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March 28, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Eamonn Brennan

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:04 PM)

Hey peeps, it's chat time. No marathon sessions today -- too much writing to do. (I'm currently attempting to wrap my head around VCU in the Final Four, so I might need all day.) So let's try to get as many questions in in an hour or so as we can. Deal? Deal.

Nick (Henderson, KY)

It seems like all of the remaining teams have had a pretty tough road to make it to the final four. Which team had the toughest road? Rank 1-4

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:07 PM)

At some level this feels impossible to distinguish, but I'm going to go with this order: 1. VCU, 2. Kentucky, 3. Butler, 4. Connecticut. All four were incredibly difficult roads, but a) VCU had one more game than the other four and b) had to beat a No. 6 seed, a No. 3 seed, the best defense in the country in Florida State and a previously dominant No. 1 seed in Kansas. It's really remarkable that this team is on its way to Houston.

Brendan (Connecticut)

Eamonn, for the UConn vs Kentucky game, how big of a role do you think payback will play in the game Saturday from the previous game in the Maui Tournament earlier this year?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:08 PM)

Literally zero. Jim Calhoun essentially said as much in his teleconference today, which is correct: These two teams are so, SO different from November, that game will have little resemblance to the one we see on Saturday.

John (CT)

You're the athletic director of a large, state university. You have recently fired your basketball coach. You have a blank check for hiring the new coach. Is your first choice Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart (or, if you're Georgia Tech, Brian Gregory)?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:09 PM)

Poor Georgia Tech fans. They finally get out from under the craziest contract of all-time (Paul Hewitt) just in time to hire a guy that most Dayton fans are happy to see go. That's just got to be depressing. If I have my choice between Stevens and Smart, I take Stevens, if only because he's a hair more proven. But really, you can't go wrong with either.

Matt (Kentucky)

If Kentucky wins the NCAA tourney and become champions again, is it more likely that Knight leaves along with Jones, or will they come back for a possible repeat like Florida did in 06-07?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:11 PM)

I think both are probably gone no matter what happens. Both players' draft stocks couldn't get much higher (so highhhh, oh oh ohhh; Kanye, anybody?), especially Knight's, and we all know Calipari is going to push his players toward the draft if he thinks it's best for them. The only issue that mucks all this up is the looming NBA lockout. But I think both were probably always planning on being one-and-dones, and winning a title would only make that more, not less, likely.

Tom (Danbury, CT)

The three point line needs to be moved back, I'm getting tired of watching games that are essentially glorified three point shootouts with rebounds.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:12 PM)

I would imagine we'll hear a lot about this in the next few years. Keep in mind that the three-point line was moved back to 20-feet, nine inches in 2007, so there's already been some movement recently.

Lewis (Indianapolis)

Hey Eamonn what do you think of the comparison of this year's butler team to the team that the movie hoosiers is based on... that team, (Milan) actually went to the Indiana high school final four the year before they won it

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:13 PM)

I did not know that, but man, as if we needed another reason to compare Milan/Hickory to the Butler Bulldogs. "Let's win one for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here." You guys are cool if I just watch "Hoosiers" for the rest of this chat, right? OK, cool.

Kanye West (via mobile)

I'd interrupt you, but this chat isn't even close to being one of the greatest of all time.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:14 PM)

Still early, 'Ye. Don't judge yet.

CAL (St. Paul, MN)

Where would you rank the run by VCU among the all-time tournament runs of all time? Top 3?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:15 PM)

I took a break from a feature I'm writing about this exact story to do this chat, so I don't want to give anything away, but ... it's No. 1 all time. No. 1. The Rams had to win an extra game to get here. Before the tournament, their odds of winning the national title were like 200,000-to-one. This is the best tournament run of all-time. Has to be.

John (CT)

Thoughts on the NCAA lifting the Blue II exile?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:16 PM)

It's about time. I look forward to giving Blue II a good scratch in Houston. He's earned it.

Joe (via mobile)

Don't you mean Calipari will push his guys to the draft because otherwise he won't have scholly's for his latest group of one and done's?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:17 PM)

Well, there is that as well. I don't have time in the chat to delve deeply into Kentucky's scholarship count for next year, but bottom line is that Cal's 2012 recruiting class might be his best ever. Think about that for a second. It's insane. So, yeah, it's hard to see Knight and Jones sticking around for another season when the likes of Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and company are on the way.

