College Basketball Nation: 2010 NCAA tournament

Perfection is possible in 2013-14

November, 1, 2013
John Calipari has assembled one of the most talented recruiting classes in college basketball history. Perhaps the best ever.

[+] EnlargeAlex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsAlex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein will be joined by what might be the best recruiting class ever.
That's no exaggeration. With six McDonald's All-Americans and returning vets/NBA prospects Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky should be the favorite to win the national title.

There's even talk of a possible undefeated season.

And that's not a crazy thought. Multiple teams have come close to perfection in recent years. But they've all stumbled at some point.

We haven't had an undefeated college basketball squad since Indiana pulled off the feat in 1975-76. Will Kentucky or another title contender repeat the feat in 2013-14? We'll see.

But here's a list of the squads that nearly achieved perfection in recent years:

Kentucky (2011-2012), 38-2: Anthony Davis and Co. were clearly the nation's top team throughout the 2011-12 season. The Wildcats won the national championship with a team that featured six picks in that summer's NBA draft.

And they nearly finished that season without a loss. They won their first eight games before Indiana knocked them off their No. 1 perch with a 73-72 loss on Christian Watford's buzzer-beating 3-pointer in their ninth game of the year. Later that year, the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament. By then, however, they'd earned a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. But their rally in 2011-12 proved that an undefeated season is not a pipedream.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Canaan
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsIsaiah Canaan and the Racers opened the 2011-12 season 23-0 before falling to Tennessee State.
Murray State (2011-12), 31-2: The Wildcats weren't the only team in Kentucky pushing for an undefeated campaign that year. Isaiah Canaan and Murray State nearly achieved that feat the same year that Kentucky won the national title.

The Racers won their first 23 games. And then, Tennessee State ended their streak with a 72-68 victory on Feb. 9, 2012. Canaan had 31 points that night, but it wasn't enough to help Murray State maintain its streak. Steve Prohm's squad won its next eight games but ultimately lost to Marquette in the third round of the NCAA tournament. It was a great ride, though.

Memphis (2007-08), 38-2: For Memphis, the 2007-08 season ended on the wrong side of "Mario's Miracle," after former Kansas star Mario Chalmers hit a crucial 3-pointer in the Jayhawks' national championship game victory over the Tigers. But it's easy to forget how good Calipari's team was that season.

Memphis was 26-0 before suffering a four-point loss to rival Tennessee on Feb. 23, 2008, that ended its 47-game home winning streak. Derrick Rose had 31 points in that game, and Tennessee star Chris Lofton struggled in a 2-for-11 effort, but the Vols still earned the win and ruined Memphis' bid for perfection. The Tigers won their next 12 games before their national title overtime loss against Kansas.

Illinois (2004-05), 37-2: What a heartbreaking season for Illinois. Bruce Weber's squad had everything any coach would want in a national title contender. Dee Brown and Deron Williams formed one of the nation's top backcourts. On March 6, 2005, Illinois possessed a 29-0 record. And then Matt Sylvester happened. The Ohio State reserve hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Buckeyes' upset of Weber's squad that day.

Illinois won its next eight matchups and reached the national championship game, where it faced a stacked North Carolina squad. Sean May scored 26 points, and the Tar Heels shot 52 percent from the field in a win. Illinois wasn't perfect. But it was close.

Saint Joseph's (2003-04), 30-2: Phil Martelli's squad landed on the national radar when a pair of NBA prospects (Jameer Nelson, Delonte West) led Saint Joseph's on one of the most captivating runs of the last 10 years. Saint Joseph's won its first 27 games of the 2003-04 season.

But on March 11, 2004, the same Xavier squad the Hawks had defeated earlier that season shocked the program with an 87-67 victory in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals. Critics suggested that the loss proved Saint Joseph's wasn't worthy of a top seed in the Big Dance. In the NCAA tournament, however, the Hawks defeated Liberty, Texas Tech and Wake Forest before suffering a two-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Elite Eight. The Hawks were good, just not perfect.
Somehow, college basketball practice will begin this week.

