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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, February 05, 2005

Open Thread: Today's Games

A Saturday tradition.

Your comments?


low tide

Note: This post was written and published (see time stamp, below) before Alabama lost to Florida. Don't I feel smart?

Reader John Geer emails asking that I explain my skepticism about the Crimson Tide. Fair enough. But before doing so, let's review the case for Alabama.

The No. 11 Crimson Tide has won its last six games to pull within one game of Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama (17-3, 6-1) has two prolific scorers in forward Kennedy Winston (17.8 points) and guard Earnest Shelton (17.4), the SEC's top three-point shooter. The Crimson Tide has two tall, athletic big men in forwards Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson. But whether Alabama can match last year's success in the NCAA tournament -- when the Crimson Tide advanced to its first region final -- could depend on the play of freshman point guard Ronald Steele, who has been remarkably steady. Steele, from Birmingham, is averaging 5.15 assists, third-best in the SEC, and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2 1/2-to-1. Alabama also plays stout defense, holding each of its last six opponents to 61 points or fewer. "They're clearly one of the most established teams in our conference," Georgia Coach Dennis Felton said. "They are extremely experienced coming off of last year's great season. Really, they've got all the parts."

If only that were true. Alabama lacks quality wins, an impact coach and premier point guard play.

The Tide's two most impressive victories to date? Over Minnesota in Alaska and Mississippi State at home. But the Golden Gophers of November 2004 bear little resemblance to the squad that today upset Wisconsin. And the Bulldogs never recovered from Lawrence Roberts' early season suspension. The thumping the Tide administered against MSU was impressive, but is tempered by Alabama's one point victory over Charlotte, five point win against Auburn, six point defeat of Temple, and eight point margin over Tennessee State. Call me a critic, but I have a hard time getting excited about a Tide squad that lost by 14 (!) to Vanderbilt.

Early in the season, I frequently suggested that Wake Forest was a foolish favorite for the national championship because Skip Prosser did not (yet) have the experience necessary to win five or six in a row during the NCAA Tournament. Ditto for Mark Gottfried. Was he around for Jim Harrick's success at UCLA? Sure. Is he building a nice program at Alabama? Yes. But -- and maybe regional bias is at play here -- I continue to believe he is not quite one of college basketball's top 25 coaches. Do you disagree?

Ronald Steele, Alabama's two-time "Mr. Basketball," is having a tremendous freshman season. But he is doing so in a weak SEC, only the nation's sixth-best conference, and lacks the maturity necessary to outplay the big-time point guard against which he will likely compete if the Tide advance to the Sweet 16. Over the years, several high-profile freshmen have led their teams to success during March Madness. But Steele wasn't in their league during high school and hasn't yet earned "diaper dandy" status in college.

Defense may win championships, but coaches and point guards win games in college basketball. As the Tide's record -- gaudy at first glance, but lackluster during a second review -- would suggest.


rumors of quin's demise have been greatly

--The Chicago Tribune's Melissa Isaacson quotes Pierre Pierce as saying that in the eyes of his ex-girlfriend, he was "more than her Mandingo." To learn how race has become a significant consideration in the Pierce affair, read on.

-- Dave Johnson of the Hampton Roads (VA) Daily Press argues that after five weeks of conference play, a clear hierarchy has emerged in the ACC. North Carolina, Duke and Wake, Dave argues, are in a league of their own.

-- On Friday Missouri athletics director Mike Alden called an ESPN.com columnist and Show-Me state reporters (but not bloggers) to affirm the university's confidence in coach Quin Snyder. The wise Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, is having a hard time accepting the Missouri administration's pro-Snyder publicity campaign.

While it's admirable for Mizzou officials to back Snyder instead of letting him wallow in uncertainty, none of the statements ensure that Snyder will finish his contract, which expires after the 2007-2008 season.

If Mizzou flops again next season, Snyder will lose his job. You can take that to the bank. Missouri was hit with a two-year NCAA probation earlier this season and is struggling with a 10-11 record overall, 2-6 in the Big 12 Conference. Snyder is 26-26 in his last 52 games. Moreover, Missouri is averaging only 9,724 fans per home game in the new 15,000-seat on campus arena.



fan club president

-- The Chicago Sun-Times' Herb Gould urges the Fighting Illini to stay healthy. Their undefeated season, Gould would have you believe, hangs in the balance.

-- Greg Wallace of the Birmingham (AL) Post-Herald goes to print with his not too shabby "SEC Notes," including bits about Brandon Bass' big week, South Carolina's character problems, and Arkansas' mastering of the "disappointed sigh." But why the Albuquerque (NM) Tribune picked Wallace's article off the wire is beyond me.

-- Anthony Gimino of the Tucson (AZ) Citizen writes up Lute Olson's high regard for Stanford's Chris Hernandez. Olson and I both.

-- The Washington Post alludes to Savannah State's troubles here and here. I hope the Tigers beat Mercer, Bethune-Cookman or Florida A&M to avoid going winless for the entire 2004-2005 season.


Friday, February 04, 2005

riverdance?

-- The AP's Aaron Beard pens a fluff piece on Matt Doherty's desire to return to coaching. But will Beard be so complimentary when Nolan Richardson comes calling? Why, I ask, write about one and not the other?

-- I'm not surprised these haven't gone like hotcakes. Would I want see Baylor-Missouri? No.

-- Who but Tom Noie of the South Bend (IN) Tribune's Tom would offer the Fighting Irish a blueprint on how to play their way into the NCAA Tournament? Noie's suggestions? Win every home game, continue feeding Torin Francis, embrace the leadership of Chris Thomas, steal one on the road and keep hope alive.

-- MSM Watch: Seth Davis is up with his weekend picks, Andy Katz interviews six upperclassman who returned to school and suggests the balance were wise to have come back, and Jay Bilas lauds Syracuse for efficiently and effectively working Billy Edelin into the rotation. I had patiently waited for the latter two columns for weeks. And now that Andy let the cat out of the bag, except to see numerous beat writers run with a "despite tough season, he should have stayed" storyline.


a slow news day

-- Bracey Wright is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against Illinois. Without Wright, the Hoosiers stand little chance of keeping it close against the Fighting Illini.

-- Keith Taylor of the Winchester (KY) Sun writes-up his interview with former Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson. A slow news day, eh Keith?

-- The trial of two LaSalle University players accused of rape will begin July 18th. Gary Neal and Michael Cleaves are second tier members of my all Jeremy Hunt/Pierre Pierce team.

-- Bill Self: A class act.

