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Barry Hinson’s name continues to be mentioned as a serious candidate for the head coaching post at Southern Illinois University. The Southern newspaper in Carbondale, Ill., in fact says Hinson is one of the Salukis’ top candidates to succeed Chris Lowery. Hinson, KU’s director of basketball operations, is fourth all-time in wins at Missouri State. Also, ESPN reports that Tulsa “reached out” to KU assistant Danny Manning about its opening. KU assistant Joe Dooley continues to be mentioned as a strong possibility at Mississippi State.
Kansas frontliner Thomas Robinson, who became the first unanimous selection on the AP team since Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin in 2009, joins Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis on the first team.
Robinson and Sullinger will face off in one national semifinal Saturday with Kentucky meeting Louisville in the other game.
As for future stars, check out any NBA Draft projection website. Draftexpress.com lists four players on Final Four teams — the three AP All-Americans plus Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — among its top six projected selections.
“Everybody is talented,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Yes, we have good players. So does everybody else. You think they just have a system and that’s why they’re winning? They do it because they’ve got good players.”
The teams’ regional championships have proved coaches have exceled at managing that talent. It’s not always easy on rosters loaded with high profile recruits and egos.
“A lot of coaches would agree that, at times, coaching teams with a ton a talent is probably more difficult because you’re constantly trying to get the maximum out of them,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
By comparison, Louisville’s players are absent from the All-America lists.
“We may not have as much talent in certain areas as other teams,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
But as the Cardinals proved by dismantling top-seeded Michigan State and rallying past Florida to win the West Regional, chemistry counts in college basketball.
“In the pros, 90 percent of the time, the best team is going to win a five- or seven-game series,” Pitino said. “In college, it’s a one-game stint. Maybe somebody shoots great, anything can happen.”
Robinson, Sullinger and Kidd-Gilchrist were chosen the most outstanding players of their regionals.
Inclusion on the Associated Press team made Robinson a unanimous All-American. He averages 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. His 426 rebounds on the season are the second most in program history behind Wilt Chamberlain.
In the Midwest Regional title game victory against North Carolina, Robinson had 18 points and nine rebounds.
Along with his inclusion on All-America first teams selected by the United States Basketball Writers Association, The Sporting News and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, Robinson becomes the first Kansas player to be selected unanimously since Wayne Simien in 2005.
Sherron Collins was the last Kansas player to be chosen a consensus first-team All-American, making two of the teams in 2012.
Missouri and Kansas City product Marcus Denmon was chosen to the AP second team and KU’s Tyshawn Taylor was on the third team.
Also Monday, Robinson and Denmon were named to the 10-member Wooden All-America team. The award is based on basketball and academic achievement that requites players to be making progress toward graduation and hold at least a 2.0 GPA.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and Kansas coach Bill Self both appeared on a teleconference Monday to preview their upcoming Final Four bout in New Orleans.
Here is a two-minute rundown of what both coaches had to say coming off big victories over No. 1 seeds in the Elite Eight over the weekend.
Kansas went directly through Arizona to get a priceless component to this Final Four team.
In June 2007, soon after Kevin O'Neill returned to be part of Olson's coaching staff, the Wildcats had so much muscle that they went after Louisville's top committed recruit, the 7-foot Withey of San Diego.
It took three weeks to turn Withey's head. Triple-teamed by O'Neill, Olson and Josh Pastner, Withey ultimately phoned Louisville Rick Pitino to tell him he would not play for the Cardinals after all.
Impressed by Arizona's recruiting strength, Withey chose the Wildcats and at that time told reporters "I think that's a national championship team right there."
(Pause here to dab at your eyes.)
Withey would ideally join forward Emmanuel Negedu, point guard Brandon Jennings and shooting guard Brendon Lavender in a four-man class of 2008 that some projected as the No. 1 class in the country.
"Lute Olson is a winner," Withey told Rivals.com. "Kevin O'Neill knows how to make NBA players."
