Smart Move For Texas ??

smartBy Aaron Hampton

One of college basketball’s brightest young minds is now a Longhorn, as Texas formally introduced Shaka Smart as the 24th head coach in program history on Friday. Smart, who amassed a 163-56 record and one Final Four appearance in six years as head coach at VCU, will be looked at to turn around a program that has not made it out of the opening round of the NCAA Tournament since 2008, a challenge not lost on the newly-minted head coach.  “There’s been a great deal of success here, and I feel like my role is to try and build on that success,” said Smart, behind a backdrop of burnt orange. “Obviously it takes a committed, connected effort to do that between coaches and players, and that’s what we’ve done the past six years at VCU, and that’s what we plan to do here moving forward.”

Smart’s six years at VCU saw both he and the program rise from relative obscurity and into the national spotlight behind a tough, rugged, and fast-paced system of basketball effectively termed “Havoc.” Behind their unique style of play and charismatic coach, VCU would go on to capture the sporting world’s attention in 2011 when they reached the Final Four, and since manged to reach the NCAA Tournament every year since under Smart’s helm.

That same style of play that put Smart and VCU on the map is also one the coach looks to bring with him as he embarks on his new journey.   “We’re going to play fast-paced basketball, we’re going to be very aggressive,” Smart told reporters.  “I can tell you right now, that when you come to the Irvin Center to see us play, you’re going to see an exciting style of basketball.”

Despite the number of NBA players who played at Texas under former coach Rick Barnes, Texas never quite managed to correlate that success on the recruiting trail into sustained on-court success or consistent deep tourney runs.  Which is another reason why Smart was such a shrewd hire, as nobody has been more adept at doing more with less over the past six seasons than him. “I couldn’t be more excited about the future of Texas men’s basketball,” remarked athletic director Steve Patterson. “Shaka is the only person we interviewed.”

Which is why that committed, connected effort he touched on in his introductory press conference is so important to just who Smart is.  There are probably less than a handful of coaches in college basketball right now, that have the ability to convince players to commit wholeheartedly into the concept of a team like Smart. Whereas the argument could be made that Rick Barnes underachieved with the talent he had at Texas, no one would argue that Smart did not maximize everything thing he had at his disposal to turn VCU into the program it is today.  Imagine the havoc Smart could cause with access to the Big 12’s recruiting pipeline, as well as the richest athletic department in the country at this disposal.

Certainly you’ve got to feel for VCU or any university whenever they lose a coach so ingrained into the university’s culture as Smart was, but eventually this day was coming for the most in-demand young coach in the country.  The Shaka Smart era in Texas officially began Friday, with the excitement surrounding Longhorn nation matched only by that of the new head basketball coach himself.  “The exciting thing for me is I think we can do phenomenal things moving forward if we work together, we work hard, and forgive the pun, work smart.”

Let The Madness Begin!

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By Stefan Anderson

It’s that time of year of again, where many legends are born and brackets are shredded from heartbreaking defeats and unexpected challengers, The 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. The 64 teams have been chosen and now it’s time for the big dance bay-bee (in my best Dick Vitale voice). The play in game between the Albany Great Danes and the Mount St. Mary Mountaineers will have the opening game as they play for one the final four spots, against the #1 overall seed Florida Gators. The best time of the year for die hard basketball fans, March Madness.

After all the teams were selected on Sunday, the big dance is set for a great tournament in these upcoming weeks. The 4 #1 seed’s in this year’s bracket include Florida in the south, Arizona in the west, and Wichita State in the Midwest and Virginia in the East. In most cases seeding can play a great but in this case it has nothing to do with it. For instance, Wichita State had an impressive undefeated season but play in a section that features Kentucky, Duke, last year’s runner up Michigan and the eventual champion Louisville.  But it doesn’t matter about what teams you have to face , the most important thing to do is to win. With that there is always room for underdog to sneak up and make a name for themselves and becomes this year “Cinderella team” during the tournament.

These following teams are on the Upset Alert Watch:

#5 in the Eastern Bracket: Cincinnati

The Bearcats had an impressive year, winning 27 games this season including 15 wins in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Led by the well rounded scorer in Sean Kilpatrick, Cincy has been very efficient thus far playing great defense, ranking in the top 10 in Steals and Points Allowed. But I do believe that they will be the first big upset in the first round of the tournament when they face off against Harvard. The Crimson’s high scoring offense and great coaching by Tommy Amaker will ultimately be too much for the Bearcats to handle and will certainly be a bracket buster.

#5 in the South Bracket: VCU

After making their impact in college basketball two seasons ago, making it to the Final Four and becoming America’s Cinderella team, the Rams are bound to get a taste of their own medicine this year. Coming off a great season finishing 31-2, Stephen F. Austin can serve the VCU their first dose of upset medicine.  Averaging over 16 assist per game the Lumberjacks can share the pumpkin well. Nearly 5 players on their roster average double digits this season which can cause trouble for the Rams. The Lumberjacks will shock, Shaka Smart and send the Rams back to Shockoe Bottom.

#2 in the Midwest Bracket: Wisconsin

The Badgers led by legendary coach Bo Ryan, have had a great season this year, with wins over Michigan State, Florida, Michigan, and Iowa. But they are on the upset alert due to 5 of 7 losses this year coming from unranked opponents. They have played well against great competition but struggle with the games they are supposed to win. Which means the American and their efficient offense that is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, 7th in the nation, along with their lockdown defense that is ranked 8th in Points Allowed, can give Wisconsin a run for their money.

With so many games to choose from and so many selections for your bracket, always beware of the upset that can help win the pool or take you completely out of it. The indecisiveness along with constant guessing is one the reasons I love the NCAA Tournament. Let the Madness Begin!