January 26, 2021

Battle 4 Atlantis 2012 is Loaded

Throughout the week of Thanksgiving there are all sorts of college basketball tournaments and for a long time the Maui Invitational has been regarded as the cream of the crop.  Things could be changing though though when you get a look at the field of the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.  Louisvile, Memphis, Duke, Missouri, Stanford, VCU, Minnesota and Northern Iowa round out a mean eight-team tournament.  2012 will only be the second year of Battle 4 Atlantis, but things certainly look promising for this holiday tournament in the future.

A Referee Shall Do No Harm

Missed calls at home plate, the poor spot of the football after fourth and inches or the blown call of an obvious charge has angered coaches, players and fans alike. But that human element is one of the things that attracts every sports fanatic to their sport of choice.

A missed call is part of the game.

Doesn’t matter what sport it is, officiating has had a hand in deciding the outcome of games long before the last couple of weeks. As sports have evolved and technologies advanced there are many ways referees can get it right with an eye on letting the play on the court or the field decide the outcome of the game rather than them making a wrong call because they did not have a clear view of the play.

I think most fans can accept that….even begrudgingly when that call or call reversal costs their team the game.

What we can’t and should not accept are referee’s not knowing or following the rules as they are instructed and taught to do.

Over the last couple of weeks, during this one-and-done party that is March Madness, there have been three glaring cases that should at a minimum have the offending referee’s monetarily penalized or sent to officiate a local YMCA game. Not only did they not follow, know or understand the rules they were entrusted to enforce, their actions may very well have altered the outcome of games.

Some Non-Shining Moments

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
St John’s vs. Rutgers – Big East Tournament

This game ended with what will go down as a top 5 referee gaffe.

With Rutgers throwing the ball the length of the court, St. John’s Justin Brownlee stole the pass and proceeded to walk with the ball, step out of bounds and throw the ball into the seats. Replays showed that Brownlee stepped out of bounds with 1.6 seconds still left in the game.

But referee’s Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton made no call and actually walked off the floor as time expired ending the game.

So egregious was their non-action, that John Adams, the national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating stated, “Not officiating to the end of a game is unacceptable.”

This isn’t a missed call – this is three “seasoned” referees somehow collectively not seeing three…count ‘em…three violations of the rules and robbing Rutgers an opportunity for a last second win.

Sunday, March, 20 2011
Arizona vs. Texas – NCAA Tournament

You would think that a grown man would know how to count to five, especially when he is allowed to swing his arm to count from one to five. But for some odd and unknown reason referee Richard Cartmell decided that four is the same as five in the Arizona/Texas game this past Sunday.

After handing Texas guard Cory Joseph the ball on a crucial inbounds play Cartmell started his five second count down. As Cartmell counted to number four Joseph, realizing he can’t inbound the ball, calls for a timeout. Somehow this short circuited Cartmell’s brain cells as he immediately called a five second violation without ever making the required 5th chop.

This mistake gave Arizona the ball, which lead to an amazing play by Derrick Williams of Arizona that sent the Longhorns packing.

Sunday, March, 20 2011
Syracuse vs. Marquette – NCAA Tournament

With less than one minute to go in this Big East battle and the game tied, Syracuse guard Dion Waiters inbounded the ball to fellow guard Scoop Jardine who jumped in the air from the front court to catch the pass and landed with his right foot on the half court line. The referee blew his whistle calling Jardine for a back court violation…that wasn’t.

This is a case of either the referee not knowing the rules he is charged with knowing or he is blind as a bat.

Here’s the rule:

NCAA men’s basketball rule book (Rule 4, Section 3, Article 5 and Article 8):

Art. 5. Regardless of where the throw-in spot is located, the throw-in team may cause the ball to go into the back court.
Art. 8. After a jump ball or during a throw-in, the player in his/her front court, who makes the initial touch on the ball while both feet are off the playing court, may be the first to secure control of the ball and land with one or both feet in the back court. It makes no difference if the first foot down was in the front court or back court.

The proof is in the video.

The change of possession led to a Marquette 3-pointer breaking the tie and giving Marquette the lead they would never relinquish.

This is not to say that these referees cost the teams above a win – but they did prevent the outcome to be completely decided by the players on the court. As a general rule referees do a great job – and like it was said earlier – missed calls are part of the game.

