Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:38 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 2:41 pm
By Gary Parrish
People don't get healthier as they get older.
I'm not sure that's 100 percent true.
But it's mostly true.
And, either way, I always figured such would be the case with Jim Calhoun, which is why I thought it would've been wise for him to walk away after last season. Not only could he have gone out on top, but he could've avoided all this. And by this, I mean more NCAA issues (Ryan Boatright) and health issues (spinal stenosis) -- the kind that make running an elite college basketball program difficult to the point of being impossible.
Friday provided another chapter.
While most normal Americans were either going or coming from lunch, Connecticut announced that Calhoun is taking an indefinite leave of absence because of a "worsening" condition of "spinal stenosis, a lower back condition that causes him severe pain and hampers mobility." Translation: He's hurting like hell. So what we have here is a 69-year-old cancer survivor battling an incredibly painful condition that'll force him to miss games for what feels like the 107th consecutive season, and at what point is it wise to just walk away?
That's a question that was fair to ask last April and is even more fair to ask now.
Never mind when Calhoun might return.
I'm debating if he'll ever return.
I'm doubting he should.
Is it really rational to think next season will be smoother? Or the one after that? Or the one after that? Again, Calhoun is 69 and will be 70 next season, then 71, and you know how age works, right? I don't have to count for you. Calhoun will, like all of us, get older every year. And he will, like most of us, watch his health further deteriorate with time. If he couldn't make it through 2012 without a health issue, the smart money says he probably won't make it through 2013, either. And when you combine that with a struggling team and NCAA and APR concerns, well, it makes it reasonable to wonder if we've seen the last of Jim Calhoun.
He's a Hall of Fame coach and one of the all-time greats.
But he's also unhealthy and hurting and pushing 70 years old.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:13 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 1:16 am
By Gary Parrish
Here’s everything you need to know about Thursday’s slate of games …
Game of the day: Murray State was down 11 at home and at least one so-called college basketball expert was wondering if the Racers could come back and remain the nation's lone undefeated team. Then Isaiah Canaan shut everybody up. The junior point guard from Mississippi got hot and finished with 32 points in the 10th-ranked Racers' 81-73 victory over Southeast Missouri State. So Murray State is 22-0 and still perfect. And I apologize for ever thinking the Racers might not enter the weekend as both of those things.
Win to brag about: As Michigan State, Kansas State and Vanderbilt have shown this week, winning on the road in the league against a decent opponent can be difficult. So credit Middle Tennessee State for its 68-66 win at North Texas. It won't register nationally (outside of here). But it's a nice victory, and now Kermit Davis' team is 21-3 overall, 10-0 in the Sun Belt.
Loss to hide from: There is nothing wrong with losing at BYU. Lots of good teams have done it over the years. But the 24th-ranked Zags were never close at the Marriott Center. They lost 83-73. And now Saint Mary's is running away with the WCC.
Player who deserves improper benefits: Momo Jones got loose in Iona's 105-86 win over Canisius. The Arizona transfer took 23 shots, made 16 and finished with a career-high 43 points. That's not bad. And who wants to draw Iona in its opening game of the NCAA tournament?
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Jason Washburn entered Utah's game with Oregon with stats that said he took 7.5 shots per game and made 4.3. In a 70-68 loss to the Ducks, he took 10 and made just two. That's 20 percent and awful for anybody, especially a center. Utah lost 79-68.
Numbers don't lie
On tap: Friday doesn't offer much but Saturday should be really good. My colleague Jeff Goodman will be courtside for Vanderbilt at Florida. I'll be at Kansas-Missouri in Columbia.
Posted on: February 2, 2012 9:31 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 11:33 am
The first time I met Larry Eustachy he was sober but talking about being drunk. It was May 2004. He was the new coach at Southern Miss. I was the Memphis beat writer at The Commercial Appeal. We were at the Conference USA spring meetings in Florida. And just I remember Eustachy walking out of one of the meetings mid-morning to take a bathroom break. He went in the bathroom and exited the bathroom, but rather than immediately return to the meeting he sat down on a couch in the lobby beside me, rubbed his tired eyes and started a conversation.
I didn't know Eustachy at all at the time.
