Monthly Archives: March 2012

Bruce Weber to Kansas State

Well, he’s sure a lot different than Frank Martin.

And if that’s what Kansas State athletic director John Currie was going for in picking former Illinois

Bruce Weber will be trading in this orange coat jacket for a purple one as he is scheduled to be named Kansas State's new men's basketball coach today.

coach Bruce Weber to replace Martin as the Wildcats’ men’s basketball coach, then he knocked this one out of the park. K-State is holding a 3 p.m. news conference today to announce the hiring.

Otherwise, this hire strikes me as a weak grounder to second base.

First and foremost, why the rush? And why is K-State announcing the Weber hire on the day of the national semifinals in the NCAA Tournament? Talk about being relegated to the back page.

Just four days after Martin accepted the South Carolina job, Currie pulls Weber out of his hat? It’s hard to fathom. Reportedly, the College of Charleston was trying to lure Weber. Southern Illinois, where Weber coached for five years before going to Illinois in 2003, had some interest in bringing Weber back, but nothing materialized.

Remember, Weber lost his team this season at Illinois. The Illini looked like an NCAA Tournament lock early, then went 2-12 to end the season. Weber was canned and Illinois is still looking for his replacement.

Weber is a good guy. He won’t scowl at his players or cause little old ladies at Bramlage Coliseum to pray to the heavens, the way Martin did. He fits the mold for the coach many of us expected Currie to hire. I just didn’t expect it to be Weber, who outside of his first three seasons Illinois – during which he coached a lot of Bill Self’s former players – didn’t do a whole lot.

In those first three seasons, Weber led Illinois to an 89-16 record and was 39-9 in the Big Ten. The Illini reached the national championship game in 2005 and won eight NCAA Tournament games overall.

But in the past six seasons, Weber and Illinois were 121-85 overall, 50-56 in the Big Ten and captured just one NCAA Tournament victory.

It’s fair to say that after the Self influence departed the Illinois program, Weber was unable to do a whole lot. And now he’s the guy Kansas State expects to stand toe to toe with Self and his Kansas program in the Big 12?

Yeah, good luck with that.

I can’t fathom why Currie was so quick to pull the trigger here. How much did he shop the Kansas State job around? It’s a great job and surely could have attracted a nice list of top candidates. In talking to reporters here at the Final Four in New Orleans over the past couple of days, I had become a big believer in Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, one of the country’s top recruiters and brightest up-and-comers.

Antigua, I can assure you, was never contacted by Currie and Kansas State. Outside of Weber, who was? There wasn’t time to contact many coaches. It will be interesting to hear Currie explain the process that was used to determine Weber was the best fit for the K-State job.

Weber, 55, did spend 19 years as an assistant to Larned native Gene Keady, first at Western Kentucky for one season and at Purdue for the next 18. Keady played at Kansas State from 1954-58 and is currently working on Steve Lavin’s staff at St. John’s.

Did Keady push hard for Weber? I guess we’ll find out today.

But even if he did, didn’t Currie owe it to Kansas State fans, the athletic department and the basketball program to turn over more stones before picking a coach?

There was a lot of furor Friday over the possibility of ESPN basketball commentator and former Oklahoma State player Doug Gottlieb perhaps emerging as a candidate at Kansas State. That was a ridiculous notion, but at least it got some Wildcats fans excited.

I don’t imagine the hiring of Weber is having the same effect.

This is a decision that, in the long term, will help define Currie’s reputation. Who knows, perhaps it will turn out to be a brilliant hire.

In the short term, though, it looks like an over-eager athletic director has stepped out onto a shaky limb.

 

 

The Gottlieb factor

Doug Gottlieb is a terrific college basketball analyst for ESPN. He’s interesting and occasionally polarizing and I enjoy listening to him. There is no question he knows the game.

ESPN's Doug Gottlieb does well behind the microphone. How would he do on the bench as a basketball coach? I have my doubts.

But is he a sensible candidate to be the next basketball coach at Kansas State?

