Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tubby Smith Nets 400th Career Win

Tonight, Minnesota coach Tubby Smith collected his 400th career win with a 77-65 win at Michigan. The game was supposed mark a milestone for Michigan, as it was the 40th anniversary of Michigan's Chrisler Arena, and several members of Michigan's 1968 team were in attendance. But Tubby Smith and the Gophers spoiled the festivities for the Wolverines.

Congratulations to Tubby Smith. He's a very good coach. And he got a raw deal at Kentucky.

Unfortunately for Smith, his team won the National Championship in his first year at Kentucky (1998). Because the nucleus of the 1998 team consisted of players who had been recruited by Smith's predecessor, Rick Pitino, many UK fans didn't give Smith credit for the Championship. He was said to have lucked into the Championship because he inherited a Championship caliber team.

But despite the fact that Tubby Smith never got full credit for Kentucky's 1998 Championship, the fact that his team won a Championship in his first season caused Kentucky fans to hold him to a higher standard than they would normally hold a new coach.

So Tubby Smith's Championship essentially doomed his career at Kentucky. He never got the credit he deserved for the Championship, but his early success raised the bar for fans' expectations. He was expected to keep winning Championships -- every year.

Congratulations to Tubby Smith. Minnesota scored a coup when the hired Tubby. He should have the Gophers competing for Big Ten Championships in the near future.

C.S.T.V. has more on Tubby Smith's revival of Minnesota Gophers hoops.

Cal Upsets Washington State

Tonight, California went up to Pullman, WA, and handed #9 Washington State their first home loss of the season 69-64.

Said Cal head coach Ben Braun, "We have been so close in so many games, our guys deserve to win." Braun continued: "I've seen the pain in their eyes. No one knows what they've gone through."

The world may not know whatever it is that Braun's team has been through, but it knows that the Cal Bears have knocked off the #9 team in the nation (on their home court, no less).

Kansas State Drops Kansas From Undefeated Ranks

Last night Kansas State upset previously undefeated #2 Kansas 84-75. It marked the first time in 25 years that Kansas State was able to hold off a visiting Kansas team on their home court.

In other news, Drive and Dish has been following the travails of Rick Majerus' rough first season as Saint Louis University's head basketball coach. Last night, Majerus' Saint Louis Billikens only managed 36 points in their 63-36 loss to Dayton.

We're beginning to wonder how long Majerus will stay at Saint Louis.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Missouri Suspends Five Players

Days after Senior point guard Stefhon Hannah was severely injured in a nightclub altercation, Missouri basketball coach Mike Anderson has suspended five players.

Suspended are the injured Hannah (who returned home to Chicago to recover from surgery related to the injuries that he sustained in the brawl), guard Jason Horton and forwards Marshall Brown, Darryl Butterfield and Leo Lyons.

By indefinitely suspending five players who either start or play critical backup roles, Mike Anderson is essentially waving a white flag (at least until the suspended players return).

That's really a strong move. But it may be a necessary one.

Mike Anderson is showing that he's definitely in control. And that's important at Mizzou, considering the mess that Anderson inherited from the free wheeling Quin Snyder regime.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Farewell, Larry Smith

By Mark Buckets

Drive & Dish doesn't cover college football as adamantly as college hoops. It's natural. We write about basketball.
But I was saddened to hear of the passing of Larry Smith, the former coach at Arizona, USCand Missouri. It was during Smith's tenure at Missouri that I came to appreciate him as a coach and as a man.
I have no connection to the University of Missouri, where Smith ended his coaching career in 2000. But I have no doubt in my mind that he affected the lives of all he coached.
He wasn't Joe Paterno. He wasn't Bobby Bowden. He's not even a Hall of Fame candidate.
He was a teacher at heart- and had to endure a broken heart.
This was a guy who worked his way up the coaching ladder. He worked under Bo Schembechler at Miami of Ohio, and followed him to Michigan. Eventually, a big opportunity arose for Smith - the job at USC. He went to three straight Rose Bowls but never really etched his name into Trojan lore.
Everyone who has ever been touched by Smith is extremely grateful for the times they spent with him. Former players came to his aid as Smith valiantly fought - the same way he coached - and eventually succumbed to cancer.
The guy never quit on anything in his life.
One thing that will stand out to me - among other things - was the look of absolute shock and disbelief as number one Nebraska came into Columbia, stormed back from a huge deficit and beat Missouri on a freak play in overtime. The stars aligned for Smith that day. He had a chance to elevate his program under star quarterback Corby Jones that day. Just when he thought that day had came - his team lost a late lead and were beaten by Nebraska.
It was the look on Smith's face that struck a chord with me. It was a combination of awe and absolute hurt. As I examine the "look" years later, it wreaks of sadness. It was the look a youngster has after a long courtship of the opposite sex.

You know how it goes: the first few dates were rousing success. This is the girl that you really could yourself settling down with. And just as you have a false sense of security, she drops the bomb on you, and your world has crumbled.
A perfect microcosm of Larry Smith's coaching career.
Larry smiled after that play. Hands on hips, not knowing what to do. It defined Larry Smith as a man, and as a coach.
Larry Smith isn't a household name around the country. This was a man I could relate to early on in my life.

