Today UConn released a response to NCAA allegations of eight major rules violations involving the school’s basketball program. Included in the UConn response was the acknowledgement that the program did commit multiple violations and that it would offer to enact self-imposed sanctions that included minimal scholarship reductions.
(UConn Officials To NCAA: Rogues Are People Too!)
Though despite taking 62 pages (pdf) to defend itself against a serious threat of harsh NCAA penalties, the UConn administration absolved Jim Calhoun of any serious blame.
The entire NCAA investigation started after Yahoo Sports (who else?!) first broke the news last year of an alleged relationship between Calhoun and his program, former UConn basketball manager, booster and de-certified agent Josh Nochimson and then-prized recruit Nate Miles.
Nochimson is the key player in the most serious of UConn’s myriad violations. The HARTFORD COURANT describes him thusly:
He is accused of developing a relationship with Miles and providing him with gifts (lodging, transportation, meals, etc.) and also working closely with members of the UConn staff during Miles’ recruitment. Nochimson has not commented publicly since these accusations surfaced and his whereabouts are unknown.
So as a “representative of the UConn’s athletic interests,” by NCAA rule Nochimson was not permitted any contact with a prospective UConn recruit, let alone provide a recruit with significant benefits - as he reportedly did with Miles.
In a game played in front of about 70,000 rabidly partisan Spartan fans in Detroit (and roughly a couple dozen Husky fans), Michigan State outran, outmuscled, and outhustled UConn en route to an 82-73 victory. The leading scorer for the Spartans was Kalin Lucas with 21 points, but every time we looked up, Durrell Summers was making one big play after another, like a ferocious dunk in transition that capped a decisive 17-7 run.
(”F-CK YO FACE!”)
UConn hung tough, to say the least; the teams battled to a 49-49 draw midway through the second half. But shoddy play at the line and on the glass doomed the Huskies, who had looked like (arguably) the most impressive team in the tournament up to that point. We would go on, but you just want to watch Summers dunk in Stanley Robinson’s face, don’t you? Video, courtesy of THE HOOP DOCTORS, is after the break. Read more…
I hate April Fools’ Day. It’s to being funny what St. Patrick’s Day is to drinking: pure amateur hour. Every office cut-up who thinks that “Two and a Half Men” is God’s gift to comedy decides that this would be a great time to do something wacky - think Michael Scott from “The Office.” And every radio hack in America decides to start a rumor that a certain celebrity died of a drug overdose/car crash/lightning strike.
So as cranky as I am about the whole day, it’s rare when I can appreciate an April Fools’ Day stunt. But I have to doff my cap to Connecticut star Hasheem Thabeet, who managed to pull of a good prank using his (protected) Twitter account. THE ARENA reports that Thabeet Tweeted that he had failed a drug test, and would be not playing in the Final Four this weekend.
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.
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.
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.
So where were you when one of the greatest college basketball games of all time was played? For those of you on the east coast, the answer is probably “asleep.” Unless you were at Madison Square Garden, where, at 1:22 a.m., the buzzer sounded for the final time as Syracuse beat UConn 127-117 in six overtimes in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.
It was the longest game in Big East history, and came up just one overtime short of tying the longest game in the history of college basketball. And it was nearly over an hour and a half earlier. Eric Devendorf buried what appeared to be the winning three-pointer at the regulation buzzer, sending the Orange into a frenzied celebration. But then came the review, and a long review it was. And after talking it over the refs decided this shot didn’t count:
So on we went to a second overtime. And a third. And a fourth. And so on. UConn led in each of the first five OTs but couldn’t close it out. Syracuse finally took the lead in OT number six and pulled away.
To put the whole thing in perspective, the game lasted three hours and 46 minutes. There were 70 minutes of basketball, and Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn played 67 of them. Flynn had 34 points, 11 assists, and six steals. UConn had five players in double figures…in rebounds. Four guys on each team fouled out, so guys who don’t even normally play were in the game for the final OT. Astonishingly, Jim Calhoun didn’t keel over at the three hour mark.
The previous longest game in the Big East Tournament was the 1981 final, which went to three OTs. Syracuse beat Villanova 83-80, and the game featured Leo Rautins, whose son Andy was the key to Orange’s win last night. Andy Rautins hit a three with 10 seconds left in the third OT to tie it up yet again, then hit another early in the sixth OT to put Syracuse up for good. Somehow, the Orange have to recover and play tonight against West Virginia.
The busiest day in conference tourney action saw some other big names fall, and some bubbles burst.
The best finish of the day prior to the SU-UConn battle was earlier in the day at MSG, when Villanova blew a huge second-half lead to Marquette but rallied to get a buzzer-beating layup by Dwayne Anderson to crush the Golden Eagles 76-75:
• Your daily economic downturn update: Posh Spice Beckham has, shockingly, been spotted by GABBY BABBLE wearing the same outfit in public … TWICE. This follows news that hubby Dave has had to come up with $3 million of his own cash to pay the Galaxy part of the loan fee owed by AC Slater…err, Milan. Are the good times over?
