Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Final Four is set

The Final Four still lies ahead, but my brain is already sneaking peeks over the hill to the oncoming baseball season.  I'm so eager for the return of the National Pastime that I went ahead and did something ridiculous: I booked a ticket home for the home opener for My Sox.

'What's so ridiculous about that,' you ask?  Well, the trip will entail a 1am arrival in my hometown, having to essentially break into my Mom's house (with her permission; she's away that weekend), and an inevitable mad-dash through Chicago traffic to catch my flight back on Sunday.  Logistical acrobatics will be performed, all in the name of consuming baseball at it's blurry, April best.

There is a method to my madness, however.  See, I've never been to an opening day.  Sure, I've been to opening week before, but never an opening day of any kind.  When I went on the Sox website late Sunday night, and found one - and only one - ticket available for the affair, I took it as a sign.  That streak needed to end. So here I go; I hope the weather is passable.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the Final Four, the NCAA and transfer rules, and the football program.

Click below for the bag...

The Final Four is set - 

After two weeks of insanity, the Final Four is set.  Concocted with three parts chalk and one part dark horse, the championship cocktail will be poured this weekend in Indianapolis.  Here's a brief wrap up of how the participants earned their ticket.

Kentucky 68 - Notre Dame 66

The best game of the weekend (with all apologies to the overtime affair in Syracuse) was the one entailing the overall #1 fighting for their life against the upstart Irish.  Notre Dame played a nearly flawless game, fueled by a eye-popping performance from forward Zach Auguste.  The 'Cats Karl-Anthony Towns was just too much, however, and Kentucky was allowed to win it at the line in the waning seconds. ND had a last second prayer at glory, via Jerian Grant, but, while his heave was on line, it was just a little long.  The dream of 40-0 lives on.
UK survived their biggest test to date to live another day.
Wisconsin 85 - Arizona 78 - 

In a rematch of last year's Elite Eight tilt, the Badgers once again got the upper hand on the Wildcats, killing off the Pac-12's last hope at a Final Four participant.  The key was the continued emergence of UW wing Sam Dekker.  The Sheboygan product has been enjoying a fantastic Tournament, averaging 22/6 through four games, turning plenty of heads along the way.  Against 'Zona, he re-set his freshly-minted career high with 27 points on 8-11 shooting.  He'll have to conjure a repeat if the Badgers want to upset UK in Indy, however.
Sam Dekker?  Who knew?

Duke 66 - Gonzaga 52 -

The evil empire lives on, dashing the hopes of America's Cinderella along the way. Duke's starters scored all 66 of their points in the win. I've never understood Dookies. Rooting for the Devils has always struck me like rooting for the casino or IBM; where's the joy to be found in that?  Regardless, Coach K marches onward, with the probable matchup with Kentucky in the final a juicy enticement for hoops fans everywhere.
Justise Winslow was too much for Gonzaga.

Michigan State 76 - Louisville 70 - 

With regional #1 Villanova long-since removed from the equation, there was no chance that chalk would reign in the East.  In their wake, veteran coaching won the day, with Louisville's Rick Pitino (12) and MSU's Tom Izzo (9) bringing a combined 20 Elite Eight appearances into their matchup.  It was Izzo getting the better of Pitino this time, thanks to Travis Trice and his 17-point performance.  The game skewed into overtime, but Sparty rolled in the extra frame.  They'll now look to play spoiler in a Final Four otherwise dominated by #1s.
Coach Izzo can work wonders.

On transfers - 

Some unfortunate news from the administrative side of the NCAA, where they've already gotten rid of the hardship transfer waiver, and are now exploring ways to get rid of the graduate waiver, as well.  The collegiate version of free agency may soon be going the way of the dodo, with the landscape made all the worse for it.

As Mike Young at Eleven Warriors points out, the NCAA is searching for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.  It's an over-reaction to stories like this, poking at the efficacy, or lack there of, of the rule structure in place.  They're allowing 131 cases out of about 4,600 D-1 basketball players over five years to take precedence over common-sense.  Who really cares if one or two kids gamed the system - who's really getting hurt?  Who's the victim if a player moves to a different school for whatever reason?  As friend of the blog @CUGoose likes to say, "why shouldn't someone be allowed to transfer because they'd prefer a school with a cafeteria that serves Pepsi, instead of Coke?"  This ain't the reason scoring is down, get serious. There are bigger issues that need to be dealt with.

Even with the system in place, which was apparently too much to bear for the old man cartel known as the NCAA, all D-1 basketball players were only moving at about a 13% clip, well under the averages set by their fellow students. Gen pop undergrads get to move freely - about one in three do so, according to the New York Times - but no where will you find a school who makes Jimmy Trust-fund sit out of Biology for a year to 'prove his loyalty.'  The system is hypocritical, un-American, and unduly punitive.

There's simply no reason to restrict the free movement of labor... errrrr... the free movement of student athletes. The search for greener pastures has always been at the crux of the American Dream - we're always looking for the next path to a better reality.  Certainly, few are the number of coaches who are as fixed in their careers as their pledges.  Why should we ask more of the student athletes than the grown-ass adults making money off their efforts?

Football beefs up the schedule, the facilities project is topped-off and new uniforms - 

There's a trio of notes from the football program to discuss, starting with some Texan-sized heft added to the future schedule.  Beginning in 2020, CU will play home-and-home series with Texas A&M and TCU.  It may seem like a long ways off (and it is), but, as Neill Woelk opined, the two new series strike a return to historical norm for Colorado.  The Buffs routinely faced daunting schedules in years past, and are headed in the right direction here.  Additionally, from a recruiting standpoint, getting renewed visibility in the fertile battle-ground of Texas is never a bad thing.  Hopefully, given the long lead time, CU will find a way to be competitive by the time those dates roll around.
The hard work of rebuilding the brand of CU Football continues, unabated.  From: the BDC
Speaking to that point, the new facilities project, which, it is hoped, will put the program back on a winning path, is slowly getting closer to opening.  The topping-off ceremony for the new Champions Center was held this past weekend, and had everyone looking forward to 2016, when the entirety of the project is scheduled for completion.  While I may not agree with Coach MacIntyre that CU will have the best facilities in the Pac-12 by the time the paint dries, it's impossible to argue that $181 million of brick and mortar won't be a major step forward for the program. The CC looks to be complete by August, with the parking garage and indoor practice facility (IPF) due the following January.

Finally, as if a new slate of opponents and a batch of shiny new buildings weren't enough, the football program is also planning to unveil new uniforms in a few weeks.  There are others who take this more seriously than I do, and I generally blanche and the prospect of spending any more of my hard-earned coin on football swag, but know that this is a big deal for the players and a large segment of the fan base.  It won't lead directly to more wins on the gridiron, but maybe it'll mean a little more revenue for the athletic department.  That's never a bad thing.

Happy Tuesday!

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