Posted on: March 10, 2012 11:49 am
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Posted on: March 9, 2012 9:44 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 10:10 am
By Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman
Illinois informed Bruce Weber early Friday that he will not continue to coach its men's basketball program, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The news was first reported by the Champaign News-Gazette's Paul Klee.
Weber had a record of 210-101 while at Illinois. He made the championship game of the NCAA tournament in 2005 but failed to get the Illini to the NCAA tournament in two of his final three seasons. The Illini were 17-15 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten this season. They lost to Iowa in Thursday's first round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
VCU's Shaka Smart is expected to top Illinois' wish-list of candidates.
Duke assistant Chris Collins, an Illinois native, could also be a possibility.
Weber probably won't be out of coaching long unless he chooses to be. Sources have told CBSSports.com that he'll likely be a target to replace Chris Lowery at Southern Illinois. Weber coached SIU for five seasons before replacing Bill Self at Illinois in 2003.
Posted on: March 9, 2012 2:07 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 12:46 pm
Selection Sunday is always unpredictable, but this year will see even more questionable choices and inconsistency among the selections. This season, though, it might not be the committee’s fault – there’s just no easy way to sort through this season’s bubble teams.
Aside from the fact the majority of them are playing themselves out of the field and have mediocre resumes when compared to past groups, there are so many bubble teams that have nothing in common. There is no singular way to stack up this group of resumes and get a consistent pecking order. Everyone will have a different way to stack up the teams this year, and everyone will focus on a different variable. What makes this season so difficult? Let’s take a look at the biggest issues facing the committee this season.
Middling majors vs. non-BCS champs: This is going to be one that is debated by everyone until the moment the selections are made – and then for the following 24 hours after the show. Championship week turned several of the top mid-major champions into tournament casualties, specifically Oral Roberts, Iona, Drexel and Middle Tennessee. All four have exceptional records and solid overall resumes, but they will all be sweating on Selection Sunday. On the other side, we have a long list of power-conference teams that struggled throughout conference play but picked up a good win here and there. That list includes Miami (Fl.), Northwestern, North Carolina State, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Texas, Mississippi State and others. Which will the committee value more? Consistency throughout the season but no marquee wins? Or a few top-50 victories but inconsistency overall?
Injuries/Missed games: It seems that there are more injuries, suspensions or other special circumstances involving key players on bubble teams that will complicate selection than ever before. Here’s a small sampling:
Which injuries will the committee weigh more than others? Are big wins when key players were out still viewed the same way? There are plenty of interesting considerations when looking at these injuries.
Pac-12: The Pac-12 has been its own complication this season. It had arguably the worst season any major conference has had in decades, and therefore is going to be difficult for the committee to evaluate. Moreover, for the first time, the Pac-12 had an unbalanced schedule, meaning Washington’s 14-4 record isn’t the same as the 13-5 record with which California or Oregon finished. If the committee views the Pac-12 as the ninth or 10th best conference in the country, a gaudy record won’t matter much. If it views the league as a “big six” conference, a regular-season title would carry plenty of weight. Moreover, would the committee really only give the Pac-12 one bid if California wins the tournament? That’s the way things seem to be headed.
Washington: The Huskies can be grouped with the Pac-12 category, as they will be the main beneficiary of the committee viewing the conference as a “big six” league. Washington has yet to beat an NCAA tournament team, but it won the outright regular-season title at 14-4. Would the selection committee really turn down the winner of a traditional power conference that boasts so much talent?
Tennessee: The Volunteers are going to be an interesting test for the committee, due to the fact they finished with the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament and have beat some quality teams. Moreover, the availability of Jarnell Stokes will have a major effect on Tennessee’s resume. The Volunteers were 10-5 with him in the lineup, and just 8-8 without him. However, the overall profile still isn’t good and Tennessee’s two wins over Florida came with Stokes playing a combined 11 minutes.
South Florida: If the Bulls get into the field, the committee will point to its 12 Big East wins and quarterfinal appearance in the conference tournament. If the Bulls are left out, they can point to the one top-50 win and terrible non-conference season. Either way, the committee is right (and wrong, depending on what you were hoping for). With the Big East having an unbalanced schedule, South Florida didn’t have to go through a murderers’ row to reach 12 wins. With that said, 12 wins in the Big East is still 12 wins in the Big East. Except when it’s not. How will the committee see it?
Xavier: The Musketeers have a decent resume overall, but it’s clear the various suspensions of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dezmine Wells played a major part in the midseason slump. Xavier was 0-1 without Holloway, 0-2 without Lyons and 1-3 without Wells. Take away that stretch in the Musketeers’ resume, and it’s likely an at-large profile. Will the committee completely remove those few games, though?
