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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

of mice and men

-- Raleigh News & Observer Columnist Ned Barnett suggests that "[North] Carolina is back." Following today's game, Maryland fans would tend to agree. As would I, now 1-0 in my predictions for this weekend.

-- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will soon appear in a television commercial promoting a new sports stadium for Manhattan's West Side. His support for the project may be a matter of principle, but I'd love to know how much bling the Jets sent his way in return.

"It's really a sports stance. I'm in favor of stadiums," Boeheim said. "If they wanted to build a stadium in Albany, I would probably be in support of that. They asked me, and I think it's a good project and will benefit the people and the state." The ad, which is airing in the Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse markets for the next couple of weeks, was paid for by the New York Jets.

It features Boeheim saying the proposed stadium, opposed by some community groups and the owners of Madison Square Garden, would attract big events to New York City such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA championship, which Syracuse won in 2003 in New Orleans. "Winning the national championship was a dream come true," Boeheim says in the commercial. "But it would have been even better if we had played the Final Four here in New York."

-- Tommy Trujillo of the New Mexico hopes the Lobos "Cowboy Up" for Mountain West Conference play. I hope beat writers stop employing the phrase "Cowboy Up."

-- The South Bend (IN) Tribune's Tom Noie writes an article about Torin Francis' diminished role with the Fighting Irish, quoting Francis several times, each to the read-between-the-lines effect that Torin believes he should be getting more minutes. Tribune editors, however, title the piece "Francis fine with revised role." Ugh.

-- The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens learns the cost to Indiana of terminating Mike Davis' contract before July 1st (when coach is scheduled to receive a performance bonus of $300,000): $737,500.

-- ESPN starts its 19th season of "Big Monday" on, well, Monday. Later in the week, ESPN & ESPN2 will air games as part of "Super Tuesday "(Big Ten, Southeastern Conference), "ACC Wednesday" (Atlantic Coast Conference plus some Conference USA doubleheaders), and "Throwdown Thursday" (ACC, Conference USA plus other selected games).

-- Paulius Joneliunas, South Carolina's 6'10" sophomore center, has announced his intent to transfer to American University. His departure takes little away from Dave Odom's basketball team but raises questions about coach's ability to keep kids in his program.

Joneliunas' decision means a player has left USC's roster before completing his eligibility in each of the last four seasons. Issa Konare and Greg Taylor transferred following the 2002 season, Marcus Morrison transferred in spring 2003, and Jarod Gerald left for academic reasons following the fall semester last season.

-- Terry Wood, sports editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times, notes Stan Heath is happy his Razorbacks are flying under the national radar. But at 13-1, the gig's up. Heath deserves mention as among college basketball's rising stars. Given a choice between John Calipari and Stan Heath, whom would you pick to lead your program? Exactly.

-- Rob Schultz of the Madison (WI) Capital Times examines the symbiotic relationship between Wisconsin's Sharif Chambliss and Kam Taylor. Bo Ryan, I would guess, majored in chemistry in college.

-- After today's defeat at the hands of Ohio State, Iowa has lost two straight. Is Steve Alford back on the bubble?

-- Dwyane Wade: "The first time I saw Travis [Diener], I was thinking to myself, 'Oh, my God, what is Coach thinking? What are we doing recruiting this kid?'"

-- Kathy Orton pens a "special to the Washington Post" about the relationship between Georgetown's current offense under JTIII and Princeton's "stall ball." Not too shabby, those Hoyas. After defeating Pittsburgh a few days ago, they today played well against Connecticut.

-- At the half, Duke is in a -- you guessed it -- close game against Temple. With a short bench, the Blue Devils still (always) find a way to win. They just do it with smaller margins. Against worse competition. More significantly, Texas Tech leads Oklahoma State. I would be shocked if the Cowboys didn't turn it around in the second half.


Friday, January 07, 2005

the out the door edition

I'm off like a prom dress and will spend the next couple days partying, attending an Inaugural Ball, and skiing. I may be back sporadically -- likely tomorrow afternoon -- but posting, on the whole, should be light through Monday night.

