Wisconsin Survives to Advance to Final Four

Bo Ryan, veteran coach who had never made it to the Final Four despite a stellar career at Wisconson, finally pulled it off. Thanks to outstanding play by Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin outlasted Arizona in overtime, winning 64-63.

Ryan took over as head coach in Wisconsin in 2001 after winning four national championships at small college Wisconsin-Platteville. The following is a transcript of his post-game interview.

Ryan: Well, thank you. I’m extremely proud. It’s always about the players and what they went through to get to this point and to be able to feel the way they do now. We hope it continues, but we also know how life can be. So it should always be about the players, but I’m going to get one comment in. Today would have been my dad’s 90th birthday. I just thought I’d throw that in.

Q. So what’s that mean to you to do it on your dad’s birthday?
COACH RYAN: Well, he was always about the kids that he helped mentor growing up, and you know, that’s why I do it. We talked about this before when people were asking questions, including yourself, about the relationship, to be able to see the faces of these guys, to see the genuine excitement. I can remember some of the great teams that he had of kids and their first championships and how they acted and just the joy. These guys have had some others, but that’s all I wanted to see. Then to see the fans, to see everybody so proud. I hope nothing happens on State Street tonight because these guys have on their cell phones some unbelievable pictures. Everybody be safe out there, and hopefully we still have a lot more in us.

Q. Coach Ryan, at what point did you think that this could be the team that could take you to the Final Four?
COACH RYAN: Believe it or not, there were some things that happened on our trip to Canada. We went 4?1, but I saw some things. We lost our whole front line at graduation. We had to replace the front line and the guard play was solidified by the addition of Josh Gasser coming back from his surgery. I think Josh’s work ethic to the rehabilitation was really key, plus Ben had somebody to talk to then as long as Josh was around. So Ben has a lot of energy, so he and Josh share a lot of energy.
But I just thought our freshmen, Nigel Hayes did some things where I just kind of knew he’s going to help us, and Bronson and the other freshmen, Vitto and Jordan and the other guys, Riley. They’re not that far behind in helping us, and the walk?on, Aaron. I just felt something good.
But the one thing I wasn’t going to do is I was a lot tougher on this group than I was on last year’s group. I just wasn’t going to accept them not understanding that they could be pretty good.

Q. So, did you feel like it took an earthquake to get you to the Final Four?
COACH RYAN: Wow, I don’t know if I mentioned this to this group, but I did say to Craig Sager at halftime that after the earthquake last night, you never know when it’s your last game coaching or what’s going to happen, so what I wanted to do was make sure that I got my game’s worth of being involved early. I think I was overly involved early because I have an opinion, everybody else has an opinion. When you express your opinion, you need to do it maybe in a better way.
So I just was wound up for a lot of reasons, but mainly because you don’t get these opportunities very often. To be in that position, there are things that I thought I saw that might have been imaginary. But you know how that can work on your mind. So once we settled in, I thought our guys did a great job of, okay, now let’s just play. We weren’t getting to the line. We weren’t doing some things that are very characteristic of us. Then by the time we closed the half out, we started to get back to what we do.

Q. Can you talk about the change that you’ve seen in Frank this season? His numbers have really increased since last year. What’s been really?? what’s sparked this for him?
COACH RYAN: Well, he’s continued to work hard in the weight room. He’s continued to work on his conditioning and his diet. You know, our guys are really into following the nutritional guides that have been given to him. So his stamina has increased and he’s growing into his body, mentally, physically, socially. They tell me he’s funnier that he used to be, and his eyes are more wide open now. Last year I thought at times his eyes were closed, then I realized that’s just his eyes. If you see him sitting sometimes you think, oh, look, Frank’s asleep. He’s not asleep. But he’s got that sleepy look. But he’s matured in every aspect because he’s worked hard.

Q. Does he still talk to himself?
COACH RYAN: Not as much. He’s not as hard on himself as he used to be.

Q. What was the discussion as you’re waiting for the referees to have this long, never?ending??
COACH RYAN: Good question. If it’s going to be that long, we’re not about getting the ball. So I didn’t want to have to use a timeout, but we did have a possibility. But as long as it took them, we said okay. If it’s their ball, here’s what we’re going to do. Frank does this. You protect the rim.
So as soon as they called it, did you see how quickly they wanted to get the ball to the guy on the sideline? And our guys went right to their spots, did what they were supposed to do, forced a tough angle for the young man to get his shot off. Mainly we spent most of it knowing that it wasn’t going to be our ball.

