Another twist to Selection Sunday leak of the brackets

According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN and other media outlets, some junior level staffer from the NCAA sent out a text message to the University of South Carolina saying that they were in the field of 68.

Turns out it was the other USC, the University of Southern California that got the invite.  However, South Carolina officials weren’t too mad since the USC mess all started initially once the second half of the brackets were leaked online.

This goes back to March 13, the same night when the brackets were initially released and I pointed out my passionate thoughts on what someone did to cause fans so much anguish and a little pain after the fact.  You can read about that in the link below:

The NCAA made several points about this during the annual Final Four press conference Thursday in Houston.  Safe to say, there will be fewer people in charge of the brackets so that way we as fans can see them the way it has been since 1982…with the first, live, exclusive look only on CBS.  And that is the way it should be.

Even CBS Sports President Sean McManus was quoted on in mid-April saying that some changes will be made to make the brackets more of a focal point like it was when the likes of recently retired Tim Brant and James Brown announced the field from the former NCAA Headquarters in Kansas City, near Overland Park, Kansas.

The moral of my story is…if you don’t have the facts and the story to back it up, then why report it?


Final Four Preview: Most Wide Open Final Weekend Since 1987

In the 37 prior years that I have followed college basketball, either casually or in my time here on WordPress as your loyal, honest blogger who does like to have some fun (at least, when I am not busy cooking my favorite dishes in the winter–but that could be another blog subject for another day, you never know).

There have not been many years where each of the four surviving teams has every key ingredient necessary to cut down the nets inside the cavernous NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday night.  Not since 1987, when two then up-and-coming programs from UNLV and Providence challenged the eventual final two in New Orleans being Indiana and Syracuse.  Indiana was the clear favorite to win that year, but nothing came easy.

What I am trying to say is…this entire year I have heard the word parity thrown around almost as often as your favorite Playboy model of years past who continues to pose those frequent fabulous, non-nude pics of herself on either Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Every coach has been in at least one Final Four before (Lon Kruger did it in 1994 with Florida, while Jay Wright helped Villanova get there in 2009, Jim Boeheim will be making his fifth trip for the same team that he at one time over 50 years ago was a player for the Orange, and Roy Williams is marking his eighth overall appearance, four each while at Kansas along with his longstanding home of North Carolina).

Each team has a decent center, great guard play, and forwards that are not afraid to get dirty in the paint.  In games like this, most often times it is the intangibles–the little things that should decide who will win during the semifinals.  Points off turnovers and whichever bench can spell the starters, even from one TV time out to the next TV time out (a span of four plus minutes, just in case you are scoring at home) should prove to be more of a major benefit than an unnecessary burden on a team.

Here is what I think will be the keys for each school.  I will begin with the teams that qualified on Saturday night in Anaheim and Louisville, then I will dish on the Easter Sunday winners representing the best deep dish pizza and cheesecake city of the world in Chicago and the land where people can recognize a great cheesesteak sandwich from an average one in Philadelphia.


“The way people are guarding Buddy (Hield) and getting into him, it impacts everything. It helps create opportunities going at the goal and maybe when two guys are on him one guy might roll and we can get a lob. Or when he is in a position where he occupies his guy, Khadeem (Lattin) might be open at the rim or if Buddy stays in the corner it opens up driving lanes for Jordan or Isaiah. So how defenses cover Buddy e(a)ffects everyone. I thought Buddy’s game against (Texas) A&M, he showed great security. He occupied his defender, he rebounded, and he was the happiest guy in the arena to get his team involved and see our guys hit shots. He knows, as a team, we’re going to have to do that to win a couple games this weekend.”

Veteran head coach Lon Kruger speaking to Norman reporters at press conference Monday afternoon before departing for Houston

Rick Mount, Pistol “Pete” Maravich, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Mookie Blaylock, Dennis Scott, Bryce Drew, Gerry McNamara, Stephen Curry, Jimmer Fredette, Doug McDermott, and enter Buddy Hield.

