While the NCAA men Final Four teams await their trial by fire set for Saturday, the women are preparing for Sunday games that feature two unbeaten squads, along with two traditional women’s powerhouses.
The first game on Sunday will see unbeaten Connecticut against the Stanford Cardinal while the late game has undefeated Notre Dame against Maryland. UConn took care of 3 seed Texas A&M 69-54 to earn the trip to Nashville while Stanford handled North Carolina 74-65. The two teams played early in the season with UConn winning handily 76-57. The Lady Huskies will be making their 7th trip to the Final Four in a row. They’ll be going for their 9th national title while Stanford has won it all twice.
In 2010, Stanford ended UConn’s 90 game winning streak with a 71-59 victory. Their All-American, Chiney Ogwumike was a freshman on that squad and after suffering some health set-backs during the year, is now fit and in fighting trim. UConn will have all they can handle trying to contain Ogwumike who is expected to be the number one choice in the WNBA draft.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is less than 48 hours away and for a dozen teams sitting on the bubble, it’s crunch time at their conference tournaments.
So far, March Madness has lived up to its billing with several high seeds losing in early round conference play. The most significant surprise was Villanova’s heartbreaking, last second loss in the Big East tournament to lowly Seton Hall. The loss probably takes Villanova out of the conversation for a top regional seed, but the Selection Committee will probably take into account their tough schedule and several good wins on the road to give them a 2 or 3 seed, probably in the East regional.
As always, it’s the bubble teams that attract the most curiosity from fans and give the Selection Committee indigestion. Who is playing themselves into the Big Dance by doing well in the conference tournaments and who is in line for an NIT bid?
SI’s Michael Beller is on the Bubble Watch:
6:30 p.m. — Big Ten: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
The Golden Gophers had just three wins in 10 tries against conference rivals that are headed to the NCAA tournament. Can they get three in the next three days? That might be what it takes to get in, and the road starts against the Badgers. (Follow along here.)
7:00 p.m. — Big East: Providence vs. Seton Hall
Providence surely thought it would be getting top-seed Villanova if it got this far but Seton Hall’s upset scuttled those plans. A semifinal win over the 17-16 Pirates won’t help as much as a loss would hurt.
9:30 p.m. — Big East: Xavier vs. Creighton
The Musketeers appear to be well within the field of 68, but they would remove any doubt with a win over Doug McDermott and the Blue Jays.
11:30 p.m. — Pac-12: Stanford vs. UCLA
Stanford has to be feeling good about its case for the tournament after routing Arizona State on Thursday. The Cardinal split their season series with the Bruins.
ACC: Florida State vs. Virginia
It was simple: A win would have gotten the Seminoles into the field. A loss would keep them out. They lost.
FINAL: Virginia 64, Florida State 51
SEC: Missouri vs. Florida
The Tigers’ only really impressive win this season came at home against UCLA back in early December. They couldn’t add another one Friday against the nation’s No. 1 team, getting routed by the Gators in the SEC quarterfinals.
FINAL: Florida 72, Missouri 49
ACC: Pittsburgh vs. North Carolina
The Pirates were probably going to make the tournament anyway, but their lack of signature wins was cause for concern. After knocking off No. 15 North Carolina in the ACC quarterfinals, they move into the lock category.
FINAL: Pittsburgh 80, North Carolina 75
Beller is keeping on eye on these bubble teams this weekend:
Illinois: The Fighting Illini needed to advance to at least the Big Ten championship game to entertain hopes of a bid. Their upset bid of Michigan on Friday came up just short in a one-point loss, so they’ll have to settle for the NIT.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack pulled away late to beat Miami on Thursday, and though they struggled to a .500 finish in the ACC this year, they could create a little bubble chatter with a win over Syracuse in the quarterfinals.
Georgia: The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament. Could a trip to the finals get them into the field if it includes a semifinal win over Kentucky? Not likely.
LSU: A win over Kentucky on Friday would be their second over the Wildcats this season, but the Tigers likely still need to win the SEC tournament to go dancing this year.
N.C. State may be the one team that falls victim to the Selection Committee’s sensitivity to charges that they fill out the brackets with too many middling teams from big conferences. How many teams from the ACC really deserve to go? 5? 6? Same for the Big 12 and Big Ten. Some teams like Minnesota who didn’t do well in a conference loaded with quality teams might “deserve” to go the Big Dance based on strength of schedule and non-conference record. But most conferences will only be guaranteed their conference tournament champion will make it.
There will be a lot of nail biting by players and coaches on Sunday afternoon.
There was a general shuffle in the AP poll of the top 25 college basketball teams this week — except at the top.
The Florida Gators at 29-2 received 1610 first place votes to hang on to number one. Wichita State — the first undefeated team to enter post season play since 1991 at 34-0 — came in second.
