High school basketball, college basketball, graduation rates, Duke fans and Kentucky bourbon recommendations made for a crush of feedback, much more than 1,000 emails this week. I can only imagine what will come out of the Final Four.
Thanks for all of it, even the hate mail from Durham. As always, my responses are in italics.
Now on to The People's Voice...
GRADUATION RATES (March 25: "An education in graduation rates")
You have nailed it and exposed these grandstanders who always come out of the woodwork this time of year. It is so easy to make the change to consider these other factors. Just adding (to the formula) would give a more accurate picture of what is happening.
I am a former student-athlete in the sport of volleyball. I am a graduate of the University of Iowa with a degree in journalism. However, I count as a failure (in the graduation rate statistics) because after my senior season of eligibility, I had the opportunity to represent my country (the USA) on our national team.
By doing this, and spending several years playing on the U.S. team and professionally in Italy, I went over my six-year time clock and didn't count as a graduate. When I was finished with my playing career, I came back to Iowa and graduated – nine years after I started. So it's not just the transfers, bad actors and the ones who quit early making millions we have to take into account.
Barb (Willis) Randall
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Thanks for your article about the graduation rate. Never knew about the transfer glitch. Coaches are an easy target. It puts more responsibility on the athlete to do his job as a student.
John L. Fritz
Graduation-rate scam? What a pathetic rationalization. Let's trash the scoring system when we don't like the result. The real scam is that so many college basketball players ... have no intention of achieving anything in the classroom, or even going to class.
It is particularly sad that you quote the old silliness about not taking early departures of the NBA into account. The reality is that players leaving early or even graduating on time and playing in the NBA are such a small number it's insignificant. The truth is that no one graduates because no one intends to graduate.
The sorry performance of some of the leading coaches is especially galling. Has Mr. Huggins ever graduated a player?
Keep rationalizing the problems away. You must have been to the Fehr School of Ignoring Reality.
The data is worthless, yet the media acts as if it's gospel. That's poor reporting. As for early NBA departures, they are significant among the 16 programs that made the regional semis this year, which were the focus of last week's news blitz. And in Bob Huggins' defense, more than two dozen players have graduated under his tenure. You can decide for yourself if that is good or bad, but it sure isn't the zero percent the NCAA formula keeps churning out.
Just a comment on the graduation rates. They also allow no leeway for students who stop out for a year or two, then come back to finish their degrees. BYU, Utah and other schools' rates often look low due to the LDS missionaries who step out for two years in the middle of school to go serve.
You made some excellent points about what gets headlines: corruption, skewed statistics, etc. It is never the truth that gets the spotlight. Thanks for speaking the truth about the graduation rates.
THE NEXT LEBRON (March 23: "Here it comes")
I don't think you should write stories that in any way encourage the players to come out. What about all the failures who never made it?
Finally a story about high school players and the NBA that plays it straight and doesn't lecture us on the supposed benefits of college. Vaccaro is right about college. How many guys have had their careers killed by control freak NCAA coaches?
If the NBA implemented a rule that players could not enter the draft until they were 20, as [Yahoo! Sports analyst] Steve [Kerr] suggests, do you feel that it would be Maurice Clarett all over again?
The only way it would withstand a legal challenge is if it was put into the collective bargaining agreement. And even then it would face a challenge.
Being from Peoria, Ill., I have seen Shaun Livingston play for some time now. Do you really think he could play with the pros having now seen him play?
I have watched Shaun play for years and no, I don't think he is fully ready for the NBA right now. But I do think an NBA team (Charlotte?) is ready to pick him in the top five. After some early struggles I think he will have a terrific career.
With so many high school guys entering the draft, I think the NBA should use the NBDL as a farm league like baseball. This would allow players drafted by a team to not only develop the basic fundamental skills that some lack and are needed, but also afford them the chance to learn the system of the team that drafted them. This could pick the overall quality of the game up.
I completely agree. The NBDL should stop trying to be the CBA and be the Developmental League. Play one game a week. The rest of the time should be on skill development and fundamentals.
XAVIER BASKETBALL (March 27: "Xavier's come a long way")
I have had the relatively unusual experience of having two of my Connecticut-bred children attend Xavier, where most of the students are from the Midwest. Next time you write about (Xavier), you might want to add that it is a gem of an academic environment, with the exemplary Jesuit educational tradition, a beautiful campus, warmth and bargain costs for those of us used to the tuitions in the Northeast.
Michael McNamee MD
West Hartford, Conn.
I am a long time Bearcat fan (and former sports writer for UC) and you know how we feel about X. But your article was superb and captured the whole picture of X basketball. As a sports fan, you had to be there to smell the circus, the hockey and the flea markets to understand what X went through to get where they are. You captured that picture. Well done. Go X!
