BOZICH | Monday Muse -- Big Names in NCAA Tournament trouble; Hu - WDRB 41 Louisville News

  • Which power program and coach would you like to see miss the 2017 NCAA Tournament?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    UConn/Kevin Ollie
    17%
    74 votes
    Georgetown/John Thompson III
    15%
    67 votes
    Michigan State/Tom Izzo
    34%
    152 votes
    Syracuse/Jim Boeheim
    34%
    150 votes

BOZICH | Monday Muse -- Big Names in NCAA Tournament trouble; Hushing Stevie Mass

Posted: Updated:
Rick Bozich is already looking at which teams could miss the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Rick Bozich is already looking at which teams could miss the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An NCAA Tournament without Jim Boeheim, Lon Kruger, Tom Izzo, John Thompson III and Kevin Ollie?

What will Charles Barkley say about that?

A college basketball Player of the Year race likely to rage into mid-March?

What will De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk do about that?

A reminder to Steve Masiello to check his resume?

What has Twitter said about that?

I've got more than questions at the Monday Muse. I've also got answers. Trust me. I've always got answers.

1. Look at Who Could Miss the NCAA Tournament?

Most of the early talk about the NCAA Tournament typically focuses on identifying the teams most likely to earn the top seeds. I hear that talk. I hear the love that Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky and Gonzaga have earned, although Arizona entered the discussion by winning at UCLA Saturday.

But another story is developing: Look at some of the programs that could miss the fun. It's a list of teams and coaches that usually hang around for multiple weekends and crash the Final Four.

*Connecticut -- four-time NCAA champion

Kevin Ollie looked like the Next Great Thing when he led the Huskies to the NCAA title three seasons ago in Dallas. But excuse UConn fans if they're wondering if Jim Calhoun has any interest in making a Bill Snyder-like comeback.

The Record: 8-11, 117th in Pomeroy Rankings with losses to Wagner, Northeastern and Auburn.

The Reason: Rip Hamilton and Kemba Walker aren't walking through that door. The Huskies can't score. They're 226th in Pomeroy's offensive efficiency numbers.

The Outlook: Better win the American Athletic Conference Tournament, fellas. There's no at-large bid in your future.

*Georgetown -- The program of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson.

Another Big East legacy program that has fallen and can't get up. The Hoyas are struggling to fill half the seats at the Verizon Center and are about to miss the tournament for the third time in four seasons.

The Record: 10-10, 71st in Pomeroy with two losses to Providence but only one to Arkansas State.

The Reason: The Hoyas aren't terrible on offense or defense, but they also aren't great.

The Outlook: Better win the Big East Tournament because John Thompson III's team is 1-6 in the league and still must play Villanova and Creighton twice.

Oklahoma – 2016 national championship threat.

The Sooners had one of the best teams and one of the best players (Buddy Hield) last season. This season Lon Kruger has neither. He's been forced to use multiple freshmen -- and it shows.

The Record: 8-10, 62nd in Pomeroy with losses to Northern Iowa, Memphis and Auburn.

The Reason: Jordan Woodard is the only significant part Kruger from last season's 29-8 team. The Sooners are learning how to play defense the way Kruger wants defense played.

The Outlook: The Sooners showed a spark last week by winning at West Virginia after ending a 7-game losing streak. But they're 2-5 in the Big 12 and still face six road games, including trips to Baylor and Kansas.

*Syracuse -- No gift from the tournament selection committee this year.

There was howling when the Orange (19-13) made the field last season. Many thought another at-large team (like Monmouth) was more deserving. Syracuse quieted the noise by powering into the Final Four before losing to North Carolina.

Even Carmelo Anthony should not expect the Orange to avoid the NIT this season. Joe Lunardi does not include the Orange in his bracket at ESPN.com -- even among the last eight teams out of the field. But Lunardi currently has 10 ACC teams, including Pitt and Miami, ahead of the Orange.

