Our latest podcast is up, and we recap the boredom that was Saturday night’s games and preview Monday’s title games.
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke says Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is recovering from knee replacement surgery.
Krzyzewski had surgery at Duke University Hospital on Sunday morning. The school said in a news release that the 69-year-old coach could be released within three days and will begin a rehabilitation program.
Dr. Michael P. Bolognesi, the joint replacement orthopedic surgeon who performed the procedure, said in a statement that Krzyzewski can put “as much weight as he tolerates on the implant right away.”
Krzyzewski has won a Division I men’s record 1,043 games, with 970 of those coming at Duke along with five NCAA titles with the Blue Devils. Krzyzewski will also coach the U.S. men’s national team this summer in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
WHEN: Monday, 9:19 p.m. ET on TBS
MAJOR STORYLINES: The question that everyone wants an answer to is whether or not this is going to be the last time that we see Roy Williams on a college sideline, and if there is anything that Ol’ Roy has made clear this week, it’s that this is not going to be the end of his tenure with the Tar Heels. What it may be, however, is his third national title, which will put him on par with some of the legends of the coaching profession: the only other coaches that have at least three national titles are John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun.
That’s mighty fine company to be in, particularly for a head coach like Williams, who has dealt with his fair share of criticism throughout the years. Where as the others on that list tend to be guys that are giants in the profession, Williams is never thought out as or mentioned in the same breath with the best of all-time. This would be his third time in the last 12 years. Would that be enough to make him considered one of the very best ever?
Jay Wright is in a different situation. He’s looking for that first national title, for that piece of evidence that he’s one of the greats — a guy that will deserve a look from the Hall of Fame — as opposed to just another really good coach that sustained a program for a long, long time. Beating the Heels in the title game would be quite the feather in his cap.
But it would also make him one of the most unique national title winners, as he’s not doing it with a team that is loaded with future NBA stars. Josh Hart will probably play in the NBA, and I would bet that Mikal Bridges will end up there as well. I’m not sure either of them are destined to be stars at that level, however, and I don’t think that there is another pro on the roster. It’s not often that teams without an abundance of NBA talent win the whole thing, and while that probably says something about the year in which Villanova is winning the title, it should also tell you a thing or two about the guy that is coaching them along the way.
KEY MATCHUP: Kris Jenkins and whoever the Tar Heels decide they are going to use to try and slow him down. Jenkins has gone from a recruiting afterthought to an undersized, under-athletic gunner … to the guy that has been the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Wildcats. Perhaps more relevantly, he’s become the matchup problem for Villanova. He’s a skilled scorer with a lethal three-point stroke and the best pump fake in college basketball. He draws more fouls on three-point shots than anyone in the country.
He’s also now able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, which creates a bit of an issue: Who’s checking Jenkins? Will they put the slower-footed Meeks on him and allow Brice Johnson to act as a rim protector or will they do the opposite and let the stronger Meeks try to battle Ochefu in the post?
And just as important: How will Jenkins handle post defense and defensive rebounding against the Tar Heel big men?
X-FACTOR: Who will guard Daniel Ochefu, who has suddenly turned into arguably the most irreplaceable offensive piece for the Wildcats. Ochefu is a 6-foot-11 center who developed into one of the most consistent and reliable post scorers in the country this season. That’s relevant because he is going to get quite a few chances to go one-on-one against UNC’s big men on Monday night. The Wildcats put four shooters on the floor, making it really difficult for opponents to double-team any post touch. If Ochefu can find a way to be effective on the block, it would for the Tar Heels to make a change on the defensive end.
POINT SPREAD: North Carolina -2.5
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Can North Carolina run offense against Villanova? The Wildcats do not get the credit they should for how good they’ve been defensively. They don’t have many great individual defenders — Mikal Bridges is a problem, and Josh Hart did the heaviest-lifting in slowing down Buddy Hield — but this is a team that plays tough, physical and, most importantly, disciplined team defense while constantly changing the looks that they use on that end of the floor. It’s tough to execute against, and we saw that in full effect on Saturday night. Will UNC have an easier time of it than Oklahoma did?
- Which Josh Hart shows up on Monday night, and just how physical will UNC wings be willing to be with him. Hart is a nightmare to play against. He’s annoying to play against, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He’s a junkyard dog in every sense of the word, and UNC hasn’t always dealt with guys like that in an effective manner.
