Morning Five: 12.17.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2009

morning5

  1. St. John’s will hold out star forward Anthony Mason, Jr., for at least three more weeks as he continues to heal from a preseason hamstring injury.  The Johnnies have gotten off to an 8-1 start that includes solid wins against Siena and Temple.  SJU should be ok for another two weeks without him, but away games loom against Georgetown and Louisville right around the new year.  In other news, reserve Quincy Roberts will also take a medical redshirt due to recurring migraine headaches.
  2. Remember Josh Nochimson, the former UConn equipment manager who was tangled up in the investigation involving illegal contact with Nate Miles, the one-time next-big-thing for the Huskies?  His attorney says that Nochimson has never even been contacted by NCAA investigators.  They must be too busy with that Memphis strict liability standard, right?
  3. Duquesne’s Sam Ashaolufeel-good story of the year.  You go ahead, young man!
  4. Seth Davis gives us his best and worst of the decade of the 2000s, and there’s an awful lot of good stuff here.
  5. Coach K gave his opinion on the whole Expansion 96 idea, which we’ve summarily ripped apart on this site.  His essential take is that folding the NIT into the NCAA Tournament will allow more teams from mid-majors to get in because of the regular season auto-bid the NIT uses (he cites the Patriot League).  True, but as Mike DeCourcy (per usual) points out, it renders the regular season in the BCS conferences meaningless.  Our previous example of 70% of BCS teams getting a bid is not something anybody except coaches and those leagues want here.
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Calhoun To Sign Long-Term Extension?

Posted by zhayes9 on September 30th, 2009

News broke yesterday that longtime Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun and athletic director Jeff Hathaway are working on securing a long-term contract extension for the highly successful and equally embattled face of the program that could reach a maximum of six more years roaming the UConn bench.

The last 14 months have certainly been a roller-coaster ride for Calhoun, leading many to believe the 805-game winner may step down after 2008-09 to deal with his health problems and spend more time with his six grandchildren. Calhoun is a two-time cancer survivor, including dealing with extensive chemotherapy prior to last season, and recently suffered eight broken ribs in a bike accident in June. Calhoun also dealt with the Ken Krayeske “not a dime” press conference controversy, the Nate Miles restraining order and subsequent NCAA investigation, missing the first round game of the NCAA Tournament due to acute stress and, on the flip-side, a highly successful 31-5 (15-3) campaign that ended with a trip to the Final Four.

781090214071_UConn_v_Seton_Hall[1]

Instead of quitting amidst the gunfire, Calhoun will chug on. And in the end, this is the best possible scenario for Connecticut fans. Even at the ripe age of 67, Calhoun has the fire to recruit with the best young coaches in the business, spending seven of the first ten summer recruiting days traveling around the country pursuing the cream of the crop, just weeks after the bike crash. After losing an abundance of talent from last year’s squad, Calhoun has reloaded with five-star impact center Alex Oriakhi and his boarding school teammate Jamal Coombs-McDaniel along with four-star point guard Darius Smith. Connecticut remains in the hunt for superstar 2010 recruits Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph, Doron Lamb and Roscoe Smith. The fact that these recruits will know that Calhoun will be in Storrs for the long haul can only help in their recruitment.

One thing you know about Jim Calhoun: He’s a fighter. He won’t quit. Love him or hate him, few college coaches have the fire of the 67-year old Calhoun. With two national titles, three Final Fours, a Hall-of-Fame plaque to his resume and 557 career wins at Connecticut (including the love of almost every former player), an extension seems inevitable, even if it should extend into his mid-70s. While his doctor may not advise it, Calhoun’s never-wavering passion for coaching young men should trump all.

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Team of the 2000s: #6 – UConn

Posted by nvr1983 on August 13th, 2009

teamof2000(2)

Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we mentioned in our earlier posts, when we were putting together our list of the top teams of the past decade it became pretty clear that there were definable clusters of teams meaning that a solid case could be made for moving a team up or down a few positions depending on how much weight you put on various elements of a program’s resume (overall excellence versus a big tournament run or 10 years of excellence versus 1 year of greatness). As we mentioned yesterday, now that we have moved into the top seven we have crossed into the truly elite programs.

