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John Fanta, Field of 68 College Basketball Analyst

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
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March 31, 2023 6:36 pm

John Fanta, Field of 68 College Basketball Analyst

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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March 31, 2023 6:36 pm

John Fanta joined Zach to discuss which coach has the most to gain this weekend and how impressive Miami's run to the Final Four has been. 

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That's right, it is the Zach Gelb Show Coast to Coast on CBS Sports Radio. You know the matchups by now. FAU, San Diego State, then on the nightcap, UConn going up against Miami. And let's head down to the site of the Final Four right now in H-Town in Houston and talk to a man that's all over the scene for the field of 68 in Fox Sports.

And that, of course, is Jon Fanta. Jon, happy Final Four Friday. How are you? Zach, happy Final Four Friday to you. Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be checking in.

Coming to you from inside NRG Stadium following open practice day here. There's always a buzz no matter what. It's a different one this time around, but I think at this point you always get to Friday and it's like anything, lead up to the Super Bowl. Can we get going? Can we kick this stuff off? And now about 24 hours away, I'm really intrigued to see what this Final Four brings because the fact is the road to getting to this point has been unpredictable.

I've never seen anything like it. The last two weeks I think have been the most entertaining NCAA tournament weeks that I've seen. You being there on the scene, what's been the biggest storyline? Well, I think that the biggest storyline today is that Jordan Hawkins is out with a stomach bug, was out of practice today. He's back at the hotel. He is resting but has a stomach bug.

It flared up last night. So the big storyline now is the Connecticut star who's a top 20 NBA draft pick waiting to happen Zach. He has been fantastic in this tournament. 44 points in the last two games. He really opens up UConn's offense. So the story today now is, alright, what's Hawkins' status? Andre Jackson of UConn told me in the last two hours that he fully expects Jordan Hawkins to play in this game.

But Jackson did say, look, you're always wondering when you're dealing with a stomach bug how it affects you, how it affects everything. So that's a big story. Beyond that, here's the big story collectively. Brian Dutcher of San Diego State is 31-6 on the season and the Aztecs under him the last four years have gone 107-22. They have the third best record in college basketball since 2019. That's ahead of Kansas and Baylor, the last two national champions. Florida Atlantic's played 38 games, Zach.

They've won 35 of them. Miami went to the Elite Eight a year ago and now is in the Final Four and I think a lot of people are surprised. But it's like, look at how far they went. I've never seen a team out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, a league that had a bad year but as prestigious as the ACC, now have a team in the Final Four that made the Elite Eight a year ago and people are acting shocked.

The storyline is this. For all the narratives out there about how this Final Four is a collection of teams that are out of nowhere and Cinderella the slipper and whatnot, these four coaches, these four teams, their mentality is we've won. All we've done is win. We didn't pull off one shocking win in the tournament. You know, UConn has rolled. But for the three others, we didn't pull off one shocking win in the tournament. No, we pulled off four wins to get here. This wasn't like FAU had an early moment in this tournament and then faded out. Like we sometimes say with March Madness, like early upset stakes for a worse tournament going forward.

No, these teams all kept proving it and proving it. And I genuinely think that whereas a lot of people are saying UConn is the clear front runner, I still think that the safe pick is obviously the Huskies. But the longer the week goes, the more that I listen to these teams, the more that I'm around these teams, the more I think, why not the field? Why not one of the other three with the way the nature that this season's gone?

It's kind of interesting to me, John Fanta, because you're right. You know, obviously FAU and San Diego State, no one's going to pick them to win the next two games. But for Miami, it is weird to me. I know UConn has been so dominant, they haven't had to break a sweat in this NCAA tournament, and they just go on these incredible runs. But it seems like no one's really giving the credit to Miami. And I actually like Miami tomorrow night. I don't understand, and I like UConn in this game, but I don't understand the lack of Miami love.

It makes no sense to me. First off, they're the most fun of the four teams to watch. If you watch their game against Texas, that was probably the most entertaining game of the tournament. And their backcourt's dominant, and you know that wins this time of the year.

Absolutely. That backcourt is playing insanely, insanely well right now. And when you have guys, how many teams can say this? In the last three games, Miami has had three different players score at least 26 points for them. That's crazy. It could be Isaiah Wong. It could be Nigel Pac.

It could be Jordan Miller, who had a late in their game, didn't miss from the floor. I just don't think that we've given them enough credit. And Jim Larranaga has this group in such a great mental state. In such a great mental state.

They are unflappable. I mean, a lot of people, myself included, you watch Miami play Texas. When that game's at 13, when the lead's at 13 with 13 minutes on the clock, you're saying, wow, it's going to be Connecticut and Texas.