Taylor (Hazard Ky)

Do you think Kansas overlooked VCU ? ,Do you think Ky should have gotten a higher seed ?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:19 PM)

No and yes. I don't think Kansas overlooked VCU. I just think Kansas shot the ball horribly at the worst possible time. VCU is incredibly hot, and you have to shoot better than 2-for-21 -- 2-for-21! -- from three if you want to beat them. Especially if you're a team like Kansas that relies so much on accurate jump shooting. As for Kentucky, yes, they were underseeded at a No. 4, much like Texas. Both teams fit the profile of No. 2 or No. 3 seeds at worst.

AR (MN)

How great do you think Kentucky would be if they still had John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, and Patrick Patterson, along with the players they have now?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:20 PM)

Uh, pretty great. But that's not how it works, and that's especially not how Calipari's recruiting style works. By the way, Derrick Rose would be a senior at Memphis right now. Tell me that didn't just melt your face.

Tom (SF, CA)

Do all 4 teams left have a chance to win it all?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:21 PM)

Absolutely, yes. With the way Butler and VCU have played in the tournament, you'd be foolish to give either team any less of a chance than UK or UConn.

Conrad (NYC)

Out of the players remaining in the tourney, who is taking the last shot for you? Has to be Kemba right? Who is #2? Knight? J Lamb?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:21 PM)

Kemba, no question. Then Knight. Then Shelvin Mack.

Samuel (El Paso, IL)

Do you think anyone could have foreseen Ohio State getting beat!?? I certainly didn't. I picked them to win the whole thing.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:23 PM)

So did lots of people -- about 25 percent of the 5.9 million brackets in ESPN's Tournament Challenge, in fact. I thought OSU was primed for a deep run, and even if they lost late in the tournament, they'd be there at the end. But Kentucky's Sweet 16 performance was flawless. Calipari was masterful on the defensive end. And Kentucky made the big plays down the stretch.

Rob (CT)

This Tourney run, in my humble opinion, should cement Kemba Walker as National Player of the Year. I am a UConn fan, so I admit to having a slight bias, but I think the body of work for an entire season should be included, and Calhoun's notes on how much he has to do in regards to helping and leading freshman cannot be overlooked. what say you?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:25 PM)

Unfortunately, the player of the year voting is already in, and it's almost certainly going to be Jimmer Fredette. I don't have a huge problem with that. Fredette was insanely good all season long, and Kemba had a few dips in the conference season that were part of the reason the Huskies finished ninth in the Big East. But what he's done since then -- both in the Big East and NCAA tourneys -- has certainly cemented him as the biggest wire-to-wire star of this season.

Jake (UT)

Eammon, give me some props for picking Kentucky over Ohio St. and UNC. I won my apartment bracket challenge by getting only one team (the Wildcats) into the Final Four.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:25 PM)

Props. One final four team is enough to win most pools this season. What a crazy year.

Kevin (NYC)

How did scouts completely miss on Jeremy Lamb, he wasnt ranked in the top 100 incomming Freshman and now looks like he is one of the best.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:27 PM)

Because scouts are fallible humans like the rest of us. Plus, sometimes players just blossom after the fact. Same goes for teams. You know, like VCU.

Derek (Fort Wayne)

Rumors of Painter to Mizzou, thoughts? Purdue is a better job than Missouri right?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:29 PM)

I would argue that Purdue is the better job, yes. But it's not a total slam-dunk. As for the rumors, I would be surprised to see Painter leave Purdue -- it is, after all, his alma mater -- but he's started to fall behind in the recruiting battle with Indiana and Mizzou has a host of good players ready to go right now (not to mention some top-of-the-range facilities). In other words, I can see where the rumors come from. And it should be noted that they are, to this point, just rumors. I'd be really, really surprised to see him leave.

John (CT)

Do you buy the "good-vs-evil" subplot that some people are forecasting for the championship game?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:32 PM)

If I may quote Star Wars in an ESPN.com college basketball chat: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." (Goodness, that is the nerdiest thing I've ever written. I apologize.) That said, you can see where this comes from. On one side of the bracket you have two of the country's most well-heeled, blueblood programs, both led by guys that have had their share of recent run-ins with the NCAA. (Before Kentucky fans freak out, no, Calipari has never been implicated in either of the two vacated seasons he presided over at UMass and Memphis.) On the other side you have two financially bereft, tiny mid-major programs led by clean-cut young coaching talents. The distinctions aren't hard to spot.

Mike (Chicago)

Tourney has been great, but has there ever been more flawed final 4 teams like this before? Three of them didn't even win their conference!!!