We can credit a new NCAA rule that allows teams to start practice two weeks earlier than past seasons.

It’s a great step. The earlier, the better. Throws off the traditional Midnight Madness schedule a bit, but we’ll adjust.

There are obviously a million storylines.

Here’s one of many: Every Final Four team from last season will feature a new point guard this year.

I don’t know. I think that’s interesting.

It’s even more intriguing when you consider the strength of the foursome. Louisville, Wichita State, Michigan and Syracuse all boast the talent to make another trip to the Final Four.

That potential, however, is tied to the performances of their new floor leaders.

Louisville: Peyton Siva to Chris Jones -- There’s a lot of buzz about Kentucky, but rival Louisville might be the best team in America. Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear, Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell are all back. But Siva will not be easy to replace. He was Pitino on the floor, a point guard who manned the position for four seasons. Chris Jones doesn’t have that Division I experience. But he might be more talented. Jones, the consensus No. 1 junior college player in the country last year, should step in and help the Cardinals by giving the program a versatile and skilled point guard. Plus, he’ll have Smith in the backcourt next to him. That should make life easier on him. But his voice on the court and in the locker room will both be significant. Those are the traits that will be the most difficult for Pitino to replace.

Michigan: Trey Burke to Derrick Walton Jr. -- There are shoes to fill. And then, there are craters. The latter is closer to the situation that Walton will enter in his freshman season. Walton, ranked 30th in the 2013 class, is following Trey Burke. He doesn’t have to be Trey Burke. He can’t be. Burke won the Wooden Award last year and authored one of the most impressive performances in NCAA tournament history when he led Michigan over Kansas in the final minutes of a come-from-behind win in the Sweet 16. But Walton will still face pressure as the probable point guard for a Michigan squad that shouldn’t fall far in 2013-14. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are both potential lottery picks. They’re backed by talented veterans and freshmen. Let’s see how Walton adjusts to this grand role in his first season at the collegiate level.

Syracuse: Michael Carter-Williams to Tyler Ennis -- Jim Boeheim has a few holes to fill. But the Orange also possess a solid crew anchored by C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant. The biggest question centers on the point guard spot. Carter-Williams was a big point guard who created matchup problems on both ends of the floor. He could slash to the rim with ease. And he was the perfect player for the 2-3 zone. Ennis, a Canadian star in this summer’s U19 world championships, is expected to start at point guard for the Orange. The early praise is high for the 6-doot-2 guard. And he definitely has the pieces around him to guide Boeheim’s program deep into the tourney.

Wichita State: Malcolm Armstead to Fred Van Vleet -- Armstead, who transferred from Oregon, was a veteran leader who was physical and aggressive for Gregg Marshall’s squad. He was a strong defender. And he had no problem penetrating and willing his way to the rim when necessary or desirable. But he was also a leader in the locker room. All of those components helped the Shockers on their way to the Final Four last year. This is a team that was just a few plays away from upsetting Louisville in Atlanta. And some of the best players from that team return. Van Vleet, a former top-100 recruit, is not a new face. He will accept more responsibility, however, during his sophomore season. He might not be the scorer that Armstead was. But the Shockers could be more fluid with him running the show.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski makes a lot of money.

That’s not surprising. Compensation for private-school coaches is not disclosed the way salaries are for coaches at public schools due to a bunch of legal stuff that I will not attempt to explain. “Private school” essentially means “we don’t have to tell you anything we don’t want to tell you.”

So although we always assume coaches at private institutions make as much, if not more, than their peers at public universities, we’re never 100 percent sure.

Tax records, however, show all and they’re public -- even for private schools. And by obtaining those documents, USA Today learned that Coach K made $9.7 million in total compensation in 2011.

[+] EnlargeMike Krzyzewski
Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsAccording to USA Today, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's $9.7 million in compensation in 2011 is a record for a college coach.
That's not a typo.

That’s Lil’ Wayne money.

