How many of you have Butler in your Final Four?..... liars.

Could Butler coach Brad Stevens pretty much just name his price for any opening in the country? It sounds like he’s not interested in cashing in, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see what happens when a Brinks truck pulls up in front of his house in Indianapolis. I’m trying to think of a better story in college basketball—how would you have reacted if someone had told you three years ago that Butler would go to consecutive Final Fours?

It’s little wonder that VCU coach Shaka Smart is the flavor of the moment. First, and foremost, the guy has won four games in the NCAA Tournament. Beyond that, he’s a remarkably bright and charismatic guy. Just 33 years old, he’s the youngest coach in division one. Coming out of high school in Ohio, he turned down Harvard, Brown and Yale of the Ivy League to go to division three Kenyon College because he liked their basketball coach.  Raised by his mother, the name Shaka comes from his father who borrowed it from an African king—Shaka Zula. Smart says he likes the name because it evokes the image of a warrior—but it reminds me of Shaka Kahn.  Smart says, he’s heard that before, maybe he’s in the midst of changing that perception.

Talking with KU guard Tyshawn Taylor yesterday, he gets why America loves the underdog—and understands that many will be pulling for VCU today, but doesn’t mind being the evil step mother to VCU’s Cinderella. It’s easy to forget that this is as far as many of these Jayhawks have gotten in the tournament—in that, they’re living a fairly tale themselves. Only Brady Morningstar, Tyrell Reed, and redshirt Conner Teahan have reached the Elite they get to the Final Four.

VCU deserves all the credit they’re getting, but they’re in against a difficult matchup today. Florida State pounded the Rams on the boards but didn’t shoot the ball well, if they had the ‘Hawks would be playing the Seminoles today. KU will rebound at least as well as FSU and are the top shooting team in the country, I don’t know how the Rams will counter that.  Kansas has won three games in the NCAA by an average of 16 points, they approach that margin today in advancing to next week’s Final Four.



I don’t want to say that it was ‘much ado about nothing’, but the whole confrontation thing with Richmond and KU in the tunnel before the game-was blown out of proportion. For some reason, the set up at the cavernous Alamodome has just one long, narrow entry for both teams.  All four of those teams shared the same entry/exit space last night, so there was a lot of testosterone in a very confined area. I wasn’t in the tunnel when the incident occurred, but I’ve seen multiple videos from some who were. Richmond was huddled, doing their pre-game dance which has become so fashionable in college hoops. The Jayhawks, funneling down the same corridor as the Spiders, were blocked from getting to the floor.  There appeared to be some yapping between the two teams, if there was any shoving, it was minimal. KU managed to get by them, but the Spiders held their ground. All of this was reported breathlessly by TBS reported Craig Sager, but for me it just evoked the words on Don McLean in his hit ‘American Pie’; ...’the players tried to take the field, but the marching band refused to yield’.  Last night, Richmond had a better band than they did players.

When KU defends as it did last night, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating them.  They held Richmond to a season low 4 three-pointers, and allowed just 2 points during a nine minute stretch in the first half. Afterwards, Bill Self acknowledged his club’s effort but wished it could have been for the full 40 minutes—but when you’re up by 24 just fifteen minutes into the game, it’s tough to keep your foot on the pedal. KU’s depth was particularly good last night, nine different players scored at least four points.  The Morris twins, which had been averaging  over 39 points and 17 rebounds over their last ten games, managed just 18 and 13 last night—but the ‘Hawks never missed a beat.

Best line of last night:(Brady Morningstar on what precipitated his technical):  "...I'm not good enough to run my mouth after I make a shot. It was a mistake on my part, I apologize for that. Sorry coach. Bill Self: "Too late". Self was still angry about the incident thirty minutes later outside the locker room. Obviously, on a team that can still be a little emotionally immature, he counts on more discipline from his 25 year old senior.

Selby sighting: It was good to see Josh Selby contribute last night, his nine points were the most since he had 14 at Texas Tech on February 1. Having said that, he threw up nine shots in 17 minutes and still seems a bit of a square peg in the round hole that is KU. Selby may yet turn into the type of player his hype forecasted, but saying that he’s a  stretch as a ‘one and doner’ is an insult to elastic.

