Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: March 6, 2012 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 3:48 pm
 

After win, Calhoun shows a side we've rarely seen

Calhoun was in high spirits and reflective of himself and this team following Tuesday's win. (AP)

By Matt Norlander

NEW YORK — He had a slight hitch in his gait, but he lifted himself up onto the platform, plunked himself down at the podium and let out a five-minute ramble session that was vintage Jim Calhoun -- in the good way. The 69-year-old UConn coach is feeling better, improving by the hour it seems. Calhoun looked happy to be back at the Big East tournament, where his team has now won six straight games, but just has thrilled to win a game and get comfortable in his coaching skin again.

“I feel like I couldn’t pull the trick, like I was exhausted, because you saw me on the sideline [today],” Calhoun said, joking that he couldn't avoid the postgame presser, as he did during UConn's Senior Day Saturday after the team won against Pitt.

There were some stock questions to Ryan Boatright and Jeremy Lamb about last year’s incredible championship Big East run, which also began against DePaul, but today’s UConn win was about Calhoun getting back into his swing slowly but eagerly. Unlike the win against Pittsburgh, Calhoun had the energy and was ready to engage, to pontificate, to the media about his team, his life, this season. He even stopped in the bowels of Madison Square Garden after the big press conference to give a television interview before his SID whisked him away back to the seclusion and cool-down of the locker room.

Eight days after surgery to repair nerve damage in his back, Calhoun has clearly had time to reflect on the part of the season that affected him the most — the eight games he did not coach in (the Huskies were 3-5 in that stretch). He joked about not needing a cane anymore, and what a good thing that is, lest he smack a ref or two with it. He also went big-picture.

"It's an emotional time, it’s been a different kind of season, but through it all, somewhat by separation, I realized how much I cared about these kids. … It’s my job, but also my love, and that’s why I came back to my basketball team.”

The 81-67 win over No. 16 DePaul doesn’t mean much, but Calhoun’s outlook and health does. Tuesday’s victory was No. 34 for Calhoun in the Big East tournament, putting him second all-time on that list, passing Georgetown’s John Thompson.  Calhoun spoke to the media while former Husky Caron Butler huddled with the team in the locker room on the other side of the building.

“I think if you feel you can do anything, just being a fresh voice coming back, then I owed it to them if I could get back,” Calhoun said. “And I did. And obviously the last two games have been very fulfilling.”

Three teams -- Vandy, Nova  and UConn -- played 21 games top against RPI 100 teams this season. It's why UConn could computer-number its way into the field, should it fall to West Virginia Wednesday. But all those challenges, the No. 1 schedule strength in the country, Calhoun said he now sees why UConn’s underperformed and had a letdown of a season to date.

“We didn’t have time to build up our confidence, as I look back,” he said.

If only for a day, week or month, this Calhoun is as thankful for the job he has -- and the time remaining with it. Granted I've not been to 1/50th of the press conferences as the beat writers for the Huskiies, but this side of Calhoun seemed rare to me. To be safe, I asked a few of those writers if they'd ever seen Calhoun like this before:

“I have great respect, generally speaking, the way you (the media) treated me and my family" he said. “Almost to a man and woman, you showed me and my family a great deal of respect through this, and I really appreciate that.”

The writers said they couldn't remember a time where Calhoun ever collectively thanked the media like that. Not after the skin-cancer treatments, not after the prostate surgery. He'd never been so grateful for everything following a game like this.

UConn’s not in the field yet. I don’t think beating DePaul squarely gets the Huskies in with such a token win. In basketball terms, today had no upside and all downside. But in coaching terms, Calhoun’s presence and improved energy means a lot to his team, the program, UConn’s fans. But now it's clear to see his post coach still means the most to him -- as much now as ever.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:44 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 7:47 am
 

Wakeup Call: Oh, what a night that was

By Matt Norlander

Dikembe Mutombo's nephew played in last night's SoCon final. I'm keeping this GIF forever. The Nate Wolters GIF below is also going to get repeated use.

Who said it: Mitt Romney or Mr. Burns? // Dog spends almost two months in the wild, reuinites with owner. // You'd better watch Jon Stewart on Rush Limbaugh. // More details on the iPad 3 ...

★ The Big East tournament begins in a few hours. I'll have a column on the tournament up in a little bit. You should read Dana O'Neil's though, because it's better.

★ We have follow-up stories on the Syracuse drug violations -- or possible violations. Here's what the school and its AD had to say.

