Category Archives: NCAAB

Quick Slant: Harvard and Its Quest to Prove Smart Kids Can Ball

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/George Frey)

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/George Frey)

By Ryan Lack

Quick Slant: 14-seed Harvard pulls upset over 3-seed New Mexico


That’s actually a terrible headline by ESPN. The story that #14 Harvard upended #3 New Mexico is surely an important fact produced by this game, but perhaps what is just as important a fact, if not more important, is it signified the very first NCAA Tournament victory for the prestigious Ivy League school.

On a day where two #5 seeds went down to #12s and #3 Marquette barely escaped #14 Davidson with six points in the final 60 seconds, Harvard’s victory was the moment of the day. It also solidified the believe that teams from New Mexico suck; Saint Louis rolled over New Mexico State by 20 earlier in the day.

All of that said, I think the one thing to focus on here is the respect factor. What we saw in each of the upsets yesterday was less than stellar effort. We watched as teams that should have had no problem disposing of their lower-seeded opponents struggle mightily. Maybe it was because of the beauty that is the NCAA Tournament – the pitting against each other two teams that know nothing about one another. So, I guess it’s a two-fold issue when it comes to the upsets, but what it really came down to was the “better” teams simply overlooking their opponents. Remember, you don’t have to be the better team in general, you just have to be the better team on that day.

What Harvard proved out yesterday is you don’t have to sacrifice intelligence for athletic achievement; Stanford is another great example of smart kids proving they can ball. So we chalk one up for the smart kids; the kids that, short of NBA careers, will likely go on to do bigger and better things.

All I can say is, it warms my heart to see this type of thing happen. It’s what makes the tournament one of the best events in all of sports. And even if Harvard goes down in the next round to Arizona those kids will go down in their school’s history books as the first squad to put a victory on the board, ending 67 years of struggle.

Well done, smart kids. Your band is clearly very happy in their own Harvard band way. And what did Jeremy Lin think of all of this?

Photo Credit: (SB Nation Facebook)

Photo Credit: (SB Nation Facebook)

I don’t even know what’s going on here, but I think he’s … happy? Or drunk? Both?

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
You can contact Ryan at

The NCAA Tournament, Bracketology and The Irrationality of It All

Photo Credit: (Kevin McGuire -

Photo Credit: (Kevin McGuire –

By Kevin York

I’m writing this post right after filling out my NCAA March Madness bracket, but you’ll be reading it Thursday afternoon at a point where it already may well be completely destroyed. I spent the last 45 minutes plus agonizing over which teams to pick. And that’s an improvement over years past. Typically I’ll spend that much time completing my bracket in one sitting. Then the next day I spend another 20 minutes or so reviewing my bracket, changing picks, changing them back, and finally leaving them blank. The following day I’ll come back and spend at least another 20 minutes making final decisions. So, this year I streamlined (people love that word, don’t they?) the process, waited until the night before first-round games and finished the whole thing in one sitting.

I decided to do sort of a live journal, Bill Simmons style, talking through my picks. This will show how completely irrational filling out a bracket is, at least for me. But I venture it’s this way for everyone – man, woman, knowledgeable, unknowledgeable, superstitious, facts-driven.

Continue reading

NCAA Tournament Time, The NBA Draft, and Why Duke is an Underrated Program

Photo Credit: (Duke Photography - Curry, Kelly, Cook & Thornton)

Photo Credit: (Duke Photography – Curry, Kelly, Cook & Thornton)

By Ryan Lack

Quick Slant: The assertion that Duke makes great college players but falls short of producing NBA-level talent is completely false.


It’s NCAA Tournament time and while we’re all filling out our brackets based on half-informed opinions, and even sometimes based on logos or mascots, I got to thinking about the various programs and how under or overrated they are. One running theme from the last decade+ concerns Duke University. Coach K is an indisputable college basketball legend, not to mention the gold medals he’s won leading Team USA in the Olympics, but one point of criticism he always gets is that he doesn’t produce a lot of NBA players.

