Thursday, March 31, 2011

Final Four Heavyweights

Despite the mid-majors (Butler and Virginia Commonwealth) receiving most of the Final Four attention, the heavyweights are still around.

UConn and Kentucky are household college basketball teams and they will represent the establishment Saturday in Houston.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun has built a consistent winner, something that wasn’t happening before he arrived in Storms, Connecticut. His tenure has been far from blissful however. NCAA sanctions for rule violations continue over Calhoun’s head.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has taken three teams to the Final Four with UMass and Memphis being the other two squads. People have never said Calipari cannot coach. His best performance may have been this season. This group returned zero starters from the 2009-10 Kentucky team. But like Calhoun, Calipari has had trouble with the NCAA. Unlike Calhoun, he has not been charged with anything.

Guards usually highlight NCAA play this time of year and the UConn-Kentucky tussle will feature a couple of good ones. UConn’s Kemba Walker has taken over games in the tournament and is scoring 23.4 points per game. On the Kentucky sideline is freshman Brandon Knight. This kid is a point guard who can score. He’s at 17.3 per game.

But my favorite player in this game is Kentucky center Josh Harrellson. At 6-10, 275, he is what they say in basketball, a wide body. He was virtually unknown coming into the tournament, but America is taking a liking to this blue collar worker. He has put up decent numbers this season averaging 7.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Here’s hoping the old Kentucky home can gain the victory Saturday and send the final and 11th Big East team home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Coaching Soap Opera

This is the season for plenty of college basketball coaching news. Who has been fired? Who has been hired? Where will a hot NCAA tournament coach end up?

The Internet has fueled the speculation to soap opera proportions. How often have you read the word, ‘report’ or ‘source’ when it comes to a college coach?

Well, my neighbor to the south, Missouri, is looking for a coach due to Mike Anderson leaving for Arkansas. Internet reports on a St. Louis website are documenting the search.

I have been following the progress since I go to the site daily for my St. Louis Cardinals baseball fix. It’s difficult not to read the stuff.

Purdue’s Matt Painter and the Tigers are dating. They had a meeting yesterday in Florida. The website provided not one, but two updates yesterday. Apparently, Painter will announce his decision today (Wednesday).

This story interests me because of Painter’s interest. Here is a Purdue graduate having solid success at his school. Obviously, I don’t know the entire situation, but it seems like a lateral move from Purdue to Missouri. Sounds like Painter thinks the resources are better at Missouri.

And due to the Internet, many Missouri fans will probably become disappointed if Painter stays at Purdue. And then the speculation for another coach will develop and grow.

You gotta love it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No Cinderella Matchup

Some are the calling the Butler-Virginia Commonwealth Final Four game a Cinderella affair. But that isn’t the true picture.

Yes, we do have one true Cinderella team in Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams barely got an invitation to the tournament and were seeded No. 11. They have awakened the college basketball world with five straight tournament wins and knocked out No. 1 seeded Kansas in the Final Four qualifier. Fans are learning all about a school that very few basketball fans know about before the tournament. Yes, Cinderella is Virginia Commonwealth.

Butler is not a Cinderella story, however. Maybe the Bulldogs were in the past, but not this year. They are a veteran NCAA tournament team. Remember last year when they matched Duke toe-to-toe in the championship game? These players know the drill and expect to do well in the tournament. It’s no real surprise that Butler is where the Bulldogs are at this time of year. They did have some hiccups during the season, but once the tournament began, the games faces came on and Butler went into high gear.

What we do have here is a wonderful game between two mid-major schools. It brings rich freshness to the Final Four. Maybe this will force the NCAA brass to invite more mid-majors to the NCAA party. Maybe they can drop some power conference .500 record teams and give the smaller boys a better chance.

Let’s hope they receive the memo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Virginia Commonwealth Tops Wild Basketball Weekend

The Cinderella slipper firmly remains on Virginia Commonwealth’s foot. The Rams refuse to lose.

Virginia Commonwealth took care of No. 1 seeded Kansas Sunday and earned itself a Four Final berth. This is not a misprint. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Virginia Commonwealth is going to the Final Four.

This is one of the best stories in college basketball in a long, long time. The Rams weren’t given much respect entering the tournament. They were selected as a play-in participant. VCU won that opening test and then an amazing five straight games.

