Rollie Massimino, coach of the 1985 Villanova Wildcats dies at age 82

We are all familiar with the old adage, “All deaths come in threes”:

If you count legendary football coach at Northwestern and Notre Dame during the 1960’s in Ara Parseghian from early August, along with two days after Michigan State lost their first legendary coach in Jud Heathcote, word came down from NAIA school Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Florida late Wednesday night as Coach Massimino spent the last 11 years as coach died of cancer at age 82 after briefly being entered into hospice care.

He along with John Thompson of Georgetown, Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s, and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse helped make the Big East a beast of a conference during the 1980’s.  Every game was like a war, and it was not common to have two top ranked teams play each other in a three day span.

Even to his last breath, Coach Thompson still considered Rollie a good close friend expressing his thoughts Thursday morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike show.

Making early stops at Stony Brook, UNLV long before they became a powerhouse, and Cleveland State before making his mark at the private Philadelphia school in Villanova, his teams won a whopping 816 games in 41 seasons, 357 of those victories coming during his 19-year run at Villanova.  A proud member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, he helped coach the Wildcats to the Elite Eight five different times between 1978 to 1988.  His last 11 years on the NAIA level saw the Seahawks win an amazing 80 percent of his games, compiling a rather nifty 298-75 record.

“The Nova Nation has lost a legend and great leader.  Coach’s love of family, community and teamwork were evident in every game his teams ever played. All of us, as coaches and players, idolized Coach Mass. He inspired and impacted all of our lives. He never stopped being a cherished mentor and friend.”

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright in statement released by the school on Wednesday

His Wildcats are still the lowest seeded team (number 8) to win the NCAA Tournament.  In 1985, the tournament expanded from the then pool of 48 schools to the more popular 64 team model.

Georgetown was the defending champions entering the 1985 NCAA Tournament.  The Hoyas were led by 3 time National Player of the Year Patrick Ewing and lost only three games prior to their April 1 encounter at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Most of the nation felt that a dynasty was in the making, even after surviving two close shave wins over Villanova during the regular season.

Their average margin of victory in the first two rounds was 21 points, while Villanova used the upset card to topple Dayton in their own gym by two points and later would upset the Southeast top seed that year in Michigan by four, Maryland by three and then second seed North Carolina by a final of 56-44.

Georgetown used excellent lockdown defense to throw off the upstarts that year in Loyola of Chicago 65-53 and a good Georgia Tech squad 60-54.  Compared to their 1984 championship run, that group of Hoyas won three straight tournament games by double digits.

After St. John’s and then Memphis State fell on semifinal Saturday, it set up the historic confrontation.  How does 78.6 percent field goal shooting tell the story?

CBS Sports described things very well and setting the table that memorable Monday night was veteran NFL announcer Dick Stockton.  Even more notable that year it was Jim Nantz describing the action in his very first NCAA Tournament for CBS.

The legendary Brent Musburger and Billy Packer had the call:

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Say Hello to Grand Canyon University

Newest full-time member of NCAA Division I Athletics is located in Phoenix

As first reported by ESPN, CBS Sports, and many other websites on Wednesday–the Grand Canyon Antelopes (or what the school simply calls them Lopes) will make their full-time debut in the Western Athletic Conference during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Founded in 1949, the school colors are the very fashionable combination of purple, black, and white.  According to their Wikipedia page, their student enrollment (as of September 2015) is 19,500 with another 60,700 individuals enrolled online.

What is most significant about this move is that GCU is the first university to be for-profit while competing in Division One athletics.  The school was at one time, a non-profit winning several conference titles between the years 1995 to 1998.

Most recently, ESPN was inside their basketball gym during Final Four week when they played host to the annual Collegiate 3 Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Championships.

They will join fellow newcomer Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the eight team WAC in all sports.

Big Ten to use condensed schedule during 2017-2018

This past Wednesday, the Big Ten Conference announced their conference schedule.  In the first five of December, each of the 14 schools will play two games (one home and one away) separated two days apart.  All of the coaches were hoping to give their players the chance to spend the holidays with their families and friends, since the 2016 portion of the schedule had four games on December 27 and another five to kick off 2017.  From January 2 to February 25, there will be at least one conference game during 51 of those 55 days.