Bear Down, Fight On, and Hold that Tiger, Larry Smith.

Memphis, Kansas Top AP Top 25 (1-28-08)

This week's AP Top 25 (1-28-08) was released today. Unlike last week, there aren't really any big surprises in the rankings, nor are there many teams that have leapfrogged up or plummeted down in the rankings.

The only relatively big news is that Tennessee (following their upset loss at Kentucky) has dropped from #3 to #7. Unbeaten Memphis is ranked #1 for the second straight week and unbeaten Kansas has moved up to #2.

Duke jumps up to #3 and North Carolina moves up one slot to #4. Plus, UCLA has returned to the top 5.

By the way, congratulations to Drake. Last week Drake debuted in the Top 25 at #22. This week, Drake has moved up to #16.

The AP Top 25 for the week of 1/28/08:

1. Memphis (46) 19-0 1,774
2. Kansas (26) 20-0 1,754
3. Duke 17-1 1,625
4. North Carolina 19-1 1,596
5. UCLA 18-2 1,500
6. Georgetown 16-2 1,377
7. Tennessee 17-2 1,339
8. Michigan State 18-2 1,320
9. Washington State 17-2 1,261
10. Texas 16-3 1,129
11. Indiana 17-2 1,065
12. Butler 19-2 948
13. Wisconsin 16-3 848
14. Stanford 16-3 786
15. Xavier 17-4 638
16. Drake 18-1 616
17. Marquette 14-4 513
18. Pittsburgh 16-4 464
19. Vanderbilt 17-3 397
20. Florida 18-3 374
21. Saint Mary's 17-2 310
22. Kansas State 14-4 281
23. Texas A&M 16-4 277
24. Mississippi 15-3 217
25. Baylor 16-3 166

Others Receiving Votes
Mississippi State 112, Connecticut 108, Arizona 102, Dayton 69, Notre Dame 63, USC 63, West Virginia 63, Louisville 40, Purdue 34, Oklahoma 28, Villanova 27, South Alabama 22, Clemson 20, Rhode Island 17, Gonzaga 17, Arizona State 16, Houston 9, Miami (FL) 7, UNLV 4, Saint Joseph's 3, Virginia Commonwealth 1.

Dropped From Rankings
Dayton 16, Villanova 18, Arizona State 24.

Rick Majerus: Open Mouth, Insert Foot (Again)

By Trashtalk Superstar

In yesterday's Sunday Chicago Tribune, Columnist Rick Morrissey took on basketball coaches who espouse their political views in public forums. Morrissey's column was prompted by comments that Saint Louis Billikens' basketball coach Rick Majerus made about abortion and stem cell research at a recent Hillary Clinton campaign rally.

I had intended to write about Majerus' comments myself, but then a rash of upsets occurred in college basketball last week, and Rick Majerus' latest incident of shooting off his mouth quickly fell by the wayside in terms of warranting Drive and Dish's immediate attention.

But Morrissey's article hits on most of the points that I had intended to address. So I decided to link it up on Drive and Dish.

For the record, I don't know why coaches (or athletes, actors, rappers, rock stars, celebrity chefs, daytime TV talk show hosts, playwrights, screenwriters, authors, etc...) think that the world needs a public hearing of their political views. If a basketball coach wants to talk publicly about the intricacies of the match up zone, then let his voice be heard. But when he starts to believe that it's imperative that the world hear his thoughts on water boarding, Guantanamo Bay, capital gains taxes, the economic stimulus package, or any other political issue of the day, he's letting himself fall victim to his super sized ego ... if not to delusions of grandeur.

Rick Majerus should never have spouted his political views to a television reporter. And he should have understood that, as a representative of both Saint Louis University and the Billikens' basketball program, part of his job description is to present a positive, non controversial, apolitical public image. But Majerus has a long history of doing his thinking out loud. Drive and Dish has discussed this before.

Look, I was pretty critical of Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski's very public support for Elizabeth Dole during her 2002 North Carolina Senatorial campaign. And I like Coach K. What's more, I had a fairly strong dislike for Elizabeth Dole's opponent, Erskine Boles (even though he's, most likely, a distant relative of mine and doesn't exactly have a lightning rod personality).

But Coach K stuck his neck out too far when he injected himself into the larger political debate. He's a great basketball coach. He's a fine leader of young men (as North Carolina fans will surely attest). And hell, I don't doubt that he knows what he's talking about with regard to government and politics. Krzyzewski is, after all, a really sharp guy.

But it's simply not a basketball coach's place to make his political views and policy recommendations known to the public.

Not Mike Krzyzewski, not Dean Smith, not Bob Knight, Nolan Richardson, Rick Majerus, or even John Wooden.

And as for Rick Majerus, he's certainly always spoken his mind. But he's been speaking a little too much of it as of late.

Rick Majerus just needs to show some self discipline and shut his pie hole -- for the first time in his life.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Saturday Observations

By Mark Buckets

Saturday marked the unofficial halfway point of the college basketball season. This was a day to enjoy a marathon Saturday of hoops, so let's get right to the analysis:

-The biggest story of the day, and possibly the year, was the media-created emphatic statement made by the Memphis Tigers. Deeper and more athletic than Gonzaga at every position - not to mention this game was at home - and to come away with an 81-73 victory at home? I'm not a believer in Cal's Crew just yet.