To be honest, I always accepted this assertion about his program as true. I mean, look at all of the players that have been great at the collegiate level at Duke and never panned out in the league. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about NBA all-stars. All I’m looking at is current NBA roster players here. With that in mind, I took a look at some of the other storied programs known for producing some NBA greats and some average players. What I expected and what I found were surprisingly, and completely, contradictory.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the top college teams and their current NBA roster representatives:

  • Kentucky: 19 active roster players
  • Kansas: 16 active roster players
  • UNC: 14 active roster players
  • Texas: 11 active roster players
  • Connecticut: 11 active roster players
  • UCLA: 10 active roster players
  • USC: 10 active roster players
  • Florida: 10 active roster players
  • Arizona: 9 active roster players
  • Ohio State: 7 active roster players
  • Washington: 7 active roster players
  • Cincinnati: 5 active roster players
  • Syracuse: 4 active roster players
  • Michigan State: 4 active roster players
  • Louisville: 4 active roster players
  • Memphis: 4 active roster players
  • Stanford: 4 active roster players
  • Michigan: 3 active roster players
  • Indiana: 2 active roster players

And how many does Duke have? 20. That’s right, more than any other program. While UK is notorious for pumping out great NBA talent across the last few years – they had six players go in the last draft including Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going 1-2 (first time ever for a pair of teammates) and Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller following – Duke has been steady, producing a few each year.

The reasons for the flood of new talent from these two schools is likely two-fold: first, the barrier to entry is at an all-time low at the NBA level and, second, the one-and-done rule is bringing in otherwise draft-worthy players to these schools and quickly cycling them out. In other words, many of these kids wouldn’t even have gone to UK, for instance, had the one-and-done rule not been implemented by the NCAA back in the 2006-07 season.

Here’s the list of NBA Dukies:

  • Shane Battier
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Elton Brand
  • Luol Deng
  • Chris Duhon
  • Mike Dunleavy
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Grant Hill
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Dahntay Jones
  • Corey Maggette
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Miles Plumlee
  • Shavlik Randolph
  • J.J. Reddick
  • Austin Rivers
  • Kyle Singler
  • Nolan Smith
  • Lance Thomas
  • Eliot Williams

As a self-admitted Duke hater, I suppose it’s fair to say I was among the group of people unwilling to acknowledge the program’s success beyond the college hardwood because … well, because I hate successful things and people. It’s actually a deep-seeded resentment, but I digress.

As fans, we love to hate success. We hate Duke. We hate UNC. We hate UK, and Kansas, and many others. We love the underdog – Gonzaga, Butler, VCU, George Mason and a slew of others. And fans of the clubs aside, let’s all just agree that no matter where you’re from you hate the Yankees. They don’t call it the Evil Empire for nothing.

Regardless of hate or the perpetuation of broadly accepted falsehoods, Duke is an underrated and, perhaps, an undervalued program.

Sure, you might be saying: But, Duke is always highly ranked, always in the National Championship conversation. How can you say they’re underrated?

Look, we can agree they get their due in the national rankings and in the lip-service from the talking heads, but generally speaking they get no credit as a complete program. By that I mean, one of academic integrity, athletic excellence, and professional athlete production. Before doing the research, like many others, I honestly thought Duke does everything collegiate well but doesn’t take it to the next level. And damn, was I wrong.

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
You can contact Ryan at

Quick Slant: Big 12 Men’s Basketball Officiating

By Ryan Lack

Slant: Big 12 acknowledges ‘errors’ by refs


Referees make mistakes? WHAT!? Even … don’t say it … mistakes that cost good teams great wins? No. Way. I never would have thought!

Remarkably, the broken record is still spinning on NCAA Men’s Basketball courts and football fields nationwide. We see it often. A great game plays out in front of us, often on national television, some controversial calls are made – some right, some wrong – and sometimes they’re flat out stupid.