Q. Because it took so long?
COACH RYAN: Yeah, but yet I’ve been given a thousand hits of what people in the country saw. I guess they meant that they thought it was our ball. I didn’t say that. The other people that are hitting my communication means. I only have texting. I don’t have the other.

Q. What happened to your piece of net, and how is it that Ben ended up with the whole net around the neck and not you?
COACH RYAN: That’s the secondary net. That is the net from the other end that the staff and other people get to have a piece of. They’re divvying it up as we speak.

Q. Where’s yours?
COACH RYAN: Patrick Herb has mine. He has mine. One time after a national championship I had the net around my neck, and I ran into the coach of the other team at the hotel, and you know what, I felt about this big. You know, you really don’t want to do that. But I was just so excited. It was honest. Then I see him in the hotel and I have it, and I haven’t done it since.

Q. You mentioned or referred to the Twitter universe, and a lot of people were on people talking about maybe bad calls that were going against you. Was there ever a point where you felt like this just wasn’t going to be your night even though it seemed that??
COACH RYAN: Those first ten minutes I was very, very internally there was a lot of gnashing going on. There was a lot of?? then again, sometimes you can want it too much for your team. I’m still the same guy that I was three hours ago before this game started and all that and all this about a coach has to do this or a coach has to do that. I chuckle. We are who we are as professionals. We’re teachers. We’re coaches.

Q. The players expressed how happy they are by this win. How long are you going to let them be happy before they have to start thinking about next Saturday’s game?
COACH RYAN: I think they’ll handle it. Few of them have played in state championship games in high school, and in college they’ve had a chance to be in some NCAA tournaments. They know how quickly things can change. They’re realists in life. They won’t be?? there is no fool’s gold running around here, not while I’m around. They’ll be fine. The rest is the most important thing. Sometimes guys get so excited they don’t sleep. Like tonight, if they don’t get to bed at a reasonable time, family is here, all of that, all of our energy and our rest habits and our sleep habits need to stay in tune with each other. So hopefully we won’t forget that. Also, nutritionally we have to make sure we’re taking care of our bodies.

Q. Where were you in the hotel during the earthquake?
COACH RYAN: Nineteenth floor of the hotel, because of the rollers these tall buildings are on now, it swayed for another minute, two minutes because of the way they engineer it. Most of my players at Platteville, they were engineers, and I’ll call them and say, how did they do this? How did they put a building on rollers? Does anybody here know? No, you’re journalists. You’re sports writers. I know. Anyhow, it was interesting.

Sweet 16 Betting Lines are Out

Arizona has the easiest road to the Great Eight, according to the early odds released by 5 Dimes. The Wildcats are favored by 7.5 points over Steve Fisher’s San Diego St. team. The other game in the West bracket, being played in Anaheim, features the Baylor Bears taking on the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin is favored by three points in that game.

The South regional features Florida, the top seeded team in the tournament. The Gators are favored by five points over UCLA, with the total posted at 137 points. The Gators are -230 to win the game outright. Two Cinderella teams will play the other game in the South. Dayton, entering February with a 1-5 record in the Atlantic 10 after losses to Saint Louis, Richmond, VCU, Rhode Island and St. Joseph’s, have lost only twice since then. They knocked out Syracuse on Saturday, and will take on Stanford on Thursday night in Memphis. Stanford is favored by three points.

In the East, Iowa St. is favored by one point over Connecticut. That game will be played in Madison Square Garden on Friday. The winner of that game will take on the winner of Virginia and Michigan St. The Spartans are favored by two points over Virginia.

Louisville and Kentucky will renew their rivalry in the Midwest bracket in Indianapolis on Friday. Louisville is favored by five. Kentucky finally stepped up to their preseason reputation by defeating the only undefeated team in college basketball, the No. 1 seed Wichita State Shockers. The Wildcats have had Louisville’s number since John Calipari took over the Kentucky team. Kentucky beat Louisville in the Final Four two years ago, and is 5-1 against the Cardinals since Calipari began coaching in Lexington.

