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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 →

Butler vs. Connecticut is Fitting End to Unpredictable Season 11

Posted on April 03, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack have led Butler to back-to-back NCAA Tournament Championship Games.

What happens when you get a second crack at a “once in a lifetime” moment? Well, the Butler University Bulldogs will find out Monday night when the unlikeliest of super teams returns to the NCAA Championship Game for the second straight year.

Anyone who follows college basketball even a little knows that the Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils in the 2010 title game and came a rimmed out half court shot away from claiming the national title.

Now, after defeating another mid-major Cinderella in VCU in the national semifinals, the Bulldogs are back on the main stage. This time they face the University of Connecticut and two-time national championship coach Jim Calhoun.

Interestingly, what both teams have in common is that for portions of the 2011 season both squads were looking more like they might meet in the NIT than in the NCAA Championship Game.

After a hot early start, Connecticut lost four of their final five regular season games and sank to the bottom half of the Big East standings. As a result, they had to win an unprecedented five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament.

At one point during the season Butler was 14-9 overall and 6-5 in conference play and didn’t look like they would have any shot at another run to the title game.

However, the Bulldogs won their final seven regular season games and then claimed the Horizon League Tournament title to secure a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

While the Big East Tournament run by Connecticut raised their tournament seeding to a number three spot and got them some respect in bracket pools across the country, the Bulldogs didn’t have quite the same experience. Read the rest of this entry →

VCU vs. Kansas: Cinderella Meets The Wizard of Oz Meets The Bachelor 5

Posted on March 28, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

Will VCU end up wearing the glass slipper at the 2011 NCAA Championships?

Bear with me. I’m mixing three metaphors but it all works out in the end.

We call it the Big Dance. We refer to the party crashers as Cinderella. No team is more of a Cinderella in this year’s March Madness than Virginia Commonwealth. And the pundits and purists who expressed their loathing of the Rams making the tournament at all, are the ugly stepsisters.

You can’t blame them. Like the stepsisters of the fairy tale, those who scorn the likes of VCU crashing the party are those who stand on convention. They are traditionalists. They perpetuate arranged marriage. If a prince seeks a bride, then she must have a pedigree. When the Fairy Godmother smiles on the upstart, they are beside themselves.

VCU has garnered more scorn than any team making the cut in recent memory. Thus they are the quintessential Cinderella. Metaphor number one.

Enter Kansas Jayhawks. A sign in the crowd at the Kansas/VCU game read, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” That was obvious. Marv Albert said the Jayhawks looked “shell shocked” late in the first half. “Did you see the look in their eyes?” He exclaimed.

The only remaining number one seed was definitely not in Kansas any more, Call them shell shocked. Call them Dorothy in Munchkin Land. Definitely not in Kansas. Metaphor number two.

Except this Dorothy has no ruby slippers. And I guess you would call VCU the Munchkins. And they have the glass slipper. The only question remaining is will the slipper fit in the end. Read the rest of this entry →

Mid-Majors Prove They Belong in the NCAA Tournament 2

Posted on March 19, 2011 by Dean Hybl

The VCU Rams have shown that they belong in the NCAA Tournament with a pair of victories against power conference schools.

When the bids for the NCAA Tournament were announced last Sunday, much venom was dispersed by self-proclaimed tournament “experts” about how the committee had made a huge mistake in selecting a pair of non-power conference teams (VCU and UAB) over supposedly more deserving schools from major conferences.

The under-pinning message in their comments was that it was okay for teams with 14 losses from major conferences to receive at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament, but heaven forbid the committee award schools from conferences with less national prominence for their solid seasons.

Their argument seemed to be justified after UAB sleep-walked through an opening round loss to Clemson.

However, since that game, schools from conferences outside the so-called “Power 6” (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC) have more than held their own against schools from the power conferences.

It started with a victory by VCU over USC in the second of the opening round games between at-large tournament teams.

In the second round of the tournament, there were 12 games in which power and non-power conferences met in games between teams seeded from 4th through 13th.

Of those 12 games, the power conferences claimed six victories and the non-power conferences claimed six victories with the non-power conferences winning two of the three games in which both teams were at-large tournament selections. Eight of the 12 games were decided by five points or less with the two largest margins of victory being posted by non-power schools (VCU defeating Georgetown by 18 and Gonzaga crushing St. John’s by 15).

This illustrates that when playing on a neutral site, there isn’t significant difference between the so-called “big boys” and their lesser funded “country cousins.” Read the rest of this entry →

Top 10 Most Memorable NCAA Tournament Runs 3

Posted on March 18, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The N.C. State Wolfpack made an amazing run through the 1983 NCAA Tournament.

