2008 Tournament Redux, Part Two

A very brief recap of the second game from that Friday day session in Tampa, Florida.  People expecting to see the longtime soap opera Guiding Light were surprised to find out that the double digit upset theme continued on two fronts:

First, the country got to know Stephen Curry of Davidson when he poured in 30 of his game high 40 points to eliminate Gonzaga, the 7 seed that year in the East on the campus of North Carolina State in Raleigh.

Meanwhile back in Tampa, the 13 seed of San Diego was locked in a tight battle with the 4 seed of the powerful UConn Huskies.

We pick up the action midway through the first half:

As we all remember the following Sunday, the first ever 12/13 second round matchup went in favor of Western Kentucky.  However, the Hilltoppers run to the title ended at the hands of UCLA in the Sweet 16 round.  The Bruins would cap it off making their third straight Final Four appearance.

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2008 Tournament Rewind, Part One

2008 was the year when Barack Obama emerged from a crowded field in the Democratic Party and would eventually become President.  At around the same time, NBC showed off the Briefcase Gals from the hit game show Deal or No Deal holding trash cans, wearing X-Men costumes, and doing a pair of spring break episodes that had more than the guys’ hearts racing.

Speaking briefly, as if I did not want to feel guilty of tooting my own horn…but this is what I said on the afternoon of March 16, 2017:

“3:12 p.m.  In tribute to Waddle and Silvy’s sometimes popular weekly ESPN Chicago radio segment, “Would You Rather”–

Would you rather see Press Your Luck or Deal or No Deal be another past game show that gets a reboot?  Each game requires a lot of luck, skill, and daring.  Going back over a quarter century ago, the formerly weird Whammy dominated screens via animation and taking people’s money away in the 1980’s.  And of course, it was the Briefcase Gals holding anywhere from one million dollars down to our lowest denomination of one Lincoln penny.”
Little did I know but NBC Universal Media Village came out with this press release from May 15, as for the first time since May 2009:
Not too far away from the Universal Orlando Resort, history of a different kind took place during the First Round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
It all started at the St. Pete Times Forum (later renamed as the Amalie Arena) in Tampa, Florida on Friday, March 21 as the 12 seed of Western Kentucky took on the 5 seed in another mid-major power from Iowa and Drake University.
It turned out to be a classic.
Tim Brando and Mike Gminski had the call:

Random News and Notes, Late June Edition

Just thought I would spend a bit of time getting fans up to date on the latest news surrounding college basketball before the heavy July recruiting period and the tidal wave of schedules coming from all 351 Division I schools.

I saw a post on the Awful Announcing site in mid June when they were discussing LeBron James being an executive producer for a documentary that will be airing on HBO sometime in the fall.  The documentary will be featuring four individuals exposing the underbelly of why students are being treated as second and third-class citizens in regards to being compensated when they participate in intercollegiate athletics.

NCAA President Dr. Mark Emmert has been nothing short of coy in regards to answering the media’s constant questions about “pay for play”, and rightfully so.  Many administrators from the Power 5 Conferences, and other mid-majors alike all point to the skyrocketing costs of tuition, room and board (for those students deciding to remain on campus year round as opposed to renting an off-campus apartment), and other various stipends students receive these days.

I recall in the mid 1990’s a college professor (whose exact name escapes me) saying this statement, and I could not agree more on these prophetic words of wisdom:

“Don’t escalate the problem above the solution.”

If the NCAA wants to stay in touch with other Fortune 500 companies, get like minded people in the same room to discuss things that can go well together.  Collaborate on those specific ideas, and reach manageable, concrete goals to make those dreams a reality.

Clearly, I am not the last blogger to cry wolf over the NCAA’s archaic policies.  I have heard the arguments stated by many scores of media members from CBS during the 1980’s and ESPN since the early 1990’s.

Things have to change.  The difficult question is–how can things make sense so that the students will not be walking away empty handed financially speaking by the time they walk across that makeshift stage and shake that school’s President upon receiving their hard earned college diploma.

