10 posts categorized "Basketball"

April 03, 2011

Butler coach is tops

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey has been raking in the hardware lately. The Associated Press named him its men's coach of the year. So did Basketball Times and the United States Basketball Writers Assocation. 

Brey is deserving of those awards. He did a fine job with the Irish this season. They won 27 games, challenged for the Big East regular-season championship, earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and reached the Sweet Sixteen, all notable accomplishments.

But someone else has proven himself to be the best basketball coach in the country. How can you not give that tag to Butler's Brad Stevens? Two straight years in the national championship game? Butler?

It defies comprehension. Because he's not doing it with McDonald's All-Americans coming out of high school. As the old joke goes, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski sign McDonald's All-Americans. Stevens' guys eat at McDonald's.

Let's be fair. The Bulldogs aren't just a bunch of guys that Stevens rounded up one noon at the YMCA. The star of last season's team, sophomore Gordon Hayward, was good enough to go in the first round of the NBA draft and is now with the Utah Jazz. Matt Howard, this season's leader, was regarded as a top 100 high school player by some recruiting services.  Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Zach Hahn were all-state players in high school.

Still, these weren't players who had coaches across the country drooling over them. They're just solid players who know the game, understand their limitations and can figure out how to capitalize on their strengths. And for the second straight year, they're playing on the final night of the season while the bluebloods of the game can only watch.  

Stevens looks like your high school valedictorian. If you were a bartender and he walked in and ordered a drink, you'd card him.  But Stevens knows which buttons to push and when. He's got it figured out and he coaches players who know how to win. Heck, they easily could have gotten knocked out in the first round by Old Dominion. But there was Howard, in exactly the right place for a putback just ahead of the buzzer.

Virginia Commonwealth was loaded with athletes, yet Butler outrebounded them by 16 in Saturday night's national semifinal and held the Rams to ... let's see ... oh, zero fastbreak points. Pittsburgh shot 62 percent against Butler in the second half, yet the Bulldogs still won. They held Wisconsin, one of the most efficient teams around, to 30 percent shooting. When Butler and Florida were tied at the end of regulation, it was time for us to leave to join some friends for dinner, so I turned the TV off. When Pam queried, "Don't you want to see the end of the game?" I told her, "I don't like Butler's chances in overtime." Shows what I know: Butler 74, Florida 71.

Connecticut is favored by 3 1/2 points in Monday night's championship game, which makes sense. UConn's Kemba Walker will be the best player on the floor. The Huskies' coach, Jim Calhoun, is more than twice Stevens' age and already has won two national titles. And they've been an amazing story themselves, winning five games in five days in the Big East tournament, then adding five more victories in the NCAAs.

But win or lose, Stevens still gets my vote. What he's done the last two years is nothing short of remarkable. You sure wouldn't want to count he and his team out Monday night.



June 16, 2010

If it looks like a bribe, sounds like a bribe and smells like a bribe ...

By remaining in the Big 12 Conference, Texas can cast itself as the good guy, the savior even. The Longhorns stay, the Big 12 lives on. No matter that it has only 10 members, thanks to us, it's still a league. Aren't we wonderful?

The reality, though, is that the Longhorns were bribed. And so were Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

Had those three schools left, the Big 12 would have broken up, leaving Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor homeless. That wouldn't do. So they offered to give up part of their expected increase in league-wide revenue and hand it over to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M -- already the three richest programs in the league -- if they'd stay in the conference.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe says ISU and the four others agreed to give up their share of the penalty that Nebraska and Colorado will pay ffor leaving the league. ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard disputes that. But he does say ISU and the four others will compensate Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M for any revenue  they might have lost by staying instead of fleeing to the Pac-10.

In other words, we'll pay you guys to keep playing with us.

You also can expect the Big Three to collect more television revenue than the others, which already is happening. Unlike the Big Ten, the Big 12 doesn't divvy up TV money equally among its members.

What's more, Texas gets the go-ahead to start its own TV network if it chooses -- and keep all the money. The rich just keep getting richer.