- What position does Theo Pinson play? Personally I think that he is going to play a big role on Monday night just because he matches up well with Villanova’s personal. UNC needs him to play the majority of his minutes at the three, which will mean that their size is effective. If he’s playing at the four, it means that Jenkins won the battle of the bigs and UNC had to adjust.
CBT PREDICTION: Villanova wins the National Title and Josh Hart gets named Final Four MOP.
Buddy Hield was named the winner of the Naismith Trophy on Sunday afternoon in Houston.
“I’m extremely honored and grateful to accept the Naismith Trophy. None of this would have been possible without my teammates and coaching staff pushing me every single day,” said Hield. “I also want to thank my family and friends for all of their support over the years. This was an extremely special season at OU, and one that I’ll cherish forever.”
“Buddy’s passion, enthusiasm and team-first attitude have been so consistent all season,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. “Obviously his play on the floor was remarkably high, especially in those crunch-time moments, in ballgames. I couldn’t be more pleased for Buddy to win the Naismith Trophy because of all the time and investment spent developing his skills and abilities each year.”
Hield, whose season came to an end against Villanova on Saturday night, finished the year averaging 25.0 points. Denzel Valentine won the AP Player of the Year award, the Oscar Robertson trophy and was named the NBCSports.com National Player of the Year.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who will be playing for his first National Title on Monday night, was named the Naismith Coach of the Year.
“I’m extremely proud to accept the Naismith Coach of the Year award on behalf of our staff and the Villanova basketball team,” Wright said. “I know the great history of this award and our whole program is humbled to be honored with this year’s Naismith award.”
HOUSTON — Buddy Hield has spent more time on a basketball court than anyone in college basketball. He’d work out as often as four times a day, which is how he turned himself from an athlete into a shooter and, last summer, from a shooter into the player that scored more points than anyone in the sport this season.
Whether it was 5:30 a.m. or midnight, if you were looking for Buddy, the best place to start would be on the closest basketball court that he could find. There wasn’t any place that he wanted to be more, which is what makes the way his career came to a close so heartbreaking.
For the first time in his life, as he went through the motions, playing out the final minutes of the worst loss he’ll ever take, Hield didn’t want to be on the floor.
He was done.
“No, but yes,” Hield said after the game when asked whether there came a point in the game when he just didn’t want to be on the court anymore. “They outfought us,” he added later.
It’s a shame that the lasting image we’ll have of one of the decade’s most likable superstars is of him going through the motions, playing out the final 13:25 without taking a single shot from the floor. It ends an era of Oklahoma basketball that mirrors the path that Hield’s career has taken.
Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler all enrolled at Oklahoma at the same time, Hield and Cousins as freshman and Spangler, an Oklahoma native, as a transfer from Gonzaga. They arrived in Kruger’s second season, a year after Oklahoma went 15-16 and just seven months after the fallout from Jeff Capel’s tenure resulted in three years of probation and a series of recruiting restrictions.
Everyone remembers how good Oklahoma was when Blake Griffin was winning Player of the Year awards. No one remembers that Willie Warren, Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin torpedoed that program and sent them to three straight losing seasons when Griffin left.
And once that trio of seniors gets over the pain and embarrassment of having their spirit broken on the biggest stage they’ll likely ever play on, they’ll realize that. They’ll realize that they played an integral roll in rebuilding the program.
“We’re proud about what you’ve done,” Kruger told his team in the locker room after the game. “You’ll get over this. When you look back, it won’t be about this today, it will be about what you’ve done. The work you’ve put in. The changes you’ve brought to the program. It’s unbelievable.”
“Because of what you did this year this program’s going to get better and better and better. You’re going to be at the heart of that forever.”
Perspective is the most difficult thing to have in a moment like that. For Ryan Spangler, who grew up as a Sooner fan in rural Oklahoma, the moment was particularly poignant. He was not recruited by Capel, so he wound up at Gonzaga for a year before transferring back home after his freshman season.
So not only did he get the chance to prove himself good enough to play in the Big 12, but he did so while helping to dig his boyhood team out of the self-inflicted hole they found themselves in.
“It’ll sink in soon. We’ll hang out tonight, cherish it a little longer then us seniors will head out on our different ways and try to make a name of our own,” Spangler said. “I had a blast. Got to play in front of my family and friends. Got to play with all these guys, turn it around and put it back on the map.”
