BOZICH | Monday Muse: Has UK earned NCAA bracket break? Jay Will - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Monday Muse: Has UK earned NCAA bracket break? Jay Williams questions Rick Pitino

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Rick Bozich wonders about the NCAA Tournament bracket -- and ESPN's Jay Williams wonders about Rick Pitino. Rick Bozich wonders about the NCAA Tournament bracket -- and ESPN's Jay Williams wonders about Rick Pitino.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – We are 21 days from Bracket Monday and 31 days from  NCAA Tournament games being played at the KFC Yum! Center.

Time to grab your Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings and intensify your research. Or just call your Aunt Toots and ask her to make your picks. Could help. Can't hurt.

But even without a bracket, one intriguing tournament question has already popped into the conversation long before we officially know the 68-team field.

You guessed it. It’s time to launch the Monday Muse in 3, 2, 1 …

1. THE KENTUCKY GEOGRAPHY QUESTION

The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament returns to downtown Louisville for the third time in five seasons next month. Will Kentucky make it a three-peat at Second and Main streets?

It’s the most compelling local bracketing question because this season the circumstances are considerably different than they were in 2012 and 2015, the last two times the Wildcats were in town.

In those seasons, the games here were first-weekend games. This season the South Regional will be played in Louisville. The winner proceeds directly to the Final Four. We’re talking about the fate of top seeds, not eights, nines and 16s.

In 2012 and 2015, Kentucky was a number one seed, deserving of a geographical gift.  This season that is not the case, certainly not yet.

Most bracket projections have John Calipari’s team forecast as a four-seed, although you can also see them in the five and three slots.

Should a four-seed be given an edge for games in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight?

Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com is fine with it. He has the Wildcats as a four-seed in the South Regional, with Virginia the top seed. Ditto for Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. Kentucky is a five-seed in his South bracket, with Xavier on top.

How loudly would (or should?) Tony Bennett of Virginia or Chris Mack of Xavier howl if they had to play the Wildcats several steps from Calipari’s driveway?

My guess is that it wouldn't take much prodding. Giving a one- or two-seed an edge is understandable. 

A four-seed? Hmmmmm. Don't think so.

For the record, here are the mileage numbers from Lexington for the 12 NCAA sites the first two weekends:

Regionals

77 Louisville (South)

378 Chicago (Midwest)

634 Philadelphia (East)

2156 Anaheim, Calif. (West)

First/Second Rounds

337 St. Louis

494 Raleigh, N.C.

667 Des Moines, Iowa

708 Brooklyn

835 Oklahoma City

893 Providence, R.I.

1187 Denver

2164 Spokane, Wash.

2. JAY WILLIAMS QUESTIONS PITINO

Former Duke point guard Jay Williams appeared on the Mike and Mike show on ESPN and shared a bold (for ESPN) take on Louisville coach Rick Pitino:

Williams wondered if another college coach could have survived the issues that Pitino has so far survived at U of L since 2010. Williams also asked this question:

“What do you value? Do you value winning games or do you value being a moral compass for your players?”

You can watch the entire clip at this link. And, no, I do not have an e-mail address for Williams. And, no, I don’t believe he was angry because U of L defeated Duke Saturday. He's paid to share his thoughts and opinions.

3. THE HUMPHRIES RULING

Bad call.

Yes, Kentucky's Isaac Humphries erred by slamming the basketball at Texas A&M Saturday after his critical rebound in the lane. Total brain cramp.

Yes, you can read the rulebook and say the officials had to assess Humphries a technical foul for excessive celebration.

Yes, you can argue that when a player on your favorite team makes that play, you expect understanding, but if somebody on the opposing team misfires then it is time to enforce the rules.

Jay Bilas of ESPN brought up the “What if,” of how the situation would have been viewed if Humphries had slammed and then caught the throw. Fair point. But don’t you also have to ask how it would have been viewed if Humphries had inadvertently hit an A&M player?

I think the common sense rule also has to be enforced. Humphries was happy with himself, not angry with the officials or an opponent. He wasn’t taunting anybody. He simply made a small mistake.

I believe a warning would have worked.

Bad call.

4. ROY WILLIAMS VS. DOUG GOTTLIEB

Roy Williams knows better than to do what he did after North Carolina’s victory over Miami Saturday. But if he doesn’t, I’ll remind him:

Let it go.

All Williams did with his post-game rant against Gottlieb was draw more attention to the silly things that Gottlieb says at CBS. I had not heard a word about Gottlieb’s prediction/story that Williams would retire and be replaced by assistant coach Hubert Davis after the season – until Williams blasted Gottlieb for saying it.

