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Category:NCAAB
Posted on: April 2, 2010 3:15 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 3:23 pm
 

Your Butler coaching mad-lib

Thomas Beisner

Congratulations, Butler fans.  I'm sure you've heard it a million times, but it doesn't get old, does it?  It's a fine time to be a Bulldog and you should be enjoying every second of it.  You're back in your hometown, soaking up the Final Four glory and all the Hoosier references and Dick Vitale impression contests that it comes with.  This is as good as it's ever been to be a Bulldog, which probably has you worried about one thing. 

It's really going to suck when the party ends this weekend, huh?

Well, maybe not.  You see, your trajectory into America's hearts and the elite of college basketball has paired with your Horizon League standing and given you a unique opportunity.  As larger schools approach Brad Stevens for their head coaching job this off-season, your increased program stature means the mix is right to finally create the perfect message board rumor.  At larger schools such as Kentucky or Indiana, where coaching changes have occurred recently, message board rumors have settled in permanently as a part of the fan experience.  At Butler, you might just be getting your first great opportunity.  And, it's an opportunity you don't want to waste.

So, with that in mind, your buddies here at "One Blogging Moment" have put together a coaching mad-lib to help you come up with the perfect Brad Stevens coaching rumor.  Grab a pencil, put on your thinking cap and get cracking.  It's time to hit the message boards hard!

Enjoy...

Oh my (Deity)!! Did you hear? It's a done deal. (Favorite coach) is replacing (favorite Brad Stevens nickname) and it's going to be announced (date). I talked to my (nuclear family member)'s (job title)'s cousin, who really knows what is going on. He once (past tense verb) with (favorite prominent Butler figure)'s brother when they were both at (noun). He was the guy who was right about (Butler recruiting fact).

I know all of this is (adjective) too because I heard it from more than one person.  A guy that I used to (verb) with every Tuesday morning overheard a lady who looked like (current Butler player)'s mom in the line at (restaurant at Castleton Square Mall) say that Stevens is heading to (place) to (verb) the team there.  You can't (verb) with that.

Basically, what happened is that (school with open basketball job) approached (internet celebrity) to help recruit Coach Stevens.  Unfortunately for Butler, (internet celebrity), who is a closet (school with open job) fan,  has known Coach for (number) years and has remained close with him since they both attended (event) in (random city).  Using that as leverege, (internet celebrity) approached Coach Stevens when he was (adverb)  just minutes after Butler got (past tense verb) by (Horizon League opponent). They offered him (dollar amount) in addition to (form of transportation), (favorite dessert) and a free membership to (website).

Though the chances of Butler matching were about as likely as a (plural animal) (adverb) out of (body part), Coach Stevens met with Barry Collier and gave him a chance to (verb) the deal.  Collier had a private meeting with boosters, (current Butler player) and Tony Dungy to discuss.  It was a (adjective) exchange because the boosters wanted (coaching figure) and Tony Dungy was lobbying hard for (recovering NFL player). But, in the end, (current Butler player) took the floor and used his (noun) to help everyone see that (new coach) was the one to take Butler to (overused synonym for success).

Before you (verb) out and lose your (body part), you have to understand what a (fictional monster) Stevens was to his players and in the community.  This same person stold me that (favorite Stevens nickname) had a number of run-ins including telling Gordon to go (verb) a (mammal) and making Shelvin Mack do (workout) for an hour while listening to (TLC song) and wearing (article of clothing). I even heard, but I can't confirm it, that (Stevens nickname) even went as far as to (present tense verb) on the bar top of (Indianapolis establishment) at halftime of the (Final Four opponent) game and then (past tense verb) all the way out the front door toward campus.  If he would not have been found by (person with Indiana ties) laying outside of Holcomb Gardens, he might have never made it home. Just think about how (national media member) would have made fun of us then!!!

Anyway, today is a (adjective) day for Butler athletics. With (new coach) taking charge, we are pretty much a lock for (crazy expectations) - especially after he brings (point guard recruit) with him. I heard he has been begging for the job for (length of time) and got on a (mode of transportation) the second Barry Collier called him to travel to Indianapolis. My source even said he even hired (Indiana basketball figure) as an assistant and has demanded to stand at the top of the cheerleader pyramid at every game. (new coach) is going to be (adjective) and I couldn't be more (adjective) about it.

