Well, we now live in a world where Scott Drew has a national championship and Kansas is facing probation. Just fucking great. If I could, I would light college basketball on fire and let it burn a slow, painful death.
OK, that’s a little harsh. And, honestly, I can deal with whatever is going to happen to KU. It’s the Scott Drew shit that really pisses me off. Phony, shady m-fer.
But there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m just going to ignore it. Call it an asterisk, Covid-impacted title. I watched the first half of Monday’s championship game then turned it off. That was about as impressive of a performance as I can recall in a title game. Actually, as much as I hate Drew, I like most of the dudes on the Baylor squad. And that’s what they are, dudes. Those guys can play! But I did not need to watch them actually win the title.
As they scorched the nets in the opening 10 minutes, I grew more and more bitter, thinking of all the great KU teams that couldn’t do the same. The teams that wilted under expectations rather than embracing them and going out and just destroying whatever fools got in their way like Baylor did this year.
It didn’t help that last year’s KU team didn’t get a chance to play out the tournament and potentially do the same. As I said a year ago, KU may well have lost to some shit Missouri Valley team in the second round. But they also might have hung the 16th Final Four banner and added a fourth NCAA title. Fucking Covid.
The closest KU ever came to what Baylor did last night was in the 2008 national semifinals, when they crushed North Carolina in the opening twelve minutes, leading by 24 at one point. They blew 20 of those points and made us all sweat. Then in the title game it took the greatest shot in program history and five extra minutes to secure the title. Which, to be honest, made for a more epic game and set of memories. But it would have been nice for KU to do in a championship game what they did to Marquette in the 2003 Final Four, just crushing their souls in the first 15 minutes and making the second half a glorified practice.
For all the tournament success KU has had in my life, that long list of great teams that shrunk when it mattered most always gets extra attention this time of year. That’s the nature of being a fan. The What Ifs are easier to contemplate than the concrete, happy memories of success.
But, seriously, fuck Scott Drew.
I was pulling hard for Gonzaga. Not just because I hate Scott Drew or because I have zero love for the non-Big 8 members of the Big 12. It would have been cool to have an undefeated champion, so all the old Hoosiers around here could shut the fuck up about the 1976 IU team. I don’t think anyone questions Gonzaga’s bona fides anymore, but I think they deserved the final validation of what Mark Few has built in Spokane. Which is dumb. If he never wins a national title I don’t think that in any way negates anything he has accomplished or reduces the strength of the program. There is zero doubt Gonzaga is one of the best programs in the sport, and it will be as long as Few continues coaching the Zags.
Now we are officially onto the silliest off-season in college hoops history. Kids transferring left and right. Teams completely revamping their rosters in the course of a week.
KU has been very active so far, already adding two players with strong indications they will add at least two more in the next few days. It seems like Bill Self has filled some holes for next season and added some better depth for the next few years. I’m already starting to get worried about playing time. There could still be some surprises in who is back next year. As the roster stands today, though, I see it being very hard for a couple of these new guys to get any time on the court next year. Kids these days hate to wait and take the long path to success. Redshirts of highly recruited kids rarely happen unless an injury forces it upon them. Right now, though, it seems like the best move for a few guys that are currently supposed to be on KU’s 2021–22 roster would be to sit out the year and then hit the court running the following year.
I guess that’s why Bill Self gets paid a bazillion dollars a year, to figure this shit out.
Ah, speaking of Self’s contract, I heard from several non-KU friends who were surprised by KU signing him to a “lifetime” contract last week. Partially because of the clear “Fuck you” message it sends to the NCAA. They were also confused about why you suddenly give a guy his age a lifetime contract.
The new contract was purely for recruiting purposes. His previous deal was done next year. If he signed an X-year extension, that would immediately be used against him. “Well, his contract runs out your sophomore year. Are you sure he’ll still be there your junior year?” I guarantee the Scott Drews of the world would say that shit. This removes that overt question, although I’m sure some will still obliquely raise it. Plus, John Calipari has a similar deal at Kentucky, so Self is on equal footing with him.
As far as the NCAA stuff, KU has clearly been 100% behind Self every step of the process. It wouldn’t make sense to suddenly get wishy-washy about it. Give him protection against any penalties that are levied directly against him while keeping stability in the program until everything gets resolved and the ramifications of the case are both known and served.
KU has a new athletic director. I don’t know much about Travis Goff. Seems like he did good things at Northwestern, and worked under a highly respected boss who now runs the ACC. His name came up quickly after Jeff Long was shitcanned, and a couple people I know who have ties to the athletic program were pushing for him from the beginning. The past four KU ADs have all been some level of awful. The bar for success is pretty low. Hopefully he can hire a good football coach, hire good coaches in other sports when needed, and keep the programs that are doing well humming along.
Speaking of good hires Chris Beard to Texas seems like an absolute no-brainer. A relatively young alum who has already been to a Final Four now gets to go to one of the biggest athletic programs in the country with the financial backing and brand that gets him through every recruit in the nation’s front door. Texas might finally live up to all the potential that program offers? Could be scary.
The only good thing about this and Baylor’s title is perhaps the Big 12 will be super competitive at the top. I don’t think anyone is going to win 14 straight championships again, let alone string together more than a couple. Maybe that’s good for KU, not that winning the Big 12 was ever easy during the streak. If the top of the Big 12 is more like that top of the ACC, with Duke, Carolina, and a couple other schools all being national title contenders each year maybe that makes tournament games easier for KU.
Then again maybe the grinder of the conference season wears everyone out and the Big 12 doesn’t get another Final Four team for a long time.
It’s sports, you never know.
In other hires, Indiana hiring Mike Woodson seems weird. Especially with Thad Motta coming in as an administrator and Dane Fife coming in as an assistant. Hoosier fans seem happy, though. The optics and areas of responsibility seem weird to me.
North Carolina hiring Hubert Davis quickly was super predictable. He’s been rumored to be the coach-in-waiting for a long time. There was about zero chance UNC would go outside their family. I wonder if they even interviewed another candidate. I guess we’ll find out if Hubert ready/capable.