-Indiana, as many of our board readers would attest to, is a bit over hyped. Connecticut is playing tremendous basketball at the moment, but this would a game the Hoosiers had no business losing.

-As for Uconn: The Huskies are rounding into form and look set to move on without Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins. Sources close to Drive & Dish revealed early Sunday that the two are dealing with a possible drug-related suspension. Stay tuned.

-Staying within the Big 10, and along the same lines as Uconn, Purdue is looking more and more like a Tournament team. Although they attempted far too many threes (20 is way too many in the Purdue system), the Boilermakers obtained that all-important signature win in conference play.

-Baylor needed to scrap themselves off the mat - yes they won against A&M in 5 OTs - and almost pulled off what would have been a more impressive victory. It wasn't to be, as Oklahoma was bolstered by the return of a healthy Blake Griffin, who poured in 17 and 15. This is a Sooners team that sorely lacked inside scoring without BG, and with him back and ready to go, I see OU sneaking into the tourney come March. Lots of games to be played, however.

-Chet Coppock's favorite squad Notre Dame - which we'll criticize at every turn here at D&D - beat down a struggling Villanova team. Jay Wright's four guard staple has worked in the past, but seems destined to fail this year. Outside of scoring dynamo Scottie Reynolds, they just don't have the horses.

-In one of the year's more entertaining games, USC outlasted Oregon in overtime at MacArthur Court in Eugene. The Ducks had no answer to USC's athletic starting five. However, Ernie Kent's quack attack showed the heart of a champion, battling back from 7 down with a minute to play in regulation to send the game to overtime. As much offense as Tajuan Porter brings to the table for Oregon, he is equally or possibly worse as a defender. Marques Johnson, perhaps the biggest supporter of the sophomore guard, agreed with my assessment. Hats off to Pete Bell's assistant in the movie "Blue Chips."

-Also in the Pac 10, Wazzu picked up a crucial victory on the road against Arizona State. This was a significant victory for the Cougars, who had lost to conference leader UCLA and up-and-comer Arizona two nights before in the past two weeks.

-On a Saturday when the SEC turned football rivalries into basketball ones, the best game of the day came in the "Egg Bowl," if you will, in Starkville as Mississippi State hosted Ole Miss. For all of the credit Andy Kennedy and the Rebels received at the start of the year - deservedly so for a fast start - the wheels appear to be falling off the wagon. In a game that put the Bulldogs in the SEC West's driver's seat, Ole Miss had no awnser for the shot blocking machine that is Jarvis Varnado. (By the way, D&D loves Jamont Gordon, who is settling into his roll as playmaking point guard for MSU. He's got sick court vision.)

-There was a Dwayne Ballen on Saturday night as ESPN Classic presented a magical matchup pitting Arkansas and LSU. Ballen is a complete play-by-play man, capped with an exceptional knowledge of the game and an ability to translate that to the viewer. He's one of the few I'll endorse on this site. It's amazing how far LSU has fallen since their run to Indianapolis two short years ago. John Brady's chair at the Maravich Assembly Center's gotta be red-hot at the moment.

-Southern Illinois beat Creighton 48-44 on Saturday night. Wow. Enough said.

-I'll be back tomorrow night for a weekend wrap and until then, enjoy the games.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Weekend Preview with an ACC flavor

By Mark Buckets

As college basketball nears it’s midway point - The 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer classic seems like it tipped off yesterday - the jockeying for position in conference races heats up. The Kentucky Derby has nothing on the competition in the ACC, Big East and Pac 10 to name a few. Not only are the major leagues slugging it out, but the mid-to-lower tier conferences also have intriguing battles for supremacy. Don’t sleep on the Atlantic Sun (East Tennessee State and Artis Gilmore’s Jacksonville squad duking it out) as well as the Sun Belt and to a lesser extent, the newly-formed two-division Southland Conference. This post isn’t about the “big picture.” The focus of this journalistic masterpiece is on the games of the weekend . Hence the brilliant title.

Before I elaborate on the slate of games for this weekend, I’d like to voice my displeasure with ESPN. Why in the world is College GameDay going to Carbondale for the Creighton-SIU match up? I know the two teams have been the class of the Valley over the past five years, but come on. I also realize that ESPN cements their GameDay schedule in advance despite the play of the teams running up to Rece, Digger, Jay and Hubert’s arrival on campus. Don’t even get me started on the butchering of the English language on behalf of one Hubert Davis.

Back to business, Mr.Buckets.

One thing I will give ESPN credit is the time slot in which the Gonzaga/Memphis game is. There’s no better way to shudder off the boredom of GameDay at Southern Illinois than to take in one of the more important inter-conference battles of the year. The stakes couldn’t be higher for both teams, as Calipari’s Crew looks to fortify their place - in the process earning the respect of fans and journalists alike - on the national scene. Perhaps, more importantly, Gonzaga is looking for a statement game and signature win. The win over Uconn in Boston was impressive, but pales in comparison to what they could gain from a win at Memphis. Both teams like to run, so I’d give the advantage to Memphis, who imposes their will on their opponents better than anyone in the country.

