Stan Van Gundy on D1 basketball

Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy told the Orlando Sentinel that if he were to fall out of the NBA coaching ranks, he’d rather coach at a small college than at the major D1 level:

“As far as what it’s all about at the Division 1 level and what it’s all about here, it’s all the same thing. It’s all about winning and losing, putting people in the seats and money,” the Magic coach told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shootaround.

“I mean, those people throw out that they are really into academics and all that … There may be four or five schools that’s true of.

“I don’t know of coaches getting fired winning 20-25 games a year and kids aren’t graduating. I don’t know people who are keeping their jobs that aren’t winning and are graduating. It’s about the same stuff.

“Here, [in the NBA], it’s just more honest. We all know what it’s all about. You don’t have to pay lip service to things. This is the best basketball in the world.”

He makes a good point, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to do something about it.

Duncan suggests that schools that cannot graduate at least 40 percent of their student-athletes be banned from postseason play. If the rule was applied to this year’s tournament, 12 of the 65 teams would be locked out of the tournament. Three of them are No. 6 seeds or better—the University of Tennessee, the University of Maryland, and the University of Kentucky. “If you can’t manage to graduate two out of five players, how serious are the institutions and the colleges about the players’ academic success?” Duncan asks. “How are they preparing student-athletes for life?”

The data is from 1999-2003, and it seems a little unfair to focus on players that played seven to 11 years ago. Also, programs that send a lot of players to the NBA shouldn’t be penalized because their players are good enough to make millions playing professional ball. If this rule were implemented, it should focus only on players that stayed in college for four years.

For years, The Bootleg has studied graduation rates for football, basketball and baseball. The data is more recent, from 2004-2007. I’m not at all surprised to see my former coach, Bo Ryan, and the Wisconsin program near the top of the Big Ten (78%). He tends to recruit smart players who will likely stay in school for four years. Duke is second in the ACC at 92%, while North Carolina is at 75%. Maryland brings up the rear at a measly 8%. That’s just pathetic.

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Championship Week Primer: Bubble teams and #1 seeds

Strap ‘em up, kids. Championship Week is upon us!

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s square off tonight in the final of the WCC tourney (9 PM ET, and why isn’t this game on national television?), and with the Gaels’ #45 RPI, they could really use a win to guarantee a NCAA tourney berth. The good news is that their leading scorer, Patrick Mills, is back, scoring 12 points in 35 minutes in yesterday’s win over Portland. If Saint Mary’s loses to the ‘Zags, it would put the Gaels squarely on the bubble. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Saint Mary’s as a #10 seed, but I think that assumes that the committee will take Mills’ injury into account. After all, he was out of the lineup for three of the team’s five losses. Lunardi says that the Gaels are safe, but they don’t have a marquee win and are just 2-2 against the RPI top 50, so anything can happen.

But let’s move on to the “major” conference tournaments that will take place this week. I’m going to tackle these one-by-one in the order of Jeff Sagarin’s conference rankings.


Lunardi projects six ACC teams – UNC, Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson, Florida State and Boston College – to make the Dance, and of those teams only BC really has anything to worry about. The Eagles (#57 RPI) are probably safe, but a first round loss on Thursday against Virginia might make BC squirm a bit on Selection Sunday.

Miami, Maryland and Virginia Tech are three teams that could play themselves into an NCAA berth with a nice ACC tourney run. What do I mean by “a nice run”? Well, Virginia Tech and Miami square off on Thursday, so if whomever wins gives North Carolina a great game on Friday, that might be enough. The Hurricanes are a bit closer than the Hokies, so VT would probably have to pull the upset against the Tar Heels to earn a bid. Miami could potentially get in with an 18-12 record and a #53 RPI (against the 26th-toughest schedule) if they were to lose to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Maryland has to beat N.C. State on Thursday and then (at least) pull the upset against the seemingly vulnerable Demon Deacons on Friday.

As far as #1 seeds go, North Carolina pretty much sewed one up with their second win against Duke on Sunday. Neither the Blue Devils nor Demon Deacons would seem to have a shot at one of the other three #1 seeds. It’s conceivable that Duke would be able to make a case if they win the ACC Tournament (beating Wake and UNC in the process) and a few of the teams ranked ahead of them have poor conference showings. Despite the brutal schedule (#3) and stellar RPI (3), Duke is realistically shooting for a #2 or #3 seed.

ACC Tournament bracket

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#7 Duke, #10 Wake keep it going

Only those viewers lucky enough to have access to ESPN360 saw #7 Duke edge #24 Florida St. last night, 84-81. Apparently, you have to subscribe to an approved internet service provider to watch games on ESPN360. (Great. Then what the hell is my Insider subscription for?) Anyway, the win sets up an ACC regular season title game between Duke and North Carolina on Sunday. If UNC wins tonight (@ Virginia Tech), then the Blue Devils will be playing for a share of the title, but the Tar Heels lose to the Hokies, Sunday’s game will be of the winner-take-all variety.

North Carolina is still the heavy favorite, but Duke is playing a lot better of late, ever since Coach K inserted freshman guard Elliot Williams into the starting lineup five games ago. He is averaging 11.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 31.4 minutes of play after getting just 10.6 minutes in the previous 22 games. He gives the Blue Devils more athleticism in its backcourt, which helps both offensively and defensively. If Duke were able to pull off the upset in Chapel Hill, they’d position themselves for a possible #1 seed if they could go on to win the ACC tournament. But that’s a long way off.

Elsewhere in the ACC, the Maryland Terrapins really needed a win against visiting Wake Forest to get an NCAA bid, but the Demon Deacons finished strong in a 65-63 win. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi already had the Terps out of the tournament, but they had a chance to play themselves back into the conversation in a major way with home games against Duke and Wake, but they weren’t able to win either contest. Now they have to beat Virginia on Saturday (to get to 8-8 in the conference) and then make a big run in the ACC tourney with a couple of wins against the likes of North Carolina, Duke, Wake and Clemson. Good luck with that, Terps.

ACC race coming down to the wire

Duke got a big win on Saturday against Virginia Tech to stay alive in the race for the conference championship. They host a good Florida State team on Tuesday before their showdown next Sunday at North Carolina. The Tar Heels travel to VT on Wednesday. The Blue Devils are one game back, so a pair of wins to close the regular season would give Duke at least a share of the ACC championship. Most pundits have written Duke off for a #1 seed, but if they were to win out and then win the ACC tournament, they could sneak in as a top seed.

As a basketball fan, it would be great to see Duke beat FSU tomorrow guaranteeing that the Duke/UNC tilt on Sunday is for the conference title. Even if the Tar Heels beat Tech and guarantee themselves at least a share of the ACC title, they won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to slam the door on the Dookies. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils need to be careful not to look past a Florida State team that is 22-7. Duke beat FSU in Tallahassee back in January, so the Seminoles will have revenge on their minds.

Joe Lunardi (ESPN “bracketologist”) says that if the season ended today…

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UConn tops Marquette, Duke survives

– Jim Calhoun became just the seventh coach in Division I hoops to win 800 games as his #2-ranked Huskies beat #11 Marquette in Milwaukee, 93-82. (Apparently, Calhoun is worth his big salary.) A.J. Price scored a career high 36 points in the win. Marquette’s Dominic James is going to miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his foot. His college career is over. UConn is likely to be ranked #1 next week.

– #7 Duke survived a tough College Park environment to beat a streaking Maryland team, 78-67. Gerald Henderson’s draft stock continues to shoot up the charts. He scored 19 points in a variety of ways, but none of his buckets were as spectacular as his down-the-lane jam in the second half. Check out the video below. (It’s at the 0:39 mark.)


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