Category Archives: College Basketball

Looking Back at 2008 and Ahead at 2009

2008 was a great year for sports. Michael Phelps’ record-setting 8 gold medals highlighted the most exciting Olympic Games of my lifetime, which also included a gold medal for the Redeem Team in Men’s basketball as well as excitement in gymnastics from Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson and on the track from Usain Bolt.

In the NFL, the New England Patriots started the season 18-0 only to lose in one of the most dramatic and surprising Super Bowl outcomes of all-time against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

The NBA saw the resurgence of its two most storied franchises when the Boston Celtics met the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, won by Boston in six games.

College sports featured another upset-filled football season that saw a slew of top teams knocked off down the stretch, eventually setting up an LSU vs. Ohio State matchup in the BCS title game, which LSU won handily. And in basketball, Kansas ended the David-and-Goliath-like run of Davidson before upending Memphis thanks to a clutch shot from Mario Chalmers that will be replayed every March from now on.

Major League Baseball featured a season in which the previously-forever-futile Tampa Bay Rays removed the ‘Devil’ and beat out the Evil Empire New York Yankees and their Boston brethren to win the AL East and, eventually, the pennant before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. For the City of Brotherly Love, it was their first title in the major four sports since 1983.

And in the NHL (yes, hockey reporting on MattHubert.com), Sid Crosby grew up as he led his Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals where they fell to the Detroit Red Wings.

Yes, it was a good year for sports—just not for my teams in sports.

Most of my teams failed, plain and simple. But even those that had good seasons ended up breaking my heart.

The Lakers exceeded preseason expectations, but their Finals performance was disastrous—blowing a 24-point lead at home in Game 4 and folding to lose Game 6—and the series—by 39 points. The fact that this happened against archrival Boston was what hurt most of all, though, and all the year’s successes were mitigated by six lackluster games leaving me feeling empty and betrayed.

Likewise, in college hoops, UCLA had a strong season, riding freshman Kevin Love to the Final Four. It was the Bruins’ third straight trip to the Final Four, and with Love filling the void that had seemingly cost them in two previous losses—a formidable presence down low—it seemed like this was the year. But Love shot just 4-11 and Memphis outscored UCLA 40-28 in the second half to pull away for a victory that the Tigers controlled pretty much the whole way.

And if the Lakers and Bruins’ season-ending losses stung, at least they had some wins to get them there. The Raiders finished out the ’08 campaign with back-to-back victories to salvage something from a lost season, but they still finished 5-11, which made them the first team in NFL history to have five seasons in a row with at least 11 losses. They also fired coach Lane Kiffin, making interim Tom Cable the Raiders’ fifth head coach in six years.

Things were no better in the college ranks where Michigan won just three games, lost five games at the Big House, and missed a bowl for the first time since 1974.

In baseball, the A’s weren’t even relevant, and though they’ve been competitive in the decade, have never made a World Series appearance during the Moneyball era.

But 2008 is over, so it’s time to focus on the future.

Here now are 10 predictions, fears and dreams for 2009—five for the sports world at large and five focusing on my teams—the Lakers, Raiders, Michigan, UCLA and the Athletics.

Predictions

  1. The Raiders will not make it a sixth straight year of 11-or-more losses, but they won’t break the .500 mark either.
  2. Lamar Odom will not be a Laker at the start of the 2009-10 season.
  3. Michigan will play in a bowl game in 2009.
  4. In basketball, Michigan will not only make it to the tournament, they’ll advance to the Sweet 16, further than my other team, UCLA, who will see its run of Final Four appearances snapped by an upset on the first weekend of the tournament.
  5. With a few call-ups to bolster their staff, the A’s will return to the postseason.
  6. Tim Tebow will return to Florida and attempt to become a two-time Heisman and three-time national champion.
  7. With teams aware of his singular talent, Stephon Curry and Davidson will get tripped up in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
  8. LeBron James will supplant Kobe Bryant as NBA MVP.
  9. Tiger Woods will once again be the best golfer, winning two majors. (For the record, that’s hockey and golf in the same post.)
  10. Matt Cassell will start Week 1 for the New England Patriots—not Tom Brady.

