Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: August 4, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: August 4, 2011 11:59 am

Pitino, Calipari rivalry reaches a new level

By Matt Norlander

"It's a free country, and the KFC, last time I checked, was part of this country."

Oh, you bet, Rick Pitino. You bet your esteemed coif that KFC is part of this great, great country. Pitino was more specifically referring to the KFC Yum! Center, where Louisville plays its home games. It's also where John Calipari will coach the Dominican National Team against former Kentucky players on Aug. 16.

Calipari will scheme against former Kentucky players in an exhibition match that the state is eagerly anticipating. It's just another not-so-obfuscated way of Calipari milking whatever he can out of the system. It should be a blast for folks in Kentucky who will take any semblance of organized, Wildcats-infused basketball they can get.

But, yeah, the game's taking place at Louisville's digs. According to our former colleague Matt Jones, Louisville and Pitino were so anti-Kentucky when this new joint got built, they had it put into the contract that Kentucky could not play any games at the Yum! Center. And, technically, they're not -- it's former Kentucky players going up against the Dominican National Team. Still, Pitino is biting the inside of his cheeks as much as he can on this. Just (not really) grinning and (barely) bearing it. And I'm sure he hated having to address it to the media yesterday, when a press conference was scheduled so he could discuss his team's upcoming summer plans.

Pitino and the Cardinals will be just getting back from the Bahamas when this game is taking place. And then there's this, from the AP:
When an obviously irritated Pitino was asked why isn't the exhibition game being played at Freedom Hall, he said: "Why don't you ask them that?"
So we have another little drama inside the Bluegrass State. Amazing how much blogging material can be borne out of Kentucky and Louisville's programs, right? Think about it: Duke and North Carolina, two programs that collectively have more impact and history on college basketball than the aforementioned two, don't produce half the amount of news or conversation that UK and U of L do.

The rivalry extends beyond the maniacal fanbases. And with this thorn in Pitino's side, the feud between he and Calipari plunges to another depth.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 3, 2011 4:10 pm

Turgeon loses another at Maryland

By Matt Norlander

Right about now, I think, Mark Turgeon's somewhere in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee -- wherever. In Las Vegas he told me at the start of August he would be making the three-day road trip, with his family and pets in tow, for the move from one College town to another: College Station, Texas, to College Park, Md. He wanted the full experience of moving like that. Being from the Midwest, and working their all of his professional life, he'd never had a cross-country drive to experience before.

Can we all picture, right now, Mark Turgeon screaming at his kids in the back seat to keep quiet -- because they just stopped to go to the bathroom 15 minutes ago? Yes, we can. And let's carry that vision in our heads for the remainder of this Wednesday.

Where was I? Oh, right, Maryland and Turgeon losing a player. Sorry, when a role player leaves a team, you tend to feel a need to beef up the posts with anecdotal fluff. So, anyway, Turgeon's down to eight scholarships since little-used forward Haukur "Hawk" Palsson, who was a to-be sophomore, decided to turn pro. Seriously! Palsson, who is from Iceland, averaged 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in his freshman campaign.

When you've got nine scholarship guys, losing another one, no matter how little he contributed, hurts. Less than 40 percent of the Terps' offense from last season will be back in uniform for 2011-12.

Said Turegon in a statement: “Hawk informed us today that he intends on pursuing a professional basketball career in Europe. He wants to be closer to home and to be able to start providing for his family. We appreciate Hawk’s contributions to Maryland basketball and we will always wish him the best in his professional basketball career.”

Maryland's going to go small next season, often employing a four-guard look. That'll be fun and extremely experimental. Should be interesting to see how that plays in the ACC, which will also be relatively weak, I think. If there's ever a year to rebuild and take on just eight schollies, it's next season in the ACC. Just accept that Carolina will roll, Duke will be elite and everyone else gets tossed around in the vat.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 3, 2011 3:10 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2011 3:16 pm

VCU releases its non-conference schedule

By Matt Norlander

We are through some sort of college basketball looking glass when I'm using that headline in hopes it will have some SEO shelf life to it.

