Archive for the ‘NCAA’ Category

U of North Carolina 71  Gonzaga 65

How could two teams with so much talent look so bad?  Was it defense?  Maybe some what.  Did the referee’s ruin the game with excessive foul calls?  Some would say yes but at least they were consistent.  The matchups could have made it an ugly game also.

Now that the NCAA gave North Carolina it’s chance to win it all…which they did… they can finishing off their very meticulous(slow) investigation, they can punish U of NC for all of academic rule breaking they did over the past years.  

US Today…For three years, an academic fraud scandal has hung over North Carolina like an angry thundercloud. Of course he’s saddened and embarrassed by it, coach Roy Williams said Sunday. But he’s also angry, mad that “this junk,” as he described it, has interfered with recruiting and caused some to look askance at North Carolina’s second trip to the national championship game in as many years.

“We did nothing wrong, OK? That’s just the best way to put it,” Williams said. “Were there some mistakes made? You’re darned right there were. Were there some things I wish hadn’t happened? You’re darned right. But there were no allegations against men’s basketball.”

Williams can spin just about anything with his folksy charm and golly-gee-whiz self-deprecation. But not this. Not when the independent investigator appointed by North Carolina found that, for 18 years, more than 3,000 students, almost half of whom were athletes, got bogus grades for classes that didn’t exist.

Worth watching the punishment. 

 

A few years ago if Gonzaga would have been playing North Carolina in any game let alone the national NCAA championship, it would have been called David verses Goliath.  Tonight it is being called Goliath verses Goliath.  This is the year of the “Big Men.”  That said, I believe that the points guards will make the difference tonight and will win the game for one of the Goliath’s.

Here is a great article from the Wall Street Journal on how Gonzaga became a D-1 NCAA top dog playing for the national title. 


How Gonzaga Became a Top Dog

The Bulldogs are no longer a Cinderella team, but seek a fairy-tale ending in the national title game against North Carolina

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski blocks a shot.

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski blocks a shot. Photo: Ben Margot/Associated Press

By Jared Diamond. Jared Diamond, The Wall Street Journal

For most of college basketball history, a national championship game between North Carolina and Gonzaga seemed laughable, a ridiculous fantasy made possible only under the influence of Washington’s legalized marijuana.

Until recently, the Bulldogs were the epitome of Cinderella, a school with a funny name miraculously good enough to run with the big boys but not ready to topple them. The Tar Heels are arguably the bluest of all blue-bloods, the program with the Hall of Fame coach, an alumni roster of all-time NBA greats and five titles to its name. When the two teams met in the Sweet 16 in 2009, North Carolina won by 21 points, maintaining the world’s natural order.

But times have changed, roles have evolved and expectations have grown. As North Carolina and Gonzaga prepare for Monday night’s matchup here at University of Phoenix Stadium, it has become clear that this isn’t David vs. Goliath—it’s Goliath vs. Goliath.

“That may be the way it’s perceived, David and Goliath,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “But when you start watching them, it’s not that much difference.”

Gonzaga might still lack North Carolina’s brand recognition, facing weaker competition in a small conference, but a closer look at the roster reveals that the Bulldogs are a Power-Five team in disguise.

Three of their four-leading scorers are playing their first season with Gonzaga after transferring from larger schools: Nigel Williams-Goss from Washington, Jordan Mathews from California and Johnathan Williams from Missouri.

The Bulldogs also have Zach Collins, a 7-foot freshman who perhaps encapsulates Gonzaga’s growth from precious darlings to undisputed powerhouse. Collins is currently projected as the No. 11 pick in this year’s NBA draft, according to nbadraft.net.

If he leaves, Collins would become Gonzaga’s first-ever one-and-done player—even though he doesn’t start and ranks only seventh on the team in minutes. Players like Collins don’t sit for true mid-majors.

“They were Cinderella and all that pretty stuff” many years ago, South Carolina coach Frank Martin said after the Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks in the Final Four on Saturday. Martin added that after 19 consecutive tournament appearances, “They’re as high major as high major can get.”

With the Tar Heels playing in its second consecutive title game—they lost at the buzzer to Villanova in Houston last April—nobody would question North Carolina’s bona fides. But UNC finds itself in a bit of an unusual position, needing to capitalize on this situation in light of an unclear future.

North Carolina’s top four scorers—Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks—are all upperclassmen, making up two-thirds of the team’s offensive output. That roster composition has worked for the Tar Heels, but it is less of an intentional strategy and more of an inevitability.

UNC remains mired in an academic scandal that could result in NCAA sanctions. That uncertain status has hurt the Tar Heels on the recruiting trail. From 2009 through 2014, North Carolina on average had the fourth-best recruiting class each year, according to ESPN. Since then, the Tar Heels have been No. 20.

