Schott: Miller on March Madness, Knicks, Nets, NBA

(Jason Schott – NY Sports Day)

Reggie Miller will be on providing analysis for the NCAA Tournament on CBS and Turner Sports.

Miller was on hand at a March Madness Media Day with the announcers, and he spoke about the Tournament, Duke, Villanova, and possible Final Four teams, as well as the NBA, including the Warriors, Knicks, and Nets.

Jason Schott: What are the main themes in the Tournament this year?

Reggie Miller: Parity. In my opinion, there’s ten to 15 teams on a neutral court that could get to Houston and the Final Four. In years past, we had Kentucky and the young guys, we had Wisconsin and their senior leadership, we had Michigan State because of Tom Izzo, you had your core teams. This year, you see the fluctuation of the Number One teams have gone over the course of the year, there’s a lot of parity. Ten to 15 teams that could actually get to Houston.

JS: Do you see Duke repeating? 

RM: Absolutely, obviously it’s going to depend on their draw, their seed, where they’re located. There’s teams that are going to be ranked 20th, and again, they’re on a neutral court now, you’re not waiting for your home town. There’s some teams that are great at home, but that are good teams that are not great road teams, it will be interesting to see. (Note: This interview was conducted ahead of Selection Sunday. Duke is a 4 seed in the West regional, and their opening game is on Thursday at 12:15 pm against UNC Wilmington)

JS: Is this the year for Villanova?

RM: They’re one of my four teams. I love their senior leadership, their point guard, (Ryan) Arcidiacono, I like that young kid. They’ve been very disappointing the last couple of years, and (Head Coach) Jay Wright would probably be the first to admit that. They’ve got four or five seniors that have been together for over 100 wins for that university, and I think this is going to be the time where you can certainly pencil them in for a Final Four.

JS: Could we see a surprise, like Texas coached by Shaka Smart, make a run?

RM: His style is always conducive to this tournament because you don’t have a lot of time to prep for it. I mean, he suffers during his conference play because you have time to rewind and prepare for him. Come tournament time, it’s tough to prepare for that system. Certainly, Shaka and Texas can. Texas A&M, I think, is another team that can make a run, West Virginia are two of my dark horses, Bob Huggins and that aggressive defensive style, they really get after you defensively, they’ll turn you over, they’re second in steals in the country, almost 10 a game, offensive rebounds. These are all recipes that are great for tournament play because you need that type of leadership, those types of skills to be successful.

JS: Pitt got a big win against Duke at the end of the regular season, and they haven’t made much noise in the Tournament, could this be a year for them?

RM: It could be, and that’s the beauty of what we’re going to see starting in less than a week. You have your mainline teams like a Kansas, Villanova, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Xavier, you know, Xavier is a team, like where did they come from? They’ve been there all year. Senior leadership, well coached, and you put Pitt in there. These teams, you never know, and that’s what’s going to be great.

JS: There’s parity here, while the NBA is completely different. In the East, I can’t see anybody beating Cleveland, and the West will be between four teams, Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and the LA Clippers. 

RM: You’re certainly on the right path there, and I would not be surprised if we have a surprise upset from the lower half. It’s been very top heavy in both conferences. In the East, obviously, Cleveland is the clear favorite, but don’t be surprised if Toronto or my dark horse, Boston. Boston plays extremely hard, they’re young, they’re very good defensively. I think Isaiah Thomas has grown, being an All-Star, has grown into being their closer, their go-to guy. Defensively, they can compete, but still a long shot to beat Cleveland and LeBron James in a seven-game series.

Out West, obviously, you start with the Warriors and what they’re doing. But other that those top four, OKC, San Antonio, and the Clippers, that’s a pretty good final four though. In the semifinal round, I’d like to see that. It’s unfortunate that you have two of the best teams, San Antonio and the Warriors in the same conference, would be nice to see them in The Finals.

JS: A little closer to home, what about the Knicks?

RM: What about ’em? Same old story. High expectations, they were going to try to make a push for the playoffs, and they’ve come up short. You could just replay my last year’s response and it would probably be the same thing.

JS: Whereas your old team, the Pacers, just keep chugging along.

RM: They do, they’ve lost a lot of close games this year, but they’ve tried a new style this year. I like the new guy, Myles Turner, I think he’s played great for them; picking up Monta (Ellis) has been good, Paul George, as you know, has returned to form. They could be a scary playoff team, just for the simple fact of the way the league is set up now, where they want the freedom of play. You’ve got guards like George Hill and Monta (Ellis) and Paul George, they can get you buckets, and now that they’ve got a defensive guy back down low, a younger guy, in Myles Turner, they can be a scary team.

JS: When do you think you’ll ever be in Brooklyn again with TNT?

RM: You’l have to ask my bosses that, I don’t pick the schedule.

JS: When do you think the Nets will be good again?

RM: They have no draft picks for a while. If you’re a Nets fans, it could be a long haul.

JS: What do you think of the Nets new General Manager, Sean Marks?

RM: He’s under that (Gregg) Popovich and San Antonio tree. If Sam Presti, Danny Ferry, and all these other general managers and presidents, if you follow their success and how they’ve orchestrated, all these guys have fallen under the R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs tree, so hopefully things around the corner can turn for them.

JS: My wild card to get the Knicks or Nets jobs is Rick Pitino, that this is the way he parachutes out of scandal-scarred Louisville.

RM: College basketball’s been so good to Coach Pitino, it would be hard for me to see him at the next level. Obviously, we’ve seen that with Billy Donovan and Fred Hoiberg making that jump. Pitino has done it before, but he’s such an icon, father figure when you think of collegiate basketball. Personally, I would be sad, but could not fault him if he’d want to make that jump.

JS: Could you see John Calipari leaving Kentucky for the NBA, possibly the Nets job?

RM: Well, look, he gets five of the McDonald’s All-Americans every year, he’s in the Final Four every single year because he gets the top players, and those players end up being either the Number One draft pick or in the top ten, so why would you want to leave that for the professional level? I think he has a great system there at Kentucky, so it would be hard for me to leave, unless he’s getting tired of the grind of recruiting these guys.

JS: What do you think of the Championship Game being on TBS?

RM: We feel that we put on the best sports programming, so to have the Championship on TBS, I’m elated. it’s a partnership, you’re gonna have half the CBS guys and half Turner and TBS guys, so we all get to enjoy the proof and the labor.

JS: When do you think TNT will make a play for the NBA Finals?

RM: I think that’s down the road because, if you could have a national championship football game on cable, which they did this year on ESPN, you’re gonna have it here for the NCAA, why can’t you have it (the NBA Finals) on cable?

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