-- The never-ending coaching saga continues at USC. Athletic Director Mike Garrett yesterday told the Los Angeles Times that the school continues to negotiate with Tim Floyd. It appears the Trojans can't find a coach who'll make up his mind in a reasonable amount of time. Rick Majerus made two decisions too quickly; first to sign, then to renege. Floyd can't make a decision soon enough.

-- Less than a week after it was reported he would be back this weekend, Lou Henson remains hospitalized with pneumonia. In other words, it is (past) time to retire.

-- Prior to the game against Kansas, Kentucky will honor longtime coach Clarence Gaines on Sunday. No word on whether autographed copies of "They Call Me Big House" will be made available to interested fans.

-- Every Friday, Seth Davis accepts the challenge of a single reader in picking 10 weekend games. On Wednesday, I sent Seth my selections, but in his column he featured those of Whit Ladue instead. (Which raises an important question: why would anybody name his or her son Whit)?

My predictions for this weekend are below. Following Matt Walsh's injury, I revised my analysis of the Arkansas-Florida game from the one I had earlier submitted.

The featured game

Kentucky 73, Kansas 61

Tubby's club plays defense too well to lose to the Wayne Simien-less Jayhawks at home. With or without a big game from Chuck Hayes, Patrick Sparks, Kelenna Azubuike and Kentucky's fabulous freshmen trio will provide enough offensive firepower to subdue Keith Langord & Co.

The other matches

Northern Iowa 76, Evansville 62
North Carolina 84, Maryland 75
Arkansas 77, Florida 70
Notre Dame 71, Villanova 55
Iowa State 67, Missouri 66
Boston College 74 Providence 60
Washington 78, UCLA 65
Arizona State 70, Cal 64
North Carolina State 68, Miami 64


what a klotz

-- Oregon lawmakers approved the Ducks' proposal to purchase the Williams' Bakery site and move the local bakery to another home in the hope of building a new basketball arena on the current bakery site. The University of Oregon, however, still doesn't know if it can afford a new arena that would run close to $200 million. But because constructing such a pavilion has "long been a dream" of school President Dave Frohnmayer, I believe Ernie Kent will sooner rather than later find himself enjoying new facilities.

-- Comparing Emeka Okafor's numbers with those of Shelden Williams, Blogger Ken Pomeroy argues Williams is nearly as good as Okafor and, therefore, "the best all-around player in the ACC." The statistical evaluation is impressive -- until one realizes that Okafor's numbers are for the entire 2004-2005 season, including conference play, while Williams' stats are for only the first half of the season, excluding ACC games.

-- Losing streaks do wonders for an institution's willingness to accommodate fan requests. Memphis, for example, just announced it is allowing more flexibility within seating sections. "For example, if your seats are in section 107 you can visit with friends in section 116 and in the Club section before the game and during halftime." Seems like pre-flexibility days were more than a bit draconian.

-- Texas' much-improved center, Jason Klotz, has been suspended for one game for throwing a punch during the Longhorns' recent win over Memphis. Look for Klotz to take advantage of the time off by recording a rap with Ron Artest.

-- Steve Valentik of the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune pens a nice write-up about Iowa State's Curtis Stinson, the highlight of which is Valentik's explanation of how former Cyclones coach Larry Eustachy, acting with the help of Jamaal Tinsley, convinced the Bronx native to play in the land of corn.

-- Mike Lucas of the Madison Capital-Times notes "Vultures are circling Indiana's [Mike] Davis." Yes, that is to be expected of any Indiana coach whose teams lose three consecutive games to Northwestern.

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen goes to print with a few thoughts, including a suggestion that USC, for humor's sake, call Mark Few, a shout-out to Boston College All-American Craig Smith, a note on newfound love between Temple and Villanova, and an observation that Philly-educated go-to-guys have had a bad week, health-wise.


madison avenue

Alert readers will notice two new advertisers on this site. The first, courtesy of Stand Up Democrats, is a netroots call for "100 Ideas to Fix the Democratic Party." The second, the work of Project D.U., is an offer for a free Blog Reader.

I thought long and hard before accepting a partisan advertisement on this blog. But figured there was no reason to reject a positive ad; even my Republican readers likely have suggestions for the Democratic Party. Would I have accepted an ad for a site collecting "100 Reasons Democrats and/or Republicans Suck?" Nope. But why not "100 Ideas to Fix the Democratic Party?" (Or, for that matter, 100 Ideas to Fix the Republican Party)?

