End of NCAA Basketball Regular Season

March 12, 2013

- See all 177 of my articles

No Comments

Basketball Post Season Musings

As we wind down the collegiate basketball season, there are a couple of big things to still play out. It is time to reflect on the win and loss record of your favorite team and look forward to post season tournaments, or other moves for your favorite squad…which might be a change of venue.

The high schoolers in my area have just wrapped up their state titles, and in Lincoln, Nebraska, that also brings an end to the Bob Devaney Sportscenter.

Smoke Em if you Got Em.

LIL' RED Nebraska Husker mascot


Affectionately called “The Bob” the Basketball arena is in fact a multi-use facility. It house the swimming and diving programs for the University of Nebraska, was home to some Olympians and NCAA titles for Gymnastics, and has one of the fastest and best indoor track facilities in the country.

These sports are not as mainstream for the fans, so it was also known as the basketball arena.

A little known fact is that the construction of the building was under a bunch of scrutiny from the get go. The building was built at a cost of under 14 million dollars (of course remember this was the early 70’s and that was a LOT more money then) Most all of the funding was provided by cigarette taxes in the State of Nebraska. Ironically the Devaney Center has always been a non-smoking facility.

Nebraska landscape 07-25-2012


The place was truly state of the art on the National level when it opened in 1976. Over the years the Bob hosted 3 different NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games ( in 1980-84 and 88) Many who had visited the Devaney Center did so after the heyday of Nebraska basketball, or as longtime fans call it….NeeBrasketball, after coach Danny Nee.

In 1986 Nee was hired to replace Moe Iba, the son of legendary basketball mind Henry “ Hank” Iba. Nee coached the Huskers from 1986 to 2000. In his tenure, Nebraska became a team to be reckoned with in the conference, as they went to 5 NCAA tournaments, and won the NIT tourney in 1996. There has not been as much success at Nebraska before or since the Nee years.

The crowds in those days, and even during the highlight of the Iba years often exceeded capacity by 1,000 or more. It was standing room only. The place was loud, and it was a great building to watch a game.

I should know, my dad has had season tickets since the place was built…and I have attended most every one of those 595 games over 37 years.

Bye Bye Birdie

Pope in Fatima

Introducing the new Big East commish

With the new Catholic 7 league…which will evidently use the Big East name, 7 schools DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova have agreed to be in the new conference. There are a host of other schools that are hoping to be asked. Among those rumored to be are schools such as Butler, Xavier and, most likely, Creighton. It is also expected that Dayton and St. Louis would come into the party in 2014.

Suddenly my Blue Bird friends of a Creighton Feather talk about the Missouri Valley – , a conference they have been so proud of for so long, – as a second rate citizen. Sport talk radio in Omaha is already planning trips to the Big Apple, and is talking about the fantastic match ups on the basketball court.

This makes me realize how much Husker fans scorned the old Big XII, and how much they lauded the Big 10 when they were leaving just a couple of years ago. Of course the main difference is the Huskers were eating at the big kid’s table already.

Creighton has traditionally had some very good basketball teams over the years, and the Mo Valley is likely one of the more heralded mid-major conferences. But playing the likes of Evansville, Northern Iowa and Illinois State is a long way from playing Villanova, Georgetown, and Marquette night in and night out.

While you might enjoy seeing a much higher level of talent and athleticism coming to your arena 10 times a year, you also better forget the days of the 20 wins season. You won’t be rolling along as the league favorite any time soon with those teams on your league schedule.

Until Next time, get those pencils sharpened for Selection Sunday, and may your brackets be full of correct upset winners.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Is The Media Treating LeBron James Unfairly?

July 27, 2010

- See all 763 of my articles

1 Comment

When LeBron James left the Cavaliers for the Heat as a free agent, I was disappointed, along with much of the country.  I would have loved to see him win a title with his hometown Cavs.

However, I have been surprised at the amount of backlash against not only LeBron, but the NBA’s new Holy Trinity as a whole.  If you listen to some radio shows, it sounds like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosch coming together is a great sin against humanity.  We simply can’t have all of the NBA’s stars gravitating to a handful of teams, can we?

This strikes me as very odd.  The ultimate goal in team sport is to win a title.  These three players put themselves in prime position to win a title.  If there are no other teams that can challenge them (at least in the East), is this their fault?