#6 – UConn

team2000uconn

Overview. In a little over two decades, Jim Calhoun has turned the Huskies from an also-ran into one of the premier programs in the country. In fact if the parameters of our decade were shifted just one year to include the 1999 season, the Huskies might end up in the top 3 with the inclusion of their 1999 title. Even without that title, the decade has been a solid one for Husky fans even if some of Calhoun’s teams haven’t lived up to expectations. The Huskies get the nod over UCLA because of the fact that they won a national title (and haven’t had a losing season), which makes up for the fact that they have 1 less Sweet 16 and Final 4 appearance than the Bruins. The thing that keeps the Huskies out of the group right above it is that they failed to make the NCAA tournament twice including one season where they didn’t even make the NIT (more on this in a bit).

okafor uconn

Pinnacle. This one is pretty simple. As much as we like to act like college basketball gurus, we aren’t going to try to outsmart ourselves here. The answer is the 2004 national championship. Even though the team did not live up to the preseason hype in terms of how it would rate all-time (“only” going 33-6), this team beat Duke and Georgia Tech in the Final 4 to claim Calhoun’s 2nd title.  While we normally would celebrate  a team  that wins a national title unconditionally, we have this weird feeling that a group featuring Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, and Charlie Villanueva should have been more special. Having said that, the group managed to pull it together at the right time winning its last nine games to capture the Big East and NCAA tournament titles. During the NCAA title run, they only had one truly competitive game, which happened in the national semifinal against Duke in a game that the Huskies won 79-78 following a spread-busting 3-point heave by Chris Duhon at the buzzer. All three of the previously mentioned Huskies from that team have gone on to have solid if not spectacular NBA careers.

Tailspin. There are actually more choices here than you would expect for a program of this caliber, but our pick is the 2006-07 season where the Huskies went 17-14, losing in the 1st round of the Big East tournament as the 12th seed. That’s right. The 12th seed in the Big East Tourney. This was one of the worst teams of the past 20 years for Calhoun. When you compound that with the fact that the previous year one of Calhoun’s most talented teams ever lost in the Elite 8 to George Mason it is enough to “top” two other low points in the program’s history: losing in the second round of the 2001 NIT to Detroit-Mercy and the Nate Miles scandal.

How Much More Does Calhoun Have in the Tank?

How Much More Does Calhoun Have in the Tank?

Outlook for the 2010s: Grade: B-. Speaking of that scandal, that is just about the last thing we heard about the Huskies other than their flop against Michigan State in the Final 4 (and Calhoun’s bicycling adventures). We don’t have that much faith in the NCAA following up on the outstanding work by Yahoo! Sports, but there is always the possibility that the NCAA may come to its senses and actually punish a program for once (ok, I didn’t expect this to happen to a midwestern titan as I was writing this post). As for more realistic threats, we are concerned about UConn’s ability to stay at this level in the next decade. Even though the Huskies have a solid incoming class, we aren’t that confindent in the program’s ability to succeed AC (After Calhoun). Although Calhoun hasn’t set a definitive retirement date, given his well-documented health concerns and his age (67 years old), we can’t imagine that he’ll be coaching all that much longer. When he retires, we doubt that UConn will be able to find somebody to replace him in terms of status and recruiting prowess on the sidelines in Storrs. Nothing against the good people in Storrs, but without Calhoun the program (and the area) would appear to lack the appealing factors a recruit would look for when deciding where they want to spend the next four (ok 1-2) years.

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Calhoun in “Good” Condition After Collapsing

Posted by nvr1983 on June 13th, 2009

As you may have heard by now, everyone’s favorite state accountant, Jim Calhoun, collapsed after a 50-mile charity bike ride in his own “Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride”. The fall was actually Calhoun’s second of the event as he finished the ride in a replacement helmet after cracking the other one during a fall just 12 miles into the ride that broke 5 ribs. [Insert joke about how much tougher he is than the UConn players were in the Final 4.] Calhoun was taken to the UConn Health Center in Farmington, CT where he was listed in “good” condition according to hospital spokesperson Maureen McGuire. [Ed. Note: Fortunately for Calhoun and the UConn basketball program the new interns haven't arrived at the medical center yet.]


