Four Keys to the NCAA March Madness Finals Monday Night

Photo by Aaron Friedman
Buffet can smell success, and knew the odds against getting a perfect NCAA bracket.
Prior to the beginning of this year's NCAA Men's Basketball tournament (affectionately referred to as "March Madness"), billionaire Warren Buffett was offering a billion dollars to anyone who could complete a perfect bracket.

The immediate reaction to anything that pays a billion dollars is "WOW," because, well, a billion is a lot. Never mind that the odds are like 9.2 quintillion to one to attain a perfect bracket, and Buffett's billion was safe by Saturday of the first weekend.

I mean, it's a BILLION!

Truth be told, if Buffett really wanted to put his money where his mouth was, he'd find a few million between his seat cushions to duke anybody who had Connecticut and Kentucky in their bracket finals!

Because that's what we have tonight.

More »

Cougars Go All In on Rocket's Kelvin Sampson Despite NCAA Issue

Phi Slama Jama.jpg
Is Kelvin Sampson the long sought-after answer?
The University of Houston announced last night that Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson has been named as the ninth head coach in the history of the men's basketball team. Sampson's the former head coach at Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana. He got all of those schools into the NCAA tournament. He also left the last two schools facing NCAA sanctions.

Sampson's well-regarded as a coach -- he's the actual Xs-and-Os guy on the Rockets staff. He was known as a good recruiter in college, and he won at a school, Washington State, where nobody but him has been able to win. But the hiring's not without controversy. The NCAA hit him with a five-year show cause letter in 2008, meaning that any school hiring him essentially had to go to the NCAA and get permission. And the reason he was hit with the sanction, and the reason that Oklahoma and Indiana were put on probation, was because of improper cell phone and text message contacts with recruits, an issue that the NCAA now allows.

But the folks doing the hiring at UH aren't too concerned about the shadier aspects of Sampson's past as a head coach.

More »

Tucson Riot Police Spray Bro With Pellets, Use Excessive Violence on Coed

CBS Denver
Wild and rioting.
Man, what a weekend of college basketball, huh?! It had a little bit of everything.

The good -- anything having to do with the Kentucky-Michigan game, the emergence of Julius Randle as a viable number one pick in the NBA Draft, the emergence of Shabazz Napier as a sneaky back end of the lottery guy, the storyline of Kentucky's "one and done" philosophy staying alive in the face of an upperclassman laden gauntlet, Kevin Ollie, Scottie Wilbekin, the Harrison twins, Bill Raftery, Madison Square Garden, a Wisconsin team that is actually fun to watch...

The bad -- the elimination of Archie Miller which means the elimination of Morgan Miller, every excruciating replay review in the last two minutes of a game, Adreian Payne's inexplicably deciding to become the biggest two guard on the planet, Reggie Miller's saying anything...

The ugly -- Tucson after the West Regional finals....

More »

March Madness: Ranking The Sweet 16 Matchups

The first couple rounds of the NCAA Tournament is almost bulletproof. With so many games, and now the ability to actually see all of them, rarely do we come away disappointed with the first weekend of games.

We get upsets, we get buzzer beaters, we get Greg Gumbel butchering interviews. With so many games, all of those are virtual certainties.

The Sweet 16 is trickier, though. Do the first weekend upsets leave us with a slew of ho hum match ups? Did the committee's poor job in seeding teams catch up with them?

Well, I would say that in 2014, the basketball gods have smiled on us, for the Sweet 16 this season is the perfect mix of upstarts, dark horses, blue bloods, and geography.

More »

NCAA Must Be Worried College Football Players Won Bid to Unionize

The walls closed in a little further on the NCAA on Wednesday.
After decades of exploiting football players as highly inexpensive labor, the clock may be officially ticking on the NCAA.

Last year, it was the class action lawsuit settled out of court between college football players (past and present) and EA Sports for video game royalties. The Ed O'Bannon lawsuit still dangles over the head of the NCAA like a guillotine ready to sever the head and allow billions of dollars to flow freely.

And on Wednesday, perhaps the biggest whack at the NCAA piƱata came from suburban Chicago, as Northwestern football players, led by former quarterback Kain Colter, were granted by the National Labor Relations Board the classification of "employees" of the university and, therefore, granted the right to unionize.

This, friends, is a game changer.

More »

Awkward March Madness Moment: Greg Gumbel Gets Confused Over the Miller Bros, Promptly Ejects (w/ VIDEO)

Thumbnail image for March Madness.jpg
Man, what a weekend of college basketball!