Hey, that's a really interesting matchup. It's a big time game. The way that Miami battled back in that game, I feel like it's not getting discussed enough. In an Elite Eight game, to come back from 13 down against an opponent as great as Texas speaks volumes about this team. This team is not phased. They're not going to be rattled by UConn. I think it comes down to, when we get into these football stadiums and we're playing Final Four games, who's the better shot-making team?

Well, right now, Miami, they're making shots at an incredible rate. So, they belong. They've shown that they belong.

And, you know, you look back at their path. Drake was a common upset pick. Miami grinded it out. They really rolled past Indiana, a good Indiana team.

And then they beat Houston, a team that a lot of us thought would be here. So, I'm really impressed with their road. And I've got to tell you, Zach, one of the big takeaways from this week, just how great, just how great Jim Larunaga has been with the media. He's enjoying every second of this and it's refreshing to watch. He said, I'm having fun doing this.

I love doing this. I tell my team, NIL, Portal, I get it. But he's like, I'm going to come in here at three o'clock and if you want to become a better basketball player, that's what I can help you do. He's almost flooding all the things in the college basketball and college sports climate.

He's letting them all go on outside his home. But when his players step inside his house, he's saying, you know what, take a seat and let's make you better. And I think his players have been very receptive to that. Why has he been willing to adapt? Because a lot of coaches that are established, and we all know what Larunaga did, taking George Mason to the Final Four, they get up there in age, they get caught up in their ways and they don't adapt to the times. Why has Larunaga done that? Because he got retired, obviously, a few years ago. We all look at him for that tremendous run at George Mason.

But if he wins these next two games, man, to do that at two different spots is just ridiculous. It is. Hall of Fame material. Hall of Fame material. You know what, Jon, I'm glad you brought that up with how low the standard is sometimes for the Hall of Fame in basketball.

It's crazy that he's not already in it. Yes. Yes. And it's not like he's done it with the Lakers and the Celtics or Duke and Carolina. He's doing it at Miami.

Let's do an exercise here. Where would you put Miami in the ACC from a job standpoint, from a basketball standpoint? I don't know.

56? It's not a creme de la creme job. That's the thing. People, they hear Miami and they think football and they think big university, but for basketball, they've been a mess. A mess.

A mess. I mean, when I think of Miami football, the first image that pops into my head is actually Fiesta Bowl, Hurricanes, Ohio State. And Miami probably should have won the game. And Willis McGehee. That's what I think of.

I don't think of basketball. I think what he's done here is by being at the programs that he's at, the standard is insanely high, but he's the guy who has made the most out of what he's got. And now with NIL, look, there's never been a question of Miami athletics and money.

Yeah, that's for sure. And the glamour and the glitz and the scene there, that campus. I mean, Larinaga said, he goes, look, and he had the room laughing. He goes, I wake up every morning, I go grab a smoothie and I go walk around our campus and look at the beauty of it.

And the whole press room was chuckling at that because, let's face it, you get down to the U and life is beautiful down in Coral Gables. And so he's enjoying that. He enjoys this job. He loves where he's at. And why not? He's got a team of guys that just, they play.

They are unfazed. So I do think one big thing for tomorrow night, Zach, is what if it's close late? UConn has won their four NCAA tournament games by a combined 90 points.

What happens if we get into a one or two possession game late and this comes down to guard play? John Fanta here with us. So when we look at these coaches, John, most to gain out of the four, let's say you could have whoever you want to win the next two most to gain. How do you view that?

Wow. Great question. I'm actually, I mean, I'm going to say Dusty May because even though he's gained a ton, I still think, what if he wins the national championship? If he wins the national championship, his name is now going to be the hottest name at the next major job opening in the sport.

If it isn't already, if it isn't already. You know, I think that Clarinaga's gained a ton. I don't think he has the most to gain. He's 73 years old. Brian Dutcher, people know, people know what he's done, what he can do. He's been very successful. I mean, you win a national championship at San Diego State.

It's very notable. Danny Hurley, I mean, you could argue that Hurley's got a lot to gain here because if you, if you enter yourself in the class with Calhoun and then what they did in 2014 under Kevin Ollie and you become the third different UConn head coach, like it's big, but, but if Dusty May wins, if Dusty May wins, he's got the least to lose. He's got the least to lose. There's no way Dusty May can lose this weekend.

None. No way. But he's got the most to gain because if he somehow wins this national championship, Dusty May becomes the guy that engineered the most improbable national championship run in the history of college basketball. I'm not saying you're wrong because I don't think there's a wrong answer here, but I would actually go with Larinaga because if he finds a way to win these next two games, he has a national championship at Miami and then a final four appearance at George Mason.

I just think that puts him in a different category of one of, not the greatest coaches of all time, but one of the more impressive coaches of all time. All right. I look, I can get behind that. I can get behind that. I think, I don't think Jim has anything to lose. You know, I think when you get to the final four at that point, you, you don't, I mean, here's the thing.