Given Calhoun’s history of health problems (previously diagnosed with prostate cancer and squamous cell carcinoma) everyone was probably concerned about the cause of the episode, but according to the hospital it was simply due to dehydration and trauma from his first fall. Despite the seemingly benign cause the fall will inevitably lead to more questions about how long Calhoun will be coaching the Huskies. Calhoun recently spoke about his health and the health of his program and briefly even touched upon the Nate Miles issue. While some pundits will speculate that Calhoun’s days in Storrs are numbered, the thinking here is that Calhoun will not want to go out with the pending NCAA investigation hanging over the program he worked so hard to build. Expect at least another 5 years out of Calhoun at UConn before he retires. Health permitting of course. . .

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Relax, UConn Fans: Mr. Crankypants Will Return

Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2009

Fresh off his (and UConn’s) first loss in Final Four history (previous: 4-0 with two titles), Jim Calhoun today ended any further speculation as to his job status and stated unequivocally that he will be back for the 2009-10 season.  Given his advancing age and some recent (the Ken Krayeske salary flap) and pending (Nate Miles) embarrassments for the program, it would have made sense if Calhoun had decided to take his golden parachute and say to hell with the rest of it.  Instead, Calhoun will stick around at least one more year to chide, deride and lambaste rogue reporters who dare ask a question he doesn’t like (call it the Gillispie Method, but more crotchety).  From the AP report:

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“It is my full intention to return for the 2009-10 season,” Calhoun said. “I look forward to coaching next season and to continuing as the head coach at Connecticut into the future. In many ways, the journey of this past season has made me realize how much I love coaching this game, how much I love my kids and how much I enjoy being at Connecticut.”

Not sure what to make of this decision.  The guy is a great coach, unquestionably, and we’re sure that he loves the process and routine of the act of coaching up young, talented kids to play the game of basketball.  But his team stands to lose quite a bit this season (Thabeet, Price, Adrien, Austrie) and although UConn won’t be completely rebuilding, it’s not a strong bet that the Huskies will be back competing for a F4 next year. 

Furthermore, and despite some UConn fans’ admonitions to the contrary, this Nate Miles thing is going to be investigated, whether he was a junior or senior or whatever, and regardless of the length and timing of some of these phone calls and text messages.   There’ll also be inquiries into possible contact with other players, including uber-frosh Ater Majok.  Our point is this – it’s not necessarily that probation is looming or even that UConn necessarily did anything wrong here – but you can rest assured that having the NCAA poking around your program is never a fun endeavor and it ultimately causes nothing but an incredible amount of timesuck and headaches for those in charge (i.e., Calhoun). 

So why would Calhoun want to subject himself to that next year?  All we can think is that he really likes coaching (and his $1.6M salary). 

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RTC Final Four Preview

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009

We’re  here.  After five months of winnowing down 341 college basketball teams, we’ve got four teams left standing – UNC, UConn, Michigan St. and Villanoa.  None of the four are surprises (although Villanova probably didn’t expect to be here) but all four are worthy candidates for the crown of 2009 National Champion.  Let’s break down both games for you, and keep in mind that we’ll be running our usual Boom Goes the Dynamite starting about a half-hour before tip at 5:30pm EDT.  See you then…

Dave Zeitlin and John Stevens contributed to this report.

Michigan State (30-6) vs. Connecticut (31-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Michigan State got by Robert Morris, then knocked off a series of highly athletic teams in USC, Kansas, and Louisville, the last of which destroyed a lot of brackets. Connecticut enjoyed their time in Philadelphia, just throttling Chattanooga and Texas A&M, then outlasted Purdue and Missouri. Advantage: MSU.

