Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: February 5, 2012 3:10 pm

Afternoon quick-hits before Super Bowl XLVI

If not for Truck Bryant, center, WVU would have lost its fourth straight game Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander

I always love Super Bowl Sunday for the obvious reasons -- the food and friends and bloated American nature of it all -- but also because we now get at least one or two decent hoops games before the pigskin takes over. This afternoon, a few tilts of weight took place. Let's do a quick rundown on what happened and what it means.

1) West Virginia went into Providence and needed 45 minutes to get a win (87-84). It was a stop-the-bleeding W for WVU. Truck Bryant hit a layup to send the game into OT, then hit the game-winning 3 with no timeouts left and 3.3 remaining. Providence's Vincent Council missed a game-tying 3 to send it another five. The Mountaineers should be a tournament team; it was just two weeks ago, when WVU beat Cincy, that people thought his team could possibly be the Big East's second best. I never bought into that, but I have come around on this team getting to the bracket that matters.

Beating Providence was paramount to that journey. The Friars are dangerous yet not that good. (What I mean by that: Provy is growing and getting better, will probably steal a game at the Big East tournament, but this team isn't formidable just yet.) Now WVU has home game it has to win against Notre Dame and Louisville ahead. It's not out of the woods yet in the Big East. At 6-5, it's still totally possible this team finished 9-9 in the Big East. I don't think WVU is as good as everyone wants to make it -- a lot of that is due to the fact Kevin Jones is ridiculously valuable and talented -- but I'm going to enjoy watching what this team does/does not do in February.

2) On CBS, Draymond Green showed no effects of his bum knee. Michigan State handled Michigan at the Breslin Center, winning 64-54, splitting the season series. Green out-rebounded U of M, 15-14. Tom Izzo's group shook off that horrifying 42-41 L at Illinois and will remain a top-five KenPom team. Now, here's what to target. On Saturday, MSU goes to Ohio State. That's going to be a lot of fun -- and I think Michigan State stands a good chance at winning.

As for the Wolverines, the team is still very good. I love Trey Burke's game more and more. Here's the issue: it's stop and go with them. The past seven games have alternated wins and losses, which is better than streaks of consecutive losses, but February's when teams need to know how to reel off four and five straight. Overall, it looks like Michigan's not as aggressive as it should be, but part of that is Beilein's slow-boil approach.

3) The other game of note also came from the Big Ten and was very big for Tubby Smith. Nebraska's not too good, but Minnesota improved to 17-7 by winning on the road against the Cornhuskers, 69-61. The Big Ten can possibly send eight teams to the NCAAs because Minnesota's incredibly getting by without Trevor Mbakwe, but boy does the road ahead look scary. Gotta steal at least two games, for sure.
Posted on: February 5, 2012 11:15 am

Kent State's Chris Evans can get up and over

By Matt Norlander

It was a pretty great Saturday for Kent State's Chris Evans. The 6-7 junior forward had three degrading dunks on/against Western Michigan in a game Evans' Golden Flashes won, 78-73. Kent State is 16-6 overall, but at 6-3 in the incredibly loaded MAC East, it's a fourth-place team in the division. So let's do the modern thing and celebrate a team not because of it's record, but because it's got a guy who knows how to flush.

Evans, who averages 10 points and four boards per game, has about 30 dunks this year, according to Kent State athletics.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:27 am
Edited on: February 5, 2012 12:42 am

Night Court: Kansas-Mizzou delivers the goods

That is a 'Breaking Bad' reference for those who don't get it. (Getty Images)
By Matt Norlander

Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday night’s light slate of games …

Game of the Night:  It was Kansas-Missouri, of course. It couldn't be anything else. Parrish was there, and he'll have reaction/column on the experience shortly. As for my thoughts on the Tigers' 74-71 win, I thought the game was marred by officiating, but rarely does that bother me. The refs blow calls in every game, and at this point, unless it's particularly brutal -- like, among the five worst calls in a season -- I just consider it another turnover. I think it's a damn shame that could've been the last time Kansas takes the bus to Columbia for a game, though. Missouri wanted nothing to do with the Big 12, and now the rivalry is set to die after the season. Too bad.

Win to brag about: The Northern Iowa buzzer-beating win at home against the Valley's best team was bodacious. UNI is fighting to be an NIT bubble team, but it mucked up the MVC race by getting such a sizzling victory.

Loss to hide from: A lot of teams don't have wiggle room. Nevada was 19-3 entering the day, but it was a soft 19-3. It lost to 12-11 Idaho at home. The Wolf Pack now can most likely only afford to lose in the WAC finals if they want an at-large.

