NCAA March Madness: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Coaching

Coaching is one of my favorite parts of college sports. It’s one thing for pro coaches to deal with grown men, but the greatest coaches are the ones who can keep a solid reputation while juggling intense recruitment pressure, along with 18 year olds who think their s*** don’t stink.

March Madness throws coaches into the fire of national television and we get to see some of the highlights, and lowlights, of collegiate coaching. Let’s start with the good.

The Good: Geno Auriemma

If you haven’t seen his press conference already, you need to take a listen.

THIS is how coaches need to recruit and value their players. Get kids who care. Who want to win. Some may say that for certain college players, they just need to perform and they’ll be set for the draft (every Kentucky player ever) but just look at how much Lonzo Ball’s stock is rising because he wins. And look how little Markelle Fultz is being talked about. Winning matters.

Geno is right too. He has an obvious advantage of having All-Americans on his bench, but if you’ve ever watched a UConn women’s game, they have heart. A lot more than any other team they play.

Although we love to see the blue bloods of men’s basketball shine, there is a discernible difference in body language between a Kentucky or Duke team, vs. a mid major who got hot at the right time and are upsetting teams to the sweet 16. We love seeing raw emotion out of players, and that’s what Geno is preaching. Get players who would rather win than put up 25. Keep preaching Geno.

The Bad: Jay Wright

Wright’s knock as a coach was that he couldn’t coach his team in March, playing good teams each time they hit the court. With the national championship win last year, haters were silent.

Just when the country was starting to have faith in Villanova’s ability to win in March, head coach Jay Wright rips it all away with his horrific decision to leave the game to Josh Hart down the stretch in the round of 32 vs. Wisconsin.

Take a look:

Really? This is what you draw up? I get Josh Hart is a National Player of the Year candidate, but c’mon. Get some movement and get a good shot. And it’s not even one of those “Wright would have looked like a genius if Hart made the shot.” He literally told him to do what he wants. He ain’t LeBron.

Good luck getting the March Choker monkey off your back now, Jay.

The Ugly: Chris Collins (Northwestern Head Coach)

Just watch before I say anything:

He became my least favorite head coach. If you didn’t watch the game, yes, Northwestern got hosed on multiple calls and certainly wasn’t fair officiating, and the call he is reacting on was outrageous. But dude, handle that internally. You just look like an ass. A child. I’m embarrassed for the Northwestern players who worked their tails off to work through the calls and handle the refs in a professional manner. This is your first NCAA tournament year ever. Don’t act like you deserve anything.

Also, at the time of this call, THERE WERE 5 MINUTES LEFT IN THE GAME! Go get another stop and move on.

Word to Geno, talk about body language. Collins’ baiting the reporter and sarcastic jabs is a disgrace to coaching at any level.

The irony of the graphic “Northwestern outscored 38-20 in the first half” makes his conference much more ridiculous. Don’t go down 20 at the half and maybe you can afford to have missed calls on possessions.

The worst part is, Collins received a technical after arguing after the fact, which created a 4 point swing in favor of Gonzaga.

Sorry Northwestern. Gonzaga was still the better team, and you have a coaching problem. Better luck next year.

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Michael Jordan delivers a speech to remember

Michael, Michael, Michael. As if the Jordan face wasn’t enough for the internet world to make fun of one of the most iconic athletes in human history. MJ added another gem of a meme to his legacy, and it has caused a stir in the college basketball community, and has spread to the deep, dark depths of “sports Twitter” and Reddit.

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, heres the video. It’s pure gold. (Go to 1:57 to hear the line of you don’t want to listen to the entire speech.)

The ceiling is the roof. Inspiring. Goosebumps. Chalk that right up next to Herb Brooks from Team USA and the “Our Deepest Fear” speech from Coach Carter.

Am I being too hard on the guy? I mean, he only won 6 championships and made Kwame Brown cry. The answer is no, the guy is the best basketball player to ever live. Seriously, simply think about what you’re going to say before blurting it out. Be better.

Here’s how the internet reacted:

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We all love you MJ, no matter how much time people waste making memes of you, we will always remember the glory days. Now, we thank you for entertaining us while we mindlessly scroll through Twitter.

Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson Lead Top Draft Prospects to Watch for in March

Ah, it’s that time of year again. Selection Sunday, printing out a fresh, blank 64-team bracket, and cramming all the research you can before picks lock. It’s March Madness.

In terms of next-level talent, this year is special. We will be seeing tons of top talent that will soon be studs in the NBA. I’ll be using the mock draft from Draft Express, take a look at it here. Here’s who to watch for:

(It’s a shame that I can’t be writing about Markelle Fultz, who is the consensus first overall pick. To make a long story short, Washington has miserably failed to create a winning scheme and get players who deserve to play in the Pac-12.) Buuuut let’s move on.

1. Lonzo Ball, UCLA

Lonzo Ball // AP
Lonzo Ball // AP

UCLA has a chance to grab themselves a #1 seed (depending on if they can win/get in the Pac-12 championship game), which all but guarantees the Bruins a few games on national TV. Ball will be the feature point guard in March, and will be a top-3 pick in this year’s draft.

He’s good. Elite shot, crisp passer, IQ off the charts, but please don’t listen to his father telling media he doesn’t need a brand or that he’ll be as good as Jordan. He’s not THAT good. Hopefully injured forward TJ Leaf will be 100% so the Bruins will be healthy. Full description and strengths and weakness’ video is here.

2. Josh Jackson, Kansas636118814906173134-xxx-josh-jackson-13027-85583278

Bill Self may have him playing a forward roll in his peculiar four-guard system, but this kid is electric. See my older blog post to read what I think of the latest talented Kansas freshmen.

Jackson may not even be the best player on his team, but the Jayhawks seem to spread the ball around and let the hot player shine. His ability to pass and rebound allows him to put up gaudy numbers, and his overall game will translate well to the NBA.

Jackson’s lack of a consistent 3-pt jump shot is holding him back from being one of the best players in the country. Based off pure athleticism, he’s be a top pick, and his polished game only helps his case. Here’s his strengths and weakness’ to see for yourself.

3. Jayson Tatum, Duke maxresdefault

The Blue Devils are an interesting team this year, and with all of their talent blah blah blah, they should be better (read my last post), but there is mixed speculation about the highly anticipated freshman. Some mock drafts have him going as high as 3, and some drop him out of the top 8, sometimes 10.

He may have shut some of the critics up after great preferences in Duke’s final two regular season games versus ranked Florida State and North Carolina (check out his stats here).

NBA Draft Net compares Tatum to Danny Granger and…pause for excitement, Shane Battier. I know, they were both good role players and that’s what a lot of the NBA is today, but there isn’t a ton of upside with Tatum. He doesn’t excel in one part of his game. Check his strength and weakness videos courtesy of DraftExpress.

4. Johnathan Isaac, Florida State NCAA BASKETBALL: NOV 24 NIT Season Tip-Off - Temple v Florida State

Johnathan Isaac is projected to be the 6th pick in this year’s draft, but not many people know about him. In terms of potential, Isaac has the upper hand on Jayson Tatum, who play similar positions.

The comparison Isaac is linked to is Kevin Garnett, yes, The Big Ticket. Although the comparison game is one I very rarely play, I cans see it, and the entire nation will be able to see if Florida State can make a decent run in the tournament (spoiler alert: I think they will.)

Isaac is 6’10”, and has the elite athleticism and motor to be useful as soon as he gets to the NBA. He can hit a jump shot and will project to be able to hit an NBA three. His weakness is that he sometimes gets lost on the floor and can get lost in the flow of a game. BUT THE POTENTIAL!!! Check out his game for yourself

Gonzaga, Baylor, Duke fall, where do they stand?

As we inch closer towards March, we’re bound to see some wacky weekends full of upsets, and this was one of those weekends.

BYU defeats Gonzaga on Saturday // AP

First, Gonzaga received their first loss thanks to BYU, who have defeated the Bulldogs while they were ranked in each of the last three years. But with wins over #4 Arizona, #13 Florida, Iowa State, and two wins over conference rival #20 Saint Mary’s, the Zags shouldn’t be worried about losing their #1 seed come tournament time.

Baylor now has lost 5 out of their last 8 games, and their inconsistent play around likely Wooden Award finalist Johnathan Motley has crippled their chances of being taken seriously in March. Their schedule doesn’t get much easier either. The Bears will be heading to Morgantown to face #10 West Virginia. Adding to the challenge, Baylor will be without point guard Manu Lecomte, so good luck trying to beat Coach Huggin’s press in that environment.