COACHES: Two of the biggest and baddest in the business, here. Both have championships to their credit. Izzo has to get his team fired up and prepared for what is basically a home game. Not to question his mental toughness (it’s certainly iron-clad), but Calhoun and staff know that all that awaits them, even if they were to win a title, is more talk about this Nate Miles recruiting thing, and maybe the occasional rogue “journalist.” Izzo’s got it better. Advantage: MSU (but just barely)

BACKCOURT: Kalin Lucas is military-quick and has a couple of fine supporters in Chris Allen and Durrell Summers, but A.J. Price has been superb in the tournament and he’s gotten more than sufficient assistance from Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie. I never thought a team could lose Jerome Dyson and still have a backcourt advantage, but that’s how good the UConn guards are. Advantage: UConn

FRONTCOURT: MSU has one of the best backcourt duos in the game with Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton. Suton seems to get better every game, since he came back from his injury. The problem is, what awaits them is what could be the best frontcourt in the country with Hasheem Thabeet, the inestimable Jeff Adrien, and the underrated Stanley Robinson. Watch the frontcourt battle between these two teams. It’ll be glorious. This is one closer than you might think, but…Advantage: UConn

BENCH: Michigan State utilizes their bench much more than Connecticut; the Spartan bench contributes a full 10% more to MSU’s total scoring than UConn’s (35% to 25%), and they’ll come off the bench with 1-2 more players than UConn on the whole. Advantage: MSU

STYLE OF PLAY: This has been billed as UConn’s speed and fast-break attack versus Michigan State’s slower, plodding style. Be careful, there. UConn averages about 78 points/game, but MSU averages about 72. Both teams have good guards and versatile big men. You might hear that whoever controls the tempo will win this game, but both of these teams have the ability to play at any speed. The winner will be determined by nothing more profound than defense and shot selection. Advantage: Even

X-FACTOR: The freshmen. Delvon Roe and Kemba Walker are significant contributors for MSU and UConn (respectively), to say the least. How will they handle the Final Four stage? Advantage: Even

AURA: Connecticut comes in here with the most mystique, so to speak. They blew out their first two opponents and they’re one of those teams that can deliver a Joe Louis-like knockout punch in short order; seriously, you can lose focus for 45 seconds and by the time you look up, UConn’s got you down 14 and they’ve turned on the full court press. Michigan State paper-cuts you to death with physicality and efficiency on offense, like a tennis player who uses a lot of slices and drop shots, then blows a single 150-mph forehand by you. No real difference, here. Advantage: Even

KARMA: Well, as noted above, UConn has this whole Nate Miles thing I know they’d like to forget, at least for now. MSU must be living right, having made it to the F4 in virtually their backyard. Advantage: MSU

MASCOT: Spartans were trained in the art of war from the age of seven and were so good at it, they considered archery an “unmanly” means of warfare. Huskies are dogs. Cool dogs, cold-weather dogs, high-stamina dogs. But this game will be an actual war. Gotta go with Sparty. Advantage: MSU

RIVALRY: MSU-Michigan is only slightly more relevant these days than UConn-UMass. But still…Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: I love Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Donyell Marshall, and Cliff Robinson as much as anyone. Great basketball players and ambassadors, all. But added together, they don’t equal the plastic end of Magic Johnson’s left shoestring. Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: You could probably include Magic in this category as well, given all he’s done outside the realm of basketball. But we won’t do that. UConn has…Meg Ryan? Moby? MSU can boast James Caan and a man by the name of, uh, James P. Hoffa. I’m not messin’ with that. Advantage: MSU

PREDICTION: It’s the feature game of the Final Four (despite being the first game). If Connecticut fans think they can crank up the pace and run MSU out of the gym, think again. Michigan State will run with you. They have the athletes. and they’re the runningest (forgive me) team in the Big Ten, for what that’s worth. This has all the makings of a classic. It involves two teams whose similarities actually outnumber their differences, despite conventional wisdom. We’ve got legendary coaches, fantastic guards, excellent frontlines, and the biggest stage our sport has. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see some extra time played in this one. But in the end, in a great one, Connecticut just has too many options on offense. The Huskies get it done, 81-77.

