Wednesday Hoops Thoughts

Feb 10, 2010, 5:45 PM | Updated: Apr 5, 2011, 11:20 am

Washington did all it had to against the Arizona schools this past weekend to get themselves back in the thick of the Pac-10 title race. They engineered a solid hard fought win over an Arizona team that closes out the year with 5 home games to 2 on the road. The ‘Cats will likely be right there at the end with that schedule and have surpassed expectations for such a young team with a 1st year coach.

Usually that combination doesn’t equal Pac-10 success, but this is a different year and the youngsters and the coach that put them there are of a very high caliber. No one will complain in Tucson, unless the self-imposed sanctions which are rather light weight are greatly increased by the NCAA or the Pac-10. A piece today in Sports Illustrated fleshed out some of the issues behind the allegations surrounding the now defunct Cactus Classic and other possible improprieties that may or may have taken place at Arizona.

I doubt that any NCAA action will prevent the ‘Cats from competing in the NCAA tournament this season should they end up there, as I feel they stand a very good chance of doing. They were impressive, even in a loss last Thursday at Hec-Ed and Sean Miller has done an outstanding job. That said the culture that surrounds the program with the most ticket and booster revenue for hoops in the Pac-10 and the large tradition of not only NCAA appearances but also NBA stars makes it a much easier place for anyone to come in and prosper.

Washington followed the ‘Zona win with a 79-56 stomping of ASU on Saturday night.

Not much needs to be said after going 4-0 at home over the last two weeks, but the questions still linger about the Dawgs ability to scare up a win on the road. All I’m hearing from Coach Lorenzo Romar and Pac-10 Player of the Year likely winner Quincy Pondexter, who won his record tying 4th conference Player of the Week award on Monday, is ‘Take it one game at a time’. Josh Anderson of Montlake Madness reveals a bit more in his preview in stating that UW will lose if, “They forget to try to get their big men going”.

UW did a great job of fouling out Arizona’s big guns up front by getting the ball inside to its bigs and forcing the issue, as well as by the usual aggressive offense of Pondexter, Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas. Cal’s front line is a lot weaker than Arizona’s and once you get past senior Jamal Boykin and heavy weight Markhuri Sanders-Frison they are rather thin. Max Zhang was posterized by UW in Seattle and the best way to repeat that performance for the Dawgs is by this strategy.

Pondexter averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds in wins over Arizona and ASU; on the road his production has been mixed. A fantastic road trip to his old stomping grounds in the Bay Area is going to be required if the Dawgs are to weigh in to the Pac-10 title race. Quincy joined Oregon State’s Gary Payton (1988-89), UCLA’s Ed O’Bannon (1994-95) and Arizona State’s Eddie House (1999-2000) as the only four-time winners in a season and according to Go Huskies, “All three of those players went on to win at least a share of the Pac-10 Player of the Year award”.

Nick Daschel argues in his blog however that Pondexter is not a player on the level of those three and is against Quincy winning the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

I hope that Q dashes the hopes of those that don’t believe in him and drops a 21-gun salute’s worth of shells on Nick’s argument this weekend (couldn’t resist). The Fresno Bee gave Q a nice plug to their favorite son though and most Pac-10 pundits seem to be singing his praises.

Quincy lamented the 2006 class recently though, in which he is the only remaining. Spencer Hawes moved on to the NBA after one year, Phil Nelson (who has struggled, now out for the season with an injury) transferred to Portland State after one year and Adrian Oliver transferred after a season and a half to San Jose State where he has rocketed into the national scene and hometown celebrity as the Spartans number one option.

Yes the Dawgs certainly could be better off with 4 talented seniors rather than just one, but what has happened since has been healthy. Romar has brought in guys that wanted to be there and UW’s chemistry and character marks are really good. Whether that means that they can rally as a team to win road games yet remains to be seen.

In the flimsy world of NCAA Tournament Predictors the Dawgs are now on the bubble, but just as Arizona, last week’s entrants in this same feature, without a win on the road this week theirs will likely burst.