When I mentioned the bribery angle to an Iowa State fan the other day, she said she didn't care because her Cyclones wouldn't have to find a new league. Most other ISU fans probably feel the same way because the program will be better off in the end. Instead of 12 schools splitting revenue, it'll be divided only 10 ways, so Iowa State figures to get more money, not to mention the prestige of remaining in a BCS conference.

Some other issues will come into play. All 10 schools will play each other in football every year, meaning the Cyclones will face Texas and Oklahoma annually instead of twice every four years. Nine conference games will mean one less non-conference game. Does that leave room for the Iowa State-Iowa game to continue? We'll see.

In basketball, everyone probably will play a full round-robin of 18 conference games instead of 16. With Nebraska and Colorado no longer available to kick around on the hardwood, the league gets even tougher. As ISU women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly put it, the conference went from best to bestest.

For now, math purists must be offended by these conferences. The Pac-10 has 11 teams, the Big Ten has 12 and the Big 12 has 10.

But hey, what's in a name? Besides, the only numbers that count anymore in college athletics are those that have a dollar sign in front of them.

April 27, 2010

A good deal for everyone -- except maybe UNI

Who would have thought a decision at the University of Oregon could have such ramifications in Iowa -- and at Iowa State in particular?

Oregon hires Creighton's Dana Altman as its basketball coach and the ink's not even dry on his contract when Creighton AD Bruce Rasmussen swoops in and grabs Iowa State coach Greg McDermott to replace Altman. Thanks to Oregon's move, Iowa State and McDermott both benefit.

McDermott, good guy that he is, was going to be a lame duck coach with the Cyclones if he stuck around for another season. With what little they have coming back, they were looking at potentially their worst season ever under McDermott and AD Jamie Pollard would have had to fire him -- and pay a huge buyout.

Now, Iowa State receives $800,000 because Creighton has to buy out McDermott's contract and the school can start fresh with a new coach. If you're going to struggle, it's better to do so with a new guy who can't be blamed for what he inherits as opposed to losing again under the old regime. Maybe Pollard can pull somebody out of his hat to get folks excited about basketball, the way he did with football coach Paul Rhoads.

As for McDermott, he gets a good job that will pay him a lot of money. It's unlikely he would have gotten such an opportunity if he had stayed at ISU and then been fired. Plus, I think -- as do most others -- that McDermott will be more comfortable back in the Missouri Valley Conference, where he had success at Northern Iowa before moving to Iowa State.

In the Big 12, you need to recruit elite athletes to win and they bring elite egos, not to mention "advisers" and other hangers-on. In the Missouri Vallley, you get kids who've been told they're a half-step too slow or a couple of inches too short for the big time. They've got something to prove. They work hard and take to coaching. They go to class and they stay four years, enabling a team to develop some great chemistry. It always helps to have athletic ability, but Valley coaches can win with execution and discipline and that plays to McDermott's strengths.

The other part of this story is McDermott's son, Doug, who helped Ames High School win the last two Class 4A state championships and signed with Northern Iowa. Greg McDermott says Doug now will play for him at Creighton, though UNI's AD, Troy Dannen, has to sign off on that before it can happen.

It's kind of awkward, really. Greg McDermott and UNI coach Ben Jacobson are close friends. They'll face each other in the MVC two times a year for sure and three if they'd happen to meet in the conference tournament. Then you'd have Jacobson watching the best player in his recruiting class suiting up for the other guy. 

What's puzzling to me is why Greg McDermott didn't recruit his son to play for the Cyclones. Was he afraid of being criticized for bringing in a player that some might think wasn't good enough? Heck, the kid's a good player. He would have helped the Cyclones. At the state tournament last month, I was talking with Chuck Reed, a longtime friend who does color commentary on the telecasts of the tourney games. We figured that Doug McDermott would play at least 20 minutes a game at Northern Iowa, but joked that if he went to Iowa State he'd be good enough to play 40.