This is now I'm with you on the Larinaga argument. It is big for Dan Hurley because we talk about Connecticut and are they a blue blood and the Yukon standard? You win a national championship now and remember Dan's only 50 like Dan Hurley wants this to be his last stop.

He could be the Yukon coach for the next 15 years. You win a national championship tomorrow night. What can this program be in college basketball?

I mean, they could be a dominant power every single year and a title surely helps. What decides FAU San Diego State, John Fanta? I think what decides it is FAU's individual players, John L Davis, Nick Boyd, Elijah Martin, their ability to make things happen on the perimeter. Because to beat San Diego State, you have to have individual playmaking to get through their team defense. That's how Creighton nearly beat San Diego State because Ryan Caulfrenner was fantastic.

Ryan Nembhard was, was really good for about 35 minutes. Trey Alexander, Baylor Shireman didn't have a great shooting day. I mean, nobody, here's the thing, nobody's had a good shooting day against San Diego State.

Nobody. Now you compound that with a football stadium and you wonder what's it going to look like. I mean, San Diego State has held their four opponents in the NCAA tournament to a combined 23 points below their scoring average per game. And they've held teams to 18% from three.

I mean, I just, I have to say, if somebody's going to beat the Aztecs, you've got to hit some timely shots. Now something's got to give because for Florida Atlantic, this is where the matchup could doom Florida Atlantic, to be honest. Florida Atlantic has made at least eight threes in all four of their NCAA tournament wins.

And those have all come in somewhat narrow fashion. I mean, by single digits. So to me, I think it's big that FAU finds someone to catch fire and someone to kind of ride behind. Now what they've got going for them is they've had balance. I mean, two of the four tournament games, they've had four guys in double figures. The other two, they've had three.

Like they do have options. FAU goes legit nine deep. But I think for San Diego State, if they can find someone they can play behind, whether it be Lamont Butler, Micah Parrish, if it is Matt Bradley. I think Matt Bradley is important tomorrow.

His last two games, he shot three for 17 from the floor. And yet the Aztecs have won. If Bradley plays a strong game, San Diego State will win. Jon Fanta, do you think Dusty May will stay for more than one year? Like, we'll know he'll be back next year. Do you think he stays a year after that? I don't see that.

Because I think you've got to cash in on your worth. And I think that he's going to get a power conference job. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a job in the Big East or the Big Ten. I think Dusty May, five or six years from now, could very well be the coach of the Indiana Hoosiers. Wow. How about that? Especially with his school, the Bobby Knight connection as well. That would be some story.

Yeah, that's right. Mike Woodson won't be around forever. I mean, he's done a nice job here in two years.

Nothing, nothing. I think Woody, I honestly think that a lot of people ripped Woody when he got hired. And I think, honestly, those people were wrong. I think Mike Woodson's done a good job at Indiana. Has it been the greatest job ever? No.

No. But he's done a nice job there. And we'll see what he does this upcoming year without Trace Jackson Davis. But the fact is, Mike Woodson's not going to be around forever.

So when that job opens, Dusty May is going to be a candidate, not a finalist. Last thing I'll ask you, John Fanta, can you see Jeff Goodman right now? I cannot see him right now.

I don't have my eyes on him at the moment. Do me a favor. Next time you see him, smack him over the head for me for saying Adam Fisher's a baffling hire by the Temple Owls, okay? All right, I will. You know, I will. And I think Adam Fisher has shown in his ability to recruit... Miami, hello?

Yeah, especially in that area, the New Jersey, Pennsylvania area. I'm telling you, Goodman, we know Portner already banned him from Providence. I'm banning him from Temple. He's not allowed on those campuses anymore. Is he allowed on your show? No, I don't... Maybe if I got to yell at him, sure.

But then, after that, I think we may ban him. It's been a very... I have to say this. It's been a very interesting March Madness from a media, politics perspective for a variety of reasons.

I mean, the people of Providence... I think I'm unbanned now. I think I'm okay. But my gosh, you know, I can only cover the stories that are happening. You know, I can't pick and choose.

And obviously, I mean, I got to tell you this, Zach. With us being Northeast Corridor guys and whatnot, the Big East next year is going to be insane. Oh, it's going to be awesome. The league is going to be dramatic as hell. Those Providence games going up against Georgetown, especially when they go back to Providence, that's going to be awesome, Jon. It really will be. Must see. That's a national media-type moment in the month of December or January or February, whenever it happens for College Hoops.

That's going to be a hot ticket and I think we'll see a lot of media out there. Even though I'm annoyed at Goodman right now, I have been enjoying all your coverage for the field of 68. Keep on pumping out great content and appreciate you always joining us. Zach, thank you so much. Let's enjoy the Madness here.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-31 20:11:03 / 2023-03-31 20:19:49 / 9

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