-- The Madison (WI) Capital Times' Mike Lucas considers the impact several prominent junior college transfers have had on Big Ten basketball. Think Travis Parker, Zach Morley, Doug Thomas, Vincent Grier and J'son Stamper.


superfreak

-- During a conversation between Chicago Tribune staff writer K.C. Johnson and Charles Oakley, the former Chicago Bull said Tim Floyd "had no strategy" and was a "bad coach." Reminded Floyd was recently hired for another coaching gig, Oakley responded. "I know it wasn't the NBA. Good luck [to USC]. They'll find out soon. Floyd should be coaching Little League."

-- The Norwich (CT) Bulletin urges readers to take Jim Calhoun at his word; he won't leave Connecticut to coach the Lakers.

-- The Des Moines (IA) Register's editorial board argues for a clear code of conduct for student-athletes that sets minimum behavior standards, including establishing a clear procedure for what happens when athletes are in trouble with the law and the discretion to discipline or expel students for inappropriate behavior, and a coach "who doesn't open his mouth before he knows what he's talking about." Here, here.

-- Am I the only one who finds Rashad McCants' description of Marvin Williams --"He's a freak!" -- following the freshman's 20-point performance against North Carolina State a bit ironic?


the biggest little city in the world

-- Conventional wisdom dictates that Wayne Simien's injury has been the year's most significant. But I disagree. Brandon Roy's injury enabled Tre Simmons to secure more playing time. The result? Simmons has blossomed into a tremendously potent threat for the Washington Huskies. Last night, for example, he torched USC for 29 points.

-- The Denver Post's Tom Kensler finds the Pac-10 looking for respect while hinting it may be hard to come by after early March Madness losses by Arizona, Stanford and Washington in last year's NCAA Tournament. Even as the conference continues to have the second-best RPI in the nation, it is difficult to discern who beyond the 'Cats and the Huskies deserves to go dancing. Arizona State's victory over Stanford behind 39 (!) points from Ike Diogu further complicates the selection committee's work. Count this blogger among those who believe the (relatively) new Pac-10 conference tournament may this year be the league's saving grace. Two wins by a bubble team -- not to mention an upset of Arizona or Washington -- will go a long way towards helping a conference team secure a bid.

-- Kensler's colleague at the Denver Post, Chris Dempsey, reminds us that "all beat writing is local," penning a piece about Colorado's struggles as a result of the Buffs' "point guard by committee" arrangement.

-- Steve Sneddon of the Reno Gazette Journal is concerned about Nevada's performance at the Lawlor Events Center. Trent Johnson's old club is one of the few teams in college basketball to consistently play better on the road than it does at home. Sneddon suggests the Wolf Pack would be well advised to get their act together before the WAC Tournament -- and an opportunity to secure a NCAA Tournament bid at home -- comes to Reno.

-- Dan Wiederer of the Fayetville (NC) Observer notes Chris Paul took the time to savor Wake Forest's defeat of Duke. I think Skip Prosser should savor the opportunity to coach Paul. Viv Bernstein of the New York Times writes Chris Paul is a top 10, possibly a top 5, NBA draft pick if he declares early. But she also gets Paul on the record mulling a decision to pull a Matt Leinart.


all in the family

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen takes a look at his preseason list of coaches on the hot seat. His advice to Massachusetts' Steve Lappas? Buy yourself $50,000 worth of NIT tickets. My advice to Lappas? Hit the road, Jack. And don't you come back no more. (Nikki Cox of "Unhappily Ever After," by the way, recently broke off her engagement and is back on the market). Jensen's thoughts on Jay Wright? What a difference a year makes. Advice for Mike Davis? Get out while you still can. Pete Gillen? A lost cause. Herb Sendek? Bad news is Vitale is on his side. Good news is so is Caulton Tudor (as I noted yesterday). Henry Bibby? Gone.

-- Bernie Wilson of the AP profiles the last in a long line of Waltons. Chris, a fifth-year senior at San Diego State, has -- you guessed it -- struggled with injuries. I'm interested where he lands after graduation. Europe? Perhaps. But methinks the youngest Walton may soon wind up on the bench or in a booth.

-- Time for Michigan State to rely more on underclassmen and less on seniors, or so suggests Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press. Out to looking to Alan Anderson, Kelvin Torbert and Chris Hill for leadership. In with depending on Paul Davis, Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown for production. Not a bad column, though Rosenberg's argument proceeds awkwardly. He starts by writing that Michigan State may not be broken, only to then advocate a particular fix.

-- Dijon Thompson scored 24 points including the game-winning basket to lead UCLA over Washington State in a must-win game for the Bruins. Last night's tough loss notwithstanding, Nick Peters of the Scripps-McClatchy Western Service finds "venerable coach Dick Bennett" making progress at Washington State.

-- Bruce Weber would like his Fighting Illini to go undefeated. Or so writes investigative journalist Jim Benson of the Pantagraph.


there is such a thing as a stupid question

-- Did the same Rutgers team that nearly beat Syracuse just lose 53-52 to undermanned St. John's? Woah.

-- Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star believes that the Michigan Wolverines have yet to hit rock bottom. Losers of five straight already, they could easily lose five more before notching a victory. I'm starting to feel bad for Tommy Amaker.

-- The answer? In a word, "Yes." The question by Cal forward Rodd Benson? "Top to bottom, is Arizona really that much better than us on paper?"


Thursday, February 03, 2005

blasphemy

ESPN's "Sports Guy," the one and only Bill Simmons, rarely writes about college basketball. Now I know why.

Brendan (Dedham, MA): Does it kill you, being the Holy Cross grad that you are, to see B.C. at 19-0 right now??

Bill Simmons: Are you kidding me? I'm delighted! They're going into the Big East tournament at like 29-1, then they'll get killed in Round 2 by some no-name team...then they'll choke on opening weekend. Just remember, when Al Skinner is your coach, that means that Al Skinner is your coach.

Quick: Name the "no-name team" that defeated the Boston College Eagles in last year's NCAA Tournament. The answer? Georgia Tech.

I'm a BC partisan, but not an Eagles true believer. Until Al Skinner's club develops a third scoring option, I'll argue against BC receiving a No. 1 seed. But by the same token, I'll defend Skinner for doing "more with less" than many of his opponents. Given the right draw, BC is surely an Elite Eight club.


things that make you go hmmm

-- The AP's Donna Tommelleo pens a must-read about Sudanese import Deng Gai. Having once interned at a UNHCR refugee camp in northern Kenya, on the border of Sudan, I can began to understand the obstacles Gai, currently a senior at Fairfield, has overcome to become a potential NBA player.

