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Waiting for the Weekend: Old Fuddy Duddy Watching the NBA Draft 9

Posted on June 23, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

I have decided in this column to serve as the old “fuddy duddy”, which is defined as being old fashioned and fussy.

Last night was the NBA Draft and I must admit, my 11-year-old son had a much better grasp of the players being selected than I did. Not only because he is significantly closer in age to them, but also because in today’s electronic world, he is much more familiar with their exploits than I am. Though most of the top players played roughly 30 games at the college level, if you are interested and tech savvy, you can find all their highlights on YouTube.

Sorry to sound dated and bitter, but I fondly remember a day when players being drafted into the NBA were familiar to fans not because of a YouTube video, but because we had watched them play through usually three or four years of college. Even in a time when cable television was not yet prominent and not every game was available to watch, we still had ample chances to enjoy the top players for quite a while before they moved to the NBA.

When Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984 he had played 101 games as a college player, not to mention being on the 1984 Olympic team. While I don’t recall there necessarily being discussion then that he was going to be the greatest player of all-time (such labels weren’t really all that important in a time before sports talk shows), there was no question that he was a great player and would be a successful pro.

You can say similar things about all the other top draft picks from the 1970s and 1980s. In most cases, they were familiar to fans across the country because they had been showcased in college for multiple years.

Now not every great college player in the past panned out in the NBA. As is the case today, there were many players in past generations who were great college players, but just didn’t translate to the NBA. But even in those cases, you had four years to watch them play at college and the number of top picks who didn’t have at least some semblance of an NBA career was pretty minimal. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Inconsistency of Justice 2

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt primarily to oversee and make safer intercollegiate football as well as to oversee eligibility in intercollegiate sports. The name of the organization was changed in 1910 to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Over the last 111 years, this organization has grown to become one of the most hypocritical behemoths within the United States. Though considered a non-profit, the NCAA generates billions of dollars in revenue annually while their primary labor force receives no direct compensation from the association. To make it even worse, those “student-athletes” are penalized by the organization if they dare to attempt to receive anything other than a college scholarship and minimal gifts and awards for participating in tournaments or championship competition.

I could spend thousands of words illustrating examples of the hypocrisy and exploitative nature of the organization, especially when it comes to student-athletes. But, I do not intend to make that the subject of this column.

Instead, I want to briefly explore the announcement this week of penalties against the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball program and head coach Rick Pitino.

The NCAA is investigating what ineligible players may have appeared in games for the Cardinals from 2010-2014 as part of an alleged sex-for-pay scandal involving a Louisville assistant coach and basketball recruits. If any players were deemed to have performed while they should have been ineligible, then Louisville could be forced to vacate victories, including their 2013 NCAA Championship.

Though he has not been directly implicated, head coach Rick Pitino was suspended by the NCAA for five ACC games next season.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if a Louisville coach was involved in paying women to have sexual relations with basketball recruits, that is morally abysmal and just another example of how some in college athletics have crossed the line. However, much like the Penn State scandal of a few years ago where the university and football administration were without question guilty of failing to meet simple ethical standards, they weren’t necessarily guilty of anything that specifically provided the team with an on-the-field advantage by providing a special benefit or keeping a player eligible.

That lies in very deep contrast to the University of North Carolina, whose men’s basketball team won the NCAA Championship just two months ago. The University and many athletic teams, including the men’s basketball program, have been under the cloud of an academic scandal in which the credibility of an entire department at the college was fabricated for many years, in part to help ensure that student-athletes could remain eligible.

Yet, not only was UNC allowed to participate in the last two national championship games, their head coach, Roy Williams, is regularly lauded by the NCAA and coaches association for his “ethical” behavior.

There is an old saying that the NCAA is so upset with the actions at UNC that they put UNC-Wilmington on probation for ten years. In this case, it almost seems that the NCAA is working with the University to try and make the entire issue go away. It is a stark contrast to how the NCAA handles much less significant scandals at other institutions. Read the rest of this entry →

The Case for Gonzaga to Win the National Championship 2

Posted on March 30, 2017 by Bernie Stein
After years of coming close, Gonzaga is finally in the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four.

After years of coming close, Gonzaga is finally in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four.

Gonzaga played as close to perfect as perfect as you can imagine in its Elite 8 annihilation of Xavier on Saturday. With the Musketeers on a red-hot run through the first three rounds of the tournament, most pundits figure they’d run out of gas at some point, but a 24-point whipping wasn’t what most had in mind.

The Bulldogs are now two wins away from not just a national championship, but one of the single greatest seasons in NCAA college basketball history. Two wins would get them to 38-1, tying them for the most wins in a single season with Kentucky’s 2012 and 2015 teams and Memphis’s 2008 squad – interestingly enough all three coached by John Calipari.

The Bulldogs’ best number is their +22.3 points per game differential entering the Final Four. Only Duke’s 1998-1999 team had a higher average (25.9 ppg).

