Dick Jerardi: February trumps March Madness

Posted: February 08, 2012

MARCH IS just about everybody's favorite month of the college basketball season. I am partial to February.

You don't need to look at a calendar to know it's February. Just check out the stress level of coaches. You can see it etched on their faces.

When your future depends on the whims of teenagers who may have just broken up with their girlfriends, you would be stressed, too.

You wonder why the basketball gods dislike you so much. You become convinced everybody is out to get you. You are absolutely positive nobody from your team will ever make another shot.

It is about this time every season when coaches no longer complain about most calls. They begin to complain about every call.

March may be when the general public gets into the game. The coaches know that if their team does not make it happen in February, there is no March.


As promised, here is this season's list. I counted 16 former Big 5 assistants who are now head coaches. Let's do it by school. When an assistant was at two schools, I will list his first school. I am not counting four of the present Big 5 head coaches who were also assistants here.


Paul Hewitt (George Mason). He could not break through the North Carolina/Duke axis in the ACC at Georgia Tech, but has GMU (19-6, 11-2 Colonial) playing great in his first season there.

Joe Jones (Boson University). The Terriers are 13-13 overall, but 9-3 in America East, going for a second consecutive league title.

Patrick Chambers (Penn State). The Nittany Lions lost four senior starters from an NCAA team so it was clear this would be a rebuild for the first-year coach who left Jones a nice nucleus at BU. In a season when any Big Ten win is going to be a good one, PSU is 10-14 overall, 2-9.

Mitch Buonaguro's team (Siena) is 10-13 and 5-8 in the Metro Atlantic.

And Paul Cormier (Dartmouth). Nobody wins in Hanover and Cormier is no different with a team that is 4-18, 0-6 Ivy.


Fran O'Hanlon (Lafayette) runs one of America's best offenses and is one of the game's best people. His team is 10-13, 5-3 in the Patriot.

Fran McCaffery (Iowa) got some attention for beating up that chair at Michigan State, but it could have been for his coaching. The improving Hawkeyes are 13-11, 5-6 Big Ten.

Steve Donahue (Boston College) had his first BC team on the verge of the NCAA after the great run at Cornell. He is starting over with very young players this season and is 7-16, 2-7 ACC.

Matt Langel (Colgate) went from Penn to Temple with Fran Dunphy. He inherited a team that did not have much and is just trying to survive his first season. His team is 7-16, 1-7 Patriot.


Monte Ross (Delaware) has his best team. It is 11-12, 7-6 CAA and, without a few brutal late losses, would be much better.

Matt Brady (James Madison) appeared to have a CAA contender when his team was here over Thanksgiving weekend, but it is not happening. JMU is 10-15, 3-10.

Mike Rice (Rutgers) has a very young team that has been good enough to get some huge upsets and inconsistent enough to be 12-12 overall, 4-7 Big East.


John Gallagher (Hartford) often has four freshmen on the floor at the same time. Give him a season or two with this group and then watch out. The Hawks are 4-19 overall, 4-7 America East. Gal was also an assistant at Penn after earlier stints at Lafayette and Hartford.

Joe Mihalich (Niagara) had a rare down season last year. In rebuild mode, his team is 9-16, 4-9 MAAC.

Randy Monroe (UMBC) has had a few down seasons after coaching the best team in school history to the NCAA Tournament. The Retrievers are 3-19, 2-8 America East.


Mark Macon (Binghamton) is having a complete nightmare of a season. His team is 0-23, 0-11 America East.

Since this is assistant coaches' week, I have to include former players who are now head coaches, but were not assistants here. If I were including Big 5 coaches, Penn's Jerome Allen and Temple's Fran Dunphy would be on this list.

That list would include Jeff Neubauer (La Salle) at Eastern Kentucky (13-12, 6-6 Ohio Valley), Andy Toole (Penn) at Robert Morris (17-8, 8-4 Northeast) and, of course, Bruiser Flint (St. Joe's), having a great season at Drexel (19-5, 11-2 CAA).

Former Big 5 players O'Hanlon (Villanova), Macon (Temple), Langel (Penn), Gallagher (St. Joe's), Mihalich (La Salle) and McCaffery (Penn) played and coached here.

And there is former Drexel assistant Chuck Martin, now the head coach at Marist (8-15, 3-9 MAAC)

Former Drexel coach Bill Herrion is 8-14, 3-8 America East at New Hampshire.


On paper, Drexel may not look like an NCAA at-large team, but, once the selection committee is told that Chris Fouch missed some of the early games with an injury, it starts to look a lot better. If the team that is playing now were playing in November, the record, already gaudy at 19-5, would be even better.

The Dragons have won 11 straight and 17 of 18. Point guard Frantz Massenat has made 33 consecutive free throws, one shy of the school record. None of the Dragons' last 13 opponents has scored 60 points. If they win at James Madison tonight, Drexel will have the school's first consecutive 20-win seasons since the 1995-96 and 1996-97 teams.

If the Dragons can get a nice Bracket Buster win at Cleveland State and win the CAA regular season, I think they will have a legitimate at-large chance, even if they don't win the CAA Tournament.

The fact that the CAA has had teams in the Final Four in 2006 and 2011 is not supposed to matter, but, at the very least, it has to be in the back of the voters' minds.

When you watch the Dragons play, you really don't need any paper to explain. This is a really good team that has been getting better all season.

If they keep playing at this level, I can't imagine them not being one of the 38 best at-large possibilities on Selection Sunday.


* When you think how close Temple came to the Sweet 16 last season (double OT loss to San Diego State), you have to think the Owls have a big shot to get there this season. It is fascinating to watch how Fran Dunphy's teams evolve over a season. What you see in November is rarely what you see in February.

What we are seeing now looks as if it should play quite well in March. This will be the fourth NCAA Tournament for Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez. That will definitely matter.

Matchups are always key, but I don't think any team is going to look forward to seeing Temple in the early rounds of this NCAA.

* I have always hated the plethora of offensive fouls in the game so I love the new restricted arc in front of the basket. If a help-defender is on or inside the arc when there is contact, it has to be a blocking foul.

The problem is that it is still a very difficult call for officials because they have to watch for so much with so many bodies in the way that it is quite difficult to also see where a player's feet are.

Here is a suggestion. If you are not sure, call a block. If the player is not inside the circle, it is probably some kind of an acting job anyway. Players with their head under the net should never be able to draw a charge.

* North Carolina leads the nation in rebound margin (plus +11.6 per game).

* Drexel is No. 1 in three-point defense (25.9 percent).

* Ohio State is No. 1 in scoring margin (plus-21.0 points per game).

* UNC point guard Kendall Marshall has 226 assists and just 66 turnovers, a terrific 3.42 assist/turnover ratio.

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