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Posted on: November 1, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 4:13 pm

Big East hoops: Where UCF at SMU happens

By Gary Parrish

The Big East presidents have decided to rebuild their league by inviting Boise State, Air Force and Navy as football-only members, and SMU, UCF and Houston as all-sports members. So Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia will be replaced by Mustangs, Knights and Cougars -- three basketball programs that finished seventh, ninth and 11th in Conference USA last season.

Rick Pitino must be pissed.

Yes, I know basketball doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. But there was some thought that the sport I cover might matter some to the Big East because it's a brand most closely associated with hoops. Turns out, that thought was wrong. The league could've gone with UCF, Temple and Memphis for all sports and at least added two quality basketball programs to go with Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette and Notre Dame. Instead, the Big East went with three schools that bring nothing to the basketball table, meaning the league will now be worse in football and way worse in basketball than it was a year ago.

I guess the Big East could still add Temple and Memphis at some point.

That's possible, I'm told.

But for now, yeah, Rick Pitino must be pissed.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 10:09 am

Multiple suitors in need of (Wannah) Bail

By Jeff Borzello

Wannah Bail certainly has the name of a basketball player. Extremely long and athletic, Bail also has the build and body of a highly-touted prospect.

This summer, however, Bail felt he didn’t get a chance to show his full host of talents due to a toe injury.

“Not my best, especially coming off injury,” he said. “I had always felt as if I could have done something better, even after giving it my all.”

When healthy, Bail has the physical tools to be a dominant performer. Ranked No. 68 in the Top 100, the 6-foot-7 power forward runs the floor extremely well and uses his strength to make plays at both ends of the court. He can get solid position for offensive post-ups, and he is a very good shot-blocker and rebounder. If he refines his offensive game, Bail could be a stud.

Bail, a native of the Bahamas, is now enrolled at Lamar Consolidated (Texas) after bouncing around a few high schools in the Lonestar State last year. His recruitment will also begin to sort itself out with coaches finally able to track him during the school season.

“It’s going good,” Bail said of his recruitment. “I’m really enjoying it.”

For now, Bail is hearing from Auburn, St. John’s, Houston, Texas Tech, Florida State, Maryland, Kansas, South Florida, Indiana, Texas A&M, Baylor, Washington State and others. All besides Kansas have offered.

Bail plans to take his recruitment slowly, but did take a visit to Houston on Saturday, when the Cougars beat UCLA in the football season opener. Michael Carey and Chicken Knowles also joined him on campus.

Don’t look for a decision soon.

“I have no favorites,” he said.

Photo: Adidas Nations

Posted on: June 12, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2011 3:03 pm

Finally comfortable, Michael Carey is motivated


By Jeff Borzello

BRONX, N.Y. – After going through multiple high schools in the span of five months last summer and fall, Michael Carey is content with where he is now.

He attended Lamar Consolidated (Tex.) this past year, and is happy with the way things turned out there.

“I’m going to be there for good,” the rising senior said.

One thing Carey is not content with is his standing nationally. Not ranked in anyone’s top 100, the Bahamas native is out to prove people wrong.

“I want to become an elite point guard in the country,” Carey said. “People are starting to see me as a point guard, that’s what they’re going to see at the next level.”

The 6-foot-5 Carey is an offensive-minded player who can handle both guard positions. He is extremely aggressive off the dribble, getting past defenders into the lane and using his length and athleticism to finish strong at the rim. With his size, Carey is able to see over most opponents and also make plays inside.

In order to get recognized as a full-time point guard, Carey realizes there’s work to do.

“I can run a team and break down anybody,” he said, “but I need to get faster. I’m fast, but not fast enough. I need to get quicker.”

After an impressive spring, Carey was set to continue to make a name for himself with a solid June heading into the July live period. Unfortunately, at the Rumble in the Bronx on Saturday, Carey reinjured a toe that he had originally hurt during the school season.

It is unclear the extent of the injury, but Carey will undergo an X-ray back home on Thursday to determine whether he needs surgery now or after the July period.

“My coaches think I should do it now,” Carey said. If he decides to do that, he likely won’t be able to play in any events until the Desert Duel in late July.

“Just as I was playing really well,” Carey said, showing signs of disappointment.

Even the injury won’t keep him down for too long, though.

On Monday, Carey will take a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. for Florida State’s elite camp. The Seminoles are one of the schools to offer Carey, with new assistant coach Dennis Gates taking the lead in his recruitment. Carey has also spoken to head coach Leonard Hamilton.

