• April 26 | 6:20 p.m. PT
He believes he can fly
Even after star guard Eric Gordon switched his commitment from Illinois to Indiana last fall, the Illini still put together a decent 2007 class, with a couple four-star and three-star players.
Friday brought news of the class’ newest recruit, which was by far the most headline-making of the bunch — Jeffrey Jordan.
Yes, that’s Michael’s son. High profile, eh?
Jordan, a 6-2 point guard (who’s also listed at 6-feet on recruiting web sites), was a three-year starter at Loyola Academy (Chicago) and two-year All Catholic League player. He’ll be a preferred walk-on for the Illini, which means there’s no scholarship, but a guaranteed roster spot.
Coach Bruce Weber said this about Jordan to the AP: “He’s made great strides over the last year as a player and is an excellent student who should be a great fit here at the University of Illinois.”
He won’t play right away, and maybe not next year. Eventually, he could be a decent back-up point guard, according to most scouts.
But Jordan’s real value is two-fold:
The Daily Herald (Chicago) pointed that out in their story on Jordan’s decision. “If Illinois is good enough for Michael Jordan’s son, that sends a message to the rest of the guys around the country.”
Not to say that the only value Jeffrey will have to bring in more recruits. It’s just a huge help.
Besides, Jeffrey has impressed his peers and scouts with his poise and maturity. After all, being Michael Jordan’s son can’t be easy when your dad is the greatest player of all time — and when you’re six inches shorter.
“Man, Jeff walks around with a spotlight on him or something. Everybody kind of knows who he is, just him being Michael Jordan’s son,” coveted recruit Jai Lucas told the Herald News (New Jersey) before last week’s all star game in NYC which had the added pressure of being the Jordan Brand All-American Classic National Game. (Lucas should know a little bit about it; he’s the son of Maryland legend and ex-NBA star John Lucas.)
Playing that game wasn’t a handout — “You’ve earned it” his dad told him — but one has to assume he’ll spend his entire Illinois career earning every minute of playing time through hard work and improving his ball-handling and shooting.
Then again, his dad grew 2, even 3 inches in college and became even more athletic between his freshmen and sophomore seasons. If Jeffrey has the same thing happen, Illinois’ recruiting class just got a whole lot better.
• April 25 | 5:55 p.m. PT
I guess there’s no rush
And no shortage of bad puns.
Kansas sophomore forward Brandon Rush is supposed to announce Friday what his intentions are for next season, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
That is, of course, if Rush actually has decided what he’s gonna do. Kansas coach Bill Self told the J-W that it should be Friday but... “if it drags to Saturday ... you’ve got to do it before Sunday.” Sunday being the last day underclassmen can declare for the draft.
Rush, if you’ll recall, is no stranger to contemplating the draft.
This time, Rush wants to ensure he’s a top 20 pick before declaring. And because this year’s draft is so loaded with talent, Rush may not get that. Ken Davis doesn’t have him on our board, he’s 21st in Draftexpress.com’s mock draft, the 24th best prospect on ESPN.com, and a second-round choice on NBAdraft.net.
It comes down to this: Like some other prospects (Darren Collison, Aaron Afflalo, Taurean Green), Rush is a first-round talent who has established himself among the best college players. It’s natural to think that the NBA is the next step in evolution, but this draft has skewed things with the amount of talent out there.
Rush goes back to school, his draft stock will likely improve. He comes out now, he may not be a first-round pick and therefore miss out on guaranteed money.
At the very least, Rush could declare and not sign with an agent. That seems to be what most guys are doing this year.
It’s the safe move and the smart move.
• April 24 | 8:20 p.m. PT
Time to cut the cord?
Wednesday’s the day UCLA’s Darren Collison tells the world what his intentions are for next season. Well, Collison and his mom.
