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Archive for March, 2009

The IHSA Unduly Influences Boys High School Basketball Championship

Posted by sportsmaven on March 31, 2009

There is an unwritten rule in sports in the most simplest of terms, states that the outcomes of any competition should be decided on the field or court of play. In this stunningly bizzare twist of fate, the Illinois High School Athletic Association (IHSA) and the athletic administration of North Lawndale Charter High School were unintentional co-conspirators in determining the outcome of this season’s Illinois Class 3A Boy’s Basketball State Championship.


For those in the unknown, the Chicago Tribune high school sports reporter, Bob Sakamoto wrote a nice piece summarizing the facts:

In Friday’s 3A semifinal, North Lawndale began the game trailing 1-0 before the opening tipoff. Illinois High School Association Assistant Executive Director Kurt Gibson ruled that Lawndale’s illegal uniform mandated a technical foul.

Champaign Centennial’s Jeff Johnson made one of two technical free throws. As it turned out, North Lawndale lost by that one point, 66-65.

In tournament basketball, games with teams that are evenly matched, the outcome of the game is often decided by one single possession. You would like to think that the extra possession that resulted in a win for one team and a loss for another team would be earned in the heat of the battle, within the confines of the game itself. It appears in this case that game deciding possession was determined by gamesmanship of the rules prior to the tip off of the semi-final game of the high profile state basketball tournament.

While I’m not questioning the rule itself, what is in question is the inconsistency and randomness of how this particular rule was enforced. Both sides have pointed proverbial finger at each other in casting blame for the situation after the fact. According to the IHSA, the North Lawndale team knew they were in violation of the uniform rule, but were only warned about the infraction until the semi-final game, where the penalty was enforced. The North Lawndale team had to be aware that after several warnings, the IHSA could actually choose to enforce the penalty. It was a showdown that had no winner and no happy ending. Both parties are equally responsible for determining the end result of the crucial state championship semi-final game.

The only other issue that stands out is the extremely poor judgement the IHSA used in the timing of the enforcement of the uniform rule. Last week, in the face of severe public criticism and outrage, the IHSA issued statements defending their decision. While the decision itself may be defensible, the lack of sound judgement used in choosing that particular moment to arbitrarily enforce this rule is indefensible. If the IHSA knew the uniforms were out of compliance with their rule for the entire 2008-09 basketball season, why didn’t they choose to enforce their rule consistently and accurately from tip off of every game until North Lawndale conformed to the rule? If they had taken that approach, there would be no second-guessing of the rule enforcement in the semi-final game.

The IHSA should have acknowledged that they exercised poor judgement in enforcement of the uniform rule, thus inadvertently impacting the outcome of a tournament championship. This action would have disarmed any remaining critics. Instead, the IHSA justification introduces even more opportunity for criticism. Poor decisions are a fact of life, people are human, mistakes are made. Defending a poor decision not only reinforces that decision, but leads me to conclude that the IHSA has yet to learn the lessons from it’s mistakes and now establishes a trend of making poor decisions.

Posted in High School/Prep Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

NCAA Tournament Bracketology: SportsMaven vs. President Obama, First Round

Posted by sportsmaven on March 20, 2009

Virtually every college basketball fan who watches ESPN knows that President Barack Obama is a HUGE basketball fan.  it is also well known (or at least it should be by now) that President Obama took a moment to step away from blistering AIG executives for handing out bonuses and in true American fashion, filled out his own 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket, which is posted on ESPN and now becomes some form of public record, visible to the entire sports loving, internet consuming, content craving public.

Photo by: Pete Souza

Photo by: Pete Souza

In the American spirit of competition and for love of comparative analysis, I wondered how my picks compared to basketball-crazy, sports passionate President Obama’s picks.  It is well known that the President loves to talk smack about all things basketball, so lets see how he compares to the SportsMaven:

The photo of President Obama’s picks:

President Obama's NCAA Basketball Picks

President Obama's 2009 NCAA Basketball Picks

For those who don’t recall my picks, here is a link to the full post.

So how’s the comparison after the first half of the first round games?

  • President Obama went 11-5, missing picks on BYU, Butler, Illinois, Clemson, and the upset special, VCU.
  • SportsMaven went 14-2, missing picks on Illinois and Clemson.

Stay tuned for an updated post on the final results for the first round, but so far, looking strong against President Obama.

Posted in Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fighting Illini Are One And Done…With A Thud

Posted by sportsmaven on March 19, 2009

Just think of what could have been if the Fighting Illini played the entire game like they played the last 6 minutes of  tonight’s first round NCAA Tournament game.  Watching the University of Illinois basketball team play tonight, you would have thought their record was 9-24.  If you didn’t know better, a 24-9 record would have been unfathomable.

(AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

(AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

In the opening round of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, Illini coach Bruce Weber was selling his team as the underdog.  I think Weber has an incredible understanding of his basketball team after witnessing their performance in tonight’s game.

Illinois just got totally outplayed tonight by a very scrappy Western Kentucky University Hilltopper team.  The Hilltoppers played very impressively in beating Illinois 76-72, putting an end to an overachieving season for the Fighting Illini, who lost 4 of their last 5 games to close the season. Down by 17 points with 6 minutes to play, Illinois made a furious comeback to make the final score respectable, but this game was lost by their sloppy, uninspired play in the first 34 minutes of the game.