XAVIER-DUKE (March 28: "Credit Duke")
Your jealousy of Duke's success is typical of the hate mongering going on these days. You certainly aren't rational in your commentary. That much is fact. Hey, Danny Boy, get used to the Devils' success, because it isn't going to end for long, long time. Bet on it.
I could run a hundred similar emails from Duke fans but I won't bother. I've covered college basketball for almost 10 years now and I've long said Kentucky fans are the sports' most passionate, while Duke fans are the most thin-skinned and insecure. I have no idea why. The school has so much going for it. Maybe because it's surrounded by North Carolina and N.C. State.
I've been to Duke many times, and it is a treasure of an institution. I couldn't respect its coach more (even if many in the media dislike him). His staff is classy and professional. The players are great to be around. The whole Duke experience has always been enjoyable.
But Duke fans are so over-the-top that even a column titled "Credit Duke" that cites the team's incredible heart, confidence, big-play ability and the motivational and bench coaching skills of Mike Krzyzewski is deemed "hate mongering." Please.
I first have to admit, I am a lifelong Duke fan. I grew up watching Duke basketball way before I really cared about it. Times have changed and now I do care; some may even call it an obsession.
Regardless of all of my personal bias, I loved your article about the Xavier game. It was beautifully written and you said all of the right things about both teams. The Xavier team is just an amazing group of players and coaches who did everything they needed to do to win that game. Things just didn't go their way in the last few minutes but they simply played their hearts out. If Duke had lost, it would have been to a program with a tremendous amount of heart and talent.
Thanks again for such a great read. It was really well done.
San Francisco, Calif.
OK. I apologize for the above generalization. Maybe not all Duke fans are nuts.
I read your story "Credit Duke" today. I want to tell you that the paragraph you wrote – "This is what it is to play Duke. To beat the Blue Devils you have to kill them, drive a stake through their hearts so deep that no momentum swing, no wonderful comeback, no karma or striped shirt can save them. Because if you don't you wind up in a silent locker room staring at your shoes" – about beating Duke is probably the best-written, most descriptive paragraph I've ever read in a sports column.
Having spent more time than I wanted to staring at my shoes, your story evoked graphic memories, and I think it is a classic piece. Thanks for writing it.
Just a coincidence? Together St. Joe's and Xavier missed the Final Four by a grand total of five points ... Not bad for a "weak" conference like the A-10. I wonder, have experts like Digger Phelps (who referred to St. Joe's as "pretenders" before the seeding) or Billy Packer missed something about the emergence of a new style of winning basketball that Phil Martelli introduced this year?
I completely agree. After Xavier waxed Saint Joseph's in the A-10 tournament I wrote that the focus should be on what the Musketeers did, not what the Hawks didn't. These were two excellent teams that headlined a good conference.
Why is it that there are so many rear-end kissers of Duke? A good coach is one who makes it to the Sweet 16 without all those McDonald's All-Americans. With all the talent Duke has they should win a championship every year.
The Duke kids may have a lot of talent, but they won Sunday in part because they played their hearts out.
As much love as there is for Makers and Cream Soda (the rich hippy's version of Beam and Coke) at UK, you really need to try some Woodford Reserve straight up. I mean, we have tons of good bourbon, but denying yourself Woodford is a grave mistake.
I'm a med student up in Ann Arbor now, and the bourbon just doesn't taste as good anymore. Great beer though. But burn it into your retina: Woodford, Woodford, Woodford next time you're in Lex. I'm sure Two Keys has it.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Garrett, good plan here. Maybe the Woodford people will send us both a sample bottle.
I am a regular reader of your column. I usually use the "send to a friend" button for your articles. I cut-and-paste (don't tell Yahoo!) some of your better points. However, I don't drink and don't particularly care what you do (and I don't take notes as to where you eat).
With that said, how can I possibly ever write an email worthy of publication? I'm a UNC Greensboro fan/grad, which means my comments sans alcohol are therefore only relevant about once every seven or eight years (and only for the opening round at best).
That is unless you are planning an on-the-wagon tour of the blossoming Southern Conference. Any hope of that? I know some good restaurants in Greensboro, Boone and Johnson City if you need 'em.
Another brilliant example of how to get a letter printed. On a side note, perhaps the best Chinese food I have ever had was in Johnson City, Tenn. Go figure.
Hell Dan, there's a website called crowbusters.com that not only gives you recipes for crow, but they even give instructions for field-dressing one. Pretty disgusting if you ask me, but no more stomach-turning than Illinois' prospects against the mighty Blue Devils.
And another fine effort.