The team with a great named-coach (Shaka Smart) will play Butler Saturday in Houston. That in itself is special. Two mid-major schools battling for a trip to the championship game is indeed priceless.

VCU is suddenly the talk of the college basketball world. The Rams are no longer strangers. They have a new bunch of bandwagon fans hoping to cheer them on to the college basketball promise land.

VCU hopes to still be wearing that slipper championship night. Why doubt the Rams now? That slipper looks pretty shiny.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

NCAA Basketball Tournament Talk

Here are some thoughts about the happenings in the NCAA tournament as we await the Elite 8 games today and Sunday.

The national media said Kentucky stunned Ohio State last night. True, the Buckeyes were the overall No. 1 seed, but I think stunned is a strong word. I knew that Kentucky would give Ohio State a good game and I thought the Cats had a chance for the victory.

Cinderella lives on in Virginia Commonwealth. This story grows in its excitement as the No. 11 seed seeks a Final Four berth Sunday. Unfortunately, the Rams play the only No. 1 seed remaining—Kansas. Dreams do come true but against Kansas, it will be difficult. It would be great if the slipper doesn’t fall off.

The Butler story doesn’t seem to grow old. It’s difficult not to cheer for those guys. Florida will throw lots of athletes at them today. It should be a great game. If it turns into a grinder game, that favors Butler. If it’s a track meet, the Gators will prevail.

Has Arizona come back to reality after its upset win over Duke? Can the Cats derail the last remaining Big East team in UConn? Let’s hope so.

Tomorrow’s Kentucky-North Carolina contest should be a battle between loads of young talent. I think this game will feature the best overall talent of the tournament.

The tournament has been entertaining this year. And with a couple more twists or turns, it will remain entertaining.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hail Butler

Bucky Badger feels sad today. He watched his beloved Wisconsin team steamrolled by Butler last night.

So much for the ESPN experts’ predictions. Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas gave the Bulldogs no chance. They said Butler better not get behind. No problem, boys, Butler handled it.

These Bulldogs are on a mission. Stumbling a bit during the season, Butler is now playing on a high level. It is out to prove that the Bulldogs appearance in the championship game last year was no fluke.

These guys are a veteran group and they show it in the tournament. This isn’t like a kid’s first trip to Disneyland. Butler isn’t wide-eyed. The Bulldogs are business-like and take it one game at a time. They play off their coach Brad Stevens. Stevens keeps them motivated in a steady, confident way. Stevens looks and acts like a choir director out there.

Butler’s next obstacle is Florida. The Gators are an athletic team and a direct opposite of Wisconsin. They like to push the ball and shoot.

The Bulldogs will have a challenge. But this one is for the Final Four. And besides, Butler has already defeated the No. 1 and 4 seeds. It would enjoy added No. 2 to the collection.

It just might happen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blue Collar Basketball

If you are a fan of blue collar basketball, tonight’s NCAA Sweet Sixteen game between Butler and Wisconsin is your kind of contest.

This game should be an interesting one, but ugly. If you are looking for style points, you better switch to the ABC program “Dancing with the Stars.”

Wisconsin is the favorite as the No. 4 seed. Badger basketball features tough defense and patient offense (better know as pass, pass, pass the ball, then shoot). Coach Bo Ryan just knows how to win. Point guard Jordan Taylor and post guy Jon Leuer are Wisconsin’s top players.

Butler came on the scene last year with a championship game appearance. The Bulldogs were thought to be down this season, but look at them now. The upset win over No. 1 seed Pittsburgh raised the national presence again. Like Wisconsin, Butler plays solid defense and finds enough offense. Guard Shelvin Mack and forward Matt Howard can provide the offense. Coach Brad Stevens national coach stock has risen in the last couple years, but the guy that looks like a college professor says he is happy at Butler.

Because both teams preach defense, this game could be decided on which team gets hot on the offensive end.

But regardless, prepare for that grinder game. This one won’t make many highlight reels. Trust me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Big East is a Big Bust

The Big East Conference isn’t so high and mighty after all.

The league entered the NCAA basketball tournament with 11 entries out of 16 teams. Only two teams remain in Marquette and UConn. That means nine clubs didn’t even survive the first weekend of the tournament. Granted, a couple games pitted conferences foes against each other, but this is still significant.

