Posted on: December 9, 2009 10:47 pm

Dear Gary (on the Bo Ryan column)

NEW YORK -- Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: It's funny that you posted that column right before Wisconsin plays on the road in front of a soldout crowd in Green Bay. Good column. I like the Badgers. But I would have waited to make sure there is no upset tonight to delute the value of the column.

-- Marc

Marc sent this email about my Bo Ryan column on Wednesday morning.

I needed him to send it Monday morning, you know, before I wrote the column.

(Final score from Wednesday night: Green Bay 88, Wisconsin 83 in overtime)

Thanks for nothing, Marc.
Posted on: December 8, 2009 4:35 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2009 4:42 pm

Dear Gary (on ranking Duke ahead of Wisconsin)

NEW YORK -- Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Duke ahead of Wisconsin? I thought you said the games matter?

-- Jeff

Yes, the games do matter.

And, yes, that's what I wrote.

But let's not omit the details. Here's exactly what I wrote in the Nov. 30 Poll Attacks : "Head-to-head competition (particularly on a neutral court) should serve as a tiebreaker when two schools' bodies of work are similar. "

Now let's look at Duke and Wisconsin.

(All rankings used below are current AP rankings)

That Duke-Wisconsin game -- won 73-69 by Wisconsin -- was not played on a neutral court. It was played at Wisconsin, meaning Duke's 7-1 record consists of a 68-59 win over No. 14 Connecticut, two other wins over teams receiving votes in the AP poll (Charlotte and St. John's), and a four-point loss at Wisconsin. Meantime, Wisconsin's 6-1 record features a 73-69 win over No. 8 Duke, no additional wins over teams receiving votes in the AP poll, and a 13-point loss to No. 21 Gonzaga on a neutral court.

Now look again at what I wrote: "Head-to-head competition (particularly on a neutral court) should serve as a tiebreaker when two schools' bodies of work are similar. " Simply put, I do not believe Duke's and Wisconsin's bodies of work are similar. I think Duke's is better. And the head-to-head competion didn't take place on a neutral court like the Florida-Michigan State game or the Syracuse-North Carolina game. It took place at the Kohl Center, i.e., a place where the Badgers are 124-10 during the Bo Ryan era.

So that's why I have Duke ranked ahead of Wisconsin.

Because I believe Duke has the better body of work despite the loss to Wisconsin.

(NOTE: I know the next email is going to be somebody asking why I have Wisconsin ahead of Gonzaga even though Gonzaga beat Wisconsin on a neutral court, and to that, I say, fair question. There's no doubt it's closer, which is why I have the Badgers and Zags much closer than I have the Badgers and Blue Devils. But, similarly, I just believe Wisconsin has a better body of work than Gonzaga. The Badgers have a 6-1 record as opposed to Gonzaga's 6-2 record, and the Badgers only loss came to a ranked team on a neutral court while one of Gonzaga's two losses came to an unranked team (Wake Forest) at home. To me, that's the difference. But again, it's close. And if somebody had Gonzaga ahead of Wisconsin, I wouldn't Poll Attack them for it.)
Posted on: October 19, 2009 12:29 am
Edited on: October 19, 2009 12:30 am

Marquette lands former Wisconsin pledge

Remember Vander Blue?

He's the Class of 2010 standout who decommitted frrom Wisconsin last May and became the focal point of a message board war that he acknowledged bothered him. I wrote a column about him at the time; you can click this link to read it. And I only mention it again now because the 6-foot-4 guard committed to Marquette this weekend, meaning he went from one rival to another, and he knows it.

"It was tough, decommitting from Wisconsin and then turning around and committing to Marquette," Blue told Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . "That's like me going from Duke to North Carolina. You know there's going to be some tensions, regardless. But at the end of the day, I've got to do what's best for me and my family, and that's what it was."

(Note to self: Make sure to attend Blue's first trip to Kohl Center.)

Scout.com rates Blue as the 27th-best prospect in the Class of 2010.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 17, 2009 10:56 am

College basketball players have been acting OK

News that the two Wisconsin players involved in a burglary this month have been dismissed reminded me of something, specifically that we really haven't had a bunch of these kinds of stories this offseason. I mean, I guess the Arkansas players accused of rape haven't been model citizens, but they weren't actually charged with a crime. And beyond that, college basketball players have mostly been behaving well since last season, or at least well enough to stay out of their local newspapers.

Such hasn't always been the case.

Two Septembers ago, I wrote a column about a string of off-the-court incidents -- among them a Pitt point guard arrested for trying to grab a cop's gun, a couple of Memphis players charged for inciting a riot, a Duquesne player cited for smoking weed on a street corner, and a North Dakota State College of Science player arrested for making $10,000 in fraudulent phone calls. The column was filed on a Friday and designed as a challenge to all college basketball players, to see whether they could get through the upcoming weekend with no issues. Predictably, some idiot was arrested for something that Saturday, and I just added it to the list.

But there really isn't much of a list lately.

That's the point I'm trying to make.

So I'd like to send a genuine congrats to the nation's college basketball players -- except for the two clowns from Wisconsin -- for mostly staying out of trouble lately. As I would tell my son, I'm proud of you. But I'm pretty sure I just jinxed the hell out of you.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Wisconsin
Posted on: March 14, 2009 2:24 pm

Am I missing something with Wisconsin?

