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Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas – You have to wonder how the NCAA Selection Committee really operates when selecting a field and seedings and match-ups.  Despite the alleged modern day transparency, some decisions boggle the mind. Also, you have to wonder … Continue reading

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                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 You’ve probably heard about the Myron Rolle story by now.  Originally discussed (twice) by Stewart Mandel of SI.com and recently followed by an excellent article at MajorLeagueJerk.com, Rolle is an off-the-charts pre-med student at Florida State University where he also just happens to be a superb defensive back for Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.  He’s a guy with an NFL future.

But Rolle has a conflict coming up on November 22.  He’s scheduled to be in Birmingham, Alabama for his interview to become a Rhodes Scholar, an amazing opportunity granted to only 32 Americans every year.  The list includes such notables as former President Bill Clinton and former Senator Bill Bradley (more on Bradley later).  The conflict arises because, on that same afternoon, Florida State has an away football game against Maryland.




The problems arise as follows: 


  1. Would Florida State, a perennial football power, support Myron Rolle’s candidacy to become a Rhodes Scholar by allowing him to miss the game to go to his interview in Birmingham?  The answer is a resounding (surprising?) “Yes” from coach Bobby Bowden and FSU’s athletic director, Randy Spetman.
  2.  Will ESPN, the World Wide Leader in Sports, help out Rolle’s cause by moving the game from an afternoon start to a night-time ESPN game?  No word yet, but think of the good will the often-attacked network could receive by doing the right thing here.  While FSU-Maryland isn’t the greatest college football game this year, it would be one of the most interesting side stories of the year.  Most importantly (for ESPN), don’t you think plenty of people (including non-football fans) would tune in to this game on a Saturday night in November?  Yeah, so do I.
  3. In what could be the biggest hurdle of all, will the NCAA grant a waiver to allow Rolle to be flown via charter or private plane from Alabama to Maryland (the only way he can possibly make any part of the game)?  Once again, it’s a do-the-right-thing analysis.  In the world of NCAA rules (this would presumably be a violation), where up is often down and down is often up, can the NCAA see the obvious and allow this to happen?  That remains to be seen.

For better or worse, we’ve seen a lot of rules bent (or disappear or get added) in and out of sports in the last few years.  The World Series included an announcement from Bud Selig that a World Series game could never end in less than nine innings due to a rainout (who knew?).  In the NHL playoffs, when Sean Avery of the Rangers face-guarded Martin Brodeur of the Devils with his stick, the next day the NHL announced that that would, going forward, be a penalty (who knew?).  Even in the 2007 Little League World Series, overworked pitchers who were required to have at least one game played between their starts simply had that rule (poof!) disappear when rain caused a few games to be cancelled (again, who knew?).


While we can argue whether the above three examples are good or bad (as well as New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg leading the charge so he can avoid term limits and run again for Mayor after, just a few short years ago, he was opposed to Rudy Giuliani doing exactly what Bloomberg is doing now), the Myron Rolle issue isn’t even a close call.  The NCAA could actually (gasp!) make a few friends if they will only show a heart and allow a potential Rhodes Scholar to interview and play (don’t forget his teammates, NCAA).  Rolle originally stated he couldn’t go to the interview because he would hurt the team, but thankfully reconsidered and will go.  Hopefully, now, he can play in the game as well.


[Editor’s Note:  As of this morning (according to thebiglead.com), Myron Rolle will be allowed to play in the game thanks to ESPN moving it to prime time and the NCAA allowing him to be flown from Birmingham to Maryland.  Score one for the good guys.]




Far more interesting, frankly, are the long-term issues for potential NFL player Myron Rolle.  It’s interesting to note that Rolle can speak with his friend, former FSU track star Garrett Johnson, who went to Oxford in 2006.  He could probably also speak with 2008 Rhodes Scholar Joseph O’Shea, who was student-body president of Florida State (who knew FSU had so many Rhodes Scholars?).


But the best man on the planet to speak with may well be “Dollar” Bill Bradley who, after being the 1965 National Basketball Player of the Year at Princeton (that would be one year after he was the Captain of the 1964 gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic Basketball Team), put off his NBA career to go to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.  If you’re an old-time New York Knick fan, you know that Bradley was one of those magical players who would go on to win two championships with (still) the most intelligent NBA basketball team ever.


But many don’t remember that Bradley tried to stay sharp in England by playing in dank gyms and, briefly, in the European League.  His stories are legendary about how he tried to stay in shape and play with some (any?) competition.  And real Knick fans will remember that, when he did come to the Knicks in 1967, he actually had a lot of trouble (at first) getting back into “game” shape and fitting into the NBA game.  Of course, it all worked out, but “Dollar” Bill was a derisive term (due to his big, for the times, Joe Namath-like contract) early on in his pro career.