“I like their style of play, and the way they develop players,” he said. “They have good players, and they can take me to the next level. I’m looking forward to [the visit].”

Carey also holds offers from Nebraska and Houston, and has been offered in the past by Marquette, USC, Baylor, Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Kansas, Auburn, Florida, West Virginia and Tennessee are also in the mix.

One interesting facet in his recruitment is his relationship with highly-touted forward Wannah Bail. Bail is also a native of the Bahamas, and plays on the same high school and AAU team as Carey.

“I mean, we’ve talked about it,” Carey said of going to the same college. “That’s my boy, but I’ve gotta do what’s best for me.”

Carey does not have any visits planned besides Florida State, although he did say he wanted to take a trip to Tennessee at some point.

Despite not having a favorite or a specific timeline for a decision, Carey could be ready to end his recruitment.

“It could happen anytime,” he said. 

Photo: Houston Roundball Review

Posted on: April 1, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 8:08 pm

Calhoun has taught young dogs old tricks

Posted by Eric Angevine

Experience is one of the factors most often linked to a team with Final Four potential. It is the thing most obviously missing when the Connecticut Huskies take the floor.

At least, the players haven't logged much time on their odometers. Kemba Walker might seem like he's been around forever, but it's easy at times to forget that he's just a junior. With a lineup composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores, the Huskies weren't supposed to get anywhere near Houston, if we're honest about the preseason whispers.

So what gives? Credit the man on the bench, of course. Jim Calhoun is 68 years old, and he's been in the Basketball Hall of Fame since 2005. He's old enough that one of his star players, Jeremy Lamb, is the son of a player who knocked his Northeastern Huskies out of the NCAA tournament in 1984. Live long enough, and these things stop seeming like coincidences and more like the expected fruits of a full life.

Calhoun played the wise, fatherly role to the hilt in Houston, referencing the popular Fred McMurray sitcom My Three Sons (1960-1972) when asked to remark on his status as the elder statesman of the Final Four coaches.

"Shaka is the brilliant and very smart, but cool, fighter," he told the assembled media at Reliant Stadium. "Brad hasn't said the wrong word, ever. He's your middle child. Then we have our problem older child who is also brilliant and a terrific, terrific basketball coach."

Laughter rippled around the room at that. Calhoun didn't need to say the name of his Saturday opponent, John Calipari, for the room to get the joke.

Calhoun might go for the easy chuckle when he's on the dais, but there's little doubt that he came to Houston to take care of business and bring home his third NCAA championship. It took every ounce of his coaching acumen to turn Kemba Walker and a bunch of unproven freshmen and sophomores into the formidable unit that took the floor during open practice today. He'll make it sound easy, because that's what he does. When asked about facing a Kentucky team he already beat once back in November, Calhoun made it sound like a walk in the park.

"On Maui, it was house money. We weren't even supposed to make the (NCAA) tournament, let alone be near it. We just kind of played free and easy," he said. "(Now) I think the stakes of the game are entirely different. I really like that Maui trophy. It's kind of cool. But this is another one I think that's a lot more important and that we'd rather have."

Sounds innocuous, but that statement reveals a lot about how Calhoun approached this season, and why he's considered one of the greatest of all time. Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Calhoun gave his charges plenty of opportunities to mess up -- which they took full advantage of -- without getting called on the carpet too much. Perhaps he showed his kids that he expected more when the Big East season ladled out nine disappointing losses; worked night and day to teach them how to best support the rampaging ninja in the Walker jersey so they'd be ready when it really counted. Whatever he did, it's led to this point: nine straight wins with an option on two more. A program that was an object of pity for sympathetic souls and derision for enemies this summer is now 1/4th of a championship quartet.

The team has become tough and prickly just like the coach who stoked the furnaces of their success. One might say they take abrundage at any suggestion that they lack the power to survive and advance yet again. Well, 'one' might not say that, but Calhoun would. He coined the malapropism in Friday's news conference, once again in reference to Calipari in his days at UMass.

"John really was trying to claim New England," Calhoun said. "He could never say he parked the car in Harvard Yard, he didn't know what clam chowder really was. I took abrundage to it, but I take abrundage to a lot of things."

Check out your Oxford English Dictionary, and you'll find 'LOL' and 'OMG' in it, but not 'abrundage'. Not yet. If Jim Calhoun can somehow convince his Huskies to pound their way into the NCAA final on a wave of abrundage, it's sure to become the latest addition to the lexicon.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: April 1, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 4:03 pm

Video: Butler Blue II arrives at Final Four

Posted by Eric Angevine

What's a major American sporting event without a little controversy? Except, in this case, it's the end of a perceived injustice that's getting all the attention.