In ACC play, Saturday provides an appetizer to the Sunday’s main course of games. The Saturday games, which include NC State’s trip to Tallahassee and BC’s home clash with Virginia Tech , are lacking of national importance. Don’t tell that to those four teams - three of which have legitimate NCAA Tourney aspirations - that these games don’t have implications. In all reality, Sunday is when things really start to get good. The noon game between Clemson and Miami on Saturday is a monumentally important hookup for two teams also sitting firmly on the bubble. If Clemson could knock down a few free throws - the Tigers average a whopping 62% from the line - it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they would be competing with North Carolina and Duke for conference supremacy. Watch the battle between UM’s Anthony King (A shot-blocking machine) and Clemson’s two-headed post monster in Trevor Booker and James Mays. That game should be a nice warm-up for the game that will garner the most attention. Not only on a regional level - the Duke/Maryland game will be seen on almost every Fox Sports Net affiliate in the country - but of a national one as well. Gary Williams’ Maryland team is a fascinating bunch. They are as hot and cold as the water at the local Best Western shower. As has been well-documented, the Blue Devils lack a consistent inside game. Forward Lance Thomas showed glimpses of his talent as he stuffed the stat sheet in a commanding win over Virginia Tech on Thursday in Blacksburg. I will be interested to see how Duke approaches this game. For one, the Maryland fans are a loud bunch - and notoriously vulgar - and Duke will attempt to feed off of that negative energy. Should be a wonderful way to cap off the weekend.

It’ll be a relatively quiet weekend in the Pac 10. Outside of Wazzu’s trip to Wells Fargo Arena to take on Arizona State, Stanford travels to Cal and UCLA treks to Oregon State. Two pretty straightforward games that should see similar results: The road team winning with ease.

Looking across the Top 25 - that’s what we do at D&D - the Connecticut-Indiana game looks like it’ll shape up to be a dandy. D.J. White vs. Hasheem Thabeet? Are you kidding me? What a game. Even without Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins, the Huskies stand a chance to win at Assembly Hall. As an added bonus - being completely truthful here - the nation will be treated to analysis by Billy Packer. Here’s to hoping they add Jim Nantz back before March to the telecast. The two are a dynamic team and the best college hoops has to offer.

That’s all we have for now. In the immortal words of Andy Glockner, “enjoy the games.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Lieutenant Colonel Greg Gadson Is Giants' Inspirational Co-Captain"

By Trashtalk Superstar

Normally I don't like Mike Lupica and would never think of linking to one of his articles on Drive and Dish, but this piece in yesterday's New York Daily News is a must read.

It details the life of Lieutenant Colonel Greg Gadson, who has become an inspiration to the Super Bowl bound New York Giants.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

At-Large and In-Charge

By Mark Buckets

Looking around the national landscape of college basketball, there is one thing that pops foremost into my head: Who actually deserves an at-large NCAA Tournament bid at this point?

Stay with me here.

31 conferences + 34 at-large bids = 65 teams

Easy, right?

Not so fast. This is a year in which the potential supply of quality at-large teams is far outweighed by the demand of deserving teams. Some will use the dreaded parity card as a ploy to mask a deeper problem: from top to bottom, this is a down year in college hoops.

There are a multitude of explanations reinforcing the above statement. The list of reasons are endless. The lack of senior leadership - or leadership of any kind, to be frank - is a leading cause for the dearth of aesthetically pleasing basketball.

Since the inception of various offseason skills camps - introduced by Nike - notable people within the game are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Legendary basketball figures such as Pete Newell and Dick "Hoops" Weiss truly sense a turnaround in the fortune and quality of American basketball on all levels. Call me shallow - I know I've been deemed that before - but until we strike Gold in Beijing, I'll withhold judgement.

We'll delve deeper into that issue at a later time.

To be completely honest with you, the teams that are bantered about (And talked about more so than those firmly into the NCAA field) should be little more than a footnote to the teams that compete for a national title. This coming from a guy - Mark Buckets - that gets excited about South Carolina-Upstate's home clash with a sleeping giant in Florida Gulf Coast University. I'm all about the little guy - to an extent.

The at-large teams that come from major conferences that vacuum up all of the tournament revenue should consider themselves extremely lucky to even be associated with the NCAA Tournament. This is all just fodder for the media heads of society - which I went into detail yesterday - to garner ratings and interest. So while the big boys enjoy their spacious training rooms and sparkling practice facilities - and I'm not even talking about upper-tier BCS programs- the pawns of the college basketball chessboard battle for attention and maybe a chance to show the nation what they are capable of doing.

What a world we live in.

Kentucky Upsets Tennessee

By Trashtalk Superstar

Just one day after Drive and Dish speculated about the possibility of John Calipari, Bruce Pearl and Kelvin Sampson -- princely souls that they are -- being in the top five in next week's AP Top 25, Kentucky upset Tennessee 72-66.

Drive and Dish has been tough on first year Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie. But after pulling major upsets over Vanderbilt and now Tennessee, it looks like "Billy Clyde" is starting to get things under control in Lexington. Two weeks ago, he was a goat to many Wildcats fans. But now he's probably the toast of the town ("toast" may not have been the best choice of words -- sorry about that -- but you know what I'm trying to say [Kentucky may be starting to embrace Gillispie]).