If Rolle makes the grade (and it certainly sounds like he has a great chance), he’d do well to speak with Bradley about the ups and downs he faced back in the 1960s.  Not that Rolle is as great a college football player as Bradley was a college basketball player, but you’d have to think that this kind of opportunity on the academic side leads to amazing challenges on the athletic side.  Bill Bradley could certainly help him with the mental side of both of those challenges.


So here’s hoping that everybody does the right thing and that Myron Rolle at least gets to play on November 22 (you old Bradley fans will also get the irony of the Kennedy assassination date) and, more importantly, gets a chance to become a Rhodes Scholar/professional athlete, a rare daily double if there ever was one.

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                                                    Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

It’s been an epidemic in college basketball (and the NBA) for many years.  At the end of the game, nobody knows how to defend the three.  This year, it cost Memphis the National Championship.

Here’s the situation (it happens every week in the NBA):  You’re up three, it’s very late in the game.  What do you do?  Many “experts” say you foul, put the team that’s behind on the line for only two.  That way you can’t lose, right?  Wrong.  Coaches with the lead have been taught forever not to allow the other team to score with the clock stopped late in the game.  And, frankly, the only way you CAN lose the game in regulation is to foul:  the other team makes the first, misses the second on purpose, the ball gets smacked out to the three-point line and, at the buzzer, the “losing’ team hits a three and becomes the winning team (or the team that’s behind gets the rebound, lays it in and gets fouled).  A longshot?  You betcha.  But the kind of loss that would cost someone their job.  Hopefully, you get the point.

Here’s what should happen late (under 10 seconds) in the game when you’re up three.  The team that’s ahead MUST defend above the three-point line.  You play defense between the three-point line and the ball, not between your man and the basket.  If, during the final few seconds of Memphis-Kansas regulation, somebody from Kansas throws it down low to a wide-open teammate for a dunk, Memphis thanks Kansas and wins the National Championship.

Yet, with the National Championship on the line, up three, four of the five Memphis defenders were BELOW the three-point line, defending in two-point territory.  WHY?  Because no coach in college (or the NBA) seems to understand exactly how the three-point line has changed the game.  It’s stunning.

Understand the obvious:  If you put four (or even five) athletic guys above the three-point line on defense, the only possible thing the ball-handler can do is take about a 30-35 foot three under pressure (Derrick Rose of Memphis on Sherron Collins — I’d take my chances on that if I’m John Calipari) or make a game-losing mistake by throwing it inside the three-point line for a game-losing two.  Instead, Memphis had no idea what it was doing and, even though Rose (who inexplicably had drifted below the three-point line with the National Championship at stake) contested Mario Chalmers on the shot, the reality is that Chalmers got an excellent look right near the three-point line.  When will these coaches learn?

While many will (correctly) point to the fact that Memphis missed four of five foul shots in the last 1:15 (7-14 in the second half), viewed by many (including this writer) to be their Achilles heel in the tournament (they shot fouls in the tournament great prior to this game), the reality is that they were still in great position to win the game.  But after the defense broke down (nobody accuses Calipari, who didn’t call time, of being a great bench coach) and Chalmers hit the three, the overtime Kansas victory was just a formality (no Joey Dorsey for Memphis in OT – he had fouled out with a terrible foul late in regulation).

Someday, maybe in two or five or twenty years, a high school coach will understand this (maybe it’s happened already and we don’t know about it) and defend the three-point line rather than defend the basket.  Quickly, it will spread to college and the NBA.  Then they’ll show a highlight reel of games of the past that were lost because coaches in the early 21st century still hadn’t learned how to defend the three.  Memphis-Kansas will be the first game on the reel.    

 © Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                         Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas


The game of college basketball has been severely hurt in the last decade when star high school players went straight to the NBA (whether ready or not).  Once upon a time it was an issue, when a player could sign that three-year contract and not be set for life.  Today, however, anyone with a good family and/or good advisors can sign that initial NBA lottery-pick contract and not worry about money, virtually for life.


The game of college basketball became nothing compared to what it once was in the 1960s and 70s into the 1980s.  Routinely, in virtually any four-year period you could select in the last decade, 30 or 40 or 50 of the top (eligibility-wise) college players were already in the NBA.  This hurt the top programs (where the superstar high-school phenoms would generally go) and gave the “mid-majors” and senior-laden teams a better chance to compete at the highest level in the NCAA tournament.