“We recruited 26 McDonald’s All-Americans in the first 10 years,” said Williams, UNC’s coach since 2003. “In the last three, we’ve gotten one. I don’t think I got that dumb that quickly.”

Whatever happens moving forward, however, doesn’t change the fact that right now, North Carolina and Gonzaga are similarly matched. Tar Heels assistant Sean May described it as “a big heavyweight battle.”

Kennedy Meeks led North Carolina with 25 points and 14 rebounds against Oregon on Saturday.

Kennedy Meeks led North Carolina with 25 points and 14 rebounds against Oregon on Saturday. Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

May meant that in a figurative sense, but he just as easily could have meant it literally. North Carolina and Gonzaga are Goliath vs. Goliath not just in the quality of their programs—but in their actual size as well.

In recent seasons, the NCAA tournament has been dominated by guards, giving rise to the theory that in college basketball, bigger isn’t better. The last three Most Outstanding Players—Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono, Duke’s Tyus Jones and Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier—have all stood 6-foot-3 or smaller. That makes Monday’s North Carolina-Gonzaga showdown something of a throwback, a game that will be won not at the 3-point arc, but under the basket.

“Both these teams are probably facing for the first time depth that mirrors each other inside,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

The Tar Heels are monsters on the board, leading the country in the regular season by grabbing 43.5 rebounds per game, including 15.8 on the offensive end. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have two giants underneath: Collins and Przemek Karnowski, a 7-foot-1 senior from Poland with a massive beard and an even larger frame.

Few said that keeping his big men out of foul trouble and UNC off the offensive glass will likely prove the difference in the game. Williams said that the Bulldogs “have the most size of anybody we’ve played all year.” Both coaches called the low-post battle between Karnowski and the 6-foot-10 Meeks as key to the game.

Ultimately, this is exactly what Gonzaga has wanted for nearly two decades—people talking not about its unexpected accomplishments, but about its abilities on the basketball court. After all, the Bulldogs are 37-1 and have spent most of the season ranked No. 1 by the advanced analytics website KenPom.com.

They don’t need any more validation—but a national title would’t hurt.

“We don’t pretend or think we’re anywhere near the level with the tradition of Carolina or Duke or Kentucky,” Few said. “But we also think that this is the national brand and national entity and we’re not going anywhere.”

Write to Jared Diamond at jared.diamond@wsj.com

Appeared in the Apr. 03, 2017, print edition.

Gonzaga 77 South Carolina 73.  West Coast team one in the NCAA finals.  Depth at every position for the Zag’s and keeping their poise through out the whole game. 

Don’t you just love watching basketball teams with the intensity and defense that South Carolina, Oregon, Gonzaga, and North Carolina play with?  Those two attributes…and of course talent…explain why this four teams are in the NCAA Tournament final four.

Great article from the Wall Street Journal. 


South Carolina: The Angriest Team in College Basketball

Frank Martin, perhaps the game’s most hot-tempered coach, has finally found a team more fiery than he is—and the combination has fueled a Final Four run

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin reacts during the second half of the East Regional championship game against Florida.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin reacts during the second half of the East Regional championship game against Florida. Photo: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

By  Andrew Beaton,The Wall Street Journal

Updated March 28, 2017 5:58 p.m.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin has earned a reputation as one of the angriest coaches in college basketball with a repertoire of gesticulations and outbursts that can turn his cheeks the color of his garnet jackets.

Now he has taken his No. 7 seed Gamecocks on a furious run to the Final Four—the first in school history. And this surprising run happened because Martin somehow found players who are even angrier than he is.

“If you’re not matching his intensity, you’re not going to be on the floor,” said freshman guard Tommy Corchiani. Adds sophomore guard Hassani Gravett: “That anger, that aggressiveness, that passion, that’s how we bring it.”

More on the NCAA Tournament

The simmering rage that fuels this year’s Gamecocks began last March when they were victims of one of the cruelest mistakes in recent memory. On Selection Sunday, they received word that they had made the school’s first NCAA tournament in more than a decade. Minutes later, there was an awkward twist: The message, sent from an NCAA staffer to South Carolina, was incorrect. The Gamecocks, in fact, had just missed the cut.

What has followed since then has been a team capable of channeling that fury into a style of play that has bewildered opponents all season. Last year’s gaffe may have been the best thing to ever happen to this season’s group. It may be why they’ve gone from first-four out to Final Four. And how more than any title contender in tournament history, they’re fueled by March Madness.

Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates in the second half against the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates in the second half against the Marquette Golden Eagles. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

South Carolina’s unbridled ferocity is most obvious when the other team has the ball. The Gamecocks play physically and push the limits of how much contact referees will let them get away with before calling a foul.