Gottlieb has thrown his name into the ring as the potential replacement for Frank Martin. This, despite the fact he has no coaching experience.

Gottlieb was a gritty, tough, fundamentally-sound player at Oklahoma State for Eddie Sutton about 15 years ago. There’s probably a coach in there somewhere, waiting to get out.

But for that coach to get out at K-State, which plays at the highest level of college basketball, is crazy talk. There is no way the Wildcats should entertain the notion of hiring someone who has never coached.

Some K-Staters are enthusiastic about the potential of Gottlieb landing in Manhattan. Why? I’m not sure. Apparently it’s because they believe Gottlieb’s basketball knowledge and the fact his father once coached under Jack Hartman at K-State, although it was 40 years ago.

This is where the insecurities of some Kansas State fans are apparent. Those who think Gottlieb would be a viable coach might be right, but is it worth the risk? And trust me, I’m a believer in risk/reward. I just need the risk to make sense.

Imagine the fallout if K-State athletic director John Currie hired Gottlieb and it didn’t work out. Currie would be gone in a flash because he wouldn’t be able to defend the hire. I’m not saying Currie needs to be absolutely safe when hiring the next K-State coach. In fact, I think he needs to push the envelope some.

But not to the edge of the earth, which would be the case with Gottlieb.

 

Three reasons KU beats NC

1) No Kendall Marshall – North Carolina’s sophomore point guard reportedly isn’t playing today because of his injured right wrist. And without Marshall, the Tar Hells looked lost offensively at times against Ohio on Friday in the Midwest Regional semifinals. Marshall plays more minutes than any other Carolina player and averages almost 10 assists per game. He’s the glue. And there is a big dropoff when Stilman White is in there and an even bigger one when Justin Watts is forced to play. KU’s guards, Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, will be in full attack mode today. I expect the Jayhawks, despite their lack of depth, to show some full-court pressure to try and rattle White and Watts. White was fine as a floor leader against Ohio with six assists and no turnovers, but he’ll be more tested today.

2) Kansas shoots better – After two straight sub-par shooting games, the Jayhawks are due to make some shots. Especially Taylor, who has never made a three-pointer inside a dome in the NCAA Tournament. That sounds more serious than it is; he’s taken only 12 threes in domed stadiums during the tournament. Still, Taylor is in a real shooting fun. Not only are his three-pointers missing, they’re missing by a lot. He said Saturday he felt like every shot he was taking was going in. But those shots have looked bad off his hands. He’ll have a better day today.

3) Jeff Withey, the “Blockinator” – I can’t wait for Withey, whose 10 blocks against North Carolina State on Friday night changed that game, go against the North Carolina big men, Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Withey’s 10 blocks equaled Kansas’ single-game record, set in 2009 by Cole Aldrich in an NCAA second-round game against Dayton. His 126 blocks for the season are one more than Aldrich had during the 2009-10 season, another record. He and Aldrich are the only two Kansas big men to record more than 94 blocks in a season since the statistic started being kept in 1975. I’d pay to watch Withey block shots, which is a remarkable statement. But it’s true. His feel for this too-little-praised talent is incredible.

 

Frank Martin and South Carolina

Quite a buzz was created Friday night as various news outlets – some credible, most not – stirred with news that Frank Martin was either: A) Going to coach at South Carolina; B) Interested in talking to South Carolina; C) Unaware of anything happening at South Carolina; or D) Captured by aliens and whisked away to another planet.

We really don’t know what’s happening with Martin, Kansas State’s basketball coach, other that there’s a strong likelihood he’s not on another planet.

Unless, of course, you consider South Carolina to be one. And in coaching circles, that might be the case.

Late Friday, “The Sporting News,” a credible source, reported that South Carolina had sought permission to talk to Martin, who earlier sent a mass text to the media that he had not talked to anyone.

So the best guess, after all the dust has settled, is that Martin will visit with the Gamecocks soon, perhaps as soon as Monday. But that could change in an instant and it will be interesting to watch Martin provide studio commentary on CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

On the surface, it makes no sense for Martin to leave Kansas State, where he could have a team in the hunt for a Big 12 championship next season, for South Carolina, which hasn’t won a conference championship since 1997 and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973, the year I supposedly graduated from high school though I have no documented proof.

