, and did not stop watching until Butler's Gordon Hayward launched an off-balance, buzzer-beater, desperation, half-court shot for the win that was about 3 inches off the mark.

Duke was led by its Big 3—Kyle Singler (19 points and 9 boards), Jon Scheyer (15 points, 6 boards and 5 assists) and Nolan Smith (13 points and 4 assists). The Blue Devils were also helped by 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek.

Butler managed to shoot only 30% (15-for-49) in its 52-50 semi-final victory over Michigan State. Against Duke, they went 20-of-58 for 34.5%, and their luck ran out. Had Butler not missed so many shots, they might have won. Both teams played great defense.

Duke made its way to the championship game by putting the rip on West Virginia, 78-57. The Mountaineers were not on their game, and their star Da'Sean Butler twisted his left knee with 8:59 left to play and could not continue. Whatever spark there was in West Virginia then faded faster than an unlit sparkler at a Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

The National Championship was Coach K's 4th—he has now won in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010. The Blue Devils became the 4th consecutive # 1 seed to win it all, and the 5th national champion in the last 10 years from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

All of the talk about how big and bad the Big East Conference teams were this year went out the window by the time the title game was played—the Big East was a Big Bust when push came to shove.

In watching the title game, it brought to mind a quote of Coach K, who said "To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless." Nothing could have been truer of the Butler Five, and Duke as well.

Basketball history will not soon forget Butler and what it did this season. Duke, too, has its place in the ring of honor once again. For Butler especially, March Madness comes once a year but can last a lifetime—for a former athlete like myself, you never forget being on top of the mountain with your day in the sun.

April 2, 2010

2010 March Madness

The Final Four for the 2010 NCAA Tournament - Duke, West Virginia, Butler and Michigan State

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

The Final Four teams to compete for the 2010 National Championship will include #1 seed Duke from the East, #2 seed West Virginia from the East, #5 seed Butler from the West, and #5 seed Michigan State from the Midwest.

Two years ago an anomaly occurred when all 4 No. 1 seeds in the NCAA's March Madness Tournament made it to the Final Four for the first time in the history of the event. Normally, only 2 of the 4 No. 1 seeds make it all the way to the Final Four, as was the case last year when #1 Louisville and #1 Pittsburgh were eliminated.

This year the carnage was even worse as only No. 1 seed Duke made it to the Final Four when the other three No. 1 seeds—Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky—all bit the dust. They were replaced by #2 West Virginia (no big surprise), #5 Michigan State (a surprise) and #5 Butler (an even bigger surprise).

To get there, West Virginia knocked off #1 Kentucky, Butler upended #1 Syracuse and #2 Kansas State, and Michigan State turned back #4 Maryland. Clearly, the Spartans from Michigan State had the easiest road to the Final Four.

The Blue Devils from Duke, the only No. 1 seed to make it, were not fooling around—they beat their 4 opponents by a combined 64 points for an average victory margin of exactly 16 points. Ouch!

The Mountaineers from West Virginia, the only No. 2 seed to make it, were pretty serious too—beating their 4 opponents by a combined 56 points for an average victory margin of exactly 14 points.

The No. 5 seed Bears from Baylor beat their 4 opponents by a combined 31 points for an average victory margin of 7+ points (7.75).

In the 12 games played by Duke, West Virginia and Baylor, the closest victory margin in any game was no more than 7.

The No. 5 seed Spartans form Michigan State are another story—their 4 wins had a combined total of only 13 points for an average victory margin of 3+ points (3.25), and included a 1-point win over Tennessee, a 2-point win over Maryland, and a 3-point win over New Mexico State.

Michigan State played the easiest schedule to get to the Final Four and won by the least average margin of victory, making the Spartans the clear underdogs to win the 2010 National Championship. Butler is favored over the Spartans by 1.5 points as of Wednesday night.

Having said that the Spartans are the clear underdogs, check this out:

Coach Tom Izzo has led his Spartans to their 6th Final Four appearance in the last 12 seasons, the most appearances by any NCAA men's team during that span. More times than the four biggest active coaching names in college basketball—Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (839 wins), Jim Calhoun of Connecticut (809 wins), Jim Boeheim of Syracuse (805 wins) and Roy Williams of North Carolina (600 wins).

Izzo has taken the Spartans to their 13th consecutive NCAA tournament, compiled a 364-145 record (a 71.5% winning mark), made 6 Final Fours and won 6 Big Ten Championships in his first 15 years at Michigan State. Perhaps even more proof of Izzo's success is the fact that every 4-year recruit that has competed for Izzo has made a Final Four appearance in the Big Dance called March Madness.

Izzo guided the Spartans to their 2nd National Championship in 2000. Michigan State won its 1st National Championship in 1979 when Earvin "Magic" Johnson led the Spartans past unbeaten Indiana State and its legendary star Larry Bird. Both Johnson and Bird and Michael Jordan (a North Carolina graduate) would ignite the popularity of the NBA during their playing days.

Here Are the Four Big Upsets During the Sweet 16 Action

#5 Butler upset #1 Syracuse 63-59 and #2 Kansas State 63-56

The Butler Bears won the Horizon League title with a perfect 18-0 mark (32-4 overall). Because the Horizon League is not one of the 6 major conferences—the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC—one might get the idea that Butler is not on par with the big boys this year.

That would be a very bad assumption, much to the chagrin of Syracuse and Kansas State, as in "Big, Bad Syracuse? Not a problem for Butler" and "Big, Bad Kansas State? Again, not a problem for Butler". Just, exactly, how does Butler do this? Outplay the opposition, silly!

Butler played ball control, forced 18 Syracuse turnovers, and only committed 7 turnovers. The fact that the Bears' Shelvin Mack had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists didn't hurt a lick either. Butler led by 10 points at the half, and simply would not let Syracuse back into the game, and so the Orangemen took a trip back home to New York.

Having beaten #1 Syracuse, Butler was hardly bowled over by #2 Kansas State, which came from behind to take a brief 52-51 lead with 4:51 remaining. The Bears refused to fold, scoring the next 9 points to send the K-State Wildcats back where they came from.

Butler's Gordon Hayward canned 22 points and Shelvin Mack added 16 points while the Bears' Ronald Nored and Willie Veasley played like they invented defense. The victory was Butler's 24th straight, and the Bears became the first mid-major (smaller conference) school to make the Final Four since George Mason did it in 2006.

#2 West Virginia pushed aside #1 Kentucky 73-66

Kentucky blew past East Tennessee State, Wake Forest and Cornell by an average scoring margin of 25+ points, and then hit some real competition—West Virginia. The Mountaineers used their in-your-face defense and decided to commit fouls, forcing the Wildcats to the free throw line, where they went 16-for 29.

Then the Kentucky players could not hit the broad side of the barn, missing their first 20 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, West Virginia's Mountaineers scored 8 three-pointers in the first half and did not get a two-point conversion. End of story for Kentucky.

West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler scored 18 points and had 6 rebounds, and Joe Mazzulla had a career-high 17 points. Da'Sean Butler made 6 last-second-game-winning shots for the Bears this season—he could be a highlight film by himself.

Was it a big deal for West Virginia? You must be kidding. Coach Bob Huggins, back at his alma mater, was in the Final Four for the first time since he took Cincinnati there in 1992, 18 years ago. West Virginia as a team had not been there in 51 years, when Jerry West was their star player.

#6 Tennessee upended #2 Ohio State 76-73

The Volunteers' Wayne Chism just proved too much for Ohio State to handle, scoring 22 points and taking down 11 rebounds as Tennessee advanced in the tournament. Unfortunately for the Vols, they ran smack into Michigan State with all of its March Madness experience.

The result was a narrow one-point loss for Tennessee, and Spartan coach Tom Izzo pushed his regional finals record to 6-1 in tournament play. Michigan State became the Midwest Regional champions and Tennessee's dreams were shattered.

All kinds of top players from top teams came into the tournament and left before reaching the Final Four. Michigan State came in without its top player, junior guard Kalin Lucas, who tore his Achilles tendon in the final minutes of first half of Michigan State's 2nd Round victory over Maryland, 85-83. Izzo is arguably the best coach in America during March Madness because he gets more out of his average to good, sometimes no-name players, than any other coach in the Big Dance.

Here Are the 2010 NCAA Tournament National Semifinal Match-Ups:

Saturday, April 3:

#5 Michigan State versus #5 Butler

#1 Duke versus #2 West Virginia

The two winners will play for the National Championship on Monday, April 5.

How Duke, West Virginia, Butler and Michigan State Got to the Final 4

#1 Duke eliminated #16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 73-44, #8 California 68-53, #4 Purdue 70-57, and #3 Baylor 78-71.

#2 West Virginia eliminated #15 Morgan State 77-50, #10 Missouri 68-59, #11 Washington 69-56, and #1 Kentucky 73-66.

#5 Butler eliminated #12 Texas-El Paso 77-59, #13 Murray State 54-52, #1 Syracuse 63-59, and #2 Kansas State 63-56.

#5 Michigan State eliminated #12 New Mexico State 70-67, #4 Maryland 85-83, #9 Northern Iowa 59-52, and #6 Tennessee 70-69.

2010 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 3 Regional Semifinals - The Sweet 16

Midwest Regional:

#2 Ohio State was upset by #6 Tennessee 76-73

#5 Michigan State eliminated #9 Northern Iowa 59-52

West Regional:

#1 Syracuse was upset by #5 Butler 63-59

#2 Kansas State eliminated #6 Xavier 101-96 in 2OT

East Regional:

#1 Kentucky eliminated #12 Cornell 62-45

#2 West Virginia eliminated #11 Washington 69-56

South Regional:

#1 Duke eliminated #4 Purdue 70-57

#3 Baylor eliminated #10 Saint Mary's 72-49

2010 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 4 Regional Finals – The Elite 8

Midwest Regional:

#5 Michigan State eliminated #6 Tennessee 70-69

West Regional:

#2 Kansas State was upset by #5 Butler 63-56

East Regional:

#1 Kentucky was upset by #2 West Virginia 73-66

South Regional:

#1 Duke eliminated #3 Baylor 78-71

March 24, 2010

 2010 March Madness:

First Two Rounds in NCAA Tournament Produces 16 Upsets and 3 Overtime Victories

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

The first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA College Basketball Tournament validated what a lot of fans felt—that their favorite team could win it all. There were 16 upsets among the first 48 games and 3 overtime games as well.

And the biggest surprise was that three low-seeded teams--#12 Cornell, #11 Washington, #10 Saint Mary's and #9 Northern Iowa—made it into the Sweet 16 by pulling off two consecutive upsets apiece.

They will be joined by three #1 seeds—Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke, three #2 seeds—Ohio State, Kansas State and West Virginia, #3 Baylor, #4 Purdue, two #5 seeds—Michigan State and Butler, and two #6 seeds—Tennessee and Xavier.

The 12 major upsets included:

#12 Cornell Beat #5 Temple's Defense, 78-65

In a game many thought would have been much closer, the Big Red of Cornell shot 56% from the floor with Louis Dale scoring 21 points and Ryan Whitman 20 as the Ivy League Champion easily beat Temple 78-65. Temple had the nation's 3rd best defense to throw against the Big Red, but Cornell's 4 senior-class players would not be denied, winning Cornell's first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.

The victory was the Ivy League's first since 5th-seeded Princeton beat 12th-seeded UNLV in 1998, 22 years ago.

#12 Cornell Also Burned #4 Wisconsin 87-69

In Round 2 play, Cornell's Big Red got even hotter from the floor, shooting 61% to run away from the Wisconsin Badgers. The victory for Cornell propelled the Big Red into the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. They were led by Louis Dale's 26 points and Ryan Whitman's 24, sound familiar?

Wisconsin came into the game with the nation's 4th best defense, but like Temple, it could not get the job done against the Big Red Machine of 4 senior players who like playing for each other better than playing for Cornell, or for personal glory. This particular Cornell team will go down in NCAA history as one of the most unusual ever because of the bonding of its players and their intense devotion to each other.

#11 Washington Nipped #6 Marquette 80-78

Showing outstanding defense and unselfish balance in moving the ball around, the Washington Huskies put their final, last play in the hands of their senior leader—Quincy Pondexter, who did not disappoint. Pondexter dribbled, waited and waited as his teammates spread out, and then he drove down the line near the key and nailed a bank shot with 1.7 seconds left to lift Washington into 2nd Round play.

Marquette, which had won 7 of its previous games decided by 5 points or less, was left with a long ride home. The Golden Eagles led Washington 43-42 at the half and opened the 2nd half with a 17-3 run, pushing their lead to 60-45 with 14 minutes left to play. With a 15-point lead, things did not look good for Washington.

Quincy Pondexter had exactly 4 points at the half with 1-for-7 shooting from the floor and 2-for-6 shooting from the foul line. But Washington—and Pondexter—did not come to lose. Pondexter would end up with a game-high 11 rebounds and 18 points, including his last-second, under-do-or-die-pressure winning shot.

The comeback happened because the Huskies hit 14 three-pointers for a season-high 64% from the arc. Isaiah Thomas would add 19 points, Elston Turner 14, Matthew Bryan-Amaning (MBA) 11, Justin Holiday 8 and Venoy Overton 8.

Pondexter scored 10 of the Huskies' last 17 points during the final 7 minutes of play. In the end, it was Pondexter's 134th career game—the most ever by a Huskies player.

#11 Washington Rips #3 New Mexico Apart, 82-64

The Washington Huskies, winners of the Pac-10 Tournament championship, showed why they belonged in the 2010 March Madness competition by crushing the nation's 8th-ranked New Mexico Lobos.

At one point this season, Washington was 3-5 in Pac-10 play and loaded with too many stars, potential stars and egos, and not enough team players. Finally, Coach Lorenzo Romar was able to get everyone to understand that if they played together, moved the ball around, and didn't care who got the credit, they would be 20 times more effective and on their way to being a big-time success.

New Mexico just happened to be in the way when the Huskies jelled. Washington shot 48% from the floor and had only 5 turnovers en route to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2006. Ten Huskies scored in the game and 4 had double figures—Pondexter with 18 points and 8 rebounds, Matthew Bryan-Amaning with 15 points and 12 rebounds, Isaiah Thomas with 15 points and 7 assists, and Elston Turner with 10 points.

Outstanding defense by Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday held New Mexico's Darington Hobson, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, to 11 points. Overton and Holiday both made the All Pac-10 Defensive Team.

#10 Saint Mary's Sends #7 Richmond Home, 80-71

Saint Mary's Omar Samhan canned 29 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead the Gaels past Richmond, 80-71. The victory could not have been sweeter for Saint Mary's, which notched its first NCAA Tournament win in 6 tries since 1959, 51 years ago.

Mickey McConnell, the West Coast Conference Tournament MVP, added 23 points for Saint Mary's, which out rebounded Richmond 40 to 18, and had a 21 to 4 advantage in second-chance points due to great offensive rebounding.

#10 Saint Mary's Makes Believers Out of #2 Villanova, 75-68

Saint Mary's Omar Samhan was apparently just hitting his stride as the Gaels took on 2nd-seeded Villanova. Samhan was virtually unstoppable, scoring 32 points and pulling down 7 boards. Mickey McConnell nailed a 25-footer that banked off of the glass to put Saint Mary's up 68-65 with 1:15 left, and Samhan made it stick with a two-handed block of Reggie Redding's shot. McConnell then made both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 70-65.

#9 Northern Iowa Sends #8 UNLV Packing, 69-66

Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh unleashed a long 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to play and the Panthers upended UNLV, 69-66, to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The win ended a 20-year drought for Northern Iowa. Farokhmanesh ended up with 17 points and a smile wide enough to touch both Oklahoma City (where the game was played) and Cedar Falls (home of the Northern Iowa Panthers).

#9 Northern Iowa Humbles #1 Seed Kansas, 69-67

Lightning struck twice for Northern Iowa as the Panthers scored their second upset to advance to the Sweet 16 by beating Kansas, 69-67. Northern Iowa's lightning was once again Ali Farokhmanesh, who nailed another 3-pointer from celestial land with 35 seconds to go to give the Panthers a 4-point lead. He would score 16 total points. Marcus Morris also had 16 points for the Panthers. By winning, Northern Iowa became the first team to beat a #1 seed in the second round since 2004.

#14 Ohio Knocks Out #3 Georgetown 97-83

Ohio's Armon Bassett came to play, scoring 32 points, getting 3 rebounds and 3 assists, and Georgetown was gone. The win was very sweet for Ohio; it was its first tournament win in 27 years. Ohio led at the half 48-36, and outscored Georgetown in the 2nd half, 49-47. The winning Bobcats, who became the MAC Tournament Champions, had a losing record in conference play. Georgetown did not play any defense worth talking about as Ohio scored 97 points—so much for Georgetown's version of I-am-the-greatest, gym-rat basketball.

#13 Murray State Upends #4 Vanderbilt 66-65

Murray State used a 15-foot jumper from Danero Thomas at the buzzer to send Vanderbilt packing. Danero was the third option on the last-second, drawn-up play put in by Coach Billy Kennedy. The win was Murray State's first in tournament play since 1988, 22 years ago.

#11 Old Dominion Upsets #6 Notre Dame 51-50

Old Dominion, which came in with the nation's 5th best defense, made it count in holding Notre Dame in check, and upsetting the Irish as Notre Dame's final 3-point effort by Carleton Scott rattled in and out of the basket during the closing seconds, and Luke Harangody's putback attempt missed as well. Clearly, the luck of the Irish had run out.

#6 Xavier Bounces Out #3 Pittsburgh, 71-68

Pittsburgh had the nation's 32nd best defense among 347 teams, and Xavier had the nation's 193rd best defense heading into their game, but you never would have known it as Xavier upset the Pittsburgh Panthers, 71-68.

Pitt had no answer to Jordan Crawford, who scored 27 points for Xavier, and led the Musketeers to victory. Teammate Jason Love added 14 points and a key block down the stretch as Xavier held on when Pitt's Ashton Gibbs missed a potential game-tying 3-point shot with less than a second to go.

Here Are the 4 Minor Upsets

The 4 minor upsets included #10 Georgia Tech over #7 Oklahoma State 64-59, #10 Missouri over #7 Clemson, 86-78, #9 Wake Forest over #8 Texas 81-80, and #5 Michigan State over #4 Maryland 85-83.

Here Are the 3 Overtime Games

There were only 3 overtime games—Brigham Young got by Florida 99-92 in double overtime, Villanova nipped Robert Morris 73-70 in overtime, and Purdue outlasted Texas A&M 63-61 in overtime.

Here Are the 3 Other Close Games Won by Favorites

Three other favored teams won close games—Michigan State topped New Mexico State 70-67, Tennessee beat San Diego State 62-59, and Butler just got by Murray State 54-52.

Here Are the Only 3 Blowouts

There were really only 3 blowouts among the first 48 games—Duke made Arkansas-Pine Bluff look out of place, 73-44 (+29); and Kentucky put a beating on East Tennessee State, 100-71 (+29), and on Wake Forest, 90-60 (+30) that neither team will soon forget.

Here are the 2010 NCAA Tournament Round 3 Sweet 16 Match-Ups:

Midwest Regional:

#2 Ohio State versus #6 Tennessee – Friday (March 26)

#5 Michigan State versus #9 Northern Iowa – Friday (March 26)

West Regional:

#1 Syracuse versus #5 Butler – Thursday (March 25)

#2 Kansas State versus #6 Xavier – Thursday (March 25)

East Regional:

#1 Kentucky versus #12 Cornell – Thursday (March 25)

#2 West Virginia versus #11 Washington – Thursday (March 25)

South Regional:

#1 Duke versus #4 Purdue – Friday (March 26)

#3 Baylor versus #10 Saint Mary's – Friday (March 26)

2010 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 1:

Midwest Regional:

#1 Kansas eliminated #16 Lehigh 90-74

#2 Ohio State eliminated #15 UC-Santa Barbara 68-51

#3 Georgetown was upset by #14 Ohio 97-83

#4 Maryland eliminated #13 Houston 89-77

#5 Michigan State eliminated #12 New Mexico State 70-67

#6 Tennessee eliminated #11 San Diego State 62-59

#7 Oklahoma State was upset by #10 Georgia Tech 64-59

#8 UNLV was upset by #9 Northern Iowa 69-66

West Regional:

#1 Syracuse eliminated #16 Vermont 79-56

#2 Kansas State eliminated #15 North Texas 82-62

#3 Pittsburgh eliminated #14 Oakland 89-66

#4 Vanderbilt was upset by #13 Murray State 66-65

#5 Butler eliminated #12 Texas-El Paso 77-59

#6 Xavier eliminated #11 Minnesota 65-54

#7 Brigham Young eliminated #10 Florida 99-92 in 2OT

#8 Gonzaga eliminated #9 Florida State 67-60

East Regional:

#1 Kentucky eliminated #16 East Tennessee State 100-71

#2 West Virginia eliminated #15 Morgan State 77-50

#3 New Mexico eliminated #14 Montana 62-57

#4 Wisconsin eliminated #13 Wofford 53-49

#5 Temple was upset by #12 Cornell 78-65

#6 Marquette was upset by #11 Washington 80-78

#7 Clemson was upset by #10 Missouri 86-78

#8 Texas was upset by #9 Wake Forest 81-80

South Regional:

#1 Duke eliminated #16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 73-44

#2 Villanova eliminated #15 Robert Morris 73-70 in OT

#3 Baylor eliminated #14 Sam Houston 68-59

#4 Purdue eliminated #13 Siena 72-64

#5 Texas A&M eliminated #12 Utah State 69-53

#6 Notre Dame was upset by #11 Old Dominion 51-50

#7 Richmond was upset by #10 Saint Mary's 80-71

#8 California eliminated #9 Louisville 77-62

2010 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 2:

Midwest Regional:

#1 Kansas was upset by #9 Northern Iowa 69-67

#2 Ohio State eliminated #10 Georgia Tech 75-66

#4 Maryland was upset by #5 Michigan State 85-83

#6 Tennessee eliminated #14 Ohio 83-68

West Regional:

#1 Syracuse eliminated #8 Gonzaga 87-65

#2 Kansas State eliminated #7 Brigham Young 84-72

#3 Pittsburgh was upset by #6 Xavier 71-68

#5 Butler eliminated #13 Murray State 54-52

East Regional:

#1 Kentucky eliminated #9 Wake Forest 90-60

#2 West Virginia eliminated #10 Missouri 68-59

#3 New Mexico was upset by #11 Washington 82-64

#4 Wisconsin was upset by #12 Cornell 87-69

South Regional:

#1 Duke eliminated #8 California 68-53

#2 Villanova was upset by #10 Saint Mary's 75-68

#3 Baylor eliminated #11 Old Dominion 76-68

#4 Purdue eliminated #5 Texas A&M 63-61 in OT

April 10, 2009

2009 March Madness:

North Carolina Wins 5th National Title, 89-72, as Upstart Michigan State Falters

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Coach Roy Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels started their season ranked #1 and ended their season #1 with their 5th National Championship as North Carolina easily beat #2-seeded Michigan State 89-72 in the only game that counted—the match to determine the nation's best team for the 2008-2009 season.

A potential 4 NBA draft picks at North Carolina—Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green—stayed on for another year rather than entering the draft last year. There was some unfinished business as the Tar Heels lost to Kansas 84-66 in one of last year's semi-final games. Kansas would advance to beat Memphis 75-68 in the National Championship Game.

Michigan State played the toughest schedule to get to the Championship Game. The Spartans beat #3-seeded Kansas 67-62, #1-seeded Louisville 64-52 and #1-seeded Connecticut 82-73. Despite their upstart run to a potential national title, the Spartans fell flat against North Carolina.

In the early going, Michigan State could not stop--never mind defend--North Carolina's assault. The Tar Heels set a halftime record for a title game by jumping to a 21-point lead (55-34) and then set another record by scoring 55 points in the first half. The Spartans had exactly 8 field goals and 10 turnovers with 5:55 left to play in the first half.

Michigan State could not get in the paint, could not get the ball to its 6-foot-10 center Goran Suton in the paint, and could barely get the ball to halfcourt without it being stolen or throwing it out-of-bounds. Unfortunately for the Spartans, things did not get appreciably better in the second half.

North Carolina beat every team it played in the single-elimination tournament by double digits. They looked as good as they apparently were, and looked even better in the title game.

Many fans, players and coaches might think that Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh or Memphis would have been a more worthy opponent than Michigan State. What they really need to do is to shut up and recognize that they had their chance and blew it.

And so this season ends with some very interesting rankings in the final polls.

There is a tremendous difference between the season-ending final rankings for the AP Top 25 Poll and the Coaches Poll. In the Coaches Poll North Carolina ends up #1 with all 31 first-place votes.

In the AP Top 25 Poll Louisville gets the #1 spot by garnering 45 of 71 votes among the media (sportswriters and sportscasters). North Carolina had only 11 first-place votes, Memphis also got 11, Pittsburgh 3 and Connecticut 1.

Good grief, talk about homers. I guarantee you that a North Carolina media type did not give their first-place vote to Memphis, Pittsburgh, Connecticut or Louisville. So much for any semblance of objectivity.

Michigan State eliminated both #1-seeded Louisville and #1-seeded Connecticut as the Spartans marched on to the National Championship Game. The media types saw Michigan State as #8 in their final poll. Clearly, these media types drink too much after watching games and are sore losers when backing their favorite teams.

Here is the Final AP Top 25 Poll:

#1 Louisville (31-6), #2 North Carolina (34-4), #3 Memphis (33-4), #4 Pittsburgh (31-5), #5 Connecticut (31-5), #6 Duke (30-7), #7 Oklahoma (30-6), #8 Michigan State (31-7), #9 Missouri (31-7), #10 Gonzaga (28-6), #11 Villanova (30-8), #12 Wake Forest (24-7), #13 Syracuse (28-10), #14 Kansas (27-8), #15 Washington (26-9), #16 Florida State (25-10), #17 Purdue (27-10), #18 UCLA (26-9), #19 Arizona State (25-10), #20 Xavier (27-8), #21 LSU (27-8), #22 Butler (26-6), #23 Marquette (25-10), #24 Clemson (23-9) and #25 Utah (24-10).

Here is the Final Coaches Poll:

#1 North Carolina, #2 Michigan State, #3 Connecticut, #4 Villanova, #5 Louisville, #6 Pittsburgh, #7 Oklahoma, #8 Missouri, #9 Memphis, #10 Kansas, #11 Duke, #12 Syracuse, #13 Gonzaga, #14 Purdue, #15 Xavier, #16 Washington, #17 LSU, #18 UCLA, #19 Arizona State, #20 Wake Forest, #21 Marquette, #22 Florida State, #23 Texas, #24 Arizona and #25 Butler.

Do you think that the coaches may have been paying a little bit more attention to the actual results of the 2009 March Madness Tournament when the teams in question had to prove their ranking against top competition?

Jeff Sagarin's head-to-head quantitative method produced a totally different set of ratings with two major gaffes—Sagarin identified #14 Washington as Washington State and #83 Washington State as Washington. Perhaps Sagarin (or one of his staffers) had one too many pink lemonades when compiling the final stats.

These two mistakes were still displayed on the USA Today website as of Thursday (4-9-09) at 6:40 p.m. PST, two days after their release.

Here is Jeff Sagarin's Final Top Teams:

#1 Kansas, #2 Memphis, #3 North Carolina, #4 UCLA, #5 Wisconsin, #6 Texas, #7 Duke, #8 Louisville, #9 Tennessee, #10 Georgetown, #11 Xavier, #12 Davidson, #13 Stanford, #14 Washington (misidentified as Washington State), #15 Michigan State, #16 West Virginia, #17 Marquette, #18 Texas A&M, #19 Pittsburgh, #20 Butler, #21Ohio State, #22 Notre Dame, #23 Clemson, #24 Drake and #25 Indiana.

If college football had a national playoff system like college basketball, you would probably see the same screwy results in both the AP Top 25 Poll and Sagarin's Top Teams.

Among Sagarin's Top 25, the team that played the toughest schedule during the season was Texas, rated #4 nationally among the 341 Division 1 teams.

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament National Semifinal Results:

#2 Michigan State upset #1 Connecticut 82-73

#1 North Carolina eliminated #3 Villanova 83-69

Here is the 2009 NCAA Tournament National Championship Game Final Result:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #2 Michigan State 89-72

April 8, 2009

2009 March Madness

North Carolina's Pro Talent-Laden Team Crushes Michigan State for National Title

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Spartan and Tar Heel faithful.)

No team had ever left the court at halftime of a NCAA National Championship Game in better shape than North Carolina did Monday. The second half couldn't have been as spectacular as the first for Ty Lawson and the Tar Heels, and it wasn't.

No matter, it was good enough for North Carolina to dominate in an 89-72 victory over Michigan State, capping a season during which the Tar Heels went from the first-ever unanimous preseason No. 1 to its 5th national title Monday (4-6-09) during the NCAA National Championship Game in Detroit .

The Spartans had seen North Carolina play this well before--a 98-63 romp on the same court at Ford Field in December. They couldn't have imagined a start like this. The Tar Heels hit 6 of their first 7 shots, forced 3 turnovers and took a 17-7 lead less than 5 minutes into the game.

Even when they missed 3 shots on their next 3 possessions, they crashed the boards and came up with two baskets, not an easy feat against the best rebounding team in the country. The lead was 22-7 with nearly 14 minutes left in the first half.

Michigan State couldn't do anything right and North Carolina kept rolling in a record-breaking first half. The score was 55-34--the most points a team had ever scored in the first half of a championship game. It was also the biggest lead after 20 minutes.

"The first 10 minutes, we wanted to come out strong," Lawson said. "We learned from past experience it's important in the game. So we came out strong. We were knocking down big shots, playing defense real well. That's what we wanted to do."

The Tar Heels shot 52.9 percent (18-for-34) from the field and were just one rebound behind the Spartans' 17. Michigan State committed 14 turnovers in the half, just over the 13.8 they averaged per game this season, and 7 were on steals by Lawson, matching the championship-game record in one half.

"My mind-set basically was I wanted to slow down Kalin Lucas because he's the heart and soul of their team," Lawson said. "Basically I was trying to knock down passing lanes, make it hard for him, make him do things he didn't want to do. That was my main focus. My shot wasn't falling, too, so I decided to spend more energy on the defensive end and it helped out a lot." Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said mistakes were the "big key."

"To have 14 turnovers in the first half on a team that doesn't really press, that hurt us a little bit," he said. Spartans guard Travis Walton said the bad start finished them.

"That first 5 minutes of the game, we couldn't stop it," he said. "When we did try to stop it, we had good looks, we didn't make the shots. And they kept pushing and pushing at us. They was getting to the free throw line and we were turning the ball over."

Michigan State cut down on the turnovers and did a better job of rebounding in the second half, outscoring the Tar Heels 38-34. But North Carolina did what it needed to do to keep the Spartans at bay. Michigan State closed within 13 points twice, the last time at 78-65 with 4:46 to go.

But Lawson scored the first 4 points of a 6-0 run by North Carolina, a burst that saw the Spartans turn it over 2 more times.

"When we cut it down to 13, 14, we had some chances. It just wasn't our night, to be honest with you," Izzo said. "And we played a damn good team." North Carolina wound up matching its season average for points, an impressive effort against a team that allowed only 63 points per game.

"You know to me the key to the game was going to be the defensive end of the floor," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "If we could keep them off the backboards, because they destroy people rebounding-wise, and if we could get some turnovers, we decided not to press. We didn't press full court a single possession tonight. But we wanted to get some turnovers and give them one bad shot."

The numbers belonged to North Carolina all game, and they added up to a 5th title.

April 6, 2009 - 2nd Article

2009 March Madness

Big, Bad, Taller, Tougher Connecticut Falls to Michigan State in the Final 4, 82-73

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Spartan faithful.)

The Michigan State players walked to the edge of the floor and held up their index fingers, basking in the love of an entire state. Laid low by the economic crisis, Michigan desperately needed something to rally around. The Spartans were more than happy to oblige.

"It means so much, so much. It's been all bad news the last couple of years," said Magic Johnson, who sat just a few rows behind the Michigan State bench. "This was the right time, the right coach, the right team, the right mind-set."

Raymar Morgan broke out of his late-season slump with 18 points, Kalin Lucas added 21 and the smaller Michigan State Spartans ran roughshod over Hasheem Thabeet and Connecticut in an 82-73 upset in the Final Four on Saturday night in Detroit. The Spartans will face North Carolina for the National Championship game.

Connecticut (31-5) cut an 11-point deficit to 4 in 49 seconds, getting within 3 with a minute to go. But the outcome was never really in doubt. Durrell Summers, a Detroit native who experienced firsthand the hardships his city and state are enduring when both parents were laid off, converted a three-point play to put the game out of reach.

The Spartans (31-6) will play North Carolina (the Tar Heels beat Villanova 83-69) for the NCAA title Monday night, giving the city and state at least two more days to forget all the bad news and revel in their Spartans' success.

It's Michigan State's first appearance in the title game since 2000, when the Spartans won their second title. How's this for some karma? Johnson, Spartan-in-chief since leading Michigan State to its first title in 1979, will present the game ball before Monday's title game along with Larry Bird.

"Detroit's been unbelievable to us," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We've had some great games here, and the best is yet to come."

Flashbulbs were popping as the final seconds ticked down. The crowd of 72,456 was the largest-ever for a Final Four, and about two-thirds of it was wearing green.

"It was a memorable game that I won't forget," Izzo said. "Except we've got another one."

The loss is the latest blow for UConn, the best team in the country until Jerome Dyson went down with a knee injury in mid-February. The Huskies have been dealing with distractions since last May, when coach Jim Calhoun was diagnosed with his third bout with cancer, and are now facing questions about alleged recruiting violations.

The loss snapped Calhoun and Connecticut's perfect run in the Final Four. They'd made it twice before--1999 and 2004--and went on to win the title each time.

The UConn players walked slowly off the court, looking shell-shocked that their season had ended. "I've got a lot of kids in there crying right now," Calhoun said. "But they had a great season. It hasn't been that easy to stay focused the past few weeks. But I give (Izzo) a great deal of credit."

This was expected to be a battle of big men. UConn's Thabeet had been a one-man swat team, averaging a double-double and winning defensive player of the year in the burly Big East for a second straight year. Michigan State's Goran Suton led the equally gritty Big Ten in rebounding and had averaged a double-double in the NCAA tournament.

But the matchup never developed, with neither a factor. Izzo had said all week the Spartans planned to make the game a sprint to keep Thabeet out of his comfort zone.

"That's one thing we've been doing since Day 1: We just rebounded and we ran," Lucas said.

And Thabeet couldn't keep up. He led the Huskies with 17 points and 6 rebounds, but it was the quietest 17 points anyone's ever had. The 7-foot-3 center looked gassed from the opening tipoff, leaning over, tugging on his shorts and gasping for air not even six minutes into the game.

The most aggressive he got was at the end of the first half, getting in Marquise Gray's face after Jeff Adrien and Travis Walton got tangled up under Connecticut's basket. There was some pushing and shoving, prompting Calhoun to come all the way from the other end of the floor to calm his players. But the dust-up fizzled quickly, and no technicals were even called.

Suton, who had the main job of corralling Thabeet, didn't score his first field goal until early in the second half and finished with 4 points and 7 boards. Stanley Robinson and A.J. Price had 15 each for Connecticut, and Robinson added 13 rebounds.

Morgan was Michigan State's best player early on, but he's struggled to find his groove since missing three games in February with walking pneumonia. He had just seven points in Michigan State's last three games--that's combined--and was 0-for-2 in the big win over Louisville in the Midwest Regional final. Granted, he's playing with a broken nose and a plastic mask, but Izzo has been all over him to be more aggressive.

Apparently, he finally got the message.

"I said Raymar Morgan was a kid that I feared was gonna bust out," Calhoun said. "Unfortunately, I was too much of a prophet."

Morgan scored 11 in the first half, including a couple of big buckets when UConn was threatening to take off. Little Korie Lucious, the back-up point guard who's never met a shot he didn't like, was a key contributor early on, too, scoring nine points in a 1 1/2 -minute span at the end of the first half.

And it was Morgan again in the second half, stripping Craig Austrie to start an 8-2 run that caught UConn flat-footed, all but ended the game and threatened to bring down the roof at Ford Field.

Morgan stripped Austrie and dished to Draymond Green, who lumbered down the floor for an easy layup. Austrie missed a shot at the other end. Lucas-- generously listed at 6-feet--grabbed the rebound and sprinted upcourt, splitting two Connecticut defenders with a shake-and-shimmy that gave him a wide-open layup.

Wide open because those two defenders didn't have any help. Thabeet didn't even bother to run up the court to play defense, gasping for air with his hands on his hips.

After another Huskies miss, Morgan grabbed the rebound and fired it to Allen, who scored on a finger roll to give Michigan State a 53-49 lead.

The ball had barely dropped through the net when Calhoun barked for a timeout, and the Michigan State fans erupted. If Calhoun hoped the break would re-energize his team, he was wrong.

Green made a jumper, Durrell Summers a 3 and Green converted a pair of free throws. After Price missed a jumper, Green made his own from the top of the key to give Michigan State a 72-54 lead with 7:52 to play. He and Lucas slapped hands as the crowd roared.

"We love y'all!" Lucas yelled to the crowd during a postgame interview. "We love Detroit!"

April 6, 2009

2009 March Madness

North Carolina Toys With Villanova and Then Sends 'Nova Home for Good, 83-69

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Tar Heel faithful.)

In a classic case of men vs. boys, North Carolina never gave Villanova much chance to breathe, let alone whip up a fresh dose of Final Four magic.

Ty Lawson scored 22 points, Wayne Ellington had 20 more, and the Tar Heels, with their four, five, maybe more NBA-caliber players, eased to an 83-69 win Saturday night over the plucky but overmatched Wildcats in the last Final Four game in Detroit Saturday.

Tyler Hansbrough had 18 points and 11 rebounds to mark a quite successful return to the Final Four after a remarkable dud last year in a semifinal loss to Kansas. Next up, North Carolina (33-4) goes for its second title in 5 years Monday against Michigan State, an 82-73 winner over Connecticut.

The Spartans, located 90 miles up the road in East Lansing, will certainly have the crowd on their side. The talent gap, though? Eek. They'll have to be at least 35 points better than they were in December when the teams met in this same building - a 98-63 UNC romp.

"Had no idea about that," coach Roy Williams said if he ever anticipated a rematch. "Knew that we'd played very, very well that night."

Meanwhile, Villanova (30-8) ends a successful season two wins short of its first title since 1985, when Rollie Massimino coaxed one of the greatest upsets in sports history out of his guys - 66-64 over Patrick Ewing, John Thompson and Georgetown.

Thompson was on press row doing radio and Massimino was chomping his gum nervously behind the Villanova bench, part of the record crowd of 72,456 at Ford Field - which was half gone and streaming toward the exits with 5 minutes left.

But James Naismith himself probably couldn't have helped 'Nova out of this one.

North Carolina simply has too much talent.

Last year, in one of the more inexplicable performances in Final Four history, the Tar Heels trailed Kansas 40-12 midway through the first half. This time, they led 40-23. "I've been there. I was there a year ago," Williams said. "It feels like somebody jerks your heart out and shakes it."

Ellington made five of his first 6 shots, including a 3-pointer after a perfect crosscourt pass over the top from Danny Green. Nobody had an answer for Hansbrough, who once found himself bodied up with Dante Cunningham, faked left, then spun to the baseline and saw no more resistance - a way-too-easy layup.

Lawson, he of the injured toe and the successful trip to the craps table in downtown Detroit a few nights previous - well, he stayed on a roll, going 5-for-11 with eight assists and seven rebounds. Had he shot better than 10-for-17 from the line, this game might have been more lopsided.

And so, what began as tournament with great potential for the Big East - three top seeds, two in the Final Four - will end with the conference on the sideline.

No disrespect to Villanova, which did, in fact, make this interesting for a brief time. The Wildcats cut the deficit to five early in the second half and it could have been three, but Cunningham's jumper went halfway in before cruelly rimming out.

Green answered with a 3-pointer, then the Tar Heels got a steal and layup from Lawson to push the lead back to 10. That took all of 64 seconds. "We're happy," Williams said. "We're going to enjoy the dickens out of this one for a while."

Though the rest of the second half was a jumbled mess for both teams - which allowed Villanova to stay in shouting distance - the Wildcats never got it back under double digits. It was a typical no-quit effort from coach Jay Wright's group of seasoned upperclassmen, who battled through the Big East and started putting it together come tournament time.

Scottie Reynolds will always have that indelible end-to-end game-winning layup against Pittsburgh last weekend that got Villanova to its Final Four since '85. His first basket in this one, however, didn't come until more than nine minutes were gone and the deficit was in double digits. He finished with 17 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Cunningham, the Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder this season, led them again with 12 and 12.

A lot of the Villanova stats didn't look so bad. They got five more rebounds and were even in the turnover battle. They hustled and dove on the floor all night.

But as the game was getting out of reach early, they simply couldn't defend. North Carolina shot 67 percent while opening that 17-point lead in the first half. The Tar Heels led 49-40 at halftime.

And the Wildcats couldn't shoot. 'Nova shot 33 percent from the floor, not exactly the 78.6 percent from that "perfect game" back in '85. They were even worse from 3-point range - 5-for-27. And there were way too many scenes reminiscent of big brother vs. little brother: Where the Villanova player would drive the middle, make a few head fakes and the Carolina guy would just stand there, wait for the histrionics to end and block or alter the shot.

It was, quite simply, what it looks like when a roster of very good college players goes up against a team full of NBA-caliber talent.

Hansbrough. Freshman forward Ed Davis. Lawson. Green. Ellington. The last three in that group actually considered the NBA after last season but didn't get the right feedback from scouts. Another year of seasoning couldn't hurt, they figured, and that made the Tar Heels the team to beat starting in preseason, when they were the unanimous No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.

The last time the Heels were No. 1 at the beginning and the end was 1982 - when a guy named Michael Jordan wore Carolina Blue.

Yes, there were hiccups along the way, such as when the Tar Heels lost their first two ACC games, and when Lawson missed three games with the toe - one of an assortment of injuries they endured.

But none of it was enough to derail this ride from Tobacco Road to Motown. Carolina has won every tournament game by 12 or more. Now, Williams finds himself one win away from leading his alma mater to its fifth national championship.

March 31, 2009

2009 March Madness

Final 4 - #1 North Carolina vs. #3 Villanova, and #1 Connecticut vs. #2 Michigan State

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Three of the best teams in the country—Louisville, Pittsburgh and Memphis—have something in common with three of the worst teams in the country—Grambling, Alcorn State and New Jersey Tech.

Players from all six will be among the other 343 Division 1-A teams watching the games Saturday (4-4-09) when #1 North Carolina meets #3 Villanova and #1 Connecticut meets #2 Michigan State to vie for the right to meet in the NCAA 2009 National Championship game during March Madness in Detroit (MI).

A funny thing happened on the way to the Final 4 in Detroit—4 upsets occurred.

No. 2-seed Michigan State dominated #1-seed Louisville in the second half to win 64-52. No. 3-seed Villanova got a last second floater from Scottie Reynolds to nip #1-seed Pittsburgh 78-76. Villanova also crushed #2-seed Duke 77-54 before knocking out Pittsburgh.

No. 3-seed Missouri outscored mighty #2-seed Memphis (33-4 going in) 102-91 in a run-and-gun game without defense. It was little wonder that Missouri would be ousted by Connecticut in their Regional Final, 82-75, after the Huskies ran over Purdue 72-60.

Pittsburgh had its hands full with Xavier, winning 60-55, and the Panthers' luck ran out against Villanova. North Carolina rolled over Gonzaga 98-77 and then gave Oklahoma the stats, played Tar Heel basketball and made it two in-a-row, winning 72-60.

Coach Roy Williams has North Carolina on a roll, making it to the Final 4 for the second consecutive year and a record 18th time overall, moving the Tar Heels out of a tie with UCLA at 17th appearances.

North Carolina has a pedigree to envy with 4 NCAA Championships (1957, 1982, 1993 and 2005), 27 Atlantic Coast Conference Season Titles, an overall 73% winning record, and has the most consecutive 20-win seasons with 31 straight from 1970 through 2001.

Coach Jim Calhoun has led his Connecticut Huskies to the Final 4 for the 3rd time and demands close attention as he won the National Title in his first two trips in 1999 and 2004. Connecticut has been to 28 NCAA Tournaments, won 10 Big East Season Championships under Calhoun and currently is tied for 1st among all colleges with 13 active players in the NBA.

Villanova has 1 National Championship with its stunning victory over defending champion Georgetown 66-64 in 1985.

Coach Rollie Massimino's Wildcats, a #8 seed in the March Madness dance that year, played what is often referred to as the "perfect game", shooting 78.6% from the field (9-of-10 in the 2nd half) as no Villanova player missed more than 2 field goal attempts, and the Wildcats hit 11 free throws in the last 2 minutes to seal their victory.

Coach Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans are not too shabby either. This season marks Michigan State's 5th Final 4 appearance in the last 11 seasons, the most appearances by any NCAA men's team during that span.

Izzo, who is in his 14th season at Michigan State, guided the Spartans to their 2nd National Championship in 2000. Michigan State won its 1st National Title in 1979 when Earvin "Magic" Johnson led the Spartans past unbeaten Indiana State and its legendary star Larry Bird. Both Johnson and Bird and Michael Jordan (a North Carolina graduate) would ignite the popularity of the NBA during their playing days.

Izzo and his Spartans look pretty harmless but they just sneak up on you and before you know it, you help make their successful history. In his 14 years at Michigan State,

Izzo has taken the Spartans to their 12th consecutive NCAA tournament, compiled a 335-136 record (71%), and made 5 Final 4 appearances in 11 seasons.

Every 4-year recruit that has competed for Izzo has made a Final 4 appearance in the Big Dance called March Madness.

Last year was an anomaly as all 4 No. 1 seeds in the Tournament made it to the Final 4. Normally, only 2 of the 4 No. 1 seeds make it all the way to the Final 4, as was the case this year when #1 Louisville and #1 Pittsburgh were eliminated.

This year was unusual though as none of the Final 4 teams came in as Conference Tournament Champions, thus all 4 are at-large contestants, marking only the third time it has happened since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament National Semifinal Match-Ups:

Saturday, April 4:

#1 Connecticut versus #2 Michigan State

#1 North Carolina versus #3 Villanova

The two winners will play for the National Championship on Monday, April 6.

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament Third Round Regional Semifinal Results:

East Regional:

#1 Pittsburgh eliminated #4 Xavier 60-55

#3 Villanova upset #2 Duke 77-54

West Regional:

#1 Connecticut eliminated #5 Purdue 72-60

#3 Missouri upset #2 Memphis 102-91

South Regional:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #4 Gonzaga 98-77

#2 Oklahoma eliminated #3 Syracuse 84-71

Midwest Regional:

#1 Louisville eliminated #12 Arizona 103-64

#2 Michigan State eliminated #3 Kansas 67-62

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament Fourth Round Regional Final Results:

East Regional:

#3 Villanova upset #1 Pittsburgh 78-76

West Regional:

#1 Connecticut eliminated #3 Missouri 82-75

South Regional:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #2 Oklahoma 72-60

Midwest Regional:

#2 Michigan State upset #1 Louisville 64-52

March 30, 2009

Advances to the Final Four

Michigan State Puts a Big Whupping on No. 1 Seed Louisville at March Madness

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Spartan faithful.)

Michigan State is marching on to Motown. The Spartans gave the Final Four a hometown feel, stopping overall No. 1 seed Louisville 64-52 Sunday (3-29-09) in Indianapolis to win the Midwest Regional.

Goran Suton had 19 points and 10 rebounds as the No. 2-seeded Spartans (30-6) reached their 5th Final Four in 11 years—the most trips of any team in the nation during that span.

Only 90 miles from their campus in East Lansing, the Spartans will play Connecticut on Saturday (4-4-09) at Ford Field in Detroit. A crowd of 72,000, the largest ever for college basketball's signature event, is expected for each game.

"Detroit, here we come," said coach Tom Izzo, a Michigan native. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that."

The Spartans made it 30 years after Magic Johnson led them to a national title over Larry Bird and Indiana State.

Along with advancing, the Spartans prevented a Big East blitz in the Final Four--Louisville (31-6) was trying to become the 3rd school from the power-packed conference to make it.

The Cardinals scored 103 points in overwhelming Arizona in the regional semifinal, but barely reached half that total against a rugged, defensive-minded squad. Earl Clark scored 19 points, but coach Rick Pitino's team played without the precision or passion it had Friday night.

Louisville lost for the first time in 14 games. It was the second straight year they were eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the regional final.

Suton carried the Spartans early, scoring 17 points in the first half, and Durrell Summers delivered 10 second-half points.

"They prepared so well the past day and a half," Izzo said. "I didn't know if we could beat them but I thought we had a chance." It went nothing like Louisville expected.

The Cardinals allowed Michigan State to dictate the pace with their deliberate half-court style, and Louisville's vaunted pressure defense produced no fast break points. Instead, Michigan State relied on its physical style and finally broke the Cardinals. After going 28 minutes without either team taking more than a three-point lead, the Cardinals broke down.

Louisville came back from a 30-27 halftime deficit to take a 34-32 lead with 15:33 to go.

But the Spartans answered with the first big run of the day, outscoring Louisville 9-2 over a two-minute span for a 41-36 lead.

The Spartans were just getting started. Michigan State took advantage of the Cardinals poor free-throw shooting to go on a 17-7 run that made it 58-43 with 5:50 to go. That forced Louisville to rush its offense into bad shots, and with Louisville's rebounders out of position, Michigan State dominated.

The Cardinals made only one basket in the last 5:18 and shot just 38.3 percent from the field.

March 25, 2009

2009 March Madness

Izzo's Michigan State Spartans Make Sweet 16 for Eighth Time in 12 Years

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Spartan faithful.)

There is an impressive statistic that has been building over time in East Lansing, one that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo treasures above all others. In the last 12 years, every Spartan who has stayed for 4 years has appeared in a Final Four.

Thanks to an unexpected scoring binge from senior guard Travis Walton, who has yet to step on to college basketball's biggest stage, Michigan State still has a chance to keep that streak going.

The Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year scored a career-high 18 points to lift the second-seeded Spartans to a 74-69 victory over 10th-seeded USC on Sunday (3-22-09) in the Midwest Regional, putting Michigan State in the round of 16 for the 8th time in 12 years.

"There's no question that of all the players on our team, Travis wants to keep playing probably more than anybody," Izzo said. "He's the only recruit in those years that has been here 4 years that has not gone to a Final Four. And I think that drives him."

Walton entered the game averaging 4.9 points and was shut out against Robert Morris in the first round. So even his coach could not believe it when he went 8-for-13 on Sunday.

"I was shocked that he did make some of those shots. There are certain times when guys just step up and do heroic things," Izzo said.

Durell Summers added 11 points and 8 rebounds for the Spartans (28-6), who have advanced to the regional semifinals more times in the last 12 years than any team besides Duke. They will play #3 seed Kansas on Friday (3-27-09) in Indianapolis. The Spartans beat the Jayhawks 75-62 on Jan. 10 in East Lansing.

Dwight Lewis scored 19 points and DeMar DeRozan added 18 points for USC (22-13), which is looking like more than just a football school under coach Tim Floyd.

The upstart Trojans, who had just 12 NCAA tournament victories in the program's history before Floyd arrived 4 years ago, gave the tourney-tested Spartans all they could handle. There were 16 ties and 14 lead changes in a game that wasn't decided until the final minute.

"I loved the heart and spirit we played with against one of the elite programs in the country," Floyd said.

Raymar Morgan calls Michigan State's backcourt of Walton and Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas "Fire and Ice", with Lucas providing the heat on offense and Walton cooling down the opposing team's top perimeter threat on the other end of the floor.

"You look at me as a defensive stopper, but I've been practicing my shot," Walton said. "Kalin put the ball in my hands. I had high confidence when I shot them and they went in." Walton had not scored in double figures since he had 11 against Kansas. But with the offense sputtering and the Trojans attacking, the senior could not have picked a better time to come through.

Floyd worried that the lack of depth—three Trojans played all 40 minutes and Gibson played 36 against Boston College—would hinder them against Michigan State, which goes 10 deep. Gibson fouled out with 5:38 to play, but these kids showed plenty of California cool even without their leader on the floor.

Lewis scored six straight points for the Trojans, including two free throws that tied the game at 69 with less than 4 minutes to go, but the Trojans missed their final 9 shots from the field to help the Spartans survive.

With USC out, the Pac-10 only has one team remaining in the field in Arizona. California, Washington, UCLA and Arizona State also failed to make it out of the first weekend, making it the first time since 2004 that at least two Pac-10 teams are not in the round of 16.

March 25, 2009 - 2nd Article

2009 March Madness

Michigan State Makes Short Work of Robert Morris, Dominates 77-62

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Spartan faithful.)

When Michigan State arrived in Minneapolis for the NCAA tournament, Raymar Morgan said he was ready to "show the world what they have been missing for a while." Those who watched the Spartans' dominating victory over Robert Morris in the first round of March Madness got a pretty good glimpse of what Morgan and the rest of the Spartans can do when they are healthy.

Morgan scored 16 points and Goran Suton had 11 points and 17 rebounds as Michigan State bullied 15th-seeded Robert Morris in a 77-62 victory in the Midwest Regional Friday (3-20-09).

Draymond Green added 16 points for the second-seeded Spartans (27-6), who were spotty during the Big Ten season thanks to Morgan's walking pneumonia and Suton's bad knees. They both looked fine against the overmatched Colonials and the Spartans regained the form that led to convincing victories over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas earlier in the year.

"It's been a long time since we had every guy healthy," forward Marquise Gray said. "It's been an up and down season for us, but what better time to have everything working than now?" Michigan State will play 10th-seeded USC on Sunday (3-22-09).

"We played one of our better games," coach Tom Izzo said. The Spartans simply shrugged off a worrisome loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals and delivered a dominating effort to let everyone know they have their mojo back.

Michigan State had a 49-28 advantage on the boards and 44-20 in the paint against a smaller opponent that resides in little Moon Township, about 17 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.

Jeremy Chappell, the Colonials' do-everything guard who leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, didn't do much of anything on Friday night, shackled by Travis Walton. He shot 5-for-14 and had 6 rebounds and 2 steals.

With coach Mike Rice, the rising star and former assistant at Pitt under Jamie Dixon, prodding his young team and pumping his fists, Robert Morris tried to go toe-to-toe with the Big Ten champs, but got knocked silly in a 10-minute span bridging the first and second halves.

Trailing by four with 3:30 to play in the first half, Rob Robinson burst down the lane and leaped for what may have been a momentum-changing dunk. But the ball hit the front of the rim. Robert Morris never seemed to recover.

Allen came right back with a layup and a 3-pointer and Green capped an 11-0 finish to the half with a putback of his own to give Michigan State a 41-30 lead at the break.

The 21-0 barrage continued in the first five minutes of the second half, with the lead ballooning to 51-30 before the Colonials scored their first points of the period.

The Spartans led by as many as 23 points before Izzo called off the dogs. A late surge by the Colonials made the score a little more respectable, but the outcome was never in doubt in the final 25 minutes.

March 24, 2009

All 1, 2 & 3 Seeds Advance to Sweet 16

Three #12 Seeds Upset #5 Seeds as the NCAA March Madness Tourney Begins

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Fourteen top-four seeded teams made it to the Sweet 16 and three #12 seeds upset #5 seeds during the first two rounds of the 2009 NCAA Basketball Tournament March 19-22.

Advancing to the Sweet 16 to continue their March Madness bids were #1 seeds Pittsburgh, Connecticut, North Carolina and Louisville, #2 seeds Duke, Memphis, Oklahoma and Michigan State, #3 seeds Villanova, Missouri, Syracuse and Kansas, and #4 seeds Xavier and Gonzaga. Only #4 seed Wake Forest was eliminated by #13 Cleveland State and #4 seed Washington was eliminated by #5 seed Purdue.

The three #12 seeds that pulled off upsets of #5 seeds included Wisconsin over Florida State, Western Kentucky over Illinois and Arizona over Utah. Other upsets included #11 Dayton over #6 West Virginia, and #10 Michigan over #7 LSU. Only one game went into overtime as #9 Siena eliminated #8 Ohio State in double overtime.

There were two horrific blowouts as #1 Connecticut swamped poor #16 Chattanooga by 56 points, 103-47, and #1 North Carolina made short work of #16 Radford by 43 points, 101-58. Connecticut ripped #9 Texas A&M by 26 (92-66) in its second contest.

Besides Siena's double overtime win over Ohio State, 6 other teams won games by a basket or less. They included Wisconsin, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Marquette, Purdue and Gonzaga. Only Purdue would make it to the Sweet 16.

Only one double digit seed--#12 Arizona—would make it into the Sweet 16. When you add up all 16 seeding spots, the total of 49 set a record for the lowest ever, besting the prior record of 50 set in 1989.

The place top-seeded teams fared worst this year was the Midwest Regional which saw #4 Wake Forest, #5 Utah, #6 West Virginia, #7 Boston College and #8 Ohio State get eliminated in their first game.

The Big East became this year's elite conference with an NCAA-record 5 teams among the final Sweet 16: Louisville, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Syracuse. North Carolina also tied Kentucky for the most NCAA tournament victories (98) with its win over LSU.

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Regional Semifinal Match-Ups:

East Regional:

#1 Pittsburgh versus #4 Xavier – Thursday, March 26

#2 Duke versus #3 Villanova – Thursday, March 26

West Regional:

#1 Connecticut versus #5 Purdue – Thursday, March 26

#2 Memphis versus #3 Missouri – Thursday, March 26

South Regional:

#1 North Carolina versus #4 Gonzaga – Friday, March 27

#2 Oklahoma versus #3 Syracuse – Friday, March 27

Midwest Regional:

#1 Louisville versus #12 Arizona – Friday, March 27

#2 Michigan State versus #3 Kansas – Friday, March 27

So who will make it to the Elite 8?

Consider these cold, hard historical facts:

1) When you know that no team less than a #4 seed has won the championship for 20 straight years, you might want to eliminate #5 Purdue and #12 Arizona.

That leaves #1 seeds Pittsburgh, Connecticut, North Carolina and Louisville, #2 seeds Duke, Memphis, Oklahoma and Michigan State, #3 seeds Villanova, Missouri,

Syracuse, and Kansas, and #4 seeds Xavier and Gonzaga.

2) Only three of the #1 seeds are likely to advance to the Final 4 since only 70% of #1 seeds advance into the Elite 8. The odds say that either Pittsburgh, Connecticut, North Carolina or Louisville will not make it among the Elite 8.

3) Amazingly, only one or two of the #1 seeds have made it to the Final 4 in 18 of the last 24 years. Last year was an exception as ALL four #1 seeds made it into the Final 4 for the first time ever.

Morehead State eliminated Alabama State 58-43 in the play-in game for the 64th slot in the tournament.

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament First Round Results:

East Regional:

#1 Pittsburgh eliminated #16 East Tennessee State 72-62

#2 Duke eliminated #15 Binghamton 86-62

#3 Villanova eliminated #14 American University 80-67

#4 Xavier eliminated #13 Portland State 77-59

#12 Wisconsin upset #5 Florida State 61-59

#6 UCLA eliminated #11 Virginia Commonwealth 65-64

#7 Texas eliminated #10 Minnesota 76-62

#8 Oklahoma State eliminated #9 Tennessee 77-75

West Regional:

#1 Connecticut eliminated #16 Chattanooga 103-47

#2 Memphis eliminated #15 Cal State Northridge 81-70

#3 Missouri eliminated #14 Cornell 78-59

#4 Washington eliminated #13 Mississippi State 71-58

#5 Purdue eliminated #12 Northern Iowa 61-56

#6 Marquette eliminated #11 Utah State 58-57

#7 California eliminated #10 Maryland 84-71

#9 Texas A&M eliminated #8 Brigham Young 79-66

South Regional:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #16 Radford 101-58

#2 Oklahoma eliminated #15 Morgan State 82-54

#3 Syracuse eliminated #14 Stephen F. Austin 59-44

#4 Gonzaga eliminated #13 Akron 77-64

#12 Western Kentucky upset #5 Illinois 76-72

#6 Arizona State eliminated #11 Temple 66-57

#10 Michigan upset #7 LSU 62-59

#8 LSU eliminated #9 Butler 75-71

Midwest Regional:

#1 Louisville eliminated #16 Morehead State 74-54

#2 Michigan State eliminated #15 Robert Morris 77-62

#3 Kansas eliminated #14 North Dakota State 84-74

#13 Cleveland State upset #4 Wake Forest 84-69

#12 Arizona upset #5 Utah 84-71

#11 Dayton upset #6 West Virginia 68-60

#10 Southern California eliminated #7 Boston College 72-55

#9 Siena eliminated #8 Ohio State 74-72 in Double Overtime

Here are the 2009 NCAA Tournament Second Round Results:

East Regional:

#1 Pittsburgh eliminated #8 Oklahoma State 84-76

#2 Duke eliminated #7 Texas 74-69

#3 Villanova eliminated #6 UCLA 89-69

#4 Xavier eliminated #12 Wisconsin 60-49

West Regional:

#1 Connecticut eliminated #9 Texas A&M 92-66

#2 Memphis eliminated #10 Maryland 89-70

#3 Missouri eliminated #6 Marquette 83-79

#5 Purdue eliminated #4 Washington 76-74

South Regional:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #8 LSU 84-70

#2 Oklahoma eliminated #10 Michigan 73-63

#3 Syracuse eliminated #6 Arizona State 78-67

#4 Gonzaga eliminated #12 Western Kentucky 83-81

Midwest Regional:

#1 Louisville eliminated #9 Siena 79-72

#2 Michigan State eliminated #10 Southern California 74-69

#3 Kansas eliminated #11 Dayton 60-43

#12 Arizona eliminated #13 Cleveland State 71-57

March 11, 2009

Find Out Who Didn't Win

Meet 26 of the NCAA Basketball Conference or League Champions

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Twenty-six of 31 NCAA Basketball league or conference titles were settled Monday (3-9-09). Twenty-three teams won outright championships, 3 wound up in ties with other teams, and playoffs will decide the other 5. Here is the scorecard:

The Dominators

Teams that won outright league titles by a 2-game-or-more-advantage included 2nd-ranked North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 13-3 mark and an overall record of 27-3. The Tar Heels were 14-1 at home. Two other teams also only lost once at home—Wake Forest and Duke—but neither could begin to match North Carolina's 8-2 road performance.

Eighth-ranked Michigan State took the Big Ten title with a 15-3 mark and a 4-game winning advantage. The Spartans were 25-5 overall with a 12-2 home showing and a killer 9-1 road record. Indiana was 1-17 in conference play, begging the question: Where are the real clowns who sent Bobby Knight packing?

Fourteenth-ranked Gonzaga ran the table in West Coast Conference play with a perfect 14-0 mark and a 4-game winning advantage. The Zags were 25-5 overall with a sterling 9-1 road record.

Utah State won the Western Athletic title with a 14-2 mark and a 3-game winning advantage. The Aggies were 27-4 overall with a perfect 17-0 home record.

Weber State (21-8 overall) won the Big Sky with a 15-1 mark and a 4-game winning advantage. Radford (21-11 overall) won the Big South with a 15-3 mark. Butler (26-4 overall) took the Horizon title with a 15-3 record. Cornell (21-9 overall) won the Ivy League with an 11-3 mark and a 3-game winning advantage. Siena (25-7 overall) won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with a 16-2 and a perfect 16-0 home record.

Morgan State (20-11 overall) won the Mid-Eastern Conference with a 13-3 mark and a 3-game winning advantage. Robert Morris (23-10) won the Northeast with a 15-3 mark and 3-game winning advantage. American University (23-7) won the Patriot League with a 13-1 mark. North Dakota State (24-6) took the Summit League with a 16-2 mark.

All You Need Is One More Win

Teams that won outright titles by a 1-game advantage included 6th-ranked Louisville in the Big East with a 16-2 mark and an overall record of 25-5. No. 3-ranked Pittsburgh (28-3 overall) was a runner-up with a perfect 19-0 record at home but could not match Louisville's 8-1 road mark. Top-ranked Connecticut was also a runner-up and had a 27-3 record, but Louisville took home the trophy.

Ninth-ranked Kansas won the Big 12 with a 14-2 and an 18-1 home record. The Jayhawks were 25-6 overall. Fifteenth-ranked Missouri was third with a perfect 18-0 mark at home but could not win when it really counted.