Couple that with Northwestern having to play all of their home games nine miles away from Evanston at Allstate Arena (the former longtime home of the DePaul Blue Demons) while Welsh-Ryan Arena is getting a much needed facelift from the inside out) and Williams Arena on the Minnesota campus will be used for concerts and parties featuring national celebrities for six days.  One must safely guess with Jimmy Fallon will be bringing his Late Night act into the Twin Cities to kick off February in time for Super Bowl LII, as the Gophers will be busy on the road during the biggest game of the year (which will take place five nights before the Winter Olympics began over a half world away in Pyeongchang, Korea).

The bigten.org website has the full schedule, but the television slates will be announced sometime in October from BTN, ESPN, CBS Sports, and the newcomers in Fox Sports.

All of this leads into the 21st Annual Big Ten Tournament, to be played for the first time at the home of the 2018 Grammy Awards–Madison Square Garden in New York from February 28 to March 4.  This much I do know–CBS will be covering their first NYC conference tournament games since they had the Big East way back in 1995. Some teams may be off a full two weeks before the NCAA Tournament, something current Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey knows very well after leading Siena to a dramatic double overtime upset over Ohio State in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.  The Saints had a full ten days off between games, something that Minnesota Head Coach Richard Pitino or longtime Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo have not had huge a break in the schedule.  Normally, most Power 5 schools get no more than five or six days off prior to the NCAA Tournament.

Here is the first slate of games to chew over.  Hopefully, I will find the time to blog more about these matchups and maybe do a brief podcast once the turkey break is behind us for another year:

Friday, December 1:

Defending Big Ten regular season champions Purdue at Maryland

Illinois at Northwestern, to be played at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL

Saturday, Dec. 2:  Penn State at Iowa

Indiana at Michigan

Ohio State at Wisconsin

Sunday, Dec. 3:  Maryland at Illinois

Nebraska at Michigan State

Rutgers at Minnesota

Northwestern at Purdue

Monday, Dec. 4:

Iowa at Indiana

Michigan at Ohio State

Wisconsin at Penn State

Tuesday, Dec. 5:

Minnesota at Nebraska

Michigan State at Rutgers

Quality Road Wins Vital For NCAA Tournament Qualifying Going Forward

“Effective with the 2017-18 season, team sheets will place greater emphasis on where the games are played rather than the ranking of each opponent.”

Statement by the NCAA after the Men’s Basketball selection committee met in Chicago from July 11 to 13, 2017 regarding selection of teams and seeding guidelines

For far too long, the NCAA valued those schools who were hot in the last ten games they played and would be rewarded with top 5 seeds.  A road win in January and February did not carry much weight in-conference, as opposed to a mid-major powerhouse such as when Belmont went on the road a few years back and stunned North Carolina, in Chapel Hill of all places.  That did not ultimately help IPFW when they stunned Indiana last December, since that game took place in Fort Wayne.

Things are going to finally change, and hopefully for the mid-majors clamoring for years for fairness–this might be the dawning of a new era.

What the new table will look like going forward hopefully should be more cut and dry than what broadcasters have been trying to decipher for years.  At least, for the average fan–the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) may soon be going the same way as Kodak cameras, the Edsel automobile, Handy Andy, Builders Square, and Borders books–once great places to do business but no longer exist.

Effective in November, each school’s games will be divided into four columns.

CBSSports.com detailed it in this fashion in a July 14 online article, according to overall RPI rankings:

  1. Column 1: Home games against teams ranked 1-30, neutral site games vs. top-50 teams, road games against top-75 teams
  2. Column 2: Home games against teams ranked 31-75, neutral site games  vs. 51-100, road games vs. 76-135
  3. Column 3: Home games against teams ranked 76-160, neutral site games vs. 101-200, road games vs. 136-240
  4. Column 4: Home games against teams ranked 161-351, neutral site games vs. 201-351, road games vs. 241-351

What this means is that for example, if the 70th-ranked team wins on the road–that game will carry just as much weight as beating a top 25 team at home.  This could lead to a major boon for more at-large bids, and better seeds for smaller mid-major programs.

One NCAA source close to the meeting mentioned in the article about Monmouth when they barely missed out in 2015.  You might recall, they lost a few games with lesser teams ranked in the 200s on the road.  Even though they had some quality wins against Power 5 teams over Notre Dame and USC, it did not carry enough weight for them to merit an NCAA bid.  Those games will be penciled in red under the third column and not the fourth if those losses occur at home instead of on the road.

