Monday, February 23, 2009

NCAA Selection Committee

Rutgers fans heard yesterday about a final three for their athletic director (Tim Pernetti of CBS CSN and Rutgers Radio) and the ADs from UNC-Wilmington and Akron.

But, one of the early candidates (Chris Hill of Utah) has left the NCAA Selection Committee...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pettis is multi-talented

There are many ways to describe what Earl Pettis provides to the Rutgers men’s basketball team. He is a jack of all trades, a stat-line stuffer, a renaissance man on the basketball court.
With a reputation like that it’s difficult to figure out what Pettis does best, even by his own account. Even Pettis says his strength is his versatility.
“A little bit of everything,” Pettis replies when asked about the backbone of his game.
Just as many ways as there are to classify Pettis, that’s how many ways he finds to contribute on the court.
His season averages of 4.8 points per game and 2.5 rebounds are deceiving because Pettis’ playing time has vacillated as the Scarlet Knights have struggled to find a defined rotation. But when Pettis gets the chance, he produces.
In his last four games – all but one he started – Pettis is putting up 11 ppg, 5.2 rpg and an impressive 2.25 steals.
Pettis has two goals when he gets in the game.
“I try to do what the team needs me to do to win,” says Pettis. “And whatever coach [Fred] Hill needs me to do to win that day.
That’s sometimes easier said then done. It’s not always about following directions, Pettis has to do some cognitive work of his own in figuring out what the team needs.
“I just go out there with my instincts and when I see the team struggling in an area I try to go out there and help the team in that area,” said Pettis of his mindset upon hitting the floor.
Along with the tangibles he provides defense and often wins hustle points. Because of his all-around game and altruism, Pettis has emerged as a glue guy for Rutgers. Not coincidentally, the team has played better of late even though the wins haven’t been there to back it up.
“He’s out there and last two games he’s been stepping up big for us,” said Mike Coburn of his teammate. “I know his confidence is up and he’s playing well and it’s helping us as a team and we’re looking for more of that.”
Pettis has taken over that role this year from Coburn. Last year’s Coburn’s was the key to the Knights’ mid-season rejuvenation. He keyed wins over ranked Villanova and Pittsburgh and was awarded the Big East Rookie of the Week.
This year has been a different story for the sophomore. Coburn came in with elevated expectations but saw them deflated as he struggled to gain playing time and his play suffered accordingly.
“Yeah I believe so,” said Coburn, blaming his poor play on not seeing the floor consistently. “Not knowing when you’re going to be out there sometimes. How long you’re going to be out there. It definitely messes with your confidence and you’re game overall. It played a toll on me.”
Then given the chance to start Saturday night against Providence due to Mike Rosario’s injury troubles, Coburn delivered with a season-best 14 points.
Coincidentally it came right in time for RU’s lone meeting with Villanova. Driven by his desire to prove that last year was no fluke and coming off his best game of the year, Coburn has something to prove tonight.
” Yea go out there and I just want to build on this,” said Coburn. “I’m just going out there to hopefully get a win and help my team.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RU freshmen not hitting the wall (written prior to the Providence game)

By Mike Vorkunov
Senior Writer
He won't get any commemorative china or even any kudos, but Gregory Echenique will reach a milestone of sorts Saturday night against Providence. It will be Rutgers' and his 25th game of the season, tying the most he's ever played in a year.
Congratulations, and hope it doesn't hurt because this is right about the time freshmen hit that infamous rookie wall.
There's just one caveat, Echenique says that he is just fine. Sure there is the normal wear and tear, the dings and nagging injuries that come with a long college basketball season that started back in October. Going to class can be cumbersome at times. The daily guessing game of what will hurt that day – back one day, legs the next – probably gets tiring.
But hitting that wall? That’s not an issue.
“I wouldn’t say I’m hitting the wall like that,” says Echenique. “I’m not going to lie, I feel tired because its been a long season, and we still have seven games left. Even though I played 25 games in high school, here its much more physical because it’s the Big East every night and they are stronger guys. I wouldn’t say I’m hitting the wall, I’m just a little tired.”
In fact the biggest hurdle to overcome at this point in the season hasn’t been the physical aches and pains, but the mental strain. Fellow freshman Patrick Jackson says the transition from one level of basketball to another causing growing pains.
“Its way different than high school because in high school you’re always the man,” says Jackson. “You do what ever you have to do. In college everything is based around the team, play your position and play your role.”
Perhaps even more oxymoronic is that Rutgers’ freshmen have used the long season to their benefit, instead of being weighed down by it. But it’s not something that has surprised Corey Chandler.
“Mike [Rosario], he’s different from freshmen because instead of him hitting the wall, he’s matured his game,” says Chandler of how his teammate has improved. “If you look back at it from the beginning of the season, he’s a chicken running loose, just shooting the ball and being a freshman. Now you can see he understands the game a little bit, becoming better, slowing down and he’s making better shot selection.”
Chandler’s point is backed up by statistics. Despite playing much tougher competition, and a constant stream of ranked teams, Rosario has not seen his numbers take a dip since Big East play started.
Some of the credit for the freshman’s avoidance of an annual freshman trap can be given to Phil Dyer, the strength and conditioning coach. Echenique and Jackson both gave mentioned their conditioning and workouts as a key reason they’ve been able to avoid the wall.
Dyer’s system starts almost from the moment they step foot on campus. Lifting sessions and runs occupy player’s time from their high school graduation till the summer league. Then after a break in August comes the hard part, workouts five times a week from September till practice starts in mid-October.
But at this point of the season, Dyer has a different goal: just keeping his players healthy.
“This time of the year it’s really an in-season maintenance program from my end of it,” says Dyer. “Weight training is only two days a week, usually the day after a game never the day before it. A lot of it is just therapy stuff to make sure we don’t get hurt, maintain our strength. So usually we try to take them from a very high level and ease them to peaking around mid-February to March.”
Although Jackson, Echenique and Rosario haven’t hit the wall physically, the struggles of dealing with the season have been mitigated by the Scarlet Knights’ losing ways. Their 10-14 record this season means Echenique and Rosario have lost more games this year than in their junior and senior seasons combined, where they lost only three.
To counteract the newfound distractions, Chandler says it is going to come down to how strong they are mentally.
“It’s a mental thing,” says Chandler. “If you could control the mind everything will be easy. Greg, if he can control everything up top, the game will come smooth for him. And same thing with Mike. And Patrick Jackson if he gets an opportunity to play.”

Could UNC get better in the coming weeks?

This would be huge for UNC if Tyler Zeller can give it a go...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome Back Irish

So raise your hand if you saw that coming. Rick Pitino said he did. But other than Pitino, it's doubtful anyone else did. Yes, Louisville was coming off a bad loss against Connecticut and close call against St. John's but that was excusable after a great run and because it was No. 1 UConn so it was not seen as a sign of things to come. But wow.
Luke Harangody came back from a five point game against UCLA to drop 32 and 17 and made sure we didn't need to run a player of the night today because it would have been pointless. But a look inside the numbers tells a truer story of what happened.
Louisville was forced into 18 threes, something that is not a strength, and hit just five. Overall they shot shot only 39%. More importantly their big three of Samardo Samuels, Terrance Williams, and Earl Clark combined for 26 points, about 15 less than usual.
And that tough Cardinals D, it didn't show up last night.
ND torched UL for 54% shooting. 10 threes on 18 tries. Only 10 turnovers. And most outrageous of all, outrebounded the Cards 46-25. Ouch.
And almost as important as all those numbers is that Kyle McAlarney found his groove back like Stella taking a trip to the Carribbean.
Still as good as a win as that was, more important for ND will be to hold that level of play. They will need to reel of at least three straight wins to get themselves into good position for NCAA Tourny position

Morning Run

I’m a sick, deranged college student for being up at 7:00am on a Friday, but here goes your Morning Run for the start of President’s Day Weekend.