This style has produced one of the most impenetrable defenses in the country, a unit that ranks second nationally, according to KenPom.com and a vast improvement over a year ago. The only team that ranks better happens to be their opponent on Saturday: No. 1 Gonzaga.

But the thing about playing a team that thrives off aggression and indignation is that it tends to make opponents angry too. Except opponents have found that when they try to match the Gamecock’s passion, it comes out more like exasperation.

South Carolina Gamecocks guard Duane Notice dives after a loose ball against Florida.

South Carolina Gamecocks guard Duane Notice dives after a loose ball against Florida. Photo: Octavio Jones/Zuma Press

This too benefits South Carolina. Because when teams get frustrated, they foul. And no contender benefits from getting to the foul line more than the Gamecocks. They have scored 23% of their points from the foul line this season, and only one other NCAA tournament team (No. 16 seed New Orleans) averaged more.

And this is how South Carolina has engineered frenzied comebacks throughout this NCAA tournament. In three of their four games, so far, the Gamecocks have trailed at halftime. Then the fouls pile up during the second half and irrevocably change the balance.

“When it gets gritty,” junior Jarrell Holliman says, “that’s when teams wither away.”

In the Elite Eight, Florida fouled seven times in the first 5:09 of the second half—enough to put South Carolina in the bonus for the rest of the game. By the end of their second round comeback against No. 2 Duke, when the Gamecocks scored 23 points in the first half and then 65 in the second, the Blue Devils had racked up 26 fouls. Three of Duke’s five starters fouled out in what Mike Krzyzewski called “the most physical game we’ve been in all year.”

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin watches play against Florida.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin watches play against Florida. Photo: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

This ability to completely unsettle opponents makes South Carolina the rare underdog that dictates the style of a game. It’s why, increasingly, calling this team an underdog is becoming a misnomer.

There are moments where the team’s intensity simply isn’t enough or can backfire—the Gamecocks, after all, lost 10 games this season. Because of their aggression, they also frequently send opponents to the foul line. No team that made the NCAA tournament yielded a higher percentage of its points on free throws. But the players say that’s a trade off they’re comfortable with because that same physicality is why their defense is so stingy the rest of the time.

This capacity for unrelenting anger on the court has put Martin in an unusual position: The coach who has always been defined to outsiders by his rabid enthusiasm on the sidelines now has to be the one soothing his players and keeping their emotions in check.

Sometimes, that means, yelling isn’t the best way to get a message across. Sophomore PJ Dozier says he knows Martin is most upset when the coach doesn’t yell or even say a word—instead, just following Dozier with his eyes as he takes a seat on the bench.

In other instances, it can mean a more light-hearted approach. During the regular season, when South Carolina dropped its second consecutive home game at one point in SEC play, Martin sensed his team was getting too worked up for its own good. So he took everyone bowling.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, second from left, reacts as guard PJ Dozier comes off the floor against Baylor.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, second from left, reacts as guard PJ Dozier comes off the floor against Baylor. Photo: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Most recently, with 11 seconds left in the Elite Eight, after guard Duane Notice threw down a ferocious dunk to put South Carolina up seven, Martin again sensed his players’ emotions could turn unproductive. So even with a spot in the Final Four almost certainly clinched, he called a timeout to deliver a simple message. “He just wanted to settle us down,” said assistant coach Perry Clark.

Still, there’s no questioning Martin’s ability to get riled up—even about the smallest things. On the eve of South Carolina’s Elite Eight matchup, Martin grew visibly irritated as he went over the scouting report. But he wasn’t upset about something he saw from Florida on film.

“He didn’t have chocolate-chip cookies,” Clark explained.

Write to Andrew Beaton at andrew.beaton@wsj.com

Appeared in the Mar. 29, 2017, print edition as ‘South Carolina’s Angry Birds.’

Congratulations to the West Coach teams.  Kinda like JUCO SoCal this year!

In the early ranking(six months ago) of the D-1 teams by Basketball Ranking by Athone, only two teams from the West were placed in the the top 16;

Oregon and Arizona.  The West doubled that number playing in the sweet 16 adding UCLA and Gonzaga. Here are the conferences that have placed the sweet 16.  The big weakness, ACC Conference.


PAC 12

UCLA, Arizona, Oregon

BIG 12

Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor

BIG 10

Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan

SEC

Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky

BIG EAST

Butler, Xavier

WEST COAST

Gonzaga

ACC

North Carolina

 

Back from a nice JUCO basketball break. 

Over the last few years, the NCAA has been changing college basketball rules to speed up the game.  The games has sped up a little but, unexpectedly the rule changes have changed how many teams are playing defense.