The Cal game will be televised on ESPN2, made ESPN’s “Places to be” list and former UCLA Coach Steve Lavin will provide color commentary, but most of the national media don’t put a lot of stake behind the Huskies ability to get a win at Haas.

This USC fan blog feels that, “Arizona has the best chance” with their 5 home games (including the bottom dwelling Oregon schools this weekend), to catch Cal and most people seem to feel that way.

Can UW do it? Right now the smart money says no, but this is a good time for UW’s believers to win big. If Washington can beat Cal that perception could change overnight though. One guy who will have a lot to say about the outcome of Thursday’s game is Justin Holiday. Go Huskies did a nice profile of Justin this week.

Holiday will have to continue his extraordinary defense and “glue guy” type of play on offense for the Dawgs to have a shot. Scott Suggs is also a player that has contributed on both ends. Suggs has established himself as the top shooting guard off the bench over Elston Turner, who seemed to be a lock for that spot coming into the year. Elston has had a few good games, but Scott seems to have made believers out of his critics, Josh Anderson being one of the most severe.

Next year Dawg fans will see a battle for the vacated production of Quincy’s, plus that same shooting guard off the bench spot. According to Romar on Tuesday, C.J. Wilcox will weigh heavily into that choice by saying that, “Outside of Justin Holiday and Venoy” he probably closes out on shooters the best on the team. Romar has also stated on numerous occasions that Wilcox is the best shooter on the team as well.

Bad fans are not something Hec-Ed is known for, but in the Arizona game one guy threw a half empty bottle at the floor, apparently aimed at a ref.

This is not acceptable behavior and I feel that the UW Athletic department was probably too lenient in this case. Seattle is known as a town of 2nd chances, but is it 2nd best as a city when it comes to the west coast? According to Pat Forde’s column SF is the best city in the league with Seattle, Eugene, Pullman and Tucson, “Also receiving votes”.

I like Pat and think that his slant on basketball is worth while, but his assessment of cities, not so much. I’m not waving the Seattle flag all that high, but who would vote for Eugene and Pullman? Very few mentally competent Ducks or Cougs that I know would.

Husky Recruiting Corner

According to Scout Enes Kanter is looking around. One source told us that this was to be expected on Monday, citing contacts on a high major D1 staff. When the article broke another source (in contact with Kanter) said that this was really being overblown by this article.

The word that we’ve got is that a number of recruits, including possibly Kanter, Terrence Jones, Dwayne Polee, Terrence Ross and Aziz N’Diaye will be visiting UW next weekend when the Dawgs are hosting the LA schools.

It was also stated that that sources opinion was that Husky Assistant Coach Raphael Chillious was all over Enes and that any interest in hearing about and seeing other schools that may be happening do not mean that Washington is not a solid lean for Kanter. The verbal that was reported earlier may be considered soft at this point, but Washington is in great shape for Enes according to that source.

Why is Kanter looking around? One reason may be that Washington may be concerned about his eligibility and that they are doing well with other major prospects. We are hearing that 2011 six-foot-ten post Norvel Pelle is solidly interested in Washington. We spoke to Norvel and he stated clearly that he is still open, but the word on the street is that he is a UW lean or better. Terrence Jones is also a player that Washington is doing very well with.

The word on the street is that Jones is very likely leaning to Washington in light of the recent fall like a rock of Ernie Kent and the Oregon Ducks, who were thought to be the biggest competition for him. Location is a huge factor for Jones, as he really wants to be close to family. He may play various recruiting “games” before signing, but sources on a major staff told us that they have stopped recruiting him because they feel that he is headed to Washington.

Jones continues to be mentioned as a serious prospect for Kentucky by the national recruiting media, as he was this week by Rival’s Jerry Meyer, but sources close to the situation are telling us that Washington is in great shape for Jones.

N’Diaye could be a very solid option for the Dawgs. The Twin Falls paper reported on his Oklahoma trip, where the best thing he could say about the Sooners was that, “I want to see the options I have and find the best fit”. With a trip to Washington apparently next week, according to our source, that decision on his part may be coming soon. According to the article Aziz has visited “Oregon State and Loyola Marymount”, but another team that is reportedly interested is Duke.

