College basketball writer discusses the upcoming Final Four, Maryland basketball

Q&A with The Sun's Don Markus

April 02, 2004|By Baltimoresun.com Staff

Don Markus has been at The Sun since 1985. During his tenure, he covered University of Maryland men's basketball for 11 years. He will be covering his 20th Final Four tournament this weekend.

Brian, Columbia: Duke and Connecticut seem to be the best two teams remaining, by far, yet they'll meet in the semis. There's been talk of re-seeding at the Final Four, which would wreck many bracket pools, which are a big reason for the tournament's popularity. Though the NCAA will never admit catering to gambling, do you think this is why we don't see re-seeding to get the best championship game?

Don Markus: I think the NCAA has confused enough of us with its pod system, which actually does seem to work. The average college basketball fan might be able to figure it out if the teams were suddenly re-seeded for the Final Four, but I think they're actually worried that most sportswriters like me would have problems so they're going to keep it as is.

Bill, Seattle: Where do you think the University of Maryland Terrapins will be ranked in the next fall's Preseason Top 25?

Don Markus: Definitely No. 16. No, actually, Gary Williams has sent a personal check to the Associated Press if they promise not to rank his team so he can use that as the focus of his us-against-the world speeches until, say, March. (Kidding, of course).

Jim Jackson, Santa Monica, Calif.: Living in Southern California for the past 20 years, all I hear is that there is an East Coast media bias when it comes to college basketball. What do you think?

Don Markus: Living on the East Coast for the past 50 years, there is definitely a bias and given what happened to Stanford, Gonzaga and Arizona this season, it's well-deserved. Throw out the UCLA dynasty -- highlighted with a New Yorker named Lewis Alcindor -- and West Coast teams have accounted for three championships in the last 40 years. That's not bias, that's fact.

Tom, Aberdeen: What will it take for Towson University basketball to come back?

Don Markus: Well, they've tried to change coaches and leagues a few times since the days of Terry Truax, so maybe they should start by getting better players. That, or join the Patriot League. Or call Terry.

Bill, Towson: What do you think the chances are of an NCAA all-Atlantic Coast Conference championship game? What would that mean for the conference's reputation and finances?

Don Markus: Being the risk taker that I am, the chances are 50-50. No, I think the ACC will be lucky to get one of its teams into Monday night's game and it will depend on how effective Georgia Tech's B.J. Elder is against Oklahoma State playing with a sprained ankle and if Emeka Okafor's back acts up against Duke.

Dave, Lutherville: University of Connecticut center Emeka Okafor, a junior who will graduate after three years, is likely to turn pro. Do you expect UConn's Ben Gordon -- or any other underclassmen from the Final Four teams to follow him into the pros. Also, will Okafor be the No. 1 pick in the draft?

Don Markus: Are you an agent? Gordon had a great weekend in Phoenix, but he needs another year in Storrs. So does just about everyone else in the Final Four except for Duke's Luol Deng, who is probably among the top 15 players for his size in the world. I thought Okafor was going to be the No. 1 pick until these back problems popped up. Now I figured it out. You're an NBA general manager trying to use my expertise.

Norman, Annapolis: Are Duke and UConn now the top college basketball programs? Isn't their semi-final game the real NCAA championship?

Don Markus: Unless they cut down the nets and play that sappy CBS song after the Duke-UConn game, I think the winner of the other game might get a little upset. In fact, don't be surprised to see the champion come out of the first semifinal.

A Baltimoresun.com reader in Baltimore County: How is it that Eddie Sutton has resurrected himself at Oklahoma State? Wasn't he the coach of Kentucky when they were placed on probation, before Rick Pitino took over there?

Don Markus: Didn't you read our Web site Thursday? If you didn't read the story about college basketball's second-chance team - some guy named Markus wrote it. It's available on Baltimoresun.com.

A baltimoresun.com reader in Baltimore: Why are teams out West so consistently bad? Even perennial powers Arizona and Stanford were weaker this year. With three East Coast teams in the Final Four, what's holding back the West?

Don Markus: Hey, the West Coast has a lot going for it. Better weather (at least in L.A.), some of the best cities (San Francisco, Portland), more Starbucks. And you remember what the Beach Boys said, but we're not going to go there. In other words, the East Coast has to be good for something.

Mike, Lauraville: Do you think the NCAA is hypocritical in making so much money off these athletes while purporting to run an "amateur" sports program, and penalizing the players for such things as accepting free shoes or jerseys?

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