Tennessee and Michigan will be the undercard in the Midwest Bracket, but both teams have the talent to beat the winner of the Louisville/Kentucky game. Michigan is favored by 1.5 in the early lines.

Tennessee Takes Down Mercer, Advances to Sweet 16

Tennessee stayed hot and took out Cinderella Mercer on the way to its third tournament victory in a five-day period, earning a spot in the Sweet 16 with an 83-63 victory in the third round of the Midwest Regional on Sunday night at PNC Arena.

Junior guard Josh Richardson scored a career-high 26 points as the Volunteers dominated from the start. The 11th-seeded in the Midwest, one of the last team to make the tournament, move on to face second-seeded Michigan (27-8) on Friday night in Indianapolis. They made the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in eight years and are one of three Southeastern Conference teams to the second week in the tournament.

Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin says the turnaround is a product of the players on the team.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Martin said. “Just a lot of resiliency as a team, a lot of fight. Tremendous composure. It’s amazing to see these guys grow up right before my eyes through the course of a season. Fun to be around. They took a lot of lumps, bumps along the way. Continue to work hard, continue to stay together, found a way to win games and be successful. In the midst of it, they’ve grown a true love for each other in the process. Just for me, happy as a coach to be a part of these guys’ lives.

The SEC, after putting only three teams in the tournament, still haven’t lost a game in March Madness. Florida and Kentucky both join Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

“Sometimes perception becomes a reality,” said Martin. “It’s a very tough league, a very talented league. You’ve got the number one team in all of college basketball in the SEC. You have the winningest college program in the SEC, in Kentucky. It is what it is. I just think for us as a league, don’t get consumed with the peripheral. Just continue to work hard, get multiple teams in the tournament because you have very talented teams. It’s unfortunate we only have three teams in it.
I don’t think the criticism is accurate. But the teams that are in the tournament, they won it because they’re good teams.”

Mercer took out Duke on Friday but were unable to back that performance up against Tennessee. Coach Bob Hoffman says his team had no answer for Tennessee’s rebounding.

“They rebound hard and it showed tonight,” said Hoffman. “I didn’t do a very good job boxing them out. It was my fault. We could have a had a lot more defensive stops if we just could have controlled them on the boards. They’ve got the biggest men in America. Wow. I mean, they just kept coming at us. We really missed having another body. Monty would have helped us. Whether it would have been the whole difference, it would have really been great to have another big body because Maymon and Stokes are as physical and strong as anybody we’ve ever played against. You throw them together, that makes it even more tough to overcome.”

Kansas Stunned By Stanford

Dwight Powell, in trouble early with foul trouble,scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds as No. 10 seed Stanford upset No. 2 Kansas 60-57 in the South Regional on Sunday.

Chasson Randle added 13 points, six steals and four assists for the Cardinal (23-12), who advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 2008. Kansas, the second seeded team in the East and favored by six points, could never solve Stanford’s zone defense.

“We didn’t attack it well,” said Kansas Coach Bill Self about Stanford’s defense. “I thought they really gapped it and we didn’t do a good job of getting our nose dirty and getting in there until late. And then we got in their late, we actually got fouled or came away with at least potential scoring opportunities.

Self says Kansas didn’t attack the zone defense.  “We were passive against it,” he said. “That’s what happens when you’re not real confident sometimes or individuals are not confident, not having a great game. Things are open but you are a little hesitant to throw it. I thought they did a good job spacing us. And you throw it inside, you have to score over 6’10”, 6’11”. So they did a nice job with their zone. It wasn’t anything that caught us off guard, we just didn’t make shots and certainly didn’t attack as well as we should.”

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins says this was the hardest Stanford has played all season. “The effort, especially on the defensive end, is probably as good as I have seen it all season long. I was really proud of the way our guys stepped up when they made runs and was able to sustain some momentum at the end.
Now, we beat a very good Kansas team and just really proud of our guys.”

Dawkins says experience played a big role in the game. “Older players, guys who have been in these moments before, guys who know what to expect. I mean they have a lot of younger players, as you mentioned, and they are all very talented. And they’ve had a great year. And they were Big 12 champions. So they’re not a team that is not battled?tested, to have gone through the rigors of a great conference and coming out champions. And we expected to face a very good team who gained experience throughout the season. But I like our guys’ experience as well and I thought that was good for us.”