Did you know that KU has yet to play a ranked team in its run to the Elite Eight. They play unranked VCU on Sunday, if they win, and if Butler were to beat Florida today—KU would play another unranked team in the Final Four.  

Forget the Alamo: The Alamodome seats 30,000 for hoops, not even half those seats were filled for Friday’s session. Having Kansas as the only marquee team here is hurting at the box office, although KU fan has shown up impressively as always. I expect even more crimson and blue for tomorrow’s game with VCU, which I think will be a blowout. More on that after I check in with both clubs this afternoon.



Richmond is well represented here. Not as much in fans as in teams. Both Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth hail from the capitol of Virginia. Imagine my surprise to find out that they simply don't like each other. In fact, they seem to hate the other, to the point where neither is pulling for the other, so as to set up a showdown between the two for a trip to the Final Four.

The Spiders have a guy named Greg Robbins, a 6'5" Sophomore from Wynnewood, PA. He's the second all-time leading scorer at Lower Merion High School history behind Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately, Robbins has scored just 36 points in two years with the Spiders--I'm not sure what happened to that Bryant guy.

Richmond is lead by one of the rising stars in coaching. Chris Mooney is a graduate of Princeton, where he played for Hall of Fame coach Pete Carill. Does anyone think it's odd that a guy would go to Princeton, where there are no athletic scholarships, to become a coach? Granted, coaches make a pretty good wage these days--but don't heads of state and barons of business go to Princeton?

Another coach at this regional is VCU's Shaka Smart, who at age 33 has become the newest flavor of the moment in college coaching. The premium potential employers put on NCAA runs is as interesting as it is time honored. Think about Smart's margin for error on his team's run to the sweet 16. Arguably, he doesn't even get into the to the tournament unless he gets a dubious call in the last two seconds in their bracketbuster at Wichita State. He did though, guard Joey Rodriguez erases a one one deficit with two free throws...and the rest is history. When you really look at it, the program at VCU has slipped slightly under Smart, who's never finished better than third in the Colonial Athletic Association. But all that matters is that he has a team in nthe Sweet 16.

Best line of the trip so far: "We ate at the same restaurant we did three years ago(when they won the national title in San Antonio), then we went and spit in the river."

-KU coach Bill Self, having a little fun at previous 'Hawks coach Roy Williams expense.

Expect Kansas to do what Kansas does; play inside out, with great ball movement. They want the pace to be hectic and will try to dictate that with their defense. Self said that his team's defense was his main concern tonight. That's probably because Richmond really shoots the ball well from three. The Spiders boast five guys who shot 41% or better from deep in Atlantic-10 Conference play. Don't go to sleep on Richmond, they've won 9 of their last 12 against BCS schools. Still, I like KU by11.


The Day Before

The road to the Final Four resumes where it ended three years ago. This is my first time back in the Alamodome since Kansas beat Memphis 75-86 in overtime for the 2008 national championship. People remember Mario Chalmers three-pointer to send the game into overtime, but they forget that Memphis, which led by 9 with just over 2:00 left--missed three crucial free throws in the last 1:15 to facilitate the KU comeback.  What an incredible night that was, so much paper fell from the roof-- I can’t believe they’ve got it cleaned up. There are only two current Jayhawks who were on the floor that night, actually Brady Morningstar and Tyrell Reed were firmly planted on the bench---but what a seat huh?

The KU memories aren’t all good in San Antonio, Roy Williams’ club lost to top seeded Illinois in 2001. That Illini team was coached by…Bill Self.

Self is making his eighth NCAA appearance with Kansas. He’s won the highest percentage of games in the programs history and is 17-6 all-time with KU at the tournament.  Haters love to bring up Bradley, Bucknell and Northern Iowa- but Self has been to five Sweet 16’s, 3 Elite 8’s and 1 national title in his seven previous tournaments.

If KU reaches the Final Four they will have beaten four double-seeded teams to get there. Hey, it’s not their fault- you can only play who lines up against you.  Since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979 KU is 31-3 against 10 seeds or higher in this tournament.

Headed out to practice, see you later.