Monday, April 30, 2007

Chicago Sweeps Defending Champion Miami

The Chicago Bulls swept the defending champion Miami Heat from the first round of the NBA playoffs Sunday. Drive and Dish is surprised that Chicago eliminated Miami. We didn't think their scrappy, hustling style of play would be enough to overcome Miami's superior talent in the playoffs - when veteran teams step up their effort and overall level of play.

What surprises us the most, however, is that Chicago swept Miami (by winning four straight games). The Heat were totally outclassed. The defending NBA champions just didn't show up to play.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Majerus to St. Louis?

After nearly a week of flirting with the possibility of becoming the new men's basketball coach at Saint Louis University, Rick Majerus has, apparently, accepted the position. A press conference is scheduled for Monday.

Because of Majerus' strange history with job openings (after stepping down as head coach at Utah, he has flirted with several coaching openings -Wisconsin, DePaul, Iowa, etc. - and went so far as to accept the USC job, before quitting after three days), Drive and Dish will wait until after the press conference to comment. We're not sure that he's serious.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"King James" On the Down Low?

This AP photo was all over the net today. I saw it in the Chicago Tribune this morning. I found it to be ... surprising.

Look, I'm glad to see that Sanjaya has bounced back from being voted off American Idol. Gotta admit, though, that I'm really surprised to see her/him playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I had no idea that he was that tall, or that he had game. Who knew?!

But I'm most surprised to see LeBron show such "affection" for the kid. Look, Sanjaya always set off everyone and their mothers' gaydar (in fact, made it go off as if a full global thermonuclear attack was incoming - like in the 1983 classic film, "War Games"). But LeBron? On the DL?

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but ... Damn!


Perhaps most shocking is Sanjaya's position behind LeBron. Everything about Sanjaya screams "bottom." As surprising as it is to see LeBron with Sanjaya like that, it's even more surprising to see what role each, apparently, assumes. Say it ain't so, LeBron.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

NBA Playoffs Arrive: Players to Start, You Know, Trying

Another interminably long NBA regular season (eighty two games, to be exact) has ended, and the NBA playoffs have begun. Because of this development, the NBA is worth talking about.

As we say in our header, Drive and Dish is a blog about basketball - with an emphasis on the college game. But with March Madness now a memory, and with the last few spins of the coaching carousel slowing to a stop, we turn our attention to the NBA playoffs (we didn't talk much about the NBA, other than to ridicule its showbiz tendencies, earlier because the NBA regular season is -largely- garbage).

The NBA regular season is so long that players pace themselves, saving their best effort for the playoffs - when things really start to count. Because of this (and other reasons that we'll stay away from), NBA regular season games can be a bit tough to watch. But when the playoffs start, the NBA becomes exciting.

Make no mistake, college basketball and the NBA are two entirely different games. College basketball is played by young student athletes (yeah, we know ... "student athlete" is a bit of a stretch -insert chuckle) typically aged 18-22. The season is about thirty games long with a single elimination, sixty five team tournament deciding the eventual champion. Games are played at a frenetic pace. Teams play in your face defense for all forty minutes. They run continuity offenses, designed to create good shots. On defense, teams trap and press. Momentum shifts are frequent. Games are often won and lost in transition. Every possession counts. College basketball is, in our opinion, the most exciting and most fun sport around.

But the NBA comes alive in the playoffs. Guys start playing tough defense. Offensive sets, while still based on isolation, become crisp. To put it in plain English: after going through the motions during the regular season, NBA players start to play hard in the playoffs.

So, Drive and Dish is now paying attention.


One thing that we love about college basketball is its passionate fans (okay, truth be told, sometimes I -Trashtalk Superstar- am a bit taken back - if not creeped the hell out- by the fervor of college fans). College basketball fans jump and scream from the tip off until the final buzzer/horn. They dress in crazy get ups and school colors. They make and display funny signs. They storm the court when their team beats a highly ranked team. Fueled by an unyielding allegiance to their school and or state, youthful vigor and a collegiate sense of humor/irony (among other things), college basketball fans can be so boisterous and instrumental that they often affect the outcomes of games. College fans just make the game fun.

