The NCAA basketball tournaments, men’s & women’s, were cancelled in 2020, due to the COVID lockdowns. The back-to-school campaign has many interested aspects, and college sports is certainly one of them. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has existed since 1939, and predates organized professional basketball & the NBA, which was established post-WW2.
This is arguably the most prestigious NCAA event for many reasons. Virtually every Division I university has a basketball program, as compared to football, which is much more expensive. According to Google, there are 350 schools that are full members of 32 Division I basketball conferences, as compared to 130 varsity football teams.
Furthermore, basketball is now more competitive than ever, especially in the mid-level conferences. The 64 (68) team format allows all the best teams in, with a fair chance to win it all. It’s the toughest tournament to win, and almost impossible to repeat anymore. It’s been like that since John Wooden left UCLA.
Teams want to at least make the NCAA tournament, and if they don’t, coaching vacancies appear. For example, on the eve of the 2021 NCAA tournament, Marquette announced they had fired their head coach Steve Wojciechowski.
A week later they have announced Shaka Smart as their new head coach. There was a $7M buyout from Texas that had to be handled, and it was, since they got bounced by a #14 seed. The top open jobs are now considered to be Indiana, Texas & Oklahoma. In total, there were 37 D1 basketball head coach vacancies when 2020-21 seasons ended. A few more will appear after the tournament ends.
New Marquette basketball head coach Shaka Smart faces some alumni concern. This video above shows Texas up 14 points at home in the second half, when civil war broke out, and West Virginia ended up winning by 2. I know Marquette just hired its first black head coach, and it’s all good feelings after firing Wojo (which was necessary), but this is concerning. A lot of other head coaches are about to become available, particularly Loyola Ramblers’ Porter Moser, but Marquette already took themselves out of that running with this quick hire.
There are a lot of factors that go into such a decision, especially for a school like Marquette which has a long history of losing its head coaches to other schools who are willing to pay higher salaries & invest more into their basketball programs. Marquette has lost Rick Majerus, Kevin O’Neill, Tom Crean & Buzz Williams because of this. All this goes into a hiring process, as it’s as much about hiring someone you think will stay, as it is about getting a good coach.
FYI, Tex Winter, the innovator of the Chicago Bulls triangle offense with Micheal Jordan, Scottie Pippen, etc, was the Marquette Hilltoppers head coach for two seasons, from 1951-53. Marquette basketball has a rich coaching history, so we’ll see. As an alumnus with a rooting interest, I’ll give Shaka Smart a fair chance, but I have my doubts, and I’m not the only one. As the leader, you can’t ever lose control of your ranks.
Then there are the women, who are now televised on ABC & ESPN. They are playing in San Antonio, while the men compete in Indianapolis on CBS & TBS. That’s equal coverage for the women, so it comes down to ratings & ticket demand when comparing their economic value to men.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected tournament logistics greatly. Holding the entire tournament in one city with enough gyms makes sense. Once again, I don’t miss the fans in the stands. I think the officiating is MUCH better without fans to yell, boo & harass the refs into giving their team the call.
All this mask wearing, and then pulling it down to yell, etc, is optics. I watch because I’m starved for entertainment, like everyone else, but I’m not fooled. These events are fundamentally irresponsible during this pandemic. More & more they resemble the last days of bread & circuses during the Roman Empire.
The women’s play has much improved since the NCAA established Title IX in 1972, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in any activity receiving federal funds, such as athletic scholarships to universities. The women’s Sweet 16 teams are all solid in fundamentals & team play, where in the past it was only a few programs, namely Tennessee & Connecticut.
Note that I don’t think the women are anywhere near as exciting as the men in hoops, but I recognize that they know how to play. I spend much of my time evaluating the girls for their hotness. For instance, when it’s Baylor vs. Michigan, I rate the Wolverines as clean-cut, but homelier, with only one or two pretty girls.
The Baylor women are nappy & cuter, but I’m not a fan of their fake eyelashes. Spend more time on your game, girlfriend. Call me old school on that. All this makes me wonder what the girls have been looking at all these years, as we boys take these games so seriously?
I’m on record that I don’t like mascot names, and there’s a double hypocrisy with the Baylor women referring to themselves as the “Lady Bears.” I’m going to let YOU figure that one out.
As far as the Baylor Bears go, this guy’s nickname is “Off Night” because when he guards you, you have an off night. That’s an impressive nickname if you can live up to it, and Davion Mitchell does. He’ll be in the NBA someday, if he stays healthy.
Look at the improvement in his college stats from year-to-year. What the stats don’t show are his elite defensive skills & leadership. Davion Mitchell is a serious baller, with upside, MUCH better than his 1st-team All-American teammate Jared Butler.