Fears

  1. Jamarcus Russell fails to develop as a quarterback in 2009, forcing the Raiders to start over (again) at quarterback.
  2. Andrew Bynum will reinjure himself, handicapping the Lakers’ playoff chances again this year.
  3. Terrelle Pryor will be to Michigan what Troy Smith was with the added pain that he almost chose to play for the Wolverines.
  4. Jrue Holiday will follow Kevin Love’s lead and be one-and-done, off to the NBA after his freshman season.
  5. The Angels become the Yankees of the West, leaving Oakland in the dust when it comes to money for free agents.
  6. The Celtics sign Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett wills him to play as well as he did when the two took the Timberwolves to the playoffs in the 90s.
  7. Tom Brady makes a full recovery, and the Patriots regain their 2007 form.
  8. College football signs a 10-year extension to keep the current BCS system in place.
  9. USC’s football team stays focused for a full season.
  10. The Steelers win the Super Bowl, bringing out the annoying droves of fair-weather Steelers fans in all their black and gold glory.

Dreams

  1. Al Davis sells the Raiders organization to give them a fresh start and a chance to win again.
  2. The Lakers find a way to combine the defense and athleticism of Trevor Ariza, size and three-point shooting of Vladimir Radmanovich, and basketball IQ and passing ability of Luke Walton to form a complete small forward.
  3. Michigan finds a freshman quarterback with the skills to run Rodriguez’s offense and the mind to handle Big Ten defenses.
  4. Michigan re-hangs the banners from the Fab Five’s Final Four appearances.
  5. A prominent free agent spurns the Yankees to sign with the A’s for less money because he prefers the A’s green uniforms to the Yankees’ green.
  6. My team wins a fantasy football championship.
  7. Major League Baseball institutes a salary cap to level the playing field and keep the Yankees in check.
  8. Sportscasters stop pointing out the obvious and provide actual insight.
  9. A Web site develops a jersey shop where you can order any player from any team from any era. My first order? Pooh Richardson circa 1990 with the Minnesota Timberwolves. I don’t know why, but that’s my dream.
  10. The Lakers host (and win) Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Beyonce is the halftime entertainment. And I have courtside seats next to Jack Nicholson to take it all in.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

The Other Struggling Michigan Program Makes Headlines

During rivalry week, it’s hard for anything to upstage the Michigan-Ohio State game for fans of the maize and blue. But the Wolverines—who hope to spring the upset on the Buckeyes on Saturday—play other sports, too. Take basketball, for instance.

While nothing can compare to the history of their football program, the winningest in college football history, the University of Michigan’s basketball team has a pretty impressive history of its own. They won the 1989 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship and revolutionized the game with the Fab Five’s back-to-back title game appearances in ‘92 and ’93.

However, the past decade has been a forgettable stretch. The Wolverines haven’t played in an NCAA Tournament game since 1998 and that game doesn’t officially exist as it was later forfeited because of a scandle that wiped the success of the Fab Five and much of Michigan’s success in the 90s from the records.

So, as the Wolverines tipped off against #4 UCLA last night at Madison Square Garden, in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic, no one was expecting much. But second-year coach John Beilein had his team ready. They played a tenacious 1-3-1 zone that frustrated the Bruins offense. And their offense dealt admirably with UCLA’s renowned defense. The Wolverines showed poise, patience and a penchant for making some clutch plays down the stretch.

It all resulted in an impressive 55-52 upset victory, earning Michigan a championship date with Duke tonight. A win over the Blue Devils would be huge. Not only would they win the early season tournament, they’d also earn back-to-back wins against highly regarded big name teams, which look really good on a postseason résumé.

Postseason basketball for Michigan has meant nothing but the NIT for the past decade. They could very well change this season. Aside from three challenging games the ACC—they will play against Duke a second time on December 6 and are at Maryland December 3 —the Wolverines’ remaining non-conference schedule should be relatively easy.

They close out the month of November against Norfolk State and Savannah State. In December, after Maryland and Duke, they play Eastern Michigan, Oakland, Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina Central.

At worst, Michigan should be 8-3 heading into conference play. They have one other non-conference game in February against Connecticut. If Michigan can manage to beat either Duke or UConn and finish in the upper tier of the Big Ten, which has just three teams currently ranked in the top 25, the Wolverines should make a trip to the Big Dance for the first time this century.

Don’t look now, Rich Rodriguez, but the other imported coach from West Virginia may be setting the bar for second-year expectations for Michigan sports revivals. And after a big win against UCLA, the bar just got raised another notch.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

NCAA Championship Thoughts

Some quick thoughts from yesterday’s NCAA Championship game, which Kansas won 75-68 in overtime.

1. They say defense wins championships, but you can’t teach free throw defense. Kansas held Memphis to 20 percent shooting at the free throw line down the stretch, which opened the door for the Jayhawks’ comeback victory.

2. Every rose has its thorn and for Memphis freshman Derrick Rose, it was the Kansas defense, especially in the first half. Kansas’ length and athleticism kept Rose out of the paint and the scorebook for much of the first half, limiting the probable lottery pick’s impact.

3. I don’t have a problem with Roy Williams supporting Kansas, a school he coached for many years, even after they beat his North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. But don’t you think he could have done better than that gaudy Jayhawks logo on that black shirt? It looked like he bought a giant sticker logo from the concessions stands and pasted it on.

4. This was almost a case of deja vu. Kansas fans surely recall the 2003 NCAA Championship when two missed free throws by Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick left the door open for the Jayhawks at 81-78. But Warrick made up for the free throw misfires by swatting away Michael Lee’s would-be tying 3-pointer. Derrick Rose was unable to duplicate that feat for Memphis after his missed free throw kept Kansas within one shot — drained by Mario Chalmers — of a tie.

5. Neither of these teams is likely to follow in Florida’s footsteps and bring back its core group from this season next year. Memphis loses Joey Dorsey to graduation, but more importantly, Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts are likely to test NBA Draft waters. Kansas’ Brandon Rush is likely gone as well, joining seniors Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson.

6. Billy Packer was about 3-4 possessions late in recognizing when Kansas’ defense shifted to a box-and-1. It’s time for a change, CBS. And while you’re at it, give Gus Johnson the Final Four play-by-play responsibilities as well.

7. Great game, but a disappointing overtime. Memphis seemed totally deflated after blowing the lead in regulation when the truth is they still had five minutes of basketball left to earn the championship. Despite an NCAA record 38 wins for the season, Memphis won’t be remembered as the team of 2008 in college basketball.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Assessing Stephen Curry’s Future in the NBA

After Stephen Curry scored 70 points in leading the 10th-seeded Davidson Wildcats to victories over 7th-seeded Gonzaga and 2nd-seeded Georgetown, the sophomore sensation receivedome 1,800 Facebook friend requests. Davidson’s Fall 2007 enrollment was just 1,674 students. Needless to say, Curry’s name has spread far from the small liberal arts college campus outside of Charlotte, N.C.

Curry added 33 points in a decisive 73-56 win against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. After scoring 30+ points in his first four career NCAA Tournament games (he scored 30 in a first round loss to Maryland last season), Curry was “held” to 25 points on 9-25 shooting from field in a dramatic 59-57 loss to top-seeded Kansas. Even in defeat, Curry made headlines, being named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional and deservingly so.

While Curry’s dreams of a Final Four appearance won’t be realized this year, the dream of following in the NBA footsteps of his father, Dell Curry, who played 16 years in the league, now seems almost certain. The question is, what kind of pro would Stephen Curry be?

The parallels to his father are obvious in terms of his shooting touch. Dell ranks 21st in NBA history in 3-pointers made and 22nd in career 3-point percentage, leading the league in the 1998-99 season. However, Stephen shows signs of being a more prolific scorer. His averaged 21.5 points per game as a freshmen, 25.9 as a sophomore, and most impressively, he’s averaged 31.6 against stiff competition in his five-game NCAA Tournament career.

With two years of eligibility left, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Curry stick around in school for another year or two. Being at a small school like Davidson, he may not want the bright lights of the NBA just yet. And his wiry 6’3” 185-pound frame may not be the prototypical NBA body.

But the buzz surrounding Curry may never eclipse the level it’s at right now, save an unlikely repeat march in the tournament by Davidson. NBA scouts have to be impressed by the way Curry handled the variety of defenders and defenses that were thrown at him over the past couple weekends. Curry is likely a mid-late first round pick at this point with a lot of upside.