I’m still waiting for Coach K to kick his team into gear. They have to, right? They better, or my bracket will be destroyed. They have so much talent on this team, but from what I’ve seen, they don’t feed off of each other well, and the stunt in Harry Gile’s development isn’t working in The Blue Devil’s favor. In recent years, Coach K has done well when he has elite big men at his disposal (Jahlil Okafor), and has had early exits in March when he’s forced to play small ball (Jabari Parker vs. Mercer). I’m praying Duke gets it together and makes a deep tournament run, because college basketball is better when everyone hated Duke for being too good. And really, who wants to see this?

Frank Mason, Lonzo Ball Highlight Men’s College Basketball National Player of the Year Rankings

Lonzo Ball // AP
Lonzo Ball // AP

The 2016-21017 college basketball season has loads of talent. Even more than past years. Last year, it was Buddy Hield running away with the award towards the end of the season, then a two horse race in 2015 with Frank Kaminski and Jahlil Okafor.

This year? There are 5 or 6 players who could easily have a hot February and March and steal the title.

Here’s my front-runner list and why you should be watching them as March Madness creeps up on the calendar.

1. Frank Mason III – PG, Kansas

Remember how vital Perry Ellis was to last years’ Kansas team? And the year before that… And the year before that… (Yes he finally graduated) He was the rock to those teams. When Andrew Wiggins struggled in big games in 2014, or if the Jayhawks needed a bucket during a tough stretch, Perry was there. Mason has taken this role and has elevated this Kansas team to new heights, scoring more points per game than any other Kansas player under coach Bill Self.

Mason has made the game easier for his teammates, especially down the stretch of games. In a game vs. Texas Tech this year, Mason drew attention to the ball in the second half, giving super talented freshman and future top-5 pick Josh Jackson easier looks.

Take a look at his highlights and expect to watch him lead Kansas deep into the bracket.

2. Josh Hart – Villanova, G

Hart was Villanova’s most consistent player last year during their championship run and was overshadowed by the play of point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and “the shot” by Kris Jenkins.

In the most Villanova way to describe a player, he’s a prototypical two-way playmaker who finds his way to the basket and like Mason, is consistent and will push his team to a win. Villanova hasn’t seen much competition this year, so we’ll get to see exactly how good Hart is when tournament time comes around, and that’s why I give the edge to Mason, who plays in a deep Big 12.

3. Caleb Swanigan – Purdue, F

In his sophomore campaign, Swanigan may be the most improved player on this list. After watching former teammate AJ Hammonds make it to the NBA, Swanigan got in shape and improved his game, boasting 22 double doubles.

Swanigan may be the most dominant player in college basketball this year, being elite in rebounding and scoring with his back to the basket (Duke Jahlil Okafor anyone?), but…he plays for Purdue. Let’s see what he can do on the big stage.

4. Lonzo Ball – UCLA, PG

Lonzo has lived up to the hype. Despite seeing his little brother LaMelo cherrypick his way to 92 points and his outrageous dad claiming he is the second coming of MJ, Ball has BALLED in his one-and-done year. His 6’6″ lanky frame allows him to see the court like CP3 and shoot over defenders like KD (One of the few comparisons I will make).

Ball has the chance to be special and will be a top-3 pick this upcoming draft. His confidence and IQ puts him ahead of other talented guards and will translate well into late March. Don’t be surprised if his stock skyrockets after a few dominant games in the Pac-12 tourney.

(Recommendation: Don’t pay attention to his horrendous shooting form)

5. Nigel Williams-Goss – Gonzaga, G

The classic best player on the best team. Gonzaga being the best team may be a stretch, but they’re undefeated and have a bunch of talent, so hey, Williams-Goss deserves hit. Not the flashiest player on the court, but he really does everything.

Transferring from Washington to get away from the Markelle Fultz hype, he leads his team in points, assists, and rebounds for the undefeated Zags. Shooting a smooth 50.5% from the field, he has a chance to climb up the rankings.

Truthfully, this happens every year. Gonzaga has some great player that everyone falls in love with, then loses when a team other than BYU can lock up defensively. Speaking of BYU, if Williams-Goss is calling out Michael Wilbon in a postgame interview after a win vs. BYU to “shut up the haters”, you deserve to lose in the first week in March.

Honorable Mentions:

Markelle Fultz – Washington, PG, Johnathan Motley – Baylor, F, Sindarius Thornwell – South Carolina, G, Malik Monk – Kentuck