Finally, a shout-out to my first happy customer, DimeBetting.com. Pleased with results from their December ad, they're back for a January edition. Just in time for conference play. If I were a betting man, I'd take advantage of the bonus they arranged especially for readers of this site.

Interested in coming on board the gravy train? There's still time to reserve your ad space before the March rush. Questions? Email me.


Ain't no media...

-- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford suggests Gene Keady might be going out on a low note, his Purde Boilermakers failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in fifth seasons. Rutherford also gets Keady to go on record as having stayed too long; I "probably should have left a long time ago. Sometimes your voice is not heard because it's old. You can stay some place too long, and maybe I did that."

-- Santa Clara nearly upset Gonzaga, which tells us more about Santa Clara -- they haven't missed a beat (with respect to their ability to pull off a huge upset) since the game against North Carolina -- than it does about Gonzaga. Notably, Zags point guard Derek Raivio seems to have benefited from playing against the best of the best (Oklahoma State's John Lucas, Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack and Illinois' Dee Brown). Last night, he scored a career-high 32 points, made six 3-pointers and hit all 10 of his free throws.

-- The Corvallis Gazette-Times sat down with red-hot Oregon State coach Jay John. His Beavers are 10-3 this year and coming off a sweep of UCLA and Southern California. My favorite question and answer?

What [was] the first step you decided to take as coach?

The first thing I wanted to do is I wanted to find out how many of the guys that were here liked being a student here, because if they didn't like being a student and basketball hadn't been going well, then chances were they weren't very happy. That was a significant thing for me.

-- Say you're Dave Odom. Now imagine a headline you don't want to see. Poof! From the State: "6-foot-11 work in progress hardly making any; USC prospect's juco coach says center is not ready for rigors of SEC."

-- NBA prospect Taylor Coppenrath and the Vermont Catamounts will make their final pre-NCAA Tournament appearance on national television on January 16th. Their noontime game against Boston University will be televised regionally on NESN and nationally on CSTV.

-- The Sunsbury (PA) Daily Item's Tom Housenick examines the Patriot League, noting the challenges Lafayette faces as the only league school without athletic scholarships.

-- Boo (two o's) Wade has left Wisconsin and will not return, Bo (one o) Ryan noted yesterday. No worries. They'll be sunshine when he's gone.

-- The New London (CT) Day's Gavin Keefe pens the inevitable "What's wrong with Connecticut" column, arguing the Huskies are not only plagued by shaky perimeter play and a shortage of mental toughness, but also, more importantly, lack team unity.

-- Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun isn't ready to give up the "ACC reigns supreme" meme, giving Skip Prosser an opportunity to wax on about Dick Vitale's league. A friend of my enemy is not my friend.

-- Who else but the Republican-American's Ed Daigneault would write a piece suggesting seven (!) Big East teams are NCAA Tournament bound. Not entirely out of the question. But Villanova? All Jason Frazier wanted for Christmas was a new set of knees.

-- The Tallahassee Democrat picked up the AP story on Craig Smith and the 12-0 Boston College Eagles. Ain't no media like free media.

-- The Denver Post's Natalie Meisler examines the reputation of the Mountain West Conference, noting not a single conference team is among the nation's Top 50 in the latest RPI ratings.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

r-e-s-p-e-R-t

-- Guess who's investigating UNLV now? Nevada state government. It appears the men's basketball team last year spent $13,100 for a chartered plane to a road game while the women's team, traveling three days later, spent $2,400 to fly commercially to the same city.

-- During last night's game between Connecticut and Boston College, my frustrated father asked, "Yoni, how can you root for BC? Anybody who roots against UCONN is, by definition, an anti-Semite." Uhhh, right. As you might have guessed, pops has been a Jim Calhoun fan since the days of Nadav Henefeld and Doron Sheffer.

-- Blogger Jeff Jotz recaps the Notre Dame-Seton Hall match-up, noting that scrawny Pirate point guard Justin Cerasoli, starting in his first collegiate game, scored 16 points and dished out 4 assists in 34 minutes. More importantly, Cerasoli played solid defense against Chris Thomas. Learn about the freshman, Cerasoli, here.