Player who deserves improper benefits: Thomas Robinson one-upped Jared Sullinger, scoring 25 and getting 13 rebounds after Sullinger had 24 and 10 earlier in the day. What's particularly egregious: Robinson didn't get a touch on the final three Kansas possessions. I checked the tape. The Jayhawks could have made it happen.

Another player who deserves improper benefits: The man who blocks. Anthony Davis, who set the SEC freshman record for blocks in a season, passing Shaq's record for more than two decades ago. Davis' eight swats today put him at 116 for the year. Davis will likely put this record beyond orbit by the end of February.

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Chace Stanback's two points in 20 minutes in UNLV's loss at Wyoming was pretty glaring. I still am very high on Vegas, but I'd like to not see Stanback disappear like this again. He's the wrinkle that makes UNLV hard to contain.

Numbers don’t lie

  • 12. The MAC East beat the MAC West 12-0 this week. On the year, the East leads the battle 21-3.
  • 25.1. That's Damian Lillard's points per game average, tops in the nation, and stays that way thanks to 35 tonight against Northern Colorado.
  • 40 and 40. The Summit League's two best players, Nate Wolters and Dominique Morrison, both played 40 minutes and led their team to wins tonight. DoMo had 36 and Wolters had 31.

Other notable results

  1. Dayton is now 4-5 in the A10 and 14-9 overall. I'm embarrassed to have ever put this team in the Power Pyramid.
  2. For the first time since being coach of Indiana, Tom Crean got a road win in the Big Ten against the team that wasn't named Penn State. 78-61 over Purdue is just what the doctor ordered for IU. Purdue seems destined to play in Dayton in the First Four.
  3. The game will be a bit of an afterthought on this day, but UNC struggled on the way to an 83-74 win at Maryland. Tyler Zeller was again spectacular, putting up 22 points and seven rebounds.
  4. Important game in the CAA saw George Mason beat Old Dominion 54-50. Mason (19-6) remains in a tie atop the league at 11-2 thanks to the win. Playing its way to an at-large if it can win most of the rest from here on out.
  5. Iowa State 77, Oklahoma 70. Iowa State now 7-3 in the conference and, yeah, this is a tournament team.
  6. Boy, oh, boy did Alabama need to avoid losing at home to Ole Miss -- and it did. But it took two overtimes. A 69-67 Tide win. If it can win at home and just get by in the SEC Alabama will sneak in to the field of 68.


  • Mentioned that Creighton loss above. Wichita State won at home over Indiana State, which means WSU and Creighton are tied atop the Valley. The two play each other next Saturday.
  • Middle Tennessee State was another unbeaten-in-conference team entering the day. No more. Fell at Denver 75-60. If it was a five-point and not a 15-point loss, that'd have been much better. Blue Raiders are a bubble team, but barely now, and they have no BracketBuster opportunity.
  • I've never seen a basketball stanchion just go to sleep like this after a dunk. 
  • Crazy to know that Texas A&M was picked by league coaches to win the Big 12. Aggies fell 64-53 at K-State and are now 3-7 in conference.
  • Apparently it's rumored UNC and Kentucky will not play each other in the non-con next year. Would be dumb for both teams to opt out of that.
Posted on: February 4, 2012 7:13 pm

Video: Wild ending to Creighton-Northern Iowa

By Matt Norlander

Creighton is now a two-loss team in the Missouri Valley because Anthony James hit a spectacular 3-point shot at the buzzer to kill off the Bluejays, who seconds before tied the game on a 3. The final: 65-62.

What made the finish so terrific was the back-to-back bombs. Creighton's Antoine Young -- not All-American contender Doug McDermott -- buried a 3 to tie the game at -- you know what, just watch how it ended. This has been a splendid Saturday so far.

Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:05 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2012 5:28 pm

Afternoon Delight: Daytime games don't disappoint

I can't even bite into pudding after seeing Ronald Nored's chipped Chiclet. Butler fell 65-61 to Detroit. (Mocksession.com)

By Matt Norlander

On busier Saturdays and Sundays this season, we’re not going to make you wait until the end of the slate of games to catch up with all that’s happened. Afternoon Delight (3-pointers in flight!) recaps the first five-or-so hours’ worth of action, the perfecta appetizer right before dinnertime.

The best we’ve seen so far:  The Buckeyes got their first win at Kohl since 2000. Thad Matta won in Madison for the first time. It was close. It was quintessential Big Ten basketball, which means I took fadeaway shots with balled-up socks at my living room garbage can to pass the time and make up for lost entertainment. Jared Sullinger’s performance is addressed below. As for Wisconsin, my adoration’s worn off. I still may pick it to win a game in March, but at this point, I’d be happier getting burned and being wrong if they managed to make the second weekend. Team is limited, Jordan Taylor will never get back the level of play he was at last season and UW is all too frustrating to be invested in anymore.

