NCAA Tournament Flashback 2006: Second Round

Welcome one, welcome all to another special edition of NCAA Redux.

It is hard to believe that a full decade has passed with so many upsets:

Northwestern State over Iowa in Auburn Hills, Michigan

Bradley over Kansas later that same evening in Auburn Hills.

And there was nearly one upset of epic proportions:

The 16 seed of Albany (making their first ever trip to the Big Dance) had the top seed in the East, Connecticut on the ropes for the first 30 minutes leading 50-38 with 11:30 left to play.  However, UConn escaped the upset scoring 31 of the final 38 points.

For the next few days, as four months have come and gone between the end of this past season for most teams and another four months until the new season tips off.

The first selection features a second round game involving the upstart 11 seed of George Mason and the 3 seed of North Carolina and future 2009 Most Outstanding Player Tyler Hansbrough.

This game featured the return of Patriots guard Tony Skinn, who was suspended during the Michigan State game for striking a player during the finals of the CAA Tournament.

What a game this turned out to be in Dayton, described by Gus Johnson and Len Elmore:


Legendary Tennessee women’s Head Coach Pat Summitt dies

Battling Alzeimer’s and early onset dementia for over four years, she changed not only the sport of basketball at Tennessee but the lives of so many women and men

On the same day that former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator (1978-1985) and architect of the legendary 46 defense who would later become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (1986-1990) and Arizona Cardinals (1993-94) Buddy Ryan lost his life at 85, the legendary head coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers Pat Summitt lost her battle with Alzeimer’s.  She was 64.

The 1,098 career victories, 18 Final Four appearances, 7 NCAA national titles to go along with 16 SEC regular season and conference tournament titles barely scratch the surface when we talk about her career.

Starting the program from the ground-up in 1974, where she would be doing the team laundry and lobbying the administration to get a big enough gym to play.  Keep in mind that this all happened a few years after Title IX became law and a few years before the NCAA recognized women’s basketball as a sport.

In 1976, she would help win a silver medal at the Montreal Olympics and in 1984, she helped coach Team USA to gold in Los Angeles.

Even with the hundreds and thousands of lives she touched both on and off the court, the tireless work of the Pat Summitt Foundation will continue on to help fight this dreaded disease.

Josh Elliott and Dana Jacobson of CBS discuss the impact she leaves behind and her legendary place in history:

One quote from Pat that struck me the most was this one:

“They don’t care how much you know until you know how much you care.”

Yes, her teams had double digit wins every year that she coached and never suffered a losing season.  However, former Tennessee men’s coach (and current Auburn coach who happens to be the brother-in-law of Liz Claman, popular anchor/reporter for the Fox Business Network) Bruce Pearl went so far as to say:

“They were the Dallas Cowboys of women’s basketball.”

Even recent retired NFL legend and one-time Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning released this statement on Tuesday about how profound a person Pat Summitt truly was before relying on her counsel so Manning could stay one final season in school before entering the NFL Draft:

“She could have coached any team, any sport, men’s or women’s. It wouldn’t have mattered because Pat could flat out coach.  I will miss her dearly, and I am honored to call her my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with Tyler and their entire family.”

Her overall record was 1,098-208 in a career than spanned the years 1974 through 2012, the year after she first contracted this debilitating disease.

She will be missed tremendously in Knoxville where 181 players persevered and succeeded as Lady Volunteers, and throughout the entire world that is college basketball.  A Celebration of Life is planned for Thursday, July 14 at Thompson-Boling Arena inside Pat Summitt Court–which is free and open to the public.


The NCAA Tournament to get some major scrutinizing

Bob Huggins of West Virginia and John Calipari of Kentucky headline over a dozen coaches examining the selection of teams, along with the seeding and bracketing process

This might be the most important blog affecting men’s college basketball over this entire summer, again IMHO.

According to an article posted by The Associated Press on June 13, this ad hoc committee was announced by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.  FYI–the NABC usually teams up with the NCAA on key matters affecting the sport.

Over the next several weeks, the selection, seeding and bracketing processes will no doubt get discussed, sliced, diced and who knows what changes could be made–if any at all.

Past NABC committees have worked with the NCAA as rules for student-athletes were adjusted for underclassmen that were declaring for the NBA draft and also to consider the demands placed on athletes’ time.

NABC executive director Jim Haney along with former SEC commissioner Mike Slive will co-chair the committee in Kansas City.  Other notables on the committee include coaches such as Steve Fisher of San Diego State, Mark Few of Gonzaga, and Mark Turgeon of Maryland.  Administrators from the likes of Dan Guerrero and Doug Elgin, along with consultants Dan Davitt and Reggie Minton will be some of the notables attending this meeting.