Sixteenth-ranked Washington won the Pacific 10 (Pac 10) title with a 14-4 mark and an 18-1 home record. The outright championship was the Huskies' first in 56 years. Washington was 24-7 overall. The Huskies started the year at 3-3 and then went 21-4.

Seventeenth-ranked Xavier (24-6 overall) won the Atlantic 10 title with a 12-4 mark and was 14-1 at home. Dayton, a runner-up, was a perfect 18-0 at home but the Flyers lost more games than they won on the road.

Jacksonville (18-3 overall) won the Atlantic Sun with a 15-5 mark. Cal State Northridge (15-13 overall) won the Big West title with an 11-5 mark even though Cal State was 5-11 on the road. Virginia Commonwealth (23-9) won the Colonial Athletic Conference with a 14-4 mark. Runner-up George Mason (22-9) was a perfect 14-0 at home but lost more games than it won on the road.

Tulsa (22-9) won the Conference USA title with a 12-4 mark. Tennessee-Martin (22-9) won the Ohio Valley championship with a 14-4 mark. Alabama State (19-9) won the Southwestern Athletic title with a 16-2 mark. Runner-up Jackson State was a perfect 9-0 at home but a terrible 6-13 on the road.

A Tie Is Better Than Runner-Up

Among the teams that tied for a title were Brigham Young (24-6), Utah (21-9) and New Mexico (21-10). All three went 12-4 for a 3-way tie in the Mountain West Conference.

Vermont (23-8) and Binghamton (22-8) both went 13-3 to tie for the America East title.

Creighton (26-7) and Northern Iowa (23-10) both went 14-4 to tie for the Missouri Valley championship.

Several Titles Are Still Undecided

Among the conferences with divisional champions but not league or conference champions are the Mid-American Conference that has East Champion Buffalo (19-10 overall) and West Champion Ball State (13-16 overall). The Southeastern (SEC) Conference has South Carolina (21-8) and Tennessee (19-10) as East Champions and LSU (25-6) as the West Champion.

The Southern Conference has Chattanooga (17-16) as the North Champion and Davidson (26-7) as the South Champion. The Southland Conference has Stephen F. Austin (21-7) as the East Champion and Sam Houston State (18-11) as the West Champion. The Sun Belt has Western Kentucky (22-8) as the East Champion and Arkansas-Little Rock (23-7) as the West Champion.

League playoffs are underway and the NCAA National Championship Tournament (better known as March Madness) will start March 19 after a play-in game to determine the 64th team to complete the bracket for the single-elimination tournament.

College Basketball 2008

March 26, 2008

March Madness:

First 2 Rounds in 2008 NCAA Tournament Produce 1 Major Upset in Every 6 Games

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The first two rounds of the 2008 NCAA College Basketball Tournament underscored just how far parity has come in the men's competition as at least 1 major upset occurred every 6 games (8 major upsets and 3 minor upsets in 48 games). The major upsets included:

#10 Seed Davidson Knocks Off #2 Seed Georgetown 74-70

Georgetown breezed past UMBC 66-47 before running into this year's new media darling, Davidson, which upended #7 Gonzaga in Round 1, 82-76, behind 8-of-10 3-pointers by Wildcat guard Stephen Curry who finished with 30 points in the second half and 40 total.

Curry returned where he left off against Georgetown, throwing down 30 points (25 in the second half) and adding 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 rebounds and NO turnovers. Curry is the son of Dell Curry, a former Virginia Tech All-American and NBA star, proving that your gene pool does count.

With two major upsets in its first two NCAA playoff games, Davidson has caught the attention of everyone. The Wildcats now run smack into #3 Wisconsin and its tenacious Badger defense. Wisconsin just might give Curry another 30-35 points and win anyway.

#13 Siena Upends #4 Vanderbilt 83-62

Siena had its moment in the sun as Kenny Hasbrouck popped in 30 and Tay Fisher added another 19 with 6-of-6 3-pointers to stun Vanderbilt and become the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team to reach Round 2 of the NCAA tourney since Manhattan in 2004. Then #12 Villanova promptly sent Siena back home in Round 2, 84-72.

#7 West Virginia Turns Back #2 Duke 73-67

Duke barely made it into Round 2 with a last-second shot that allowed them to sneak past #15 Belmont 71-70 before meeting West Virginia. The Mountaineers made Duke look like the Blue Devils did not belong in the tournament. The glory days of Coach K and his Blue Devils are slowing down as more athletes are leaving earlier for the NBA; for years Coach K was able to convince his great players to hang around the campus longer.

#13 San Diego Uses Overtime to Tame #4 Connecticut 70-69
#12 Western Kentucky Uses Overtime to Tame #5 Drake 101-99

Talk about rooting for the underdogs. De'jon Jackson's pull-up jumper with 1.2 seconds left in overtime gave the San Diego Toreros their first win in 4 tournament appearances. How many of you actually knew the nickname for San Diego before its victory over Connecticut?

Ty Rogers drained a 3-pointer with 3 defenders in his face and no time on the clock to give the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers a stunning win over the Drake Bulldogs. The poor Bulldogs were down by 16 points but came back to lead 99-98 with 5.2 seconds left, then Tyrone Brazelton (who had a career high 33 points) raced up the court, kicked the ball to Rogers, who was not about to settle for a tie with 3 defenders in his face and no time on the clock.

Victories like these are why the NCAA March Madness tournament is the best organized, best run, most competitive and most exciting playoff in sports today. To put the icing on the cake, #12 Western Kentucky eliminated #13 San Diego 72-63 in Round 2.

#12 Villanova Outlasted #5 Clemson 75-69

Villanova, which has more wins as a lower-seeded team in the tourney than any other program since 1979, trailed by 15 in the first half but came back to win behind 21 points by Scottie Reynolds and 17 by Corey Fisher. The Villanova Wildcats then eliminated Siena 84-72 to move into the Sweet 16. Pretty slick work by the Wildcats.

#11 Kansas State Upsets #6 Southern Cal 80-67

In the battle of the freshman marquee players—Michael Beasley of Kansas State and O. J. Mayo of Southern Cal—Kansas State won as Beasley scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and Mayo ended up with 20. Kansas State then got its lunch handed to it by Wisconsin in the second round, 72-55, as the Badger defense took K-State to school.

The 3 minor upsets between almost equal teams saw #9 Texas A&M beat #8 Brigham Young 67-62, #9 Arkansas beat #8 Indiana 86-72 and #5 Michigan State beat #4 Pittsburgh 65-54. No big tickle on my knee.

Two close games saw #2 Tennessee get by #7 Butler 76-71 in OT, and #3 Stanford sweat it out against #6 Marquette 82-81 in OT.

There were really only 5 blowouts among the first 48 games—#4 Washington State over #13 Winthrop 71-40 (+31), #1 UCLA over #9 Kent State 71-58 (+41), #3 Louisville over #6 Oklahoma 78-48 (+30), and #1 North Carolina over #16 Mount St. Mary's 113-74 (+39) and over #9 Arkansas 108-77 (+31). A team flat needs to win by 30 for me to consider it a blowout.

The South Regional was the only regional without an upset in Round 1, and the East Regional was the only regional without an upset in Round 2.

North Carolina is scary. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 1 in the country, have a 34-2 season record, claim 4 NCAA tournament titles, have been in 16 Final 4s and made 39 NCAA tourney appearances. Oh yeah, Tyler Hansbrough is one competitive, bad dude.

The Tar Heels have not, of course, played against #4 Washington State's defense. It should be interesting.

Here are the 2008 NCAA Tournament Round 3 Sweet 16 Match-Ups:

West Regional:
#1 UCLA versus #12 Western Kentucky – Thursday (March 27)
#3 Xavier versus #7 West Virginia – Thursday (March 27)

East Regional:
#1 North Carolina versus #4 Washington State – Thursday (March 27)
#2 Tennessee versus #3 Louisville – Thursday (March 27)

Midwest Regional:
#1 Kansas versus #12 Villanova – Friday (March 28)
#3 Wisconsin versus #10 Davidson – Friday (March 28)

South Regional:
#1 Memphis versus #5 Michigan State – Friday (March 28)
#2 Texas versus #3 Stanford – Friday (March 28)

So who will make it to the Elite 8?

Consider these cold, hard facts of life:

1) When you know that no team less than a #4 seed has won the championship for 19 straight years, you might want to eliminate #12 Western Kentucky, #7 West Virginia, #12 Villanova, #10 Davidson and #5 Michigan State (my alma mater).

That leaves #1 UCLA, #1 North Carolina, #1 Kansas, #1 Memphis, #2 Tennessee, #2 Texas, #3 Xavier, #3 Louisville, #3 Wisconsin, #3 Stanford and #4 Washington State.

2) Only three of the #1 seeds are likely to advance to the Final 4 since only 70% of #1 seeds advance into the Elite 8.

So you figure out who will be eliminated on Thursday or Friday: UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas or Memphis. Last year both Kansas and North Carolina were #1 seeds that were eliminated in the Sweet 16 Round; they return as #1 seeds this year, hoping to do better.

3) Amazingly, only one or two of the #1 seeds have made it to the Final 4 in 18 of the last 23 years.

You figure it out. Good luck, you will need it.

2008 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 1:

Midwest Regional:
#1 Kansas eliminated #16 Portland State 85-61
#2 Georgetown eliminated #15 UMBC 66-47
#3 Wisconsin eliminated #14 Cal State Fullerton 71-56
#4 Vanderbilt was upset by #13 Siena 83-62
#5 Clemson was upset by #12 Villanova 75-69
#6 Southern Cal was upset by #11 Kansas State 80-67
#7 Gonzaga was upset by #10 Davidson 82-76
#8 UNLV eliminated #9 Kent State 71-58

West Regional:
#1 UCLA eliminated #16 Mississippi Valley State 70-29
#2 Duke eliminated #15 Belmont 71-70
#3 Xavier eliminated #14 Georgia 73-61
#4 Connecticut was upset by #13 San Diego 70-69 in OT
#5 Drake was upset by #12 Western Kentucky 101-99 in OT
#6 Purdue eliminated #11 Baylor 90-79
#7 West Virginia eliminated #10 Arizona 75-65
#8 Brigham Young was upset by #9 Texas A&M 67-62

East Regional:
#1 North Carolina eliminated #16 Mount St. Mary's 113-74
#2 Tennessee eliminated #15 American University 72-57
#3 Louisville eliminated #14 Boise State 79-61
#4 Washington State eliminated #13 Winthrop 71-40
#5 Notre Dame eliminated #12 George Mason 68-50
#6 Oklahoma eliminated #11 St. Joseph's 72-64
#7 Butler eliminated #10 South Alabama 81-61
#8 Indiana was upset by #9 Arkansas 86-72

South Regional:
#1 Memphis eliminated #16 Texas-Arlington 87-63
#2 Texas eliminated #15 Austin Peay 74-54
#3 Stanford eliminated #14 Cornell 77-53
#4 Pittsburgh eliminated #13 Oral Roberts 82-63
#5 Michigan State eliminated #12 Temple 72-61
#6 Marquette eliminated #11 Kentucky 74-66
#7 Miami (FL) eliminated #10 St. Mary's 78-64
#8 Mississippi State eliminated #9 Oregon 76-69

2008 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 2:

Midwest Regional:
#1 Kansas eliminated #8 UNLV 75-56
#2 Georgetown was upset by #10 Davidson 74-70
#3 Wisconsin eliminated #11 Kansas State 72-55
#12 Villanova eliminated #13 Siena 84-72

West Regional:
#1 UCLA eliminated #9 Texas A&M 70-29
#2 Duke was upset by #7 West Virginia 73-67
#3 Xavier eliminated #6 Purdue 85-78
#12 Western Kentucky eliminated #13 San Diego 72-63

East Regional:
#1 North Carolina eliminated #9 Arkansas 108-77
#2 Tennessee eliminated #7 Butler 76-71 in OT
#3 Louisville eliminated #6 Oklahoma 78-48
#4 Washington State eliminated #5 Notre Dame 61-41

South Regional:
#1 Memphis eliminated #8 Mississippi State 77-74
#2 Texas eliminated #7 Miami (FL) 75-72
#3 Stanford eliminated #6 Marquette 82-81 in OT
#4 Pittsburgh was upset by #5 Michigan State 65-54

April 4, 2008

March Madness Update:

The Final 4 for the 2008 NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

For the first time in the history of the NCAA National Basketball Tournament, all four No. 1 seeded teams made it safely through the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 brackets to the Final 4—UCLA, Memphis, North Carolina and Kansas. Three #1 seeds have advanced to the Final 4 only three times in NCAA history, most recently in 1999.

West Regional Champion UCLA (35-3) meets South Regional Champion Memphis (37-1), and East Regional Champion North Carolina (36-2) faces off against Midwest Regional Champion Kansas (35-3) Saturday (4-5-08) with the winners playing Monday night in the national championship game.

The entire Sweet 16 and Elite 8 action reminded me a whole lot of the run-up to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There are always a lot of common meals before the magnificent Thanksgiving feast.

I could have fallen asleep during 9 actual blowouts and a somewhat close Xavier-West Virginia game that only seemed close because it ended in overtime with Xavier taking down West Virginia, 79-75.

The only two marquee games involved upstart Davidson with "please shoot the lights out" Stephen Curry, who scored 33 points as the unsung #10 seed embarrassed the hell out of #3 seed Wisconsin's famous lock-down defense.

Davidson then came within a inch or two of sending Kansas back home as the #1 seed Jayhawks were just able to hang on for dear life, barely advancing to the Final 4 with a 59-57 victory when stealth shooter Stephen Curry drained another 3-pointer with 54 seconds left. It would be the last basket of the game, which proved to be the most exciting game of dozen played.

Curry, who became only the 4th player to hit the 30-point mark in his first 3 NCAA tourney games, finished with 25 on 9-of-25 shooting. He was picked as the Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Regional.

As a sophomore, he nailed 160 3-pointers this season to set an NCAA Division I record. He will return to Davidson for his junior year, wisely not choosing to go pro without more seasoning, Curry was an 89% free throw shooter this year and shot 44% from 3-point land.

Many fans had no idea there was a Davidson before the tournament. Davidson was not exactly overwhelmed with national publicity and exposure before March Madness began. Davidson is so small there are very few fans who could tell you it is located in Davidson, North Carolina. The liberal arts school, which has only 1,770 students, could not even fill a scant part of the student section at UCLA.

The loss snapped Davidson's 25-game winning streak, the longest in the nation. The Wildcats were nothing short of amazing during their run, upsetting the likes of Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before running into Kansas.

Davidson won the Southern Conference title with a perfect 20-0 record and finished the season with a 29-7 mark. The Wildcats are coached by Bob McKillop, who deserved to be in the spotlight after 19 seasons at Davidson. Until this season, Davidson has not won an NCAA tournament game in 39 years!

Davidson's mighty run to greatness will be talked about for years in Davidson and every nook and cranny in North Carolina, a state obsessed with basketball after basking in the immense success of Duke and North Carolina over the years.

2008 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 3 – The Sweet 16

Midwest Regional:

#1 Kansas eliminated #12 Villanova 72-57
#3 Wisconsin was upset by #10 Davidson 73-56

West Regional:

#1 UCLA eliminated #12 Western Kentucky 88-78
#3 Xavier eliminated #7 West Virginia 79-75 in OT

East Regional:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #4 Washington State 68-47
#3 Louisville eliminated #2 Tennessee 79-60

South Regional:

#1 Memphis eliminated #5 Michigan State 92-74
#2 Texas eliminated #3 Stanford 82-62

2008 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 4 – The Elite 8

Midwest Regional Championship:

#1 Kansas eliminated #10 Davidson 59-57

West Regional Championship:

#1 UCLA eliminated #3 Xavier 76-57

East Regional Championship:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #3 Louisville 83-73

South Regional Championship:

#1 Memphis eliminated #2 Texas 85-67

2
008 NCAA Tournament Pairings for Round 5 – The Final 4

Saturday, April 5

#1 West Regional Champion UCLA (35-3) against #1 South Regional Champion Memphis (37-1)

#1 East Regional Champion North Carolina (36-2) against #1 Midwest Regional Champion Kansas (35-3)

Monday, April 7

Winners meet in the 2008 NCAA National Championship Game

Read my movie reviews on "Coach Was Color-Blind, He Only Wanted to Know If You Could Play Basketball", "'Coach Carter' Sends an Outstanding Message About a Coach with Integrity, Honor and Goodness" and my 4 basketball articles on last year's 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament detailing Florida's National Championship run.

April 18, 2008

2008 March Madness:

For Kansas Coach Bill Self, the Long Wait Is Over as His Jayhawks Outlast Memphis

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The only guarantee going into the 2008 NCAA National Championship Game was that one of two very good coaches—Bill Self of Kansas or John Calipari of Memphis—would win his first national title.

In an NCAA first, the four No. 1 seeds in this year's tournament made it to the coveted Final 4. Both coaches managed to thump their competition in the semifinals as Kansas turned back North Carolina 84-66 and Memphis ripped UCLA 78-63. Both games were about as exciting as watching an ashtray wait for a cigarette butt.

North Carolina had no chance ultimately against Kansas as the Jayhawks went on an early 25-2 run after leading 15-10. The Tar Heels would cut the lead to 4 points—54 to 50—with more than 11 minutes remaining, but then Kansas continued its hot hand, shooting 53% to North Carolina's 36% from the floor. Jayhawk Guard Brandon Rush led all scorers with 25.

Kansas just escaped from Davidson to reach the Final 4 and then dusted off the Tar Heels despite their all-everything player Tyler Hansbrough. It was a tough night for North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, who coached Kansas to national prominence for 15 years before returning to his alma mater in 2003. Williams never won a national title at Kansas but led the Tar Heels to the national title in 2005.

Memphis' 1-2 punch of guards Chris Douglas-Roberts (28 points) and Derrick Rose (25 points) ran UCLA ragged, outscoring the Bruins 14-2 on the fast break. The Tigers put the game away with 10 consecutive free throws (20 of 23 for 87% in the game), well above their season average of 61%.

UCLA's freshman wonder Kevin Love, the Pac 10 Player of the Year, was held to 2 points in the second half and 12 for the game after averaging 21.8 points per game coming in. Love, who is 6-10, ran smack into the Tigers' 6-foot-9, 265-pound Joey Dorsey, a big presence that kept Love at bay. Dorsey also pulled down 15 rebounds.

Memphis Coach John Calipari was giddy with joy moving into the championship game and UCLA Coach Ben Howland was no doubt disappointed after reaching the Final 4 three consecutive years without winning the title game. Memphis' victory was its 38th this year, setting an NCAA record for most wins in a season.

The championship game was a beauty, close as close could be and excellent to the very end of regulation time, when Kansas' Mario Chalmers drained a 3-pointer over Derrick Rose to tie the game at 63 with 2 seconds left. Chalmers' shot would earn him the Most Valuable Player honor.

Memphis had a 9-point lead with 2 minutes left but could not connect on 4 free throws by Chris Douglas-Roberts down the stretch and lost control of the game. Kansas would outscore Memphis 12-5 in overtime to win 75-68 to give Coach Bill Self his first national title Monday night (4-7-08) in one of the best played title games in NCAA history.

Standout freshman Derrick Rose took over the game for Memphis in the second half, scoring 14 of his team's 16 points to build the 9-point lead.

Kansas Coach Bill Self summed up the game best, saying "If we played 10 times, it'd probably go 5 and 5. We got fortunate late."

There were a lot of upsets early on in this year's tournament and a great final game. All in all, a very good year for NCAA basketball and a fitting end to March Madness for 2008.

2008 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 5 – The Final 4

#1 Midwest Regional Champion Kansas eliminated #1 East Regional Champion North Carolina 84-66

#1 South Regional Champion Memphis eliminated #1 West Regional Champion UCLA 78-63

2008 NCAA Tournament Result for Round 6 – National Championship Game

#1 Midwest Regional Champion Kansas beat #1 South Regional Champion Memphis 75-68 to win the National Championship

Postscript on the Final 4 Coaches:

The coaches of the Final 4 teams this year brought a combined 143-9 record, a winning percentage of .941. When you can win 94% of your games you do not compare yourself to others, they need to compare themselves to you because, trust me, you are setting a standard this season that not another 4 coaches in America can match.

The dean of the coaches was North Carolina's Roy Williams, who averaged 28 wins a year for 15 years at Kansas and took the Jayhawks to 4 Final Fours before coming back to his alma mater and leading the Tar Heels to a National Championship in 2005.

Only 5 other coaches in history have led their team to 6 Final Four appearances—John Wooden (12), Dean Smith (11), Mike Krzyzewski (10), Denny Crum (6) and Adolph Rupp (6). It is perhaps no coincidence that Williams honed his craft for 10 years as an assistant coach to Dean Smith at North Carolina.

North Carolina won National Championships in 1957, 1982, 1993 and 2005 and had been among the Final Four 17 times coming into this year's tournament.

Ben Howland marked his 3rd straight Final Four appearance this year. His UCLA Bruins were runner-up in the National Championship game two years ago. He led Pittsburgh to two Sweet 16 appearances before coming to UCLA, and has had the Bruins in the NCAA tournament 4 straight years.

Howland hoped to add to John Wooden's legacy at UCLA but came up short again. Wooden's UCLA teams won 10 national titles and 7 consecutive titles from 1967 to 1973. This year marked the Bruins' 18th Final Four appearance.

Wooden's UCLA record during his 10 National Championship years was 291-10 (not a misprint); it rounds to a 97% winning percentage and includes no less than 4 perfect 30-0 seasons. In short, there is Wooden and everyone else when it comes to winning basketball games and national titles.

