Monday, March 20, 2017


Tom Keegan: Suprises aplenty despite lack of upsets in NCAA tournament

Kansas State head coach Frank Martin, left, and assistant Brad Underwood sit quietly on the bench late in the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State head coach Frank Martin, left, and assistant Brad Underwood sit quietly on the bench late in the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Only one double-digit seed (Xavier) survived the first week of the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t mean surprising developments didn’t surface.

A look at five surprises that were much bigger than Kansas shooting 89 percent from the free-throw line two games into the tourney, that nobody could have seen coming:

Surprise No. 1 - Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight and rode its rugged defense into the tournament field, suddenly became the most explosive second-half scoring team in the nation.

In the second half of victories against Marquette and Duke, the Gamecocks averaged 58.5 points and shot .625 from the field, compared to 32 points and .333 shooting in the two first halves. What’s in the halftime water bottles?

The recent hot shooting has moved South Carolina into 310th among 351 Div. I schools with a .414 field-goal percentage for the season.

South Carolina had not won an NCAA tournament game since 1973. Martin, the former Kansas State coach, could face as many as three Big 12 schools if his team continues to survive and advance.

Baylor is next. If South Carolina and West Virginia make it to the Final Four, Martin and his K-State boss, Bob Huggins, would meet in the national semifinal, and if Martin won again, he might get a chance to face Kansas with a national-title on the line.

Oregon’s Dana Altman joins Martin and Huggins as former Kansas State coaches in the Sweet 16.

Surprise No. 2 — Brad Underwood, so popular and successful in one season at Oklahoma State, bolted for Illinois one day after his Cowboys lost a thriller to Michigan, 92-91.

Underwood, who worked as an assistant to Huggins and Martin at Kansas State before leaving to head his own program at Stephen F. Austin, agreed to a six-year, $18 million deal with Illinois.

Unless someone offered to triple your salary as long as you agreed to move out of Stillwater and you turned it down, put that stone in your hand on the ground.

Underwood experienced an excruciating loss and exhilarating victory all in the span of 24 hours.

Surprise No. 3 - Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis thought his team was behind by a point instead of ahead by one when he committed an intentional foul with 17 seconds remaining and the Commodores lost to Northwestern, 65-64.

Not surprisingly, Fisher-Davis’ teammates and coach, Bryce Drew, March Madness hero of 19 years ago, rallied to support him. Fisher-Davis showed strength in fielding waves of questions about the brain cramp and in the long run will remembered more for the character he showed in dealing with the mistake than for the mistake itself.

Surprise No. 4 - The ACC has one team in the Sweet 16. How deliciously funny is that?

The Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC have three apiece. At 7-8, the ACC is the only of the power six basketball conferences to have a losing record. Records for the others: Pac 12 (8-1), Big 12 (8-3), Big Ten (8-4), SEC (7-2), Big East (5-5).

Surprise No. 5 - The Associated Press reports that Lynn Marshall, wife of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, was asked to leave the lower bowl of Bankers Life Fieldhouse for loudly cursing after the Shockers lost to Kentucky, 65-62. She reportedly later showed up at the post-game press conference and griped about the refs.

Lynn’s anger was misplaced. She should have camped outside the NCAA offices in Indianapolis on Selection Sunday and blasted committee members the second they walked out the door.

In keeping Illinois State out of the field entirely and shafting the Shockers with a No. 10 seed, the elite power brokers don’t even hide their disdain for the unwashed anymore. This was the second time in four years that Wichita State and Kentucky had to meet in the second round. Kentucky was under-seeded as an 8 in 2014, when Wichita State was undefeated and the Shockers should have been a No. 5 or No. 6 seed this season.


Brad Farha 3 years, 4 months ago

Surprise No. 6 -- Watching the Baylor band actively cheering for Michigan State. I would expect this from a hated conference rival, but not Baylor.

I get Baylor (or any other conference team) cheering for your opponent if it helps their team gain in conference standings. i.e. in league play.

We are way past that now. It's the NCAA Tournament. When any of our teams advance, it's good for all of us. Clearly this is not a position held by the Baylor band.