The Bulldogs are exciting because they have one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country in junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss and Premek Karnowski. Williams-Goss is the straw who stirs the drink, leading the team in minutes (32.4 per game), points per game (16.7), assists per game (4.6), steals per game (1.8), and free-throw percentage (.882).

How Karnowski responds to the pressure of this round will determine a lot. He’s 7-feet, 1-inch and weighs 300 pounds, but the Bulldogs have won in spite of him so far during the tournament. Against Xavier last weekend, he had just five points and three rebounds and sat a bunch with four fouls. During the tournament, he’s averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He’s not a banger but being that tall should be good for 15 and 8 every game.

The X factors for the Bulldogs are Jordan Mathews and Johnathan Williams, the team’s third- and fourth-leading scorers. Mathews is putting up 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while Williams leads the team in rebounds at 6.6 per game and adds in 10.3 points per contest. Read the rest of this entry →

North Carolina and Duke Take Center Stage at ACC Tournament in Brooklyn Behind Decades of Storied History 0

Posted on March 10, 2017 by Chris Kent

It is college basketball royalty when North Carolina (27-6) and Duke (25-8) meet in the semifinals of the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. The two will battle at 7 pm EST tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY with a trip to the ACC Tournament Championship game on the line. It is round three for the duo this year as the two posted home victories over each

The ACC Tournament is one of the richest traditions in all of college sports.

other in their two regular season meetings this season. The two met less than a week ago with the Tarheels winning 90-83 at home on March 4 in the regular-season finale for both.

North Carolina is the top seed in the tournament for the second straight year and has played in the last two championship games. A fifth seed in 2015, the Tarheels lost 90-82 to third-seeded Notre Dame in the title game before beating second-seeded Virginia 61-57 in the 2016 championship game as the top seed. The Blue Devils have not reached the championship game since 2014 when they were the third seed and lost to top-seeded Virginia 72-63.

Duke and North Carolina have not met in the ACC Tournament since 2011 when the second-seeded Blue Devils won 75-58 over the top-seeded Tarheels in the title game. The long and storied history of these two ACC and national powers is well documented. Since 1997, one or the other has reached the tournament semifinals for a now 21 straight seasons during which both have been in the round 12 times. During that same time period, the two have met in two tournament semifinals and played in four title games.

Besides the 2011 title meeting, the other three championship game battles came in a four-year span between 1998 and 2001 when one or the other was the tournament’s top seed. Duke won two of the three title games, winning 96-73 as the top seed in 1999 and posting a 79-53 win in 2001 as the second seed. The other title game came in 1998 when North Carolina, the second seed, won 83-68 over the top-seeded Blue Devils.

This four-year stretch of ‘98-‘01 was a marquee time period for both schools as they boasted some of their great all-time players. Both schools were at the top of the ACC and competed – as they always have and continue to do – at such a high level. Recalling each school’s history during this time is like reading a hall-of-fame biography. When you combine the personnel of the teams, their coaches, and their achievements, one can see why the two have had such a perennial strong conference and national presence. Read the rest of this entry →

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Highlights Championship Week 2

Posted on March 07, 2017 by Chris Kent

Championship week has arrived for college basketball! Conference tournaments abound across the country from coast to coast featuring all the power conferences, mid-majors, and small conferences that make up Division I in the NCAA. There will be great performances by teams, individuals, and coaches while the games themselves are bound to feature some come-from-behind efforts that pluck victory from the jaws of defeat with some buzzer beaters. This is what makes the month of March so special. It is the madness before the madness of the NCAA Tournament. It will feature bubble teams that solidify their spot in the NCAA field and bubble teams who see their bubble burst. Seedings for the NCAA Tourney are on the line and will be impacted by what happens over the next seven days. Quite simply it is couch potato heaven for college basketball junkies across the land.

The 2017 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament is taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY for the first time ever.

The 2017 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament is taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY for the first time ever.

While this years’ heavyweights such as Kansas, Gonzaga, Villanova, and North Carolina look to show why they are the cream of the crop for likely NCAA #1 seeds, there are plenty of other national title worthy contenders like Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Oregon. Other schools like Big East competitors Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall, Providence, and Marquette all won at least 10 conference games this season and could make some noise in March. Smaller schools from less worthy conferences like Vermont (27-5, 16-0) of the America East and Middle Tennessee (27-4, 17-1) of Conference USA could make a run. Both schools are riding winning streaks with Vermont having won 19 straight and Middle Tennessee seven. Both Vermont and Middle Tennessee have produced significant upsets in NCAA history. In 2005, 13th-seeded Vermont upset a fourth-seeded Syracuse team that was fresh off a Big East Tournament Championship. Middle Tennessee, a 15th seed, upset second-seeded Michigan State in last year’s tournament. Results like these explain why March is so thrilling and dramatic. It captivates audiences across the country based on upsets by the little schools like these. They get on a run and gain the support of their schools so much that it can carry them on a fairy tale ride.