Joking aside, the onus is on Pollard to strike gold with a new coach. Iowa State fans have been a patient lot through the years. Eventually, they have a right to see their patience rewarded with some victories and NCAA tournament appearances.


April 06, 2010

What if Hayward's heave had gone in?

When it comes to basketball strategy, I have no standing to question Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has won a few more games than I have – 868 at last count – and he owns a couple of more national championships than I can claim. OK, four more, if you insist.


But what the heck, I’m going to second guess him anyway.


With 3.6 seconds left in Monday night’s title game, Duke’s Brian Zoubek goes to the free throw line, his team clinging to a 60-59 lead over gritty Butler, which over the course of the NCAA tournament has become America’s team.

Zoubek is not a great free throw shooting. But he makes the first one and looks good doing it. No reason to think he can't make the second and give the Blue Devils a three-point lead. But Krzyzewski -- who later conceded it was a gamble -- has Zoubek miss the second shot intentionally, leaving Duke ahead by just two points.


Now, I understand the rationale. If  Butler gets the rebound, which happened, the Bulldogs would be in scramble mode to get a shot. They had no timeouts and would have to improvise – and do it quickly. If Zoubek makes the second shot, then Butler gets the ball out of bounds with a chance to throw it into the forecourt and possibly get a decent shot. That’s what Coach K wanted to avoid.


Still, if I'm coaching I’d feel a whole lot better with a three-point lead. What if Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave had gone in? Duke would have lost and, with all due respect to Bobby Plump, Indiana

would have a new Hoosier Hero. It would have gone down, quite possibly, as the greatest shot ever.

With a three-point lead, the best Butler could have done is tie it – unless Duke would have done something as incredibly foolish as fouling a 3-point shooter. That, however, would have been unlikely because this was a smart bunch of Blue Devils. Plus, they could have fouled before Butler even tried a 3-pointer, putting the Bulldogs on the line with just a second or two remaining and little hope of tying or winning.

It worked out for Coach K and his team – but boy, did Hayward come close to making that shot. Can you imagine the scene if it had fallen?

As it was, the game played out as the perfect ending to a great tournament. The matchup was so compelling that Pam, who’s not a big basketball fan and is battling a cold, pulled herself out of bed to come down to watch. She even managed to utter, “Come on little Butler” a time or two in her scratchy, cough-wracked voice.

So the Blue Devils can celebrate their victory and the Bulldogs can celebrate the experience and how they did themselves proud by standing up to some of the biggest names in college basketball and almost pulling it off.

You can’t ask for more than that from a championship game.

March 16, 2010

This time, it has to be right

OK, Gary Barta, no more mulligans. This time, you have to get it right. You've got to find the right basketball coach.

Todd Lickliter, Barta's choice for the position three years ago, obviously didn't work for the Hawkeyes. Whether you agree with his action or not -- I was leaning toward giving Lickliter one more season -- give Barta credit for this: He didn't try to spin Lickliter's dismissal as a resignation or a mutual parting of ways or some other nebulous term. He called it what it was -- a firing. And in letting Lickliter go, Barta admitted he made a mistake. He didn't get the right guy for the job.

I agree with Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler on this point: In trying to find the anti-Steve Alford, Barta probably went too far in the other direction in tapping Lickliter. People were fed up with Alford's arrogance and many were upset with his handling of the Pierre Pierce incidents. In Lickliter, Barta found someone who was honest, sincere, modest, a coach who had integrity and played by the rules. All admirable qualities. But Lickliter seemed uncomfortable in the spotlight that goes with coaching in the Big Ten and lacked charisma. In the end, that hurt him.

I'm not saying Iowa needs to hire a wise-cracking funnyman. The school doesn't need a coach who paints his body for a big women's game. The new coach doesn't necessarily have to show his emotions as openly as Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads.

But Iowa does need a coach who can rally the troops, someone who's comfortable on the banquet circuit, who can schmooze with donors, who can relate with students and get them interested in Hawkeye basketball again. Oh yes, he also needs to be able to recruit better players than what this team has now.

