Posted on: March 9, 2011 9:36 pm

Video: Amid the storm after LIU wins NEC title

Posted by Matt Norlander

I was literally swept away in the first 45 seconds of this video.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 9, 2011 6:13 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 8:44 pm

Video: Postgame with Steve Lavin

Posted by Matt Norlander

Full disclosure: I wanted to get Mike Rice, naturally, but he's the midst of giving about 17 phone interviews. He is behind a big door and probably won't be coming out until Friday.

I did get the winning coach, though. Here's Steve Lavin discussing his team's success this year and, oh yeah, the ending to that game. Sort of crazy, yes? I do believe the people will be talking about this one through the night.

Posted on: March 8, 2011 9:28 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 8:52 pm

Video: Ending of Villanova-South Florida

Posted by Matt Norlander

So I'm not even in my friends' Manhattan apartment for three minutes, and I see South Florida back in the game against Villanova. Not only that, but they're on the verge of winning. I put down my suitcase, whip out the Droid and record the final seconds.

In case you missed it, here's how Villanova capped off a massive choke against the Bulls.

Guess I should've hit up the Garden tonight instead of tomorrow. I guess that makes Villanova a 10 seed?
Posted on: March 8, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 1:54 am

Welcome to the Dance, St. Peter's Peacocks

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — This team hated each other.

We're not talking a rip-a-group-apart hate, but a brotherly hate. The kind of hate that just sits and stews, one that eventually subsides, but not before words need to be had.

As healthy a hate as hate can be. That was St. Peter's in 2009 and 2010: a group determined to one-up each other in practice and try to beat each other before it worried about beating other teams. This behavior went beyond a healthy, competitive spirit. It was stagnating the growth of its team, but in particular, the 2011 class, made partly up of Ryan Bacon, Nick Leon, Wesley Jenkins and Jeron Belin.

Then they became seniors. Then they realized they'd get nowhere in the MAAC if they didn't listen and trust their coach.

Those four men were the ones sitting with head coach John Dunne at the postgame press conference after fourth-ranked St. Peter's upset No. 2 Iona to win the MAAC championship Monday night, 62-57.

"Every day we had an argument," Leon said. "We had to fight with each other, we hated each other, but at the end of the day, it grew a big bond within the whole team."

Belin described the situation as "horrible" for long stretches of time. They simply fought over everything, basketball-related or not. You could say it's a wonder the team wasn't a victim of more transfers, especially in this jettison-frenzied era of college basketball.

"Little stuff," said Leon of the inspiration for a lot of the arguments. "Everyone was trying to be a coach. Instead of letting [Dunne] coach, we tried to coach ourselves."

The players took the packed media room through their rise of the past few years. It was a stretch that included many multiple-game losing streaks. Even before the MAAC tournament began this year, few considered the Peacocks' slog-you-down style to last three rounds.

"It was tough for us," Leon said. "We was a program that was rebuilding. We just kept faith. After losing 18 games in a row, we kept faith. The master [Dunne], you know, he put the pieces together and we just put it together as a family, as a team."

Dunne had to convince the team they weren't as fast as they thought they were. He had to make them believe that winning games in the 50s was the best way to succeed. Eventually, they bought in, and the coach praised his group for doing that, when it would have been just as easy not to.

"Togetherness, that's what it was," Belin said. "Everybody playing their part. Whether you played 20 minutes, one minute, you came in and did what you had do to."

St. Peter's is making its third appearance in the NCAAs, and it has never won a game. But that doesn't much matter right now. This was the first 20-win season for the group since 20 years. It's most definitely house money. It's very possible nobody in that program believed an NCAA berth was coming back in November. Dunne admitted as much, postgame.

Despite beating Alabama on a neutral floor, the team wasn't coming together as one normally does with so many seniors seeing so many minutes. Jenkins was thought to be lost for the season twice with hyper-extended knee injuries, and after an "embarrassing" loss to Iona (Dunne's words), the team was 8-7. St. Peter's coach admitted he wasn't sure this team had the capability to win this conference. After beating Rider on Jan. 29 to improve to 13-9, that's when he started to beileve.

"Attitude won us this championship," Dunne said.

