NEW YORK – The 2014 Final Four is set. One of the last teams to advance was Connecticut, 60-54 winners over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Some notes from what was a classic in every sense:
NEW YORK – Riding a wave of momentum, UConn advanced to the Final Four by virtue of a thrilling victory at Madison Square Garden. The 60-54 decision over Michigan State in the East regional final was a thrilling contest that electrified the storied edifice. The possession numbers saw a 61-possession (slower) game, with UConn owning a 98-90 edge in offensive efficiency.
Three points of emphasis:
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – When you have the best team, you tend to find a way to win games. That fits Michigan State in Brooklyn on Saturday, and it wasn’t one factor but rather multiple ones that were behind the Spartans taking home the championship of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic by knocking off pesky Oklahoma.
“We were a little bit slight of people, and even though it was disappointing and we played a little sporadic, it shows a little character that you can figure out a way to win a game,” said head coach Tom Izzo.
It’s a great time of the year. Prep school visits are winding down and college teams have started practice, signs that the season isn’t far away. Also, college schedules are finally coming out, with a few more game times to be determined due to television.
Before getting back to some of the final prep school visits, here are some quick hitters from around college basketball.
At this time of the year, we find out who teams are. The importance of each game in the standings is clearer, teams have injuries, seniors are playing their final games and freshmen have about 20 games under their belt.
Every season, there are some teams that look very good for a while, even good enough in our minds to be Final Four and/or national championship contenders. They have the talent, experience and early on a few good wins. They might not lose a game for a while, even beating some good teams. Then sooner or later, they get tested, and we find that they’re not quite at that level.
Enter this year’s Baylor Bears, 72-57 losers at Missouri on Saturday. … Continue Reading
As college basketball officially starts its 2011-12 season, teams from the Big Ten place themselves right in the middle of the action.
As I am writing this, I am anxiously awaiting tip-off of the North Carolina vs. Michigan State game being played on the bow of the USS Carl Vinson in homage of Veterans Day. Regardless of the outcome, this is a very important game for college basketball and its relativity to America. … Continue Reading
Today marks the official start of the 2011-12 season, though we’ve already had a few games in action this week as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic tourney.
The highlight of today’s action will be the North Carolina vs. Michigan State match up, which — if you somehow haven’t heard yet — will be played on an aircraft carrier in San Diego. The move is a fantastic way to honor our military services on Veterans Day and kick off the season with two of the sport’s premier programs.
In addition to the top-ranked Tar Heels and Spartans, here’s a list of other noteworthy games.
Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Stacey Poole were in a car accident at 2:30 a.m. last night when a driver crossed into their lane on the road and hit the car they were in, according to Sports Illustrated.com. Everyone was fine, and the driver of the vehicle that hit Poole and Jones has been charged with driving under the influence.
The bad luck continues for Jim Larranaga in Coral Gables. Miami’s new coach will be without DeQuan Jones for the entire season as the NCAA investigates allegations that Jones received $10,000 from a booster while he was a recruit, according to a report at Rivals.com. Jones figured to play a bigger role for the Hurricanes this season, especially with Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble injured.
Lost in first round of NCAA tournament (UCLA won 78-76).
Coach Tom Izzo (383-161, 2000 national champion) starts his 16th season as the Spartans’ basketball coach.
So. G Keith Appling
Sr. G Austin Thornton
Fr. F/G Branden Dawson
Sr. F Draymond Green
So. C Adreian Payne
Kalin Lucas: 17.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.4 apg
Korie Lucious: 6.5 ppg, 4.1 apg
Delvon Roe: 6.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Durrell Summers: 11.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
Fr. SG Dwaun Anderson (Rivals.com four-star player)
Fr. G/F Branden Dawson (Rivals.com five-star player)
Fr. SF Brandan Kearney (Rivals.com three-star player)
Fr. PG Travis Rice (Rivals.com three-star player
Brandon Wood (transfer from Valparaiso)
Michigan State lost a plethora of players during and after last season. The loss of Lucious (team-leading 17.2 ppg) and Chris Allen for the 2010 season due to suspensions brought down by the team crippled the Spartans and had a direct affect on the team’s record. A late-season scramble and victory over Purdue squeaked Michigan State into the NCAA Tournament, only for the Spartans to lose in a first-round heart breaker to UCLA. After the season, G Kalin Lucas, lynchpin of the offense and folk hero on campus, and starting forward Allen graduated. Then just before the start of the 2011-12 season, F Delvon Roe retired from the team because of extensive knee pain. Most teams would scrap this season as a rebuilding year, but Coach Tom Izzo will do no such thing. He will build around Appling with impressive freshman who have good size and rely on his veteran guards to get MSU back to the tournament in better position than the No. 10 seed that the team received last year.
Izzo usually builds a challenging early schedule, and this season will be no different. The Spartans start their year off with back-to-back battles against North Carolina and Duke. Michigan State has the potential to skyrocket in the rankings if they can catch either of these teams off guard, though their conference schedule provides little relief, with two matches against Ohio State and Michigan each.
It’s good to be a fan in the Midwest, if the top returning players according to the Total Impact Quotient ratings mean anything.
As we prepare for the 2011-12 season, let’s take a look back at the top players from the 2010-11 season. To tally the top 50, I added the top players in various statistical categories to the list of players from major conferences. That adds the likes of Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, College of Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock and Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried to a list that predictably includes Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams. … Continue Reading
Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.
Here’s a quick recap of all the major NBA decisions from the past week. The NCAA’s deadline for early entrants to remain eligible required players to decide by May 8 if they wanted to remain in the NBA Draft or return to school.
This section is aptly titled for a Washington, D.C., area writer looking to write a column honoring the importance of recently retired Maryland coach Gary Williams.
In his 22 years at Maryland, Williams helped craft the Terrapins into a perennial ACC contender. His continued success eased the path to the construction of the Comcast Center, which is one of the largest arenas in the conference and has one of the best home court advantages. The 20,000-plus fans who fill the Comcast Center haven’t always approved of the quality of the home team, but they consistently fill the arena with rowdy fans, giving Maryland one of the best home court advantages in the country.
After the turmoil of the late 1980s, it’s amazing that Williams was able to get this program back to the top of the ACC so quickly. Trouble started in 1986 with the death of Terrapin hero Len Bias, who seemed destined to become a national hero as a possible heir apparent to Larry Bird in Boston. However, his cocaine-induced death and the subsequent brouhaha in College Park derailed the program, leading to the ouster of coach Lefty Driesell.
Without Driesell, the team fell into mediocrity — and NCAA violations — during the tenure of Bob Wade. With the program on probation and lackluster performance on the court, Williams returned to his alma mater with a tough task at hand.
It took Williams five seasons, but once he got the Terrapins into the NCAA Tournament, they remained fixtures of March Madness until 2005. That includes a Final Four run in 2001 that ended mercilessly with the team’s fourth loss of the season to eventual national champion Duke. But Williams and Maryland vanquished those demons the next season when the Terrapins won the 2002 title.
The championship title was a turning point for Williams’ tenure at Maryland. Until then, the critics liked to talk about Williams as one of the greatest coaches to have never won a title — a fraternity no coach enjoys being part of. With that monkey off his back, Williams then had to deal with detractors who bemoaned that Williams failed to use the program’s success to attract the top recruits to College Park.
Recruiting is a touchy subject for Maryland fans. On the plus side, no one has even sniffed an NCAA violation during Williams’ years. But on the other hand, Williams drew the ire of many fans because he couldn’t keep a lot of the talented kids in Prince George’s County, Md., and Baltimore in-state. Highly touted recruits like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Rudy Gay, Nolan Smith and seemingly half of Georgetown’s starting lineup each season are all locals. That would be acceptable if Williams had a slew of talented recruits on a conveyor belt to College Park from across the country.
But after three NIT appearances in four seasons, the natives became restless. Williams had the misfortune of dealing with a few disastrous recruits, including the much-maligned post-championship class of Chris McCray, John Gilchrist, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley. That core failed to meet lofty expectations, and the fans nearly revolted at the perceived inability of Williams to coach a great class. But the players just didn’t work out. It happens.
Williams got Maryland back on track with Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes. He helped Vasquez mature from a sloppy point guard and nearly out of control hothead to a dominant ACC player who was a threat to post a triple double nearly any night. The Terrapins returned to the NCAA Tournament three out of four seasons but never advanced further than the second round.
Heading into this off-seaosn, Maryland was at a cross-roads as another disappointing recruiting class — Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory — finished their collegiate careers. Jordan Williams, one of the top recruits in recent years to come to Maryland, figured to be the linchpin of next season’s team, but he is heading to the NBA instead.
At age 66, Williams was staring at a complete rebuilding project in an era that makes it increasingly difficult to run a clean and successful program. Williams refused to sacrifice one for the other. That makes now a great time for Williams to step down. To rebuild the Terrapins, Williams would need at least a couple of years to get the right guys around solid building blocks like Pe’Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin. Williams might be pushing 70 before the Terrapins have another legitimate shot at a deep run.
When I’m pushing 70, I hope have the energy to work more than 60 hours a week recruiting, strategizing and representing a major college program. After such a remarkable, program-defining coaching career, Williams has earned this respite.
Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.
The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.
Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.
Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team
Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England
The senior guard led Watertown to the state semifinal this past season
Bay State Magic doesn’t have much size on their junior team this season, so they’ll have to win with execution and intangibles
Mass Elite is one of the largest travel teams in the state despite being relatively new