Ray Ratto

Bennett's Gaels must capitalize on national attention

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Bennett's Gaels must capitalize on national attention

When you get Randy Bennett liquored up (and so far, only a few have ever seen it), you can surely get him to admit that his greatest goal as Saint Marys head coach is to become the next Butler, Xavier or, yes, Gonzaga.You know. The automatic non-automatic qualifier.It is the one thing he hasnt done in Bucolica . . . er, Moraga, and this is his best chance yet to do so. Ranked in the teens until this week, 22-3, set up for a Bracket Buster showdown with media darling Murray State Saturday, a down year nationally how can it possibly go wrong this time?Nobody knows. But it can. It always can. Bennett has seen better teams than this one get the tournament committees backhand. Once, because Patty Mills broke his hand and obstinately refused to heal quickly enough for its satisfaction. Once because the strength of schedule was held against him.

But the point is, hes never been to successive NCAAs, and he wont this time either. Hes taken teams in 2005, 2008 and 2010, the last of which got to the round of 16 before getting pasted by Baylor.Its hard to be a perennial mid-major NCAA entrant, after all, because the committee has been shifting away from mid-majors slowly but surely over the past several years, and Saint Marys has done all the bubble-balancing it can stand.Bennett, though, has been Gonzagas equal over the past seven seasons, even down to resisting job opportunities the way Mark Few has in Spokane. Thus, despite having been one of the best 20 teams in the country by every legitimate and subjective standard, Bennett knows that this is the year the Gaels need to make a deep enough run to convince the committee that they deserve the benefit of the doubt every bit as much as the Zags, Musketeers and, until this year, the Bulldogs.To manage that, they need to be convincing travelers at Murray State, and they need to take their five-seed and make it last awhile in the tournament. It is generally agreed that the falloff this year comes after eight teams, which means that the Gaels are on par with anyone in the nation save your Kentucky-Syracuse-Missouri tier.In short, there is much to play for Saturday in Tennessee. There is much to do in Las Vegas in the conference tournament. There is an enormous amount to do come the NCAAs.More than anything else, there is this to do: to show that the Gaels are ready to be that next perennial mid-major the kind of team that has to play its way off the board than has to play its way onto it. People are watching now. And waiting with greater interest than ever.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

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AP

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
 
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
 
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
 
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
 
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
 
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
 
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”