Following is a great article from the Wall Street Journal on the subject;


Why Zone Defenses Are Taking Over

By Andrew Beaton, Wall Street Journal

Between rule changes and stylistic shifts in the game, coaches are increasingly trying what may have once been unthinkable: playing zone.

 

Xavier mixed up its defenses, including a zone, to frustrate Florida State in the second round.

Xavier mixed up its defenses, including a zone, to frustrate Florida State in the second round. Photo: Octavio Jones/Zuma Press

Bill Self looked onto the court in one of Kansas’ games this year and could only think of one word to describe what he was seeing: ugly.

The Jayhawks had fallen behind by as much as 12 to Kentucky in Rupp Arena, and the game looked lost. Self was desperate. So he gritted his teeth and did something that went against one of his foundational coaching principles: He played a zone defense.

Self admitted it wasn’t anything special. There weren’t going to be “any educational tapes on that zone,” he said afterward. But he couldn’t ignore the reality of what happened after they went to zone.

“We would not have won the game,” he said, “unless we switched up.”

For almost as long as college basketball has existed, coaches have been divided by dogma about particular styles of play. The chasm on the defensive end has been the most polarizing. Most coaches believe in playing man-to-man defense. Some coaches think zone is better. Few are willing to try both.

But recent evolutions have produced a detente in this philosophical war—a thaw on full display in this NCAA tournament.

Coaches who made their names with man-to-man defenses are now switching to zones in the biggest games of their seasons. And the team that wins it all may be the one that can solve an unexpected zone. That’s because people across the sport have been increasingly coming around to an idea that was heretical not long ago: It would be crazy not to go zone sometimes.

Critics used to assail the zone—a scheme in which defenders are tasked with guarding a particular area on the court instead of a single player—as a lazy gimmick. They insisted that a well-executed man-to-man would always make it harder to score. Bob Knight went most of his career refusing to try a zone. There was a time when fans would expect Mike Krzyzewski to wear North Carolina blue before he played one.

For decades, the zone has been most closely associated with one coach, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. His zone set the standard for suffocating opponents and taking them out of their rhythm. The Orange reached five Final Fours and won the 2003 title in large part because they executed the zone to perfection.

But opposing coaches used to know when they would have to prepare to play against one. And those instances were rare. Not long ago, Miami coach Jim Larranaga said, the Hurricanes faced zone in about 5% of their games. Now, he says, it’s “almost every single game.”

That rapid growth, not coincidentally, comes at a time when the NCAA has revamped some of basketball’s rules to create a more free-flowing game. One of the biggest changes involves more strictly enforcing hand-check fouls by defenders on the perimeter. Coaches see zones as a way to reduce the pressure on their defenders to aggressively harass opponents, thereby reducing foul trouble.

Kentucky's Malik Monk passes while surrounded by Kansas defenders.

Kentucky’s Malik Monk passes while surrounded by Kansas defenders. Photo: James Crisp/Associated Press

They will also imitate anything that works—and the zone has worked. Before missing this year’s tournament, Syracuse made two out of the previous four Final Fours with a defense that consistently ranked among the stingiest in the country, while Rick Pitino’s zone press carried Louisville to the 2013 title.

But what makes this shift in thinking so bewildering is that it seems to flout decades of basketball orthodoxy. The commonly held belief has always been that good outside shooting can beat zone defenses. And players are shooting more threes than ever now.

It should make no sense that so many coaches are adopting zones. But that also may be their exact reasoning.

When post players are capable of shooting threes, they draw the biggest defenders to the outside. That means these defenders aren’t there to help protect the interior when guards drive. “There’s more spacing on the floor, which spreads out the defense,” says former NBA and college star Grant Hill, now an analyst on CBS.

In a zone, though, the best shot blockers camp out near the rim and do what they do best. The NBA has altered its rules that used to effectively eliminate zone defenses, but the defensive three-second penalty still prevents big men from just standing beneath the hoop for the entire game.

The first week of the NCAA tournament owed some of its biggest upsets to this sudden willingness to mix it up. Andy Enfield, the coach of No. 11 seed Southern California, usually prefers man-to-man, but noticed early in their first-round win against No. 6 SMU that the zone was more effective. That surprising switch is how he stunned UCLA earlier this season.

Before Xavier’s second-round game against No. 3 Florida State, Musketeers coach Chris Mack decided he needed to do it, too. “It isn’t going to work every time we put it out there,” Mack said. “But I thought it gave us the best shot to win.”

Mack was right. No. 11 Xavier pummeled the Seminoles, 91-66, and became the lowest seed in this weekend’s Sweet 16.