Drexel: The Dragons won 19 games in a row, won the CAA regular-season title outright and were playing some of the best basketball in the country late in the season. With that said, they lost to VCU in the CAA title game and don’t have the profile that would historically get an at-large bid. Of course, this season is nothing like past seasons. This profile could go back to the mid-major champs vs. middling majors argument. The Dragons will be a great test case.
Dayton: The Flyers are not getting the same at-large attention as some other teams, but that would change with a quarterfinal win over Xavier on Friday night. The computer profile is terrible, with an RPI in the 70s, and there are four sub-100 losses on the resume. On the plus side, Dayton has wins over Temple, Saint Louis, Alabama, Xavier and Ole Miss. They are 8-7 against the top 100. Then there was the season-ending injury to Josh Benson in late December. Lots of good, lots of bad. Which will the committee weigh more?
Lack of similar resumes: This could be the biggest problem the committee faces this season. There’s simply no way to compare the resumes of say, Iona and Seton Hall. One took advantage of the plethora of top-50 chances and scalped a few key wins, while the other beat nearly everyone in front of them but suffered bad losses in conference play. How can the committee look at Northwestern and its 1-10 top-50 record and say without a doubt that it’s better or worse than Oral Roberts’ 1-2 slate vs. the top 50? There are teams with no bad losses, and teams with four bad losses. There are teams with bad RPIs but good wins, and others with good RPIs but no good wins.
Each committee member will value one or two categories more than the others; collecting so many different opinions with this year’s batch of bubble teams is going to be make it completely unpredictable.
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:57 am
The ACC tournament didn’t feature a ton of excitement, but we did see an end to Clemson head coach Brad Brownell’s streak of never losing the first game of a conference tournament. The Tigers were dropped by Virginia Tech, which used a late run to get a win. Maryland cruised by Wake Forest to advance, while bubble teams Miami (Fl.) and North Carolina State both survived and advanced. Friday is the big day for the latter two teams, while Tech and Maryland look to play spoiler.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 8 Maryland: In most years, this would be a must-see game between two of the perennial powers in the conference. Not so much this season. With that said, Terrell Stoglin getting a chance to run up and down against one of the nation’s fastest teams is fun to watch. North Carolina swept the two regular-season meetings.
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 5 North Carolina State: North Carolina State used a late-season surge to play itself back into NCAA contention, while Virginia need a win in the regular-season finale to stay in the field heading into tournament play. The Wolfpack clearly need this one more than the Cavaliers, and a win here could lift NC State into the tournament. UVA won the first meeting by one.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech: Duke and Virginia Tech have tangled in plenty of memorable games over the years, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one come down to the final minutes as well. It took the Blue Devils five extra minutes to beat the Hokies in late February, and Virginia Tech has had plenty of close games this season. How will Duke play without Ryan Kelly?
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 6 Miami (Fl.): One of Miami’s two major scalps on its resume is a win over the Seminoles; the Hurricanes need to do it again in order to get a bid to the NCAA tournament. They stayed alive with a strong second half against Georgia Tech, but Friday is the real test. The battle inside with Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji vs. Florida State’s cadre of bigs should be fun.
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:49 am
By Matt Norlander
NEW YORK — Thanks to South Florida and Notre Dame torturing us with free basketball, 2012 matches 1998 and 2011 for the most overtime games in a Big East tournament (three). Let’s get to the night session, with reaction from coaches mixed in from both games.
Notre Dame 57, South Florida 53.
After barfing all over itself on the way to a 56-47 win Wednesday night, South Florida was involved in an armless fist fight with Notre Dame, ultimately falling short due in large part to a missed breakaway layup by Jawanza Poland with 32 seconds left in regulation when South Florida had a 45-44 lead.
And now we have a 20-13 South Florida team with a resume that isn’t terrible. It waits in limbo with other teams until Selection Sunday, only South Florida isn’t the underachiever that Mississippi State, Northwestern and Washington are. And we want to keep it out? The urge is there because the basketball looks so ugly, but teams aren’t initiated into the field based on how pretty or hideously they win their games.
“I’m real proud of my guys,” Heath said.
Heath was really composed at the presser. He didn’t politick. He didn’t get loud or start to campaign by tossing out a list of teams beaten (that list lacks impressiveness, to be fair).
Here’s more of Heath. I compiled a few responses from questions and molded it into one big quote. Take from it what you will. I’d say this is a man whose truly proud of his team and content with its accomplishments.
