The basketball is on a three-day hiatus. But the NCAA tournament story lines and personalities are here to get us through any real-life drudgery.
Here are few stories and topics worthy of a read and discussion:
Tubby Smith’s firing at Minnesota
I’ve heard varying takes on Smith’s ouster as the Gophers’ basketball coach — some of it, on both sides, based on Smith’s record, but more of it a scolding of Minnesota’s perceived delusional view of itself.
MSU coach Tom Izzo was visibly upset Monday after learning of Smith’s firing. He felt bad for his friend and disagreed with the decision.
I don’t know all of the circumstances. But I don’t feel bad for Tubby Smith. He made $2.5 million last year and spent the last two decades coaching three major programs — Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota. He had his run. These jobs aren’t a birthright and there aren’t many of them. And Minnesota’s administration didn’t think he won enough. A 46-62 Big Ten record in six seasons, including 15-29 in February, as ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan pointed out in writing that it was time for both sides to move on, seems like cause to give fresh blood a chance.
As to what the Gophers will do, I have little faith (I’ve seen too many athletic directors bungle these decisions). But I don’t buy this notion that Minnesota should recognize its limitations and that it can’t do better than Smith.
Twenty years ago, the same could have been said about MSU, or, 35 years ago, about Duke. Things can change with the right coach. And — listen up, ADs — it doesn’t have to be a big name like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens. Those guys, like Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski, were once assistants, too. Find your guy, give him the resources and stand by him. Don’t worry about the name. Hire the coach and person.
Adreian Payne and 7-year-old Lacey
One of the better scenes you’ll see at a college basketball practice happened Monday, when MSU’s Adreian Payne greeted 7-year-old Lacey Holsworth, a St. Johns native battling cancer.
Payne, who’s become friends with Holsworth since originally being introduced to her in the hospital, didn’t look like he wanted Monday’s meeting to be public. But a dozen or so reporters were hanging around for interviews, so it was. Here’s colleague Joe Rexrode’s story on Payne and Lacey, as well as Paul Henderson’s video from Monday.
Reseeding the Sweet 16
ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf did a mock reseeding of the Sweet 16, based on the remaining teams.
Louisville, as they were on selection Sunday, was his top overall seed. Michigan, Florida and Ohio State, in that order, were the other No. 1s.
MSU was the top No. 2 seed. Indiana was next. Kansas, an actually No. 1 seed, was barely a 3 in these reseeded rankings.
Medcalf said he based it entirely on how these teams were playing right now.
My only disagreement is that he doesn’t really know how they’re playing right now, because this tournament is about matchups. Michigan, for example, appears to be playing its best basketball of the season. But VCU was a perfect opponent for U-M — with plenty of clout and a style that plays into the strengths of the Wolverines, who would prefer to be on the go, rather than grind it out.
An all-Big Ten Final Four?
The possibility still exists. The four remaining Big Ten teams — MSU, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State — are all in separate regions.
Yahoo.com’s Kyle Ringo wrote about the chances of the historic feat (never done before), and why each team can and can’t get there.
I’d rank their chances, from best to worst, in this order: Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, MSU.
Ohio State has the best draw by far, with the top half of the West bracket in shambles and an up-and-down Arizona club the highest seed in its way.
Michigan’s path in the South isn’t horrible. Kansas will be a difficult matchup (not the run-and-gun fun U-M had last Saturday), but isn’t overwhelming and Florida, the next highest remaining seed in the region, has been inconsistent, especially away from home.
Indiana, the Big Ten’s best team most of this season, has Syracuse and then perhaps Miami in its way.
MSU has the toughest road, at least on paper, with Duke and likely Louisville this weekend.