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Get ready — Men’s NCAA is wide open!

Many have been waiting in anticipation for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. It’s that time of year. Spring is around the corner, and nothing gets you more excited than watching the field of 68 march one game at a time to the Final Four.
This year, college basketball saw some strange happenings. Since November, the No.1 team in the nation changed seven times.
Get ready — Men's NCAA is wide open!

The top 10 teams in the nation combined lost 74 games. That’s the most since the Associated Press started the weekly top 25 in 1948. For the first time ever, no team in the nation lost fewer than four games. Remember just last year when Kentucky was undefeated at 36-0 starting the NCAA tournament?

Some complain that too many talented players are leaving school too soon after one year, and that it hurts both the college game and the NBA. Are we seeing the erosion of college basketball because players are more often than not one year and done?

It’s America, and last I heard you don’t get paid to play basketball in college other than the value of the scholarship. If a student athlete is talented enough to gets millions in the NBA, why not?

Timberwolves stars Karl Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones and several others decided the opportunity was right. After one year in college, they were off to the NBA. I wonder why you never hear that same argument made in baseball and hockey where players are drafted all the time in high school.

Kansas from the powerful Big 12 Conference was regular-season and tournament champions and is the No. 1 team in the 68-team NCAA field. Yet the NCAA Committee punished them, putting them in the strong South region with previous No. 1 Villanova, Iowa who beat Michigan State twice, and Maryland.

North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia are the other No. 1 seeds. Michigan State, the Big Ten Tournament Champion, was given a No. 2 seed. The Big Ten had seven teams but no No. 1 seed.

Kentucky, a Final Four team in 2015, is seeded 4th, and they won the SEC Championship. Defending champion Duke lost 10 games this year, and Wisconsin, the NCAA runner-up last year, again qualified for the field.

Oklahoma, West Virginia, Virginia and Oregon are all very capable of getting to Houston for the Final Four. So get your NCAA bracket ready — this tournament really gets people excited. Billions of dollars are spent on office pools and tournament bracket sheets through wagering legally and illegally.

It does not seem to matter — the NCAA tournament creates what can best described as March Madness. People become consumed with this fever for trying to hit the jackpot. Billionaire Warren Buffet in recent years has even awarded his employees between $100 and $300,000 to anyone who can pick every game from the 68 team field correctly.

Good luck. I really believe this year is wide open to whoever gets hot.

Minnesota men’s basketball is a mess!

Timberwolves

It’s always greener on the other side. Remember the day the University of Minnesota hired Athletic Director Norwood Teague? Everyone was giddy and optimistic. It was easy — just hire a guy who is running away from Virginia Commonwealth.

Don’t worry about doing background checks. He talks fast and says what we want to hear. University President Kaler bought it hook, line and sinker. He lets a search committee do his job and hires Teague.

The first thing Teague does is fire men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith after six years and three NCAA appearances. For reasons I stilldon’t understand, many local media and fans bought into believing that Minnesota could overnight be Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, etc. All they needed was the right coach.

Richard Pitino, in year three of the Kaler-Teague experiment, now has taken the program into a gopher hole. Teague of course is long gone now and disgraced as a predator, fired last year on sexual harassment charges. Before he left, he gave Pitino a nice $7 million buyout of his current contract.

Minnesota men's basketball is a mess!

It’s amazing what can happen when you do the wrong thing for absolutely no reason at all. All hell can break loose and your athletic program starts sinking.

Three years and zero NCAA appearances with Pitino, currently players are being suspended and dropped from the program. Pitino may or may not survive 2016. His team is 8-22 and 2-16 in the Big Ten. Now with 14 teams in the Big Ten, the Gophers are 13th.

This week, the Big Ten basketball tournament is next. Unless the Gophers win the tournament, this will likely go down as the worst season in Gophers hoops history.

Tubby Smith, on Friday, April 8, will be honored at the John R. Wooden Awards with the 2016 Wooden Award Legends of Coaching Trophy. Smith won an NCAA Championship at Kentucky and while at Minnesota beat the No.1 team in the nation. He is currently the head coach at NCAA-bound Texas Tech.