His body resembles Monta Ellis, but he doesn’t have quite the same explosiveness. I think the better comparison is Sacramento Kings guard Kevin Martin. Listed at 6’7”, Martin is a few inches taller than Curry, but he is also listed at the same weight of 185 pounds. While Curry may be bothered most by taller, longer defenders, he’s very crafty with the ball and moves well without it. Plus, running of the screens at Davidson is one thing, but coming off a pick set by an NBA big man should help free Curry, who doesn’t need long to fire his quick-release jumper.

That’s Stephen Curry’s NBA ceiling: Kevin Martin’s innate ability to score combined with Dell Curry’s feathery touch from beyond the arc. At this point, the biggest question marks are on defense. At this point, his body is not strong enough to handle most NBA 2-guards so the question is whether he can defend quick point guards. Otherwise, he becomes a defensive liability.

On the other end of the projected-future spectrum, I’d compare Curry to someone like Juan Dixon, who averaged better than 25 points per game for Maryland on their way to winning the 2002 tournament. Dixon is another undersized guard, who at 6’3”, 164 pounds played shooting guard in college. Dixon is now on his fourth team in six seasons, averaging 8.8 points for his career and only 4.3 this season. For me, a career mirroring Dixon is the low end projection for Curry.

Curry is best suited as a scorer. He’s played with a good point guard in Jason Richards at Davidson and I think he’ll be most successful as a scoring guard rather than as a playmaking point guard. His size makes that a tough fit in the NBA, but if teamed with a big, physical point guard, Curry can become a 15-20-point a game scorer in the NBA.

Personally, I’d like to see him stay in school for at least his junior year and maybe his senior year as well. Add a few pounds in the weight room and add a few moves to his offensive repertoire.

Here’s the dilemma. The odds are that if he stays in school, his draft stock dips a bit after the hype of this tournament becomes a memory and he goes late first or possibly even early second round. However, he enters the league more polished, more NBA-ready and has a better chance at a long, successful career a la his father.

If he enters the draft this year, the upside is that he’ll get drafted earlier and maybe someone even takes a flyer on him at the backend of the lottery, earning him a significantly more lucrative contract. However, he’ll also be burdened with greater expectations and less physical tools to live up to them. With an NBA father, Curry doesn’t fit the mold of many who make the jump to the pros. He certainly doesn’t need the money. So while no one could blame Steph Curry if he decides to capitalize on his fame and turn pro, I’ll applaud his wisdom if he chooses to return to the place where he will have cult hero status that goes beyond any number his Facebook page can count.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

The Monday After the Onset of Madness

This is what a college basketball hangover feels like. After a weekend of bracket-busting madness, I find my picks ranking me in a tie for dead last over at MattHubert.com. Tied with my mom.

Once again, knowing so much helped me so little when it came to filling out my bracket. The redeeming factor is that my favorite team in the tournament (UCLA) also doubles as my pick to win it all, and they are still alive. Barely. Even the mighty Bruins flirted with disaster, falling behind by 10 points in the second half.

Three double digit seeds won two games apiece in the tournament. Meanwhile the entire state of Indiana failed me by winning just three games combined. Thanks a lot Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana.

Two regions have been nearly without upset. In the East, only 9th-seeded Arkansas beating 8th-seeded Indiana saw a lower seed advance. Ditto in the South where #5 Michigan State over #4 Pittsburgh was the lone surprise. But the West and Midwest regions have made up for it. Twelfth seeded Villanova and Western Kentucky moved on to the Sweet 16 whereas 2-seeds Georgetown and Duke went home early.

For what it’s worth (and at this point, the answer is “not much”), here are my second chance picks for the second weekend of the tournament:

SWEET 16

East

1. North Carolina over 4. Washington State
The Tar Heels will not eclipse the century mark for a third straight game because the Cougars play stingy defense, but Washington State still won’t have enough points to match Carolina’s total with a healthy Ty Lawson running the show.

3. Louisville over 2. Tennessee
I thought Tennessee was ripe for an upset. And after a first round scare against American and an overtime thriller against Butler, I think Louisville is the team that gets in done in a mini-upset.