You can (verb) me all you want, but you'll be (adjective) when I am right about this. (media member) knows what I am talking about but is too (adjective) to report it yet.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 2, 2010 1:43 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 2:08 pm
 

Say, Who's the Cinderella Team Here?

C.M. TOMLIN
Tomorrow all eyes will be on Butler as the Bulldogs attempt to be the first true "cinderella" team to ever make the finals of the NCAA Tourney. That's pretty impressive, and you have to hand it to Butler. For several years now they've been creeping around, preparing to make their run; and as the fates would have it, not only are they making their run now, but they're making their run at a time when the championship is perfectly winnable for them.

I agree, it's a great story. How can you not like Butler? It's an extremely likeable program from coaching staff down to the bench players, they've been trying to get over the cusp and into greatness for a few years now, each time punked back down as if they don't belong, and this year they not only offed number two Kansas State, which was no slouch, but also dismissed number one Syracuse. It's no wonder they're the talk of the town.

The problem is, they're playing Michigan State, a team who -- if they hadn't appeared in seven of the last twelve elite eights and six of the last twelve final fours -- would probably qualify to be a cinderella team itself. After all, from not only did the Spartans lose their star player Kalin Lucas in the second round, they also saw injuries to Chris Allen and Delvon Roe. And they have to play Butler practically at home (Butler's campus is a mere six miles from Lucas Oil Stadium). 

It's easy to, from afar, call this is a "big guy versus little guy matchup." But the truth is that Michigan State is a bigger underdog, "pull yourselves up by the bootstraps" story in this Tournament than even Butler. After all, Butler is firing on all cylinders, looking solid and fantastic as they took out the aforementioned Syracuse, Kansas State, former belle of the ball Gonzaga and a not-terrible Vanderbilt. Michigan State, on the other hand, has struggled with almost everyone they've played, from New Mexico State to another cinderella team Northern Iowa. Tom Izzo's master strategies have pulled the Spartans out of the fire throughout this tournament, leaving them bruised and hobbled but with as much heart as any team in this tournament.

Mind you, I'm not saying that it's more shocking that a program like Michigan State's is here than Butler's. Michigan State is a perennial tourney team -- and Butler's the new kid, sure. All I'm saying is that tomorrow you're going to hear a lot about Butler. And you're going to hear a lot of people say they're pulling for Butler by insinuating that Michigan State is some sort of juggernaut this season. But the Spartans are far from a steamroller -- they're dusting themselves off and pressing on as much as anyone. Don't let the historical stats fool you -- Michigan State is fueled by energy and heart this year, defying odds and figuring out as they go along just how to pul together enough to get to the next round. I don't know about you, but that sounds like many of the same qualities we look for in a cinderella team. By that rationale, whoever emerges from tomorrow's game should be the rootable team; both have fought tooth and nail to get here and either would be the underdog versus Duke or West Virginia. So root for Butler or don't, either way you're gonna get a team that's earned it in the final game.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 1, 2010 11:02 pm
 

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

MATT JONES



The NCAA is dead set on ruining the greatest sporting event currently played in this country.  No matter how much moaning, griping or throwing up of hands we do, the decision has been made and the pristine mountains of March Madness are about to be strip-mined for the almighty dollar.  The press conference called by the NCAA on Thursday was simply an attempt to grease the skids on the inevitable inclusion of 32 mediocre to bad teams into next year’s edition of the Big Dance.  Yes, the NCAA claimed that “no decision has been made” and that they are “looking at all options”, but those are simply public faces to the actual situation which is “the tournament is expanding, deal with it.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that this is simply an NCAA money grab and is being done not for the students’ benefit or the fans’ interest, but rather for dollars into the NCAA institutions’ coffers.  That rationale alone however, does not in and of itself make the decision a bad one.  When the  NCAA expanded from 32 to 48 and 48 to 64, (I will leave out the absurd move to 65), both decisions were driven by money, not the quality of the product.  Yet luckily for the fans, the Tournament as a whole benefitted.  With the increase of Division I teams in college basketball and the proliferation of conferences, the new combination of automatic qualifies and at-large bids produced a great combination of teams with a real chance for a national championship and the spunky dreamers hoping for their one shot at glory.  In short, it went from a good to a great event.

