Bowls turn into track meets

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith scores a touchdown during first half action, between the Clemson Tigers, and the West Virginia Mountaineers January 4th 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. . UPI Photo/Susan Knowles.

All of this scoring can be fun, but after a while it’s just not as impressive when it seems like everyone is doing it. After West Virginia dismantled Clemson 70-33 last night, the whole bowl system looks even more ridiculous. Perhaps if these games meant something we’d see some more defense.

I think it’s a joke that Alabama gets a rematch with LSU in the National Championship game, but at least those teams know something about how to play defense.

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Rich Rodriguez era still haunts West Virginia

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 17:  Head Coach Rich Rodriguez of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks on during the Big East Conference game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium November 17, 2007 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

West Virginia has become the latest football program to be accused of violating NCAA rules, according to The violations (five major and one secondary) occurred from 2005 to 2009, which includes the time span that former head coach Rich Rodriguez was there.

Among the NCAA’s allegations involving West Virginia:

• Between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons, non-coaching staff members monitored and/or conducted skill-development activities with football players at least two days a week in the spring and summer.

• Between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons, non-coaching staff members sometimes analyzed video with football players.

• From 2005-06 to 2007-08, non-coaching staff members sat in on coaches’ meetings that they were not allowed to attend.

• From 2007-08 to 2009-10, non-coaching staff members did the above and also provided advice and/or corrections to players pertaining to technique and plays.

The NCAA also wants to know if West Virginia believes Rodriguez and/or Stewart knew or should have known of the violations and/or that they were violations of NCAA rules.

The good news for WVU is that AD Oliver Luck is cooperating with the NCAA and seems to be taking a proactive approach with dealing with these allegations. But seeing as how current head coach Bill Stewart is also being accused of “failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance,” this obviously isn’t good news for the current state of the Mountaineer football program. (Not in terms of wins and losses, but more so image.)

When will West Virginia ever be rid of Rich Rod?

Don’t expect a high-scoring Final Four

With Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse out of the picture, some are grumbling about the lack of big-name teams at the Final Four. By the time the final buzzer sounds on Monday night, it’s entirely possible that those same detractors will call the games “boring” or “ugly.”

Here’s why:

1. Pace
There are 347 teams in the D1 ranks and of the four teams set to play Saturday, Michigan State (#215) plays at the fastest pace. The other three teams — Duke (#232), Butler (#285) and West Virginia (#306) — are all in the bottom third in the number of possessions used per game. All four teams are in the top 50 in offensive efficiency (points per possession), so there should be some scoring, but don’t expect any high-octane, up-and-down affairs.

2. Defense
Duke (#3 in defensive efficiency), Butler (#6) and West Virginia (#10) are elite defensive teams, and Michigan State (#33) isn’t bad, either. All four teams hold their opponents to less than 41.5% from the field and 33.1% from long range. Duke and Butler play great positional defense and always seem to have a help defender in the right spot. Michigan State and West Virginia use superior athleticism to smother opponents. The Mountaineers will even utilize a tough-to-attack 1-3-1 zone.

These teams are evenly matched and low-pace, low-scoring affairs lend themselves to close games. This should result in exciting basketball, but we’re not going to see anything like 2009, when all four teams were in the top 130 in overall pace.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Thursday Final Four Commentary

Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: I don’t need to watch spoiled, entitled basketball brats from Kentucky go on an ego spree by crazily firing 32 3-point shots, and making only four, in an Elite Eight loss to West Virginia. I’ll take Butler, which runs an offense and (gosh) makes the extra pass. I’m good with Butler’s best player, Gordon Hayward, who told the Indianapolis Star he’s worried about missing his math classes this week. “I’ve got a heavy class load,” Hayward said. “Some guys don’t have anything, but I wasn’t as lucky with scheduling.” Wait a minute: a real student, competing for the NCAA basketball championship? Who let Hayward and Butler in here? Butler clearly needs to hire John Calipari’s academic advisers. I’m fine with Kansas coach Bill Self sitting in the stands. Nothing personal; he’s a nice fellow. But his No. 1 seed Jayhawks lost heart as soon as Northern Iowa punched them in the mouth early on in their second-round game. I’ll take Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who dug in and willed the Spartans to the Final Four despite the loss of Kalin Lucas, their injured point guard and leading scorer. I’ll even take this version of Duke, which made it back to the Final Four with a lineup rotation that really doesn’t rate with coach Mike Krzyzewski’s previous Final Four teams. Duke’s recruiting has slumped a bit in recent years. Based on previous Duke standards, Coach K has done more with less. There isn’t a sure No. 1 NBA draft pick on this Duke roster.

