NCAA Postmortem: the Transfer Tournament
Can't remember a year when I enjoyed March Madness more than this one.
Maybe it was the unusually high number of stirring upsets and wild finishes. Maybe it was the relief from COVID. Maybe it was because Stanford won the NCAA women's title. Maybe it was because UCLA-Gonzaga was one of the best games of all time.
A few random thoughts and observations.
Transfer Tournament: This was definitely the "Transfer Tournament." Never before has there been anywhere this number of significant transfers playing for the top teams.
Consider that the three most important starters in NCAA Champion Baylor's lineup and key reserves Adam Flagler and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua all began their collegiate careers elsewhere. The incredible guard threesome of Jared Butler (Alabama), Davion Mitchell (Auburn) and MaCio Teague (UNC Asheville) all came to Baylor from other schools. Tchatchoua started out at UNLV and Flagler at Georgia.
Gonzaga, for its part, had one transfer, Andrew Nembhard, who came from Florida.
In the earlier rounds, the same trend was noticeable. Final Four participant Houston also started four transfers and, as reported earlier, four of Oregon's starters were transfers and four of USC's top seven had changed schools.
Gonzaga Gassed: Had to notice that Gonzaga appeared a step slow during the final. No doubt it was partly due to the fact that Baylor's guards were quicker, but I think the UCLA OT marathon took a toll on the Zags.
Baylor's Rebirth: I've never been a fan of Baylor athletic teams because of the horrific sexual assault epidemic that was allowed to fester in the football program and swept under the rug by the administration a few years back, as well as the equally deplorable scandal in the basketball program in 2003, when player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by a teammate and slime ball coach Dave Bliss attempted to cover it up by accusing Dennehy of being a drug dealer.
It's time to give coach Scott Drew some credit for taking over a shattered program and building it back up.
Cronin Gives Notice: UCLA's wondrous "First Four" to "Final Four" journey has served notice not only on the rest of the Pac-12, but the rest of the country, that the Bruins are going to be a force to be reckoned with under Mick Cronin.
And, oh yeah, UCLA's best player, Johnny Juzang, transferred from Kentucky.
The New World: This is the world we live in. Players transfer at the drop of a hat…if they don’t start immediately, if they lose their starting job, if the coach recruits another player at their position who may cut into their minutes, if the assistant coach isn’t fawning enough, if the locker room isn’t up to par.
Funny how the quality of education is rarely, if ever, a factor anymore.
Let’s face it: the NCAA’s favorite term, “student-athlete,” is getting more obsolete and irrelevant every day.
Jenkins Lets Loose: Speaking of the NCAA, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins—in her inimitable, direct, take-no-prisoners fashion—made these searing comments about NCAA President Mark Emmert and his staff last week:
“The biggest drag on collegiate sports, the real liability, is not women’s basketball. It’s these murkily titled, excessively salaried suits, who try to paint women’s teams as a revenue fail to cover their soft-padded seats.
“The real cost, the real burden in this iniquitous, contemptible system is the legion of skimmers and coasters led by the devious do-nothing NCAA president Mark Emmert and his board of governors cronies. There is the dead weight.