His 25.4 points per game (increased to 29.3 during the four tournament games), to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 2 assists earned Buddy Hield the CBS Sports Player of the Year.  If I had a vote and included this NCAA Tournament, there is no doubt he would be the runaway winner–although Denzel Valentine had a decent year for Michigan State (who ended up beating Hield for the Associated Press annual honor by only three votes), but the Spartans simply disappeared after the First Round.

The previous eleven names I mentioned above all had one thing in common during their college days–they knew how to fill up arenas almost every night and they consistently found ways to square up and hit the rock on an almost consistent basis.  With Buddy Hield, all you have to do is stand up and just watch in awe.  Each time he hits a shot from the outside, they usually find nothing but nylon.

“Buddy Hield reminds me a bit of Michael Redd (in terms of NBA playing ability).  No question, he is a better shooter than Michael Redd.”

Stacey King, Oklahoma Class of 1988 and current CSN Chicago analyst on the “Carmen and Jurko” midday talk show Thursday morning heard on ESPN 1000 Chicago

Even when he gets inside the paint, often times he has been successful in finding his teammates like Josh Hart.  But only His Airness won a championship, the others did not.  No question, defense will be the Sooners main calling card against a gritty Villanova squad.


Buddy Hield can get his teammates involved, especially Ryan Spangler.  At times, he seems to feel like he is a decoy.  However, he came up huge with key defensive stops against the vaunted Oregon guards at the Anaheim Regional final.  If Hield ends up scoring 30 or more and his other teammates are not doing much in terms of movement without the ball, “Boomer Sooner” is in trouble faster than famous alum and former Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi cranking out the latest technological gadgets that would make our lives better.


Dinjiyl Walker and Jordan Woodard.  Both men are going to have play the game of their lives, especially on the defensive end against the very crafty Villanova backcourt.


Besides Khadeem Lattin being the grandson of 1966 Texas Western (now Texas El Paso) starting center David Lattin, Oklahoma did beat Villnova on Pearl Harbor Day this past December 7 by a 78-55 score.  Most of the country began to take some notice after claiming the Diamond Head Classic title beating the likes of Washington State, Hawai’i and Harvard to win the title on Christmas night.  They have been at least a Top 8 team in the rankings during the entire season, appearing as Number 1 for three weeks during Weeks 11 through 13.  But like Stacey King also mentioned during his weekly radio conversation on ESPN Chicago Thursday morning,

“You shouldn’t go in with the attitude of, ‘Hey, we’re in the Final Four.’  They have to go out there and find a way to win against a very good Villanova team.  This is not the same team that they beat earlier in the season…Villanova and North Carolina come in hot.”


“I have a really strange feeling about the 1985 team. They’re so special around here and it was such a special run. This isn’t as magical and I kind of don’t want anything to take away from their magic, but I still want to win it really bad. I am kind of perplexed about that right now. Once we start playing games I will not be perplexed. I know what we want, but there’s something special about [the 1985] team.”

15 year veteran Head Coach Jay Wright when asked by various Philadelphia reporters on Monday in pre-Final Four press conference

The way Villanova shadows people, it is scary and fun to watch at the same time.  Scary in the fact that it resembles 1985 all over again, but it is fun as well to see a rather interesting brand of hoops played by guys who get it.


Ryan Arcidiacono does his best Harold Jensen impersonation.  Jensen, for those of you who were not around to see the first and only 8 seed to win a championship–he was one of the key guys that Monday night in Lexington when Villanova simply could not miss a shot.  And that game was before the shot clock and before the three-point shot came into play.  The key here is for their guards to hound Buddy Hield each time he touches the ball and force the other guys to beat them with contested shots, which was not the case the first time these two teams met on December 7 in Hawai’i.


Mikal Bridges.  The one-time redshirt is Jay Wright’s “stud” of a player.  He rebounds, hits his free throws and stays with their star player and tries to make mincemeat out of their cool statistics.  Defense and transition baskets will be huge in this game.


Villanova only shot 4 of 32 from long distance in their first meeting.  Coach Wright promises to be, “really confident and aggressive at the start.”  But will that confidence lead to doubt by halftime–leading to rushed shots against that different shooting background domed stadiums present as a hurdle, even to the most consistent of shooters.


