Morning Five: 05.13.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 13th, 2011

  1. Upon hearing that Tubby Smith had been dealing with prostate cancer and is now cancer-free, we were reminded of Steve Lavin’s announcement back in early April that he had the disease, and that he had received an OK from his doctors that it was cool to delay his treatment until the season had concluded. Well, here we are — the off-season. Lavin is collaborating with his docs on what form(s) his treatment will take, but when you read this article by Kieran Darcy from, you’ll note two important points: first, Lavin’s done his homework, which should surprise nobody; he talks about PSAs and Gleason scores, so he’s going into this very familiar with his enemy, and that bodes well. Second, and more importantly, he remarks that he has a father who had prostate cancer at age 61…who is now 80.
  2. Continuing on that theme, we think you should know that back in November a kid named Taylor Statham, who plays for a prep school called Westwind Academy in Phoenix, was guarding his man during a game and got kneed in the testicles. Good thing. If he hadn’t been, doctors wouldn’t have found Statham’s testicular cancer. Just like his hair during his three rounds of chemotherapy (and surgery), the basketball scholarship offers he was receiving just vanished. As of three weeks ago, Statham is cancer-free. Offers are returning. We suggest his eventual college coach use Statham for all last-second shots and game-winning free throws. After what this young man’s endured, we doubt he’ll be too intimidated by much at all.
  3. Seth Davis’ summary of his attendance at the NCAA Enforcement Experience — LOVE that name, by the way — is a must-read. The event, put on in the same spirit of glasnost as the mock NCAA Tournament selection media gathering every February, was constructed to give the media a little insight as to how the NCAA investigates and adjudicates the many incidences of naughty business that happen in the world of college athletics. They started the thing with a video of an investigator mock-interviewing someone in a bathroom stall. Seriously, check it out.
  4. We’re still sitting in the dark listening to The Cure songs following the announcement that Gus Johnson was not returning to CBS and therefore wouldn’t be calling NCAA Tournament games for a looooong time. At least — sigh — we’ll be able to see/hear him on Fox. And, according to the New York Daily News, you may have heard of the guy who CBS might have in line to take Gus’ place — Marv Albert. Fine. For that, we’ll at least open the blinds.
  5. Sporting News reports that Murray State’s Billy Kennedy has emerged as a leading candidate for the vacant head coaching spot at Texas A&M. He was an assistant under Kermit Davis (yes, A&M fans, that happened) for the 1990-91 season, but obviously he’s more than made his own mark since then. He’s taken both Southeast Louisiana and Murray State to the Tournament, his Racers have averaged 27 wins over the past two seasons, and he’s 107-53 overall there. It might not be as sexy a hire as Buzz or Pastner (two names mentioned in the linked article), but something about this possible union feels right.
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Morning Five: 05.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2011