Speaking of those players, I got a little tired of their whining at the end of the season. If you're tired of losing and basketball isn't fun anymore, who's fault is that? How about playing a little harder? Work harder at improving. Take better shots. Try guarding somebody. Hey, life isn't always fun. Sometimes you have to suck it up and look for ways to make things better. That starts with looking in the mirror, not quitting on your coach.

As for style of play, I don't think Iowa has to do a total about-face and play racehorse basketball. You certainly can't call Wisconsin a racehorse team, but the Badgers play good defense, they're sound fundamentally and, the most important thing, they win. That's what keeps the fans coming back.

But a little more aggressiveness on defense by the Hawkeyes would help. They don't have to press all the time, ala Tom Davis, but clamp on a press once in a while, spring some half-court traps, do something to get some steals, create some cheap baskets and disrupt the other team's rhythm.

So the pressure's on, Gary Barta. If this choice flops, the next time reporters start figuring out how much a buyout would cost, it might be yours.

February 28, 2010

Here's to one of the good guys

We've all heard or read about the seamier side of college athletics. Schools getting busted by the NCAA. Graduation rates hovering near the Mendoza line. Money changing hands illegally. Abusive fans. Law-breaking athletes.

Then along comes someone like Drake's Josh Young to refresh your spirits and remind you there's also a lot of good in college sports.

Young is so skilled that he's Drake's career leader in scoring and 3-point baskets. If he makes four more free throws at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament this week, he'll become the leader in that category, too.

But there's far more to Josh Young than what he does on the basketball floor. He's a good student. He can light up  a room with his ever-present smile. Little kids flock to him. Mothers love him. He's the type reporters enjoy interviewing -- thoughtful, well-spoken, patient and modest. When he greets you, he looks you in the eye, shakes your hand firmly and says, "Hi. Josh Young." You know who he is, but he introduces himself anyway.

My longtime friend, Randy Minkoff, and his wife, Sue, work with athletes on dealing with the media and how to conduct themselves in interviews. Josh Young could be their poster guy. They don't come more polished. Last year, when the Drake Relays honored its Athletes of the Century, Josh was among those picked to escort them the ceremony.

Young played his last game at the Knapp Center, Drake's home arena, on Saturday. It didn't go quite the way Young or the Bulldog faithful had hoped. Josh again led the team in scoring. With the Bulldogs trailing and time running out, he  banked in a floater to tie the score with 8.1 seconds remaining. Sadly, for the Bulldogs, he scored too quickly. Evansville's Denver Holmes hit a 25-footer at the buzzer to give his team a 56-53 victory.

Afterward, Josh stood at halfcourt with his family and listened as tributes to his character and accomplishments rang through the arena. Some of the strongest praise came from Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb, who said Josh "exemplifies everything that's great about Drake.'" She talked about his smile and said if her son grows up to be anything like Josh, "it will be a great day."

It couldn't have been easy to go through the ceremony after such a disappointing loss. But rarely has anyone been more deserving of such a salute.

And every once in a while, even as the sting from the loss lingered, that smile broke through and everything was OK again.

December 20, 2009

Bye-bye Anthony? Probably

You can just hear a cynical Drake fan now, can't you?

"Great. Anthony Tucker stays out of trouble at Iowa just long enough to help the Hawks beat us. Just our luck."

But this is no time for cynicism. Tucker's suspension from the Iowa basketball team after his second arrest for public intoxication in 13 months is a serious matter for the kid and another lousy break for coach Todd Lickliter. It came only hours after Tucker scored 17 points in Iowa's 71-67 victory over Drake at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Tucker, who at 20 hasn't even reached the legal drinking age in Iowa, needs help. Getting busted twice for public intox in a little over a year shows he's got a problem with alcohol. And for someone with an alcohol problem, it certainly doesn't help being in Iowa City, where the downtown bar scene is so available -- and so tempting.