★ More on how Syracuse has known about this and is/has investigated the violations in the past/currently.

★ Read up on Davidson's double-OT win last night. All four titel games were great -- theirs was the best. Can we get your thoughts, Dikembe?

★ College hoops is down? Riiiiiight. Consider last night's events, then know that UNC-Duke Saturday was the highest-rated ESPN hoops game in four years.

RUN SMC shirts are pretty dope.

★ Oh, wow, is this a terribly sad story out of Northwestern State.

★ With Jimmy Patsos in the NCAAs, you absolutely must read this piece on him by Kyle Whelliston. Trust me -- very much worth the 12 minutes.

★ Tues-day Truths! Tues-day Truths! Tues-day Truths!

★ Just how poorly was the MAAC final attended?

★ This lengthy Mike DeCourcy Q-and-A with John Calipari got a lot of great pub yesterday, as it deserved. Candid Cal, as always.

★ Read Luke Winn on the connection at Creighton that's helped the 'Jays become what they are.

★ Incredibly creepy Anthony Davis snowman.

★ Who gets the URI job? Here are some names you may not have heard tossed out there yet.

★ Someone needs to ask Mike Krzyzewski if he's expecting to coach the 2016 Olympics.

► This only needs to be watched for the first minute, but what a cool minute it is. See Michigan root for Ohio State.



♬ We're going with the Davidson theme this morning, since the school is back in the NCAAs for the first time since Steph Curry left. Live's "Pillar of Davidson" is off their multi-platinum so-'90s album "Throwing Copper." To be honest, I was shocked I had this in my iTunes, but I guess it's not that bad. A slow brew.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:08 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:20 am
 

Tiny Dancers: Saint Mary's Gaels

For the first time in program history, Saint Mary's takes home the regular-season and postseason championships in the WCC. It was the third WCC title for the Gaels overall, as they won an epic overtime game and WCC final against blood rival Gonzaga Monday night. No matter what happens in the NCAA tournament, this is a huge year -- more than just a double-banner one -- for SMC, which for so long has fought to catch up to Gonzaga. Within the conference, it achieved that with this title. Saint Mary's has traded and landed enough blows to be side by side with Gonzaga in stature for the near-future.

Now it's on to the bracket that matters most, so where can you expect to see the Gaels seeded? A five seems likely, but the team's overall profile actually feels more like a six. While Saint Mary's looked good for most of conference play, the team didn't greatly challenge itself outside of the WCC, and when it did, it lost (72-59 to Baylor; 65-51 at Murray State). It only has four top-100 wins, all coming against Gonzaga and BYU.

It's a very fun team, though. They will be in, from start to finish. whatever game they're slotted with. Remember the 2010 Gaels with Omar Samhan? That team wasn't quite as good as this one, and even if it had more entertainment value, this batch of Gaels comes close. Point guard Matthew Dellavedova, a guy who looks like he wouldn't back down from anyone in a bar fight, is the spark. Rob Jones is pound-for-pound one of the toughest 6-6 guys in the sport. It's a group that doesn't ooze talent but shoves and elbows its way to victories. It truly earned its conference championships this season.

Matthew Dellavedova and his patented massive mouthguard look will be a five or a six seed. (Getty Images)

Player to know: Dellavedova. He's the league's best player, a very creative guy on the court and the one who will be responsible for getting this team to the second weekend -- which could be a challenge. He's a danger whenever he's got the ball because he's liable to shoot it, drop a nasty dime or fool you into a helpless defensive position that allows him to get off a quirky shot. There aren't five players in the country more fun to watch play than Delly.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-5 overall, 14-2 in MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 10 seed, reached the Sweet 16, where it lost to No. 3 Baylor, 72-49.
  • We’re thinking: 5 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 44
  • Sagarin ranking: 35
  • RPI: 31
  • Best wins: at BYU, vs. Gonzaga
  • Worst losses: vs. Loyola Marymount, at Denver
  • Notable stat: The secret weapon for Saint Mary's is Clint Steindl. The senior forward isn't a focal point of the offense, but he averages more than 1.3 points per possession -- a top five rate in the nation. 
-- Matt Norlander

Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:38 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Loyola Greyhounds

It's already a lovefest on Twitter for the Greyhounds and their coach, Jimmy Patsos. Patsos' story will become something you can recite instantly by the start of the Greyhounds' first tournament game, as the bartender-turned-basketball coach will receive as much love from the media as any other. The reason for that is his team's 48-44 MAAC championship win Monday night over No. 4 Fairfield. Loyola played itself to a No. 2 seed this season, and after Fairfield took care of top-seeded Iona in the semis, Loyola won the rubber match with the Stags.