Some background: Collison’s ranked as the No. 2 or 3 point guard available, behind Ohio State freshman Mike Conley Jr., and even with Texas A&M senior Acie Law and Georgia Tech freshman Javaris Crittenton. (UNC freshman Ty Lawson would be up there to, but he’s officially staying in school.)
This year’s weaker class of point guards makes it more appealing for guys like Collison, who could drop in the first round next year when highly touted prospects like Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon and Lawson. Then again, in a loaded class like this year’s (Oden, Durant, Wright, the Florida trio, etc.), next year could come down to all point guards in the top 10.
ANYWAY, if Collison bails, he’ll be a lottery pick or darn close. Next year, maybe a little worse.
That brings us to this report by the L.A. Daily News, which says the sophomore point guard was headed back to school next season.
Then again, the L.A. Times reports that Collison could leave the Bruins — but that’s from speculation about his mother quitting her job.
The story’s last graf also has a source saying Collison isn’t expected to leave school, but it starts with this gem about June Griffith-Collison, who submitted her resignation Monday as director of San Bernardino County's Regional Medical Center. One reason? She needs to help her son with decision making.
Are we talking about the big one (draft in this case, not marriage) or all the little decisions? Coke or Pepsi? Soup or salad? 10 a.m. class M-W-F or 9:30 a.m. on T-Th? Watch “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Scrubs?”
(Not really sure how I manage on a daily basis. Of course, my mom is retired...)
To her credit, Griffth-Collison says she’s just trying to spend more time with her son, and not trying to influence his draft decision.
“Not at all,” she told the Times. “It’s just the job has gotten more demanding and this time is short to spend with my son. I even missed an NCAA game [UCLA against Pittsburgh] because I couldn’t get away. Those moments are precious.”
• April 21 | 4:45 p.m. PT
Thinking of staying in the draft? DON’T!
Test those draft waters if you must, but just test them. DON’T go up those stairs. DON’T keep your name in the draft past the June 18 withdraw date.
Is it wrong that I DON’T want Daequan Cook to be the guy who gets killed by axe murderer? OK, maybe that’s one too many “Grindhouse” references...the point being, Cook would thrive next season at Ohio State.
Cook, along with Ohio State teammates Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. declared for the NBA draft Friday. Oden is expected to sign with an agent (Mike Conley Sr.), Conley and Cook are not (though Conley is reportedly going to let his dad handle his affairs).
And even though Cook’s mom isn’t the biggest fan of Buckeyes coach Thad Matta, (she told the “Even if he stays in school, which is iffy for me because I’m not a real big Thad Matta fan right now”) Cook would be best served going back to school.
Cook, a 6-5 shooting guard, was best this season when Oden was out with his wrist injury to start the year. The Buckeyes pushed the pace a little more and Cook’s scoring was needed. But, like a lot of freshmen, he hit a wall during Big Ten conference play, his minutes and scoring dropped and by the time the NCAA Tournament rolled around, he wasn’t one of the key players of Ohio State’s run to the title game.
The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy had an excellent piece on the three Buckeyes where he expresses the same concerns about Cook (though I disagree with him on Conley, who will be the first point guard taken this year or about 10th overall).
It comes down to this: Cook is a top-flight talent and a dynamite scorer but, for one reason or another, he struggled as the season wore on. If he returns to school, he would be the Buckeyes main option on offense — instead of languishing on the bench on a pro team, or worse yet, playing in the D-League.
This advice goes for some other guys on this list, too. Sean Singletary, Marcellus Kemp and Ramon Sessions, enjoy those college campuses while you still can. (OK, that was a little ominous...)
• April 19 | 5:45 p.m. PT
Mother knows best!
Follow the bouncing ball (read: recruit) on this one:
Michigan signs Detroit shooting guard Alex Legion, rated a four-star recruit by rivals.com. Michigan fires coach Tommy Amaker, which prompts Legion to ask out of his commitment. That request was granted Monday.
Cue the recruiting rush on Legion, because four-star 6-5 shooting guards are rare this time of year. Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA immediately vie for him.