-- Lute Olson believes Pac-10 Player of the Year honors should be awarded based solely on a player's statistics in conference play rather than his performance throughout a team's entire schedule. Norm Frauenheim of the Arizona Republic explains how Lute's interesting proposal benefits Salim Stoudamire at the expense of Ike Diogu. Olson, however, admits that any way you slice it, Diogu is currently the best of the west.

-- The Anchorage Daily News picks up Caulton Tudor's column for the Raleigh News & Observer arguing North Carolina State should not fire Herb Sendek at season's end. Tudor estimates Sender has shown himself to be a good, not great, coach. I agree, adding that the Wolfpack could do a lot worse than Herb. In a tough ACC, lesser coaches would fail to lead N.C. State to the NCAA Tournament.

-- Is no news regarding Daniel Horton good news? Or bad news?


fast freddie

-- Connecticut secured a much-needed win against a ranked opponent last night, downing Villanova. Adam Caparell of the University of Connecticut's Daily Campus, however, writes up Calhoun's possible move to Los Angeles. Marc Stein of the WWLIS had reported the Lakers were interested in Calhoun. But methinks that Jim is happy to finish his career in Storrs.

-- Penn State coach Ed DeChellis pulled a Freddie Mitchell, forgetting the name of the Indiana walk-on who nailed a crucial three-pointer against the Nittany Lions. If Ryan Tapak keeps making big shots, he could make it a race between himself and Christian Moody for walk-on player of the year.

-- Only Coach K could make Lee Melchionni an effective major-conference player.

-- The Nevada-Iowa Journal gets letters! College basketball fans should be "spectators, not combatants."

-- Jeffrey Flanagan of the Kansas City Star notes that if Quin Snyder's Tigers falter, Missouri could join Washington State, Central Michigan, San Diego State, East Carolina, Tulane and New Mexico State as one of seven schools to have losing records in all three of their "revenue-generating sports."


jack kennedy

-- Will Duke's loss to Wake Forest open the floodgates, exposing the Blue Devils' short bench? Or will Daniel Ewing, Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick lead Coach K's club past at least two of Georgia Tech (2/5), North Carolina (2/9) and Maryland (2/12)?

-- Andy Glockner of the WWLIS has an early look at teams on and off the bubble. Today's must-read, though I'd argue Glockner should have opened with "other at-large conferences" rather than with the usual suspects. Have we ever had four mid-major locks (Southern Illinois, Wichita State, Pacific and, nominally, Gonzaga) this early in the season?

-- Seen Keeler of the Des Moines Register pens a quality piece on Grinnell College's upcoming ESPN2 appearance. Nick owes Jack a million bucks. Really.

-- Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star has nine predictions for the second half of Pac-10 play. Among them: 1) Arizona's home loss to Washington State will spur the Wildcats to a tremendous winning streak. 2) The UofA will not enlarge the size of the McKale Center student section. (Despite the endorsement of such an idea by the Star's editorial board). 4) Hassan Adams will not declare for the NBA Draft at season's end. 7) With Leon Powe back, California will be a Top 25 team next season. Hansen's early conference rankings for 2005-2006? In order: Washington, Cal, UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon. Shake it up, baby.


me say Tello, daylight come and

-- The Deseret Morning News' Jeff Call notes that Danny Granger is quite a difference-maker. New Mexico is 3-0 in conference play with Granger and 0-3 without him. Win a few more and the Lobos are back on the bubble.

-- Jerry Ratcliffe of the Charlottesville (VA) Daily Progress authored the lead of the day.

When Pete Gillen returned to his old haunts Wednesday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, he didn't expect that the hole in the middle would be Virginia's defense. It was nowhere to be found.

I heart Dunkin Donuts (of which there aren't enough in the greater Washington, D.C. area). Blogger Kyle, by the way, had a great post about my favorite morning stop here.

-- ESPN's Pat Forde tells the world about Tello. A great read, all the more so because Forde steps out of the box to author this gem:

It's been a big sports week for God. He cleared Terrell Owens to play in the Super Bowl, then granted Palacios' prayer jump shot -- off the glass.

-- New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is expected to designate Friday as Lou Henson Day. Take note.


the reformation

-- Luke "less pretty in his Yahoo photo than his CNN/SI profile" Winn suggests Chris Paul is the perfect point guard. He's so dreamy...Paul is a point guard first and a scoring guard second. His passes are elegant, not forced. His drives aggressive, not out of control. And his leadership exceptional, not erratic. Far and away the college basketball player I most enjoy watching.

-- I continue to enjoy Mike DeCourcy's "Daily Dish." But am I the only one who has noticed that the quality of Mike's writing for his would-be blog is lower than the quality of his writing for his regular columns?

-- Brian Dohn of the Los Angeles Daily News notes how far Gonzaga has come. Not even three losses to three unranked teams in a three-weak span could dislodge the Zags from the Top 25.

-- Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram columnist Frank Burlison takes a look at the recently released Wooden Award "midseason" Top 30 and preaches to the choir about Luther Head's exclusion. My perhaps national Player of the Year should not have been left off the "midseason" list.


fun with google: nothing to do with...social security

-- Bob Lutz of the Wichita (KS) Eagle suggests that Kansas State's Jeremiah Massey is among the best players in the Big 12. After Massey's 25-point effort -- on nine of 13 shooting -- against Oklahoma State, I'm unlikely to disagree.

-- Who would you prefer author Fox Sports' "Outside the Top 25?" Eric Moneypenny or Blogger Kyle? In other words, would you rather see Gigli or Good Will Hunting?

-- Providence guard Donnie McGrath tied an NCAA record by making nine 3-pointers without a miss last night. Good for him.

-- The Wisconsin State Journal's Jon Masson writes-up Brian Butch's career-high 12 points in 14 minutes off the bench. Bo Ryan: 1. Doug Gottlieb: 0.

-- Nathaniel Bryan of the Hardin County (KY) News-Enterprise authors a very creative recap of Louisville's win over Cincinnati.


night owls

Should feel free to discuss tonight's games. Big wins for Connecticut and Wake Forest. Tough losses for Florida State and Texas A&M. And more.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

the weakest link

Several readers have emailed to note that Iowa has dismissed Pierre Pierce from the team.

Gregg Doyel is pleased. As am I. Ryan Kobliska, I would imagine, is disappointed.