This is a team that's one of the staunchest defensive groups in the country. You can't get that without attitude.

Attitude is what made the Peacocks hold a team that averages 80 points a game to 57 in a conference title game, where its fans were outnumbered by Iona's to the tune of a four-to-one ratio. But attitude helped pushed the Peacocks past that. It's now a positive one. Now, when a player hits the deck — something that happens, oh, 20 times per game — for the Peacocks, everyone's in a rush to help their fallen teammate up.

No more arguments, no more fighting, no more hate.

"We're the new Butler," Belin said afterward, a huge grin on his face.

Player to Watch: Wesley Jenkins. It's tough to pick a player out of this group, but Jenkins is definitely exciting. He's a spark for this team, no doubt. Jenkins has a slight frame but is just as tough-minded as the rest of his teammates. Whoever gets the Peacocks in the first round is going to feel like it's playing through mud.

Team Vitals

Record: (20-13, 14-7)

Team Colors:  Blue and White

We’re Thinking: 15 seed

Kenpom Ranking: 123

RPI: 96

Best win: Neutral vs. 20-10 Alabama (50-49)

Worst loss: Home vs. 15-15 Loyola (65-63)

Most recent tournament history: 1995 (15 seed, lost to UMass, 68-51, in first round)

Finally, some one-on-one video from tonight. The first is my interview with Dunne, the second with Jenkins. The dance-off in the hotel hallway with Iona is brought up. With Jenkins, that is.

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP

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Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:30 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 9:32 pm

Video: St. Peter's emotional on-court celebration

Posted by Matt Norlander

Few words to write. Just watch the moving pictures and know no month tops March. I did my best to navigate about the floor and get as much as possible. Checks in at an even three minutes.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 9:00 pm

It'll be Iona vs. St. Peter's for the MAAC title

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — “Ditto from yesterday?”

That was the question from first-year Iona coach Tim Cluess when he was asked to give an opening statement following his team’s 83-59 MAAC semifinal win over No. 3 Rider.

What else could Cluess say? His team had just beaten another opponent’s brains in. It’s been a ditto-minded run for the past nine games, as the No. 2 Gaels have won that many in a row and seem to be an overwhelming favorite against fourth-seeded St. Peter’s in Monday night’s title game. Only two of the nine wins have had a margin of less than 14 points by game’s end.

Iona kept Rider at arm’s length for the majority of Sunday night’s semis, then blew out the Broncs at the 10-minute mark, moving ever further from their inferior competition, proving they are the most lethal team in the conference, even if Fairfield won it.

The bittersweet tinge to this for the Gaels — Kyle Smyth injured his labrum in the first half against the Broncs. Cluess said he’d know more about the injury Monday morning, but the numbness had subsided. The injury wasn’t shocking; this is something Smyth has dealt with frequently in recent years.

Looking to Monday night’s MAAC championship game, there is some history to peek at. Iona and St. Peter’s (19-13) will meet for the fourth time in a MAAC title game. The Gaels have a 2-1 edge, having won the 1982 championship in overtime, 66-61, and the one five years ago, 80-61. The Peacocks defeated Iona in ’91, 64-58. Iona swept St. Peter's this season.

Iona (22-10) is definitely loose (more on that in a sec), and there a couple of themes and story lines with them heading into the title game. Chief among them: the culmination, the complete turnaround of a program that went 2-28 four years ago and was historically inept. That building process was led by Kevin Willard, who was hired by Seton Hall last spring. An NCAA bid within four years? That ship-steering isn’t easily done in mid-major basketball.

A second theme, if you will, is a familial one. St. Peter’s Wesley Jenkins and Iona’s Jermel Jenkins are brothers. They’ll battle each other and no doubt talk some trash in Bridgeport Monday night.

“It’s a family feud; it’s always a joy to go against each other,” Jermel Jenkins said. “I’m going to look at it as just another game, even though it’s not. It’ll be good to keep it (an NCAA tournament berth) in the family somehow.”

Jermel Jenkins also said this is the first time he and his brother have ever faced off on opposite teams in meaningful competition. Jermel lit up Rider for 20 off the bench Sunday night.

