NCAA Basketball Debrief: Duke Gets Better, Kentucky Gets Controversial And The Rest Of A Wild Summer

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05: Kyle Singler #12 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates their 61-59 win against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sick of all the ignominious grade scandals, eligibility rulings and instances of flat out lying? Thankfully, the Summer of Drama has come and gone, and we can get back to criticizing porous transition "D" and lauding those crisp secondary breaks . But first, let's trace our steps to remember how we got here.

It’s been 220 days since Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave landed two inches too far to the right. Had it swooshed through the net, the shot would have capped off the most incredible NCAA Tournament run this side of the 1985 Villanova Wildcats. As a consolation, Hayward exited stage right as the key piece to the greatest play in basketball history that wasn't.

How bittersweet.


Following Indy, speculation abounded over ruminations of a 96-team tournament, which purists, and critics of an egalitarian philosophy shrieked at the thought. Marginalizing that sacred First Day of the tournament? How dare they. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, resulting in a CBS-Turner partnership and 68-team tournament that gives Dayton, Ohioans a reason to be proud.

Tom Izzo pretended he never thought about leaving Michigan State to coach Oregon, which, sidenote, is going to be playing basketball over a Rorschach Test-looking mosaic.  Soon thereafter, Izzo pondered the idea of becoming the college coach LeBron - or just Anderson Varejo - never had. Then he decided to stay in East Lansing. The Spartans stepped out of the news for a few months, until revelations that a Korie Lucious DUI and sexual assault by two unnamed players occurred on the same night. This team is really going back to the Final Four?

Jim Calhoun faced his own adversity. He didn’t give a dime to anyone, but two of his assistant coaches made more than 100 impermissible phone calls to recruits. Calhoun’s actual involvement in the mess was deemed "minimal" by the NCAA. Nonetheless, the whole ordeal appears to have really hurt his feelings.

Former Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez was fired. You’ll never hear from him again but the dude stole a satchel from a New Jersey mall. We can't even even make this stuff up.

Only Duke could earn the distinction as being "Back After a Six-Year Hiatus" despite entering this season as defending national champions. Between 2005-2009, we saw the Blue Devils struggle by their metrics, never even reaching a regional final. Then, in a tournament where no other No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four, the Dookies scooped up the 2010 National Championship. Now, they look to repeat with senior leadership, a top 10 recruiting class, and Steph Curry's brother. It's frightening to some, but Duke got better.

Memphis also got much better. While freshman Jelan Kendrick reveals himself as a bit of a problem child, Will Barton and Joe Jackson are dynamite-explosive, and Josh Pastner, only 33, is destined for coaching greatness. After a one-year hiatus, it's pretty clear that order has been restored In Conference-USA. Yes, folks, that's still recognized as a real league.

Conversely, six hours up I-65, Louisville has set itself up for an extraordinarily bad season, meaning Rick Pitino’s [ANTONYM OF PROLONGED] love affair with Karen Sypher will surely sting that much more. Worst-case scenario, the Cardinals sit in the bottom-third of the Big East and struggle to score more than 60 points a game. That Matt Jones character is going to have a field day with this after what you Cardinal fans did to his car! I love intra-state rivalries.

We also lost a true pioneer and leader. John Wooden passed at the ripe old age of 99. These kids now-a-days. Can’t even put on socks the right way! We need more John Woodens, or Bill Walton interviews discussing John Wooden as only the eloquent Walton can.

This will resonate with about seven of you, but I can’t forget about Mississippi State’s Kodi Augustus making a cameo appearance on The Real World. You don’t watch that show anymore, but the dude was part of a love triangle. It was himself, a southern belle who really wasn’t that cute, and a recovering pill-popper from Wisconsin. The most amazing part to this story? In Augustus’ lone on-scene appearance, he managed to tell a the girl off without even saying anything! Rick Stansbury must love this kid’s poise and demeanor.

Bruce Pearl also lied. That’s right, the once brown-noser told the NCAA he didn’t invite a pair of recruits to his home for a get-together. But he did! Silly, Bruce. Now you’re not even coaching under contract, and you’re losing to Division II schools. It could get ugly down in Knoxville quickly.

Speaking of PR nightmares, is Isiah Thomas he most insufferable person in sports? The Florida International head coach clearly is uncomfortable living a life out of the limelight, professing to anyone that would listen that he’d love to be back working with the New York Knicks, and could move LeBron out of Miami and into Manhattan. Meanwhile, the Golden Panthers have a nice-looking freshman class that could really make noise in the Sun Belt, although it’s unconfirmed if Thomas is really interested.

Not 12 hours after Bill Self became a rapper, and UC-Irvine held what many would consider a rave, Purdue’s Final Four hopes were dashed, as all-around great guy Robbie Hummel re-tore the ACL that kept him out of action since February. A team that has been waiting for this season for the past three seasons it hurts me, someone with absolutely no connection to the Boilermaker program, to see their expectations deflate to nothing more than a Sweet 16 team. Ugh.

Sports Illustarted’s George Dohrmann, who hit us with that Josh Luchs interview, followed around a California-based AAU team for eight years, and the result was "Play Their Hearts Out." If you like reading about grown men taking advantage of precocious boys, you’re in luck here. Also released was the venerable Kyle Welliston’s "One Beautiful Season." Root for the little guy? You’ll love this book.

And finally, we get to Kentucky. Oh Bluegrass Nation, you need your own reality show. One that’s hosted by a Celebrity Rehab cast-off. Many of you guys are convinced that The New York Times’ Pete Thamel is out to bring down the Calipari Regime, but the fact of the matter is you guys are a moving target stuck to a neon sign that says "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!" Thamel, who was rightfully criticized for a bit of fact-fudging and misquoting, took the lead on Eric Bledsoe's Transcriptgate, and tracked down Nedim Karakas, Fenerbahce Ulker's general manager, to get the Enes Kanter story rolling. Currently, the NCAA is still scratching their head over the definition of "professional," as the team's season may ultimately hinge on whatever decision is made. Five Wildcat players from last year’s roster all were taken in the first round in the NBA Draft, "the greatest day in the history of the program," exclaimed Calipari, and you’ve lured and stolen some of the most prominent names in the classes of 2010 and 2011 to Lexington. At the very least, you've ensured fans that more banner days (figuratively, not, like up-in-the-rafters banner) lie ahead.

Additionally, the uber-important July recruiting period was almost eliminated, per the recommendation of the Coaches Commissioner Association. It wasn't. We were fed conclusive evidence that there is no conclusive evidence to make an argument for or against fouling late in a game when up by three points. A Jordan went to Vegas, did work, then tweeted about it, and former West Virginia stud Da'Sean Butler tweeted an original piece of prose about a purple dinosaur with a bowel movement problem.

/exhales, wipes sweat off forehead.

Well, I think I’ve successfully managed to suck all the SEO link juice from the entire SB Nation network. I’ll be here every Thursday, and going forward will bring you a Top and Bottom 10 from the week that was, along with looking ahead to the weekend. Problem is, there really was no week yet, so we’ll add that feature next time.

Just glad to be back.

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