“It was 13 years ago (in 2003) when Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to its only national title under Jim Boeheim and while guys like Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson aren’t quite on Anthony’s level, they’re still pretty darn good for first-year players.”

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, talking about the impact this pair of freshmen that came up huge in Chicago over Gonzaga and Virginia to reach the Final Four

The Orange are only the second school after Connecticut to have both the men and the women appear in the Final Four during the same calendar year.  As topsy-turvy a year it has been for the Orange and their most loyal of fans, they brushed away the similar criticism that the 2006 George Mason squad did after Selection Sunday en route to a Final Four berth at the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis.


Lydon’s defense and Richardson’s three point shooting tries to keep the North Carolina big men off balance.  Easier said than done, but again–there is no Jerry Stackhouse or Antawn Jamison running up the court with the ball off the dribble.


Which team will Jim Boeheim bring out?  Unlike his 1987 and 2003 teams, this group has been very difficult to figure out at times.  This group will definitely earn the moniker of being the true version of “Jekyll and Hyde” in this 2016 Tournament.  Everybody thought with his nine game suspension, it would have been easy for all the naysayers to yell NIT berth.  But the Selection Committee must have seen something in those 5 losses at the start of the conference season that we as fans did not.


69.4 percent, that is their free-throw percentage being the worst average of the four remaining teams.  They also average only 70.1 points per game on offense, but they hope their defense will again be the major calling card with giving up only an average of 64.6 points per game (good enough for fourth in the always rough and tough ACC).


“I think because of my knees, and I’m walking slower, people are starting to wonder how close [I am to retirement].  But I’ve really never considered [retiring].

…I still love walking out on that court for practice.  I love getting on that bus with my guys and listening to the junk they’re talking. I love [UNC sophomore] Theo Pinson getting up on one of those armored vehicles, pointing that machine gun at me this morning [during a tour of the yard], and screaming, ‘Get on the line!’ I love those kinds of things. I love the association with the guys.”

Longtime North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams commenting in November 13, 2015 interview to Gary Parrish of on not being able to sit for long periods of time.  With a pending knee replacement surgery on the horizon for the summer, could this be his swan song after so many great years at Chapel Hill?

The only Number 1 seed to successfully reach Houston.  At times, UNC did not act like a Number 1 seed–but yet again, their familiar formula of dominating teams like it was during the former Dean Smith era is creating another Carolina legend along Tobacco Road.


Everyone plays well together and does not get too big headed about the whole Final Four experience.


Brice Johnson.  If it weren’t for Buddy Hield’s heroics, Johnson would have gotten more votes as Player of the Year.  He broke Billy Cunningham’s long standing record for assists in a single game.  But, if the offense can contain Syracuse’s pair of heralded freshmen, this game might be over in seven minutes.


The Tar Heels average 83 points per game, which topped the ACC and was eighth in the nation.  All they really need to do is stay within their game plan and execute the plays that make this team one of the most vaunted, yet highly respected schools in college basketball history.  Four of their five championships occurred during the CBS era, and with TBS doing the final three games–will deja vu happen again like it’s 1982?

Well, no matter what channel or radio outlet you plan to tune in on Super Saturday, each team can present pound-for-pound quality talent on both sides of the court.  Again, whichever team can execute in the half court defensively will emerge to Monday night.  See you after the games late Saturday night or sometime on Sunday with a review of both national semifinal games.

Old Dominion escapes Oakland to win inaugural Vegas 16 Title

Oakland had chance to tie, but turned the ball over with 5.4 seconds left

Old Dominion edges Oakland (Michigan) 68-67 on Wednesday night to claim the first ever Vegas 16 championship.

After a rather lackluster start for the Golden Grizzlies, they managed to come back and make it a real nip-and-tuck affair during the second half.  But Percy Givens failed to hold on to a pass from Kay Felder after drawing a double team in the closing seconds, and subsequently ODU iced the game with two free throws.

Kay Felder led Oakland in scroing with 24 points and 11 assists, while Percy Givens finished 6 of 6 from the floor with 13 points.  Even Max Hooper did not even shoot a two point attempt in 200 tries during the season, how amazing is that statistic!

Trey Freeman had 24 points and 6 rebounds to lead the champs.  Oakland finished 42% overall, 60% in the second half but 24% in the first half.  Offensive rebounds was ODU winning that battle 16-8, and ODU had a decisive edge with points off turnovers.  That final stat was a whopping 25-4.

Overall, it appeared everyone really enjoyed themselves during the week in Las Vegas.  Sure hope that this tournament has legs similar to the CBI, CIT, and of course the NIT–where fellow Horizon League member Valparaiso will try to bring the small Northwestern Indiana private school its’ first ever basketball championship against the Colonials from George Washington on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.


Team Stream Announcers Named For TNT, TruTV

TBS to carry on longtime CBS tradition once players cut down the nets

The announcers for the third edition of Team Stream by Bleacher Report were announced on Tuesday.  Among them include a few former basketball standouts and one former prominent Philadelphia Eagles QB who recently spent some time in jail after being arrested for a DUI charge that cost him a place on the roundtable with Fox Sports Live.

Here are the assignments and where you can find them, opposite the usual TBS coverage supplied by Jim Nantz doing his 26th straight play-by-play assignment, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill supplying the color commentary, and the always steady and reliable Tracy Wolfson doing the sideline reporting:

Oklahoma Sooners on TNT

Chad McKee, announcer for cable outlet Sooner Sports TV will do play-by-play

Eduardo Najera, former 12 year NBA player who does pregame and postgame analyzing for the Dallas Mavericks

Jessica Coody, five year reporter for Sooner Sports TV will hawk the Sooners bench

Villanova Wildcats on TruTV

Veteran Westwood One studio host Scott Graham who doubles over as host of Inside Villanova Basketball With Jay Wright during the past eight seasons will team up with former Villanova and NFL wide receiver Brian Finneran is the analyst.  Kacie McDonnell (Villanova Class of 2012), who does multiple TV assignments for 41 Action News during the week and covers the Sporting Kansas City MLS soccer team most weekends will be the sideline reporter.

North Carolina Tar Heels on TNT

Wes Durham, veteran announcer for Fox Sports South who covers ACC football, basketball and baseball whose father Woody was the radio voice of Tar Heels football and basketball from 1971 to 2011.  Brendan Haywood, a 2000 Final Four participant for North Carolina will be the analyst and Dwayne Ballen, former sportscaster for WTVD is a recent author detailing his family’s struggles and journeys with autism will hawk the sidelines.

Syracuse Orange on TruTV

Veteran ACC announcer Tom Werme will be joined by 1980 Syracuse alum Roosevelt Bouie (who spent a few years playing professionally in Italy and Spain after garnering All-Big East honors as a senior in 1980), and Donovan McNabb who did star as one-time Syracuse QB before donning the kelly green of the Philadelphia Eagles will take on the sideline duties.

“One Shining Moment” will feature a new artist

The sappy, yet corny song that has been closing each and every NCAA Tournament since David Barrett first sang it after Indiana’s dramatic last second victory over then first-time Final Four participant Syracuse in 1987 will get a new version immediately before Monday night’s airing of Conan.

Everyone knows that the late, great Teddy Pendergrass did a nice version from 1994 until 1999, then Barrett did it three more years from 2000 to 2002.  Most people in this generation instantly recognized the late jazz great Luther Vandross rather soulful version performed between 2003 until 2015 (with Jennifer Hudson doing a rendition that most people hated shortly after Butler, playing nearly 7 miles from their own campus almost won the 2010 title with Gordon Hayward’s last second heave nearly taking down Duke).

I found a really neat article by Matt Norlander of if you wish to learn how the song was originally conceived in 1986.  Figuring today is the anniversary when it first aired, I hope you enjoy the initial version after Bob Knight won his third and last time and for Indiana marked their fifth championship and last one to date at the formerly named Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans:





Old Dominion, Oakland both cruise in second half en route to Vegas 16 title game

Both semifinal games were very close at halftime

The pace of both games took on a different feel.