And then it all came crashing down.
Negedu withdrew his pledge to be a Wildcat. He enrolled at Tennessee, averaged 1.9 points per game and, decked by heart problems, transferred to New Mexico. He averaged 4.7 for the Lobos before forced to quit basketball with more medical issues.
Jennings jumped to an Italian pro league and didn't play any college basketball. Lavender became a career sub at Arizona. Withey transferred to Kansas.
It took him a bit, but Withey developed into a fabulous player. He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He has blocked 129 shots in 37 games. How good is that? Loren Woods, who was a shot-blocking machine on Arizona's 2001 Final Four team, set the UA's single-season school record with 102.
Can you imagine how good Arizona would have been with Withey's size and numbers (9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds) this season? The Wildcats would have gone from 23 victories to 30 or thereabouts.
Withey could still win the national championship he spoke of in the summer of 2007, but with Kansas, not Arizona.
Arizona Daily Star
For example, on Dec. 10, Kansas 7-foot junior Jeff Withey had two points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes. Now Withey averages 9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game and on Sunday had 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks against the Tar Heels.
"From a rim protecting and defensive standpoint, I think Jeff Withey has come as far as anybody since we played Ohio State the first time," Self said.
He could provide the presence inside that Ohio State was lucky to miss against Syracuse when Orange 7-footer Fab Melo was suspended before the tournament. When Sullinger is on the court, he may be more likely to wind up matched up with Withey than head-to-head with Robinson.
In December, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor had 13 assists and seven turnovers, with Self on Monday becoming the latest opponent to praise the defense of OSU point guard Aaron Craft. Self said he'd rather have a point guard with only five assists but no turnovers, especially against a team like Ohio State that can get out in transition. But he said taking care of the ball better has been his team's greatest improvement over the course of the season, and the Jayhawks had just eight turnovers Sunday.
The Buckeyes' biggest change from December has come from Deshaun Thomas, who had something of a breakout game with 19 points, then a season-high, against the Jayhawks. Now a 19-point game is just another night for Thomas, who has reached that mark in eight of his last 12 games.
"The first time we played we didn't have to guard Jared, so we were able to put all our concentration on [Thomas], and he still got numbers," Self said. "With Jared there, it's even more of a hard matchup."
ESPN Final Four Primer
ESPN video: Dick Vitale picks Kentucky vs Ohio State for the championship game
Sporting News: Ranking the Final Four Teams
Key Matchup: Aaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor: It’s not a secret that Aaron Craft is the best on-ball defender in the country. How good is he? Luke Winn over at SI.com created a brand new stat just to measure how many turnovers a game Craft forces. (Hint: it’s a lot.) Now, where this gets interesting is that Tyshawn Taylor has developed a (well-earned) for being too turnover-inclined. Taylor was sensational in the Jayhawk’s win over North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but until he took over down the stretch, the four most memorable plays he were three turnovers and a horrendous three. I’ve maintained for a while that Taylor is the most important player on the Kansas roster. Can Craft keep him in check?
X-Factor: Lenzelle Smith Jr. vs. Elijah Johnson: Lenzelle Smith Jr. going up against Elijah Johnson. Johnson is averaging 15.8 ppg in his last six games. He’s really come into his own, providing the Jayhawks with a third scoring option alongside Robinson and Taylor. He was almost single-handedly responsible for the Kansas win over Purdue in the Round of 32. Smith has been just as good for the Buckeyes. He scored 33 points in the regionals and has his biggest games in Ohio State’s biggest wins.
Best Storyline: Did Sullinger duck T-Rob?: I don’t think he did. I guarantee Sullinger will tell you that he didn’t. You probably won’t get Robinson admitting as much unless he is no where near any kind of recording device. And whether or not it was intentional or simply the result of his back injury, Sullinger didn’t play and Ohio State lost to Kansas as Robinson went for 21 points.
