Not Ready For Prime Time Players

March 24, 2008 – 4:13 pm by Hickey

As Luther Vandross will remind us in a couple weeks, there was no shortage of shining moments during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. But we’ll get to those later. Let’s start off with the stuff that sucked. You know, the people who showed us they are nowhere near ready for life on the big stage.

Dan Dakich, Eric Gordon and the sorry Hoosiers
It’s amazing what a couple of months will do to your perspective. On Jan. 23, things couldn’t look more up for the Hoosiers. No. 7 IU had just cleaned Iowa’s clock to move up to 17-1 on the year. Kelvin Sampson was 27-0 in Assembly Hall for his career. A Big Ten title and an Elite Eight bid seemed like a matter of course.

Almost two months to the day later — March 21 — No. 8 seed IU bowed out of the tourney after a disgraceful first-round performance against Arkansas. Sampson was long gone. And the program is indefinitely in shambles.

For IU fans, this was like a trip to a casino where you suddenly find yourself ahead by $1,000 a couple hours into the night. Then, by 1 a.m. you’ve lost every dime you came with and you’ve just been removed from the premises for loudly telling the blackjack dealer to go to hell.

The drama of Sampson’s firing aside, there were two people that needed to step up and help right the ship in the aftermath: interim head coach Dan Dakich and star freshman Eric Gordon. Both failed miserably, and at no time was that more apparent than against Arkansas.

Dakich watched his record fall to 3-4 since taking over. Clearly, he was unable to motivate this sleepwalking squad (outside of D.J. White, who has no quit) to do much of anything. And there were moments — like when he picked up a technical foul for shooting a ball from the sidelines Friday night — where he looks incapable of being the man in charge.

And then there is Gordon. The superfreshman that everyone has tabbed as a lottery pick looked pretty damn ordinary down the stretch and is in clear need of more seasoning at the collegiate level. Although against Arkansas, ordinary would have been a vast improvement.

He was a miserable 3-of-15 from the field and an even more disturbing 2 for 6 from the free-throw line. A career low of 8 points is not a good way to make a splash in front of a national audience. It’s an even worse way to potentially end a collegiate career.

It’s obvious that Gordon is a tremendous talent. But it seems just as apparent that he’s still just a college freshman between his ears. Both mentally and emotionally, Gordon has a lot of room to grow. I’m not trying to put him down with that statement — when I was a college freshman, I was known to drunkenly walk the hallways of my living quarters on my knees and say “I’m a midget!” But some people mature quicker than others, and I don’t think Gordon has proven that he can rise above the fray just yet.

It’s clear he never recovered from Sampson leaving. His shooting percentage was an ugly .323 in the seven games Dakich coached. And I suppose that’s explicable. Gordon’s still just a kid, after all. But the NBA is no place for kids.

Apparently SEC stands for Suckeastern Conference, because no one has been more pathetically represented in this year’s tournament.

It should have been a pretty big red flag when a 4-12 Georgia team won the SEC tournament, but initially it was easy to attribute that to the magic of the postseason. Instead, it can mostly be tied to the complete weakness of a pathetic and overrated conference.

Only one SEC team, Tennessee, remains in the Sweet 16. And the Volunteers were extremely fortunate to escape the clutches of a vastly under-seeded Butler team in the second round. Even though I’ve got them in the Elite Eight, now I really don’t like the Vols odds against a Louisville team that is hitting on all cylinders.

After back-to-back years of Florida winning the national title and the conference being on the rise, it looks like we’ve gone into a regressive stage. I don’t think it will go back to the days of Kentucky and the 11 Dwarfs, but the SEC certainly isn’t what many people have it cracked up to be.

The Bracket-O-Matic
I think we all saw this coming when I wrote about the Bracket-O-Matic last week. But it doesn’t make it any less funny to look at the permutations this application churned out after the first two rounds have been completed. Guess St. Joe’s isn’t going to the Final Four after all.

Tomorrow we actually take a look at the performances that impressed us in the first two rounds of the tourney.

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