Midwest

1. Kansas over 12. Villanova
There’s a reason why Villanova was the lowest seeded at large team in the tournament. As impressive as their comeback win was against Clemson, they received a gift when they received Siena in the round of 32. Kansas will end the Wildcats’ season right here.

10. Davidson over 3. Wisconsin
Davidson is not a fluke team. If the clutch performances of Stephen Curry against Gonzaga and Wisconsin weren’t enough, consider this: the Wildcats haven’t lost a game in 2008. Yes, that’s 24 straight wins since a one-point loss at North Carolina in December 2007. Wisconsin is a strong, tough-minded team from the Big 10, but Curry and company seem to have that magic touch.

South

5. Michigan State over 1. Memphis
Memphis nearly did itself in at the foul line against a Mississippi State team that had no business being in the game late. The Spartans won’t let Memphis off the hook so easily. Look for the guard combination of freshman Kalin Lucas and senior Drew Neitzel to pull the upset and knock off the first number one seed in the tournament.

2. Texas over 3. Stanford
The Longhorns have the edge on the perimeter and the Cardinal possess the advantage on the inside. In the end, I expect D.J. Augustin to bounce back from an embarrassing airball free throw late in the game against Miami to outperform Stanford’s twin towers, Brook and Robin Lopez.

West

1. UCLA over 12. Western Kentucky
The offensive highlight of the tournament’s opening weekend belongs to Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers, who hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating three to defeat Drake in overtime 101-99. The defensive highlight of the tournament’s opening weekend belongs to UCLA’s Josh Shipp, who made a game-saving shot block to secure the Bruins’ 51-49 second-round win against Texas A&M. In the third round, expect most of the highlights to favor UCLA, who simply has too much talent for the Hilltoppers to overcome.

7. West Virginia over 3. Xavier
West Virginia’s Joe Alexander may be the best player in the West region not named Kevin Love. The 6-8 junior is playing his way up the NBA Draft boards and may be playing his team within a game of the Final Four. Xavier won’t go down without a fight, but the Musketeers showed vulnerabilities against Georgia and Purdue and West Virginia is playing better than both those teams right now.

ELITE EIGHT

East

1. North Carolina over 3. Louisville

Midwest

1. Kansas over 10. Davidson

South

2. Texas over 5. Michigan State

West

1. UCLA over 7. West Virginia

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Winning Six in a Row

The 2008 NCAA Tournament field is set. Between now and the tournament tip-off on Thursday, experts and analysts will break down dozens of factors that contribute to success in the tournament: quality guard play, a low-post presence, 3-point shooting, free throw shooting, rebounding, turnovers, senior leadership, star players. You get the idea.

 

Some combination involving all those factors and more will eventually result in a national champion, but let’s face it. No one knows exactly what that combination will be. The only guaranteed formula that results in a championship year after year is to win six games in a row.

 

That is not an easy feat, especially when teams will be facing quality opponents in each round of the tournament with the possible exception of round one for top seeds. Still, one team has to win six pressure-packed games in a row. Eight teams in the field haven’t managed to string together that many wins in a row all season. It’s hard to imagine that changing now for Boise State, George Mason, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, UNLV and Winthrop.

 

Of the 57 teams in the field that have managed a streak of six wins or better, only 18 repeated a second streak of six wins or more. Four teams – UCLA, Georgetown, Xavier and Butler – have three streaks of that length.

 

Of course, one should also examine the strength of teams beaten during a streak, but in terms of sheer length, some teams stand out. Four teams – Kansas, Memphis, Drake and Davidson – have enjoyed win streaks of more than 20. And Davidson’s current 22-game win streak is the longest of the 14 active streaks of six wins or more.

 

Wisconsin, Duke and North Carolina are the only teams to register two streaks of more than 10-straight victories. Meanwhile, Kansas and Memphis have active seven-game streaks after amassing streaks of 20-plus wins earlier in the season.

 

The most important streak of all, however, starts (or continues) this week for someone. It will take some luck, some talent and six more victories.

 

All the tournament teams are listed below along with their winning streaks of six or more.

