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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 →

The World was a Different Place the Last Time Northwestern beat Ohio State on the Road in Basketball 1

Posted on February 08, 2017 by Bernie Stein

Northwestern-basketballNorthwestern men’s basketball proved itself to be a real contender for both the Big 10 and the NCAA Tournament with its win at Columbus over the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 22.

It was the first time the Wildcats have beaten Ohio State on the road since 1977, a 39-year losing streak.

Two free throws each by Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law salted the game away in the final seconds of a 74-72 win. The Wildcats improved to 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big 10, where they have four road wins.

So what were the conditions in 1977 when the Wildcats knocked off the Buckeyes at their own house? A quick trip in the Wayback Machine reveals some fantastic details. Here’s a look at a few:

The 1976-1977 Northwestern Wildcats were coached by Tex Winter: Yes, THAT Tex Winter. Texas went an abysmal 42-89 for the Wildcats as part of his 30-year college coaching career. This was 14 years after he wrote a book called “The Triple-Post Offense” also known as the triangle. In 1985, old friend Jerry Krause hired him to be an assistant for the Chicago Bulls and teach the offense to a young kid named Michael Jordan. Tex went on to win nine NBA championships as an assistant coach – six with the Bulls and three with the Lakers. Read the rest of this entry →

You Are Looking Live – Remembering the Career of Brent Musburger 1

Posted on January 29, 2017 by Dean Hybl
There was Brent Musburger on the far left sitting with Joe Namath poolside prior to Super Bowl III.

There was Brent Musburger on the far left sitting with Joe Namath poolside prior to Super Bowl III.

Part of the memory for all sports fans are the faces and voices of the announcers and commentators who have helped connect us with great sports moments. As someone whose first memories of television sports include watching the NFL Today during the 1970s, Brent Musburger is one of those figures for me. His catch phrase of “You are looking live” still makes me excited and indicates that I better pay attention because something big could be about to happen. The announcement this week that the 77-year-old Musburger will be retiring from play-by-play duty on January 31st will leave a void in the sports world, but he has provided generations of fans with some great memories.

A graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Musburger began his career in the late 1960s and very quickly found himself in the middle of the action and controversy.

Writing for Chicago’s American newspaper, Musburger covered the 1968 Olympics and the controversial “black power” salute by Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In the article, he stated that “Smith and Carlos looked like a couple of black-skinned storm troopers” who were “ignoble,” “juvenile,” and “unimaginative.” Years later Musburger said that comparing the two athlettes to Nazis was “harsh”, but stood by his opinion that the Olympic stage was not the appropriate place to make a political statement.

Just a few months later, Musburger found himself poolside in Miami as one of a handful of reporters sitting with a brash young quarterback who was holding court before Super Bowl III. As it turned out, Joe Namath was just the first of many Super Bowl heroes with whom Musburger would rub elbows.

Beginning in 1968, Musburger was first a radio and then television anchor for WBBM in Chicago. He later moved to Los Angeles where he was a news co-anchor at KNXT (now KCBS-TV) and worked alongside Connie Chung.

In 1973 Musburger began serving as a play-by-play announcer for NFL games on CBS – his color commentating partners included Bart Starr, Tommy Mason and Wayne Walker – and two years later was given the role that would make him famous. Read the rest of this entry →

30 Years Ago: Shocking Death of Len Bias 6

Posted on June 19, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Len Bias was an All-American at Maryland.

Len Bias was an All-American at Maryland.

It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since that shocking day in June of 1986 when one of the brightest young basketball stars of the day was suddenly went from a sports icon to a national symbol for the drug epidemic that seemed to be plaguing the country at the time.

During his college basketball career as a member of the Maryland Terrapins, Len Bias was known as one of the most athletic and talented players in the game and was expected to be an impact player for the Boston Celtics, who chose him with the second pick in the 1986 NBA draft.

Instead, his shocking death on June 19, 1986 became the impact moment for America’s war on drugs and led to harsher laws that negatively impacted the lives of many low-level drug users, a disproportionate number of whom were young black men, who were suddenly faced with mandatory prison sentences.

Even though the Internet was still nearly a decade away, in the days following the death of Len Bias information, much of it proving to be inaccurate, was coming out fast and furious from a national media that was surprisingly captivated by the story.

Even today, it is not typical for a sports event other than the Super Bowl, Olympics or some other large event or a major tragedy to cross into the general national consciousness. However, because of the shocking and abrupt nature of Bias’ death and the fact that drugs were involved at a time when the national “war on drugs” campaign was at its apex, the death took on a larger than normal stature. Read the rest of this entry →

Final Four Berth For Syracuse Calls for Trip Down Memory Lane 1

Posted on April 02, 2016 by Chris Kent

Syracuse is back in the Final Four for men’s basketball! The Orange are making their second trip to college basketball’s biggest stage in the last four seasons, the shortest time between trips for the school in the history of the program which has now reached six Final Fours. This is the fifth time that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has lead the Orange to the Final Four in this his 40th year as head coach of his alma mater. Syracuse punched its ticket to the Final Four with a thrilling 68-62 win over top-seeded Virginia in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional final on Sunday March 27 at the United Center in Chicago. The Orange overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to post the victory.

Jim Boeheim will be coaching in his fifth Final Four as head coach of the Orange.

Jim Boeheim will be coaching in his fifth Final Four as head coach of the Orange.