“Any time you have a team that’s giving that kind of effort on the defensive end. Coaches in our league, they really appreciate when you have teams that sacrifice themselves on the defensive end. And that’s why I think most coaches really like the way we play. People on the outside, the casual observer that don’t really know how difficult that is, I don’t think they understand that. Teams like us not only get in the tournament, win and advance. You see Butler over the years, the way they guard and how hard they play. Tonight, I think you saw a more complete team. Yesterday, we had some guys who were a little bit tight. We played a much better all-around game of basketball tonight. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I love the way we play. It’s almost like I have to come up here and apologize for the way we play. I don’t understand that at all. It baffles me.”
Again, the perspective of a coach and the reality of a team’s cosmetic appeal are irrelevant to selection, though. The loss doesn’t look bad because USF wasn’t competitive; the Bulls just looked like a team incapable of playing its best basketball when the Selection Committee is looking for the newest evidence to attach to the numbers they’re lurching over in a Westin Hotel room in Indianapolis.
Now the wait comes for Heath. He’s anxious. The Bulls haven’t been in the NCAAs since 1992 and only have two Dance trips in program history. All things considered, this is one of the most critical decisions — for stature of the program, for perception, for recruiting benefits — of any the Selection Committee will make in less than 72 hours.
“I won’t sleep,” Heath said. “You want to hear your name called Sunday at six. I think we’ve done a great job. I think our team is worthy.”
Louisville 84, Marquette 71.
“I’m not sure they’ve had a better meal all year long than what we served them tonight,” Buzz Williams said of his team’s uncompetitive loss to Louisville Thursday.
Louisville scores 84 after not cracking 62 in its past five games? An oddity, considering the opponent, which is No. 19 in the nation in defensive efficiency and lets up .91 points per possession. The Cardinals also forced 26 turnovers, which was a season-high for MU, the highest giveaway total in Buzz Williams’ tenure and one shy of the Big East tournament record.
“I did a really bad job. If your team has 26 turnovers, and allows 26 offensive rebounds, which is the most since I’ve been here, it’s on the head coach,” Williams said. “Every player that played more than three minutes had a turnover.”
And yet, the game didn’t mean that much for the Golden Eagles. Marquette was waxed last season against Louisville in the quarters. It followed that up with a Sweet 16 appearance. How teams finish in the conference tournaments — last year notwithstanding — don’t have a correlation to NCAA tournament performance. Syracuse has run the table before and lost in its first game. Others have bowed out in their first game and made Final Fours. Williams’ team will be a three or a four seed on Selection Sunday, and they’ll win at least a game, no problem, next week. The coach isn’t fretting. This was a bad game, but it’s not indicative of the team’s season, and really, what was the urgency for Marquette here?
“I don’t think we’ll make any adjustments. It’s groundhog day every day from what we do,” Williams said of his team’s preparation. “We’re fortunate that our body of work lets us play another game. … If you study our 31 games prior to now, we’re probably just as good playing against teams that are like us. This is an aberration to how we play.”
Absolutely. No matter how far they go, the Golden Eagles won’t have another game with more than 25 turnovers and 25 offensive rebounds relented.
As for Louisville — great win. The Cardinals played themselves into at least a six seed, maybe even a five, and offered up a game unlike any other they’d played this season. The Cardinals pressed, and pressed again, winning games the way Rick Pitino loves to: with speed, aggressiveness and out-huffing the other guy.
“I think we had an idea that they were going to pressure us; I didn’t think it was going to be a that a high level like that,” Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom said.
The Cardinals had 20 from Kyle Kuric (that’s a really good sign), but the 19 turnovers are still a concern. Starting point guard Peyton Siva had more than 25 percent of those turnovers. Against Notre Dame Friday night, the pace will be much slower. Pitino admitted as much in the postgame; he knows his team is helpless to get more than 65 possessions a game against this team — and so the turnovers won’t be as much of an issue.
Let's hope the Cardinals' pace and Irish's normally reliable ball-handling give us something worth cheering about. Or at least something that isn't stomach-churning.
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:22 am
The Kentucky Invitational continues Friday in New Orleans where we've got the top eight seeds all playing ... except for Mississippi State, which might've ruined its hopes of making the NCAA tournament with its loss to Georgia in the first round. The Bulldogs went from being ranked to losing six of their final eight games. That's not good. It should definitely cost State a spot in the Field of 68. Now the question is whether Rick Stansbury can make it to 2012-13?
Yes, he'll survive.
But he'll enter 2012-13 on the hot seat.
Let's look at Friday's matchups.
Kentucky (1) vs. LSU (8): Congratulations, LSU. You just beat Arkansas to advance to the SEC quarterfinals. Now you get Kentucky. So ... congrats on making it to the SEC quarterfinals.