Memphis coach John Calipari had never won a national title but did built two smaller conference teams—Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 and Memphis in Conference USA—into national powers, reaching the Final Four with both. His Memphis Tigers won 103 games during the last 3 years, only 1 win shy of Kentucky's national record from 1996 to 1998.

Since Calipari's last appearance in the 1985 Final Four match-ups, the other 3 teams in this year's field combined for 19 Final Four appearances and 4 national titles—Kansas in 1988, UCLA in 1995 and North Carolina in 1993 and 2005.

Kansas coach Bill Self could not claim a national title coming into this year's Final Four. In 15 years as a head coach, Self averaged 23 wins a season, won 8 conference championships and had taken 4 teams deep in the tournament, but none of them to the Final Four until this year.

Until this season, Self had more NCAA tournament wins—18—without reaching the Final Four than any other active coach. Only two other coaches have more wins than Self without reaching the Final Four—Temple's John Chaney with 23 and Purdue's Gene Keady with 19.

March 30, 2008

March Madness:

Washington State Learns a Valuable Lesson: When Talent Shows Up and Plays, It's Over

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Washington State's three senior leaders—shooter Derrick Low, defender Kyle Weaver and rebounder Robbie Cowgill—ended their Cougar careers on a disappointing note as North Carolina, the No. 1 East Regional seed, eliminated them 68-47 Thursday (3-27-08) in NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament play.

The Cougars had the looks but could not get the ball to drop through and their abysmal shooting meant they could not keep up with the Tyler Hansbrough-led Tar Heels.

Only junior center Aaron Baynes was on target with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Low, Weaver, Cowgill and junior guard Taylor Rochestie combined for a miserable 11-for-44 (25%). As shots went in and out of the rim, you could feel the frustration mounting and the opportunity to advance to the Elite 8 slipping away.

Washington State is a talented team and, had its seniors hit more shots, it may have taken the game down to the last minute. The difference was simply that as talented as the Cougars are, the Tar Heels are more so, and then some.

Talented teams get upset in basketball when their players show up for the game but do not "play" the game. When more talented players show up and play the game, it's over, as the Cougars found out.

The big question going into the game was: Could the Cougar defense slow down the fast-paced, explosive Tar Heel offense?

The Bennetts—father Dick and son Tony—had arrived on the Palouse 5 years ago to rescue a distressed Cougar program, and Washington State getting to this year's Sweet 16 was a positive explanation point on their progress.

Dick Bennett had gained his reputation in Wisconsin, rebuilding the fortunes of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wisconsin-Green Bay and the University of Wisconsin, including a magical 1999-2000 season that saw the Badgers lose 12 of their first 25 games and then win 9 of their final 11 games to reach the Final 4, beating 8 nationally-ranked teams during their run.

In the process, Dick Bennett became one of the nation's best defensive coaches as the Badgers led the Big Ten in scoring defense 4 straight seasons and finished among the Top 5 nationally in scoring defense 3 times.

After 3 years of dramatic improvement at Washington State, father Dick handed over the team to son Tony, who promptly went 26-8 his first year, finishing as the Pac 10 runner-up and making it to the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament. Tony Bennett became only the second rookie head coach to be selected as the AP's Coach of the Year.

This year son Tony's Cougars posted a 26-9 mark, finished 3rd in the Pac 10 and made it deeper into the NCAA Tournament with their Sweet 16 appearance after beating Winthrop 71-40 and Notre Dame 61-41 in the first two rounds of play.

Even though it was not to be for Washington State, and their seniors suffered through a terrible last game against North Carolina, the season was a huge success for their outstanding seniors. They were primarily responsible for making Washington State a contender for the Pac 10 title the last two years, and for making basketball a sport to watch on the Palouse.

Any time a new coach can post back-to-back 26-win seasons, rack up a 75% winning percentage (52-17) and earn two NCAA berths, you know a program is on the rise big time. Can the Cougar program continue to progress?

With some major schools looking for a new coach, a bigger question may be: Will Tony Bennett be coaching at Washington State next year?

February 13, 2008

College Basketball:

Get Ready for a Phenomenal March Madness Run This Year

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

They do not pay Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar the big bucks because he is stupid. Romar made another in a long line of smart decisions Friday (2-8-08)—he took the blame for his team's 4-game losing streak.

Romar has praised his players all season long because they have been willing to do whatever he asks. He has now shouldered the blame because what he was asking of them did not work.

He was rewarded two days later when his Huskies played their best game of the year, upsetting No. 5 UCLA at home 71-61 before a sellout crowd at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Romar, tired of losing, pulled starting guard Venoy Overton just 57 seconds after the opening tipoff. Overton, a true freshman with outstanding potential, opened the game with a turnover, but then did not hustle back on defense. In came junior guard Justin Dentmon and responded with 20 points off the bench on 7-of-12 shooting, and the Huskies were off and running.

Jon Brockman grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds (including his 800th career rebound) and added 12 points for his Pac-10 leading 16th double-double of the season. Ryan "Dead Eye" Appleby added another dozen points and sank his 200th career 3-pointer, 12 short of the U-Dub record.

Washington even played some defense as Artem Wallace held UCLA freshman center Kevin Love to 13 points, and true freshman Justin Holiday put the "D" on UCLA's Josh Shipp when he was mounting a comeback for the Bruins.

Even UCLA coach Ben Howland was impressed. "They were more physical," said Howland. "They outrebounded us by 8. Brockman had 9 offensive rebounds alone."

The Huskies, now 13-11 overall and 4-7 in Pac-10 Conference play, must play 5 of their remaining 7 games on the road. Washington still is probably going to be watching the NCAA and NIT playoffs on television, but they showed Sunday just how great parity is in the Pac-10 and around the country by being ranked No. 82 by Sagarin and upending No. 5-ranked UCLA.

Despite its lackluster record, Washington did jump to No. 74 in Sagarin's Ratings by beating such a high-ranked team. The Sagarin Ratings change daily during the basketball season because, unlike football, games are played during the week as well as the weekend.

As of Sunday (2-10-08), No. 2 Memphis remains the only unbeaten team in the country (23-0) among 341 Division 1 teams. There were only 3 teams left with a single loss—No. 1 Duke (21-1), No. 3 Kansas (22-1) and No. 13 Drake (20-1).

Heck, there are just 3 more teams left with only 2 losses—No. 4 North Carolina (22-2), No. 6 Tennessee (20-2) and No. 25 Butler (21-2).

Here is another interesting fact to note: Three of these top 7 best-record teams have poor strength of schedule standings—Memphis (124th toughest), Drake (105th) and Butler (88th). Unless they start playing tougher teams, they are not going to go deep into the NCAA tournament.

Compare their strength of schedule to Duke (21st toughest), Kansas (60th), North Carolina (18th) and Tennessee (10th).

To highlight the competitiveness of the Pac-10 this year, the Washington Huskies, who are 9th in the Pac-10 standings with a 4-7 mark, are ranked 25th by Sagarin in strength of schedule. And you have to ask how Washington could upset such a good team as UCLA? Be thankful your team is not playing in the Pac-10 Conference this year.

All of this bodes really well for the networks who will televise March Madness, and for any team that makes the cut to play in the NCAA tournament. Because upsets happen even when there is little parity among teams, when there is a lot of parity like this year, we are going to see some shockers.

February 7, 2008

College Basketball:

Love Him or Hate Him, Bobby Knight Was as Much an Educator as a Coach

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Count me among those who were saddened by the news that Bobby Knight had stepped down as head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders Monday (2-4-08).

It is unusual if not unheard of for a major college basketball coach to quit during the middle of the season, but perhaps such an occurrence was business as usual for Bobby Knight.

It is doubtful that any major college coach in America was as passionate, as demonstrative and as committed as Bobby Knight was to basketball and his players.
Many pundits would not agree with me when I say that Knight was more interested in doing things right than in winning games, but let me make the case for the Bobby Knight haters.

While no coach in his right mind likes to lose a game, I believe that Knight was at least as interested in how his "kids" played as he was in whether they won or not. If his players applied what they learned from him, played their hearts out, left everything on the court and lost, I think Knight would have been better able to tolerate a loss.

Knight was no stranger to winning. When you win 902 games in a 42-year coaching career, you have little competition. Dean Smith of North Carolina has 879 victories to his credit, Adolph Rupp of Kentucky has 876 and Jim Phelan (Jim who?) of Mount St. Mary's in Maryland has 830. Smith is 76 and retired, Phelan is 78 and retired, and Rupp died 20 years ago.

The next most wins—800—belong to the new first active coach on the list, Eddie Sutton, the 71-year-old coach of San Francisco.

Knight had 102 wins in 6 seasons at Army, where he became coach at 24. He had 662 victories and 3 national championships in 29 seasons at Indiana. He had 138 victories in 7 seasons at Texas Tech. He coached the USA to Olympic team to gold in 1984 at Los Angeles.

It is possible that thousands of basketball followers will now seize the opportunity to torch Bobby Knight for his well-known outbursts over the years. There must be enough licensed Bobby Knight haters to fill the largest Super Bowl venue. I am not one of them.

Knight's son Pat, an assistant on his Texas Tech staff, has replaced him. Pat Knight was named the Red Raiders coach-designate in 2005.

Indiana University kicked Bobby Knight out for "a pattern of unacceptable behavior", but only after his Knight-trained players had won 3 national titles for Indiana and the 1975-1976 club went 32-0, the last Division 1 men's team to finish undefeated (something even the New England Patriots could not accomplish this year).

Bobby Knight's "antics" are well documented for those who want to revel in his shortcomings as a public relations agent.

Less well documented is the fact that in 42 years of coaching he never got into trouble by breaking any NCAA rules and regulations, and trust me when I say that the NCAA rule book rivals the Internal Revenue Service code for picky, annoying crap.

Less well documented is the fact that Bobby Knight's players always had a high graduation rate; Knight made them toe the mark. Show-offs and prima donnas had no place on Knight's teams. Knight was all about playing the game right and teamwork.

Less well documented is the fact that Bobby Knight gave his salary back a few years after he arrived at Texas Tech because he did not think he had earned it.

Some pundits and fans have already said that Bobby Knight was a great coach and a poor role model, and offer John Wooden of UCLA as a great example of a great coach and a great role model. Do I think Wooden was a better role model than Knight? Yes I do.

Wooden's success at Pauley Pavilion has made him the gold standard among America's most successful coaches in basketball and really any sport. Wooden's teams won 10 national championships—7 in-a-row from 1967 through 1973—and from 1971 to 1973 won an unprecedented 88 consecutive games, a record many sports pundits consider unbeakable.

John Wooden is the real deal, and he is also a very big deal. So let's weight in on what he had to say when hearing about Bobby Knight's surprise resignation Monday:

"I guess you can never be surprised at some of the things Bob does," said Wooden. "I don't think there's ever been a better teacher of the game of basketball than Bob. I don't always approve of his methods, but his players for the most part are very loyal to him. I would say that no player that ever played for him would not say he did not come out a stronger person."

Another of the nation's most respected coaches, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who played for Bobby Knight at Army, said this about Knight's departure:

"Outside of my immediate family, no single person has had a greater impact on my life than Coach Knight. I have the ultimate respect for him as a coach and a mentor, but even more so as a dear friend. For more than 40 years, the life lessons I have learned from Coach are immeasurable. Simply put, I love him."

Bobby Knight not only won more games than any other coach in history, he also made his players better people and better able to cope with the challenges of life when they left the university with their degree in hand.

So why am I saddened? Because Bobby Knight he will be more vilified than honored for what he did accomplish both on and off the court.

I say let him who has won 900+ games and never been in violation of the NCAA rules cast the first stones. The rest might consider the side of Bobby Knight that failed to get really positive coverage because his few failings were so dramatic and so public.

Bobby Knight is the kind of person people either like or dislike. I like Bobby Knight and respect him.

I believe his chief failing in some people's eyes is that he likely would have called a butt end by name, whether it was a critical university president, the meddling parent of a player, a disrespectful student or an unhappy janitor. I would do the same; I just would not do it as publicly, and I have not won a single game as a coach.

January 19, 2008

College Basketball 2008

Sagarin Ratings Provide Statistics to Identify Overrated Top 25 Teams

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The most recent weekly college basketball AP Top 25 Poll (1-18-08) and the most recent Sagarin Ratings (1-17-08) provide some clues about which teams are likely overrated.

Sagarin's Ratings give you a bird's-eye view of identifying teams that have played a bunch of weak sisters to build up an impressive, early season won-loss record and now must face the music of playing in league competition.

You can learn a lot by noting the strength of schedule for top-rated teams. My method is to divide the 341 total Division 1 teams in 5 categories (literally, 340 divided by 5 equals 68). This creates a Top 20% (1-68), 2nd Tier (69-136), 3rd Tier (137-204), 4th Tier (205 to 272) and the Bottom 20% (273-340).

The Top 20% is top-flight competition. I think of the next 3 tiers as 2nd string, 3rd string and 4th string competition. The 20% at the bottom I consider bottom dwellers who feed on the crumbs that fall off of the tiers above.

Here are 4 teams in the AP Top 25 Poll that are probably overrated and will prove it in the near future: No. 25 Villanova, No. 16 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 21 Miami (FL). These 4 are given a much higher ranking in the AP Poll than by Sagarin is his ratings.

The most exaggerated example is No. 25-ranked Villanova that is rated 57th by Sagarin. Villanova sports an impressive 12-3 record but its strength of schedule (SOS) is 240. In other words, Villanova earned its record playing 4th-tier (or 4th-string) competition.

Vanderbilt is ranked 16th by the AP and rated 36th by Sagarin. Vandy has a 12-3 record but its SOS is 164 because of playing 3rd-tier (3rd-string) competition.

Texas A&M is ranked 10th by the AP and rated 24th by Sagarin. A&M has a 14-2 mark but its SOS is 290 because of playing among the bottom 20% of competition. Texas A&M, true to my prediction, just got upset by none other than Bob Knight and his Texas Tech Red Raiders, 68-53. The victory was Knight's 900th. Knight is No. 1 on the NCAA Division 1 career wins list.

Texas Tech is rated 80th by Sagarin with a 9-6 record but its SOS is 104 because of playing 2nd-tier (2nd-string) competition. The Red Raiders clearly played much better competition before meeting the Texas A&M Aggies and it showed.

Miami (FL) is ranked 21st by the AP and rated 33rd by Sagarin. Miami has a 13-2 mark but its SOS is 281 because of playing among the bottom 20% of competition. You get the picture.

Here is another outstanding example from the Pac-10 Conference. Oregon is not ranked in the AP Top 25 but is rated 31st by Sagarin with a 12-5 record and its SOS is 24 because of playing top-flight competition.

Washington is not ranked in the Top 25 but is rated 65th by Sagarin with a 10-7 record and its SOS is 50 because of playing top-flight competition. Washington just beat Oregon 78-70 at home. Notice that both teams are rated among the Top 20% of teams and are used to playing top-flight competition.

Here is what will not work 99% of the time. North Carolina A&T is rated 268th by Sagarin with a 2-9 record and an eye-popping SOS of 2. They have played the 2nd toughest schedule in the country so far this season, but will not be upsetting anyone soon because they are rated too low to begin with, only 5 spots from being in the bottom 20% nationally.

March 15, 2007

March Madness:

The 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament Has 30 Million Americans Involved in Office Pools

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Dang, no wonder why work suffers so much this time of year.

Call it a productivity slow down or whatever, but the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament will have its day, or shall we say several days starting today (March 15) and continuing to the national championship game on Monday, April 2.

Between now and then 64 teams will be whittled down to 2. This is a loser out affair, only winners advance in what is traditionally called The Big Dance. The 32 winners on Thursday and Friday will play again Saturday or Sunday.

By late Sunday night, the season will have ended for 48 teams as only 16 will advance to the third round next Thursday and Friday. These 16 are known as the Sweet 16. Two days later, 8 more teams will been eliminated and we will have what is known as the Elite 8.

Then the Final 4 and finally the national championship game.

So how will 30 million Americans be involved? Simple, office pools.

Experts estimate that more than $2.5 billion (yes, billion) will be wagered this year. For those of you who are counting, that is more than was bet on the last Super Bowl. And only 4% of the $2.5 billion will be wagered "legally" in Nevada.

Mathematical types will be overjoyed to know the odds of picking a perfect bracket.

Are you ready? It is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1. Please do not ask me who figured this out. This number is a tad more than Bill Gates' fortune. It is 9 quintillion to 1, or a billion times as big as 9 billion. Good grief.

You might want to think of it his way: if every man, woman and child on planet Earth randomly filled out 10 million brackets each, the odds would be LESS than 1% that even one would have a perfect bracket.

This thought would be according to one RJ Bell of Pregame.com. If you know who RJ Bell is, you have probably been gambling online at some point in time.

It may be a little late for some advice on who to pick as the winner in the office pool, but RJ Bell offers these pointers:

(Editor's Note: These statistics cover the last 21 years of the tournament, since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.)

In Round One, be very selective picking any team below a No. 12 seed to win. No. 16 seeds are 0 for 88 and No. 15 seeds are only 4 for 88.

If you are looking for upsets, No. 12 seeds have beaten No. 5 seeds in 11 of 24 games the last 6 years, and No. 9 seeds have a winning record against No. 8 seeds.

In Round Two, advance No. 1 seeds almost automatically, they win their first two games 86% of the time.

Keep advancing the No. 12 and No. 10 seeds you picked to win in Round One. They win almost half the time in Round Two.

Only 9% of the teams seeded No. 13 or lower advance past Round Two the first weekend.

In the Sweet 16, advance exactly three of the No. 1 seeds as only 70% of the No. 1 seeds advance into the Elite Eight.

No team seeded No. 12 or lower has ever advanced into the Elite 8.

Advance one or two No. 1 seeds to the Final Four. Amazingly, exactly one or two No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four 18 of the last 22 years.

Advance no team lower than a No. 8 seed to the Final Four as only 2 of 88 Final Four teams have been seeded lower than No. 8.

Advance no team below a No. 6 seed to the championship game as not a single one has made it in the last 21 years.

Pick a No. 4 seed or higher to win it all as a No. 4 seed or higher has won the championship for 18 straight years.

Good luck and stay tuned. I may have more coverage on this exciting tournament in the days ahead.

March 21, 2007

March Madness Update:

First 2 Rounds in 2007 NCAA Tournament Produces Just 4 Real Upsets in 48 Games

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

The first two rounds of the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament produced just 4 real upsets in 48 games.

Do not tell Duke, Notre Dame, Wisconsin or Washington State that it was a good tournament. They were all eliminated and humbled by lesser lights with Hollywood's biggest klieg lights focused on them.

Perhaps the toughest pill to swallow belonged to #6 seeded Duke, which fell to #11 Virginia Commonwealth, 79-77.

Eric Maynor of Virginia Commonwealth was the best player on the floor and proved it with a 15-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left to seal the victory. He finished the night with 22 points, 6 in the final 1:24. Maynor's just a sophomore.

The game was close as VC never led by more than 2 points. They overcame a 13-point first-half deficit and also trailed by 11 in the second half.

Virginia Commonwealth knocked off George Mason, the tournament's surprise team last year, to win the Colonial Athletic Association title 65-59 and qualify for the tournament. Maynor sealed that victory as well by scoring 9 of his 20 points in the final two minutes.

Duke lost a first-round game for the first time since 1996, ending the Blue Devils string of Sweet 16 appearances at 9. Only North Carolina's streak of 13 straight appearances is better.

Duke's legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski had only two upperclassmen this year; his team was the most inexperienced in his 27 years at Duke, one of the nation's powerhouse programs.

Notre Dame, a #6 seed, had high hopes coming into this year's tournament, its first appearance since 2003, as the Irish won the most games—24—since its 1974 season, but #11 seed Winthrop had bigger dreams as it dropped the Irish 74-64 with a 37-10 run that bridged the first and second half.

Winthrop came into the tournament with a 29-4 record with its only losses coming from North Carolina, Wisconsin (in overtime), Maryland and Texas A&M, all teams that made the tournament with a combined 117-27 record.

Winthrop was clearly small but no slouch. Winthop was eliminated by Oregon 75-61 in Round 2.

Winthrop might well be a trivia question. Few who follow NCAA basketball would know that the little school from Rock Hill (SC) is part of the Big South Conference, which is only big to the teams in it.

Part of the greatness of the NCAA format is that each team that wins its conference tournament gets an automatic bid to participate in the March Madness that forces teams to advance by winning or see their season end abruptly.

Washington State, which was picked to hover at the bottom of the Pac 10 in preseason polls, rose up under new, first-year head coach Tony Bennett to become one of the nation's huge surprises. The #3 seeded Cougars put together a 26-8 record and finished as runner-up in the Pac 10 season standings.

After knocking off #14 Oral Roberts 70-54 in Round 1 Washington State found it could not hit three open shots in the final moments of its game with #6 Vanderbilt and lost 78-74 in a double-overtime heartbreaker.

Number 2 seeded Wisconsin got by #15 Texas A&M Corpus Christi 76-73 before running into #7 UNLV and losing 74-68. UNLV became part of the Sweet 16 by polishing off Wisconsin after beating #10 Georgia Tech 67-63.

In six other games that hardly qualified as upsets, three #9 seeds beat #8 seeds, and three #5 seeds beat #4 seeds. They were all pretty equal. All of the 5 seeds—Butler, Southern California and Tennessee—made it to the Sweet 16. All of the 9 seeds—Purdue, Michigan State and Xavier—did not.

Here are the 2007 NCAA Tournament Round 3 Sweet 16 Match-Ups:

Midwest Regional:
#1 Florida versus #5 Butler - Friday
#3 Oregon versus #7 UNLV - Friday

West Regional:
#1 Kansas versus #4 Southern Illinois – Thursday
#2 UCLA versus #3 Pittsburgh – Thursday

East Regional:
#1 North Carolina versus #5 Southern California - Friday
#2 Georgetown versus #6 Vanderbilt - Friday

South Regional:
#1 Ohio State versus #5 Tennessee - Thursday
#2 Memphis versus #3 Texas A&M – Thursday

So who will make it the Elite 8?