What say other members of the "cabal of 100?" Anne enjoyed the limelight, but is concerned about her neighborhood. Gary Clark thinks there is a good chance Pierce will resurface at Cincinnati, Fresno State, Oklahoma State, or Florida. (I doubt it. Pro ball is a more likely bet). Chris Moeller believes the university acted prematurely. Former Des Moines Register reporter Ron Maly, himself a blogger, is in Doyel's camp. As is Michael Meyer. And "Mathman."


keep me blogging!

Do you enjoy this site? Great!

Think it takes more than few minutes each day? You're right. Try several hours.

Want to keep me blogging? Then please donate a few bucks through the all-new tip jar in the right sidebar. (See the "buttons" box). Donations will go to a site upgrade -- not into my personal slush fund.


all bogut, all the time

-- Utah's Andrew Bogut will receive serious consideration for national Player of the Year honors around these parts. Why? He is himself a blogger! Enjoy "Awesome Aussie: The Bogut Blog." Likely the first of many player blogs.

-- Longtime Andrew Bogut coach and confidant Brian Goorjian has told the Queensland (Australia) Courier-Mail that the Utah star is a "near certainty" to declare for the NBA Draft at season's end. Given scouts' high regard for Bogut, anything less that an early entry would shock me.

-- Although ill, Bogut led the Utes past BYU on Monday night. Mike Sorenson of the Deseret (UT) Morning News writes that "less than an hour after getting two IVs in the locker room, Bogut knew he would play." What's not to like about the "Awesome Aussie?"


something about mary

-- The NCAA's recent adjustment to the RPI is already helping elite mid-majors, or so writes Paul Klee of the Southern Illinoisan. I'm glad to see that weighing road games is providing a tremendous boost to the Salukis' RPI (23 under the old scheme, 15 under the new), as well as to Western Michigan (82 to 49), San Francisco (57 to 32), Kent State (77 to 39), and Old Dominion (62 to 31). More than a few mediocre major-conference squads -- likely from the ACC, SEC & Pac-10 -- that might otherwise have received an NCAA Tournament bid will be NIT-bound at season's end.

-- Des Moines law enforcement have corrected their initial police report relating to the Pierre Pierce incident. Rather than be potentially responsible for assault with intent to commit injury, the (safe to say former) Iowa star could now be found guilty of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. Fool me once...

-- Mary Palmer, a middle-aged librarian and longtime Bonnies season ticket-holder, has forgiven Phil Martelli, the coach who once called her a "nitwit" and a "moron" after she criticized him for having his Hawks continue to press her Bonnies in a game in which Saint Joe's led by 25 points and would later win 114-63. An amusing make-up story courtesy of the AP's John Wawrow.

-- Norm Frauenheim of the Arizona Republic aims to jinx Boston College by suggesting the Eagles might run the table in the Big East. I'm of the opinion that BC basketball may following in the footsteps of BC football. Teasers, all?

-- Oh no he didn't! Oh yes he did. Ben Cook of the Birmingham (AL) Post-Herald pens a column titled "SEC offers dull season so far." Indeed. An effect with many causes, not least of which is a lower quality of play. Beyond Kentucky, I don't see a single SEC team as even having the potential to proceed past the Sweet 16. Mississippi State has been a colossal disappointment.


ashley & rick, sitting in a tree

-- Via Brian Sharp at the Iowa City Press-Citizen, a collective "oops" from the University of Iowa faculty.

Roughly two years after a University of Iowa faculty commission recommended the school develop a student-athlete code of conduct specifying consequences for certain infractions, UI officials said Tuesday the work remains undone.

More here.

-- Former USC (ha!) coach Rick Majerus apologized for his latest comment about Ashley Judd. While working the Kentucky-Tennessee game last week, Majerus noted that he hoped to see Judd so he wouldn't "have to watch adult videos back at the hotel." For Rick's greatest hits, earlier compiled by this very blogger, click here. Including Rick's previous comment about the Kentucky alum: "I think I was such a pathetic figure in '98, [Ashley Judd] felt sorry for me. She hugged me. That was my sex life for the next two or three years."

-- Minneapolis Star Tribune staff writer and ESPN columnist Jeff Shelman, himself a blogger, pens a wonderful read on the mental workouts Dan Monson has made a regular part of the Golden Gophers' basketball practices. Rick Aberman, wundertherapist.

-- The Florida Times-Union's Alex Abrams tells the story of Roy Williams' hiring at Kansas. Think Hardee's, then read Alex's fun read about coaching trees. (Not quite a must-read, but highly-recommended).

-- Don't look now, but Connecticut's Marcus Williams is developing into, dare I say, one of the NCAA's better point guards. Even as the Huskies struggle, Jim Calhoun has taken notice of Williams' progress -- including his 16-assist outburst against Notre Dame. Of course, and as beat writer Phil Cardis of the Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer is unlikely to acknowledge, the higher esteem pundits hold for Williams, the lower regard they should have for Connecticut's small and power forwards. Not everyone can be a "PTPer" on a team headed for its worst finish in years.


the game that wasn't

-- Illinois sank 13 of 24 attempts from 3-point range, shot 56.9 percent overall from the field, and out-classed and out-hustled Michigan State last night in Lansing. Those of you who saw the game (recap here)-- and shame on those who didn't -- need not hear me praise the Fighting Illini as the far and away the nation's best team or criticize the Spartans as significantly overrated to know that both claims are true. For more, then, on the (green and) white hype, consult the State of Michigan's chattering class.

-- The Detroit News' Rob Parker, noting Michigan State has lost 11 (!) straight games to ranked opponents, suggests "MSU should have membership as elite basketball program revoked." If the gloves fit, you must acquit.

-- Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp writes that only during warm-ups did MSU look like a team that could compete with Illinois.

-- Lansing State Journal stud Todd Schulz writes that the Spartans could have played better and that the faithful will never know of Michigan State's "A game" would have taken down the No. 1 ranked team in the country.


me like ike

-- Salon sports columnist King Kaufman -- who used to review print columns by this very blogger -- has a "modest proposal" for college hoops. He suggests that conference teams be required to play in a double-round robin format. Rather than go up against Delaware State, Florida A&M, Oakland, Longwood and Northwestern State (pick four of five), Illinois, for example, would be compelled to complete home-and-home series' with Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. Amen, brother.

-- Pierre Pierce may have pulled a Jeremy Hunt, but Steve Alford is too smart (gulp!) to pull a John Calipari. As the police investigate, Pierce will sit. The Iowa star did not practice Tuesday.

-- New USC coach Tim Floyd is hitting the road for three weeks straight. Interim Coach Jim Saia? He has few plans and all but suggested to Paul Gutierrez of the Los Angeles Times that he, Saia, won't be found on the Trojan bench next season.