This happened to Iowa State’s men’s basketball team recently when they took on #6 Kansas, a perennial favorite when they play most teams, especially Big 12 teams, but most certainly a favorite on this night. Iowa State competeted – hard – against a team they had no business keeping up with. And when it came down to the wire, the game’s momentum or whatever you want to call it was affected by the blatant ineptitude of the referees.

(Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

(Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

The officials did not call either a block or a charge when Jayhawks guard Elijah Johnson collided with Iowa State’s Georges Niang, who appeared to have his feet set, with five seconds remaining in regulation.

Instead, Niang was whistled for a holding foul after Johnson’s shot missed and the ball came loose on the floor. Johnson went to the free-throw line and made the two free throws, forcing overtime and helping Kansas rally for a 108-96 victory in Ames.

There’s no excuse for it really, but the Big 12 wants to make it up to Iowa State. No really, they do. How, you might be asking, will they make it up to them? No, not by overturning a win that for all intents and purposes was Iowa State’s to take home, but by “acknowledging errors were made.”

“The Big 12 Conference acknowledges that officiating errors were made at the end of regulation during last night’s Kansas at Iowa State men’s basketball game,” the conference said in a statement released Tuesday. “The plays have been reviewed and appropriate measures will be taken by the Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials to adjust the number of future assignments for the two officials involved in conjunction with Conference policies.”

Thanks, guys.

If I’m Iowa State I’m PISSED. That’s a marquee win and potential last four in or out deal-breaker for them as they are most definitely a bubble team with a 19-9 season record and a 9-6 conference record.

Let’s be real. Change needs to happen. They’ve instituted some replay options, which is great and all, but what I’d like to see is either:

1. Coaches get one challenge and one only. You lose it, the other team shoots two free throws.
2. A referee up in the booth that reviews and can overrule bad calls in the waning minutes of a game.

Sure this adds more process to an already complicated process that we don’t want to slow down further, but getting it right is more important, especially when it’s David vs. Goliath.

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack
You can contact Ryan at

The Most Disliked Teams in America

By Kevin York

Two weeks ago I started a series on the Most Disliked entities in sports. I began this little series of posts questioning Forbes original article listing the ten most disliked athletes in America. Since I didn’t agree with all the athletes on their list, I revised it and published my own. I followed that up with a post on the most disliked coaches in America, which I decided on by crowdsourcing answers from my Facebook friends and input from the other Couchletes.

I considered doing a post on the most disliked owners in America, but decided there aren’t really enough that are universally disliked right now. There’s Jerry Jones and….Jerry Jones. You could make an argument for a few others, but I realized most of the owners that we as a general public don’t like aren’t with us anymore. Guys like Al Davis and George Steinbrenner. So instead of going the owner route, I’m just going straight to the final installment, the most disliked teams in America.

In deciding the teams that belong on this list, I decided not to ask for other opinions. Not because I think I’m that smart, but because these disliked teams all really stood out. I think most would agree with the ones on this list – except maybe the fans of these teams.

In reviewing this list, I noticed that the teams on it are all popular with large, dedicated fan bases. That’s part of what makes them so disliked. You’re not going to find a team like the Kansas City Royals or the Milwaukee Bucks on this list. To be disliked as a team, there a few things you need to have:

  • Success: At some point in the team’s history, they have to have seen success. It doesn’t even have to have been recent success, just prolonged.
  • Personalities: There are very few examples of teams that become disliked for reasons other than the people on the field and sidelines. We as the audience connect with people – the players, the coaches, sometimes the owners. By the same token, we develop a dislike for people, not logos or colors or cities.
  • Good fan base: It’s not always the personalities on the field that irritate us. Sometimes it’s the obnoxious people in the stands that we grow to hate.

All ten teams that I list below have all three of these characteristics. So without further ado, here they are. The ten most disliked teams in America, at least from my perspective.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Boston Red Sox

Dallas Cowboys

Duke Blue Devils

Los Angeles Lakers

Miami Heat

New England Patriots

New York Yankees

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Ohio State Buckeyes

So what teams did I miss?