NBA fans, by contrast, are a bit more subdued. The people in the good seats are adults (usually urban professionals) who've paid serious money to see (and bee seen at) an NBA game. Sure, they can get loud every now and then (epically in the playoffs), but NBA fans aren't going to do anything to embarrass themselves. Simply, the NBA fan is, for the most part, a fairly well heeled, urban/suburban grown up ... who didn't start drinking at 9;00 am on game day.

Because we do so much material on college basketball, Drive and Dish has, historically, shown some collegiate tendencies. While we focus much of our attention on the mechanics of basketball (strategy, philosophy, X's and O's), we do so with heavy doses of acerbicism, irony and (at times -though I'm loathe to admit it) even snarkiness. Hell, sometimes we descend into trash talking.

But with the advent of the NBA playoffs, and with Drive and Dish changing its focus from college to professional basketball, the editorial staff (after hours of contentious meetings -yeah, we have to work on Saturdays) has decided that it's time for D&D to grow up. So, just as the typical collegian (upon graduating) must eventually leave his/her extended adolescence behind, and get used to the real/professional world (you know the drill: clean up, get a haircut, shave, sober up and learn to wake up before noon), Drive and Dish is moving on to a new chapter in its so called life. We've ditched the face paint, the over sized goofy glasses, the giant foam finger and the crazy afro wig. We're now clean shaven, well scrubbed and adorned in wing tips and a Brooks Brothers suit. We're maturing, or something.

Bring on the NBA playoffs.

Friday, April 20, 2007

More On Joey Crawford Affair: Does the NBA Employ a Different Set of Rules For Its Stars?

Sam Smith, of the Chicago Tribune, has an interesting take on the NBA's odd suspension of Joey Crawford. Smith, a veteran NBA reporter if there ever was one, thinks that, by suspending Crawford, the "association" is sending the following message to its officials: leave the stars alone.

Remember, Commissioner David Stern describes the NBA as a "sports entertainment league."

Vince McMahon describes the WWE as "sports entertainment."

Drive and Dish does not intend to imply that the NBA is "fake" in the way that wrestling is. But the NBA does emphasize the entertainment aspect of its product. The NBA is as much about showbiz as it is about basketball.

Just food for thought.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NBA Suspends Referee, Crawford, After Sunday's Run In With Duncan

After Sunday's ejection of San Antonio Spurs center, Tim Duncan by veteran NBA referee, Joey Crawford, Drive and Dish poked fun at Duncan's clean cut image and suggested that he may be channeling Rasheed Wallace (known for his propensity for incurring technical fouls and ejections). New developments have arisen in the last two days regarding Crawford's behavior toward Duncan. On Tuesday, the NBA suspended Crawford for the remainder of the 2007 season (the suspension will continue through the playoffs and NBA Finals). We don't know what's really going on with Mr. Crawford, but we do know that this is an unusual situation, and (as we continue to learn more) Drive and Dish would not be surprised to see it become even unusual .

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wichita State, Texas A&M In Coaching Carousel

Last week Mark Turgeon left Wichita State to become the new men's basketball coach at Texas A&M. Billy Gillispie left A&M, the week before, for Kentucky.

Saturday, Wichita State introduced Greg Marshall, previously the head coach at Winthrop, as their new coach.

Greg Marshall has been considered a hot up coming coach for the last few years. Winthrop, a small school in South Carolina, has been a "giant killer" in the last few NCAA Tournaments. Marshall's name has been mentioned in conjunction with several high profile coaching vacancies. Wichita State is fortunate to have landed him.

