The biggest news Tuesday wasn’t Ohio State’s methodical dismantling of Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge; rather, it was Jim Boeheim‘s press conference after his Orange destroyed an overmatched Eastern Michigan team, 84-48. The discussion afterward was, as you might imagine, almost exclusively focused on the termination of assistant coach Bernie Fine for allegations involving sexual abuse of boys during his long tenure at the school. To his credit, Boeheim took the initiative to face direct questions about his relationship with Fine and previous statements he had made supporting his longtime friend. If you stumbled into the Syracuse coach’s diatribe at a certain point, you may have thought the venerable coach was channeling Allen Iverson with the number of times he said the phrase “on my watch.” Of course, Boeheim set himself up for such criticism with his staunch previous statements of support of Fine, but we refuse to fault the guy completely for publicly expressing loyalty to someone he knew for nearly 50 years, even if he clearly should have softened his language. Let’s be clear — the previous statement is true only to the extent that Boeheim had no actual or potential knowledge of Fine’s alleged proclivities involving young boys, but we ultimately believe that he did not, and he will survive this imbroglio at SU with his reputation intact. [note: a couple of minutes from the presser is at the bottom of the post, but because ESPN never ceases to be annoying and has yet to join the 21st century in allowing embeddable links from YouTube, this is all that is currently available. For the entire thing, click here.]
Moving on to basketball, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnesis expected to be in uniform and at full strength for tonight’s game against Wisconsin in the second night of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Chapel Hill. Coming off a loss at UNLV where Barnes rolled his right ankle and left the arena on crutches, there was considerable concern that the preseason All-American would not be available for two of Carolina’s most important games of the year — vs. the Badgers tonight, and at Kentucky on Saturday. It will be worth watching tonight to see how he looks in the opening few minutes — sometimes the mental hurdle of anticipating pain can be a worse outcome than the actual pain.
Speaking of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, remember when the ACC used to dominate this event to the point where it was a complete joke? From 1999 to 2008, the ACC won ten annual events in a row before the Big Ten finally broke through in 2009 and notched a 6-5 victory. Another 6-5 win last season brought us to the first night of this year’s Challenge, where the Big Ten used road victories by Northwestern (@ Georgia Tech) and Illinois (@ Maryland) to join Ohio State’s romp over Duke and Purdue’s win over Miami to get to a quick 4-2 lead. Heading into tonight, even if NC State, BC, and UNC all protect home court (not likely), the league will still have to grab two road wins at Michigan State, Minnesota or Nebraska to win the event, 7-5. The best-case scenario is that those three win at home and either Virginia Tech or Florida State earn an unlikely road win to tie things up at 6-6 this year. It says here that the Big Ten repeats last night’s path to a 4-2 victory and takes the Challenge, 8-4.
Some unfortunate injury news to report today. USC center DeWayne Dedmon, a promising seven-foot sophomore who has already dealt with one injury this season to his hand, will miss the next four to six weeks with a stress injury in his right foot. Even though Dedmon was only contributing 8/6 per game in the first few weeks of the season, the Trojans at 3-4 have proven that they can use all the help they can get. The athletic big man expects to be back in time for the Pac-12 conference season.