  1. Might there be a Gus Johnson reprieve?  Yesterday we wrote about how incredibly disappointed we were that Gus had decided to take his talents to Fox Sports in coming years, effectively ending his career with CBS and seemingly eliminating any more future chances for Heartbreak City! Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes, though, that his new employer would have no problem with ‘loaning out’ Gus to CBS/Turner during future NCAA Tournaments should they want him for their wall-to-wall coverage (see: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, for example).  That last bit is the key part, right there.  As popular as Gus was among college basketball fans under the age of 40, his departure was in some ways political in nature, and we figure it would be tough for CBS to bring back someone who rejected their final offer and left for another network (jilted girlfriend theory).  Still, a glimmer of hope in what appeared to be cavernous darkness…
  2. Now that the Maryland job search is over, it’s Texas A&M’s turn.  Athletic Director Bill Byrne has quite a tough job ahead of him given the success of his two previous hires, Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie, but according to TSN, native Houstonian and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is not available.  The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Marquette’s Buzz Williams was now A&M’s primary target, but his buyout and salary were probably too rich for TAMU to match.  This leaves a reported list of three intriguing names — Nebraska’s Doc Sadler, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, and Colorado’s Tad Boyle.  Of the three, Marshall would appear to be the kind of coach in the Gillispie/Turgeon vein to seem the best fit, with demonstrated success at the mid-major level and the requisite ambition to make it at the highest level.
  3. Luke Winn breaks down the somewhat embarrassing coaching searches that went on at four ACC schools so far this offseason — NC State, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, and most recently, Maryland.  Among the four schools, roughly eight to ten candidates (depending on who you ask) turned these  programs down in favor of their current schools that, by and large, would have represented stepping stones to bigger things in the not-too-distant past.  Mark Few at Gonzaga began this trend last decade: an absurd notion that a coach could build an A-list program at a non-BCS school, short of the pressures of insane fan bases but with nearly as much exposure, recruiting penetration and success as many of the big boys.  More recently, Brad Stevens at Butler, Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Shaka Smart at VCU and Chris Mooney at Richmond have decided to stick with the devil they know rather than the one they don’t, and we can’t truly say we blame them.  This is especially true in a league like the ACC, where the twin titans of Duke and Carolina lord over the league nearly every year and it’s extremely difficult to challenge and (even temporarily) overcome them.  Gary Williams did it as well as it’s been done in the last twenty years, but we don’t blame coaches who think they’d be walking into situations where they’re mostly set up to fail.
  4. A bit of transfer news from Tuesday… Kansas State forward and overall disappointment Wally Judge has decided that he will play his final two seasons at Rutgers, ultimately betting on the future of Mike Rice’s program rather than to take a chance at Maryland with new head coach Mark Turgeon.  The 6’9, 248-lb former McDonald’s All-American averaged 6/4 in around fifteen minutes per game last year before leaving the K-State program in late January.  Meanwhile, NC State point guard Ryan Harrow has announced the schools he will visit in coming weeks, including Kentucky, Louisville, St. John’s, Georgia and Texas.  The odds-on favorite is SJU, as both of Harrow’s folks are products of Queens and consider the Johnnies their hometown school.  Whoever gets the freshman will be getting a talented floor leader, as Harrow averaged 9/3 in 23 minutes per game and started most of the Wolfpack’s contests at the end of last season.
  5. Love or hate the man as a comedian-cum-superstar center or lazy, out-of-shape impresario who wasted some of his best playing years getting involved in things other than basketball, but there can be no question that Shaquille O’Neal possesses a heart of pure gold when it comes to his generosity.  Anyone who has watched his Shaq-a-Claus bit each winter, or has heard the numerous off-record stories about his many random acts of incredible kindness to regular Joes, knows this truth.  So when we read that Shaq was resisting the placement of a life-sized statue of himself outside the new LSU practice facility that he helped pay for, consider us completely unsurprised.  It turns out that the Big Aristotle has been anonymously putting millions into LSU infrastructure for years, including to help pay for an on-campus hotel and an academic center, contributions to the point that two LSU Board of Supervisors members demanded that Shaq’s statue go up first — even ahead of the man whose name adorns the arena, Pete Maravich.  We’ve said for a long time that we’ve never seen another player at 19 years old who could do the things at his size that Shaq could do, but we were always referring to his athleticism and stature; it turns out we might have been unwittingly also referring to the big fella’s ticker, and we didn’t even know it.  Here’s what the statue will look like, if Shaq ever approves its completion.

Best Collegian We've Ever Seen At His Size

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Truly “Heartbreak City!!” Gus Officially Leaves CBS…

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2011

Ok, maybe we’re being a little melodramatic, but with the news that Gus Johnson is officially moving on to Fox Sports and the knowledge that CBS/Turner has the broadcast rights to the NCAA Tournament through 2024 (a/k/a eternity), we’re feeling like some sinister executive grinch has canceled Christmas next year.   And the year after.  And the next one.  And the one after that… well, you get the point.

So long, Gus.  For the generation that was raised on March Madness as a national treasure, you will always be the voice of college basketball — far more than that green-jacket-slurping bore Jim Nantz could ever be.  We hope that you are given just as much freedom to bring  your purity of excitement and unadulterated joy to college sports over at your new gig, and you can count on us checking out some Big Ten (on BTN) and Pac-12 (on FSN) hoops next season just to hear you work your magic again.

