A few college basketball notes...
During Thursday's broadcast of the Hoosier/Razorback game, I heard Billy Packer say that Eric Gordon is the best freshman among a very good class of freshman stars. Not even close. If winning matters, Kevin Love is the best freshman in college basketball since Carmelo. Among all the highly touted Freshman, notice that Kevin Love is the only still playing? Lesson: One player can make a huge difference, but he's got a better chance to make a deep Tournament run when he's integrated into a talented and veteran team, like UCLA.
The Pac-10 overhyped?
The World Wide Leader has never been on the Pac10's bandwagon, but several commentators, including Bobby Knight wondered whether the Conference was really that good, particularly after USC, Oregon and Arizona all rolled over in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Please. (IMO, ASU should have gotten in the Tourny over Oregon and Arizona...ASU would have, I think, given the conference a better chance to win in the first round.) But the Pac10 has three Sweet 16 teams. There are no automatics at this point, but I think any conference would be thrilled to have three entries in a 16-team race.
All this lends credence to those who say there is an East Coast bias. And an ESPN bias. If it doesn't happen during East Coast waking hours or if a conference won't agree to subjugate itself to every ESPN desire, including 9pm midweek start times, then it doesn't matter...at least until NCAA tournament time.
Most officials do not suck
Pac10 teams have been involved in several very close or questionable calls in recent weeks. Stanford and Cal both were hurt by very close end-of-game calls. (IMO, Josh Shipp's shot should have counted, but the refs probably missed the foul on Ryan Anderson). ASU then got a questionable over-the-back call in the first round of the Pac10. Still, my macro view of officiating is that it is overrated, perhaps not over the course of one game, particularly when the media, fans and vast public nonsensically believe that a game was somehow "decided" on a single, bad call. Silly reminder: baskets have the same value whether made in the first minute or last second. Unless there is a conspiracy to fix a game (Thanks to Tim Donaghy, unfortunately not as far fetched as once thought), bad calls tend to even out over the course of a game or at least over the course of a season. Coaches can lobby and fans can scream bloody murder, but the vast majority of officials are very good at what they do and work hard to go unnoticed.
OK, so did Cardinal coach Trent Johnson deserve to get booted from last night's game against Marquette? He deserved the first technical. The second one, I am not so sure. I certainly do not condone what he did. He put his team in a potentially very bad position. Not only did he cost his team 4 points (the equivalent to a turnover that leads to an easy layup...twice!), but a basketball coach is paid a lot of money to improve the chances of his team winning.
I was at the game, but I was not close enough to hear what Johnson did or said. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl provides a great explanation (extra credit for the Les Mis reference):
Curtis (Inspector Javert) Shaw is out of control. No referee in the country had more than two ejections during the entire season -- except for Shaw, who has now tossed five players or coaches after his shockingly wrong-headed ejection of Stanford coach Trent Johnson in an OT Cardinal win against Marquette...Common sense should dictate whether you make such a drastic call, not some nonsense about following the letter of the overly uptight new bench-decorum rules. If Shaw isn't himself "ejected" from the rest of the tournament, organizers will deserve their own red card for rewarding embarrassing refereeing...[Shaw's] the worst kind of ref, one who doesn't understand that respect is won by communicating with coaches and players, not T'ing them up at the earliest possible moment.
Grant us more Love
Grant Wahl's terrific article on bad fan behavior was accompanied by a Where's-Waldo-like photo of Oregon students giving Kevin Love the finger. A father noticed his son was in one of the photos and was not happy:
"I was shocked to see, in a photo of the Oregon student section, my son partaking in the harassment of UCLA's Kevin Love. When he came home the following weekend, his car was taken away and he headed back to school on a bus. I am embarrassed and wish to apologize to Kevin and his family." -- Armando Navarro, Clackamas, Ore.
On a positive note, Mr. Navarro should be grateful that his child's highly public mistake hardly registers on a scale of 1 to appearing in a Girls Gone Wild video...or getting paid to sleep with a governor...or both. (Thank you, And Whammy Sports Blog)