-- The always enjoyable Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that Arizona State's Ike Diogu leads the Pacific-10 in three categories (21.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks) . Not a single player has ever led the conference in all three since blocks became an official statistic in 1977-78. More evidence that even as the Sun Devils struggle, Diogu should remain a force in the national POY horse race.

-- Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson has suspended forward Jemere Hendrix for one game for violating unspecified team rules. Remember when Peterson was a rising star in the coaching profession? Meanwhile, Providence's Gerald Brown, a sophomore guard, has left the men's basketball team for personal reasons. So too should coach Tim Welsh.


fun with google: nothing to do with...paris hilton

-- Clemson yesterday trashed Maryland. You never know which Terrapins squad will come to play.

-- The Tucson Citizen's Corky Simpson kindly profiles longtime Pac-10 referee Charlie Range. Simpson's appreciation for the man in stripes is happily apparent throughout his piece. Range plans to retire at season's end and I wish him the best.

-- CBS Analyst Clark Kellogg praises emerging star J.P. Batista (among others) for his 25-point, 12-rebound effort against Portland. Evidence Gonzaga will be fine even after Ronny Turiaf is playing in the NBA.

-- The thin get thinner, Part Deux. Already without Cameron Bennerman, North Carolina State has lost forward Levi Watkins to a knee sprain for at least four weeks. Prospects for an NCAA Tournament bid look increasingly bleak for Herb Sendek's squad. The ACC's strength is beginning to work against the Pack.

-- The (SC) State's Ron Morris suggests South Carolina will either come together or fall (entirely) apart following Dave Odom's suspension of two Gamecock players. Here's thinking they'll do neither, continuing to hum along in an entirely unimpressive 2004-2005 campaign. Oh, had a few buckets only fallen at Kansas...


a mensch?

-- Camille Powell of the Washington Post finds JT3 still hoping to lead his Hoyas to the NCAA Tournament after this weekend's loss to Boston College. Camille and I are in agreement; Georgetown's response to the BC setback will go a long way towards determining if the Hoyas, currently 33rd in the RPI, are invited to dance in March...Fred Brown, a starter on Georgetown's 1984 championship team, will be the guest commentator for Seton Hall-Georgetown, tonight's "Turn Back the Clock" game on ESPN Classic. If I only had an item of Hoyas' gear from the 1980's, I'd attend the game and lay claim to a valuable prize, a retro Patrick Ewing Georgetown uniform. A little help?

-- The legal back-and-forth has begun in Pittsburgh, with the architectural firm that designed the Petersen Events Center now claiming the State of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh caused delays and are responsible for cost overruns. An unnecessary distraction for Jamie Dixon.

-- Former St. John's "Redmen" star Bill Wennington will be inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame. Wennington, a Montreal native, played for Canada at the 1982 world championship, two World University Games and the 1984 Olympic Games.

-- Via the AP wire, a kind write-up of Villanova's surprising success. In other words, Jay has the Wright stuff. More on the Wildcats' attitude adjustment from CBS SportsLine's Gregg Doyel.

-- St. John's hired alum Chris Monasch as the school's new athletic director. Only time will tell if he is not only a Monasch, but also a mensch.


boy blunder?

-- Jemele Hill of the Detroit (MI) Free Press argues both that Tommy Amaker should be expected to back Daniel Horton and that Steve Alford's support for Pierre Pierce several years ago could cost him his job at Iowa. He also asks the question of the day, "Where does a second chance end and a pattern of behavior begin?"

-- Richard Midgley's shoulder is healed ahead of Cal's big game against Arizona. The Tucson Citizen's Shelly Lewellen previews the Wildcats' "must-win" game.

-- As usual, the Cincinnati (OH) Post provides some of the day’s best college basketball news and commentary. Today the paper publishes Zack McMillin's interview with Memphis coach John Calipari. I admit to have forgotten that Antonio Burks was a walk-on with the Tigers. Wow.

-- More police blotter. (A different case). Enough is enough.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Open Thread: Illinois-Michigan State

Your thoughts on tonight's game?

I can' t help but cheer on the Fighting Illini. Living the Dream (Season).


bring the noise

-- More evidence John Brady's days at LSU are numbered.

-- The Omaha (NE) World-Herald's Steven Pivovar considers whether Creighton's new arena enables as much noise and as friendly an atmosphere as did the Bluejays' old home, the Civic Auditorium. Gotta love Dave Croy's graphics.

-- Following their stunning loss to Washington State, Arizona players gathered for a team meeting. At which Channing Frye (finally) called for the ball more often, Salim Stoudamire (finally) played the role of team leader, and the Wildcats (finally) resolved to never again bring their "F" game. But only time will tell if Arizona can remain focused.

-- Click here for a link to video footage of Jordan Snipes' 87 foot game-winning heave. Final score: Guilford 91, Randolph-Macon 89.


a good loss?

-- Let's see...Whose columns haven't I read in weeks? That's right, Larry Vaught's. In his latest installment form the Danville (KY) Advocate-Messenger, Vaught writes up Kentucky's chances of going undefeated in the SEC. As noted earlier, UK's success in 2004-2005 is more the result of the SEC's weaknesses rather than the Wildcats' strengths – at least when compared to past Kentucky clubs.

-- Barry Jacobs of the North Carolina Tar Heel Daily put the chimps to work, learning the ACC's cumulative free throw percentage for 2004-2005 is more or less the same as the conference's cumulative percentage twenty years ago. In other words, don't believe everything you read regarding the decline of "fundamentals" in today's game.

-- The Albuquerque (NM) Tribune's Jeff Carlton, himself a blogger, pens a piece about the Lobos' alley-oop passes to senior wing Alfred Neale. A very slow news day, eh Jeff?

-- Seth Davis suggests that both Boston College and Illinois would be better off were they to lose a game before the NCAA Tournament. Fair enough. Though I believe the case is stronger for Illinois than for BC. Illinois players are currently deluged with media coverage. Despite their perfect record, Al Skinner's Eagles continue to fly more or less under the regional and national radar. And Illinois is a much, much better team than Boston College, suggesting that while the Fighting Illini might suffer from high expectations, the Eagles could be well served to continue benefiting from the big mo'.


still in favor of acc expansion?

-- The godfather of Quin Snyder's son paid for an ad calling for Snyder's dismissal? What? Today's must-read.