In the meantime, here are a couple of compilations we found of Gus’ best work.  Enjoy it — it pains us to type this, but there’s no guarantee we’ll ever hear it during March Madness again.

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Morning Five: 05.10.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2011

  1. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Maryland has itself a new head coachMark Turgeon may not be the sexy name that many Terp fans were hoping for, but the fact of the matter is that the guy has throughout his career put a consistently solid product on the floor regardless of talent.  His teams are tough-minded, they play sticky defense, and they win — he averaged 24 wins per year at Texas A&M and 22 wins in his last four seasons at Wichita State.  Not everyone agrees, but the general consensus is that Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a solid if not spectacular hire, but that Turgeon’s chops will ultimately be earned by how well he learns to recruit in the fecund DC/Baltimore prep basketball scene.  We certainly won’t disagree with that, but if Turgeon’s recruiting matches his demonstrated competitiveness, the rest of the ACC is not going to enjoy visiting College Park any more than it did much of the last twenty years — the only difference is that instead of wondering how they scored 75 points and lost by double figures, visiting teams will come out perplexed in how they ended up with bloodied noses, bruises all over their bodies, and put up only 50.
  2. CBS, CBS, CBS… what on earth are you doing?  Last week it was prematurely reported that Gus Johnson was leaving CBS Sports (and by proxy, the NCAA Tournament), when in reality he had only received an offer from Fox Sports that CBS would have an opportunity to match.  Many, ourselves included, presumed that CBS would make the smart decision and keep Gus, the vox populi of college basketball, on board.  And this is why we weren’t business majors… because CBS did no such thing.  The Blinking Eye network let him walk (apparently, politics, in addition to dollars, was involved), and Fox Sports and the NFL are the major beneficiaries.  All we know is that Pac-12 games just got 1000% more interesting next season, and it’s not because Jorge Gutierrez and Trent Lockett are returning to school.  For a very insightful piece examining the ins and outs of  his employment situation, read Awful Announcing’s excellent analysis on the paradox of Gus Johnson here.
  3. We stumbled across this interesting post from Rock Chalk Talk about the state of college basketball, at least as viewed from a partisan Kansas writer.  While we understand where he’s coming from in terms of this statement: “We’re at a point now where the best teams still get the best talent, but they never become a team,” we have trouble seeing the natural consequence of parity as a bad thing.  The beauty of the NCAA Tournament (along with the World Cup and the NFL Playoffs, to name two other worldwide favorites) is that top seeds can be beaten if they don’t bring their absolute best game every given night; underdogs and upsets are what keep the casual fans interested.  He seems to fail to recognize that the transformation of the NCAA Tournament to March Madness began in the 1980s when NC State (1983), Villanova (1985) and his very own Kansas Jayhawks (1988) captured the imagination of American sports fans with their rags-to-riches Cinderella stories.  While it’s true that the quality of college basketball has been hurt by the onslaught of early entries to the NBA Draft every single spring, that problem is not a recent phenomenon.  It began nearly twenty years ago and  accelerated throughout the 1990s to the point where the top 8-10 high school players each year were skipping college altogether by the middle of last decade, thereby hurting the overall product.  The piece makes some good points, but it reads a bit like someone decrying parity and a bad product to explain his team’s #1 seed meltdowns to Cinderellas prior to the Final Four the last two years.
  4. Robert Morris sophomore guard Karon Abraham was suspended for the entire 2011-12 season as a result of his second alcohol offense (underage drinking) in the last six months (he also had a DUI conviction last November).  According to head coach Andy Toole, the Colonials’ best player was “shocked” by this decision, and given that he will not be allowed to work out with the team next season, we have to wonder if he’ll consider transferring to another school that will give him  an opportunity to stay on the court (even as just a practice player in 2011-12).  He definitely needs to get his head on straight here, but RMU’s decision is punitive enough to make us think that he might consider it.
  5. VCU head coach Shaka Smart continues to live the dream, fresh off his first Final Four appearance and a nice contract extension, by throwing out the first pitch in a weekend game between the Cubs and Reds at Wrigley Field.  Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t done enough, he also sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch.  Let’s hope he hangs on to his day job for a little longer, eh?
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Morning Five: 05.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2011

