Pat Forde

  • Final Four Likability Index: Who should you root for in Indy?

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 10 hrs ago

    First thought upon surveying the Final Four field: This is about as big-time as it gets.

    Second thought: The Big Ten has never been and will never be more popular than Saturday night.

    Michigan State takes on a Duke program people love to hate. Wisconsin takes on a Kentucky program people love to hate. While lovers of theater and storylines would revel in a Duke-Kentucky national title game next Monday, more people are likely to be rooting against the Evil Empires of college basketball.

    Last Saturday in Syracuse, when Jerian Grant’s desperation shot missed everything and Kentucky hung on to beat Notre Dame, Faegan’s Cafe & Pub instantly deflated. Not a single celebratory voice was heard amid a crowd of a couple hundred. When Notre Dame is the more lovable entity, that tells you where a lot of people stand on Kentucky.

    Given the presence of both Duke and Kentucky in the same Final Four for the first time since 1978, and given the suddenly embraceable Badgers and Spartans arrayed against them, this seemed like a great time to dust off an old favorite, the Final Four Likability Index. Keeping score on who to cheer for:

    If your team’s head coach plays the accordion, add five points.

  • Michigan State's trip to Final Four an exhausting, emotional journey for Travis Trice and his family

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Travis Trice stood on the Carrier Dome court with his parents and felt the tears starting to flow.

    He put his head on his mother's shoulder, almost collapsing on her. His father gently rubbed the back of his neck, then kissed the top of his head.

    Crying turned to sobbing, audible above the nearby Michigan State fans celebrating their improbable Final Four berth.

    "First time I've seen him cry," teammate Branden Dawson said.

    Finally, the Spartans senior guard bent over, sinking nearly to the ground, shoulders heaving. The thrill of victory is processed in different ways by different people, and for Trice this career highlight was expressed through a torrent of tears and a rush of humility.

    "I don't deserve it," he said to his mom and dad between sobs.

    He got that wrong. The wiry little senior deserves this Final Four trip as much as anyone.

    "He's taken this team on his back for the better part of a month now," said Spartans director of basketball operations Kevin Pauga.

    "It just speaks to how close we are," Travis Jr. said. "They've driven countless miles, long hours."

    More NCAA tournament coverage:

  • Clash of the tourney titans: Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo meet again in Elite Eight chess match

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. – And now, the March Madness rubber match.

    Every three years, Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino get together like this – deep in the NCAA tournament, high stakes, tough teams, clashing styles. The two coaching heavyweights have traded gut punches that were felt for a long time afterward.

    In 2009, Izzo's Michigan State Spartans shocked Pitino's overall No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight. In 2012, Pitino evened the score with a No. 4 seed that demoralized the No. 1-seeded Spartans in the Sweet 16.

    "We've had some great battles," Izzo said.

    Now they meet again, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Although the context is dramatically different this time.

    Neither team is a No. 1 seed – far from it. Fourth-seeded Louisville staggered through the latter part of the season, dismissing point guard Chris Jones in mid-February and reinventing itself, to a degree, after that. Seventh-seeded Michigan State comes from even farther afield, at one point being an oft-injured 15-8 with losses to Texas Southern, Nebraska and Illinois.

     

  • What Rick Barnes' dismissal says about Texas, and what's next for the Longhorns

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    The new message out of Texas is clear: longtime coaches who have great success but level off are expendable.

    Mack Brown learned that. Now Rick Barnes has learned it, too.

    Multiple media reports say that Barnes has been fired as the basketball coach of the Longhorns, after 17 seasons. Barnes took Texas to just its third Final Four in 2003, went to the NCAA tournament 16 times and won 69 percent of his games. But he also had talent-laden teams that underachieved over the last seven seasons.

    Brown can relate. His glorious football tenure ended 15 months ago due to declining returns during his final four seasons, after so many great years. There is ample reason to believe that decision was made above the head of new athletic director Steve Patterson, who was merely the messenger. But the change also made it evident that former AD DeLoss Dodds was no longer around to maintain a comfortable status quo.

    Barnes is the latest mainstay overboard in the Texas transition.

    And that was that. Except it wasn’t.

    That indicates there are a lot of cooks in the burnt-orange kitchen. Something for the next basketball coach to keep in mind.

  • Rick Pitino unearths another unlikely hero as Louisville surges into Elite Eight

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports Commentary 4 days ago

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Rick Pitino was getting a workout in last week before the NCAA tournament started. As usual, his mind was percolating.

    He asked director of basketball operations David Padgett to send backup Anton Gill into the workout room for a pep talk.

    The sophomore wing was having a miserable season – he couldn't make shots, and his playing time had plummeted since late December. He was averaging 2.4 points per game and hadn't scored a point in the month of March. But Pitino knows as well as any coach how this month works – sometimes you need to find contributors in unexpected places.

    So he told Gill a story from 1987.

    Pitino was coaching Providence then, and the Friars had made it to the Sweet 16. They were matched up against Alabama in that round and then had Georgetown in the regional final.

    Pitino needed one of his role players, a forward named Darryl Wright, to step up in those games. Wright delivered 13 points in 12 minutes against Alabama, then 20 points in 22 minutes against Georgetown to unexpectedly help the Friars to the Final Four.

    Pitino told Gill something similar could happen to him this tournament.

    "It's funny how things work out," Gill said.