As for Texas A&M, in his three seasons as coach, Billy Gillispie built the Aggies into an outstanding basketball team. But Texas A&M is, and has always been, a football school. Basketball has always been, to put it lightly, an afterthought. Gillispie truly worked magic in College Station, as basketball became an important part of A&M's culture during his brief tenure. That's nothing short of shocking to anyone familiar with Texas A&M.

But, since Texas A&M had no basketball tradition to speak of, it will be difficult for a new coach to maintain the current momentum. Billy G built the program. Just four years ago (one season prior to Gillispie's arrival), A&M won but one conference game. Mark Turgeon is a very good basketball coach. However, he has to win right away for Texas A&M to keep the basketball buzz. The program is in good hands with Turgeon, but his margin for error is slim.

Historically, Texas A&M has been a basketball black hole. For the first time, the school's administration has made a serious financial commitment to basketball program. A&M likes its recent basketball success. They'd like for it to continue, uninterrupted. Turgeon will have to deliver immediately.


Speaking of the coaching change at Texas A&M, this San Antonio writer thinks the Big XII is losing strength because of the coaches who've jumped ship.

And, even though they never cared about basketball before, Texas A&M fans are more than a tad upset at "Billy Clyde" Gillispie for jumping ship.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tim Duncan Channels Rasheed Wallace, Incurs Two Technical Fouls, Gets Ejected From Game

In today's game against the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan incurred two technical fouls and was, summarily, ejected. Duncan, long considered "bland," is often held up as an example of a hard working athlete who quietly goes about his business -the right way. "Big Fundamentals," as Shaquille O'Neal nicknamed him, is considered a role model by many. But he definitely isn't considered cool.

Maybe "Big Fundamentals" is trying to increase his street cred. Or perhaps he's trying to "toughen up" in time for the playoffs. Or, for all we know, he could be hanging around Rasheed Wallace -and picking up some of 'Sheed's bad habits.

Who knows?

What we do know (we being the editorial staff here at Drive and Dish -yeah, we have to work on Sundays too) is that we love to reference (recycle) previous Drive and Dish posts. We did so yesterday, and we're still in a recycling frame of mind. Thank you Tim Duncan. You just provided us with a prime opportunity to recycle another archived D&D post.


All joking aside, Drive and Dish isn't lazy. The reason we're so fond of recycling archived posts is because our readers tend to read only the posts that appear on the top of the screen. People usually don't scroll down and read older posts. They rarely go to the archives. So we can't expect our readers to be familiar with our older material. Yet it's frequently the case that older material remains relevant (as is the case with the Rasheed Wallace piece), and often dovetails well with new material on new issues/developments.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

And Now: An Encore Presentation of Drive and Dish

With Greg Oden forgoing his college eligibility, the editorial staff at Drive and Dish (yeah, we work on Saturdays) has decided to exhume an archived Drive & Dish post that links to an Oden parody. The piece, which parodied Oden's student athlete status, ran in the Sports Pickle about one month ago. Drive and Dish thought the Sports Pickle piece was humorous, yet felt that it wasn't necessarily fair to Oden (and yes, we're fully aware of what a sham the concept of amateurism and the "student athlete" often is in revenue producing Division I sports). But with Greg Oden's career as a "student athlete" ending after only one year (and, yes, we agree with his decision to leave school - he'll be the first pick in the NBA draft), we think he's probably fair game.

By the way, in the picture above, Greg Oden is hanging on the rim - as he does whenever he dunks. How impressive!! The dude is seven feet tall and he can dunk!! Not only can he dunk, but he can dunk really hard!! Wow!! Who knew?

Hopefully, he'll be assessed with a technical foul if he tries that in the NBA. Hanging on the rim is, after all, illegal.

BTW: considering the way the "sports entertainment league" known as the NBA operates (the star system is in force -some animals are more equal than others), we won't be holding our breaths for those "hanging on the rim" technicals.