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Quick Slant: The NCAA and its Lack of Institutional Control

By Kevin York

Slant: Reports surface that the NCAA’s investigation into actions by the University of Miami will result in sanctions


If you find the fact that the NCAA is imposing sanctions surprising, you’re not alone. Earlier this year the NCAA admitted to misconduct during its investigation into Miami. It screwed up so bad that some of its evidence had to be thrown out and external investigation was done in the NCAA. Despite these wrongdoings, NCAA commissioner Mark Emmert decided to push forward with the case against Miami. Doesn’t this misconduct, resulting in “tainted evidence” call into question Emmert and his group’s credibility?

I have no problem with the actual allegations against Miami, but I think it’s time for administrative reform within the NCAA. How can you pin a “lack of institutional control” charge on a school when you yourself suffer from that same charge? And on that note, how can lack of institutional control still be used as a charge? Everything falls under that. Wouldn’t “failure to comply to an atmosphere of compliance” (another separate charge used by the NCAA) be the same exact thing? Lack of institutional control is how the NCAA found it appropriate to take action against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky situation, a decision that is now coming under heavy scrutiny and one lawsuit, potentially more.

After its sanctions against Penn State were announced, Mark Emmert and the NCAA made it clear that a school’s head coaches are in ultimate control of their sporting programs. As ESPN’s Dana O’Neil points out, “Yet on Monday, when the NCAA announced the findings of an external review of its enforcement staff and its actions involving the University of Miami case, NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that the buck stopped well short of his office door.”

She goes on to say:

“So far on Emmert’s watch, the NCAA has bungled and fumbled multiple investigations (Cam Newton, Shabazz Muhammad and now Miami); fired two NCAA investigators; saw the exits of two enforcement administrators (director of enforcement Bill Benjamin resigned in June, just eight months after taking the job); and gone well outside of its own rulebook and sidestepped due process to punish Penn State, which generated a lawsuit from none other than the state of Pennsylvania.”

Time for the NCAA to look in the mirror. Time to reform yourself so you actually possess the authority and credibility to judge others.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

Time to Focus on College Basketball: Things are Getting Interesting Now…

By Kevin York

I think I’m like a majority of American sports fans when it comes to college basketball. I follow the sport, but I don’t really follow it until the NFL season ends. At that point my sports watching time really opens up and I can dedicate more time to following the NCAA. Up to now, we haven’t really written much about college basketball. In fact, the one and only post that I wrote about it, wasn’t even so much about the game or season itself, but about conference realignment. I think the frequency with which we write about college basketball will start to change a bit. Now things are getting really interesting.

In case anyone didn’t notice, this past week was quite a week for college basketball. Four of the top five ranked teams lost last week – #1 Indiana (to Illinois), #2 Florida (to Arkansas), #3 Michigan (to Wisconsin) and #5 Kansas (to TCU and Oklahoma). The AP rankings were released today and Indiana remained in the top spot, yes, after a loss, largely behind their defeat of #10 Ohio State and the crumbling of the other teams around them near the top of the rankings. Duke and Miami are right on their heels though, trailing by only 44 and 60, respectively (that’s a very, very small margin of points).

Prior to Indiana holding onto its number one ranking, the AP Poll saw a change in its top team for five consecutive weeks. I look at this season’s college basketball landscape and have a feeling the NCAA tournament in March is going to be really interesting and possibly the most entertaining we’ve seen in years. For the first half of the season I’ve thought three teams stood out as better than the others – Indiana, Michigan and Duke. They’re the most complete, experienced and deepest teams in the game. However, over the past month, I’ve been getting the feeling more and more that there are a number of teams that could make a deep run in the tournament and reach the Final Four. Syracuse, Florida, Miami, Gonzaga, Ohio State, Arizona, Kansas, Louisville and Butler all fit in that group. But if you look deeper and analyze recent results and performance, teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Kansas State, Georgetown, Pitt, Oregon and even the youngsters at Kentucky could find themselves playing in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at the beginning of April. That’s 20 teams I just named…

If you haven’t been watching much college basketball, it’s time to start.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at

The Catholic Seven Strike Back

By Kevin York

Sunday, December 9. A day that could possibly significantly alter college athletics. The day that the little guys finally stood up for themselves.

