Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Lincoln was right!
Judging from reactions to the past two NCAA tournaments, it would seem, just as the 16th president said, that you can please all the people some of the time and some of the people all of time. And that's as good as it gets.

Recall that last year with George Mason crashing the party, there was an insistent undercurrent of grumbling and even (I'm serious) talk of structural change: the Patriots? Who are they? We want UConn vs. Duke!

Then this year the brackets held form to such a ridiculous extent that seven of the Elite Eight teams were 1- or 2-seeds--and the eighth was a 3-seed. (Meaning "this year's George Mason" turned out to be Oregon.) More grumbling: we want Cinderellas!

Speaking only for myself, I count both the George Mason-Connecticut 2006 Elite Eight game and the UCLA-Kansas 2007 Elite Eight game among the entries in my "wow" hoops memory bank. Both were outstanding basketball games. The difference between the two? The Patriots were resented by some last year for confounding our expectations. Now this year's big dogs are resented by some for fulfilling our expectations.

A thought: let's forget our expectations. Let's watch the games. This year they've been incredible, albeit in a slightly different way than in years past.

All hail me: this blog will end its life without having once made a pun on Bill Self's name!
I don't usually rush to the defense of Big XII coaches blessed with more bona fide NBA talent than the Memphis Grizzlies. But some of what I'm reading this week about Bill Self surpasses "laughable" and reaches flat-earth society-level lunacy. Self's Kansas team, you see, lost to UCLA Saturday night. Meaning Self has now made it to four Elite Eights without once going to the Final Four. Not once! He can't win the big one! He's a hoops Schottenheimer, for goodness sake!...

Right. Let's look at those Elite Eights.

In 2000 Self's Tulsa team lost to North Carolina. Save your email: I know Tulsa was the higher-seeded team in that game (7 vs. 8). I don't care. It's still Tulsa vs. North Carolina.

Then in 2001, Self's Illinois team lost to Arizona. The starting five for the Illini that day: Frank Williams, Cory Bradford, Sergio McClain, Brian Cook, and Marcus Griffin (with Robert Archibald, who is now out of the NBA, coming off the bench). The starting five for the Wildcats: Jason Gardner, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, Michael Wright, and Loren Woods (with Luke Walton, who is now a starter in the NBA, coming off the bench).

And then in 2004 the fourth-seeded Jayhawks rallied from seven down in the last three minutes to force the OT before losing to third-seeded Georgia Tech. (HT: Bret L.)

In other words, Saturday marked the first time Self had the more talented and higher-seeded team taking the floor in an Elite Eight game. And, yes, he lost. To UCLA, a team that is putting together the best run of sustained defensive excellence that I've seen any team put together in the three seasons I've been doing this. I've already pushed the numbers forward--I really don't know what else to say, except that right now Ben Howland's team looks like the college hoops equivalent of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

Just promise me that when Florida loses to the Bruins Saturday I'll hear about how Billy Donovan was oh-so-badly outcoached. Deal?

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Wisconsin senior Alando Tucker and Ohio State freshman Greg Oden were named first-team AP All-Americans yesterday. Also on board: Texas freshman Kevin Durant, Texas A&M senior Acie Law IV, and UCLA junior Arron Afflalo.

Mike Conley Sr. is proud of Mike Conley Jr.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery, and Butler coach Todd Lickliter all say they have not been contacted by Michigan regarding the vacancy in Ann Arbor.

High school baller Jeff Peterson says he may still choose Iowa, Alford or no Alford (Pearl or no Pearl?). Speaking of Alford, the new coach of New Mexico says hoops is a distant second to that other sport in Iowa City: "
I can talk for eight years all I want at Iowa about trying to get my own strength coach, my own weight room and own practice facility, but when that never happens and $100 million is being put into football complexes, recruits see that."

Michigan State assistant coach Jim Boylen will be the next head coach at Utah.

Penn State announced yesterday that Milos Bogetic and Maxwell Dubois will be transferring to yet-to-be-determined (possibly Division II) destinations.

Years ending in "7" are fateful for Minnesota.

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Is it possible for a lame-duck blog to have an email section?
Yesterday I said this is the last season for this blog (though not for this blogger) and, precisely as I intended, this resulted in lots of nice emails from readers saying how much they'll miss the blog, how great I am, etc., etc. (This rocks! It's like being at your own funeral! I should have thought of this way sooner.)

The emails are much appreciated. (Keep 'em coming! Oops. Did that slip out?) At the same time, I didn't and don't want "Wonk back!" to be merely a Kennedy Center Honors ceremony with me sitting in the VIP box wearing a silly medallion.

So talk hoops to me: who's going to win Monday? Can Tubby Smith resurrect the moribund Minnesota program? Who do you want to coach Michigan? Iowa?

Thoughts? Anyone?

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