Bobby Knight says they should expand the NCAA Tournament to 128 teams. He says conference tournament champions shouldn't get automatic bids unless they also win the regular season. Knight is a bitter, miserable clown. I can't imagine why they put this guy on TV, when he acts as if he's bored and has nothing really original to say.
I say the tournament structure is fine the way it is (though, naturally, I'd like to see the mid-majors get more love from the committee). What do you say? Do you agree with the General that the tourney field should be expanded? Should they abolish automatic bids for conference tourney champs?
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oh, and I erred in an earlier blog when I said the Big East put three teams in the Final Four in 1987. They did it in 1985, of course, the year Villanova beat Georgetown in the final. The Big East put two teams in the Final Four in 1987. The tweed jacket regrets the error.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Duke had to be one of the weakest No. 2 seeds the NCAA Tournament has seen in recent memory. They were barely better than Belmont, and they were clearly inferior to a West Virginia team that was a No. 7 seed and an 11-7 team in Big East play.
West Virginia's Joe Alexander said there are six or seven teams in the Big East on par with Duke. From what I saw, he's right. If Duke could go 13-3 in the ACC, it really was a down year for that league. Duke had virtually no inside presence, no go-to guy in the post. Point guard Greg Paulus is susceptible to quicker guards. If they're not making three-pointers, they're in trouble.
Watching Duke struggle, I'm even more convinced that North Carolina isn't as good as people think. If a team can stand up to their transition game and make them play half-court defense, the Tar Heels can be had. And naturally, it would warm my heart to see self-righteous Roy Williams take a fall.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Well, maybe Syracuse did deserve a bid. When the smoke cleared after the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Big East was the big winner with a 7-1 record. The only loss was UConn in overtime to San Diego. In a tourney where underdogs are rising up at every turn, that's a very impressive performance.
The ACC, on the other hand, is looking a tad overrated. Clemson, which took North Carolina to overtime twice this year in defeat, looked awful in a loss to Villanova last night. And Duke nearly lost to Belmont as a No. 2 seed here the other night. The Big East can make another big statement today if West Virginia knocks off the Dookies in the second round. Forget the seeds. West Virginia is on equal footing and has a very good chance if it's making outside shots.
One conference put two teams in the Final Four eight straight years between 1999-2006. The Big East has a chance to do it this year. Heck, they could even put three teams in, as they did in 1987.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Finally, a big upset in the NCAA Tournament! San Diego stunned Connecticut in overtime in Tampa, becoming the first team seeded lower than 12th to win a game in the first round since Bradley knocked off Kansas in Auburn Hills two years ago.
Of course, if some people had their way, San Diego wouldn't even be in the tournament. One of the dumbest ideas I've heard lately -- pushed by that cretin, Bobby Knight -- is that there shouldn't even be automatic bids for conference tourney winners. Knight and his followers believe that the bids should go to regular-season champs.
San Diego won the West Coast Conference tourney. Gonzaga won the regular season and St. Mary's was second. San Diego has a 94 RPI, so they'd probably miss out under Knight's system. Well, they sure seemed worthy of a bid today against UConn.
There's a mistaken notion here, and it's one that defenders of the power conferences try to shove down people's throats: They refuse to accept the idea that there can be more than one very good team in some of these mid-major leagues. Naturally, if they can limit all those leagues to one NCAA tourney bid, that's more spots for the precious BCS leagues.
Western Kentucky won an amazing game today in overtime over Drake. They tied for the regular-season title with South Alabama at 16-2. Looks like they had two pretty decent teams in the Sun Belt, too.
March 20, 2008 - 10:38 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Boy, was that a great game or what? Belmont was no fluke. They had 10 players play at least 10 minutes, and all of them were capable of playing tough defense and making shots. It was Belmont's third straight year in the NCAA Tournament and it showed. They were resilient and confident and never backed down from the mighty Dookies in an exhilirating, 71-70, loss.
Mike Krzyzewski, who was battling the flu, could barely speak after the game. But he was duly impressed by Belmont and called Thursday's first-round game one of the most pressure-filled of his 89 as Duke's coach. Duke had the weight of expectations, a worthy opponent, and a Verizon Center crowd that got behind the underdog in the second half.
Duke toughed this one out, but the game magnified all their acknowledged shortcomings. They're not strong defensively on the interior and quick guards can break them down in the halfcourt. Gerald Henderson, their 6-4 swingman, was the only guy who played big. He saved them with a number of huge plays down the stretch, including the winner.
From what I can see, Duke isn't long for this tournament. They might not even make it out of Washington.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Duke-Belmont game went pretty much to form in the first half. It's a fast-paced, entertaining affair between a couple of finesse teams that love to fire up three-pointers. Belmont, which is sort of a poor man's Duke, has done a nice job of hanging with the Dookies and trails by seven at the half, 42-35.
Duke's superior size has been a problem. The Blue Devils haven't shot well, but they're getting a lot of offensive rebounds and getting to the foul line. But Belmont is a smart, capable and well-coached team. They've beaten Duke back-door a number of times for layups. Duke is clearly overplaying against the three-pointer and taking its chances on back-door cuts.