These little guys were a band of seven Catholic universities, I’ll call them the Catholic Seven, that currently comprise over half of the Big East’s membership for all sports except football. That ‘except football’ is important because the seven schools don’t have FBS college football programs. Their football teams play at the FCS level.

Over the past several years we’ve seen the landscape of college athletics alter tremendously with shifts spurred by big time college football. Conference alignments now look drastically different than they did even ten years ago. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12 have established themselves as the power conferences, expanding without losing member schools to other conferences. The Big 12 and ACC have tried to keep up, but have each lost schools amidst efforts to add more.

The Big East has become the ultimate victim of this seemingly endless shift. Since 2004, the Big East has lost Virginia Tech, Temple (they’ve since rejoined), Miami, Boston College and West Virginia. In the next two years, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Louisville will also exit; and people are now raising the possibility that teams which haven’t even officially joined the conference yet, but have committed to, may also be looking to leave. All of these departures have led the conference to invite schools like Central Florida, Houston and Tulane into its fold. In the rush to capitalize on big time football money, they’ve also invited Boise State, San Diego State and East Carolina to the Big East, but only for football. The result has become a convoluted geographic mess of a conference, stretching from Storrs, CT to Tampa to San Diego.

Left in the dust of all the football prompted moves is basketball. It’s been a complete afterthought for every single conference as they all struggle to keep up in this arms race that is big time college football. TV contracts are a major driver of all this, but it’s only football TV contracts that are discussed. Not basketball.

On Sunday, the Catholic Seven decided they’d seen enough. Representatives from DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova met with Big East commissioner Mike Aresco to discuss their future in the Big East.

These schools all have a rich tradition and history in basketball, the sport that the Big East was originally built on. Inaugural Big East commissioner and founder Dave Cavitt created the conference with the intent of it being a powerhouse basketball conference. The Catholic Seven have a combined three national titles, 18 Final Four appearances and 149 NCAA tournament appearances between them. They all did their respective parts in bringing Cavitt’s vision to a reality. In the 1980s and now again over the past few years, the Big East truly has set the standard in college basketball as the strongest conference in the land from top to bottom. Now the Catholic Seven are seeing their beloved conference becoming a bastardized version of its former self. Basketball excellence does not factor into it any longer. Tulane, SMU, Central Florida? Playing those schools will surely not help the RPI rankings for a Villanova or Georgetown.

Why has basketball not played a bigger role in the reshaping of the college athletics landscape? It has a TV draw. Not as much money as there is associated with football, but there’s still money. Why couldn’t a conference be built on basketball success and still get big financial benefits? That’s exactly what the Catholic Seven want to find out. There are indications that they may partner with basketball-rich schools like Butler, Xavier, Creighton, Dayton and St. Louis to create their own completely new conference. It’s now almost inevitable that the seven will leave the Big East and many expect that the new conference will quickly follow. The formation of a new conference led by the Catholic Seven and including tradition laden basketball schools is one of the best realignment ideas I’ve heard in a long time. I would watch that conference’s games. I think that conference would be pretty successful and make a good deal of money, all on the back of basketball, not football.

Ultimately, I like this move because it’s a stand by the little guys. The Catholic Seven, looked at as inconsequential because of their FCS football programs, could’ve easily been forced into doing what other larger schools want in a game of follow the leader. Instead, they’re saying, “We matter and we’re not going to allow others to determine our fate any longer. Basketball still matters; we want to do this our way.” I think that’s what Dave Cavitt would want.