Even the two teams left have a difficult path to the Final Four. I don’t think Marquette will defeat North Carolina in the next round. If it does, Marquette gets the Ohio State-Kentucky winner. If UConn defeats San Diego State (and that’s a big if), the Huskies play the Duke or Arizona.

I guess bias cannot even protect a team once it plays the game. Maybe, the NCAA brass will reconsider its Big East thinking for future NCAA tournaments. As I stated in an earlier blog, no conference should receive 11 bids.

Some of those bids should go to smaller schools in smaller conferences. Who cares if the Big East No. 10 team plays the No. 7 Big Ten team?

We can only hope this lesson has been learned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Darling of the NCAA Tournament

Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) receives my vote as the darling of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The Rams will play their first ever Sweet Sixteen game Friday night against Florida State.

VCU has been traveling a special road this tournament. First, the Rams knock off Southern Cal in the play-in game. Second, Georgetown is the victim. Last Sunday, Purdue goes home. VCU won three games in five days. You think the Rams were tired, not a chance? They are living on momentum.

Most people don’t know much about this school, me included. VCU plays in the Colonial Athletic Association—the same conference as George Mason another NCAA favorite. The school is located in Richmond and has an enrollment of 32,000 students on two campuses. It also features a medical center.

The Rams never won more than one NCAA game in a season before this year. Coach Shaka Smart leads the 26-11 club. I imagine bigger schools will want to talk to Smart about their vacancy when VCU’s season is finished. Mid-major coaches receive much exposure when their teams make strong tournament runs.

But Smart’s focus is on the Florida State Seminoles now. This should be an entertaining contest between two teams not figured to advance this far. The Seminoles have defeated Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

VCU hopes to continue its darling status. As the Rams march forward, the love grows.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Butler-Pitt: A Strange, Strange Ending

These middle-aged eyes have viewed plenty of college basketball. But what the eyes saw Saturday in the Butler-Pittsburgh NCAA tournament game was plain weird.

Butler held a one-point lead with only a couple seconds remaining. Pittsburgh has one last desperate chance. All Butler had to do was apply a little pressure as the Panthers would try a heave-ho shot.

The Pittsburgh pass went to mid-court where there was a scramble for the basketball. The Butler player bumped into the Pittsburgh player and a foul was called. Unbelievable! The Pitt player made the first free throw to tie the score. He then missed the second one and I saw the Butler player rebound the ball thinking the game was headed for overtime.

But wait: I saw the official raise his hand. The Butler player was fouled on the rebound. Unbelievable! After making the first shot, the second one was deliberately missed and Butler had defeated the No. 1 seed in a most memorable NCAA tournament game.

All coaches preached at the end of the game to avoid foolish fouls. Saturday, there were two foolish ones in a matter of about two seconds. Sometimes cooler heads do not prevail.

It’s March Madness and things get crazy. They were just a little crazier Saturday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quiet NCAA Tournament Friday

The higher seeds took back the NCAA tournament Friday after some upset specials Thursday.

Only Virginia Commonwealth’s disposal of Georgetown made headlines yesterday. Florida State did defeat Texas A&M in a mild upset.

But how about Virginia Commonwealth? The Rams are one of the darlings of this year’s tournament. They first take out Southern Cal in the play-in game and then the Hoyas. They face Purdue next.

Today’s love needs to go to Butler as the Bulldogs face Pittsburgh. Another interesting game should be the mid-major battle between Morehead State and Richmond. That winner will become another NCAA darling. And I’m glad Cincinnati and UConn oppose each other. That means another Big East team will go home.

Anyone enjoying Marv Albert and Steve Kerr on the broadcasts? I wonder what they think of the college game after doing the NBA for so long.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thrilling Thursday for March Madness

It was an interesting NCAA tournament first day. Two Big East teams went down in Louisville and St. John’s. For you scoring at home, we only have nine Big East teams left.

Morehead State, Richmond and Gonzaga garnered national press with upsets. I was not that surprised with Morehead State and Richmond victories because those teams have tournament experience. On the other hand, Gonzaga is strange team. The Zags have had tournament success when they are the underdogs. When they are the favorites, they struggle. Look for the Zags to give BYU a tough test in the next round.

Did anyone have trouble finding the games yesterday? It was a challenge, but I survived the test. Besides locating the proper channels to match the proper games, the different studio shows were interesting. Lots more people involved in the telecasts this season.