However this move to 96, while still based on the same “greed is good” mentality, will have the side effect of truly doing harm to the great event.  Zach McCrite, a radio host friend of mine, took the time a few weeks ago to bracket out what the 2010 96-team NCAA Tournament might have looked like.  Take a look at it for a second and then come back.   Horrifying isn’t it?  Look at some of the teams added to the field:

Troy

Texas  Tech

Jacksonville

St Johns

NC State

Tulsa

Northwestern

 

There are of course others.  But look at some of those names.  Was there ever a moment in which you thought Sidney Lowe’s group of underachieving Wolfpack, Norm “My team is so bad I got fired” Roberts’ St John’s team or the “Our best coaches left long ago” Tulsa bunch needed to be part of the festivities.  I mean if you watched Minnesota or UTEP’s performance, it is hard to make the case that Texas Tech would have somehow added anything but mind-numbingly bad basketball to the event.  And if Northwestern was in, well Mike Wilbon’s smugness alone would be enough to ruin the festivities.

But its not just the fact that the event wont be bettered by the 32 extra teams, it is the fact that it will actually be worsened.  The first round of the NCAA Tournament is special.  There are great David vs Goliath matchups between small conference champions and major program powers, traditional toss-up games between 8-9 seeds and the inevitable 5 vs 12 or 4 vs 13 upset.  Every slot of games has excitement and all the teams get to take the stage.

Now look at the 96 team event.  The top 32 teams all get byes.  That means when the tournament starts, no Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, Ohio State, etc.  Instead take just one region (the Midwest) this year and here are the opening round matchups in 2010:

Kent State vs South Florida

Northern Iowa vs Winthrop

New Mexico State vs Stony Brook

Illinois vs Troy

San Diego State vs UC Santa Barbara

Arizona State vs Weber State

Georgia Tech vs Lehigh

Wichita State vs Texas Tech

 

LOOK AT THAT!  Is even one of those games mildly entertaining?  Can you imagine taking time off work, with your kids or even mowing your lawn, to watch any of them?  That lineup would take what I consider to be two of the best days in sports, and turn them into a snooze factory that even Greg Anthony and Seth Davis cannot watch. Unless the NCAA’s goal is trying to boost the nation’s collective work output for those two days, nothing good can come of that.

 

And it actually gets worse than that.  The 96 team tournament will actually make it harder for the best teams to win it all.  Take the situation for the #1 seeds.  For the past 20 years, being a #1 seed has mattered.  It gave you a matchup with a #16 seed and essentially a free pass to round 2 for your hard work during the regular season.  What happens with a 96 team tournament? Well initially, there is no benefit in the first round, because the top 32 teams get a bye, meaning that Texas gets the same reward for its dismal regular season as Kansas.  Then when a game does actually have to be played, a #1 seed gets a different type of #16 seed.  In fact, in our mock 2010 bracket, Syracuse would open the tournament with North Carolina and Duke would play Connecticut.  There you go Jim Boeheim, congrats on that top seed and instead of Vermont to start the Tournament, enjoy North Carolina’s 8 McDonalds All Americans as your first-round reward.  If a team that was as consistently awful as UNC’s merry bunch of underachievers can even make the Tournament, much less have a shot at a #1 seed in Round One, for teams in major conferences the regular season becomes as long, tedious and worthless as an “Around the Horn” marathon.

 

Of course the NCAA does not care about any of this.  They are much more concerned with making the case that a football playoff will not work because of “missed class”, while simultaneously setting up a system for basketball in which teams are forced to miss 7-10 days of class in a row under the new set-up.  Pointing out the hypocrisy is important, but ultimately irrelevant.  In the battle of money vs academics, academics will lose every time.