Belmont would be even closer if its leading scorer, senior Justin Hare, had been a factor. But Hare has three fouls -- two on very dumb plays -- and hasn't gotten into the game offensively. When he's in the game, he's being guarded by DeMarcus Nelson, the ACC defensive player of the year.
As Xavier's Stanley Burrell showed us in the early game, it can make a huge difference at tourney time to have a defensive stopper against the opponent's most dangerous perimeter threat. If Hare can get involved in the second half, Belmont has a chance to keep things close. But I see this turning into a 20-point Duke rout. I've been wrong before, though, as you can tell by reading my annual predictions.
WASHINGTON — So Xavier lived up to its No. 3 seeding, after all. The Musketeers, down by 11 early in the second half and seemingly in danger of an early ouster, rallied to beat Georgia, 73-61, this afternoon at the Verizon Center.
Xavier didn't panic when it fell behind by double digits. They dug in defensively, began making some three-pointers, and continued to take the ball inside against the Bulldogs. The officials certainly didn't hurt: Xavier, one of the top free-throw shooting teams in the country, made 25 free throws in the final 15 minutes of the game. The Musketeers went to the basket and created contact, and Georgia didn't seem to get a call in the second half. Xavier outscored the Dawgs from the line, 27-3.
But in the end, Xavier was the better team. They're the only team in the country with six players who average in double figures. They don't rely on any one player to score, which makes it easier not to press when they get behind. Josh Duncan, Xavier's 6-9 senior forward, had 20 points and eight rebounds and was 11 of 14 from the foul line.
All in all, it was an impressive win by Xavier, which looked out of sorts early but justified its No. 12 national ranking. The Musketeers will face the winner of the Purdue-Baylor game in Saturday's second round and could be headed for a showdown with Duke next week in the regional semifinals in Phoenix.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As I said an hour ago, that's not your typical No. 14 seed. Georgia, riding the momentum of its SEC Tournament championship, raced to a 35-26 halftime lead over Xavier in the first round of the NCAAs here at the Verizon Center.
Xavier certainly doesn't look like a third seed, either. Georgia extended its defense and gave the Musketeers fits on the perimeter. Drew Lavender, Xavier's 5-7 senior point guard, had an especially bad first half, shooting 2 of 7 and seeming out of rhythm against the Bulldog's stifling defense.
Xavier is capable of coming back in the second half. They beat a lot of good teams this year in non-conference games. But Georgia is loose and inspired and has three terrific veteran guards in Sundiata Gaines, Terrance Woodbury (10 points in the first half) and Billy Humphrey.
And to think, there was talk that Georgia head coach Dennis Felton might be fired before the Dawgs made their SEC tourney run. Oh, that older fellow sitting next to Felton on Georgia's bench? It's associate head coach Pete Herrmann, the 1966 Bishop Timon graduate who is in his 26th season as a Division I coach.
It's not looking good early for the A-10. Temple is down at halftime to Michigan State, 35-26 -- the identical halftime score as Xavier-Georgia.
March 20, 2008 - 12:07 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The NCAA Tournament gets under way in about a half hour here at the Verizon Center, when Xavier takes on Georgia in a first-round game.
I can't imagine Xavier is too happy with this matchup. The Musketeers went 14-2 in the Atlantic 10. They're ranked 12th in the country in both polls. And their reward is a game against the SEC tourney champions. Yes, Georgia had a losing record in the regular season. But any team that can win three games in two days in one of the top leagues in America -- as Georgia did after the tornado scrambled the SEC tourney last weeked -- is better than a typical No. 14 seed.
Xavier has the toughest test of any No. 3 seed in the first round. They're an eight-point underdog. The other three 3's are all favored by double digits. What a coincidence. The other three third seeds -- Stanford, Wisconsin and Louisville -- are all from major conferences. Somehow, I doubt the committee would have had a BCS school play the SEC champ as a No. 3 seed.
No team hates the "mid-major" label more than Xavier. The Musketeers even refused one of those mid-major player of the week awards early this season (Drew Lavender won it), because they consider themselves a major program. They're right. Xavier has been to seven of the last eight tournaments. They made the Elite Eight in 2004. They lost in overtime in the second round last year to Ohio State, which went on to the national championship game against Florida.
Xavier is a big-time program and determined to prove it. They're also carrying the banner of the A-10, which used to put four and five teams in the Big Dance on a regular basis but has been sliding in recent years. The A-10 got three teams in this year (St. Joseph's and Temple are the others), but had two of the better teams that missed out (UMass and Dayton).
It's been easy to forget since St. Bonaventure hit the skids, but the A-10 is our biggest link to the basketball big-time. Bona is a Western New york school. Syracuse has the Niagara Falls kids, but they're just not close enough. So it's good for Bona when the A-10 does well, and it raises the stakes. When you have three teams in the NCAA Tournament, it should be a good recruiting tool. Bona needs to raise the level of its program soon. There's no excuse to be this bad in the A-10. Look what happened to Baylor.They had a bigger scandal than Bona in 2003, and they've bounced back in a hurry.