And they gave the program an identity. No one works as hard as the Sooners, as least not in their minds. Hield’s work ethic is storied at this point, but he may not even be the best worker on the team. Isaiah Cousins works just as hard as Buddy.
“If not harder. Him and Isaiah don’t sleep,” Spangler said. “Buddy started it for us. Then Isaiah slowly caught on and I caught on.”
And, if all went according to plan, the rest of the team has caught on as well.
Which is what makes this group so special to Kruger.
It’s the first crop of seniors that he recruited, signed, developed and won with, yes, but it’s also the group of guys that built the foundation for the future of the Sooners.
That’s why Kruger will not let Saturday’s loss, as excruciating as it was to be a part of, be what defines his guys, in their minds or in the minds of the public at large.
“Don’t dwell on that,” Kruger told his guys. “You’ve got too may other great things that you’ve done. Cherish all of those things. You’ve got those for a lifetime.”
“So shoulders up, we’re not going to sulk around here.”
HOUSTON — Villanova’s 95-51 mollywhopping of Oklahoma on Saturday was as thorough of a beating as you’ll ever see. Shy of convincing James Harden to make the eight mile drive from the Toyota Center to NRG Stadium and throw on a Sooners jersey, there was very little that Lon Kruger could have done to change the course of that game after the first 20 minutes.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the game was significantly impacted by shamelessly long television timeouts during the NCAA tournament and the inability of the NCAA to find a way to avoid stacking those TV timeouts on top of each other.
Here’s the situation as it played out on Saturday: For the first time all game, Oklahoma looked like they were alive at the start of the second half. The lid was still on their basket, but that team was fighting and scrapping and clawing and doing everything they physically could do to try and cut into Villanova’s 42-28 halftime lead. Case in point: In the first 3:40 of the second half, Oklahoma had nine offensive rebounds.
Nine. In less than four minutes.
And it was paying dividends.
The Sooners had trimmed the lead to 46-37 with 16:17 left thanks to Jordan Woodard tipping home his own missed free throw, a free throw he was shooting because he was fouled shooting a three. The Sooner faithful were in full voice. The Oklahoma bench was on its feet and jumping around for the first time since early in the first half. The Sooners finally, thankfully, had managed to find a way to grab some momentum.
That was the beginning of the end.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright quickly called timeout, partly to stem the flow of Oklahoma’s run and partly to rip into his guys for letting a 6-foot-1 point guard tip home his own miss off of a free throw.
But since it was the first timeout called during the second half, it was extended into a TV timeout, sending the teams to their benches for 2:30 that would turn into close to a three-minute delay from whistle to whistle. When play resumed, it took Villanova’s Josh Hart 25 seconds to collect his own miss and score while getting fouled.
That meant that the clock had now ticked below the 16 minute mark, meaning that we were about to sit through another TV timeout. In the end, the amount of time that lapsed from the moment Woodard scored to the moment that Oklahoma was back in possession of the ball was nearly half of a normal halftime.
That’s one way eliminate momentum.
“That broke us,” Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler said.
“Never recovered from that,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “Kind of snowballed downhill the rest of the way.”
Now if we’re being honest, it wasn’t just the television timeouts that did this. Hart — for about the fourth time — beat Oklahoma to a rebound that they should have gotten and got a bucket out of it. Having that run clipped by that play is demoralizing. And it’s also worth noting: Hart’s layup sparked a 33-4 run. That cannot be pinned on a pair of timeouts.
But the fact that the Sooners had to sit and cool down for three minutes on either side of that possession certainly didn’t help matters.
The NCAA changed their television timeout rules during the offseason. In an effort to avoid TV timeouts on back-to-back whistles, they implemented a rule that any called timeout that occurred within 30 seconds of a scheduled TV timeout will turn into the TV timeout … unless it’s the first timeout of the second half.
And that rule absolutely impacted the outcome of a game in the Final Four. I’m not saying that Oklahoma would have won had they not had to deal with those two TV timeouts, but I find it hard to believe they would have wilted the way that they did.
Those five or six minutes of manufactured, revenue-generating ad space torpedoed Oklahoma’s comeback attempt.
Maybe we should take another look at that rule.