Friday, March 30, 2007

West Virginia Wins NIT, But Can't Spell Own Name

Thursday night, West Virginia won the N.I.T. After their victory, the team received their championship tee shirts. West Virginia was misspelled on the tees.

This is almost too good. The state of West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the nation and continually ranks near the bottom in its quality of public education. Most people think of West Virginians as a bunch of inbred, toothless hillbillies.

So when the state's flagship university wins a second-tier championship and has its name misspelled (West Virgina) on the championship commemorative's pretty damn funny.

I can already envision some of the lame punchlines people might use:
  • Maybe West Virginia couldn't afford that last "i."
  • Senator Robert Byrd, D-WV, has been bringing all the pork-barrel spending to West Virginia for fifty years, and he couldn't pop for an extra vowel?
  • Glad to see that the moonshine business is still thriving in West Virginia.
  • West Virgina? Shouldn't it be "West Virgin-ie," like the locals pronounce it?
  • etc...
West Virginia deserves better. They've got a solid basketball tradition. They have passionate fans. They play in the conference, the Big East, that receives the most media attention.

This is embarrassing for the University West Virginia, the state of West Virginia, the NIT and the NCAA.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The M Stands For Michigan, Right?

It's been suggested, by several Drive & Dish readers, that we write about the coaching vacancies in Division I college basketball. It's true that there some high profile coaching jobs currently available. And there are rumors about which coach is interested in which job, running rampant on sports talk radio and (especially) on the Internet (or Internets).

However, Drive & Dish has a long history of refraining from gossip, rumor mongering and incessant speculation.

Yesterday, we posted a few brief thoughts on the possibility that Billy Donovan will become the next head basketball coach at Kentucky. While we generally frown upon gossip and speculation, the Donovan to Kentucky story had become so hot that even the conservative editorial staff here at D&D decided to run with it.

But, after several staff meetings (which were replete with some extremely heated discussions), we've decided to abstain from further coaching search gossip, rumor mongering and speculation. Unless, of course, something really big is about to happen. Or if something is too humorous to pass up.

So Drive & Dish will not do in-depth discussions of the various coaching hunts. We will, however, make the following statement, as it pertains to the coaching availability at the University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, MI is one really fu*%ed up place.

Unknown female enters University of Michigan fraternity house, disrobes, pleasures self on couch for half hour as fraternity brothers eat dinner and call police.

Maybe she was looking for the University of Michigan football player who was arrested for exposing and pleasuring himself outside of coeds' house.

Or perhaps she was just training (you know, maybe she needed to get acclimated to performing in front of a crowd whilst nekked-and she certainly was "performing") for next month's naked mile.

Well, I don't know who Michigan's new basketball coach is going to be, but I know what their new mascot should be.

As for the recently-fired, former Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker: it looks like he's having some trouble readjusting. Give him time. He'll be okay.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Donovan To Kentucky?

Since Tubby Smith left Kentucky to become the head men's basketball coach at Minnesota, last week, there's been rampant speculation that Billy Donovan may leave Florida to become Kentucky's coach. I really hadn't given much thought to Donovan's purported interest in Kentucky because...well, I really couldn't care less who becomes the next coach at Kentucky.

However, with three final fours and a National Championship (and a shot at another one this year), Donovan has proven himself to be one of the top coaches in the game. What's more, he's a young coach whose best years are still ahead of him. He can write his own ticket.

Florida is a football school. Florida will always be a football school. Basketball, despite all the recent success, will always take a back seat to football (in 1996, after having coached the Gators to the Final Four just two years earlier, Lon Kruger left Florida to take the head coaching position at Illinois-because he felt that football obscured basketball at UF). Billy Donovan is the hottest coach in college basketball right now. It would only make sense for him to capitalize on his current "it" coach status and earning power.

Despite being currently occupied with coaching the Gators in the Final Four, it appears that Donovan may, indeed, be headed to Kentucky.

"World Wide" Wes, International Man of Mystery

William Wesley (left) with LeBron James

William Wesley (center) sits courtside, with the
son of Detroit Pistons' GM Joe Dumars, at the
Palace in Auburn Hills, MI (photos: AP).

This week, ESPN's Pat Forde wrote an article about college basketball recruiting and the influence wielded by the mysterious William Wesley. The article ran on Monday. I posted a link to Forde's ESPN piece here at Drive & Dish the same day.

Wesley is, no doubt, an intriguing figure.

I've long felt that professional and big time college basketball operates as a shady underworld industry. Fans see the sanitized product on the court, but are largely unaware of the (let's just say) questionable world that exists behind the scenes. Men like Sonny Vaccaro and William Wesley are true power-brokers: their clout allows them to enforce tremendous influence on the games of college and professional basketball.

Wesley's influence often helps determine which college a high school basketball star will attend, and with which agent and shoe company a professional or prospective professional player will sign.

Read all about William "World Wide Wes" Wesley: -Pat Forde -William Wesley

True -- Gregory Dole: My Summer With William Wesley.

Basketball -World Wide Wes (scroll down the page- William Wesley material is on middle of page)


This Drive and Dish post originally appeared on 3/28/07. In the time since it was posted, Drive and Dish has posted more material on William "World Wide Wes" Wesley.

More here. And here (although it doesn't adress "World Wide Wes," the Seattle Post Intelligencer link contains fascinating information on Kurtis Townsend and the influence that he has wielded on the recruiting front).

Update (4/6/08):

The New York Times had an expose on William "World Wide Wes" Wesley on Sunday, April 5, 2008 (I figured that all of those hits that this Drive and Dish post got from the New York Times' office last week couldn't have been completely random).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Under The Radar

With all the hype over the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, major college hoops got all the attention last weekend. But, if you missed it (um, if you're like most people, you probably did), Winona State played Barton for the men's NCAA Division II National Championship. Despite all the crazy comebacks and nail-biter wins in the, aforementioned, Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, the D2 Championship game had the most exciting ending of any game played last weekend.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know

Over the weekend, sixteen basketball teams battled for the chance to be part of college basketball's Final Four. Florida, Georgetown, Ohio State and UCLA are packing for Atlanta. Butler, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Southern Illinois, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UNLV, USC and Vanderbilt had to pack up and go home.

This year's Sweet Sixteen was one of the most exciting in recent memory. There were enough close games and comeback wins to keep even casual sports fans glued to their televisions.