In an era where players (and agents) seem to enjoy squeezing every last dollar out of their teams, it’s worth noting that the three players did not sign the “max contracts” they could have signed under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.  They sign for a bit less (albeit still for stunning amounts) to allow the Heat a bit of flexibility to sign a few more players and still stay under the NBA’s salary cap.  It’s not as if the Heat could throw unlimited money at the three players – they still had to creatively work them under the cap.  Among the deals they made was jettisoning 2008 #2 overall pick Michael Beasley for a relative pittance to free up cap space.

Remember a generation ago when Michael Jordan was playing for signficantly below his market value so that the Bulls could sign and retain players who could help them win a title – such as the ever-colorful Dennis Rodman?  Of course, the much-loved Jordan was glorified in the press for doing this – another sacrifice by the ultimate team player.  If baseball’s Albert Pujols signs an extension with the St. Louis Cardinals for less than his stratospheric market value, he too will be portrayed as a team player who is doing his part to help the Cardinals get back to the World Series.  Even in the NBA, we see aging stars sign cheap deals toward the end of their careers in an attempt to chase a ring.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that LeBron handled his departure gracefully.  The ESPN special was a bit much, even if it did raise money for charity.  Can you imagine Albert Pujols or Peyton Manning doing this?  Of course not.

Cavaliers owner  Dan Gilbert could have chosen to take the high road, but decided to get his hands dirty with an open letter than was extremely critical of James, including allegations that he gave up during the playoffs.  Other observers were equally appalled that Gilbert dared to use the Comic San Serif font for his letter (yes, I’m serious).  In any case, Gilbert’s letter served to further stoke the fires.  Gilbert may not have liked LeBron’s exit, but the fact of the matter is that LeBron was within his rights to leave – that’s the essence of the concept of free agency.

You can choose to dislike James for his decision – but don’t dislike him for working with his friends to form a super team.  They are simply trying to achieve the ultimate team goal.  It’s not impossible for another team to challenge the Heat with a similar super trio – they simply need to find a few stars hungry enough for a title that they can sacrifice a few bucks along the way.

Nebraska gets killed in NIT

March 19, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

No Comments

Come on Husker fans … have a sense of humor 🙂

The score you saw in the papers was New Mexico 83, Nebraska 71.

This was not, however, the actual score of the game. Some wealthy Nebraska alums quietly negotiated with the media (and the New Mexico coaches) and the media took the cash and reported a close score. All recordings of the event were destroyed.

In truth, Nebraska got absolutely smoked. If I told you the actual score, you’d tell me that it was physically impossible to lose by that many points. Much of the blame was placed on the shoulders of interim basketball coach Tom Osborne Jr. The mistakes in the game were countless, so we’ll break them down by category

Personnel issues
The Huskers were given repeated technical fouls for having too many players on the court. More often than not, Nebraska broke the huddle with eleven players.

The Huskers featured a center who was 6’8” and weighed 320 pounds. This is perhaps understandable, but the presence of two guards who tipped the scales at 300+ pounds was a bit unconventional. Coach Osborne explained: “Hey, you need big guys up front to protect the quarterback.” The result of this decision was a fast break that moved at a snail’s pace, as well as a complete inability to get back on defense.

Style of play too physical
The Huskers got in foul trouble early. This was due to what could be loosely described as moving picks. Coach Osborne was quite upset by these calls. “I could understand a few holding calls,” he sputtered “but since when are you not allow to block the opponent and push him downfield?”

Forgetting to dribble
The Huskers had a tendency to toss the basketball to their power forward and have him charge through the middle of the defense. Unfortunately, he forgot to dribble. Or, in the words of one upset Nebraska fan “you’re supposed to drop the ball on purpose? Why would you do that? That’s a fumble.”

Incomplete passes
The favorite play of the Huskers was a sixty foot toss down the court. Unfortunately, so of these passes were not caught on the fly, and the receivers would pick up the “incomplete pass” and toss it to the referee, thinking that the ball was dead.

Ignoring the basket
Nebraska seemed to be completely unaware of the basket for much of the game, instead preferring to move the ball out of bounds over the end line for a “touchdown”. This resulted in a few dozen turnovers during the course of the game.