Martin makes good money – about $1.5 million – and could be in line for a raise if he is still around when his contract talks with K-State athletic director John Currie are scheduled to take place on April 1. He has helped make basketball relevant again in Manhattan, which had only football and women’s basketball to cheer on for many seasons while the men’s basketball program languished under Tom Asbury and Jim Wooldridge.

Plus, K-Staters like Martin, although I’m guessing they’re growing weary of his flirtations with other schools. Last year, both UNLV and Miami (Fla.) were thought to be in the Martin hunt, but neither made an offer.

South Carolina fired Darrin Horn last week after four seasons, during which he was 60-63. South Carolina was just 10-21 this season and home attendance dropped to an average of 8,868 in an 18,000-seat arena.

I was surprised to learn that despite years of struggles and apathy, South Carolina has had only six coaches since Frank McGuire stepped down after the 1979-80 season after 16 seasons and a 283-142 record. McGuire guided the Gamecocks to three consecutive Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 1971-73, but South Carolina has had only scarce success since under Bill Foster (1981-86), George Felton (1997-91), Steve Newton (1992-93), Eddie Fogler (1994-2001), Dave Odom (2002-08) and Horn, who won just 23 of 68 SEC games.

There is belief that a cool relationship between Martin and Currie could lead to the coach finding other employment. That relationship soured even more, sources have said, because of Currie’s decision last week to hold senior forward Jamar Samuels out of an NCAA Tournament third-round game against Syracuse because of a $200 payment made to Samuels by his former AAU coach.

Not many other details of that situation have come out. Given that, I understand Currie’s decision but can also empathize with Martin, who was heartbroken that an important player was denied an opportunity to play in his final college game because of $200.

Martin has not responded to interview requests to talk about the decision to hold Samuels out of the Syracuse game while Currie issued a statement on Kansas State’s athletic website explaining some of the reasons for his decision.

Do I think South Carolina is a serious player for Martin?

Strangely, I do. I would have never thought Martin would be in play for the Gamecocks, given their lack of success over decades. And don’t tell me back-to-back NIT championships in 2005-06 amounted to much.

But South Carolina is desperate now. Athletic director Eric Hyman will probably have upwards of $2 million to spend. The Gamecocks’ basketball fan base, which has remained surprisingly strong considering the plight of the team, wants a winner.

Martin is a winner. And he’s a winner who seems unhappy in his current job. This will be an interesting few days.

 

Does NC State have a chance?

To answer the question posed by this headline, I would say absolute, North Carolina State can beat Kansas in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal tocnight at the Edward R. Jones Dome.

KU, we know, is far from invincible. But the Jayhawks are tough and it’s going to take a tough team to knock them out of the tournament. Purdue was tough for 38 minutes. Can the Wolfpack be tough for 40?

I think this is a really dangerous game for Kansas, which is no surprise. We’re down to 12 teams – eight after tonight – and there are no cupcakes.

One thing really jumps off the page for me about North Carolina State, which has won six of its past seven games after losing six of nine previously. It’s five starters – CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, Richard Howell and CJ Williams – all average in double figures. Even more impressive is that those five have all taken between 300 and 355 shots.

That, folks, is balance.

NC State has two tough rebounders in Howell and CJ Leslie and some other guys who go to the boards well, too. The Wolfpack gets to the free-throw line a lot and has the kind of three-point sniper in Wood who, if he gets hot, can win a game by himself. He’s also a 90 percent free-throw shooter.

North Carolina State lacks depth, but so does Kansas. As far as that goes, it’s a wash.

And the Wolfpack doesn’t have a player as good as either Thomas Robinson or Tyshawn Taylor are for Kansas. But Robinson and Taylor have to play better than they have so far in the NCAA Tournament.

So, yes, I think this will be a really good and close game. I think Kansas is over-valued as an eight-point favorite; I believe the game will be closer than that.

