Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl will return in two weeks. Click here to send him a question.
SEATTLE -- Rrrrring!
" Seth Davis? Delivery for you, sir."
"But I didn't order anything."
"Oh, yes, you did. Here's an extra-large helping of humble pie. Happy holidays!"
Sure, I could take this occasion to gloat over Stanford's dethroning of Duke (as predicted here, what, six weeks ago?), or over Casey Jacobsen's supremacy over Mike Dunleavy Jr. (as predicted here, what, six weeks ago?).
But the 'Bag is a uniter, not a divider. We'll forgive Mr. Davis for endorsing one numbskull scout's opinion of Jacobsen as "a shorter version of Jud Buechler ." And I'll point out that I was impressed with Dunleavy against Stanford, his two late missed FTs notwithstanding. For a guy with no discernible muscle mass, Dunleavy pulls off some remarkable stuff. His flying, no-look, reverse layup on Thursday reminded me of what Bill Bradley must have looked like in college, and his ability to create his own shots will serve him well at the next level.
A few other thoughts on the game:
Back to our regularly scheduled 'Bag programming ...
In light of the apparent lack of institutional control at UNLV over the basketball program, would the administration have any interest in a certain unemployed teacher/coach/disciplinarian who could still use his red-sweater wardrobe?
You mean Dick Bennett? Don't count on it. If you're referring to Bob Knight, though, anything's possible. The idea of Knight roaming the Strip would be an irresistible fish-out-of-water story, and it's more plausible than some of the other harebrained suggestions I've heard. (Knight to Harvard? Get real.)
Sure, I'll buy the argument that bringing in a sheriff figure like Knight would help change UNLV's image as a renegade school. But remember: As Knight has plainly shown at Indiana, there's more to bad publicity than NCAA violations. Think about it. Why would the UNLV administration want to hire Knight? For starters, he doesn't exactly have a sparkling record in dealing with his superiors. (Would you want to be Knight's boss?) What's more, the last thing UNLV needs is more negative pub, and who's the most volatile powder keg in college hoops?
Why, Bob Knight, of course. I could be wrong (and I hope I am), but I don't see this happening.
Do you think Quin Snyder may lead Missouri into, say, Florida's class? I see a lot of similarities between Snyder and Billy Donovan.
I really think so, Joe, and even made that point a few weeks ago when I compared the bellyaching of competing coaches about Snyder's and Donovan's recruiting coups. Now Missouri is taking the next step by getting some real results on the court. I've been hot and cold on the Tigers all season, ranking them in my preseason Top 20 and dropping them after a bad loss to Syracuse, but after their double-OT loss at Iowa and convincing win at Indiana, I'm back to my original optimism. (Always trust your instincts, right?)
This much I do know: Kareem Rush might be a first-team All-American, and if MU can hang tough with Illinois in St. Louis on Thursday, the Tigers are a legit top 15 team. In any case, the Big 12 is going to be a fun race between Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. (It's like traveling a decade back through time, to the glory days of the Big Eight and Band Aid Chievous, Stormin' Norman, Choo Kennedy, Milt Newton, Billy Tubbs, Lee Coward, Larry Brown, Chris Piper, Mookie Blaylock, Danny Manning, Dave Sieger ... Man, I could go on forever.)
So what's your take on college basketball's self-proclaimed greatest team, Arizona? My impression is they just can't close the deal, with or without the very vain Loren Woods. This is a team that really lacks any street fight.
If the Wildcats are smart, they'll follow the example of Michael Wright and do three things: be tough, be team players and shut up. This is easily the most talented team in the country on paper, but it's no coincidence that Wright is the only Arizona player who's had a good year so far.
Did you hear Wright shooting off his mouth before the season? Do you ever see him whining to the referees? Getting pushed around? Taking wild shots? Nope. Never. Before the season Jason Gardner told me the key to the Wildcats wasn't just their talent but their chemistry, something that's not there right now. Wright should never take fewer than 10 shots a game. Gilbert Arenas and Gardner haven't shown any improvement from their freshman years. Richard Jefferson sometimes forgets to show up (witness his bagel against Purdue). And while Woods is just returning to action, it has already become a cliché to call him soft. (I like vain, though. Nice adjective.)
