Hoop notions, near and far:
• The stats must be lying, because in what looked like a defense-oriented Final Four, none of the teams were in the nation’s top 40 in lowest field-goal percentage allowed. Analyst Jay Bilas says Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told him the Butler guards defended his team better than anybody in the past 10 years.
• The question isn’t whether Michigan State’s Tom Izzo or Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is a better tournament coach. It’s who in the world is No. 3?
• Somebody who knows Izzo told me three weeks ago the Spartans’ coach had said this was his most trying year in coaching. That’s what Izzo does: In his hardest year, he goes to the Final Four.
• Your bracket is just as good as mine (probably better) or any of the guys who make a living watching the tournament. Sports Illustrated got 13 of the 32 first-round games wrong, and CBS’ Seth Davis whiffed on all four picks in the regional finals.
• After all these years, CBS still hasn’t found the ideal way to package the tournament. While West Virginia was protecting a double-digit lead against Washington last week, we miss the crucial last five minutes of the Syracuse-Butler game. In the Seattle market, that’s understandable, but there has to be a better way. That’s a No. 1 seed going down.
• So what do you do when you’ve got the most riveting tournament in years? Why, dumb it down and expand it by 50 percent, which appears to be the way it’s headed. There must be a ton of money to be made beyond the $2.1 billion CBS would pay the NCAA in the next three years, because as Horizon League commissioner (and former basketball committeeman) Jon LeCrone said this week, “I’d be a little hesitant to walk away from that in this economy.”
• Some advice for all those coaches stumping for expansion: Better make a 96-team field regularly, or you’re going to find yourself salting fries at Jack in the Box.
• Did Kansas State coach Frank Martin’s decision near the end of regulation against Xavier cost his team a spot in the Final Four? The Wildcats fouled on purpose with a three-point lead, but got Terrell Holloway as he was shooting. He made three, the game went to double overtime and K-State played on dead legs against Butler.
• A weird thread that runs through Washington’s 2005, 2006 and 2010 Sweet 16 losses: controversial fouls. This year, Quincy Pondexter has three before halftime. In 2005, Louisville’s Francisco Garcia and Washington’s Nate Robinson emerge from a clench and Robinson gets his third, well before half. In 2006, Brandon Roy gets a technical, his fourth foul, after a staredown with UConn’s Rudy Gay and sits for seven minutes.
• Donny Daniels’ hire at Gonzaga from the UCLA staff is provocative on several levels, among them that he’s the program’s first full-time African-American assistant coach and it strongly suggests Mark Few is staying put. Word in LA is, Bruins coach Ben Howland wasn’t averse to a staff shakeup, but the veteran Daniels is considered a good get for the Zags nonetheless.
• Elias Harris’ announcement that he’s returning to Gonzaga for his sophomore year means GU could return its top 10 scorers, minus the leader, Matt Bouldin.
• Steve Lavin to St. John’s: Seems like a bad idea on both sides.
• Honk if you haven’t been contacted to gauge your interest in the Oregon job.
• Playing five games in the NCAA Tournament, Butler just banked about $6 million for the Horizon League, at about 200 grand per game, multiplied over the NCAA’s six-year rolling window.