Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

You didn’t think Western could get out of this without rumors, did you?

Gary Parrish of CBSSPORTS.com mentioned Western coach Ken McDonald in a recent column, saying he should be considered for the vacancy at Memphis with the departure of John Calipari to Kentucky.

McDonald was successful in his first attempt at a win in the NCAA Tournament before being knocked out by Gonzaga in the final seconds of the second round.

I don’t think it will be the last time McDonald’s name is thrown around out there for a coaching vacancy this season, as the carousel is just beginning to spin. He did receive a $100,000 bonus for his trip to the NCAA Tournament this season from Western.

However, with a salary of about $350,ooo a year, there is plenty more money to be made at other schools.

McDonald is on the record as saying he is at Western to stay, but you never know, especially when potentially double the salary comes knocking at the door.

I would put it at a long-shot that McDonald would leave Western, as he has a very good recruiting class coming in and things haven’t been better for the Toppers in a long time.

Don’t forget Keno Davis at Drake darted after a year, so nothing is impossible.

-Andrew Robinson

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A celebration seen before…

I saw Findlay beat Cal-Poly Pomona today, and after Tyler Evans hit the three-point shot to win the game, the celebration that followed seemed awfully familiar. Maybe you’ve seen something before.

I know teams hit buzzer-beaters and teams storm the floor all the time. But think about his name — Tyler, the location of the shot, and the ensuing celebration. You can see it all on the following videos.

Now here’s the one you may be more familiar with: (It’s the best version I could find to demonstrate my point):

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Praise from Pitino

Even though Western lost last night, the praise on the season is still coming in, this time from Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.

As you know, the Toppers beat the then-No. 3 Cardinals earlier this season, a win that at the time was considered the biggest upset of the season. Louisville ended the season ranked No.1 in the nation and are currently the No.1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Today, after the Cardinals escaped with a 79-71 victory over No.9-seed Siena in Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a question was posed to Pitino about his team, then and now. Credit to Herald sports editor Andrew Robinson for finding this and shooting this in an e-mail to me (as I sit in my hotel room in Portland — all the flights are booked for the day and we have to leave tomorrow morning). Here’s how the transcript says it went down:

Q. Can you just talk about how your team has kind of evolved from some of those early-season losses to Western Kentucky, to UNLV, to the run you made to becoming No. 1 in the country? How did that evolve?

COACH PITINO: Well, you know what happens. I think as I look back on my pro experience, people always ask me what you got out of it. I got so much out of the Boston Celtics experience. It didn’t go well for me, but I learned so much from it. I learned so much about failure, adversity, patience, discipline, and so many things from the people I met. And with that, you know, there were some nights we just got blown out. You hang your head, you do this.

And we just never did that. All we tried to do was, I said, “Guys, Western Kentucky beat us, they deserve the credit. Don’t be hanging your heads. They beat us.” And now as we look back on it, Western Kentucky, Minnesota, Las Vegas, they’re pretty good basketball teams. We didn’t lose to any bad basketball teams. Everybody said early on we schedule really tough and that prepared us for the Big East.

So as I’m watching Western Kentucky play against — last night against Gonzaga, I didn’t feel bad at all. But we didn’t feel bad back then. Everybody’s saying, “how did you lose to Western Kentucky?” I think the Louisville guys right now feel kind of silly questioning how we lost to them. They’re damn good basketball team.

I think what it taught me, all that adversity, is just don’t panic. Relax. Stand up and say the other team was better. So many times we just make excuses and go off and say we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that. There’s a reason we didn’t do this and we didn’t do that. They made us that way. Western Kentucky made us that way.

So we just never panicked. We never bought into any failure at all. We just stayed patient, stayed with our game plan. Now, it did surprise me because I thought it would be — last year it took three losses to win the Big East. This year I thought it would be four to five.”

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Halftime thoughts

At halftime, WKU has yet another lead on a big-time opponent. Now, a few thoughts and stats.