Deserving of a free dinner at the restaurant of their choice: It was the inter-conference game that had the most intrigue. Xavier at Memphis. X led most of the way, bloating its lead in the second half to 10 with six minutes remaining. It looked good and in control. Then, a Memphis run. The Tigers finished the game on a 21-6 run. Memphis looks good now. It needs to avoid getting stupid in C-USA and it will saunter into the tournament. Xavier gets to ride the carousel in the A10 and hope it plays better than 90 percent of the league. No guarantee.  

No soup for youI’d like to go out and thank Georgetown for exposing South Florida. The Hoyas won at home today over USF, 75-45. Few bought into the Bulls, but losing like this will convince everyone that Stan Heath’s team isn’t, and never was, tournament-worthy.  

Afternoon all-stars

  1. Sully went for 24 and 10 and had three steals to boot. Eagerly awaiting what Thomas Robinson does to respond in the marquee game tonight in Columbia.
  2. Who is Pat Connaughton? Seriously. I have no idea. Somebody whip up a profile piece. This freshman had 23 and 11 in Notre Dame’s big win over Marquette.
  3. Jamelle Hagins, who plays for Borzello’s Delaware Blue Hens, had 18 rebounds in a UD W over James Madison.
  4. Vandy might’ve lost, but Jeff Taylor had 25 points, six boards and four steals. He was on his game today. He plays like that going forward, Vandy’s a Sweet 16 team. I swear!
  5. Props to VMI’s Keith Gabriel who, as of this post, has a day-high 32. VMI beat Winthrop 86-79.
  6. Andre Drummond had seven blocks and a filthy alley-oop which is not yet available on the Web.

Other daytime action worth your attention

  1. Florida State is a 7-1 ACC team after defeating Virginia at home, 58-55. Want to emphasize just how good this is for FSU, which is halfway home in conference play and will remain atop the ACC standings with Duke and North Carolina. Virginia falls further behind the pack. The Cavs and Seminoles traded turnovers with each other, but at least the game kept my attention, which isn’t the case with 90 percent of tilts involving ACC teams this year.  
  2. Anyone who tries to make Notre Dame’s 76-59 defeat of Marquette more about the Golden Eagles isn’t giving the right due to Mike Brey, who I’m fairly certain came thisclose to having to start a Gatorade cooler earlier this season. The Fighting Irish are now a 7-3 Big East team with DePaul, Villanova and Rutgers aligned in three of their next four games. My God, the Irish stand a good chance of cracking the field! Anything to keep mock turtlenecks relevant: I’m for it.
  3. Goodman will have more on Vanderbilt falling 73-65 at Florida. I’m guessing he’ll be writing Florida, so let me say something quickly on Vandy: I’M STILL NOT GIVING UP ON YOU. LOOK AT ME. WE CAN MAKE THIS WORK.
  4. UConn’s 69-46, Calhoun coached-less win at home over Seton Hall came as dominantly as the Huskies and their fans could have asked for. But we can’t overreact. Seton Hall didn’t have Herb Pope. And Seton Hall has white guys who can’t shoot. Road tests ahead for the Huskies, and it’s then we’ll find out if the team’s got gumption or not. Beating hobbling roadkill like SHU isn’t going to capture the committee’s attention.

Delightful (and not-so delightful) thoughts

  • Difference between home and road. Jan. 14, Baylor plays Okie State at home, wins 106-65. Saturday, Baylor plays Okie State on road, wins 64-60. And if you’ve got a problem with “Okie State,” just know I’ll never stop writing it that way.
  • Fab Melo scored a career-high 14 points after missing three games due to academic troubles. As a people, we cannot let Melo’s haircut to continue, however.
  • Arizona went into Palo Alto and cleaned up the Cardinal, winning 56-43. It basically means nothing, though.
  • I’ll have something on the A10 tonight or tomorrow—depending on how crazy the evening games get—in how it’s a beautiful disaster of sorts. That was reinforced this afternoon once top-ranked La Salle fell to St. Joe’s, 70-66.
  • I’m thrilled to report I’ll continue to not pay attention to Arkansas, as I was alerted to the fact the Hogs fell on the road again today, losing at lousy LSU, 71-65.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:10 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 4:55 pm

Chart: Calhoun's pattern of missing games

By Matt Norlander

If it seems to you like Jim Calhoun's been missing more and more games in recent years, you're right. The UConn coach has completely missed 21 games (23 if you count the upcoming two against Seton Hall and Louisville) during his time with the Huskies. Fifteen of those 23 games have come since 2008. To read that another way, 65 percent of the games Calhoun has been forced to sit out of have happened in the past four and a half seasons of his career (less than one-fifth of his tenure at the school).

