Posted on: March 12, 2010 12:07 am
Edited on: March 12, 2010 12:16 am

Friday Morning's Gettin' In

What's the only thing worse than bad point guard play in March?

A double-bye in the Big East tournament, obviously.

Here's Friday morning's Gettin' In.

Best game: I watched roughly 12 hours of basketball Thursday, which is more exhausting than you'd think. So I was tired by the end of the day, but not too tired to appreciate the brilliance of Da'Sean Butler, who made big plays on both ends of the court while leading West Virginia to a 54-51 win in the Big East quarterfinals. First, he applied pressure to Dion Dixon and caused the UC guard to dribble the ball off his own head and out of bounds. That's called a turnover. So the Mountaineers got the ball back with 3.1 seconds remaining and got it to Butler, who banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to keep West Virginia in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Double-bye blues: In between Syracuse losing to Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals despite a double-bye and Pittsburgh losing to Notre Dame in the Big East quarterfinals despite a double-bye, Villanova lost to Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals despite a double-bye, and double-byes sure don't seem to be an advantage, do they? Three of the four schools that had them -- i.e., three of the Big East's top four seeds -- lost Thursday. The only one that didn't was West Virginia, which, again, won only because a UC player dribbled the ball off his own head in the final four seconds.

Team whose dream remained alive: It's probably premature to call Georgia Tech a "lock," but the Yellow Jackets started Thursday in everybody's bracket, ended Thursday with a 62-58 win over North Carolina, and will spend Friday playing Maryland in the ACC quarterfinals. Best I can tell, they should lose to Maryland; thus, it shouldn't hurt them. So if the Yellow Jackets are in now, shouldn't they also be in on Selection Sunday barring a bunch of non-bubble teams making runs?

Team whose dream was crushed: Despite zero wins over other projected at-large teams and three losses outside of the top 150, Memphis entered the C-USA tournament as an at-large team in multiple brackets. So Thursday was a big day for the Tigers; all they had to do was beat a Houston team that finished 7-9 in the league to advance to the C-USA semifinals. But Elliot Williams and Doneal Mack combined to go 2-of-15 from the field, Aubrey Coleman sank a leaner with less than five seconds left, and Houston beat Memphis 66-65 to ensure the Tigers will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

Performance I hope you witnessed: New Mexico remained in play for a possible No. 2 seed thanks to a ridiculous effort from -- who else? -- MWC Player of the Year Darington Hobson. The junior college transfer got 28 points and 15 rebounds in Thursday's 75-69 win over Air Force. It was Hobson's third straight game with at least 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Performances I hope you missed: Oklahoma State's James Anderson won the Big 12 Player of the Year award on Sunday and responded by missing 10 of 14 3-point attempts in Thursday's 83-64 loss to Kansas State. He must be better in the NCAA tournament for the Cowboys to advance (and for the rims to survive).

Four random notes

1. Arizona's 75-69 loss to UCLA in the Pac-10 quarterfinals means the Wildcats' streak of 25 straight NCAA tournament appearances will end. Sean Miller's team is now 16-15 overall, 2-1 against UCLA. Yes, they swept the season series from the Bruins, then lost in the league tournament.

2. Ernie Kent coached his last game at Oregon on Thursday, barring a huge surprise. California beat the Ducks 90-74 in the Pac-10 quarterfinals and dropped their record to 16-16. Kent refused to address reports of his resignation/firing, but by all accounts he knows he's gone after 13 seasons, and it should become official in the next 48 hours.

3. Jimmer Fredette won Thursday's scoring title. The BYU guard hung 45 points on TCU in a 95-85 victory that launched the Cougars into the MWC semifinals. Fredette was only 10-of-23 from the field, but he sank 23 of 24 free throws to eclipse the 40-point barrier for the second time this season.

4. An MRI is expected to be performed on Arinze Onuaku's right knee Friday, and the selection committee will be among those interested in the results. If it becomes apparent that the Syracuse big man -- who injured his knee in Thursday's loss to Georgetown -- won't be available for the NCAA tournament, the committee could drop the Orange to something other than a No. 1 seed even though they clearly have the body of work of a No. 1 seed. My advice to Syracuse: Don't announce the results unless it's positive news. Keep it vague until the bracket is set because the committee probably won't penalize the Orange unless it knows Onuaku is out for sure.

Final thought: Jim Calhoun announced Thursday that he plans to coach UConn next season.

I hope he does.