So, yeah, on Wednesday VCU released who it'll be playing outside of the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011-12. Have previously wondered who Shaka Smart could get in the non-conference schedule, and how much he'd want to challenge his group, which loses Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen and Brandon Rozzell.

Remember, VCU's Final Four run, while staggering, was unpredictable and outlier in nature. If we played the 2011 NCAA bracket out all over again, there's a distinct possibility the team wouldn't have made it out of Dayton's First Four. Let's not rehash that argument all over again, instead just learn to accept the fact that VCU's five-game winning streak in the tournament was so special because it was so unlikely -- and no one saw it coming. It's why we love the tournament and yada, yada, yada.

Now, the Rams aren't an intimidating (read: a team BCS foes are afraid to face) program, but they are one the casual public recognizes. If it's to suddenly keep footing with other one-time small fries who became big, it'll have to get ambitious -- yet realistic -- in the non-con slate.

This year's menu falls short of that. I can't fault Smart, though. He knows what he has, and the schedule is respectable -- just not inspiring.

"This year's non-conference schedule will be a tremendous challenge for our young team," Smart said in a statement. "We play in a high quality exempt tournament, have road games in hostile environments and welcome some terrific opponents to the Siegel Center. November and December should definitely prepare us for conference play."

Here's how Shaka shook out his school's schedule

  • Nov. 3: (exh.) California University (Pa.)
  • Nov. 11: Saint Francis (Pa.)
  • Nov. 17-20: Charleston Classic; Seton Hall, then possibly Georgia Tech, LSU, Northwestern, St. Joseph's, Tulsa, Western Kentucky.
  • Nov. 23: at Western Kentucky
  • Nov. 27: at Alabama
  • Nov. 30: South Florida
  • Dec. 4: at George Washington
  • Dec. 10: Richmond
  • Dec. 20: UAB
  • Dec. 22.: at UNC-Greensboro
  • Dec. 29: at Akron
  • Mid-February: Bracketbusters game

It's solid, but on the surface, unless VCU rolls through the majority of that non-con schedule, it's not likely those wins will stack up well against other teams' out-of-conference conquests. Still, it's better than what a fellow 2011 Final Four team put together.


Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 3, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2011 12:44 pm

Austin Hatch surrounded by support in recovery

By Matt Norlander

It still breaks my heart to think about Austin Hatch. And to think of his family, all of those perished minds and bodies.

Hatch is the 16-year-old who is now without any direct relatives after he survived two plane crashes in eight years. His parents, siblings and stepmother were none the luckier.

He's committed to Michigan, where his late mother went to school. But basketball, while it ties into the reasons for posting on this blog, doesn't matter much now to Austin. Will it in time? Don't even know that. He's still in recovery from the June 25 plane crash that took his father and stepmother away from him forever.

ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill wrote the story
that needed to be written. She chronicled the Hatch family, what led to that doomed flight, how Austin's lived without his mother, older sister and younger brother for eight years -- all of it. I can't recommend the tough read enough.

Austin's not ready to talk about it yet. Can't, even; he's only recently reacquired the ability to open his eyes. (What new world does he want to see?) So Merrill gets the story from those who know Austin and knew his father well. They can tell they story and situation as it feels right now, and they do. You see the devastation and hope that's combined in Fort Wayne, Ind., right now.

That's where the Hatch family lived.

In the piece there's a comforting-yet-heartbreaking detail I'd not learned before. Just prior to taking the flight to Michigan peninsula for a vacation, Austin's stepmother, Kim, had returned home after helping tornado victims in Joplin, Mo.

She drove 10 hours the previous night to make it back for this flight, tired but full of inspiration. She took a seat next to her husband in the front. Austin made his way to the back, near his labradoodle, Brady. He'd earned this vacation. Although he was barely removed from his sophomore year of high school, Austin had just accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball for Michigan, and his dad was over the moon about the kid starring for the maize and blue. "One of the best weeks of my life," Hatch texted a friend on Father's Day.
That pit grows back in my stomach.

Who knows where the story goes from here. Will Austin eventually play basketball at Michigan? That is a question that's months away from being answered. He's got grandparents and uncles and aunts to lean on as he becomes more and more aware of this cold third stage of his life he's entering -- and he's not yet 17.

And, again, if you would like to send a message to Austin, you still can.

Photo via Chad Ryan of the News-Sentinel
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 3, 2011 11:08 am
Edited on: August 3, 2011 11:09 am

Iowa, Southern Miss in spat over logo similarity

By Matt Norlander

One of these things looks just like the other?

Nine years after the Southern Miss logo became official, folks affiliated with the University of Iowa still aren't too fond of the Golden Eagle. That Golden Eagle which looks so menacing and concerned over the perpetual mediocre state of Conference USA, where it resides. (That's Southern Miss on the left and Iowa on the right, in case you need the clarification.)

In 2004 there was a push to make USM change its logo, but that didn't pan out.

But Iowa recently brought the issue to officials again, thanks to a trademark attempt on behalf of Southern Miss. That attempt failed, as the United States Patent and Trademark Office thought the two bird brains looked too much alike. Now USM is in a bit of a scramble. Could Southern Miss be forced to change its logo in the near-future? Think about how much money would have to go into that -- changing uniforms, fields, courts. New shirts, pants, hats, etc.
Jason Bush, an attorney with Baker Donelson in Jackson, said USM could appeal the decision, which was made by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

“In the alternative,” wrote Bush in an email, “USM has the option of presenting additional evidence or raising additional claims in the United States District Court in any district venue that is proper.”

Giannini and other USM officials have long argued that the logos bare little resemblance.

USM unveiled its new Golden Eagle logo in January 2003 in an overhaul of the athletic department’s brand — and it quickly became part of the school’s athletic identity.

This comes down to money. Schools want to sell gear. Similar logos blend brands. Iowa is a much bigger brand than Southern Miss. Here's what one of the judges, David Bucher, told the Des-Moines Register:

“Specifically, (USM) argues that each of the Iowa Hawkeyes marks is a collection of four separate silhouette shapes put together in close proximity creating a two dimensional image that is then displayed against backgrounds of changing colors. (USM) suggests that each Iowa Hawkeyes mark has the simplicity of a stenciled or stamped image. By contrast, Southern Miss argues that its new eagle head is more complex, having the “fierce eyed gaze of independence” and the “black peak of the beak” to create a “symbol of courage and power, reminiscent of Roman soldiers … going into battle [with] a crimson banner with a golden eagle emblazoned on the banner.”

Bucher wrote that he found fault in USM’s argument:

“The overall similarity in appearance of the marks on the goods, particularly in light of the use of identical color schemes, creates virtually identical commercial impressions.”

What do you think? Are they similar enough? I really don't think so. But now I'm rooting for these two to somehow line up in a 7-10 NCAA tournament game next March.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 2, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 5:16 pm

Rebel great Larry Johnson now no fan of UNLV

By Matt Norlander

He's now calling them the "UNLV Wildcats."

That's the moniker former No. 1 overall pick and Vegas great Larry Johnson has given to his alma mater in the wake of him not getting the Rebels' head coaching job this offseason. Dave Rice took over after Lon Kruger left UNLV for Oklahoma.

And yes, you read that right: Larry Johnson, that Grandmama of years past, was hopeful he'd receive the keys to rev the program back into the national spotlight. Critical fact: Johnson has no head-coaching experience.

And now a once-repaired, formerly damaged relationship is apparently in tatters again. Johnson told GamingToday.com that the UNLV athletic director, Jim Livengood (who came from Arizona, hence the mocking moniker Johnson's appointed to the school), and others with Arizona ties at the school don't like him -- and he returns that feeling with mutual force.
"It’s not UNLV Runnin’ Rebels no more, it’s UNLV Wildcats right now. ... Outside of gambling, we put Las Vegas on the map," said Johnson, who at age 42 is a successful businessman with a 15-year-old son, Lasani. "I was bitter for years at the way they treated us and Coach Tark. The administration looked at us as villains. Tark was like my father. If they messed with him, they messed with me."

