Posted on: March 8, 2008 8:47 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2008 1:41 pm

UNC-Duke (Yeah, I made it here)

DURHAM, N.C. -- After US Airways screwed up my flight (and then bumped me off another two) I gave in to reality, shuffled over to the Avis counter, rented a PT Cruiser (strange little car) and drove 146 miles northeast to Durham. It's been a crazy day, I tell you (see the blog below for proof). But I am now inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and ready for tip-off, though slightly depressed because when I checked into my hotel I realized this is the weekend where we have to set the clocks forward an hour.


I lost who knows how many hours at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport today, and now I'm gonna lose another hour when I finally get to sleep. Seriously, I hate 23-hour days. I'm not even sure why they're necessary. Couldn't we like take a minute here or there throughout the year, just catch up that way? Nobody would even notice. But taking an entire hour from a man's day seems cruel, particularly on the day where he is dealing with a 9 p.m. tip-off.

But that's enough complaining for one day.

I'm at North Carolina-Duke.

The band is playing.

So it could be worse, right?

(I'm still pissed at US Airways, though)
Posted on: March 8, 2008 2:10 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2008 1:41 pm

I love lacrosse (and airport problems)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- I'm delayed on my way to tonight's North Carolina-Duke game, stuck at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport and contemplating mass murder. Honestly, I've never been the violent-crime type. But I'm quickly morphing, mentally preparing to face the consequences for whatever might come next.

Stay tuned.

And if you're into praying, you should pray for all US Airways employees in my general vicinity. And don't tell me to calm down, that the weather is bad and thousands of people are spending this weekend delayed, because I wasn't delayed because of bad weather. I was delayed out of Memphis because somebody forgot to change something on the plane that is supposed to be changed every 100 hours. Whatever that thing is, it was supposed to be changed earlier this week. But it wasn't. So they decided to change it this morning, which caused my flight to leave Memphis 90 minutes late, which caused my flight to arrive in Charlotte 90 minutes late, which caused me to miss my connection to Raleigh-Durham because we parked in C8 at 11:17 and I had to be at E12 at 11:20.

For those unfamilar, C8 is roughly 41 miles from E12.

So to recap, I'm stuck in Charlotte because somebody forgot to change something on a plane earlier this week.

And because I couldn't run 41 miles in three minutes.

But I had convinced myself that being stuck wouldn't be so bad because I could grab some lunch and catch the first half of Louisville-Georgetown (seen exclusively on CBS!) at the little Fox Sports Bar here at the airport while I waited for a flight scheduled to leave at 1:10. So I ordered some terrible airport food, paid $15 for that terrible airport food and looked up at the television only to realize I wasn't watching Georgetown play Louisville in basketball. Instead, I was watching Virginia play Princeton in lacrosse. And though it was riveting stuff, I asked the guy who runs the place if he'd be so kind as to switch the channel.

"I can't," he said.

You can't?

"I mean, I could," he answered. "But I can't."

Needless to say, I've never been more baffled by somebody's answer in my entire life. And the manager must've recognized my confusion because he opted to explain further.

"If I change this channel somebody will complain and then what would I do?" he said.

You think somebody will complain if you turn off lacrosse?

"They could."

In fairness, I suppose this is a possible scenario. I mean, it's possible somebody will complain if you switch from lacrosse to basketball just like it's possible a No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed in this month's NCAA Tournament. Anything's possible, right? But I'm not sure you should live your life under the assumption that it'll happen. So I explained this to the manager, then pointed out that if anybody really cared about lacrosse it wouldn't be on ESPNU. And then I reminded him that we were in North Carolina, and that I didn't get the sense that people in North Carolina were terribly concerned with lacrosse, particularly a regular season lacrosse game (or is it a match?) between Virginia and Princeton. I also highlighted how nobody was in the stands at the game (or match), point being that if nobody at Princeton cares enough about lacrosse to go to the game (or match) then it was reasonable to assume nobody in North Carolina cared about watching it on television.

"I just can't change the channel," he said, and I swear I must've looked exactly how Trent Johnson looked the other night after Lawrence Hill was whistled for a foul on Darren Collison with 2.5 seconds remaining.