NBC Previewing the Final Four
These last two seasons have been fun. Butler and VCU were terrific stories and their historic runs emblematic of the true parity permeating college basketball in the age of the one-and-done.
But for New Orleans you need brash.
You need big.
You need Bam!
And this Final Four is epic, a whirling dervish of a concoction that could make Mardi Gras look like a pocket-protector nerd convention by the time the weekend is over.
Kansas. Kentucky. Louisville. Ohio State.
It is a four-course menu even Emeril would appreciate, serving up a heaping plate of history with side orders of conference power, budgetary excessiveness, All-America talent, coaching prowess, rabid fans and a nice little dose of simmering hostility for dessert.
The only thing this Final Four doesn't have, in fact, is a Cinderella. The good news: Someone probably will dress up like her on Bourbon Street anyway.
ESPN: BPI and the Final Four
Yahoo! Dan Wetzel: Final Four-bound Buckeyes take cue from coach
LJW: Final Four field filled with royalty
It's hard to paint the Buckeyes as anything other than bullies. They've got a roster chock full of McDonald's All-Americans and Mr. Basketball winners in their respective states. Yet Matta knew he had a lot of work to do to form a cohesive unit out of several disparate parts.
The first problem he faced was a lack of grizzled veterans. Buford was the only senior on the roster. The only junior, backup big man Evan Ravenel, had never played a game in an Ohio State uniform after transferring from Boston College. That meant that 85 percent of the roster was freshmen or sophomores. Clearly, even though Sullinger and Craft had seen substantial minutes as freshmen, the Buckeyes still didn't have a forceful leader on the court, with the quiet and sweet-natured Buford hardly the fiery front man they needed.
…Ohio State lost to Indiana and Illinois on the road, but still led the Big Ten heading into a showdown with No. 11 Michigan State on Feb. 11. The Spartans physically challenged the Buckeyes while ending their 39-game home winning streak, relying on their toughness in a 58-48 victory in which Ohio State starters Deshaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Buford combined for just 14 points.
That touched off a span of three losses in five games. Suddenly, a team that many thought might be a national contender was barely in the conference race. There were letters to the editor of the local newspaper disparaging Matta as a coach. Callers to sports talk shows questioned the heart of "prima donna" players.
The Buckeyes noticed how many people were leaping off the bandwagon.
"I appreciated everyone that doubted this basketball team, said we were the underdogs, we weren't good enough, (weren't) mentally strong enough, not physically strong enough, mentally immature -- we heard it all," a still angry Sullinger said after the Buckeyes beat Syracuse 77-70 in the East Regional final on Saturday. "When we were going through that slump in February, everybody was saying this basketball team was kind of on a downhill. We heard negative comments. I want to thank y'all because through all the adversity, we constantly pushed through that."
The frenzy over Kentucky-Louisville has thus far overshadowed the other semifinals game, even though it’s between two No. 2 seeds who have spent most of the season in the Top 10 who each have first-team All-America big men, sophomore Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and junior Thomas Robinson of Kansas.
Robinson was the lone unanimous selection to The Associated Press All-America team announced Monday, something even likely national player of the year Anthony Davis of Kentucky couldn’t accomplish.
Sullinger, the first repeat All-America since Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina in 2009, didn’t play in the Buckeyes’ 78-67 loss to Kansas on Dec. 10 due to injury.
“That seems like two seasons ago,” said Kansas Coach Bill Self, whose team is in the Final Four for the first time since a 75-68 overtime victory against Calipari-coached Memphis in the 2008 title game. “Obviously, they’re not the team they are now with Sullinger, and we’re a much better team now because we’ve learned to cut down on our turnovers.
“I know that Thomas and Jared have great respect for each other. It’s terrific that they’re meeting in the Final Four like this.”
The presence of Robinson, Sullinger and Davis helps make this perhaps the most-pedigreed Final Four ever.