Syracuse is only the fourth double digit seed to ever advance to the Final Four and the first 10 seed to do so. The Orange will face Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina in the national semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. The Tarheels, the East Regional champions, are the tournament’s only number one seed to make it to the Final Four. A pair of two seeds will collide in the other national semifinal with South Regional champion Villanova meeting West Regional champion Oklahoma.

This improbable run by Syracuse marks what March Madness is all about. Living on the edge. Dramatic finishes behind thrilling comeback efforts. A team that was on the NCAA bubble but has shown why they deserved to be in the tournament. A gutsy and gritty team that has thrived off their chemistry. The Orange have only been ranked once all season which was on November 30 when they placed 14th in the AP top 25 poll and 19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They have only received votes on three other occasions during the season with those coming on December 7 and 14 and again on February 15. Syracuse was not even ranked in either of these preseason polls.

Although schools like UCLA (17, 11), Kentucky (17, 8), Duke (16, 5), Kansas (14, 3), Indiana (8, 5), Ohio State (10, 1), Michigan State (9, 2), and Louisville (10, 3) are college basketball thoroughbreds with a combined 101 Final Four appearances and 38 NCAA championships among them, the Orange program has its own high caliber history. The Syracuse program has stood the test of time by reaching at least one Final Four in every decade since the 1970’s started. That peaked in 2003 when the Orange won its’ only national championship.

Boeheim was an assistant coach on the 1974-75 Syracuse team that reached the school’s first Final Four. This is the first time that the Orange have made two trips to the Final Four in the same decade. Furthermore, Boeheim and Syracuse have made some of their loudest statements by beating some of those storied aforementioned schools in their Final Four seasons. The NCAA Tournament history of the Orange includes two wins each against Kansas and North Carolina and one win over Indiana in years that they went to the Final Four. Syracuse beat Kansas in the 1996 West Regional final and defeated them to win it all in 2003. The Orange beat North Carolina 78-76 in the semifinal of the East Regional in 1975 and again in the 1987 East Regional final. Syracuse’s win over Indiana came in the Sweet 16 in 2013.

Boeheim was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005 and has beaten fellow hall-of-famers in Dean Smith, Roy Williams, and Rick Pitino in NCAA Tournament play at least once each. This all supports the fact that Boeheim and the Orange program have risen to beat some of the best in the game when the stakes are the highest. In the process, he has positioned Syracuse in the national spotlight consistently throughout his career as a national contender year in and year out, despite not having the same NCAA Tournament accomplishments of other storied schools as is measured in quantity.

However quality has always been there and has continued even after reaching the program’s pinnacle in 2003. Since cutting down the nets as national champions 13 years ago, Boeheim has had the Orange in postseason play every year but one including 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament. During that same time, he has also led Syracuse to two Big East outright regular season championships (2010, ‘12), guided the Orange to four appearances (2005, ’06, ’09, ’13) and two wins (2005, ’06) in Big East Tournament championship games, had multiple teams rise to the number one ranking in the country, lead two teams to number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament (2010, ’12), garnered the AP national coach-of-the-year honor in 2010, and lead Syracuse to a school record 25-0 start (2013-14). Boeheim has done some of the best work of his career during this time and the teams, players, and coaches he has had reflect nothing but class and excellence for his program as well as the game.

Despite not always getting the top 20 recruits to become part of the Orange, Boeheim has been a steady example of how to use coaching, leadership, and a fierce competitive nature to get the best out of his players and teams as a whole. While he has had talented players on his Final Four teams such as Derrick Coleman, John Wallace, Carmelo Anthony, and Michael Carter-Williams, an equally important factor if not more has been the chemistry he has had on his teams. Chemistry refers to the way people work together in their interactions with one another. The more everyone can work together in support of a common goal, the better chemistry they have and this can have a positive impact on winning. Boeheim is the epitome of this and it has always stood out as an admirable quality in his coaching over his 40 years at the helm.

Chemistry is something that has been a common thread to all the Final Four teams in Syracuse history. The Orange have had a talented key player on each of their Final Four teams. However their other four starters over the years have been highly productive making them multi-dimensional. For example Howard Triche and Greg Monroe were senior co-captains that brought steady production and leadership during the school’s 1987 Final Four season. Even when Syracuse won the national title in 2003, he had serviceable role players come off the bench in Billy Edelin, Josh Pace, and Jeremy McNeil. While Boeheim has not always had a lot of depth, he has still been able to turn to a player or two off the bench to contribute and battle the opposing coach with the matchup game. Look no further to a player like Steven Thompson who was a key reserve on the 1987 Final Four team and then started for three more years.

Over the years, the Orange have played a lot of thrilling games that have captivated the hearts of Syracuse fans throughout Central, NY and captured national television audiences. There have been thrilling and dramatic finishes and elaborate wins where the Orange strutted their stuff. So here is a trip down memory lane for Syracuse fans and alumni of the program. The school’s five previous trips to the Final Four have been exciting. More thrilling dramatics could be in store in Houston this weekend. Here is a look back at what the Orange have done in their previous trips to the Final Four. Perhaps this look back offers a glimpse into the immediate future for Syracuse. If nothing else, thrilling competition usually takes place when the Orange are in the Final Four. Read the rest of this entry →

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      The Boston Celtics traded prior to the 2017-2018 season for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, but the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the first in a long line of superstars to play for the Boston Celtics.

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