Thursday, March 30, 2006

Basketball Thoughts and Tidbits

I spent a lot of time in the car on Tuesday and listened to quite a bit of sports talk radio. Probably too much. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts that came out of those 6 hours of radio, watching the games last weekend, and reading today's papers:

1) George Mason University--Everyone knows their story by now and probably more than you ever wanted to know. I heard an interesting observation about their game with Connecticut. Near the end of the game, UConn was down and GMU was preparing to shoot free throws UConn didn't have a time out so you would think the players would gather together on the floor briefly just to talk about options and what they were going to do based on whether or not the GMU player made the free throws. They didn't. They just lined up to rebound the ball. One can only guess that their thought process was that whoever got the ball would dribble the length of the court and shoot it. Whatever happened to a team concept? GMU showed what can be done when players are on the same page and working towards the same goal. I think that was UConn's problem all year. Yes, they won a lot of games but they were never more than a collection of very talented individuals, each with their own personal goals and agendas. I don't think they ever bought into a team concept.

I heard one guest on the radio comment that he thought this was true for virtually all of the major division I programs and that mid-majors had an advantage in this aspect of the game. I am not sure I completely buy into that. I do believe it is true at some schools but I also think it can vary from year to year and team to team. For example, I think last year's Illinois squad was the definition of a team. I also think that in most years, Duke plays as a team. On the flip side, I felt that last year's North Carolina team played more as a collection of individuals. The potential is there to have success at the elite level either way but if you can combine top-level players and teamwork, then you have something special.

2) Speaking of UConn, their coach (Jim Calhoun) complaining about GMU having a home court advantage because the game was in DC, is ridiculous. I didn't see the interview/press conference where he made the comment so he might have just been joking. I also believe he made the comment before the game but I don't know if he repeated it afterwards. However, if he was serious, that is pathetic. He should keep in mind that no matter where the game was played (unless it was in Storrs), GMU would have been favored by the crowd because of their underdog status. All this being said, I thought Calhoun was very classy after the game in saying that he knew the thrill the GMU players and coach were experiencing and congratulating them, etc.

3) While we are on the topic of GMU's coach, you have to be happy for Jim Larranaga. Here is a guy who has coached for year's at the mid-major level (and will likely finish his career at that level) and now he gets to go to the Final Four with a shot at a National Championship. GMU isn't a steppingstone for him and no matter what happens from here on out, his "legend" there will be secure. GMU should feel no pressure because after all they have done, most people still pick Florida to beat them. Whatever they do from here on out is in a sense icing on the cake. Good luck Patriots--we wish you well!

4) I heard Bill Self in an interview with Mike and Mike on ESPN. I almost turned it off once I heard he was coming on but I went ahead and listened to see what he had to say. I have to admit, he is a smooth talker. Listening to the interview reminded me of why I liked him when he was at Illinois. Oh well, it was his loss and our gain.

5) Dee, Augie, and Coach Weber will be in Indianapolis this weekend, albeit not for the reason we had hoped. Dee will be participating in the three point shootout, which will air (tape delayed) on ESPN at 8 p.m. CST tonight, on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. CST tonight, and then again on ESPN at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday. Meanwhile, Coach Weber will be leading a group of senior all-stars that includes Augie against the Harlem Globetrotters in the annual NABC College All-Star Game. That game will be aired (tape delayed) on ESPNU at 10 p.m. CST on Friday.

6) Former Bull's great Norm Van Lier is working towards becoming a certified sports agent. Two players he would like to have as his first clients--our very own Dee Brown and James Augustine.

7) The University of Illinois is continuing its fight with the NCAA over Chief Illiniwek. I have to hand it my alma mater--I wasn't sure they had the stomach for this particular fight but they have proven to me that they do. No matter how it ends up, I appreciate their efforts in this battle.

8) Finally, good luck to the Illinois baseball team as they play their home opener against Purdue tomorrow.

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