Monthly Archives: March 2010

As the coaching world turns: Latest hires and rumors

If Lavin can manage to land Mary Ann Jarou, he can certainly handle turning around the St. John's program. (Pic via FanNation.com)

The college basketball world has been turned upside down in recent days.  The uncertainty doesn’t show signs of ending anytime soon, with vacant jobs at Oregon and Boston College among a handful of high-profile institutions in the market for a new coach.  Here’s a brief recap of the coaching hires in recent days and a look at the rumors surrounding the remaining jobs.

Steve Lavin to St. John’s

Lavin and lovely wife Mary Ann Jarou (above) are heading to the Big Apple to resurrect a program that has fallen on hard times.  The former UCLA coach takes his fairly respectable coaching resume and boatload of annoying sayings to NYC.  He has high hopes for the program, which hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2002.  Lavin’s declaration that the program will be an instant NCAA Tournament team seems unlikely given the Red Storm’s current roster, barring a miracle push in recruiting or a dreaded expansion of the tournament–more on that later.  Lavin needs to convince New York City area kids to stay at home, which won’t be an easy task until St. John’s has some success.  Having Mary Ann attend games would be a nice recruiting tool to say the least.  It won’t be all beauty in Madison Square Garden however; Lavin has appointed his former mentor Gene Keady as a special advisor.

Fran McCaffery to Iowa

This is old news, and being former Iowa alums we gave this story plenty of run.  McCaffery’s move west didn’t garner much attention on the national level, but it could be an important step in restoring the strength of the Big Ten year in and year out.  Iowa hasn’t been a national powerhouse, but enjoyed considerable success prior to Steve Alford’s final season and Todd Lickliter’s three years of hell.  McCaffery is an excellent coach, the only question remaining is whether or not he can recruit at Iowa.

Kevin Willard to Seton Hall

Much like Saint John’s, Seton Hall is a sleeping giant.  The school replaced Bobby Gonzalez with Willard, who spent three years turning around Iona.  I don’t know a whole lot about Willard, but his name was mentioned in connection with several openings nationwide.  He spent ten years working with Louisville coach Rick Pitino as played an up-tempo style at Iona modeled after Pitino’s scheme.  Seton Hall’s three top players, including scoring-machine Jeremy Hazell and problem-child Herb Pope are expected to enter the NBA draft, making Willard’s job much more difficult.

Tim Floyd back in business at UTEP

First Mike Price, then Tim Floyd?  Sorry, I had to go there.  Floyd replaces Tony Barbee, who moved on to Auburn.  Barbee did some great things at UTEP, establishing a pipeline to Memphis that he will have little difficulty relocating.  Floyd is a solid coach, but hasn’t been very successful considering what he has had to work with.  His teams at Iowa State and USC underachieved and the whole NBA thing was pretty much a disaster.  Throw in the O.J. Mayo scandal and you have a puzzling hire for UTEP.  Somehow, Floyd always seems to find work.

Boston College fires Al Skinner

Although the school said both sides agreed to part ways, the reality of the situation is that Al Skinner was fired. Skinner built a solid program at Boston College during his 13-year tenure.  His name had been mentioned in connection with the St. John’s job and could re-surface if Tubby Smith leaves Minnesota.  Cornell’s Steve Donahue and Richmond’s Chris Mooney are the top candidates to replace Skinner.

Don’t trust Tubby Smith

Tubby Smith has made a career out of denying interest in coaching openings around the country.  Oregon’s athletic program is in a state of chaos at the moment, but the school clearly has interest in Smith and A&M’s Mark Turgeon.  Smith has balked at the rumors of leaving for Oregon.  It’s possible he is using the publicity to leverage a new practice facility for his Gophers and better contract for himself.  Smith’s name just keeps coming up in connection with the Oregon job and other vacancies around the country, so a move west is certainly a strong possibility.

Can Phil Knight buy a good coach?

Maybe.  Knight is throwing money around on Oregon’s behalf, networking, and doing everything in his considerable power to bring a big name to Oregon.  The only problem is a lack of tradition, limited recruiting possibilities, and a roster with very little talent to work with.  If the NCAA doesn’t start to look at this whole Knight-Oregon relationship, something is wrong.

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Flip Murray’s crazy shot that didn’t count

It’s not everyday that you see a 65-foot sky hook…

ToTheTin has been otherwise occupied during the last couple days, but we’ll have more stuff for you later today, including the latest college basketball coaching news.

