What to love, what to shun in the next 3 weeks

His­tory lessons abound in field

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY PA­TRICK STEVENS

There are lots of things col­lege bas­ket­ball claims to be about. It can be about March, about fans, about aca­demic in­tegrity (well, in some places, any­way), about play­ers (un­der the eu­phemism “stu­dent-ath­lete ex­pe­ri­ence”). It doesn’t claim to be about money, but that fits in, too.

Ul­ti­mately, though, col­lege bas­ket­ball is about pro­grams and the coaches in charge of them.

Pro­grams have tra­di­tion and most im­por­tantly his­tory, both an­cient and re­cent, real and per­ceived. Ev­ery­thing ties to­gether, a com­mon bond that can tie to­day’s teams to those of decades past.

Coaches are the savvy ar­chi­tects and (on oc­ca­sion) the un­wit­ting ar­son­ists of those pro­grams. The his­tory they pre­side over is cred­ited to them and them alone, even if some brazenly covet un­ac­count­abil­ity while hold­ing their play­ers re­spon­si­ble for the tini­est in­frac­tion.

It is in the pro­grams and coaches where trends can be found for try­ing to bring san­ity to pre­dict­ing the next three weeks. Some are trust­wor­thy. Oth­ers are not. Some haven’t lived up to their rep­u­ta­tion of late. Oth­ers have moved past a his­tory of un­der­achieve­ment.

Here, then, are the teams to em­brace or avoid while try­ing to fore­cast how the field of 68 fares in the NCAA tour­na­ment.

EM­BRACE: John Cali­pari. Cali­pari ar­guably is the most po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure in col­lege bas­ket­ball. He also re­li­ably avoids mas­sive up­sets. In his past seven NCAA trips (at Mem­phis and Ken­tucky), his teams never have lost to a team seeded more than one line be­low his. Procur­ing oo­dles of tal­ent helps, but Cali­pari en­sures it doesn’t mas­sively un­der­achieve. Put Ken­tucky in the Elite Eight, and prob­a­bly be­yond.

AVOID: Mike Brey. The Notre Dame coach is one of the best peo­ple in the busi­ness. He’s also 6-9 in the NCAA tour­na­ment, hasn’t es­caped the first week­end since 2003 and has lost to dou­ble-digit seeds in three of Notre Dame’s last four ap­pear­ances. Look for it to hap­pen again, with the grind­ing Ir­ish draw­ing 10th-seeded Xavier in the first round.

EM­BRACE: Roy Wil­liams. The Hall of Famer is long past the turnof-the-cen­tury Sec­ond Round Roy la­bel. He’s won two na­tional cham­pi­onships at North Carolina and be-

come as close to a sure thing in the re­gional semi­fi­nals as there is, win­ning seven straight round of 16 games dat­ing to his days at Kansas. This is an­other top seed to move to the Elite Eight with­out much has­sle.

AVOID: Jim Boe­heim be­yond the Round of 16. Boe­heim’s been around so long, he was promi­nently fea­tured in CBS’ first “One Shin­ing Mo­ment” mon­tage. That’s also one of the few times Syra­cuse stuck around long enough for that to hap­pen. Boe­heim is 4-11 in the round of 16, in­clud­ing a pair of losses as a No. 1 seed. Pro­ceed with cau­tion be­yond the first week­end.

EM­BRACE: Mis­souri. The Tigers don’t come to mind as a pro­gram that al­ways lives up to ex­pec­ta­tions. But since a 1990 loss as a No. 3 seed in the first round, Mis­souri’s only de­feats to a lower-seeded team came in a 1 vs. 2 re­gional final (1994 against Ari­zona) and an 8 vs. 9 game (1999 against New Mex­ico). Coach Frank Haith even lived up to seed­ing in his one NCAA ap­pear­ance at Mi­ami. This could be an Elite Eight team.

AVOID: Ge­orge­town. At least un­til the Hoyas ex­or­cise their post­sea­son demons, any­way. Their past three NCAA ap­pear­ances ended with losses to dou­ble-digit seeds — No. 10 David­son in 2008, No. 14 Ohio in 2010 and No. 11 Virginia Com­mon­wealth in 2011. Could 14thseeded Bel­mont (or even 11th-seeded N.C. State in the round of 32) join that list?

EM­BRACE: Rick Majerus. The Saint Louis coach is 10-1 in his ca­reer in the round of 64, in­clud­ing 3-0 in games fea­tur­ing evenly matched No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. He’s back in the tour­na­ment with the Bil­likens as a No. 9 seed, and a matchup with un­der­seeded Mem­phis won’t be easy. But Majerus pro­vides Saint Louis a no­table edge.

AVOID: A deep run with Tom Crean. The In­di­ana coach made his name as Mar­quette’s coach, but he has made it past the first week­end of the tour­na­ment only once. That was in 2003, when some guy named Dwyane Wade took the Golden Ea­gles to the Final Four. Crean’s teams haven’t beaten a higher-seeded team since. Don’t get caught up in In­di­ana’s ear­lier up­set of Ken­tucky.

EM­BRACE: Pur­due. For a day, any­way. The Boil­er­mak­ers have won 13 con­sec­u­tive tour­na­ment open­ers, a streak that be­gan with the Glenn Robin­son-led team in 1994. Pur­due faces a tough task in Saint Mary’s, but his­tory sug­gests the 10th-seeded Boil­ers are a de­cent bet to ad­vance at least one round.

AVOID: Van­der­bilt. The Com­modores might be as tor­tured a post­sea­son team as there is over the past four years. There was the 2008 blowout to 13th-seeded Siena, the 2010 de­feat against 13th-seeded Mur­ray State and last year’s pre­dictable set­back against 12th-seeded Rich­mond. This year’s win­ner of Van­der­bilt Roulette? Har­vard, the un­der­seeded and plenty tal­ented Ivy League champ.

EM­BRACE: Shaka Smart. Con­sider that among three CAA tour­na­ments, a Col­lege Bas­ket­ball In­vi­ta­tional and last year’s NCAA run, Smart is 16-3 in post­sea­son games with a con­fer­ence ti­tle, a CBI crown and an un­ex­pected Final Four to his name. The Virginia Com­mon­wealth coach just might just have this post­sea­son thing fig­ured out.

AVOID: Rick Barnes as a low seed. The Texas coach is 1-8 in his NCAA tour­na­ment ca­reer when his teams are seeded sev­enth or be­low. And lo, the Longhorns are a No. 11 seed this year in the East re­gional. Move Cincin­nati along to the round of 32 and think noth­ing of it.

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