Monday, April 28, 2014

Recapping the New Coaching Hires

With Missouri's hiring of Kim Anderson, all the major jobs in college basketball have been filled. It's possible new jobs could open. Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Fred Hoiberg are frequently mentioned in NBA circles. I'd guess Hoiberg would be the most likely to jump but nothing indicates this will happen with certainty.


Houston: Kelvin Sampson- Besides the obvious issues with the NCAA, Sampson has been pretty successful as a head coach. Winning at Washington State is impressive. He took Oklahoma to the Final 4 before disaster hit at Indiana. Long considered a possible coach in the NBA, his x's and o's are solid. Texas is loaded with talent so he should find talent. Houston under Guy Lewis was one of the better programs in the nation. It'll be difficult to get back to those days but Sampson is the kind of guy that can reinvigorate the program.

South Florida: Orlando Antigua- Antigua was on my list of assistants I wanted Marquette to consider. The Bulls initially hired Steve Masiello who was deal was never finalized after resume "enhancements" were discovered. I still think they hit a home run with this hire. Antigua is plugged in with many top HS programs and is an elite recruiter. Coaching acumen will be a question but he should get talent. Buy now on the Bulls.


Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams- Buzz has a much tougher job at Virginia Tech than he did at Marquette. We'll learn how good a coach he is. He "took" Marquette's top recruit with him and has been active with transfers and JUCO's. I don't think this is a long-term spot for him. The sledding will be much tougher, even tougher than the Big East before realignment. If he can make Virginia Tech and upper half team in the ACC, job well done.

Boston College: Jim Christian-This hire is one of the weakest of the off-season on the surface. Christian had success at Ohio and Kent State, while also having time at TCU. He doesn't have a ton of roots in this part of the country and given the rise of UMass, the continued success of UConn and the steady improvement at URI and Providence, it'll be tough sledding. What's a better job right now? Harvard or BC?

Wake Forest: Danny Manning- Here's a fascinating hire. Manning did a wonderful job at Tulsa where the program had slipped dramatically. 15 years ago, Bill Self had Tulsa knocking on the door of a Final 4 before getting the Illinois job. This is the same school that gave us Nolan Richardson and Tubby Smith, too. As for Wake Forest, Manning will try and recapture the success Dave Odom had. All he has to do is find another Tim Duncan. I think he finds success here though it'll take a little time. The conference is freaking tough.

THE A-10

No new hires


Marquette: Steve Wojciehowski- Wojo kept his roster intact even if he lost 4 of 5 commits. I wouldn't fret about that. His style will be radically different than what Buzz did so the team is better off getting his kind of players. And the one he was able to keep is probably the best fit. He added a transfer PG in Matt Carlino that will give him a lot of back court options. He doesn't have the luxury of the Triplets and JR. Lazar Hayward that Buzz had, so expecting to match Buzz's 1st season is silly. Could be an inspired hire.


No New Hires


No New Hires


No New Hires


Washington State: Ernie Kent -Easily the most difficult job in the conference, Washington State did well to get Ernie Kent. Kent is familiar with the conference and the Pacific Northwest in general having coached at Oregon successfully for years. He also spent his last few years on the Pac-12 Network so he still has familiarity with what is new. He has a chance to succeed. Washington has struggled the last few seasons. Can he capitalize on that?

California: Cuonzo Martin- This is another odd hire. It's obvious Martin wanted out of Knoxville as he also went after the Marquette job, losing out to Wojo. Coaches can coach anywhere. Can he effectively recruit at Cal? He replaces a Bay Area legend in Mike Montgomery and Stanford looks to have turned a corner under Johnny Dawkins. He may have felt unloved in Knoxville but this isn't an easy situation he walks into. If he's successful, look for him to be a contender for the Purdue job as Matt Painter's seat could get hotter with another bad season.


Tennessee: Donnie Tyndall- Of all the hires, I think I like this one best. Tyndall did a great job at Morehead State and continued the success Larry Eustachy established at Southern Miss. Tennessee will take a dip next year losing almost all their best talent. The recruiting class was mediocre at best. Most people think the class Tyndall pulls will end up better than the one he inherited. You may not see it next year but look for him to find success at Tennessee.