But let's not forget that "plans" can change, and sometimes people have no control over them. I point this out not to be Debbie Downer, but to remind everybody that we're a long way from the start of next season. Calhoun has battled cancer three times and missed games each of the past two seasons for medical reasons. He's 67 years old. So while Calhoun's health concerns seem to be curbed at the moment, who knows where he'll be in eight months?

And that's the point.

Who knows?

Not me.

Not you.

And Calhoun couldn't possibly know either.

So, yes, I believe the Hall of Famer when he says he plans to coach next season.

I'm just not totally convinced he won't have to change his plans for reasons out of  his control.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 19, 2010 2:14 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2010 2:17 pm

Dear Gary (on the best games I've seen this year)

Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Now that the season is nearly over, what is the best game you've seen this year in person?

-- Dan

Nice question, Dan.

Now let me think.

I was at the Kentucky-Connecticut game at Madison Square Garden when John Wall made that ridiculous play in the final minutes. It wasn't a well-played game, exactly, but it was fun and memorable because of the atmosphere and intensity. The Kansas-Kansas State game in Manhattan was also terrific. The Jayhawks won in overtime, and I wrote about Sherron Collins' testicles. Seemed like a reasonable thing to do at the time. Now, I'm not so sure. Either way, fun night. But I think I'd have to go with Tennessee's improbable win over No. 1 Kansas as the best game I've attended this season, the one where walk-on Skylar McBee hit the clinching shot, just nine days after four Vols were arrested and suspended.

Terrific atmosphere.

Terrific ending.

Plus, I got a chance to talk to Skylar's mother, and she was delightful.

So put me down for Kansas-Tennessee.

But the season isn't over yet, Dan.

I've got Kentucky-Vandy this weekend.

Hopefully, that'll join the list of great games.
Posted on: February 11, 2010 4:12 pm

Calhoun returns from leave of absence

Jim Calhoun has returned to his position of head basketball coach at Connecticut, the university announced Thursday.

"I am excited to return to the team and my coaching staff,” Calhoun said. “I appreciate the hard work by the staff and team in my absence and am looking forward to being back on the court for practice ... and moving forward. I am especially thankful to people for their support during the past three weeks, but also for the respect and privacy that everyone has provided me during this time. Dr. Schulman, my primary care physician, and I both felt that the time away was important for my personal and professional well-being and that I am ready to move ahead from this point at full speed."

Calhoun took a leave of absence Jan. 19 for medical reasons.

Connecticut was 3-4 while he was away.

The Huskies (14-10 overall, 4-7 in the Big East) play Cincinnati Sunday.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 1, 2010 8:00 pm

The Poll Attacks

President Obama attended the Georgetown-Duke game.

He must've taken Pat Ridgell's seat.

And his TV.

And his internet service.

I'll explain momentarily.

It's time to Poll Attack!

AP poll: Georgetown is 16-4 with wins over four ranked teams while Duke is 17-4 with just one win over a ranked team. When you combine that nugget of information with the fact that two of the Hoyas' four losses are to the teams ranked second (Villanova) and third (Syracuse) nationally, it's simple to see that Georgetown owns the superior body of work.

And then there's this: Georgetown just beat the absolute dog crap out of Duke.

The final score was 89-77.

But it wasn't really as close as that might indicate.

And yet Pat Ridgell from the Daily Times-Call in Colorado somehow came to the conclusion that Duke should be ranked ninth on his ballot -- four spots ahead of No. 13 Georgetown. How could that possibly be defended? He's also got Gonzaga ranked ahead of Georgetown, and that seems even crazier considering the Zags are 17-4 with a loss to San Francisco and a 35-point loss to Duke, i.e., the same team that just lost by 12 to Georgetown .

Truth is, I like all three teams -- Georgetown, Duke and Gonzaga.

I have them all ranked.

But I have them ranked in that order -- No. 8 Georgetown, No. 10 Duke and No. 20 Gonzaga.

If you have those teams in any order besides that order, you've made a mistake.

An obvious and ridiculous mistake.

Coaches poll: So I finally got Louisiana Tech out of the "Others Receiving Votes" part of the AP poll, but the Bulldogs are still getting votes in the Coaches poll, even after Saturday's 91-77 home loss to New Mexico State. It's incredible that somebody continues to rank this team, and what's even more incredible is that Louisiana Tech got three points last week and four points this week, meaning the Bulldogs actually gained a point after a double-digit home loss to a New Mexico State team that entered with a 12-8 record.

My God.

But I'm over Louisiana Tech.

