Fast Break: Did Cal coach cross line or not?

Mike Montgomery was not about to apologize for this. His method had worked, his team had won.

So, no, the Cal coach did not regret shoving star guard Allen Crabbe during Sunday’s win over USC.

“It worked, didn’t it?” he told the Associated Press.

All that ever really matters in sports are wins and losses. That’s a lesson you can learn over and over and over again watching sports. Coaches get involved in scandals, but for the most part they get fired only if they were losing. Athletes sabotage their coaches, but if the athlete is a good enough player, he won’t get cut. Some school gets busted cheating, but the only people who really are outraged are that school’s rivals.

Worked, didn’t it?

That’s the way it is and the way it always will be, and it doesn’t sound like there was even a single casualty as a result of The Montgomery Shove (we can make it a proper noun for fun, can’t we?). After the game, Crabbe described it as water under the  bridge, possibly because he scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half.

“He’s my coach; no hard feelings,” Crabbe said. “We’re just going to keep moving on.”

In the heat of the moment, that looked impossible. Teammates got involved. One of them grabbed Crabbe by the jersey. There was a heated discussion in a hallway. It looked chaotic. It would not have been surprising if Crabbe had just gone into the locker room, packed up his stuff, thrown on a pair of headphones and walked out of there for good.

But he did not leave. He came back, and he played better.

Somewhere, there is a line. A punch, for example, clearly would be on the wrong side of that line. The Pac-12 and Cal’s AD both reprimanded Montgomery on Monday, and the coach apologized. Does that mean he really crossed the line?

It is clear in this case that the coach knew his player, knew which buttons to push, and the player trusted that his coach was trying to do what’s best for him.

But, man, it’s a good thing Cal won.

Enough with the Buckeyes

Ohio State is obviously not a Top 25 team. This is obvious because every time Ohio State plays a Top 25 team, it loses.

The Buckeyes are 1-7 against  the Top 25, with that lone win coming against Michigan. And we all know Ohio State-Michigan is one of those “throw out the records” games.

A basic statistical analysis helps us understand this. Ohio State is not particularly good at anything. It is the No. 5 scoring team in the Big Ten, No. 3 in points allowed, No. 4 in field goal percentage and field goal percentage allowed, No. 3 in 3-point shooting, No. 6 in rebound margin.

And so on it goes.

The Buckeyes are a solid team, but really what they are is a matchup team. If you’re the kind of team that relies heavily on your point guard for scoring and don’t have a forward athletic enough to play defense inside and out, Ohio State is going  to give you problems, because guard Aaron Craft is the best on-ball defender in college basketball and forward Deshaun Thomas is a matchup nightmare.

But if you’re the kind of team that plays through the post (as most Top 25 teams are) and has a couple of athletic 6-foot-7 guys (as most Top 25 teams do), you’re not going to be so bothered by the Buckeyes.

The All-Alumni Team

The NBA All-Star weekend got me thinking about this: If you were drawing  from a pool of active NBA players, and you sorted them based on which college they attended, which school would have the best team?


C – Ryan Hollins

F – Kevin Love

F – Matt Barnes

G – Russell Westbrook

G – Jrue Holiday

Really good team with a weak spot in the paint. That’s OK, though. Luc Longley said so.


C – DeMarcus Cousins

F – Anthony Davis

F – Tayshaun Prince

G – Rajon Rondo

G – John Wall

Nobody is scoring on these guys.


C – LaMarcus Aldridge

F – Tristan Thompson

F – Kevin Durant

G – Avery Bradley

G – D.J. Augustin

Anybody who has Durant is going to be in great shape, especially if you have a reliable post scorer for balance.

North Carolina

C – Tyler Zeller

F – Tyler Hansbrough

F – Danny Green

G – Vince Carter

G – Ty Lawson

You’d think North Carolina would have a better team here. Alas, it’s the Twin Tylers in the post.


C – Emeka Okafor

F – Andre Drummond

F – Rudy Gay

G – Ray Allen

G – Kemba Walker

That perimeter is not to be trifled with.


C – Joakim Noah

F – David Lee

F – Cory Brewer

G – Chandler Parsons

G – Brad Beal

Beal is not a point guard, but Florida does not have a point guard in the NBA right now. This would be a big problem against UCLA, UConn and Kentucky.

If this were a tournament, I think the finals would be UCLA vs. Kentucky. The Wildcats would get past Texas because Prince would guard Durant, and do about as good a job of that as can be done. Kentucky would own the paint against the Bruins and, as long as Wall kept his head on straight, would win the game.

Hypothetical champ: Kentucky.

Player of the Year Watch

We’re done with Mason Plumlee in this space. Seth Curry is the Blue Devils’ go-to guy anyway, and Plumlee went 2 for 7 for four points and three rebounds in Saturday’s loss to Maryland. And he played 33 minutes. And he fouled out.

None of the top five teams (Indiana, Miami, Gonzaga, Michigan State and Florida) has a great POY candidate, so this is probably coming back to Trey Burke at Michigan, although Kansas freshman Ben McLemore deserves a mention. He’s the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 (16.7 ppg) behind Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, and he shoots 51 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

They said it

“If you take Bruce Ellington off our team, you’d probably have the 12 leading candidates for the starring roles in . . . ‘The Return of the Living Dead’, the zombie movie.” – South Carolina coach Frank Martin after Thursday’s 64-46 home loss to LSU.

“I’ve been doing this for 28 years, nine of which as a junior varsity high school coach. That means I’ve dealt with 14-year-olds. I’ve never been more embarrassed to call myself a basketball coach than I am today.” – Martin again. Epic rant.

“Nobody knew that it was the real head until an hour ago.” – Kyle McCay, marketing manager for a North Carolina bookstore, where the stolen head of the Duke mascot turned up hours before the Duke-North Carolina tip-off last week. The head was found impaled at Student Stores the morning of the game. It was soon returned.

Ups and Downs

Up: Kansas

All is right in Lawrence again, as the Jayhawks bounced back from a three-game losing streak to blow out Kansas State and Texas. However, a game at the notoriously problematic Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., still looms.

Down: NC State

My goodness, what a frustrating team. So talented, so erratic. Three straight losses, then they barely beat Clemson.

Up: Michigan State

Izzo, baby. Izzo. Sparty always comes on strong at the end.

Down: Missouri

When y’all gonna start listening to the Fast Break on these things? Losing to Arkansas is bad.

Up: Gonzaga

I can’t believe two people actually voted Gonzaga No. 1. That’s preposterous. Totally. I’ll give credit where it’s due for winning eight games in a row, but Gonzaga has played only three games against Top 25 teams, and lost two of them.

Down: Minnesota

What happened, Gophers? Oh yeah, conference play began. And Minnesota has lost more than half of its Big Ten tests.

Crystal ball

The officials swallow their whistles, making Tuesday’s Michigan State-Indiana matchup the most intense, frustrating, hot mess of a college basketball game this season. (That means Michigan State wins).

Wednesday: Kansas always has trouble in Stillwater, Okla., whether the Cowboys are any good or not. This year they’re good, and they sweep Kansas and take control of the Big 12 race.

Saturday, Miami is due for a stinker, but Wake Forest just isn’t good enough.