Notes, Quotes and Slants
NEW WEEKLY FEATURE
Denny O'Brien has penned more than 230 Pirate
Notebook columns since 2001, with a focus on
ECU-related topics. Starting with this article, his
weekly repertoire will also include a College
Notebook column, which will take a broader look
at college sports.
Notebook No. 1
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist
NBA proposal would boost
Imagine the Final Four with LeBron James as
the headline act. Basketball's biggest name on the college game's biggest
It couldn't get much better than that.
While that will never happen, there's a
chance that King James' heir could one day etch his name among the legends
of March. If the NBA institutes an age limit with its next collective
bargaining agreement, that most definitely will be the case.
As a result, the college game will see its
talent pool grow -- and its marketability explode.
The NCAA Tournament already is the nation's
most intriguing sporting event. It lasts nearly a month, includes more
twists than a Hollywood thriller, and is perhaps most notable for its annual
appearances by at least one unsuspecting Cinderella.
What it is beginning to lack, though, is a
star-studded cast, and this year is no exception.
The leading men in St. Louis this weekend
will sport coats and ties, not tank tops and shorts. With Tom Izzo, Rick
Pitino, Bruce Weber, and Roy Williams attending the party, much of the
attention will center around the men diagramming the plays, not the players
charged with executing them.
That wasn't the case in 1979. Or much of
the 80s and early 90s.
Who can forget that epic battle between
Magic and Bird? How about those bad boys led by Patrick Ewing at Georgetown
and Hakeem Olajuwon with his brothers from Phi Slamma Jamma?
This year we get Alan Anderson, Francisco
Garcia, Sean May, and Deron Williams. Hardly the same.
If the NBA approves an age limit for
entering the draft, we could see more storybook runs like that Danny
Manning-led group at Kansas. And instead of one-and-done chapters from the
likes of Carmelo Anthony, perhaps we can witness encore performances and
But it wouldn't come without side effects.
With an age limit, expect increased
attrition. Because many will enter college with no intention of graduating,
there will be more early departures from the nation's power programs.
The result could be a more level playing
field, as the next tier schools are able to develop experience and chemistry
by targeting players who stay four years instead of two.
NBA commissioner David Stern's main
objective with an age limit is to improve the pro game. It just so happens
that the domino effect may be felt most at the college level.
Committee favoring BCS leagues?
Paul Hewitt said it best. Moments after
Louisville ambushed Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament, the Yellow Jackets
coach questioned the Cardinals' low seeding.
For good reason, too.
After finishing the regular season 29-4 and
ranked fourth in both major polls, Louisville was hardly rewarded when it
received a No. 4 seeding from the NCAA Tournament selection committee. By
comparison, Washington finished 27-5 overall and a No. 7 ranking in the
coach's poll (No. 8 AP) -- and snared the Albuquerque Regional top seed.
Granted, the Huskies had a higher RPI and
played a tougher schedule. But the ease with which the Cardinals throttled
Washington calls to question the committee's seeding methods.
The committee insists that the RPI is just
one of many factors it takes into account when selecting and seeding teams.
How a team faired outside its league, its performance down the stretch, not
to mention the overall health of a club's personnel are all taken into
If that's the case, why did Louisville get
Truth is, the primary factors working
against the Cardinals were their RPI (12) and SOS (55), much of which is out
of their control. Because C-USA was top-heavy and lacked the balance of
some of its rival leagues, Louisville's strength of schedule was hurt by the
bottom half of its league.
Here's another thought.
Conferences with automatic bids to the Bowl
Championship Series in football typically have better television packages in
hoops. As a result, those schools receive more exposure and seemingly get
preferential treatment from the national media.
No worries for the Cardinals, though. They
jump to the Big East next year.
Living... and dying by the three
March is the month to dial long distance.
Teams that are most successful from outside their area code have a better
shot at a deep NCAA tournament run.
Take West Virginia. The Mountaineers made
a surprising journey to the Elite Eight fueled by a lineup filled with long
The most notable bomber was perhaps the
most improbable. Mammoth center Kevin Pittsnogle sank 13-of-23 from behind
the arc in the tournament, including six-of-nine in a losing effort against
Louisville in the Albuquerque Regional final.
Then there's Duke. The Devils, arguably
the nation's most dangerous three-point shooting team, never found their
range and were ousted earlier than expected.
Junior sharpshooter J.J. Redick found the
postseason rims especially unkind. With defenses designed specifically to
blanket him, the Duke marksman had little breathing room and sank only 25
percent of his three-point attempts as a result.
Which is why Louisville will be a difficult
out in St. Louis. With Taquan Dean, Larry O'Bannon, Francisco Garcia,
Brandon Jenkins, and Juan Palacios, the Cardinals have a quintuplet of
shooters capable of burying it from deep.
That will limit foes from keying on any
particular player -- and keep plenty of options open.
Best of the Pack
Love him or hate him, Billy Packer is in a
league of his own. When it comes to game analysis, no color commentator can
break down a game better than CBS's flagship analyst.
Packer's basketball knowledge and game
preparation are unmatched by his rivals. Where others enjoy the peripherals
of the NCAA Tournament, Packer spends his evenings studying film and
scouting reports, and it shows on gameday.
But perhaps what most separates Packer from
his colleagues is his ability to eloquently critique a game and willingness
to express his opinion without apology.
He was highly critical of Kentucky guard
Rajon Rondo for not penetrating and dishing in the final seconds of the
first overtime against Michigan State Sunday. He later correctly called
Kentucky's defensive set of a crucial inbounds play for the Spartans as if
he signaled the play into Wildcats coach Tubby Smith.
To some Packer is viewed as negative and
abrasive. To others, he is a pawn who plays favorites and uses television
as a platform to promote them.
None of the above applies.
What does is Packer's no-bull approach to
analyzing games. That's why he gets top billing on CBS.
Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.
Click here to dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville
02/23/2007 01:59:40 AM