Magic eight (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday January 16, 2008 1:11PM; Updated: Wednesday January 16, 2008 4:52PM
Opening The 'Bag
Have you noticed that the hard foul has morphed into an intentional foul (two shots and the ball)? When did this transition happen? When a player pushes an opposing player in the back going for a breakaway lay-up, I understand the need for the call. However, when a player drives the lane after the transition defense has already established itself and the offense is actually running its offensive set, why are the officials awarding a two-shot penalty plus the ball when the defender fouls the offensive player hard? Is it because the defensive play looks "ugly," the reaction from the coach/crowd, etc.?
This is an interesting question. I've always thought it can be exceedingly hard for a referee to be clairvoyant and know for certain an athlete's intentions (this is the same problem in soccer when a referee has to divine intent on a handball), so I looked up the current definition of intentional foul. You'll note that nowhere does it discuss "breakaways":
According to the latest NCAA officiating guidelines, "Any personal foul that is not a legitimate attempt to directly play the ball or the player is an intentional personal foul; running into the back of a player who has the ball, wrapping the arm(s) around a player and grabbing a player around the torso or legs are intentional personal fouls; grabbing a player's arm or body while initially attempting to gain control by playing the ball directly is an intentional personal foul; grabbing, holding or pushing a player away from the ball is an intentional personal foul; undue roughness used to stop the game clock is an intentional personal foul and, if severe, should be called a flagrant personal foul; it is an intentional personal foul when, while playing the ball, a player causes excessive contact with an opponent."
But it also adds, "The intentional personal foul must be called within the spirit and intent of the intentional-foul rule." That's the kicker. Is the spirit and intent changing? I prefer not to see the referees make a decision that can have too much of an impact on a close game late. That's why I'm one of the guys who thinks the ref made the right (non-intentional foul) call on Greg Oden's hard foul late against Xavier in last year's NCAA tournament.
What's your sense, readers? Are intentional fouls being whistled more frequently than before? Should they be?
Are you going to be smart enough to have Pitt in your Magic Eight? The Mike Cook injury hurts and the Levance Fields injury hurts more, but if Fields is back for March then Pitt will be much better for it. Look at the depth that is being created by their absence. Three freshmen (two true, one redshirt) are getting tons of PT because of the injuries. I would just advise you to consider them as the dark horse candidate. When Fields comes back, they are going to go deep into March regardless of seed.
I couldn't go far enough to put Pitt in the Magic Eight, but I'm awfully impressed by how Jamie Dixon has handled the injuries to Cook and Fields, and the Georgetown win was particularly striking. Dixon is making his bones as a coach this season, and if he can keep Pitt in the top three of the Big East he'll be a candidate for Coach of the Year.
It looks like Oklahoma is finally beginning to pick up the pieces and rebuild its program. Do you think this year's team can make a run at the tourney?
I liked what I saw in the virtual road win against West Virginia, and freshman Blake Griffin was really starting to perform (witness his mano-a-mano classic against K-State's Mike Beasley last Saturday) until he suffered a sprained ligament in his left knee Monday night against Kansas. But now OU could be in trouble for an NCAA tournament bid with Griffin out for up to four weeks and an 0-2 start in Big 12 play. Bad luck for Jeff Capel.
What has happened to Georgia Tech? All of the preseason projections I saw indicated that they would be decent and probably at least make a run at the tourney. Now I would be surprised if they won five more games.
I thought the Yellow Jackets (7-8) might really turn the corner after nearly picking off Kansas in Atlanta last month, but instead they've struggled, starting 0-2 in the ACC (including a home loss to Florida State) as they head into Wednesday's home game against North Carolina. Georgia Tech has a decent offensive attack, but it turns the ball over a lot, and the defense is brutal (No. 128 in the country in defensive efficiency per kenpom.com). GT sends opponents to the line way too often and doesn't defend or shoot the three-pointer worth a lick. Paul Hewitt's guys are hitting only 31 percent of their threes while opponents are shooting 40 percent. That translates to a lot of losses.
They should win a few more than five more games, though. Keep in mind, aside from UNC and Duke, the ACC is pretty bad this season.
One elite program that used a "junk defense" was UCLA in the 1968 national semifinal against Houston. John Wooden put in a modified box-and-one. It was a 1-2-1, as opposed to the traditional 2-2 as Wooden wanted to have Lew Alcindor under the basket, with the "one" guarding Elvin Hayes man-to-man. Worked pretty well as the Bruins won by 32.
So what you're saying is it was a diamond-and-one, right? Calipari told me this week that ever since USC used its triangle-and-two on the Tigers, opponents have thrown his team the sort of junk that would make Michael Milken proud. The list includes more triangle-and-two, a 1-3-1 zone, a one-man zone, a two-man zone (with two post defenders on the blocks), a 3-2 zone and lots of 2-3 zone.
Random Story of the Week
After last week's classic O.J. Mayo story told by Mike Beasley's mom, Fatima Smith, we thought we'd share another good unused anecdote that has to do with David and Dana Pump and their search firm ChampSearch, which placed Eddie Sutton at San Francisco this season.
According to the L.A. Times, since forming ChampSearch in 2004 the well-connected Pumps have head-hunted coaches for Ole Miss, Nebraska, Colorado, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Long Beach State. But their biggest gig to date was earning a $25,000 fee from Tennessee for helping the Vols land Bruce Pearl in 2005.
There are all sorts of potential conflicts with the Adidas-backed Pumps being hired by collegiate programs, not least because they could hypothetically steer recruits from Adidas-sponsored AAU teams to schools whose coaches were hired through ChampSearch (which would have a stake in their success). But we'll save that story for another day.
For now we'd like to share a more amusing anecdote, courtesy of Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton. It's set in a Dallas conference room during the first weekend of the 2005 NCAA tournament as Pearl's Wisconsin-Milwaukee team was in Cleveland preparing to upset Boston College and Alabama. Let Hamilton pick it up from here:
"We were sitting in a room in Dallas talking about different coaches. I had my short list. [ChampSearch consultant and former NCAA president] Cedric Dempsey was there, Dana Pump and [UT senior associate AD] John Currie. I said, 'Let's start talking to coaches and see what the interest is. Dana Pump picks up the phone and calls Bruce."
"He says, 'Hey Bruce, this is Pump! I've got the Tennessee search, I'm helping them with it. They're very interested in you, they love you, you just need to keep winning and things look great.' Well, Bruce is having dinner with his AD in Cleveland preparing to play Alabama in the first round, and he got up from the table to take the call. Bruce says, 'Hey Dana, I'm trying to win a game here, but I'd be interested.' And he goes back to the table."
"So Pump gets off the phone and says, 'Pearl's in. Who do we want to call next?' I give him a particular name to test the waters on, and he picks up the phone. 'Hey Coach, this is Pump! I've got the Tennessee search, they've got their eyes on you, you've done a great job at X University.'"
"Then Pump goes stone-cold, gets red-faced and says, 'I'm just kidding.' He hung up the phone and died laughing. He says, 'You're not going to believe this, but I just called Pearl back.' On the other end Pearl had gone back to his table and Pump's number showed up again. He walks out of the room again, says hello and Pump starts into his antics. Bruce decides he's just going to listen and see what's happening here."
"So when Pump got to the part about X University, Pearl says, 'Hey Pump, this is Bruce. You called me back. I will never let you live this down.'"
"True story," says a laughing Pearl, who still busts the Pumps' chops about it.