Top Illini head coaching candidates: non Shaka Smart variety

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Well, I didn’t see that one coming. Shaka Smart had an offer of $2.5 million plus, doubling his salary, and a chance at a top 20 national job in what was the nation’s best conference this year. And he had a chance to step up from mid-major to high-major in the Big Ten. I’ve been to Richmond, Virginia a couple times so I can tell you- this denial was shocking.

The only way the decision to stay at VCU could be interpreted as a smart one is if Smart wants to be a Ram for life (and life means a decade or so) like Brad Stevens at Butler, or he’s holding out for the UConn and UCLA jobs; and now only one of those jobs looks to be open next year.  high percentage of Illini nation is hard right-wing politically. They won’t like a coach spurning them to stay at Virginia Commonwealth. “Sounds like a socialist commune!” they’ll say.

Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas had a plan: option 1 was Shaka Smart, option 2-11 was Smart.

Now it’s time to move on to option 12.

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Shaka Smart to the Illini would make sense on many levels

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With the Bruce Weber termination in Champaign all but official, it’s time for Illini fans to start looking at who his successor will be. And there’s a lot of factors pointing in the direction of VCU leader Shaka Smart. He’s currently making $1.2 million per year now at Virginia Commonwealth on an eight year deal. Before his Final Four run, he made “just” $350,000 per season. He could have gotten even longer dough at NC State, as they offered him about $2 million a year for 6 years.

So that’s what it’s going to cost, in addition to the $3.9 million Weber buyout. Therefore, in order to spend money to make money, to break some eggs to prepare that omelet, Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas needs a splash hire. Perhaps he’s got the wheels in motion already.

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Indiana Hoosiers must move against VCU

The fourth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers now have a NCAA tournament win in the Tom Crean era.

They should get their second such victory at 7:10 p.m. today in Portland. Should.

Even so, the Hoosiers face a daunting obstacle to a berth in the Sweet 16 in No. 12 seed Virginia Commonwealth, who could make IU pay for repeating one of its worst habits. [Read more…]

Championship Week: Mid-Major Mania

Where did a whole year go? I swear it was just last night that Kemba Walker led the youthful UConn Husky Puppies to a National Championship.

March always sneaks up on us, but this year seems different. Maybe it’s because I live in Wisconsin and we are just now starting to see snow.

I don’t know what it is, but I like it.

March marks the start of tournament time for college basketball, which means a decline in workplace productivity, an increased demand for paper, and attention-deprived significant others who “hate this time of year,” yet end up winning your pool after picking the correct national champion based on their favorite animal. Simply put, March is unparalleled by all 11 other months put together.

This guy would agree.

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10 Butler-UConn National Title Game Questions

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It’s finally here, the Super Bowl of college basketball. The end of all the madness that March left will be resolved on Monday night between the Butler Bulldogs and Connecticut Huskies. I think Butler has the advantage with the experience and better guard play (sorry Kemba Walker). If Butler can force this young UConn team to make mistakes, they should win.  It should literally be an old fashioned dog fight – and not the kind that Michael Vick is invited to.

Here are 10 questions that will need answered for Monday’s National Championship Game:

by Ryan West [Read more…]

VCU: The Journey to the Unthinkable

The NCAA tournament is known to have upsets and madness, but nothing like this. After VCU’s upset win over the last remaining #1 seed Kansas, practically everyone’s bracket is busted. And no one believed that this team from Richmond, Virginia could do the unthinkable and get to college basektball’s Final Four. Why? Because no one believed they even deserved to be here.  So the big question is, how did they get here?

Let me show you a bit of a timeline:

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VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart Making Wisconsin Proud


The Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles both were outed in the Sweet 16, but that doesn’t mean the state isn’t paying attention anymore.

Shaka Smart, Head Coach of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Wisconsin native has his squad dancing to their first ever Final Four.

The mastermind behind 2011’s Cinderella team hails from Fitchburg (a small city outside of Madison) and is one of the hottest up-and-comers in all of the NCAA.

By: Nick Grays

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VCU Rams: America’s new College Basketball Sweethearts?

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This NCAA Tournament second weekend features four double digit seeds, three of them within one region. The Butler Bulldogs are back in the sweet sixteen, but it’s hard to actually consider them a cinderella, even though they’re in a mid-major conference.