We saw one for the ages between Wichita State and Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, we saw the death of the Big East as we know it with their top two teams going down to a 7 seed and a 6 seed, and we saw just enough Cinderellas sneak through to where the match ups in the Sweet Sixteen are, for the most part, compelling.

The biggest upset of the weekend was probably 11 seed Dayton knocking off 3 seed Syracuse in the South Region. Dayton was one of six teams to come into the tournament from the much maligned Atlantic 10, and saved the conference the ignominy of coming up empty in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was an amazing game Saturday night, and it sets up the possibility (albeit unlikely) that Dayton head coach Archie Miller and his brother Sean (head coach at West 1 seed Arizona) could meet in the Finals, a sort of college basketball version of the Harbaughs.

And that's where our story begins, with confusion caused the existence of multiple Miller brothers.

More »

Update: With UH Basketball, the Status Quo Rules the Day

Update 5 p.m.: James Dickey announced Monday he will step down from his current position due to a private family matter, according to a statement from the University of Houston. The university said it will handle the search for his replacement internally.

It's status quo so far at UH
It's been 11 days since the Houston Cougars basketball season ended. A 94-65 ass-whipping handed to it by Louisville in the AAC Conference Tournament in Memphis. The loss left the Cougars at 17-16 for the season, three fewer victories than the previous season, and no post-season tournament in the offing.

Thus ended the fourth season of James Dickey's tenure as head coach. His record's a pedestrian 64-62 in that time, and his teams have yet to finish with a winning conference record in either Conference USA or AAC play. The team's suffered player defections and controversial staff moves. There's talent on the team, but too often the team seems unprepared, not ready for what it's going to face when the game starts.

The Cougars did defeat three ranked teams this season, the first time that's happened in an eternity. But with the triumphs that came from defeating UConn, Memphis, and SMU (and possibly knocking SMU out of the NCAA tourney with that loss) were the agonizingly embarrassing losses to Louisville (91-52), Memphis (82-59), UConn (80-43), Rutgers (93-70), and San Jose State (72-68). The Cougars played in a much tougher conference this season, but the out-of-conference schedule was rather weak.

More »

Rice Basketball Hits the Reset Button, Starts Search for New Coach

John Royal
The Ben Braun era at Rice has ended.
Ben Braun resigned as Rice's head basketball coach on Thursday morning. Braun was a good man, a good coach, who had previously taken Cal to five NCAA tournaments and who won a NIT. He's got 615 career wins, 12th best among active coaches, 41st all-time among all coaches. But he had just one winning season out of six at Rice. His tenure was rocked with controversy. And it was doomed to failure.

The last coach to leave Rice with a winning tenure was Don Suman. His final season as Rice head coach was 1959. The Owls have since had nine coaches. And all of those coaches have departed with losing records. The school's not seen the NCAA tournament since 1970, or the NIT since 2005. Success and Rice basketball aren't words often seen next to each other. It's a place where coaching careers go to die.

There's a new athletic director on campus at Rice, Joe Karlgaard, a young hotshot hired away from Stanford. Stanford's kind of like Rice, one of the places full of very smart kids that claim not to dumb it down too much when it comes to recruiting athletes. Stanford plays in a power conference and its teams are expected to win. It's no different now for the Owls.

More »

Will Houston Athletes Ever Get Paid to Play in College?

TaShawn Thomas dreams of one day becoming a professional after college. He's a junior and a forward on the University of Houston's men's basketball team. Without his scholarship he wouldn't be in college, he says. With the money he receives his housing and food are paid for. Still, he thinks it would be fair for athletes to get paid while in college because they bring a lot of money to the school.

The debate on whether or not a college athlete should get paid won't seem to die down anytime soon. In January football players from Northwestern University tried to start a union seeking more financial benefits. The players came together to try to prove they are employees of the university and that they should be compensated as college athletes recognized by the National Labor Relations Board.

More »

UH Basketball Slinking Toward Oblivion

Just how bad has it gotten?
The Shasta mascot showed up for Tuesday's Houston Cougar basketball game against the visiting USF Bulls. It roamed the sidelines, did a half-assed imitation of mascots for other schools, but really didn't do much of anything. And then there's one other minor detail: the mascot showed up for the basketball game wearing a football uniform.

That, if anything, is the epitome of all that is wrong with the University of Houston basketball experience. The mascot can't even be bothered to wear the right uniform to the game. But then again, at least the mascot is at most of the home games, which is more than you can say about the cheerleaders and drill team. And let's not even get started on the band, a group who think shouting "air ball" at shots that clink off the rim is the height of taunting.

More »