Super Bowl LII Lead Referee Lands CBS Sports gig

On Tuesday, former NFL and NCAA official Gene Steratore signed a deal with CBS to be their rules analyst.  He will be mainly stationed in New York during the NFL regular season and most of the college basketball season.  According to the press release from CBS Press Express, it said that Steratore will be on site at Ford Field for the Thanksgiving Day classic when the Chicago Bears try to break the longest holiday losing streak to the Detroit Lions (last won way back in 1980, just look up on YouTube the last two plays of that game from the old Pontiac Silverdome to see how it all turned out for those of you too young to remember).  He will also be joining Jim Nantz and Tony Romo in Atlanta during coverage of Super Bowl LIII on February 3, 2019.

Gene will also be on hand during the 2019 NCAA Tournament, after spending the last 22 seasons primarily as a Big Ten official.  It will be interesting to hear his thoughts on what calls will constitute issuing either a Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2 foul, plus did the ball leave the guards’ hand before the light surrounding the edges of the backboard lights up as the buzzer sounds to show triple zeroes on the clock.

With Stanford Graduate Transfer Shoring Up Kentucky, A Pair of Tradition Rich Bluebloods Are Getting Younger

It was interesting reading and listening in the last few days.

First up on The Athletic website, Michigan Head Coach John Beilien went from being relieved not to take the Detroit Pistons coaching job, but taking on a new challenge seeing his Wolverines get younger.  Key cogs from the 2018 runner up team are all gone in Moritz Wagner, Muhammad Ali-Abdur Rakhman, and Duncan Robinson.  Five of the new recruits are at least six feet tall, but we will see how quickly they mesh into a unit by the time the Big Ten/ACC Challenge takes place in early December.

Also on Monday, Dan Dakich had on his talk show heard on 1070 AM The Fan in Indianapolis one-time Indiana Hoosiers teammate from the early 1980’s in current UCLA Head Coach Steve Alford.

With the drama of the Ball brothers clearly behind him, Coach Alford discussed glowingly about the Holiday brothers and how “complete” Aaron was during his last two years playing for the Bruins.  He also mentioned that with their pair of key stars being picked in the NBA Draft, the 2018-2019 edition of the crew from Westwood will be getting noticeably younger–all freshmen and sophomores will be in the starting lineup and riding the Pauley Pavilion/John and Nell Wooden Court.

One thing I learned after seeing Kentucky sporting the youngest team in their storied history during 2017-2018, it may translate to possible regular season success.  But in the NCAA Tournament, experience always wins out during the final weekend in early April.  Bottom line, expect some exciting basketball from these two proud and storied programs come November.

Before I go as the 4th of July Holiday approaches

I do have my annual March Madness Redux planned, and it is a good one:

It was not that long ago that not one, not two, not three, but four lower digit seeds all won their First Round tournament games–and all of them took place at the same site.

Look for the upsets during the first four days of July that dominated during the early round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament from Tampa, Florida.  Lucky for me during the final years of the regional CBS model where fans were mostly forced to watch one game out of a possible four in each day and evening session–I was able to see all four upsets live and mostly in their entirety.

I hope everyone has a fun week ahead.  Please make sure that during the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend that if you are near any fireworks, leave them to the hands of the professionals.  It is simply not worth going to the ER over any fireworks that get in harm’s way.

I will be back the week of July 8 to discuss the latest news involving recruiting and any interesting nuggets about some schools’ non-conference schedules.

Take care, everyone.

John Beilein Stays With Michigan, Mike Davis Heads To Detroit

In a week where construction of newer practice facilities are cropping up from Northwestern to Notre Dame and Illinois, at least one major power in the Midwest is thrilled that the only changes will come from who is riding the bench.

After having some serious discussions with the Detroit Pistons regarding their coaching vacancy earlier in the week, Michigan Head Coach John Beilien smartly tweeted that he will be returning to coach the Wolverines.