All that could change, of course, and it had better if Arizona is going to fulfill all those expectations. In my season preview of the Wildcats for Sports Illustrated I raised a red flag ("Overconfidence could haunt them"), but I'll admit that I bought into a lot of what they were saying. They looked too good in practice (and in Hawaii, minus Woods) to let their egos get in the way, which is exactly what has happened.
Keep in mind, though, it's still early, Arizona is still loaded, and nobody wrote off Michigan State when it lost to Wright State last year. It's up to Lute Olson to find a team amid all that attitude. Whether he's up to the task remains to be seen.
WE GOT A BIG response on last week's column on undefeated teams. Katie from Boston wondered why I excluded the 1995 UConn women's team from my list of unbeatens. Point taken, but I have a hard and fast rule: consider the men's and women's versions of a sport to be two separate sports, and never compare the two. I cover men's and women's soccer, but they're as different from each other as baseball and ice hockey. Same with hoops.
Ryan Zickos of Charlotte, N.C., questions my choice of Wofford as Alabama's best win ("Did you realize Alabama beat Louisville by 29 points!"), to which I say, yes, I did. Which should tell you something about what I think of Louisville this season.
And Bob from Edwards, N.Y., wonders how I could include USC among the "Teams That Can Back It Up" and leave Syracuse out. Well, Bob, it's pretty simple: USC had beaten Utah (a good team) and I was pretty down on DePaul and Missouri (the Orangemen's two best wins) at the time. We're pretty fluid here at the 'Bag, so I'll tell you what: If Syracuse can beat Tennessee I'll put Jim Boeheim's boys in the group of legit teams (just as I now put Virginia there, too).
THEN THERE WAS this gem from Jaime Meza of Las Vegas, who had this to say about my column on Bill Bayno's firing: "Why does your story suck so much. Bill Bayno was an escape goat REALIZE that."
Let's play word association, Jaime. Billy Bayno. Billy Goat. Scapegoat. Escape goat? Escape clause.
There's our phrase of the day: Escape clause, which UNLV was smart to have in Bayno's case, since it allowed the university to get out of paying him if he was ever connected to an NCAA violation.
UWE BLAB FOUND!
So there I am on the phone Tuesday calling Uwe Blab, the 7-foot-2, German-born, former Indiana Hoosier, and a man with a Southern drawl picks up the phone.
"Uwe, where did you get a Southern accent?"
We proceeded to have a delightful conversation, in which the big redhead brought me up to date. Blab lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children and works as a vice president at Paragon Scientific Corp., which provides businesses with computer cabling and networking services.
"I was a computer science and math major in college, so this fits my background," said Blab, who played with Dallas, Golden State and San Antonio in a five-year NBA career and then went to Europe before retiring in '93 and heading back to Texas.
Blab recently built a house on his 68-acre ranch outside of Austin, and he just started coaching the basketball teams of his 10-year-old son, Christopher, and his six-year-old daughter, Laura. He also confirmed the funniest Bob Knight story I've ever heard. Blab was never known for his ability to catch the ball, so when his first child was born Knight passed along these instructions to Blab's wife, Key: "Promise me that you will never let this man hold that child aloft unless it is over a soft bed."
Thanks, Uwe, and congratulations to Abby Shoben of Champaign, Ill., who was the first reader to provide Blab's correct whereabouts and who gets a free CNN/Sports Illustrated hat. Way to go, Abby!
Previous WATN selections:
This week's WATN: Where in the world is Michael Graham, the former Georgetown Hoya?
Enjoy the holidays, everyone. I'll be back in two weeks. (And, no, I haven't forgotten my KFC pledge.)
Click here to send your college basketball question to Grant Wahl.