If I had a say on what changes could be made to the tournament we all love so very much each March, it would be two-fold:

  1. Limit the number of teams seeded 15 and 16 from playing the elite teams.  These games are usually over by the second media time out, that fans are usually forced to change the channel on their cable remote or tap the March Madness app to another game on Westwood One Radio.  I would have them play some teams that are around the 7 to 10 pecking line instead, since usually the schools that ended up on the 10 line are usually the last to get the invites.  Unless the field is expanded to (dare I say, 88 teams or a higher number), the quality of play will get diluted faster than when the first pair of Canadian baseball teams suited up in Montreal in 1969 and snowy Toronto with the Blue Jays maiden voyage in 1977.
  2. Why are there so many late night games in the first two rounds?  The CBS model has worked for many years, but the only reason why I feel the Turner outlets are making the games start later and later–especially during the first weekend in the Second Round is that the West Coast natives and any tourists can get home in time from either relaxing on the beaches or going shopping up and down Rodeo Drive.  Instead, have the later games tip about 45 minutes to an hour earlier–pending if any of the first wave of games end up in overtime.

It will be interesting to see what types of developments emerge from this meeting, and if any immediate impact could be felt for years to come.  Stay tuned.


Welsh-Ryan Arena to undergo serious revnovations

Similiar to in-state rival Illinois, the Evanston based arena will undergo some key changes to bring the school to 21st century standards

We have seen the arrival of the big video boards, ala what you see at Wrigley Field.  According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune on June 14, Teddy Greenstein mentioned that for the first time since 1984 a “complete facility renovation” will take place.  This was due in large part to a whopping $110 million donation from the Ryan family, spearheaded by Pat and Shirley, longstanding Northwestern alums.

About 650 seats (taking the overall capacity from the current 8,117 to around 7,500) will be replaced as the old wooden bleachers will be replaced by more comfortable chairback seats.  And just like what the State Farm Center has in downstate Champaign, along with wider concourses and the introduction of suites.  There will also be a key student cheering section behind both baskets, similar to what we have seen at venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse with Butler over the years.

Renovation to force Wildcats to play elsewhere in Chicagoland area during the 2017-2018 season

Northwestern will more than likely share playing space with DePaul’s home over the last 36 years at Allstate Arena in Rosemont–since the Blue Demons will be moving to a brand new arena just a few hundred yards south of Soldier Field inside McCormick Place off Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

The article also mentioned the Gentile Center on Loyola’s campus for a few possible dates and of course, the United Center on Chicago’s West Side–whenever Illinois, UIC, the NBA’s Bulls and the three time recent Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks permeate most of the fall and winter months.

An expanded lobby and improved lighting will make things very nice instead of boring and decrepit, along with more up-to-date elevators for fans and wider coaches offices and practice facilities should make this renovation a ‘win-win’ for all involved.

But as we learned this past season from Illinois, be careful what you wish for.


Tracy Abrams granted sixth year of eligibility at Illinois

Four-time team captain missed out last two seasons with various injuries

According to a report on June 10 by The Associated Press, Abrams already graduated with both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in hand.

Abrams last played in 2013-14 and was second on the Illini averaging 10.7 points per game while leading the team in assists at a 3.2 average.  In July 2015, he tore his Achilles tendon and missed all of the 2015-2016 season.  The guard also missed the entire 2014-2015 season with a torn ACL inside his right knee.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey rounds up pair of new assistants who once played for the Fighting Irish

In a span of six days, between June 8 and 14, the suddenly emerging power team of the ACC managed to bring back two famous players to help steer the program back to national prominence following two consecutive appearances in the Elite Eight.

Ryan Humphrey was a forward on the first team that Mike Brey coached the Irish to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 after an 11 year absence–averaging 14.1 ppg and 9 rebounds per game.  Also joining the coaching staff is former guard Ryan Ayers, who spent the last seasons as an assistant with Bucknell.  Ayers played on the 2008-09 team by finishing fourth in career three-point shooting percentage.

Humphrey spent the past two years as Northwestern’s director of player development.  These hires were necessary since Martin Ingelsby left in the spring to become Delaware’s new head coach and Anthony Solomon departed to be an assistant for the Georgetown Hoyas.