With the first semifinal on Tuesday night at Mandalay Bay Arena, Old Dominion and UC Santa Barbara were tied at 24 during the halftime break.  However, ODU proceeded to score the first 13 points in the first 8 minutes of the second half.  For the record, Old Dominion outscored the Gouchos  40-25 en route to a 64-49 win.  They were again led in scoring by Aaron Bacote with 26 points, while Trey Freeman had 18 off the bench.  Transition baskets and turnovers were the telling stats in this game, as ODU converted 14 UCSB turnovers into 19 points.  UCSB was not as fortunate, since they only managed to get two points off of only five miscues by Old Dominion’s rather steady offense.  The Gauchos were led in scoring by Michael Bryson who had 17, while Gabe Vincent had 13 points.

The second semifinal resembled a track meet in the opening minutes, as both teams shot the ball within the first 10 to 15 seconds of the shot clock.  The Oakland Golden Grizzlies led only by two, 39-37 at the break.  However, the last 18 minutes turned this close game into a rout.  Led by the guy who has the only triple-doubles in school history, Kay Felder got his second of his college career by getting a game high 29 points while grabbing 10 rebounds to go with 10 assists.  Max Hooper also was a lightning rod as he nailed 8 of 11 shots from long distance and he finished up with 28 points on the night as Oakland earned a spot in the title game on Wednesday night cruising past an undermanned squad from East Tennessee State 104-81.  Overall, Oakland was 19 of 22 from three-point land and finished the game 35 of 74 from the field (47.3 percent), while ETSU made only 30 of 68 attempts from the floor (44.1 percent).  East Tennessee State was led in scoring by Ge’Lawn Guyn with 16, while T.J. Cromer and Desonta Bradford finished with 15 points a piece.

First ever Vegas 16 title game on Wednesday night should be a good one

In spite of the fact that is not reporting any of the scores on their website and all of the ESPN channels are not displaying the scores on their Bottom Line ticker, at least it has been a lot of fun listening to the radio calls from various schools.  The championship game begins around 10 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday night.

To listen to all of the action for free, go to iHeart Radio and look for 1130 AM, WDFN The Fan–aka Fox Sports Radio of Detroit.  If you wish to pay to listen to this game, search for the Multimedia link on the Old Dominion athletics page and it will give you all of the sign-up details you will need to access that game and other sports that are in-season.

Just before I call it a night, I wish to give a brief virtual shout-out to the Valparaiso University Crusaders on surviving a gutsy effort from Brigham Young and pulling out a close 72-70 victory in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.  Their final opponent (Thursday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN) will be George Washington, who creamed Steve Fisher and San Diego State 65-46 in the nightcap.  For one time Valpo hero and head coach Bryce Drew, this was Valpo’s 30th win of the season which  already extended their own school record for wins in a season.  But with GW having played four times in Brooklyn this season, it already feels like a second home since they only had to travel 225 miles from Washington, DC to New York.

See you back late Wednesday night (as long as it does not storm by me) for a final wrap-up of what some people are calling the Vegas Ocho.

But before all that happens, I should be putting the finishing touches on my extensive Final Four preview.  Similar to what I did the last two years, I will salute each of the school’s strengths and zero on one of the coaches keys to success along with any intangibles that stand out.  Plus, I will highlight one X-factor for each school if they are to win the national title come Monday night.  Each team capsule will close with one historical nugget or key statistic to get your basketball appetite going a few days early.



ODU, UCSB, Oakland (Michigan), and ETSU advance in Vegas 16 Tournament


Yeasayer, “Silly Me”

Found on the album Amen & Goodbye

To be released Friday, April 1, 2016

It may have been 73 degrees and windy outside the Mandalay Bay Events Center, but inside the 10,000 set Las Vegas arena–the action did get hot at times.  Even though teams mostly had two to three weeks to practice, a little bit of rust did show on the court.

Here is a brief recap of the four inaugural games:

A day of promise mostly ended up with lots of blowouts

The nearly 11 hours of hoops fun started out with Old Dominion jumping out to a 12 point lead in the first half.  Tennessee Tech did manage to make things interesting, trailing only by two at the half (32-30).  TTU then briefly led 37-36 before a 10-0 run by ODU ballooned the lead to 50-38 with 13:24 remaining.  There was even one Chris Webber moment, where one TTU player called time out with one minute showing on the clock but his team didn’t have any.  The result of the play was a technical foul, but without all of the furor and 75,000 fans cramming a football stadium when Webber of Michigan committed his most infamous gaffe in the final half minute during the thrilling 1993 championship game.  The final score ended up being ODU 75, TTU 59 as Old Dominion shot 30 of 58 for the game (52 percent), while Tennessee Tech was only 21 of 49 from the field for 43 percent.