But for all the on court drama, the real action in college basketball goes on behind the scenes. NCAA Division I basketball is a ruthless business. The following articles touch on the recruitment of prospective student athletes. Read and enjoy (note that four programs which were Sweet Sixteen participants receive mention):

ESPN-Pat Forde

Seattle Post Intelligencer

Edit: (3:45am)

Man, I knew that the old media i.e., newspapers, magazines and the big three television networks (CBS, NBC, ABC)- were losing market share (just today Life magazine announced that it's folding shop: thanks, largely, to new media "punks" like us), but damn! The Seattle Post Intelligencer must really be being pinched. Apparently, they can no longer afford to employ copy editors. In the above linked article, the author mistakenly refers to Michigan's early 1990's basketball teams as the "Fab Four." The 1992 and '93 Michigan Wolverines were called the "Fab Five." Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King = five guys. "Fab Four?" The "Fab Four" were the seminal sixties pop/rock act, the Beatles. I probably couldn't name five Beatles songs, but I still know the difference between John, Paul, Ringo & George and Chris, Jalen, Juwan, Ray and Jimmy.

Not only is this guy culturally illiterate, he's (apparently) lazy. Here's a tip: If you don't KNOW something for sure, look the sh*# up, bro.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to hate on the writer. And the information contained in the article is top notch. That's why I dug it up from the Seattle PI's archives.

The thing that really got me was the author's apparent ignorance of the rules of basic (middle school/junior high school) grammar. Sentences should not end in prepositions. A competent writer would never end a sentence by referring to where something is "at."

And, although it may seem like nitpicking, there is no such word as "lastly." There's "last" and there's "finally." But the combination of those two words into "lastly" is a rookie error.

It would be one thing for these types of errors to appear in some schmuck's blog. But this guy is a journalist who writes for a major American newspaper. The guy is a PROFESSIONAL WRITER. I'm not a big fan of the widespread use by internet writers/posters/commenters of the abbreviated term WTF?! But in this instance, WTF!?! seems appropriate.

It's just amazing to see how far the bar has been lowered. This guy is writing for one of the nation's premier newspapers. And he appears to be a good reporter. But his sloppy writing causes me to wonder why someone didn't catch and correct his errors (not to mention how someone whose writing leaves so much to be desired could land a gig at the Post Intelligencer).

Abraham Lincoln didn't have much formal "schoolin,'" but he wrote the Gettysburg Address. Hemingway didn't go to college, but he was one of the greatest writers who ever lived. Hell, my grandmother didn't get to go to college, but she'd never make the kind of errors that this cat made.

I knew that the American schools were getting worse, but I guess I didn't appreciate just how bad they actually are.

Note: This "edit" was done at 3:45 am when I was, admittedly, not exactly on top of my game (and had just returned from socializing in a few Windy City speakeasies). But still, the Seattle Post Intelligencer is slacking.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

See You In The ATL: Florida, Georgetown Set Final Four Field

Florida handled Oregon and Georgetown shut down North Carolina, in overtime, to advance to the Final Four. Ohio State and UCLA earned Final Four spots yesterday.

This year's field consists of two one seeds and two two seeds from four BCS conferences: the Big Ten, the Pac 10, the Southeast, and the Big East. Florida, the reigning National Champion, and UCLA are making return appearances. They will meet for a rematch of last year's Championship game. Also, for the second straight year, no team from the ACC will be in the Final Four.

The staff here at Drive and Dish wish to congratulate all four teams. But we offer this reminder to Georgetown: you shouldn't be here. Jeff Green's game winning shot, in Friday's game against Vanderbilt, should not have counted. He traveled before he shot the ball. The officials blew the call. Vanderbilt should have advanced to play North Carolina in the Elite Eight. Georgetown should have been watching today's Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina game from home.

Instead, Georgetown is headed to Atlanta. Jeff Green (as pictured above, with Roy Hibbert) gets to play on the big stage.

Make no mistake: the Hoyas' were convincing in their overtime win over the Tar Heels. They absolutely shut North Carolina down in the second half. Georgetown then outscored North Carolina 15 to 3 in overtime. North Carolina looked outclassed. That was impressive, to say the least. Georgetown proved that they belong in the Final Four. But they still shouldn't be there.


This past Tuesday, we ran another installment of our, ever popular, "Separated at Birth ?" posts. Tuesday's "Separated at Birth?" featured a side by side of North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough and Canadian psycho chainsaw massacre-er Gregory Despres. Hansbrough and the chainsaw-wielding freak sported similar facial expressions (same crazy look in the eyes) in their respective pictures. Today's loss to Georgetown featured several great television shots of the crazy-eyed Hansbrough. One such shot is pictured below, with the chainsaw wielding freak's mugshot underneath.

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough

Chainsaw wielding psycho killer Gregory Despres.

It has also been brought to our attention that there are more Hansbrough look alike pieces circulating on the world wide web (like the Hansbrough-Beeker comparison below).

We'll continue to highlight some of them, as circumstances warrant.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ohio State, UCLA Reach Final Four

In January, Ohio State played Florida in college football's National Championship game. Florida upset #1 rated OSU. Will college basketball's national championship game also feature Ohio State and Florida? As of now, it still could happen.

With their victory over Memphis today, Ohio State earned a spot in the Final Four. The Buckeyes last Final Four appearance was in 1999.

Congratulations are in order for Ohio State. They deserve to be in the Final Four.

But I don't think that Ohio State will win the National Championship. Experience wins championships. Even though Mike Conley doesn't play like a freshman, he's still a freshman point guard. Greg Oden may look like he's forty years old, but he's also a freshman. Ohio State is a year away (if Oden stays).

By the way, Oden needs to stop hanging on the rim
(as he is doing in the picture to the right and in the picture under the update in the earlier Drive and Dish post "So Wrong, Yet So Right On").

Oh yeah, and if Greg Oden wasn't already geeked up enough for today's game, Memphis center Joey Dorsey provided him ( as well as Thad Matta and the entire OSU roster, to be sure) with some prime bulletin board material. Oden was limited by foul trouble for much of the game, yet still managed seventeen points and nine rebounds. Dorsey's statements were simply ridiculous. Joey Dorsey is not smart.


In Saturday's second game, UCLA earned its second straight trip to the Final Four by defeating Kansas. Sure, there's quite a bit to say about the game, but we know what our readers want. You can find game recaps anywhere. But, since our readers are predominantly male, we'll waste no time in posting pictures of UCLA's cheerleaders (plus Aaron Afflalo and Lorenzo Mata).

UCLA cheerleaders at Saturday's UCLA
victory over Kansas.

UCLA's Aaron Aflallo

Friday, March 23, 2007

Missed Layups Cost Southern Illinois, Texas A&M and Tennesseee

Missed layups proved costly in Thursday night's NCAA Regional games. In three games that saw teams lose by one basket (or one point-Texas A&M and Tennessee) Southern Illinois' Bryan Mullins, Texas A&M's Acie Law IV, and Tennessee's Ramar Smith all missed easy transition layups that, ultimately, may have prevented their respective teams from winning. Mullins and Law IV were pressured by defenders. Smith got caught showing off-he turned what should have been an easy layup into an around the back "hot sauce" finger roll. But he missed. Ouch. As one of my high school coaches once screamed, "can somebody please make a friggin' layup?"


In the opening line of his 1991 classic, "Mama Said Knock You Out," L.L. Cool J announced: "(d)on't call it a comeback; I've been here for years." In the last two days, Ohio State and North Carolina have made amazing second half comebacks en route to knocking their opponents out. Last night Ohio State overcame a seventeen point second half lead by Tennessee. Tonight, North Carolina came back from trailing USC by sixteen in the second half.

That's hard to do. Especially this late in the Tournament (every team in the Sweet Sixteen is legit).

North Carolina and Ohio State are such talented teams that they've been able to overcome their own poor play. Tennessee and USC outplayed their opponents for much of their respective games, but, in the end, just weren't in the same league as the Buckeyes and Tar Heels. Ultimately, however, both teams will have to play much better as they will face opponents who are nearly as talented as they are - if they make it to the Final Four.

Georgetown is really, really lucky. In the final seconds of their game against Vanderbilt, with Vanderbilt up by one point, Georgetown's Jeff Green hit a basket that won the game for the Hoyas. Unfortunately, Green probably traveled on the play. The picture above shows Green going up for the shot in question.

Green was tied up by two Vandy defenders. He pivoted and pivoted and pivoted. Then he pivoted, spun and threw up an off balance bank shot, which went in. But in the process of pivoting and pivoting some more, Green appears to have picked up his pivot foot. If so, Green traveled. Vanderbilt should be in the Elite Eight. Oh well.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

So Wrong, Yet So Right On

If you are easily offended, read no further. The following parody borders on being offensive. It may be (or may not be) unfair to Greg Oden. But, although satirical in nature, it (sadly) paints a not altogether inaccurate picture of life at an NCAA basketball (applies to football as well) factory.

Oden lightens up practice session with humor


What do you want to bet that Thad Matta wasn't so jovial in his halftime speech? Whatever adjustments he and his staff made really worked. Ohio State overcame a 20 point deficit en route to a 1 point, nail-biter win. After poor first half showings against Xavier and Tennessee, maybe OSU should stop joking around (insert groan-it's deserved-and yeah, I know, the linked article is a parody).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Damn, There Goes My Bracket

Brackets, brackets, brackets. Everybody and their mother is talking about their brackets this week. How are your brackets holding up? Oh, you had Wisconsin in the Final Four? Sorry to hear that. Hey! I've got an idea. Let's make out brackets for goofy things, unrelated to college basketball. Then we can put 'em up on the internets. That'll be fun!

I'm your huckleberry, so say hello to my little friend.

Bad Ass Bracket

There's Nothing Like the NIT Baby! Or, Maybe Not

I am often amazed by how little respect the NIT receives. Sure, I understand that casual fans - fans whose only interest in college basketball is limited to the NCAA Tournament - have absolutely no reason to care about the NIT (they don't even gamble on it). And I know that students and alumni of BCS conference schools view the NIT as a joke, a second rate consolation prize for losers and for the bottom feeders of college hoops (even though the NIT is a good tournament filled with only good teams and players). But I'll never be able to relate to players who aren't motivated to play in the NIT. Sure, players from teams that narrowly missed being selected for the NCAA Tournament are disappointed that they aren't in the Dance. But that's no reason not to "bring it" when you take the floor in the NIT. Players should never lack the motivation to compete. Especially not in the post season. If you believe that your team belonged in the field of sixty four, you should be eager to make a statement with your performance in the NIT.

I didn't play basketball at the Division I level. I may not be able to relate to the culture that exists at the highest level of major college basketball. But I understood that I was privileged to to step onto the court in small, largely empty gyms, and be able to lay it on the line in the totally obscure world of small college hoops (not that I got that opportunity all that often - I spent more time observing from the bench). I would have been thrilled to play any sort of post season game: NCAA Tournament, NIT, Canadian Intercollegiate Tournament, Outer Mongolian Collegiate Tournament, Intergalactic Intercollegiate Tournament, etc. I would expect all Division I players, even players who feel snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, to treat the game (as well as their opponents and their coaches teammates and fans) with respect and give their best effort in the NIT.

But, clearly, not everybody feels the same way I do (yeah, I know he was injured and, thus, not able to play - I've even suffered through the same injury - but still).

Kansas State's Bill Walker eating a tub of popcorn while on the bench

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Separated At Birth?

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough

Bloody chainsaw wielding killer Gregory Despres

Edit: The link that I originally posted took readers to MSNBC's home page. The next two or three links I tried led to newspaper home pages. The story is so old that it's no longer available at many sites. Thankfully, the above CBC link works. Blame (in this case, thank) Canada.

Oh, and yeah- I realize this separated at birth is a bit of a stretch. Remember it's meant to be entertaining. And it's the eyes.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Illini Fans: Be On Alert

In response to the e-mails we've received from rabid Illinois fans, we'll try to have a post script on Illinois later tonight. We've been keeping up with the Illini all year (that should qualify us for some kind of medal of honor), and we have thoughts. In the meantime, this should suffice:

Edit: We haven't had time to do a piece on Illinois yet. So no such thing will appear tonight. However, the article linked above is absolutely spot on. If you read it you'll realize that there's little else to be said about University of Illinois basketball. However, we eventually will say something. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Observations From Sunday's NCAA Tournament Games

By Have Jumpshot Will Travel (a.k.a. Trashtalk Superstar)

The opening round of the NCAA Tournament has been completed. The greatest event (opening weekend of the NCAA's) in sports is fading from view in our rear view mirror. Sixty four teams have been paired down to sixteen. As fervent readers of this blog must already know, we've got thoughts:

  • Although I never believed that Wisconsin could get to the Final Four, I didn't expect them to lose this soon. In an earlier post ("Deep Thoughts"), I committed to doing a Jager bomb for every time a lame-o broadcaster pointed out Wisconsin guard Kammron Taylor's resemblance to actor/comedian Chris Rock. I thought that Kammron Taylor would be around for a while. Even though I was skeptical of Wisconsin, I expected them to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Oh yeah, in case you're wondering, I did not do the Jager bombs (Jim Nantz and Billy Packer did the Wisconsin/UNLV game today - they aren't lame ass broadcasters).
  • Texas was overrated. I should have said so earlier. Then I would look smart now. But I've known this to be the case all year. Actually, I've considered Texas to be over rated every year. Since 1995. With the exception of their 2003 team (the 'Horns ruined my bracket that year when T.J. Ford took them to the Final Four), Texas has never been deserving of their elite reputation. Yet they've been given inexplicable media hype for ages. Although talented, Rick Barnes' teams have traditionally been soft. Before that, Tom Penders' teams were soft and undisciplined. I know that Kevin Durant is a great talent, but I just can't understand all the media love for the Texas program.
  • In another point that I should have made earlier (again, to make myself look smart as I've been saying this for months), Ohio State point guard Mike Conley Jr. does not play like a freshman. Despite the presence of Greg Oden and upper class men Jamar Butler and Ron Lewis, Conley is the best player on the team. Ohio State will not win the Championship this year, but if Conley and Oden stick around (hell, even if Oden leaves but Conley stays), it's only a matter of time before they do.
  • Southern Illinois handled Virginia Tech with relative ease. Although I expected SIU to win this game, I was surprised at how easily they did it (SIU had narrowly defeated Virginia Tech earlier this season). If Illinois had competent guards (Southern Illinois head coach Chris Lowery is a protegee of Illinois coach Bruce Weber, and SIU runs the same offensive and defensive schemes as Illinois), they wouldn't have fallen to Virginia Tech on Friday.
  • Please don't refer to Southern Illinois as a Cinderella or a giant killer. They're a 4 seed. They're in the Sweet Sixteen. They should be there. Good luck with Kansas.
  • With Wisconsin and Kammron Taylor no longer in the Tournament, maybe I should do a Jager bomb every time some Einstein in the national media, ever so cleverly, inquires: "what the heck is a Saluki?" The Southern Illinois Salukis have made six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. This is their second Sweet Sixteen in five years. Any member of the national media who hasn't heard of them has either not been paying attention (if it were my job to cover college basketball, I think I'd probably pay attention to college basketball-beyond just Duke and Syracuse), or is a tad slow. Either one is a distinct possibility. Note to all national media: after six freakin' years, it's no longer clever or cute to be continually perplexed by the word saluki.
  • Lon Kruger doesn't wear mock turtlenecks anymore. WTF?
  • With Kruger's conversion to suit and tie at UNLV, and with the recent firing of Tommy Amaker at Michigan, one is left to ponder: who's left to carry on the proud tradition of the the mock turtleneck in college basketball? Will the mock turtleneck become just another vestige of a bygone era? Like the buggy whip? Or the Rubik's Cube? Or the mullet (yeah I know, Kentucky fans, NASCAR fans and Green Bay Packers fans still wear mullets - but almost no one else does). Something needs to be done. The mock turtleneck must be saved! If anyone can think of a college basketball coach who rocks the mock turtleneck, or dickie, e-mail us.
  • USC is in the Sweet Sixteen. With a new (on campus) arena, and with super recruits on the way (if he stays out of trouble, O.J. Mayo is the real deal), the Trojans are poised to make a run at basketball significance. Enjoy it while you can SC fans (if there actually are USC basketball fans). As soon as he gets the program put on probation, coach Tim Floyd will jump to another job. He always does.
  • Kansas has as much talent as anyone in college basketball. They're really playing well now. Look out for the Jayhawks (but please don't subject us to Rock Chalk Jayhawk).
  • Speaking of Kansas, coach Bill Self has one hell of a toupee. You really can't tell that he's wearing a rug...until he turns to the side. Man, the back of his head has hair going in two different directions. It looks like there's a flap that hangs down from the top and doesn't quite blend in with the natural hair below. He really needs to do something about that.
  • Hey, what happened all those talking heads who were, at this time last week, lamenting that the Big East didn't get nine or ten or fourteen teams in the Tournament?
  • Verne Lundquist is a national treasure. He's as solid a play by play man as one can find, yet he speaks with the grizzled, robust voice of a man who's seen it all- in sports and in life. Although, as a play by play man, his job is to call the action on the court or field of play, with just a line or two he's able to interject more humorous and informative commentary than most color commentators do in an entire broadcast. Lundquist may do play by play, but he certainly adds color to any broadcast he's a part of . That's why Verne Lundquist is my favorite play by play guy. He's just freakin' cool.
  • Since we're giving Verne Lundquist some much deserved shine, the editorial staff here at Drive and Dish ask the following: is there anyone who's ever seen or heard him do a game who wouldn't jump at the chance to go drinking with Verne Lundquist?
  • As has been stated here before, good play by a team's guards is the key to success in the NCAA Tournament. However, teams that win Championships have top notch big men too. If you want to know which teams are likely to win the whole thing, look for teams who have solid, experienced guards but also have at least one really good big guy. Never pick a four guard team, even though they're really fun to watch, to win it all.
  • Another indicator of Championship potential: teams that win the NCAA Tournament always have at least two or three future NBA players on their rosters. A quick look at a few of the remaining NCAA Tournament teams reveals that several meet that particular criteria: Hmm...Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown, Ohio State (although their future NBA players are probably too young for them to win it this year) -- all check.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dick Vitale Must Double as Coach K's Publicist

By Have Jumpshot Will Travel (a.k.a. Trashtalk Superstar)

After watching an early edition of ESPN's Sports Center Friday night (the first time I've seen SC all year-basketball games are the only TV that I watch), I think I can probably make the following declaration: I may have finally "seen it all."

When asked about Duke's first round NCAA Tournament upset loss to Virginia Commonwealth, Dick Vitale said that the loss wasn't actually disappointing for Duke. He said that, given the dearth of talent on this Duke team, it was simply amazing that they were able to get to the NCAA Tournament in the first place. He said that Mike Krzyzewski turned in the best coaching job of his career this season. In his ridiculous attempt at spin, Vitale argued that with the cupboard bare, Coach K somehow managed- against all odds - to corral this motley assortment of scrubs into into a competitive unit. With the wind at their backs and the gods looking after them, those poor, underdog Blue Devils were able to scrape by- pulling out just enough miracle wins over far superior teams to will their way into the Tournament.