There are some interesting match-ups today (Friday). How about a little upset love for Oakland over Texas, Hampton over Duke and Indiana State past Syracuse? Second thought: ANY team that defeats a Big East school.

Enjoy the games.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ground Chuck to T-Bone Steak

The real NCAA tournament begins today.

Those first four play-in games Tuesday and Wednesday were ground chuck. Now, the college basketball world will sample some good meat like a t-bone steak.

I love the Thursday and Friday sessions of the tournament’s first week. It’s difficult keeping track of all the games. You have schools you know little about. There are upsets. And this year, you can watch all the games whatever you live. No more regional telecasts. You just need to pay close attention to the television network and the time.

How about a little love today for Belmont, Northern Colorado or Richmond? Can they pull an upset? Belmont is known for its music program. Northern Colorado is a rather new entry to the Division I field. Richmond—the Spiders—have beaten favored teams in NCAA past.

Once we get through the first two rounds, upsets are rare. Usually the college heavyweights settle in and take over. So we need to enjoy the opening rounds.

I haven’t filled out my bracket yet, but I think I will choose Ohio State as the champion. Normally my bracket is broken the first couple days. But it really doesn’t matter. Just let me enjoy my t-bone steak.

Who is your favorite in this year’s tournament?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sidney Lowe Done at North Carolina State

As I predicted a couple weeks ago in this space, Sidney Lowe is no longer the basketball coach at North Carolina State. The former Wolfpack guard resigned Tuesday.

Lowe, who was a member of Jim Valvano’s national championship team, couldn’t build the team into a national presence again. He posted a below .500 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and never led NC State to a NCAA tournament appearance in five seasons.

Lowe seemed like a good recruiter, but a poor game coach. His teams didn’t possess good chemistry on floor and lacked passion. Ultimately, that falls back on the coach.

One writer said a problem with Lowe was he didn’t have college coaching experience. He did coach two NBA teams, but this writer noted that wasn’t the same.

Some people think the NC State job is a difficult one with Duke and North Carolina down the road only about 30 miles. But I think in their hearts, Wolfpack fans believe their school can field a winning, national team again. NC State has the tradition (remember David Thompson), it just needs to bring it to the present.

Last year, NC State hired Deb Yow as its new athletic director. She’s noted as a mover-and-shaker in the business. I sense she will comb the college basketball world in search of a successful and good fit coach for NC State.

The Pack should return to the NCAA tournament consistently. Yow needs to make it happen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Too Many Big East Conference NCAA Bids

I thought the Big East Conference Tournament was last week, but apparently the tournament lives into the future some call the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA selected 11 Big East teams for its tournament. That is 24 percent of the entire 68-team field. Is the Big East that worthy? Are the teams that good? Can you say East Coast bias?

Yes, the Big East is rated the No. 1 power conference. But really are its 9-9 conference teams better than someone else’s 9-9 conference teams?

Connecticut finished 9-9, but won the Big East tournament. So yes, the Huskies should qualify. But what about the only 9-9 teams, Villanova and Marquette? Villanova finished on a long losing streak; Marquette was 20-14 overall. I guess if you are Villanova and Marquette, membership does have its privileges.

The NCAA is robbing fan interest. The NCAA should not be giving mediocre teams bids from power conferences. I know I live in a glass house, but isn’t the beauty of the NCAA tournament upsets from smaller schools? You limit the number of smaller schools; you limit the possibility of upsets.

Just ask a school like Missouri State that has been repeatedly a NCAA snub—including this season.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Colorado Basketball Receives a Hard Lesson

John F. Kennedy once said, “Life is not fair.” The Colorado basketball team discovered that Sunday. The Buffs were not invited to the NCAA tournament party.

As I watched the selection show on CBS, I kept waiting to hear Colorado’s name. When the last region was announced and Denver was of the sites, I thought surely this is a perfect match. I was stunned.

Since I knew none of my favorite teams were going to qualify for the tournament, I was going to adopt the Buffs as my team. I didn’t even get the chance to sign the adoption papers.

Granted, the Buffs were on the bubble. However, there was a good feeling Colorado would make the tournament. The Buffs won two games in the Big 12 tournament before losing to Kansas. They finished 21-13 and had difficult ratings (RPI, UPI, whatever ha), but beat Kansas State three times.