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Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 8:47 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Villanova, the No. 3 seed in the East Region, survived against American, throttled UCLA, humbled Duke and then stunned top-seeded Pittsburgh with THE play of the entire tournament – a coast-to-coast runner from Scottie Reynolds in the final second. North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South, had little trouble with Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma on its way to the Final Four. Advantage: Nova.

COACHES: The affable, well-dressed Jay Wright is on the verge of cracking the elite echelon of college basketball head coaches. Roy Williams is already there. Advantage: UNC.

BACKCOURT: ‘Nova junior guard Scottie Reynolds had been up-and-down during this tournament before delivering one of the greatest endings in NCAA history. Ty Lawson has been virtually unstoppable since coming back from his toe injury – and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington are pretty darn good, too. Advantage: UNC.

FRONTCOURT: Forward Dante Cunningham leads Villanova in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 ppg). But he’s obviously not at the same level as four-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Advantage: UNC.

BENCH: Villanova’s bench may be relatively short but Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher can hit shots and spread a defense, while Antonio Pena can bang inside. Veteran guard Bobby Frasor and 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller may both play big roles for the Heels. Advantage: Villanova.

STYLE OF PLAY: ‘Nova has kicked it old school during its NCAA run, suffocating teams with its defense and toughness. UNC boasts maybe the best offense in the land. Advantage: The public.

X-FACTOR: Reggie Redding may not be flashy, but the smart, defensive hound has been vital to Villanova’s success and is a favorite of Coach Wright. (He threw the inbounds pass to kickstart the game-winning play against Pitt in the Elite Eight.) Everything is falling into place for Danny Green, who will finally get to play in front of his father. Advantage: Even.

AURA: If you’ve watched any of Villanova’s tournament games, you’ve seen the camera fixated on former coach Rollie Massimino, who led the Wildcats to one of the great championship-game upsets in 1985. Rollie will be there for Saturday’s game, as will probably every other player, coach, cheerleader, band member, fan, booster and groupie from that ’85 team. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, booked their ticket to the Final Four by winning its record 100th tournament game. Advantage: Nova.

KARMA: Villanova was knocked out of the 2005 tournament by UNC thanks to a phantom travel call on Allan Ray. The ‘Cats remember. The Tar Heels’ road to redemption started when Hansbrough and company did the unthinkable by passing up the NBA draft to avenge last year’s first-half debacle against Kansas in the Final Four and win a national title. Advantage: UNC.

MASCOT: A wildcat is a hunter of small mammals, birds and Ginyards. A Tar Heel is apparently derived from North Carolina’s 18th-century prominence as a tar and pitch producer, but their mascot is a ram. I’m confused. Advantage: Nova.

RIVALRY: Dick Vitale may or may not be wearing pants when he broadcasts Duke-UNC games. When Villanova and Saint Joseph’s hook up, it’s referred to as the “Holy War.” Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Was Kerry Kittles as good as Michael Jordan? How about if Kerry Kittles drank Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff? Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Don McLean dropped out of Villanova after four months before writing the immortal American Pie. Speaking of great American things, Moonlight Graham and Peter Gammons both went to North Carolina. That’s an impressive baseball combo. Advantage: UNC.

PREDICTION: North Carolina may beat Villanova nine times out of 10. But as Rick Moranis said in the classic sports movie Little Giants, you just have to win one time. (What, you don’t think Little Giants is a classic?) Villanova keeps its magical run going, 75-74.

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Was Nate Miles’ Restraining Order the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to UConn?

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

As it stands today, the #1 West seed UConn mens’ basketball team  is sitting in Glendale, Arizona, awaiting its Sweet Sixteen matchup against Purdue on Friday night, having obliterated its sub-regional opponents by roughly 1000 points in two blowout wins.  It’s still relatively early, but the Huskies appear to be the favorite going into the rest of the Tournament, with their scoring threats at every position and their game-changing defensive presence in the middle known as Hasheem Thabeet.  Scarily, UConn isn’t even at full strength, as two players who were on the roster at the beginning of the school year are no longer playing for the Huskies - we all know about Jerome Dyson’s injury, but what about the other guy… Nate Miles? 

