Posted on: February 19, 2010 2:14 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2010 2:17 pm

Dear Gary (on the best games I've seen this year)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Now that the season is nearly over, what is the best game you've seen this year in person?

-- Dan

Nice question, Dan.

Now let me think.

I was at the Kentucky-Connecticut game at Madison Square Garden when John Wall made that ridiculous play in the final minutes. It wasn't a well-played game, exactly, but it was fun and memorable because of the atmosphere and intensity. The Kansas-Kansas State game in Manhattan was also terrific. The Jayhawks won in overtime, and I wrote about Sherron Collins' testicles. Seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time. Now, I'm not so sure. Either way, fun night. But I think I'd have to go with Tennessee's improbable win over No. 1 Kansas as the best game I've attended this season, the one where walk-on Skylar McBee hit the clinching shot, just nine days after four Vols were arrested and suspended.

Terrific atmosphere.

Terrific ending.

Plus, I got a chance to talk to Skylar's mother, and she was delightful.

So put me down for Kansas-Tennessee.

But the season isn't over yet, Dan.

I've got Kentucky-Vandy this weekend.

Hopefully, that'll join the list of great games.
Posted on: February 15, 2010 4:40 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2010 4:44 pm

The Poll Attacks

How can a team with more wins and fewer losses than a league rival -- plus a 2-0 record against said league rival -- be ranked behind that same league rival? No idea. But some voters ranked them that way. Their punishment is a Poll Attack!

AP poll: I like Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

Both should be ranked.

That's why I ranked both.

But I have Vanderbilt ahead of Tennessee in the Top 25 (and one), and I can't make sense of any ballot that doesn't also have them in that order, which is why I can't make sense of lots of AP ballots this week. Vandy has more wins, fewer losses, a two game lead on the Vols in the SEC East and ... two wins over Tennessee!

Vandy beat the Vols by nine at Tennessee.

Then beat the Vols by 19 at Vandy.

Just last week.

So it should be fresh in everybody’s mind.

But it's clearly not.

Because Al Balderas of the Orange County Register has Tennessee ranked 13th and Vanderbilt ranked 19th, Jeffrey Martin of the Houston Chronicle has Tennessee 13th and Vanderbilt 23rd, and Dave Borges of the New Haven Register has Tennessee 18th and Vanderbilt unranked. Honestly, I don't care where you have Vanderbilt and Tennessee ranked -- proof being how I won't take issue with my man Seth Davis, who ranked Tennessee 14th. That's seven spots higher than I have the Vols. But Seth has Vanderbilt at No. 13, one spot ahead of Tennessee, so it's all good.

The number beside the name isn't as important as the order.

And if you've got Tennessee ahead of Vandy, you've got the wrong order.

Coaches poll: I've stayed away from getting after those who have been ranking Siena because, honestly, I didn't want to pick on Siena. It's a nice program that's accomplished nice things over the past two seasons, and I was willing to ignore the body of work and let voters give the Saints the benefit of the doubt as long as Siena continued to roll through the Metro Atlantic.

I wasn't going to rank Siena.

But I was OK with others ranking Siena if they wanted.

Not anymore, though.

Not after Friday's loss to Niagra.

And please don't suggest that I'm punishing a small school for losing to a bad team while I don't punish big schools for doing the same, because that's just not true. When Gonzaga loses to San Francisco, Gonzaga at least has nice wins (Wisconsin, Cincinnati, at Illinois, at Memphis, at Saint Mary's) to make up for it. Siena has nothing. The Saints are 22-5 with losses to every likely NCAA tournament time on their schedule (Temple, Georgia Tech, Northern Iowa) plus additional losses to a bottom-tier Big East team (St. John's) and a middle-of-the-pack MAAC team (Niagara).

Siena's best win is probably Northeastern.

And yet the Saints are still getting two points in the coaches poll.

That's one more point than Xavier is getting, by the way, and Xavier is 17-7 with wins over Cincinnati, Charlotte, Dayton, Rhode Island and Florida. Furthermore, all seven of Xavier's losses are to teams Jerry Palm has making the NCAA tournament. And just so we're clear, I'm not saying you have to rank Xavier. What I'm saying is that you can't rank Siena, and you sure as hell can't rank Siena if you're not also ranking Xavier.
Posted on: January 11, 2010 8:01 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 8:12 pm

The Poll Attacks

Purdue slipped from fourth to sixth in the latest rankings.

But don't worry, Boilermaker fans, I've got your back.

(Seriously, I've got your back on this.)

Let's Poll Attack!

AP poll: I learned my lesson about constantly picking on one voter when I focused three weeks of Poll Attacks on Roger Clarkson's decision to rank Pitt. As you know, Pitt has since proved to be awesome. Which made me look stupid (even though I was right at the time I was filing the Poll Attacks , but I digress). Anyway, I subsequently decided to spread the Poll Attacks around, be an equal opportunity basher of AP voters. And I'm telling you that because I know this is going to look like I'm targeting Gary Horowitz from Oregon again, but that really wasn't my intent.