According to Scout the Blue Devils are no longer interested in 2010 UW wing recruit Terrence Ross who has been spotted back in Portland. Ross like Jones has been reported to have some problems due to academics that may make it harder for UW than Oregon or Kentucky, both of which are going hard after both kids.

Washington is doing well with a number of major recruits down the road. We have heard that the Dawgs have good contacts with 2012 six-foot-five wing Shabazz Muhammad, who is wowing people with his amazing all around game. :

Joel Francisco of ESPN was some what critical, but acknowledged that Shabazz is a terrific prospect.

“Although Muhammad has a lot of variety to his game, he pretty much kept his game in the paint against Mater Dei. He did hit one 3-point shot, but it came late when his team was down seven points. The ultra-talented lefty has grown some since the summer, and he may add couple of more inches before he graduates. Although Keala King is a tough defender, Muhammad was able to get off a series of jump hooks and drop-step moves. He has very good bounce around the paint area and is a quick jumper. In addition, he does a nice job facing up his opponent and attacking the rim. Defensively, he had a couple of spectacular blocks and was able to get out quickly in transition to finish at the other end. Muhammad wasn’t able to show off his perimeter skills because his team needed him inside. However, he is an intriguing prospect because he can play multiple positions. At this stage it’s too difficult to forecast his eventual position at the next level, but based on his skill set and savvy, he’ll probably be a wing-type that can go inside and out.”

It looks as if Muhammad will be highly recruited, but the word that we are getting is that Romar and company are in favor with the young man and his dad, a former USC football player.

Another 2012 kid that UW is doing very well with is six-foot-five guard Jordan Tebbutt from Portland, OR. Rivals reconfirmed what had been earlier reported by others that he had an offer from Washington, as well as Oregon State, Washington State, Virginia, USC, UCLA and Portland. The word we have gotten and the impression that we have gotten from talking to him is that Washington is certainly in good with Tebbutt.

Cougars Face Cardinal in Palo Alto

(WSU Game Preview Courtesy of Heath Harshman)

After another split weekend for the Cougs, a road trip to California to take on Stanford and Cal is on the schedule. The Cougs, surprise, split in the home games against Stanford and Cal, beating the Cardinal and losing to the Golden Bears.

In the first match-up on Thursday night (7PM PST, not televised), the Cougs take on the Johnny Dawkins led Cardinal. Stanford currently sits at the bottom of the Pac-10 at 4-7 in conference play, one game behind the 5-6 Cougars.

In the last game against Stanford, WSU almost managed to let a 20 point halftime lead slip away at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, but did just enough to eek out a 77-73 victory. The Cougs shot 50% from the field and were led by Klay Thompson, who scored 27 points. The Cougs also had more assists and rebounds than Stanford, as well as making more free throws than Stanford attempted.

Stanford sophomore Jeremy Green had 13 of his 24 points in the second half, including 12 in the final five minutes of the game, leading the way for the Cardinal charge, but it wasn’t enough. Freshman Reggie Moore came up clutch for the Cougs, hitting 7-8 free throws in the final 50 seconds to stave off the comeback.

Since that meeting Stanford has gone 2-4, but are currently on a season high four game losing streak. WSU has done better, but just barely, going 2-3 since the win over Stanford, but are coming off of a convincing 18 point victory at home over Arizona.

Stanford may be in the cellar of the conference, but senior guard-forward Landry Fields is flying high for the Cardinal, leading the way for the team averaging 23 points per game and he hasn’t been held under 14 points in any game this season.

Fields is also coming off of a weekend in southern California in which he scored 35 and 27 points respectively against ULCA and USC. The 6’7″ senior is also doing a great job on the boards averaging 8.8 rebounds per game, including an impressive 10 double-doubles. Stopping Fields will be near the top of Coach Bone’s list, and holding him to 18 points on 6-16 shooting from the field as they did in the last meeting, would likely be seen as a success for the Cougs on Thursday night.