Patsos won the league's Coach of the Year award this year as well.

It's the second NCAA tournament bid for the Greyhounds in program history. Their other one came 18 years ago, in 1994, when a young Skip Prosser guided the team there in his first and only season in Maryland.

This team is solid at rebounding on the offensive glass, good at getting to the foul line -- and miserable at defending 3-pointers. The team doesn't have the look of a Cinderella, but Patsos and the program's story more than makes up for that. There won't be many, if any, teams and coaches that cherish the first tournament weekend more than this one.

Jimmy Patsos, left, and the Greyhounds will be the loveable underdogs of this year's field. (US Presswire)

Player to know: Erik Etherly. Etherly is considered one of the five best players in the league by opposing coaches. He's extremely versatile, leading the team in scoring (13.6), rebounding (7.6) and second in assists (1.9). At 6-7, he can play inside to out, but he is definitely best in the paint, where he's a reliable shot-maker and one of the best glass hogs in the conference. Chances are the Greyounds will be overmatched at almost every position in their first game except for this one.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-8 overall, 13-5 in MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 1994, No. 15 seed, lost 81-55 to Arizona.
  • We’re thinking: 15 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 133
  • Sagarin ranking: 137
  • RPI: 86
  • Best wins: at Bucknell, vs. Iona
  • Worst losses: vs. Niagara, at Marist
  • Notable stat: This is nuts. For six years, from '99 to '05, Loyola was a mess. It won 29 games, total. That's just five more than what the Hounds did this season. 
-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 4:18 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 6:38 pm
 

Report: Syracuse players violated drug policy

The Yahoo Sports story on drug violations is the latest off-court distraction for the Orange program. (AP)

By Matt Norlander


UPDATE: Syracuse University released this statement: "In accordance with NCAA regulations, it is the University's practice to self-report possible violations to the NCAA. We self-reported issues with drug testing to the NCAA, and there is currently an ongoing inquiry. The inquiry does not involve any current SU student-athletes. To ensure the integrity of the ongoing process, we are unable to comment further at this time."

Yahoo Sports is reporting Syracuse men's basketball has dealt with a pattern of violated drug tests over the course of the past 11 years. And not only that, but the program often overlooked, or ignored, those violations while players continued to be eligible. These transgressions could lead to action by the NCAA, if it deems the program willfully violated protocol. The 2003 NCAA championship season is currently under speculation, though not directly or solely, and could be retroactively investigated by the NCAA.

The news comes just as Syracuse finished one of its greatest regular seasons in program history, finishing with a 30-1 record and on the cusp of a No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA tournament. Does this mean anything for this year's team? That is unclear, but seems unlikely right now. The NCAA hasn't offered up a statement, and Jim Boeheim offered no comment to Yahoo Sports when they told him of their story.

From Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson and Pat Forde:
Over the course of a three-month investigation, four sources with intimate knowledge of the Syracuse men’s basketball program told Yahoo! Sports at least 10 players since 2001 have tested positive for a banned recreational substance or substances. The sources said all 10 of those players were allowed to practice and play at times when they should have been suspended by the athletic department, including instances when some players may not have known of their own ineligibility. The four sources said Syracuse violated its drug policy in at least two areas: failing to properly count positive tests; and playing ineligible players after they should have been subject to suspension.
There is no indication the drug policy violations have taken place this season, willfully or otherwise.

This news adds to the most dramatic off-court narratives during a season in the history of the program, as the allegations of sexual molestation against Bernie Fine was a fireball of a story at the start of this season. There was also a minor off-court story from January was a grades issue related to Orange center Fab Melo, who missed three games.

Syracuse is the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament and plays a to-be-determined opponent in Thursday's noon ET game at Madison Square Garden.

Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:51 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:04 pm
 

What-to-know tourney previews: Pac-12

It's time to examine another mid-major conference tournament here on the site. The Pac-12, formerly the Pac-10, is in its first year as a 12-team league. In making the switch from 10 to 12 programs across all sports, the conference decided to also adopt a style of play in basketball similar to a West Coast Conference or Horizon League. It's been an interesting tactic. The league's received the same amount of attention this year as many from seasons' past, but all of the talk has about about the decrepit basketball.