Anyway, you know that 1:10 connection to Raleigh-Durham?

I was on standby for that flight.

But that flight was full.

So now I'm on standby for a 2:25 flight to Raleigh-Durham, and if I can't get on this flight I've been advised by the nice people at US Airways to just rent a car and drive. Seriously, that's what they call customer service. They advise you to drive. So I might be driving from Charlotte to Raleigh-Durham ... but first I'm gonna finish watching Virginia-Princetown (the Cavs are leading 12-9 in the fourth, if you happen to care).
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 8, 2008 8:22 am

SIU struggled offensively (big surprise, right?)

Southern Illinois will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.

That's the result of Friday night's 54-49 loss to Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference, a game in which the Salukis missed three 3-point attempts in the final 35 seconds and 18 of the 24 they attempted overall. That's why they lost, in simple terms. But on some level it was a fitting ending given how SIU's main problem all season has been the ability to make shots -- 3-pointers or otherwise.

SIU ranks 216th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage.

SIU ranks 210th nationally in 2-point field goal percentage.

SIU ranks 107th nationally in free throw percentage.

So while it might be true that defensive wins championships, the reality is that a respectable offense certainly helps. And the Salukis have been offensively challenged all season, proof being how they've  been held to less than 57 points in 10 of their 13 losses.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2008 11:27 am
Edited on: March 8, 2008 8:23 am

What You Need To Know

UCLA won the Pac-10 again.

Providence beat UConn again.

Here's Friday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Thursday: Darren Collison sank two free throws to force overtime, then helped UCLA run away from Stanford in the extra period to claim a 77-67 victory. The win gave the Bruins their third consecutive Pac-10 title, making Ben Howland the first UCLA coach since John Wooden to win three straight league titles.

Notable performance from Thursday: Weyinmi Efejuku finished with 25 points on an 8-of-16 shooting effort to lead Providence to an 85-76 win against Connecticut. It was the Friars' second win over UConn this season, though Efejuku didn't have as much to do with the previous one. He got just two points in 12 minutes last time. But the junior guard has now scored 25 points in two of his past four outings.

Notable game scheduled for Friday: Southern Illinois has made six consecutive NCAA Tournaments, but if the Salukis want to continue that streak they'd better beat Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. Chris Lowery's team is 17-13 heading into the game, as is Northern Iowa. Tip-off is set for 9:35 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2008 11:00 pm

More thoughts on Dennis Felton

The response to my column about Dennis Felton has been back and forth with some saying Georgia would be showing a lack of class to remove him given the circumstances while others claim that bigtime college basketball is a bottom line business where winners stay employed and losers get fired. Honestly, I understand both points. But one thing I felt compelled to address is the notion that Felton shouldn't be given a pass for dismissing Mike Mercer and Takais Brown because they were his recruits, meaning if Felton would have been a better judge of character in the recruiting stage he never would've had to dismiss anybody.

Technically, that's true.

But what people need to understand is that Mercer and Brown weren't out robbing banks, starting riots, driving drunk or hitting girls. You can say they were bad guys if you want. But it's important to remember they weren't any worse than many of the guys playing at most colleges right now, and they certainly had less problems. In other words, Felton didn't recruit bad guys any more than Tennessee and Pittsburgh and New Mexico State and Memphis recruited bad guys. The only difference is that when Felton got his guys to campus he -- and Georgia, in general -- tried to hold them to a higher standard, and Mercer and Brown couldn't meet that standard. So they were dismissed. But make no mistake, if Mercer and Brown played at Tennessee, Pitt, New Mexico State, Memphis or most other colleges they'd still be playing today the same way Duke Crews, Levance Fields, Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson are still playing today.

And Felton's job wouldn't be in jeopardy if Mercer and Brown were still playing today.

That's the reality of the situation.

As it is, his job is in serious jeopardy -- but not because he recruited bad kids. Rather, because he tried to hold typical kids to a standard most programs don't even strive to meet. And it'll be sad if that's what gets Felton fired because it'll send a clear message to the next coach that he better be willing to compromise his integrity if he wants to remain employed.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2008 12:04 am

What You Need To Know

Tennessee clinched its first outright league title in 41 years.