Now KU could be primed for its first lights-out game of the tournament. That possibility is real because the Jayhawks have not shot the ball well in their previous two games. And this is a team that normally shoots well.

But I sense a close game. A KU win, but tight. My prediction: Kansas 75, North Carolina State 70.

* Speaking of North Carolina State, I’m reminded of the Wolfpack’s 1973-74 national championship team, one of my favorite teams ever.

The 1973-74 North Carolina State basketball team.

NC State was led, of course, by 6-foot-4 David Thompson, one of the greatest players in college basketball history. He averaged 26 points and 7.9 rebounds that season and had a lot of help, especially from 7-4 center Tom Burleson and mighty-mite 5-7 guard Monte Towe.

NC State was 30-1 in 1973-74. It’s only loss was a regular-season game against UCLA, played in St. Louis. The Bruins, winners of seven consecutive national championships under John Wooden, thumped NC State, 84-66.

But the Wolfpack, coached by Norm Sloan, got another chance against UCLA in the national semifinals and this time the game was different. Behind Thompson, NC State knocked off the Bruins, 80-77, exactly 38 years ago. Two nights later, the Wolfpack beat Marquette, 76-64, for their first national championship.

Thompson, from Boiling Springs, N.C., averaged 26.8 points during his three-season NC State career and was a three-time All-American.

Burleson averaged 19 points and 12.7 rebounds and was a three-time All-ACC selection. And Towe averaged 11.1 points.

That national championship team also included Tim Stoddard, a burly forward who went on to pitch in the major leagues, mostly with the Baltimore Orioles. It was ranked by “The Sporting News” recently as the seventh best college basketball team in history.

I just enjoyed about 30 minutes thinking back to that North Carolina State team. If you’re old enough, I hope you did, too.

Bobby Lutz (the coach, not me)

I’m over in St. Louis, covering Kansas as it prepares to play North Carolina State tonight in the Midwest Regional.

But I’m not the only Bobby (my mother called me by that name) Lutz here. One of North Carolina State’s

North Carolina State assistant basketball coach Bobby Lutz. That's Lootz.

assistant coaches shares the name.

And I’ve got to tell you, it’s not that easy of a name to live with.

My birth name is Robert. But the only person who has ever called me “Robert” was my Aunt Phyllis. And I never tried to correct her because she scared me to death.

Anyway, my name has forever been mispronounced. I get it. Most think it’s “Lutz,” with a short U. As in, “Luhtz.” But it’s not, it’s Lutz with a long U. As in “Lootz.”

Bobby Lutz, the North Carolina State assistant and formerly the head coach for 12 years at Charlotte, feels my pain. When I caught up to him outside the Wolfpack’s locker room before their short practice at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday, he noticed my media credential, on which I’m referred to as “Robert Lutz.”

He wasn’t going to say anything, instead answering questions about his coaching career and being fired at Charlotte and hooking on for a season at Iowa State under Fred Hoiberg before joining the staff of new NC State coach Mark Gottfried this season.

Finally, I just had to ask whether he has encountered the same frustration with his name as I have with

Former professional tennis standout Bob Lutz.

mine. Being that they’re close to being the same, I figured he had.

“I’ve been called ‘Luhtz’ more than I care to count,” he said. “But I’ll also say that I’ve been called worse names.”

Lutz, who is from Catawba, N.C., will be 54 in April. So he’s three years younger than me. I studied his face closely – probably too closely – but didn’t see any family resemblance.

I envy him because he’s never had to grapple with the whole Robert-Bob-Bobby thing. He said he’s always been Bobby and that’s the name on his birth certificate. Same for his father, another Bobby Lutz.

The other “Bob Lutz’s” I know of include the former tennis player, now 64, who won 43 doubles titles during the 1960s and 1970s while teaming with Stan Smith. That Bob Lutz was the No. 7-ranked tennis player in the world in 1972 and a graduate of Southern California.

Chrysler chairman Bob Lutz.

