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Open thread: National title game

What a breathtaking ending.

What a disappointing outcome.

What a game.

This post is mostly meant to be an open thread for y’all to discuss the Butler-Duke national championship, which has to be among the best this reporter has ever seen. Strike that, it’s easily the best I’ve ever seen.

So Hollywood and real life don’t always match up as we’d like. If the last 40 minutes of this college basketball season were disappointing to you, then I’m not surely what you’d consider pleasing. I mean seriously, I’m still shaking my head in wonder, almost an hour later.

Without further ado, we’ll open up our trusted, Disqus-driven comments section up to you. I’m going to go check and see if Duke stole anything else from me besides the opportunity to see a rare and special moment. Have a good one folks.

That’s A Wrap: Verdell Jones

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - First RoundWelcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to um, wrap up the 2009-10 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on.

Final Stats (31 games): 14.9 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.9 rpg, .9 spg, 39.9% FG, 27.3% from three.

In these last two seasons of frustration, disappointment and revolving lineups, if there’s been one player we can label as a constant — and I use the term somewhat loosely — it’s Verdell Jones.

When all semblance of an offense broke down, Jones was there to make something happen, whether it be by getting to the line, hitting a jumper or working his strong and varied mid-range game.

And Jones is about as close as this team has to clutch as well: He was instrumental in the win over Michigan at home on New Year’s Eve by hitting a big shot late, and he kept the Hoosier in contention against Purdue at home as well. (His turnoverfest at the end of regulation in the Northwestern win that almost cost Indiana the game not withstanding.)

He was far and away the team’s leader in free-throw attempts (129), and converted 79.1 percent of them, good for second on the team.

Jones also led the team in minutes (31.5) this season, as well as scoring among regulars (14.9). (Mo Creek averaged 16.4 before going down.) His large volume of minutes also led him to a team-high 87 turnovers (one more than Jeremiah Rivers), but his usage rate (23.4 percent) was the highest on the team as well.

Therefore, the turnovers are somewhat deceiving. And his turnover percentage bears that out: for the season, Jones’ was a respectable 13.4 percent.

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Around the Hall: Butler, Duke will meet on Monday

NCAA Final Four - Butler v Michigan State

Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall crew. So go ahead, get your read on, kids.

+ Pat Forde writes that Monday’s national championship game could be better than the movies — and you know which movie he’s referring to. (ESPN.com)

+ Dana O’Neil writes that Butler advanced to Monday night’s title game by doing what it does best: play defense. (ESPN.com)

+ Our old friend Eamonn Brennan takes a first look at the final, including five things to keep in mind and some video analysis from Lucas Oil Stadium. (ESPN College Basketball Nation)

+ Matt Dollinger writes that Indianapolis is having no problem picking between Butler and Duke. (IU Final Four News Bureau)

+ Zina Kumok writes that rebounding and second-chance points were the difference in Duke’s win over West Virginia. (IU Final Four News Bureau)

+ DeAntae Prince writes that Da’Sean Butler’s injury prevented West Virginia from making a second-half run at Duke. (IU Final Four News Bureau)

+ Pete Thamel writes that Duke is thriving on balance, grit and defense. (The New York Times)

+ Jeff Goodman writes that Butler advancing to the national championship game is truly one of those unimaginable stories. (FoxSports.com)

+ Goodman also writes that Bob Huggins comforting Da’Sean Butler was a touching scene. (FoxSports.com)

+ Shannon Shelton reports that Durrell Summers is unsure if he’ll forgo his senior season to enter the NBA Draft. (Detroit Free Press)

+ Tom Izzo was a little ticked off and upset about a couple of calls following Michigan State’s loss to Butler. (Indianapolis Star)

+ Gary Parrish writes that if Duke continues to shoot like it did Saturday night, the Blue Devils will destroy Butler. (CBSSports.com)

That’s a Wrap: Bobby “The Situation” Capobianco

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to um, wrap up the 2009-10 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on.

Final Stats (31 games): 2.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 39.7% FG, 31.3% from three.

Bobby Capobianco
was so excited to be a Hoosier that I’m not entirely sure he slept the night before he faxed in his letter of intent. What I do know is that his was the first the IU staff received on the first day of the signing period in late 2008, and his enthusiasm didn’t seem to waiver much after that.