Jim Riggio, Real Clear Sports: All of the transfers left Duke with just two guards in summer in senior Jon Scheyer and junior Nolan Smith. But through it all Krzyzewski has worked his magic thanks to the knowledge of his players’ academic backgrounds. Andre Dawkins, who committed to Duke as a high school junior and figured to be one of the top prep players in the nation this year, would have actually been playing his fifth year of high school basketball. After transferring high schools following his freshman year, he was allowed to reclassify as a freshman for basketball purposes in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So Krzyzewski spoke to Dawkins about coming to Durham early and with guaranteed playing time available. The youngster couldn’t say no. It sounded like all the problems were solved and Krzyzewski could relax. But then in early December, Dawkins’ mother and sister were planning to drive down to North Carolina to see him play, only to never make it. With his mother also in the car, Dawkins’ sister Lacey was killed on a highway in West Virginia. This forced Dawkins to take temporary leave from the team to grieve his loss.

Jeff Goodman, There’s Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will likely retire as the all-time winningest coach in D-1 history; Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, who is making a remarkable sixth Final Four appearance in the past dozen years; and Bob Huggins, who will likely join Coach K and Izzo in the Hall of Fame soon after he calls it a career. Three larger-than-life figures who have roamed the sidelines for years. Three fiery, intimidating personalities who are often unable to control their emotions. Then there’s Stevens, the 33-year-old wunderkind who just never, ever seems to lose his cool. Except when, following the win over Kansas State that earned Butler a spot in the Final Four in the Bulldogs hometown this week, Stevens ran across the floor and exchanged chest-bumps with walk-on Emerson Kampen. Stevens had been doing it in the locker room following each of the first three NCAA tournament wins, but decided to show a side of him that few have seen.

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press: Izzo had gone to Tulsa only for the money. It was 1986, he’d been making less than $5,000 a year at Michigan State as a part-time assistant, and Tulsa offered a job as recruiting coordinator, which paid, he recalls, around $35,000. A fortune! Jud Heathcote, his MSU mentor, told him it probably would be a good move, so Izzo packed a suitcase and a duffel bag and went to Oklahoma to work for an intense coach named J.D. Barnett. One of the first questions Barnett had asked him was, “Do you promise you’ll stay?” And Izzo intended to. He wore a shirt and tie every day, as Barnett demanded. He worked from 6:30 a.m. until midnight, six days a week. He touted the Golden Hurricane logo and told recruits Tulsa would be a great place for them to play basketball. But seven weeks after he’d arrived — just as Izzo was about to buy a house — Heathcote called. A position had opened at MSU. Did he want to come back? … “Oh, J.D. went off!” Izzo recalls, laughing. “He was screaming, ‘Turn your car in RIGHT NOW!’ I kept trying to say I was sorry. He wouldn’t hear it. He was so mad. He hung up on me. I don’t blame him.” Izzo went down the hall and found a young staffer named Ron. He asked for a ride back from the car dealership. “I can’t do that,” Ron said, glumly. “Why not?” Izzo said. “J.D. just called and told me not to do anything for you.”

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Another big Saturday in sports

We’re in that sweet spot in the sports calendar when the NFL playoffs are going on and there are some good in-conference matchups in college hoops. Here’s a quick look at what’s on tap for Saturday. (All times Eastern.)

12 PM: #5 Syracuse @ #9 West Virginia (ESPN)
2 PM: #18 Georgia Tech @ #13 North Carolina (ESPN)
4:30 PM: Cardinals @ Saints (Fox)
8:15 PM: Ravens @ Colts (CBS)

That’s not a bad lineup at all.

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