There are so many problems with this picture that I simply don't have time to delve into them all. However, I just can't let Vitale make such a statement without calling him out.

Dick Vitale picked Duke to reach the Sweet Sixteen in his Tournament bracket. He reiterated that prediction two days ago. Just this Wednesday, Vitale went on Jim Rome's nationally syndicated radio show and said that Duke was a good team and that they would make a run in the Tournament. He couldn't "go against Coach K, baby!" In two days, Vitale has gone from telling people not to underestimate Duke, to proclaiming the Devils to be an inferior team that overachieved more than any other team ever has, in all of recorded history.

Sound familiar? It should. College basketball fans may recall that last season, after Duke's disappointing showing in the NCAA Tournament, Vitale opined that Krzyzewski had done the best coaching job of his career by taking a team so devoid of talent as far as he did. That was simply preposterous. Duke had eight McDonald's All Americans on its roster. Two Duke players were selected in the first round of the NBA draft (Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick, who Vitale insisted was the best shooter in college basketball last year, and maybe ever).

Man! Poor lil' Coach K is doing it with smoke and mirrors these days.

Not to worry, Dukies. Vitale jubilantly pointed to Duke's outstanding recruiting class for 2007. He told the Sports Center audience that the Devils will get right back to kickin' ass and takin' names in '08. Help is on the way! Duke has some serious studs coming in! The Dukies will be back at the top next year, baby!

Sound familiar? It should. Again, Vitale said exactly the same thing last year. Hey, how could Mike Krzyzewski be expected win Tournament games with overachievers like Williams and Redick? Once Duke replaced that dead weight with incoming super freshmen such as Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer, Vitale pleaded, they would be right back on top of college basketball in '07. Baby!


Vitale would have college basketball fans believe that some scrawny white boy named Kyle Singler is going to step on campus next year, and -as a skinny, goofy looking freshman- lead Duke back to the promised land. Naw, Dickie V, you're not putting undue pressure on a kid who"s still in high school. Kyle Singler already has enough to stress about: graduation, whom to take to Prom, what to do after Prom, etc. Now he's got to figure out how to single-handedly lead Duke back to the Final Four next year.

Just as Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were going to lead Duke back to the Final Four - as skinny freshmen- this year.

Just as Greg Paulus was supposed to do -as a skinny freshman- last year.

Look, I respect Dick Vitale. Since he joined ESPN over twenty five years ago, nobody has done more to promote the game of college basketball. Vitale's energy and enthusiasm are contagious. He brings life to any broadcast that he does. However, Dick Vitale has little, if any, credibility on this one.

College basketball teams typically succeed when experienced upper class men are the core of the team. Freshmen can be great, but even the best freshmen need to have good upper class men around them to succeed at the highest level. True, some freshmen have led their teams to Final Fours (Carmello Anthony led Syracuse to the National Championship in 2003, the Fab Five took Michigan to the Final Four in 1992), but, more often than not, experienced talent is what wins in college hoops. Carmello Anthony and the Fab Five were the exception, rather than the rule. It takes time for kids to mature into a great college basketball players. It's just not realistic to expect a freshman to step onto campus and turn a basketball program around by himself.

Dick Vitale should know this. He was a successful college and NBA coach. He knows the game inside and out. But, for as much as Vitale has done to promote college basketball, he has done more (over the last ten years) to promote Duke. He is a personal friend of Mike Krzyzewski's. His daughters are Duke alumni. Duke is very close to Dick Vitale's heart. Vitale is simply not credible when discussing Duke basketball.

That's okay. College basketball fans know that Dick Vitale has unconditional love for Duke basketball. Heck, his nickname is Dukie V. But Vitale was really, really, really reaching when he said that this was the best coaching of Mike Krzyzewski' s career.

Friday, March 16, 2007

That's more like it

By Mark Buckets

The first session on the second day of the NCAA Tournament delivered a few nail-biting moments and close calls. Just ask Wisconsin. And how about Nevada? Fighting through foul trouble and the eventual disqualification of Nick Fazekas, the WolfPack overcame all that and stole one from Creighton. There were other games, of course, that took place today so let's get right to it.

-The morning session provided glimpses of what would come later. The UVA-Albany game certainly didn't deliver on it's pregame hype. Yes, the stars came out to play, as in Jamar Smith of Albany (25 points) and the Sean Singletary/J.R. Reynolds combination (a combined 51 points). The two also shot well over 70% a piece, dispelling the notion, that yours truly, thought would cause UVA problems.

-North Texas and Memphis was one of those typical 2-15 games that had the potential to be close for about a half, when the favorite would blow it open in the second half. That is exactly what took place, as the Mean Green hung around for most of the first half. A double technical seemed to rally the Tigers that sent Joey Dorsey to the bench with three fouls. All of this despite shooting 4 of 16 from three point land. Memphis played their game, pressed and eventually demoralized UNT.

-Georgia Tech was a team that came into tournament as an enigma, as I detailed in an earlier post. Javaris Crittenton tried to carry the Jackets but it wasn't enough, as UNLV, who attempted 30 three pointers, advanced. Did anyone actually spot Thaddeus Young today? He'll learn from this experience and Tech will be a much better "team" next year.

-In the afternoon, there were a couple of teases. All four games were relatively entertaining (I said entertaining-not close) but the Nevada-Creighton game took the cake. Long Beach State's coaching staff (which I praised in a previous post) failed to realize that you can't run with Tennessee if you have inferior talent. Chris Lofton took over, and Virginia had better learn from the 49ers' mistakes. Not to say UVA can't run, but the Vols are on a whole 'nother level.

-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi showcased Southland Conference basketball, which, in my opinion, is incredibly underrated. If you go back a couple of years, you'll remember when Southeast Louisiana gave 2-seed Oklahoma State a run for their money. Also, last year, Northwestern State shot down the Iowa Hawkeyes on a three pointer with under five seconds to go. As for the game with Wisconsin itself, the Islanders (which have a really cool mascot by the way), stunned the Badgers early on. They led by as many as 18 in the first half. Wisconsin would have none of it, as UW's two big dogs, Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, stepped up and eventually sunk TAMU-CC.

-In quite possibly the most talked about matchup of the first round, Winthrop delighted many people in bracketville by, for the most part, handling Notre Dame. Yes, they did trail late in the game, but one never got the feeling that they weren't in control. Their lack of free throw prowess almost cost them the game, however.

A new day

By Mark Buckets

The NCAA Tournament is underway and everything went to plan yesterday. Only one upset occured (definition: a team that loses to another that is four seeds lower, so Xavier over BYU and Michigan State over Marquette don't count) and even that wasn't entirely shocking. Duke's lack of athleticsm was exposed by a team that, according to Bob Wentzel, was one of the more active teams he had seen all year. I cannot disagree with that proclimation, and the motivational factor was obvious.

As much as Clark Kellogg wanted to tell you that the games would be closer in the second session to save the Nielsen Ratings, the dearth of close games was head-scratching. I truly felt that this was the tightest field in a while, and that upsets would frequently occur. It seemed to be a common sentiment amongst TV's talking heads and the print media. Which brings me to today's slate of games.

The opening session of today's slate offers a few upset opportunities. Specifically, both games tipping at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus. To open the day, Virginia takes on an Albany team that needed a Vermont blunder in the America East Title Game to advance to this position. That doesn't mean the Great Danes don't belong here, as they are a very worthy opponent that gave Uconn a gigantic scare a year ago. As for the slumping Cavaliers (in particular J.R. Reynolds, who has gone cold late in the year) , they need an effective Sean Singletary to operate the offense. They are a squad that struggles away from the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena, as evidenced by their lack of a signature road win. In the end, To advance, the Wahoos will have to shake their late season rust, which I believe they'll do. As Lee Corso loves to say, pencil in air, "This game will be closer than the experts think."

In the second game of the session in C-bus, Long Beach State takes on the Tennessee Volunteers. There are a number of sidebars to this game. The Beach's coach, Larry Reynolds, is involved in a very public spat with members of the administration. His contract expires after the tourney, and talk of an extension have failed to materialize. Tennessee, on the other hand, is led by the walking soundbite that is Bruce Pearl. If Chris Lofton fails to take over this game, I think that the 49ers have the balance and inside play to steal a win. Go with the senior-laden LBSU team.

-In the lower half of the south bracket, the Nevada-Creighton game sticks out as a potential instant classic. We all know of the rock-steady Nick Fazekas and Nate Funk, who was bit by the injury bug since the day he stepped onto campus, but a number of other players will influence the outcome of this game. It all starts with Ramon Sessions for the Pack, who has been inconsistent this year. If he involves his teammates, in particular, Marcellus Kemp, the Pack should be in good shape. A mouth-watering matchup that pits Anthony Tolliver and Fazekas, who will try and draw the Creighton big man away from his comfort zone inside. It's a two-way street, though, as Tolliver will attempt to bruise and batter the gangly Nevada center. These teams' rosters are chalk full of seniors, which means each team will not go down without a fight. I like Nevada to ride Fazekas to the second round.

-Memphis is looking to garner some respect and the first opportunity to do that won't come until Sunday. As for today, the Tigers have a game against an undermanned North Texas squad. The Mean Green's frenetic stlye will be their downfall against a ridiculously athletic Memphis team. No surprises in this one as basketball returns to the New Orleans Arena.

-A couple of interesting matchups highlight the rest of the afternoon, as upstart Winthrop takes on Notre Dame and Georgia Tech will try to outrun UNLV. Winthrop is a team that can really shoot the three, but lacks the interior strength to beat Notre Dame. To have a chance, the Eagles are going to have to stay true to their style, which is to rely on their seniors. The Irish aren't as experienced in the tourney as the Eagles are, but they have a couple of players are good in their own right. Russell Carter is a jack-of-all-trades player, who can fill it up all over the court. I like Winthrop in the upset, but as was the case with Duke and VCU, it wouldn't be an earth-shattering result.

-In a game that pits teams that can light up the scoreboard, Georgia Tech and UNLV open play the United Center. The Jackets have been an engima this year, beating North Carolina one day and losing the Wake Forest the next. UNLV has stayed the course this year, despite their lack of competition in the Mountain West. I like the Rebels to outgun the Ramblin' Wreck, led by Kevin Kruger, coach Lon Kruger's son.

-There isn't much to say about Wisconsin-Texas A&MCC and Oregon-Miami. Miami is a team that is happy just to be in the tournament, and their stay won't be long. The Ducks are peaking at the right time, and if Bryce Taylor continues to knock down threes, this team has a chance to make a run to Atlanta. As for the Badgers, I don't foresee such a scenario. Without Brian Butch, UW is in need of some inside scoring. I know what you're thinking, that Butch spent more time around the arc than a standstill shooter, but is Joe Krabbenhoft really a better option? They won't have a problem dispatching of the Islanders today, but it could be a problem down the road.

I'll have a recap and predictions of tonight's game up as soon as the first session concludes. As always, enjoy the games.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Morning thoughts + the night session

By Mark Buckets

Okay, so the first slate of games were pretty lackluster. Davidson hung tough with Maryland for a while. In a game that was dictated by runs, the Terps and Mike Jones took over at the end, when Davidson ran out of gas. Props to Stephen Curry, who wasn't particularly efficient from the field but ended up with a game-high 30.

-Texas Tech had no answer for Tyrese Rice, who gouged the Red Raiders with dribble penetration. Boston College is a team to look out for as the tourney progresses. Rice is one of the nation's more underrated players and Jared Dudley, if he stays out of foul trouble, presents matchup problems galore.

-Georgetown took care of business against Belmont. No surprises from this contest, although Hoya Nation has to be pleased that Jessie Sapp contributed 20 points.

-In a pretty non-descrpit basketball game, Butler took out upset-favorite Old Dominion. A.J. Graves, a high school quarterback in his native Indiana, broke out of a shooting slump (a steak which lasted the past 7 games as Butler struggled down the stretch) and scored 18. To aid the Bulldogs' cause, ODU couldn't throw a brick in the ocean. Period.

-Louisville and Stanford failed to deliver a thriller. Well, actually, Stanford failed to show up. Louisville turned the Cardinal over and applied pressure unlike anything Stanford had seen all year.

-Louisville's opponent on Saturday will be Texas A&M. After having this game in hand for much of the first half, Penn went on a wee bit of a run and took a two point lead midway through the second half. Acie Law continues to impress me as he stopped a surge from the Quakers with a couple of big baskets. Despite willing their team back into this game, Ibrahim Jaaber and Mark Zoller end their careers.