Nearly everybody in the business of projecting brackets has Wisconsin as a "lock".

Why is that?

Here's Wisconsin's body of work ...


Overall record: 17-12
RPI: 44
Record vs. top 50: 4-10
Record vs. top 100: 9-11
Losses outside top 100: 1

Now look at this body of work ...


Overall record: 26-7
RPI: 41
Record vs. top 50: 2-2
Record vs. top 100: 9-5
Losses outside top 100: 2

Now let me ask: Which body of work looks better?

The mystery team, right?

That mystery team is Creighton , a school that is either one of the last teams in or on the wrong side of the bubble of most bracket projections. Which is fine, I guess. That's not my point. My point is that it's difficult to understand why Wisconsin is a "lock" to make the NCAA tournament while Creighton is on the bubble when it appears the Bluejays actually have a better profile.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 26, 2008 12:23 pm

Dear Gary (on coaches who recruit for a system)

Here's Friday Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: First off, let me say thanks for providing the most offseason coverage of college basketball that anyone could ask for. Also, I have a question: Bo Ryan always seems to do a fantastic job with a very small number of legitimately high-level recruits, and from what I've heard he really only goes after players that fit the Wisconsin system. ... Are there any other major conference coaches who recruit mid-level players like Ryan and manage any sort of success, or is Bo unique?

-- Sam

First, thanks for your first sentence.

That's nice.

A first sentence like that will pretty much get any question answered. So all you emailers should keep that in mind, that I'm a sucker for nice words. As for Bo Ryan, yes, he's unique. But he's still signed his share of high-level recruits over the years -- guys like Brian Butch (ranked 11th in the Class of 2004), Greg Stiemsma (ranked 31st in the Class of 2004), Joe Krabbenhoft (ranked 35th in the Class of 2005) and Jason Bohannon (ranked 42nd in the Class of 2006). So while Ryan does consistently overachieve given the level of natural ability in the Wisconsin program, it must also be noted that he usually has some Top 50-caliber prospects at his disposal.

John Beilein, not so much.

I think that's the name that best answers your question.

I'm not sure Beilein has ever had a Top 50 prospect, but he's done OK for himself. He went to the Elite Eight and compiled a 104-60 record in five seasons at West Virginia before leaving for Michigan, where there is no evidence that his recruiting philosophy has been greatly altered. And though I've vowed to never doubt Beilein because he's proved me wrong too many times, I will say that searching for "diamonds in the rough" who fit a particular system is not the way to compete for national titles in this era of college basketball.

Isn't that the goal at Michigan, to compete for national titles?

If so, I'm not sure that can be done with under-the-radar prospects because a team needs at least three NBA players to win a national title, or at least that's what recent history suggests. Don't believe me, checkout the last five NCAA tournament champions ...

2008: Kansas (Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers)
2007: Florida (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer)
2006: Florida (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer)
2005: North Carolina (Marvin Williams, Sean May, Raymond Felton)
2004: Connecticut (Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Josh Boone)

So clearly, competing for national titles requires NBA-caliber professionals, and I'm not sure Beilein deals in those enough. That's the concern. But make no mistake, the man is a tremendous instructor. And if any high-major coach deserves the benefit of the doubt, Beilein is probably that guy.

Posted on: September 3, 2008 4:35 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2008 6:27 pm

It's offcial: Wisconsin is usually underrated

Robbie Allen over at StatSheet.com has updated his site, which is full of -- take a guess -- stats.

The newest college basketball addition deals with where teams are in preseason polls relative to where they finish in an attempt to genuinely learn which are the most-overrated and most-underrated programs in America. It's neat stuff. And I was not surprised to learn that Wisconsin is consistently underrated because that belief is what led me to promise to never again leave the Badgers unranked in a preseason poll as long as Bo Ryan is the coach.

According to StatSheet.com, Wisconsin has been ranked in either the preseason or final AP poll six of the past seven seasons and finished higher in the final AP poll than it was in the first AP poll in five of those six seasons. Just last season, the Badgers started unranked before finishing sixth in the final AP poll.

As for the overrated teams, try Michigan State and Arizona.

The Spartans have finished lower in the final AP poll than they were in the preseason AP poll six of the past seven seasons, and at least 10 spots lower in five of the past seven seasons. Arizona, meantime, has also finished lower in the final AP poll than it was in the preseason AP poll six of the past seven seasons, which might be evidence that, yes, voters give the big-name programs the benefit of the doubt more often than not because it's difficult to find bigger names than Michigan State and Arizona.

Posted on: May 22, 2008 5:44 pm
Edited on: May 22, 2008 6:43 pm

Lots of people go to Kentucky basketball games

The final figures are in: Kentucky led the nation in attendance this season. Again. It marks the 12th time in 13 years that the Wildcats have led in attendance, a statistic that demonstrates how UK has the most committed fans in the country ... and a really big home arena.

Kentucky averaged 22,554 fans to top the list by more than 2,000 people per game.

Interestingly, three of the top eight schools are from the SEC.

The entire Top 10 is below:

1. Kentucky (22,554)

2. North Carolina (20,497)

3. Syracuse (20,345)

4. Tennessee (20,267)

5. Louisville (19,481)

6. Maryland (17,950)

7. Wisconsin (17,190)

8. Arkansas (17,148)

9. Indiana (16,876)

10. Memphis (16,748)
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com