You remember Miles, right?  Jim Calhoun brought the troubled-but-talented 6’7 wing player in from Toledo as a freshman, but he was expelled from UConn in early October for violating a restraining order based on an accusation that he assaulted a female student.   Sixteen minutes after the restraining order was issued, mind you.  He then re-surfaced at a JuCo in Idaho, where he dropped in 19 ppg this season.  So why is this all relevant now? 

A Yahoo Sports investigation led by Dan Wetzel and Adrian Wojnarowski issued a comprehensive report today outlining the sordid tale of how Miles was ‘delivered’ to UConn by a former team manager turned agent named Josh Nochimson, and how current and former UConn coaches (including Jim Calhoun) may have pulled a Kelvin Sampson and egregiously violated the recruiting contact provisions with Miles throughout 2006 and 2007.   From the report:

The University of Connecticut violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles, a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found.  Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson – a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager – between 2006 and 2008, according to multiple sources. As a representative of UConn’s athletic interests, Nochimson was prohibited by NCAA rules from having contact with Miles and from providing him with anything of value.  The UConn basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five different UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from head coach Jim Calhoun.  UConn may have committed major recruiting violations by exceeding NCAA limits on phone calls to Miles and those closest to him, records show. The NCAA allows a single phone call per month to a prospect or his family in a player’s junior year of high school. That limit was exceeded over several months from late 2006 into 2007.

This makes the Kelvin Sampson and Rob Senderoff thing at Indiana look tame by comparison. 

UConn released a statement that doesn’t really say much, but what they should be saying (at least privately) is THANK THE F#%&ING LORD!  Consider…  the Huskies may well be on their way to their third national title in the last eleven seasons.  At worst, they appear a strong contender for another F4 appearance.  If Miles was still on this team, suddenly the entire house of cards could have come crumbling down.  Even if UConn ultimately won the 2009 championship, there would be a strong likelihood that much of their season would be later vacated, Chris Webber-style

Ironically, Miles' Restraining Order May Have Saved UConn's Season

Ironically, Miles' Restraining Order May Have Saved UConn's Season (Unlike C-Webb's Michigan Teams)

Not now.  Now any punishment that UConn will take over this admittedly serious set of violations will be prospective, and it should not affect this year’s Husky team (unless the NCAA digs up some other violations impacting current players).  We don’t mean to be callous, but in a tradeoff, wouldn’t most UConn fans take that deal?  You can win the 2009 title, but you’ll have to face a 1-year postseason ban and scholarship reductions at some future point.  Yeah, thought so.   So congratulations, Connecticut fans, there is a silver lining in what was otherwise not your best day. 

Final thought here: it’s nice to see that Yahoo Sports took it upon itself to do the NCAA’s work here.  A simple FOIA request – that’s all it took?  You’d think that the NCAA’s army of investigators could figure out that one by themselves.  Easy, low-hanging fruit at these public universities.  Or, maybe not. 

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NCAA Preview: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

UConn (# 1, West, Philadelphia pod)
Vs. Chattanooga (#16)
Thurs., 3/19 at 3 PM
Vegas Line: UConn, -20.5

uconn-vegas

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile
Location: Storrs, CT
Conference: Big East, at-large
Coach: Jim Calhoun, 553-204 at UConn; 801-341 overall
08-09 Record: 27-4, 15-3
Last 12 Games: 9-3
Best Win: 68-51, at Louisville, Feb. 2
Worst Loss: 74-63, vs. Georgetown, Dec. 29
Off. Efficiency Rating: 114; 20th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 85.6; 3rd

