As much as I was looking forward to a Kentucky-Duke final, Wisconsin absolutely deserves its spot in tonight’s national championship. The Badgers have one of the best offenses of all time and proved it against Kentucky’s historically dominant defense. In Saturday’s other game, Michigan State cooled down after a hot start and couldn’t stop Duke. I recapped the action in my Five Things column for CBS Local.
Tom Izzo, the pride of Iron Mountain, Michigan, has somehow taken Michigan State to another Final Four. Don’t get me wrong, this team has some good players, but at no point in the season did it look like it was capable of this kind of run. How do these Spartans compare to the previous six teams Izzo has brought to the Final Four? Check out my story for CBS Local to find out.
The Final Four is set: undefeated Kentucky takes on another No. 1 seed, Wisconsin, and Duke plays the surprise team in Indianapolis, Michigan State. To learn more about the keys to each team winning this past weekend, check out my latest for CBS Local.
Even Tom Izzo had to admit the top of the Big Ten isn’t all that strong. “This year, there’s no question that it’s been Wisconsin and the rest,” he told me yesterday. “Maryland is now proving to be in that class. But the strength at the top isn’t as good as last year or some of the other conferences.” For that reason, the conference as a whole has dipped considerably this season.
For a more in-depth look at the league’s struggles, read my latest for CBS Local.
You can find my column for CBS Charlotte, in which I break down the five most important things that happened in college basketball this past weekend, by clicking the link below:
It was a fantastic Saturday in college hoops, which was fitting because it was the first Saturday without college or pro football this season. I got the sense that casual hoops fans were beginning to turn their attention to the sport, and the sport didn’t disappoint. The highlight of the weekend was Butler’s buzzer-beating victory over Gonzaga.
Continue reading College Hoops Recap: Butler Buzzer Beater
Mike Krzyzewski can set the all-time wins record tonight against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. Had some of his wins not been credited to someone else, he would have already passed Bob Knight.
Coach K officially has 902 wins, tied with his mentor Knight for the most among Division I basketball coaches. That total includes just nine victories from the 1994-95 season, Krzyzewski’s 15th at Duke. Krzyzewski left the team after its 9-3 start due to exhaustion following back surgery, and assistant coach Pete Gaudet took over as interim coach. Duke went 4-15 the rest of the way to finish with a 13-18 record.
Krzyzewski’s career record reflects the 9-3 start, but not the 4-15 finish during his absence. I’m not sure how I feel about these games not appearing on Coach K’s official record. Other coaches have missed games (Jim Calhoun comes to mind) and those results still appeared on their individual records, but those were just a few games. This was the majority of a season. I understand arguments for both sides.
|Coach K (right) is tied with his mentor Bob Knight (left) for career wins. (Credit: John Pellino/DOIM)|
What’s interesting is that the NCAA chooses to leave decisions like this to the school, so it was Duke and Krzyzewski that decided how to record the 1994-95 season. However, on a conference call with reporters in 2007, Krzyzewski said, “I think I should have been credited with all the losses…The bottom line is I’m responsible even though I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t want the wins but you could give me the losses.”
That doesn’t make much sense to me. Either all of the final 19 games should be attributed to Krzyzewski or none of them, but not just the losses. Regardless, if Coach K truly felt this way, his career record would be 902-299, not 902-284, as I’m certain the school would change the record books upon his request.
Again, I’ll leave the debate over how that asterisked season should be handled to others. I am only certain of this: Had the entire season been credited to Krzyzewski, the record-setting victory would have come against Hampton in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. But that’s not nearly as fun as it potentially coming in The World’s Most Famous Arena against an elite program with its own outstanding coach.
NEW YORK—The field for Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden was extremely impressive: No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Memphis and No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Syracuse.
As expected, Kansas didn’t have too much trouble with a young Memphis squad, winning 81-68. The Jayhawks never pushed the lead to blowout territory, but after the game was tied early in the second half Kansas went on a 9-0 run; Memphis never got closer than six again.
Meanwhile, Syracuse “manhandled” (Tom Izzo’s words) the Spartans en route to a 72-58 victory. It was a one-possession game with 13 minutes left but the Orange flexed its muscle and fed off what was essentially a home crowd.
Here are some of the things I learned:
The national media stories focused on the impending return of the nation’s top recruit, Josh Selby (Dec. 18 vs. USC) and how he will adjust to his teammates. Kansas is 9-0 and some media folks were suggesting Selby’s return could be a bad thing for the Jayhawks.