To be fair, this is something I noticed with the band specifically. I did not see Baylor fans in the stands cheering for MSU.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 4 months ago

Interesting, Brad, I hadn't noticed that. And it's really stupid on their part, because as you point out, it's good for everyone if a conference team wins in the tournament -- financially if for no other reason. But it also helps for the conference to be seen as competitive on the national scene.

Obviously someone needs to explain that to the Baylor band.

Jim Keen 3 years, 4 months ago

Your comments about the Baylor band reminds me of another "stupid band tricks" scenario that I witnessed in 1982 as I was sitting in the end zone stands of the Stanford-Cal football game when the Stanford band ran out of the end zone onto the field mistakenly thinking the game was over. The clock ran out but the final play had not finished, and the chaos and obstruction created by 100+ band members running all over the field enabled Cal to run back a kickoff to win the game. Another example of "what were those band members thinking?"

RJ King 3 years, 4 months ago

I was there as well, but the two scenarios are completely different.

The Stanford band had gathered in the end zone in anticipation of almost certain victory. When the play appeared dead, about 40 band members ventured onto the field thinking - along with not only the refs, but perhaps half of us in the stands - that the game was over.

One can hate on the Stanford band for their irreverence, but cannot deny their awareness of current events and creativity. Baylor? Who knows.

Tom Jones 3 years, 4 months ago

OK, couple things wrong with this analysis.

  1. Baylor (and pretty much every other member of the league) hates KU. You would too, if you had to watch us win Every. Single. Year. So there's a very good reason to root against us.

  2. In terms of their own self interest (believing they can win it all), they want the best teams out, period.

  3. Those who didn't subscribe to either of those reasons also had the "everybody roots for the huge underdog when they don't care about either team" to fall back on.

Personally, it's far from an automatic for me as far as rooting for Big XII teams in the Big Dance. I never rooted for Missouri, I never root for KSU or Baylor (Drew is a notorious jerk and dirty recuiter) and I won't root for Texas as long as Shaka (also a jerk) is there.

With other teams, it's more of a case by case basis. I know Huggins is a jerk but I don't have the disdain for him some others have, so "for the league" I root for them in the tournament. I have a healthy dislike for ISU fans so I'm usually indifferent...but I was actively rooting for Purdue last weekend both because I think ISU would have been a worse matchup for a lot of reasons and because ISU would have brought a lot more fans to the Sprint Center.

I root for OU (although had KU beaten Villanova I would have been rooting against them in their regional final last year because I would have rather played Oregon in the Final Four) usually and OSU, usually (except when Marcus Smart was there).'s complicated.

But it's easy to see why Baylor fans would have been rooting for MSU, in my opinion.

Brad Farha 3 years, 4 months ago

Great counterpoints Tom. Not at all unusual :)

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 4 months ago

Let's add Brad Underwood's name to what is wrong with the analysis. Underwood was getting basically nothing in terms of recruits. One very low 4 seed and 2 unranked 3 seeds.

It's possible he could have put together another winning team at Oklahoma State but unless he significantly improved in recruiting, the love affair was never going to last.

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 4 months ago

I tend to think that he probably needed this year in order to prove himself, and then the recruits would come. I think that he proved himself this year, and apparently so does Illinois. Of course Illinois may be hiring him based upon his 3 years at SFA. 28-6, 29-5, 32-3 with a 3-3 record in NCAA tourney games, and last year lost by one point against a Notre Dame team that was 2nd in the ACC. Only lost one game in conference in 3 years.

Brianna Zaleski 3 years, 4 months ago

Although I don't know the exact numbers, Brad Underwood is gonna make $3M/ year as Illinois new coach. Not $6M/ year.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 4 months ago

You got it right Brianna, Underwood signed for 18 million over 6 years.. This seems like a really desperate move by Illinois.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 years, 4 months ago

Baylor should feel fortunate to be in a conference at this point, much less dissing its brethren.

Mike Greer 3 years, 4 months ago

And yet in another story, Scott Drew stuck his head in the KU locker room to congratulate Coach Self. One has to ask if the band director at Baylor is related to the director at KSU, or did he transfer there? I'm always pulling for the Big XII schools, it's good for the conference which makes it good for KU.