Consider three cold, hard facts of life:

1) When you know that no team less than a #4 seed has won the championship for 18 straight years, you might want to eliminate #5 Butler, #7 UNLV, #5 Southern California, #6 Vanderbilt and #5 Tennessee.

That leaves #1 Florida, #1 Kansas, #1 North Carolina, #1 Ohio State, #2 UCLA, #2 Georgetown, #2 Memphis, #3 Oregon, #3 Pittsburgh, #3 Texas A&M and #4 Southern Illinois.

2) Only three of the #1 seeds are likely to advance to the Final Four since only 70% of #1 seeds advance into the Elite Eight.

So you figure out who will be eliminated on Thursday or Firday: Florida, Kansas, North Carolina or Ohio State.

3) Amazingly, exactly one or two #1 seeds have made the Final Four 18 of the last 22 years.

You figure it out. Good luck, you will need it.

2007 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 1:

Midwest Regional:
#1 Florida eliminated #16 Jackson State 112-69
#2 Wisconsin eliminated #15 Texas A&M Corpus Christi 76-63
#3 Oregon eliminated #14 Maimi (Ohio) 58-56
#4 Maryland eliminated #13Davidson 82-70
#5 Butler eliminated #12 Old Dominion 57-46
#6 Notre Dame was upset by #11 Winthrop 74-64
#7 UNLV eliminated #10 Georgia Tech 67-63
#8 Arizona lost to #9 Purdue 72-63

West Regional:
#1 Kansas eliminated #16 Niagara 107-67
#2 UCLA eliminated #15 Weber State 70-42
#3 Pittsburgh eliminated #14 Wright State 79-58
#4 Southern Illinois eliminated #13 Holy Cross 61-51
#5 Virginia Tech eliminated #12 Illinois 54-52
#6 Duke was upset by #11 Virginia Commonwealth 79-77
#7 Indiana eliminated #10 Gonzaga 70-57
#8 Kentucky eliminated #9 Villanova 67-58

East Regional:
#1 North Carolina eliminated #16 Eastern Kentucky 86-65
#2 Georgetown eliminated #15 Belmont 80-55
#3 Washington State eliminated #14 Oral Roberts 70-54
#4 Texas eliminated #13 New Mexico State 79-67
#5 Southern California eliminated #12 Arkansas 77-60
#6 Vanderbilt eliminated #11 George Washington 77-44
#7 Boston College eliminated #10 Texas Tech 84-75
#8 Marquette lost to #9 Michigan State 61-49

South Regional:
#1 Ohio State eliminated #16 Central Connecticut State 78-57
#2 Memphis eliminated #15 North Texas 73-58
#3 Texas A&M eliminated #14 Pennsylvania 68-52
#4 Virginia eliminated #13 Albany 84-57
#5 Tennessee eliminated #12 Long Beach State 121-86
#6 Louisville eliminated #11 Stanford 78-58
#7 Nevada eliminated #10 Creighton 77-71 (OT)
#8 Brigham Young lost to #9 Xavier 79-77

2007 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 2:

Midwest Regional:
#1 Florida eliminated #9 Purdue 74-67
#4 Maryland lost to #5 Butler 62-59
#3 Oregon eliminated #11 Winthrop 75-61
#2 Wisconsin was upset by #7 UNLV 74-68

West Regional:
#1 Kansas eliminated #8 Kentucky 88-76
#4 Southern Illinois eliminated #5 Virginia Tech 63-48
#3 Pittsburgh eliminated #11 Virginia Commonwealth 84-79 (OT)
#2 UCLA eliminated #7 Indiana 54-49

East Regional:
#1 North Carolina eliminated #9 Michigan State 81-67
#4 Texas loses to #5 Southern California 87-68
#3 Washington State was upset by #6 Vanderbilt 78-74 (2OT)
#2 Georgetown eliminated #7 Boston College 62-55

South Regional:
#1 Ohio State eliminated #9 Xavier 78-71 (OT)
#4 Virginia lost to #5 Tennessee 77-74
#3 Texas A&M eliminated #6 Louisville 72-69
#2 Memphis eliminated #7 Nevada 78-62

March 27, 2007

March Madness Update:

The Final 4 for the 2007 NCAA Tourney: Florida, Ohio State, UCLA & Georgetown

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Now there are only four teams left, exactly as the statistics predicted. No more than two No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final 4 in 18 of the last 22 years and now it will be 19 of the last 23 years. And no team seeded below No. 4 has won the championship for 18 consecutive years and this year will make it 19 consecutive years.

There is much weeping for the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kansas Jayhawks, both No. 1 seeds who were beaten by their No. 2 Seed opponents over the weekend.

The Final 4 will be No. 1 Florida against No. 2 UCLA, and No. 1 Ohio State against No. 2 Georgetown.

Forget last year's miracle team—George Mason—and the Cinderella team of two years ago—Butler. This year's almost underdog miracle—UNLV—made it to the Sweet 16 but was promptly dispatched by Oregon, 76-72.

Despite all of the hoopla about Butler this year, last year's national champion Florida proved just as tough and physical as Butler, winning 65-57. Florida then put some major hurt on Oregon 85-77 to advance to the Final 4 once again.

No. 1 Seed Florida is trying to become the first team since Duke in 1992 to win consecutive national titles. A lot of fans have other favorites besides Florida, but to be the national champion that team will have to upset the defending champion Florida first.

Oregon's Tajuan Porter, the 5-foot-6 freshman guard no other big school wanted, was sizzling against UNLV, getting nothing but net while setting an NCAA regional record with eight 3-pointers among his 33 points. Unfortunately, Oregon's normal hot shooting hand was cold against Florida when it came time to finish.

No. 1 Ohio State had all it could handle against Tennessee. Freshman sensation Greg Oden was in foul trouble and the Buckeyes were down 20 points when senior Ron Lewis and Mike Conley brought Ohio State back to life down the stretch to win 85-84.

Lewis scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and Conley scored 9 of his 17 from the foul line, including the winner with 6.5 seconds left.

Ohio State dodged the bullet against Tennessee and then crushed Memphis 92-76 to advance to the Final 4.

The No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks were not the fanny kickers many predicted. Kansas barely got by #4 Southern Illinois 61-58 when Tony Young missed a desperation 3-pointer from halfcourt at the buzzer. When it was over the Jayhawks were probably saying their prayers.

Apparently No. 2 Seed UCLA did not miss much of the Jayhawks performance against Southern Illinois as they crushed Kansas 68-55 to eliminate the Jayhawks and move on to the Final 4 for a record 17th time.

The Bruins Arron Affalo, absent in some big games for UCLA as the season ended, resurfaced with 15 of his 24 points in the second half and looked like the Pac 10 Player of the Year that he was coming into the tournament.

Before taking care of Kansas, UCLA never trailed in eliminating Pittsburgh 64-55. Ben Howland coached Pittsburgh to some major successes before leaving Pitt for the UCLA job. Pittsburgh's head coach Jamie Dixon is Howland's best friend and Howland's former assistant coach at Pitt. Someone had to lose, perhaps it is better that Dixon's mentor won.

Given the success Howland has had at UCLA and also Dixon at Pittsburgh there is no question that they will meet again in the playoffs at some point in the future.

North Carolina looked like a No. 1 Seed in eliminating No. 5 Southern California 76-64 even though North Carolina was down by 16 early in the second half. When it counted, Southern California folded like cheap K-Mart deck chair; they mostly did a lot of looking around while North Carolina went on a scoring spree.

But North Carolina picked up some bad habits while watching Southern California fold. The Tar Heels were up by 13 against Georgetown but completely collapsed at the end, making only one field goal in the final 9:54 of regulation and the first 4:52 of overtime.

During that stretch North Carolina missed 21 of 22 shots from the field as the Hoyas shut them down with their zone defense, arguably the best zone defense at game's end in the tournament.

With only 31.2 seconds left in regulation Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace, an unlikely hero, tied the score with a three-pointer, sending the game into an overtime period that Georgetown dominated, finally winning 96-84.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams was apparently playing with a team full of underclassmen, and it showed down the stretch.

You could call Georgetown the comeback team as the Hoyas were down 13 to Vanderbilt before coming back to win 66-65 and qualify to face North Carolina.

There have been no less than 10 double-digit comebacks in the 2007 tournament, but none will be remembered a year from now. At this time next year, we will only remember who won the national championship, most of us may even space out on who they played.

It is as it always is, it is much easier to remember who won rather than who lost. Remember, it is basketball, it is a game, not the game of life, that will come later when these marvelous athletes move on to the next chapter of their life.

2007 NCAA Tournament Pairings for the Round 6 – The Final 4

Saturday, March 31:

#1 Ohio State (34-3) against #2 Georgetown (30-6)

#1 Florida (33-5) against #2 UCLA (30-5)

The National Championship Game will be Played Tuesday, April 2

2007 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 3 – The Sweet 16

Midwest Regional:

#1 Florida eliminated #5 Butler 65-57
#3 Oregon eliminated #7 UNLV 76-72

West Regional:

#1 Kansas eliminated #4 Southern Illinois 61-58
#2 UCLA eliminated #3 Pittsburgh 64-55

East Regional:

#1 North Carolina eliminated #5 Southern California 76-64
#2 Georgetown eliminated #6 Vanderbilt 66-65

South Regional:

#1 Ohio State eliminated #5 Tennessee 85-84
#2 Memphis eliminated #3 Texas A&M 65-64

2007 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 4 – The Elite 8

Midwest Regional:

#1 Florida eliminated #3 Oregon 85-77

West Regional:

#1 Kansas was upset by #2 UCLA 68-55

East Regional:

#1 North Carolina was upset by #2 Georgetown 96-84 (OT)

South Regional:

#1 Ohio State eliminated #2 Memphis 92-76

April 4, 2007

March Madness 2007:

Florida Becomes the First Team to Repeat as NCAA Champions Since Duke in 1992

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

The Florida Gators became only the seventh team in NCAA Basketball Tournament history to repeat as national champions Monday night, pushing aside Ohio State 84-75 in a game with all of the excitement of looking at an ashtray.

After four very exciting rounds of basketball in the 62-team playoff tournament, the last two rounds put a lot of fans to sleep, including me.

The Final 4 found #1 Ohio State easing past #2 Georgetown 67-60 even though freshman phenom Greg Oden only played a half game (20 minutes) because of foul trouble early on. All Big 10 freshman guard Mike Conley Jr. stepped up with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assets and exactly 1 turnover.

Oden came back big in the second half, scoring 13 points and picking off 8 rebounds.

There is not another team in the country with two freshmen like Oden and Conley. Oden is only the top NBA draft prospect in the country, and at times he has played as advertised. No one should be comparing him to the likes of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar yet, but he certainly will get better in college if not in the pros next year.

Georgetown's 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert had 19 points, 6 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in 24 minutes of play and held his own against the younger, more celebrated Oden.

Hibbert, however, had little support from teammates Jeff Green, who scored 9 points on only 5 shots after averaging nearly 16 points in the tournament, and DaJuan Summers, who scored only 3 points after averaging nearly 18 points in his two prior playoff games.

It was the 22nd straight victory for the Buckeyes who would see their streak come to a screeching halt against Florida.

In the second semi-final, Florida dealt UCLA another spanking, advancing 76-66, and the score was a lot closer than the game on the court. Florida knocked off UCLA in last year's NCAA tournament 73-57 to win the national championship.

When Bruin guard and Pac 10 Player of the Year Arron Afflalo went to the bench early in the first half with foul trouble the game was over. Despite a second half rally that fell way too short, Florida had this game in the bag.

Coach Ben Howland has done a great job turning around UCLA's program but he and the Bruins will have to wait another year to become more famous.

Never mind that UCLA entered the game at 11-1 against ranked opponents this year or that they were 17-2 against teams in this year's NCAA tournament. Florida has done a little butt kicking of its own, going 20-1 in postseason play the last three years, and going 22-1 in March during that time.

So Florida and Ohio State headed into a national championship for the second time in a year, this time in basketball. Florida beat Ohio State by 27 points in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) national championship football game in January. Both schools have become powerhouse programs.

Ohio State had Oden, Conley and a lot of hope and prayer. Florida had five starters each of whom was averaging in double figures yet sharing the ball, as all averaged within 2.4 shots of one another and none averaged as many as 10 shots a game. That is called balance.

The Buckeyes decided to leave Oden underneath and did not challenge Florida shooters on the perimeter, and the Gators canned enough 3-pointers to move away quickly and stay ahead.

Florida drained 10 three-pointers, shot 49% from the floor and 88% from the free throw line.

Ohio State's big impression center Greg Oden led all scorers with 25 points and tied for the game-high with 12 rebounds, but he had little help from his teammates who would have needed a ball with eyes to catch Florida.

For the record, this was the first Final 4 in which all four finalists had 30 or more wins. It was the second Final 4 in which every team was a No. 2 seed or better. And the championship game was only the 5th pairing of no. 1 seeds.

Show a little love for Billy Donovan and his players, all of whom decided not to go pro and came back to try a repeat. They did it. It sounds so simple to say but Florida was the first team since Duke in 1992 to win back-to-back championships and only the seventh team ever to do it.

The others were Oklahoma State (1945-46), Kentucky (1948-49), San Francisco (1955-56), Cincinnati (1961-62), UCLA (1964-65 and 1967-73) and Duke (1991-92).

UCLA won 9 titles in 10 years and 7 in-a-row under coach John Wooden, arguably the greatest coach to ever walk on the hardwood. UCLA also entered its Florida game with an all-time winning percentage of .738 in the NCAA tournament and an all-time 93-33 record.

Coach Billy Donovan has some work to do if he ever expects to rival John Wooden.

After winning his second national championship, Donovan said "I think this team should go down as one of the best teams in the history of college basketball.

"Not as the most talented, and not on style points, but because they encompassed what the word 'team' means, " said Donovan. "They did it the first year with no expectations, then they did it again with all the expectations."

Buckeye coach Thad Matta did not wear out his mind agreeing with Donovan, saying "I would put them in a category of some of the best teams to win."

Florida just ripped Ohio State a new backside.

The starting five for the Gators—Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey—is thought to be the only starting five ever to win back-to-back titles. Florida's 68 wins over the past two seasons are tied for the 10th most in NCAA history.

2007 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 5 – The Final 4

#1 Ohio State eliminated #2 Georgetown 67-60

#1 Florida eliminated #2 UCLA 76-66

2007 NCAA Tournament Results for Round 6 – Championship Game

#1 Florida eliminated #1 Ohio State 84-75 to win its second straight title.

May 9, 2008

"The Wizard of Westwood"

Famous Quotes by John Wooden, the NCAA's Winningest Basketball Coach

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Great coaches win games when it counts. Some coaches also make great interviews for the media writers by never shying away in victory or defeat, and giving great quotes. Even fewer have great personalities to go with their victories, and quotes that are insightful, memorable and sometimes so funny we cannot help but smile.

And then there are the select few, legends in their own time that will never be forgotten, such as Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Add Lou Holtz to the same list, not in the same class as Rockne and Lombardi, but because of his quick wit and quality comments. Successful coaches did not become so by being stupid, arcane and bovine. Holtz is sharp as a tack.

Rockne (the Notre Dame Fighting Irish), Lombardi (the Green Bay Packers), and Holtz (the only coach to lead 6 college programs to bowl-game appearances) are all football coaches.

Enter basketball's John Wooden, who ranks in the same class as Rockne and Lombardi.

Known as the "Wizard of Westwood", Wooden won 665 games in 27 seasons at UCLA and 10 NCAA titles during this last 12 years, including 7 straight from 1967 to 1973. He also had an 88-game winning streak and two undefeated, back-to-back national championship teams.

Wooden's UCLA record during his 10 National Championship years was 291-10 (not a misprint); it rounds to a 97% winning percentage and includes no less than 4 perfect 30-0 seasons.

Here are some of John Wooden's most famous quotes:

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

"Never mistake activity for achievement."

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."

"Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then."

"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."

"I'd rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent."

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."

"Ability is a poor man's wealth."

"Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character."

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."

"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

"It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it."

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

"Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights."

"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."

"There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer."

"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

Read the famous football quotes by Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi and Lou Holtz by going to my Sports link and then clicking on College Football Features.

February 9, 2007

Texas Western's Don Haskins:

Coach Was Color-Blind, He Only Wanted to Know If You Could Play Basketball

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Glory Road – 2 Stars (Average)

Basketball Coach Don Haskins does not have to wait for his legend to happen. He is a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Few today would remember Don Haskins. He was the coach at Texas Western in 1966 when his 27-1 team played Adolph Rupp's 27-1 University of Kentucky Wildcats for the NCAA title.

Nothing too unusual about that, except that Haskins would become the first coach in NCAA history to start an all-African American lineup when the Miners squared off against Rupp's all-white Kentucky team that featured two players who would become well-known in the NBA pro league: Pat Riley and Louie Dampier.

Remember these names: Bobby Joe Hill, David Lattin, Orsten Artis, Willie Worsley and Harry Flournoy during February, Black History Month. They were the starting lineup for Texas Western when the Miners won the NCAA championship against an all-white Kentucky team, 72-65.

I would graduate from Michigan State University two months after Texas Western won the title, and would not be aware of just how historic this event was. My high school and college cross-country and track teams were integrated. Kentucky would not even offer African Americans basketball scholarships, and there were many other colleges and universities which excluded African American players in 1966.

There was a lot of hatred in the South at that time. Heck, there was a lot hatred everywhere, but not in Don Haskins' will to win for Texas Western, known today as UTEP, the University of Texas at El Paso. Haskins was color-blind and simply put the best players on the floor to compete.

Haskins recruited the best players, nothing else mattered. Not even the lousy treatment and death threats both Haskins and his players received from die-hard, ignorant, bigoted Texas Western boosters and donors. They sing a different tune in Texas today, especially at the University of Texas.

Glory Road in 2006 retold the story of Don Haskins and Texas Western. Josh Lucas played the role of Don Haskins, Derek Luke played Bobby Joe Hill and John Voight played Adolph Rupp.

Glory Road is not one of the best movies ever made, but the story of Texas Western is on par with other great victories in sports history, including the 1980 U. S. Hockey team winning the Gold Medal in the Olympics.

Contrary to the movie version, the title game was not as big an upset as was depicted. Texas Western had an excellent team, as evidenced by its No. 3 ranking the final polls that year. Haskins was not the first coach to play African Americans, Texas Western had African American players on its roster before Haskins arrived.

Haskins was the first to start an all-African American lineup in the NCAA title game, and it is also true that Texas Western was the first college in a Southern state to integrate its athletic teams. Good for Texas Western.

Glory Road had a good message of hope for African Americans. At least one coach had the backbone to play the best. Do not think for a moment that this was Don Haskins' one moment of glory, and that he was courageous but not an excellent basketball coach.

Since Glory Road was not as much about Don Haskins as some very talented, very tolerant and very brave Texas Western players, let it be known that Don Haskins:

1) Played three years at Oklahoma A&M under Hall of Fame coach Hank Iba and was Team Captain.

2) Was tied for 4th place among the NCAA's most winning active coaches when he retired with 719 wins and 353 losses.

3) Had 33 winning seasons at UTEP in 38 years of coaching.

4) Led UTEP to no less than 17 20-win-seasons, an NCAA title in 1966, 7 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championships, 4 WAC tournament titles, and 21 postseason trips (14 to the NCAA playoffs and 7 NIT—National Invitational Tournament—appearances).

5) Changed college basketball forever by starting an all-African American team against an all-white Kentucky team in the NCAA tournament and winning the title.

6) Coached Hall of Famer Nate "Tiny" Archibald, NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, and Antonio Davis, and mentored future coaches Nolan Richardson and Tim Floyd.

Glory Road is a film for every basketball enthusiast. It has a great message and represents a great moment in the evolution of basketball as we know and enjoy it today.

February 8, 2007

Movie Review

"Coach Carter" Sends an Outstanding Message About a Coach with Integrity, Honor and Goodness

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Samuel L. Jackson plays Coach Ken Carter in a good sports drama with an outstanding message for today's high school basketball players who see playing with the pros as their only objective in life.

Coach Carter, a successful sporting goods store owner and an outstanding athlete in his day, returns to his alma mater which is located in a poor area of Richmond (CA). He inherits a team with players that have a poor attitude, poor performance and virtually no expectations for their future should they fail to advance their basketball careers.

The team at Richmond High School is designed to have its student athletes fail by not requiring greater expectations, discipline and accountability. Coach Carter is the centerpiece of this movie about values based on a true story of a California team.

He immediately lays down the law, Carter style, demanding discipline, hard work and accountability. Carter and his players sign a written contract that demands standards for behavior, a dress code and good grades to stay eligible to play.

Carter believes that scholarship and ethics should go hand in hand with outstanding basketball play.

Given some standards to meet, his players take a 180 degree turn and start winning from the outset of the season, going undefeated through several games. Then the community starts showering them with attention and praise and the players become overconfident and ignore their class attendance and studies.

Carter finds out that several of his players are nearly failing and takes immediate action, benching his team and shutting down the basketball program until the players toe the mark in their studies. You can imagine the reaction of the parents and community in general.

Coach Carter finds himself under immense pressure to give his players a pass. He becomes probably the only basketball coach in America to stand fast with an undefeated team. He flatly refuses to cave in, forcing his players to be accountable for their performance both on and off the court.