 

 But my concern is even greater than a missed sociology class.  The NCAA Tournament is the best sporting event in America and its first two days can’t be topped for continuous excitement by any other event.  The NCAA is seeking to take away the beauty of Robert Morris taking Villanova to the wall, Ohio shocking Georgetown or Old Dominion over Notre Dame and replace it with matchups in mediocrity such as Mississippi State vs Quinniapac, Dayton vs Northeastern and Ole Miss vs Illinois State.  Can’t-miss television becomes as forgettable as the play-in game, bracket pools become unruly and unmanageable and the event as a whole takes a severe hit.  Maybe the NCAA believes that the extra revenue makes it all worth it and other problems will fade into the woodwork.  Possibly.  But what is much more likely is that the change to 96 teams dilutes the product to such a degree that the NCAA in the process of tinkering with the one truly valuable and nearly perfect commodity college basketball has, the NCAA destroys what makes it great. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 1, 2010 1:16 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2010 4:09 pm
 

Michigan State's Dancing Bear

C.M. TOMLIN
Tom Izzo has called him the "perfect Spartan," a "blue-collar workhorse" and "tough as nails."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber once went off on a rant about him during a post-game press conference, comparing him to Charles Barkley, saying he "loves" him and proclaiming he's "green with envy" that he doesn't have a player like him on his team.

His grandfather called him Day-Day.

Some fans call him "Tragic Johnson."

But his teammates just call him The Dancing Bear.

He's six-foot-six, 235 pound Michigan State forward Draymond Green, and by Monday night you may be calling him one of the 2010 National Champs. Green has stepped up to be an absolutely clutch player, shouting out orders like a general on the floor. Izzo has even compared his leadership to that of Mateen Cleaves.

Don't forget it was Green who famously got the ball to Korie Lucious for Lucious' more-famous shot to beat Maryland. And it was Green who got the ball to Raymar Morgan in the final seconds of the Tennessee game (Morgan's foul shots with 1.8 seconds to go sealed the Vols' fate). In short, Green's the guy to watch out for. He's the heart of this team. He's even been referred to as a "point forward" for the way he's stepped up in injured guard Kalin Lucas' absence. 

The sophomore hasn't always been one of Izzo's favorites -- early tales of a freshman Green depict his motormouthing in the locker room frustrated Izzo, who now realizes that quick tongue is worth its weight in gold on the court. 

"Every year I've got to have one guy to argue with, and he's my new guy," Izzo has said. "And I love him for it."

If Butler's smart, they won't overlook Green. Because while all eyes are on Morgan and Lucious, Green can make it happen for the Spartans. You can call that whatever you like, but it all amounts to a possible champion in the making.
 
Posted on: April 1, 2010 2:53 am
Edited on: April 1, 2010 3:14 am
 

Get To Know the Duke Blue Devils

DREW FRANKLIN




Duke University

Duke University was founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892.  In 1924, tobacco industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment, prompting the institution to change its name in honor of his deceased father, Washington Duke.

... at least that's what Wikipedia says.  And we all know Wikipedia never lies.

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Durham is the fourth largest city in North Carolina and the home of Clay Aiken.  A little-known law in the film industry states that all baseball movies must be set in Durham.  Only Rookie of the Year was ballsy enough to ignore this law.  But, Rookie of the Year is the best movie ever made and it doesn't take orders from anyone.

Notable Alumni

-- Richard Nixon - President of the United States from 1969-1974
-- John W. Cornwell -  Inventor of the beer launching fridge
-- Ken Jeong - The Asian guy from The Hangover
-- Tucker Max - Author of "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell"

Mascot: The Blue Devils

The Trinity Chronicle started a campaign to create Duke's mascot and included suggestions like the Catamounts, Grizzlies, Badgers, Dreadnaughts, and Captains. The paper's editor narrowed the many nominations down to those that utilized the school colors of dark blue and white. The narrowed list consisted of Blue Titans, Blue Eagles, Polar Bears, Blue Devils, Royal Blazes, and Blue Warriors.  Surprisingly, none of those awesome nominations appeared to be a clear cut favorite so one of the paper's writers took it upon himself to call Duke athletics the Blue Devils.  I would've gone with the Polar Bears.