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:33 PM)

This is true, but as we all know, all that matters in the tournament is how well you play in the tournament. All four of these teams have played their best basketball of the season. All four have made huge plays. All four deserve to be here now.

AR (MN)

At this point, do you think that VCU deserved to make the tournament? Skip Bayless does not think so.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:36 PM)

OK, while I don't want to be lumped in with any of the more provocative opinions on the matter, here's where I stand: Just because VCU has capitalized on their NCAA tournament bid after the fact doesn't mean they necessarily deserved to get in on March 13. On March 13, VCU's resume was hugely questionable. The Rams were the fourth-place team in the CAA. They lost their last four conference games. In Feb., they lost to Northeastern. It's not like people were picking on VCU just for fun, nor did the criticism have to do with the team itself. They were a genuinely surprising inclusion in the at-large field, and the criticism was focused on the inconsistencies of the selection committee. Just because VCU has played out of its mind (and I mean that as a compliment) doesn't go back and make their pre-tourney resume ook any different. Arguing that VCU's run makes them deserving of a spot is like arguing that Ohio State didn't deserve to be a No. 1 seed because the Buckeyes didn't win their region. That's not how it works.

travis (hendrix ok)

vcu is the best team in the tourenment right now

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:37 PM)

I don't disagree with that. Average margin of victory in their five NCAA tournament games: 12 points. Hard to argue with that kind of performance.

Derek (Nashville)

As someone who thinks that this is one of the worst final fours ever (along with 2000 and 2006) Can you convince me otherwise?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:38 PM)

It depends on your definition of "worst." I would argue that "worst Final Four" is inherently an oxymoron, because all Final Fours are intrinsically awesome. But to each his own, I guess.

Sally (Atlanta)

If you are Brad Stevens, why would you leave Butler for a school like Tennessee, Mizzou, Ga Tech, Oklahoma, etc. He has built Butler into a legitimate contender and program and has done more with less than any other of the aforementioend schools. If anything, the only top jobs I would leave Butler for are Top Tier ACC, SEC , Big 12 and Big Ten schools.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:40 PM)

I think that's probably about right. Lots of fan bases (most notably Tennessee's) have bandied Stevens' name around a lot lately, but the bottom line is that Stevens doesn't ever HAVE to leave Butler. He's got a great job already. He's getting paid already. His contract runs through 2024. He could stay there forever if he wanted. If I'm Brad Stevens, I'm chilling until one of the elite of the elites opens up: UCLA, Kansas, UNC, Duke, et al. There's no reason to move anytime before then.

travis (hendrix ok)

i think he should come to oklahoma

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:41 PM)

When you wish upon a star ...

Ken Fucci (Kill Devil Hills, NC)

I don't think the VCU defense gets enough credit, they are in your face the whole time....plus, they seem to be in better shape than these other teams,,,at least so far

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:41 PM)

VCU's offense has been their main weapon this tournament, but their defense has really ramped up, too. That pressure has been really hard for bigger, slower teams to handle.

Greg (Boston)

Eamonn, you've become a big time apologist for the Majors, and it's kind of madenning. Why shouldn't the play in had featured 2 mid majors (one that beat a good UCLA, George Mason and Old Dominion teams by the way, but everyone wants to harp on a few bad losses when they played terribly) playing 2 teams from schools that consistently get 12 shots a years to seperate themselves and makes some bad losses OK? You do also realize, if UAB and VCU don't get in, Mid Majors get 5 at larges (which is complete bunk). But I guess Va. techs second round loss to Wichita never happened either.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:44 PM)

Greg, dude, I love me some mid-majors. In fact, all else equal, I'd rather see a mid-major team get in over a mediocre high-major with 14 losses, or whatever. But this season, I did think Colorado (if not Va. Tech, which, oh well) deserved to be in over UAB. And by the way, UAB plays in the C-USA, which is not a mid-major conference.

Derek (INDIANAPOLIS)

Is the second step as an elite program crushing the hopes and dreams of a cinderella story? Is that what butler has to do to cement their current status?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:44 PM)

That would be ironic, wouldn't it?

Justin (Austin)

I went the the VCU-Kansas game. Thought about selling the tickets for 20 bucks, but decided to go. Glad we did! That was a blast, and as a Texas fan, I did get a little satisfaction watching the KU fans cry on the way out. Does that make me a bad person?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:45 PM)

That just makes you a fan. Being a bad person is kinda part of the bargain.

