My season’s final four days


Members of the media watch “One Shining Moment” on the mammoth HD screen above the court at AT&T Stadium after the national championship game.

It’s Media Day. My plan is to surf the press availabilities at the stadium in Arlington for a few hours and then go back into Dallas to meet up with Ken Pomeroy on his way out of town. After speaking to a room full of coaches on Thursday, Ken’s leaving town on the Friday of Final Four weekend. (“I didn’t realize there were games connected to this thing.”)

AT&T Stadium is a domed football venue 20 miles away from the city where everyone’s staying, and this necessitates a media shuttle. Because I’ve skipped out on Media Day early to meet with Ken, I’m alone on the shuttle with the driver. He lives in Phoenix, and this is his first Final Four.  Continue reading

Let them play

He likes reviews.

He likes reviews.

Perfecting what is already the best sport in the world will require addressing a rather ticklish situation that has arisen between the generations. At the risk of offending the age cohort to which I myself belong, college basketball is suffering from an infestation of adults.

The adults are the ones who insist on calling timeout over and over again in the game’s final minute. The adults are the ones who take way too long to review every call, particularly if it involves elbows being swung this way and that. The adults are the ones who whistle more fouls with each passing year.  Continue reading

If and when amateurism ends, the work will just be starting

Yale Bowl construction, 1913. And here our troubles began.

Construction of the Yale Bowl, 1913. And here our troubles began.

Last week there was an NLRB ruling that you may have heard about concerning the Northwestern football team, and there is also a collegiate sporting event this weekend that is fairly well publicized in its own right. This has meant a deluge of polemic on the subject of what is to be done with college sports. I believe the deluge is a positive development, and, even if it weren’t, I’m a good host. So:

Welcome, reformers. We’ve been hoping you’d arrive. I too have my torch and pitchfork, and I trust we can all agree there’s more than one tweak to be made when it comes to revenue sports.

I’m proud to announce I’ve discovered an “ideal of the amateur coach.” Compared to the thin and meager history behind that wobbly and dubious model of the amateur athlete, I can footnote my exciting new ideal something fierce, citing precedents dating back to Socrates. Henceforth coaches will receive no outside compensation, no endorsement deals, no fees from speaking engagements, nothing. Schools can pay for a coach’s room and board and a few other incidental expenses, but that’s it. After all, college sports are not about the coaches. How many people do you think would come out to see John Calipari coach a bunch of D-League players?

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The strange case of the disappearing No. 1 seeds

This is the coach of a top-seeded team cutting down the nets after a regional final.  A rare sight indeed.

The coach of a No. 1 seed cuts down the nets after a regional final. A rare sight indeed.

Florida is a heavy favorite to win the national championship, and if the Gators pull it off they’ll be the third consecutive No. 1 overall seed to do so, following in the footsteps of Anthony Davis-era Kentucky in 2012 and Siva-Dieng-Russdiculous-era Louisville in 2013.

Then again even if UF is bounced out of the bracket by Connecticut, Wisconsin, or Kentucky, you’re still looking at a pretty good run for No. 1 seeds over the last decade or so. Teams seeded on the top line have already won seven of the last nine tournaments. (Florida in 2006 and UConn in 2011, take a bow.) Life is good at the very, very top of the college hoops pyramid.

Which begs the question: If No. 1 seeds are so big and scary and dominant, how come taken as a group top seeds keep losing before they get to the Final Four?  Continue reading

The hiring process for coaches is somewhat primitive, and it may not matter all that much

(Thinks to himself: "Wait, did he just call me 'Sean'?")

Thinks to himself: “Wait, did he just call me ‘Sean’?”

Tomorrow night Stanford will play Dayton for a spot in the regional final, meaning either Johnny Dawkins or Archie Miller is about to add “Elite Eight” to his resume. Ironically both coaches have been the subject of the time-honored “This Is a Big [Insert Clock Time Here] for Coach X” constructions that some of my friends in the field love to use, albeit from opposite ends of the employment-cycle spectrum.

When the Cardinal played at Connecticut in December it was said that “This Is a Big [Insert Clock Time Here] for Johnny Dawkins,” meaning if Stanford lost that game maybe at the end of the season the coach would be fired due to a perceived lack of quote-unquote quality wins. And, of course, when the Flyers played Syracuse in the round of 32 it was said that “This is a Big [Insert Clock Time Here] for Archie Miller,” meaning if Dayton won the game the coach would possibly be hired by a major-conference program.

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Is a post-McBuckets Big East still “a major”?

He will be missed.

He will be missed.

You think I’m going to pick on the Big East because it received four bids but didn’t put any teams into the Sweet 16. You think I’m going to pick on the league because it alone among the major conferences will be unrepresented at the regional semifinals.

I’m certainly not above grabbing a handy news peg like that, but for now you can keep your “small sample size” and “single-elimination tournament randomness” powder dry. If anything I’m more interested in Buzz Williams leaving a program that has won 13 NCAA tournament games this century to take the head coaching job at a program that (with apologies to my friend Ken) has won one tournament game in the 2000s. Williams voted with his feet, and, as my colleague Jeff Goodman has pointed out, the coach made quite the statement.  Continue reading

What we talk about when we talk about building brackets

That's me, eighth from left, at the 2012 mock selection. My portrayal of Ron Wellman was termed "Brando-esque."

That’s me, ninth from left, at the 2012 mock selection. My portrayal of Ron Wellman was termed “Daniel Day Lewis-esque.”

The NCAA men’s basketball committee has done its work, and the bracket is now set. Before critiquing the committee’s handiwork, let it be said that any ideal bracketing system we would design would of course duplicate the overwhelming majority of what the NCAA just did. Our Perfect Bracketing Machine would have given No. 1 seeds to Florida, Arizona and Wichita State, would have had teams like Nebraska just barely making the cut, and would have buried the nondescript likes of Memphis and Kansas State in 8-9 games. The NCAA gets things mostly correct annually.  Continue reading