In the era of the 3-point shot in the NCAA tournament (1987-present), I’ve never seen a college defender handle the high screen & roll better. Off Night slips below (or above) the screener and closes back to the dribbler in the blink of an eye, before the ball handler can set to shoot. There is no lane to drive on Off Night, who plays defense like a hybrid of Darrell Armstrong & Scottie Pippen.
Furthermore, if the opposition tries some high-low action on the other side, Off Night rotates over and plays the high zone on that side. Baylor attacks with their defense, switching from man-to-man to zone defense on the fly, so effectively, because of Off Night. He always boxes out the closest big when in position. Off Night checked one guy to disrupt their rebounding momentum, then boxed the big, more than once in their win against Villanova. That kind of player is a coach’s dream.
These highlights from that Sweet 16 game against Villanova, mostly show his offensive game, which still needs some polish, particularly shooting 3’s. But with his work ethic & basketball IQ, I expect Off Night to be a top NBA guard in the near future. He’s only a Junior, so he may stay another year, but he’s definitely top-10 talent now, and possibly the best player in this tournament.
Tue 30 Mar 2021 11:19 AM EDT
Averaging close to 17 PPG while shooting 43% from the field, Moses Moody had only 11 points on 2-10 shooting, including 0-4 in 3’s. Moody had 3 TO’s, double his season average. Arkansas lost to Baylor, 81-72, in the Elite 8. You can say he had an Off Night.
After getting called for 3 cheezy fouls in the 1st half, Off Night played the entire 2nd half without picking up another foul. Baylor was only allowed to press at about one-third to one-half their normal intensity, in order to keep Off Night on the floor. Poor officiating kept Arkansas in this game, and CBS approved. Unbelievable maturity, understanding & leadership by Davion Mitchell. Suddenly, it’s unanimous that Off Night is the best college player.
On the women’s side, Baylor’s Lady Bears were edged 69-67 by the Lady Huskies of Connecticut last night, aided by a bad no-call at the end, featured above. DiJonai Carrington was clearly fouled by two defenders, but no whistle. LeBron James tweeted a viral comment, “Cmon man!!! That was a FOUL!!” For background, Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey has faced backlash, after calling for COVID-19 testing to be scrapped ahead of the Final Four. So you tell me why there was no foul call?
Officiating is still the biggest problem in hoops. Bad referees can take a superior team out of its game faster than anything else. They can also decide it at game time. I wonder if those Baylor/UConn refs had East Coast bias, or just bias against fake eyelashes? I also wonder how the Oregon State women’s team refers to their mascot name?
Tue 30 Mar 2021 03:20 PM EDT
Davion Mitchell Scouting Report: Off Night leads the Baylor defense by manning-up on the opposition’s best perimeter player to start. If the whistles are fair, he will smother that player within a few minutes. It’s called owning your man on defense, and Off Night is the NCAA standard. Then his quickness, strength & skills go to work on the other end. His conditioning is professional grade, and punishing at both ends. Davion Mitchell has an NBA body already.
On defense, Off Night will switch the Bears to zone as needed, depending on what the opposition is trying to run. For instance, if it’s a three-man weave up top, Off Night will take the head of a 1-2-2 zone. That will stop that. If there’s some action being set-up on either wing, he’ll dive into that (2-3) zone & wreak havoc. He’s always communicating with his teammates, putting them in the right spots, so everything is covered. Then he can turn up the heat with ball pressure.
Most coaches tell their point guards, “Bring the ball up, and then get us into our offense, do this & this…” Off Night negates all that from even starting. He picks up full court, three-quarter court, half court, or minimally before the ball handler gets into shooting range. You must be in a power dribble by then, otherwise he will steal the ball. Players try their best quick moves, but Off Night is quicker. Sometimes too quick for the refs. If you’re a scorer who gives up the ball, he’ll make it difficult for you to get it back.
It gets very demoralizing to know that somebody is this good, and you’re not even close. I’ve only seen 3 games in Off Night’s career, starting with the Wisconsin game in the Round of 32, but it’s easy to see how his nickname has come about. Davion Mitchell has been owning guys for years, and it’s such a traumatic experience, that opposition players typically don’t want to talk about it. As a footnote on semantics, if you match up against Off Night during the day, his name changes to Off Game. Same result.
Here’s a hypothetical opposing high school head coach after a big loss. “Well our star guards who score 30 PPG & 25 PPG were held to single digits each. I don’t think anyone could have imagined that, and one guy can’t cover both of them. That’s impossible. Credit the opposing coach for coming up with a great game plan. Our guys never looked comfortable out there, and our best players each had an off night.” Yada, yada, yada…
Assuming you’ve never seen a player play, or have access to any scouting reports, stats, etc: How can you tell if you are watching a great player, or just someone who is having a great game? You can tell by knowing what goes into making a great player. Great players are aware of things that other players don’t even consider. They share the credit, and are the most selfless leaders, through example. A great player will make his teammates better, and does everything to help his team stay connected. This is how to win, because you can’t do it alone.