-It was a bit dissapointing to see Oral Roberts fizzle out of the tournament. A lot was expected of Ken Tutt and Caleb Green, but Green had one of his worst shooting days of the season and Tutt 17 couldn't make up for that. Washington State proved to me that they are a team that stays true to their system, and has a chance to sneak into the Sweet 16.

-Which brings us to the Vandy/GW game. And a game, it wasn't. Vandy jumped on the Colonials early and didn't step off the gas When Shan Foster and, in particular, Derrick Byars start to heat up, this team has the capability to advance several lines on the bracket. Not much else to say, except for the little deal of it's 5PM eastern time slot. Not only does about 3% of the country get this game(they would have to pre-empt each affiliates local news), but it presents a unique situation. Four games are played without a break halfway through. Hence the sparce crowds. I digress.

Tonight brings forth 8 games and a couple of upset possibilities. At the fore of the upset talk is the Duke-VCU game. I like the Blue Devils to march on despite the constant praise of Anthony Grant's ballclub. Sure, he coached on Billy Donnovan's Florida STAFF last year, but people are failing to realize (or blindly ommiting) the fact that Coach K's postseason record speaks for itself. Sure, Duke will need to take care of the ball and stop penetration from Maynor (Who if I didn't know better, would challenge Stephon Marbury in a game of And-1 mix tape tour moves) . Paulus is starting to seek his shot, and because of this, it opens things up inside for McRoberts (Paging Brian Zoubek, Paging Brian Zoubek)

-North Carolina, Ohio State and UCLA are taking on severly overmatched teams tonight and shouldn't have much of a problem. Although Ohio State's opponent, Central Connecticut State, is a good story. Javier Mojica has been through more adversity in his life than most anyone should. If you have time, you should check him out. Exciting player.

-Pittsburgh shouldn't sleep through their game tonight against Wright State. I'm a big Deshaun Wood fan, and you've gotta love the Brad Brownell saga. He's already stuck it to the UNC-Wilmington administartion, so everything else appears to be gravy. But in the end, Pitt's front line (in particular Aaron Gray, who needs to wake up his game) will have impose their will on the Raiders. Don't be surprised to see this game go down to the wire.

-Two 8 vs. 9 games highlight the schedule tonight. We all know of the various storylines headlining the Marquette-Michigan State contest. Both teams are hungry for first round success after a few years of early exits. I like Marquette in a close one. Here is a simple mathematical equation to solve this game. Matthews & James > Drew Neitzel. That is no slight to Neitzel, who has improved and honed his game this year, but I'll take two over one any day. Xavier and BYU are two teams who aren't exposed as much as the other 8-9 seeds, but that doesn't mean they can't play. I like Xavier's senior core led by Justin Doellman and Justin Cage (who, by the way, were freshman on XU's Elite 8 squad that lost 66-63 to Duke at the Atlanta Regional) to take care of business.

So there you have it. The roundballs are up and bouncing. Enjoy tonight's games!

Press on

By Mark Buckets

The anticipation for the NCAA Tournament reaches a fever pitch during the week leading up to the start of games on Thursday. And what better way to feed one's craving for tournament talk, than the official NCAA press conferences. Interesting soundbites are hard to come by, but when they do come to fruition, boy, are they memorable. The setup is flat-out brilliant. A moderator, who refers to the players as "student-athletes," sits on a stoop to the side of the main stage and blindly points to a mass of humanity that is the sports media. From there, the cannibalism begins. Reporters, who, just a few minutes ago were mingling and sharing glorious stories from their fraternity days, are tripping over one another to get a question in. And when a question actually gets in, it's usually stale and mind-numbingly obvious. Coach "X," as we'll call him, distrbutes the most cliche and boring response that one can give. For example, media member "Y" will quiery wheither or not his team is peaking at the right time, and if he forsees a long run in the tourney. Coach "X" will respond with the always reliable "Our kids are on the same wavelength, and to answer your question, yes, we are gelling." Indeed, these press conferences make Super Bowl Media Day sound like the State of the Union address.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Upsets on tap?

By Mark Buckets

The countdown is on to the most engaging four days of sports theater you'll ever find. The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament are as exciting as any event in sports. Selection Sunday is a staple of sports lexicon and is fully entrenched in our culture. Do you know of anyone, from the CEO of a company right down to the janitor, who doesn't fill out a bracket? ESPN even offers the option to fill up to 5 brackets, which means that degenerates who have a bit of time on their hands can claim that they are basketball know-it-alls.

From Bryce Drew's (Valparaiso) three-pointer against Ole Miss in 1998 to Harold "The Show" Arceneaux's (Weber St.) monster performance against North Carolina in 1999, the tournament provides an infinite amount of excitement. On the flip side of every heartwarming tale, the losing team is banished to the sport's graveyard. Who will ever remember Mississippi's Ansu Sesay failing to stick Drew on that play? The possibilities are endless, especially this year, considering the dearth of consistent teams outside of the top two lines of each bracket.

As for this year, a number of scenarios can play out over the course of four days. Illinois, which my colleague has been rightfully critical of, were given new life after sweating out Selection Sunday. Not only are they matched up with a Virginia Tech team that has stumbled down the stretch, but also are in line to play a Southern Illinois team that mirrors their preference of play; deliberate shot selection, lock-down defense. And do I really need to ask which team has better personnel? Sounds to me like Bruce Weber's bunch will tally a couple of wins at Nationwide Arena. Another team on upset alert, Duke, has also faded as the season has gone on. Despite a stellar non-conference resume and a few solid ACC wins to boast, the Devils are entering uncharted territory. At Duke, you're expected to win a couple of games at the ACC Tournament, not to mention playing on Thursday is a mortal sin for the Devils. Their contest with Virginia Commonwealth shoul be one of the more intriguing matchups of the first round. VCU's full-court pressure and lightning-quick backcourt will test the moxie of Greg Paulus and his mates. This team can put points on the board in a hurry, as George Mason will surely attest to. Expect Duke to emerge victorious in Buffalo, despite the fact that they lack the athleticism needed to make a deep tourney run.

Possible second round pairings that catch my eye are Gonzaga-UCLA and USC-Texas. How much fun would it be to see Ben Howland and Mark Few go toe-to-toe a year after that epic showdown in Oakland. These coaches are two of the brighter stars in the coaching solar system, and will prove it by preparing their teams for what promises to be a barn burner. On the other end of the bracket, USC and Texas could provide us with a game that would make Michael Johnson and other track legends jealous. Kevin Durant vs. Nick Young. Two rising point guards in D.J. Augustin and Daniel Hackett. The number of hits on StubHub should go through the roof if these teams collide.