-- Don't look now, but Texas Tech has won seven of nine since losing to Iowa in mid-December. The Red Raiders have climbed into fourth place in the Big 12 standings and 42nd in the RPI. Bob Knight might not need to (again) refund his salary at season's end.

-- Awww, shux. Lorenzo Perez of the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer notes there will be fewer ACC Tournament tickets per school this year. The culprits? Miami, Virginia Tech and the Tournament's relocation to our nation's capital. That being said, I want in. And at less than $300 per 2-game session. Any ideas? (Ed. Note: This article includes the seemingly mandatory daily link to commentary by Fred Barakat).

-- Are former Washington football player Terry Johnson and current UW basketball star Nate Robinson friends with benefits? Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times wants to know.


repeat offenders

-- Minneapolis Star Tribune beat writer and ESPN columnist Jeff Shelman has kindly posted his AP ballot here. Why did Wichita State fall from 24 to 25? More importantly, why does Jeff believe Connecticut is still a Top 25 team?

-- Good News: Read down to the bottom of this piece about Sean May to learn the North Carolina star is likely to return for another year of college basketball. Grin. Bad News: NBA vultures are interested in Marvin Williams.

-- Blogger Tim argues the loss of Travis Diener won't cost Marquette an NCAA Tournament bid. I agree -- all the moreso because Tim qualifies his belief by noting that Diener must come back "in time to show that he has returned to his pre-injury form" and must then lead the Golden Eagles to wins against (at least) Houston and St. Louis. (I don't believe the DePaul game is a must-win).

-- Iowa's Pierre Pierce is the latest addition to the All Jeremy Hunt Team. No fewer than five staff writers at the Des Moines Register contributed to a story that speaks to Pierce's personal relationship with the alleged victim. I have to believe Pierre's troubles all but end's Steve Alford's hopes (?) of coaching at Indiana next season. Mediocre results over several seasons is one knock. Mediocre results plus scandal -- Pierce is a repeat offender, having pleaded guilty in November of 2002 to assault causing injury after allegations of sexual assault against a then-member of the Hawkeyes women's basketball team -- is two knocks. Enough to send most coaches to the mat. (But not Quin Snyder).

-- Or so we thought. Ryan Wood of Lawrence (KS) Journal-World writes-up the "Quin, you're fired!" chants sung by the Kansas faithful. After today, I'll refer to Missouri's coach as the "embattled Quin Snyder..." As in, "The embattaled Quin Snyder looks less and less like Sideshow Bob these days. What gives?"


the cabal of 100

-- Bob Lutz of the Wichita (KS) Eagle pens the lead of the day.

It might not happen this month. Or next. But the vibes around the Missouri basketball program are strong that coach Quin Snyder is on his way out.

-- With Mark Stewart of the Milwaukee (WI) Journal-Sentinel coming in a close second.

If Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan thought the criticism of Brian Butch last week was unnecessary, he would be beside himself if he were at Michigan State.

-- If the Boston Globe is willing to accept ESPN's description of St. Joseph's employee Joe Lunardi (yesterday evening's new mock bracket is available here) as the network's "resident bracketologist," will they run with my suggestion that Ken Pomeroy is the blogosphere's "resident statistician?" Or that college basketball bloggers are, collectively, the "cabal of 100?"

-- ESPN announced "Bracket Buster" pairings yesterday (bearing little similarity to the games I suggested the network schedule last week). I'll still watch (at least) Vermont at Nevada, UTEP at Pacific, Southern Illinois at Kent State and Western Michigan at Northern Iowa. Oh, and I nearly forgot, the Wichita State game.


fun with lists

-- Gene Keady might not retire after all. Or so extrapolates Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press from Keady's admission that he would consider an offer to coach next season.

-- Ugh. I've avoided linking to numerous school press releases about Street & Smith's "100 Greatest College Basketball Programs of All-Time. " But now that none other than Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Rick Bozich (!) has written a piece about the best free publicity rankings of all time, I thought to chime in and give Bozich his due. Few Kentucky-based writers would dare rank UCLA the best program of all-time. But Rick has -- and rightly so. The Bruins don't hold the most NCAA Championships for nothing.

-- Wow. Now the AP gets into the fray, finding Bo "Ryan still seething about Butch bashing." Methinks Doug Gottlieb is now less popular than even Bruce Weber among the Kohl Center faithful.

-- Free tickets to the Charlotte-Cincinnati game will be distributed tomorrow beginning at 8 a.m. Coach Bobby Lutz will pass out doughnuts to students who camp out tonight for tickets to Saturday's game. A nice gesture, no?


a dim bulb

-- Tickets for the Boise bracket of the NCAA men's basketball tournament will hit the mail this week.

-- Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer speaks to Andy Kennedy, Cincinnati's associate head coach, about the inexact science of recruiting. The first quality Kennedy looks for in a player? Physical toughness. For Cincinnati? Really? This blogger's not surprised.

-- Joe Rexrode of the Lansing (MI) State Journal previews the great (green &) white hope to take down Illinois. Digger Phelphs suggests Michigan State play the 1-3-1 zone against the Fighting Illini....Anybody wondering why Phelphs is no longer a head coach? Anybody?

-- Say it ain't so! But it is. Todd Schulz, also of the venerable Lansing paper, argues MSU needs an upset victory over Illinois to restore the Spartans' once-bright national star, now dimmed to a "A really bright 30 seconds." Four years removed from the Final Four, Tom Izzo's club is off the pedestal on which it once stood.


echo echo echo

-- Veteran AP reporter Jim O'Connell notes every voter has come aboard the Illinois bandwagon. The No. 1 ranking is unanimous, baby!

-- John Supinie of the Copley News Service finds a few Illini fans getting ahead of themselves. Final Four, here they (already) come.

-- The only Kentucky freshman who wasn't a McDonald's All-American is doing just fine, thank you very much. Or so says Chuck Hayes in a piece by the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal's Michael Smith.

-- John Werner of the Waco (TX) Tribune copies (echoes?) Andy Katz. How unoriginal.

-- CBS SportsLine's online editors need a little help. I think I might know someone who'd be perfect for the gig...


one less dukie

-- The thin get thinner. Eric Prisbell of the Washington Post notes Duke forward David McClure will undergo knee surgery and be sidelined at least a few weeks. More evidence Coach K is a genius for winning with a squad of five -- really six -- All-Americans.

-- Newsflash: Jeremy Hunt update. Judge Ann Pugh yesterday recused herself from the case, noting she had served as a mentor for the Memphis women's basketball team and knew Hunt's ex-girlfriend, Tamika Rogers.