“We’re very aware of how good Fields and Green are, especially on the offensive end…Our focus is going to be on knowing where they are at all times and trying to stop them as a team”, said Coach Bone at his weekly teleconference Tuesday.

Depth, or lack thereof, has hurt the Cougs this season, but in last Saturday’s win over Arizona, depth was key for the WSU victory. Forwards Brock Motum, Steven Bjornstad and James Watson all put in good minutes off the bench for the Cougs, with Motum shining the brightest. The 6’9″ freshman from Brisbane, Australia had a career high in minutes (17) and points (10) in the win, going 4-6 from the field.

“He’ll definitely get an opportunity to get into the game [against Stanford]… He did a great job the other day, I’m really excited for him”, said Coach Bone of Motum.

WSU’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Klay Thompson, will be looking for a repeat performance against Stanford. Thompson has struggled to shoot consistently in conference play, especially on the road where he’s shooting just 24-73 (32.9%) from the field and a disappointing 7-28 (25%) from beyond the arc.

Forward DeAngelo Casto, who had nine points and eight rebounds in the previous meeting with Stanford, will be trying to keep his good form going from Saturday’s win, in which he had a career high 19 points. Casto will be important for the Cougs in the paint, providing energy for the Cougs as they go on the road.

Sophomore forward Charlie Enquist twisted his ankle in Monday’s practice and missed practice Tuesday. Coach Bone said Enquist, along with sophomore Abe Lodwick are doubtful for Thursday’s game. Lodwick is averaging just less than 13 minutes per game, but has seen his time on the court diminish as of late, not getting double digit minutes since the road game to USC.

A win for WSU against a struggling Stanford side would put them at 6-6 in the conference heading into a Saturday match-up with conference leader Cal (7-4), who faces UW Thursday in Berkeley, CA at 6PM PST on ESPN2.

Cougar Recruiting

East Wenatchee WA’s Malachi Roberts, a 2010 SG prospect is getting strong interest from WSU and Montana, per our conversation with him today. When asked about a Rivals report that he had received recruiting interest from Washington Roberts replied that, “Romar gave me a call and left me a message to come to their midnight madness in October’ and added that, “He also has a friend here that watches me play”.

When asked if he had any offers he stated, “I don’t have any offers yet but WSU is hoping to have me over this spring for a visit” then added, “Montana too”. When asked if he had a preference he said, “My Favorite is UW but I’m not sure if I’m what they’re looking for”. He also said that, “I’m fine with WSU too” and finished with “Both are great upcoming bb programs”.

Seattle U Beats Portland State in the PDX

Sunday night in Portland the Redhawks beat PSU on a last second shot by Aaron Broussard, who scored a game-high 21 points, including a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining. Broussard also logged 6 steals.

The San Francisco Chronicle pointed to this last second incident as evidence that WSU should be have the decision to allow the win to stand when Oregon beat them after a technical foul call allowed two free throws to force overtime in a similar situation on New Year’s Eve in Pullman.

“Seattle hit a shot to beat Portland State with 0.5 of a second left and the players rushed the court, just like Washington State players did when they hit an apparent game-winning shot with 0.3 of a second left in overtime Dec. 31. But this time, there was no technical foul called on Seattle – the floor was simply cleared for Portland State’s desperation heave. As opposed to the unprecedented technical called against the Cougars. Oregon was awarded two free-throw tries – that’s like punishing someone for jaywalking by running him over with a car – made both, and won in double-overtime. Pac-10 officials wronged the Cougars something terrible – the NCAA has even said so – and Washington State should have a 6-5 conference record and be in a six-way tie for second place instead of 5-6 and in seventh.”

In Seattle U’s miraculous win, Cervante Burrell played a key role with 15 points and a team leading 8 rebounds and 4 assists. NBA prospect Charles Garcia was relatively quiet with 12 points, but played 25 minutes and was effective in drawing double teams which opened things up for others. Senior guard Chris Gweth kicked in 11.