Those are just a few examples of why the first weekend of the tournament compares with any other four days in sports. Sit back, relax, and strap it down for some of the more entertaining, to say the least, dates on the sports calender.

Play-in what?

By Mark Buckets

Tonight, the battle Royale that is the NCAA Tournament's play-in game will unfold on the smallest of stages, Dan Blackburn Court at Dayton Arena. Two teams will slug it out for the right to get slugged at the hand of one-seeded Kansas. The fans (all 40 basketball junkies that live in the area amongst friends and family) will attend this game and have a Tournament memory forever....their very own One Shining Moment.

This is a game that is seen through two very opposite spectrums. On one hand, you have a team that is just happy to there, in Florida A&M. The Rattlers have the nation's worst RPI of any tournament team, and their conference, the MEAC, has the second worst RPI to boot. Now, the reasoning behind that is simple. Historically black colleges and universities, such as Florida A&M, the rest of the competing MEAC, and the SWAC, have basketball programs in place to support the rest of the athletic departments (along with some academic programs!). Therefore, they need guarantee games to begin the year and usually come out bruised and battered, with less-than-stellar records. Because of this, their conference RPI and respective team RPIs suffer dramatically.

On the other hand, you have a Niagara squad that feels slighted in getting sent to play in Dayton on a Tuesday night. Coach Joe Mihalic has been outspoken, to say the least, on the legitimacy and reasoning of the play-in game. The popular argument, and quite possibly the correct one, is that this game is all about money. After the Mountain West was formed, the NCAA was in a conundrum: Do away with an at-large birth (Preferably given to one of the BCS Conference Schools), or add another game, depriving a lower-conference school of a shot to really enjoy the big stage of the tournament. Of course, we know what drives intercollegiate athletics today, so, the "Opening Round" Tournament game was formed.

To the average viewer, this game is nothing more than another teet to the cash cow that is the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. When analyzing the motives and reasons for this game, one has to come to a simple conclusion: Let the Game(or games) begin.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My Bad, Illini Nation

By Have Jumpshot Will Travel (a.k.a. Trashtalk Superstar)

In two previous posts ("After All These Years," "Deep Thoughts on Friday's Games") I predicted that Illinois would not get into the Tournament and argued why they should not get into the Tournament. My partner (not that kind of partner-jeesh, get your minds out of the gutter), Mark Buckets, also made an argument against Illinois' Tournament aspirations in his "General Musings..." post.

My bad. Illinois is Dancing. Yay!

But remember Illini fans, even if a girl agrees to dance with you, it doesn't always mean that you have a shot with her. Sometimes a dance is just a dance. She may even grind up on you, but it doesn't necessarily mean that she's really interested. That dance may be all you get. Well, Illini fans, to continue with this over done analogy, the Illini may be have been granted a dance, but they aren't getting in this girl's pants.

First, let me congratulate Bruce Weber and his coaching staff. It was quite an accomplishment to get this team into the NCAA Tournament. If someone had told me, in October or November, that Illinois would make the NCAA Tournament, I would have suggested that person consider rehab (hey, don't knock it - everybody's going to rehab these days). The fact that the staff has taken a team this mediocre to the NCAA's is all the proof I need: Bruce Weber is one hell of a coach.

Heading into the season, I thought Illinois would struggle to reach .500. I thought that simply making the NIT would be a major accomplishment for this team. Watching, in person, as the Illini had to eek out come from behind, last second wins against Miami (Ohio) and Bradley in the Chicagoland Invitational at the Sears Center only reinforced my opinion.

The game of college basketball revolves around guard play; teams only go as far as their guards take them. The point guard is the most important player on any college team. Successful teams typically have a point guard who protects the ball, controls the flow of the game, recognizes and attacks defenses with penetration, hits open shots, is automatic on free throws and pressures the opposing point guard.

Chester Frazier is the only point guard on the Illinois depth chart. Having only one point guard is unheard of. But when that point guard frequently commits turnovers, often fails to read defenses, makes frequent questionable decisions, and can't hit open shots or make free throws, you may as well throw in the towel. At least Frazier is a good defender.

The other guards are 2 guards with limited abilities. Paired with Frazier at the point, Rich McBride (poor decision maker, unathletic, one dimensional spot-up shooter), Calvin Brock (limited offensive game, questionable decision making, small forward forced to play the 2, inconsistent over all play) and Trent Meacham (one dimensional spot-up shooter, 2 guard forced to play the 1, turnover prone, questionable defender) leave Illinois with a Swiss cheese back court - i.e., full of holes. It's hard to believe that this is the back court of an NCAA Tournament team. There must be a magic shop that comps Bruce Weber on smoke and mirrors. He's had to use a lot of them with this group.

The front court is the strength of Illinois' team. Unfortunately, that's not meant as a compliment. It's more a reflection of the shaky nature of Illinois' back court. Shaun Pruitt, although big, is not particularly athletic. Questions remain about his ability to read defenses and make good decisions. Suspect, too, are his court vision and ability to pass out of the post. But Pruitt has improved quite a bit since the start of the season. He's becoming a better post defender and his offensive game (both in terms of his awareness, and his ability to score) has expanded. Still, he has a long way to go.

Illinois doesn't have a go to guy, someone who they can rely on when in need of a basket. Warren Carter is the closest thing they have. He's an offensive minded forward who doesn't look to score in the post. His offense comes from jump shots and mid range turnarounds. He can put up big numbers, but will often disappear when the game is on the line. Defense is not the strength of his game.

I'll give Brian Randle a pass due to his health. The dude had groin surgery in the middle of the season. He was back in the lineup shortly thereafter. Randle's game is all about his athleticism. The surgery has limited his ability to move. He is supposed to be this team's best player. It's not his fault, but he just isn't very effective this year.

Bruce Weber has gotten far more out of this team than I thought possible. The players have played with more intensity and urgency than I expected. The Illini are as tough a team as one can find. But they just aren't that good.

Illinois is not a team that can make a deep run in the Tournament. They scraped, fought and overachieved their way (barely) to an NCAA invite. Their seeding (12) is evidence that they were one of the last teams, if not the last team, to win the approval of the Tournament Selection Committee.

Congrats Bruce Weber. Congrats Illinois. Congrats Illini Nation.

You get to dance with this chick, but she's way out of your league. Enjoy it while you can - hell, grab a feel if you can - because one dance is all you're going to get.