While Mike is enjoying Valentine’s Day with his special someone tomorrow, I’ll be preparing for a Sunday in College Park, Md. with the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Not that I'm bitter... enough of my rant, on to the important stuff.

Drew Rosenhaus is up to it again. Which NFL superstars are you shopping now? Next question…

This is for the “Baby Boomers”… are you still livid that your mom threw out your Mickey Mantle rookie card because she thought it was a faded coaster? This elderly woman had some baseball card sense… 1869!,140821

Notre Dame 90. Louisville 57. Luke Harangody with 32 points and 17 rebounds. I don’t understand this conference. More from Mike on this game later…

Could Ken Griffey Jr. end up back in Seattle? Please, please, please say you and Jeter are clean.

The NBA Anti-All-Star Team!

Interesting piece from Reuters on the decline of spending for U.S. sports sponsorships…

Big weekend in college basketball… stay tuned.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Connecticut Guard Could Be Out For Year

Andy Katz of ESPN is reporting that UConn guard Jerome Dyson may miss the rest of the season following knee surgery.

Taking a look ahead

It's a slow Thursday. Sure there are two things we could be writing about: the UNC-Duke game and UConn's new dominance. Well the Battle of Tobacco Road will be covered, dissected, analyzed and broken down a billion times on ESPN today. And UConn's dominance is really boiled down to two things: Hasheem Thabeet and the players reaching their collective potential.
So instead of that, why not a March Preview. I'm not talking about all 65 teams, but I am talking about the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. What follows will be an early prediction of the Sweet 16 teams and then breaking down how far each advances.

The Sweet 16
UConn, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, UCLA, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Michigan State, Clemson, Villanova, Tennessee, Marquette, Dayton, Kansas

A few surprises here, namely Dayton and Tennessee.
First Dayton. There are a two good reasons why the Flyers are a sweet 16 team.
1. Defense. Dayton gives up just 59 ppg and has allowed 50 points or less eight times this season.
2. Out of conference wins. The Flyers only have two of them over BCS conference teams but a 14 point victory over Marquette on a neutral court is one of the most impressive wins of the year and shows that the Flyers are more than capable of beating top-flight opponents.
Now to Tennessee. The Vols are struggling right now but have a good enough resume to get in the tourney. Once they get in, expect some trouble from them. They have a good coach in Bruce Pearl who knows how to win in March, and in college basketball having the coaching advantage is equal to a five point gain. The Vols also have a boatload of athletes. This gives them the ability to press and play 110% for 40 minutes, unlike other teams that might have to save something for the next round. Finally, there is the experience factor. Pearl knows what he's doing, so does Tyler Smith. That alone should carry them to the second weekend.

The Elite 8
UConn, UNC, UCLA, Oklahoma, Michigan St, Louisville, Pitt, Clemson.
So why Clemson over Duke and Wake Forest. The latter two are two of the top 8 teams in the country but Duke has this silly problem scoring. Unless Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson, they struggle to put points on the board. Wake Forest has no outside shooting and that has been exposed. A 2-3 zone or an emphasis on crowding the paint could create an infallible gameplan. Clemson, on the other hand, is solid all around and the 27 point win over Duke was extremely impressive and gives them momentum the rest of the year.

Final Four
UConn, UNC, Oklahoma, Michigan St.
Oklahoma may not be one of the best four teams in the country but they will have the easiest road. The Sooners will get the second best No. 1 seed most likely because of its regular season resume and should have an easy road to Detroit.
Michigan State is a bit of Cindarella. They were creamed by UNC by 35 in December but since then have undergone a complete makeover. Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton have the Spartans rolling. The x-factor is Tom Izzo. Izzo knows how to get a team to the final weekend. Getting this team there wouldn't be his biggest accomplishment and he has taken worse squads this far.

Championship Game
UConn vs. UNC
You're going to have to wait a little longer for this pick

Player of the Night

Last night's biggest game on the docket obviously will get the player of the night:

Ty Lawson finally broke out of his slump. No, he wasn't struggling lately. But he had been in the games that mattered. Not anymore. Against Duke he 25 pts, 5 assists, 4 reb, 2 steals. Just as important as any of those numbers Lawson got to the line 9 times and hit all of them. He played superb defense on Duke's guards at times and did a great job on switches. If Lawson plays like this all the time (minus the 5 turnovers), who can beat UNC?

The Morning Run

Not a bad slate of games last night for a Wednesday. Here are the fallouts:

Tyler Hansbrough pulled off something historic yesterday
Just when you thought you had enough of Steph Curry, there is another from the Curry pipeline
The US and Mexico met last night in futbol, did anyone know?
Hasheem Thabeet claimed another victim last night
A little late on this one but an interest note about Stanley Robinson
The 2010 Olympics will try to combine economic efficiency and its usual extravagance
What has happened to Maryland basketball?

LINK OF THE DAY: Bob Knight lets the world know they are all drug cheats

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Morning Run

It’s February 11th… that means almost halfway through this shortened month. It also means March Madness is coming up soon and that pitchers and catchers report this weekend. Exciting times, so naturally the attention hog has to steal the show to start the morning run.

Bye, Bye Brett Favre… finally.

Interesting tidbit on how the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will not take the economy into account as a primary factor for first-round pairings.

Huuuuuge news in the world of soccer… Guus Hiddink is the new coach of Chelsea. This is the guy that seemingly takes a different country deep in the World Cup or Euro every decade. Currently, he coaches the Russian national team.;_ylt=AhpF4m9.4nlV8PCWPUTDGwg5nYcB?slug=ap-chelsea-hiddink&prov=ap&type=lgns

Whenever SI releases its swimsuit edition, guys are on high alert. This year, it got even more interesting… only wearing paint?

Things are starting to come apart for the boys from MSG…

A-Rod will not have to face Congress following his confession.

The Boston Herald takes a look at the sad fact that there are very few role models in the world of sports right now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How good is Villanova?—Performance of the Night

Will the darkhorse candidate for the Big East champ please stand up? Yeah, I’m talking about the boys down in suburban Philadelphia… the ones that play at a Ski Lodge-like arena on Route 30.

No. 13 Villanova improved to 20-4 overall and 8-3 in the Big East, after defeating No. 12 Marquette (20-4, 9-2) 102-84 at the Pavilion. It’s the second game in a row that the Wildcats put up 102 points.

Scottie Reynolds led five Villanova players in double figures with 27 points, as the Wildcats shot 59 percent from the floor and 54 percent from deep on 13 treys.

102 points in consecutive games… wow... Jay Wright is doing something right.

Another Fireworks Display

Another Rutgers - Seton Hall game and another fireworks display. And for the second straight year it came after the buzzer ended. It wasn't on the court in the form of a haphazard handshake or verbal assault on referees. It came in the post game press conference.
First came Fred Hill. After going for two points while down three, he was asked right off the bat and repeatedly in the press conference about the decision. Glibly he tap danced around the question and referred to different plays in his answer. When a reporter asked what play he wanted to run, Hill replied that he couldn't divulge the play because he had more games to play and would send along a diagram later.

Not to be topped, Bobby Gonzalez had some interesting things to say as well. He called himself a "lightning rod or lightning bolt." He then referenced John Thompson II and said he had "competitive hate," which led to the quote of the night:
John Thompson said a term years ago and he called it competitive hate. It doesn’t mean you hate someone or you are not rooting for someone to get cancer or have something bad in their life. It just means you want to win very badly. I am extremely completive and I want to win when we play St. John’s, I want to win when we play Rutgers. Some people don’t want to talk about it and they say it’s the same as any other game, I’m not that type. I am straight up and I say what I feel. In my heart, I am an East Coast guy, I’m a New York guy, I’m in New Jersey, I want to beat St. John’s, I want to beat Rutgers I want to get players from the East Coast so these games are very important to me and to our team. We have kids from Brooklyn, New York, New Jersey and I am sure the coaches feel the same way and they want to beat me bad.
Gonzo and Hill, only in NJ.