Auburn: Bruce Pearl- Grand slam hire. Coupled with piles and piles of sweet Auburn cash, Pearl will be winner on the Plains. He has that nagging show cause that ends in December and his team may not compete next season but it won't take him long to produce a winner. Auburn has had success and with the right guy, can be formidable. Give AD Jay Jacobs credit. He has two dynamic coach hires in the last 18 months.

Missouri: Kim Anderson- A clear step up from Frank Haith and will have more support. Anderson is a Mizzou guy that like Bo Ryan and Tim Cluess, had success at lower levels winning the D2 title at Central Missouri this past season to go along with3 Final 4's before getting his dream job. It's not Gregg Marshall who allegedly listened to Mizzou's pitch according to Jason King of Bleacher Report but it's a "right guy". Best case scenario for Mizzou is he is their Bo Ryan. I think the SEC got the best crop of new hires.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2013-14 and What We Learned or Not

It's pretty remarkable UConn now has 4 titles in the last 15 years. That's as many titles as Duke, more than Kansas, Louisville & Michigan State. Only UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana and North Carolina have more. When Kevin Ollie took the job, my first reaction was UConn had seen its best days. I suppose its possible this is still the case since key players were Calhoun recruits but with a National Championship in his back pocket and his NBA pedigree, I think Ollie and UConn will continue to be a force. Whatever the case, by Monday night, UConn was playing as good as anyone had all season. I can't think of another backcourt in the nation that could have handled Napier and Boatright.

As for Kentucky, it took them a while to figure things out but they played very well in March. They definitely had their share of luck but the level at which they played was quite high from Wichita State on. John Calipari's March record is pretty good at Kentucky. The 2011 team made the Final 4 as a 4-seed knocking off Ohio State, KenPom #1 along the way. I'm not sure having Willie Cauley-Stein would have mattered but not having him didn't help. Sounds like a good chunk of his players are NBA bound. Don't cry. They have a great class in 2014, too.

This season was a return to parity. Not to take anything away from the teams in the Final 4, but none would have matched some previous champs. Florida was the best team entering the tournament but lacked NBA talent. Arizona would have been interesting had Brandon Ashley stayed healthy but they, like Florida, lacked a dynamic offense. Both were efficient but hardly explosive. Louisville was a very good team by the end of the year but couldn't match Kentucky's overall talent, blowing a late lead in the Sweet 16. Other conference champs all had major flaws. Michigan was a dynamic offense with a questionable defense. Virginia was the polar opposite. Kansas was uber-talented similar to Kentucky. The Joel Embiid injury dampened their chances but even with him, they were prone to inconsistency. By the end of the year, the Kentucky youngsters looked like a better "team". Villanova, like Florida lacked NBA talent and couldn't matchup against the UConn guards.

The ACC was a mess this season. Duke couldn't guard and UNC was inconsistent, plagued early by personnel issues. Virginia rose to the top and was impressive in doing so. Syracuse won a lot of close games early to jump out to an early #1 ranking. By time Dayton knocked them out, Syracuse was a team reeling. Pitt did Pitt things. Computer loved bit never as good as what the numbers said. The rest of the conference was mediocre or awful. Adding Louisville helps for next season. Duke and Carolina should be much better in 2015.

The A-10 rode Dayton to the Elite 8 and have some young coaching stars in Shaka Smart and Archie Miller. St. Louis will take a step back. The conference will be fun again in 2015. Keep an eye on Rhode Island next season.

The first year of the new Big East was uneven as pre-season favorites Georgetown and Marquette struggled. Creighton will definitely fall back in 2015. Seton Hall should take a leap and Providence loses Bryce Cotton but gets Kris Dunn back. Villanova looks to be the only top-25 team for next year. As of today, the conference has a lot of talent scheduled to come in next year.

The Big 12 had a great season but a bad March, not sending any teams to the Elite 8 and only 2 to the Sweet 16. Kansas will remain the alpha dog. Can anyone knock them off next season? Iowa State loses Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane but still have a lot of talent in Ames. Don't count them out. I like Texas a lot in 2015, too. West Virginia will be a team to watch early along with Oklahoma.

The Big 10 was statistically the best conference but I thought they were a bit overrated. They got their top 3 teams to the Elite 8 so they certainly showed their strength. Barring some unforeseen decisions, Wisconsin will be atop 5 team. Michigan shapes up as the second best team, assuming GR3 comes back. The conference will take a step back as Ohio State and Michigan State figure to be lesser teams. In fact Nebraska may open in the top 3. Northwestern may be the surprise team. Maryland joins and could be a tourney team but lost 3 players to transfers yesterday. Odd happenings there.

