Monday, January 31, 2011

Once mighty hoops programs now struggle

St. John's 93-78 win over Duke on Sunday was an uplifting event for a former national power that has lost a lot of steam. The Red Storm hardly is an isolated case on that front.

Whatever happened to:

UCLA (last title '95, last Final Four 2008): John Wooden retired and Pauley Pavilion went out of style, but the level of West Coast high school talent began to slip in the 1990s, too. Perfect storm. Ben Howland began with a bang but the momentum has now sagged. The Bruins (11-6) are in danger of missing the NCAA for a third straight season.

N.C. State (last title and Final Four '83): UNC stayed strong, Duke hired Mike Krzyzewski and State hasn't been able to find a decent strategist who can also find, sign and groom talent. Sidney Lowe's fifth team will have to pick up the pace just to get a NIT bid.

St. John's (last Final Four '85): The Big East growth explosion stripped the school - Providence, too - of its basketball soul. Both need to leave and join in a league that makes some sense. Even after getting Duke with ease, Steve Lavin's team is 4-5 in the conference.

Indiana (last title '87, last Final Four '02): The Bob Knight Curse really might have something to do it. Nasty divorces can damage the spirit as much as the heart. In his third season, Tom Crean has signed some name recruits, but the record is 11-10 after 16-46 in his first two seasons.

Houston (last Final Four '84): Dean Smith ('82) and Jim Valvano ('83) put a stake in the program's heart and 275-pound John Thompson ('84) stomped on it. The program hasn't won an NCAA game since that '84 run.

Michigan (last title '89, last Final Four '93):  The program has reached six Final Fours. But compared to football, the passion's never been geuine. And now, there's the Tom Izzo factor.

Florida (last title and Final Four '07): The Michigan of the South. First Lon Kruger and now Billy Donovan can't really steal the fans' hearts. It'd take an indoor Tim Tebow for that.

UNLV (last title '90, last Final Four '91): High rolling recruiter Jerry Tarkanian was great for business but eventually bankrupted the school's image account.

Arkansas (last title '94, last Final Four '95): Even Nolan Richardson had better pure athletics than pure players. Now, dozens of teams are athletic enough to play that tune. John Pelphrey won 23 games in his frist season as coach ('07-'08), but leveled off quickly.

-- Caulton Tudor


Anonymous said...

UNC's a 4-game ACC slump from being added to this list...they need a signature ACC win (Duke or FSU).

Anonymous said...

Let's get real, here.

NC State was never "Mighty". They had a fluke NC in 74 (went on probation afterwards) and a fluke NC in 83 (went on probation afterwards).

Other than those two years, they've been no better than average.

Anonymous said...

"UNC's a 4-game slump from being added to this list...." I don't think you can say UNC is slumping when they have won 2 national titles since 2005..... Great try though!

Anonymous said...

Ha yeah buddy UF won 2 titles since '06 and they're ON this list!

Face it, you go to NIT 2 years in a row...your program is "struggling".