Big Ten Wonk
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Threes matter
(First things first: "lecture"? Note to self: be less didactic.)

(And let that be a lesson to all of you!)

(3) Florida 73, (11) George Mason 58
Sure, the Patriots looked very much like an 11-seed that made it two or three games too far. But don't be fooled. Any team can look like that. That's what happens when your threes don't fall (2-of-11). Still, give credit to the Gators: those threes were contested. George Mason seemed to be taking tough shots the whole night. Florida, on the other hand, benefited from mystifying choices made by the Patriots on D, as Lee Humphrey's man again and again doubled down low and then appeared stunned to find this would invariably result in yet another Humphrey three (19 points on 6-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc). Prediction: UCLA won't make that mistake. (Box score.)

(2) UCLA 59, (4) LSU 45
Was this the same LSU team that swatted Duke out of the tournament and then took care of Texas? The Tigers looked utterly helpless on offense last night. It's suggestive, to be sure, that a couple consecutive Bruin opponents have looked this way and yet it appeared to this observer that LSU really helped this result along. Glen "Big Baby" Davis was given hardly any touches early, when he was fresh and the game still in doubt. By early in the second half the game was over, as the Tigers, who never shoot threes, needed to shoot threes to rally from 20 down. But they stayed in character, went 0-of-6 for the game on their threes, and lost by 14. (Box score.)

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
For the second day in a row I have no link for the article I'm going to talk about. And, like yesterday, it's not my fault. The article in question is from today's Minneapolis Star Tribune but is nowhere to be found, yet, on their site. (I suppose it will show up here eventually.)

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead--and Dan Monson's still the coach
The Star Tribune, like most papers, now has a reader's representative. (Can you imagine a reader's representative "back in the day," say, when Ben Hecht was responding to slow news days in 1910s-era Chicago by digging a trench across the Oak Street Beach, having it photographed, and then running a story the next day on the big earthquake that had hit town? Just a thought.) In this morning's Sunday column, reader's representative Kate Parry looks at the sequence of events that led the Star Tribune to publish a story on March 22 saying that Minnesota coach Dan Monson was "not expected to return next season." Of course, as well all know by now, Monson is in fact staying on. So how'd this story get into print?

The Star Tribune's position is actually quite simple: according to the reporters and editors quoted by Parry, the story was correct at the time they decided to run it, late on the night of Tuesday, March 21. "I believe it was accurate at the time we made the decision to publish," says managing editor Scott Gillespie a week later.

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi denies that: "I can assure you before the final game started that I knew Dan Monson was going to return." The game Maturi refers to is the Gophers' season-ending loss against Cincinnati in the NIT. Maturi was contacted that night by the Star Tribune. Instead of saying what he now says he knew then ("Dan Monson is going to return"), he instead gave only an evasive "I'm not going to go there."

Maturi now says he was evasive because the season was still in progress: "I try to be sensitive about what I say about coaches' contracts." That's one explanation. Another is that when he was contacted by the Star Tribune on March 21, Maturi in fact did not know whether or not Monson would return. Personally, I incline toward the latter. It fits the facts better. But it's a judgment call.

Speaking of judgment calls, at the top of her column, Parry quotes an email from a reader: "Either name the specific source and the readers can decide its credibility, or wait until you hear it directly from [Minnesota athletic director] Joel Maturi or Dan Monson as an official public announcement before reporting it. Otherwise, start a blog."

I couldn't disagree more. The March 22 story by Jeff Shelman was clear about the story's sources ("people outside the university with knowledge of the situation") and about Maturi's uncharacteristic evasiveness. That's what reporters do: they put two and two together. Nor, surely, are readers such fragile chalices of trusting naïveté. If anything I want the larger newspapers in Big Ten country to give me more of this kind of reporting on breaking news, as long as it's properly labeled.

As for Monson, he is in the worst situation I can recall seeing inhabited by any Big Ten basketball coach. And by that I specifically mean worse than Mike Davis's situation this year (not even close) and worse even than former Penn State coach Jerry Dunn's situation in 2003.

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