Player of the Night

With only two games featuring ranked teams and six games total, picking last night's outstanding player was a little easier than usual

DeMarre Carroll led all scorers in Missouri's 62-60 victory over Kansas, giving the Jayhawks its first Big 12 loss of the season and ruining a potential battle of the conference unbeatens against Oklahoma. Caroll dropped an efficient 22 on KU, hitting 8 of his 13 and getting to the line 6 times, making five. He also grabbed 7 boards. And the victory means a probable top 15 ranking for the Tigers and leaves them only a game and a half back of first place in the conference.

The Morning Run

And a way we go....

Not time yet to fill out your brackets, but it is time to start thinking about them
Joe Lunardi also takes a look at the schools underachieving and two Big East schools top the list
A look at the steroid that got A-Roid in trouble
Luke Winn explains it all
So you think building a new sports arena is a good idea?
The US Track and Field program got a stinging rebuke
You think it's hard playing in the Big East? Trying playing for VMI
Jerry Wainwright towers over Chicago (funny)
Foul trouble ruined Monday night for WVU

Monday, February 9, 2009

Quick Hit

Dick "Hoops" Weiss of the New York Daily News with a morning-after take on Rutgers vs. SHU.

Anybody Looking for an AD Job?

I don't know if you've heard but Rutgers is looking for an Athletic Director. Who knows who will get chosen, but why not you. It seems that the University isn't keeping the search private. In fact even you could apply.
Rutgers has gone public with their search. Go to this link and you can you send in your resume and make a case to be the new AD. Although caveat emptor. Just in case you think you're going to take over a Big East program, think again. Unbeknown to all, looks like the Mid-America Conference is in the program's future. (Scroll down to Employer Information).
Although why not put the ad on craigslist?

Player of the Weekend

The title says player but, come on, a whole weekend of games and we're supposed to pick just one outstanding player? Not happening. So here is a handful, coincidentally all but one is from Saturday.

Hasheem Thabeet-After a rout of Louisville, UConn was home to take on a struggling Michigan team. And it was close. Nobody expected it but the Huskies themselves had to struggle to pull out the 69-61 win, not locking it up until the final moments. Thabeet was a big key. He had another impressive line: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 blocks, 7-8 FT and 5-6 FG. He also changed several shots and his mere presence forced Michigan to settle for 29 three-pointers.
Mike Davis- Don't call it an upset but Illinois got a big and unexpected win over Purdue Saturday. Davis led the way. He scored a team-high 14 points in the Illini's 66-48 victory. Oh and he grabbed 16 boards for good measure. Not bad for a guy who averaged only 1.8 rpg last season.
The two Coreys- No not Haim and Feldman. Stokes and Fisher of Villanova. Dante Cunningham got the limelight for his 31 points and 9 rebounds. Deservedly so. But he also turned it over 7 times. Fisher and Stokes combined for 3. The two sophomores came off the bench to spark the 102-87 win over Syracuse. Fisher had 14 pts, 6 assists, 4 reb, and 3 steals. Stokes topped him with 16 points and three hits from long range. He also hit the boards, grabbing 8 and 3 dimes.
Toney Douglas- Florida State pulled a shocker over Clemson Saturday. Not because they won 65-61, but because they were down 19 in the second half. Douglas was a large factor. He scored 17 of his 23 points during the comeback. He also grabbed 7 rebounds and had 4 assists.
Antwaine Wiggins- Wiggins isn't on here for his stats. Sure he had 5 points and 9 rebounds but that's not why he's here. Wiggins on this list because of what he did in the last second of the game. He ran up court on the final play of the game and cleanly blocked Stephon Curry's potential game-winning three. It gave Davidson their first conference loss of the year and snapped its 43 game conference winning streak

The Morning Run, Pt 2

Danny put up a bunch of great links, I just wanted to add a few more

Hasheem Thabeet had a good week
St. John's players got Norm Roberts' back
Blake Griffin can dunk
Marquette has fashion skills. (With pictures)
Baseball is not the only sport with some steroid issues
Bobby Gonzalez has it going in South Orange
The story of one NBA official

Morning Run

You've got your coffee. You're at your desk. It's those Monday morning blues sinking in. Work is about 7 hours and 50 minutes away from being over. But, have no fear, the Morning Run is here.

It looks like “throwin’ ‘bows” will no longer be tolerated in college basketball. Indiana coach Tom Crean just suspended his star player for getting a little too physical in a game on Saturday. Personally, I think that an elbow here and there is a part of the game, but repeated offenses are the bigger issue.

Do the New York Yankees always have a new apology each February? They’re sorry they’ll still have the best lineup in baseball this year…

An out-of-the-box link…. DOG SHOW.

Maybe the Falcons’ “dirty bird” dance was conjured up in a different state of mind…;_ylt=AnwmtytyeMnpMQAwvT5mvDg5nYcB?slug=ap-jamalandersonarrested&prov=ap&type=lgns

And, in the world of sub-mediocrity, the Knicks can’t catch a break this week.;_ylt=AqKpwtkNAG4QHEfmQDz.tAs5nYcB?gid=2009020822&prov=ap

Is baseball still a sport after this whole steroid scandal? To the below writer, yes it is. They still have the best hand-eye coordination in the world.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rutgers-Seton Hall in a Few Stats

I guess I’ve taken the role of the statistician here… I’ve always liked to break down basketball using the math and simple Xs and Os principles. Mike is your guy if you’re looking for well-written diatribes on the trials and tribulations of the sport.

Today produced one of the all-time high frustration levels for Rutgers basketball fans… it’s as bad as it has been since the Craig Littlepage days.

Seton Hall 65 Rutgers 60. Let’s get at it.

Stat #1: 9-of-17 from the free-throw line for Rutgers… leaving eight points at the line in any Big East game, especially when half of those are in the second half, will lead to a losing equation every time.

Stat #2: Rutgers won the battle of the glass 42-29… really? It didn’t look like that in the last five minutes, as John Garcia went to work underneath.

Stat #3: RU goes 3-of-10 from deep… on the surface, it doesn’t look too bad, but Mike Rosario went 1-of-6. Therefore, the rest of the team hit 2-of-4 chances… the Scarlet Knights needed to spread around the deep chances.

Stat #4: 34 personal fouls… yep, it had a Jim Burr-Curtis Shaw feel to it. Wait, they were both there? Wow… you would think Gonzo had to take some sedatives pre-game to keep those two from doling out a technical.

Stat #5: JR Inman puts up 11 rebounds… has to learn how to finish. Unfortunately, he’s a senior, so the learning curve has flat-lined.

Stat #6: Robert “Stix” Mitchell plays with an illness, shoots 2-of-11 and still finds a way to put up 10 points and 10 rebounds. That’s resilience.

Stat #7: Seton Hall sweeps Rutgers for the first time in five years. Neither side has swept the series since ’03-’04 when SHU beat Rutgers twice in a year that RU went to the NIT Final.

Panic time for Rutgers and Fred Hill, who is now 6-39 in Big East play since taking the head coaching position in Piscataway.