Welcome to the third and final part of the 50 most memorable NCAA tournament runs since 1979.

Today, we look at the best of the best, the 10 greatest tournament runs since the NCAA began to use seeding back in 1979.

10. 1987 Providence

Before the 1986-87 season, the NCAA adopted a three-point line for division I basketball.

The three-pointer became the focal point of Providence’s Final Four run, the first team Rick Pitino took the Final Four.

The sixth-seeded Friars knocked off UAB in the first round, then held off #14 seed Austin Peay with an overtime victory in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16, where the team drained 14 off 22 three-pointers to upset second-seeded Alabama 103-82 to reach the Southeast Regional Final and a date with top-seed and conference rival, Georgetown.

Expecting a barrage of three-pointers, the Hoyas were stunned when Providence went to an inside game and shot only eight three-pointers as the Friars surprised Georgetown 88-73 to make it to the Final Four for the first time since 1973.

However, the Friars could not overcome another Big East team in their national semifinal, as they were defeated by the Syracuse Orangemen, 77-63.

9. 1989 Michigan
Although there were ranked 3rd in the preseason poll and were ranked throughout the season, the Michigan Wolverines’ championship run in 1989 was unexpected because of their coaching situation.

On March 15th, just two days before Michigan’s first tournament game, head coach Bill Frieder announced that he would leave after the tournament was over to become the new head coach at Arizona State.

But athletic director Bo Schembechler relieved Frieder of his duties immediately, saying “A Michigan man will coach Michigan” and promoted assistant head coach Steve Fisher to interim head coach.

All the Wolverines did under Fisher was win all six games and the school’s first national championship in basketball, thanks to the three-point shooting of Glen Rice and point guard Rumeal Robinson.

Rice averaged 30.7 points per game as 3rd seeded Michigan knocked off Xavier, South Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia to win the Southeast regional and make the trip to the Final Four.

Then, Michigan knocked off Illinois 83-81 in their national semifinal when Sean Higgins rebounded  a missed shot and puts it back in for the game-winning basket with two seconds to go, sending the Wolverines to the title game to face Seton Hall.

Robinson made the game-winning free throws with three seconds left in overtime to give Michigan an 80-79 victory, the national title, and the head coaching job for Fisher, who stayed as the Michigan head coach until 1997. Read the rest of this entry →

Ultimate March Madness: Great Moments 65-41 4

Posted on March 14, 2010 by A.J. Foss
Michigan's "Fab Five" made an improbable NCAA Tournament run in 1992.

Michigan's "Fab Five" made an improbable NCAA Tournament run in 1992.

We have entered the month of March which means one thing for diehard sports fans: March Madness.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is regarded as perhaps the greatest sporting event in America because of the great individual performances, mid-majors knocking off the giants of college basketball, and the many last-second buzzer beaters.

Here I have compiled the Ultimate March Madness List, a countdown of the 65 greatest moments, performances or stories to come out of the NCAA Tournament.

The reason I chose 65 is pretty obvious with there being 65 teams in the tournament.

Included in this list, all of the some greatest runs in the tournament in which a team complied more than one memorable moment during their journey in March.

Now that I have made myself clear, here is Part I of the Ultimate March Madness List, starting with moments 65-41.

65. 1981 Wichita State-Kansas
Living up to their nickname, the Wichita State Shockers upset their intrastate rival, the Kansas Jayhawks, 66-65 in their Sweet Sixteen matchup as Wichita State guard Mike Jones makes two baskets from more than 20 feet in the final 45 seconds.

64. 1986 Kansas-Michigan State
The Jayhawks, aided by 10 extra seconds of play while the game clock was stopped at 2:21, erase a six-point deficit in the final minute to force overtime where they would outscore the Spartans 16-6 in overtime for a 96-86 win in their Sweet Sixteen matchup.

This incident leads the NCAA to require that referees use television replays to fix timing errors. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • George Musso: From Longshot to Hall of Famer
      August 5, 2017 | 4:52 pm
      George Musso

      George Musso

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month went from small college long shot to Pro Football Hall of Famer.

      When George Musso finished his college career at Millikin College in 1933, Chicago Bears coach George Halas offered the 6-foot-2, 265 pound lineman a tryout and eventually a $90 per game contract, but had serious doubts whether he could make the transition from small college football to the NFL.

      It took a year for Musso to adjust, but by 1935 he was an All-Pro tackle. Two years later, he moved to guard and again earned first team All-NFL honors. He became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-League honors at two different positions.

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