Best of all? Those aren’t Legion’s top choices, which, if one believes the reports, means Self and Wildcats coach Billy Gillispie are trying to make big pushes for Legion. Or had airline miles to burn.
And that report comes from the Detroit Free Press, which says Legion would consider Michigan because his mom still likes the Wolverines, and their new coach, John Beilein. Apparently, Tim Green, the principal of Allen Academy in Detroit, was the source who said Legion prefers UCLA.
And apparently he made mom plenty mad.
“I want to make it clear, Tim Green is not part of this process,” Williams told the Free Press. “I’m tired of him trying to persuade my son against the University of Michigan and his family.
“I've been quiet for four years, but Tim Green does not speak for my son, and I’m tired of him trying to make decisions for my son. Mr. Green wants my son to go to Connecticut or UCLA, but my son will go to neither institution.”
I hope Self and Gillispie are better in the living room.
Legion will have an official visit to Michigan April 28, to reconsider a school he already liked enough to commit to once. What would he have missed the first time?
ANYWAY, Legion has until May 15 to make up his mind. My guess? Mom is gonna be a factor.
• April 17 | 7:10 p.m. PT
Tuesday’s headlines for next season
Relating to next season’s title contenders, at least.
White’s numbers (13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds last season) aren’t overwhelming, but I think he’s one of the more consistent, reliable post players in the game. He’s just 6-foot-9, but blocks more than 2 shots a game and makes over 50 percent of his field-goal attempts. His PPWS (1.09) is about average, but as this year’s NCAA Tournament showed, having a top-flight post player is crucial for a Final Four berth.
All of which means the Hoosiers should be among the title contenders next season. They also return starters Armon Bassett and A.J. Ratliff and bring in one of the nation’s best freshmen in guard Eric Gordon, who should provide more than enough scoring punch to offset the loss of guards Rod Wilmont and Earl Calloway.
But more important for next season may be this story on Georgetown’s Jeff Green. He’s “70-30 — 70 coming back” for next season. When the Big East player of the year says he’s likely to return for his senior season, that’s nothing but great news.
And if teammate Roy Hibbert (the 7-2 center says he’s 50-50 on returning), the Hoyas would live up to Ken Davis’ assertion that they would be the team to beat next season.
Well, the Hoyas and the Heels, at least. (Even if Brandan Wright does bolt.)
• April 13 | 2:30 p.m. PT
Amaker’s a Haaavad man
Tommy Amaker just landed himself on Mitt Romney’s to-call list.
Amaker was introduced as Harvard’s new basketball coach Friday, with the expectation to “transform the basketball program.”
The Crimson were 68-93 during the last six seasons under former coach Frank Sullivan, including 12-16 last season. They’ve been to one NCAA Tournament in the school’s 107-year hoops history and have never won an Ivy League title.
“We needed to hire a name coach who could prime the pump and bring excitement and energy back to the program,” said Harvard Athletic Director Robert Scalise.
Is it just me, or will this coaching job be even tougher than Michigan?
Amaker was 109-83 in six seasons in Ann Arbor, but never made the NCAA Tournament. He’s 177-138 including his four previous seasons at Seton Hall, where he did reach a Sweet 16 in 2000.
He’s known primarily as a recruiter and less as an Xs and Os coach, which wouldn’t bode well for the Ivy League. An environment where scholarships aren’t given, games are played on Fridays and Saturdays and academics are at a premium isn’t conducive to luring big-time talent. If you’re Penn or Princeton, places that have some hoops tradition, maybe it’s easier, but Harvard?
If nothing else, it’ll likely develop his game skills more than a job at a BCS school ever would. How long it takes for that to translate into success is another question. (Though Crimson writer Ted Kirby says every school has a shot at the 2008 title. I have my doubts.)