Oden, Green, Hibbert Enter NBA Draft

The father of Ohio State's freshman center, Greg Oden, told an Indianapolis newspaper that his son will enter the NBA draft. According to his dad, Oden will hire an agent and, thereby, terminate his remaining NCAA eligibility.

Georgetown's Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert have also declared for the NBA draft. Neither Georgetown player will hire an agent, so each will retain his respective collegiate eligibility, should he return to school.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Fifty Point Game Just Ain't What It Used to Be

Last night Kobe Bryant dropped fifty points in a lame NBA game. The national sports media made a big deal about it ... again.

Hey, it's just not earth-shattering that a dude who shoots every time he touches the ball has had multiple fifty point games. When the ball goes to Kobe, Kobe shoots. No matter what.

Scoring fifty points in an NBA game used to be a really big deal. Michael Jordan had several fifty point-plus games in his career. But when Jordan dropped fifty, he had to contend with good defenders, like, you know ... guarding him. It was really tough to score like MJ did back in the day. And, after 1990, Jordan played on well balanced championship teams. Although Jordan was a "one man team" in the 1980's, the Bulls of the 90's were absolutly stacked. Jordan didn't get all the shots, as Kobe does. His fifty point outings didn't disrupt the flow of the Bulls' offense. Jordan's big games came with in the flow of the triangle offense. And he had to really work for his points.

In today's NBA, the fifty point game is no longer the milestone that it was in the 1980's, 90's and early 2000's. Make no mistake, I'm not saying that it's easy to drop fifty in an NBA game, but scoring fifty just isn't what it used to be (hell, Jamaal Crawford goes off for fifty every so often).

Don't tell that to the sports media. Recently, one of the TVs in my health club was tuned to NBA TV. Said network actually devoted two hours (the debate raged for the two hours that I spent in the weight room with the TVs - it could have gone on longer, for all I that I know) to debating whether Kobe or Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time.

The Kobe love is out of control. So forgive me if I'm just not that impressed by the uber ball hogging Lakers star's output. The dude shoots every time he touches the ball. People don't work very hard to defend him (Jalen Rose, you know what I'm talking about: your matador "D" was responsible for Kobe's 83 point out pour in a game last year, but hey, you got your thirty points, so you were cool with it - the smart money says Jalen probably uttered something to Kobe along the lines of: "hey dawg, I'ma let you get yours if you let me get mine"). Guys pace themselves until the fourth quarter. The NBA regular season is, largely, garbaggio. If Kobe wants his points, he'll get them because nobody's going to do much to stop him.

Kobe Bryant's gaudy scoring totals are not on par with what Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain did in their day.

Please (all you national "media types"), ease off Kobe's jock.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rumor, Speculation and Innuendo Re: Ohio State

There's a hot rumor circulating today that has Ohio State freshmen Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr and Daequan Cook set to enter the NBA draft. The rumor is so hot in Ohio that a river could catch on fire, or something. Drive and Dish will be on this one. If the players in question announce their intention to leave school, we'll have it right here... within hours of the announcement. You know, that's how we do. We're right there in the thick of it all. As soon as something goes down, we'll link to it four or five hours later. That's how we roll.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kansas State Actually Finds Someone As Shady As Bob Huggins, Wastes No Time In Hiring Him As Basketball Coach

I was actually feeling kind of bad for Kansas State when Bob Huggins unceremoniously left his position as head coach of the men's basketball team (after only one season on the job), last week. Then I realized (about five seconds later) that KSU had made the decision to hire him with full knowledge of his background and reputation. It was the same university, after all, that had risen to football prominence (after a long history of being universally known as the worst football program in Division I-A) after hiring the ethically challenged Bill Snyder. Hiring Bob Huggins to turn the basketball program around was a logical progression, of sorts, for an institution that had already established a win at all costs culture in its athletic department.

So the hiring of Frank Martin is surprising only because of his lack of coaching experience, not because of his lack of integrity.