What I want to know is how Connecticut got six points.

What stupid coach is voting for UConn?

The Huskies are 13-8 with one win over a ranked team (Texas) and four losses to unranked teams (Cincinnati, Michigan, Providence and Marquette), and they were on a two-game losing streak entering Monday night's game with Louisville. If you had a Top 35 ballot you'd have a hard time getting Connecticut on it.  So I can't figure out how a coach -- i.e., a man with a college degree and some presumed basketball knowledge -- could put UConn on a Top 25 ballot ... unless, of course, it's the same coach who's still voting for Louisiana Tech.

In that case, it makes perfect sense.
Posted on: January 25, 2010 9:37 am
Edited on: January 25, 2010 9:40 am

Dear Gary (on ranking Northwestern but not UConn)

Here's Monday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Northwestern ranked but not UConn. Seriously?

-- Jeff

I knew ranking Northwestern while not ranking Connecticut in this week's Top 25 (and one) would get a lof of attention, which is why I thought long and hard about it and I looked at every possible detail before I did it. Now, I'm ready to share those details. And though you might still disagree when I finish, you won't be able to say that I couldn't make a case for what I did.

First, the overall records ...

Northwestern: 14-5
Connecticut: 13-6

So Northwestern has more wins and fewer losses, but that doesn't matter to me. You should know by now that I don't care about the number of wins and losses as much as I care about good wins and good or bad losses. It's why didn't rank Northern Iowa last week or Vanderbilt this week, because when I looked below the surfaces I concluded there wasn't much to the Panthers' and Commodores' gaudy records.

Anyway, let's compare Northwestern and Connecticut.

The Wildcats and Huskies have two common opponents -- Notre Dame and Michigan. Both schools beat Notre Dame (UConn did it at home, Northwestern on a neutral court), and both played at Michigan. Northwestern won at Michigan. Connecticut lost at Michigan. So in games against common opponents, the edge goes to Northwestern.

Now let's look at the wins ...

Both Northwestern and Connecticut have a win over a team ranked in the top 10 of the Top 25 (and one) -- Northwestern over No. 7 Purdue, UConn over No. 5 Texas. So that's pretty much a wash. In all, Northwestern has six wins over teams ranked in the top 80 at KenPom.com (No. 8 Purdue, No. 50 Illinois, No. 60 Michigan, No. 65 N.C. State, No. 79 Iowa State, No. 80 Notre Dame) while UConn has just four wins over teams ranked in the top 80 at KenPom.com (No. 5 Texas, No. 51 Seton Hall, No. 74 Harvard, No. 80 Notre Dame). So I believe Northwestern has better wins than UConn.

Now let's look at the losses ...

Both Northwestern and Connecticut have four losses to teams I have ranked ahead of them in the Top 25 (and one). Northwestern has lost to No. 6 Michigan State, No. 17 Ohio State, No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 25 Butler while UConn has lost to No. 1 Kentucky, No. 9 Georgetown, No. 10 Duke and No. 15 Pittsburgh. I admit, UConn's top four losses are better than Northwestern's top four losses. But Northwestern's only loss to a team I don't have ranked is a loss at Illinois, and that's a loss the Wildcats avenged Saturday. Meantime, UConn has two losses to teams I don't have ranked. One, as previously noted, came at Michigan (a place Northwestern won), and the other came at Cincinnati. So not only does Northwestern have fewer overall losses than UConn, Northwestern has fewer losses to teams I have unranked, which is why I concluded that Northwestern's losses as a whole are better than UConn's losses as a whole.

So let me bottom line it for you: Northwestern has a better overall record, better wins, better losses, and a better record against common opponents. Thus, I ranked Northwestern but not UConn, and I think I got it right.
Posted on: January 19, 2010 4:21 pm

UConn's Calhoun taking medical leave of absence

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun is taking a medical leave of absence, the school announced Tuesday.

"It is my recommendation that Coach Calhoun take a medical leave from his coaching position to address some temporary medical issues, none of which involve any previous medical conditions that he has dealt with," said Connecticut Health Center physician Peter Schulman, M.D., who is described as Calhoun's primary care physician.

Calhoun has twice battled cancer in the past seven years.

UConn is 11-6 overall, 2-3 in the Big East.

Associate head coach George Blaney will lead the program in Calhoun's absence.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 18, 2010 7:51 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2010 7:56 pm

The Poll Attacks

A WAC writer ranked Louisiana Tech 20th.

There's a price to pay for that.