The Redhawks are the most successful independent team in Division 1 in the win column at 11-13. They now return home to face the Sacramento State Hornets at Key Arena on Saturday at 1PM (PST). Should they break .500 for the year they will be eligible for the post-season, though not for the NCAA tournament until 2013.

Redhawk Recruiting

Tacoma C.C.’s Chad Rasmussen, a six-foot-seven freshman guard states in his profile that, “Will sign a National Letter with Seattle University in the early signing period in mid-November”. It also states that he can be compared to former Tacoma product and UW and EWU guard Josh Barnard.

Zags Prepare for Showdown with St. Mary’s

(Gonzaga Game Preview Courtesy of Alex Dissing)

McCarthey Athletic Center will be the host of a huge conference match-up Feb. 11th as Gonzaga takes on their biggest conference rival Saint Mary’s, in what appears to be a very entertaining contest.

The Zags never trailed in their last meeting, beating Saint Mary’s 89-82 at their home court on Jan. 14th. The Bulldogs shot an impressive 58.7% from the field while holding the Gaels to only 48.7%. It was a close contest that was won by free-throw shooting in the final minute, much like the Zags’ recent win over Memphis.

Freshman forward Elias Harris led the way with 31 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Matt Bouldin also was a major contributor with 22 points. Harris’s 30- point performance was the first 30-point game by a Gonzaga player since Adam Morrison’s 35 in the first round victory over Xavier in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

Harris, who averages 15.6 points per game, has struggled in his last two contests posting 10 points against Portland and only six against Memphis on just 2-14 shooting. The Zags need the talented Harris to be more of a contribution and break out of his mini-slump if they want a win against a strong Saint Mary’s team.

Saint Mary’s is coming into the game hot with a six game winning streak and their last loss being Gonzaga almost a month ago. The Gaels are the highest scoring team in the league at 81.4 points a game (Gonzaga is 2nd at 78.3 per game). Senior center Omar Samhan scored 31 points in the last meeting against Gonzaga and has definitely done his part all season with his league high 21.7 points a game. Samhan also leads the league in rebounding (11.1 per game) and blocks per game (3). At 6-foot-11 inches tall, Samhan is a force inside that will need to be contained.

It will be interesting to see if Samhan retaliates after the temper flaring moment that ensued after Gonzaga center Robert Sacre slammed him into the base of the basket in the last meeting.

On the outside, Gonzaga will have to watch out for junior guard Mickey McConnell who is first in the WCC in 3-point field goal percentage (53%) and third in 3-point field goals made with 54. McConnell is second on the team with 13.8 points per game, just ahead of freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova (12.5 points per game) who scored 23 in the last meeting against the Zags.

Coming off of a 66-58 victory against Memphis, their 3rd lowest point total of the season, the Zags look to get back to their usual offensive form. Saint Mary’s is fresh off of a 73-57 victory over San Francisco, the same San Francisco team who snapped Gonzaga’s 27-game WCC winning streak on Jan. 30th.

The WCC crown is at stake as both teams are tied atop the conference standings. Gonzaga currently has a five game winning streak in the series between the two teams and hopefully can make it six.

More Zags

The Slipper Still Fits did a feature on the Zag big men and how this group of post players is a return to the old days of big beefy post players that dominated teams in earlier stages of Mark Few’s tenure in Spokane. Sacre and freshman Kelly Olynyk have received good reviews this season, but the piece brings attention to the quiet improvement of seven-foot-five and 273 lb. Will Foster, who is starting to become effective in a limited role, off the bench.

Pac-10 Round Up

A lot of talk this week has revolved around possible Pac-10 expansion. Kevin Calabro at 710-ESPN weighed in on the subject.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott commented on expansion, but gave no hint at which schools are under serious consideration.

Rivals blogger Jeff Eisenberg threw around a few names, including Texas, Colorado, Utah, BYU, Texas Christian, UNLV, Boise State and San Diego State.