NCAA Tournament expansion: Good for NCAA’s wallet, bad for everyone else

Delaney says the NCAA is leaning towards expanding the NCAA Tournament field. (Pic via skinnymoose.com)

If you thought filling out your brackets this year was tough, you haven’t seen anything yet. April Fools came a day early this year, when Big Ten Commish Jim Delaney said the NCAA is leaning towards expanding the tournament field to a whopping 96 teams.

Normally, a decision of this magnitude would require a great deal of complex analysis, but in this case a simple pro vs. con list is sufficient.

Pros

$$$$$$. It’s all about the money. The expanded field would lengthen the tournament, bringing in greater TV revenue and increased ticket sales. The NCAA is already the richest “nonprofit” organization in history and is on the verge of getting even richer. The NCAA has the ability to opt-out of its contract with CBS following the conclusion of the 2010 tournament and will most likely do so, opening the door for a bidding war between networks.

Cons

Bad quality of play: Can you name 96 decent college basketball teams? Probably not. In an era of parity, it’s difficult to find more than 20 “good” teams with considerable strengths and limited weaknesses. Eric Prisbell of the Washington Post compiled a list of what a 96 team tournament might have looked like this year. To put the madness into perspective, this year’s awful North Carolina squad would have made the NCAA Tournament under an expanded format. At-large bids from mid major conferences are rarely successful in the tournament, and many at-large teams from big conferences are inherently flawed. Allowing 31 additional teams would severely damage the quality of play, which is already on the the decline.

Fewer Surprises and Snubs

The intrigue of Selection Sunday would largely disappear. If a team was left out, it would really suck and clearly not deserve any attention. Suddenly, teams would expect to make the tournament field. The sense of desperation in conference tournaments would fade. There would be few surprises, aside from fans rejoicing when their favorite team landed a 19th seed instead of the dreaded No. 22 seed.

The regular season doesn’t really matter

Conference play should be important. A conference title would become almost meaningless in an expanded format. Instead of pushing their teams down the stretch, coaches might be inclined to rest players for the NCAA Tournament, which would become a grueling five-week event.

A logistical nightmare for so many reasons

What would an actual bracket look like? Would it even fit on one page? Forecasting the Road to the Final Four is extremely difficult even in the current format. Throw in 31 additional teams and it becomes damn near impossible. Higher-seeded teams would be forced to avoid another round of potential upsets, opening the door for the what would amount to a Sorority house of Cinderella’s to advance to the later rounds. Upsets are exciting, but often happen because the better team simply chokes, hurting the overall quality of play in the tournament. The length of the tournament would be a huge concern for student-athletes and coaches. The NCAA doesn’t care about education, but it should at least pretend to be concerned about the welfare of the athletes. Players would face another week of travel, practicing, and watching film to scout a litany of potential opponents. Teams like Ohio State, a very good squad lacking depth, would be running on fumes and struggle to reach the Final Four in the middle of April.

Advantage: Cons

Not even close. Expanding the tournament would be a nightmare scenario for absolutely everyone besides the NCAA. The move would be strictly for financial reasons, taking the NCAA’s greed and power to an obscene level. No amount of money can justify changing what is a very good thing. The NCAA Tournament is perfect the way it is. Sadly, things are about to get much, much worse.

This is Xavier’s epic collapse against Stanford

Xavier did just about everything wrong in the final seconds of Monday’s Elite Eight matchup with Stanford. First, Xavier’s Dee Dee Jernigan missed an open layup. Then, Dee Dee Jernigan missed another open layup. The Musketeers defensive made things pretty easy for Stanford’s Jeanette Pohlen’s, who drove the length of floor in 4.4 seconds and made a game-winning layup.

I’m still trying to figure out what Xavier’s Amber Harris (No. 11) was doing. She was in a position to cut Pohlen off on the sideline, but looked scared to commit a foul and drifted aimlessly away from the play to free up an easy angle to the bucket.

Someday, coaches will learn how to defend teams in the closing seconds. Then again, maybe not.

No more drama: Final Four lacks intrigue, excitement

It took Izzo's finest coaching job to lead the Spartans to the weirdest Final Four in a long, long time. (Pic via Blogs.SunTimes.Com)

The Final Four usually marks the pinnacle of the most captivating events in sports. March Madness creates spirited debate, tense drama, and more and more surprises with each passing game. At some point, the magic has to come to an end. This year at least, the end is already upon us.