Didn't Wyatt Earp clean Kansas up, years ago? Apparently, the wild west mentality still exists.


I know, I know...I'm well aware of the argument that goes: you'd cheat too if you had to try to convince kids to go to school in Manhattan, KS.

There's probably something to that argument. Maybe I should lighten up. In fact, if KSU or anyone affiliated with KSU wants to send me a suitcase full of Benjamins (gotta love that cash-especially in tax season), I'll consider refraining from ever writing any disparaging remarks about KSU again.

Does KSU have a "relationship" with World Wide Wes? If not, they should. I like clothes and shoes: hook me up with some kicks and some warm ups. Hook me up, KSU.

I kid, I kid.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Arkansas Hires Pelphrey, Hopes He'll Stay For More Than One Freakin' Day

John Pelphrey has been named men's head basketball coach at Arkansas. Pelphrey had been the head basketball coach at South Alabama since 2003. Pelphrey may be best known for his playing career at Kentucky from 1988-1992 (during which time he sported a kick ass mullet/ Kentucky mud flap -Pelphrey was part of the three mullets: three unheralded, yet mulleted players who helped make up Rick Pitino's first recruiting class at Kentucky when UK was unable-due to NCAA sanctions-to offer basketball scholarships).

Pelphrey becomes the third Arkansas coach in as many weeks. After firing Stan Heath, Arkansas hired Dana Altman as head basketball coach. Altman quit one day later. Hopefully, for the Hogs, Pelphrey will stick around for a while.


To his credit, Pelphrey may not have actually rocked a mullet while at Kentucky. There were three mullets on the 1992 team (you'll see them in highlights from the 'greatest game of all time' contest between Duke and Kentucky at the '92 East Regional- you know, the game that ended with Christian Laettner hitting the turn around buzzer beater that beat Kentucky), but Pelphrey may not have been one of them. I've scoured every corner of the world wide web but I can't find a photo of a mulleted John Pelphrey. But Farmer and Martinez had them (replete with porn star 'staches to boot).

And oh yeah,

As is the custom in Hogville:


Friday, April 6, 2007

Kentucky Lures Gillispie From Texas A&M

Kentucky couldn't get Billy D, but they did get Billy G. Florida's Billy Donovan was the man that officials at the University of Kentucky had targeted to become their next men's basketball coach. Yesterday, Donovan declined their overtures. Today, Kentucky introduced Billy Gillispie, formerly of Texas A&M, as its new basketball coach. Gillispie becomes only the sixth man to hold that position.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Huggins Jilts Kansas State, Heads to West Virginia

After just one season as the men's basketball coach at Kansas State, Bob Huggins will become the new coach at West Virginia.

Drive and Dish could follow the pack and say that Huggins' move shows a lack of class on his part. And, yeah, this move (as with just about every move Huggins has ever made) does exhibit a lack of class. But c'mon. Kansas State hired Bob Huggins. Huggins was jobless because Cincinnati had finally seen enough of his act (he had a DUI before the start of the 2005/06 season, his program had a zero percent graduation rate, his program was viewed-correctly-as a rogue program and his players were perceived as thugs). Kansas State knew what they were getting when they hired him. They didn't care about integrity. They shouldn't be surprised.

Florida Loses Team to NBA Draft

It looks like Florida's entire starting lineup (the guys who just won the NCAA National Championship Monday night) will be gone next year. Fortunately for Florida, Billy Donovan is staying.

Billy Packer Stirs Controversy Again

Drive and Dish doesn't usually post during "daytime" hours (we tend to post in after work and late night hours), but today we're submitting a rare lunch time post just to be on record before Billy Packer is forced to apologize and/or enter rehab for using the "f" word. If you hadn't heard, after having worked Monday night's NCAA Basketball Championship, veteran CBS broadcaster Billy Packer made an appearance on the Charlie Rose show. Packer jokingly said that (I'm paraphrasing here) Rose always agrees to do things, but then "fags out" when the time comes to deliver on his promises.