Tennessee plays a fun style of basketball. They throw full court pressure at teams and they look to turn turnovers into transition baskets. They've also got guys who can break you down off the dribble and get to the rack. And they LOVE to shoot the three. Best of all, they run, run, run and run some more.

Tennessee is fun to watch and they'd be fun to play for.

But Head Coach Bruce Pearl is a dirtbag. He's as sleazy a guy as you'll find in college basketball ... and that's really saying something.

Last night's loss aside, Tennessee will be a highly seeded team in the NCAA Tournament and they'll probably be a trendy Final Four pick in a lot of people's NCAA brackets. But I believe that they're overrated and that they're not likely to reach the Final Four.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, congratulations to Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Coming out of the woodwork

By Mark Buckets

The College Football season is over. The NFL is winding into a vortex of boredom with the Patriots and Giants in the Super Bowl. The NBA and NHL seasons are embarking on their agonizingly long stretch runs. So therewith lies a question: What's a sportscaster/headline producer/self-proclaimed sports nut supposed to do with his or her spare time?

That's right, college basketball - or NCAA Basketball as Myles Brand would like it to be coined 100% of the time - takes center stage. As you might suspect, we here at Drive & Dish couldn't be happier. This isn't the time for Ken Pomeroy or Joe Lunardi to take center stage. It isn't about Andy Katz's Weekly Watch or Jay Bilas' Weekend Preview. Andy Glockner's Bubble Watch? Give it a few weeks. No, they will take their turns soapboxing - Take that, Dr.Brand! - as postseason play nears.

The spotlight will be front and center on those who don't do cover this sport year round.

David Lloyd, would you please stand up?

As much as it pains me to say, this is the time of year for the talking heads. Michael Wilbon claims to know as much about college hoops - and we use the knowledge reference lightly - as any full-timer out there. For further proof, check out PTI's "Five Good Minutes" bit when Jay Bilas (Stay with me) or another ESPN anaylst is sent in to speak. It'd be nice to hear the "expert" put his two cents in, instead of the schtick spewed from Wilbon's cake hole. Sure, Wilbon has enjoyed a long and storied career as a journalist going back to his days as Chicago high school scholar.

That is just one small illustration of the profound lack of substance found in the sports media these days. Truth is, those of you who read this blog - and a lot of you do! - are probably more in-tuned with college basketball as any of the buffoons paid to do so.

Andy, Jay, Fran and others - your time will come. For right now, the podium belongs to those who don't know what they're saying.

The Herb Pope Train is Off and Runnin'

Lost amidst all the hoopla surrounding the weekend's big upsets in college basketball was the story of New Mexico State's highly touted Freshman Herb Pope. Pope played in his first college game on Saturday.

After having had several off the court incidents and having endured a protracted NCAA ruling on his status of his eligibility, the troubled Aggies Forward was finally cleared to play last week. In his debut, he scored five points but committed six turnovers as the Aggies defeated visiting Louisiana Tech 63-54.

More here (actually, there's not that much more here ... but it's worth clicking on the link just to see the banner ad for Beaver Toyota at the top -- imagine all the cars that must be driving around Albuquerque with plate holders that say "Beaver Toyota").

This New York Times article (from July '07) has more background on Herb Pope.

Monday, January 21, 2008

North Carolina No Longer #1: This Week's AP Top 25

After Saturday's shocking home loss to unranked Maryland, North Carolina dropped to #5 in this week's AP Top 25. Unbeaten Memphis is the new #1 team in America, while similarly unbeaten Kansas is ranked #2. The OTHER college basketball team from Knoxville, Bruce Pearl's Men's Tennessee Volunteers, are ranked #3. Duke and North Carolina round out this week's top 5.

With Memphis ranked #1 and Tennessee ranked #3, the Volunteer State has become the new capitol of college basketball (take that North Carolina and Indiana). Too bad Vol's spring football, football recruiting and the Lady Vols basketball team trump men's college basketball in popularity.

And it's great to see that "class" guys (who run such pristine programs) like Bruce Pearl and John Calipari are sitting atop the college basketball landscape. What's more, with Indiana at #7, it's possible that the Hoosiers could move into the top 5 by next week. Then Calipari, Pearl and Kelvin Sampson, paragons of virtue that they are, would be atop the polls and would, thereby, represent the pinnacle of their profession.

How great would that be for the image of college basketball!?!

This week's AP Top 25:
1. Memphis
2. Kansas
3. Tennessee
4. Duke
5. North Carolina
6. Washington State
7. Indiana
9. Georgetown
10. Michigan State

11. Wisconsin
12. Texas
13. Pittsburgh
14. Vanderbilt
15. Butler
16. Dayton
17. Mississippi
18. Texas A&M
19. Villanova
20. Stanford
21. Marquette
22. Drake
23. Xavier
24. Arizona State
25. Baylor

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Weekend of the Upset

The weekend of January 19 & 20 will likely go down as having been 2008's weekend of the upset in college basketball.

Yesterday, #1 ranked and previously undefeated North Carolina was stunned at home by the enigmatic Maryland Terrapins, 82-80. More here. And here.

On the West coast, Tim Floyd and O.J. Mayo's USC Trojans upset #4 UCLA, 72-63.