The Record: 11-9, 57th in Pomeroy, with losses to UConn, Georgetown and St. John's.

The Reason: After seven straight seasons as a Top 20 defense in the Pomeroy ratings, the Orange 2-3 zone has lost its sizzle. Syracuse ranks 99th in defensive efficiency.

The Outlook: If the ‘Cuse made the field last season, I guess they have time to overtake some of the scrappers at the bottom of the bracket. In fact, they have winnable road games with North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Clemson and Georgia Tech.

*Michigan State -- 19-year NCAA Tournament streak on the line.

Lunardi's numbers say the Spartans don't have anything to fret. He lists Michigan State as a seven-seed but this is a team on a two-game losing streak facing a big week with home games against Purdue and Michigan.

The Record: 12-8, 52nd in Pomeroy with losses to Northeastern, Penn State and Ohio State.

The Reason: Tom Izzo lost his top two centers to injuries before the season. Izzo has admitted that he scheduled too aggressively for a young team that relies on freshmen like Myles Bridges and Cassius Winston.

The Outlook: The Spartans aren't going to win the Big Ten but they should be OK -- unless they stumble against Nebraska and Illinois in East Lansing and against Iowa and Michigan at home.

2. Player of the Year Race: The Floor is Open (for two UK players)

Buddy Hield identified himself as the favorite for the Wooden Award early last season. Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin played like the guy to beat in 2015. Louisville's Russ Smith challenged Doug McDermott of Creighton for the top spot three seasons ago.

This season?

Hold all ballots until the last possible moment. Nobody has separated himself the way Lamar Jackson separated himself from the Heisman Trophy field last fall.

Pomeroy has started to list his top players, who are ranked (in part) by their offensive efficiency. Villanova guard Josh Hart tops the list, followed by Jock Landale of Saint Mary's, a player I've yet to see. Hart is a nice player, a defending NCAA champion. But he's not a flashy player who puts up huge numbers. He's no lock.

Keep an eye on Pomeroy's third pick -- Caleb Swanigan, a 20-20 threat nearly every night for Purdue. Kentucky guards De'Aaron Fox (sixth) and Malik Monk (10th) also made the cut. As long as John Calipari's team keeps rolling, Fox and Monk can play their way into the top tier.

3. Steve Masiello Forgets to Rip One Person -- Himself

Questioning the maturity and commitment of college athletes is a rant we've all heard for years. Young folks never do it the way the old guard did it.

Heard it from Hayes, Schembechler, Knight, Bryant and on and on.

I just didn't expect to hear it from former Kentucky guard and Louisville assistant coach Steve Masiello -- at least without recognition that Masiello survived a moment of raging irresponsibility, too.

Mass was hot after his Manhattan College team slipped to 7-14 with a loss to Siena Sunday. The Jaspers sit at 2-8 in league play. I wonder if Stevie Mass is on the hot seat.

This is what Mass said about his team during the post-game media scrum:

"We're a fraudulent society from top to bottom. Our society's fraudulent. Everything about our society is edited. Everything about our society is prearranged, so this generation is a fraudulent generation.

"And what I mean by that is they put their Instagram picture the way they want. They put their tweet out the way they want. Nothing is interactive. Nothing is real.

"So when things don't go the way people want them to, people really struggle with -- if it's not 75 degrees and sunny and the stars aren't aligned, if it's not exactly 4 p.m., they didn't get exactly eight hours of beauty sleep and the pasta… young people today struggle with it. Our society struggles with that, and for me -- I can't speak for other coaches -- I see it more than ever.

"When adversity comes in, people struggle. They're not bad kids. This might be one of my favorite groups I've ever had. They struggle with adversity. They struggle with -- that's a byproduct of our society today, so I think we're a reflection of our culture a little bit, not to get too deep."

Not to get too deep, Mass, but are you related to the guy who's at Manhattan on a pass because school administrators agreed to take you back after South Florida hired and then dumped you three years ago because you falsely claimed you had earned your degree from UK?

