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Ashway: An early start for March Madness
Denton Ashway
DENTON ASHWAY

We haven’t even made it to March yet, and the Madness has already begun.

Incredibly, there’s a college basketball coach who had a worse weekend than Tom Crean.

Thank you, Juwan Howard.

The Michigan coach took exception to Wisconsin coach Greg Gard calling two timeouts in the final minute of the Badgers’ 77-63 defeat of Michigan on Sunday. The final timeout was called with but 15 seconds left on the clock.

According to Gard, he had his second team on the floor, and the final timeout gave them extra seconds to get the ball across midcourt.

Because Michigan was still pressing.

Still, you’re up by 15 with 15 seconds left. You’ve got to realize you’re showing up your opponent. Let your kids figure it out on the floor.

Sure enough, coming out of the timeout, a Michigan foul ensued. CBS announcers Andrew Catalon and Steve Lappas surmised that Howard may have “not been happy” about Gard’s time outs.

After the game, it appeared that Howard was going to walk right by Gard, but a local television audio picked up Howard saying, “I’ll remember that [expletive].” Gard then placed a hand on Howard’s arm, clearly trying to explain his timeout behavior.

Howard was heard saying, “Don’t [expletive] touch me!” and then grabbed Gard’s pullover. A heated dialogue with much finger pointing took place, and ultimately Howard slapped Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft on the side of his head with an open hand.

More pushing and shoving occurred as the teams converged, and other punches were thrown. Finally, the teams separated, and Michigan left the floor to a chant of “NIT…NIT…NIT.”

What a lovely scene. What sportsmanship.

And then Howard made things worse. He was anything but apologetic at his post-game press conference. “I didn’t like the time out they called, and I’m being totally honest with you. I thought it was unnecessary at that moment, especially with it being a large lead.

“I thought it wasn’t fair to our guys. And so that’s what happened.”

When asked what escalated the exchange, Howard said, “Someone touched me, and I think it was very uncalled for, for them to touch me, as we were verbalizing and communicating with one another.”

What a mess. And all so easily avoided. All it took was a little sportsmanship.

Michigan had scored 63 points in 39 minutes. They weren’t going to score 15 in the final minute. There was no need to still be pressing Wisconsin at that point. You pull your defense back, and let Wisconsin run down the clock.

No timeouts, no anger, no post-game conflagration.

The Madison Melee may have diverted what little attention is still being paid to the unfolding debacle that is Georgia men’s basketball.

Last week, embattled coach Tom Crean presided over his own confrontation. Assistant coach Wade Mason and director of player personnel Brian Fish apparently had an altercation during halftime of Georgia’s loss at LSU on Wednesday.

Mason has been suspended, albeit with pay, but we can’t say it had any effect on Georgia’s play. The Dawgs lost at LSU, 84-65, Wednesday, and lost Saturday to Ole Miss in Athens, 85-68.

“Obviously, an unfortunate situation that we’re dealing with,” Crean said at Saturday’s post-loss presser. “But it was handled correctly, and we try to focus on basketball. And, unfortunately, today we just didn’t play very well.”

Of course, “didn’t play very well” could describe virtually the entire season. But let’s look at the other key phrase: “it was handled correctly.”

Various reports had circulated by Saturday that Georgia was looking to fire Crean with cause due to his failure to properly report his assistants’ run-in to university authorities.

Like having to pay Crean’s severance of $3.2 million after the season will make a dent in Georgia’s athletic budget.

Nonetheless, Georgia issued a statement, saying “the incident in question was reported properly as required by University policies.”

Which means that Crean will remain Georgia’s coach for three more weeks. He’s compiled a 47-70 record in nearly four seasons, including this year’s hideous 6-21 (1-13 SEC). You must travel back to the ’55-’56 season to come across such ineptitude (3-21, 1-13). The ’73-’74 team came close (6-20, 2-16).

In the current NET rankings, Georgia hovers at 213. That’s behind such luminaries as Bellarmine, Campbell, Florida Gulf Coast, and Brown. And just ahead of UC Davis, LMU [Ca.] and Harvard.

If you’re mentioned with Ivy League schools in any way concerning athletics, it’s usually not the best place to be. Harvard is currently fourth in the Ivy League standings. Brown is eighth. Think about that.

This Georgia team is so bad it couldn’t even compete for the Ivy League title.

Madness.