 

East
1. North Carolina: 18 games, 11 games (active)
*16. Coppin State: 8 games / Mount St. Mary’s: 6 games
8. Indiana: 13 games
9. Arkansas: 6 games
5. Notre Dame: 10 games
12. George Mason: N/A
4. Washington State: 14 games
13. Winthrop: N/A
6. Oklahama: N/A
11. Saint Joseph’s: 6 games
3. Louisville: 9 games
14. Boise State: N/A
7. Butler: 9 games, 8 games (twice)
10. South Alabama: 13 games, 6 games
2. Tennessee: 11 games, 9 games
15. American: 6 games

 

* will be decided by Tuesday’s Opening Round game

 

Midwest
1. Kansas: 20 games, 7 games (active)
16. Portland State: 9 games
8. UNLV: N/A
9. Kent State: 7 games, 6 games
5. Clemson: 10 games
12. Villanova: 6 games
4. Vanderbilt: 16 games, 7 games
13. Siena: 6 games (active)
6. USC: 6 games
11. Kansas State: 6 games
3. Wisconsin: 10 games (active), 10 games
14. Cal State Fullerton: 6 games (active)
7. Gonzaga: 8 games, 6 games
10. Davidson: 22 games (active)
2. Georgetown: 8 games, 7 games, 6 games
15. UMBC: 9 games

 

South
1. Memphis: 26 games, 7 games (active)
16. Texas-Arlington: 8 games
8. Mississippi State: 9 games
9. Oregon: N/A
5. Michigan State: 11 games
12. Temple: 7 games (active)
4. Pittsburgh: 11 games
13. Oral Roberts: 11 games
6. Marquette: 7 games
11. Kentucky: N/A
3. Stanford: 7 games (twice)
14. Cornell: 16 games (active)
7. Miami (FL): 12 games
10. Saint Mary’s: 7 games, 6 games
2. Texas: 11 games, 8 games
15. Austin Peay: 6 games (active), 6 games

 

West
1. UCLA: 10 games (active), 9 games, 7 games
16. Mississippi Valley State: 9 games (active)
8. BYU: 9 games, 6 games
9. Texas A&M: 8 games, 7 games
5. Drake: 21 games
12. Western Kentucky: 11 games, 6 games (active)
4. Connecticut: 10 games
13. San Diego: 7 games
6. Purdue: 11 games
11. Baylor: 6 games
3. Xavier: 11 games, 7 games, 6 games
14. Georgia: N/A
7. West Virginia: 8 games
10. Arizona: 6 games
2. Duke: 12 games, 10 games
15. Belmont: 13 games (active)

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Fill Out Your Bracket Today

The field of 65 has been announced. Now it’s time for you to fill out your bracket. Head on over to MattHubert.com to enter “March Mattness 2008” and compete against the picks of others for a chance to win a free t-shirt – not to mention worldwide bragging rights.

Click for instructions on how to enter.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

15 Years After The Timeout

Last September, as I stood in the student section of the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., and cheered the Michigan Wolverines on to victory against Penn State, I wasn’t thinking about the reason I was among the 100,000+ fans supporting the maize and blue.

Why not? Well, because, technically, that reason doesn’t exist.

The reason I cheered Charles Woodson’s Heisman trophy and national championship season of ’97 is gone. When Braylon Edwards single-handedly helped Michigan storm back from a 17-point deficit to defeat Michigan State, the reason I was ecstatic is extinct. When Manningham un-undefeated Penn State, when the D-line crushed Brady Quinn, when Mike Hart showed heart and when Henne sent Carr out in style against the Gators, my original reason for my Wolverine fandom was only a figment of my imagination.

That reason is the Univerity of Michigan’s 1993 men’s basketball team. Perhaps you know their starting lineup better as “The Fab Five.” Five sophomores: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. And almost always with Webber listed first.

While the official records have caused that team’s NCAA Tournament wins to be vacated and their runner-up banner to be removed, the memory of that team remains very real to me.

Fifteen years after The Timeout, it still hurts to watch replays of that game. Down by 2 points with 11 second to play, Webber signaled for a timeout that his team didn’t have resulting in two technical free throws for North Carolina that sealed the deal for the Tar Heels to win the ’93 national championship.

Webber turned pro after the season with Howard and Rose followed after their junior years. But the Fab Five legacy lives on.