Random thought: Amaker’s hiring also means that there are two ex-Mike Krzyzewski assistants with head coaching job, along with Notre Dame’s Mike Brey. (Four total if you add ex-players in Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel and TCU’s Neil Dougherty.) Seems like there should be more ex-Duke guys out there. Are Wojo and Chris Collins headed for jobs soon?
• Tommy, make sure you say hi to Alex Obe for me.
• Friday’s best news, by far? John Wooden is out of the hospital.
• Friday’s bad idea? Chris Lofton, thinking pro thoughts. Wait a year, Chris.
• OK, this is actually the worst idea. Sean Singletary also should wait.
• April 10 | 8:30 p.m. PT
Off to greener pastures
And yes, by greener, I mean money.
It makes sense for Kevin Durant, the NCAA Player of the Year to go pro — he’s clearly ready and he’s headed for a deserved payday. If he’s not the No. 1 overall pick, he’ll be No. 2. That’s about $4 million a year. Throw in the Nike money he’s rumored to get, and it’s another $20 million.
Same goes for the host of Florida players. Two titles and three guys who’ll be lottery picks (Taurean Green is a borderline first-rounder) is more than enough reason.
Even someone like Kansas’ Julian Wright is fairly smart to go, though I wish he’d stay (but only to see if the Jayhawks can get to a Final Four).
A questionable decisions includes Washington’s Spencer Hawes (sure, he’ll be a first rounder and maybe even a lottery pick, but by spending another year in school when he can be healthy would enhance his name recognition for potential shoe deals and his lottery status).
But for seriously deluded decisions, I offer UCLA’s Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo tested the draft water last season, didn’t sign with an agent and was able to return to school where he led the Bruins to another Final Four, was Pac-10 player of the year and improved his scoring and defense. The problem is, he still needs another season.
Like last season, Afflalo struggled against Corey Brewer, a taller, more athletic guard that Afflalo will face on a daily basis in the NBA. He was just 5-for-14 from the field and scored all of his 17 points in the final 6:19 of the game. Afflalo just couldn’t match Brewer’s athleticism, which also is a credit to Brewer (everyone else struggles against him, too).
As a result, Afflalo is a borderline first-round pick on nearly every NBA mock draft (though UCLA coach Ben Howland says he’s certain Afflalo will be picked in the first round). And that’s not a good enough reason to skip your senior season when you’d be the front-runner for player of the year, give UCLA the inside track to a national title and would only improve your draft stock even more.
I wish Afflalo luck, though. I’m all for seeing more NBA players who focus on defense and thrive hitting mid-range jumpers.
As to the other underclassmen we’re waiting on? Three UNC stars said Tuesday they’ll be back next season, but Brandan Wright hasn’t.
Same goes for Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, USC’s Nick Young, Kansas’ Brandon Rush, Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young, UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet and, of course, Ohio State’s Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.
The worst part to all of this? The early-entry deadline is April 29. We could be waiting for weeks.
• April 7 | 4 p.m. PT
Kentucky’s most eligible bachelor
Forget the Kentucky Derby. I wish I could’ve been in the Bluegrass State yesterday to sample the flavor and fervor of Kentucky introducing Billy Gillispie as its new coach.
By my count, the Lexington Herald-Leader had 21 stories about the ex-Texas A&M coach setting up camp in Kentucky. In the Louisville Courier-Journal, 12. The Kentucky Kernal (Lexington) had 10. No other daily paper has a circulation above 40,000, but they all had at least one story.
The best story of the day had to be this gem from the Herald-Leader: Gillispie instantly passed George Clooney as the “Kentucky’s most eligible bachelor.”
Columnist Cheryl Truman offers a few tips on how Gillispie can help himself in the Kentucky social circles and prepare for the Bluegrass army of stilettos a-tapping (hit the Derby, get a fancy house that doesn’t let people make random drop-ins, among others), which is probably helpful info.
But, seriously, better than George Clooney? Allow me to get all starry eyed.
