ATB: Boeheim Reaches 900, UConn Pays Tribute To Sandy Hook, and Two Impact Transfers Enter The Fold…Posted by Chris Johnson on December 18th, 2012
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Tonight’s Lede. It All Comes Together For Jim Boeheim. College basketball is littered with great coaches, leaders who elevate their respective programs with a handful occupying various leagues across the country. Transcending “great” and becoming “legendary” requires a sustained period of excellence. You can count these select few on one hand. Jim Boeheim belonged in this rarefied air even before Monday night’s remarkable achievement when he became just the third Division I men’s basketball head coach in history to reach 900 wins, and the first to do so in an uninterrupted tenure at one institution. Boeheim attended Syracuse as a college student and varsity basketball player, took up an assistant job there for seven years, then rose to the head coaching position, a title he has maintained with aplomb, visionary thinking and progressive leadership, for more than 30 years. Monday night’s culminating win, a 72-68 triumph over would-be spoiler Detroit, ties a bow around the longstanding brilliance of Boeheim’s work within and around the program. I don’t know when Boeheim will retire, but if the 68-year-old decides to call it quits as early as after this season, his career will have been one of the greatest we’ve ever seen. A well-deserved tip of the cap is very much in order.
Your Watercooler Moment. Two Big Transfer Debuts.
Similar storylines tethered UNLV and Missouri’s season projections in varying degrees to the ability of transfers to step in and contribute right away. For Missouri, most of the talk surrounded UConn big man Alex Oriakhi and Auburn swingman Earnest Ross. Oregon transfer Jabari Brown was less of a central storyline not because of a lack of talent or physical tools, but for the timetable of his eligibility. Brown’s services became more urgent, though, once guard Michael Dixon was suspended and eventually left school over a sexual assault accusation. UNLV’s situation follows the same rough outline, in that an elbow injury to forward Mike Moser – previously conceived as just one piece of arguably the nation’s deepest frontcourt – turned Pitt transfer Khem Birch’s arrival into a critical, much less ancillary, entry into UNLV’s frontcourt rotation. Both players made their highly anticipated debuts on Monday night, and the results went pretty much as you’d expect. Birch and Brown showed some rust in their first taste of major college hoops in 12 months. Brown had 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting (including 1-of-7 from three), but it’s hard to infer anything beyond an encouraging first run, simply for the fact that the Tigers doubled South Carolina State on the scoreboard in a 102-51 rout. The Rebels, meanwhile, were taken to the brink at UTEP, and were one Konner Tucker three-point jumper away from taking a bad loss. In 14 minutes, Birch submitted just four points and three rebounds. How well these players fit into their new teams is a time-tested analysis that can’t be decided on one night’s action. We’ll get a better read on the newcomers over the next couple of months. After one game, the general consensus is lukewarm if slightly encouraging. Concluding anything more would be uninformed guesswork.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- UConn Pays Homage to Newtown Tragedy. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings had massive rippling effects not just on national news shows but in the sports world. Major sports teams around the country, from professional leagues to college, paid tribute to the victims in various ways. UConn followed suit by holding a moment of silence before its game against Maryland-Eastern Shore tonight, donning green patches with the letters “SH” and several players, including star point guard Ryan Boatwright, inscribing the initials on their faces in a visually poignant tribute that fit the severity of the events. Kudos to the UConn athletic department for coming through with a strong emotional statement to distinguish the tragedy’s geographically-proximate institution by not only setting aside a moment for respect and remembrance, but also implementing a visual token to emphasize the importance of the tribute alongside the basketball game being played. Read the rest of this entry »