Butler Blue II, the live Bulldog mascot of the surprise Final Four entrants from Indianapolis, was denied his accustomed access to his human friends as Brad Stevens and his troops advanced through the Washington, D.C. pod and then the New Orleans regional. In Houston, all has been set right. BB2 broke the news himself, on his twitter feed.

@butlerblue2: I am pleased to announce that the NCAA has officially declared me FREE to attend the Final Four in Houston. #freeButlerBlue2 is retired!

The Twitter-based outcry from Butler fans was a formidable force. It has turned BB2 into something of a cause celebre this weekend. The Bulldog has already visited NASA, a trip that nearly made him late for Butler's scheduled open practice time. Fortunately, he and owner Michael Kaltenmark arrived just in time, and I was able to get first impressions from human and canine in the moment.

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: April 1, 2011 10:39 am
Edited on: April 1, 2011 2:44 pm

Smith: "Play hard, play smart, play together"

Kenny Smith was an NCAA All-American as a Tar Heel

Posted by Eric Angevine

HOUSTON -- Kenny Smith was up and on the go well before breakfast this morning. The former NCAA first-team All America honoree has plenty to do now that he's part of the broadcast team that will cover the Final Four. He'll be preparing for a Final Four that is loaded with storylines and possibilities.

"I have seen a Final Four like this before in terms of good teams," Smith said this morning. "But there are some really good teams from the non-power conferences. Those teams have really shown well throughout the tournament with the inclusion of Butler and VCU. Probably better than they've ever shown before."

Smith has also been impressed with the winning streaks put together by the participants in this year's Final Four. UConn had to win through the entire Big East tournament to get here, and Virginia Commonwealth advanced out of the inaugural First Four, playing an extra game on the way to the Final Four.

"There's three things: you play hard, you play smart, and you play together," Smith said. "You put those three things together and you're going to have a pretty good run. But you also have to have talent, and you have to have some good fortune. Put three seconds on or take three seconds off a lot of games, and we'd have a different Final Four."

Smith has been heavily involved in making this year's event enjoyable for all of the hoops fans that make it to Houston, including those who might not snag tickets to the main event (or are looking for something else to do after a heart-breaking loss). He's working with the Coke Zero Bracket Town event, which is basically a fancy name for the fan fest at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center. The on-site activities will include basketball competitions, clinics, performances, autograph sessions and photo ops with legends of the game.  For those who can't make it to Houston, there's the Coke Zero Social Arena, an interactive clearing house for live tweets and social media updates from CBS, TNT and NCAA personalities, including video updates from the March Madness On Demand crew.

The social aspect of the Final Four is growing every year. Houston is crawling with head coaches and current and former players over this long weekend. With the addition of social media, Smith says anyone can feel more connected to the goings on in Houston.

"You can talk to your friends through Twitter and Facebook and still have the experience of watching the game and tweeting about it at the same time with a big social network."

So, to paraphrase The Jet: "Watch hard, watch smart and watch together."

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: February 20, 2011 9:14 am

Video: Randy Culpepper's 33 points for UTEP

Posted by Eric Angevine

There was so much great basketball on the tube yesterday that I feared this star turn by UTEP's Randy Culpepper might have been lost in the shuffle. The Miners are embroiled in the tightest league race in the nation in C-USA, and need every win they can get, and having Culpepper in rare form is exactly what they'll need to repeat their tourney trip from last season, which happened under current Auburn head coach Tony Barbee.

We'll be back later today with the big stories from our Sunday slate of games.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 20, 2011 3:22 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 5:13 pm

College basketball's big game anniversary

Posted by MATT JONES

Lost in the excitement of John Calipari's "Curse-gate" yesterday was the anniversary of one of the most important events in college basketball history.

When Houston hosted UCLA in the Astrodome in 1968, the spectacle that followed was step one in making college basketball a truly national event that could showcase its teams beyond their regional provinces. More than 50,000 people showed up for the Game of the Century in southeast Texas and witnessed a huge upset that became a defining moment for college basketball.

This is now becoming relevant once against because college basketball is returning to a grand stage in Houston, the 2011 Final Four.

Yesterday in the Houston Chronicle, writer David Barron recalled the events and spoke to some of the participants in one of the three greatest games in college basketball history (the others in my view are the 1974 NC State-Maryland ACC Tournament game and the 1992 Duke-Kentucky East Regional Final). Check out his great review here.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Houston, UCLA
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