-- Reader Kevin let me know of a must-read "Where are they now" article about former Michigan State star Shawn Respert. Wonder why Respert didn't make it in the NBA? He had cancer. I wish Shawn the best of health.

-- Mike Davis won't last long at Indiana. Even my mom would have him fired after last night's game against Northwestern.

What happened Wednesday night was not just embarrassing, it was dismal, arguably the lowest the Hoosiers' program has fallen in decades (although there were some pretty ugly moments last season). They didn't just lose their Big Ten opener to the Wildcats, but suffered their worst loss of the season.

As it turned out, the Hoosiers we saw during the non-conference season are precisely the same team today, still incapable of piercing a zone defense, still lost on the boards, still making the same insipid decisions with the basketball, still inclined to lose its composure at a moment's notice.

--The (A.J.) Price is wrong this season. (Marcus) White is out until next. Connecticut will have few options at point guard for the entire season as their would-be starter attempts to get healthy. Though Purdue will benefit from the services of a former Connecticut forward beginning in the second semester of 2005-06.

-- A Circuit Judge today paved the way for University of Louisville basketball games to be broadcoast on Sirius Satellite Radio. Sweet.

-- Twenty-two people were arrested for scalping tickets outside the University of Kentucky-South Carolina game. Sucks to be them. Ditto for both Kansas State men's basketball players who were yesterday robbed by armed men.


upset city!

-- Asked if he could win a national title at Gonzaga, Mark Few responded, "I don't know why you can't. It's kind of the premise that's kept us all around." I'd love to see the 'Zags crash the party -- or at least the Final Four -- but what a run it would take. Even in a year of parity.

-- Exposed as pretenders, West Virginia fell, hard, to Villanova. The game was never in doubt. Rollie's work as a play-by-play man for ESPN Classic, however, was circumspect from the get-go.

-- Sadly, this intrepid blogger was unable to acquire tickets for yesterday's grudge match between Connecticut and Boston College. (Thanks, however, to Trey for the help). Yet even on TV, I could see that the Huskies aren't much of a team without a true point guard to lead them. Boston College, on the other hand, proved they are more than the Craig Smith show. How do you rank 'em now?

-- Daniel Horton is back, as Iowa learned the hard way. Wolverines 65, Hawkeyes 63. Portending a Big Ten year of parity (and, save Illinois and perhaps Wisconsin, mediocrity).

-- Nobody noticed, but Vanderbilt beat Alabama. How long before Kevin Stallings flies the coop? Only the Indiana administration knows.

-- The spirit of Phi Slamma Jamma found its way back to Houston, where Tom Penders defeated Rick Pitino. Too bad only 4,238 were in attendance to see Louisville go down. The Cardinals, it seems, lack the Blue Devils' magic tough of being able to win with a short bench.

-- Kentucky escaped against South Carolina, suggesting to the News-Enterprise's Chuck Jones that Kelenna Azubuike is the 'Cats new go-to guy. Sure, if Sparks don't fly. As for the Gamecocks? Despite another close loss, Dave Odom continues to earn his keep.

-- The Carl Krauser and Chris Taft show got no help in Pittsburgh as Georgetown announced their imminent return to basketball relevance by upsetting the Panthers. Fool me once at the Petersen Events Center, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The Panthers aren't a very good team right now. The Pittsburgh faithful have cause for concern.

-- Nobody showed up to watch yesterday's Penn State - Michigan State duel. No worries, Paul Davis was Mr. Invisible. Again.

-- The Denver Post's Tom Kensler finds an awkward time to pen a "Big 12 has arrived" article. Still, with Oklahoma State and Kansas legit Top 10 squads and Texas not as far behind as you might think, it has.

-- John Sleeper suggests Nate Robinson's slump (15 for 50 in his last five games) is no cause for concern. But I disagree. If Nate-Rob loses his mojo, so too might the Huskies. (Who haven't yet).

-- The Louisville Courier-Journal's Rick Bozich, inspired by yesterday's victory, suggests Kentucky will once again dominate the SEC. I don't disagree. Though this time around, the 'Cats success will owe more to others' faults than to their own strengths.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

tsunami!

