There was a lot of attention surrounding UConn entering last night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue, and it was all for the wrong reasons. In the midst of an ongoing investigation of the school’s recruitment of now-departed super-stud prospect Nate Miles, no one has received as much heat as UConn’s architect himself, Jim Calhoun.
Some are even calling the early stages of the NCAA’s review, which follows an investigation launched by Yahoo! sports, a second-coming of the precursor to Kelvin Sampson’s ouster at Indiana. The logic runs that, once the NCAA actually starts digging deep into the UConn records, they’ll find that Miles was just the latest in a string of recruits who were wooed by illegal meals, gifts and contact.
So what is a Hall of Famer like Calhoun to do? That’s easy: Win the whole thing, then walk away. If Calhoun’s Huskies get out of the gate as well as they did against Purdue last night. Not only did UConn sprint to an 8-0 lead and never look back, the Huskies showed the balance and Hasheem Thabeet-led inside dominance that could lift them back to another national title.
Sure, they’re out West, but with the additional inspiration UConn has received since its exit from the Big East tournament — first Calhoun’s hospitalization, then the Yahoo! investigation — UConn suddenly looks like the biggest beast left in the dance.
Meanwhile, Missouri proved that John Calipari - a past subject of NCAA indiscretions & Calhoun’s scorn after he stole onetime UConn recruit Marcus Camby - still has some work to do if he’s ever going to deliver a national title to the C-USA program he’s taken under his wing. Mizzou did everything that Memphis tries to do — run, trap, press and run some more — except they did it more effectively and efficiently. Even a late heat-check from Tyreke Evans and near-collapse from Mizzou couldn’t resuscitate Memphis, which means that the one team standing between Calhoun and a return trip to the Final Four is Mike Anderson. At least we know what the game plan will be come Saturday: Everybody press! Ready, break!
That wasn’t the case back East, where UConn once assumed it would be, and where No. 1 seed Pittsburgh struggled through another lackluster tourney win. It’s certainly not what Pitt fans will want to hear, but the Panthers just don’t seem to be clicking on all cylinders. In fact, one could argue that Pitt hasn’t played on its top speed since knocking off UConn … again … near the end of the regular season. In fact, let’s run the gauntlet of recent Pitt performances: Lost to West Virginia in Big East tournament, underwhelmed in beating No. 16 seed, trailed No. 8 seed Oklahoma State throughout much of second-round win, then eked past a Xavier team that should have been completely overwhelmed.
If that sounds like Pitt has set the table for a suddenly hot Villanova team to swoop in a steal a ticket to the Final Four, well, maybe they have. The Wildcats smoked a Duke team that was finally exposed at the point, with streaky shooters and with no semblance of a legitimate interior game. Perhaps not surprisingly, Duke again rolled snake eyes in the tournament because it was over-reliant on outside shooting and couldn’t stop a deep set of athletic guards and swingmen. Let’s see, Virginia Commonwealth (Eric Maynor), West Virginia (Joe Alexander), anyone in the Villanova starting lineup. Hmmm, anyone else see a pattern?
But there were other sports outside of the tournament right? Well, we suppose.
- We’ve seen plenty of big sports stars in bad movies in the past — Kazaam comes to mind, no? — but none may be worse than the upcoming flick Never Surrender, which features Quinton Rampage Jackson, Anderson Silva, Heath Herring, and Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn.
- Remember the former editor of Lenny Dykstra’s PLAYERS CLUB magazine who promised a tell-all on just how egomaniacal and abusive his former boss was? Well, the article is out in GQ, and it crushes Nails. Crushes him.
- This is just made for a bad-karma jinx. They’re plenty of points away from clinching a division title, but you can already get your hands on Washington Capitals Southeast Division Championship gear if you know where to look.
- Speaking of the Caps, coach Bruce Boudreau is more than sick of people bitching about Alex Ovechkin’s celebration of his 50th goal. He can’t even take it anymore.
- Tim Tebow is going to work some from under center next year, and he’s already working out in new formations in spring training. So the real question is, did Mel Kiper put Urban Meyer up to this?
- Because, when we think of Marlins spring training baseball, we think of really, really old ladies.
- Darren Rovell: Responsible economic journalist, proud CNBC talking head, expat of ESPN integrity, producer and eater of preposterously large burger? Now he is.
- The Lions may want Matthew Stafford, but if they pass, the 49ers don’t. Why? Because he won’t talk about his Daddy issues. Really.
- Has anyone bothered to tell Colorado coach Dan Hawkins that he’s been struggling to make bottom tier bowls the past couple years? How, exactly, does he expect to win 10 games in 2009?
- Brazilian soccer stars are known for being big partiers — seen any pictures of the older, fatter Ronaldo lately? — but this may take the cake: A 12-hour soiree with a transvestite pornstar.