I hope other smaller, FCS football schools with power basketball programs take notice. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a conference made up of basketball schools like Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Valparaiso, Wichita State, St. Joseph’s, VCU, Murray State, George Mason, George Washington, Richmond and La Salle? Sure, it’s not Duke-Carolina, but that type of conference would provide some good, competitive, entertaining games.

Unlike football, college basketball isn’t just built on the top tier, big school, major programs. The little guys play a big part too. The Big East may soon realize this. What kind of significance does a conference containing South Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, Central Florida, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Temple and Tulane have on a national level in either football or basketball? That doesn’t make me see dollar signs. I think they’d be better off building around basketball and keeping the Catholic Seven. The Big East as we’ve known it, is now nearly dead.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

Rivalry Week: The Results

This past week has been rivalry week, with posts dedicated solely to rivalries in sports. On our Facebook page we published some polls so you could vote and let your voice be heard on the best rivalries in sports. Today we’re announcing the results of those polls. So let’s get right to it.


You voted the Yankees-Red Sox as the best rivalry in baseball. No surprise here, although it was closer than I thought it would be with the Dodgers-Giants  finishing closely behind the winner. All of the Dodgers-Giants votes came from people that grew up on the west coast though. Votes for Yankees-Red Sox came from all over the country, which to me just supports it being the best rivalry in baseball.


This one was a surprise, at least to me. I was expecting the Bears-Packers to win, but they were upset by the Steelers-Ravens in a close one. If you think about the past ten years though, the Steelers-Ravens have both been very good. They’ve both been playoff contenders and Super Bowl contenders. For the most part, either the Packers or the Bears have been good over that same time period, but not both.


Landside. Celtics-Lakers ran away with this one. Not a surprise and not much else to say about it.


Surprisingly, the NHL poll garnered the most votes. I assumed the NFL or MLB would get the most votes. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry ran away with this one in a contest that wasn’t very competitive overall. This did show a deep field though with a number of rivalries receiving votes. More choices received a vote in this poll than in any other. The NHL poll was actually also the hardest to determine the rivalries that would be included in the poll. There were a number that we considered including and just missed inclusion: Devils-Rangers, Kings-Ducks and Red Wings-Avalanche.

College Basketball

As expected, Duke-North Carolina won this one pretty handedly.

College Football

Another one that wasn’t a surprise with Ohio State-Michigan winning.

So what did all these polls tell us? Anything? Some weren’t surprising, others were more revealing. It looks like our followers enjoy hockey more than we thought (maybe we should write a little more on the NHL….). The west coast came out in force in support of the Dodgers-Giants, even though they fell a little short, showing that the rivalry between those two teams is very healthy. While the west coast may not have a ton of rivalries, they do enjoy that one.

The votes also showed us that we did a pretty good job of choosing all the poll options. There weren’t too many write-in votes, so for the most part, it looks like there are a few rivalries in each sport that stand out from all others as the best.

Rivalry Week: Best College Rivalry

Over on our Facebook page we have polls up asking about the best rivalries in college football and college basketball, but today I started thinking about what the best rivalry in college sports is. All college sports, not just football and basketball. That one’s a little more difficult. Duke-North Carolina is leading in our college basketball poll right now, but when those two schools play in football, is the intensity level as high? Or when they play in baseball, volleyball, or any other sport.

There’s a little more thinking that goes into this question than the poll choices. I’m not actually sure that any of the rivalries in our college football and college basketball polls would be chosen as the best overall collegiate rivalry. Oklahoma-Texas, Kentucky-Louisville and Alabama-Auburn seem like the most likely ones that could be considered. They stand out as the best of the choices we gave in the two polls.

USC-UCLA, Oregon-Oregon State, Clemson-South Carolina and Michigan-Michigan State all come to mind as possibilities for the best overall rivalry. It’s probably not a shock to anyone that all but one of these that I’ve named are intra-state rivals.

So what do you think? Which one’s the best, most intense? I’m actually not sure. It’s a difficult choice to make.