-- Do you ever find "Where were they then?" more fun than "Where are they now?" Consider Anthony Goldwire, just signed to 10-day contract by the Detroit Pistons. Can anybody name his alma matter? Without finding the answer here?

-- Florida's Matt Walsh has pulled a Wayne Simien. He too will be out for several weeks. Anthony Roberson is estatic; he'll no longer have to feign an interest in passing the ball. (In what could only be possible on a squad coached by Billy Donovan, Roberson's assists are this season down from his 3.6 per game average in 2003-2004).

-- MSNBC's Mike Miller dreams of a Final Four involving Illinois, Kansas and North Carolina. The plotlines would be tremendous. Self vs. Williams. Weber vs. Self. Simien vs. Williams. Etc.

-- "The B-Trip" will announce on Thursday what sanctions will be imposed on the school following the indictment of Ryan Wolf, its former basketball coach. No new info (yet) about Ricky Clemons.

-- ESPN.com contributor and Minneapolis Star Tribune beat writer Jeff Shelman's AP ballots are available on his blog. (Welcome to the blogosphere Jeff! Very glad you could join us). More on this subject soon. For now, enjoy Shelman's interview with the Big Ten Wonk.

-- Syracuse University's basketball team is getting in on the tsunami relief action. Fans attending the game against Seton Hall on Saturday night will have an opportunity to donate cash or a check to Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund volunteers located at each of the open gates of the Carrier Dome. Mensches, all of them.

-- Faculty from 28 colleges will gather tomorrow in Nashville to consider reforming the rules governing intercollegiate athletics with the hope of limiting academic fraud. Jim Harrick Jr. has declined an invitation to give the keynote address at the first meeting of the Coalition for Intercollegiate Athletics.


the meme

Following the USC-Oklahoma college football game, Salon's King Kaufman -- who used to review print columns by this very blogger -- debunks a promiment meme.

It's kind of a national religion east of the Rockies to say that the Pac-10 is soft, whichever team wins it -- in any sport -- is overrated and everybody else is merely second-rate. That won't change with this National Championship Game butt-kicking any more than any of the other butt-kickings administered by Pac-10 teams over the years have changed it. But it's as silly an idea as ever.

Indeed. As Gregg Doyel has noted, Oregon State may be Tournament-bound. Ditto for Oregon. And UCLA is much-improved. Not to mention Arizona and Washington, both underappreciated in current polls.


the mighty midgets

-- Cameron Indoor Stadium turns 65 tomorrow. To commemorate the arena's first game, a Princeton-Duke duel in 1940 which the Blue Devils won 36-27, this year's Dukies will tonight host Princeton. Decked out in throwback jerseys with round collars instead of V-necks and solid white shorts, Coach K's club will likely start freshman David McClure (who?) in the front-court. His averages to date? 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

-- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Stu Durando pens an interesting thought piece on the future of Conference USA. His read -- and Tom Penders'? That following the departures of Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette, Charlotte and DePaul at the end of this season, the conference's have-nots will be free to make substantial progress towards NCAA bids. For my part, I wonder if John Calipari will be any more successful at Memphis when Conference USA resembles the Atlantic 10 of the late 1980's and early 1990's.

-- Don't look now, but Billy Gillispie has directed Texas A&M to an 11-0 record. As it stands, his Aggies are one of only six undefeated teams in Division One. Then again, they travel to Kansas tonight, a likely loss, and have an RPI of 101, the result of a non-conference schedule of Reed Arena patsies.

-- Andrew Jones of the Wilmington Star-News acknowledges what few in the national punditry class have been willing to concede; The ACC's "big four" started the season with mixed success. Duke, in particular, looks especially vulnerable heading into conference play. Where have you gone, Luol Deng?

-- Indiana's Mike Davis has begun playing the numbers game, suggesting the Hoosiers must go 10-6 in conference and win at least one Big Ten tournament game to receive an at-large bid to the dance. Given IU's brutal non-conference schedule, fair enough. But as Davis has learned, easier said than done.