On the rare occasion when the Huskers did pay attention to the basket, they attempted to make a field goal by kicking the ball from mid court. None of these attempts were successful.

This was an absolutely brutal game to watch. I would strongly suggest that Nebraska disband their basketball team to avoid a similar disgrace in the future.

Baylor finds success without Bliss

March 13, 2009

- See all 763 of my articles

1 Comment

Prior to the 1999-2000 basketball season, Baylor University hired Dave Bliss to coach the team and breathe life into a floundering program. Baylor had just completed a 6-24 season that included an 0-16 record in Big 12 conference play. Bliss had spent the previous eleven years at New Mexico. His Lobo teams had made seven trips to the NCAA tournament and notched an all-time best New Mexico record of 28-5 in 1995-1996. Baylor paid Bliss $600,000 per year to coach the team.

Baylor showed signs of improvement the next year, winning 14 games, including 4 in conference. The next year, 2000-2001, would be the high water mark for Bliss at Baylor, when his Bears went 19-12 (6-10 in conference) and went to the NIT tournament. The Bears were mediocre in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003.

In the summer of 2003, tragedy struck the Baylor basketball community. On June 14, 2003, junior forward Patrick Dennehy spoke with a friend. He was never heard from again. His body was found seven weeks later, and teammate Carlton Dotson was charged with Dennehy’s murder. Dotson was declared incompetent to stand trial, but later plead guilty to murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

If was the end of the story, it would be a very sad story. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story.

Eventually, questions were raised about Dennehy’s financial situation. Dennehy had transferred to Baylor from New Mexico and had been forced to sit out a year, as is standard procedure with NCAA athletes. During this time, he did not have an athletic scholarship. The amount financial aid he was receiving was not nearly enough to cover his expenses. Who was covered the other expenses?

The answer, of course, is that Dave Bliss had paid a portion of Dennehy’s tuition. He had done the same with another Baylor player. It was later discovered that Bliss had engaged in similar practices while he was the SMU coach in the early 1980s. This is a clear violation of NCAA rules.

Bliss, of course, did not want anyone to know this. In order to explain Dennehy’s source of cash, he told the team to spread the rumor that Patrick Denehy had been a drug dealer. There is little doubt as to the accuracy of these allegations – an assistant coach caught them on tape after Bliss threatened to fire him if he didn’t help with the scheme. Bliss, a supposed leader of young men, a man whom parents entrusted with their sons, had severely violated that trust.

Dave Bliss resigned in August, 2003 and has never held another college coaching job (although he did coach his son’s high school team and also coached a year in the CBA). The NCAA handed down severe sanctions – they were on probation until 2010, ineligible for post-season in 2003-2004, and had scholarships and recruiting visits reduced. Perhaps the most interesting penalty is the fact that Baylor would not be allowed to play any non-conference games in 2005-2006. They were not technically ineligible for post-season play that year, but with only 16 conference games plus the Big 12 conference tournament, it seemed impossible that Baylor could amass a win total that would get them into a post-season tournament.

Baylor offered to release players from their scholarships so that they could transfer to other schools. Four players, including Baylor’s top three scorers from the previous season, transferred to other schools. One of them, Lawrence Roberts, became a first-team All-American at Mississippi.

At this point, the Baylor program was in shambles. They hired Valparaiso coach Scott Drew, a man who apparently loves a challenge. Considering the shape the program was in, it was no surprise that Drew struggled during his first three years – 8-21 in 2003-2004, 9-19 in 2004-2005, and 4-13 in 2005-2006.

Baylor finished 15-16 in 2006-2007. For Drew, this was a considerable achievement. In 2007-2008, Baylor went 21-11 (9-7 in conference) and made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1988. Baylor smartly signed Scott Drew to a 10 year contract extension.

What has Drew done for an encore? Baylor went 17-13 in the regular season (albeit 5-11 in conference). Baylor knocked off Nebraska in the first round of the conference tournament. Thursday, they beat #1 seed Kansas. Baylor will not likely earn an NCAA berth unless they win the conference tournament. With such turmoil in their recent history, how can your root against them? My favorite school is a rival Big 12 school (Iowa State, which has been eliminated from the conference tournament) but I’ll be cheering for Baylor this weekend.