What did this do for the quality of play in college basketball?  Well, whether anyone involved in the game (and/or makes his/her living off the game) will admit it or not, it’s been lowered drastically.  Imagine if Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) in the 1960s or Bill Walton in the 1970s had skipped college and gone right to the NBA.  Hopefully, you get the point.


Which brings us to David Stern.  Last season was the first year in which high school seniors could not go directly to the NBA.  So you had Greg Oden leading Ohio State to the championship game.  Then he was one and done, off to NBA Portland.  Even with the new rule, there are about 50 players in the NBA who could still have been in college (Kevin Durant, for example, would be a sophomore).


Is the rule racist?  Well, that’s already been debated ad nauseum, but whatever side of that argument you’re on, know this:  the rule doesn’t allow (mostly) African-Americans to make a great living when they want to.  Is it a mistake for some of these guys to go pro?  Absolutely, but, what, it’s OK for them to make the mistake a year later?  This is America, remember? 


So UCLA coach Ben Howland gets freshman Kevin Love and makes the Final Four.  Memphis coach John Calipari gets freshman Derrick Rose and makes the Final Four.  Would they have made the Final Four without this Stern rule?  Unlikely.  Would these guys have gone to college even if there were not such a rule?  That’s hard to say, no matter what anyone says, because you’re dealing in hypotheticals at that point (although a fair statement would be: the poorer you are, the more likely you would be to come out immediately).


While former coach (now ESPN commentator – that sounds funny, doesn’t it?) Bob Knight said “it’s the worst thing that’s happened to college basketball since I’ve been coaching” and, since kids literally don’t have to go to class during their second semester in college, “that has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports,” the reality is that the integrity ship long ago sailed for college sports, especially basketball and football.  Are there many “clean” coaches?  Sure, but there are many with “unclean hands,” as the lawyers like to say in their arguments.  And if Coach K down at Duke really isn’t going to recruit the “one and done” player, then he’s going to have a very hard time getting all the way back to the top.


So this is the way it’s going to be now and into the future.  The best high school players will have to go to college for a year, making a mockery of academics and burying coaches (even great ones) who won’t recruit that kind of player.


But David Stern should check his mailbox.  This year’s leading thank-you cards will be from Ben Howland and John Calipari.  Next year?  Who knows?


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                               Kallas Remarks  By Steve Kallas


THE QUOTE OF THE YEAR (TO DATE):  Seth Davis of CBS Sports is on WFAN on Monday to discuss the NCAA tournament.  The subject of sweet-shooting Stephen Curry of Davidson comes up:  Why wasn’t he recruited by the major schools?  After correctly explaining that recruiting is more art than science, here’s what Seth Davis said:  “The one thing that you never know in recruiting is what’s inside a guy’s head, what’s inside a guy’s heart and what’s inside a guy’s shorts.  Stephen Curry is three for three in that regard.”   You can’t make this stuff up.  


CBS NEEDS HELP IN NCAA COVERAGE:  You could never (and never will) properly cover 32 NCAA games in two days on one TV channel.  You can’t even cover eight games in one day if CBS insists on starting them at similar times (at least stagger the starts 20 minutes apart, not five or ten).  The absurdity of it all came home to roost on Sunday as CBS didn’t know what to do with the amazingly exciting Butler-Tennessee game, which went into overtime, while at the same time 10 seed Davidson was stunning 2 seed Georgetown.  First CBS essentially ignored the Georgetown game but once Butler-Tennessee went OT, they had no choice and proceeded to switch back and forth so many times as to give one a headache.  During all of this time, a very close, exciting (I think, we never saw it) game between 12 seed Western Kentucky and 13 seed San Diego was never shown down the stretch by CBS.


What can CBS do?  Well, there are a few things.  Besides staggering the start times in a more intelligent way, CBS should really consider using a second channel to show the tournament (imagine what ESPN could do – you’d have to think they’d have the ability to get to every big part of every game on one station or another (or another, or another)).  If necessary, as it clearly was on Sunday, CBS could have gone with a split-screen, showing both the Tennessee overtime and the end of Georgetown.  Personally, I don’t like split-screens (Direct TV’s four-in-one screen, offered for $19.95 a day, was poor because approximately one-third of the screen was devoted to other scores and, of course, commercials), but, in this instance, someone at CBS with a brain and some power should have been bold and put up both at once.