-- Jim Calhoun would like nothing more than for his Connecticut Huskies to soundly crush Al Skinner's Boston College Eagles tonight in Storrs. (If tickets remain available, your intrepid blogger may make the trip for what is sure to be an entertaining game). Smarting from BC's move to the ACC, Connecticut's coach has promised to never again schedule a game against his old rival.

"I haven't changed my feelings. I have no desire to play them," Calhoun said. The disdain Calhoun feels for Boston College, which clearly does not extend to coach Al Skinner or the basketball program itself, is not only based on his status in the Big East but his roots in Braintree, Mass.

"I think they're an integral part of New England basketball, which I treasure. I think they're integral to the Big East, one of the founding fathers," Calhoun said. "So it's really sad that they're leaving."

More here.

--Playing the expectations game, Dee Brown and his Illinois teammates argue they are unlikely to go undefeated in the Big Ten.

-- After Xavier's win against Iowa State, the Musketeers climbed 45 spots in the RPI rankings. Too bad, however, that Sean Miller's club is still ranked only the 143rd best team in the country.

-- The San Francisco Chronicle's Jake Curtis authors a story on Bucknell's win against Pittsburgh. Uniquely upsetting for the Panthers, the loss came to a Patriot League team that did not offer athletic scholarships until two years ago. The result? Yesterday, Bucknell coach Pat Flannery's weekly alumni luncheon drew 150 guests rather than the 30 or 40 regulars.

-- Following St. John's defeat of North Carolina State, Norm Roberts is feeling the love. The Post-Standard's Mike Waters checks-in with a piece appropriately titled "Gray skies are clearing up for St. John's."

-- Better than ladies night?

Today will be "1940s Night" as part of the celebration of the Illini's centennial season. The first 8,000 people entering the Assembly Hall will be given an "Illini Times," courtesy of the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, with stories from the 1940s. There will be two more theme games -- Jan. 29 against Minnesota will be "1980s Day" and Feb. 23 against Northwestern will be "1960s Night."

-- Auburn coach Jeff Lebo wins my midseason award for the best self-inflicted nickname. He calls his Tigers, which start four guards and a forward, the "mighty midgets." The Sun-Herald's Don Hammack previews Auburn's game against Mississippi State here.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

midseason predictions for 2004-05

ESPN's analysts have made their predictions. Props to Jay Bilas for having the guts to peg Ike Diogu as Player of the Year. Here are mine:

All-Americans (* = POY)

Deron Williams, Illinois
Nate Robinson, Washington
Ike Diogu, Arizona State
*Rashad McCants, North Carolina
Craig Smith, Boston College

Final Four

Kansas
North Carolina
Arizona
Illinois

National Champion

Kansas


nolan!

-- Former University of Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson has been contacted by a Tulsa booster and is interested in returning to the school he coached from 1980 to 1985. During his previous stint with the Golden Hurricane, Richardson led Tulsa to three NCAA tournaments and an NIT championship. After leaving for Arkansas, Nolan took the Razorbacks to 15 NCAA tournaments in 17 seasons, including back-to-back championship games and the 1994 title. Nolan, the "winningest coach available," would be a tremendous choice for Tulsa (or Massachusetts or Missouri. Though he would be wise to avoid a stint at Indiana).

"One of the (Tulsa) boosters called me after the Christmas break and asked me if I had any interest in coming back," Richardson said...Moving into Conference USA next season along with WAC schools UTEP, Rice and SMU, the Tulsa job is expected to be one of the best available prior to the 2005-06 season.

"(Details of the settlement with Arkansas) would need to be worked out," said Richardson. "But I am interested in getting back into college basketball."

-- Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel speaks with John Calipari about Memphis' struggles. Coach blames a difficult schedule. I fault Sean "head-case" Banks.

-- The Richmond Times-Dispatch, in a hard to understand editorial maneuver, publishes John Raby's AP wire story on the West Virginia Mountaineers. The result is a ho-hum piece from which Richmond basketball enthusiasts would learn nary an anecdote about John Beilein's team. For Virginia and West Virginia papers covering WVU, I would suggest asking an in-house sports reporter to produce an interesting write-up. Deadlines, sure. But standards, also.