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): PG A.J. Price, 14 ppg, 4.7 apg, 40.8% 3-point shooting; C Hasheem Thabeet 13.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 4.6 bpg; PF Jeff Adrien 13.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg
Unsung Hero: PG Kemba Walker (8.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg off the bench)
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Hasheem Thabeet, projected No. 2 pick; A.J. Price, No. 32, Jeff Adrien, No. 39
Key Injuries: SG Jerome Dyson, torn meniscus, out for season
Depth: 25.9% (287th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Depth. UConn is essentially a six-man team without Dyson, getting only cameos of late from PF Gavin Edwards and SG Scottie Haralson. And Calhoun has said recently that Price simply cannot be a 35-minute player because of his ACL injury last year. Four players (Dyson, JUCO transfer C Charles Okwandu and would-be freshmen SF Ater Majok and SG Nate Miles) who would have contributed in the tournament are (in order) injured, academically ineligible, ineligible due to transcript issues and playing in junior college for violating a restraining order.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Price carries the offense on his back and streaky SF Stanley Robinson finds a way to play like a superstar in one or two games.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Thabeet gets in foul trouble and the guards can’t buy a bucket.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 2008, lost to San Diego in the first round, 70-69 in OT
Streak: 2nd year
Best NCAA Finish: 1999, 2004 national champions
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.47. On average, the Huskies win 0.47 more games than would be expected based on their seed compared to historical averages.

Other
Six Degrees to Detroit: UConn fans want payback against the Motor City for the Huskies’ 2001 NIT second round loss to Detroit Mercy in Storrs. That was the last time UConn took part in the second-tier tournament. I’m sure UConn fans were torn up about it and have thirsted for revenge ever since, although I was 13 and living in another state and a St. John’s fan at the time.
Distance to First Round Site: 239 miles, which is about five hours if you’re on the NJ Turnpike
School’s Claim to Fame: UConn became the first Division I school to win national titles in both men’s and women’s basketball in the same year in 2004. Since Connecticut sports fans have no pro team to root for (though they still pine for the miserable Hartford Whalers), the UConn men and women are pretty much it. Off the court, Meg Ryan and Moby are apparently listed as alumni on Wikipedia. I do not wish to claim Moby as one of our own.
School Wishes It Could Forget: You would think that prior to the ’99 championship, UConn students had no reason to riot. You’d be wrong. Back in 1998, more than 100 students were arrested after flipping and burning a car, throwing rocks and bottles at police and being pepper sprayed by said police, as a part of the annual Spring Weekend (the weekend prior to the last week of spring classes). Unfortunately for car-burning enthusiasts, the traditional weekend party has become slightly more civil since then.
Prediction: With Dyson, it was Detroit or bust. Without Dyson – and with that ‘haven’t-won-a-postseason-game-since-2006′ cloud hanging over their heads – I think most UConn fans would be mildly content with the Sweet 16, and satisfied with a trip to the regional final. UConn has Final Four talent, but no one’s quite sure if they have the makeup to win four, five or six straight in March.

Major RTC stories: RTC Live: Notre Dame at #2 UConn – Saturday 2 PM ET, RTC Aftermath: #2 UConn 72, Notre Dame 65, Jerome Dyson: Done for the Season, and Game Night: Pittsburgh at UConn.

Preview written by Kevin Meacham of TheUConnBlog.com

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10.23.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2008

Only two weeks left (no, not the election… the first games!)…

  • Remember Nate Miles?  He’ll be playing for the College of Southern Idaho next year. 
  • Gary Parrish all-americans:  Curry, Collison, Hansbrough, Harongody & Griffin.  We only disagree on one (wanna guess which?).  While we’re at it, here’s his top 40 guards
  • Big East media picks – UConn, Louisville, Pitt, Notre Dame in that order.  POY – Harongody.  ROY – S. Samuels, G. Monroe.
  • The Stephen Curry show at Davidson’s Midnight Madness. 
  • Georgia Tech’s D’Andre Bell will miss the season after getting diagnosed with spinal stenosis (the same injury TJ Ford had a while back) – he averaged 7 ppg last year and is considered one of the Jackets’ top defenders. 
  • This will be a fantastic story if Santa Clara forward John Bryant has a great year after being stabbed in an altercation last month. 
  • Don’t know how we missed this one, but UCLA great John Wooden turned 98 last week, and subsequently had his car taken away from him by his family.  Ouch.
  • Must… Resist… Urge… 
  • Basketball Interview Challenge does a great job interviewing hoops personalities.  For example, we had no idea that former Michigan great Cazzie Russell was coaching for an art school in Savannah, GA.   Keep it coming, JZ. 
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U-Con Takes a Hit: Mr. 16 Minutes Expelled