Mike Krzyzkesckisewski, Head Coach

Kryszyrywdski is in his 30th season at Duke.  In those 30 years, Coach K has won three National Championships, 12 National Coach of the Year awards, and made too many credit card commercials.  He has been known to hire former players as assistant coaches, and many of them go on to be unsuccessful, overrated head coaches at other programs.

The Starting Five

#2 Nolan Smith, 6-1, G, Junior

2009-10 stats: 18.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.6 rpg, 1.6 spg 39.5% from field, 38% from three

#30 Jon Scheyer, 6-5, G, Senior

2009-10 stats: 18.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.6 rpg, 1.6 spg 39.5% from field, 38% from three

#12 Kyle Singler, 6-8, F, Junior

2009-10 stats: 17.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 40.9% from the field, 39.1% from three

#42 Lance Thomas, 6-8, F, Senior

2009-10 stats: 4.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.9 apg, 43.2% from the field

#55 Brian Zoubek, 7-1, C, Senior

2009-10 stats: 5.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 63.2% from the field


Bench

Seth Curry: Younger brother of Stephen Curry.  Sitting out this season as a transfer.  Hopefully, his mother will be in the crowd.

Brothers Plumlee: Miles and Mason Plumlee are the most dynamic duo to come out of Warsaw, Indiana.

Asst. Coach Steve Wojciechowski:  Will sit on Coach K's lap if chairs aren't readily available.


Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke
 
Posted on: March 31, 2010 3:45 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2010 8:23 pm
 

Meet the Butler Bulldogs, America's team

Thomas Beisner



Depending on who you talk to, the Butler Bulldogs are either the greatest made-for-the-movie-screen-again story of our lives or the most false Cinderella team of all-time.  As is the case with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  But, we're not really into all that honesty and truthfullness here at "One Blogging Moment".  We like to exploit things to their fullest potential, which is why I proudly declare the Butler Bulldogs to be "America's Team".  If you don't like them, you're a terrorist.  And, even worse, if you don't read this post and get to know them, you might as well be taking a massive dump on a special edition Hoosiers Blu-ray.  And you know Gene Hackman doesn't deserve that.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Butler Bulldogs!


#5 Ronald Nored, 6-0, G, Sophomore

2009-10 stats: 6.0 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.8 spg, 41% from the field, 18% from three

Nored, a starter at the point since the day he first stepped on campus (along with classmates Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward), improved steadily in each statistical category as a sophomore, though no improvement was more important than his assist-to-turnover ratio, which jumped to 1.82. Unforunately, that is also his three-point percentage (with a decimal moved, of course). But, despite his scoring deficiencies, Brad Stevens counts on his sophomore floor general greatly, playing him in 145 of 160 minutes this tournament. Nored has rewarded his coach with outstanding defense (3.0 spg for the Horizon League co-Defensive Player of the Year) and clutch play (four points and two steals in the final minute against Kansas State). These post-season heroics also make Stevens hopeful that Nored finally has his legs back under him after spending December tracking Santa.



#1 Shelvin Mack, 6-3, G, Sophomore

2009-10 stats: 14.2 ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 spg 45% from field, 39% from three

Mack, another member of the Bulldogs’ special class of 2008, comes from a town called Lexington, which I believe has a fairly prominent basketball team, and also stormed onto the scene last year as a freshman, averaging 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists while starting all 32 games. Mack followed up that breakout season by joining Gordon Hayward on the gold medal-winning U19 Team USA over the summer. This season, Mack has again been the rock in Butler’s backcourt and the guy who got the magic rolling this tournament with 18 second-half points against UTEP propelling them to a comeback win. If you didn’t get familiar with his mom last weekend (get your mind out of the gutter), you’ll get to know her this weekend. She’s Shelvin’s #1 cheerleader and she bleeds that Butler blue.



#21 Willie Veasley, 6-3, F, Junior

2009-10 stats: 10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 50% from the field, 47

The lone senior in the Bulldog lineup, Veasley does all the elderly things you’d expect. He plays defense and shoots efficiently from the field, though his first injury-free season since his freshman year has him avoiding that Bengay smell. Brad Stevens calls him the Bulldogs’ Shane Battier, which, given Veasley’s smooth head (get your mind out of the gutter) and his placement on the Horizon League All-Defensive team, is a mighty fine compliment. His first name is also a slang term for...umm...well, you know.