Tucker may well bolt before anyone from Iowa has a chance to sit down and talk to him. If he does, let's hope the light bulb above his head goes on and he figures out a way to get some help. Maybe he'll stick around long enough that somebody at Iowa can say, "Here's some people or places who can help you. Give them a call and listen to what they say."

If he does seek help, maybe he'll be sincere about shaping up this time. All his earlier talk about lessons learned seems pretty hollow now.

As for Lickliter, geez, the guy just can't get a break. I don't know him. I got out of full-time work before he took the Iowa job, so I've never covered him. But he seems like an upstanding guy who plays by the rules and tries to do things the right way. I like his self-deprecating sense of humor. It's a refreshing change from his predecessor.

Yeah, his team doesn't play the most exciting brand of basketball. When the shots aren't falling, it's downright ugly. But Lickliter doesn't deserve what's happened to him recently. Four  guys from last season left. A promising newcomer, Devon Archie, has been hurt and is yet to play. Lickliter himself had a scare when he was hospitalized for a torn carotid artery. And now one of his better players can't stay away from the sauce.

Tucker has some talent. For sure he can shoot it. If his Iowa career is over -- and that's probably the case --- there's always a coach out there who's willing to give a player one more chance. So it's a good bet Tucker will end up playing somewhere and helping that team.

It's just too bad he couldn't stay on the straight and narrow so he could do it at Iowa. That would have been good for him and definitely good for the Hawkeyes.

October 23, 2009

MVP and other topics

Iowa football beat writer Andrew Logue posed a thought-provoking question in The Des Moines Register this week. Who's the Hawkeyes' most valuable player?


That requires some deliberation because the Hawkeyes don't have a big star, which is one reason they haven't caught the nation's fancy despite their 7-0 record and conference-leading 3-0 mark in the Big Ten.

Tight end Tony Moeaki would have been a good choice had he been healthy all season. He's certainly been a big factor the last two games, but the Hawkeyes won all three games he missed. Other than Moeaki, the offense has been just good enough to keep the team from losing.

That leaves us with the defense, the strength of this team. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn would be a good choice. So would linebacker Pat Angerer, cornerback Amari Spievey and safety Tyler Sash.

I'll go with Sash. He's a sure tackler (third on the team with 52) and he's shown a nose for the ball with his five interceptions. Hardly anything or anyone has gotten past him this season.

And while we're at it, let's throw a few crumbs to punter Ryan Donahue. When a team relies on its defense as much as Iowa does, a solid punter can be a huge help and Donahue definitely has done his part. He's put 16 of his 32 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, giving his defense a big edge in field position. Thirteen of Donahue's punts have been returned, but for an average of just 3.5 yards, so he's getting good hang time. He might not spend much time on the field, but he's still a valuable cog.

As long as we're on the Hawkeyes, here's an admonishment: Stop it! Put a lid on that talk about playing in the national championship game -- at least for now.

Yeah, it's great that Iowa is undefeated and sixth in the BCS standings. But there's just too much football to be played to be dreaming about that Jan. 7 title game in Pasadena. OK, you can dream, but be realistic enough to understand that it might not happen.

Five games remain, including two tough ones on the road. The Hawkeyes play at Michigan State tomorrow night and they've lost to Sparty four straight times in East Lansing. A fifth straight loss there is entirely possible. If Iowa gets by that one -- it's also entirely possible the Hawkeyes could win -- they're still facing a Nov. 14 game at Ohio State. Iowa hasn't won in Columbus since 1991. So caution is advised.

Having said that, I think the worst the Hawkeyes will end up is 10-2. And that might still be good enough to claim a berth in a BCS bowl. Maybe.

The thing is, the polls might punish Iowa severely if it would lose a game. The Big Ten isn't held in such high esteem right now and there evidently are still a lot of Hawkeye skeptics out there just waiting to say, ``See, I told you so.'' After Iowa beat Penn State, it took the Hawkeyes three weeks to move ahead of the Nittany Lions in the coaches' poll. And even then, Iowa landed just one spot above Joe Pa's bunch, despite a convincing 21-10 victory on the Nittany Lions' home field.