Honest to God, all I did was look at the AP poll.

I saw somebody ranked Florida.

And I said, "Who the %$&# ranked Florida?"

Naturally, I looked.

And when I saw it was Gary Horowitz, I just shook my head.

Yes, the same guy who ranked Oregon last week ranked Florida this week, and this one might actually make less sense. Florida is 11-4 with two good wins (Michigan State on a neutral and Florida State at home), one reasonable loss (Syracuse on a neutral), one somewhat reasonable loss (at Vanderbilt), and two terrible losses (Richmond on a neutral and South Alabama at home). Beyond that, the Gators needed a 75-foot shot to beat N.C. State, and the loss to Vanderbilt just happened. So I'm not sure how that body of work is worthy of a Top 25 vote.

Is Florida terrible?

Absolutely not.

But there are plenty of teams not on Horowitz's ballot that should be considered before Florida.

Like Vanderbilt, for starters.

That said, I won't be surprised if Florida beats Kentucky Tuesday night.

Please, make note of that.

But that's Tuesday night, and this is Monday.

And it's difficult to justify ranking Florida on this Monday with that body of work.

(UPDATE: The worst part of this, I just noticed, is that Horowitz didn't rank Florida last week. So when the Gators were 11-3, he had them unranked. But when they dropped to 11-4 with a loss at Vanderbilt, he decided to rank them 24th. Again, Florida entered his ballot after a loss at Vanderbilt, and nothing else. Yes, that really happened. Yes, this is why I do the Poll Attacks .)

Coaches poll: I might never know how I got so crossed with Purdue fans, and I'm not sure they're ever going to understand me any more than I understand them on the subject of whether Purdue has the roster necessary to win a national title. At this point, I'm fine with agreeing to disagree because, honestly, I'm just tired.

But before I take a nap please allow me to -- ready for this? -- defend Purdue.

(Come back to me, Boilermaker fans!)

No way should Purdue have dropped from fourth to sixth in the Coaches poll for losing at Wisconsin.

Almost everybody loses at Wisconsin.

So why should the Boilermakers be punished for not winning at a place nearly everybody loses, particularly when you look at their entire body of work? To date, Purdue has wins over No. 9 West Virginia, No. 10 Tennessee, Wake Forest (receiving votes) and Minnesota (receiving votes). You know how many wins over Top 10 teams Villanova has? Zero. You know how many wins over Top 10 teams Syracuse has? Zero. And Villanova's one loss (at Temple) is clearly worse than Purdue's one loss (at Wisconsin), just like Syracuse's one lloss (at home to Pittsburgh) is clearly worse than Purdue's one loss (at Wisconsin).

And yet Villanova and Syracuse are ranked ahead of Purdue.

Makes no sense.

In all seriousness, you could make the case that, based on body of work, Purdue should actually be ranked ahead of Kansas, too. But I'm not about to start that debate. Like I said, I'm tired.
Posted on: November 2, 2009 7:29 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2009 7:29 pm

Dear Gary (on Vandy)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary:
If Vandy finishes 5th in the East I will eat my hat. They smoked North Carolina [Sunday in a scrimmage]. ... Bottom line, they are going to be totally balanced, experienced, hungry, etc. It's Stallings best team he has ever had. Florida and USC are not interchangeable with Vandy, you should know better, and I like you. Vandy has a better shot at finishing 1st than 5th....Guess we wait till February to get your apology.

Vanderbilt fans sure don't follow directions well. Here's what I wrote in Monday's SEC preview: "Hold the e-mails, Vanderbilt fans. I know the Commodores could be better than this, understand I'm likely to look stupid for picking them fifth in the East. I don't need you to remind me."

So the Vandy fans read that, and guess what they did?

They spent all day reminding me!

All. Freaking. Day.

Again, I understand this is the prediction I'm most likely to regret, and you don't have to wait till February for an apology because I've pretty much offered it in advance. Please accept it. But with that said, it's not like the Commodores were on the verge of greatness last season and are necessarily worthy of the benefit of the doubt. They went 8-8 in the SEC, lost to Alabama in the SEC tournament and finished 19-12. Nothing special about that. So while I realize everybody is back and freshman John Jenkins is supposed to be great, basically writing that I think Vandy will fight with South Carolina and Florida for third in the SEC East isn't the craziest thing ever written.

Will I be wrong?


Just like I might be wrong about Mississippi State winning the West.

And if I'm wrong, I'll acknowledge it.

I almost always do.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 25, 2009 5:11 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2009 5:38 pm

"Closer to home" needs to be close to home

Duke transfer Elliot Williams plans to move "closer to home" and ask the NCAA for a waiver to play next season because his mother is battling cancer. He will reportedly choose between Memphis, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. But the problem with those two statements is that they don't seem to jibe, because there's no chance the Memphis native would get a waiver to play at Tennessee or Kentucky, and even Vanderbilt is a stretch.

At least that's what one Division I coach told CBSSports.com.