THE KNICKS JUST NEED HELP:  If you’re a Knick fan, it’s very sad what’s happened at and to the Garden.  I went to the Grizzlies-Knicks game last Friday (I promised to take my son at least once a season – stupid me) and it’s like a morgue.  Sitting downstairs, they give you those stupid thunder sticks at half-time to distract the opposition – disappointing that a New York crowd would stoop to that.  But that’s how it is nowadays at the Garden.  The on-the-court problems are much worse:  this is an Elias Sports Bureau question, but the Knicks have to be one of the only (maybe the only) teams in the history of the NBA to score 18 points in a row and STILL be losing (69-50 at the half, 69-68 after 18 in a row).  Worse than that, the Knicks went “young” at the end of the game (translation: no chance of winning).  Here’s who they put on the floor in the fourth quarter: Mardy Collins, Wilson Chandler, Renaldo Balkman, Jared Jeffries and Randolph Morris.  Who, of this group, can throw the ball in the ocean, let alone the basket?  If they’re really “watching” the young guys, as opposed to trying to improve their lottery position, they can’t like what they are seeing from this group.  Hard to believe there was a good NBA player on the floor for the Knicks during that time.  For sure, there were no future NBA All-Stars.  Donnie Walsh (if it is Donnie Walsh) has a virtually impossible task. 


© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.




                    Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas


So you’re stuck in the car during rush hour on Friday and you want to listen to the NCAA tournament.  You turn on Westwood One’s radio coverage and you hear, at the half, that San Diego, a #13 seed, is beating UConn, a #4 seed.  Although I’m no UConn (or San Diego) fan, I’m happy to listen to a potentially huge upset, most of the time thinking that UConn will come back and win the game.


But stupid is as stupid does.  As often occurs on Days 1 and 2 of the tourney, there were four games going on at once.  If the other three games were all blowouts, surely someone with a brain at Westwood One would have the intelligence to just give us the UConn game, right?  Well, not exactly.


South Alabama-Butler was never really a game.  Up 17 at the half, #7 seed Butler was cruising to an 81-61 win.  Yet, inexplicably, we had to listen to the last few minutes of this game, right down to the final gun.  Unbelievable.  At the conclusion, the announcer told us that San Diego was beating UConn and we’ll get to that later, but first … .


UMBC-Georgetown was never really a game.  Up 12 at the half, #2 seed Georgetown was cruising to a 66-47 win.  Yet, inexplicably, we had to listen to the last few minutes of this game, right down to the final gun.  Unbelievable.  At the conclusion, the announcer told us that San Diego was beating UConn and we’ll get to that later, but first … .


Austin Peay-Texas was never really a game.  Up 15 at the half, #2 seed Texas was cruising to a 74-54 win.  Yet, inexplicably, we had to listen to the last few minutes of this game, right down to the final gun.  Unbelievable.  At the conclusion, the announcer told us that San Diego was beating UConn and we’ll get to that … right after these commercial messages.


Simply stunning.  The real joke was, if you were in the tri-state area (especially UConn territory), you had to turn off the Westwood One coverage and switch over to WFAN where they were giving you frequent updates on the UConn game.  Think about it – you were listening to “exclusive” coverage of an NCAA tournament game and had to leave that coverage to get better radio coverage of the only game that resembled a game in the tourney at that time (between about 5 and 5:20).  Eventually (with about nine minutes left in regulation), Westwood One got to the game they should have been on for the whole second half.  Thankfully for me, I was in front of a TV by then. 


Will they ever learn?  Just beyond stupid.       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

1)      Who did Isiah Thomas fool?  We’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of the most inexplicable extension in the history of sports:  Isiah Thomas’s four-year extension during his continuous destruction of the New York Knick franchise.  The reality is this:  Isiah only had to fool one man to get his extension.  Oddly enough, Isiah only fooled one man (no other Knick fan alive was fooled).  But the real strange thing is: What were the odds that that man in both instances would be the same person (the owner)?  One in a million?  I say one in 10 million.  You get the point.


2)      Did Jeff Green walk last year?  If you’re a college basketball fan, you’ll remember last year’s Georgetown-Vanderbilt Sweet 16 game where, with a few seconds left and Vandy up 1, Georgetown’s Jeff Green clearly switched his pivot foot and walked.  He made the shot (no call) and won the game, catapulting Georgetown to a Final Four appearance.  The only people on the planet who didn’t think it was a walk were Jim Nantz, Billy Packer and the officials.  In fact, you’ll recall, when CBS went back to the studio, everyone told us what a “big story” was brewing, the fact that Georgetown won on a missed call.  Clearly, the guys in the studio were right.  That is, until Billy Packer decided they were wrong.  Unable to see his obvious mistake, Packer started a national spitting contest, insisting that two plus two equals five.  Some people (John Thompson, for one) ignored the tape and agreed with him.