I don't think Billy Packer meant to be offensive when he used the word (it's an odd choice of words, to be sure, but it almost certainly wasn't meant to be malicious), and I don't think this should be a big deal. But, going by recent history, Packer could be in big trouble for this one. You can say just about anything in America, but not the "f" word.

Just ask Ozzie Guillen.

Or Isiah Washington (who went to rehab for his use of said word).

Make no mistake, Drive and Dish disapproves of name calling and the use of intentionally offensive language (slurs, etc.). But Billy Packer shouldn't be in trouble for this. He didn't use the word as a slur. Yes, it was a strange use of the word (but this word has many uses and definitions- hey, I have friends from India who smoke "fags, " not cigarettes). And yes, Packer has been in trouble for his comments before . But people shouldn't get too upset over this.
It's really nothing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Arkansas: In Deep Hog Slop

I don't really care about the coaching carousel, and really really don't care about Arkansas' coaching search. But the weirdness of the Arkansas situation is forcing our hand. This is the third Drive and Dish post regarding Arkansas in as many days. Hopefully, they'll just hire some up and coming coach from a mid major school. But, they seem to think that they're an elite program, and that only a "big time," "big name" coach is worthy of tending the Hogs.

This article sheds some light on the bizarre Dana Altman saga.

Looks like they've got problems down in Fayetteville.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Absolutely Shocking: Florida Does It Again

Last night, Florida won its second consecutive National Championship. We at Drive & Dish feel special because we predicted that Florida would win. Well, actually, everyone predicted that Florida would win. Florida was, undeniably, the best team in the country. There really wasn't much suspense in this Final Four.

Note: I actually did say that Florida was the most
talented team in the country and would, likely,
win the championship - five
weeks ago.

About an hour before the Championship Game, I posted my thoughts about the pending contest. Unfortunately, I had many things to do and was quite rushed on Monday night, and, as such, my post was hastily done- and not that well written, or even thought out. But my predictions for the game were pretty accurate. Because of that, I'll refrain from any deep post-game analysis.

It was pretty obvious. Greg Oden and Ohio State were good, but Florida was bigger, more talented, deeper, and more experienced. Florida was not going to be stopped. Oden played his best game of the Tournament, but it just wasn't enough. Other than Oden, Ohio State was just outclassed by Florida. The Gators were, far and away, the best team this year.


Sure, Florida is the National Champion in football and basketball-I get it: they're good, but their fans are waaaay too obnoxious. Really. While it's understandable for them to be a little cocky (due to their unprecedented recent success) Florida fans take annoying to new levels. But this isn't a recent development. I've had many encounters with Gator fans over the years, and have often found those folks to be...well, special.

As they say in Gator country: yrr're either a Giaytorrr, orrr yrrr're Giaytorrrr baiyyyt.

Florida's Joakim Noah (left) and Al Horford
celebrate their second consecutive NCAA
Championship, Monday night.

Altman Changes Mind, Returns to Creighton

Yesterday, Creighton head men's basketball coach Dana Altman was announced as the new basketball coach at Arkansas. Today, Altman changed his mind.

One day after his introduction in Fayetville, Altman has decided to return to Creighton. That's just wierd.


It's not the first time a coach has accepted a job, been introduced as the new coach to media and fans, and changed his mind days later. Bobby Cremins was the head coach at Georgia Tech when he accepted the South Carolina job. Days later, he returned to Georgia Tech. And just two years ago, Rick Majerus was introduced as the head coach at USC. He, too, changed his mind a few days later.

Altman was a good choice for Arkansas, but Hogs fans, apparently, weren't exactly thrilled with his hiring. Arkansas is a small place. Razorback athletics mean everything to the locals. Arkansas fans expected a high profile coach.