Before we get that far, the conference tournament championships are to be decided this week. In the process, the NCAA field will be determined with some teams sneaking in, others being left out, and others altering their seed and positioning for better or worse. Here is a look at one of the power conferences, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and how its’ conference tournament shapes up this week. The ACC Tournament Championship game will be played Saturday night March 11 at 9 pm EST and it can be seen live on ESPN.

North Carolina (26-6, 14-4), #1 seed

The ACC Tournament is being held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY for the first time ever. North Carolina enters the tournament as the outright ACC regular season champion and is the defending tournament champion. The Tarheels (26-6, 14-4) ended the regular season with a 90-83 win over arch rival Duke on Mar. 4 to split the annual season series.  North Carolina has played in the ACC Tournament Championship game each of the last two years, falling to Notre Dame 90-82 in the 2015 title game before beating Virginia 61-57 in last year’s finale.

Head coach Roy Williams has his team playing at a high level yet again after coming within a whisker of winning an NCAA title last

Roy Williams has lead North Carolina to the top seed in the tournament.

Roy Williams has lead North Carolina to the top seed in the tournament.

year. Despite losing four-year starting guard Marcus Paige and Associated Press All-American forward Brice Johnson, North Carolina has enjoyed another stellar season. Both took key production with them as Johnson averaged 17.0 points-per-game and 10.4 rebounds a game while Paige scored 12.6 points-per-game and dished out 128 assists on the season. Yet the heels have retooled this season and may be a better all-around team. Junior forward Justin Jackson was just named the ACC Player-of-the-Year and leads the team with 18.3 ppg. He also dishes out 2.6 assists and hauls in 4.7 rebounds-per-game. Junior guard Joel Berry II adds 15.1 ppg and dishes out a team best 3.7 apg while senior post player Kennedy Meeks scores 12.5 ppg and leads the team with 9.1 rpg. Berry is the team’s best 3-point shooter at 42.4 percent (75-for-177) while Jackson has made a team-high 85 trifectas on the season.

North Carolina’s victories over Florida State, Louisville, and Notre Dame this season allowed them to create a two-game cushion

and ultimately win the ACC regular season title. They will likely have to face one of these teams in the ACC tournament again and this can always be interesting a second time around. Carolina will have to bring the same intensity and high production on offense that saw them score 85.2 ppg in the regular season if they are to beat these same teams again in postseason play.

Florida State (24-7, 12-6) is the second seed followed by Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6) and Louisville (24-7, 12-6) as the third and fourth seeds respectively. These three schools along with North Carolina all received a double bye and won’t play until the quarterfinal round beginning on Thursday March 9. You can easily make a case for any of these top four seeds to win the tournament championship as they were very competitive against each other during the season. While North Carolina beat each of the other three to create separation from them in winning the regular season crown, all four teams were very competitive against each other.

Florida State beat both Louisville and Notre Dame at home and lost at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish split home and home wins with both Florida State and Louisville while Louisville lost to Florida State and split home and home wins with Notre Dame. Basically, the top four seeds in this year’s ACC Tourney beat up on each other in the regular season. Even though North Carolina beat the other three teams, the games between the four teams were very competitive and could of gone either way. What each team learned from the other one in those games should be a factor in preparation for potential matchups among the quartet this week. Read the rest of this entry →

Can This Be The Year For Gonzaga? 1

Posted on February 26, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Gonzaga is looking to reach the Final Four for the first time under longtime coach Mark Few.

Gonzaga is looking to reach the Final Four for the first time under longtime coach Mark Few.

Despite suffering their first loss of the season against BYU, the Gonzaga Zags still lead a pack of several teams that have shown glimpses of being capable of winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship this season. Look for NCAA college basketball lines at Skybook.

Much like Villanova a year ago, Gonzaga enters the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a team that has spent years posting regular season success, but without being able to break through for a Final Four run.

Since Mark Few became coach at Gonzaga for the 1999-2000 season, the Zags have reached the NCAA Tournament 17 straight times. However, only six times have they advanced past the first week of the tournament.

Twice in the last four tournaments, the Zags have entered as a number one or two seed. During the 2012-2013 season Gonzaga earned a number one seed for the first time, but lost in the round of 32 to Wichita State.

Two years later, Gonzaga was a number two seed and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time under Few. However, their dream of making the Final Four was dashed by eventual champion Duke.

With non-conference wins this season over Florida, Iowa State, Tennessee and Arizona, Gonzaga has shown that they can play with some of the top programs in the country. The loss to BYU will keep them from finishing with a perfect conference record for the fifth time, but they could still match their 17 conference wins from 2014-2015.

Of course, the NCAA Tournament is always very different than the regular season. To make a deep run doesn’t just take talent. It also requires a bit of luck and good fortune. Read the rest of this entry →

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      Gino Cappelletti

      Gino Cappelletti

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