Minnesota should be ashamed, and not just President Kaler — though it all starts with him — but all of the parrots on campus and around town, all those behind the scenes who fed the deception and went along with the decisions that have led to the Gophers program being in the toilet. It did not happen overnight; it took heavy doses of Minnesota Nice. Now you have a misguided program with no leadership and no one willing to accept responsibility.

Timberwolves should consider trading Chris Wright

Two and a half years ago when the late Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves’ all-time winningest coach, returned as team part owner and head coach, he said the first thing he was going to do was lead the culture change of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Unfortunately, before his second season cleaning up this misguided organization was to begin, Saunders died after a sudden battle with cancer.

Timberwolves

That is a significant statement about who you are and where you need to go as an organization in 2014, and brings up major concerns about how you are perceived today. You see, the Timberwolves have missed the playoffs now 12 years in a row. Of the 30 NBA teams, 16 qualify for the playoffs, and 14 that fail are in the lottery. The Wolves, believe me, had a chance to draftStephen Curry and passed.

Chris Wright is the team president. He believes in his heart he knows what’s best for the way the team is marketed, but he has failed big time just like the team has — the one that the organization has put on the court for years that gets out-scored and falls on its face annually.

Wright, in his marketing of the team, ignores the single most important element about the NBA. It’s common sense to do as others do around the league: market the team to the Black community.

Chris Wright

The majority of the league’s players are Black players — can you say 77 percent? Yet Wright, who was not born in the United States, fails to connect the team and its players with its roots. He wants them to be something else. These players are depending on people like Wright to be right.

Numbers don’t lie. The Timberwolves average about 11,150 fans a game at the Target Center; the crosstown Minnesota Wild average about 18,900 every night for 41 dates. They play in a league where only six percent of the league’s players are Black.

The Wild don’t market their team to the Black community either. They don’t have to — it’s the state of hockey. Hockey is a culture in this state, and Wright has refused in his better than 11 years in his current position to do what’s best and what’s right for the Timberwolves.

He’s a stubborn man. He honors military veterans, it seems, at all 41 Timberwolves games, and the team connects with high schools and that’s great.

But last year the Timberwolves traded the franchise’s superstar Kevin Love to Cleveland for their number-one pick Andrew Wiggins. They alsodrafted guard Zach LeVine from UCLA. This year the team won the lottery, hip hip hooray, and drafted Kentucky All-American star Karl Anthony Towns. Towns led Kentucky last year to the NCAA Final Four — they were 38-0!

The Timberwolves have three gifted and Black 20-year-olds. The sky’s the limit with patience and seasoning. It will not happen overnight, but the Timberwolves will eventually start winning.

I hope they eventually start marketing the team in the Black community. Wright, it appears, does not have a great deal of respect for that community. I have communicated with him my concerns. Maybe he’s not a fan of “Black Lives Matter.”

black lives matter

Saunders and the Timberwolves also drafted in the first round Tyus Jones, the gifted Apple Valley star who led Duke to the NCAA Championship in 2015 and who has fulfilled his dream of playing for the Timberwolves. Wright may not notice, but Jones and his head coach, interim Sam Mitchell, hand-chosen by Saunders, are Black and so is General Manager Milt Newton.

Team owner Glen Taylor is selling part of the team, and the sale will become official sooner than later. At that time change will againlikely happen for the Timberwolves. In the last three years, the Timberwolves have had three different coaches: Rick Adelmen, Saunders, and now Mitchell.

Mother of mercy, this team, as young as it is, mourns still the loss of the heart and soul (Flip Saunders) of this organization. He was the guy with the plan. He brought Kevin Garnett back a proven winner. He said culture change was needed within the organization ASAP.

Wright needs to look himself squarely in a mirror and admit he is failing Minnesota and what Saunders was trying to do and knew needed to be done. Our community is still waiting. I rest my case.