Out in the Big 12, Michael Beasley and Kansas State stomped #10 Texas A&M 75-54. Earlier in the week, A&M had also been upset by Texas Tech, as Tech coach Bob Knight netted his 900th career win.

In the Big East, Cincinnati surprised #15 Pitt, 62-59.

And the upsets didn't end on Saturday. Today, Connecticut knocked off #13 Marquette 89-73, in Storrs, CT.

Although most sports fans' eyes were on the NFL, as the NFC and AFC Championship games were played today, the weekend's real action was in college basketball.

Over the last two days, college basketball teams from coast to coast elevated their games and pulled off huge upsets, both at home and on the road.

Drive and Dish would just like to say: Now that's what we're talkin' about!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Drive and Dish: On the Road in West Lafayette

By Trashtalk Superstar

Today, ESPN's Gameday was in Gainesville, FL, for the Florida / Kentucky game. Not to be outdone, Drive and Dish braved the frigid Arctic air and sub zero temperatures that are currently gripping the Midwest, in order to be in West Lafayette, IN, for the big Purdue / Illinois game. The above picture was taken at today's game by Mark Buckets, from high atop the stands of Mackey Arena, on the lovely campus of Purdue University.

Purdue dispatched with the Falling Illini, 74-67. They're now 13-5, and 4-1 in the Big Ten. Illinois fell to 9-10, and 1-5 in conference.

Drive and Dish is bullish on Purdue. We recognize the Boilermakers as one of the top up-and-coming teams in the country. They may be young, but they're on their way back to being a stalwart in the Big Ten. Purdue's two year stay at the bottom of the league is quickly proving to have been nothing more than a "bump in the road." And while Matt Painter's Boilermakers aren't completely "there" yet, they're starting to look like a Purdue team again, if you will.

However, on the other side of the coin sits Illinois. Never before have I seen a program fall so far, so fast.

In 2005, the Illini fell five points short of getting past North Carolina and capturing their first National Championship. But in 2006, they failed to get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Illini (who were lucky just to get into the Tournament) blew a 14 point lead with two minutes left to play and found a way to lose to Virginia Tech in the first round of the Tournament.

This year, Illinois will need a miracle just to finish above .500 and become eligible for an N.I.T. bid. Worse yet, the Illini's futility can't be written off as the result of injuries, unforeseen circumstances, or youthful "growing pains." They're a fully healthy, veteran team, led by pre-season All Big Ten Center, Shaun Pruitt, Junior Point Guard Chester Frazier and 5th year Senior Forward Brian Randle.

But in contrast to Purdue's up-and-coming young Boilers, the only thing remotely "up-and-coming" about the Illini are the collective contents of the stomachs of Illinois fans who've loyally endured game after torturous game of the 2007/'08 season.

It's already been a long winter down in Champaign. But it's just going to keep on getting longer with every Illini game.

Something tells me that Illinois fans are already counting down the days to the start of Spring football.

Friday, January 18, 2008

UNC Asheville's 7'7" Kenny George Turning Heads

UNC Asheville center Kenny George is the taller than any other player in college basketball or the NBA (including Yao Ming). George is 7 foot 7 and 360 pounds. He has size 26 shoes. And he can dunk without leaving the ground.

I'm not sure if he can actually run or move laterally, but he's starting to become a valuable player for UNC Asheville, which is enjoying it's best season in over 20 years.

Today's Asheville Citizen-Times has a profile of George.

And if UNC Asheville continues to win, Kenny George may get the chance to play on a national stage in the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knight Gets 900th Win

By Trashtalk Superstar

Last night, Bob Knight put another notch on his belt. He earned his 900th career coaching win as his Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated #10 Texas A&M 68-53. Knight already had surpassed Dean Smith to become the coach with the most career wins in Division I college basketball.

Now he's moving into uncharted territory.

But, true to form, Knight didn't let the celebratory mood surrounding his latest career milestone keep him from being pissed off about something. Upon receiving a post-game standing ovation, Knight addressed the Red Raiders fans:
"You folks being here, seats being full for a change, really made a difference tonight."

It's good to see that Coach Knight hasn't let all of his career achievements take away his edge.

Bob Knight is still the same old Bob Knight.

Congratulations to Coach Knight, I guess.

Edit (1/18/08):

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not criticizing Bob Knight. He's a great basketball coach, and his innovative motion offense and tough man to man defense revolutionized college basketball. The modern era of college basketball owes an enormous debt to Bob Knight. His Indiana teams of the 1970's and 80's changed the way the game is played. He basically pioneered the modern era of college hoops.

And I agree with his criticism of Texas Tech's fan support. Although I grew up in Chicago's Southern suburbs, I'm the product of an old school Texas family. I've got ancestors who were around in the days of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin -- including a Colonel who got absolutely owned by General Santa Anna at the Alamo. Believe me, I know Texas and the intricacies of Texan culture like nobodies business. And the fact is, nobody gives a rat's ass about college basketball (or any basketball, for that matter) in Texas. Basketball simply isn't part of the cultural landscape in the Lone Star State.