  1. Clearly the massive news of Thursday, and really, the entire offseason thus far, was the announcement that longtime Maryland coach and ACC curmudgeon-in-charge, Gary Williams, is retiring.  We covered his career impact in our story on him earlier this morning, but our lasting memory of his body of work will be how for a period from the late 90s to the early oos, from Steve Francis to Juan Dixon, from Joe Smith to Lonny Baxter, he made Maryland  basketball must-watch television.  Along with that, the Duke vs. Maryland battles were at the time the best rivalry games in the entire game.  Here’s some of the reverent commentary on Williams’ retirement from around the web: Mike DeCourcy, Seth Davis, John Feinstein.  Happy trails, Gary — you will be missed.
  2. As for the future of the Maryland program, we have a prevailing sense that this could go either way.  The resources, fan support and conference affiliation in the basketball-centric ACC are all major positives, leading some to argue that the Terrapin head coaching job is one of the top 15 or so in the country.  We agree with that sentiment, but the hire will need to be the right one — the DC area is a fertile recruiting base, but Williams ran a clean program that stayed away from much of the AAU nonsense that passes as prep basketball these days.  Whoever the new coach is will need to find a way to circumvent the agents, runners and hustlers with their hands out on the east coast playgrounds; or, like Williams, find enough diamonds in the rough whom he can coach up.  No easy task in a league where you have to deal with Duke, Carolina and a group of promising young coaches elsewhere.  Some early names being thrown around for the job include Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and several others.  Of that group, Brey, from the DC area, makes the most sense; but could Terp fans tolerate having a former Dookie as their head coach?
  3. Not so fast on everybody’s favorite March Madness play-by-play guy leaving CBS.  According to the New York Daily News, Gus Johnson has an offer on the table from Fox to do NFL and Pac-12 games next year, but the Blinking Eye Network will have up to a week to match the offer and retain one of the best assets it has for its NCAA Tournament coverage.  Seriously, we can’t believe that CBS wouldn’t open their checkbooks for this guy — the anticipation among anybody under 45 years old when a “Gus game” is scheduled is off the charts, especially when it involves two evenly-matched teams.  Make it happen, Sean McManus.
  4. Last year’s offseason was headlined by seemingly constant chatter about conference realignment, and with the new television deal that the Pac-12 signed this week for $3 billion over twelve years, we now see more clearly what all the fuss was aboutUtah joins the reconfigured conference on July 1 of this year, and their TV windfall will begin soon thereafter, with expected payouts in successive years of $2M (2012), $10.5M (2013), $15.75M (2014), and $21M (2015).  The Utes made a relatively paltry $1.2M last year as a member of the Mountain West; in four years, they will have vigupled it (go ahead, look that one up).  Simply… amazing.
  5. There was some interesting transfer news on Thursday, with two notable players from NCAA Tournament teams possibly losing a key contributor.  First, UConn wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has decided to leave the Husky program to seek more playing time elsewhere.  The sophomore forward averaged 5/3 in just over sixteen minutes of action last season, but after a three-game stretch in mid-February where he scored 64 points, he only contributed 62 more the entire rest of the season (15 games).  He was also arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago, so perhaps a fresh start somewhere else is best for everyone.  The other big transfer news yesterday came from George Mason, perhaps still reeling a little from the loss of longtime coach Jim Larranaga last month.  Luke Hancock, the hero of Mason’s second round win over Villanova, has requested permission to talk to other schools about transferring.  He averaged 11/4/4 APG last year in a promising sophomore campaign, and it appears that new head coach Paul Hewitt will have his work cut out to get him back to Fairfax next season.
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Gus Johnson and CBS, Together No More

Posted by jstevrtc on May 5th, 2011

Richard Deitsch of has reported that play-by-play icon Gus Johnson and CBS could not come to terms on a new contract and have thus parted ways. No more Gus Johnson buzzer-beaters at NCAA Tournament time, folks.

Yeah, This Makes Total Sense.

According to Mr. Deitsch, Johnson has been in talks with Fox Sports to work college football games, given the network’s move to increase their profile in that sport. There is no mention as to whether Gus’ position calling college basketball for the Big Ten Network is affected by this. As Deitsch points out, Fox owns a nice big chunk of the BTN, and they’re also (obviously) a player in the recent deal between themselves, ESPN, and the Pac-10, a package that includes 68 college basketball games.

Johnson is by far CBS’ most popular announcer. Again…it is not close. The convnetional wisdom among college basketball fans was that the network would and should only work to increase Johnson’s presence wherever they could, especially when it comes to college basketball, and it would do anything possible to keep him. His departure has hoopheads everywhere wondering what on earth CBS could be thinking, though admittedly we haven’t heard either side of the story, and no details of the failed negotiations are mentioned in Mr. Deitsch’s article.

Nevertheless, college hoopheads are left with no Gus Johnson for March Madness. We’re certain he’ll be around, and we’re praying someone at Turner will scoop him up and find a way to get him back where he belongs by Tournament time, because March won’t be the same until he’s calling Tournament games again. If you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go transfer our old The Cure CDs to MP3 and listen to them until we’re dehydrated. Life is unfair.


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The Week That Was: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

What We Learned

It's Foolish To Think That the Big East's 2011 Tournament Record Proves That It Wasn't the Best Conference All Season

  • The Big East is not overrated; it’s just not as good as it was made out to be. The conference sent an NCAA record 11 teams into the field of 68 and Vegas set the over/under of total wins for the conference at 15.5. This year’s March Madness was supposed to be the cherry on top of an historic season, but instead the tournament has been a complete and utter disaster. Only two teams from the Big East will be playing next weekend (Connecticut and Marquette), and the only reason there are two teams remaining is because each squad beat a conference foe to advance to the Sweet 16. But let’s not jump the gun and label the Big East as the most overrated conference in the nation. For one thing, assessing the merits of a conference over a single weekend slate of games is somewhat foolish. That’s a ridiculously small sample size, especially considering during the regular season the conference posted a 34-19 record against tournament teams, according to the New York TimesNate Silver, who’s been spot-on with his analysis this month. The Big East was justified in getting 11 teams in the field — after all, Marquette made the Sweet 16 — but it was just a good conference, not an especially great one. If anything, we’re guilty of overlooking the fact that most of the teams in the Big East lacked NBA talent on their rosters (a key ingredient to any successful Final Four run). When Kemba Walker is your conference’s top NBA prospect, you know you have a talent deficit.

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The Week That Was: Tournament Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2011


March Madness is officially here. Introduction over.

What We Learned

What a Run, Young Man.

Connecticut scoffs in the face of conventional wisdom that says it’s better for a team to be well rested before the NCAA tournament. The Huskies won five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament title last Saturday night. And for my money, Kemba Walker locked up the Naismith Award with his play over those five games. Walker averaged 26 PPG and 38 MPG at Madison Square Garden, carrying a team that finished 9-9 in the Big East to the #3 seed in the West. We are a little concerned that Walker went only 2-16 from three during the tournament, but he countered his poor outside shooting with at least nine attempts from the free throw line each game. For those who think Walker has to be running on fumes right now, remember that he had enough left to break some ankles, rise and knock down a J to beat Pittsburgh despite playing all 40 minutes of that game. Because of their 7:20 PM ET tip on Thursday, the Huskies will have had nearly five days off to ready themselves for the Tournament. That’s plenty of time for Kemba to recharge for another run.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 14th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse asks who the best prototype player in the game is, backs the Princeton Tigers, and laments his bad bracket luck. Yeah, Jesse…tell it to Coach Greenberg.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..trying to figure out a unique question. I was having a debate with someone about Connecticut, and in the course of that argument said that “you have to remember, the Huskies don’t have five Kembas.” Well, my buddy (RTC’s own David Ely) asked which player I would take five of in order to form a team that would be the most competitive against a full squad from another school. Think about it, it’s a really interesting question. They have to be able to handle the ball if a team pressed, have to be big enough to compete on the boards (is 6’4 or 6’5 big enough?), have to shoot well enough to keep a D honest, have to be a versatile defender, etc. I think Jordan Hamilton from Texas might be my pick, but here are some of players that came to mind: Harrison Barnes (he’s the prototype you’d think of, 6’8 with some guard skills), Kyle Singler, Derrick Williams, Daniel Hardy, Brad Wanamaker, Scotty Hopson, DeAndre Liggins, Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph. Who would you take?

Is Barnes the Best "All-Rounder" of a Player?

I LOVED…..two perfect buzzer beaters. Kemba Walker and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas gave us a couple of doozies to salivate over this week, and I liked them for different reasons. With Kemba, it was the ridiculous move. Yes, he had a post player on him, but that stepback was so comically absurd (Pitt’s Gary McGhee fell down) that the only critique might be that he exerted too much energy getting more space than he needed. He’s still my POY, by the way. With Thomas, it was the perfect setup. It was an incredible game (a TITLE game), overtime, swings for both teams…and a perfect ending. Thomas played the clock absolutely perfectly, and the backboard lit up just as his J swished through the hoop. Oh, and by the way, Gus Johnson was on the call (watch to get excited for this coming week): “Thomas….shake….crossover….stepback…..AHHHHIAAHHHH!!!!! AT THE BUZZER!!! YOUNG!!!…..ZEKE!!! (someone told Gus that Thomas was named after the NBA great PG)…….. COLD!!!! ….. BLOODED!!!!!”

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IX

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 31st, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week, Jesse kicks Purdue while they’re down and questions Peyton Siva’s true motives, but applauds Bob Huggins and — as all human beings with ears indeed should — Gus Johnson’s all-too-short turn at the desk.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a coach thumbing his nose at the politically-correct answer. West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins had an interesting development recently when forward Dan Jennings just walked away from the bench during a game. Now, you could just say the kid’s off the team. Or that it’s “unfortunate” and you’re “dealing with it internally” — that’s one of my favorite coach-speak phrases. But no, Huggins gets rolling and says: “The truth of the matter is that he’s been a non-entity. We started him to try and get some other guys motivated and he did work hard in practice for a while, but look at his career stats.” Ouch. If leaving the team didn’t hurt enough, that one should sting Jennings for a while.

Huggins Did Not Mince Words When Answering Questions About Jennings. Anyone Surprised?

I LOVED…..The great diversity of POY candidates this season. You have Jimmer “When I don’t score 40 it’s an off night” Fredette on a solid BYU team. The Mountain West competition might not be great, but man that J is pure. Then there’s a classic NYC guard in Kemba Walker, who has made UConn perhaps the biggest surprise of the season. And finally Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, who keeps coming to play in the big games and leads the nation’s No. 1 squad. We have the shooter, the slasher and the post player — all on intriguing teams, all very different, and all still very much in the mix to be named top dog. My pick? If UConn is a top-15 team after the Big East season, it’ll be tough to beat Kemba.

I LOVED……Roy Williams’ rabbit ears. You can have your own opinion on Williams, but you can’t deny that he’s a bit sensitive to criticism on occasion. Recently it was some unhappy callers on his radio show who prompted this response at a press conference: “Don’t call me next week and say how good we are; keep your [darn] phone calls to yourself.” Could he stay mad at the fans for long, though? Wait for it…..wait for it…..just a few days later: “Do I wish that I would have just let it go and not said a word?” Williams said. “You’re darn right I do. I wish I had not said one word. I wish that I would have just kept swallowing it. I hate that I said that.” And all of Tar Heel Nation lived happily ever after.

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