Georgetown - Cincinnati Sets Basketball Back

Not a pretty overtime period at all from these two teams. The five minute period had only eight points scored between the two squads with Cinci winning 5-3 and ultimately taking the game 64-62.
And those five minutes? Well let's just say I've seen better offensive basketball at much lower levels. In fact in watching St. Benedicts - Mater Dei, I'm wondering why Mick Cronin and JTIII aren't doing the same and taking notes.
The Bearcats missed all three of their shots, with Greg Monroe blocking the last one as they tried to ice the game. Throw in 3 turnovers and no attempt to get Deonta Vaughn going and it was anemic.
Luckily for them, the Hoyas were worse. Much worse. 0-8 from the field. They made things worse by going only 3-6 from the free throw line. That was the difference.
That's 6 losses in the last 7 for Georgetown, and they're ruining a great freshman campaign from Monroe, who had another great line last night: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 assists and a block. But only 4-12 from the field and all three of his misses from the charity stripe in OT.
But on the bright side, the Georgetown campus is very nice.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekend Watch

Lots of great games on the schedule today and tomorrow. Here are 8 things to watch out for:
  1. Can Notre Dame regain its mojo? I was going to go with luck but Mike Brey losing his four-leaf clover has nothing to do with how bad his team has been. Now they visit UCLA. The Bruins haven't been a great team this year as expected, not living up to expectations. But they play very good Ben Howland defense and have enough weapons in Collison, Holliday, and Shipp that they are the prohibitive favorites. I don't expect ND to win but making it a close game would go far for its reputation. And so would not allowing UCLA to go off for more than 75 points, considering its offense is just above average. UCLA should win, 73-69.
  2. Can Ohio State pull off a second straight win over a ranked team? I've seen Minnesota several times this year and of any top 25 team i trust them the least. Tubby Smith is coaching them up well but the talent is not there. The Buckeyes are coming off a win at home over Purdue and Evan Turner is a top-3 player in the Big Ten. I'm liking a 67-59 win for OSU.
  3. Which is the best mid-major? Memphis and Gonzaga face off in Spokane, Wash. and this is a big game for both teams. Memphis has been playing well lately but are still without a point guard and without a marquee win that can get them a top 5 seed. Gonzaga is in a similar position. They got off to a hot start but then suffered several ugly losses. Both team's best wins have come against Tennessee (twice for the Zags) and a win here will go a long way towards sewing up a NCAA berth even if they don't get an automatic bid. Gonzaga 76-71
  4. Can Clemson avoid a letdown loss? Coming off a big win over Duke, the Tigers take on Florida St. The Seminoles aren't a great team but they can play, having kept it close against UNC and Pitt. Clemson is also approaching the part of the season where they have broken down the last couple of years. They need this win to keep their momentum. Clemson, 75-67.
  5. Can Arizona St. right itself? The Pac-10 isn't that good this year. There's a chance they only get four teams in the tourney. ASU is right on that bubble, one of three teams tied for third in the conference with a 6-4 record. James Harden needs to have a big game today because while Oregon State is only 10-11 it has wins over USC and Cal, the two other teams at 6-4 in the Pac-10. ASU, 67-61.
  6. Which will be the 8th Big East team? With ND struggling, the race for that 8th spot and a first round bye in the tournament is wide open. Providence and West Virginia are the two teams vying for a top-8 spot. The Friars have been a surprise at 6-4 in the conference and need a few marquee victories to maintain their spot, let alone earn an NCAA berth. WVU currently sits ninth after dropping two straight to Louisville and Syracuse. Expect a hard-fought game with a dichotomy on how each team will want to play. Providence likes to put up points, WVU is all about strong defense. WVU, 78-70.
  7. Can Tyler Hansbrough make the race for POY a close one? If Psycho T has any aspirations at repeating from last year, he's going to have to pick up his production and soon. Today is a good place to start as any. Virginia gives up 74 a night and UNC should put up big numbers. But the lead may become too big and Tyler could be sitting early. UNC 94, Va 75.
  8. Can a No. 1 team finally go a week without losing? Ask Connecticut. They passed their biggest test, beating Louisville earlier this week. Today comes a test against Michigan. The Wolverines have some impressive wins this year over Duke, UCLA and Illinois but they've struggled lately. That's bad timing with UConn playing like the best team in the country. Expect for them to repeat as No. 1 on Monday. UConn 81, Michigan 60.

Weekend Run

A slew of links to keep you bunkered in your home for 2 days straight

Is it ever too early for talk of who is on the bubble?

Trying to engineer a pro career
10 things to keep an eye from here on out
Sports' new drug scandal
Uh Oh, A-Rod has some questions to answer
An inside look at Citi Field
Taking a look at the 2009 NBA Draft
Who is your favorite local voice? ( more on this to come)
For Syracuse, Saturday is about redemption
Welcome back Jesse Sapp

Friday, February 6, 2009

Big East Upset of the Year

South Florida just defeated No. 8 Marquette, previously the top team in the Big East at 9-0 in conference, 57-56 at the Sun Dome in Tampa.

More details later as we go full speed into a big weekend in college hoops.

Battle of New Jersey Part Deux on Sunday...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Interview With David Stern

Last month I had the chance to sit down with NBA Commissioner and Rutgers grad David Stern. With Sunday being the 25th anniversary of him becoming the NBA commish, I felt I should put up the interview. He talks Rutgers, the NBA and if he misses being a fan.