NCAA Basketball Chairman Gene Smith said that style of play was one selection consideration. The Buffs play an entertaining, uptempo style featuring guards Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. Aren’t guards what the NCAA tournament is all about? They would have created problems for an opponent in the tournament.

But, I guess Colorado will take its basketball and go to the NIT. The NCAA missed a golden opportunity keeping the Buffs away.

Now, I need a new team. How about Indiana State or Northern Colorado?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Does the NCAA Promote a Double Standard?

This has not been a good week for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—the organization that administers college athletics.

People have a serious bad taste in their mouths about the NCAA and the organization seemed to shoot itself in the foot again.

Ohio State placed sanctions on its football coach Jim Tressel over withholding information. This case relates to the Ohio State tattoo mess last fall. The NCAA declared several players ineligible to play in opening games in 2011, but allowed the players to participate in the 2010 season bowl game. People cried foul and said the NCAA favors its banner schools like Ohio State.

The NCAA must rule on this latest Tressel finding and that will be interesting.

And then this week, the NCAA ruled Baylor freshman Perry Jones illegible for the remaining basketball season. He missed the Bear’s Big 12 conference tournament game. The NCAA didn’t like Jones mother receiving money from his AAU coach. Again people cried foul. They said how different is this from Auburn’s Cam Newton and the problems with his father allegedly talking money for his son’s football services. Newton or Auburn received no penalties. Again, is Auburn one of the NCAA favorite schools?

The NCAA did release a statement that it believed the Jones and Newton cases were separate incidents. My editorial comment: nice try NCAA.

The NCAA has a serious image and marketing problem. People are watching and they want answers. Unfortunately, the NCAA is dancing around the problems hoping they will subside.

Good luck with that.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some Men's College Basketball Coaches are Nervous

There are several athletic directors preparing to fire coaches. It’s that time of year.

Some coaches have already received their pink slips. But with conference tournaments in full swing this week, the firings will increase. Here’s the drill: team quickly loses in the tournament, athletic director reviews the season and the coach is gone.

Sometimes the coaches’ life at the school is short (2-3 years). Sometimes its medium (5-6) and sometimes long (10 or more). But the standard is whether the coach and team qualify for the NCAA tournament. Then it helps if the coach wins a game or two in the tournament. The key is to keep pleasing the fans and consequently the athletic director. Of course, the expectations are fluid. That’s what makes it interesting for the fans and torture for the coach.

It’s my view that coaches know basically when their time is up. Unless the school is in financial trouble, pleading from the coach doesn’t really help. And in most cases, schools actually do the coach a favor in firing him.

Someone asked me what happens to fired coaches. Generally, they received parting cash (from their contact), take a head job at a smaller school, land an assistant’s job at a major school or go announce for ESPN. They may also sit out a year and lick their wounds and count their cash.

Coaching is a rewarding but tough business. Unfortunately, now is not a good moment for some coaches to answer their telephone or the knock on their door.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Colorado's Alec Burks is a Player

How in the world did Missouri folks let Alec Burks leave the state and play for Colorado?

Burks’ played serious basketball yesterday against Iowa State and propelled his team to a comeback victory. Burks’ line was 29 points and 15 rebounds. Iowa State had problems stopping the sophomore in the second half when the Buffaloes stormed back. He likes to compete against Iowa State. In two previous games, he scored 24 and 19.

Burks’ effort probably punched Colorado’s NCAA ticket. Big 12 Conference opponents will be happy Burks and Colorado moves to the Pac-12 Conference next season. Pac-12 schools hope Burks declares for the NBA.

It was a strange sight yesterday at the Big 12 tournament. Colorado fans were celebrating the success of its basketball program. The high-fives weren’t because Ralphie the Buffalo was taking the Colorado football field. I remember Colorado having real hoops success in the 1970s.

The Buffs are trying to make some noise in their final Big 12 tournament. If I was the Pac-12, I would be leery of Colorado basketball in the future especially if Burks and coach Tad Boyle stays around.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Worst Dressed Men's College Basketball Teams

I am interested in fashion just like the next sensitive American male. And believe me; some college men’s basketball teams have no fashion sense.

I must admit my polling sample is quite narrow because I watch almost exclusively Big 12 and Big Ten games. But I imagine if I was paying close attention, the Oregon Ducks would make my list. Doesn’t Oregon make everyone’s dress list thanks to Nike’s Phil Knight?

