Well, congratulations to Alabama’s Nick Saban on winning the national championship… again. With the NCAA Football season finally in the books, I figured I’d try something different this week for the blog. So let’s look at the top teams in college football this past year and see where their basketball teams stand…
Alabama made the NCAAs last year under Anthony Grant for the first time since 2006 and has made 20 NCAA Tournament appearances overall, but never have the Tide rolled all the way to a Final Four. In 2004, ‘Bama came close when it reached the regional final, but fell short in an 87-71 loss to UCONN. Right now, the Tide needs some big wins to get in the picture, as its record stands at 8-6 after its loss at Missouri Tuesday night. After a 6-0 start, Grant’s team lost three straight to Cincinnati, Dayton and VCU and then had two bad losses to Mercer and Tulane. Right now the SEC is not good, and Alabama is in the middle of a pack of teams who could finish anywhere between 4th and 12th.
Now Notre Dame is another story. The Irish football team got crushed on Monday night, but you want to talk about a guy doing a great job at a football school… is Mike Brey one of the most underrated coaches in the nation? Brey’s team is 14-1 and hosts UCONN Saturday. Its only loss was on November 16th in overtime against St. Joe’s. Want a great statistic on the Irish? They lead the nation in assists per game at 19.5. Think about that… at least 39 points a game come directly from a teammate’s pass. Junior point guard Eric Atkins leads the team with 7.3 assists a game and is turning it over less than twice a game. Brey is in his 13th season in South Bend, and has made the NCAAs in five of the past six seasons. But keep this in mind…after his first three seasons, he missed the NCAAs in three straight years and went 52-39 and 24-24 in the Big East. Did anyone panic? Nope. Did staying the course pay off? Yep.
The team that everyone wanted in the BCS title game was Oregon, and over on the hardwood, Dana Altman is doing a nice job in his third year. His team’s win at UNLV in November will probably be his March Madness calling card this year as long as the Ducks hold court in the Pac-12. Remember this… Oregon only gets the Big Boys once each, as they don’t go to Tucson and don’t host UCLA. The Ducks are 12-2 with Arizona coming to town Thursday. Right now they have a nine-man rotation that includes Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi, who is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game. How about that for an addition? This is a guy that averaged more than 10 boards per game in his first three years in Conference USA, so it’s not like history is against him continuing to dominate the boards.
I’ll have my eye on Duke at NC State Saturday as I’ll be the analyst for the game right here on the Dial Global Radio Network, and I’m also intrigued by Michigan at Ohio State. It wouldn’t shock me if no unbeatens are left after this weekend. Wyoming hosts Boise and then goes to Nevada. And by the way, don’t look now, but six of the nine Mountain West Conference teams would be NCAA-worthy as it stands right now. UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico are locks. Colorado State, Wyoming and Boise State are darn good.
Speaking of Michigan, if guards win you championships, boy is Michigan in good shape. The Wolverines scored 90 in back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since 1999-2000 and Trey Burke averaged 21 points, 8.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals while shooting 61.5 percent (16-26) from the field.
Finally, some things are more important than basketball. My wife Jan and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Patsy Sutton, wife of former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton. Patsy was a lovely lady. We have enjoyed a good relationship with the Suttons for many years and Patsy was one of Jan’s favorite coaches’ wives. They did not see each other often, but were always able to pick up the conversation from the last visit. Conversations were not usually about basketball, but rather grandchildren. We will really miss seeing Patsy at the basketball tournaments and the Nike Coaches event. Our thoughts go out to the Sutton family.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Dial Global’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.