College Basketball: Although the nets are cut down in April the road to the Final 4 in Atlanta begins now

We are halfway through the college football season and several fans have turned their attention to their basketball programs accepting the harsh reality that a bowl game is not in their school’s future. Traditional basketball powers like Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina opened Midnight Madness and the start of their first official practices with a big bang. The fan bases from these four programs and many others from across the nation believe that this will be their year to cut down the nets and win a National Championship.

Last season we were treated to memorable buzzer beaters at Duke and Indiana; NCAA investigations and scandals at Syracuse and Louisville; the ending of an era in Connecticut with the retirement of Coach Jim Calhoun; and Anthony ‘uni-brow’ Davis leading Kentucky and a band of future pros to the school’s eighth national title.

Although last year’s season ended with a bang this upcoming season promises to be one that will be nothing short of exciting. Out west once proud programs UNLV and UCLA have assembled their fair share of diaper dandies and college transfers in an attempt to reclaim their dominant ways out west. Despite the potential of both of these programs they both enter the off-season with a ton of question marks.  At UNLV chemistry and the pressure of heightened expectations will be two factors to watch as Coach Rice attempts to build a solid rotation and find minutes for a deep frontcourt.

At UCLA Ben Howland seat has truly begin to warm so the pressure to produce on the court could not be higher. However,the three freshmen one and doners Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker, and Kyle Anderson who were expected to return the Bruins to glory are all currently under investigation by the NCAA for improper benefits. To make matters talented but overweight Josh Smith continues to lose his fight with hamburgers leading to an ever-expanding waistline. Too make matters even worse in Westwood, Muhammad who is the same freshman under investigation also injured his shoulder and he may not be expected to return until mid-season.

In the Midwest Kansas promises to be a tough out despite the loses in the back court of Tyshawn Taylor. Ben McLemore has made raves during the summer camp circuits and is expected to team with center Jeff Withey to help Coach Bill Self contend for yet another Big XII Championship.

Although football may still be king in Big X country this year their best chance to capture a national title may lay in Bloomington, Indiana who have been voted preseason number one. Led by presumed number pick in next year’s draft Cody Zeller. Coach Tom Crean has finally assembled a team that can bring a national championship banner back to Hoosier nation, the land of Larry Bird and the infamous movie Hoosiers.  However winning the Big X certainly will not be a cakewalk with a resurgent Michigan team in Ann Arbor & the Hall-of-famer himself in East Lansing.

Reigning NCAA champ, Kentucky Wildcats lose six draft picks from last year’s team but expectations for another title has not be reduced. Coach Calipari has done a masterful job of recruiting replacing lottery picks with future lottery picks and the same is true this year: Nerlean Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and NC State transfer Ryan Harrow promise to make their debut season a treat for both NBA scouts and Big Blue Nation.

In the ACC the most unlikeliest teams on Tobacco Road has been deemed the preseason favorite, and it’s not Duke or UNC. Led by Coach Mark Gottfried the NC State Wolf pack have had a quick turn around and with the addition of McDonald’s All-American Purvis who was just cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse they promise to be a tough out during tournament time.

As the Maui Tournament and the Coaches v. Cancer Tournament quickly approaches and gives fans the non conference games fans dream of during the Thanksgiving Holiday know the March Madness and all the excitement that ensues is not too far behind. However, whose being fitted for their MARCH glass slipper? Which senior will arise from the smoke of oblivion? Which freshman will get ensnared in the NCAA’s grasp? This college basketball season promises to be a good one. Stay tuned… I know I will – A.Denmark

Retire a hero, or coach long enough to see yourself become the villian

“Retire hero, or coach long enough to see yourself become the villain”

After watching Jeremy Lin go 1-11 with 6 turnovers I had no interest in watching any more basketball. In my quest to find cinematic enjoyment I found myself watching ‘The Dark Knight” with Health Ledger, may he rest in peace. While watching the film the villain 2-face said the following quote  which made me think:

“Either you die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”

Illinois basketball Coach Bruce Weber has witnessed the applause and praise become something far less desirable. The pundits have forgotten how he resurrected the basketball program and nearly led them to the National Championship with Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head. As the days to Coach Weber’s imminent firing approaches at season’s end, I am reminded that this has been the fate of several coaches and great players; it is the consequence of over staying your welcome and not knowing the right time to leave…

In Bloomington, Indiana was home to sport royalty and a coaching innovator that was praised for his intellect and high basketball IQ. Each year Coach Bobby Knight had his Hoosiers in contention for the National Championship due to his ability to bring great players like Isiah Thomas and Calbert Cheaney to leave their urban jungles and call the Hoosier state home. Coach Knight continued to collect wins and build championship caliber teams each year, and despite his well-known temper everyone turned a blind eye as long as the rafters continued to read “FINAL FOUR” or “ELITE EIGHT”. However, the once glorified coach was unable to keep up with the  new landscape of college basketball and those cheers of praise become glares of resentment toward an old-timer who refused to recruit and was no longer able to mount the banners he once did in years past. A coach that was once glorified and given the key to city of Bloomington was fired after nearly a decade of his young men graduating and getting their degrees but Coach Knight no longer posted the winning records he once did. Coach Knight’s antics at that time were no longer tolerable and were now considered grounds for termination due too fewer McDonald’s All-Americans signing Letters of Intent with the Hoosiers of Indiana and no new banners hanging from the rafters.

This year, another icon suffered the same fate and he resided in Happy Valley, the winningest coach in college football history the Great Joe Paterno. For nearly five decades he was the face of Penn State, the infamous coke bottle glasses accompanied with the rolled up slacks and white socks. The endless miles he walked up and down a sideline will forever be unmatched by anyone who aspires to coach this game we call football. However, only two weeks after being praised and cheered in a packed press room for reaching the 400 wins milestone those cheers quickly became words of condemnation that led to his termination as coach of the Penn State football team. For years, fans and spectators wondered when this icon was going to hang it up, several thought after the Orange Bowl when he beat his good friend Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles in 2006. Such an exit would have made him retire a hero, however Joe Pa chose otherwise and is now must face the consequence of his actions. And will be remembered not for the thousands of lives he changed but how he negatively impacted the lives of little boys he never even knew by saying nothing.

Life is filled with several more examples such the aforementioned Bobby Bowden being ‘fired’ from the university he helped erect or Jerry Rice & Joe Montana being released by the 49ers organization that they sacrificed their bodies to win 2 Super Bowl rings for. It appears that becoming the villain is a mask that we are all capable of adorning no matter the good deeds or sacrifices that we have made at some point in our life. The question is will you choose your exit? Or will you be escorted to that exit by security and  shown the door? Our fate is our own and in the end we may not choose how we are remembered.    – A.Denmark (@EatDrnkSlpSprtz)