-- Collin Mickle of the Media General News Service profiles Auburn freshman Daniel Hayles. Mark my words: Hayles is a name you ought remember.

-- Think this might be a popular ticket? Arizona State's NCAA Tournament hopes may rest on the game's outcome.

-- Northwestern's Bill Carmody seems to think his players are boring individuals. Ok. But why tell a reporter?


Monday, January 31, 2005

Pierre Pierce

Ugh. Burglary in the first degree? Criminal mischief in the second degree? False imprisonment and assault with intent to commit injury? Sigh.

All the news (at this hour) that's fit to link to here, here, here and here.

I'm off to the gym. But as the story develops, Hawkeye Hoops has promised details.

Hat Tip: Readers Hawkeye Herky (see Open Thread comments) and Big Ten Wonk (via email).


Open Thread

What's on your mind?


you never get a second chance

-- The Brian Butch is overrated story has legs. Unfortunately. The Chippewa (WI) Herald runs with the story here. I'm no fan of Butch -- he spurned the University of Arizona during the recruiting process -- but see little value in the overreaction to Doug Gottlieb's comment. From the media. From Bo Ryan. From the media (again). And now from Butch himself.

-- It's official. Newspapers can begin using the "Road to St. Louis" in college basketball headlines.

-- Yes, Tony, what Ken said. Teams, North Carolina State included, win when they shoot well from the field.

-- I enjoyed the latest column from the Sporting News' Kyle Veltrop. Though if Arkansas actually defended as well against the three as Veltrop would have you believe, the Razorbacks would have beaten Kentucky. (Had the Wildcats shot their season average from behind the arc, they would have lost by two. As it were, Tubby's team bested their average and beat Arkansas by one).

-- And I might have defeated Seth Davis. As it were, the CBS analyst bested the citizen journalist 7-3 to 5-5. Sigh. Congrats...to...Seth. (Sob).

Evidence, by the way, that readers should rarely trust my picks. Pourquoi? I too often favor who I want to win rather than who I believe will win. Duke, for example, rarely makes it past the Sweet Sixteen in my NCAA Tournament bracket. Talent be ignored.

My saving grace, however, is that I rarely bet on losers. Play with real money and my biases disappear.


ebay

-- Am I the only one who believes Providence should fire Tim Welsh? If he can't win with Ryan Gomes, how's Welsh going to lead the Friars to the NCAA Tournament without him?

-- New York Daily News columnist Dick Weiss finds the Boston College Eagles closing in on a Number 1 seed. His column also notes that St. John's signed big-time prospect Ricky Torres, quotes Virginia's Gary Forbes after the North Carolina game ("I've never lost like that before...Not even in a video game."), and projects NCAA seeds for 65 teams.

-- Former Duke forward Christian Ast this week sold his 1991-92 NCAA championship ring on EBay for $8,000.

-- Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia News writes of a truth is stranger than fiction statistic. In upsetting Oklahoma, Iowa State did not make a single basket from beyond 10 feet. Woah.

-- Southern Illinois beat Evansville to avoid a three game losing streak. Fortunately, the Salukies remain a Top 20 RPI team and a likely bet for the NCAA Tournament.


halls of power

-- A reader had asked if ESPN had locked "Dream Job" winner Mike Hall in the network's basement. Guess not...The 22-year old Hall will become the signature anchor for ESPNU, the college sports network set for launch on 03.04.05. Onward and upward.

-- Don't look now, but St. Mary's has won 15 of 17 since losing to Rutgers. Ditto for Stanford, now 12-7 (6-3 in the Pac-10) after a 6-7 start.

-- Tom Luici of the New Jersey Star-Ledger wonders if Michigan's Tommy Amaker is on the hot seat. (The answer is no). He also hands out the Big East hardware. His all-league team includes Syracuse's Hakim Warrick, Boston College's Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, Connecticut's Josh Boone, and Villanova's Allan Ray. Not a bad lot. Warrick is Luici's Player of the Year. Again, a solid pick. (See the comments below). But the newspaper columnist unwisely awards Georgetown's John Thompson Coach of the Year honors over Boston College's Al Skinner. Does Skinner have the better team? Sure. Was less expected of JT3? Yes. But because those voting to award Big East honors are likely to punish Boston College for leaving the conference, I'll be among those praising the Eagles until season's end. At which point I'll pen an unbiased post dishing out the hardware.

-- Those who got off the Ben Howland bandwagon a couple of weeks ago should get back on after UCLA overcame an 18 point deficit to win at USC. The hard-nosed comeback provides further evidence that Howland is making progress with the Bruins.


size matters

-- Washington Post sports columnist Mark Wise heaps praise on John Gilchrist following Maryland's win against Georgia Tech, noting the point guard's troubles with Gary Williams are (seemingly) long gone. Wise also suggests Gilchrist will turn pro at season's end, in no small part due to the presence of no less than eight scouts from seven NBA teams at yesterday's game. Hope not, but if so, we'll miss ya John.

-- The percentage of men's basketball tickets reserved for University of Wisconsin students is the lowest among Big Ten schools. I hope an Associated Students of Madison petition to increase the size of the Kohl Center's student section moves the UW administration to action.

-- The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy notes that Louisville's Larry O'Bannon has become a much more potent offensive threat after learning to move without the ball. O'Bannon, a senior guard, torched Marquette for 30 points last week. DeCourcy also notes Texas remains hopeful that LaMarcus Aldridge will return this season and Oklahoma State misses Tony Allen, particularly when opposing teams zone the Cowboys.

-- The Virginian Pilot's Bob Molinaro arguest that at 17-2, North Carolina has championship-level talent. Watching the Virginia game, "you got the sense that the Tar Heels may actually encounter tougher competition during a typical practice." Ouch.

-- In his last season at Purdue, Gene Keady finally secured a Big 10 win. His Boilermakers crushed Michigan, 84-55.


paige me

-- John Rohde of the Oklahoma summarizes Missouri's on and off-court troubles, affirming the "Quin Snyder still has a job because he is a favorite of the Laurie family" rumor.

-- After a summer of pre-season hype, Dennis Latimore nearly made the lead of Tom Coyne's Associated Press write-up of Notre Dame's upset over Connecticut.

-- Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Post previews the Bearcats' rematch against Louisville. Can Bob Huggins' 2004-2005 edition finally win a big game? Survey says yes. In each game I've watched the Bearcats, they've impressed me with their athleticism, teamwork and (developing) maturity.

-- More on Georgia Tech-Maryland here.


a living legend

-- Toledo Blade sports columnist John Harris says Illinois needs to win a national championship to cement a place in college basketball history.