The rest of the top 25 saw numerous changes from last week, as 18 of the top 25 teams lost — many to vastly inferior teams. These losses may actually hurt more this time of year than they would have a month or two ago. Teams are fighting for seeding in the national tournament and a lower seed – the result of a bad late season loss — that forces you to play a number one or two seeded team in the second round could mean an early exit.
An example of a late season bad loss hurting a team’s seeding; Virginia. The Cavaliers were sailing along, ranked number five and coming off a good win against number seven ranked Syracuse. They have won the regular season championship in the tough ACC and were looking for a number one seed in the tournament.
Then, an inexplicable stumble against a mediocre Maryland team, losing 75-69 and the dream of a number one seed is slipping away. Nothing less than a run to the ACC championship final will redeem them. The Cavaliers dropped to 6th in the AP poll.
Other teams also saw their top seed dreams crumbling. Duke went from 4th to 7th in the AP following a very bad loss to a weak Wake Forest team. Arizona, ranked number three last week fell to 4th following a tough road loss in Oregon.
The poll musical chairs had some winners. Villanova climbed from 6th to 3rd with solid wins over Marquette and Georgetown and a tough road win over Xavier thrown into the mix. And Louisville shot from 11th to 5th on the strength of two good wins against ranked opponents Connecticut and SMU.
Who will be the top seeds in the four regionals? It would seem that Wichita State, who already won the Missouri Valley Tournament, is a lock for one of them. And unless Florida loses early in the SEC tournament, they’re a good bet for another top regional seed.
Beyond that, any two of five teams could fill out the top of the brackets; Arizona, Villanova, Duke, Louisville, or Virginia. The ACC tournament is going to be a wild one with the winner all but guaranteed a top regional seed.
No doubt “March Madness” will live up to its moniker this week as a couple of teams playing in the conference tournaments surprise the experts and play themselves in to the Big Dance. Others, will disappoint.
The only certainty is that if you’re a college hoops fan, you are going to be vastly entertained.
If you’re a fan of the Chicago Bulls, November 22, 2013 is the second worst day in the history of the franchise. The fact that the cause of the worst day in Bulls history — April 27, 2012 — was exactly the same as the second worst day speaks volumes about the fortunes of the team over the last 3 years.
On both those dates, former MVP Derek Rose went down with serious knee injuries. The 2012 injury happened in the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia. The Bulls never recovered from that blow, losing in 6 games to the 76′ers after entering the post season as the top seed in the East.
After a full year of rehab, Rose returned to the game rusty, but apparently none the worse for wear. He was struggling, but improving when tragedy struck again, a torn meniscus shelving him for the season. It was a cruel blow for a team aching to prove themselves against two-time champion Miami Heat, who defeated them in a memorable conference championship series in 2012, and the rising Indiana Pacers who proved they could compete with anyone.
Once again, the body blow of losing Rose laid them low. By December 9, they were 8 games under .500 and some fans were openly urging the team to “tank” the season — deliberately lose games so that they could have a better chance at a high draft pick.
But the Bull’s mercurial coach Tom Thibideau wouldn’t allow such nonsense. Taking their cue from their fiercely competitive leader, center Joachim Noah, the Bulls began to claw their way back to respectability.
But then, another blow fell when team management couldn’t sign all-star forward Luol Deng to a contract extension, and traded him to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum — who they summarily released — and a couple of mid-level draft picks. It was a salary dump, nothing more.
Perhaps even more than Rose’s injury, the trade of Deng hurt the team psychologically. It was a sure sign that ownership had given up on the season and was pointing to adding pieces next year to make a run for glory.
For Noah, it was close to heresy. Deng was one of his best friends on the team and for a week following the trade, the usually outgoing center refused to talk to the media. Speculation was he couldn’t trust himself not to go off on management and create a rift that would be hard to heal.
Finally a week after the deal, Noah opened up with a few beat reporters for the local papers. Yes, he was upset, but that didn’t matter.
“The trade definitely hurt,” Noah said, adding that he had spoken to Deng about it. “But we got to move on. I feel confident in this team; we’re working really hard. A lot of people say this is a business and all that but this game is more than a business to me. I put everything I got into this. I feel like Lu was the same way so it was hard for me to digest. But that’s just my perspective, that’s just my side of the story. Everybody has a different job. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not mad at the organization or anything like that. It’s just that my brother isn’t here anymore. So I just needed a little bit of time to digest that.”
Noah has shrugged off the Rose injury, the Deng trade, the pundits and reporters who say the Bulls can’t win, and the fans who were asking him and his teammates to quit on the year, and has raised the level of his play beyond anyone’s expectations to carry the Bulls to the best record in the East since January 1, 2014.
