- Under Mike Brey, Notre Dame has developed a reputation for early NCAA Tournament flame outs. The Irish have reached the Dance eight times, but have only advanced past the round of 32 once. One of the reasons that has been cited is the tendency for Notre Dame teams to be predicated on jump shooting and finesse play. Brey thinks that this Notre Dame squad may be the one to break that mold and achieve “it,” although he seems to be very wary of angering the basketball jinx gods by revealing what “it” is. This season’s Fighting Irish are flying high after a win over Kentucky, and the group seems to have a different makeup than the teams before them. They have a legitimate post presence in Jack Cooley, guards who can break down the defense in Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, and the requisite shooters in Scott Martin and Cameron Biedscheid. This may not end up being the Notre Dame team that does “it,” but they certainly look the part at this early juncture.
- UConn’s season has been about as weird as one would expect so far. After what seemed to be a statement win in the opener against Michigan State in Germany, the Huskies dropped a game to New Mexico and have struggled recently against the likes of Stony Brook and New Hampshire. Kevin Ollie’s team is looking forward to the return of senior guard R.J. Evans, who is the normal sixth man in the team’s rotation. Evans, who missed the last two games with an injured sternoclavicular joint, may be ready to go in tonight’s match-up with a very talented NC State team. Evans’ presence and leadership off the bench should take some of the pressure off of starting guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Napier has stressed the impact that Evans brings to the flow of UConn’s offense: “Against New Hampshire we played a little selfish… We missed R.J.”
- In other UConn news, Jim Calhoun recently unveiled some interesting information about his health while on the YES Network’s Centerstage. On top of the February spinal surgery and the summer hip surgery that Calhoun underwent, he also had a “cancer-related” growth removed in May. Calhoun had previously received treatment for skin cancer in 2008, and doctors feared that the growth may be related to that incident. Calhoun also stated that he would ”never say never” with regards to a coaching comeback. This seems like incredibly strange timing for such a statement, given his abrupt retirement which allowed his chosen successor Kevin Ollie to take over the job at Connecticut.
- Rick Pitino has competed against almost every notable coach you can think of at the highest levels of basketball, so when he is seemingly awe-struck by a young coach, it is noteworthy. After his Louisville Cardinals escaped an upset at the hands of Illinois State with a 69-66 win on Saturday, Pitino couldn’t heap enough praise on the Redbirds’ first-year head man, 36 year old Dan Muller: “We’ve all seen Brad Stevens (of Butler) and Shaka (Smart of VCU) the past couple years. That’s one of the brightest first-year coaches I’ve witnessed in a long, long time… I’m happy for him. He’s been very patient waiting for a job. That’s one of the bright young stars in our game.”
- When one thinks of Jim Boeheim, basketball is likely one of the first things to come to mind, along with Syracuse, central New York, zone defense, and epic post-game rants. However, Boeheim is also an avid golfer, and at one time, the Syracuse golf coach, which makes a three-foot tall golf ball painted in his likeness a little less… peculiar. The ball was painted by local artist Phillip Burke and will be auctioned off in the spring, with proceeds going to the Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation. The Boeheims host an annual “Basket Ball” gala every spring, which has raised over $4 million dollars in the last dozen years for cancer research.