There were 3 excellent tournament games last night and 1 game that was close at the half before turning into a rout. Allow me some brief commentary:
- Gonzaga/West Virginia: West Virginia’s defense showed up but their “efficient offense” from a week ago did not; the Mountaineers shot a miserable 15 for 60 from the floor and still lost by only 3 points. I know from experience that officiating a game with constant defensive pressure is a difficult task but the officials for this game cannot be proud of the way they administered this game. The officials did not determine the outcome but they were not consistent in their calls.
- Kansas/Purdue: Purdue led by 8 in the first half and a late run by Kansas had them leading by 7 at halftime. I thought Kansas was the better team all along but it seemed that Purdue would make a game of it. Then the second half happened and Kansas won the second half 51-26. There are several freshmen around the country that have gotten lots of ink this year – deservedly so – but Kansas’ freshman, Josh Jackson has been noticed only secondarily. So, let me say this very clearly; Josh Jackson is really, really good.
- Oregon/Michigan: The hero of this game for Oregon was Jordan Bell. In addition to 16 points and solid interior defense, Bell collected about every big rebound that the Ducks needed to seal this win.
- Xavier/Arizona: I will ask it again; how could the Selection Committee make Xavier an 11-seed? My guess is that they did not spend any time watching the team play and were influenced by a late-season losing streak. By the way, I really appreciated the officiating in this game; I think it was probably the best officiating job in the tournament so far.
In other college basketball happenings, Georgetown fired head coach John Thompson III. For those of you who do not live in the DC area, this is a big deal – – not because a new coach will show up on campus but because Georgetown basketball and the surname “Thompson” have been united for more than 40 years. When you read the reports about the school’s decision, you will read that Georgetown had two losing seasons in a row and has not been a factor in the tournament for a while and that the Hoyas have been bounced from the tournament by lower seeded teams regularly under John Thompson III. All of that is true; yet, this firing is surprising.
To keep the characters in this saga straight, let me refer to John Thompson, Jr. (the father and the Hall of Fame coach) as “Big John” and let me refer to John Thompson III as “JT-3”. “Big John” was a very successful high school basketball coach in DC at St. Anthony’s; many people put him at or near the level of Morgan Wooten (DeMatha High School) back in the early 1970s. Meanwhile, Georgetown basketball stunk; in 1972, “Big John” took the job at Georgetown after the team had an embarrassingly bad 3-23 record in 1971. “Big John” stayed at Georgetown for his entire college coaching career leaving in 1999.
As important as all that is, “Big John” came to dominate the college basketball scene in the DC area despite the presence of other high quality coaches like Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams. “Big John” dominated the news and the recruiting; when Georgetown raised the money to build a new Athletic Center on campus, they named it the John Thompson, Jr. Athletic Center and put a statue of “Big John” in front of it. As of the beginning of this basketball season, “Big John” still had an “office” in that Athletic Center. When “Big John” retired, he handed the program off to his longtime assistant; and when that tour of duty was over in 2004, the school hired JT-3 who had been successful at Princeton. “Big John” was in the arena for Georgetown games at least 80% of the time during the time “JT-3” was the coach.
What may not be apparent to those outside the DC area is that Georgetown has seen decline that goes beyond 2 consecutive losing seasons. That “failure” could be overcome with one good recruiting class and the Hoyas’ record in those two losing seasons was 29-36; it is not as if the team had regressed to the 3-23 level it had been when “Big John” took over. What has happened to Georgetown basketball here in the DC area is that it is no longer the “second biggest sports story in town” behind the Skins. That used to be the case; now Georgetown basketball is approaching the category of “afterthought”.
The search for a new coach will involve Paul Tagliabue who is on the Georgetown Board of Directors. In his time as NFL Commish, Tagliabue demonstrated the ability to navigate through choppy waters; he will need to do that here because the next coach at Georgetown will be under intense scrutiny from the moment his name is announced.
Switching gears, I ran across this report in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal saying that the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee has begun to recruit “thousands of volunteers” to help manage the swarm of visitors that will show up for Super Bowl Week in Minnesota in Feb 2018. The key word here is “volunteers” and the Host Committee is looking to get 6,000 – 7,000 of them.
I do not want to get into a political discussion here, but one of the issues that tends to grind the gears of a segment of our society today is “corporate welfare”. Well, here is a thought for anyone considering becoming a “volunteer”:
- The NFL has revenues of about $16B per year and is aiming to be a $25B per year entity in 2025. When one works for them for no pay, that is a sort of “corporate welfare” and the NFL is an entity that already gets a more than generous helping of said “welfare” from government entities around the country.
- They can afford to pay for whatever services they seek to get from the volunteers. Why give them yet another “free ride”?
Oh, for the record, volunteers do NOT get to see the game for free; they are not going to be in the stadium; they will spend time outdoors in Minneapolis in February doing their volunteer duties…
Finally, with Northwestern making the NCAA Tournament field for the first time this year, here is an observation from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:
“Nebraska’s men’s basketball team hasn’t won an outright conference championship in 101 years.
“This season finally gives Northwestern fans the chance to say, ‘Ha-ha! You’re pathetic!’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………