I’m no expert, but I’d guess Gillispie won’t be breaking more hearts than Clooney. Maybe Gillispie gets more credit because he actually lives in the state, but still. Who doesn’t have a crush on George Clooney (except Bill O’Reilly...)?
Seriously, have a look.
Gary He / AP file
David J. Phillip / AP file
Even Gillispie’s taking in Clooney’s dashing good looks and, sigh, full head of hair.
But that’s enough fawning from me. On to other stories...
• The perks are better than Tubby got.
• April 6 | 11:40 a.m. PT
Kentucky gets its Billy
What Kentucky wanted was a coach who could recruit top-flight players, win lots of games, plus league titles and produce trips to the Final Four and NCAA championships. (In short, what every school wants.)
So how’d they do?
Gillispie can win games, for sure. He went 6-24 in his first season at UTEP, then went 24-8 and earned an NCAA Tournament berth. In three years at Texas A&M, Gillispie turned a team that didn’t win a Big 12 game one year into one of the league’s powerhouses, finishing 27-7 this season and Sweet 16 berth — its first since 1980 (70-28 overall at the school.)
So Gillispie can coach. That wasn’t the big question for Kentucky.
After all, Tubby Smith won games (263 in 10 years), but the school had lost double digit games in back-to-back seasons and hadn’t been to a Final Four since Smith won it all in ’98, his first season in Lexington. That didn’t sit well with Wildcats fans, who also bemoaned Smith’s defense-first style of play. (Click here for a Tubby timeline.)
But on the recruiting front, Kentucky scored big. It should be Gillispie’s biggest asset for the first few seasons.
Gillispie helped recruit the core class of Illinois’ 2005 NCAA runner-up squad, including point guard Deron Williams, a Texas kid from The Colony. Gillispie thrives when recruiting in the Lone Star state. When Bill Self was putting together his staff at Tulsa, he hired Gillispie because of his Texas connections and ability to land star recruits.
Take this year’s A&M class: The Aggies have never been seen as a hoops hotbed, but they have four three-star recruits coming in and one five-star player, center DeAndre Jordan from Houston (who Rivals.com has as the 8th best recruit in the ’07 class). Kentucky has three three-star guys and a two-star player.
This was the area that always irked Kentucky fans. Kentucky recently missed out on Kentucky-native Chris Lofton, now an All-SEC player for Tennessee and North Carolina star freshman Brandan Wright, who reportedly would’ve attended Kentucky if not for Smith’s defensive style of hoops.
According to Rivals.com, two of the most coveted prep players still available, Jai Lucas and Patrick Patterson are interested in Kentucky, Lucas especially. Gillispie could earn instant credit among fans by signing either player.
(Not that he needs either player to win next season. To Gillispie’s credit, he knows he inherited a situation unlike any he’s had before. “This program got turned around like 2,000 years ago and it’s been turned around ever since,” Gillispie said just before a campus rally on Friday. “Since they started putting those nets up there and used a round ball, they never needed a turnaround.”)
The only question for Gillispie is how long will it take him to reach a Final Four, let alone win a title. A&M’s spot in the Sweet 16 this season was the best showing by one of his teams in three NCAA appearances (some think he’s too smug without a title to his credit); he’s 3-3 in the Big Dance, advancing one round further each time.
He’ll land a one or two five-star recruits or McDonald’s All-Americans each season, which will give him plenty of talent to work with. That’s half of it.
He’s improving as a coach each season (mostly because he’s only 47, just five years into his head coaching career and is “obsessive” about hoops; obsessive guys figure out how to improve each season), which can only be good for Kentucky. He can handle pressure (few coaches get road wins at Allen Fieldouse), but he’ll have his ups and downs in the SEC.
He may not have immediate success, (SEC title or Final Fours in two years), but if he gets to a Final Four in three years, that’ll be Pitino-esque.
And that would mean Kentucky just hit the coaching jackpot.