This was at least partly based on this postgame comment from Bill Self: “To be honest with you, our other players aren’t doing poorly. So [Selby] needs to be part of it as opposed to the guy. Because he’s not going to be the guy. We don’t have the guy. And I kind of like it that way; we have balance.”
But let’s take a step back and give Self—a two time Coach of the Year and national champion—a little more credit. He has had boatloads of talent since he arrived in Lawrence and hasn’t had too much trouble assembling a cohesive team. And let’s not kid ourselves: Kansas can certainly use Selby. “If you look at our team, who breaks down pressure?” Self said. “Obviously, you need a second guy that can do that. Josh is the only guy in our program that you can run really bad offense and come away with two or three points, and every team needs a guy like that.”
It’s not unreasonable to think Selby might press early on, which could lead to even more media scrutiny. But if he is able to settle down he should thrive, as should Kansas. “Expectations will be a little ridiculous for him, starting out, just because everybody’s been waiting and questioning,” Self said. “Our USC home game will be as anticipated a home game as we’ve had maybe in years.”
It’s pretty amazing that Josh Pastner assembled what many experts believe to be the No. 2 recruiting class in the country before he even coached a collegiate game. His talented freshmen were on display Tuesday night, as two rookies led the Tigers in scoring. Will Barton scored 16, though it took him 17 shots to get there, and Chris Crawford dropped 15.
I was most impressed with Crawford, a 6’4 guard who showed a nice outside touch and a willingness to drive to the basket. This is a Memphis team that should definitely improve as the season progresses. I think Pastner will have them back in the Big Dance after a one-year hiatus.
“I told the guys I don’t want to hear about being young,” Pastner said. “I am not going to allow them to have that as an excuse.” Pastner, 33, is the youngest head coach in Division I, but you know he won’t let himself use it as excuse either.
Jim Boeheim always seems to be unhappy with his team, yet the Orange always seem to be in the top 15 and a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. But I think Boeheim’s philosophy—to tell anyone who will listen that his team stinks—is accurate to a certain extent: All good teams expect to be a lot better come March.
I’m sure this has been said before, but against the Spartans it was as if Syracuse’s 2-3 zone featured six players. Michigan State started its offense from well beyond the three-point line and couldn’t get anything going early on.
Meanwhile, offensively, it looked like a lay-up line as Cuse jumped out to a 25-13 lead. The Orange only hit two three-pointers, but got 42 points in the paint, many off of seemingly uncontested lay-ups and dunks.
There’s no doubt Syracuse is going to have to find its touch from outside and hope some of the freshmen can develop as the season progresses, but there’s no reason to think this team can’t earn another high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Where to begin? How about with Tom Izzo calling out junior forward Delvon Roe. “I don’t know if Delvon’s frustrated with that. Tom’s frustrated with Delvon, OK? Their guy took it at him, same size—one guy went up tough, one guy didn’t. So Delvon’s got to grow up. He’s healthy. I was not pleased with his play. Not very often am I calling out players; I usually call out a team. But our inside guys need some work. We are just not very tough in there. That has been a trademark of our team and our program, and we’ll get that back.”
Izzo was visibly frustrated after his team was embarrassed for stretches against Syracuse to drop its third game of this young season. He isn’t worried about the losses, but rather the reason behind them. “We’re a pretty boy team now, not a smash-mouth team,” he said.
When he hinted it was an unprecedented defeat for his program, a reporter asked if he could remember how long it had been since he’d lost in such a fashion. “A long time, to be honest with you,” Izzo said. “I’m not proud to say that either. I say we’ve gotten beat, I’ve said we played bad. But it’s been a long time since I thought we totally got manhandled.”
Keep in mind the Spartans were within two points seven minutes into the second half. Also remember they were blown out, twice, by North Carolina two seasons ago. Especially considering one of those games was the national championship, you have to assume Izzo wasn’t forgetting those defeats. Yet he still felt this was worse.
Part of Sparty’s struggles have to be attributed to the brutal schedule—not just tough opponents, but a lot of travel as well—but Michigan State is also getting outrebounded, which is not a good sign. Izzo’s squad has led the nation in rebounding margin the last two seasons and four of the last 11 years. But Syracuse had a 38-30 advantage on the boards and was the fourth opponent the Spartans have failed to outrebound this season. Other teams that have outrebounded Michigan State include South Carolina and Division II Chaminade.
“We all go through the same problems this time of year,” Izzo said. “Some people don’t play hard, some people don’t go up enough, some people feel sorry for themselves. It’s a man’s game, and when you play a schedule like this you’ve got to be ready to play every night.” Regardless of Michigan State’s struggles so far, we all know no coach gets his team prepared for March basketball like Izzo.