-- Lori Shontz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles a Wonder of the World, John Wooden, finding his pyramid influential beyond college basketball. Enjoy the anecdotes. My favorite is the one about Wooden inventing the mop.

-- Steve Sneddon of the Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal asks if Nevada Wolf Pack "fans" will jump off the bandwagon following a loss to Fresno State. Only if they're as big fans of "Tilt" as I am.

-- Washington defeated Arizona State, robbing the Sun Devils of a critical opportunity to secure a big win. Even as the Pac-10 remains in the RPI's upper echelon, this blogger begins to wonder who but Arizona and Washington will be dancing in March?

-- I heart Bud Withers of the Seattle Times. Via today's column, I learned that Creighton is 5-0 when it buses to games but only 1-3 when it flies. Of course, it is only natural that far-away road games pose more of a challenge to the Bluejays.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

yo mama

-- Jay Hart of the (PA) Morning Call has today's must-read about how Grinnell's system is changing small-school hoops, both men's and women's. Today, 11 Division III programs have adopted Dave Arseneault's style, as have 80 to 100 high school programs across America.

-- Mark Blaudschun of the Boston Globe notes that not only was Boston College's game against Georgetown a sellout but, more importantly, Conte Forum was buzzing, giving the Eagles a real -- and unusual -- home-court advantage. Though Al Skinner's team has yet to appear on ESPN's "Big Monday," the city of Boston has (finally) taken note of their success. Every remaining home game is sold out.

-- Tom Noie of the South Bend (IN) Tribune takes a look at the (practice) drills that have enabled Connecticut to establish a +14.8 rebounding advantage, the country's largest. Earlier this year, the Huskies set a school record with 74 rebounds in a single game. Woah.

-- The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens takes his time, but finally (and between the lines) highlights the near-absurdity of the Steve Alford to Indiana rumors.

In Indiana, IU basketball fans constantly make a pitch for Alford's return.

In Iowa, there's a large group that wishes Hoosiers fans would get their way.

Despite this season's success, "Boy Wonder" is only inches removed from the Hawkeye Hot Seat. Why then -- pedigree be damned -- is he still in consideration to be Indiana's next coach?

-- After calling into ESPN Radio's "College GameNight" to dispute a claim by Doug Gottlieb, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim could have defended the Big East's honor with a "yo mama" joke. As in, "Doug, when your mom and I were at Syracuse together, she was like my championship ring. Everybody put a..." Come to think of it, I'm glad Boeheim took the high road and an "intelligent" back-and-forth ensued.


wazzu

-- The Boston Globe's Bill Griffith takes a look at the business side of the CBS-CSTV Internet broadcast deal. An interesting and informative read.

-- Tubby Smith continues to look for methods to improve his Wildcats' free-throw shooting. The University of Kentucky came into the weekend shooting 65.8% from the line, eighth in the Southeastern Conference.

-- The AP writes-up a resurgent Pittsburgh's home win against Syracuse. (Wish I had caught the game on TV). On a team with NBA prospects Carl Krauser and Chris Taft, Chevon Troutman has emerged as the Panthers' make-or-break player. As he goes, so goes Pitt.

-- Arizona lost to Washington State for the first time since January 30, 1986. The Wildcats didn't hustle, played poor "pressure" defense, failed to guard the Cougars' three-point threats and shot poorly from behind the arc.

-- The more things change in the Colonial Athletic Association, the more they stay the same. Virginia Commonwealth again beat Old Dominion.


bowling for

-- On "(College) GameDay" Kansas destroyed Texas, affirming my prediction that sans P.J. Tucker the Longhorns are due for a long and difficult season. The Jayhawks looked like a completely different cast of characters from the ensemble that left Villanova vulnerable and confused.

-- A large pizza slice, a bowling pin, a dog, a deer, a pig and a character with a very large sombrero walk into a gym...

-- The Chicago Tribune's Mike Downey writes the latest chapter in Illinois' storied basketball history, a thumping of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Losing to the Fighting Illini is one thing but, in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee, getting thumped is another. Then again, Dan Monson's squad is in good if not great company. Both Gonzaga and Wake Forest went down hard.

-- Don't look now, but Wake Forest's Eric Williams is on a tear. In his past three games, the junior center has averaged 26 points while making 75 percent of his shots (33-of-44) from the field. Rob Daniels of the Greensboro (NC) News & Record credits "Big E" with Wake's gut-check victory over Miami. He's right.


bite me

-- Connecticut beat writer Gavin Keefe begins his piece on the Big East by comparing unbalanced schedules to foot fungus. And his column only gets better from there...Were you aware that of the 37 Big East games played to date, 22 were decided by seven points or less?

-- Kendall Gill wants Bruce Weber's club to focus on winning a national championship rather than running the table during the regular season. (NBA) Millions later, Gill's Final Four loss still irks the former Fighting Illini star.

-- Does the name Zygis Sestokas sound familiar? It will next year. The 6'5" high school shooting guard just set a new North Carolina state record by scoring, in a single game, 76 points on 14 for 21 shooting from behind the arc and 13 of 17 shooting from 2-point range. (He also notched eight free throws). Not too shabby.

-- The indefatigable Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay (WI) Press-Gazette writes up the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's huge win and the tightening Horizon League race. Attendance for last night's game was 8,072 strong. Many wore T-shirts that said "Bite me," referencing last year's shouting match between UWM assistant Tony Jones and UWGB coach Tod Kowalczyk. Jones had told Kowalczyk to “Bite me” three times.

-- Luciana Chavez of the Greensoboro (NC) News & Record finds Virginia Tech singing a certain Toby Keith song. But even the 2004-2005 Hokies are no match for the 2004-2005 Blue Devils.


kentucky edged arkansas

-- Northwest (IL) Herald sports editor Tom Clegg cries "Mercy," begging the media to cease putting pressure on Illinois. He fears coverage of the undefeated season will do the Illini in.

-- The AP has more love for JT3. The Billings (MT) Gazette picks up the story.

-- Kentucky edged Arkansas, but not before giving this blogger hope the upset he predicted might come true. Alas, Tubby's team was too good down the stretch. Kelenna Azubuike and Rajon Rondo filled in for Chuck Hayes, robbing Arkansas of the opportunity to notch a big win.

-- The Indianapolis Star gets letters!

-- Josh Jenkins, freshman. Geoff Grammer of the Las Cruces (NM) Sun-News notes that with or without Lou Henson, the New Mexico State point guard is struggling.