• April 5 | 11:15 p.m. PT
As the coaching wheel turns
Dana Altman accepted the Arkansas job, changed his mind and went back to Creighton. Michigan paid a bundle to John Beilein, Colorado got a replacement for Ricardo Patton, and a host of smaller schools nabbed new coaches.
Heck, even Bob Huggins got in on the fun, leaving K-State for his alma mater, West Virginia. (Huggins has the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class coming to Manhattan, but K-State athletic director Tim Weiser said he isn’t granting any of those players releases until the Wildcats get a new coach. That could be an interesting hire considering there aren’t many options remaining on the coaching front. Maybe K-State goes with a high-profile assistant.)
But the big news has always been what Tubby left and who Kentucky would turn to. Billy Donovan told Kentucky no. Rick Barnes says he’s happy at Texas.
It’s only natural the school could turn to a coach who simply can’t pass up the winningest program in college hoops history. Texas A&M’s Billy Gillispie has been a head coach for 5 seasons; 2 at UTEP and 3 at A&M, where he went 70-26 — and where few coaches win any games.
Yet, he wasn’t a guy many people focused on because he didn’t have the big-name draw Kentucky officials seemed to be looking for and because Gillispie already turned down Arkansas for a $1.75 million extension at A&M. Texas A&M spokesman Colin Killian said he’s not sure if Gillispie has signed the new deal.
Plus, A&M A.D. Bill Byrne is realistic about what kind of coach they have (local thoguht being that Gillispie was bound for a hoops school at some point, if not this season), heaping praise upon Gillispie in a release from the school.
“Coach Gillispie is one of the top coaches in the country and we certainly do not want to lose him,” Byrne said. “At the same time, I do not want to stand in the way of any member of my department who wants to explore another option if he or she feels that is in their best interest.”
So that opens things up for Kentucky to nab Gillispie. The question is, is there any luster off the potential hiring if Gillispie wasn’t Kentucky’s first choice? And how will he be received by Kentucky faithful who clamored for a marquee coach?
(The perception that Gillispie is a defense-first coach won’t help. Once the season rolls along, that shouldn’t be an issue because Gillispie also gets his teams to score: A&M didn’t push the pace like Carolina last season, but the Aggies were mighty efficient. More Georgetown than Southern Illinois.)
The answers could start to come as early as Friday. And I can’t wait.
• April 2 | 11:20 p.m. PT
Ohio State’s 84-75 loss to Florida was nearly as poor a shooting night as when the Illini came up short vs. UNC. Illinois was 12-of-40 from beyond the arc, while the Buckeyes were 4-of-23 last night. It wasn’t the only reason Florida claimed its second-straight NCAA title, but it was certainly the biggest.
Yet, I shudder to think what the final score might have been without Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.
Oden led all scorers with 25 points, had 12 boards, got the entire Gator frontline in foul trouble and had one of the more ridiculous blocks of the season when Corey Brewer looked to have a sure-fire basket in the first half, except Oden went up with two hands, smothered Brewer and came down with the ball. Did he run out of gas because of his 38 minutes played? Hard to say since he was the reason the Buckeyes stayed in the game.
Conley was the quickest guy on the floor, getting to hoop often and easily. He had 20 points, 6 assists, just 2 turnovers and until Ron Lewis became a factor late in the game, was the only other offensive option for OSU. (Florida’s Taurean Green was no slouch himself, hitting big shots and getting 6 assists, but also had 6 TOs.)
I’m crossing my fingers that both guys return for their sophomore seasons, but wouldn’t be shocked if they both left.
Sporting News’ Sean Deveney did a ranking of the top NBA prospects before the Final Four, which would have a couple of changes after Monday’s game. (Oden and Horford would stay Nos. 1 and 2.)
I’d make Conley No. 3. Point guards are rarely this fast and this savvy. Even better, Conley can hit shots with either hand and is improving his outside shooting. Who’s faster with the ball in their hand, Conley or Chris Paul?
