So congrats to Villanova.
Clearly they were the best team in the East Region this year. I caught the last 5 mins of the Nova-Pitt game. I wanted to root for Nova because I usually like rooting for teams with classy head coach in the tournament who beat UCLA (Memphis obviously doesn't fit that bill). But my heart led me to rooting for the Panthers. Two of my best friends from law school went to Pitt plus there are all those connections between our current head coach and that program.
I will always be grateful to Pitt for giving us Howland. Plus it's not unreasonable to think when Howland retires from UCLA after 10-12 more years in Westwood, Jamie Dixon will likely be one the leading candidates to continue the legacy of Ben Ball at UCLA. Anyway, that is a long way from now but I think the Villanova run in this tournament which also included a thorough pummeling of Coach K's Blue Devils, should give the Howland hating clueless whiners some needed perspective on what UCLA was up against in Philadelphia last weekend.
Meanwhile, speaking of perspective I wonder if the Devil fans and the media in North Carolina are going off like the morons in LA who are talking about Howland needs to change his philosophy. T.H., our SBN colleague from Carolina March provided this interesting perspective from this weekend (emphasis added):
Duke's definitely struggled in the tournament since their last Final Four appearance in 2004, but not that many teams have been consistent over that stretch. The four years since have sent 12 teams to the Final Four; only three have made it more than once and seven haven't even made the tournament in some of the other years. If Duke's no longer elite, who is? UNC, Kansas, and UCLA are pretty obvious. Memphis, probably, although the conference schedule is a little sad. Florida has two national titles, but hasn't seen the tournament since, and now may lose their coach. Connecticut has the championship for the year of Duke's last Final Four appearance, but since has a postseason performance almost identical to the Blue Devils (Four tournament appearances and one absence, which counting last night's performances, netted two Elite Eight trips.) Who else are you counting as elite, though? Keep in mind the guys from Durham have averaged only seven losses a season these past four years (and almost 28 wins). If Duke doesn't make the cut, it's a precious little club.
(Even if you back it out to Elite Eight teams over the last four years, that's 22 teams with only seven repeat offenders. This ain't beanbag, folks.)
If anything, the recent Duke woes remind me of the stretch for Dean Smith from 1985 to 1990, where the Heels had five top ten finishes in six years but never advanced past the Elite Eight and managed only one ACC Championship. There was a fair amount of talk that Smith was over the hill and should retire, and yes, that the team was no longer "Elite." UNC persevered and spent the rest of Smith's career making it to four Final Fours in seven years and cutting down the nets on New Orleans. As much as I'd rather it not be the case, I don't think this is the last we've seen of Duke competing at a national level.
Of course the tools posing as UCLA fans, who wrote to the LA Times this weekend would fire off the same nonsense about Dean Smith if he were to have identical record as Howland from last five years.
Speaking of spoiled fans, not all Kentucky fans are crazy. Make sure to check out the takes from our friends at Sea of Blue, who have been offering up sobering commentary on Wildcat basketball following their program's decision to get rid of a coach whose record was comparable to Howland's first two years at UCLA.
It will be interesting to see who Kentucky goes after this off season. They are not getting Billy Donovan (again btw can you imagine the letters LA Times would publish about him if UCLA produced the same results as him in last couple of years even after winning two national titles). Anthony Grant is off the market (good get from Alabama). I think the list offered up by SeaofBlue makes some sense. I can see a Travis Ford of Rick Barnes at UK, but I don't see Dixon ending up in Lexington. Dixon has a good thing going over in Pittsburgh and if he were to make another move to a higher profile program, I think it will somewhere along the Pacific Ocean. Althought, I don't see Dixon going to Arizona opening where lot of Mildcats fans think that the opening will be filled by someone like Pitino or Calapari. Who knows.
For me, I couldn't care who ends up at Zona or any other places this off-season. I am looking forward to the NBA draft drama settling in next few weeks, and then will look forward to another season of Ben Ball with our without JH. I am realistic enough to know next season is going to be tough especially as I expect JH will not return. But given the way some other programs have gone through highs and lows (i.e. Florida not making the tourney, Georgetown fizzling out just years after making the Final-4, Duke in somewhat of a fun), I think Coach Howland has UCLA program doing just fine in Westwood.