Maybe Gottlieb heard it from somebody he trusts. Maybe Gottlieb believes it should happen. Maybe Gottlieb was trying to twist the spotlight his way in the crowded media scrum.

Whatever his plan, Gottlieb won this encounter. Until Williams counter-punched, I suspect most of us had zero idea what Gottlieb said.

5. WHAT POMEROY SAYS

There are less than two weeks remaining in the college basketball regular season – and the regular season is what matters at the University of Louisville because of the school’s self-imposed tournament ban.

I know that it also matters to Tom Crean and Indiana. I know that it’s not as important as NBA Draft Night to Calipari.

But how many of the three local powers will actually win at least a share of their conference titles?

I checked Ken Pomeroy’s full-season projected standings. This is what he forecasts.

ACC – North Carolina and Virginia tie for the title with 13-5 records. Louisville finishes in a four-way tie with Miami, Duke and Notre Dame for third place at 12-6. He has the Cards likely losing at Miami Saturday and Virginia March 5.

SEC – Kentucky wins three of its last four to finish 13-5, one game ahead of Texas A&M.

Big Ten – Indiana wins two of its final three, finishing 14-4, tied with Iowa, one game ahead of Maryland.

6. THE YOGI REPORT

The rush to fast break into the NBA means career records are rarely delivered in college basketball. You don’t see as many four-year guys as you once saw.

Yogi Ferrell at Indiana is an exception to that. He’s a four-year guy who will leave Bloomington with his degree – and a solid place in the Indiana record book.

Ferrell earned the school record for assists last month. He will set the Indiana record for games started (131) at Illinois Thursday night. Ferrell has scored 1,845 points. That ranks seventh on the all-time IU list, behind Calbert Cheaney, Steve Alford, Don Schlundt, A.J. Guyton, Mike Woodson and Alan Henderson.

Ferrell needs 135 points to overtake Henderson. He’s guaranteed five more games – three regular season, one Big Ten Tournament and one NCAA Tournament. At his current average of 16.6, Ferrell would likely need to play at least eight games to move into sixth. Woodson, at 2,061 points, is out of reach.

7. WOULD YOU WATCH BEN SIMMONS IN NIT?

ESPN’s love affair with Ben Simmons won’t have to end when the regular season does. Unless Johnny Jones can shake up a Dale Brown transformation during the SEC Tournament, the Tigers appear safely bound for the NIT after losing to Alabama and Tennessee last week.

LSU sits at 9-5 in the league – and also carries the baggage of non-conference losses to Marquette, North Carolina State, College of Charleston, Houston and Wake Forest.

That’s an NIT resume if I’ve ever seen one – and I’ve seen a few.

ESPN has the NIT contract. You can set your DVR for plenty of looks of Simmons, high-fiving ticket takers and signing posters. Might be time for several one-hour specials.

8. TUBBY AIMS FOR FIVE-TEAM CLUB

Lon Kruger could have company in his exclusive club, the list of guys who have taken five teams to the NCAA Tournament. His new sidekick? Tubby Smith.

The Red Raiders figure to push their winning streak to five Tuesday night at home against TCU. In case you missed it, Tech has won its last four against Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Texas Tech is a confirmed bubble team. Tubby is doing the same solid work that he did at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota. (Kruger delivered at Kansas State, Illinois, Florida, UNLV and Oklahoma.)

The Big 12 league office has gotten behind the Red Raiders, with an email blast, touting Tech’s resume.

TEXAS TECH (17-9, 7-7 Big 12)

· The Red Raiders have won four straight contests and five of their last six, including three wins over top 25 opponents.

· The four-game Big 12 winning streak is the first for Tech since 2007.

· Texas Tech is rated at No. 23 in the latest RPI

· The Red Raiders boast the nation’s No. 2 strength of schedule.

· TTU is holding its opponents to 63.3 points over the past three contests.

· Tech is the only Big 12 team this year to defeat three straight top 25 conference opponents.

9. BURDI TIME

When you throw 101 mph with a 91 mph slider, you’re a legitimate candidate to make a big-league roster, even if you’re not on the 40-man roster.

Former Louisville closer Nick Burdi has the radar gun readings under control. It is pounding the strike zone that Burdi must work on. But he earned a non-roster invite to the Minnesota Twins’ spring training camp.

The Twins need bullpen help. This story suggests that Burdi could pitch his way from Class AA ball to downtown Minneapolis this season.

10. POLL RESULTS

Last week’s question: Which college basketball team do you consider the most likely to make the 2016 NCAA Final Four?

Kansas 24.1 percent

North Carolina 21

Oklahoma 19.1

Other 17.5

Virginia 13.6

Villanova 4.7

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