Stanford will take on Dayton in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Memphis. The Cardinal is an early 2.5 favorite in the game.

Illegal Poker Clubs Targeted by UK Gambling Commission

The UK Gambling Commission is continuing to take action against illegal poker clubs.  The commission recently released a press release detailing the actions.

From the release:

Suspected illegal poker clubs across the country continue to be targeted in a campaign on tackling unlawful gambling. In the latest round, three members’ clubs have been forced to stop providing poker as a result of investigations by local authorities with support from the Gambling Commission.

The Fifth Street Card Club in Borehamwood had its Club Gaming Permit withdrawn as the club was unable to demonstrate it was being run in ‘good faith’ in accordance with the Licensing Act 2003, and the Royal Surrey Social Club in Morden, Surrey has stopped their poker activities after local council officials discovered poker was being played illegally in exceeding prescribed limits. A new application for the Palms of Enfield club was rejected by the local council on a number of grounds including concerns about illegal poker, but may be subject to an appeal.

It brings the number of clubs to ten that have been forced to either close down or stop playing poker since Hackney Council rejected an appeal in July 2012 by the International Private Members Club against the removal of a club gaming permit and club premises certificate from a premises offering poker in Hackney. See notes to editors for the list of the ten clubs.

In other areas licensing authorities are starting to refuse gaming permits due to concerns that applicants were suspected of intending to run illegal poker clubs.

“These ten cases show local authorities have the means and the determination to tackle concerns about illegal poker in whatever guise it is presented,” said Nick Tofiluk, the Commission’s Director of Regulatory Operations.

“We are committed to working closely in support of local authorities in dealing with such matters. LAs now have considerable experience in this field and we will continue to promote good practice while dealing effectively with illegal poker clubs. The message is simple – if you offer poker in a club which falls outside the rules for exempt gaming, or offer commercial poker you are breaking the law.”

Under the Gambling Act 2005, commercial high-stakes poker is restricted to licensed casinos. Whilst poker can be played in members’ clubs, there are various restrictions depending on whether there is a club gaming permit in place, as well as conditions on participation fees and stake and prize limits. Further, the main purpose of the club cannot be gambling.

Shockers Still Perfect, Lock Up Number One Seed

Wichita St. has set history, becoming the first college basketball team since the 1991 UNLV team to enter the tournament undefeated in the regular season. The Shockers outlasted a feisty Indiana St. team 83-69 to win the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis, finishing the regular season a perfect 34-0.

Fred Van Vleet lead the way, taking over play late in the second half when Indiana St. made a brief run. The Sycamores closed within eight points with under three minutes to go, but the Shockers scored the next six points to put the game away. Van Vleet scored 22 points, going 9-14 from the field including four three pointers. Tekele Cotton helped out with 20 pounds, with Run Baker chipping in 14.

The Shockers won the MVC tournament for the first time since 1987.

“I’m very pleased and honored to be the one to bring the trophy back to Wichita,” said Wichita St. coach Gregg Marshall. “I told my players, short of the Final Four last year, I think this is going to be one of the biggest celebrations back in Wichita than we’ve had in a long time. We’ve won regular seasons. We’ve been to Sweet 16s. We’ve been to the Final Four. Short of that Final Four, I think this is going to be really appreciated and honored. So we got the monkey off our back, so to speak.”

The Shockers are expected to be back in St. Louis for the first two games of the NCAA tournament. Marshall says they’ll be ready.

“We are very healthy,” said Marshall. “I think nicks and dings and bruises, but nothing that is major. Ron’s ankle is better. That was our most significant injury of the year. So relative to a lot of other teams, and this has a way of evening out over the course of my career. Last year we were banged up the whole year, except for the first nine games. But then this year we stay relatively injury free. That’s how you’re able to do some things like 34-0. You have to stay healthy and have very, very good players.”

Wichita St. has a week to get healthy and ready for the tournament. They will use last year’s Final Four run as a blue print.

“That worked pretty well last year. We were two possessions away from playing for a National Championship, ” Marshall said. “I want to make sure we get back on that path because that was a good one.”