The city of Richmond, Virginia (mighty metropolis, urbane, sophisticated, international, cosmopolitan mecca that it is) has two teams still left in the college basketball big dance. That’s as many as the Big East or Big Ten and twice as many as the Big 12. But it’s not the Richmond Spiders, but the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams out of the Colonial Athletic Association who appear to be America’s sweethearts now.

We all love a good underdog story, and the VCU Rams are the closest thing to a Cinderella that we have going right now.

By Paul M. Banks

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Purdue Gets Blown out of the Building by VCU

I guess VCU will soon become a trending term. Virginia Commonwealth University might become America’s sweethearts since we have no true cinderella this march madness season, and America loves an underdog story.

It’s fitting that Purdue University’s initials are PU, given the way they played tonight. At least on the defensive end, where they surrendered 94 points to the Rams and lost 94-76 in a game that was even more lopsided than it sounds.

The Rams even won the dance team/cheerleaders battle, as one of their girls walked across the United Center court on her hands. That physical feat was more impressive than anything the Purdue Boilermakers accomplished when it came to guarding their opposition and contesting their shots.

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Illini Derail Hoosiers, Continue to Enhance NCAA Profile

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Truthfully, if I again hear the words “enhance NCAA profile” or “NCAA profile needs enhancing” like there’s some sort of a erectile dysfunction drug to fix it, I’ll probably punch all the Viagra in the world. It’s getting out of hand people. Seriously.

But we’ve had to examine the profile of the Illinois Fighting Illini a lot these past couple of seasons. There’s been a lot (or, not a lot, if you prefer to look at it that way) to examine. It won’t be any different after their 72-48 win in their regular season finale against Indiana.

Without getting into major peripherals, the Illini are 19-12 overall, and 9-9 in the Big Ten. Prior to Saturday’s win, their KenPom ranking was 19th.

This season is no different, although it seems Illini fans everywhere now are talking about the Illini being “in” the dance and that all the work is done.

After dealing with this just one short season ago…I caution all Illini fans to tread carefully. [Read more…]

East Regional Bracket Breakdown

By: David K.

Overview: What stands out most about this regional, is the massive home-court advantage for (2) Duke and (3) Villanova.  You pretty much write in each team into the Sweet 16 since the Dukies play in North Carolina and Nova is in their home city of Philadelphia.  With Pittsburgh being the one seed, this is a fairly top heavy bracket.

Elite Eight Prediction: (1) Pitt beats (3) Villanova

Yes, my second all Big East Elite 8 match-up.  I have Pitt winning the entire tournament and have been on that bandwagon for the past few weeks.  The only thing that will stop them is if DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble.  Pitt is 0-4 when Blair fouls out of a game.  Fortunately for them, there really aren’t a lot of big guys who will get in his way in this bracket.  Villanova has the best guard play in the country with Scottie Reynolds and the Corey’s (Fisher and Stokes.)  They go eight deep and their Sweet 16 match-up with Duke should be an absolute shoot-out.

Sleeper: (9) Tennessee

I like this Tennessee team, and not just because of Wayne Chism’s headband.  When their offense is clicking, they can put up points with any team in the country.  They tend to play out of control too often, but have the athletes and quickness to possibly upset Pitt in the second round.

Early Exit: (6) UCLA

The Bruins run of three straight trips to the Final Four will come to an end this year.  UCLA has a tough first round match-up against VCU who has experience in knocking off a major program two years when they upset Duke in the first round.  VCU’s point guard is Eric Maynor who will be a mid-first round pick and led VCU in that upset of Duke.  Even if UCLA escapes out of the first round, they get Villanova in their home city.  I am guessing there will not be a lot of Bruin backers making the long trip from Cali to Philly.

Most Intriguing First Round Match-Up: (7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota

The Longhorns were a team I was very high on early in the season.  But A.J. Abrams has not been able to find his shooting touch and it has really hurt the Horns.  Minnesota surprised a lot of teams when they started the season 16-1.  But the Gophs finished the year 6-9 and were lucky to land a spot in the Big Dance.  Minnesota is at their best when their defense is suffocating and they are very deliberate on the offensive end (aka typical boring Big Ten ball.)  I think Texas wins if Abrams is able to find his stroke early