Preston (West Virgina)

Why did Pitt get a #1 seed they were over rated all year weren't they?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:46 PM)

No, they weren't. They were really, really good. They lost to a good team in one of the crazier ways possible, but that loss doesn't invalidate Pitt's season, which was comprehensively impressive.

Mark (Indiana)

How can you say VCU had the hardest path to the FF? USC and Florida State were double digit seed mediocre teams. Georgetown lost their last 5 games heading into the tourney, and Purdue was playing its worst bball of the season right before the NCAA's, losing to Iowa and getting blown out by Michigan St. Meanwhile, Butler beat ODU (CAA champs), Pitt (Big East Champs), and Florida (SEC Champs) and Kentucky beat Ohio State and North Carolina back to back. Butler beat Pitt when Pitt shot over 50%, meanwhile VCU beat Kansas when Kansas shot 2-21 from Three. Just don't understand how anyone could think VCU had the hardest path to the FF.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:48 PM)

Getting into the vagaries of shooting percentage isn't a good way to determine who had the toughest path to the tournament. Bottom line: VCU had to play one more game than the rest of the Final Four teams. This is remarkable. VCU also didn't get the built-in advantage of playing a No. 14 or No. 13 seed in the first-round, either. Every team had remarkably difficult paths, but VCU's was top of the heap.

Greg (Boston)

On another note, do you think Coach Cal's actual coaching is way underrated, we seem to forget this guy is the same guy who took a bunch of unheralded guys from UMass and turned them into a perennial Sweet 16 team (and people forget Camby was a very unheralded recruit who Calhoun never even looked at out of Hartford)?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:50 PM)

I've always thought this, and I wrote it all the way back in the summer when this season was still just a glint in the college hoops fan's eye. Calipari's general Calipari-ness has always overshadowed his ability to coach, especially his ability to a) develop veteran players and b) get blue-chip freshmen to learn and buy in on the defensive end. This season is the first in the past five that Calipari hasn't coached a top-ten-ranked efficiency defense, and you saw what this year's version was able to do to Ohio State and UNC. That's incredible.

Scott (Indiana)

On a scale of 1 to 10 how good do you think Tom Crean is doing in his efforts to turn IU back into an elite program?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:52 PM)

I'll say six. The on-court performance has been lagging, and you can see why Indiana fans would be so frustrated with another ugly Big Ten season. But Indiana did improve a bunch efficiency-wise this season (their main flaws were in finishing games down the stretch). Also, Crean has had to deal with the injury to Maurice Creek, which has set the once-promising guard's career back by two years. But with all those recruits coming in 2011 and especially 2012 (where Indiana might end up with the No. 1 class in the country), I think the days of frustration among Hoosier fans, at least from a talent standpoint, are close to coming to an end.

Paul (Lebanon (IN))

Who is the best offensive player to defensive player single match up left? my vote would be a possible kemba walker vs ron nored match up in the final

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:53 PM)

I agree with that on a sheer one-to-one standpoint. But I'll be interested to see how Kentucky tries to defend Kemba as a team.

Nate (Los Angeles)

If Coach Howland would turn his guys loose a little bit and let them play VCU's style, we could be every bit as successful. Recruit a fast point guard with good ball handling skills (we have had two of those in Darren Collison and Westbrook) and surround him with talented athletic players and guys who can hit the three. I am sick and tired of the dribble the clock down to the last 10 seconds every possession and play lock down defense. Agree or disagree?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:55 PM)

If you ever thought you'd see the day when a UCLA fan would be complaining that his team doesn't resemble VCU, you are more prophetic than I. (Howland's style is Howland's style. I have a feeling you weren't complaining when the Bruins went to back-to-back Final Fours, right?)

John David (Preston )

Why so many questions from Indiana? What gives?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:56 PM)

Because Indiana and Purdue fans are having series crises of fandom right now. Their world has been upended. Butler fans -- Butler fans -- own provincial bragging rights. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:56 PM)

Serious*

Pete (NYC)

What % of the madness is due to young kids essentially choking versus underdogs overachieving? I mean it was a great defensive effort, but Ohio State could've shot a heck of a lot better than 35% or whatever it was. Same can be said for Duke, Florida, Syracuse, Pitt, and so many teams. They all just look so different/confused compared to how they look in the regular season.

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:57 PM)

I think it's a bit of both, but Ohio State didn't "choke" -- Kentucky just locked them up. Kansas, on the other hand ...

Nick (Indy)

How do you expect the crowds to be in Houston? What team will the locals pull for?

Eamonn Brennan
  (2:58 PM)

Not sure on the locals, but I'd imagine VCU will be a hit like Butler was last year, and whichever team makes it to the final will be a big crowd favorite. People always like the underdog. Of course, you can expect to see a LOT of people wearing Kentucky blue. Wildcats fans travel like no other fan base in college hoops.

steve (va)

that last comment is hilarious....Kentucky locked up Ohio State....but Kansas "choked"?...typical ESPN BCS bias...cue up the next back-handed compliment toward VCU.

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:00 PM)

I'm not hating on VCU! It's not like the Jayhawks just rolled over and let the Rams torch them in the first half. This VCU team is hot hot hot. That said, Kansas had its worst shooting game of the year both inside and outside the arc -- again, 2-for-21 from three -- and the Jayhawks shot 54 percent from the free throw line. You can give some credit to the Rams, but it wasn't all defense. Kansas had plenty of open shots. They just didn't make any of them.

Janice (NYC)

Do mids get respect now? That kid from VCU that played at Wake and it's clear that their players have the talent to play with anyone. Or will people still assume that if you are a Duke recruit you must be awesome and if you sign with a school whose mascot most can't name you are awful?

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:02 PM)

I think people are coming around on this. I mean, watch VCU play. Skeen is a high-major-type talent, but so are a lot of their players. This isn't an undersized, scrappy, how-are-they-doing this sort of team. This team looks like they belong athletically, physically and mentally. And hey, look at Butler. They had a lottery pick last year. There's talent all over the country, and if people don't know that already, they better rek'nize.

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:02 PM)

OK, let's go about 10 more minutes, then I have to get back to writing ...

Henry (Boulder)

I know you thought Colorado should have gotten in, and they ended up doing great in the NIT, where do NIT winners stand in respect to NCAA tourney rounds. NIT winner = sweet sixteen (elite 8?)

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:03 PM)

I have absolutely no way of quantifying that, but I'd be loathe to say Sweet 16. Maybe round of 32.

Nate (Los Angeles)

With VCU's success in this tournament (and also to an extent Kentucky's) do you see more teams opting for a frenetic, up-tempo style of play where a three pointer (even a somewhat contested one) early in the shot clock is not necessarily a bad shot or something that gets you pulled from a game? Seems to have worked very well for these two teams in terms of flustering opponents that (on paper at least) had superior talent.

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:04 PM)

I think a lot more teams should play this style. For one, it's great for recruiting. Two, it creates built-in advantages based on matchups. Three, it's fun to watch. I'm all in on uptempo hoops.

Scott (Anyville)

Doesn't everyone REALLY want either Butler or VCU to win it all? I DO! Just something new for a change

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:05 PM)

I'm not sure why anyone would ever root against the underdog unless their team happens to be the favorite. But my roommate does. As I told him yesterday, he has no soul.

Nathan (Indianapolis)

So glad the top 25 poll doesn't matter in basketball, but if there was a poll right now, would Butler and VCU be in the top 10? They'd be soaring up the charts, but they had a lot of soaring to do to get in the top 10.

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:06 PM)

I'm not sure, but I can just imagine the poll voters keeping them at arm's length. Like 15-20 for both. Which would be wrong, but whatever. They're the polls. Thank god we don't have to look at them anymore.

Matt (IN)

Another reason why CBB > CFB. If the NCAA tourney was like the BCS, VCU and Butler would be playing in the Motor City Bowl.

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:07 PM)

Truth.

Logan (VA)

If VCU wins the tournament, some kind of a movie has to be made about this run to the final four, right?

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:08 PM)

Absolutely, yes.

Steve (Albany NY)

What happens to the '6 games' cliche for winning the championship if VCU wins?

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:08 PM)

Adjust it to seven games? Ignore it entirely?

Criggs (WV)

I've got Kentucky and Butler in the championship game with the Cats winning it all...u?

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:10 PM)

I'm giving each team a 25 percent chance of winning the national title. I refuse to settle on any firm picks until later in the week. This is a gigantic copout, but things are just that wide open right now. I've lost all faith in my ability to predict anything. Not that I had much in the first place.

Mark (Indiana)

Kentucky and Butler in the championship game with Butler winning it all.Milan High part II !

Eamonn Brennan
  (3:12 PM)

What a final that would be. All right, everyone, I think it's time to wrap this up. (I usually like to go two hours or so, but there's no time today. Maybe later this week or something.) Thanks to everyone for stopping by and sending in your questions. Be sure to check out the blog and the hoops page for all our coverage leading up to the Final Four. Cheers!