Calhoun's even had instances where he's left in the middle of games due to illness and had George Blaney man the controls for the remainder of the night. His health remains a concern on many fronts at the school, and talk of his replacement has been speculated about for the past few years. This most recent health battle will only intensify the conversation of when/if/should Calhoun, nearly 70, should retire from coaching.

Here's a canonical list of every Connecticut game Calhoun didn't coach in, the reason why, the opponent and whether the Huskies won or lost. Overall, UConn is 11-10 when their chieftain watches them on television.

Source: UConn athletic department.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:55 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 7:52 pm

Calhoun takes medical leave from coaching

Calhoun has stepped aside from his coaching duty many times in the past decade. (Getty Images)
By Matt Norlander

UPDATE, 7:49 p.m.: Calhoun spoke over the phone to the Associated Press Friday night. Some of his quotes have been added to this article.

Jim Calhoun is temporarily and indefinitely taking another leave of absence as head coach of UConn, the school announced Friday afternoon. Calhoun's leave is medically related, as he's dealing with a "worsening" condition of "spinal stenosis, a lower back condition that causes him severe pain and hampers mobility."

That means Calhoun is out for Saturday's game against Seton Hall and will also definitively not coach in Monday's game at Louisville. George Blaney, associate head coach, will step in again as he's done many times before during previous hiatuses Calhoun has taken from the team.

The team's press release quotes Calhoun's doctor, Peter Schulman, saying this has been an ongoing issue for Calhoun for the past few months.

“Last summer, Jim had some significant back pain and has seen two excellent back specialists,” Schulman said in the release. “The initial approach recommended to him was stretching, physical therapy and exercise, and that was successful for several months. It turns out that there is some degenerative problem in the lumbar vertebrae and it’s impinging on the nerves. It has led to significant back pain and some symptoms in his lower extremities. Jim has been able to manage it with the physical therapy and stretching, but over the last several days, things have become worse and he is not able to deal with this on a day to day basis, so other options need to be considered. Right now, he is physically unable to coach.”

Calhoun told the AP Friday night he "couldn't even get up" after plane rides and that the pain had become more and more brutal. He was unable to get out of bed Friday morning, and that's when the decision apparently became final: he was missing the next immediate stretch of games.

"But it's just so bad, even getting through practice," Calhoun said. "Now I'm going to see what the next step is. The bottom line is I'm hurting. ... I had back pain like never before last summer, thought it was back spasms. I saw a neurologist and he told me about scoliosis, stenosis and other things and that there could be things like a bone spur and that I could probably need something done at some point. I went for the physical therapy and it worked, but it started to lock up sometimes recently and it was worse."

Calhoun will turn 70 in May.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:11 pm

Podcast: Blogging/podcast worlds collide again

The future of the Hoosiers is one of many topics covered on today's pod. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander

Who says a couple of competing podcasts hosts can't share a microphone? ESPN.coms' Eamonn Brennan was again my guest on the podcast, and we managed to get through 37 minutes of conversation with minimal backhanded compliments and deft verbal barbs tossed at each other over the Wi-Fi.

E.B. was kind enough to do this amid a move, so I'm grateful for that. It's setting up to be a pretty nice weekend in hoops, I can't deny. I think this podcast will be a good way to usher yourself in to the first February Saturday slate. Enjoy, and feel free to send us feedback on Twitter. You can follow me here and Eamonn there.
  • From the beginning: Hey, wait a second -- that's not my voice!
  • 6:06: Was Murray State's come-from-behind home win a good sign or a troubling one?
  • 12:03: February. It's the month where we really see what every team is. I explain why. E.B. responds. It's what we do on the podcast. We're experts at this, you know.
  • 15:13: On to Indiana, where Eamonn graduated from, and so I wanted to know how he sees this program through the eyes of an alumnus and the eyes of someone paid to write about college basketball.
  • 20:22: The games we're most looking forward to this weekend, not including the obvious Kansas-Missouri tilt.
  • 27:18: Eamonn has a weekly Bottom 10 feature, and so what's the worst of the worst of the worst from the past week in hoops? We're not all roses and juggling unicorns over here. 
  • 29:20: I'm not sure how we derailed into Madonna and the Super Bowl and bashing Lost and me defending DMB, but it happened. Don't judge me. Fine. Judge me. I still love you.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast--whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.

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