I mean, I knew who he was but he didn't know me.
But I guess he could tell I was a reporter, and I was the only reporter covering the meeting. So he plopped down beside me, and we started talking, and this was roughly a year after he was fired at Iowa State after being photographed drinking and partying with college students. In hindsight, the scandal doesn't seem like a big deal given what we've dealt with over the past year. But at the time it was a scandal worthy of national headlines, and I was trying to figure out a way to eventually (and respectfully) bring it up because I knew I'd want to write about Eustachy at some point from the spring meetings.
Before I could settle on a strategy, Eustachy broached the subject.
"I used to drink till the sun came up, then go to these meetings," he said. "It's harder going to them sober."
I laughed and agreed.
I then introduced myself.
And we sat there for the next 30 minutes talking about his very public fall from grace. Eustachy was remarkably open. His candor was unique and refreshing (as was the case again when I spoke to him in 2009 right after Billy Gillispie was charged with DUI). Eustachy just seemed so comfortable talking about the lowest point of his life, and ever since that conversation I've pulled for him. I have no problem admitting I like the guy. Eustachy's fall was quick and hard and embarrassing, but he handled it as well as anybody could. He went from being the Associated Press National Coach of the Year at a Big 12 school to a fired and admitted alcoholic who lost his marriage and found himself alone in Hattiesburg with a seemingly impossible job. That's exactly the kind of stuff that drives a man to drinking. How Eustachy stayed sober I'll never know. But he did. He stayed sober and continued building a program as best he could, and he woke this morning in first place in Conference USA after Wednesday's dramatic victory over Memphis.
His Golden Eagles are 20-3 overall, 7-1 in the league and possibly headed for the Top 25 on Monday.
It's a terrific story of redemption.
It's a story I like.
It's now been nearly eight years since I sat with Eustachy in the lobby of that hotel in Florida, and it's been a long climb back to relevancy for him. But he's back. Against all odds, he's got Southern Miss on track to play in the NCAA Tournament. So I'm happy for him. And you should be, too.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 12:12 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 12:17 pm
By Gary Parrish
Tom Izzo acknowledged Tuesday night that Michigan State is a "different team" without Draymond Green.
Luckily for Izzo, he won't have to find out just how different.
The Michigan State star injured his left knee late in Tuesday's loss at Illinois and left the arena on crutches, but an MRI performed early Wednesday showed that Green suffered nothing more than a sprain, a school official told CBSSports.com. The 6-foot-7 forward is officially listed as day-to-day. Michigan State hosts Michigan on Sunday. Both teams are nationally ranked and 6-3 in the Big Ten.
Green is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.
He's a National Player of the Year candidate.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 12:03 pm
By Gary Parrish
Charlie Spoonhour, best known for coaching Saint Louis to three NCAA tournaments in the 1990s, died Wednesday at his home in North Carolina, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting.
Spoonhour was 72. The former SLU coach -- who also coached Missouri State and UNLV -- had a lung transplant in 2010 after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He had reportedly been "in and out" of the Duke Medical Center ever since. He's survived by his wife and two sons.
Arrangements are pending.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 10:25 am
By Gary Parrish
My colleague Jeff Goodman unveiled his Naismith Award midseason ballot in his Tuesday column.
I've also submitted mine.
Here's how it looks:
(List is in alphabetical order. The Naismith Award will release its Top 30 in mid-February.)
Posted on: January 30, 2012 3:29 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:46 pm
By Gary Parrish
Wisconsin should be on everybody's ballot.
Connecticut shouldn't be on anybody's ballot.
I'll explain why in great detail in this edition of the Poll Attacks.
Associated Press poll: Three voters aren't including Wisconsin on their ballots.
That makes no sense considering Wisconsin is ...
I seriously can't think of any way to justify not having Wisconsin on a Top 25 ballot.
So who are the guilty parties?
One of them Jack Bogaczyk. He didn't rank Wisconsin but he did rank Louisville -- a school that has one more loss to a currently unranked team than Wisconsin has and two fewer wins (i.e., zero total) over a currently ranked team than Wisconsin possesses. Another one of them is Steve Wiseman. He didn't rank Wisconsin but he did rank Harvard -- a school that has one more loss to a currently unranked team than Wisconsin has and one fewer win over a currently ranked team than Wisconsin possesses. And the third one is Nick Jezierny. He didn't rank Wisconsin but he did rank Connecticut ... and I'm about to explain just how silly Nick is for doing that.Coaches poll: You know how many losses Connecticut has to currently unranked teams? Six. You know how many wins Connecticut has over currently ranked teams? Two. And the Huskies have lost three straight and five of their past seven. And yet somehow Jim Calhoun's team is still getting 21 points in the coaches poll (and two points in the AP poll thanks to my buddy Nick, who has UConn 24th on his ballot).
My question: How could anybody vote for Connecticut right now?
I mean, I like the roster, too.
But the team is undeniably average.
The Huskies have played 20 games and accomplished very little. They've lost to UCF on a neutral, to Seton Hall, Rutgers and Tennessee on the road, and to Cincinnati and Notre Dame at home, and none of those schools are in the latest coaches poll. The best wins are over No. 23 Harvard, No. 24 Florida State and unranked West Virginia, and two of those wins (FSU and Harvard) occurred ages ago. So, again, how could anybody vote for Connecticut right now? The only explanation is that a handful of coaches must've accidentally submitted ballots from last season. Either that or a handful of coaches are dumb or careless or both. And I'm actually surprised that Nick is the one writer voting for UConn because he's a knowledgeable lad. So I felt compelled to ask for an explanation. He responded with this: "I'm giving UConn [the] benefit of the doubt. I think no one wants to see them in March, but I can see why you want to attack me."
I was somewhat OK with that response because Nick basically acknowledged that his UConn vote isn't based on actual results of games. He just assumes the Huskies will be good eventually, and that's good enough for him. Granted, that's not how I believe somebody should be voting in late January. But whatever. At least Nick knows UConn doesn't have a body of work that's worthy of a Top 25 vote. That's all I wanted him to realize.
But he couldn't stop there.
My man just had to Tweet again.
"And I still think it would be a better use of your time to write about one of 340 men's bball teams than analyze ballots," Nick typed, to which I responded: "And I think it would be a better use of your time to watch Connecticut."
Posted on: January 29, 2012 11:04 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 11:15 pm
By Gary Parrish
Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s slate of games …
Game of the day: Remember when Notre Dame lost Tim Abromaitis for the season and we all assumed the Irish were likewise done? That seems silly now that Mike Brey's team just won 50-48 at Connecticut and improved to 6-3 in the Big East. And this was UConn with Ryan Boatright as opposed to without Ryan Boatright. The freshman guard played for the first time since missing three games while the NCAA further investigated claims that he received improper benefits before enrolling at UConn. He only scored six points in the loss. And because of the loss, we had to drop the Huskies out of the Top 25 (and one).
Win to brag about: That Ohio State easily handled Michigan despite Jared Sullinger being saddled by foul trouble and mostly average -- and despite the team shooting just 20 percent from 3-point range in the 64-49 win -- was really impressive. The Buckeyes got 17 points and 12 rebounds from Lenzelle Smith. They've now won four straight. They look like a possible national championship team.
Loss to hide from: Nobody likes to have their four-game winning streak snapped. But it's especially unfortunate when the winning streak is snapped at home by a rival that entered with a 3-5 record in the worst of all the power-conference leagues. So, yeah, Oregon had a bad day. The Ducks lost 76-71 to Oregon State while missing 21 3-point attempts.
Player who deserves improper benefits: Cody Zeller rebounded from a poor effort against Wisconsin with a 26-point effort in Indiana's 103-89 win over Iowa. The freshman forward made 11 of the 12 shots he attempted. He dunked a lot. He looked good.
Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Whomever was in charge of preventing Zeller from dunking a lot and recording a career-high in points does not deserve even 10 percent of the improper benefits Ryan Boatright received. Because that guy did not do his job very well.
Numbers don’t lie
On tap: Missouri and West Virginia are the only teams in the Top 25 (and one) scheduled to play Monday. The Tigers are at Texas. The Mountaineers host Pittsburgh.