According to a Division I coach who has dealt with transfers, the NCAA has "tightened up" the criteria for waivers since allowing Tyler Smith to transfer from Iowa to Tennessee without penalty when Smith's father was battling cancer. Smith wanted to "be closer to home" because of his father's illness, so he picked Tennessee, which is 248 miles from his home in Pulaski, Tenn. The NCAA granted the waiver. But the source said the guidelines are now stricter (even if they aren't clearly defined).

"I know a player who transferred to a school 106 miles from his home, and the NCAA denied the waiver," the source said. "They wanted to know that the player was going to have 'day-to-day responsibilities' with the family member before granting the waiver, and they said that you can't have 'day-to-day responsibilities' if you're 106 miles away."

Assuming that ruling is consistent with the NCAA's current way of thinking, it appears unlikely that Williams could get a waiver to play at any of the schools he's considering except for Memphis. Consider:
  • Vanderbilt is 212 miles from Memphis.
  • Tennessee is 391 miles from Memphis.
  • Kentucky is 423 miles from Memphis.
In conclusion, best I can tell, unless Elliot Williams wants to sit out a year, he must transfer to Memphis.

And that's why it seems to be a near certainty that he'll play for the Tigers next season.
Posted on: October 8, 2008 3:11 pm

Kelly's decision expected Thursday

Ryan Kelly is going national.

Or at least going on national television.

The 6-10 power forward from Raleigh -- ranked as the 11th-best prospect in the Class of 2009 -- is expected to announce his college decision Thursday night on ESPNU, according to Scout.com's Dave Telep. Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Georgetown are the six schools still under consideration for John Wall' AAU teammate. Kelly has visited all six schools in either an official or unofficial capacity, and when he commits that will take six of the top 15 recruits in the Class of 2009 off the board.

Here's Scout.com's Top 15 ...

1. Derrick Favors (uncommitted)

2. John Wall (uncommitted)

3. John Henson (committed to North Carolina)

4. Xavier Henry (uncommitted)

5. Renardo Sidney (uncommitted)

6. DeMarcus Cousins (committed to UAB)

7. Lance Stephenson (uncommitted)

8. Kenny Boynton (uncommitted)

9. Abdul Gaddy (committed to Arizona)

10. Avery Bradley (committed to Texas)

11. Ryan Kelly (uncommitted)

12. Daniel Orton (uncommitted)

13. Jordan Hamilton (uncommitted)

14. Alex Oriakhi (committed to Connecticut)

15. Dominic Cheek (uncommitted)

Posted on: September 30, 2008 12:21 am

Dear Gary (on SEC music videos)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Not to knock Bobby Maze's music video, but in the best interest of being fair in the state of Tennessee let me point you in the direction of former Vanderbilt player Shan Foster's lil' performance.

-- Mike

I like Shan Foster.

I even wrote a whole column about why he doesn't have an 'e' on the end of his name.

But I must tell you that clip of him singing I can't wait to play in the NBA is so unintentionally hilarious it makes me cringe, not to mention the fact that that he is, you know, not playing in the NBA. Instead, Foster is a member of Juvecaserta of the Italian League, which raises two interesting questions:

1. Should Foster rename the song I can't wait to play in Italy?

2. If so, does there need to be an Italian verse added?

Posted on: September 22, 2008 12:00 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2008 10:04 pm

Dear Gary (on picking a school)

Here's Monday Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: If you had a son ranked 50th in the class of 2009 by national recruiting services, to which school would you want to see him go and why? Eliminate the close to home factor, but consider all other factors. He has not yet selected a major.

-- Doc

I'm a big believer in the likelihood of significant playing time because no real player wants to sit the bench. That's why the first thing I'd do is consider the make-up of a program's roster and try to help my son understand how he might fit in. Let's say my son is a point guard and the school already has a junior point guard who is a two-year starter and solid and not a candidate to leave early, and that the school has also already committed a point guard my son has played against many times and, frankly, proved to be not quite as gifted. In that case, my advice is to look elsewhere because the most important thing is to play, and these circumstances should make it difficult to get on the court.

Beyond that, I'm looking at education because, let's be honest, unless my son is a consensus top 10 prospect the odds of him making the NBA are slim. So I want to know if Stanford is interested. Or Duke. Or Vanderbilt. Degrees from those schools are worth a lot of money, and if my son could succeed in the classroom there he'd either make a seven-figure salary in the NBA or a six-figure salary in the business world. Those aren't bad options. So we'd look at that, too. But if you're question revolves around strictly basketball then I would tell you that the obvious answers are North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, you know, places where the fan bases are so large and passionate that my son would be a star in the region regardless of whether he was really a star at all. There's a thing at some schools called Scholarship for Life which basically means if you represent the school well and don't show yourself to be an idiot there's always a big booster in charge of a company willing to hire you at an inflated salary for a job you may or may not be exactly qualified to have because he likes the idea of just being able to show off a famous former player.

I like the idea of Scholarship for Life.

So we'd have to look at that.

But again, my main advice is to go where playing time is available.

Because again, players want to play and they're usually unhappy when they're not .

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com