Another telling stat of this first quarterfinal game on Monday afternoon was the rebounding–ODU winning that battle 35 to 26, with a decisive 11-1 edge on the offensive glass which led to 15 second chance points.  Old Dominion was led in scoring by guard Trey Freeman off the bench with 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting, while fellow guard Aaron Bacote ended up with 16 points.  Tennessee Tech was led by senior guard Torrance Rowe as he played his last college game scoring a game high 22 points on 9 of 16 shooting.

Game two followed similar blowout pattern

The Northern Illinois Huskies traveled all the way from DeKalb, Illinois and looked really good early.  NIU built up a 43-32 halftime lead, but the Gauchos from UC Santa Barbara rallied from a 15 point deficit to trip up the Huskies in winning the second quarterfinal and set up a Tuesday night date with ODU by a score of 70-63.  UCSB was led in scoring by Gabe Vincent’s 20 points and Sam Beeler compiling 16 points off the bench.  NIU only shot 39 percent from the field and was led in scoring by Marshawn Wilson who had 14 points.

Night session started out with wire-to-wire finish

Oakland (Michigan) took control halfway through the first half and led 45-28 at the break, en route to an easy 90-72 win over the Towson Tigers.  The Golden Grizzlies were led in scoring Kay Felder, who had 27 points to go along with seven assists.  Towson traveled all the way west from Maryland as Mike Morsell led their team scoring with a modest 22 point effort.

Final game of the night turned out to be the closet one of the bunch

East Tennessee State and Louisiana Tech featured some athletes who could run and they featured some length among the key starters.  It led to some a nice pace throughout the first half, where the largest lead was six points.  In the waning minutes, Louisiana Tech had several chances to either tie or take the lead but missed shots and a few turnovers spelled their ultimate undoing.  The final score was ETSU 88, Louisiana Tech 83.  ETSU had 11 threes in the contest and were led in scoring by Dayon Griffin with 29 points.

Semifinals on CBS Sports Network and several campus radio outlets Tuesday

Action resumes at the Vegas 16 Tournament on Tuesday night with two games:

9 p.m. Eastern, Old Dominion vs. UCSB

11:30 or thereabouts, Oakland (Michigan) vs. ETSU

Best bets for Internet streaming:  UCSB, Oakland, and ETSU offer free streaming of their games while ODU listeners would have to pay a $9.95 streaming fee.



Two coaching vacancies filled at Tulane and Pittsburgh reported on Sunday that longtime Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings has agreed to replace Jaime Dixon as the new coach at Pittsburgh.

Another good reason according to ESPN’s Andy Katz is that his son is currently on the Pittsburgh Pirates AA roster and might make the Major League roster in time for Opening Day next Sunday afternoon when the Bucs open the season at PNC Park against the defending National League Central Division champions of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Stallings, a UNC alum is Vanderbilt’s all-time winningest coach compiling a 332-220 record over 17 years.  He helped lead the Commodores to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching as far as the Sweet 16 twice–in 2004 and again in 2007.

Longtime coach in NBA ranks takes first college job

Most NBA fans remember Mike Dunleavy Sr. as the last coach during Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s final full season playing for the Los Angeles Lakers when they ended up losing four straight games to the then-upstart Chicago Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals.  During his 17 year coaching career, he guided the Lakers, Bucks, Trail Blazers, and Clippers and was named as NBA Coach of the Year in 1998-1999.  He will take his 613-716 record down south to Tulane, as he agreed on Good Friday to replace Ed Conroy after the New Orleans school suffered another down year finishing this past season at a meager 12-22.  Only time will tell whether this move is a good one for the program, or he will be remembered along similar lines like recent NBA rejects such as Mike Montgomery and John Calipari.