Expect also KenPom.com’s offensive and defensive efficiency rankings to be tweaked with their intricate software just in time for the new season.

Come 2018-2019, a new method of modern metrics could be introduced to possibly replace the RPI.  Created in 1981-82, it is one of the key metrics used to build data sheets for teams that have similar rankings and ultimately those numbers are crunched to make up the seeds for each of the four regions.  During the 2017 Tournament, teams like Kansas State and Wake Forest had enough of a strong schedule to be part of the last four teams selected in the 68 team field.  Schools like Illinois State and Syracuse were sent to the NIT since they did not have that one quality win on the road that the Selection Committee often covets.

Look for the NCAA to possibly run some type of a composite ranking system, plus the thinking is that they might establish an independent but separate and unique formula next season as a test run of sorts.  Their goal is to see how this type of composite metric can be better utilized and how the new individual ranking system performs vs. other established metrics before signing off on a total overhaul of the RPI as we know it.

It is best then to close out this interesting blog with two thoughts.

First, here is what Senior Vice President of NCAA Basketball Dan Gavitt mentioned right after the meeting concluded last month:

“The bottom line is we recognize the need to continue using more modern metrics and the need to make those more front and center in the sorting of data for the selection and seeding process.  However, it’s also critical to have a long-term solution that is tested in real time, so we can roll something out that we have complete confidence in, is mathematically sound and is acceptable in every stakeholder’s eyes.”

Finally, Note To Self:

Just in case if any eager fans wish to comment about any school “on the bubble” in either January or February, please forward a link to this blog to avoid any and all future confusion.

Maui Invitational To Feature Some Tantalyzing Matchups

Wichita State will probably be the favorite, but look out for either Notre Dame or Michigan to make some noise on the island of Maui

The matchups were announced by ESPN and the Maui Invitational Twitter page (@MauiInv) on July 18, a full twelve days before Wichita State star sophomore guard Landry Shamet underwent surgery for suffering a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.  The timetable for a full recovery, according to Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com, is 12 to 16 weeks.  He will be spending the next two weeks on a hard split, then transition eventually to crutches for the next 6 to 8 weeks.

This means he would more than likely begin play on or around Monday, November 20 when the first round of the Maui Invitational begins.

All times listed are in Eastern Standard Time:

First Round
2:30 p.m. Marquette vs. VCU, ESPN2

5 p.m. Wichita State vs. California, ESPN2

9 p.m. Notre Dame vs. Chaminade, ESPNU

11:30 p.m. Michigan vs. LSU, ESPNU

Semifinal Round, Tuesday, November 21:

First 2 winners play at 1:30 p.m.,

the 2 winners on the bottom half of the bracket play at 10:30 p.m.

Both games to air on ESPN.

Championship Game:  Wednesday, November 22 at 10:30 p.m., ESPN2

Something to keep in mind:

Landry Shamet’s injury is different than when he was forced to redshirt two years ago after suffering a compound fracture in his left foot.

The reigning Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year averaged 11.4 points per game to go along with 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds for the Shockers last season.

With the Shockers getting ready to debut in the American Athletic Conference this fall, Gregg Marshall will have a steady supply of senior leadership to hopefully bring the Shockers back for another potential run at the Final Four.

Three year starters in Conner Frankamp, Shaquille Morris, Rashard Kelly, and Zach Brown should bring lots of excitement in Wichita, Kansas and elsewhere.  Most experts and bracketologists are projecting the Shockers as a preseason Top 5 team once the season starts shortly after Halloween.

Will Wade left VCU in the spring to be the new head coach at LSU.  If the alphabet soup game turns out right, it will be very interesting watching.

Final early storyline from me features Mike Brey having Notre Dame once again being loaded with talent.  Year in and year out, they play to their full potential and get spirited efforts from the starters to the bench and the Irish will be another team to look out for.  Thanks in large part since the announcement of Bonzie Colson deciding not to enter the NBA Draft, he will be sticking around for one more year.  The Fighting Irish are coming off a 26-win season, as they are hoping to get past their 2017 NCAA Tournament hangover after starting the second round game in Buffalo so slowly against the familiar press from West Virginia.  Notre Dame also is fortunate to have the steady hands of senior point guard Matt Farrell leading the charge.

I hope to do a short blog and podcast once that weekend rolls around, so I can give fans a primer on what to expect during those last three hectic days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.  And yes, there will be more holiday tournaments to feast your eyes and ears on (and add your hungry mouths as well) during that long four-day holiday weekend.  Yes, my online fans–the plate will be full even before the cranberry sauce is added right next to your turkey and my favorite dish, the stuffing.

Bottom line is this:  These games will play a larger role in how the Selection Committee will choose the 2018 bracket.  I will have the key details in my next blog soon.

Pleasant dreams, everyone and I hope the West Coast is trying their best to stay cool during their record heat wave.

Louisville Sanctions from Sex Scandals Handed Down by NCAA

Four year probation period includes games played with ineligible players from November 2010 through July 2014

ESPN and other media outlets and websites reported what is the first wave of sanctions against Rick Pitino and the Louisville men’s basketball program.

On Thursday morning, the laundry list of sanctions includes but is not limited to the following:

  • A four year probation period starting in November 2017 and continuing into the 2020-2021 school year
  • Head Coach Rick Pitino will be suspended from coaching the first five ACC games in January 2018
  • Former assistant Andre McGee was given a ten year show of cause penalty.  This means McGee cannot apply for any NCAA type job until June 2027 at the earliest.

What was not mentioned at all was which specific games ineligible players played between November 2010 and March 2014.  In an Outside the Lines report on ESPN, some recruits who attended the parties where Katrina Powell led her sexual encounters inside some of the Louisville dorms were under the age of 18.

Remember, this ruling from the NCAA is not without precedent.  Syracuse, Kentucky, and separately years ago with SMU football in the 1980’s have had similar or harsher penalties.

As expected, Louisville proceeded with fighting the charges and they have 45 days to file a formal dispute.

What ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg mentioned on Thursday afternoon is what other shoes might drop in reference to the pending academic cheating scandal at North Carolina:

“Will this be enough to take down the banner?  North Carolina is simply waiting for something to happen.”

The Louisville Cardinals 2013 national championship could be subject to more questioning in the days and weeks going forward.

Thinking big picture here for a moment…

If any CEO of any organization feels inside his/her mind that they are running a clear ship free of any problems large or small and out of nowhere–without their knowledge they are handed a memo or worse, shown a video clip on their smartphone of a CMO or similar high ranking position doing things against the company rules with a secretary outside of business hours, the blame clearly falls with the CEO for failing to comply.

Rick Pitino is one of a handful of great coaches in basketball, I don’t care if you are talking college or in the NBA.  What we don’t know is how much he was in on what Andre McGree did in arranging for the strippers to visit with the recruits.

Through it all, Pitino continues to take the high road in standing firm that he did not see anything out of the ordinary happen behind closed doors.  It is such a shame we live in a society where mostly strange things happening are suddenly the norm and honesty for the most part is given the cold shoulder.

And if the NCAA acted even for a brief moment like most respectable organizations, the penalties would have been way harsher than this.   Will possible ineligibility to play in the 2018 ACC and NCAA Tournaments not be too far behind?

In the court of public opinion, myself and other fans who answer that proverbial questions would tend to do the same things that Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Friends do most of the time on America’s Got Talent–say a resounding “Yes.”

This story is not over.  It will be interesting to see what happens next at the school as a whole and especially with the working of the men’s basketball program, normally one of the nation’s top 40 programs in the country year in and year out.

 

Chris Holtmann leaves Butler to become new coach at Ohio State

Nationwide search lasted only four days

The news came rather swiftly on Friday afternoon.

According to media outlets ranging from ESPN, CBSSports.com, and the Associated Press, the 45 year old Holtmann leaves Butler after three very impressive years in which the Bulldogs reached the NCAA Tournament each time.

Something for the diehards in Columbus to hang their hat on is the fact that Butler reached the Sweet 16 this past March.

The contract is good for 8 years at a robust $24 million.

For Butler, the clock is ticking towards the July evaluation period and we will see if former longtime Marquette and Indiana coach Tom Crean will be heading north on desolate Indiana Highway 37 to reach the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse.  According to Garry Parrish from CBSSports.com, he mentioned that Crean’s name is one huge name that the Bulldogs are hoping to covet.

We will see if and when anything transpires sometime next week.  In the meantime, it is back to Square One for the Buckeyes men’s basketball program.