And that price is paid in The Poll Attacks .

AP poll: What's more questionable than Northern Iowa being ranked with no good wins and one bad loss?

Louisiana Tech getting votes with no good wins and two bad losses.

I swear, I don't hate non-BCS schools. But I'm not going to try to prove it to you by ranking Louisiana Tech 20th, which is what Nick Jezierny of The Idaho Statesmen did this week. He has the Bulldogs ranked 20th on his AP ballot with a 17-2 record, and their best win is probably at Houston or over Utah State. Point is, there's nothing there.

Louisiana Tech has played exactly one good team -- New Mexico.

Louisiana Tech lost that game 81-52.

The Bulldogs also lost 83-67 to Arizona.

So they have no good wins and two lopsided losses, and that makes them 20th?


Note to AP voters: Just because you cover a WAC school (in this case, Boise State), that doesn't mean you have to rank a WAC school. If it's justified, rank away. But there's no way to justify ranking Louisiana Tech, much less ranking Louisiana Tech 20th. That's ridiculous.

Coaches poll:
I've already told you what I think of Northern Iowa being ranked, so I won't go over that again. Plus, it really doesn't bother me. Northern Iowa is good; I've never denied that. I just don't think the Panthers have the body of work of a Top 25 team, but I'm OK with them being ranked. I didn't rank them. But I'm absolutely OK -- or at least unbothered -- by the AP and Coaches polls ranking them.

We clear on that?


Now let me tell you what I'm not OK with: I'm not OK with Connecticut being ranked 21st with an 11-6 record featuring zero good wins. How does that happen? At least six-loss North Carolina has wins over Michigan State and Ohio State. UConn's best win is a home win over Notre Dame. So the Huskies are 11-6 with no wins over guaranteed NCAA tournament teams, and yet they're ranked ahead of No. 25 Ohio State -- which is 13-5 with wins over Purdue, Wisconsin, and Florida State. Even better: The Buckeyes are 10-2 in games with Evan Turner, 3-3 without him. Now that Turner is back, OSU should be ranked accordingly. And by accordingly, I mean definitely in front of Connecticut.
Posted on: December 28, 2009 6:41 pm

The Poll Attacks

Don't ever let anybody tell you the Poll Attacks aren't working.

Because they're working.

Pitt got zero votes this week.

I made that happen.

Now let's see what this week's Poll Attacks can get done.

AP poll: God bless you, Roger Clarkson from the Athens Banner-Herald . You are hard-headed, no doubt. But you finally came around and dropped Pittsburgh from your ballot, and you are to be applauded on this Monday. Sure, it took three weeks of Poll Attacks to make it happen, the last of which was vicious. And, yes, I think it's hilarious that the week you finally decided to remove Pitt is the week in which the Panthers beat Ohio 74-49. But that's beside the point. The point is that you listened, and that the Poll Attacks are working. And this must be how people feel when they help the less fortunate around the holidays. Like them, I now know that I'm making a difference in this world. It's a proud day for both me and this blog. See how I'm smiling in that picture up there? That's how I'm smiling right now. With tears of joy in my eyes.

Coaches poll: One of the things I hate about rankings is how teams are dropped when they lose road games to higher-ranked teams. It makes no sense. I mean, why should a team ranked No. 9 go win on the homecourt of the team ranked No. 2? Answer: It shouldn't. And it shouldn't be penalized when it doesn't (unless it's an absolute massacre), which brings me to Michigan State.

The Spartans were ranked No. 9 in the Coaches poll last week.

Then they went and lost 79-68 at No. 2 Texas.

And so the voters processed that information and decided to drop Michigan State from No. 9 to No. 11.


Why penalize a team for playing tough non-league road games?

If anything, we should reward teams for playing tough non-league road games.

Meantime, Connecticut moved from No. 11 to No. 10 thanks to wins over Maine and Iona because voters decided in that last week that UConn deserves to be ranked higher than Michigan State because UConn beat Maine and Iona while Michigan State failed to upset a Texas team that got three No. 1 votes. It's crazy. Switch the schedules, and it's safe to assume Michigan State would've moved up with meaningless wins over Maine and Iona while UConn dropped after a loss at Texas, and that means voters are ranking teams based on nothing more than scheduling philosophies, which is wrong.

Again, it's wrong to penalize teams for losing games they should lose.

That's why I didn't drop Ole Miss for losing at West Virginia.

That's why I didn't drop Michigan State for losing at Texas.

That's why the Coaches poll makes me crazy.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com