The Illini were outhustled on both sides of the floor tonight, being out-rebounded by 10 boards.  Western Kentucky came out playing intense, at an incredibly quick pace and they made Illinois looked like they were standing still, which is literally how they played this game.  Illinois looked asleep, getting killed by back door cuts and the wide open 3-point shot.  Illinois looked bored, unathletic, lacking physical play and all-out effort.  The end result was reflective of the effort that Illinois provided.

I wrote in a post earlier in the week that if Illinois G Chester Frazier couldn’t play, the trio of sophomore players needed to step up their games.  G Demetri McCamey, F Mike Davis, and C Mike Tisdale needed to step up to lead this team.  Of the three, Davis was the only one that even came close to doing anything productive.  McCamey once again, played small on the big stage and Tisdale was never in the game, physically or mentally.  The only Illini player that was ready to play at the same level of intensity and passion was senior G Trent Meacham, who led Illinois in scoring with 24 points.

The Fighting Illini have lacked an inside game for as long as I can remember.  Even in 2005 when Illinois was national runner-up to North Carolina, they were a guard oriented, perimeter dominant team.  At least the guards on that team had a little athleticism.  The current Illini team lacks explosive athleticism at the guard position and their interior players lack strength and quickness.

The next two years of recruiting classes will bring a much needed fusion of talent, both on the perimeter and on the inside.  Then we’ll see how the Illini game fares.  Until that talent arives, the Illini faithful should be estatic that this year’s team won 24 games with this level of talent.

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2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Picks

Posted by sportsmaven on March 19, 2009

Three hours until tip off of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Today launches two of the most unproductive work days of the year.  I’ve already completed and posted my women’s picks yesterday.  The men’s bracket is more of a challenge.  In the women’s game, the difference between the best and worst teams is much greater than in the men’s game. That fact makes the men’s brackets more difficult to choose, as more teams have a chance to upset higher seeded teams.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There are really four strategies you can follow in doing your brackets.  The first strategy is just to pick the higher seed and let the lesser teams get washed out and separated.  There are always going to be upsets, but how do you decided which high seed is vulnerable?  You don’t.  Let the law of averages rule overrule luck.

The second strategy is to pick which teams will be upset in which rounds.  Play the hot hand, requires some working knowledge of which teams are peaking going into the tournament and which teams are upstart enough to engineer an upset.

The third strategy is to find an expert’s brackets and choose those picks.  The ESPN experts picks.  Leverage their knowledge and exposure to the game to make your picks.  You might even do well with this strategy if you want to win the office basketball pool.  It’s not sexy, nor a challenge, but it seems better than the last strategy – what I call the women’s pick.  Pick by favorite team, mascot names, colors, and allegiances.  This is the most random of all methods, but one that seems to produce a winner on rare occasion.  Even resourceful women ask their men to make their picks, but those who opt to make their own, good luck!

So, for those who exercise the choose the experts picks, here are my picks.  Good luck if you decide to use these picks.  If you win anything, I want my cut of the payout:

First round winners:

Midwest Region: Louisville, Ohio State, Arizona, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Kansas, USC, Michigan State

West Region: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Purdue, Washington, Marquette, Missouri, Maryland, Memphis

East Region: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Florida State, Xavier, UCLA, Villanova, Texas, Duke

South Region: North Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Syracuse, Clemson, Oklahoma

Sweet 16: Louisville, Wake Forest, Kansas, Michigan State, Connecticut, Washington, Marquette, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Florida State, UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Oklahoma

Final 4: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina

National Championship Game: Louisville vs. North Carolina

National Championship: Louisville

I wrestled back and forth between Louisville and North Carolina before choosing Louisville.  This is, perhaps, Rick Pitino’s best team at Louisville and they look poised for a run all the way.  I thought going into the tournament that the two teams that the biggest chips on their shoulders would be Louisville and Memphis.  The arguments against Memphis always starts and ends with their soft conference schedule.  I think Memphis is one of the 4 best teams in the country.  I just hope they prove me correct in this tournament.

There are the picks, and with more than an hour to spare.  Check back often, as I will update my progress after each round.

Posted in Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

2009 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Picks

Posted by sportsmaven on March 18, 2009

College tournament basketball.  Women’s basketball.  While all the hype is focused on the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the women are also playing their tournament, and I have picks for that tournament to share.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The decision to start with the women’s bracket was easy. Women’s college basketball is easier to make picks, due to the fact that there are a few dominant teams and upsets seemed less likely than in the men’s bracket.  Thus, the picks came much quicker and easier.  Without hesitation, the picks are:

Trenton Bracket: Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, California, Arizona State, Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M

Berkley Bracket: Duke, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee, Iowa State, Texas, Ohio State, DePaul, Stanford

Raleigh Bracket: Maryland, Utah, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, LSU, Louisville, TCU, Baylor

Oklahoma City Bracket: Oklahoma, Iowa, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, Purdue, North Carolina, Rutgers, Auburn

Sweet 16: Connecticut, California, Florida State, Texas A&M, Duke, Tennessee, Ohio State, Stanford, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Baylor, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Auburn

Elite 8: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Duke, Stanford, Maryland, Baylor, Oklahoma, North Carolina

Final 4: Connecticut, Stanford, Maryland, Oklahoma

Finals: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

National Champion: Connecticut

The Connecticut team is undefeated entering the tournament and will remain undefeated as National Champion.  I like Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris’ “guarantee” that if Oklahoma doesn’t win the National Championship, she will refund her scholarship to University of Oklahoma.  As I remarked on Twitter yesterday, Courtney, you better get your checkbook ready.  My men’s picks will follow shortly and the games will begin tomorrow at high noon (well, 12:20p EST).

Posted in Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »