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Mike Gminski: Four-Year Duke Star 0

Posted on March 10, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Mike Gminski

Mike Gminski

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a star big man who achieved great success at Camden Indoor Stadium in the era before Coach K and the One-and-Done big men became the norm at Duke University.

Much like recent Duke big men Marvin Bagley III, Jayson Tatum and Jahlil Okafor, Mike Gminski made an immediate impact for the Blue Devils. However, because he played 40 years earlier at a time when few players left college early, Gminski spent four years racking up stats and success in Durham. Read the rest of this entry →

College Basketball’s Championship Week has Competitive Intrigue Across the Nation 2

Posted on March 06, 2018 by Chris Kent

Championship week is here for college basketball and teams are bracing for a frenzy. This annual week of competition features teams battling against their conference foes to determine the champions of their respective conference tournaments. While some teams are already assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament when the bids come out on Sunday March 11, others are “on the bubble,” and fighting for their NCAA lives. Even teams on stable ground for an NCAA bid will be playing this week to enhance their seeding for next week’s big dance while chasing their conference tourney title.

Here is a look at the major conference tournaments coming up this week with a more extensive look at the Atlantic Coast Conference. From top to bottom there is quality competition across the board. This will make the coming six days must see TV for the college basketball junkie.

*Note: The Big 10 Conference already has held its’ postseason conference tournament. Michigan defeated Purdue on Sunday March 4, 75-66 in the title game. The Big 10 Tournament was held Feb. 28 to Mar. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

2018 ACC MBask Tourn Logo FPThe New York Life Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament

March 6-10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY

Virginia was clearly the best team in the conference during the regular season and won the ACC regular season championship with a 17-1 conference mark, placing four wins ahead of No. 2 Duke (13-5). The No. 1 Cavaliers’ 17 conference wins and nine conference road wins this season were both ACC records. Virginia, 28-2 overall, became the fourth team in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll era (since 1990) to reach the No. 1 spot in the AP weekly poll after being unranked in the preseason. Head coach Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers poised to make a deep postseason run. For the third time in the last five years, Virginia enters this week’s New York Life ACC Tournament as the top seed.  They have a double bye and open play Thursday March 8 in the quarterfinals.

Bennett was named this year’s ACC Coach of The Year, his third such honor since becoming head coach of the Cavaliers prior to the 2009-10 season. Senior Isaiah Wilkins was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and freshman De’Andre Hunter was named the Sixth Man of the Year. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy was named to the All-ACC First Team while sophomore guard Ty Jerome garnered third-team honors. Read the rest of this entry →

Crucial Week Lies Ahead for Syracuse Orange as Huge Games Loom 0

Posted on February 20, 2018 by Chris Kent

An absolute crucial week is about to commence for the Syracuse men’s basketball team. Come late Saturday night, it could end up making or breaking the season for the Orange.

SU LogoWhile Syracuse’s regular season finale on March 3 with nationally ranked Clemson (20-6, 9-5) will carry weight for its’ NCAA Tournament hopes as well, this week’s back-to-back games against ACC bluebloods North Carolina and Duke will be enormous for the Orange as they seek to secure an NCAA bid. Although Syracuse will also compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament March 6-10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY where its’ play could also factor into their chances for an NCAA bid, leaving most or all of their NCAA fortunes to that event would be risky when it is not yet even known what the seedings or matchups are going to be.

The Orange (18-9, 7-7) will play three of their final four regular season games against teams currently ranked in the top 15 and who also have a top 10 RPI. A win or two against those teams would place Syracuse on solid instead of shaky ground by the end of the regular season. This would be to their advantage and seem to make their NCAA path easier. Although it is possible for a team “on the bubble” to play its’ way to an NCAA bid based on what they do during championship week, it is a tougher road.

The competition level ramps up for the Orange on Wednesday Feb. 21 when defending national champion North Carolina (21-7,

Roy Williams coaches with fierce intensity and has another 20-win season in 2017-18.

Roy Williams coaches with intensity and has another 20-win season in 2017-18.

10-5) visits the Carrier Dome for a nationally televised prime time game at 7 pm EST on ESPN. Ranked 10th in this week’s AP Poll and possessing an RPI of five, the Tar Heels are riding a five-game winning streak that has featured wins over Duke, North Carolina State, and Louisville. Meanwhile, Syracuse has won three of its’ last four games and comes off a 62-55 win at Miami on Feb. 17.

North Carolina has another strong team this year and is lead by the trio of senior guards Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson along with 6-8 junior forward Luke Maye who leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 18.4 and 10.5 averages respectively. Berry II and Pinson not only give the Tar Heels production but a pair of senior leaders in the backcourt who have played in the last two national championship games. Berry averages 17.7 points per-game and dishes out 3.1 assists per-game while Pinson adds 9.3 ppg along with a team-best 4.5 apg. Junior guard Kenny Williams also scores 11.5 ppg.

Berry II is one of the better point guards in North Carolina history. Named to the All-Final Four Teams each of the last two seasons, Berry II is one of just two players in ACC history to be named the ACC Tournament MVP in one season (2016) and garner Final Four Most Outstanding Player in another (2017), joining Duke legend Christian Laettner, arguably the top NCAA Tournament performer of all-time. Read the rest of this entry →

Syracuse and Kansas Sport a History on the Basketball Hardwood 2

Posted on December 03, 2017 by Chris Kent
Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

In one of the most thrilling finishes in NCAA championship game history, Syracuse beat Kansas 81-78 to clinch its’ first and only men’s basketball national title in school history in 2003. Hakim Warrick’s block of Michael Lee’s 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds to play secured the title which became official when the Jayhawks’ ensuing possession resulted in a missed 3-pointer by senior guard Kirk Hinrich as time expired.

It was a euphoric moment in Orange history.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, in his 27th year at the helm at the time, won his first national title in his third trip to the championship game. Boeheim and the Orange had come up short in two prior championship games against Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996. The third time for Boeheim as head coach at Syracuse (he was an assistant coach on the school’s first Final Four team in 1975), proved to be the charm.

The two met again on Dec. 2 as they dueled in the Hoophall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. where Kansas won 76-60. Both teams were 6-0 entering the game. Each school posted home wins over Texas Southern, Oakland, and Toledo in earlier rounds of this Invitational in November.

Since their ’03 title clash, there have been many changes in the college basketball landscape. Conference realignment has dominated among the six power conferences and both schools have been impacted by this. The Orange left The Big East after the 2012-13 season to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have welcomed in such teams as West Virginia to the Big 12. We’ve had mid-major teams like George Mason (2006), Butler (2010, ’11), and Virginia Commonwealth (’11) make The Final Four with Butler finishing as the national runner-up in both 2010 and ’11. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Old Fuddy Duddy Watching the NBA Draft 10

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 3

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 →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Bob Cousy: The Houdini of the Hardwood
      January 31, 2020 | 4:05 pm
      Bob Cousy

      As we reach the halfway point of the NBA season, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month the first in a long line of superstars to play for the Boston Celtics.

      Before there was Bill Russell and Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics were powered by a 6-foot-1 inch guard from Holy Cross. Bob Cousy was the on-the-court leader for the Celtics in the era during which they emerged as a basketball power.

      Read more »

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