And there’s Chrysler chairman Bob Lutz, 80, who has a lot of money. None of the Lutz’s in my family have a lot of money.

Both of those guys, however, pronounce their last names, “Luhtz.” They got it all wrong.

Even today, after all this time, only about half of the people pronounce my name correctly. Most of the time I just let it go. It’s not, after all, that big of a deal.

But it was nice to encounter a guy who pronounces Lutz the way my family pronounces Lutz. It’s not the most charming name out there. There’s no rhythm to it, it’s kind of rough sounding. I’ve been Lutz the klutz more times than you can imagine. But I persevere and I wear my name proudly. We’re a small club, we Bob Lutzes. But we’re proud and you don’t want to mess with us.

 

Bobby Lutz and I get it.

 

Tebow a Jet?

I know the NFL bounty story is the biggest news of the day. My reaction when I first heard about the suspension for New Orleans coach Sean Peyton – one year, no pay – was to drive off the road. Not really, but I wavered some.

Tim Tebow had been traded to the media capital of the world, New York. He'll never know what hit him.

But the NFL story I want to write about today is Tim Tebow and the New York Jets. I’m flabbergasted that the Jets are bringing Tebow to the league’s biggest media circus and putting the straight-laced quarterback with Rex Ryan, who is straight out of a Marty Scorsese movie.

That’s not the biggest problem I see with this move, though.

Didn’t the Jets just hand the keys to the quarterback kingdom to Mark Sanchez for three more years? Wasn’t there a player – or players – who anonymously expressed their feelings that Sanchez was not an effective quarterback or leader for the Jets after they failed to make the playoffs last season? Isn’t the potential for a meltdown high?

I sure hope so. Because while I think this is a terrible move by the Jets, and an unfortunate landing spot for good-guy Tebow, it has all the makings of a soap opera. And who doesn’t love a good soap opera?

Sanchez led New York to the AFC playoffs during his first two seasons, but that wasn’t enough for some Jets fans. He regressed some last season, when Jets management failed to put as many offensive weapons around him. And just when we thought the Jets and Sanchez might be parting ways, New York went and signed him to a three-year contract extension.

True, there is no good back-up plan for Sanchez. Mark Brunell is 41 and washed up. Drew Stanton is much younger, but also washed up. So the Jets were in the market for a back-up to Sanchez.

But Tebow?

He doesn’t strike me as a back-up quarterback, no matter how badly so many want to put him in that role. He’s either a starting quarterback or a football hybrid, and probably more of a football hybrid than anything. I could imagine a really innovative coach – and Ryan sure believes he is one – could implement four or five plays a game in which Tebow could be effective.

But if the Jets are through pursuing a true back-up quarterback for Sanchez, I think they’re making a mistake. I would have thought Ryan and Co., would have thought this was perhaps the most important season in the development of Sanchez, who has great tools but hasn’t yet mastered the position.

Now, with Tebow around, there’s no room for Sanchez to wiggle around in. If he plays poorly, that loud and surly Jets fan base will start pounding their fists for Tebow, even though most are probably aware he’s not really the answer.

I feel badly for Tebow. He was somewhat sheltered in Denver, but still became the biggest story of the 2011 NFL season. There is no shelter in New York. The media crush will be unlike anything he has ever seen.

I feel even more badly for Sanchez, who was probably riding a confidence high just a few days ago after the contract extension. I think the future for Sanchez is cloudy; there’s a chance he’ll become a star, but an equal chance he’ll be a bust. The Jets didn’t help him with the move to bring in Tebow, that’s for sure. Both quarterbacks will be under a too-intense spotlight, making it more likely that neither will reach his potential.

Tebow was the butt of a lot of jokes last season, even though he helped the Broncos win a weak AFC West and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC wild-card playoff game. He overcame the jokes and won over a bunch of fans, especially in Denver. But that’s where Peyton Manning resides, so Tebow was expendable.

Had Denver really been watching out for him, the Broncos wouldn’t have shipped him off to New York. They would have worked out a deal for Tebow to go to Jacksonville, where he could have been re-united with his adoring fans from his days at Florida.