How the Bulls are doing this having the 30th – and worst — ranked offense in the league is astonishing. But there is sorcery at work here — the rarest kind of magic one can find at the professional level.
This group of middling talents, rejects, youngsters, and veterans actually like each other. They play for each other. They believe in each other. And perhaps most importantly of all, they have bought into their coaches’ belief in them and are currently playing some of the best basketball in the league.
It’s not always pretty. They have no one on the team that can create their own shot, although their candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Taj Gibson, has developed a nice little low post game. But with the 24 second clock winding down, they’re just as likely to take a wild, 3-point attempt as they are to get a bail out jumper.
It doesn’t matter. Noah has become one of the top passing centers in the league, and in recent games the Bulls have begun to work their offense through him. This has meant fewer bail out shots and more pick and pop jumpers from reasonable range. The results are impressive, at least in the short term.
What of the near future? If the past is prologue, it’s a good bet that no team, no matter where they are seeded, are going to want to play the Bulls in the playoffs:
“When you deal with all the adversity we’ve been through this year, it makes your group that much tougher and stronger,” Bulls leader Joakim Noah said Friday night. “We’re going to be that resilient group, that tough group that is going to be very, very tough to play in the playoffs.”
It’s easy to talk that way now, the Bulls assuming the postseason. That looked uncertain in the first week of January after the Deng trade, when it looked like the team was preparing to head into the lottery. But primarily because of the leadership of coach Tom Thibodeau and especially Noah, the players never questioned where this season was headed.
They were disheartened when Rose went down again in November. They were downright mad when Deng was salary-dumped. But they’ve never done anything but give everything on the floor, and it’s led to win after win. The talent and the luck aren’t like it was back in 2010-11, when everything went their way and they racked up 62 wins before getting beat in the conference finals, but their execution and effort is the same.
They had seven different players average double figures in scoring in February, when they went 9-4 despite playing nine of those 13 games on the road. Noah is the team leader in rebounds … and assists, a pairing you will find nowhere else from the center position. Taj Gibson is having a career season. Midseason pickup D.J. Augustin is resurrecting his career. Accused of running his players into the ground in seasons past, Thibodeau doesn’t have any Bull averaging more than 36 minutes per night
Noah, who at one time in his 7 year career was thought to be something of a goof, with his pony tail, and antics on the court. But the mature Noah is less carefree, more careful in his statements, and very conscious of the leadership role he plays on the team. His intensity is frightening, and he’s not shy about calling out a teammate if he isn’t pleased with their play — or their enthusiasm. Just recently, Noah glowered at rookie Tony Snell who didn’t perform an enthusiastic “chest bump” to his satisfaction.
No, the Bulls will not win an NBA championship this year. They probably won’t get past the second round, given that either of their likely opponents — Indiana or Miami — can most assuredly beat them in a 7-game series. But whoever they play, their opponent will know they’ve been in a war. And who knows? When a team possesses magic, anything can happen.
It’s an excuse as old as time. Got caught cheating on your wife? Tell her you were drunk. Unplanned quicky wedding in Vegas? Yup, drunk. Unplanned pregnancy? People have been blaming their state of inebriation for that for thousands of years. But palling around with a genocidal maniac? Well, congratulations Dennis Rodman, that’s a new one.
Shortly after returning home from yet another trip to North Korea (not to the gulags or frozen homes without electricity, just the stadiums and luxury accommodations), Rodman finally realized what we’ve all been saying for months: He’s lost his mind. CNN reports on the basketball star’s new home for the next month: rehab.
“Dennis Rodman came back from North Korea in pretty rough shape emotionally. The pressure that was put on him to be a combination ‘super human’ political figure and ‘fixer’ got the better of him,” his agent, Darren Prince, said Sunday in a written statement. “He is embarrassed, saddened and remorseful for the anger and hurt his words have caused.”
Prince said Rodman is at a facility in New Jersey, one with a “28- or 30-day” program. He said Rodman drank heavily in North Korea during a recent tumultuous trip to the secretive state to play a basketball game with some former NBA stars against national team players from the regime.
“His drinking escalated to a level that none of us had seen before,” Prince said Saturday.
Rodman — the colorful basketball Hall of Famer who won five NBA titles while the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls — said alcohol was one reason he shot from the lip earlier this month and told CNN that an American imprisoned in North Korea since 2012 may have done something to deserve his sentence of 15 years’ hard labor.
After Kenneth Bae’s family complained, Rodman apologized, saying he was under stress and had been drinking when he was interviewed on CNN’s “New Day.”