Let me say I am fine with these long, baggy pants. I think they are like cell phones—here to stay. The headbands—not so much. Those players should gather for a headband convention and talk about their problem. I do miss the wrist bands however. Apparently, they disappeared along with the 25-cent ice cream cone.

My list is quite short and I guess that is a good thing.

My No. 1 spot goes to Kansas State. The Wildcats wear ugly light, gray uniforms at home. The purple lettering does not save this outfit. These uniforms look better suited for prison. Whatever happened to the rule where the home teams wears white and the visiting teams wear dark?

My No. 2 slot goes to Ohio State. The Buckeyes also wear gray at home but their gray blends in a better than Kansas State. However, Ohio State should go back to the whites at home.

My No. 3 pick is Michigan. Those home yellow uniforms are too bright. Maybe the Wolverines could donate them to the Michigan Highway Department.

My No 4 spots goes to any team wearing those electric yellow Addidas shoes. Baylor was the first school I saw wearing those things. But the fashion statement soon left the Baylor team. Good thing. Those shoes should be worn only at night because I imagine they glow in the dark. Unfortunately, Wisconsin-Milwaukee was wearing that color last night on ESPN.

Who are some teams on your worst dressed list?
Men's basketball

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Iowa Men's Basketball Coach Fran McCaffery

I must admit I haven’t paid too much attention to the Iowa basketball program this year. I imagine it has something to do with me considering Iowa the ‘other’ school in our state. You folks involved with Alabama-Auburn, Southern Cal-UCLA or Purdue-Indiana understand.

I did catch Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s call-in show last night however. McCaffery is in his first season at Iowa. The Hawks defeated No. 6 Purdue last Saturday for their signature win of the season. That’s the good news. The bad news is Iowa finished 10th in the Big Ten at 11-19.

This McCaffery provides an interesting call-in show. Coaches shows are basically marketing tools. The coach sells some hope, strokes the fans etc. True, McCaffery does that too, but he offers more. It was refreshing.

He talked about his senior player Jared Cole and how unlike many players Cole stuck it out at Iowa after three coaching changes. McCaffery said that Cole committed himself to Iowa and adjusted to the changing circumstances. McCaffery said that many players will run away when they encounter a coaching change. He said Cole’s decision will prepare him for life.

McCaffery said that many players want deals about playing time. He said that he offers no deals. Player must earn their playing time.

A caller suggested the coach communication through Twitter. McCaffery then told the story about a negative experience with the social networking site. Somebody was pretending to be the coach.

I hope McCaffery will continue his insight on the call-in show. This Iowa State Cyclone backer may want to tune in again simply for interesting conversation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

College Basketball Transfer Challenges

Des Moines Register (Iowa) sportswriter Rick Brown wrote an interesting article Sunday on the problems of players transferring in college basketball. He talked to several college coaches particularly those in Iowa.

It’s a complex problem, but basically players want instant playing time and instant success. It’s another problem reflected on the American culture. We have microwave ovens and fast food. We are in a hurry. We don’t want to wait. We don’t read the instruction book first. We just assemble the toy.

Many college players are spoiled. They have been told their entire lives they are special. When they get to college, the competition is fierce. Often they are no longer the best player on a team. Their feelings are hurt. They demand playing time. They are down on the depth chart. It’s time to search for greener grass. Surely, another college team will treat them special.

As I started before, the other main reason players transfer is trouble at their school. Players find their way to the police station or have trouble academically.

I have a prime example of this transfer problem only 70 miles from me. The Iowa State men’s program have had its share of departures and arrivals recently.

Previous coach Greg McDermott couldn’t retain players. They were not happy campers. That’s one major reason McDermott posted a poor record and fled when he could to Creighton.

First-year coach Fred Hoiberg is in the receiving line. Hoiberg is stockpiling players for the future. He will have players available next year from Minnesota, Michigan State, Southern Illinois and Penn State. Hoiberg was an outstanding player in college and serviceable in the professional ranks. He is a former NBA executive. Those are all good reasons why Iowa State is suddenly on the receiving end. Players want success. They want the NBA.

Hopefully, Hoiberg will mold these players into a team. Players need to realize that team goals translate into individual success too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Background Checks in College Football

Sports Illustrated and CBS News created a stir this week with their Top 25 college football teams based upon police records.