This is an incredible story of a coach who will not compromise his values by not compromising his integrity. Coach Carter has the guts and audacity to stand fast and right wills out in the end.

Listen to what Coach Carter has to say at his board hearing: "You really need to consider the message you're sending these boys by ending the lockout. It's the same message that we as a culture send to our professional athletes, and that is that they are above the law.

"If these boys cannot honor the simple rules of a basketball contract, how long do you think it will be before they're out there breaking the law?
"I played ball here at Richmond High 30 years ago. It was the same thing then; some of my teammates went to prison, some of them even ended up dead. If you vote to end the lockout, you won't have to terminate me, I'll quit."

Powerful? You better believe it. Ignore the violence, sexual content, poor language, teen partying and drug material in this film, it is just Hollywood's clumsy way of stereotyping high school basketball players.

There is too little recognition in films for prep basketball players who are not only outstanding collegiate and professional prospects but also outstanding students with great character and values.

Nonetheless, there are players like Coach Carter inherited, and this movie illustrates an important and needed statement about what really matters. Coach Carter is not interested in winning games to advance his career; he is totally focused on making young men into confident, productive, well adjusted adults.

Thankfully, the movie Coach Carter enjoyed some success, generating the highest opening weekend ($24 million) of any release by an MTV film. There was little recognition for this film among the most prestigious award givers. No matter. It was an Academy Award message in its own right.

See this movie for its excellent message. And yes, take your children with you, they need the message even more than you do, they are now in the spotlight and you are behind it.

2009 Washington Husky Basketball

March 26, 2009 - 2nd Article

Brockman Gets 60th Double-Double

It Was Oh So Close for Washington But Purdue Advances to Sweet 16

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Husky faithful.)

Purdue was teetering. Desperate Washington was roaring back. The Huskies' close-to-home crowd was screaming. And the stifling intensity that makes the NCAA tournament so popular blanketed the court. Amid all that, JaJuan Johnson stood tallest.

As if on a pogo stick, Johnson blocked not 1 but 2 attempts by Washington to tie the game with a minute remaining. He also scored 22 points as the 5th-seeded Boilermakers held off a frantic charge to beat the 4th-seeded Huskies 76-74 Saturday (3-21-09) to advance to its first regional semifinals since 2000.

"We finally got over the hump!" E'Twaun Moore said in the hallway of the arena minutes after his clinching free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining for the Boilermakers (27-9). The Big Ten tournament champions led the entire game but nearly blew a 14-point lead to the frenzied Huskies. Now comes top-seeded Connecticut.

"A lot of people talk about offensive possessions and making shots. It always comes down to making stops," Purdue coach Matt Painter said of the 6-foot-10 Johnson denying Isaiah Thomas' dash to the basket and then Quincy Pondexter's short jumper in the lane with 57.8 seconds left.

"Man, he's just a great guy," Moore said, laughing at his renewed love for the junior center and tallest player on the floor Saturday. "I'm just glad to have him as a teammate."

Johnson sounded as if he didn't know what all the fuss over his 3rd and 4th blocked shots of the game. "I blocked the first shot from Thomas and I realized the shot clock was getting low. So when Pondexter got the ball, I just went after it," he said.

True freshman Isaiah Thomas, the Pac 10's Freshman of the Year, scored 24 points, Pondexter had 20 with 10 rebounds and Jon Brockman added 20 points with 18 rebounds for Washington (26-9). Brockman got the 60th and final double-double of his career; he is the nation's active leader.

The regular-season champion of the Pac-10 trailed by 14 with 79 seconds into the second half before getting to within 2 five times in the final 7:13, but never to even or ahead. All three Huskies had reddened eyes as they struggled to comprehend that their desperation push fell just short.

"As soon as we started rolling, I knew we were going to win," Brockman said. "That's one of the reasons, really, it's so hard to take. We were right there.

"It's funny: There's really only one happy team at the end of the NCAA tournament."

Brockman, playing with a broken nose and a sore wrist, willed Washington back. He made a thudding free throw and then a third-chance putback with 3:07 remaining to cut Purdue's game-long lead to 69-67.

Brockman's 7th consecutive point came on a reverse layin underneath, keeping Washington within 73-71 with 1:36 remaining.

Johnson then made consecutive blocks, first of Thomas' drive, then of Pondexter's jumper in the lane with 57.8 seconds left. After Moore missed a layup, so did the 5-foot-8 Thomas on yet another daring drive to the basket, with 18.8 seconds to go.

Moore, a 76 percent foul shooter, made two free throws to make it 75-71. Brockman hit one of two free throws with 6.8 seconds left. After a quick foul by Washington in the backcourt, Moore missed the first free throw with 5.5 seconds remaining, but made the second to send the Boilermakers to Glendale (AZ) for a date Thursday with Connecticut, the top seed in the West Region.

Pondexter made an inconsequential shot at the buzzer. Brockman doubled over on the court as the Boilermakers jumped around before a stunned sea of purple-clad fans from up the freeway in Seattle.

"We'll never get another player like Jon Brockman," coach Lorenzo Romar, a one-time NBA player, said of Washington's all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, whom Romar praised for selflessness and humility. "I've played with the best in the world. And I've never known anyone like Jon Brockman."

Purdue's taller guards were all over the Huskies defensively outside for most of the game.

And Purdue's motion offense from outside the foul line, something Washington had not seen this season, continually produced open shots for Johnson and everyone else.

Washington kept squandering chances until Justin Dentmon, who had been 1-for-6 and tentative to take a shot, made his first basket since midway through the first half.

Elston Turner pump-faked Robbie Hummel onto his fractured back and then made a 3-pointer to make it 58-54 with 9:32 remaining and set up the finish.

"The last 10 minutes of the game, they flat took us," Painter said.

Washington missed 10 of its first 13 shots and fell behind 20-8 after 10 minutes. As Washington's coaches stomped the floor in frustration, the half ended on an emphatic dunk by Johnson, after one of numerous tap-out second chances by Purdue, and the Boilermakers led 39-28.

Purdue was then on its way to the regionals, after second-round exits in each of their last three NCAA tournament appearances.

March 26, 2009

2009 March Madness

Quincy Pondexter Leads Washington Past Mississippi State to Advance

(Ed's Note: The source of this guest article from March Madness is the Associated Press. We post most of it here for the Husky faithful.)

Team captain Jon Brockman had a broken nose and a seat on the bench because of fouls. Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon were not fulfilling their roles as Washington's top two scorers in the biggest game of the season. So Quincy Pondexter took charge.

Pondexter scored a season-high 23 points and the fourth-seeded Huskies took advantage of early foul trouble to Mississippi State's menacing Jarvis Varnado to race past the 13th-seeded Bulldogs 71-58 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday (3-19-09) in Portland (OR).

"It was very noticeable," the springy, 6-foot-6 Pondexter said with a smile, of Varnado being out during a game-turning run in the first half. "I didn't have to alter my shots." The rugged Brockman did what Varnado could not—overcome fouls—to finish with 14 rebounds and 10 points while playing with what he believes is a broken nose.

In the end, the supposedly vulnerable Huskies (26-8) looked far better than the last time they were in this city, losing to Portland of the West Coast Conference to begin the season. That and a six-game winning streak for Mississippi State, the Southeastern Conference tournament champions, had many expecting an early out for Washington.

"We had a lot of doubters, a lot of people who said this was going to be an upset," Thomas said.

Barry Stewart and Phil Turner had 11 points each for Mississippi State (23-13), which had reached the NCAAs for the 6th time in 8 years only because of its surprising romp through the SEC tournament.

"They just came out and hit us in the mouth early. And we didn't respond," said Bulldogs point guard Dee Bost, who had five points on 1-for-10 shooting. The Bulldogs missed 17 of their first 23 shots and made just 34 percent overall. Ravern Johnson, who was averaging 12.2 points per game coming in, missed nine of his first 11 shots.

Varnado, the national leader in blocked shots and Mississippi State's leading scorer, finished with 5 blocks, to go along with 7 points, 3 rebounds—and 4 fouls—in 23 minutes. He was distraught afterward, his head down and a towel over it.

The Huskies, who won the Pac-10 regular-season title for their first outright league title since 1953, scored the first 6 points of the second half—4 on a dunk and a layup by Pondexter. He was set up by smooth, no-look passes from freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas. That put Washington up 44-27, and the Huskies cruised from there into Saturday's second round against Purdue.

The 5th-seeded Boilermakers (26-9), who beat Northern Iowa 61-56 in a bruising game earlier Thursday, will be Washington's second straight conference-tournament champion opponent.

The first got punished by Pondexter. "Coach said he was the wild card," Johnson said. "We just couldn't stop him."

Pondexter thrived with team leader Brockman on the bench, Dentmon scoreless over the first 28 minutes and leading scorer Thomas content to feed Pondexter rather than force shots. Thomas and Dentmon finished with just 13 points, their second-lowest combined total this season.

"I was just really proud of our guys," Brockman said. "We got in early foul trouble and that didn't factor in at all. It didn't faze us. That's the adversity you've got to be able to handle when you are playing in a tournament like this."

Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury had praised Varnado the day before for improving his ability to stay out of foul trouble this season. Then he played only 6 minutes of the first half. He got his second foul midway through the period for reaching over Brockman's back in an attempt for a rebound.

This season, the 6-foot-9 junior led the nation with 165 blocks to break the SEC record he had shared with Shaquille O'Neal. He led the country with 157 last year. But Thursday, he merely led Mississippi State starters in time on the bench. "It was their plan to try to get me in foul trouble," he said.

Brockman, playing with what he called a bent and probably broken nose he sustained last week during the Pac-10 tournament, followed Varnado to the sidelines 5 minutes later with his second foul, when Washington led 16-14. That's when Pondexter took over.

Playing like Brockman without Varnado around to stop him, Pondexter scored on a dunk, a putback and two turnaround jumpers during a 15-6 run. That put the Huskies ahead 31-20 late in the half as the large purple pack in the stands roared. The Bulldogs never got closer.

"I had a sweet seat on the bench to watch our team go to work," Brockman said.

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Read my articles on track and field, cross-country and distance running, including:

"Updated USA Prep Track & Field Records and the New Best 2008 Top Performers"

"2009 Simplot Games Showcase the Nation's Top High School Track and Field Talent"

"National Indoor Middle Distance USA High School Track Records – What It Takes to Be the Best"

"Several Track and Field Girl Athletes Prove Their Great Sportsmanship and Substance – Playing Sports Builds Character"

"Running: There Is an Inescapable Correlation Between Your Weight and Your Cardiovascular Efficiency – Part 5"

"Arthur Lydiard, the World's Greatest Middle Distance Coach, on How to Train Effectively"

"Washington's 2 Freshmen Lead Women to the 2008 National Cross-Country Title"

"Kathryn Martin Dominates on the Track at the 2008 USATF National Masters Meet"

"USA Middle Distance Outdoor Records for Male Super Master Runners Ages 50-74"

March 12, 2009

Jon Brockman Sets the Tone

Team Play Allows Washington to Win First Outright Pac 10 Title in 56 Years

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Washington's 6-foot-7, 255-pound senior power forward has always been there—in the paint—for the last three years, battling taller, more athletic opponents. He brought his lunch pail and hard hat with him every night with no exceptions. Jon Brockman led the way in the underachieving times.

Now Brockman and his teammates just accomplished something that no basketball team at the University of Washington has done in 56 years—win an outright Pac 10 Championship title. He could not have done it alone, but it is even more certain that his Husky teammates could not have done it without their 3-year captain and leader.

Brockman was the role model and he set the tone that said "we can do this if we just play as a team and not worry about individual glory and statistics". For at least one season one team among the 347 NCAA Division 1 teams bought into the "we are one" concept and went to work.

The result for the players was stunning, not in just professional growth but personal growth as well. Never more so than in the case of senior guard Justin Dentmon, an All-Pac 10 Freshman Team selection who struggled through two seasons before arriving this year as a total blessing and an All-Pac 10 First Team selection. Dentmon was also named the Pac 10's Most Improved Player of the Year.

Junior forward Quincy Pondexter, who had been up and down like a yo-yo his first two years, finally settled down and began showing his talent and potential. He flat carried the Huskies at critical moments in some games.

True freshman guard Isaiah Thomas arrived on campus with a lot of hype and delivered big time—as a scorer, as a game-changing threat, and as a team player who exchanged some personal point production for more wins. The 5-foot-8 fearless lane splitter not only made the All-Pac 10 Freshman Team, he was also selected as the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year.

Sophomore guard Venoy Overton, who was a starter last year and came off the bench this year so Isaiah Thomas could start, transformed himself into one of the Pac 10's defensive stoppers. Every time Overton moved, he had so much speed he looked like he was shot out of a cannon. He took on the best of the best and harassed them silly.

Forwards Matthew Bryan-Amaning (better known as MBA), Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday all had special moments and kept getting better and better as the team started piling up victories.

After playing themselves into at least a tie for the Pac 10 title, the Huskies put a huge exclamation point on an uplifting, positive, moving season by beating their heated cross-state rivals—the Washington State Cougars—67-60 to bring their home court record to 18-1 on the season.

But back to Brockman, a guy so tough under the basket he can go head-on against taller, more talented players in the paint and come out on top. Never, ever underestimate Brockman in the paint. He is fearless and can both give and take punishment; he has had his nose broken 5 times rebounding.

Brockman set the all-time Husky record for rebounding this year. He is the first Husky ever and the only the fourth player in Pac-10 history to have more than 1,700 career points and 1,200 rebounds. Brockman is the nation's leader with 58 career double-doubles (at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in a single game).

Jay Bilas of ESPN.com has called Brockman the best rebounder in the nation. Brockman pulled down 18 rebounds in the title-clinching game against Washington State.

Washington has built its season around greatly improved defensive play and a balanced offense that favors no one and benefits everyone. Husky players actually dive for loose balls; they will potentially hurt themselves to keep the ball alive and in their hands.

They have 4 players in double-digits scoring. In regular season play, the Husky backcourt had both Dentmon and Thomas averaging 15 points a game, Brockman averaged 14 points and 11+ rebounds a game, and Pondexter added 11 per game. They have at least 8 players who can make a difference on the court.

Because of their great play and great coaching by Lorenzo Romar, Romar was selected as Pac 10 Coach of the Year. Romar has 3 great assistant coaches in Cameron Dollar, Paul Fortier and Jim Shaw. Lance LaVetter needs some props too as Director of Basketball Operations for the Huskies.

Washington started the season at 3-3 and then ended it with a 21-4 run to Husky greatness. As a former champion and record-setter I know how sweet it is to get to the top of the mountain; it is an accomplishment you will remember the rest of your life, and you will appreciate it more the older you get. One of my moments in the sun happened 47 years ago.

The Huskies begin their Pac 10 Conference Tournament play Thursday (3-12-09). They will be strong competitors for the Pac 10 Tourney title and will definitely be 1 of the 64 teams to have a run at the national title when March Madness begins March 19.

Read my complete 2008 NCAA March Madness coverage, including:

"First 2 Rounds in 2008 NCAA Tournament Produce 1 Major Upset in Every 6 Games"

"The Final 4 for the 2008 NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas"

"For Kansas Coach Bill Self, the Long Wait Is Over as His Jayhawks Outlast Memphis"

"Coach Was Color-Blind, He Only Wanted to Know If You Could Play Basketball"

"'Coach Carter' Sends an Outstanding Message About a Coach with Integrity, Honor and Goodness"

Ed's Note: This Washington Husky basketball article is the 600th original article to appear among Ed Bagley's Articles on Ed Bagley's Blog.

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June 5, 2007

U Dub's Basketball Divo:

The Spencer Hawes Saga: Ride the NBA Bench, or Help the Huskies by Becoming a Better Player?

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Ah, to be fawned over as a potential 7-foot NBA center.

It must be pretty heady for Spencer Hawes. Well, we know it is pretty heady just listening to Hawes.

Frank Hughes wrote about young Spencer recently (6-1-07) in The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington's dominate daily.

Hughes said that "after a disappointing freshman season that saw the (University of Washington) Huskies miss not only the NCAA tournament but the National Invitational Tournament as well, Hawes said that he was going to leave school early and fulfill his dream of playing professionally."

Recently Hawes was one of 10 players exclusively invited to meet with the media in Orlando (FL), signaling that the NBA considers him a likely top-10 pick in the NBA draft on June 28. Hawes has until June 18 to remove his name from the list of draft-eligible players, and if he can overcome his self-inflated opinion, he will.

Listen to what sportswriter Hughes quotes Hawes as saying in the process of making up his mind:

"That is the big question: Where does that improvement come from? That is what I am trying to figure out. It is tough to say now. I would love to make a decision tomorrow, but I just don't think I am ready yet.

"If I go back (and play for U-Dub) and try to go No. 1 next year, that is something that is enticing. But if you make that the reason you go back, that shifts your focus and then every day you are worried. Did I increase my stock? Did I hurt myself? I think that would be the wrong reason to go back. I would be so anxious the whole year that it wouldn't be worth it."

Hawes said he and his teammates fell victim to the success that the UW had enjoyed in previous seasons under Lorenzo Romar, thinking that the addition of Hawes instantly gave them a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Said Hawes: "Going in, I think we took a lot of things for granted, and I think we thought our talent alone would produce results."

All of this chatter prompts me to think of Hawes as a spoiled, millionaire athlete with little grip on reality. I hesitate to call Hawes a diva because biologically it does not work, but I will settle on divo to get it in the male gender.

I would hesitate to ask Hawes what he thinks about his situation. I would be more interested in what he knows, and based on his public statements, I do not get the impression he knows much.

Hey Spencer, here is a reality check:

1) If you think you are going to make some kind of impact in the NBA based on your current performance at the college level, revisit that notion and put it into perspective. You could not carry U-Dub last year on your best day.

You were far from the MVP on last year's Husky team. If there is any doubt, appreciate the fact you had Jon Brockman on your team. Brockman is a work horse that does not know the word quit. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Brockman produced all year and outperformed you.

Brockman was literally the MVP last year, an all Pac-10 conference first-team pick at forward, led the Pac-10 in rebounding (9.6), led the Pac-10 with 15 double-doubles, was third in the conference in shooting percentage (55%) and 12th in scoring (14+ ppg).

Did I mention that Brockman was a sophomore last year?

2) You may have taken a lot of things for granted going into last season Spencer, but I doubt all of your teammates did, especially Jon Brockman.

3) Even if you come back and play at U-Dub next year, you still may not learn enough and grow enough to outperform Brockman.

4) Should you decide you can learn more and get better quicker in the NBA, you are going to have a hard time doing it on the bench. You are going to be reminded when you arrive that there are no high school stiffs to jump over. You are going to get out muscled and pushed around.

You need to get a lot bigger and a whole bunch stronger than 230 over a 7-foot frame. Given the fact that the NBA looks like it is morphing into the league of mugging and thugging, you do not have a prayer at the moment.

Trust me when I say that if LeBron James decides he is going to drive the lane by you, he will not need to mug or thug to do it, and you may be picking up your teeth off the floor.

I know this: If I am going into an NBA game or a rowdy bar and have to choose who to take with me, you or Jon Brockman, you are going to be standing outside alone.

5) What is your legacy going to be if you take the money and run into a brick wall? You will be forgotten before you will be remembered, and rightly so. Up to this point you have not done enough to help your college teammates more than yourself, not to mention the fact that you are not nearly as good as you are being told.

If you think you are, you need to prove it on the court and stop reading the print media and listening to the broadcast media.

Choosing the NBA gives you some immediate cash and allows you to help yourself to perhaps an early retirement. Returning to the University of Washington allows you not only to get better quicker but also helps your teammates. Dude, you are not ready for the NBA, and I am not sure the NBA is ready for you despite the stupidity of giving you a ton of money to grow, and grow up.

July 23, 2007

The Continuing Story:

Article Updates on Washington's Spencer Hawes

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Spencer Hawes, the 7-foot freshman center for the University of Washington, decided to go pro recently rather than return to the Huskies. This did not surprise a lot of Dawg fans.

In his one season as a Husky, the Tacoma News Tribune noted that Hawes managed some personal success:

He was UW's leading scorer (14.9ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.4rpg).

He set a school record for blocked shots (54) and his 53.2 shooting percentage was fourth-best in the Pac-10 Conference.

He was an honorable mention on the all-league team and made the Pac 10's all-freshman team.

Nonetheless, Hawes—whose coming to UW was a big deal—led the Huskies nowhere. Washington finished 19-12, missed the NCAA tournament and did not even get a sniff of the NIT tournament.

If sophomore Jon Brockman was not in the lineup for the Huskies they would have lost a lot more games. Brockman, a 6-foot-7 260-pound forward, will be a junior this year.

Hawes subsequently became a first round, Top 10 NBA draft pick when the Sacramento Kings drafted him with their No. 10 pick.

Hawes' selection also made UW the only NCAA school to have a player taken in the first round of the past three NBA drafts, joining Brandon Roy, the No. 6 pick last year, and Nate Robinson, the No. 21 pick in 2005.

In the end, Hawes went for the money.

Hawes spent some time talking about how he thought he could progress and improve faster in the pros than with the Huskies another year. I say garbage.

I fail to see how he is going to improve all that much sitting on the bench for the Sacramento Kings, one of the bottom feeders in the NBA. Of the 30 teams in the NBA, only 7 had worse records than Sacramento.

If Hawes did not go pro for the money, answer me this question: Would Hawes have been in the draft if there was no money involved? Of course not. He would have been happy and excited about playing at his level of competence for another season with a much better shot of making a significant impact.

Read my original article titled "The Spencer Hawes Saga – Ride the NBA Bench, or Help the Huskies by Becoming a Better Player?" in my Blog Archive.