Sorry, Dennis, but you may have been able to blame the tattoos, the outfits, and the girlfriends on booze, but not this. I’ve written extensively on the horrifying human rights situation North Korea for Commentary and The Federalist, and have unfortunately spent more time than I ever would have otherwise intended writing on Rodman’s “basketball diplomacy” in the Hermit Kingdom. It’s about time that Rodman wised up to the fact that it isn’t always the case that “any publicity is good publicity.” CNN reported that Rodman told the media: ”I’m sorry for what’s going on in North Korea, the certain situations.” But he didn’t apologize for his visit.
“Certain situations”? Really? Let’s hope that the rehab facility Rodman is in has a 12-step program. If it does, Rodman owes it to the victims of Kim Jong-Un to make amends.
Image source: Raw Story
Former USC basketball star Brynn Cameron has just had baby number two out of wedlock with yet another sports star. Her first baby daddy was NFL quarterback Matt Leinart and the newest addition to her growing family is the child of the NBA’s Blake Griffin. Cameron is neither married nor in a relationship with either sperm-donor. (Rumor has it the stars of the NHL are competing with the pros of the PGA to see who will be next in line for PDA with the leggy blonde.)
While Cameron may not be struggling as a single mother because of her reported $15k a month child support paycheck (from baby daddy #1), the money alone will not protect her children from her stupid choice to raise them without a partner. Worse, Cameron’s lifestyle may seem attractive to her young fans, who will suffer far more harm than she if they follow in her ill-advised footsteps. Time and time again, statistics prove children raised in single-parent homes suffer compared to their peers in stable, married households. And yet, fauxminists still insist that single mothers are superior because they’re fighting the patriarchy… or something equally unintelligent.
In an essay titled “The Increase in Single Mothers is Actually a Good Thing,” Hugo Schwyzer claims that the rise in single motherhood is a result of women having babies with men they find inferior and thus not marriage material. Schwyzer uses an example of a woman whose “boyfriend was so dependent that she had to buy his cigarettes. Marrying him never entered her mind.”
Perhaps having sex with him should never have entered her mind.
Why are today’s women so stupid that they allow men they wouldn’t trust to run errands deposit their DNA inside of them? Perhaps it’s related to the lie from the progressive feminists that birth control works and there is such a thing as consequence-free sex. Here’s a secret: It doesn’t and there isn’t.
Any woman who decides to have a baby without a husband (not a baby daddy or a guy who visits on the weekend) needs to understand she is making the choice to put her baby and society at risk for the unforgivable disadvantages of poverty, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, a life of crime, and incarceration and suicide. The first part of this series will deal with the crippling scourge of poverty.
The season is finally over for the Los Angeles Lakers, and it didn’t end well. The team lost in 5 games to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the playoffs. It didn’t have to be this way. In two of the games that they lost, the Lakers had a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter. Why did the Lakers blow those games? Because OKC is younger, quicker, more athletic and more talented; and because the Lakers are older, slower and only have one player they can rely on, Kobe Bryant.
Kobe was the only player who played well Monday night for the Lakers. In fact, he was fantastic, scoring 42 points. Pau Gasol was more aggressive than he was in the last couple games, but he did not have a good night, making 35% of his shots. In all likelihood he will be traded this summer. Gasol’s contribution to the Lakers during the last 5 years has been terrific, as he was instrumental in helping the Lakers win 2 championships. In fact, his effort for the Lakers was second to only Kobe Bryant, and for that Pau will forever hold a special place in Lakers fans’ hearts.
With a win tonight against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers will advance to the Western Conference semi-finals to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. This potential match up will be fascinating and entertaining for several reasons.
First, it will be the first time the two teams play each other since this vicious play:
Metta World Peace — formerly known as Ron Artest — was suspended 7 games for that elbow, which left OKC guard James Harden with a concussion. It will be very interesting to see how the OKC fans treat World Peace. My guess is not very well.
The buzz in Madison Square Garden during the current New York Knicks basketball season has not been experienced in years. To the amazement of basketball aficionados, a Knicks ticket is a hot consumer item as Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin (before his knee surgery) have converted a lackluster team into a possible playoff team, albeit not one that is likely translatable into an NBA championship. Nonetheless, the early success means that seats on the basketball floor, in what is sometimes referred to as celebrity row, are filled.
One of those seats is occupied at almost every home game by Spike Lee, the filmmaker and avid fan of the Knicks. He is one of the regulars along with Woody Allen, Matthew Modine, and a host of other film personalities. However, Mr. Lee stands apart; he has insinuated himself into the game by cheerleading, confirming referees’ decisions, and engaging in trash talk with opposing players.
Clearly one might ask why Mr. Lee has this privileged position. Should anyone else behave in a similar manner, he would be escorted from the Garden. Is it because he is a highly regarded black filmmaker? Or is it his friendship with the players? Perhaps his yearly purchase of celebrity seats offers license other fans do not receive?