Here in my state, Iowa made the list. That’s no surprise. It only seems that Iowa holds a press conference every couple weeks to deflect more negative news.

The report stated that only Oklahoma and TCU perform criminal background checks on potential recruits. My question is why other schools don’t do the same thing?

Football is a million dollar sport at most Division I schools. Money is available to do background checks. Recruiting is a full-time process and the background check could be adding to the list.

Could a recruit do a reversal of his criminal background check? Yes, it is definitely possible. But overall, past behavior usually influences present and future behavior. Let’s face it: college football players are investments to their schools. So wouldn’t schools save themselves some possible heartache and bad publicity with the checks?

There are roughly 100 college players involved in a Division I program. There will be bad apples in the bunch—that’s simply the law of averages. But a screening process such as criminal checks would keep those apples to a minimum.

Doe you think colleges should perform criminal checks on football recruits?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bubbles, Bubbles and More Bubbles

And you thought the political season was taking a rest.

Not so. The bids for 68 NCAA men’s basketball tournaments slots are available.

This is political. That’s why if you haven’t heard of the term “bubble” and you are anyway connected with college basketball, you have really been outside the United States.

For my foreign readers, the team “bubble” refers to teams hoping to land a spot in the NCAA tournament. Frankly, they are at the mercy of the NCAA selection committee.

The national sports press daily updates fans with teams squarely on the bubble, those beyond the bubble (expected to get in the tournament) and those off the bubble. It creates fan interest but also high anxiety for the bubble teams.

Bubble teams are usually ones who has an average or above average conference record. They also have respectable overall marks with some quality wins and some bad losses.

With the NCAA tournament only a couple weeks away, you listen to lots of campaign speeches. You will hear conference coaches praising other teams in hopes their league will get more teams in the tournament or “Big Dance” as it’s called. Conference commissioners will provide a similar speech. I even heard a couple conference announcers tell their world how wonderful a few of their teams were. I thought to myself…please.

But the bottom line is if teams take care of business on the court, they will impress the selection committee and earn a bid.

Unfortunately, we will continue to hear about the bubble until we are bubbled out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Harrison Barnes and Fred Hoiberg

Allow me to dream a little bit today.

Would Ames High School star player Harrison Barnes said no to Iowa State if Fred Hoiberg was the coach when Barnes made his decision to attend North Carolina?

They say timing in life is everything.

Barnes was the most celebrated high school player in the country last year. His final schools were North Carolina, Duke, Iowa State and a couple others. Well, you knew he wasn’t going to Iowa State with Duke and North Carolina in the mix. Iowa State’s program was also in turmoil with player departures and coach Greg McDermott’s poor record.

McDermott left when Creighton called. Hoiberg was hired too late to give his sales pitch to Barnes.

But can you imagine the sales pitch “Mayor” Hoiberg could have given this guy? North Carolina coach Roy Williams would have been shaking in his Michael Jordan Nikes.

It could have been a beautiful marriage between Hoiberg and Barnes. Think of the focus from the national press on Iowa State’s program: former hometown star coaches another hometown star.

But the dream is over. Barnes is doing well in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Hoiberg has had a rough season at Iowa State, but with some talented players coming in next season, the Mayor’s stock is still rising.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kansas State Wakes Up

Just a few weeks ago, many (including me) wondered what happened to Kansas State this season. Great expectations were turned into disappointing results. Bad losses equaled a below .500 Big 12 Conference record.

The Wildcats (21-9, 9-6 conference) are now officially off basketball life support. The roar in Manhattan is back and in a big way.

Kansas State won its fifth consecutive game Monday night handling Texas in Austin. The Longhorns seem headed in a difficult direction lately, but we will see.

But could Kansas State become the Michigan State of this season? The Spartans usually play their best basketball late in the season and peak during the NCAA tournament.

Kansas State is a dangerous team. The Wildcats have veteran talent. Maybe the chemistry was lacking earlier in the year. Maybe the effort wasn’t there. Maybe it was a combination of the two or 12 other things. You never really know. The results are all that matter.

Kansas State fans like the reversal The Wildcats are ticketed for the Big Dance (NCAA tournament) rather than one of the loser’s varieties. Even Coach Frank Martin should be sleeping better and be in a better mood.