Iona and St. Peter’s couldn’t be much more different from each other, from styles to body language. The Gaels have the 11th-best effective field goal shooting percentage in the country. St. Peter’s pays its rent by making teams’ shoot terribly. In the postgame from their win of Fairfield, the Peacock players were direct and rigid. Happy, but definitely businesslike.

Iona was the opposite. Four players and Cluess packed on to the tiny platform in the media room at the Arena at Harbor Yard. Gaels senior Michael Glover brought his 2-year-old son up with him. The prescient moment of the press conference came when Jenkins was asked how he was able to score 20 off the bench.

“Luck of the draw when the shots went in,” Jenkins said with a smile and a chuckle.

Mike Glover Jr. let out a wistful youngster’s laugh, forcing the press corps to follow his lead.

The two teams are familiar with each other, and have been rooting for the other to make it to the MAAC finals. So it shall be.

“We’re friendly with a lot of them,” Iona’s Scott Machado said. “They’re on the same floor as us in the hotel. And when we came back from the win, they were all cheering for us.”

Machado thought he could get away with only that quote. Fortunately, his head coach interjected and offered up an incredible anecdote about the teams’ dynamic. You see, in the late hours at Bridgeport’s downtown Marriott, two ambitious teams had … a dance-off.

  “Can I finish that story? Because Scott left a part out,” Cluess said. “Last night, at one end of the hall was St. Peter’s, and one end was us. They were having a dance-off in the hallway.”

Iona’s players swear it won the dance-off. Either way, what an image.

And it's one more victory to go, then the last one standing gets the biggest dance of all.

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP

Here is the my postgame interview with Cluess.

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Posted on: March 5, 2011 5:36 pm

Buzzer-beating March drama is happening NOW

Posted by Matt Norlander

You can thank Jamie Skeen for being the first player to produce a buzzer-beating moment this March.

The VCU forward hit a spinning, off-glass bunny shot to beat Drexel earlier this afternoon to lift the Rams past fifth-seeded Drexel in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament.

Here's the final seconds of the game, which only needed Skeen's dramatics because Drexel's leading scorer, Chris Fouch, hit a long 3 to tie the game at 60 with with 13.2 seconds left.

Enjoy this. Embrace March. It is here with full force. No matter the size of the arena, the channel of the broadcast or the jerseys on the floor, everyone gets a piece of the best month of the year.

(Timothy Burke is my hero.)

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 5:24 pm

Referee had no choice at end of UL-WVU game

Posted by MATT JONES

A huge weekend in college basketball got off to a bizarre start on Saturday as Louisville watched a FIVE-point lead disappear in the last 30 seconds to lose on the road at West Virginia, 72-70.

The final 30 seconds saw some poor execution by the Cardinals, as they missed a key free throw and allowed two open threes by the Mountaineers in order to tie the game. But all the postgame talk will focus on the final play in which Preston Knowles missed a three pointer to win and then committed a bizarre foul with .6 seconds left to allow West Virginia to win the game from the line. Here is how it went down, courtesy of the great college blog Ballinisahabit ...

The angle used by ESPN isn't the greatest here, but from the video one can get a decent perspective on what happened. In the haste of a missed jumper by Knowles, he went after the rebound with his characteristic aggression. By the time he arrived at the spot, West Virginia's Trucky Bryant had already grabbed the rebound and was attempting to move forward to take a last second heave. The action to move forward caused the collision into Knowles, who was still reaching for the ball. Knowles was not totally in control, ran into Bryant and extended his arms, causing the ball to go out of bounds.

At that point, the referee was left with a split-second decision. He could either call a foul 75 feet from the basket, effectively giving the game to West Virginia, or with the ball headed out of bounds, make no call and give Louisville an attempt at a game-winning shot with less than a second to go. Neither of those options are perfect, but the referee probably made the only call he could. It was clearly a foul and while time/situation would dictate potentially swallowing the whistle, the ball going out bounds took away that option.

Its a tough way to end the season for Louisville's gritty Knowles. But March still provides the opportunity for better endings and if the rest of his senior season provides any indication, the brain freeze in Morgantown will not be the last we hear of Preston Knowles.

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Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com