But football’s a business, right. And the Jets offer was slightly better than that of the Jaguars. So John Elway, who after signing Manning claimed that Tebow was the kind of guy he hopes marries his daughter someday, traded him to the worst place possible.

New York.

I don’t see any way Tebow can make it there.

 

The trip to Portland

Nobody wants to sit there and listen to me complain about my job and the complications that sometimes come with it.

Nobody.

The skies are only occasionally friendly on flights these days.

And I get that. Who am I to complain? I have a killer job and don’t think for a minute that I don’t appreciate that.

But . . . but . . . this trip to Portland last week (or was it this week, or was it both) was a Jim Dandy of a trip.

It started with a drive to Kansas City to catch a plane for Phoenix. Then it was on to Portland, which was wet and cloudy most of the time we were there. It included a lackluster showing by Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

So why did I just get home Monday?

Bad planning, I’m afraid. Instead of looking for flights out of Portland on Friday or even Saturday, some of us on the trip decided to honor our original tickets and avoid the change fee. That’s because we’re always looking to save McClatchy a dime; it’s just the kind of people we are.

So the wake-up call comes to our room at 3:40 on Sunday morning. I think it was Sunday, I’m not really sure. Yeah, Sunday. We get up and quickly get out in front of the hotel to catch a cab for the Portland airport. Things go smoothly, except the cabbie doesn’t speak much English. But neither do I, especially at that hour, so we make things work.

He drops four of us off, but one of us is on U.S. Air and the others are on United. No biggie, we’re all scheduled to get into Kansas City at about the same time.

My son, Jeff, is the guy on U.S. Air. He texts me that he has gotten first-class arrangements for both legs of the trip. I feigned some kind of interest, but most of my attention was on myself and the flight I was doing to catch with colleagues Paul Suellentrop and Fred Mann. We got on our 6 a.m. United flight and took off. It was looking like a glitch-free day.

But about 15 minutes into the flight, the captain announced that there was a mechanical issue, that a door on the plane might be ajar and that he was going to turn the plane around and head back to Portland. At that moment, I knew I was going to miss the connecting flight in Salt Lake City bound for Kansas City, where we had to pick up the car we had driven to get on our first flight. But, worst case, there would be another flight later in the day.

Except there wasn’t. When we arrived in KC, we spent 45 minutes talking to a ticket agent. He looked at everything, with United and with other airlines. And there was nothing. NOTHING!!!

The best we could do was to get out early the next morning. We were given hotel vouchers and meal vouchers and the Comfort Inn just outside of Salt Lake City gained three unexpected visitors. It wasn’t a bad place. It was relaxing. It just wasn’t home. But after that day of travel, we were eager to get some relaxation wherever we could get it.

Monday morning, we got on some flights. Paul and Fred booked themselves on a United flight to Minneapolis, then to Wichita. I stayed with the Kansas City game plan because of that car and because my son was in KC waiting for us. He found his own hotel Sunday night.

This flight, thankfully, was uneventful. And I even got to sit in first class, where my only mistake was taking the chicken pasta over the chicken sandwich. I thought about asking the flight attendant for a shave, but figured that was probably taking the whole “first class” thing too far.

We arrived in Kansas City around 2, got the car and made it to Wichita just before 5, driving through pouring rain much of the way.

So that was the trip to Portland. And back. It’s the “and back” part that messed me up.

I have a few other observations, though:

* What are the 10 strangest words strung together in the English language? I’ll go with: “Your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.” Think about that for a moment. You hear those words before every flight and like most everything the flight attendant says during that awkward getting-to-know segment you tend to brush them off. Yet, consider for a moment the magnitude of those words. What the flight attendance is really saying is that if this airplane happens to crash into the ocean or another body of water, good luck with that seat cushion. Or am I missing something there? First of all, if the plane is going down and does crash into a body of water, what are the chances of me being able to find that seat cushion? I mean, I’ll look around, but I’m probably going to need a Plan B. Are there people out there championing seat cushions for saving their life after a plane crash? If so, I need to hear from those people because I gotta tell you, I’m not exactly confident that a seat cushion is going to do the trick for me if the plane goes down.