Florida (4) vs. Alabama (5): This is the SEC tournament's only game of the day between two teams assured of a trip to the NCAA tournament. So the stakes aren't that high. But it's also Billy Donovan against Anthony Grant, his former assistant. And nobody wants to lose a quarterfinal game to their old assistant, do they?
Tennessee (2) vs. Ole Miss (7): Ole Miss advanced to the SEC quarterfinals with a 68-54 victory over Auburn. (I hope Varez Ward had Ole Miss minus the points.) Now we get a matchup between two bubble teams. The loser can plan for the NIT. The winner remains alive for the NCAA tournament. This is one of Friday's most important games.
Vanderbilt (3) vs. Georgia (11): Vanderbilt beat Georgia twice this season by an average of 10 points. So there's no reason to think the Commodores won't win this and advance to Saturday's semifinals. But the Commodores have suprised us before, haven't they?
Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:54 pm
Things will heat up in Atlantic City on Friday, as the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals get underway – and that’s when it gets fun. There’s two locks for the NCAA tournament, three bubble teams, and three teams looking to ruin all the hopes for everyone. In such a tight conference, everything is wide-open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few upsets on Thursday.
No. 1 Temple vs. No. 8 Massachusetts: This should be an interesting game, a rematch of Temple’s 90-88 overtime victory over UMass on February 29. The Minutemen were in the mix for a league title until the final couple weeks of the season, and they will try to speed the game up. Temple is looking to solidify a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament.
No. 4 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 5 Saint Joseph’s: A must-win for Saint Joseph’s if it wants to keep its at-large hopes alive. It’s also a rematch of the regular-season finale, which saw the Bonnies come out with a double-overtime victory – a win that severely crippled the Hawks’ resume. It should be an interesting battle down low, as SJU defends two-pointers very well, but Andrew Nicholson is dominant.
No. 2 Saint Louis vs. No. 7 La Salle: Saint Louis likely locked up a bid with its win over Xavier last week, but La Salle is no easy out. The Explorers slumped in February, losing five of six games at one point, but they also have the pieces to win some games. The first time these two teams played, Saint Louis went into Philadelphia and came out with a 59-51 win.
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 6 Dayton: Easily the game of the night. Neither team really likes each other, and they split the two regular-season meetings, with the latter one going to overtime. Moreover, both teams are on the bubble. Xavier is slightly ahead in the pecking order, but a win here by the Flyers would do wonders for their profile. The PG battle between Tu Holloway and Kevin Dillard will be fun.
Posted on: March 8, 2012 10:37 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 10:46 pm
The higher-seeded teams all won in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday ... except Northwestern.
What a stupid loss for a bunch of smart kids.
The Wildcats' 75-68 loss to Minnesota ended any realistic hopes they had of making the NCAA tournament. So that's one storyline we won't deal with on Selection Sunday. That's good, I guess.
Let's look at Friday's matchups in the Big Ten tournament.
Michigan State (1) vs. Iowa (8): The good news is that Tom Izzo won't have to end Bruce Weber's Big Ten career. The bad news is that Fran McCaffery almost certainly did courtesy of Iowa's 64-61 victory over Illinois in Thursday's first round. So now we get Michigan State vs. Iowa. The Spartans beat the Hawkeyes by 34 points in the only meeting between the two schools this season. This game shouldn't be that lopsided. But Michigan State should still win easily.
Wisconsin (4) vs. Indiana (5): Tom Crean has experienced enough injuries in his tenure at Indiana to know when things are good or bad, so when he said Verdell Jones' knee injury was "not good" after Thursday's win over Penn State it was safe to assume Jones wouldn't play in Friday's quarterfinals, and that he probably won't play in the NCAA tournament, either. That's too bad. The senior deserved to finish his career the right way. Now he'll likely finish it on crutches. Either way, this Wisconsin-Indiana game will be fun. Wisconsin won the season's only meeting by single digits at the Kohl Center. Take that for what it's worth.
Michigan (2) vs. Minnesota (10): Tubby Smith ensured Northwestern will remain the nation's only power-conference school to never make the NCAA tournament by dealing the Wildcats a loss in Thursday's first round. Now excuse me while I talk to Northwestern. (Really, Northwestern? College basketball fans -- and analysts -- seemed OK with putting you in the Field of 68 despite your 1-10 record against the Top 50, and then you went out and lost to Minnesota, which isn't even a Top 50 team. Shame on you, Wildcats. I can't even look at you right now.)
Ohio State (3) vs. Purdue (6): The Boilermakers played Ohio State tough in Columbus during the regular season despite the fact that Robbie Hummel missed nine of the 13 shots he took. So if the senior star is better Friday ...