But these are not missed calls. These are referees who failed at their job miserably and because of that failure cost three teams the opportunity to have the outcome of a game decided by them and their opponent.

College Basketball Talent Continues to Decline

Has anyone sat back and thought about what could be going on these days in college basketball if the players actually stayed for an entire four years? This year’s preseason AP All-American team could be: Guard John Wall (Sophomore), Guard Tyreke Evans (Junior), Guard Derrick Rose (Senior), Forward DeMarcus Cousins (Sophomore), Forward Blake Griffin (Senior). The talent doesn’t drop much at all when you think about who could be on the second team: Guard Eric Gordon (Senior), Guard OJ Mayo (Senior), Forward Derrick Favors (Sophomore), Forward Evan Turner (Senior), Forward Michael Beasley (Senior). By no means is it the kids fault for jumping ship in order to make the cabbage, but it is diluting the college product more and more. I am still a HUGE college basketball fan, but take a look at who is on this year’s AP All-American Team.

Kyle Singler (Duke)
Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
Jacob Pullen (K State)
Harrison Barnes (UNC)
JaJuan Johnson (Purdue)

When Harrison Barnes is the second most well-known name on the team you know NCAA basketball is feeling the pinch. Barnes has a chance to be a lottery pick, but after Barnes the other four are by no means a guarantee. Singler will probably be a lottery pick, but it doesn’t seem many of the scouts see him as a “game changer” at the next level.

By no means am I hating on the game of college basketball rather I’m pointing out things need to change in order to keep the talent around a little longer.

“The Wizard of Westwood” May You RIP

Forget the fact that John Wooden was voted the greatest coach in American Sports by Sporting News and forget all the NCAA records that he holds that will never be broken like 38 straight NCAA tournament victories, 88 straight game winning streak as well as 7 straight NCAA titles.  Forget the fact that he is the ONLY man to be inducted in the Hall of Fame as both player and coach. Take away all of the accolades that happened many years before so many men and boys this day were not even born yet, but please know the man for his accomplishments.

John R. Wooden has passed and seemed ready to do so many years ago to be with his beloved wife Nell who passed 25 years ago.  He continued to write a love letter to her every Sunday as he did when she was alive.  Wooden was not disliked by anyone because he was one of the greatest humanitarians of our time and spent his life teaching young men how to be a better person in life rather than just how to play a game.

I was greatly affected by this man as not only a UCLA Bruin fan, but as a fan of John Wooden’s life as a whole. He grew up on a farm in Indiana born just 9 years after Naismith’s peach basket, and became a 3 time All-American at Purdue.  He coached in high school before taking over at Indiana State and then ultimately at UCLA where he didn’t win his first championship until 16 years thereafter.  After that he could not be stopped. He once won a championship with the tallest player on the court at 6’5. His teams were so prepared mentally and physically that he would never adjust his schemes to match another team.

The Wizard’s contribution to everyone who came in contact with was extraordinary and real.  Once you had a conversation with him you knew you were not only ready to follow steps to be a better person, but you could not let down such royalty.  He will be missed not just because of his presence, but because he was too vital to mankind in this cynical world.

Rest In Peace John R. Wooden I know you are now in the place with Nell you are supposed to and want to be in.

Deja Vu, Again?

Much to my chagrin it has been since 1966 that North Carolina, UConn and UCLA will not be in the NCAA Tournament at the same time. In that year a small Texas Western (now UTEP) team won the Championship in one of the most controversial games in NCAA history.

Texas Western, coached by Don Haskins, won the 1966 national title with a 72–65 victory over an Adolph Rupp coached Kentucky squad. Coach Haskins started five black players for the first time in NCAA Championship history. At the same time Adolph Rupp a legend in NCAA basketball did not believe in having black players on his team.

This year in the NCAA basketball tourney we have more parody than we have had in recent memory and while the big schools who have owned the headlines are out it leaves us with schools such as Butler, BYU, Siena, Northern Iowa and so on to take the plunge into basketball immortality.

Is this the year when we get another George Mason in the Final Four? Or is there an opportunity to get 2 mid-majors in the championship game? The answer is YES! There very well could be a team like UTEP in the Final Four. That’s right! Coming out of Conference USA where Memphis has owned it the last 5 years they went 15-1 and are on their way to the dance to maybe shock the world once again.