I like the idea of UNLV and San Diego State. They are close and they both have established football and basketball programs. Most importantly they are both in media markets that are huge. So what if Colorado and Utah bring in big markets? They are so far from the Pacific it becomes a bit of a joke. With the Rebels and the Aztecs, a natural idea would be to create a Pac-10 South, with the LA and Arizona schools and a Pac-10 North with the Washington’s, Oregon’s and Bay Area schools.

UNLV and Nevada would also be a good fit, if Reno were a bigger market, but though they may be as big as Pullman soon if they are not already, that would not be as clean if the idea is to create a Pac-10 North and South like the SEC East and West.

USC beat Stanford 54-49 on Saturday night in Los Angeles, CA.

Nikola Vucevic led the way for the Trojans with 18 points, including a tip-in on his game leading 14th rebound with 26.4 seconds left which came after four USC attempts. That score gave the Trojans the lead for good at 50-49 as USC held Stanford’s Jeremy Green to a missed jumper with 10-seconds to go.

The game then turned into a free throw game of attrition in which Marcus Johnson and Dwight Lewis each made a pair to finish it out. Green scored only three points in the contest as USC was able to shut him down, while allowing Landry Fields to score 27 points. USC now host UCLA on 7PM (PST) this Sunday in a Valentines Evening event. That is a questionable marketing idea in my opinion, unless the fan bases of those schools have been confirmed by exhaustive research as heartless loners (joke).

OSU spanked Oregon in Corvallis 62-42 as Omari Johnson had a season-high 18 points on 6-13 from the field and 4-9 from three.

Freshman guard Jared Cunningham had 11 points and 4 steals, while junior guard Calvin Haynes also had 11. Matthew Humphrey co-led the Ducks with 10 points on tepid 3-11 shooting along with Malcolm Armstead. The key to this game was 20 assists for the Beavers to 4 for the Ducks in a game which showcased an efficient offense that led to 50% shooting contracted with a poorly executed offense that yielded 30% from the field including 12% from three.

Andy Katz at ESPN even postulated this week that, “The Beavers have the potential to be a Pac-10 tourney final team if they play up to their capabilities in moving the ball, passing from the top with precision and exhibiting patience”.

Oregon fans and national pundits alike seem to blame Head Coach Ernie Kent. Rivals blogger Jeff Eisenberg brought up some interesting points as he discussed the heat that Kent is feeling, but alluded to poor recruiting as being a key factor by saying that, “Rivals.com ranked Oregon’s recruiting class last in the Pac-10 for 2010 and seventh in 2009″ and that the Ducks’ recruiting pipeline to the Midwest has dried up”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jamil Wilson, Jeremy Jacob and Malcolm Armstead were outstanding talents to add to a very talented young group of Ducks. In 2010, the Ducks were right there with Terrence Jones, until the string of ugly games led to the high level prospect starting to lose interest according to our sources. Oregon has been mentioned by a number of top national level recruits that have yet to sign.

ESPN’s Pat Forde analyzed that Ernie had underachieved considering to help of William Wesley, (AKA) Worldwide Wes and though it has never been confirmed there are numerous anonymous “Message board” and internet reports of a connection between Wesley and Nike’s Phil Knight, the patron saint of Oregon Sports. Will Oregon replace Kent? What will Nike do to help? Enquiring minds want to know.

Cal beat UCLA on Saturday 72-58 at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, CA.

The Bears Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher each scored 20 points and though floor leader Jerome Randle was “held” to 14, he dished out a game leading 6 assists. The Bruins blew a 14 point lead with 11:56 to go in the 1st half to allow Cal to lead 37-30 at the half and the Bears only widened its lead in the 2nd half. Mike Roll scored 22 points for UCLA and Malcolm Lee did a poor job of running the point for the Bruins with 5 turnovers.

Additional heat came down on Lee for a tweet that he posted Thursday night that he feels “like a caged pitbull that been on a chain for 2 years”.

Lee denied that he was talking about his experiences at UCLA, but the question needs to be asked of him about the coincidence that his time as a Bruin just happens to have been two years. If not Ben Howland’s program, what was he talking about, UCLA’s top end student housing? The blog post went on to cite past reports of UCLA players feeling that Howland’s system was not a good fit.