Mike Greer 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm trying to figure out what Brad Underwood did to warrant that kind of raise? He finished in the middle of the Big XII and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He didn't win the conference or the conference tournament, didn't even make the final of the conference tournament. He did it with a healthy Travis Ford team, who has he recruited? OSU was his first major conference job as a head coach. He's still a very unproven commodity in my opinion. I don't blame him, but what is Illinois thinking to pay that kind of money?

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't know the guy's background other than being a KSU guy. But I fail to see how Illinois is a better job than Ok State. OK State has good tradition, good facilities, has the ability to attract high level talent. Illinois has been stuck in the bottom half of the B1G since Bill Self left. Maybe he is leaving due to conflict with his superiors, or due to something else that he doesn't like about the administration/situation. Or maybe he just wants a chance to win a conference championship. Maybe he doesn't like that the OSU folks are constantly comparing him to Bill Self... but that will probably happen at Illinois too.

If it is about the money, then surely Underwood could have leveraged a better deal at OSU.

Travis Clementsmith 3 years, 4 months ago

OSU only paid 1 million per year. For a Power 5 program, that's pretty cheap. Illinois has been down recently, but they are a Top 15 program in all time wins, they are in very fertile recruiting ground and they are in a much more stable conference. Plus, you don't have to compete with the football program as much at Illinois as you do OSU. Its a much better opportunity and tripling his salary made it a no-brainer.

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 4 months ago

You make valid points, but I will provide my counter-points.

but they are a Top 15 program in all time wins --- not sure the recruits care much about what happened 20+ years ago. K-State and Missouri still talk a lot about their storied basketball traditions...

they are in very fertile recruiting ground --- Yes UI can recruit about as much second tier Chicago talent as they want, and at least they will get on the list of the major recruits as the "close to home" option... OSU gets plenty of Texas talent and Underwood is very familiar with recruiting in Texas.

they are in a much more stable conference --- OSU was a team on the rise. If the conference hits turmoil he could bolt for greener pastures after whichever season he wishes. If he can recreate just a fraction of the success he had at SFA, then he could have landed any major college job he wanted.

you don't have to compete with the football program --- I've never really bought into this argument... that you have to compete with the other programs. Their success should be a win-win for all programs in the university if the Admin manages them all properly.

tripling his salary made it a no-brainer --- I still argue that he could have leveraged a better deal at OSU. They were willing to sell the farm to land Bill Self 10 years ago. If they believed in Brad Underwood, which they should because he was way better a coach in one season then shorty smalls was before him, then they should have counter-offered for him.

Seems like he bolted before OSU had a chance to negotiate, which leads me to believe that he didn't like the culture or had personnel issues with his leadership.

Mike Greer 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't question Underwood leaving, I question Illinois for making such an offer to a coach that really doesn't have a very long track record in a power conference. Bill Self did well at ORU and then moved on to Tulsa where he had a sweet 16 team, and then to Illinois. To me, that was a better track record than Underwood at SFA and then to OSU for a year, where he finished in the middle of the Big XII, a Big XII with a couple of teams really not playing well this year, UT and OU.

I suppose you could say he was a better pick than Smart who hasn't done much in two years at UT, don't figure he'll be there much longer if next year isn't great. Honestly, Dixon did more with TCU in a year than Underwood did at OSU, but I still don't think I would offer him that kind of money to come to Illinois. Even Danny Manning had a tougher path to the NCAA tournament than Underwood. I'm just surprised Illinois offered that much money to a coach that really doesn't have much of a track record. Hell, Tom Izzo only makes 3.5 MM and look at his track record and they're in the same conference.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 4 months ago

Underwood went for the money, not tradition. I do agree with Mike in question Illinois' reasoning.

Don Johnson 3 years, 4 months ago

What? Upsets? How about the overall one seed Villanova? ESPN's little darling Duke is gone. Only one region held 1-4.While there may not have been a lot of upsets, there were some big and interesting ones.

RJ King 3 years, 4 months ago

Wisconsin was under seeded as an 8. That was more the equivalent of Nova losing to a 5 or 6 seed.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 4 months ago

Definitely, the biggest and less talked about upset so far. Clearly, the favorite to win, at least what I figured from listening to the sportscasters at ESPN and CBS.

RJ, Wisconsin was under-seeded but that seems to be the case and not the exception so far in this year's tournament.