  • Orlando Mendez-Valdez deserves full credit for the position WKU sits in. His 17 first-half points got it all started, especially his going 4-5 from three. He had no points in the final 10 minutes, but that may turn out to be good, since no one person can carry a team in this tournament. Even Stephen Curry had Jason Roberts and Co. last season.
  • WKU shot 50 percent (6-for-12) from three. Gonzaga, after starting hot, went cold late, going 4-for-10 (40 percent). This has to stay intact if WKU wants the win.
  • Another big factor was half-court defense. WKU did a good job of collapsing on defense in the half court, and it will be important to keep it that way.

Second half is about to start, so check back for more after the game.

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Something unusual at shootaround and more thoughts

While the WKU fans pile in behind me in the stands (there are more than expected for this game), I’m sitting here watching something unusual that might be a sign of things to come in this game.

Gonzaga is going through a drill where they essentially play 4-on-4, but only their main six players (as mentioned in my last post) are participating. Maybe Mark Few know where his bread is buttered, but that makes me wonder even more just exactly how much damage this Gonzaga team can do when faced with either their guards or forwards being shut down. Who do they go to?

But if Gonzaga gets an open look, I don’t see them missing much. As they are putting up shots in pregame, most of them are finding the net. I know it’s shootaround, but I’ve found that a team that makes most of their open shots will knock down at least half of their contested ones. Closing out on the shooters will be the most important aspect on the defensive end for WKU, because this team can gun.

Western looks loose, about as loose as before Illinois, which is a good sign. One of coach Ken McDonald’s defining traits this season is his ability to both motivate and relax his team, something I believe he is much better than Darrin Horn at (it took Horn five years to get to the NCAAs, after all).

The crowd is filing in, and to be honest, I’m expecting a lot of WKU backers, though not all will be in red. Washington fans and Gonzaga fans are well-known to hate each other. The Huskies just lost, but they may find some comfort in watching the archrival Zags lose. It’ll be interesting to see if they get behind the Toppers.

The starting line-ups are as follows: WKU — Kerusch, Pettigrew, Evans, Slaughter, Mendez-Valdez. Gonzaga — Austin Daye, Josh Heytfelt, Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Micah Downs.

-Tip is in minutes, so stay tuned for halftime stats, facts and thoughts.

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Pregame thoughts

We’re early in the second half of the Purdue v. Washington second round matchup, and while sitting here taking in the game and the ear-splitting roars from the crowd (we are just three hours from Seattle, you know) I have a few thoughts and facts to shoot your way:

  • Though Gonzaga is a team with freakish athletes with size to spare and that love to run, the trick may be to slow the pace. It took them 30 minutes in their first-round game against Akron to start pulling away from the Zips, and it was in large part due to Akron moving the ball around in the halfcourt. I had a first-hand look at that game, and even though Akron matched the Bulldogs’ size, they worked an inside-outside game to spread the Gonzaga defense thin in the post. Akron shot 46.7 percent in the first half, including 55.6 from three. The Bulldogs pushed them last, and Akron was held to 25.9 percent in the second half.
  • Western has shown the ability to slow a game down and bang it out, something they can take from playing against Illinois. They mustered only 12 total fastbreak points in the Sun Belt tournament, but won it all.
  • The Bulldogs, like the the Toppers, aren’t very deep and rely heavily on their starters in big games. Only one reserve played double-digit minutes against Akron, and that was guard Steven Gray, who played 24. He is the team’s sixth-leading scorer at 9.2 ppg. Though it evens out the battle a little bit, this means WKU’s bench is going to have to contribute more to wear down Gonzaga, and with D.J. Magley peaking at the right time and Anthony Sally taking good care of the ball, this could be a recipe for success tonight. WKU has the chance to shock a lot of people and put a big bright smile on Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters’ face.

That’s all for now, but I’ll have more before tip-off at 7:10 CST.

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Game day in Portland

Sorry for the long pause in between posts. Yesterday was extremely busy from the print/online perspective, and you can find out why at WKUHerald.com.

You can rest assured that I will be bringing you the best coverage as the game draws nearer, so keep it here.

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