Not only is this a smart move for the 65 year old who is one of the honest guys in the sport–it is so refreshing to not having to hear the typical coachspeak many of the recent hires have been dominating throughout college basketball.  Had he gone to the NBA, it would have consumed his life 24/7/365.

Coach Beilien is one of the honest guys who does not shy away from key questions.  We all saw it fully at play during the Big Ten Tournament and again throughout the NCAA Tournament.  And his announcement is also great for the school as well, even though they are losing four key players from their national runner-up team–namely Morris Wagner and Mouhamad Abdur-Rahkman.

In the larger scheme of things, Michigan has mostly put their Fab Five era clearly behind them after their pair of Final Four banners from 1992 and 1993 were taken down to having the services of an illegal booster.

He gets it, albeit Jim Harbaugh more than rules the roost on the football end of things as the true face of the school.  At least, Michigan going forward is in very good hands and that can mean at least one constant the Big Ten sorely needs–stability.

Former Indiana coach Mike Davis leaves Texas Southern for Detroit

The Horizon League has all of a sudden gotten smarter, as Mike Davis recently signed a contract to leave Texas Southern and take his talents to a similar mid-major program in Detroit (the former Detroit Mercy).

Many longtime basketball fans remember Davis as the heir apparent to Bobby Knight, when he took Indiana as a 5 seed all the way to the 2002 national championship game before running into Juan Dixon and future Big Ten foe Maryland at the old Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

A few more NCAA appearances later in the decade at UAB led Davis to the Texas Southern job.  More than likely, as both Matt Norlander mentioned on this morning’s (Friday) Eye on College Basketball podcast–this will probably be his last coaching stop.

Coming up on the college basketball docket for July, the annual evaluation period and more announcements concerning all 350 plus Division I schools for the non-conference portion of the schedule.  With Conference USA announcing on Thursday that they have joined 13 other mid-major conferences in moving their games mostly off the free ESPN3 cable authentication tier and onto the pay service of ESPN+ (costing users $5 a month, even if you don’t have a traditional cable subscription)–it gives fans more reason to tune in not only during the regular season, but also the early rounds of some conference tournaments.

Obviously, we will know a lot more in the weeks and months ahead.  In the meantime, just keep checking your favorite websites and apps and we will see what news might become blog worthy in the future.

Please try to have a great weekend, and thank you so much for reading and following.

Allie LaForce Steps Down From CBS Sports, Jamie Erdhal Takes Over

LaForce leaves after six years on the SEC football and NCAA Tournament beats

Somewhat shocking news, at least in the mind of this blog reporter hit the major sports media sites on Monday afternoon.

CBS Sports moves Jamie Erdhal (but goes by her married name of Buckman on her Twitter account) off the NFL beat when she was hired in 2014 to the lead sideline reporter role on SEC college football and NCAA basketball for the 2018-2019 season.

According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic site, LaForce and CBS failed to reach terms on a new contract agreement.  She leaves after nearly six years, but I am sure she will be quick to find new employment soon.

At the very least, considering how in this very dire economy how one person’s position can easily be replaced…better keep watching those Twitter trolls just in case.  And yes, very few people saw this news coming.

The only obvious thing to close this particular blog is to simply say that both ladies should continue to do great things, both on and off air and just wish them nothing but the best going forward.

Two Coaches In Power 5 Conferences Staying Put

Most Major Wrongdoing Cleared From FBI Probe and Title IX Statutes

Fans of Auburn and Georgia Tech were definitely breathing major sighs of relief on Monday.

According to a ESPN.com report, Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl signed a six year contract extension until the 2022-2023 season.  Auburn as a school, is still cited in the probe led by the FBI in September 2017 hoping to expose the underbelly of shady economics affecting college basketball as a whole.

Meanwhile, Josh Pastner of Georgia Tech was cleared of any wrongdoing following a lengthy Title IX discussion stemming from previous sexual harassment allegations.  This is very welcome news for a school looking for nothing but hopefully major stability going forward (and it is for all sports, not just the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball).