As sports fans, we crave excitement. We want our favorite teams to succeed and our enemies, be it a team, player, or coach, to fail miserably. But more than anything else, we want to sit in our recliners and be entertained.

It’s safe to say that the 2010 NCAA Tournament has already reached it’s climax. Although the National Championship still hangs in the balance, the intrigue has faded. All that remains is simple bewilderment regarding just how exactly we ended up with this particular Final Four.

Duke and West Virginia are certainly not huge surprises.

Despite their high seed, most people expected the Mountaineers, who don’t do anything great and are made up primarily of rugged athletes, to lose to Kentucky, if not sooner. Teams like Clemson, Kentucky, Marquette, Washington, and even New Mexico matched up well with West Virginia. The Moutaineers weren’t exactly a sexy pick.

At first glance, Duke’s road to the Final Four appeared to be comically simple. The Blue Devils figured to roll against Cal or Louisville, then against an overachieving Texas A&M squad or a Robbie Hummel-less Purdue team, before facing its first true test in the Elite Eight. But a recent history of tournament collapses and the perception that Duke is soft made some people stop and think. Logic and basketball acumen triumphed as the Blue Devils enjoyed a smooth ride to Indy.

Butler and Michigan State defied the odds, conventional wisdom, and sheer logic.

The Spartans entered the tournament appearing to be on the brink of a collapse. Durrell Summers had been benched for long stretches, Chris Allen had been suspended for being what Tom Izzo called “a bad teammate” after being benched for longer stretches, and Delvon Roe’s knee was acting up—again. Michigan State eeked out a First-Round win thanks to a little luck and some help from the refs and knocked-off Maryland thanks to Draymond Green and Korie Lucious. Even though Kalin Lucas was lost for the season with an achillies injury, Northern Iowa had shocked Kansas. A win over a nervous UNI team earned the Spartans a spot in the Final Four after outlasting all opponents in one of the toughest regions in recent memory.

And finally, there is Butler. The Bulldogs can certainly play, but there is no question they benefited from the futility of their opponents throughout the tournament. UTEP looked overwhelmed by the moment and saddened by the inevitable departure of their coach. Murray State played wonderfully against Vanderbilt but caved in crunch-time against Butler. Syracuse sleep-walked through a game that didn’t appear to mean very much, and Kansas State had nothing left after being pushed to double overtime against Xavier.

All of a sudden, Butler was in the Final Four.

I find myself unable to muster up any excitement for this weekend’s games. My brackets are shot, but that’s nothing new. The feeling that almost all the best teams are at home watching makes me not want to bother tuning in. The fact that Duke and West Virginia are by far the best two teams remaining in the field makes wish that the four remaining teams could be re-seeded.

I just want to start over.

Fran McCaffery’s introductory press conference

McCaffery talks about wanting to come to Iowa, his recruiting philosophy, and his style of play. Gary Barta and former Hawkeye guard Bobby Hansen have comments regarding the knew hire. Video via palestra.net:

Hopefully this impressed the large faction of Hawkeye fans who knew little about McCaffery prior to yesterday. Landing a coach with primarily an East Coast background is the best thing that could have happened to the Iowa program.

Report: Nike, Oregon planning to offer Izzo big money

Could Izzo be heading West? Not likely, but never say never.

The University of Oregon and Nike mogul Phil Knight are prepared to offer Michigan State coach Tom Izzo the richest contract in the history of college basketball, KEZI-TV reported Sunday.

This report seems credible but I don’t expect Oregon to lure Izzo from East Lansing. Then again, I didn’t expect Michigan State to make the Final Four.

Oregon is desperately looking to inject life in a basketball program that has never enjoyed great success. With the school’s football team beset by off-field incidents and suspensions, landing a big-name basketball coach would be a big boost to the school’s athletic department.

Making matters worse, athletic director Mike Bellotti resigned this month after less than a year on the job.

Oregon clearly needs to make the right choice, whether that means hiring Tubby Smith, Mark Turgeon or Izzo.

There is no question Izzo would bring instant national attention to Oregon basketball. His ability to recruit nationally and the whole sleezy Nike thing would suddenly make Eugene a very attractive destination for top high school players.

This story doesn’t have much weight yet, but could certainly develop as the Final Four approaches.