Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Weekend in Review


Transaction Wire

  • Cavs get Jiri Welsch from the Celtics for a future draft pick. Well, so now the "random guy on the Celtics in NBA Live 2005 whom I have no idea who he is" is now a Cav. How about that.

  • Knicks trade away Moochie Norris, Vin Baker, Nazr Mohammed, and Jamison Brewer and get Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor.

  • Bears sign Mushin Muhammed and release David Terrell. I believe that's considered an "upgrade."

  • Browns release Robert Griffith and trade Gerard Warren to the Broncos for a draft pick. Good riddance to poor tackling.

  • Speaking of the recent Davis-era purge in Cleveland, it appears that Jeff Faine will be sticking around for now, as long as someone can "light a fire under his backside." Never thought I'd hear that said about Faine.

Bubble Watch

Men: Current RPI: 51 (ouch). Conference leaders ahead of them: 18. At-larges ahead of them: 33. That makes their "bubble magic number" 34, just enough to get in. However, Pitt, who is ranked 18/17 in the polls, is below ND with an RPI of 64. (ND's 50th best SOS is much better than Pitt's 98th best.) So, it'll take a good showing in the conference tourney to make it to the Big Dance. As a 6 seed in the Big East, ND would play #11 Providence in the first round and #3 Syracuse in round 2. Gulp.

Women: Their RPI is #4, despite being ranked 10th in both polls. I'd still love to see the women knock off tOSU a second time in a 1 seed/2 seed Elite 8 matchup.

Like the true sportswriter I am, I will now pretend like I know more about basketball than a guy who coaches for a living, and offer advice for the ND men's team to use for the rest of the season

  • Jordan Cornette needs to play like a forward on offense. Mike Brey sometimes refers to the Cornette-Thomas-Quinn-Falls-Francis lineup as a "4 and 1 set," meaning 4 guards and 1 forward. OK, but... when you have four guys acting like it's a penalty to be inside the 3-point arc for more than three seconds, don't expect much out of your one forward. Every time one of the guards tries to dump it down to Francis in this set, Francis gets beat up up not one but two guys who are wider than him and can crash down and take the ball away. That's what I like about Lattimore on offense, even if he doesn't have more talent than Cornette - he's another option for the defense to worry about close to the basket. If Cornette has such a great jumper, why not play him in a Tom Timmermans-style role at the free throw line, where he can hit mid-range jumpers or even use his athletic ability to drive and make something happen.

  • Don't get behind big early. Well, duh, you might say. But it happens all two often - the 2003 Big East Tournament against St. John's and last week's UCLA game are just two examples. The Irish always find a way to turn it on late and get it close, but in the end the deficit just seems to big to overcome. Come out aggressive and keep it close early.

  • Colin Falls needs to break out of his mini-slump. Sure, you can't say "hey, stop being in a slump," and expect him to say, "ok, sorry about that." And I'm not upset, as now he's just shooting like a human being as opposed to a Larry Bird/Alicia Ratay-esque supershooter. But, when Falls gets in a slump, Quinn and Thomas try to make up for it by forcing more threes of their own. And, since they're forced, that only puts them in a slump, and the next thing you know, it's 7 minutes without a field goal for the Irish.

  • Work to get open looks close to the basket - especially when the three point game is off. Again, it seems obvious - if you're closer to the basket, it should be easier to make shots. Francis is a good player, but the team should be trying to get him open looks instead of just dumping the ball down to him and hoping he can make a shot over the other team after pivoting for 15 seconds. Run some Princeton-style plays to get the guards easy layups. Anything. Layups and dunks are supposed to be easy - try to put yourself in a situation to shoot more of them. Along those lines...

  • Find a way to put Chris Thomas's freshman and sophomore year ego in Chris Quinn's body. Quinn has become very good at putting the ball on the floor and driving the lane. We need more of that. Drive, draw, dish. Or, drive and put up a floater, as he has become very good at. While we're at it, let's teach the other guards to drive like Quinn. I know Thomas has it in him, and I'm sure a Colin Falls, Omari Israel, or Russell Carter can learn. (By the way, you may have noticed I said "Thomas's freshman and sophomore year ego." I do think Thomas is a much more mature player this year. I also can see why he sometimes lollygags back on defense when the guy he's covering is doing the same - that's how he can stay on the court longer. I don't agree with that, but I can see why he's doing it.)

  • More Russell Carter. Has this guy ever missed a three, especially in a big situation? OK, this is the least serious of my points, but still.

The John Chaney Thing

Oh, you've got to love the sports media. (Plus, I've just finished Bob Knight's latest biography, so this situation came up at a great time.) College coaches are supposed to be role models for the 18-22 year old young adults they're in charge of. However, many are setting a terrible example for their kids by lying, cheating, and stealing just so they can keep winning and keep their multi-million dollar contracts (and how many of these coaches donate some of their millions to academics, as Knight does?). Slick Jim Tressel basically sticks his fingers in his ears and does the "I'm not listening! I'm not listening!" routine whenever a player mentions that they have taken money from a booster, just so the coach can circumvent the "if no school officials know about the wrongdoing, the school and team can't be punished" rule. But that's just one example. What did John Chaney do? Did he make a mistake? Yes. Were the consequences much worse than he had planned? Definitely (a St. Joe's senior broke his arm after Chaney sent in a "goon"). So, what did Chaney do after that? Trying to be a role model to his kids, he suspended himself for the A-10 tournament.
So, of course, the "respected" sports media immediately jumps on the "John Chaney should be fired because he's shown he can't control his temper" bandwagon. But is a temper more important than the life lessons he teaches his players? Here's an excerpt from Chaney's bio:

Under Chaney's direction, it has become a yearly occurrence for Temple to meet the nation's toughest opponents in the most hostile environments that college basketball can offer. Chaney knows his teams may take some losses, but playing the best has always been a key element of his grand scheme. The lesson in basketball is the same as the lesson in life: his players soon learn that on the long road to any goal worth striving for whether it is earning a college degree, winning a basketball championship or landing a prestigious job there will always be tough obstacles to overcome.

Thanks to the recent release of the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate Data, let's see how important a college degree is to John Chaney's players. The NCAA's chart on Temple shows that the men's basketball team has a ranking of 818, well below the 925 ranking that indicates a 50% graduation rate - the rate considered "acceptable" by the NCAA. So Chaney isn't graduating players. But wait - this only represents one year of data. On a basketball team, that may be at most 3 people. Let's look at the 4-year averages from the 2004 NCAA Graduation Rate Report. There, it says that, of the 6-10 players who started school between '94 and '97, only 43% graduated, including only 33% of the black players.
What's my point? If you're going to blast a college coach, don't blast him for the occassional outburst. Blast him for making a mockery of college athletics by teaching his impressionable young charges to be dishonest and not caring whether they graduate.

Link of the Week

Courtesy of my high school friend josh - pictures of his tour of duty in Iraq. http://www.joshuagnizak.com