Between them, the four schools have a combined 47 Final Four appearance, 15 for Kentucky, 14 for Kansas, nine for Louisville and nine for Ohio State and in Calipari and Pitino the only coaches to take three schools to the Final Four.
“These programs are so rich in tradition it’s unbelievable,” Self said. “And it’s no major surprise that any of us are here. If you love tradition, this is going to be a wonderful weekend.”
Charles Barkley, after Kentucky blew out Baylor, speculated Sunday who could beat the Wildcats: "The (NBA) Toronto Raptors can. The Charlotte Bobcats maybe. … But nobody in college basketball can beat this team. Period."
Clark Kellogg, who will call the NCAA Final Four and called Kentucky's suspenseless win Sunday, disagrees. The Bobcats, Kellogg said in a phone interview Sunday, could "definitely" beat Kentucky — "the pride factor would rise up if NBA teams played college teams."
While Calipari tries to get the most out of a lot of talent, Pitino has been playing a different game this season. He is the only Final Four coach without an AP first-teamer. In fact, there were no Louisville players on the second or third teams either, or even on the honorable mention list.
According to most lists, not a single one of Pitino’s players would get drafted by the NBA if they left this year. Meanwhile, a raft of injuries and roster adjustments has turned every practice this season into an adventure. Pitino coaxed his sixth Final Four trip out of a team that reminds him in many ways of his first — an undersized, underappreciated group of players at Providence in 1987, headlined by Billy Donovan.
The Cardinals are led by point guard Peyton Siva and center Gorgui Dieng. Yet they went down the stretch in a tight game against Florida on Saturday with Siva gone from the game with five fouls and with a relatively unheralded freshman, Chane Behanan, taking over.
“We may not have as much talent in certain areas as other teams. But there’s young talent, and we’re going to develop,” Pitino said. “The great thing about March Madness and college basketball is that, generally speaking, in the pros, 90 percent of the time, the best team is going to win a five- or seven-game series. In college, it’s a one-game stint, maybe somebody shoots great, anything can happen.”
Jeff Goodman @ GoodmanCBS
Final Four officials: Adams, Ayers, DeRosa, Eades, Harris, Jones, Luckie, Shows, Stuart, Whitehead
The addition of Gilbert Arenas meant there would be no chance for rookie Josh Selby to get playing time. So Selby was assigned to Reno -- the Grizzlies' NBA Development League affiliate.
This is Selby's second stint with the Reno Bighorns. He was last there February 13. Selby played in four games with the Bighorns, and averaged 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.25 steals in 31 minutes. He shot 48 percent from the field, including 50-percent from three-point territory.
The plan was never to insert Selby into the rotation this season when Memphis selected him with the 49th pick in the second round. The organization always saw Selby as raw talent they figured would take time to develop. So the team would much rather than have Selby playing in the D-League rather than sitting on the bench and competing for reps in practice.
Headed to New Orleans?
Now, the tournament itself — the ostensible reason for this mass gathering — will start Saturday after a week of corporate-sponsored hoopla that began Friday with the delivery to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome of the actual floor on which the hoopsters will play. This being New Orleans, the floor’s arrival was heralded by a parade.
The floor reached New Orleans after a seven-city tour, not unlike the trek by runners brandishing the Olympic torch to hype interest in those games.
VIDEO: Final Four floor journey (gives you a peek inside the Superdome)
The Kansas Athletics Department sent an email to the All-Sports Combo holders about the opportunity to see the Final Four for just $25. This offer includes both semifinals and the title game, and the seats are on the floor. Although it may sound too good to be true, this is a legitimate deal that students should take advantage of.
The 2009 Final Four in Detroit was the first time this student-seating model was used, and while North Carolina cruised to an 89-72 victory over Michigan State, the packed student sections were rocking the entire game.
…Last year’s Final Four is the perfect example of what’s at stake for the Kansas students. The Connecticut Huskies, winners of three national championships, are one of the nation’s elite basketball programs. The school has a proud history of success in both the men’s and women’s game, but their students’ absence in Houston was embarrassing.