That’s a record, according to USA Today:
The amount is the greatest single-year compensation total for a college athletics coach since USA TODAY Sports began tracking the pay of football and men's basketball coaches in 2006. Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino received a little more than $8.9 million in total pay in 2010-11.

Krzyzewski earned more than $7.2 million in the 2010 calendar year, and just less than $4.7 million in 2009.

The new return shows that Krzyzewski received:

  • $1,978,401 in base compensation, nearly the same as in 2010.
  • $5,642,574 in bonus and incentive compensation, nearly $1.9 million more than in 2010.
  • $1,982,097 in retirement and other deferred compensation, a little over $500,000 more than in 2010.
  • $59,616 in other reportable compensation such as family travel.
  • $19,344 in non-taxable benefits.

As a private school, Duke is not required to make public its employment contracts.

Duke Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations Michael Schoenfeld, who provided the return in response to a request from USA Today Sports, said the university does not comment on individual contracts.

However, in addressing Krzyzewski's overall compensation, he said: "By any measure, Coach K is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, college coach of all-time. This takes into account his 33 years of service at Duke, his unparalleled success as a head coach -- in 2011 he became the winningest (NCAA Division I) head coach of all-time -- his commitment to the academic achievement of the student-athletes and to Duke University."

Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the greatest coach of all time. He has four national championships and more Division I wins than any coach in history. Under him, the Blue Devils have been national title contenders (or winners) in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Next season, he’ll have a national-title-contending squad led by Jabari Parker, a McDonald’s All-American and future lottery pick.

That’s an impressive legacy and true longevity.

But that’s a lot of dough, especially the portion that’s based on bonuses and incentives ($5.6 million).

“Hey, Coach K. Thanks for showing up today. Here’s another $100,000 ‘thanks for showing up bonus.’”

It’s still difficult to argue against Coach K’s compensation (nearly $2 million is deferred) if the barometer is based solely on what his peers currently receive.

But the discussion can’t end there.

I was all set to argue that Coach K deserves the cash, and suggest that there’s no reason to be upset about it. And then my man Eamonn Brennan chimed in and reminded me that Parker and his teammates won’t get a slice of that.

It’s a notable contrast.

Coach K makes nearly $10 million and the players who’ve fueled his success -- and escalating income -- get nothing beyond tuition, room and board. And that whole myth about college athletes having all of their expenses paid was challenged by a National College Players Association study, which revealed that the average athlete on a full ride paid more than $3,000 in out-of-pocket expenses to attend college during the 2010-11 school year.

So the debate will persist. It has now reached the courts with former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon leading a lawsuit against the NCAA, which involves compensation for athletes.

Coach K will continue to earn nearly $10 million per year. Probably more in the future. Parker, who will likely stay for just one year, will receive the opportunity to compete for a Division I program. That exposure will be vital in his mission to make a living in the NBA.

Without Parker, however, Coach K and his colleagues would not warrant the seven-figure salaries they currently receive.

So the idea of Coach K earning nearly $10 million and Parker & Co. potentially leaving Duke with debt is not easy to digest.
The oft-repeated March Madness advertisement is a yearly tradition. Every year, the TV viewer sees a handful of commercials over and over again. Some are hilarious. Some are grating. Most are pretty nondescript.

One of 2012's more frequent ads features a pair of alliterative rhetorical questions: "Is it 'March Monotony?' March Middle of the Road?'

The punchline, of course, is "No -- it's March Madness!" But on Thursday, the viewer at home could be forgiven if he replied to either of the first questions with a resounding yes.

There's no way of getting around it. This was March monotony.

For Eamonn Brennan's full column, click here.

Tourney Live: Elite Eight

March, 26, 2011
It's time to join our college basketball experts as we move on to the regional finals of the 2011 NCAA tournament.

Jump into our live chat at 4 p.m. ET and contribute your comments and questions as we all watch Butler-Florida and then Arizona-Connecticut. All college basketball subjects are fair game and we'll post as many of your thoughts as we can. See you there!

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Wisconsin just had too much Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer for Belmont, as the fourth-seeded Badgers whipped the 12th-seeded Bruins 72-58 in the second round of Southeast Regional of the NCAA tournament.

Belmont scrapped hard, but Wisconsin just had too many horses. The Badgers are now 9-1 under coach Bo Ryan in first-round games.

Turning point: Consecutive 3-pointers from Belmont's Jordan Campbell narrowed the margin to 43-39 with 13:38 remaining. It looked as though the scrappy Bruins would make a challenge. But five minutes later, Wisconsin's lead had reached 16 points at 56-40. Two treys from Jared Berggren and another from Mike Bruesewitz as well as an alley-oop dunk by Leuer from Taylor quashed the Bruins momentum.

Key player: Taylor and Leuer have been touted as one of the nation's better inside-outside combinations, and they supported their case against Belmont. Taylor had 21 points and six assists, while Leuer added 22 points and seven rebounds.

Key stat: Belmont shot 319 more 3-pointers than its opponents this year, but Wisconsin shot just as many in the regional. The more notable factoid was the Badgers made 12 of their 22 treys, while the Bruins only made six of their 22.

Miscellaneous: Wisconsin ended a two-game losing streak; Belmont ended a 12-game winning streak... The Atlantic Sun, Belmont's conference, hasn’t enjoyed an NCAA tournament victory since it was the Trans America Athletic Conference in 2001 (Georgia State beat Wisconsin, 50-49)... The Badgers won the rebounding battle 33-22... The Bruins outscored the Badgers 22-10 in the paint and their bench outscored Wisconsin 28-18.

What's next: Wisconsin will play the winner of the Southeast Regional nightcap between Kansas State and Utah State on Saturday.

Video: West regional ripe for an upset?

March, 15, 2011
Andy Katz identifies two games in the West Regional that have upset special written all over them.

Rating the conferences: From 1 to 32

January, 3, 2011
After a one week hiatus for the holidays, we are back with the latest ESPN Stats & Information conference ratings. For a recap on how we rank the conferences click here and here.

For the first time this season, the Big East has overtaken the Big Ten as the best conference in college basketball. The Big East still trails the Big Ten in the computers, but makes up the deficit with the human pollsters -- even after adjusting for the size of its conference. Big East schools are also an impressive 9-3 against the Big Ten and Big 12.

The Big Ten falls thanks to its paltry record against the top conferences. The league is a combined 2-10 against the Big East and Big 12 and has not defeated a team currently ranked in the AP or coaches top 25.

In another shift, the SEC drops to seventh, while the Mountain West moves into the top five. Often overlooked, the MWC quietly has gone 12-9 against the traditional power six conferences.

Conference USA is also sneaking up the leaderboard thanks in large part to UCF's surprising 13-0 start. C-USA is one of only five leagues to have multiple schools in the top 25 of this week’s coaches poll.

Without further ado, here are the ratings:

In the end, the NCAA chose the unsurprising, boring, and ultimately sensible choice: The First Four will be held in Dayton, Ohio, the site of the NCAA tournament play-in -- er, "opening round" -- game for the past 10 years, according to a statement from the NCAA.

When the NCAA announced its limited expansion of the tournament this offseason, many, including yours truly, wondered whether the NCAA would do something radical with the First Four. After all, the concept itself -- combining two No. 16/17 play-in games with two games pitting the tourney's last four at-large seeds -- had the flair of an organization looking to shake things up. The most boring, palatable route would have been to use four play-in games; the most radical scenario would have used the First Four for the last eight at-larges. The NCAA's solution -- already a comedown from the much-derided 96 team idea -- was a compromise, but it wasn't without flair.

Which is why, once the format of those games was determined, it would have been fun to see the NCAA shake things up even more. The best idea would have seen the NCAA set up four historic regional sites -- think Hinkle Fieldhouse, Cameron Indoor Stadium, The Palestra, and, say, Allen Fieldhouse, or New Mexico's Pit -- each hosting one game with the NCAA tournament on the line. That would have been an awfully cool setup.

In the end, Ohio State athletic director and 2010-11 NCAA Men's Basketball Committee chairman Gene Smith considered those options, but decided to stay in Dayton thanks to the enthusiasm for the games in the past 10 years.

“Dayton hosted the opening-round game for the past 10 years and consistently attracted extraordinary crowds, including over 11,000 in 2009,” Smith said in a statement. “The enthusiasm the UD staff and the local fans demonstrated for hosting that game did not go unnoticed, so it makes sense to us to conduct the inaugural First Four in Dayton.

“We explored different options, including playing the first-round games at multiple sites, as well as the possibility of playing all games on one day, but we came to the conclusion that Dayton is the best location to host all four games for the 2011 tournament," Smith said.

That's a perfectly reasonable approach. Dayton fans and locals have been tremendous fans of the play-in games, which, let's admit, are not exactly star-studded affairs. If the past 10 years were a test to see how much Dayton loves college hoops, the city has consistently passed. Now it will be rewarded with three more games, two of which are likely to feature big-time bubble teams desperate to escape the opening round and keep their Dance dreams alive. That's a reward Dayton probably deserves.
Maybe you watched the Peach Jam final on Thursday evening. Maybe not. If you did, it's probably because you're like me, a basketball junkie stuck in the midst of a hoops-less summer with nowhere to get the roundball fix that sustains us for so many cold, weary months.

How else to pass the hours? You've had to do things -- unspeakable things -- like "turn off your TV," go outside," "walk your dog," "spend time with other people" and "watch the NBA summer league." Shudder.

Fortunately, a hoops reservoir exists in this vast desert: CBS College Sports is replaying the entire 2010 NCAA tournament on its network this week, starting today. Woo for basketball on TV! Woo!

This means a couple of things. For one, it's basketball, so it's awesome, even if you've seen it before. Second, you'll know which games were good and which games weren't, so you can sift through the best of the NCAA tournament at will. And third, you'll get to relive Xavier-Kansas State, the game of the year and the one most worthy of intense retrospective scrutiny (provided in convenient and fascinating fashion by Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn here).

The only thing better would be new, as-yet-unseen hoops. But like a broke smoker reaching into the ashtray for that last hit of nicotine, when you're this desperate, anything counts.

(Hat tip: Mike Miller)
The ESPYS had its share of highlights last night. Seth Meyers was casually great. The story and presentation of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to the survivors of slain high school football coach Ed Thomas made my living room suddenly dusty. Brooklyn Decker was ... present.

And yes, college hoops got its fair share of dap in the awards category. Duke was named best men's college athletics program, which might have had something to do with the Blue Devils winning their fourth NCAA title under coach Mike Krzyzewski. John Wall won the award for best male college athlete, which is kind of hard to defend: What about Evan Turner? What about Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram? Wall was good, but he wasn't even the best college hoops player in 2009-10, so how could he have been the best male college athlete? I demand answers to my ESPY-related queries!

There was no questioning the winner of the Best Upset category, though: That award rightfully went to the Northern Iowa Panthers for their second-round win over No. 1-ranked Kansas this March. As Diamond wrote yesterday, it would have been a major upset if the Panthers didn't win.

Offseason's 50-day recap

May, 25, 2010
It wasn't long ago when Duke survived Butler. In the days since, there's been no shortage of news. College Basketball Nation blogger Eamonn Brennan breaks down college basketball's first 50 days of the offseason here.
Typically, attendance numbers are pretty easy to put in perspective. Attendance was either up or down; either more people came to the games, or fewer did. Um, not so much. Because college basketball's 2009-10 attendance figures are out, and no one can decide whether the numbers are good or bad.

Why the confusion? It's a question of total attendance versus average individual attendance at each school. The total number -- everyone in the country who bought a ticket for a college basketball game in 2009-10 -- is more than 27 million. It's a staggering figure when you think about it. It's also the fourth-highest tally in college basketball history, an impressive feat given the lingering economic woes faced by many Americans (and many basketball programs) throughout the season.

That's just a raw overall number, though. The bad news is that college basketball crowds got smaller by an average of 147 spectators per game, a decrease of three percent. Over the last two years, average attendance has been steadily dipping, including for NCAA tournament games, and 2009-10's average attendance was at its lowest point since 1987.

These numbers -- one positive, one negative -- are reconciled in the increase of Division I schools being measured by the NCAA's attendance figure. More schools means more fans buying more tickets for more seats, which is the case here. But it doesn't mean larger average crowds. Instead, what's happening is that new Division I hoops members -- there are now 347 -- play games in smaller arenas with less fan interest and fewer tickets to sell.

In other words, if you're the type of person that takes NCAA college basketball attendance numbers to heart (I don't know too many of these people, but it's best to be sensitive in times like these), don't get too freaked out. Lots of people are still watching college hoops. They just happen to be a little more spread out than before. Surely the NCAA would like to get that average attendance back up to 2007-08 levels, but for now, there's not a lot to worry about.

Hayward staying in draft?

May, 5, 2010
The Butler-Duke rematch set for Dec. 4 just got a whole lot less exciting. Bulldogs star Gordon Hayward, who was testing the draft waters without an agent following his stellar junior season will, according to the Indianapolis Star, stay in the NBA draft and hire an agent.

The decision makes sense. Hayward climbed up draft boards throughout the 2009-10 season, a climb helped by Butler's unlikely run to the NCAA tournament final. The one-time, three-star recruit from Brownsburg, Ind. is now a first-round lock according to ESPN Insider's Chad Ford; Hayward's father recently said he's been told that Hayward won't fall any further than No. 20 overall, and could go as high as No. 10, right in the middle of the lottery. If the NBA draft is about striking while the iron is hot, Hayward is timing his strike perfectly.

In the meantime, Butler fans will be disappointed, and not just because Hayward won't be around Dec. 4 to help the Bulldogs avenge their title game loss. With the 6-foot-9 swingman, Butler was a favorite to win the NCAA title next season. Without him, Brad Stevens' team will still be formidable -- they'll have center Matt Howard and guards Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored still in the fold; the 2010-11 Bulldogs will still be ruthless on defense -- but they won't have the star that could have pushed them over the top.

Instead, this leaves Duke and Michigan State -- and maybe Purdue, depending on the decisions of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore -- as your early preseason favorites for the 2010-11 NCAA title. Butler will still be a very good team, but it won't be the same. The last shot of Hayward's college hoops career may be the closest they get to the NCAA title for some time.

Bored? Try the game simulator

April, 29, 2010
Of course, if you're really bored you should probably take up Super Mario Crossover as a hobby; after I mentioned it yesterday, I can't see why you aren't playing it right this very second. You're a tough nut to un-bore, dear reader.

That doesn't mean Eamonn's patented aggregated brand of boredom solutions doesn't have an answer for you. Far from it. You're reading a college basketball blog right now, so you must like college basketball. How about this, then: SCACCHoops' college basketball game simulator. It's exactly what it sounds like. You plug in two teams from two different drop-down lists and see how they would fare in a simulated game on a neutral court. It's a lot like What If Sports, though from what I can tell, SCACC's simulation seems more focused on the product of both teams' tempo-free tendencies. I like tempo-free. I like simulations. I like this.

To test the system, I checked what would happen if you paired 2009-10 Duke, this year's national title winner, with Duke's 2000-2001 team that featured Jay Williams, Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy and Chris Duhon. (Holy Wilson Solutions, that team was stacked.) Turns out, it's not as lopsided as you might thing. The first time I simmed it, the 2001 team won by 11 points. The second time, they lost by that same margin. The game has been simulated eight times total on the site, and Duke 2010's record is 5-3. Small sample size, sure, but maybe the Duke's 2010 team deserves a little bit more credit. There's only one way to find out: keep simming it. Who's with me?