4. More Mike Brey Love

I remember when it was trendy to knock the work Mike Brey did as the basketball coach at Notre Dame. That was two years ago.

From 2004-2014, Brey won two NCAA Tournament games in South Bend, one in 2008 and another in 2011. At most places, Brey would have earned the Mike Davis or Steve Lavin treatment. See ya.

Notre Dame stuck with Brey. And Brey has delivered.

His last two teams have surged into the Elite Eight. I'm not predicting another Elite Eight this season, but the Irish have played like one of the four best teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- without depth or a legitimate center.

They can shoot. They can protect the basketball. They can make plays in the final four minutes.

Others have noticed the wonderful work Brey has done, like Dave Miller did in this story at CampusInsider.com.

5. Buzz Williams Teaching More Than Basketball

Virginia Tech delivered a solid road victory at Clemson Sunday night, bumping the Hokies to 4-3 in ACC play with wins over Duke and Syracuse.

But that's not the reason I'm recognizing Williams.

Williams invited a group of military veterans to a recent Virginia Tech practice and talked to his players about the sacrifices the soldiers made. Williams continued his teaching moment with a discussion about the National Anthem and how he expected his players to treat the anthem before every game.

Williams is not a fan of guys refusing to look at the flag during the anthem.

Somebody captured the moment on video. You can watch it by clicking on this link.

6. Blaming The Russians

I strive to avoid politics on the Monday Muse. There's enough fussing about that elsewhere.

But sometimes even I can't avoid the bad things Vladimir Putin is accused of doing, especially after former NBA all-star Baron Davis made the alarmingly serious allegation that the Russians influenced the U.S. Election.

The election of starters for the NBA All-Star game.

After Russell Westbrook was not voted a starter for the Western Conference, Davis went on Twitter and wrote the problem with Russian hackers was officially out of control.

I realize that like Westbrook, Davis played at UCLA.

But he's right. Westbrook deserves to an all-star starter -- in Oklahoma City, Golden State, New Orleans and Moscow.

7. Spotlight Turns To WKU's Forrest Lamp

The football calendar continues to shrink. No NFL games this weekend with the usual pause before the Super Bowl.

But there's always blocking and tackling going on -- and not just on the recruiting trail. The top college seniors have gathered in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl, an all-star game that traditionally has a major impact on the NFL Draft.

Louisville will be represented by three guys -- receiver Jamari Staples; long snapper; Colin Holba and tight end Cole Hikutini. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was invited but will miss the game with an injury.

Kentucky center Jon Toth, Indiana guard Dan Feeney, WKU receiver Taywan Taylor and WKU offensive lineman Forrest Lamp are all expected to play.

In fact, Lamp will be one of the most watched players in the game – as outlined in this story at FanSided.com.

8. Willie Taggart's Short Honeymoon

Former Western Kentucky quarterback and coach Willie Taggart will not coach his first game at Oregon for nearly eight months but some are wondering if Taggart has already burned through the grace period coaches receive when taking over a program.

There is a reason for that. Actually, there are several. (The link.)

First, Taggart was forced to suspend his strength and conditioning coach for a month when three Oregon players were hospitalized after collapsing during a new rigorous workout program.

Apparently the workout program did not include Taggart's assistant coaches. His co-offensive coordinator David Reeves was fired over the weekend, charged with reckless driving and DUI.

My advice to Taggart -- don't lose to Oregon State.

9. Poll Results I

Should college basketball eliminate 9 p.m. tip-offs for games played in the Eastern time zone?

Yes 68.3 percent

No 31.7 percent

10. Poll Results II

What has been the most surprising development in ACC basketball this season?

Duke losing its first three road games 39.3 percent

Leonard Hamilton leading FSU to a 4-1 start 25.9 percent

Notre Dame’s 5-0 start 25.9 percent

North Carolina losing to Georgia Tech 8.9 percent.

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