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The Round Mound of Rebound. Sir Charles. Chuck. No matter the nickname you prefer, Charles Barkley’s basketball and television career has spawned dozens of great quotes, commentary, and hilarious moments. In honoring one of the greatest power forwards of all-time and in looking forward to his coverage of March Madness, we present this weekly installment, What Would Charles Say?
Pulling Their Weight: The race for National Player of the Year heated up in a big way over the last week, as both Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson made their cases on the national stage Saturday. During an early afternoon game on CBS, Davis dominated the Vanderbilt front line to the tune of 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots on 10-of-11 shooting from the field. His key late buckets put a close game for the No. 1 Wildcats away down the stretch. In a late afternoon game in Lawrence, Robinson also dominated the Missouri front line, going for 28 points, 12 rebounds and his only block perhaps a game-saving one in the closing seconds of regulation in a tie game. Furthermore, it was Robinson’s acrobatic layup (and subsequent free throw) that brought Kansas back from a 19-point second half deficit. Both players are more than deserving of the National Player of the Year award, but it will be interesting to see how each does this weekend in key conference rivalry games again on national television — Davis at Florida, and Robinson vs. Texas.
I Am Not a Role Model: Charles once said that that he didn’t earn a degree during his playing days at Auburn, but the school gave him one anyway. Given some of the outlandish high jinx and tomfoolery that Sports Illustrated’s George Dohrmann exposed among recent players at UCLA (most notably, Reeves Nelson), it doesn’t take a college grad to figure out that head coach Ben Howland has lost control of his program. From 2006-08, the Bruins went to three straight Final Fours behind tough-nosed defense, discipline and a bevy of NBA talent. Since 2009, though, the program has largely been a disaster, winning only two NCAA games and missing the Tournament altogether in 2010. Short of a four-game run through the Pac-12 Tournament in Los Angeles next week, UCLA is unlikely to see March Madness again this season. The question now is not whether Howland as the CEO and role model of the program is responsible for his team’s multi-year downswing, but rather if he’ll still be on the sidelines in Westwood again next year.
That’s Turrible: The legendary Bob Knight is known for many things, but the two that come immediately to mind are his volatile tirades and a whole bunch of wins (902, to be exact). His son, Pat Knight, the current head coach at Lamar, is now known for only one of those things after last week’s outburst following a loss to conference foe Stephen F. Austin [full video here]. In the eight-minute rant, Knight touched on many things, but the primary focus of his displeasure was his senior class whom he claimed was the “worst group… [he’s] ever been associated with” and that the players are “stealing money by being on scholarship with their approach to things.” He went on to say that if the players acted “this way in the real world, you’re going to be homeless, without a job.” Um, wow. While some people have supported Knight for his statements, it sounds to this observer more like someone looking to allocate blame on others to compensate for his own lack of talent. His father could get away with speaking his mind and blasting anyone he wanted in part because of those 902 wins, but Knight the Junior has a long way to go before he too can command that kind of respect — 838 more wins to be precise. Knight’s career record of 64-65 at Texas Tech and Lamar doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence that he’ll get there.
No Need To Pull A Spear: If you buy into the idea that conference tournaments give every team a fair shot to win the national championship through its automatic bid, you’re in luck. A number of small conference tournaments have gotten under way this week, and we’ve already narrowed the field from over 320 schools to around 295. By this time next week, we’ll be down to about 100 eligible teams remaining. March Madness is traditionally viewed as the three-plus weeks of the NCAA Tournament, but for a number of schools out there, the madness is already under way! The first three conference championships — for the Atlantic Sun, Big South and the OVC — will be decided on Saturday, with a number of others early next week before we head into the power conferences later heading up to Selection Sunday. The best time of the year is already here.
I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It: The Big Ten is by far the nation’s best conference this season, and the league will prove it in March by putting at least four teams into the Sweet Sixteen and two into the Final Four. The league is likely to receive six (or seven, if Northwestern gets there) total NCAA bids, but the quintet of Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana comprises a group that is likely to receive top-four seeds and therefore two games as the favorite. All of these teams are experienced, tough-minded, play good-to-great team defense, and are battle-tested from the conference wars every night out. Furthermore, you won’t find a stronger corps of head coaches than Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, John Beilein, Bo Ryan, and Tom Crean. All five have been to an Elite Eight or better at least once, and they know what it takes to put together a run deep into March.
Check back next Thursday for another edition of Rush the Court’s What Would Charles Say?