#20 Gordon Hayward, 6-9, F, Sophomore

2009-10 stats: 15.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.7 apg, 47% from the field, 30% from three

If Butler was N’ Sync, then Hayward would be their Timberlake. His baby face has been plastered on every television station for two weeks now and he’s gotten so much publicity, even my wife knows that he struggled with his three-point shot all season. Hayward won Horizon Player of the Year, played for Team USA, projects as a first-round pick and, like Timberlake, did not sleep with Britney Spears. Or at least I assume that he didn't.  I've learned not to doubt the Gordonator.  You’ll see a lot of Gordon Hayward’s face again this weekend. Just make sure that if you’re watching in HD, you keep an eye out for any sprouting hairs. He’s in a race with Coach Brad Stevens.

 

#54 Matt Howard, 6-8, F, Junior

2009-10 stats: 11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg

The First Team All-Horizon League center is unquestionably my favorite player left in the entire tournament. Howard is a step too slow it seems and often appears to jump barely high enough for his laces to stop touching the court. But, he goes after people, fouls be damned, and mixes it up inside, exemplifying every white basketball player cliché nearly every time he steps on the court. Plus, he wears a t-shirt and has willingly taken a backseat for the betterment of the team after winning Horizon League Player of the Year last year. They even have “Matt Howard Day” back in Connersville, Indiana. Matt Howard, I love you. Facebook me.


Bench

Zach Hahn: Zach Hoff. Zach Hahn. Zach Hoff. Zach Hahn.  Zach Hoff.  Butler’s sixth man scored a team-high 13 in season opening win over Drake.

Shawn Vanzant: Last name should be two words. Averages 2 points off the bench and plans to live off of his royalties from “End of the Road” forever.

Avery Jukes: And Avery Scores - to the tune of, 2.7 ppg to be exact.

Asst. Coach Darnell Archey: Darnell Freakin’ Archey!  You can't say his name without getting excited!  Even his official bio has an exclamation point!

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 31, 2010 2:37 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2010 2:37 pm
 

Is Michigan State an Unhateable Team?

C.M. TOMLIN


As Tom Izzo's crew, once thought to be disabled by guard Kalin Lucas' ruptured tendon, somehow continues to roll along in the NCAA Tournament, it dawns on me that while there are many reviled teams in this country (Kentucky seems particularly oft-hated, as does Duke, Kansas and North Carolina, among others), that it's rare to find a juggernaut of a college basketball team which, by and large, is extremely well-liked. Such would seem to be the odd case of Michigan State. Travel the country and you'll likely rarely hear "Michigan State? I HATE Michigan State." Yet there are reasons to hate them: they're consistently solid performers in regular season play and Big Ten postseason action, and have two NCAA Tourney trophies under their belts. For many sports fans, a good team has infinite hatability; after all, they may beat your team next. But why does Michigan State continue to slip through those cracks? And how has Michigan State emerged this season as one of the pluckiest, loved teams in the Final Four (even if they may be a dark horse)? Let's investigate.

Two words: Izzo, Tom. How can you dislike Tom Izzo? The man dresses like a war-torn Spartan to rile the fans, is loved beyond compare by the student body of Michigan State and can recruit the nose right off your face. But he's also taken a fifth-seeded team with a host of troubles and figured out how to get them to the Final Four. That's impressive. Add in the fact that you will never see a coach as despondent as Izzo after a loss (he's a notorious self-blamer) and the seemingly giddy high he seems to ride after a win, and the classic coach doesn't just seem like a guy you want coaching you on the court but a guy you wouldn't mind hanging out with off-court as well.

Good Kids. You can't not like this Spartan team. After superstar Kalin Lucas lost the rest of his season to a ruptured achilles tendon during an amazing win against Maryland during the second round of the tourney, even the experts thought the season was over. The experts were wrong, thanks to a rally by Lucas' teammates to sally forth without him. Just look at the grin on leader-to-be Korie Lucious' face as he inherits the mantle, witness the infectious elation of Draymond Green or the fistpumping of Raymar Morgan as they work absolutely harder than they've ever had to work before. Izzo is a good recruiter who recruits good kids, and as a result the Spartans are consistently likeable and rootable.