Mike Vorkunov: Why did you choose Rutgers over other schools?
David Stern: Well I really at the time, and I’m not sure that students today could relate to it, I wanted to go to a campus school. And the other ones I had looked at were in cities
MV: What were the other ones you considered?
DS: I was actually between Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania. Those were the two. And I actually loved the Heights, and loved the river and loved the Quads and Winants Hall and the beautiful old places. And having grown up in New York City, I really wanted to do something that was a campus. Now so much of it has been filled in and constructed that it bears no resemble to September of 1959. Oh my God, which is getting to be 40 years ago.
MV: Do you remember your first days on campus?
DS: I remember my first day on campus, I do. Because I remember my dad actually took a day off from the delicatessen to drive me there. Wessels 211.
MV: That was your freshman dorm?
DS: Yeah. Is it still there?
MV: Yeah it’s part of the quads.
DS: Yup. There were rooms that were supposed to fit two people but they had three in there. And we met my freshman roommate from Hammonton, New Jersey. Who I don’t think had been much further north than Newark. I can’t say that I had been much further south than Newark. Along with my other roommate who was from Teaneck, same as I was, and we were off and running.
MV: I bet the room was a far cry from your office now.
DS: Well it was a little smaller. By those standards I’d say we could put six people in here. But it was fun and I enjoyed it very much.
MV: So how did you spend your time as an undergrad? Were you studying a lot? Go out on the town?
DS: A lot of poker. A lot of gin rummy. A lot of crazy eights. It was a fair amount of sports. We ate a lot. We goofed around a lot and we did a little studying.
MV: What are your fondest memories as an undergrad at the University?
DS: It’s hard for me to, all I can say is that I remember I was still 16 when I started.
MV: Why so young?
DS: I just had skipped a year in New York. And I’ve always been grateful to Rutgers because my fondest memories are some combination of growing up, both personally and academically. We had Henry Winkler lecturing on the rise and fall of Nazism. We had Peter Corrones lecturing on Greek and Roman civilization. I had a professor over at Douglass, Smith Palmer Bolvie, who talked about the Greek classics and the issue of whether or not we had souls. And it was just an opportunity to sample the academic world at a time when I don’t think I was mature enough to appreciate what the opportunity was. But it wasn’t greatly pressured and we had a good time. And we learned.
MV: Is there anything that you learned, whether it was from a professor or general knowledge, that you still use today?
DS: You know it’s interesting, to me, it’s hard to segment one thing because it’s a continuum but I’ve always considered myself to be who I am because of my Rutgers sort of travels. Some would say education but I would say travels and my Columbia Law School travels. I was in a fraternity. Learned some things about management. I unsuccessfully ran for something, I forget what it was, trying to capitalize on someone else’s name who was Stern who was the Vice President. I got to know professors, became a Henry Rutgers scholar. All of that, how to apply oneself. Even when I got through with the cards and everything else, in order to make it in Rutgers you’ve got to settle down and do some work. And that to me is the beginning of training of how to get the job done and focusing on the details. And Rutgers taught me that.
MV: What fraternity were you in?
DS: Sigma Alpha Mu
MV: You were on the Board of Overseers, are you still involved with the University in any way?
DS: Well I’m now emeritus on the Foundation board and I’m in regular contact with the President on issues where I might be helpful. I’m a distance removed from New Brunswick but because of my travels I’ve met with and the NBA’s international aspirations and Rutgers international aspirations, I’ve met with various deans and development departments and the President. And I guess it was last year I did an event for Rutgers here, for alums, in New York City. So I try to be helpful and connected as much as I can.
MV: Is it still the same Rutgers you went to as an undergrad or has it changed?
DS: Well I actually gave a speech there, I think two or three years ago. It’s a great, big, quite successful university with I think appropriate aspirations to be one of the top state universities in the country and I applaud those aspirations. And it’s just so big and so much larger than anything I can remember that I recognize that that’s the way of the world but it’s hard for me to adjust to, in a funny way.
MV: Do you still follow any of the athletic programs, just keep an eye on them?
DS: I do.
MV: Do you follow the basketball and the football programs?
DS: I follow the basketball and the football programs. I did a video, maybe it was a brochure, to help recruiting that said “ I went to Rutgers and it got me into the NBA.” I was trying to help the basketball department but I’m not sure I did.
MV: So what do you think of the success that the women’s basketball program, the football program have had the last few years?
DS: I’m in touch with Vivian Stringer, who I think represents Rutgers wonderfully. And I obviously follow the men’s team. And I follow the football team’s dismal start and wonderful turnaround and bowl victory. So that’s kind of neat. I’m proud of the programs.
MV: Do you go to any of the games?
DS: I don’t.
MV: Just don’t have the time?
DS: I don’t. Talk about a busman’s holiday. [ Laughs]
MV: Recently the athletic director Bob Mulcahy was dismissed from his job. Do you have any opinions on that?
DS: Not that I would care to render because the President is a friend and Bob Mulcahy is an even older friend. I’ve known him for a number of years and I think they’re both good men.
MV: Would it mean anything for the NBA to have a successful and thriving college program in the tri-state area and the New York City area with Seton Hall and Rutgers and St. John’s?
DS: Yeah. I think that all sports are good for other sports. And I think that it would be nice for NYC. You know we have players in the league from Rider…
MV: Jason Thompson
DS: Right. I grew up in New York following Seton Hall with players whose names you wouldn’t remember. St. John’s, the same way. Rutgers. NYU, back in the day. And even Columbia used to have a pretty significant program, pre-NBA players. So I think it’s great if there’s good basketball in New York City. And it used to be spectacular at the high school level, and it still is. So to see good high school level, college level and pro teams, I think they feed off one another.
MV: When you graduated Rutgers, or even Columbia or when you started working for the NBA as a general counsel, did you ever think you would be in this position?
DS: No, no. I graduated Rutgers and I went to law school. The joke then was if you didn’t like the sight of blood, you couldn’t be a doctor. And if your numbers were bad, you couldn’t be an engineer. I barely got through freshman calculus. Somebody kept me up all night to get me through it. And so if you didn’t want to go out and get a real job, you went to law school. Law school was another journey that allowed me to grow up. When I left law school I went to work for a law firm which I was happy to get the job at and didn’t really know they represented the NBA. So my travels in basketball have been serendipitous. I withdrew from the firm after 12 years to become a general counsel. And fully expected to go back to the firm after two or three years and didn’t.
MV: What was it that made you stick with the NBA and what you were doing and not go back?
DS: It was just an enormously pleasing puzzle to try to put together. I worked for Larry O’Brien when I was at the firm. And he became commissioner in 1975. He asked me to join him in 1978 and he was commissioner until 1984. And we were 23 people. We were a small business. And gradually under Larry’s leadership we branched out, we began to get bigger, we solved problems. And here was this living breathing, I thought, potentially dynamic organization that had a lot of growth and opportunity. So I stayed.
MV: In 1978 when he asked you to help him and when you first took over as commissioner, with all the problems that were plaguing the NBA at the time, you had some thoughts about the players having drug issues and the games being tape delayed. Did you ever think the NBA could become what it is now, a multi-national corporation?
DS: No, I didn’t. I wish I could say I had a plan, but I didn’t. The plan was to get through the day and take advantage of each opportunity. And protect the league and the players as best we could.
MV: So there was no outline?
DS: There was no outline, nope.
MV: Was it just kind of ad-hoc, see what comes up everyday?
DS: Well, no. I think you set a path: you want to increase attendance, you want to increase television, you want to see if there are opportunities in licensing and sponsorship, you want to make sure that your public relations - which is now called communications - was handled in an appropriate fashion. And then you watch other business developments and you see what international - it used to be called international, now it’s globalization - offers. And you surround yourself with people who are maybe even smarter and work harder than you do and then you just sort of bang off of each other. You keep on this generalized path of developing each of your strengths and then you have an opportunity to do something, you do it. Then all of a sudden you had a plan.
MV: Over these years how would you describe yourself as a commissioner? An overseer? Hand-on? CEO? Combination of all?
DS: I would say I am a hands-on CEO. Some would say I’m a micro-managing pain in the neck. And some place in the middle. If I ever wrote a book, which I won’t, I would call it “Intermittent Micro-management is Underrated.” But there is so much going on, the beauty of this place is that micro-management is impossible because we’ve got 1000 people that are doing so many different things in all of the areas I mentioned and more that what I’ve learned over the years is you’ve got to hire people and let them do their jobs. And you occasionally check in, you generally oversee, you periodically do review when they are necessary. But it’s all about the people of the NBA.
MV: What do you think has caused the NBA to grow from where it was 25 years ago to where it is now?
DS: The game. I mean that down to my socks. It’s a great game. It has global appeal. It has been an Olympic sport since 1936. In which Olympics the Chinese entered a team, thereby giving rise to the notion I think in China that they invented the game. And it’s a game that has attracted some of the most gifted athletes in the history of the United States and actually the history of the world. And it’s relatively simple to understand. It’s easily played, whether you’re bouncing the ball yourself, two-on-two, or five on five. And over the years it’s come, almost on its own momentum, to represent a kind of diverse welcoming sport that is open to all, easily attained by all, and probably as best symbolized by the 1971 Knicks. Whether you came from Princeton and Missouri like Bradley or you came from Louisiana and Grambling as in Willis Reed, “Hey you got game? Come on out.” And the fans loved it, so I think it’s a very egalitarian place for fans and players alike. The difference for the fans is some sit nosebleed and some sit courtside but their opinions are equally valid and they express them with the same ferocity.
MV: Were you always a basketball fan or has it grown on you?
DS: I’ve always been a basketball fan. I grew up in the New York area.
MV: So a Knicks fan?
DS: Knick fan. From Sweetwater Clifton to Harry Gallatin to Ray Felix to guys you never heard of. Carl Braun, Jimmy Baechtold, Kenny Sears, Ron Sobieszczyk, Richie Guerin. I lived and died with the Knicks. Mostly died.
MV: I feel the same way.
DS: But it was the same thing, St. John’s was ruling the roost with Coach Carneseca or Joe Lapchick, but was doing great. Seton Hall I think had a player by the name of Walter Dukes. NYU had the great teams with Barry Kramer. So I was a basketball fan. I think I went to one football game once, at the Polo Grounds I don’t even know why I remember, with the Giants playing. Hockey, never. Baseball, yes, I was a New York Giants fan. So I was Knicks and Giants.
MV: So when the Giants left town…
DS: They broke my heart. No, I became a Mets fan then. But I gave up on the Mets then when they got rid of Seaver, but that was many years later.
MV: So was it awe-inspiring when you started working here and here are the guys you’re rooting for and you’re a fan of and you get to meet them or you’re working with them somehow?
DS: It’s funny, it was for a while but given the press of litigation, it got to be the point when you get involved in the game itself, you get to a game and you begin to root that there won’t be an injury, that the referees won’t blow a call, that there won’t be a fight, that the signs work or won’t fall down. So basically there was so much litigation involving the union and the league that I look at some of them as depositions I took. I took five days deposing Bill Bradley, my Princeton hero. So it’s just an interesting phenomenon. I still love the game, but I recognize that it has more beauty and value on a global scale then we even contemplated but you do get distracted by counting the game and checking attendance and a variety of other business related things that make it less fun. And of course you can’t yell as a commissioner. So you have to do that in the study at home, screaming at your flat-screen adobe-surround sound, which can’t yell back so it’s terrific.
MV: Do you ever wish you had a chance to just watch a game as a fan and not care as you do as a commissioner?
DS: Well I had a chance to do that, like at the Olympics. It was great. I was rooting as an American. Even that came with some risk as of the 36 players who went the medal stand, 26 of them including players from Argentina and Spain had NBA experience. I allowed myself the luxury of being an American so as a result I rooted unabashedly for the American team. So I get those occasional opportunities in the World Championships and the Olympics.
MV: No wishes that you could just go to the Garden as a fan, get a seat and just root for the Knicks?
DS: Yeah, well over the years I’m not the Knick fan that I was. Over the years I’m totally, to the extend I root privately, it’s more for underdogs, more for teams that are doing badly, that have suffered injuries, that are getting bad breaks. I sort of view all 30 teams as my teams. Also, I do marvel at the beauty of it. When Magic and Larry were roaming the court as only they could. When Michael was doing it. When the youngsters today, the class of 2004: LeBron, Carmelo, D-Wade - I kid Chris Paul “What are you chopped liver? Why aren‘t you on the cover of Sports Illustrated?” I happen to think he’s as good as any of them and he’s a nice young man, they all are. So I get my kicks differently. I root for our players to demonstrate their expertise. I root for the growth of the game and its effectiveness and things like NBA Cares. Or focusing on diet, exercise, healthy living and the harmony that comes from the teamwork of the game. I’m sort of a displaced fan and I’m a fan of the game in a much broader way than I was.
MV: With the way you root for the game, what would be an ideal NBA season for you?
DS: An ideal NBA season is every game sold out. OK. Referees have 100 percent accuracy. No debilitating injuries, no fights. Excellent TV ratings. But most importantly, people getting an appreciation for the world’s greatest athletes playing at the highest level in an intense fashion that I don’t think is duplicated any place in the world.
MV: Over the last 25 years with the way the NBA has grown, what events do you think are the most unnoticed but the most responsible for the way that you’ve grown?
DS: Well I really do believe that the players’ connections to the fans through their charitable work, through their community involvement, through their taking the time to visit with fans, stop, sign, do whatever they do, is the most important. Because how people feel about you is as important as what they think about you. And I think our players do well. That said, there’s always going to be an incident of some kind. A player gets stopped, he doesn’t have his license. A youngster or not-so-youngster gets stopped for driving under the influence and that makes headlines. But overall I think who our players are, where they come from, and what they do for their teams and their communities is little noticed but is fundamentally responsible for many of the positive attitudes. And the other things are just a confluence of events. Our TV has grown dramatically, not the NBA alone but every sport, every outlet. And sports is so important there. Arenas have been refashioned, remodeled, rebuilt in an incredible way and I think that’s important. And globalization and sports, again, being at the intersection of the breakdown of barriers. It’s a lot of different things that have contributed to this tremendous growth.
MV: Have there been any setback or crises where when they happened you just thought “Uh, I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this or how are we going to get over this?”
DS: Sure. We were shut down for half a year in a work stoppage. We had a major referee scandal with respect to jail time for referees. We’ve had opportunities for the media to characterize our players unfairly. All of them, when we had an incident like Ron Artest and the Pacers and the Pistons in the Palace. No shortage of opportunities for us to pull up the gang plank and say “Circle the wagons” or whatever other metaphor I wanna use. But again, it’s the game. It’s been here before us and it’s going to be here after us and so we will be harshly judged if we don’t do what we have to do to take care of it.
MV: Is there a formula you use to take care of it or is just what the situation dictates?
DS: I would say it is scramble time. There are some more colorful expressions one might use but I don’t think that would be well-advised to be printed in the Daily Targum. It’s sort of when you’re skiing and you’re completely out of control and everyone is [ laughing] “OK, the rules of the jungle apply. Just do whatever you have to do to stop.” When you go into DEFCON 2 you do what you have to do. But obviously you have certain principles that you’re protecting so you’re never quite as scrambled as you might appear to be. The problem is, in fact, we appear to be well organized and we’re more scrambled than we are well organized, but there’s some combination of the two that’s the right approach.
MV: Is there any moment that stands out to you in your time with the NBA?
DS: There is a collection and I really mean it. One of the things that stands out to me is when Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive. That was different for us because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. And we thought that sports infrastructure and the whole league might be at risk completely. When there’s a brawl, you begin to deal with the aftermath. When you announce new rules, you do punishment, etc. When there is a scandal with respect to refereeing, you do what you think you have to do to become more transparent, change procedures, open yourself up. When you have a lockout, you fear but you know what the risks are and you negotiate but you prepare for the worst, etc. Back in 1991 when Magic was announced as HIV positive, we didn’t have a game plan. Nothing else to go by. We were very concerned. We educated ourselves, we learned. We actually think that Magic Johnson had more to do with the change in attitude on AIDS in this country than any other person. And the fact that he was a basketball player was an important part of that and we learned and we came through it. But I think that was one that we were hugely concerned about because if our players refused to play with Magic, which they grumbled about but openly didn’t refuse, we didn’t know whether that obligated us to test all of our players. Which of course was not a legal option. And we just didn’t know what the impact was of how one could transmit the AIDS virus. It was so far beyond our pay grades that we just gathered in ourselves and hired as many experts as we could to advise us and direct us and push us and push back at us. And on a human scale, Magic is alive and doing well. In 1991, we were virtually certain that wouldn’t be the case. So we are so delighted with the outcome.
MV: Was that especially troubling because there was such a negative social stigma to it that when you have a fight or you have a lockout it can be seen in a lockout but this is so much more than that.
DS: It wasn’t because of the social stigma actually, it was because of the science and the medicine that we didn’t understand. And so as a result we felt enormously threatened by our ignorance. It was social in this following sense, the last public that I recall was a youngster in Indiana by the name of Ryan White, who was not allowed to go to school because he was HIV positive because of a transfusion because he was a hemophiliac and America really didn’t know how to respond. Magic changed the debate. A beloved face with a great smile. A world renowned professional athlete became an AIDS educator. So, yes. It could have gone the other way but it didn’t.
MV: So when he came back five years later after that, was that something you could trumpet as a victory for the league?
DS: Nah, we didn’t trumpet. We tend to breathe sighs of relief rather than toot the trumpets.
MV: What’s your typical day? Does it change daily, is it consistent?
DS: There is no such thing as a typical day. Maybe it’s that right now, when I throw you out, I’m gonna go to my direct reports meeting in the next room. Some days it’s our senior staff meeting. It’s lots of phone calls. Loads of emails. Preparing for sponsorship presentations. Worrying about licensee negotiations. Dealing with international. Getting briefed by some of my colleagues heading off to the Middle East. Getting reports about European leagues and some of the difficulties they’re having. It is talking to owners, I had three phone calls with owners today. A phone call with an owner of a European team. A phone call with our NCAA collaboration to deal with youth basketball. An internal meeting over affiliation agreements for our NBATV and our NBA Digital, in which we’re partnered with Turner down in Atlanta. I mean it’s a huge discussion with counsel about drug testing and lobbying. It’s varied as it could be. Occasionally I get to talk about the game and officiating. Met with General Johnson, our new head of officials, just to see how he’s doing because he’s relatively new.
MV: You’ve said you don’t want to break the record for longest time as a commissioner, so have you started thinking about your legacy and what you want to do in your final few years? Does it even matter to you?
DS: Nope, it doesn’t. Because my entire time here has been dealing with the issues and the opportunities and protecting the game. That’s it and we don’t worry about legacies here.
MV: By giving yourself somewhat of a deadline, does it make you want to accomplish some goals?
DS: No. Because the beauty of this sport is… Larry O’Brien wrote a book, “No Final Victories.” That’s the beauty of this sport, it will just continue to evolve. There’ll be opportunities, there will be failures. And someone else will be responsible for doing it and taking care of it and protecting it.

All Wins and No Losses Make Buzz Williams Go...

Buzz William's Marquette team is riding high right now. Number 8 in the polls. Halfway through the Big East season and they are the only unbeaten team. And Buzz is bringing back bald look, like he's Stone Cold Steve Austin. And he's a colorful character, we love him for that.
But after Marquette's win over Georgetown Saturday, William's took some umbrage with a question asked in the post game press conference. Seemingly it's for no good reason. Here is what happened, courtesy of

McIlvaine: "Coach, you're on an 11-game winning streak, 8-0 in the Big East, obviously the number, the ranking, is going down. How do you keep the kids focused and not buying into the hype and all the ancillary stuff? How do you get them focused for the next game?"

Williams: "Well, I appreciate what you said, Mac, and I know that you played here and had a lot of success here. We pay absolutely no attention to anything said by the media, said within the media, and I'm not trying to be condescending, but I don't think you win 11 straight games, eight straight games in the Big East, if you're focusing on the wrong things. And so I'm somewhat offended that you would even ask that, because what you should talk about is the character and the heart of our players. That's what should be talked about. Talking about how we focus for the next game? Why don't you talk about, Mac, how we focused on this game? Why don't you talk about how we focused on every single Big East game? And for you as the home-team radio announcer to be asking some sort of question like that, it sounds like you're employed by someone other than Marquette. That's disappointing that you would ask that, being that you're a former player. You should be as proud of the collection of 12 guys that put on the uniform and that absolutely play their heart out at 6-6 and under against great teams on a nightly basis."

McIlvaine: "Oh, I am extremely proud of the guys, Coach. I'm just asking if there's anything you do as a coach to just keep these guys focused. I mean, obviously you're doing a great job of it. I was just wondering if there was anything to it."

Williams: "We'll do the same thing, Mac, that we've done every single day in the 296 days that I've been employed. That's wake up early, that's go to work and work as long as we can until our eyes fall asleep. That's what we do. That's what we do every day, whether that's in the season or out of the season, non-conference or conference."

Williams apologized earlier this week but still the outburst still exists in public record

Here is video of the press conference

Can anyone guess what the title is an allusion to? Post a comment if you think you've figured it out

Player of the Night

A lot of good games last night. Danny mentioned one a little off the radar. And truthfully, can you get more off the radar than the America East? Maybe the Summit League? But I've had North Dakota State as my big sleeper since Day One.
Tonight's player(s) of the night come from two important Big East games and an ACC game that has national implications

Scottie Reynolds. This is the Scottie Reynolds everybody expected. Running and gunning this Wildcat team to victory. Last night he had 31 points on an ugly shooting line but Nova needed every point. Of his 13 made free throws, the last two iced the game with seconds remaining. Exciting game with Providence outscoring Nova in the second half 57-45. Can people stop bashing the Friars now?

Deonta Vaughn. Oh what do we say here? Vaughn had 34 points on 5-13 shooting. Bad night from the field, that's ok. Just get to the line 22 times instead like Vaughn did. He made 19 and Cinci "upset" Notre Dame although they have the better conference record. Luke Harangody gets a shout out for dropping 28 and 14 but thats right around his season average of 25 and 13.

Miami's 2-3 zone. The Hurricans routed Wake Forest last night and Jack McClinton had 32 points but the star of the game was their zone defense. WFU is a top 4 team but they have a big weakness in their outside shooting. I'm sorry, their lack of it. So Miami threw out their ole 2-3 and forced Wake into shooting 3-20 from beyond the arc. It also took away something Wake does well: getting to the free throw line. Their 18 freebies last night was the third lowest total of the season. Not at all ironically, those three times have ended in losses.

By the way, I'm kidding. I love the America East. Give me Tom Brennan and Taylor Coppenrath any day of the week.

Morning Run

Here’s a bit of a Morning Run to get the blood flowing for anyone just turning on their computer at a 9 to 5. I’m sure Mike will get you a few quick hitters as well…
Edit: Mike just added some more links

Stewart Mandel with a football signing day wrap

Kobe dropped 61 at MSG earlier in the week… but was it even in his TOP FIVE all-time best performances?

David Beckham is pulling the move that everyone should have seen coming from a mile away… poor Galaxy

More info on the video of former Cincinnati and current Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy pleading with police on Dec. 18

Memphis wins its 50th in a row in Conference USA… why are they in that league again?

Pat Forde on behavior on the hardwood and role modeling…

Dickie V discusses the No. 1 jinx and why Connecticut was immune to it…

SI's Seth Davis says there is a bad trend going on in college basketball although I think some fan bases in the Big East wouldn't mind if it continued

I think everybody knows that old axion: the longer you coach together, the more you look alike

Tom Savage "loves Coach Schiano"

How do you know there is a recession? Ask Vegas

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Game of the Night: America East Stunner

The game of the night in NCAA hoops comes from a conference you won’t hear much about around tourney time—the America East.

Rutgers fans remember the Binghamton Bearcats, a squad that marched into the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Dec. 6 and went back home on a happy 3-hour ride on I-81 North after a 10-point win.

Tonight, Binghamton took a trip further north to Patrick Gym in Burlington, Vermont, a building that was made famous by ESPN’s Tom Brennan and his “Cinderella” Vermont Catamounts teams of a few years back.

Saint Joseph’s transfer D.J. Rivera hit a lay-up with six seconds left to give Binghamton an 85-83 win and cap off a 23-point comeback for the Bearcats (14-8, 7-3). BU trailed 53-30 at the half but Rivera’s 21 points and 9 rebounds were coupled with Emmanuel “Tiki” Mayben’s 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting to lead a 55-point second half for their squad.

Metuchen, N.J. native Marqus Blakely filled the stat sheet for Vermont (16-7, 7-3) with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 6 blocks. (Fun Fact: He once recorded a quintuple-double against Highland Park High School as a senior in 2005-2006).

Second-year Binghamton head coach Kevin Broadus was an assistant under John Thompson III at Georgetown and certainly learned a few lessons about Xs and Os from one of the masters of the backdoor offense.

Binghamton went 10-of-21 from deep in the game.

Congrats to the Bearcats who took a big step toward winning the America East—a necessity to make the Dance in this one-bid league.

Ranking Time

Look we know everyone is entitled to an opinion, it just doesn't mean they can all be right. So if we happen to disagree with 72 college basketball writers or 31 coaches, it's because they had it coming. On those terms, we present the first weekly Big Beast Poll. The first will be the Big East teams ranked in order of how we view them. The second is a national top 24. Why 24? That's the first six seeds in each regional and where the likely national champion will come out of.
(If you want the "real" rankings, go here)

  1. Connecticut
  2. Marquette
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Louisville
  5. Villanova
  6. Syracuse
  7. West Virginia
  8. Providence
  9. Georgetown
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Seton Hall
  13. St. John's
  14. South Florida
  15. Rutgers
  16. DePaul
  1. Connecticut
  2. North Carolina
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Duke
  5. Wake Forest
  6. Marquette
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Louisville
  9. Clemson
  10. Xavier
  11. Purdue
  12. UCLA
  13. Texas
  14. Butler
  15. Memphis
  16. Villanova
  17. Gonzaga
  18. Syracuse
  19. Washington
  20. Minnesota
  21. Kansas
  22. Illinois
  23. Arizona State
  24. Utah State

Player of the Night

Two players really stood out on a quiet Tuesday night.

Wayne Ellington had a monster night for North Carolina. He is a vital cog for UNC and integral to their success. When he is feeling from outside, along with Tyler Hansbrough inside and Ty Lawson and Danny Green, there may not be a better team in the country. However if his shot isn't falling, UNC is losing (2-7 from 3pt land in each of their losses.) So last night when he hit 7-9 threes, Maryland could get forget about winning. His second game with 7 three-pointers resulted in 34 points on unbelievably efficient 12-15 shooting, along with 9 boards.

The other player to make noise last night was Ohio State's Evan Turner. In a not-so upset over No. 13 Purdue (it's not an upset if I can call it) Turner had a ridiculous night: 26 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, a block, a steal, 60% shooting and got to the line 12 times. Wow. The sophomore has really stepped up this year, with his ppg doubling from 8.5 to 17, so don't be surprised if he's a first round pick in June.

Quick Hit-- Stat Style

Big East players are all over the Top 5s in the NCAA's individual statistics categories.

Notre Dame's Luke Harangody is the nation's 4th-leading scorer at 25.1ppg.

Harangody also is the NCAA's 3rd-best rebounder at 13.2rpg. Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair comes in at No. 4 with 12.7rpg.

Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet is second in the country in blocked shots at 4.0bpg... surprise, surprise.

Pittsburgh's Levance Fields is third in the nation in assists at 7.0apg.

Two Big East players that you wouldn't necessarily name right away hold the top two field goal percentages in the NCAA. Providence's Randall Hanke is No. 1 at 70.9 percent with Syracuse's Arinze Onuaku right behind at 70.6 percent.

Rounding it out, Marquette's Wesley Matthews is 5th in the country in free-throws made at 144 through 22 games.

Just a few stats to dissect on your Wednesday morning...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

35 Second Shot Clock

Eww. That's the best way to sup Rutgers 57-47 loss at Georgetown. Instead of painting a narrative, some statistics will do.
  • The 47 points were a season-low
  • Rutgers turned the ball over 21 times, a season high
  • They shot 38.6% from the field and just 6-19 in the first half
  • They had just 10 assists to counter the 21 turnovers
  • Georgetown had 11 steals
  • Mike Rosario was the only Knight in double figures
Rosario explained his team's trouble offensively:
"It was just us. It was us being impatient and us trying to make a play as soon as possible. And that’s what killed us."

Greg Monroe had a monster line. He scored 10 points, grabbed 7 boards, had 6 assists and came up with four steals:
“I’m just trying to win. That’s all I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to get a win for my team.”

Fred Hill said there was a lot to find wrong with:
It was everything. Certainly Georgetown’s defense, our decision-making, ball handling, 16 turnovers from our guards. You’re not going to win a game that way. It’s almost shocking to me that you can claw back and be in a game down by ten after they had a 20-point lead. Like usual we dug ourselves a big hole and we’re great at climbing back out of it, but you can’t turn the ball over 21 times against a good ball club and expect to be in a game and win a game.”

Jesse Sapp was just happy to win:
"With this win, we feel like we're back on track and we just want to continue to do the things that we did in this game and improve on them so we can win the next game."

It's Going for Wrong for Wainwright

It's been a tough week for DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright. His team lost at home to Connecticut by 22 then went on the road to Rutgers and lost by 19. Ouch. On top of that ESPN's Pat Forde named him as one of four Big East coaches on the hot seat (along with Norm Roberts, Fred Hill and Bobby Gonzalez)
But you know what, it's been a tough year. DePaul has lost twice to annual Big East bottom feeder South Florida, including by 22 at home. They even lost at home to Morgan State. And 0-18 in the conference sounds about right.
Hell, it's been a tough 3.5 years for Wainwright. He's going to finish his fourth year with only one winning record overall. That one time came in 2006-07 when Wilson Chandler roamed the court in Chicago. Then he promptly bolted for the NBA.
Even sadder, after his team's loss to DePaul he used the post game press conference as an opportunity for all intents and purposes to petition for his job. Wainwright talked about how he was not making excuses and going with the deadly combo of this coach showing empathy, referencing how Jim Calhoun saw simmilarities in this DePaul team and his UConn team of two years ago, and talking about what ifs. Here is a quote to wet your whistle:
Everything is about retention; And please this is not an indication of what anyone said. Wilson Chandler would be a senior this year and our program would be remarkably different if he was like Sam Young. You are going to have to compete with early out guy or two, you have to be competitive. But the really good teams have guys in the wings... We have a lot of young players that every team in our league would like but the problem is that they are playing. I don't mean as disrespect to them but they play too much and too much is on them. They don't follow a normal development so you need to retain them and keep them working.

Quick Hit

Just like Mike's outstanding job with the Morning Run, I will update you throughout the day with interesting breaking news tidbits and links to stories about a select game for the night to come.

As I said earlier, Georgetown has a huge game tonight with Rutgers, if that's possible for any game against the Scarlet Knights at this point. The Hoyas are in full tailspin mode and RU comes to town with a little renewed confidence.

The Washington Post takes a look at the Hoyas through nine Big East contests-- halfway to tourney time.

A Trendy Pick

Coming into the 2008-2009 season, it was truly obvious that the Big East conference was the cream of the crop in the men’s college basketball ranks.

At this point, all of the teams in the conference have played somewhere between 20 and 22 games.

13 of the Big East’s 16 teams have over .500 records. 9 of those squads have 14 wins or more at this point, putting them squarely on the NCAA bubble or making them locks to dance.

The conference has shuffled between having eight and nine teams in the weekly Top 25 polls, despite the fact that preseason beasts Georgetown and Notre Dame (both are 12-8; 3-6) have faltered mightily and are on the outside looking in.

Marquette (19-2) is the only team undefeated in conference play at 8-0, but the Big East is so good that Connecticut (21-1, 10-1), the mega-group's second place team, is No. 1 in the nation.

The surprise of the year so far has to be Keno Davis and his guys in Providence. At 14-7, 6-3, the Friars have yet to be tested by the top teams in the Big East, but will certainly have a case to make as Selection Sunday approaches.

Weekly Awards: Marquette’s Jerel McNeal wins Big East Player of the Week and Rutgers’ Mike Rosario wins his second Big East Rookie of the Week as RU beats up on lowly DePaul for its first conference win.
RU @ Georgetown tonight at 7:00pm... Will the Hoyas' 5-game losing streak continue or is the Verizon Center (MCI, whatever you want to call it) still Rutgers' House of Horrors?

Player of the Night

This is a new running segment where a player is highlighted for his play from the previous night. Simple concept. For the first time, here are two guys who were key on a slow Monday night:

- UConn's Hasheem Thabeet had a good night last night. He finished with 14 points (5-7 FG), 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals. But even more important than the numbers were two other things. One he was crucial in stopping Louisville Samardo Samuels and Earl Clark. Both like to operate around the basket and his length and shot blocking skills put kibosh on that.
Secondly, he finally showed up in a game that mattered. Thabeet has had a history of shrinking in big games. Against Gonzaga he fouled out in 19 minutes. Against Villanova he only played 17. But he has been playing much better lately when it counted, including a combined 12 blocks against Georgetown and ND. So it was important for UConn last night that he played all but one minute and was a force.

- This one is a little more low key. Green Bay's Ryan Tillema led his Pheonix to an upset over No. 11 Butler. He finished with 21 points off the bench in only 29 minutes including 10-12 from the FT line. Throw in 6 boards and 2 blocks and Tillema probably had a good night out on the town last night in Cheesehead country.

- Kobe Bryant, Special NBA edition. I had to throw this one in. I was at MSG last night to see him score 61 points and break two very important records. He topped Jordan's record for most points by a visitor, which was the famous "Double Nickel" game in 1995. He also broke Bernard King's MSG record of 60 points, which he set on Christmas Day in 1984. Bryant was unstoppable last night, granted the Knicks are to defense what kids are to vegetables. But I don't think it would have mattered who he faced last night, he had the look in his eyes. Now to see if LeBron can top it Wednesday.

The Morning Run

Good set of links today and not a bad Monday's worth of action.

- Connecticut is the new No. 1 and they have already bucked tradition by not losing a game a day into their reign. Pat Forde takes a look at what UConn can bring to the top spot
- It's never too early to think of March. And as always the over/under for Big East teams is 8
- My own story of how Rutgers is mentally preparing to go down to Georgetown
- Horrible story out of North Carolina saying that a mural of Kay Yow has been defaced
- Remember the story of former Cincinnati coach Andy Kennedy getting arrested for assaulting a cab driver. Here's the video
- Kobe Bryant had a good night last night in the Garden
- Looks like there might be a trend. Somebody threw a shoe at the Chinese Prime Minister
- Missed any of the Super Bowl ads? Well here they are