Even with their losses, Florida will be among the favorites in the SEC along with Kentucky. I like Georgia next year as a team to watch. Auburn will be interesting, too with Bruce Pearl there. He should get some players late to make them competetive. Tennessee saved their season late but will be hard pressed to repeat that in 2015. It'll also probably be a make or break season in Missouri and Arkansas.

Arizona won the Pac-12 and will be favored again in 2015. UCLA won't be far behind and I really like Utah next year. Utah was pretty unlucky in 2014 and were a victim of a terrible non-con schedule. Stanford should build on their Sweet 16. Johnny Dawkins has a real nice class coming in. Oregon a times, was as good as anyone in the west but also played as bad as anyone in the west. They should be in the mix as well.

Finally, the American Athletic claims this seasons National Champ in UConn. They lose Louisville and Cincinnati loses 3 key contributors. The favorite in 2014 will be SMU. Larry Brown came up short in 2014 but won't next season. Memphis will be gooad as well but the natives are getting restless with Josh Pastner. He'll have to get to the 2nd weekend sooner than later. Kelvin Sampson returns to college hoops with Houston. They'll be interesting next year. South Florida hired Orlando Antigua after the Steve Masiello fiasco. Not sure that's a big difference. They won't be a contender next year but don't be surprised if they are in a year or two.

Way too early Final 4 for 2015 in Indianapolis:

1. Duke
2. North Carolina
3. Arizona
4. SMU

Congrats to UConn! Time for 2014-15 yet?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

And the End

Tomorrow night, either UConn or Kentucky, 7 & 8 seeds respectively will be crowned the new national champions of college basketball.

Brian and I not agree neither of these teams are really 7 and 8 seeds. Both teams have NBA players and are supremely talented. Both also had some bad, blowout losses during the course of the season. UConn has been damn impressive in the run to the title game. Arguably, their toughest game was the opener against St. Joe's. Kentucky has played 4 thrillers, a run that has undoubtedly left its faithful emotionally spent.

Whoever wins this game will join 2011 UConn as the least likely champion of the KenPom era.  Kentucky enters 9th (6th AdjO, 44th AdjD).  UConm enters 10th (37th AdjO, 10th Adj D). Here is what past champs have looked like.

2013: Louisville, 1st (4th AdjO, 3rd AdjD)
2012: Kentucky, 1st (2,8)
2011: UConn, 9th (18,13) - OSU, 1st
2010: Duke, 1st (1,8)
2009: UNC, 1st (1,21)
2008: Kansas, 1st (2,1)
2007: Florida, 1st (1,17)
2006: Florida, 1st (3,6)
2005: UNC, 2nd (2,12) - Illinois, 1st
2004: UConn, 2nd (9,5) - Duke, 1st
2003: Syracuse, 5th (14,13) - Pitt, 1st

Really, it could be argued by the numbers this would be the weakest champ of them all but there is so much talent on these teams, that argument seems ridiculous. Both teams simply found their way late in the season where we didn't have a dominant team.

Arizona and Florida took turns at 1 & 2 on KP for most of the season. Arizona had bad luck losing Brandon Ashley and Florida was very good but short on NBA talent. Both would have been deserving champions but wouldn't have been among the best of recent memory. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised teams as talented as UConn and Kentucky made their way through the field.

UConn beat a good Villanova team and an undermanned Iowa State team. Their last two wins have been impressive, beating two teams who many saw as potential champs.

Kentucky's gamut has been impressive as well. Kentucky's last 4 wins were all over teams capable of winning it all, Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan & Wisconsin. All were classic games that will live on in Kentucky lore for generations. You may not like them, but if you weren't entertained, find a new game.

As for this game, it's a toss up on KenPom. Kentucky is a 1-pt favorite after being dogs in its last 4 games. That's how crazy this season has been. 

My pick? No idea. I'll just say:

Kentucky 70 UConn 69

Note?  I've picked against UConn the last two rounds. Congrats, UConn

Friday, April 4, 2014



I jumped on the Florida bandwagon late. Brian pegged them early but I had questions about exactly who would be on the roster. I've been calling them the eventual champs since December and will stick with that.

The numbers favor the Gators pretty heavily. UConn certainly has a chance to win this game. Anytime you have Shabazz Napier, you have a chance. DeAndre Daniels has been a stud the last few weeks and the Huskies size can be a problem for the Gators.

UConn makes 77% of their free throws. Florida makes 67%.  Numbers to know. 

The Pick: Florida 68 UConn 63


For the sake of America, it sounds like Wisconsin better win. Well, at least according to local radio personalities. College is for college students, damnit!

This is basically a toss-up by the numbers with Wisconsin a slight favorite. You'll probably hear talk about tempo but Kentucky only averages about 1.5 more possession per game. Both teams will run given the chance but can perform in the half court.

Kentucky is slightly better on defense and rebounding while Wisconsin is a better offense. Kentucky is average at protecting the ball and can't give away possessions. Kentucky has also shot over its head from 3 in the tournament. For most of the season, they didn't rely heavily on the 3. Is it fool's gold and will they rely too heavily on it against Wisconsin?  Wisconsin is vulnerable inside. Kentucky can't get jump shot happy.

Wisconsin's defense has been much better in the tournament. Kentucky's offense has been much better. Fascinating matchup for the soul of America.

The Pick: Wisconsin 71 Kentucky 66

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Road to Wojo

On Friday of the opening week of the tournament, Buzz Williams announced he was leaving Marquette to take the Virginia Tech. Most knowledgeable Eagle fans knew this day was coming sooner than later. For a variety of reasons, Buzz Williams was no longer happy at Marquette. He had won whatever power struggles there were with the school administration. AD Larry Williams had quit admist stories of a strained relationship but Buzz still wasn't happy. His team was his team. All players at Marquette were his players he had recruited, including this year's highly regarded class. All of this was not enough for Buzz Williams. Fair enough. An unhappy coach isn't going to end well for him or the school he is at. The sooner a resolution can be reached, the better for all. We'll come back to some Buzz stuff at the end.

As for how Marquette landed on Steve Wojciehowski, here's what I have gathered from social media and national media. As soon as it was announced Buzz was leaving, Ben Howland's name surfaced from local and national media. As far as I can gather, this was a one-sided attraction and Marquette never seriously considered Howland, perhaps only as a fall back candidate. There's a problem with him abd I don't know what it is. Some outlets thought he was the guy at Washington State only to see Ernie Kent get the job. A few on the west coast speculate he might be in play for California but every national guy seems to believe it'll be a young assistant or younger head coach from a mid-major. Wake Forest was rumored for him, too, but it looks like they're thinking Danny Manning or someone similar to him. I have to wonder if Howland is going to need to take a mid-major job at this point.

Next up was Shaka Smart and the fiasco that was last Monday. I wrote last Sunday, Smart was a "dream" candidate who wasn't coming to Marquette. Then twitter blew up on Monday morning after 24/7's Jerry Meyer reported he heard Smart and Marquette was "likely to happen and happen soon." I'll admit, I was floored. Meyer isn't a coaching search go-to-guy but he is connected. Later that morning Jim Ganzer, who runs as a pay for info site that covers all Milwaukee area related basketball news said he was predicting Smart to Marquette. WTMJ radio personality Doug Russell fueled the fire reporting something may happen soon without naming names. Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel did the same.

A member of Marquette TV tweeted a coach was hired and Marquette was having a 5:00PM presser which sent local TV stations into a frenzy as they raced to the Al McGuire Center to cover this presser where they expected Marquette to hire Shaka Smart. Alas, Marquette simply released a statement announcing the team banquet. Ganzer doubled down early that evening tweeting "Done Deal. Shaka Smart to Marquette." Asked who his source was, Ganzer tweeted, "I'm the source". Fox 6 reported a done deal as well leading their broadcast at 9:00PM with the news. Problem was, it wasn't true. The next day, ran the clips of Milwaukee news reporting a story that never happened. It wasn't Marquette's fault local news was so sloppy and unprofessional but they got lumped in with it.

National media started reporting the next day that no deal was struck or imminent or likely for that matter. Marquette announced its new President, Michael Lovell on Wednesday leading some to speculate Smart needed reassurance of some stability in Milwaukee since Marquette was without a President or AD. There were rumors the new President and other MUBB reps flew to Richmond on Thursday to try and land Smart. By Thursday afternoon, the national media was reporting Smart had informed Marquette he was staying at VCU. That afternoon, acting AD Bill Cords held a press conference basically saying nothing.

Whether Marquette and Shaka Smart were ever close to striking a deal, we'll never know (I highly doubt it). But whatever the case, I'm sure Smart was their 1st target. It didn't work out and reports surfaced Marquette was interested in talking to Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin. Jason King of Bleacher Report first reported that possibility as the Smart saga was happening.

Martin was on the hot seat before his Sweet 16 run this March. He met with Marquette officials on Sunday, that much we know. Tennessee people seemed pretty sure yesterday Martin was ready to bolt. Current Vol AD, Dave Hart had not hired Martin and many fans, 36,000 signed a petition to get rid of him. He had reason to leave and with a buyout that was cut in half today, he seemed the guy. Then late last night, Andy Katz of ESPN and Gary Parrish of CBS reported Martin had withdrawn his name from consideration.

The reality was, Martin didn't withdraw. Marquette had made the decision to hire Steve Wojciehowski of Duke and informed Martin they were going in a different direction. This is pure conjecture on my part but allows Martin to save face in Knoxville and if he doesn't get a raise this year, I'll stand by that.

Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA's best beat writer, reported Sunday that Marquette had targeted Wojo as a possible candidate. He interviewed yesterday and according to, blew the doors off his interview impressing everyone who was part of the interview process. And he is now Marquette's new head coach.

It was widely believed Marquette prefered an experienced coach and given their pursuit of Shaka Smart, this is probably true. Same with the interest in Cuonzo Martin. Ultimately, they ended up with who could be the best coach for Marquette which is what matters. Wojo is 37 years old but with a world of experience. He has been the Associate Head Coach at Duke since 2008, coaching Duke big men until Jeff Capel returned when he began working with the Duke backcourt. He has been on Duke's staff since 2000, joining them after playing a year in Poland! We won't know if he has the recruiting chops sans Coach K but Duke recruits against blue bloods so I think we can say he'll be comfortable doing it. He does have a NBA pedigree as well, having assisted Coach K on the last 2 Olympic teams and gets rave reviews from Jerry Colangelo who recommended him to Marquette. As with any new coach, x's and o's are hard to gauge but Coach K had stepped back in recent years allowing his assistants to do a large chunk of the day-to-day stuff. The one name associated with him that will likely be on his staff is Chris Carrawell who is an assistant in the d-league.

I'm on board with this hire far more than I was with Buzz Williams. This gives me pause since Buzz did an incredible job at Marquette, maintaining and exceeding in some ways what Tom Crean had built. For what Marquette fans think of Tom Crean, what he accomplished in Milwaukee should not be forgotten. New facilities, a Final 4, leading Marquette into the Big East, etc. Ultimately, Wojo will be simply judged on wins and losses and the talent he gets to Marquette and develops. I'm cautiously optimistic.

As for the current crop of players and recruits, early reports, mostly from FoxSport Wisconsin Andrew Gruman and (@painttouches on twitter) seem to indicate there will be little attrition from the current roster. The question marks were G Jajuan Johnson ( a top-50 recruit) and F Steve Taylor, Jr. As of now, it appears both will be back. I'd guess Taylor is pretty solid while Johnson is still a question. has a great piece on Taylor's struggles in 2014 with playing time and the coaches

What happens with the recuits is still a question as Wojo hasn't talked to them as of this afternoon. They have 4 in the class. G Ahmed Hill of Georgia (highest ranked), F Marial Shayok, Seymour's F Sandy Cohen and Ohio C Satchel Pierce. The last 3 are expected to ask for their releases with reporting Pierce may follow Buzz to Virginia Tech. He's a bit of a project but given Marquette's lack of size for next year, would've been a nice option to have. Shayok was recuited by Virginia and Providence but the Friars are out since they're in the Big East. Cohen may still end up at Marquette but Minnesota is an option and UCLA might be interested as well.

A lot of Marquette fans will hold a grudge against Buzz which is fine. Like I said, though, him staying unhappily in Milwaukee wasn't a solution worth exploring. Buzz has said he knew he was leaving a while back which basically means he quit on this season and his team. Quotes from the players today indicate they weren't terribly disappointed that he left. That's to be expected and some of it is certainly resentment over being left by the coach that recruited them. A fresh start was needed after a disappointing year.

As for Buzz, let me link you to this great story and you can decide what you think of Buzz Williams.