John Fitzgerald 3 years, 4 months ago

Did anyone else notice that after the Duke loss ESPN 1.) posted a timeline of Dukes year as if they were making excuses for why they lost early and 2.) posted an article about KU's loss to Nothern Iowa in 2010, as if it were a slight to Kansas saying "well at least Duke didn't lose to a 9 seed 7 years ago" ?

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 4 months ago

hah yeah, I noticed both of those. The "On this day in History: KU lost to UNI" was kinda funny. I think that they posted it because Villanova was the first #1 overall seed to lose in the second round since we did it in 2010.

The timeline of Duke's season is a pretty worthless article. I guess it generates clicks because it's Duke. But it's really just a recap of their recruiting class, injuries, Coach K's surgeries, and Grayson Allen's antics. It comes off as they were trying to compare the fall of Duke to the sinking of the Titanic. As though Duke were supposed to be the best basketball team ever assembled. Maybe it'd have been interesting if Duke had actually won something this year. I guess they could write a timeline for anytime about why they didn't go 40-0.

I'm really tired of a narrative that ESPN is playing this year about how the NCAA is ruining the tournament with bad seeding and site selection. I don't want to hear one more time about how the NCAA shafted Duke by putting them in Greenville, SC. Agree or disagree with the NCAA's stand against the North Carolina Legislature (and I'm sure ESPN agrees), but don't make excuses for Duke losing to South Carolina, or Villanova losing to a Wisconsin team that had lost 6 of their last 10 games coming into the tourney (and yes Wisconsin was underseeded, but ESPN would have you believe that they should be a #1 seed...).

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 4 months ago

So rumors are that Lynn Marshall was just a wee bit intoxicated.

Greg Marshall's wife is the drunkest individual at Bankers Life... Just said "come on, let's F%&k some S@#T up".

Kennedy Hardman

Mike Greer 3 years, 4 months ago

It does make one wonder if she will be behind the Shockers bench at next year's NCAA tournament. You can take that any way you see fit.

John Fitzgerald 3 years, 4 months ago

Maybe behind the opposing teams bench. Bc Marshall is gonna give her the big fat D. And I don't mean the one that rhymes with stick.

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 4 months ago

Will Marshall move on? There are lots of schools that would be happy to have him. The guy has definitely had success at WSU, no denying that. I am not a fan of him. He seems like he's got an attitude problem. But rumors are that Indiana is interested. May be a good fit. Indiana yearns for a championship in the post Bob Knight era. Greg can win, and we know that Lynn can curse, and is probably not afraid to throw chairs, either.

RJ King 3 years, 4 months ago

Kennedy Hardman is a silly little 20-something wanna-be reporter blogging twit from KENTUCKY. The other so-called reporter (a guy whose name was not worth remembering) is also from a KENTUCKY radio station.

In most arenas now these incidents are cell-phoned to security by fans in the stands, and I'll bet that these were reported by UK fans.

Maybe LM screamed that, maybe she didn't. Looks certain that she was LOUD and perhaps extremely annoying. I've seen nothing so far other than a woman twirling around and sort of popping her shirt the way the players do.

As far as her being drunk . . . I highly doubt it at a game where she knows she can be observed. Kennedy Hardman??? Consider the source.

Jaston Archie 3 years, 4 months ago

So according to 247 sports, the talented 5 star SG, MJ Walker is down to Kansas and WV. The update was on Sunday so I guess he was very impressed with the Jayhawks performance and style of play against MSU. He would make next year's backcourt even better with Newman, Garrett, possibly Graham, and hopefully Trevon Duval.

Layne Pierce 3 years, 4 months ago

Duval is not coming if Devonte stays. That is what he is waiting for. Still Devonte we know what we have, put him with Newman, and we are top-flight.

If Devonte goes, Duval is a nice plan B, he is phenomenal, but one and done does not equal 4 years experience, and toughness that we know is Devonte.

Walker would be a nice addition. Don't be surprised is Garrett ends up playing some point, and even though Coach Self said he thought of Newman as more of a combo, in pros he will need to be point, if he wants to play much.

I also really hope SVI comes back, because he is a bigger part of this team's success than people realize.

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