KU Students. Don't be UConn. Be there!
KU Alumni events (open to public)
NCAA Final Four official site
NOLA tournament central
NCAA Final Four-related events
8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: U.S. Basketball Writers Association Awards Breakfast. Arcadia Room, New Orleans Marriott Hotel, 555 Canal St. Tickets are $75 apiece and can be bought at www.sportswriters.net/usbwa.
Noon to 4 p.m.: Final Four teams practice at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Free. Gates open at 11 a.m.
Noon to 8 p.m.: Bracket Town in Halls H-J of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
4 p.m. to 10 p.m.: KISS performs at Woldenberg Park. Free.
4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: College all-star game at the Dome. Free.
10 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Bracket Town. Shaquille O’Neal is expected to appear, and a game of former college athletes is scheduled to start at 12:30.
11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: The Black Keys play at Woldenberg Park.
1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Tailgate party at Champions Square.
2 p.m.: Dribbling. On-site registration will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the first 1,000 people who didn’t sign up online. All participants must check in before 1:30 p.m.
Noon to 8 p.m.: Bracket Town.
3 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Jimmy Buffett performs at Woldenberg Park.
Noon to 7 p.m.: Bracket Town.
4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tailgate party at Champions Square.
Louisiana Revised Statutes § 4:1 forbids the practice of reselling tickets for higher than face value. In 2006, the statute was amended to allow the sale of tickets, at any price, for sales conducted over the Internet, so long as the organizer of the event and the event location’s operator have authorized the sale of the tickets. Second, the web site’s operator must guarantee a full refund of the total sale price (including all charges) if the event is (a) canceled, (b) the purchaser is denied admission through no fault of his own, or (c) the ticket is not delivered as promised and this results in an inability to attend the event. Third, this guarantee must be posted on the operator’s web site. Finally, the prospective purchaser must be directed to the guarantee on the operator’s website prior to the completion of the transaction. See the applicaple section here. Meanwhile the New Orleans Code of Ordinances § 54-484 prohibits scalping with no exceptions.
Best of New Orleans: History of the Final Four (*profanity)
Big 12/College News
Kansas State’s basketball players exited Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night, laughing as they walked to their cars and flashing peace signs at reporters and security guards assembled outside.
It was an odd conclusion to a hectic day in which their coach was set to take another job.
After five seasons with Kansas State, Frank Martin is expected to be introduced as the new coach at South Carolina on Tuesday, according to a source close to Martin.
South Carolina administrators have scheduled a trustees meeting to discuss “a contractual matter” Tuesday morning in the Gamecocks’ basketball arena. As long as the trustees approve the deal, Martin is expected to sign a six-year contract worth close to $12 million, according to a South Carolina source with knowledge of the negotiations.
Martin told ESPN in a text message on Monday night that he had accepted the job.
K-State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director John Currie will hold a news conference to discuss the coaching change at 10 a.m., around the same time Martin is to be introduced in South Carolina.
…Martin also will have a new boss in South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman. Martin’s decision to leave was due, at least in part, to a deteriorating relationship with Currie.
The two have never shared a deep connection, and Martin wasn’t a fan of his micro-managing style.
“Frank isn’t one to complain about someone behind his back,” the source close to Martin said last weekend, “but I can tell you he doesn’t get along with that gentleman.”
That sour relationship reached a breaking point during the NCAA Tournament, when Martin didn’t agree with the way Currie handled the decision to hold senior Jamar Samuels out of a game against Syracuse, which K-State lost.
Samuels, K-State sources said, was wired $200 by his former AAU coach. Currie said he found out about the possible NCAA violation between the Wildcats’ first and second tournament games and decided to suspend Samuels.
Martin said he didn’t think Samuels did anything wrong and also said he played no part in the decision-making process.
The situation upset Martin. He was so upset, the source close to Martin said, that he was ready to listen to South Carolina’s offer.
“Frank is just looking to be happy,” the source said. “He wants to work at a place where he has the full support of his athletic director and president. He wants to be left alone so he can do what he does best — coach.”
Martin, apparently, felt he could no longer do that at K-State. Martin, Schulz and Currie didn’t respond to repeated messages seeking comment. Players attending a meeting with K-State officials at Bramlage wouldn’t comment, either.
The Wildcats should look long and hard at Illinois State coach and former Kansas State player Tim Jankovich as well as Georgia coach Mark Fox, a former Kansas State assistant, to replace Frank Martin. Jankovich has strong ties to the region and was once a junior college coach. He nearly upset Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Fox will have Georgia relevant again here soon if he were to stay in Athens. The Wildcats won’t replace the persona of Martin so they better get someone who is natural to the region.
ESPN Andy Katz
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanCBS
Texas freshman Myck Kabongo will return to Texas next season.
Quincy Acy kept his promise and didn't back down as the Bears tried to send the message early that they would not be intimidated by Kentucky.
But the senior's efforts did more to fire up the Wildcats as Baylor's Final Four dream ended with an 82-70 loss to Kentucky in Sunday's South Regional final.
Acy had 22 points but had too little scoring help as Baylor was overwhelmed by Kentucky's talent and depth.
Pierre Jackson had 21 points, including five baskets in the final 2 minutes. Baylor had only one other scorer in double figures and couldn't pull closer than 10 points.
Perry Jones III added 17 points for Baylor (30-8), which was denied its bid for its first Final Four appearance in 62 years. The Bears led 10-5 but Kentucky answered with a 16 unanswered points never lost the lead.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's 19 points led Kentucky (36-2), which will play in-state rival Louisville in the Final Four on Saturday.
Enigmatic Mississippi State forward Renardo Sidney has signed with an agent and will declare for the NBA draft.
But who will take him?
“I would think [he would get chosen] at some point in the second round but his stock is really low,” one NBA scout told SNY.tv. “He needs to get to the Chicago Pre-Draft camp somehow.”
When asked if Sidney will get drafted, a second NBA scout said flatly, “No.”
Syracuse sophomore guard Dion Waiters confirmed what many had suspected and what SNY.tv first reported Saturday night following Syracuse’s season-ending loss to Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament.
He is headed to the NBA.
“I’ve decided to pursue my dream of becoming a professional basketball player by entering my name in the NBA Draft this spring,” he said in a statement. “I plan on signing with an agent.
Overmatched Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas realizes he represents one of the proudest basketball traditions in the Big Ten and not the University of East Central Illinois, right? Is the stature of the program reduced enough to start using a hyphen: Illinois-Champaign?
Barring an 11th-hour surprise, a national coaching search that began amid such promise will end smacking of desperation. If Groce becomes the next Illinois head coach as several sources expect, he will accept the job knowing at least five other candidates decided it was not for them. That says more about the process than Groce, a reputable, indefatigable coach who indeed could restore pride to the Illini.
Lingering frustration has less to do with why hiring a 40-year-old with a 34-30 record in the MAC represents such a big risk in the Big Ten. It has more to do with how Thomas put the school in the position to settle for this year's March college basketball flavor of the month who could be the next Thad Matta — or the next Dan Monson.
As the search nears its clumsy conclusion, oddly I have more questions about Thomas than Groce.
…Consider: Smart and Stevens, two midmajor coaches, turned down a $21 million job everyone now can stop referring to as great for the comforts of home. Two 35-year-old fathers passed up generational wealth and an opportunity to coach in America's best basketball conference for … stability Illinois couldn't offer?
Blame the forced resignation of university President Michael Hogan for creating uncertainty. Blame fears of recruiting Chicago, where the perception of secret handshakes and backroom deals that scared away Smart exceeds the reality. Blame Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, whose harsh rebuke of Thomas' handling of Bruce Weber created questions in the coaching community how much support Weber's successor would have. Blame Thomas, an exposed novice, for making $3.9 million spent on Weber's buyout seem like a shakier investment every day.