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2008

News out of Storrs today has the rest of the Big East cheering, as freshman wing Nate Miles (he of the five high schools) was expelled from UConn today, merely days after he had been arrested for violating a restraining order sixteen minutes after it was issued for assaulting a female student he may or may not have been involved with.  From the Hartford Courant:

The woman accused Miles, 20, of Toledo, Ohio, of becoming physical and trying to pressure her into having sex. A restraining order was issued Sept. 22 and Miles was arrested for placing a call to the woman, a 19-year-old from Manchester, 16 minutes later.  [...]  According to a court affidavit obtained Wednesday, Miles’ accuser said the relationship began with consensual sex but that later Miles became physical and “extremely possessive.” The affidavit said the woman went to Miles’ dorm room on Sept. 14, at which time he began pressuring her to have sex. When she refused, he allegedly “would tap my face or dig his nails into me.” When she hit him back, he “slapped me and pushed me off the bed.” Miles has not been allowed to live on campus since the incident. His criminal case was continued until Nov. 25. No charges related to the alleged abuse have been filed.

(photo credit:  Hartford Courant)

Miles was quoted as being surprised that he was expelled from school.  Yeah, really surprising that an assault, restraining order and subsequent arrest would end so badly for someone.  More importantly, Miles was the kind of long impact player on the wing that the Huskies haven’t had since Caron Butler was slashing to the hoop – he could have made a perfect complement to the AJ Price/Hasheem Thabeet inside-outside show.  Miles plans to appeal, but is also reportedly thinking of moving to Texas to live with his youth league coach and legal guardian, Sean Patterson - do you think Big 12 coaches have this guy’s number on speed dial yet?

One thing is certain – Louisville , Notre Dame and Pitt fans should be rejoicing tonight. 

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09.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 25th, 2008

It’s officially Autumn, which means cooler air is around the corner and the sweet cacophany of bouncing basketballs echoing through a gymnasium is coming…

  • Dana O’Neil gives a pretty good roundup of injured players who are either all the way healed or expected to be so by the time the meat of the season begins.  One of those players, Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf, is back from an ACL injury with another year of eligibility in tow.  Another, Alabama’s Ronald Steele, is a hard-luck guy who RTC is hoping catches a few breaks this year – he deserves it. 
  • Tubby Smith’s nephew, William L. Smith, was stabbed and killed last weekend at an off-campus apartment complex in Worcester, Mass. 
  • UConn’s Nate Miles, he of the five high schools, was arrested for violating a restraining order.  We’re shocked, I tell you, that Jim Calhoun’s charge is acting up!  Shocked! 
  • Jamie Dixon‘s deal with Pitt has been extended through the 2016 season at a minimum of $1.3M per annum.
  • Remember Pierre Pierce?  The former Iowa star who spent 11 months in prison for a multitude of charges will be allowed to serve his probation in France while playing professional basketball there this winter. 
  • Here are six teams to watch in the 08-09 season seeking to break long NCAA droughts.
  • More Stephen Curry.  The Wooden Tradition, not to be confused with the Wooden Classic (UCLA v. Depaul; San Diego St. v. St. Mary’s), will feature Purdue v. Davidson and St. Mary’s v. S. Illinois on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis.  In case you were wondering how the new Mr. March spent his summer, click here
  • HoopsAddict has it’s All-Americans out – Tyrese Rice over Darren Collison is a weak call. 
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