Bald heads and baggy shorts, swagger and success. The Fab Five captivated a nation when they arrived on the scene as freshmen as the most highly touted recruiting class ever. They didn’t disappoint either. Despite their inexperience, they led the Wolverines to the national championship game in 1992, losing to defending champion Duke in the finals.

However, it was their return trip to the Final Four in ’93 as sophomores that got my attention. I was eight years old and it is the first NCAA Tournament that I can remember watching. Michigan was young, exciting and flashy—all appealing traits to an eight-year-old basketball fan looking to latch on.

Webber quickly became my favorite player—I bought and wore his jerseys (Golden State Warriors #4 and Washington Bullets #2) so often that a friend at the Y actually thought my last name was Webber—and the Wolverines became my favorite team. I fell in love with the maize and gold colors, the school and even adopted the football team as my own.

As it turns out, Michigan is a football-first school, the winningest program in the history of college football. Ironically, I became a fan because of their basketball team, which despite winning the national title in 1989 with Rumeal Robinson, Glen Rice, Loy Vaught and company, was never the top ticket in town.

And recently, watching Michigan basketball has been nothing short of sad. The fallout of the scandal involving Webber and a former booster was significant. They were banned from postseason participation 2003 and haven’t fully recovered since. In 2004, Michigan won the National Invitational Tournament. They had a losing season in 2005 and returned to the NIT again in 2006, losing to South Carolina in the championship. Last year the Wolverines were bounced in the second round of the NIT. And this season, under new head coach John Beilein, the Wolverines once again find themselves under .500 and out of the postseason.

A school that won a title in ’89 and made back-to-back title game appearances in the early 90s hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. It’s almost as if the entire program stopped when Webber, who played for a team that doesn’t exist, called that timeout that didn’t exist.

I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait before Michigan is part of another tournament memory, but once it happens, I’m going to do whatever I can to pretend the past 15 years of lackluster Wolverine hoops didn’t exist either.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Does Bob Knight Even Own a Suit?

Bob Knight made his ESPN television debut last night, appearing on SportsCenter and throughout the night on college basketball coverage. With the conference tournaments in full swing, Knight was all over the airwaves in Bristol again today, and I couldn’t help but notice that he stood out from the crowd.

You remember that old Sesame Street tune? “One of these things is not like the other…” Well, that’s Bob Knight in his sweater. Now I realize that the sweater was sort of his trademark sideline accessory, but is he really going to wear a sweater every night in the studio as well?

Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Hubert Davis — they’re all wearing suits as are all ESPN personalities. When they aired “Dream Job” a few years back, I thought I remembered Al Jaffe, vice president of talent negotiation and production recruitment, making a big stink about how ESPN anchors and analysts wear suits, period.

I realize Bob Knight was a big-time hire, but did he actually negotiate a “sweater clause” into his contract? And if so, what’s worse? Knight’s stubborn refusal to conform or ESPN’s decision to bend on the rules for the publicity they’re bound to garner by hiring “The General” Robert Montgomery Knight to his first post-coaching gig?

Look, I’m glad that Knight is staying in the college basketball limelight. He’s a candid character and an all-time great coach before you can even mention any of his missteps. But come on, Coach, lose the sweater and get with the program. It’s just hard to take an analyst seriously, even with as much basketball knowledge as Knight, when he’s on TV wearing the same sweater everyone’s grandpa refuses to get rid of.

Ditch the sweater for the better. It’s really as simple as that.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Bubblicious

Selection Sunday is just nine days away, which means it is crunch time for every team on the bubble. Some small-conference tournaments are already underway and the rest will begin with the next week. Here are some quick links to prepare you for the road to the selection show.

  • One down, 64 to go. You may have missed it among the hoopla of Championship Week, but the first team to qualify for the Big Dance was the Cornell Big Red, who won the Ivy League championship.
  • ESPN’s Andy Katz looks at some of the teams that have work left to do, including a familiar story for Syracuse.
  • What does it mean to be number one? In college basketball, it doesn’t always mean championship, that’s for sure.
  • Duke fans are ready for the rematch with number one North Carolina on Saturday night. The Blue Devils won the first meeting back on Feb. 6 in Chapel Hill, but it’s the Tar Heels that enter the game atop the polls after winning seven straight games following the loss.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.