Shan Foster scored 42 points for the first time in his career.

Here's Thursday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Wednesday: Tennessee set a school-record for victories by overcoming a 16-point deficit and holding on for an 89-86 victory at Florida. The win pushed the Vols to 27-3 overall, 13-2 in the SEC. More importantly, it clinched their first outright league title in 41 years and pretty much ensured they will earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as long as they do not lose at home this weekend to South Carolina.

Notable performance from Wednesday: Shan Foster -- he of the column-worthy first name -- sank a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining in overtime to lead Vanderbilt to an 86-85 victory against Mississippi State. The Commodores' all-time leading scorer finished with a career-high 42 points, thanks mostly to the fact that he made his final nine 3-point attempts. The effort helped Vandy finish 19-0 at Memorial Gym, a place where it has won 32 of its past 33 contests.

Notable game scheduled for Thursday: The two best teams in the Pac-10 featuring the the best big men in the Pac-10 will get together for the second time this season when No. 3 UCLA and No. 7 Stanford meet at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins are 26-3 overall, 14-2 in the league and led by freshman Kevin Love, who is averaging 17.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The Cardinal is 24-4 overall, 13-3 in the league and led by sophomore Brook Lopez, who is averaging 19.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. UCLA has won 10 of its past 11 games. Stanford has won 11 of its past 12 games. If the Bruins win they will earn their third consecutive outright Pac-10 title. Tip-off is set for 11 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2008 12:39 am
Edited on: March 5, 2008 12:40 am

What You Need To Know

Ohio State got a rare Top 50 win.

Michael Beasley had a less-than-rare 30-point effort.

Here's Wednesday morning's edition of What You Need To Know.

Notable game from Tuesday: Jamar Butler got 23 of his 25 points after halftime to lead Ohio State to an 80-77 overtime victory against 15th-ranked Purdue, one that gave the Buckeyes their first win in 10 tries against a Top 50 opponent at The victory pushed OSU to 18-12 overall, 9-8 in the Big Ten and into fifth place in the league. Purdue dropped to 23-7 overall, 14-3 in the Big Ten and into second place in the league, one game back in the loss column from Wisconsin.

Notable performance from Tuesday: Michael Beasley was stellar in what was -- barring something really stupid -- his final game at Bramlage Coliseum, finishing with 33 points and 14 rebounds in Kansas State's 78-72 victory over Colorado. The 6-foot-10 freshman and likely top pick in June's NBA Draft sank 12-of-22 shots and 8-of-10 free throw attempts while recording his 26th double-double. It was Beasley's fourth consecutive 30-point game, one that snapped the Wildcats' four-game losing streak and pushed them into third place in the Big 12 standings.

Notable game scheduled for Wednesday: Florida remains very much on the bubble thanks to a 1-5 record against the Top 50 at and a body of work that features just one victory over a probable NCAA Tournament team (Vanderbilt). But the Gators (21-8, 8-6 in the SEC) have an opportunity to enhance their postseason credentials with this game against fourth-ranked Tennessee (26-3, 12-2 in the SEC). Problem is, these teams have already met once. It was last month in Knoxville, where the Vols exploded late to record a 104-82 victory. If UT wins again it will clinch at least a share of the SEC title and then Florida will almost certainly need a win at Kentucky this weekend to remain in decent shape as it pertains to earning an at-large bid. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 4, 2008 7:19 pm

Hammonds practiced Tuesday and should play at GT

Cliff Hammonds practiced Tuesday with what was described by the Clemson staff as "basically a cast" on his broken wrist and is expected to play Thursday at Georgia Tech.

The news is a nice development for the Tigers -- who have won four of their past five games, including showdowns with likely NCAA Tournament teams Miami and Maryland -- because having to go without Hammonds would mark the third time this season Clemson has played without at least one starter. James Mays missed five games in November and December and Demontez Stitt missed two games last month with injuries. Those two plus Hammonds account for 31.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 9.0 assists per contest.

Coincidentally, Hammonds is from Georgia, about 230 miles from the Georgia Tech campus.

He had 22 points in an 82-67 victory against the Yellow Jackets last month.

Category: NCAAB
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