Volunteer State showdown
After a four-day siege in Bloomington, the 'Bag is ready to talk about ... something besides
Yes, and it's not even close. This season has been kind of a downer when it comes to heavyweight battles between elite teams. The most highly anticipated non-conference showdown until Saturday's Tennessee-Memphis showdown has probably been Memphis-Georgetown, and after a tight first half, that one wasn't all that close. Nor have the most hyped in-league rivalry games been that great. The first North Carolina-Duke game was marred by the absence of
As for No. 1 Memphis and No. 2 Tennessee, they're so far and away the best teams in their respective conferences that their league games have been lacking in the drama department (aside from the near-throwdown between UAB students and Memphis players on Saturday, which is the kind of drama we
Thank god for Vols-Tigers, which features a host of dynamite storylines: No. 1 vs. No. 2; two hard-driving coaches with big personalities (
How are Memphis and Tennessee similar? Both like to play fast, harassing defense and hope that their depth and conditioning will eventually wear you down. You might recall the last time Pearl's Vols met a team that ran Dribble-Drive Motion was the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, when Tennessee won a hugely entertaining game over Long Beach State, 121-86. (However, you might also recall that Memphis plays much better defense than LBSU.)
How are Memphis and Tennessee different? Well, Memphis has more punch down low, even though
I'm going to go with a lukewarm endorsement of Memphis to defend a hair better than the Vols and win on its home court, even though I think Tennessee will end up being more battle-tested for March. What the 'Bag knows for certain is that we've spent far more time in the state of Tennessee this season than in any of our 12 years covering college basketball. We've eaten great barbecue in Memphis (Corky's) and Knoxville (Chandler's Deli), and we've had a blast writing stories
In other words, these are basketball times to remember in the Volunteer State --and not just because of the Volunteers.
Let's give this a crack:
I would caution against taking too much out of one game. Duke played probably its worst game of the year, and the Deacs were inspired all night. (Plus, there was all sorts of strangeness with all five Duke starters fouling out. What are the chances of that happening again?) I don't know if I'd say that Duke has a huge lack of athleticism (I'd add
It's certainly possible, though I try not to engage in too much speculation without any hard news (and I have none on Sampson's status at Indiana or his potential successors). Clearly Bennett's first two seasons as the head man in Pullman have been remarkable, and as a Wisconsin native he knows Big Ten country well. It would strike me as a good fit for Indiana. But the same could be true for
Here's what I do know about Indiana: 1) I've now seen two games at IU after making (strangely) my first trip to Bloomington, and the amount of fan support Hoosiers basketball receives is overwhelming. It's a special place, one that deserves a special coach. 2) The Hoosiers are a genuine Final Four contender. The wins over Michigan State and Purdue only reinforced that notion. Any team that has
I like what
You know, the
Nope. Pryor has said that for now he has no plans to play basketball in college.
First, let's be clear: I haven't called Michigan State "overrated." But I was actually talking about the very topic of your question with Spartans coach
Ultimately, I think your question comes down less to what people think about the Pac-10 or the Big Ten than what they think of Washington, Penn State and Iowa. Although Washington has had a disappointing season (by its recent standards), you could certainly argue that U-Dub is one of the nation's top 65 teams (even though an NCAA at-large bid seems out of reach). You couldn't make that argument about Iowa or Penn State.
Last week you may recall that a reader cited Kansas' recent win over Baylor, in which the Jayhawks cracked triple-digits but failed to make a single three-pointer, and asked when was the last time that happened. Thankfully, one of our 'Bag Hall of Fame members looked into it:
Intriguing question, Brendan. The 'Bag doesn't have any kids, but we'll play hypothetical on this one. If my son was a likely one-and-done, I'd want him to play for a coach who commands respect, who preaches (and teaches) defense, who demands that his players value time management in a way that prepares them for the NBA. To me, nobody does those things better than North Carolina's
If my son is a good player who won't make the NBA without a great college career, I'd be looking for coaches who are the best at player development. I'm not going to repeat names from the first group, but coaches that come to mind here are Texas'
Lastly, if my son were a walk-on who'd never see significant minutes, I'd tell him to choose a school for reasons other than basketball. But if we're limiting this to hoops, I'd want him to be at a college with a rich basketball tradition, like North Carolina or Kansas or Kentucky or Indiana. You could list several schools here and wouldn't go wrong.
In the next week or two we'll make sure to break down what's looking like a two-man race between Kansas State's
And so, to celebrate the dog days of the academic calendar, we went back and found some of the unused academic-themed gems from our two-hour-long interview with B-Easy back in December:
• On whether he'd stop going to classes this semester if he decides to declare for the NBA after his freshman season, even though doing so would hurt Kansas State when it comes to future scholarships:
"I made a joking comment about that scenario to my tutor. I was like, 'The first semester [grade-wise] keeps you eligible for the second semester and second semester keeps you eligible for next year. So if I come out and average a thousand points then I'm not going to school the second semester.' And she said, 'No!' I was kind of heartbroken. I'm like any student. I'd rather not go to school. But if you don't make a 2.0 then we lose a scholarship, and I wouldn't feel right doing that."
• On his first-semester mass-communications class:
"That was a fun class. We were learning about technology. Say you work at a big-time corporation, and they take a scan of your eye so you can get into the building. So we were coming up with different things you can scan, and one student came up with a feces scan. That was pretty funny to me. Like, how would you feel if every day you go to work you've gotta make sure you eat so you can take a dump to get in?"
• On learning the "undo" function in his "bogus" computers class:
"What's the fun of erasing something when you can just press the undo button?"
(Mike Beasley and his mom: the gift that keeps on giving. I'll miss them next year.)
In recent 'Bags we've talked about why there are no female coaches of men's Division-I teams at a time when a woman has a much better chance of being elected President of the United States. Reader
Charlie Hart from Noblesville, Ind.? Please answer the white courtesy phone.
See you next week.