These were excellent hires from one of the class acts in college basketball.  Especially with opportunities sometimes coming fewer and far between amongst elite private academic institutions, grabbing two famous Notre Dame alums will help not only in practices and dealing with the media, they will really stress it in recruiting to see that the continuity and togetherness of this Fighting Irish “family” will remain strong for years to come.


Mike Tranghese hopes to transform the SEC like he once did for the Big East

Former longtime right-hand man to Dave Gavitt hired to do one thing:  Bring similar success in men’s basketball just like football has enjoyed for years

The era of complaining may be coming to an end.

On Thursday, June 2, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey brought Tranghese to become the “special advisor to the commissioner of men’s basketball.”  After only seeing Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M qualify for the NCAA Tournament, only the Aggies made it to the Sweet 16.

All 14 head coaches sat in on a conference call announcing the hiring, and they are all gung-ho about trying to make the SEC a basketball powerhouse similar to the Big Ten and Pac 12.

“The Big East was step-children to the Big Ten and the ACC back in the day, and the Big East didn’t take a back seat to anybody.  And that was sort of the attitude that he brought to the meeting, that the reason he’s taking on this challenge is he believes in our league, he believes in our coaches, he believes in our commissioner and he wants to win.”

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, who also happens to be the brother-in-law of popular Fox Business anchor/reporter Liz Claman

Among the changes the SEC is doing to bridge the gap is in their non-conference scheduling, they will be playing teams with an RPI average of at least being 175 over a three-year period.  In future years, that number will be bolstered to an average of 150.  For the average fan, this means these schools will be playing more quality opponents in November and December instead of what ESPN’s Dick Vitale usually refers to these games as “cupcakes.”

Simple case in point can be made about Frank Martin and the Gamecocks of South Carolina.  They won their first 12 games before fizzling during the meat of the SEC schedule after Christmas.  Their lowest RPI opponent was rated at number 271.

Mike Tranghese believes things can start turning around now instead of when fall practice resumes in mid-October with Midnight Madness events popping up across the country:

“If you can’t beat decent people, you don’t deserve to be in the tournament anyway,” Tranghese commented during his introductory conference call.

“So play them.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Everything.”

There will also be a weekly basketball show airing on the SEC Network, primarily to be using their top-notch football programs as a recruiting tool.  No longer will there be any major complaints about the basketball games airing on tape delay late into the night and not ending until the wee hours of the morning.

At least, Tranghese appears to have a firm plan in mind, and we will see if it leads to promising results in the next few Selection Sundays to come.  He was quoted also from the Associated Press article as saying:

“You’ve got to use it in your favor.  If I’m bringing a recruit in, do I want to bring him in the weekend of the Tennessee-Alabama football game versus somebody who doesn’t have football?  You bet your life I do.

Because you have the best football league in the country doesn’t mean you can’t be good in basketball. That’s an excuse.

Get rid of all those negative perceptions…Because you’re better than they are at football, kids shouldn’t come here?  It’s illogical.  In fact, I would argue you should come here.  It’s something to do on fall weekends, something really good to do on fall weekends.

But as we sit here the first week of June, it is still Kentucky’s conference to lose.  And with Monday’s news that John Calipari’s son Brad will be part of the Wildcats next season, but the school is uncertain about whether he will be a walk-on or be provided a chance to play on scholarship.

One final piece of news from the first days of June, and it involves a radio announcer continuing to add more prominent names to his resume:

Josh Lewin to add UCLA to his already growing radio broadcast schedule

The one-time WGN TV and Radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team continues to find more work.  Currently entering his 12th season as the play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Chargers in the NFL,  he is currently doing his fifth season doing the New York Mets on radio.  Expect the travel budget to grow even more when the Chargers head East or if the Mets again reach the National League playoffs.

Michigan State welcomes graduate transfer

One of rare players to play for three different schools will suit up for Tom Izzo

According to the Associated Press and other key media outlets, the Spartans received some good news on Tuesday in replacing their latest gem of an athlete in 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine.

Forward Ben Carter who recently played at UNLV, will arrive as a graduate transfer and is therefore eligible to play this coming November.  He made seven starts while playing in 22 games this past season, averaging 8.6 points per game and 6 rebounds per game before suffering a knee injury on January 30 which prematurely ended a promising senior season.  He had to sit out during the entire 2014-2015 season after transferring following his sophomore year at Oregon.

Other transfers of note

Former Valparaiso forward David Skara on May 25 left the proud Northwest Indiana school and will transfer with other key transfers to Clemson, while Minnesota forward Charles Buggs managed to earn his degree and will continue to play as a graduate transfer.