Larry Scott, commissioner of the league, is seen as a visionary, but taking this sort of approach is certainly next-level. Dumbing down the play to test how the Selection Committee will treat your teams despite the Big Conference label? It's a daring, inquisitive, unorthodox approach, even if eye doctors along the West Coast have had an uptick in patient treatment since November. Almost any slick college hoops fan knows that if the Pac-12 was billed as the WAC, and if it wore New Mexico State and Nevada jerseys instead of Washington and Cal ones, this would pretty certainly be a one-bid league.

Instead, we've got Washington, Cal and Arizona fans still believing they're in the conversation and should be considered in the field, or in Arizona's case, maybe just out. If Washington and Cal fail to reach the Pac-12 tournament game and both teams still wind up in the NCAAs, we're going to have one really interesting conversation after the bracket is released -- especially if teams like Drexel or VCU, Oral Roberts or Harvard are left out.

It's been a long, long time since we had a conference tournament like this, where every round's outcome is completely unpredictable and the league is probably worse off for that.

Will this be one of the last Pac-12 tournaments in L.A.? Some have discussed a move to Las Vegas. (AP)

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Stanford (7) vs. Arizona State (10): I saw Stanford up close when it played at Madison Square Garden in November. The team was better then. But, and this is a theme you'll catch on to here in no time, I think the Cardinal can win this tournament. Seven seed? Bah. Might as well be a No. 2 in this bracket. The Cardinal get Arizona State -- putrid -- in the first game, then have Cal, who they just beat 75-70 Sunday afternoon. In this comedy of errors that will be the Pac-12 tournament, Stanford stands a chance because it's one of the best rebounding teams on both ends in the country, and it is No. 1 in efficiency defense. Plus, we need Andrew Zimmerman to remain on television for as long as possible.

Colorado (6) vs. Utah (11): Tad Boyle for Pac-12 Coach of the Year? I think he should get it. I spoke with Boyle last July about this team and his prospects for the upcoming season. He was cautious. There was no way he thought finishing in the top half of the league was in his future. But he managed to make it happen with a roster that most other coaches would've struggled to get 15 wins out of. Boyle got 19. And he gets Utah, a team that was once so bad this year, we were asking if any BCS conference team was rated so low. Buffaloes should advance. Should.

Washington State (8) vs. Oregon State (9): A year from now, I think Oregon State's the No. 4 seed in this tournament with a chance at an at-large bid if it gets two wins. Just a broad prediction. This year, the team faltered after getting a win over Texas and then losing by just two to Vanderbilt in November. What could have been! Now it plays Wazzu, which swept the Beavers this season. Oregon State's Jared Cunningham owes us at least one more eye-popping dunk before his season ends.

UCLA (5) vs. USC (12): How the Trojans have dodged getting mocked this year is a bit of a mystery. The team's only conference win came at home to the second-worst team, Utah, and so USC finished 1-17. I mean, DePaul is laughing at that. And now Kevin O'Neill has to coach his team against its rival to start the tournament off. Speaking of UCLA, anyone else feeling a Pac-12 championship game run for the Bruins? After that Sports Illustrated piece came out, UCLA hasn't lost, and wouldn't it be something if they ripped through the bracket here. They'd get Arizona with a win over USC Wednesday.

-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:52 pm
 

What-to-know tourney previews: C-USA

Conference USA employs a one-bye system for the leagues top four teams, meaning No. 1 Memphis, No. 2 Southern Miss, No. 3 Tulsa and No. 4 Central Florida will not play until Thursday.

Memphis is clearly the league favorite -- again. The 23-8, 13-3 Tigers have dominated this conference ever since Marquette, DePaul, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida abandoned their brethren for the Big East seven years ago. The Tigers are also the league's only team that's safely in the field even with one loss. Will Barton is not only the league's Player of the Year, he should be a Second Team All-America selection. So, yeah, Memphis is in good shape again and Josh Pastner's been getting a lot of love for the job he's done. The Tigers are feeling good and looking better.

Southern Miss? Different story. When you look at the Golden Eagles' profile, it doesn't stack up as well as it did two weeks ago. Winning at least one game is mandatory, and two would likely get USM into the NCAAs, should it lose in the C-USA final. Tulsa and Central Florida can both be spoilers here. Last season, Memphis played with urgency, knowing if it didn't win the league title, a bid was shaky. This year, that's not the case, and so will we see C-USA be a two- or even a three-bid league? If we had a scenario where Central Florida beat Southern Miss in Saturday's championship game, that would likely be the case. You've heard a lot about bid thieves coming from other brackets, but C-USA, to me, seems like the one with the greatest chance of having that happen.