“There’s a history of UCLA players complaining about a lack of freedom in Ben Howland’s offense, so it’s easy to see how some would interpret Lee’s tweet as a sign that he too is frustrated. Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo both said they felt the system hurt their draft stock when they left school early a few years ago, while starting big man Drew Gordon left the program earlier this season in part because he wanted to play at a higher tempo.”

If that’s not enough of a shot to the collective psyche of the Bruin Nation, former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon’s suit against the NCAA will be heard in Federal court. O’Bannon, who Husky man Lorenzo Romar coached on the 1995 national championship team along with current Seattle U Head Coach Cameron Dollar, is arguing that the “NCAA used the images of student-athletes without permission”.

ASU got a commitment from Chanse Creekmur, a six-foot-seven 2010 forward from Marshalltown IA, who according to azcentral.com, “Chose ASU over Minnesota, South Florida and UCLA, which had late interest”:

NCAA Tournament Expansion

I would like to expand on my opinion about the idea to increase the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to 96 teams, which is reportedly being tossed around the committee. I like the Bob Knight idea better. I am not a big fan of Bob as a person, but you can’t argue with his commitment level to the game and what he has said on the issue I believe to be the fairest solution. I’ll add a couple of ideas to it, but if you want to see what he has to say, there’s a video clip of it on the ESPN.com college basketball homepage right now.

I think that they should seed a field of 128 teams. The top 64 should not get in the way they do now with automatic bids because of conference champs, etc. They should seed the top teams based on relative strength, performance, etc. (supposedly) like the seed the at large bids. All the conference champs should get in, but if they are not in that top half I believe that they should have to prove it.

The best system (and this is my opinion not Bob’s) would be to make the lower seeded teams (65-128) play at the home gym of the higher seeded teams, 2 days after “Selection Sunday” for some huge day of basketball which could be called something like “Super Tuesday” or maybe something more unique than that.

Those pairings should be created with a clear focus on location. Let’s say that for instance this year that in the NW region (loosely) Cal, Washington, Gonzaga, BYU, Pacific, St. Mary’s, Utah State and Weber State are the teams that would under the current system go to the Field of 64? Let’s say that also this year that WSU, Portland, Northern Colorado, Montana, Stanford and Nevada were teams that end up in the NIT, CBI or CIT?

You notice I covered all of the conferences that have teams in the NW region including Northern CA and areas that are more commonly perceived as the Rocky Mountain region. It would probably be a better analysis to make a field of the whole country and so it that way, but I hope you can understand my point in this more simple explanation. The match-ups that would pit the stronger teams in their gym hosting the 2nd tier teams, which I feel is the best system, would be:

Montana at Gonzaga, Pacific at Cal, Portland at Washington, Weber at BYU, Stanford at St. Mary’s, Nevada at WSU and Northern Colorado at Utah State. After the pairings on Sunday, tickets should go on sale for 24 hours to the season ticket holders of the traveling team, before being released to the general public for the time remaining before the game. That way the games wouldn’t be ordinary home games without the support of the visitor’s fans.

It would still favor the home team, but that would give the team with the better year ideally an advantage in moving on, as is the way that the rest of the tournament is supposed to be designed to do.

Once a field of 64 was arrived on the rest of the tournament would start on Thursday, as it does now and teams would have to travel to their destinations as were laid out on Sunday, but perhaps because of the less time to plan a bit more effort should be put in by the NCAA into making the regions more regional in their make-up, which would not be a bad idea anyway.

This way better teams would be in the field of 64, more often than not, as weak conference champs and overrated power conference or mid-major teams would be eliminated prior. This would make for better competition, better games and better TV. In my opinion the power conferences that are made up of schools with bigger fan bases and from bigger markets would also be more involved, which is better from the standpoint of marketing.

It comes down to this question. Who is going to travel more people and get higher TV ratings, a Cal team that let’s say is down and headed to the NIT under the current system or a Pacific team that won the Big West?

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Wednesday Hoops Thoughts