Quite a List of Players Returning To School

Deadline To Stay in NBA Draft Ended on Wednesday Afternoon

Combing through an NBA Draft themed article on The Athletic site, this list of players have decided to return to school for at least another year.

Only a small handful of these names, you can instantly say that a small handful of schools might be considered either as a “possible Sweet 16 contender” or “darkhouse Final Four contender”.

As we sit here at this time in early June, it is still way too early to peg where teams could be slotted as far as conference races are concerned.  I hope to have a better answer, sometime around late October once the Season Preview hits your inboxes and/or smartphones.

  • Cody and Caleb Martin, plus Jordan Caroline, Nevada

Wolfpack should be title contenders in 2019.

  • Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Badgers possibly another year away from contending in rough Big Ten race

  • Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Sure, he puts up 19 points per game on average.  However, he does not have much in terms of an all-around game, only averaging three assists per game last season.  Another make-or-break year from the Orange, where he will be one of the focal points on the offensive end of the floor.

  • Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s

One of the nation’s all-around scorers, last January onward in Big East play had games of 37, 33, 31, 33 again (in a win over Duke), and 44 points.  His averages last season were a rather respectable 21.6 points, five rebounds and 4.7 assists per game and should only get better.

  • Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed, Clemson
  • Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State

Canadian native averaged 16.7 ppg while shooting over 40 percent of his attempts from three point land.

  • Robert Franks, Washington State
  • Ky Bowman, Boston College
  • Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes, UCLA
  • Jontay Porter, Missouri

Brother of Michael Porter, Jr. will get another to improve his all-around game.

  • Udoka Azubuike, Kansas

Classic case of player who could have been drafted a decade or so ago, with the classic back-to-the-basket game.  But since he does not have much of a game outside of seven feet and is a poor free throw shooter ala Shaquille O’Neal when he was at LSU over a quarter century ago…KU reloads for another Big 12 title run.

  • P.J. Washington, Kentucky

Dynamite scorer who can do many things with the ball in his hands, can he improve on his defense if John Calipari won’t have more sleepless nights come fall?

  • Charles Matthews, Michigan

With most of Big Blue’s cogs from last season’s runner up finish moving on, he will become the focal point of Jon Beilein’s crisp running offense.  He would have been drafted had his shooting percentages improved during the NCAA Tournament.  At least, he will get another season to improve.

  • Reid Travis, uncommitted

Kentucky, Villanova, and Duke could be in the mix for the 6’8″ graduate transfer who spent the last four years playing at Stanford and could be an impact player right away.

  • Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
  • Tremont Waters, LSU
  • Nick Ward, Michigan State
  • Juwan Morgan, Indiana

The Hoosiers, like the Wisconsin Badgers are teams in transition.  Middle of the pack finish in the Big Ten and NIT berth is probably where they will end up come next March.

  • Jalen Hudson, Florida
  • Austin Wiley, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, Auburn

Great news for Bruce Pearl, as the Tigers should be in the mix in a retooled SEC.

  • Mustapha Heron, uncommitted

After averaging over 16 ppg for Auburn, he will be transferring someplace in the Northeast part of the country to live closer to his ailing mother.

  • Bruno Fernando, Maryland
  • Sagaba Konate, West Virginia
  • Isaac Copeland and James Palmer, Nebraska
  • Zach Johnson and Dewan Huell, Miami (Florida)
  • Jessie Govan, Georgetown
  • Chris Silva, South Carolina
  • Markis McDuffie, Wichita State

Coming off an injury plagued year, McDuffie will be counted on as the senior leader in a group filled with mostly young players.  Middle of the pack AAC finish is most likely, with possible NCAA at-large berth hanging in the balance for 2019.

  • Torin Dorn, North Carolina State
  • Terence Davis, Ole Miss
  • C.J. Burks and Jon Elmore, Marshall

Final comment is that if Ajdin Penava decided not to turn pro, the Thundering Herd would be a lock on a 2019 NCAA Tournament berth.  As it is, they will be in the conversation once the season starts next fall.