I'll give you an example: four years ago, I was in Austin at the time of the Texas/Oklahoma basketball game. Both teams were ranked in the AP top 15 at the time. Texas had been in the Final Four the previous year. Oklahoma had been in the Final Four the year before that. The game was going to be nationally televised. It was the very definition of a BIG game. Yet, the UT athletic department had to advertise the game all over Austin radio and TV (even on the day of the game) just to try to draw a decent crowd.

The advertisements pointed to the importance of the game and to the fact that it was going to be nationally televised. And they actually had to say something to the effect of: "Sure, it's not football, but it's still a BIG game, and it's still Oklahoma. Come on out and show your support for UT athletics. We NEED your support. It won't look good to have empty seats on national television. Great seats are still available!"

And the ads were still running hours before tip off.

Texas has been a top tier program for years. But they don't have the kind of fan support that other elite basketball programs have. And, out in Lubbock, Bob Knight has made Texas Tech into a solid program: he's brought a winning tradition, numerous NCAA Tournament appearances and a decent amount of national attention to a university that wasn't on the college basketball map (hell, since Tech is in Lubbock, TX -- A.K.A. the middle of nowhere -- it's barely even on a Rand McNally road map) prior to his arrival.

Yet there are usually more empty seats at Tech's home games than at a typical Joe Biden Presidential campaign speech -- and that's a lot of empty seats!

So I can't really blame Bob Knight for making that comment. Although it probably wasn't the right time or the right place to make his feelings known, Coach Knight was just speaking the truth.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Road to...Jake's Roadhouse?

By Mark Buckets

As the college hoops season heats up - and the temperature in the great Midwest cools down - Drive and Dish will be taking it's act to game sites right up until the Final Four in San Antonio. The first stop on D&D's Winter Tour will be this Saturday, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Saturday's game will see a surging Purdue face a crumbling crew of Chiefs. With the help of an Apple Computer, my partner - the one and only Trashtalk Superstar - and I will provide a little taste of local flavor and fan reaction that make college basketball so entrenching. No, we won't be setting up camp in the campus armory - or be surrounded by adoring hoop heads for that matter - but we will do our best to capture a college basketball Saturday at Purdue and other locals.

Place: Mackey Arena
Campus: Purdue University
Opponent: Illinois
Tip Time: 2ET

And remember, this is a nationally televised game on ESPN. The student body should be out in force to remind Bruce Weber of what could have been.

Edit (1/17/08):

Trashtalk Superstar adds:

I think Illinois' road loss to Eric Gordon and Indiana did a pretty good job of reminding Bruce Weber of "what could have been" (Gordon had originally committed to play for Illinois). Although Mark Buckets is probably referring to the fact that, after almost twenty years as Purdue's top assistant, Bruce Weber could have been Gene Keady's successor at Purdue (had he not taken the Illinois job in 2003).

Nevertheless, it's my firm belief that it's possible to win a national championship at Illinois. And while Purdue is always a solid basketball school, I'm not sure that they'll ever win a national championship. As great as Gene Keady was, he never took a Purdue team to the Final Four. He got to a couple of Elite Eight's, but no Final Four.

Purdue is a program that will always be competitive in the Big Ten. But Illinois can be a national power. From 2000 to 2007, Illinois trailed only Duke as the program with the most wins in Division I college basketball. Over that period of time, the Illini went to an Elite Eight and to a Final Four.

And they fell five points shy of winning a national championship in 2005.

Illinois may be down now, but the program has the ability to compete at the highest level (at least in theory). But I'm just not sure that the same can be said of Purdue.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kentucky and Iowa Pull Shocking Upsets

Saturday, Kentucky upset Vanderbilt, who was previously undefeated and ranked #13 by the AP, 79-73 in double Over Time. It was UK's first big win of the Billy Gillispie era.

Vanderbilt is an interesting team. Last year's team made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and would have been in the Elite Eight, if not for a missed traveling call on Georgetown's Jeff Green that produced Georgetown's game winning basket. And although they lost some key players from last year's team, they've managed to be one of this season's runaway successes. But despite this season's impressive record, they've turned in some very underwhelming performances. And they've escaped with squeaker wins over some less-than-stellar opponents (see: Bradley, DePaul).

Vanderbilt didn't look terribly athletic or strong against Kentucky. And even though the Wildcats are ecstatic that they pulled off their first big win, Vanderbilt just never quite looked like a legitimate top tier team in that game.

Michigan State Falls to Iowa

Although it didn't get the attention that Kentucky's nationally televised win over Vanderbilt did, #6 Michigan State's 43-36 loss at Iowa was the biggest upset of the day. Iowa may be the worst team in the Big Ten (Drive and Dish has previously noted the Hawkeyes' profound Godawfulness). Yet they managed to slow the game down and "ugly" the whole thing up, which got Michigan State to play down to their level.

I'm glad that I didn't see that game. It would have been brutal to watch, as most of Iowa's games are. But I feel bad for Michigan State. They're a legitimate top 10 team, and there's no way that they should have lost to Iowa -- let alone only score 36 points in the entire game.

Tom Izzo is probably running his team into the ground right now. Each one of his players will probably drop five to seven pounds of water weight before their next game (thanks to all the running they will have done).