Blame Groce for nothing, except being an unwitting understudy in an Illinois comedy of errors.
So, to review: since the end of the Big XII tournament the Tigers have lost to a 15th-seeded small school which was then blown out in their very next game by a Florida team Mizzou would have been fairly heavily favored against, seen every other Big XII team in the tourney go further than them, been upstaged by the 'other' team from Missouri in the big dance, watched two of their rivals, one of whom they beat three times, advance to the Elite Eight, and now Kansas is once again poised to play for a national championship.
As good as the season was for Missouri, it seems now they're right back where they usually are, looking up at other Big XII teams and trying to answer their own questions about where they go from here.
It's all very depressing, really.
Upsets and underdogs have rendered many tournament brackets dead, but Applebee’s reports that online trash talking is alive and well in college basketball.
And, guess who’s talking the most smack? Women have posted 71 percent of the nearly 50,000 shout-outs and hundreds of photos uploaded to Applebee’s Fan Fanatics Facebook page. The online contest rewards college basketball’s biggest fans with Applebee’s gift cards.
“Our female Fan Fanatics are dishing it out online far more often than men,” said Jill McFarland, senior manager of digital and social media for Applebee’s Services, Inc. “We’ve given away thousands in Applebee’s gift cards and the smack talk is in high gear heading into the final games. Even if your bracket is busted and your team is out, you can still compete and win with Fan Fanatics.”
Harrison Barnes came into my life on a Friday afternoon in 2009, when he held a press conference to announce his decision to attend the University of North Carolina. I've always held a perhaps unhealthy fascination with these Signing Day spectacles — they are tacky and weird and self-serving, sure, but there's something undeniably great about seeing a 17- or 18-year-old kid take his first public step toward greatness, bust-infamy, or the quiet, dark space of unmet expectations. Barnes, who in a recent Atlantic article admitted that one reason he returned to North Carolina for his sophomore season was to enhance his "brand," certainly proved himself to be the showman. After a long speech thanking every good thing in God's academic world, Barnes announced, "The school that I choose to be my alma mater, indeed, the place where I will leave my legacy, had the right balance of both academics and basketball that which I thought I could achieve the goals I wanted to pursue. Today, I'm proud to announce the school I will attend in the fall of 2010 will be the coach I'm going to Skype … "
And with that, ol' Roy Williams and his Tar Heel basketball team were projected onto a giant screen and all of North Carolina joined in a chorus of "Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices ringing clear and true … " My phone began filling up with text messages from friends from Chapel Hill, the crowd in Ames, Iowa, Barnes's hometown, cheered lustily, and I put my head in my hands and felt a bit uneasy. Not because I doubted Barnes's basketball abilities (that would come later), but because there had been something a bit too polished and produced about the entire thing. Call me a sentimental old softy, but I've always preferred the version where the kid from the sticks of Georgia or the farmland of Indiana sits in front of a table, sweats nervously, and mumbles through some inaudible thank-yous before he's swarmed by 15 relatives and his 250-pound mother.
Jason Jordan @JayJayESPN
When asked if he thinks he can bring T Parker and Shabazz with him to UCLA, Kyle Anderson told me: "I don't think so, but I'm trying!"
Ranked by Rivals.com as the top prep recruit, Muhammad scored a perfect 70 in the final round. The competition was part of the McDonald's All-American game that will be played Wednesday.
Muhammad is choosing between Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, USC, UCLA and UNLV.
https://twitter.com/#!/ebosshoops (at the McD's practices)
Perry Ellis taking things pretty seriously. Also serious is is 4 state titles and 4 state player of the year awards.
Isaiah Lewis, one of the top point guards in the Class of 2013 out of New York’s Christ the King High School, will be contributing periodically to ZAGSBLOG during his junior season. Here’s his second entry in which he discusses cutting his school list to five schools: Louisville, Kansas, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Memphis.