* Another thing about flying is the refreshments. They give you this little glass of soda or juice or whatever and that’s it. There are times when I want to ask for more, but I’m scared to because it might cost the airline another 4 cents. It seems against protocol to ask for more to drink. I never see anyone do it, even though what we’re given initially is no more than six ounces. And by the time the little cup is filled with ice, it might be more like four ounces. I need 12 ounces minimum, but I have never been able to summon the courage to ask for more. There are rare times when a flight attendant just hands you the can of soda and those are the times I most treasure flying. Thank goodness for that occasional generosity.

* I had a middle seat on the flight from Portland to Salt Lake City. I’m not s small guy, but I did my best to scrunch up. But there’s just no way to avoid the discomfort of leg touching with the passengers on each side, which happened to be men. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want any part of my body touching any part of anybody else’s body on a plane flight. I don’t know these people. I will never see them again. But when a flight is over, I almost feel like I need to ask them to dinner because of how intimate we’ve been on the flight. I’ve been in relationships that didn’t have as much touching.

Saturday musings (from Portland)

* I didn’t get to my Friday musings on Friday, so I’ll do some musings today. It’s been two days now since Wichita State’s loss to VCU here in Portland, where I have been since Tuesday. I really thought I would be covering a Shocker game today; instead I’m in my hotel room at the Portland Downtown Waterfront Marriott blogging and getting ready to watch Kansas State’s third-round game against Syracuse. More on that in a bit.

* Wichita State’s players and coaches have been back in Wichita since yesterday. I’m sure they’re still not sure what him them the other night. The worst thing about the loss is that the Shockers didn’t put forth their best effort. They looked flat for the longest time, nothing like the nation’s 14th-ranked team or one that many people, I’m sure, had advancing to a Sweet 16 match-up against Kentucky.

* It’s one thing to get beat in the NCAA Tournament. It’s another to get beat while not playing well, and that’s the case with the Shockers.

* Missouri’s loss to 15 seed Norfolk State is the upset of the tournament so far (Lehigh over Duke is a close second). But the thing about the Mizzou defeat is that Norfolk State took that game from the Tigers. Norfolk State was outstanding, mesmerizing, inspiring. Somebody might write a song about Norfolk State.

* VCU was good against Wichita State, but hardly unbeatable. The Rams’ defense was the difference, but it forced only 12 Shocker turnovers. Given that number, I would have expected a veteran team like Wichita State to have done a better job handling VCU’s half-court defensive pressure. But that’s the aspect of the game that cost the Shockers the most. They never got comfortable with their half-court offense because VCU’s pressure never relented.

* So it’s time to start thinking about next season and a highly-praised recruiting class that is coming to WSU. Will Gregg Marshall still be the Shockers’ coach? I think it’s 50-50. We’ll know more soon, I presume.

* I’m not sure Marshall is enthralled with Missouri Valley Conference basketball. And his has nothing to do with those silly conspiracy theories some of WSU’s fans seem to believe exists. Marshall made an interesting comment after the VCU loss, about how no Valley teams presented Wichita State with anything like the Rams’ defensive pressure.

* Moving on. Kansas State plays today without Jamar Samuels. Some would say the Wildcats beat Southern Mississippi without Samuels, who was ineffective to say the least. But he’s a big body capable of doing nice things when healthy. This is a blow to the Cats.

* I think Syracuse wins and plays well. Unless K-State guard Rodney McGruder has another All-America-like performance, which he is capable of having. McGruder, no surprise, is the key for the Wildcats.

* Kansas had no trouble with Detroit. Kudos to the Jayhawks for that, since earlier in the day Norfolk State had pulled the shocker of the day in the same building in Omaha.

* As I said before the tournament started, KU has the easiest road of any of the high seeds to the Sweet 16, where the Jayhawks could run into North Carolina. I think that game’s going to happen a week from Sunday in St. Louis. It would be the second battle between those teams since Roy Williams left KU to coach at Carolina.