-- St. John's pulled out of the Big East postseason tournament as part of the school's self-imposed penalties for the Abe Keita scandal. Mike Jarvis, however, has not pulled out of his analyst responsibilities at ESPN. Were I an employee at the "worldwide leader," I would use any excuse I could find to get Jarvis off the air.

-- Fresh from "working" the Auburn-Virginia Tech BCS game, Auburn alum Charles Barkley is back to working on his book, due in May, titled "Why Do White People Hate Me?" My thought? It's gotta be the shoes.

-- USC's Lodrick Stewart checked-in with the understatement of the month: "I didn't expect half the stuff that's been going on in this program."

-- A judgment on the eligibility (or lack there)of University of Cincinnati freshman shooting guard Vincent Banks is expected later this week. Banks would improve the Bearcats' depth.

-- Is Northwestern really experiencing a surge in interest? Could students be frozen out in the cold, unable to get tickets? Or is the school's latest press release a New Year's prank?

-- Steve Rivera of the Tucson Citizen suggests road games will be difficult to win in the under-appreciated PAC-10.


Well Said

Seth Davis captures my thoughts on Connecticut in a single sentence.

I love Josh Boone; I just don't like that he's UConn's leading scorer and best player.

But unfortunately, in his latest "Hoop Thoughts Stock Report," Davis makes the mistake of frequently noting a club's in-conference statistical ranking. For example, writing that Georgia Tech leads the ACC in both field goal defense and three-point defense and Kentucky is 10th in the SEC in field goal shooting and three-point shooting. As these numbers aren't adjusted for strength of schedule, they mean very little.

Also, Davis' lone reservation about Arizona, a concern about Salim Stoudamire's maturity, is yesterday's news. Increasingly -- and unexpectedly -- Arizona no longer depends on Stoudamire's leadership (or lack thereof). In every huddle, point guard Mustafa Shakur is vocal, passionate and team-oriented. With or without Stoudamire, this year's 'Cats will exceed expectations. I'd rate them a BUY.

More thoughts on Davis' recommendations to come.


Monday, January 03, 2005

buck(nell)ing the trend

-- The Daily Herald's Mike McGraw finds a chink in Illinois' nearly impenetrable armor; the Fighting Illini lack a bona-fide NBA lottery pick...Arizona was the last team to win an NCAA title (in 1997) without producing an NBA first-round draft pick.

-- Can I hold Rick Pitino responsible for the lack of backseat love? (The Louisville Courier-Journal. They. Get. Letters).

Watching University of Louisville play basketball at Freedom Hall is fun and exciting. I've been a season-ticket holder for over 20 years. I sit at the top of the arena in the next to last row.

Two or three years ago beverage holders were installed on the backs of the seats. In the section I sit in, the holders were not put in for people sitting on the back three rows. Why didn't the last three rows get the beverage holders?

People sitting at the top of Freedom Hall get the shaft when T-shirts and other promotional items are flung to the fans. Why don't the T-shirt distributors go way up in the stands and give people at the very top of Freedom Hall a chance to catch a prize?

And finally, why can't handrails be installed in the aisles that go to the top? Elderly fans and those who have great difficulty negotiating the steep climb to the top love Cardinals basketball and deserve those handrails. Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has handrails.

Paul L. Whiteley Sr.
Louisville

-- Bucknell yesterday defeated Pittsburgh. Given the Panthers' weak pre-New Year's schedule, Jamie Dixon's club should drop more than a few notches in the rankings. Krauser and Taft, however, continue to impress professional scouts.

-- On the heels of North Carolina State's loss to West Virginia, News & Observer columnist Ned Barnett makes a contrarian argument; rather than demonstrate the Pack's weaknesses, losses to St. John's and West Virginia and an unexpectedly close call against Columbia portend greater strength for Herb Sendek's club. Huh? First, Barnett writes as an apologist -- Hodge was absent from the game against WVU, several players have been suffering from the flu, etc. -- and second as an eternal (if forced) optimist -- the losses will reinforce Hodge's importance to the club's success (as if his contributions weren't previously widely acknowledged) and motivate State to play better. I wouldn't hold my breath.