**Louisville — “I really like the ‘Ville. I think Coach [Rick] Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach. He knows how to win and gets the best out of his players. He is an uptempo-style coach and I love to run. The fan base is great at Louisville.
**Kansas – ”A great tradition. Coach [Bill] Self is a great coach and a great guy also. I love how he runs his offense, letting his guards play pick and roll and letting them create. The fan base is crazy. Kansas fans support their basketball 100 percent and I love that. Coach [Joe] Dooley and coach[Kurtis] Townsend are also cool. It’s also good to talk to them on the phone.”
**Florida State — “I love Coach [Leonard] Hamilton. Me and my dad talk to him a lot. I think Florida State is a great program. Coach Ham let his guards play and he has a winning approach to to every game. And I also feel like I can compete for a championship there.
**Georgia Tech — “I think Georgia Tech is gonna be great this up and coming year with their new recruits. I think that I can come in at Georgia Tech and have a chance to play in the ACC and for a up and coming coach like Coach [Brian] Gregory.”
**Memphis — “Coach P [Josh Pastner] is a great coach. I think with them coming to the Big East it is going to be great. Me and Coach P talk a lot on the phone and he just tells me how much I’ll fit in their type of system and with Coach [Damon] Stoudamire as an assistant I can learn a lot from him as well.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert came down hard on college basketball careers that last one season.
“I happen to dislike the one-and-done rule enormously and wish it didn’t exist,” Emmert said Friday during a panel discussion hours before the Midwest Regional semifinal round tipped off. “I think it forces young men to go to college that have little or no interest in going to college.
“It makes a travesty of the whole notion of student as an athlete.”
But Emmert is quick to remind that the one-and-done isn’t a college rule. The NBA requires players to be 19 years old or have completed one year of college before becoming eligible for the NBA Draft.
The rule went on the books in 2007, as players such as Texas’ Kevin Durant and Ohio State’s Greg Oden spent a year on campus. That was the first class not allowed to follow such players as LeBron James into the NBA straight from high school.
Memphis guard Derrick Rose was in the next class of one-and-dones.
Critics on the college level have howled. Coaches must continue to recruit the game’s top talent but one-year careers play havoc with future recruiting and roster plans.
School officials say the rule has made a mockery of the term “student-athlete.” To be eligible, an athlete essentially has to be eligible for the fall semester. Academic performance can slip in the spring semester but an athlete can complete a basketball season without consequence.
“It simply creates the wrong type of environment for us,” Emmert said.
…“I’m not critical of the kid who does that,” Emmert said. “Why would we object to a young man pursuing their life’s pleasure? If a young woman wants to dance with the New York City ballet at 16 we don’t see her on our college campuses. That’s fine. If someone is a great musician they may or may not come to us. We don’t think less of them.
“But if you’re coming to us to be a collegiate athlete we want you to be a collegiate athlete. We will give you the best opportunities in the classroom, in the training room, with coaches. If you want to become a professional athlete, there is no better place to go generally than to come to one of our schools to develop your skills and abilities. But if you do that, you have to be a student.”
There has been sentiment to change the rule, and NBA commissioner David Stern has expressed interest in a two-year minimum between high school and the NBA. The league’s union said it might be willing to change if colleges allow stipends above scholarship costs, an idea that has gained traction among major conferences as television contract revenue increase.
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Theo Pinson (High Point, N.C./Wesleyan)
2014, SG, 6-6, 180 pounds
He has high-level athletic ability and can play all three perimeter positions. His handle is good as he keeps his head and eyes up as the play develops and always looks to deliver an assist. He can drive to the basket at will thanks to his quickness and size and could be good at contesting shots and containing the drive if the he becomes serious on the defensive end. However, he needs better shot preparation on his jumper. It's early but his list consists of NC State, Kansas, Baylor, Texas, UNC, Duke, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Wake Forest and Tennessee.
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