The Tigers are again a No. 1 seed. If they won the league tournament, a five seed would be likely. (Getty Images)

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Rice (7) vs. East Carolina (10): Arsalan Kazemi is maybe the best player in the league who doesn't wear a Memphis uniform. Rice needs him to have a huge tournament if it can reach the semis. Kazemi's only a junior, but he's also got NBA potential. Will this be his last game? East Carolina is in its second year under former Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. The team is almost identical to the one it was last season.

Marshall (6) vs. SMU (11): Once considered a fringe bubble team (we're talking like, on Jan. 15 that this was the case) Marshall's season has been one big swing to the next. Every time the team lose one game, another follows -- it never followed up an isolated loss with a win all year long. That trend will end now, unless Marshall wins the C-USA tournament. Possible, by the way, but just a large task since the Thundering Herd doesn't force a lot of turnovers and is weak in the paint. SMU shouldn't prove to be too tough, though.

UTEP (8) vs. Houston (9): It's two 7-9 teams on Memphis' side of the bracket. One of these lambs will be done by Thursday. Tim Floyd's UTEP team enters the tournament stumbling, losers of three straight. For Houston, it's just the opposite: three straight Ws leading up to this one. The teams split the season series. Houston's defense has issues. UTEP has the advantage, but barely.

UAB (5) vs. Tulane (12):  The only reason UAB's been relevant this season is because it had a player who couldn't play thanks to a hazy grudge held by Phil Martelli. Who knows what Todd O'Brien would've brought to the Blazers, but they've managed to tread water in the league without him. Tulane's a team that's small around the rim. The Blazers aren't. UAB should cruise to this one.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:50 pm
 

What-to-know tourney previews: SWAC

The SWAC. All so often its the forgotten conference, because normally it performs so miserably in the NCAA tournament. Its representative is guaranteed to be a 16 seed year in and year out.

This does feel like a year where the SWAC could have a team that's not only more than pesky, but interesting and likely to miss the First Four. Yes, the league is rated as the worst by every mainstream metric, but the team on top is decent, relatively speaking. Mississippi Valley State went 17-1 in the league and is one of the fastest teams in hoops, averaging 71 possessions per game. The team is coached by Sean Woods, who played on Kentucky's championship team in 1996. Woods could've taken other jobs via Pitino, but he chose to take the scenic, longer route, and now he's running a program with little fanfare and almost zero national attention. You should read his story

MSVU is defensive-minded, and they're not such a bad offensive-rebounding team, either. That's how they'll get their Ws in the conference tournament. In fact, that's how most SWAC teams tally up wins.

If the Delta Devils don't win, you'd be wise to pick Texas Southern as the team to upset them. Texas Southern has the league's best defense, holding opponents to exactly one point per possession. It's the No. 3 seed, behind Southern, who is a good interior team. But the takeaway is, if the SWAC wants the best representation of a team with a chance to make noise, Mississippi Valley State needs to break through the league bracket this season.

Mississippi Valley State's Terrence Joyner should lead the Delta Devils to their fifth NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)

****

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday

Title game: Saturday, March 10, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)

BEST PLAYERS  

  1. Quincy Roberts, Grambling
  2. Kelsey Howard, Jackson State
  3. Savalace Townsend, Texas Southern
  4. Quinton Doggett, Southern
  5. Terrence Joyner, Mississippi Valley State

Conference RPI: 32

KenPom.com rating: 33

Sagarin rating: 33

NCAA tournament locks: None

NCAA tournament bubble teams: None

Last NCAA tournament appearances

  • Alabama A&M: 2005. Lost in the play-in game to Oakland, 79-69.
  • Alabama State: 2011. Lost in the play-in game to Tennessee-San Antonio, 70-61.
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff: 2010. Beat Winthrop in the play-in game, lost to Duke in the first round, 73-44.
  • Jackson State: 2007. Lost to Florida in the first round, 112-69.
  • Grambling: 0 NCAA appearances. 
  • Mississippi Valley State: 2008. Lost to UCLA in the first round, 70-29. 
  • Prairie View: 1998. Lost to Kansas in the first round, 110-52.
  • Texas Southern: 2003. Lost in the play-in game to UNC-Asheville, 92-84, in overtime. 
-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com