Mailbag: February 21st

Can you feel it? March Madness is inching closer by the day. There’s less than a month now until we tip it off for the greatest sporting event in the world (no, the Olympics don’t count, they don’t happen every year). I truly hope your team does well, but really, I don’t. I just want a fun tournament. And it always is just that, so I’m not worried. We’re starting to see some conference tournament seedings fall into place, which is only building up my excitement more. Let’s not forget, conference tournaments are nearly as fun as the Big Dance itself. Remember UConn’s miracle shot last year? And Michigan’s last second prayer from the corner? I can’t wait for this year. But it’s an important couple of weeks until then, so focus up. Let’s check out some questions to clear some things up. It’s mail time!

 

“Buy or sell: Northwestern is a second-weekend team in the NCAA Tournament.” –Sean Bock

 

Well, Sean, this isn’t really a question, but I’m feeling generous so I’ll answer it anyways. I’m selling. There are arguments for both, but I’m going to sell. Here’s why: The Wildcats are unfortunately just going to get a tough draw. They’ll likely be a 6 or a 7 seed, depending on how they finish their season (they have a manageable few games until they finish with Purdue, where a loss wouldn’t hurt and a win would do wonders). Our bracketologist Noah Holley currently has them as the 7 in the Midwest (which bodes well for their crowd), matched up with Cal in the first round, and likely meeting Louisville in the second (if they can tame the Golden Bears). To be blunt, I don’t like either of those matchups for the Wildcats, for a lot of reasons. Both are more athletic than NU, and games in the tournament are typically played at a faster pace. Not going to dive too deep because those are very unlikely to be the teams that they play. I’m also worried that Northwestern will want to try and win a few games (well, duh) to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance all the more memorable. But that is a lot of added pressure to a pretty inexperienced team. It’ll be awesome when, and yes, I mean “when,” they make the field of 68, but I would expect a quick exit for Northwestern.

 

“Will 7 Big Ten teams get in to the NCAA tournament?” –Trevor Deimel

 

Yes, tentatively. With a lot of work left to do. Three teams are safely in: Wisconsin, Purdue, and Maryland. Northwestern’s win at Wisconsin probably puts them in as long as they don’t lose five in a row. That leaves Minnesota, Michigan State, and Michigan who still have some work to do. Minnesota goes on the road to Maryland, gets Penn State and Nebraska at home, and finishes the season at Wisconsin. Obviously, they can’t stumble in their home games, and would certainly benefit from a road win against one of those two opponents. If not one there, they probably need to rattle off a couple of wins in the B1G tournament, because the lone star on their resume is a win at Purdue. Michigan State also plays Wisconsin and Maryland in their remaining games, Wisconsin at home and Maryland on the road. Like the Gophers, either one of those wins would certainly bolster a resume. But Sparty is in the same spot as Minnesota, with the added bonus of having two wins over the Gophers. Again, a win or two in the conference tournament would be a big boost. Michigan gets Purdue at home, and a road game at Northwestern. Both would be huge, Purdue would probably be more important. The Wolverines just knocked off Wisconsin at home, so it’s certainly possible. Moritz Wagner is physical enough to make Biggie Swanigan work for his inevitable double-double. Michigan also owns a 22-point win over SMU, and an 18-point win over fellow bubble team Marquette, so I think they have the strongest resume out of the three. It will come down to the last game for these teams, and likely the tournament, so keep an eye on the race in the middle of the Big 10.

 

“If Duke doesn’t win the national championship, will it be the biggest waste of individual talent ever?” – Ben Auten

 

It’s tough to compare this team to teams of years past because we aren’t exactly sure how good these guys will be in the NBA. It will certainly be up there. Likely six future pros take the court for this year’s Blue Devils: Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marquese Bolden, and Frank Jackson. Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson may also be able to carve out a role somewhere in the league. The jury is still out on highly-recruited Chase Jeter, but the talent is certainly there. An unsuccessful tournament run would be nothing short of a disappointment, thanks to preseason hype. But after mid-season struggles, they seem to have found their groove at the perfect time. So, Ben, I will not say it is the biggest, but it will certainly be one of them. Just for context, here are some other teams with massive wastes of talent that couldn’t cut the nets!

  • 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats: How did these guys not win? John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and Patrick Patterson were all studs in college, and have had great NBA careers (especially Wall and Cousins).
  • 2007-08 UCLA Bruins: The Bruins boasted Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, two NBA superstars, as well as other solid NBA talents in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison.
  • 1997-98 North Carolina Tar Heels: Before he was dunking all over dudes in the Association, Vince Carter was starring in Chapel Hill alongside Antwan Jamison and Shammond Williams.
  • 1992-93 Michigan Wolverines: It was the Fab Five. Need I say more?
  • 1982-83 Houston Cougars: Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon on the same team is just stupid. Phi Slama Jama deserved a title if only because they were called Phi Slama Jama.

 

“In honor of President’s Day, who is on your Mount Rushmore of college coaches?” – Cole Locascio

 

Wow. This is tough. There are probably 10 guys that could be on this list, and that’s a knee-jerk reaction. Here goes my best shot.

  • John Wooden: How can you not start with the Wizard of Westwood? Mr. Wooden won 620 games at UCLA, including 88 straight at one point. He also owns 10 national championships, albeit in a less competitive era, winning that many championships is no easy feat. He’s even got an award named after him!
  • Mike Krzyzewski: The career leader in wins with 1,065, Coach K also has five titles to his name, as well as five gold medals, which shouldn’t be overlooked. K has done it across multiple eras of the game, and has been dominant almost his entire career.
  • Dean Smith: Coach K’s biggest rival and great friend, Dean Smith was a model of consistency at North Carolina. He led the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours, winning two championships. He’s 4th on the all-time wins list with 879.
  • Pat Summitt: Summitt is the NCAA leader in wins with 1,098, averaging almost 29 wins per year. She won eight national championships and 18 Final Four appearances. That is ridiculous. Unfortunately she was forced to retire due to worsening Alzheimer’s, but Summitt was a glowing example as a coach, as well as a human.

These are my personal top four coaches, but arguments can be made for plenty more. Rupp, Boeheim, Knight, Calhoun, Tarkanian, I could go on. And on…and on and on and on.

 

Fun Fact of the Week: Bill Self is just two wins away from clinching his 13th consecutive Big 12 title. Since taking the job at Illinois in 2000, Self has coached 17 seasons (including this one). Of those 17, he will have finished in the top two in conference play…17 times.

 

Photos via Daily Bruin, USA Today Sports, Associated Press, and Court Street Stories

Connor Lagore
Maryland born, Milwaukee raised. Currently a sophomore at the University of Missouri and a 2016 NBA Draft entrant. Old enough to remember Perry Ellis's freshman year. For hot takes and more, follow my twitter @clagore34.

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