November 16, 2007

College Basketball:

Huskies Earn Spot in NIT Season Tip-Off Semis, Head to Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies will take a walk on the wild side Thanksgiving weekend after knocking off New Jersey Institute of Technology and Utah to qualify for a spot in the NIT Season Tip-Off Semis at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

What a difference a year makes. Last season Romar picked up Spencer Hawes for a brief season before Hawes turned pro, but Washington did not exactly impress with the presence of Hawes who opted for the big money rather than return to the Huskies.

Last season the Husky fans and team members were flooded with hope. The Huskies opened their season with 7 straight home victories against a bunch of nobodies and cupcakes, got their backside handed to them in a 20-point loss to Gonzaga in their first away game, then won 3 more nothing victories at home to be 10-1.

The season all but ended when they started Pac 10 play against much tougher competition. Washington was 17-2 at home, 1-10 away and 1-1 on neutral courts to finish 19-13. They did not get a bid to the NCAA tourney and were even snubbed with no bid to the NIT tourney.

This season is a much better start. They are 2-0 and headed toward playing much better teams at Madison Square Garden before entering Pac 10 play.

Will it make a difference? I think so. If you want to be among big time competitors you must play big time competitors rather than playing cupcakes to build up a winning record that does not mean squat.

Washington will meet Texas A&M and Ohio State will face Syracuse Wednesday (11-23-07) with the winners playing in the championship game and the losers in the consolation bracket on Friday (11-25-07). The NIT should give the Huskies national exposure and a major test.

To get a handle on NCAA basketball you first need to know that there are 119 Division 1A football teams and 341 Division 1A basketball teams. Yikes, following basketball is like going to the zoo.

Washington opened its season at home by committing 12 first half turnovers before easily beating New Jersey Institute of Technology 88-47. All Husky fans really need to know about this game is that NJIT is rated exactly 337th among the 341 Division 1A teams. In other words, they are terrible and getting worse at 0-3.

Utah, the Huskies second opponent, decided not to lay down and roll over in another game at Hec Ed Pavilion. Washington had a 9-point lead at the half and then gave back the momentum as Utah opened the second half with 3 straight 3-pointers during a 10-0 run.

Rather than fold like they might have last year, the Huskies put together an 11-2 run to end the game and win 83-77, which prompts the question, "Who needs Spencer Hawes?"

When it really counted the same guy that showed up all of last year (rather than just parts of last year) showed up again this year. Junior inside man Jon Brockman set career highs with 31 points and 18 rebounds.

Brockman, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound plow horse who is not afraid to mix it up under the basket, was up against Utah's 7-foot-1, 265-pound junior center Luke Nevill.

All you really need to know about this game is that Washington out rebounded Utah 14-2 on the offensive boards and 40-26 overall (the plow horse outplayed the giraffe), Nevill and 2 other Utes fouled out, and the Huskies did not fold when it counted, all good signs heading into season.

Freshman guard Venoy Overton, out of Franklin High School in Seattle, played significant minutes with significant impact, and 6-foot-6 freshman forward Justin Holiday showed up down the stretch with defensive intensity, unselfishness, and a great defensive assist to keep the Huskies comeback effort intact.

Kudos to Coach Lorenzo Romar for throwing caution to the wind by facing much better teams on the historic and dangerous boards at the granddaddy of competition for many major sports—Madison Square Garden.

For the record, Utah is rated 84th nationally by Sagarin, Syracuse is 38th, Texas A&M is 30th, Washington 28th and Ohio State 20th. Now we're talking. Go Dawgs, carpe diem (that would be Latin for "seize the day").

Editor's Note: Read my 4 sports articles on the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament detailing Florida's National Championship. Find these articles in my Sports Archive.

November 18, 2007

College Basketball:

Lorenzo Romar's Washington Husky Recruits Are Among Top 15 Class

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Quietly and without a lot of fanfare, Washington Husky Coach Lorenzo Romar has put together 1 of the Top 15 recruiting classes among Division 1A basketball programs according to Scout.com.

The names of the young recruits—Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, Elston Turner Jr. and Tyreese Breshers—will become more familiar in the next two years, but for now pundits have noticed the windfall of talent.

The Top 15 ranking is significant in that there are 341 Division 1A college basketball programs, which puts Washington in the top 4.4% in the national talent pool.

The biggest offensive catch was the smallest player—5-foot-8 point guard Isaiah Thomas who spent the last two years at South Kent School, a preparatory school in Connecticut, after averaging 32+ points per game as a junior for Curtis High School in Tacoma.

Thomas, a scoring machine, averaged 26+ ppg as a sophomore. He brings offense and will remind fans of another smaller Husky guard, Nate Robinson, who now plays for the New York Knicks.

Good things can come in small packages. Robinson, nicknamed Nate the Great, has a 43.5 inch vertical leap and at 5-foot-9 has dunked over 7-foot-5 Yao Ming in NBA action. Nate was fearless. Thomas is even further along offensively.

Despite his size, Isaiah Thomas is big time. He is rated 9th nationally among all post graduate recruits.

Two shooting guards also signed letters of intent: Scott Suggs from Washington High School in Missouri and Elston Turner Jr. from Roseville High School in California.

Suggs is 6-foot-6 and ranked 10th among shooting guards nationally and 45th among the Top 100 players, and Turner is 6-foot-4 and ranked 12th among shooting guards and 71st among the Top 100.

Suggs is perimeter oriented and brings size for his position. He also had offers from Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Clemson.

Turner shoots well to 22 feet and has the ability to create off the dribble. Because of his strength he may be able to play some small forward. Turner also had offers from USC, Georgetown, Tennessee, Marquette and Arizona State.

Tyreese Breshers is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound power forward from Price High School in Los Angeles. He is small for a power forward but a good area rebounder and very competitive. Breshers has excellent leaping ability and very long arms. He was one of the top shot blockers in the West.

He is ranked 26th among power forwards nationally and 83rd among the Top 100 high school recruits. Breshers also had offers from Miami (FL), Iowa State and Washington State.

Scout.com ranked the Top 25 schools in this order: 1 UCLA, 2 Ohio State, 3 Georgetown, 4 Wake Forest, 5 Louisville, 6 North Carolina, 7 Arizona, 8 Florida, 9 Kansas, 10 Mississippi State, 11 Oregon, 12 Alabama, 13 Florida State, 14 Kentucky, 15 Washington, 16 Michigan State, 17 West Virginia, 18 Duke, 19 Maryland, 20 Louisiana State, 21 Syracuse, 22 Connecticut, 23 Nevada, 24 Southern Cal and a tie for 25 with Clemson, Virginia and Indiana.

Read my 4 articles on the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament detailing Florida's National Championship.

November 25, 2007

College Basketball:

How Can Losing Still Be a Positive? When You Are Playing Good Teams

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Washington's Huskies qualified for the NIT Season Tip-Off Semis at Madison Square Garden over Thanksgiving weekend and ended up losing to Texas A&M 77-63 and then to Syracuse 91-85 to finish 4th.

Lorenzo Romar's squad went into the NIT at 3-0 after beating New Jersey Institute of Technology 88-47, Utah 83-77 and Eastern Washington 82-68 (three average to terrible teams).

The bad news is that the Huskies lost both of their NIT games. The good news is that they played some really good teams so the experience was a total positive compared to last year when Washington got off to a 10-1 start by beating a bunch of nobodies.

Entering the NIT, Sagarin rated Ohio State 20th, Washington 28th, Texas A&M 30th and Syracuse 38th. Following the tournament, Sagarin rated Texas A&M 6th, Ohio State 23rd, Syracuse 37th and Washington 61st.

Texas A&M beat Ohio State 70-47 to win the NIT while Syracuse finished 3rd by turning back Washington. The Ohio State loss was noteworthy as the Buckeyes lost to Florida in last year's national championship game 84-75. So Texas A&M's stock zoomed up, Ohio State's dropped slightly, Syracuse's remained essentially the same and Washington's stock dropped with a thud.

In the process, Husky Coach Lorenzo Romar found out his team really suffers when junior standout Jon Brockman is on the bench, when Brockman is double-teamed and the Huskies cannot hit 3-pointers to open up the paint when needed, and when Washington's young team gets lax on defense.

It is likely that playing subpar competition would have meant that the Husky deficiencies would not have been noted until later in the season.

For the moment, it is clear that sophomore forward Quincy Pondexter, Washington's most athletic player with the biggest upside, must score and rebound whether Brockman is in the game or in foul trouble on the bench. The Huskies also need senior guard Ryan Appleby, one of the nation's best shooters behind the arc, to get back from rehabbing a broken right thumb.

It is already clear that when freshman guard Venoy Overton is on the floor, the Huskies are a better team. Overton is fast and speed kills, both in football and basketball. Overton can push the offense up the floor quick time. He has great hands and his scoring will improve every game he plays.

Against Texas A&M in the opener, the Huskies led at the half 36-32 and when the Aggies came back in the second half, they immediately double-teamed Brockman low and got away with it when Washington could not drain shots beyond the arc. Brockman had a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds) in the first half and finished with 21 points and 15 boards.

Against Syracuse in the consolation round, the Huskies were whistled for 35 fouls and the Orange for 17 (they were playing in New York, home state of Syracuse). In short order, Brockman was in foul trouble, followed by the 7-footer Joe Wolfinger, Venoy Overton and Quincy Pondexter.

Is it any wonder Washington could not hang on? The wonder is they only lost by 6 points. Pondexter did pick up a double-double (20 points and 13 boards) before exiting in foul trouble. As good as Brockman is, he needs help from Pondexter and better guard play from everyone.

Washington has 2 seniors—guards Ryan Appleby and Tim Morris (a transfer from Stanford)—and 4 freshmen—guard Venoy Overton and forwards Justin Holiday, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Darnell Gant.

I am so pleased with Romar's schedule early on. I would rather be 3-2 against better competition than 5-0 against a bunch of cupcakes.

The NIT competition was extremely important as Washington's next 8 opponents before its Pac 10 opener against Washington State the first Saturday in January (1-5-08) are nothing to brag about. Six of the 8 games are at home and 2—Oklahoma State and LSU—are away.

Five of the 8 opponents are terrible—Long Beach State (rated 233rd out of 341 Division 1A teams), Portland (219th), Portland State (150th), Cal State Northridge (177th) and Idaho State (242nd).

Only 2 opponents are decent—Oklahoma State (92nd) and LSU (80th)—and one is currently rated top flight—Pittsburgh (10th). Washington is currently rated 61st. If the Huskies are to get on with it, they need to win 7 of these next 8 games.

These ratings change at least weekly and some teams will be rated higher or lower, but rest assured the 5 opponents who I flagged as terrible are not going to get better anytime soon.

Editor's Note: Read my 5-Part series on Running: "Wheat Products and Sugar Can Be the 'Kiss of Death' When Trying to Lose Weight – Part 1", "How Lectins (Proteins in Foods) Are Very Negative in O Positive Blood Types – Part 2", Gluten in Wheat Products Bind to the Small Intestine Lining and Turn to Fat – Part 3", "How Popular Running Magazines Are Constantly Giving Very Poor Diet Advice – Part 4" and "There Is an Inescapable Correlation Between Weight and Cardiovascular Efficiency – Part 5".

January 15, 2008

2008 College Basketball:

We Love Our Washington Dawgs With Bite, Not Our Dogs With Bark

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The University of Washington basketball season is well underway as Pac-10 league play has started and it appears that the Huskies are in for a very long season.

Two months ago in mid-November head coach Lorenzo Romar said, "We're still trying to get our defense right.

"We're not as far along as I thought defensively . . . Some are trying to sort it out. We did play four freshman," he continued, referring to an earned victory that led to Washington's NIT Season Tip-off action at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the Huskies promptly lost by 14 points to Texas A&M and by 6 points to Syracuse.

Two months later in mid-January, Sagarin's latest ratings today (Tuesday, 1-15-08) have Texas A&M at 14-1 and rated No. 16, and Syracuse at 12-5 and rated No. 51. Washington is 9-7 (scary close to .500) and rated No. 72.

All 9 of Washington's victories have come against average to bad teams (average includes Washington). These include such powerhouses as New Jersey Tech (rated No. 340 among 341 NCAA Division 1A teams), Utah (#52), Eastern Washington (#263), Long Beach State (#279), Portland (#228), Portland State (#140), Cal State Northridge (#56), LSU (#153) and Idaho State (#294). In other words, the Huskies do not yet have a quality win.

In mid-December Lo-Ro (Lorenzo Romar) was at it again, reminding his hotshot freshman that defense would get them onto the floor faster than fancy offensive moves. It is rarer than 3 feet of snow in Seattle to see a kid coming out of high school who even knows what defense is, much less playing it.

They never played defense in high school and got an athletic scholarship with dunks and press clippings, so they must figure it is not important to winning at a higher level. This, of course, is why every good team and every championship team plays no defense whatsoever. Let us hope that if they cannot understand defense, they can at least understand sarcasm.

It seems that every high school kid who gets a shot at NCAA basketball today dreams of being the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Jordan and James are exceptional competitors who will not to be duplicated anytime soon. Even the most talented of these young Husky players could not begin to match the work ethic of Michael Jordan, who became an intense student of the game.

One could argue that 4 of Washington's 7 losses have been quality losses. You might point out that UCLA is now 15-1 and rated No. 5, Washington State is 14-1 and No. 7, Pittsburgh is 14-2 and No. 9, and Texas A&M is 14-1 and No. 16. I do not consider Southern Cal a quality loss as the Trojans are 10-6 and No. 41.

The Huskies have improved a little on defense, but still all but collapse late in the game when it matters most.

So what does it all mean? Just this: The Washington Huskies are likely to lose more games than they win in their remaining Pac-10 play, which would put them below .500 with no invitation to the NCAA or NIT playoffs.

This is not about Lo-Ro, who went 10-17 his first year and then improved to 19-12 in 2004 and a spot in the NCAA tournament. His 2005 team went 29-6, won the Great Alaskan Shootout, won the Pac-10 Tournament and made it the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.

His 2006 team went 26-7, won the BCA Classic, and returned to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Last year the Huskies went 19-13 and assumed they would at least get invited to the NCAA or NIT Tournament. They made a bad assumption.

Lo-Ro is the right guy in the right place at the right time. Those who think he should play freshmen who can't play defense are dead wrong.

A pretty successful guy in another sport—Knute Rockne at Notre Dame—was asked why he was not playing his 11 best players. He responded by saying, "The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach I play not my 11 best, but my best 11."

In effect, Rockne was saying his 11 most talented players were not on the field; he chose to play the 11 players who worked best together as a team. In basketball, that includes defense as well as offense.

Washington is fortunate to have a workhorse in the paint like Jon Brockman and a pure shooter like Ryan Appleby, but that is not nearly enough to win at the level that will lead the Huskies into postseason play.

There are 10 other guys on the Husky team that need to step up and experience some serious personal growth (deciding to become a leader and a champion) as well as professional growth (learning to play team defense as well as increasing their offensive effectiveness).

It takes no talent to lose. It takes a lot of talent to win consistently. If you think you are talented and God's gift to basketball and are still losing, you need to shut up and work 5 times harder. We will figure out who you are when you win.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, when we know what to do with it."

Editor's Note: Read my movie review on "Coach Was Color-Blind, He Only Wanted to Know If You Could Play Basketball", "Coach Carter Sends an Outstanding Message About a Coach with Integrity, Honor and Goodness" and my 4 basketball articles on the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament detailing Florida's National Championship run.

February 12, 2008

College Basketball:

Get Ready for a Phenomenal March Madness Run This Year

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

They do not pay Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar the big bucks because he is stupid. Romar made another in a long line of smart decisions Friday (2-8-08)—he took the blame for his team's 4-game losing streak.

Romar has praised his players all season long because they have been willing to do whatever he asks. He has now shouldered the blame because what he was asking of them did not work.

He was rewarded two days later when his Huskies played their best game of the year, upsetting No. 5 UCLA at home 71-61 before a sellout crowd at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Romar, tired of losing, pulled starting guard Venoy Overton just 57 seconds after the opening tipoff. Overton, a true freshman with outstanding potential, opened the game with a turnover, but then did not hustle back on defense. In came junior guard Justin Dentmon and responded with 20 points off the bench on 7-of-12 shooting, and the Huskies were off and running.

Jon Brockman grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds (including his 800th career rebound) and added 12 points for his Pac-10 leading 16th double-double of the season. Ryan "Dead Eye" Appleby added another dozen points and sank his 200th career 3-pointer, 12 short of the U-Dub record.

Washington even played some defense as Artem Wallace held UCLA freshman center Kevin Love to 13 points, and true freshman Justin Holiday put the "D" on UCLA's Josh Shipp when he was mounting a comeback for the Bruins.

Even UCLA coach Ben Howland was impressed. "They were more physical," said Howland. "They outrebounded us by 8. Brockman had 9 offensive rebounds alone."

The Huskies, now 13-11 overall and 4-7 in Pac-10 Conference play, must play 5 of their remaining 7 games on the road. Washington still is probably going to be watching the NCAA and NIT playoffs on television, but they showed Sunday just how great parity is in the Pac-10 and around the country by being ranked No. 82 by Sagarin and upending No. 5-ranked UCLA.

Despite its lackluster record, Washington did jump to No. 74 in Sagarin's Ratings by beating such a high-ranked team. The Sagarin Ratings change daily during the basketball season because, unlike football, games are played during the week as well as the weekend.

As of Sunday (2-10-08), No. 2 Memphis remains the only unbeaten team in the country (23-0) among 341 Division 1 teams. There were only 3 teams left with a single loss—No. 1 Duke (21-1), No. 3 Kansas (22-1) and No. 13 Drake (20-1).

Heck, there are just 3 more teams left with only 2 losses—No. 4 North Carolina (22-2), No. 6 Tennessee (20-2) and No. 25 Butler (21-2).

Here is another interesting fact to note: Three of these top 7 best-record teams have poor strength of schedule standings—Memphis (124th toughest), Drake (105th) and Butler (88th). Unless they start playing tougher teams, they are not going to go deep into the NCAA tournament.

Compare their strength of schedule to Duke (21st toughest), Kansas (60th), North Carolina (18th) and Tennessee (10th).

To highlight the competitiveness of the Pac-10 this year, the Washington Huskies, who are 9th in the Pac-10 standings with a 4-7 mark, are ranked 25th by Sagarin in strength of schedule. And you have to ask how Washington could upset such a good team as UCLA? Be thankful your team is not playing in the Pac-10 Conference this year.

All of this bodes really well for the networks who will televise March Madness, and for any team that makes the cut to play in the NCAA tournament. Because upsets happen even when there is little parity among teams, when there is a lot of parity like this year, we are going to see some shockers.

Pro Basketball

June 21, 2008

Boston Wins the NBA Title, 131-92

How to Attack the Lakers "Triangle" Offense? Run Smack Into the Celtics "Angle" Defense

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

The Boston Celtics recent NBA title effort not only set a record for the largest margin of victory in a championship game—39 points—but also became the greatest one-season improvement in history.

A year ago the Celtics finished at 24-58 and dead last in the NBA Eastern Conference. This year they went 66-16, won the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference title before disposing of the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, in the 6th and final playoff game to win their 17th NBA title and first since 1986, erasing a 22-year drought.

It was an incredible blowout of the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers. It seemed like everything the Celtics threw up went in following great ball movement, while the Lakers vaunted "triangle" offense stalled when the Celtics cut off its passing lanes. Los Angeles was left with Kobe getting the ball at mid-court and trying to single-handedly create points against 5 Celtics. Kobe went 7-of-22 from the field for 22 points.

"They were definitely the best defense I've seen the entire playoffs," said Kobe. That Kobe, he's as sharp as a tack.

Kobe had too little help to help the Lakers to the title, and take his place in history as the equal of Michael Jordan. Perhaps another year. LA Coach Phil Jackson, who had tied Boston's legendary Coach Red Auerbach with 9 NBA titles, will also have to wait another year, assuming he can find some aggressive players on LA's playgrounds.

Maybe someone like back-up James Posey, who came to play for the Celtics and went ugly on the Lakers. It was Posey here, Posey there, Posey everywhere. Draining 3's. In your Laker face.

Boston General Manager Danny Ainge, a member of the last 1986 NBA championship team, made the key moves to make the Celtics charge to the title happen. Ainge picked up Ray Allen (an All-Star and one of the purest shooters in the NBA) from the Seattle Supersonics, and Kevin Garnett (a 10-time All-Star and 2004 MVP) from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ainge then added forward James Posey, center P. J. Brown and guard Sam Cassell. Suddenly, Coach Doc Rivers had a team that was hungry, mostly because All-Stars Paul Pierce, the Celtics go-to guy, Allen and Garnett had never won an NBA title.

The result in the title game found Garnett with 26 points and 14 boards, Allen scored 26, and Pierce, the Finals MVP, added 17. Guard Rajon Rondo had 21 points, 8 assists, 7 boards and 6 steals. In short, the Celtics brought a team to the playoffs and the Lakers brought Kobe.

It must have been so sweet for the Celtics, who were pushed to 7 games by both Atlanta and Cleveland before beating Detroit in 6 games to win the Eastern Conference title. And then came Kobe and the Lakers, and Boston rented a steamroller and put a whipping on the Lakers that will be gloated in Boston into at least the next century.

And so the Celtic season ends with an NBA title. Kevin Garnett became the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an All-Defensive First Team pick and All-NBA First Team Player. Paul Pierce became an All-NBA Third Team Player and the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

Read my 2008 NCAA basketball coverage on the

"First 2 Rounds in 2008 NCAA Tournament Produce 1 Major Upset in Every 6 Games"

"The Final 4 for the 2008 NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas"

"For Kansas Coach Bill Self, the Long Wait Is Over as His Jayhawks Outlast Memphis"

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