-- As predicted yesterday, Boston College thrashed the University of Massachusetts behind a strong game from Craig Smith. The Eagles should find themselves in the Top 25 this week.

-- So too should the West Virginia Mountaineers, whose balanced attack has defeated George Washington and North Carolina State, both ranked, in successive games. When, oh when, will Jerry West appear at a nationally televised WVU game? (And when is my next opportunity to see this season's major-conference surprise)?

-- Georgia Tech's losses to Kansas and Gonzaga, North Carolina State's aforementioned struggles, Virginia's return to earth and Wake Forest's evident mortality suggest it is only a matter of time before a prominent columnist (west of the Mississippi, most likely) questions the ACC's dominance.

-- The Arizona Daily Star's Greg Hanson writes-up the no longer theoretical change in the Wildcats' play. I saw it against Wake Forest. And against Marquette. And, last night, against a talented and still-dangerous Arizona State squad. Defense.

Team defense.

This Arizona team, blessed with speed and athleticism, absorbing concepts of defensive pressure like no other Olson club, never let up. It was impressive. The coach has set the tone for this new-and-improved UA team, one that would rather break you down on defense than shoot you down on offense.

Offense wins games (and as the U of A continues to demonstrate, last year's most potent club has still got that love) but defense wins championships (and recent games Arizona has also found that feeling).

The 'Cats remain undisciplined on offense. But this Arizona club is quickly growing on me. Look for Olson & Co. to bust a few brackets come March.

-- I recently suggested Oregon might be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid. Oops. The Ducks yesterday lost to the UCLA Bruins.

-- Another night, another 35. Ladies and gents, Taylor Coppenrath.

-- Is Florida an unlikely bet for the NCAA Tournament? Could Billy Donovan be on the hot seat? Mark yesterday's loss to Florida State on your calendar. I bet it greatly irked an influential booster or two.

-- Following a sub-par game against a lesser opponent, Virginia's crushing defeat to Wake Forest affirms not only the Cavaliers' downside, but also, and as Daily Progress sports editor Jerry Ratcliffe suggests, Sean Singletary's inexperience. Read Ratcliffe's article.

-- In a game between two under-achieving clubs, Providence defeated San Diego State. The Aztecs shot a season-low 34.9 percent from the field, the fifth time in seven games that they have shot less than 40 percent from the floor. In other words, Steve Fisher is today re-thinking his decision to return to coaching.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

good afternoon!

-- Bob (no relation to Lenny) Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star pens an all too sensible piece on Mike Davis' troubles at Indiana. Importantly, he echoes my thought from last week; the question is not when (not if) the Hoosiers will let go of Mike Davis, but rather when (and why not?) Mike Davis should leave Bloomington before it's too late.

-- The Boston Globe's Marty Dobrow suggests today's Commonwealth Classic between Boston College and the University of Massachusetts may be as exciting as was the in-state match-up during UMass' heydey. He's wrong. Even at 10-0, the Eagles aren't the talk of the town. As for the Minutemen, Lappas' last stand receives significantly less ink than does high school football. BC by 15.

-- Coming back from 16 down, Kansas yesterday defeated Georgia Tech. Even sans B.J. Elder, the Yellow Jackets of the 2004 NCAA Tournament would have soundly defeated the Simien-less Jayhawks. Trouble has found it's way to Atlanta, where Paul Hewitt's club has been unable to rekindle last year's magic. As for Bill Self's bunch? Defeating Georgia Tech should help the younger players gain confidence. If Kansas plays its way into the Final Four, analysts will look back at yesterday's game as the match that made it (psychologically) possible.

-- The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Steve Carp harps on the RPI.

So, the NCAA men's basketball selection committee is going to tweak its use of the Ratings Percentage Index.

Good. While they're at it, why not make public the entire RPI formula they use in that Indianapolis hotel every March so everyone knows exactly what they're looking at?

Indeed. Inquiring minds want to know.

-- Folks in South Carolina are excited about the Gamecocks. They ought to be. Given the SEC's weakness, Dave Odom should plan for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

-- Two former Cincinnati Bearcats are making good on the sidelines of Cincinnati State. Under "Thuggins" proteges Andre Tate and assistant Erik Martin, the Surge are 7-0. Today's feel-good story.