Dana Altman is an outstanding X's & O's coach, but has a milquetoast personality. He's built a great mid major program at Creighton. But Arkansas fans have unrealistic expectations for their beloved Hogs. The Razorback state was abuzz with the rumor that Bill Self would leave Kansas for Fayetville. John Calipari was the "second choice" for many in Hogville.

But Arkansas just isn't that hot of a job. The mid-nineties glory days (when Nolan Richardson's teams were subjecting opponents to "forty minutes of hell") are quickly becoming distant memories. The school just fired a basketball coach (Stan Heath) who, in four years, rebuilt the program and made back to back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006 and '07. And, perhaps worst of all, the coach has to live Arkansas.

I'd be surprised if Arkansas is able to hire a "big name" coach, as their fans demand. Dana Altman was a good choice. It's unlikely that Arkansas will find someone better.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Note to NCAA: Just Cancel Remaining Intercollegiate Athletics Schedules - Award All Trophies to Florida

Tonight, Florida defeated Ohio State to win their second consecutive NCAA Championship in men's basketball. In January, Florida beat Ohio State to become the NCAA football champion.

I don't think Florida has a hockey program, but the NCAA might as well cancel the Frozen Four and just give the Championship to Florida anyway.

Same goes for water polo, fencing, gymnastics, women's lacrosse, etc...

Florida is just ridiculous. Too bad Gator fans don't really care about basketball. It's still all about football.

What to Expect In Tonight's Championship Game

With the 2007 NCAA Championship game only an hour away, it's practically obligatory for Drive and Dish to offer thoughts. So after hours upon hours of contentious editorial staff meetings, we've settled on a few key points:

Nearly everyone expects Florida to walk away with a second consecutive NCAA Championship. I don't think it will be that easy, but I do expect Florida to win. They're the best team in the country, though Ohio State isn't far behind. Much like the 2005 NCAA Final between North Carolina and Illinois, this year's Final features the two best teams in college basketball. Because of the tournament format, the final game often doesn't feature the two best teams. I thought Connecticut was the best team last year, but they got knocked out before the Final Four. Florida proved to be a great team, but they didn't have to face an equal in the Final Four (Florida overwhelmed UCLA in the Championship game last year -much like they did in the Semifinal game two days ago). Florida will beat Ohio State, but it will be fun to watch because they're both supremely talented, well coached teams.

I attended last year's Championship game, and despite all the media attention given to Joakim Noah, was most impressed with Taurean Green and Corey Brewer. I didn't appreciate how good Green was until I saw him in person. Green's broke down UCLA's defense with his penetration. He got into the lane, forced defenders to step up to help, and dished off to cutting big men (Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard) for easy dunks and layups. Brewer was the most athletic guy on the floor. With his athleticism and length on the wing, he's incredibly difficult to defend. And he's a lights-out shooter who can create his own shot.

Florida's big men overwhelm teams because they're bigger and more athletic than their opponents. Noah and Horford are 6'10"/6'11" guys who move like wings. They get down the floor for easy transition baskets. In the half court, they set screens and cut to the basket (and, as such, get easy baskets via the perimeter players' driving and dishing). They're in constant motion: along with cutting to the basket, they seem to get every loose ball and rebound. Noah just seems to float into position. Although he doesn't always appear to be playing hard, he always manages to be in the right place at the right time.

Even though Mike Conley, Jr can probably match Taurean Green in going to the rim and in the open court, Ohio State will struggle with Florida's transition and half-court penetration. And despite the seven foot Greg Oden, Ohio State won't be able to keep Florida's bigs off the glass, or from cutting for easy baskets. Ultimately, OSU will be forced to double down on Noah, Horford and Richard. That will result in open threes, via the kick out, for Florida's shooters- Brewer and the lights-out Lee Humphrey.

I expect Ohio State to open with man to man defense, but to throw a match up zone at Florida from time to time. I don't think it will make much difference, though.

