Tag Archives: NCAA tournament 2011

K-State done for tournament; Martin, not so much

26 Mar

The Wildcats may be out of the tournament, but head coach Frank Martin’s involvement is not yet complete, as CBS has requested his services as a guest analyst this weekend. The team’s sports information director said he will be in the studio from 5:30 to 9:30 CT. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I will tune in to watch, as will many others, I’m sure. While the coach’s comments should informative and entertaining for viewers, they accomplish a myriad of other objectives as well.

First of all, what great exposure for Kansas State University. Certainly, the Wildcats have been in the news all season – good news at the beginning of the season and the end of the season, and slightly-more-iffy news in the middle portion. Now, an audience of millions will see the team’s fearless/fearsome leader talking about the game, bringing to mind the team, its storylines, and the university in general.

Secondly, this gives people an opportunity to see Martin in a normal environment – not the intense two-hour span of a basketball game, not the post-game press conference when he is annoyed about a loss and is very ready to go home. When I tell people outside K-State that Martin is really a nice person, sometimes there is a little skepticism. For him to be on here analyzing other teams, it gives people some insight into his intelligence as a coach, his sense of humor, and the cordial personality that is underneath that scary stare and physically imposing demeanor.

Last but not least, Martin’s turn as an analyst will be one more opportunity for all the Wildcat fans to see him in action, and that’s nice, because let’s face it: March is a whole lot less interesting without him.

Tournament still as great as ever, even with 68 teams

17 Mar

I hated the idea of expanding the NCAA tournament. To me, that’s watering down the best thing that ever happened to college basketball. But so far, with the field of 68 – four more teams than in recent years, this first Thursday has been as awesome as ever.

14-seed Morehead State beat 3-seed Louisville by one point on a perfect 3-pointer, and it was the school’s first win over the Cardinals since the 1956-57 season. That’s not just a delicious upset; that is historic. The 8 v. 9 matchup between Butler defeated Old Dominion came down to one basket. 13-seed Princeton took 4-seed Kentucky down to the wire, just barely unable to force overtime thanks to a Wildcat bucket with two seconds remaining. Temple beat Penn State by a mere two points. All that and more, and it’s only 4 p.m. on Thursday!

The kinds of matchups and opportunities and excitement this tournament creates are simply unparalleled. If you’re a college basketball fan, this time of year is heaven. I know it is for me. Walking back from class today, I had to fight the urge to jump up and down and hoot and holler in anticipation of some of the best games of the year. I could hardly get home fast enough.

As I’ve said, this year’s March Madness is already off to an incredible start. I just hope the NCAA won’t take this success and popularity as a reason to expand the tournament more. Four play-in games, fine. Whatever. I probably won’t watch them, and I would guess I’m not alone in that. But if they open it up to 96 teams, or whatever the next number is, that will seriously hamper the competitiveness of this event.

Right now, it’s the perfect length, and the teams who get in are solid teams used to winning. One of the broadcasters just pointed out that every game so far today has gone to halftime with a 5-point margin or less, and five games have been decided by 15 points total. That’s some serious basketball! Every year, good teams get left out, but if inclusion in this tournament ceases to become competitive, the essence of it is lost.

Here’s hoping the tournament will be as exciting in all the years to come as it has been in just the last few hours.

 

 

Now comes the hard part

14 Mar

I can’t remember whether I first heard this saying from a player, coach, friend of a friend or character in a movie. Regardless, I feel like it’s true, especially the older I get, and especially for college basketball teams at this time of year.

“The only easy day was yesterday.”

The K-State men’s basketball team received a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament yesterday. Unlike college football’s bowl system, where teams can wait up to a month for their one-game postseason, March Madness calls for an immediate turnaround. Teams playing in the first round have only Sunday night and Monday to prepare for their first matchup. That’s part of what makes it all so much fun.

K-State has until Thursday evening to get ready for the No. 12 seed Utah State Aggies. I don’t know about you, but as one who has filled out a bracket for many years, I always liked the 5 vs. 12 matchups as upset picks. Then again, upsets are not so upsetting these days. As K-State head coach Frank Martin said, these games are difficult because every single team is aware that its basketball season is over if it doesn’t win. That makes people focus in more, and that extra desire gets applied to each possession, Martin explained. Simply put, there are no easy games.

Wildcat senior guard Jacob Pullen said that while there are good seeds and bad seeds, the outcome of a game really boils down to the matchup. His example was this: if a No. 1 seed gets paired with a No. 16 seed who has an incredible forward, and the No. 1 seed doesn’t have depth in the frontcourt, that is a difficult arrangement for the No. 1 seed.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean the No. 16 seed will win, but that kind of scenario could make it difficult for the favored team. Now apply that kind of logic to your 8 v. 9 matchup, your 5 v. 12 matchup, and all those other games where the teams have a more even talent level thanks to recruiting power, and things can get very interesting (read: entertaining) very quickly.

K-State’s recent encounters with Colorado are a perfect example of the power of matchups. As Martin and various Colorado players mentioned after the game, the Wildcats like to deny entry passes to the post on defense, but the Buffaloes have several players who can make plays off the dribble and get the ball to the rim that way. This year, Colorado had K-State’s number, and how the teams matched up was the reason why.

Looking at this first game, against Utah State, the first aspect I want to look at is strength of schedule. The Aggies have lost only 3 games this season, but they have only played two ranked teams: then-No. 14 Georgetown, at the beginning of the year, to whom they lost 68-51, and then-No. 23 Saint Mary’s,about a month ago, whom they beat 75-65.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, have played 10 games against ranked teams. You heard that correctly: a third of K-State’s opponents were ranked in the top 25. The Wildcats are 5-5 against ranked teams, but their losses came against Duke (a No. 1 seed in the NCAA  tournament), Florida (a No. 2 seed), Missouri (a No. 11 seed), Texas A&M (a No. 7 seed) and Kansas (a No. 1 seed) – and all of those were played away from Bramlage Coliseum.

Without going into a detailed scouting report (we’ll save that for another day, another blog), I would venture that – if nothing else – the Wildcats certainly have better preparation than Utah State heading into this postseason. It wouldn’t be a huge leap to assume that, despite 1o losses, that strength of schedule is why K-State got such a high seed in the first place.