It would be unfortunate if all the talk of an unbeaten season right now would result in 11-1 or 10-2 being viewed as a disappointment. Back in August, any Iowa fan would have celebrated that kind of record.

And now to our final topic, Marquis Gilstrap.

Gilstrap is the Iowa State basketball player who's getting a huge buildup. Though he's yet to play a minute for the Cyclones, he's seen as someone who can turn Iowa State into a team that finally makes some noise in the Big 12.

Gilstrap already has been voted the league's newcomer of the year. Texas Tech coach Pat Knight says he wishes he had recruited Gilstrap. Knight also says the 6-foot-7 forward is as good as any McDonald's All-American the Cyclones could have landed. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler says Gilstrap will be a ``great player.'' ISU coach Greg McDermott says Gilstrap is just what his team has been missing -- a versatile wing player who can shoot, rebound and take the ball to the hoop with authority.

Wow. You have to wonder if anyone could live up to that kind of hype. He sounds like the real deal, but how many times have we seen the next big thing turn out to be not quite as advertised?

On the other hand, there's something that tells me Cyclone fans have every right to be excited about Gilstrap. Mike Green, an associate director of athletic communications at ISU, is the eternal pessimist. If there's something to be down about, Beener will find it. But he's seen Gilstrap in action and says the guy can really play.

Hey, if Beener says that, I'm going with it. Keep the hype coming.

October 14, 2009

A sense of history gone missing

Gannett columnist Mike Lopresti came up with an interesting piece this week. He visited the tiny town of Hall, Indiana, talked to some of its residents and wrote about the place.

It seems that NASCAR is a big deal in Hall. Two of the people Lopresti interviewed were watching a race when he stopped by on a Sunday afternoon. But the most telling part of his story was this segment in the middle:

``You're in redneck country,'' Amanda Traut said.

She also had a question.

``Who's John Wooden?''

Why would she ask that? Well, that's the whole point of the story. Lopresti wrote about Hall because John Wooden was born there.

Yes it was in 1910. And he lived there only eight years. But good grief, the name John Wooden doesn't at least ring a bell? Sure he gained his fame winning 10 NCAA championships at UCLA. But Wooden spent almost 40 years in Indiana. He starred at Martinsville High School and was an All-American at Purdue. He coached high school ball in South Bend and was the head coach at Indiana State for two years before moving west. John Wooden is a Hoosier icon. He's college basketball's elder statesman, a gracious, principled man who's been quoted endlessly about the game. And to have to ask, ``Who's John Wooden?''


It reminds of a story I read about former baseball star Frank Robinson, a story he confirmed when I interviewed him a few months ago.

Robinson was managing the Washington Nationals in 2005 when one of his players asked him if he had played in the major leagues. Yep, the guy really didn't know.

Frank Robinson is the only player to win the Most Valuable Player Award in both leagues. He slugged 586 home runs in his career. He's been in the Hall of Fame since 1982, for gosh sakes.

Did he play in the majors?

Doubly sad.

An even more astounding example of someone unaware of history came during the 1985 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals.

Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, threw out the first ball prior to Game Four to recognize the 40th anniversary of Jackie's signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers' organization. So New York Times columnist Dave Anderson went to several of the black players to ask what they remembered about Jackie Robinson. When Anderson talked to Vince Coleman, the Cardinals' fleet outfielder, he got this response:

``I don't know nothin' about him. Why are you asking me about Jackie Robinson?''

Well, it could be because if Jackie hadn't turned the other cheek to all the indignities heaped upon him, who knows how long it would have been before another black player was signed. He paved the way for Willie Mays, for Hank Aaron, for Frank Robinson, for Bob Gibson and yes, for Vince Coleman.

``Why are you asking me about Jackie Robinson?"

That's not just sad. It's tragic.