Look, Iowa is a tough place for visiting teams to play. With the exception of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses (which only come along once every four years), there really isn't much going on in Iowa. That's why Iowa Hawkeyes' football, wrestling and basketball are so important to the locals. As such, far too many Iowans derive their sense of self worth from the success of Hawkeye athletics. So, for Iowans, it's win at all costs -- which is why visiting teams often find that their hotel rooms have no warm running water, have no functioning air conditioning or heat, have mysterious power outages, have an unusually high number of fire alarms in the middle of the night, etc.

What's worse, when the visiting teams arrive in the visitor's locker room, they often find that -- in addition to being painted pink, from ceiling to floor (including lockers, benches, toilets, urinals, sinks, fire extinguishers . . . literally everything in the room) -- the visitor's locker room lacks running water. Which really sucks because, since their hotel rooms frequently lack warm water, teams often bypass using the showers and the toilets in their hotels, and wait until they get to the locker room to take care of those necessities.

But that stuff is par for the course in Iowa City. Ask the 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini. They went to Iowa City undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation. But, after they found it difficult to get restful sleep in their hotel rooms, and couldn't find warm water in either their hotel rooms or in the locker room, the Illini played their ugliest game of the season. Illinois was lucky to sneak out of that place with a win that year. They almost didn't.

By the way, I wouldn't necessarily trust the food in Iowa City either. I think that if I were coaching a team that had to play at Iowa, I'd pack enough sack lunches to take care of each of my team's meals.

Iowa is just that way.

In fact, many Iowans actually pride themselves on that kind of stuff. I know some of those kinds of Iowa fans.

But that's still no excuse for Michigan State's horrible loss in Iowa City.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Saint Louis Only Manages 20 Points Against George Washington

Tonight, the Saint Louis Billikens lost at George Washington 49-20. SLU's 20 point outing sets a new record for fewest points scored in a modern era (since the introduction of the shot clock) Division I basketball game.

Rick Majerus has already had a bumpy ride in his inaugural campaign as the Billikens' coach. In October, Majerus told a St. Louis newspaper that he wanted out of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Then the father of Billikens' guard Tommie Lidell III publicly criticized Majerus on an Internet message board ( At the time, several players weren't taking to Majerus' newly installed system, or to his coaching style. Lidell's father indicated that a player mutiny could occur. This came on the heels of a 40 point Billikens' loss to Kent State.

And now, in the first week of conference play, Majerus' Saint Louis Billikens set a new record for fewest points scored in a game.

Drive and Dish had reservations about Saint Louis' decision to hire Majerus. We thought that although he was an outstanding coach, he had the potential to self destruct and turn the already faltering Billiken basketball program into an all out train wreck.

It looks like the train wreck is underway.

Edit: More here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Duke's Zoubek Out Indefinitely With Broken Foot

Duke Center Brian Zoubek has broken his foot, and is out indefinitely. That's bad news for Duke because, even though many Duke fans think that Zoubek is a big stiff, Zoubek is the only legitimate big man Duke has. Lance Thomas doesn't play strong and Kyle Singler is tall, but isn't really at home in the paint.

Sunday night, Duke had a tougher time dispensing with Cornell than they should have. A big reason for that was because Duke struggled with Cornell's seven foot Freshman Center. That kid was skinny and raw (not to mention poorly conditioned), but Duke couldn't keep him off the block or off the boards. His presence was enough to keep Cornell hanging in that game (which is all the more startling, considering that Cornell's Point Guard seemingly did everything in his power to hand an easy win to Duke).

Good luck with Tyler Hansbrough and North Carolina.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

UNC Gets Tough Overtime Win at Clemson

Tonight, #1 rated North Carolina came from behind to pull out a 90-88 overtime road win at Clemson. Clemson gave UNC everything they had but the undermanned Heels managed to get it done in dramatic fashion, with a Wayne Ellington three pointer sealing the game in the final second of overtime.

These kinds of games are almost essential in separating wheat from the chaff, in terms of building Final Four/Championship contending teams. Make no mistake, Clemson came out jacked through the roof at the prospect of knocking off the #1 team in the nation on national television. And Clemson's arena can be extremely hostile to visiting teams. The Tar Heels passed the test with flying colors -- consider it a stepping stone to the Final Four. North Carolina will be a better team for having gutted out this win.

North Carolina deserves their #1 ranking. They're the real deal.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Southern Illinois Continues to Falter

Tonight, Southern Illinois lost at Drake 61-51.
While it's true that this year's much improved Drake team is arguably the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference, Southern Illinois is in an absolute tailspin.

Drive and Dish readers are, most likely, aware of SIU's struggles this season. We chronicled them: here and here.

SIU was ranked as high as #19 in the AP poll early in the season. They were everybody's pre season pick to win the Valley (although Drive and Dish was concerned that their backcourt wouldn't be able to recover from the graduation of stalwart guards Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum). But the Salukis have fallen apart since Thanksgiving. One wonders if and when Southern will start to turn things around.

ESPN's Kyle Whelliston talks about how Southern Illinois is trying to reestablish a culture of winning..

By the Way:

If Drake keeps winning important games in the Valley, Drive and Dish is going to have to start talking about them. Drake has been bad for two decades. But this year all they do is win. And nobody saw it coming. The Drake Bulldogs might be one of the best stories in college hoops.