Now, in recent years, Johnson had cozied -- or at least warmed -- up to the program, thanks in large part to what Kruger had done. The mild-mannered former head coach of the Runnin' Rebels made a concentrated-yet-quiet effort to connect the community, specifically the university, with its former greats. Members of those late-'80s/early-'90s teams have said many times before how they felt ostracized by the program -- even when the city still embraced who they were.

Kruger was a catalyst for reform and renewed relationships. Things were on the mend. Then Kruger left, and it seems Johnson was perhaps a bit misguided in how he would figure into UNLV basketball's future. He claims anger over the fact he never got so much as a phone call from the athletic department as they went through their search for Kruger's replacement.

"People all over town, wherever I went, asked me if I wanted to coach," Johnson said. "They wanted me and Stacey [Augmon], knowing he had been an assistant coach. They had to hire him (as an assistant), knowing they would never consider me. ... It’s all about recruiting and identification with past performers at the school. The administration turned its back on us and consequently players have left for Texas, Duke and other top national programs. Today, I would probably do the same."

Harsh words -- and is this something that's even fixable at this point? It's important to note the source of this article isn't a traditional news outlet, and the piece slants in favor of Johnson. That said, those are his words quoted, and it's hard to take them out of context.

It's never beneficial when former great players at a school aren't embraced by their alma maters. But we see it, usually after a scandal plagues a program and flushes out a number of people related to it. But LJ, Augmon, Tark, Greg Anthony -- all of those guys, and others, really made Vegas what we think of it today. Right or wrong, they created something more than a basketball program.

Now it looks like a shattered relationship with little chance of recovery in the near-future. A shame.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 2, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 4:20 pm

More Bruce-Pearl-to-D-League rumors

By Matt Norlander

UPDATE: ESPN.com quotes Pearl below.

A second NBA D-League team is believed to be interested in hiring Bruce Pearl as head coach.

In May it was the Maine Red Claws, though that courtship never materialized. The team wound up hiring former DePaul and Virginia coach Dave Leitao a few weeks ago.

But now comes a second option at that level. ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the Texas Legends are now in pursuit of the former Tennessee coach. The move makes sense for D-League teams who are looking to sell tickets any way they can. Pearl would be the only coach in that league who doubles as a household name.

The Legends are the feeder club to the Dallas Mavericks, who of course just won their first world title in June. ESPN.com got Pearl on the record late Tuesday afternoon.

"When the world champions call you have to listen," Pearl said. "Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have been great and I'm looking forward to talking to them."

Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson heads the management team as Legends co-owner.

Sources told ESPN.com that there have been ongoing negotiations between the parties.

Said one source: "The job is [Pearl's] if he wants it."

And for Pearl, it could make sense, but he's still in a twist-in-the-wind situation right now. He is still awaiting to hear back from the NCAA, which will bring down a punishment on him and the Tennessee program some time later this summer or in the early fall. It wouldn't look so good for Pearl to take on a job while he awaits his fate in the NCAA, a fate many believe will include at least a one-year show cause, which means he wouldn't be able to work for any program for that duration.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 2, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2011 12:03 pm

Here's to hoping this is Northwestern's new floor

By Matt Norlander

Please, please, please pick the purple.

Currently, Northwestern has four finalists for its new-and-improved (fine: the "improved" is up to your interpretation) basketball floor, which will make its debut this upcoming season. The program has taken to Facebook to get a public opinion on which floor should be chosen. Right now, it seems as though the most traditional-looking one is in the lead, unfortunately.

I've said before that I'm all for ridiculous-looking courts. I want personality and I want absurdity. I want a Boise State mentality to seep into college basketball on a wide scale. I want TV screens to suffer the consequences of heavy paints and shiny glosses.

Northwestern is the most futile BCS men's basketball program (it's the only one never to play in the NCAA tournament), so this kind of pub is, yes, good. It's not about the team or the play, but it gives them a little oomph. And, to be honest, NU needs a little bit of a personality makeover. This is one way of going about it.

I don't think its second-rate. I think it's brazen, silly, legitimate, attention-seeking, eye-catching and eye-gouging all the same. And I hope Wildcats fans make the right choice by picking the most wrong design. Voting and input is ongoing for about another two weeks, and then the school will announce which design gets the go-ahead.

(H/T, The Dagger)
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