I love old music. I enjoy learning history, especially sports history. I also know you can't live in the past. Still, seems to me that it doesn't hurt to know at least a little bit about it.

By the way, John Wooden turned 99 today. Happy birthday, Coach.

October 08, 2009

Eating their own

Unless you're a basketball recruiting guru or a University of Kentucky fan, you've probably never heard of Dakotah Euton.

Euton is a 6-foot-8 high school senior in Kentucky who committed to UK in June 2007, just after his freshman year. It was a dream come true for the lifelong Kentucky fan. One day, he'd be wearing Wildcat Blue -- or so he thought.

Things have changed since then. For one, the coach he hoped to play for, Billy Gillispie, was fired. And then there was the harsh criticism from some of the ''fans" he hoped to play for. They tore into the kid's ability on internet message boards and questioned how dare he think he's good enough to play for their beloved UK, the be-all and end-all in college basketball -- in their minds, anyway. After Euton announced his commitment, opposing fans heaped verbal abuse on him during his high school games.

Here's a sampling of what's been written about Euton (any spelling or punctuation errors are those of the poster)

''dont quite understand what BCG (Gillispie) sees in this kid he is super super super slow"

"If we dont cut this guy i see it as a huge downfall of bcg's recruiting. We are UK  and don't need to take a chance on this guy.''

"Slow is not a strong enough word to describe his speed ... Looked like he was wearing 20 pound ankle weights.

''painfully slow"

"very poor inside"

One poster, Will Lavender, said he never heard anything negative about Euton until after he committed to Kentucky. All of a sudden, Lavender noted, he was "slow and unathletic and a bust.'' He added later in his post: " ... it seems like we eat our own a whole lot around here.''

Euton isn't the only one getting flak, either. Rick Robey, a former Kentucky basketball star, has a son who's a standout high school football player. When Sam Robey committed to Florida, some on UK message boards slammed the family for being disloyal, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Let's see, you could play football for Florida (currently ranked No. 1, two national championships in the last three years) or you could play football for Kentucky (0-2 in the SEC after a 38-20 loss to Alabama). Duh.

When Euton announced earlier this week that he would attend either Eastern Kentucky or Akron, the critics found fresh fodder.

"The Mad Scientist has THIS guy on UK's radar? Sheesh.''

"What, he dropped Duke, UNC and Michigan St from his list?"

"EKU and Akron. Hmm...I'm so glad they fired Gillispie. What a nut."

To be fair, numerous posters thought Euton worked hard, some liked his shooting touch and others were willing to cut him some slack and give him a chance to develop. One even said, "The more I see of this kid, the more he reminds me of Larry Bird.'' Makes you wonder if they're talking about the same player. Another thought it was puzzling that a kid who committed to a big-time basketball school was now looking at mid-majors. But he added, "Either way, I wish him the best wherever he attends.''

Everybody has a right to his or her opinion, but good grief, we're talking about a high school kid. Can't you give him a break? If you're a fan of a particular school, shouldn't you be pulling for your recruits to become good players instead of jumping all over them for their perceived weaknesses? Why would a kid want to go to a school whose fans are ridiculing him before he even gets there?

To me, this is partly the result of our public discourse being dominated by talk show loudmouths. Everybody has to rip on someone or something. And with the internet, they have a worldwide forum, which isn't always a positive development.

I don't normally read message boards, but I'm sure this kind of stuff is posted on many fan sites. I just happened to land on Kentucky because I'm in Louisville this week and read an article about Euton in the Courier-Journal. Plus, Kentucky fans make themselves an easy target because it seems like they think their school invented basketball, as exemplified by this post: "No other program is favorably comparable to the greatness of UK.'' (All you Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Michigan State, Indiana and Connecticut fans can gag now).

Today's paper contains a story about new Kentucky coach John Calipari's appearance at a Tip-Off Luncheon in Louisville. There's a kicker on the front page about that story: "UK coach helps fuel Wildcat fever."

Sometimes I think that fever in college sports turns into a real sickness.