* Fab Melo’s name alone is enough for Syracuse to be investigated by the NCAA.

* I love it when Charles Barkley talks. When Kenny Smith or Greg Anthony or anyone else is talking, I want them to hurry up and let Sir Charles speak.

* I guess it’s because I enjoy people who say what they think, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Not everyone can do that and I suppose that’s a good thing. Civility is important.

* As is the case every March, I’m completely out of touch with everything that doesn’t involve a bouncing orange ball. Anything exciting going on out there in the world of music, television, movies, literature. I have a pop culture craving.

* I do see that one of my guys, Glenn Frey from the Eagles, is releasing a CD of standards in early May. That will be interesting, to say the least. Also expecting new material from Joe Walsh (in June) and Don Henley (who knows when?) Also, this is the Eagles’ 40th anniversary as a band and there are expectations that the band will be active during the last half of the year. I hope so.

* Thanks for reading. I’ll probably check in here after the Kansas State game. I’ll be Tweeting throughout that contest. Should that be a capital “T” on “Tweeting?” Life with all of this technology is so confusing.

 

How good is the WSU job?

Gregg Marshall isn’t going to coach basketball at Wichita State forever.

But he might coach the Shockers for a long time. He might. Stranger things have happened.

Marshall already has a good job. Better than a good job, even. And he has helped immensely in elevating the prestige of the Wichita State basketball coaching job with the amount of success he and the Shockers have enjoyed the past three seasons.

It must also be pointed out that WSU did not make it to the NCAA Tournament in any of those seasons. And that, with Thursday’s first-round game against VCU looming, Marshall is still looking for his first NCAA victory in five seasons at Wichita State.

The firing of Darrin Horn at South Carolina couldn’t have come at a worse time, at least for Shocker fans. Marshall is from Greenwood, S.C., and has expressed often his affinity for South Carolina basketball as a kid. And now that job is open with Horn out after only four seasons.

I’m writing a column for Thursday’s paper about the potential of Marshall and South Carolina. For my blog, I’m going to attempt to rank the Wichita State job as it relates to other Division I jobs across the country. You’re welcome to play along because this is being done very informally.

I’m using salary, tradition, recruiting base, prestige and support as the bases for these rankings. Obviously, Wichita State isn’t as good a job as North Carolina. But it might be as good as Georgia Tech, for instance. At least in the discussion.

There are several jobs that are obviously better than the Wichita State job. I’ve listed: North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina State, Florida State, Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Connecticut, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, Memphis, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas.

That’s 42 jobs. If you dispute any of them, I’d be curious in knowing which ones.

There is another group of jobs that I would say are comparable to Wichita State overall. They include: Iowa State, Iowa, New Mexico, UNLV, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Creighton, BYU, Gonzaga, Alabama, Mississippi State, USC, Colorado, California.

That’s another 14 jobs.

Which means, any way you cut it, the Wichita State job is in the top 15 percent nationally. And considering that the Shockers have only two NCAA Tournament games since 1981, it’s pretty incredible. But I’m convinced of it, mostly because of the 10,000-plus fans who block to Koch Arena to watch the Shockers play and the quality of the team under Marshall, who I believe is on the verge of making Wichita State a borderline perennial NCAA Tournament team and dominant program in the Missouri Valley Conference.

It’s tough to win anywhere, but it’s especially difficult to sustain winning at a place like Wichita State. There are no obvious recruiting pipelines; they have to be created. And Marshall, along with his coaching staff, have been able to create. WSU is on the verge of being one of those re-loading programs, I believe. Not the rebuilding, up-and-down program it has been for a years and years.

Marshall has a great thing going at Wichita State and he knows that. I would guess that when he took the WSU job five years ago, he had no idea of the gold mine it could become. He’s making a competitive salary and Wichita State has not balked at giving him more money with more success.

I’ll write more about this for my column tomorrow, with some stronger views that might surprise you.