The Jay Bilas’s of the world says that there is no parody this year. OK, we do still have Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, and Syracuse at the top. But what about New Mexico in the Top 10, Butler #12, and Gonzaga and Kansas St bouncing around the top 10 as well?

If you break it down, Kentucky is relying on three freshman and a senior to carry them and all the pundits say that they are the team out the top 4 that could fail first. Duke is relying on 3-pt shooting and when they run into a team that is faster, quicker and bigger underneath they will get humbled. Kansas is solid and Syracuse has its moments of forgetting that you can be beat in any game, case and point, LeMoyne at home in an exhibition game and twice to Louisville who may not make the field of 64.

So, who will fill out the Final Four along with Kansas? Remember, the only time all the top seeds made the Final Four was 2 years ago so don’t count on it happening again for a while.

Potential #1 Seeds

I think it’s safe to say that Kansas and Kentucky are destined to be number one seeds in the 2010 NCAA tournament barring a complete meltdown in the next couple of weeks. The third top seed should end up being Syracuse because they have looked like one of the top four teams in the country all year. The Orange has Nova in the Carrier Dome this coming Saturday and they do have to play in Louisville for the last game of the regular season so it’s up to them to lock it up. Now, who will get the last spot? Nova had this spot right in their grasp before last week, but two losses in a row have us looking elsewhere. In the end it will probably be Duke because they have won 6 in a row and should win out unless they lose at Maryland next week. If Duke does stumble then Purdue is next most logical team with Nova, Kansas State, West Virginia and Ohio State waiting in the wings. Three weeks from now we will know for sure and the anticipation seems to build with every passing day.

Mid-Term Hoop Grades Follow Up

Back on January 18th I created a mid-season list of NCAA teams that I believed were going in the right direction and looked pretty much unstoppable. Here is and update on how I’m doing to date.

Sleepers Me and Steve Lavin would agree on:

Marquette was 11-6 now 15-8 – When I threw these guys in the mix they immediately lost 2 in a row, but since then they have won 4 in a row. The only problem the wins have been against the bottom 4 of the Big East so I’m skeptical overall.

Ohio St. was 13-5 now 18-6 – I told you Evan Turner can play. Since the last update they are 5-1 with a win at Purdue. The Buckeyes are a definite long term threat for the tourney.

UAB was 15-3 now 19-4 – Still doing well overall. The Blazers are 8-2 in their last 10 games with a mini 2 game losing skid in between. Wins over Cincy, Arkansas and Butler with a close loss at Virgina makes them a strong contender down the road.

Butler was 14-4 now 20-4 – Ho-hum, just another 13 game winning streak over a lousy conference, but they did beat Ohio State in December to show some worthiness.

Gonzaga was 14-3 now 19-4 – They are 11-1 since the Duke debacle at the Garden back in December. The Zags only lost at Michigan State by 3 and Wake by 2 so they understand good hoops.

Alternates: Siena, Charlotte, Northern Iowa, UNLV


Predicted Final Four teams on 1/18/2010

Kentucky – When Wall and Calipari are speaking this duo is unstoppable!

Villanova – Still the class of the league with the ‘Cuse. They will be there late.

Texas – A month ago I called the Longhorns the scareiest team in the country. They have become a non-factor now.

Kansas – Would love to see Kansas and Kentucky in the Final.

Teams to take Texas’ spot: The ‘Cuse, Purdue, Kansas St., Cornell

Languishing Longhorns

A little over three weeks ago the Texas Longhorns were flying high as the top college basketball team in the country at 17-0. Texas had beaten Texas A&M, Michigan State and UNC, but those wins were in the great state of Texas. Things aren’t looking as good these days for Rick Barnes and his boys. Since the middle of January Texas has lost three of four games on the road to UConn, Oklahoma, Kansas State also have lost two home games against Baylor and Kansas last night. Five losses in seven games have folks in Austin quite concerned and for good reason.

Barnes has to trim down his rotation of players because 10-11 is simply too much especially when you are cycling through three different point guards in a given game. The other key factor is to get Dexter Pittman more involved in the games. The human space eater has only taken 14 foul shots in the last seven games which has led to scoring in double digits only twice during the stretch. Dexter is so big he attracts double teams from opponents which would lead to more three-pointers for James, Hamilton and Brown. Earlier in the year I was extremely impressed with Texas and I still think they have a team that can make the Final Four, but changes need to be made.