Ohio State should give Florida a game, but the Gators are just too big, too athletic, too talented and too deep for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has been successful because they're good in transition, they have a great point guard (Conley) who can break down defenses and get into the lane, they've got good shooters, athletic wings, and they have a dominant big man (Oden) who can score in the post and beat opponents to the glass. Unfortunately, for Ohio State, those are exactly the things that Florida does; but Florida does them better. Ohio State and Florida have fantastic point guards, but Florida is better on the perimeter (with Brewer and Humphrey), and has too many talented, athletic big men down low. If Greg Oden can stay out of foul trouble, he'll help keep OSU in the game. But Florida has too much size, athleticism and depth. Florida's big men will overwhelm Ohio State. They'll get all the rebounds and loose balls. Florida will get second chance points all day long. And when Florida's bigs start scoring in the post, OSU will double down - which will create open shots for Brewer and Humphrey.

Ohio State will be competitive, but, ultimately, Florida will be too much for the Buckeyes. Florida will be the first team to win back to back NCAA Championships since Duke did it in 1991 and 1992.

Creighton's Altman To Arkansas

It appears that Creighton head basketball coach, Dana Altman, will be announced as the new men's basketball coach at Arkansas.

Altman may not be a very exciting hire, but he's an outstanding coach who emphasizes defense. Razorbacks fans, who long for the "forty minutes of hell" glory days, will probably be disappointed by Altman's hiring. But they'll eventually come to appreciate the way Altman's teams play.

Yee Haw!


It will be interesting to see if, at any point in his introductory press conference, the vanilla Altman engages in a round of "woo pig soohey." It's customary in Arkansas press conferences.

Who You Callin' Mid Major? Lowrey Agrees to Seven Year Deal With Southern Illinois

Amid speculation that he was in the running for the Michigan, Arkansas and Iowa coaching positions, Chris Lowrey agreed to a contract extension with Southern Illinois. SIU will pay Lowrey $750,000 per year for seven years.

That's huge.

Southern Illinois University is a cash-strapped institution. Their basketball team competes in the Missouri Valley Conference (a mid-major, non BCS conference). They're a mid-major. To prevent Lowrey from bolting to greener pastures, and to reward him with such a lucrative deal is an enormous commitment for the SIU administration.

Southern Illinois is making a statement. They have made six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and have been to two Sweet Sixteens in the last five years. By retaining Lowrey (and paying so much to do so), SIU is saying that they plan on being major.

Unfortunately, Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young graduate this year. Next year will be a rebuilding season for the Salukis. Chris Lowrey was a hot coaching prospect this year. His stock was soaring after the Sweet Sixteen run. If Southern Illinois falters in the upcoming seasons, Lowrey may regret his decision to stay in Carbondale. Up and coming coaches have a small window to be upwardly mobile. They've got to strike while the iron's hot. Here's to hoping that Lowrey made the right decision.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Florida, Ohio State Advance to Championship Game

Florida and Ohio State won in Saturday's National Semifinal games, and will now play Monday night in the NCAA National Championship game.

This should be fun.

Florida is the defending National Champion. They have all five starters back from last year's championship team.

Ohio State has freshman sensations in point guard Mike Conley, Jr. and seven foot center Greg Oden.

In an earlier Drive and Dish post, I said that there appeared to be several good teams, but no great teams in college basketball this year...unless Florida were to start really trying.
I believed the Gators were a superior team that just needed to pull it together in the NCAA Tournament.

Guess what, they pulled it together in the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State is a team that meshes experienced upper classmen with the freshman phenoms Oden, Conley, Daequan Cook, and David Lighty. The Buckeyes appeared to improve all season long. The freshman, Conley in particular, play with the kind of poise and confidence that one would expect from only the best upper classmen.

Florida and Ohio State are, absolutely, the best two teams in college basketball. Monday night's Championship game promises to be worth the hype. And, just like January's college football National Championship, expect Florida to emerge victorious over Ohio State.