Capobianco, whose nickname, seen above, Chris Korman never adequately explained to me, was as physical a body as the Hoosiers had all year. His willingness to get in the mix down low was rarely a problem — its only shortcomings were that a) it led to plenty of foul trouble and b) it wasn’t infectious enough.

Review game tape, and you’ll see Capobianco was one of the most vocal and demonstrative players Indiana had this season. As the year wore on, more and more of said vocalization seemed laced with frustration, which is understandable. Frankly, IU needed more players like Capobianco and Verdell Jones, not less. It’s only through that kind of demanding attitude this team will ever get better.

Offensively, Capobianco was never really a force, nor was he expected to be. His two best games, oddly enough, were George Mason (seven points, 10 rebounds) and Northwestern (eight points, seven rebounds), two games that could not have had more starkly different impact or meaning for IU as a team. Still, rarely did Capobianco make an appearance and not at least fulfill at least his most basic expectations.

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Around the Hall: Tournament expansion seems inevitable

Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall crew. So go ahead, get your read on, kids.

Dan Guerrero, NCAA chairman of the Division I men’s basketball committee, Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs and Greg Shaheen, NCAA senior vice president of basketball and business strategies met with the media today in Indianapolis to discuss expansion of the tournament. A transcript from the press conference is available here. As you might deduct from the headline, all signs point to expansion. Reaction from bloggers and writers from around the Web below:

+ “So there you have it. The NCAA wants more money, even at the expense of revealing itself to be apparently unconcerned with the notion of “student athletes,” supposedly one of the core reasons it exists. Isn’t this the major argument against a college football playoff?” – Eamonn Brennan, ESPN College Basketball Nation

+ “What’s really at issue here is a great deal of hypocrisy. This might sound like a bit of a straw man argument, but there are detractors of a college football playoff system who balk at the notion of kids missing so much class for those games. So why isn’t the same principle applied in this instance?” – Chris Littman, The Sporting Blog

+ “It seems the 96-team tournament is all but a done deal. The fans don’t like it. But the NCAA and television networks want it. And even worse, after today’s press conference, it appears that the NCAA has absolutely no idea how to go about instituting this. Sounds like a pretty perfect plan.” – Ryan Hudson, SB Nation

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That’s A Wrap: Derek Elston

Jimmy V ClassicWelcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to um, wrap up the 2009-10 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on.

Final Stats (31 games): 5.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 47.0% FG, 65.2% FT, 36.0% from three.

Thinking back on the season, I was under the impression Derek Elston only saw significant minutes the last few games of the season. This assumption isn’t quite true: Elston logged 20 or more minutes in games against USC Upstate, Maryland, Kentucky and Purdue inside Assembly Hall.

But against Ohio State at home? Six minutes. At Penn State? Seven minutes. Against Iowa in that disappointing loss at home? Nine minutes.

And this brings to mind one word to describe Elston’s season: sporadic.

When the freshman did see time on the court, he was a joy to watch; Elston is the type of player that always seems to be in the right place at the right time — putting back misses on the offensive end, snaking behind the defense for a clean look … Elston has a knack for the game and usually finds himself in the mix in a good way.

So why wasn’t this kid playing more all season in a year where playing time was certainly there for him?

Well, Tom Crean had a short leash with Elston. He’d pull him quickly if he lapsed defensively. If he failed to box his man out, he’d be taking a seat on the bench.

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That’s A Wrap: Christian Watford

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - First Round

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to um, wrap up the 2009-10 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on.

Final Stats (31 games): 12.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 37.5% FG, 80% FT, 19 blocks, 16 steals.

Considered one of the prized pieces of Indiana’s 2009 recruiting class, Christian Watford stepped onto campus in Bloomington with the expectation he’d make significant contributions from the get-go.

In fact, Tom Crean introduced him to fans at Hoosier Hysteria as the kid from Birmingham who had turned down the likes of Kentucky, Louisville and Memphis to be a Hoosier. This, as you would expect, drew quite a round of applause from the Assembly Hall faithful.

And for the most part, Watford lived up the expectations that come along with being a consensus top-50 recruit.

He was third on the team in scoring. He led the team in rebounding, despite being asked to play out of position for most of the season. He hit free throws at a remarkably efficient rate for a 6-9 freshman (116 of 145). He turned in one of his best performances in Indiana’s most impressive win of the season over Pittsburgh, scoring 18 points (12 of 15 FT) and grabbing five rebounds. He was named one of the five best freshman in the Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

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