Classy fans. I've known a lot of Michigan State alumni and fans in my day, and I've never had one of them put their team in my face. That's quite impressive. I know, of course, there has to be a segment of over-rabid Spartan fans, but by my own microcosm I've yet to meet a State fan who wanted to convert me or compare accomplishments. Even the Izzone, for all its wildness, is amazingly polite and focused in its madness. Maybe it's that same midwestern sensibility that makes a city like Chicago so much more palatable than a New York, but I just don't have any beef with the Spartans. And if they have any beef with me, they're polite about it.

Has Michigan State garnered enough good karma to take them all the way? Will they continue to fuel themselves on good old-fashioned gumption and ingenuity? Will Izzo, that master commander, be able to continue creating strategy minute to minute until his crew is at the top of the heap? One thing's for sure: Michigan State is in this thing, and they've earned it. Where they go from here is their own decision.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 31, 2010 2:29 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2010 3:07 pm
 

Hard to Get Excited About this Bunch

MATT JONES

I am trying to talk myself into this Final Four, I really am.  I look at the field and see the loveable underdog (Butler), the mighty unlikeable power (Duke), the coach looking to break through (West Virginia) and the consistent, “How Do They Do It?” performer (Michigan State).  In theory that looks like a good bunch and would seem like a group I could rally behind.  But I am just not feeling it and I must admit I am a bit depressed.

See this was to be the Tournament when the stars came out and we got to see the best of the best .  The Midwest Region had Kansas and its pack of old school veterans and new school talent.  I was certain they would win their second title in three years and we would all have to accept that Bill Self is more “NCAA Champion” than “loser to Bradley and Bucknell.”  And if Kansas fell, it had to be Ohio State and Evan Turner, right?  He is so good AND he wears braces, a combination that almost surely is deserving of a Final Four.

And then in the West, old Jimmy Boeheim was going to be there, that much was certain.  Wesley Johnson was going to do his thing on a national stage and we were all going to be able to see the power of a perfectly executed zone.  And if for some strange reason, the Orange fell, well then Kansas State and their manic coach would be there to entertain and potentially scare us.  Throw in the fact they have a player with an Amish beard, and the excitement would have been at a fever pitch.

Then there was Kentucky.  You KNEW Kentucky was going to be there .  It was certain.  John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, John Calipari….it was a murderer’s row of storylines.    The Cats were the most talented team in America and had at least four future NBA Lottery picks on the roster.  There is no way that team doesn’t make the Final Four and dazzle us with at least a few amazing fast breaks and gravity-defying dunks.  There was no way that group could lose, could they?

Well they all lost, and some of them in brutal fashion.  And now we are left with four teams, none of which is really good enough to be the National Champion.   Yeah I said it.  None of these teams are very good.   In fact, if I were to have ranked the teams in terms of national championship worthiness going into the Tournament, only two of the teams in the Final Four would have even been in the Top 10, and West Virginia would have been highest at #5.  Now one of them will join Arizona in 1997 and Florida in 2006 as the only champions of the 1990s that were not among the four best teams in the country (for the record, my four this year were Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Ohio State…in that order). 

Look I love the scrappy underdog.  And if Butler becomes the most unlikely champ in NCAA history, then I will cheer.  But we know that will not happen.  Instead, we will likely either see a flawed West Virginia team or a mediocre Duke bunch with a gift-wrapped path to the Final Four, cut down the nets.  And that is fine I guess, but it doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities.  I either want to see greatness rewarded, or true “out of nowhere” underdogs capture the nation and produce a champion to remember for eternity.  None of these teams fit that bill.

So I guess I will root for Michigan State.  Tom Izzo has 6 Final Fours in 12 years and that record is beyond impressive.  And even though this bunch is one of the worst teams of the group, he is a great coach who deserves the second title that elevates him into the discussion as of the all-time best to roam the sidelines.  While this particular group doesn’t really deserve the title, he does for his overall resume of work.  So I will take Izzo and root for Sparty this weekend.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.


 
 
 
 
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