  • Tennessee never should have hired Donnie Tyndall

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    Dave Hart was hired as athletic director at Tennessee in September 2011, with a mandate to bring some stability and continuity to a program roiling in chaos.

    Friday, Hart announced the school fired basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, all of 11 months after hiring him.

    “One of the things we’ve strived for is to get stability,” Hart said. “... That is not how it’s panned out, as we stand here today.”

    No, it sure hasn’t. The basketball revolving door now spins with the speed the football door once spun.

    From 2008-13, Tennessee had four head football coaches: Phil Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones.

    From 2011-15, Tennessee will have had four head basketball coaches: Bruce Pearl, Cuonzo Martin, Tyndall and Next.

    Stop the madness.

    The Tyndall hire turned out to be a disaster. A rushed and risky decision that blew up on Hart and the school.

    Likely NCAA violations during Tyndall’s tenure at Southern Mississippi forced the issue. There was no way Tennessee could keep Tyndall – not after he also had committed violations at Morehead State, and not after what the Volunteers went through in having to fire the popular Pearl for violations in March 2011.

     

  • Louisville still alive in title hunt thanks to Quentin Snider's unlikely emergence

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A couple of TV guys bustled up to Quentin Snider in the Louisville locker room Thursday, hungry for a sound bite.

    A few minutes earlier, N.C. State point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber had talked a little smack about the East Region semifinal matchup with the Cardinals. Among his comments: "I don't know too much about that new point guard they got, but it's going to be kind of hard trying to contain me with my speed."

    Hoping to stir up a little dialog, the TV guys thrust their microphones toward that new point guard and asked for his response to Barber's bravado.

    They left in about a minute, disappointed. There would be no crossfire from Snider.

    "I'm a really quiet person," the Louisville freshman said, quietly.

    The fact that Snider is part of an anticipated NCAA tournament Sweet 16 matchup is improbable. But then again, so is the fact that he's Louisville's starting point guard. And so is the fact that he's a Cardinal at all.

    For a guy who was always The Other Point Guard in Rick Pitino's plans, he's come a long way in a hurry. And by necessity.

    That led to a reappraisal, and then a reluctant decommitment.

  • Sources: Tennessee's Donnie Tyndall had second meeting with NCAA investigators

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall had a second meeting with NCAA investigators March 16, sources told Yahoo Sports. The NCAA has been looking into potential violations during Tyndall's tenure at Southern Mississippi.

    The outcome of the investigation at Southern Miss, where Tyndall coached from 2012-14, could have a direct impact on the coach's future at Tennessee. Southern Miss already has penalized itself, self-imposing a postseason ban this year for reported violations involving three players.

    It is unclear whether the second meeting with Tyndall resulted in a culmination of the investigation. Volunteers athletic director Dave Hart said during the Southeastern Conference tournament that the school was waiting for more information from the NCAA before making any decisions on Tyndall, who first met with the NCAA last November, according to media reports.

    "We understand that they have to finish looking into everything that they need answers to before they would tell us where they are," Hart told Nashville radio station WGFX. "We understand that that's the situation."

     

  • Alford family legacy goes three-deep on ride to Sweet 16

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Sharan Alford had one of the best seats in the Yum Center last week to watch UCLA in the NCAA tournament. Except it also was one of the worst.

    The mother of Bruins coach Steve Alford and grandmother of players Bryce and Kory was in the front row behind the bench. That was great.

    But she also was seated next to her husband, Sam. And that can be stressful.

    “He mumbles,” Sharan explained.

    Sam has a habit of coaching under his breath. He spent more than 30 years on the bench as a high school head coach, including coaching Steve to Mr. Basketball glory while packing a 9,300-seat gym in New Castle, Ind. Then, after Steve had one of the great playing careers in Indiana University history, the natural order of things was reversed: when Steve was the head coach at Missouri State and Iowa, Sam was his assistant for 12 years before retiring in 2007.

    Now a third generation has joined the family business under the tutelage of the second generation, to the immense joy and pride of the paterfamilias . The Alford Cycle is self-perpetuating.

    But the row behind the bench is still a bit foreign to Sam. It’s no longer his place to be shouting instructions.

    Hence the mumbling.

  • Survival of the fittest: Breakdown of NCAA tournament's Cinderella-less Sweet 16

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    For a delightfully dramatic and unpredictable NCAA tournament that has produced abundant bracket carnage, there is one thing missing from the Sweet 16.

    Cinderella.

    Any program that could even remotely answer to that name is gone. Ushered out. Only the historically and financially strong survive.

    There are 13 teams from Power Five conferences still going. The three from outside that club are Gonzaga, Wichita State and Xavier, which bear no resemblance to mid-majors.

    The Zags are a No. 2 seed making their 17th straight NCA tourney appearance. The Shockers are 95-14 over the past three seasons, made the Final Four in 2013 and went undefeated into the tournament last year. The Musketeers are in the NCAAs for the ninth time in the past 10 years, and have been to the Elite Eight twice this century.

    They all belong with the elite.

    To understand how dead Cinderella is, consider this: the lowest-seeded team in the Sweet 16 is No. 11 UCLA. Merely the program with the most national titles in history.

    All told there are 10 programs still playing that have won national titles. Seven of them have won multiple national titles. This is a blueblood field.

    More NCAA tournament coverage: