Posted on: December 12, 2011 8:36 am

Wakeup Call: Wait, who coaches Memphis?

By Matt Norlander

It seems a 17-year-old has come up with a big breakthrough in curing cancer. She's 17. You did what over the weekend? // Old Loves Tumblr is inspiring, bittersweet. // I've not run into an autocorrect issue yet, but are the funniest Damn You Autocorrects from 2011. // People who spend thousands on decorating their houses for Christmas ...

★ Great buzzer-beater from Saturday that you missed, the one that wasn't Indiana over Kentucky.

The story behind that photo.

★ There have been a few really good pieces written about the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. This is one of them.

★ This is another.

★ And so's this.

★ One more. Props to Brennan for getting tough, something he should do more often.

★ Hey, this is great reporting that we wish would never have been done. After it fell off the newswires, Kevin Armstrong went to Arkansas to report on the plane crash that killed the Oklahoma State women's coach and assistant last month.

★ Georgetown player out indefinitely because of heart problems. Scary, but thankful it was caught now.

★ How/why Kansas State almost lost to North Florida Sunday night.

★ That's a depressing scene.

★ This remains true.

★ We've all pretty much moved on from UCLA at this point, but these stats about Ben Howland's commitments are worth seeing.

★ Yes, yes, yes. Loved this from Ryan Greene. Michigan State got one of its patented great, tough, under-the-radar wins Saturday. Going into Spokane? Respect that.
★ The best dunk I saw from the weekend.

★ You can see below this blog post that Parrish wrote about Murray State going undefeated. Here's another take on it and the chances of that happening.

► This KILLED me. How do you make this mistake? It's been more than two years! Such bombast, such unawareness.

♬ I'm deviating from my normal band/artist recommendation of the day and spending the next two weeks counting down (in no real order, I guess) my favorite Christmas tunes. I debated also posting a MISERABLE Christmas song to counter it, but why be a downer? We start with Andy Williams. If you can't get with this, you can't show up to my part in your best December sweater.

Photo: AP
Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 8:31 pm

Indiana's win worthy of Crean celebration

By Jeff Goodman

Tom Crean can celebrate however he wants after this one. He could be yelling and screaming buck naked in the lobby of Assembly Hall and it would be fine with me (OK, I take that one back).

I mocked the Indiana coach last season after he went bananas in the lobby of Assembly Hall following a home victory over Illinois. However, Saturday's victory against top-ranked Kentucky? Well, that's worthy of a full-pledged party well into the night for Crean and the Hoosiers.

This may wind up becoming a defining moment for the Indiana program in the Crean Era - one that had some fans and many around the country questioning whether the Hoosiers would be nationally relevant again.

Kentucky was more talented at every single position on the court, but Indiana took control of the game in the second half, and after blowing a 10-point lead, got a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Christian Watford for the 73-72 upset.

The Hoosiers showed mental resolve.

This Hoosiers team has officially turned the corner. They hadn't really beaten anyone of note until now (Butler and N.C State don't quite count), but should make their way into the Top 25 for the first time since Kelvin Sampson was running things and making illegal phone calls in Bloomington.

It was nice to see Assembly Hall rocking again because the fans in Bloomington are rabid - and are deserving of success. Indiana doesn't blow you away, but now Crean has enough talent and experience to compete with the big boys.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however, and start proclaiming the Hoosiers as a clear-cut NCAA tournament team. The Hoosiers aren't going to challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten title. They remain undefeated, but still need to fare well in Big Ten play to ensure themselves of dancing come March.

Watford doesn't always show up, but it was Kentucky's Terrence Jones who played the role of the magician on Saturday, doing his best disappearing act with just four points and a lone rebound in the contest. Watford went for 20 points in the victory while freshman Cody Zeller, Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls all played well.

Crean has had a rough go thus far in his tenure, finishing near the bottom of the league each of his three seasons. Recruiting has certainly picked up in the past year or so and Cream got over one hurdle when he took down Butler's Brad Stevens last month. But this one was far more important.

Crean knocked off the No. 1 team in the land. The almighty John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

If that's not worthy of a party, I'm not sure what is.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 8:55 am

Wakeup Call: Officially, the draft rule stays

By Matt Norlander

This is stupid. I thought the original really came into its own -- commercially and artistically. // The best music of 2011. Yes, I've got issues with some selections, but a lot of that is up my alley. // Investment banker writes condescending email to girl who realized immediately what she got herself into; writes how you’d imagine an entitled investment banker would. // Impressive. Don't let anyone tell you how you can't do something. // The best books of 2011. I've actually read two! // If it's at all possible to be let down by a Kate Upton photo gallery ...

★ Yeah, minor detail and all, but as expected: NBA draft rule remains as is.

★ We debuted our Player of the Year feature yesterday. We'll be coming back to this throughout the season.

★ Mountain Goats looped over Frank Martin's anger? MY HEART IS YOURS.

★ Got some UConn-over-Harvard reaction for you. That game played out pretty much like I thought it would. Crimson still capable of stealing one in March.

★ More thoughts on Harvard, via College Hoops Journal, a site you should totally follow on Twitter.

★ Good catch by Eamonn Brennan, who saw the report that the NBA will play on championship Monday this year due to the 66-game schedule.

★ What college basketball doesn't need: another team in Division I.

★ Small story out in Hawaii, but whoa.

★ This was a great sportswriter's re-telling of what it's like to be a writer and amid the NBA lockout.

★ Looks like Sullinger's playing against Kansas, which is great.

★ Still wonder what BYU becomes in conference play this year, but Davies is so important to that team regardless.

★ I'll try not to link Winn's Power Rankings every Friday morning, the morning after they get published, but I can't make any promises.

★ Deregulation at the college level? How that's possible.

► Don't know, don't care. Have watched 30 times.

♬ Yeah, I've got that soft emo side to me, OK? Jeez, lay off or I just might cry about it. Let's listen to some Death Cab for Cutie, a perfect way to head into the weekend. This is one of the "harder" DCfC songs Ben Gibbard's written. It's off Transatlanticism, the band's best album.

Photo: AP
Posted on: December 8, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 1:03 pm

Alabama leaning on freshman guards going forward

By Jeff Borzello

Oh, how one week changes everything.

A week ago at this time, Alabama was everyone’s sleeper Final Four pick. The Crimson Tide were 7-0, with wins over Wichita State and Purdue. Then Alabama lost a close one to Georgetown at home and by 12 at Dayton last night.

Suddenly, everyone’s off the Tide bandwagon.

The primary reason for their struggles is their lack of perimeter shooting and offensive options. When defenses sag off them in a half-court set and pack the lane, Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green don’t get as many opportunities. Unfortunately, Alabama shoots only 26.7 percent from 3-point range and rank near the bottom of Division-I in percentage of points from 3-pointers.

Heading into the year, the coaching staff was banking on freshmen Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph to provide a perimeter boost. Lacey was one of the more dangerous shooters in the class of 2011, but he has only hit eight of 28 3-point shots. Randolph was another very good shooter, in the mid-range and from behind the arc. He also is struggling mightily, nailing just 3-for-22 from outside.

Alabama likes to force turnovers in order to get points in transition – mostly highlight reel dunks from Mitchell. When the Crimson Tide are forced to play against tough defenses in the half-court, though, they have struggled somewhat. Per Synergy, against zone defenses, they’re averaging 0.94 points per possession, and against half-court man defense, it’s down to 0.83 PPP. According to KenPom.com, the Tide are scoring 1.08 PPP overall, making it clear they’re clearly not as efficient once defenses are able to guard them in the half-court.

For Alabama to get better, Anthony Grant needs a lot more from Lacey, Randolph and fellow freshman Rodney Cooper. Those are three of the top four 3-point shooters on the team by volume, yet they’ve made a combined 17 triples this season. Mitchell and Green will continue to get points, and Trevor Releford will be a solid playmaker all season – but the Tide need more.

Of Lacey’s 11 catch-and-shoot situations, 10 have been unguarded – and he’s only made three of them. The same goes for Randolph, who has made just four of his 16 unguarded jumpers. It’s not like these guys are forcing shots with hands in their faces – they’re getting open jumpers. They just need to knock them down on a consistent basis.

Alabama has the pieces to make a run in March, when you consider the Tide’s defense, their frontcourt and ability to get points around the rim. However, they need some perimeter help.

And that falls on the freshmen.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 8, 2011 9:15 am

Wakeup Call: Sign up for our new newsletter

By Matt Norlander

Is there something fundamentally wrong with how we assemble standardized tests in this country? // This worst-Christmas-songs bracket is fine, but at least six of those songs do not suck. If you can't bop to "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," then you can't wear that sweater to my party. Also, McCartney penned the worst still-widely-played Christmas song ever. // Suicide by piranha? // Is Guns N' Roses the Gale Sayers of HOF rock and roll bands? Rush continues to be victimized. // That's one heck of a cake to thank your surgeon with. //

★ Palm's second edition of Bracketology is up. Go look and see if where/if your team would be in the tournament, should it start today.

★ I haven't been incessant about this on the blog at all, so here it goes: We're on Facebook. A Like would be appreciated, absolutely. We do things a little different over on that side of the Internet.

★ We've also now got a newsletter which, again, is enough of a change-up from what you see on the blog that it's worth subscribing to. We're trying to give you as much access, information and variance in coverage/tone that you're satisfied no matter what.

★ The Syracuse DA has his doubts about the third accuser in the Bernie Fine case.

★ Non-Fine news related to Syracuse: The AD says it won't leave the Big East early. Hmmmmm. It's expected Zach Tomaselli will file a civil suit against Fine today.

Missed this. Love it.

★ You think San Diego State going to the Big West won't hurt recruiting?

★ The once-sour relationship with Tim Hardaway, Jr. and his famous father.

★ The Legends Classic had a bad showing in Atlantic City in 2010. This year, further north at the Izod Center, it wasn't much better. But in 2012, it's off to Brooklyn.

★ Another problem surfaces at UCLA, but this has nothing to do with character issues or suspensions.

★ I enjoy Mrs. O'Neil when she finds that soapbox and pulls it out of the storage bin.

★ This really does look like a Butler team that could not make the tournament this season. We best get used to that.

Beasties got voted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame yesterday, as linked above. Of all their singles, this is my favorite. Also the first one I memorized. The Boys still have it after three decades; I really liked a lot of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Well I'm as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce ...

Posted on: December 7, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 11:57 pm

Night Court: Florida knocks off Arizona in OT

Jeff Borzello

Here’s everything you need to know about Wednesday’s slate of college basketball games …

Game of the day: Without Josiah Turner, Arizona went into Florida with its back against the wall. The Wildcats, though, led by seven with seven minutes left before Florida rallied to win in overtime, 78-72. Nick Johnson was solid in Turner’s place, while Patric Young dominated down low for Florida, going for 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Win to brag about: Dayton had struggled since winning the Old Spice Classic, losing to Buffalo and Murray State by a combined 46 points the past two games. However, the Flyers led by as many as 16 points en route to a 74-62 win over Alabama. Kevin Dillard had 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Chris Johnson racked up 20 points.

Loss to hide from: There were a couple of embarrassing losses, but Utah takes the cake yet again. The Utes played host to a Cal State Fullerton team that is expected to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big West – and lost by 31. Utah was outrebounded by 28, and also allowed the Titans to shoot nearly 57 percent from the field. It’s almost at the point where, if Utah doesn’t beat Idaho State next weekend, the Utes might not beat a Division-I team this season.

Player who deserves improper benefits: In Festus Ezeli’s first game back for Vanderbilt, it was another Commodore that stole the show. Jeffery Taylor went for 30 points and four rebounds, shooting 12-for-17 from the field, in an 87-83 win over Davidson. As for Ezeli, the big man had 15 points and six assists.

Player who does not deserve improper benefits: Penn State's Tim Frazier came into Wednesday averaging 19 points per game. Against Lafayette at home, Frazier went 0-for-12 from the field with five turnovers in a 61-57 loss. Frazier finished with just three points, although he did dish out nine assists.

Numbers don’t lie:

  • After its win over Alabama on Wednesday, Dayton has now won nine of its last 10 games against BCS opponents.
  • Louisville’s Chris Smith scored 19 points against IUPUI on Wednesday, surpassing 1,000 career points.
  • Meanwhile, Alex Young was held to just nine points for the Jaguars. That’s only the fourth time in the past two seasons he’s been held to single-digits.
  • Georgia Tech beat Georgia on the road for the first time in 35 years.
  • Colorado State came into Wednesday leading the nation in 3-point percentage at 46 percent. The Rams went 4-for-11 from behind the arc.

Three other notable results:

  1. Illinois rallied late to beat St. Bonaventure, 48-43. Brandon Paul scored 12 points in the last four minutes.
  2. Wisconsin beat Wisconsin-Green Bay by 28, but the Kohl Center didn’t sell out for the first time in 144 games.
  3. Xavier handled Butler in a battle of two of the best non-BCS programs, 73-61. The Musketeers jumped out to a 27-9 lead and never looked back.


  • Nevada beat Arizona State, but Malik Story was held to nine points, below his season average of 15 points per game. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as ASU assistant Scott Pera was Story’s high school coach.
  • Princeton beat Rutgers for the second straight season, as Ian Hummer hit a game-winner with three seconds left.
  • High Point’s Nick Barbour went for 35 points Wednesday night, but Wake Forest picked up a road win.
  • Weber State’s Damian Lillard, the nation’s leading scorer, was held to 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting as BYU beat the Wildcats, 94-66.
  • Iona rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat Denver in overtime, 80-78. Randy Dezouvre hit a long 2-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in overtime.

On tap: There’s a top-25 matchup on the docket, as Harvard visits Connecticut in a game many are pointing to as a potential upset. Two of the most intense coaches in the country – Frank Martin and Bob Huggins – will tangle when West Virginia takes on Kansas State. The best non-BCS game of the day will involve Cleveland State and Robert Morris.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: December 7, 2011 9:20 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 9:32 am

Wakeup Call: Pac-12 suspensions becoming a trend

By Matt Norlander

Music today is horrible, etc. // My God I'm horrified and yet can't look away. // I love eight of the top 10 worst cereals for you. // This was a terrific read ...

Very tragic news out of Ohio State.

★ They turn around that SI Sportsman of the Year dinner pretty quick, huh? When do you think Summitt and K got the news? I'm saying about 10 days ago.

★ Josiah Turner will not play tonight against Florida. Gators should win by 10 or 14.

★ Did you catch it? Jay Bilas infused his Twitter persona on the air last night.

★ Been awhile since I've agreed this much with a Mike DeCourcy column.

★ Goodman could just as easily blog all this great information, but it's much prettier in one big column.

★ Why the sophomore-year improvement for one point guard hasn't translated to similar results for his team.

★ One program, a program with one of the greatest nicknames in the history of sports, played its 2,000 game last night.

★ John Gasaway, I know you read the Wakeup Call, and so I want to thank you directly for a very convincing argument against those who believe players receiving endorsements will create chaos for competing schools.
★ We're big proponents of non-D-I dunks here in the Wakeup Call. The latest. The play-by-play is just as good. Feel free to send yours if you're from an NAIA, D-II or D-III school.

Talking Twitter and hoops, Borzello and I are.

★ I wrote about Florida yesterday, but that's not what I'm hear to talk about. I'm hear to link you to a better piece, written by Andy Glockner.

Howland does deserve criticism for having the guts to suspend Reeves Nelson twice, but not kick him off the team. One explusion comes before two suspensions in three weeks, IMO.

★ On that Missouri win, that unbeaten start and my man, Marcus Denmon, playing even better than his biggest proponents thought he cold.

► This was relayed to me on Twitter yesterday after I bashed  the Big East for taking SMU. I'm now ready to fully retract that claim.

♬ I normally use this space to plug a band I think is worth your time/worth discovering. Today, I'm passing along an artist I'm not familiar with. It's a pretty disgusting blues track -- from a blind guy. This is so great. His name is Jeff Healey, and I don't know much of his music but that should change soon. Sad as hell: Healey's already left the coil, having died from cancer in 2008. We've been cheated again.

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:49 am

Florida's guards remain a double-edged sword

Matt Norlander

If you aren’t an only child, then you know what I’m about to describe.

When you’ve got a brother, or a sister, or a couple of brothers or sisters (or some combination of siblings) it’s a wonderful thing. Growing up with them truly is one of the greatest gifts anyone could ask for. Those who grow up solo miss out on a linkage that would take so much longer to describe than this blog post will allow.

But you know what? Your bros and sisses can be real pains in the a--, too. There’s resentment that builds up over years of fights and competition and all the other dynamics that make families the haywire mess of dysfunction we all know so well. But most times, no matter the faults, you accept your siblings, issues and arguments and all. It’s because you have no choice to. You were born into this circumstance, and you’d likely never change it.

Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are family at Florida. And they are the brothers with the problems. The ones who can make a situation harder than it needs to be. But Florida’s going to have to learn to live with them. Just how it’s going to be.

The Gators got good news Monday. Erik Murphy is expected to return for Wednesday’s home game against Arizona. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be back for the game after that. With Murphy, Florida’s a much different team. Plus, Brad Beal won’t be asked to play the 4, something he had to do against Syracuse. Beal had a bad offensive night in that role. Murphy’s unlike any other player they have, and with him, the guards aren’t looked to as much for offense.

But it doesn’t mean Boynton and Walker won’t still seek to give Florida that offense as much as they can.

On about eight occasions last Friday night I watched those two put up a shot or make a play that was an “oh, no!” kind of moment. Half the time, that sequence was a quick-trigger 3. On some occasions, the 3 feel through the hoop. I turned to SI.com's Andy Glockner and we exchanged looks of acknowledgment: that’s so Boynton. And so Walker. That’s so Florida. It’s who they are. It’s how they’ll lose and how they’ll win more times than not this season. It’s what happened last year, and it’s why Florida made it to the Elite Eight, before falling to a less-talented Butler team.

A similar fate awaits the Gators this year, I think.

You can’t deny the numbers right now, though. In fact, it’s a good sign — Florida’s scoring almost 1.2 points per possession, the best in college basketball right now (according to KenPom.com, the national average is .99 points per possession). It’s shooting the ball well (57.5 effective field goal percentage), not turning it over (giving it away on just 17.6 percent of possessions).

Boynton has an O rating of 134.5. That’s really great. Walker’s sits at a firm 123, also fantastic. And to be fair, Walker isn’t taking as many shots as Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario when he’s on the floor. Rosario is also a guy who wants his.

Florida is getting by quite well despite the 5-2 record.

Those two losses have come to Ohio State and Syracuse. North Florida, Wright State, Jacksonville — these are the types of teams UF’s beaten so far. The backcourt play hasn’t been an issue against the patsies. But for as nice as the numbers look, I know what my eyes see. They see players who too often can pass up a 3 out of an offensive sequence because it’s tempting to them like a brownie is tempting to me. I don't think Florida will have issues with 90 percent of its schedule.

In tight moments, I remain skeptical, because the shots can't always fall, especially not when Rosario, Walker or Boynton are bringing our their catapult, convention be damned.

One month into the season, it’s clear Florida can’t change its stripes with Boynton and Walker. I asked Donovan to address his backcourt situation after seven games. He dodged the question like the veteran coach he is. The legitimate question of “How can Florida share the ball with those three?” remains on the table. They’ll win plenty, they’ll win dramatically, but I can’t shake the feeling when the Gators lose, it’s not going to be because on the hands of Patric Young, Murphy or Beal.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com