Fast forward to the Big East Final this past weekend.  Georgetown-Pitt, about 15 minutes left, the ball goes down to Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert in the same spot on the court that Jeff Green was last year.  On a virtual identical move to that of Green last year, Hibbert switches his pivot foot, an obvious (again) walk.  But this time, two officials call it, the announcers laugh (it was so clear) and even Hibbert, who knows he walked, runs back to play defense.  Since there was no big-time announcer there trying to cover his own mistake, play just continued with Pitt eventually winning the game.  It’s just another example of what generally good announcers can do to mess up game coverage when they make an obvious mistake and won’t admit it.


Of course, none of this makes Vanderbilt (2007 team) any happier.  Again, you get the point. 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.


                                 Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It would be so easy to correct.  Virtually all the complainers, the whiners, and especially the teams with valid complaints (Hofstra two years ago, Syracuse last year, Dayton, among others, this year) could be satisfied while, essentially, still staying true to the NCAA tournament committee’s view.


The NCAA itself set the stage a few years back when they expanded the tournament to 65 teams.  The “play-in” (the NCAA hates that word but it’s appropriate) game was an embarrassment then and it’s an embarrassment now.  Two teams are identified as the two worst teams in the tournament and then play each other on, usually, a dead sports night to earn the right to get their heads kicked in against the best team in the tournament.


Here’s a much better, much more exciting solution:  Go back to 64 teams and then pick the last four “bubble” teams that didn’t make the tournament.  Have those four teams go on the road on Tuesday and play, respectively, the last four teams who made the tournament under the committee’s often incorrect view (understand, at that point, there will always be arguments and, often, mistakes made).  The winners of those four games are then plugged into the 11 or 12 seed and play on Friday – one in each bracket.


It’s so simple that it will probably never happen (feel free to send this to an NCAA committee member).  But here’s how it would have worked this year, for example:  Villanova, as a 12 seed, was obviously the 65th team selected, so they would not have been selected in a field of 64.  The bottom four who did make it (at-large bids, of course) were Baylor, Kentucky, St. Joseph’s and Kansas State, all 11 seeds.


While you can argue about the four left out, I’ll choose three with pretty good cases (Villanova would already be in as the 65th team selected by the committee).  I’ll choose Dayton (beat 3 seed Louisville at Louisville, 4 seed Pitt, had some injuries), Virginia Tech (even though he was right, Seth Greenberg might have talked his way out of the tournament after a tough loss to #1 North Carolina by 2, also lost to Clemson by 1, won 19 games, 9-7 in the ACC and when was the last time the ACC Coach of the Year didn’t make the tourney (rhetorical question)?) and my personal favorite, the recipients of this year’s Hofstra Award, Arizona State (beat Arizona – who made the tourney – twice, better in-conference record than Arizona, beat TWO 3 seeds, Xavier and Stanford).


The prize for being selected is a home game (and for the four teams that didn’t make it, they would have to go on the road (as they should) and win their way into the tournament).  So, depending on the geography (or the attractiveness of the match-ups) you would have four meaningful games (as opposed to one play-in game between #64 and #65), four sell-outs and four games that people would want to watch on Tuesday.  ESPN could show them at 6, 8, 10 and 12 Eastern or something like that.


This year, I’d have Villanova play St. Joe’s (if you know anything about basketball in Philly, you know what this means), Virginia Tech could go down to Lexington, Arizona State could play Baylor and Dayton could play Kansas State.  Great match-ups, meaningful games, sell-outs, what more could you ask for?


Why hasn’t this already happened?  Well, I just don’t think anyone has focused on it as a possible solution.  A 96- or 128-team tournament is absurd and more play-in games for the worst teams in the tournament have no juice except for the teams playing in them.


But wouldn’t the 69th and 70th team be upset?  You bet they would be, but simply announce, when this is put into play, that the tournament selection committee, which knows it has a difficult job at the bottom end, is doing this to give the best four teams not selected in the top 64 a chance to make the tournament.  If you, as a Division I basketball program, aren’t good enough to be picked for the top 33 at-large spots (31 automatic bids) AND aren’t good enough to make the next four (even if you’re hurt by that omission), you need to improve your program.  Get the word out early, tell the coaches why you’re doing this and even they might understand and limit the whining.  And, if you’re lucky enough to make the next four, shut up and go on the road and win a game.  This four-team “buffer” zone, in this writer’s opinion, is the best solution for the NCAA.


Good luck to all in this year’s tournament but, remember that there’s an easy solution to correct this annual mess (and if anyone thinks it isn’t a mess, at the bottom end, every year, they’re just kidding themselves).

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.