Brewer also has to move up, probably to No. 4. His shooting keeps improving, too and his defense is already top-notch. In a few years, Brewer would be the next Josh Howard, a lock-down defender whose offensive game is underrated. At worst, he’s the new Doug Christie or Bruce Bowen.
And what to make of Joakim Noah? He didn’t have to carry the Gators, but showed little ability in the post against Oden and his range is limited to 10 feet. Here’s an idea: Noah and Green should return for their senior seasons and give the Gators a shot at title No. 3.
• April 2 | 6:45 p.m. PT
Everyone loves the Gators
This is the BCS title game, but in reverse.
Ohio State enters the title game ranked No. 1, has a better record (35-3 to 34-5), but Florida’s favored by 4½ points. That sounds about right after the Gators’ dominating win over UCLA on Saturday.
But I’m still surprised that very few people are picking the Buckeyes to win.
Among the mainstream websites, only the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy is going with the Buckeyes.
ESPN went with Florida across the board (Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb, Steve Lavin, Hubert Davis, everyone). SI.com had two pieces on the game one on why the Gators will win and another on how Ohio State may have a chance. (Seth Davis added to it and picked Florida.)
Our expert, Ken Davis, picked Florida after Kansas was beaten by UCLA.
Even kenpom.com’s predictor says the Gators win 70-69.
Can the Gators really be that overwhelming of a favorite? It seems a little extreme — but makes perfect sense. They’re the tournament’s best team, but that doesn’t always equal a win.
I stopped picking against the Gators after my bracket went to crap and won’t make a prediction now. I just think it’s strange how much everyone loves the Gators is all...
• April 1 | 9:20 p.m. PT
Let someone else have some fun!
My friends and I used to wonder who the best school was in football and basketball. In the early ’90s, my buddy Brandon always maintained it was Michigan, though the Wolverines always seemed to be better in hoops than football when we’d argue about it.
When Mack Brown was at North Carolina, the Heels had a top 10 football and basketball team. Kansas actually did the same for one glorious year (football had a No. 9 ranking for their 10-2 and an Aloha Bowl win in ’95 to go with Roy Williams’ 29-5 squad). Texas seemed to be the likeliest candidate in the late ’90s and early part of the decade, but couldn’t get that hoops title.
But until last year, no traditional football power had won a men’s hoops title recently (Michigan State, Maryland and Arkansas aren’t perennial football powers).
And now, Florida is going for back-to-back titles. In its way, Ohio State. Football schools, both. Oddly enough, this doesn’t depress me as a hoops fan — because this had to happen eventually.
Ohio State is No. 1 in athletic department expenses. Florida is No. 4. It was just a matter of time before both started dominating in both football and basketball. Other schools like Tennessee, USC and Texas A&M have no hired better coaches who can build programs. All three were in the Sweet 16 — and all three would be identified as football schools. (Throw Wisconsin in that mix too.) The money is there, which means there’s no reason they shouldn’t be great in both sports.
Billy Donovan is Kentucky’s top candidate to replace Tubby Smith because he’s turned football-first Florida into one of the top teams in history (The Gators are 259-104 in his 11 years at the school). If he doesn’t go to Kentucky, the Gators might have to be considered the place to be every season.
The Buckeyes are 81-21 in three years under Thad Matta. They’d gone to a Final Four under Jim O’Brien in 1999, but have to be considered an annual contender now, even if Greg Oden does go pro.
The Vols, Trojans, Aggies and Badgers will be top 25 teams in both sports next season. Those are all among the top 20 schools in athletic department budgets. LSU, Oklahoma and Michigan State are candidates to do the same thing. The facilities, money and support system is at all those schools to thrive in both sports.
So the question is, why can’t a traditional basketball school (UCLA, UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Syracuse, among others) ever have a consistently good football team? How much longer until one of those schools finally figures it out with a title contender in football?
Is that too much to ask?
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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