Tar Heels on the Bubble

The very young UNC basketball squad lost again last night leading to their third loss in a row which is something they have never done under head coach Roy Williams since he took over in 2006. The Tar Heels were beat soundly last night at home by unranked Wake Forest and they are clearly missing sophomore forward Ed Davis and sophomore forward Tyler Zeller who are injured. Tension is in the air right now in Chapel Hill and if you don’t want to believe me then just look at the statements from ole Roy Williams on Wednesday after the game. Williams clearly frustrated after another loss decided to rip freshman Dexter Strickland for his actions earlier in the day. During practice this morning we ran a set play and I said, ‘Dexter, what are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Coach, I don’t know what to do.’ ‘Well, whose fault is that –mine or yours? This is practice No. 53, son.’ I know Williams is frustrated, but Strickland is about the only wing that can create a shot for the Heels right now. The bigger issues are the injuries to Davis and Zeller in conjunction with senior wing Marcus Ginyard playing very poorly and super frosh John Henson who looks more like something from Avatar running up and down the court these days rather than a real ball player.

North Carolina is currently 1-3 in the ACC and an unimpressive 12-7 overall. The Heels have crucial games coming up on the road at NC State, at home against UVA who leads the ACC, and then at Virginia Tech. When you consider the Heels haven’t won a true road game yet this year you understand why fans are freaking out. It’s obvious the media has been in love with UNC all year long, but they will now finally fall out of the top 25 in the next poll and with a RPI ranking of 55 before the Wake game they need to tread lightly or their bubble just might pop.

Syracuse IS The Real Deal!

All right…enough is enough.

Will someone please tell me what the sports world has against the Syracuse Orange? In particular the 2009-2010 edition of the men’s basketball program?

I just finished watching the ever brilliant Doug Gottlieb make another astounding back handed compliment about the Orange.

Here’s the clip:

First off – when the hell is ESPN going to let go of Syracuse’s loss to the D2 Lemoyne Dolphins. It was a stupid EXHIBITION game!!!! In EARLY November!!!! Did you notice how Gottlieb made it sound like Syracuse lost the game during part of its regular non-conference schedule? Straight out of Gottlieb’s mouth – “The one time they tried to play man to man, they lost to a non division 1 team, in the non-conference.” Maybe it was a slip up but with Gottlieb’s open disdain for anything Orange…I don’t think so.

I mean (and don’t hate me for this UNC fans) the Tar Heels lose to the College of Charleston (out of the Southern Conference) in early January and it gets one maybe two days worth of coverage. And by the way UNC has lost 4 of the last 5 and they are STILL in the top 25. I’m not trying to disrespect the Heels…but if it was the ‘Cuse…they would have been dropped out of the top 25 after the loss to the College of Charleston.

But let’s get to what really has me steamed. This whole notion that Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense is not a quality defense and therefore not capable of winning a National Championship or even beating a team such as Texas.

Some facts:
Syracuse holds teams to 37.4% FG%
Syracuse holds teams to 30.3% 3-PT%
Syracuse averages 7.1 Blocks per game
Syracuse averages 11.7 steals per game

All from a zone.

Syracuse shuts down hot outside shooting all the time. Many games this season teams come out shooting like mad men from beyond the arc. In the 2nd half the ‘Cuse adjusts its zone, pushing out on the shooters and slowing down the number of 3’s allowed and then they run away with almost every game (the average margin of victory so far this season is 19.9 points).

Syracuse is holding teams to 30.3% from 3 and 37.4% overall and still the sports prognosticators – like Gottlieb – say the zone will not work well enough to be used as a full time defense against teams like Texas and Kentucky. After 19 games of this season that argument is getting very old. This is an extremely talented defensive team playing a solid defensive scheme.

Is this team good enough to beat anyone in the country? I would say yes. Is the defense good enough to get a number 1 seed in the tourney? Arguably yes. Is it talented enough to win a National Championship? You betcha! – It seems to have worked in 2003.

I am not sitting here saying that it will happen; too many things have to go the right way for even the best of teams to win and make it all the way to a national championship. But I am going to argue that if this trend continues and the Orange continues to play the way they have been playing, it is a distinct possibility.