College Hoops Thoughts Heading Into the Final Four

Mike Rice
Rutgers needs to do the obvious thing and fire Rice immediately.

Obviously there are several stories circulating right now regarding the world of college basketball and some of them are positive and some of them are far from it. I’ll get to the positive things shortly but there are two things I need to touch on first and one of those is the situation at Rutgers and the other is Steve Alford to UCLA.

Yesterday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired video of Rutgers University Basketball Coach Mike Rice physically and verbally assaulting players during videotaped practices. The hours of film show Rice throwing basketballs at players, screaming homophobic slurs at them and physically grabbing and shoving them.

Rice was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 earlier in the season for the conduct which was not really explained at the time. Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti has been criticized for not firing Rice yet and my feeling is that patience is required. He will be fired and perhaps by the time I publish this article, but we have to remember there are finanacial and legal details to work out before just tossing a coach out the door.

Many┬áhave compared Rice’s action to former Indiana coach Bobby Knight and there is reason to but even Knight never went this far. Knight was known to verbally berate guys but the throwing of basketballs at players was never reported.

The days of discipline-oriented coaches just isn’t tolerated any longer the way many of us remember and Mike Rice’s antics and behavior will continue that trend. My hope is this guy is never near a coaching again.

Steve Alford
Alford has been terrible in post-season tournaments and I think UCLA will regret this hire.

A couple of weeks ago, Steve Alford verbally accepted a new 10-year extension to stay on as head coach of the University of New Mexico stating, “There’s no place I’d rather be.” Apparently Los Angeles is better than ‘no place’ because Alford has become the new coach for UCLA and was formally introduced yesterday.

Honestly I could care less about what Alford and these other college coaches say before darting for greener pastures, but in this case, I have to ask the folks at UCLA why Steve Alford is a better choice than recently fired Ben Howland. As a head coach in Division I basketball, Steve Alford has taken one team to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.

In 18 seasons as a head coach at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and now UCLA, Alford has a horrendous record when it comes to the NCAA Tournament and this is where any program’s bread is buttered if you will. Only his 1997-98 Bears’ team made it to the Sweet 16 which means his Hawkeyes and Lobos’ teams never made it past game two of the tournament or the National Invitational Tournament for that matter.

Ben Howland was fired reportedly for not filling seats and winning enough yet he had three Final Fours. Alford has never even sniffed one and I find this hiring a terrible one for Bruins’ fans.

The best news of this week was seeing Louisville’s Kevin Ware in good spirits as he returned to campus yesterday following his horrific leg break in the regional final against Duke. Less than 24 hours after the incident, Ware was already up on crutches. A lot of us would do well to take a lesson from this young man in handling such adversity.

Early Final Four Thoughts

4 Michigan vs 4 Syracuse – The Wolverines rely on a lot of outside shooting, but the rise of young Mitch McGary in the tournament has given them more inside presence based on the driving of Trey Burke. That will be challenged by the zone of the Orange.

9 Wichita State vs 1 Louisville – Obviously I’ve been impressed with the Shockers but their tournament resume is not as impressive as you might think. They beat a very average Pitt team, upset the weakest one-seed in Gonzaga, beat upstart LaSalle and then gained respect by beating a hot Ohio State team. I think Louisville’s athleticism will be too much for the Shockers as I look at things today.