• Buried in this story about Johan Santana throwing a couple of good innings for the Mets today is the revelation that Tim Redding, who the Mets have guaranteed $2.25 million to this year, can’t get anyone out. He gave up nine runs and three home runs in two innings against the Marlins yesterday, after failing to complete a full inning in an outing against the University of Michigan on Sunday. (He gave up five runs in that game, including back-to-back jacks. To college players.)
• Jason Richardson had a bad 20 seconds in the Suns’ loss to Cleveland last night. First, he attempted a 360 dunk that was blocked by LeBron James. Second, the refs didn’t call a foul even though Bron Bron clearly hacked him. Third, he got a T for complaining. LeBron had a triple double, with 34 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 calls nobody else in the league would get. Video of the play:
• UNPROFESSIONAL FOUL has the story of Danny Mountain, an up-and-coming soccer star whose career was cut short by a tragic injury. But he picked himself up off the deck and got it together … in porn. Now he’s “acting” six days a week and is married to porn starlet Eva Angelina. And yes, Danny Mountain is actually his real name. Here’s one of the few pictures of Ms. Angelina we could actually run on this site:
• WALKOFF WALK implores you, adult fans of the (Devil) Rays, to not wear this replica AL Champion ring in public. Apparently, every fan at the April 14th game will get one. And, since it’s still April baseball in Tampa, they’ll only be handing out 47 of them:
Southern Mississippi gave Larry Eustachy a second chance after the former Iowa State coach’s career had gone belly up in 2003 after photos of him partying with students at Missouri came to light. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that his comeback has been a bust (and not a beer bust, either). After leading Cyclones to two NCAA tournament appearance in five seasons, he has yet to get the Golden Eagles to the post-season in his first four seasons, and at 14-14 it isn’t happening this year either.
So THE NEW YORK TIMES says that Eustachy did the right thing: he gave back a $25,000 bonus he had earned through ticket sales and various incentives. Granted, he kept his $380,000 base salary, and this might be seen as a cheap way to generate some goodwill and avoid being fired, but still: that’s about 3,000 12-packs of Natural Light we’re talking about (plus enough left over to keep the Omega Chi fire pit going all semester).
Except when you are playing the Los Angeles Clippers - I don’t care where you play them or what the circumstances are, that should be an “easy game” for any team. If they can’t beat the Clippers, then I guess we can eliminate the Celtics as legitimate NBA Finals contenders. We might as well go ahead and crown the Lakers…
…who lost to Sacramento earlier this year, who actually somehow have managed to be worse this season than the Clippers. OK then, how about the Cavaliers? What, they lost to Washington earlier this season? We’re going to wind up with the Spurs as champions again, aren’t we. The point is: it was a really, really bad loss, but no worse than any other team has during the course of a season. Let’s not freak out to much about it yet.
Nothing against Nolan Smith, but doesn’t anyone who isn’t a Duke fan feel good about seeing a Blue Devil get laid out by a vicious screen? Maryland’s Dave Neal was the one delivering the shot, flooring Smith and causing Mike Krzyzewski to fume. Smith had to be helped off the court but didn’t appear to be seriously injured, allowing us to enjoy our little moment of schadenfreude:
Of course, as the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER points out, that screen might have been the worst thing that could have happened to the Terrapins, as Duke’s Gerald Henderson came out of the ensuing time out as a man on a mission, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the game’s final 15 minutes and change afterward. Or, it could just be that Duke is a much better team than possibly NIT-bound Maryland; either way, Duke won 78-67.
Meanwhile, this is how bad it’s gotten for Indiana: they were swept by Northwestern. The Wildcats did what would have seemed improbable going into this season, breaking a 35-game losing streak at Indiana on Wednesday with a 75-53 victory. Then again, even with a young, inexperienced team, thinking that Indiana would be 6-21 overall or 1-14 in the Big Ten would have been pretty loopy before the season started.
Remember those Powerade commercials that had LeBron Jamessinking one full-court shot after another to the amazement of a local reporter. After watching this pre-game video found by BALL DON’T LIE of King James swishing a more than half-court shot - underhanded- I’m starting to wonder how much editing trickery was used:
REUTERS says Australian swimmer Nick D’Arcy - pulled from the Olympic team after allegedly caving in another athlete’s face during a barroom brawl while celebrating making the team - will have to wait another month to learn his fate.
I know it’s from the Celebrity Game during All-Star Weekend, so it’s a little bit old, but seeing ESPN’s Jon Barry bite this hard on the old Harlem Globetrotters “Confetti in the Bucket” trick is worth it. Didn’t he ever watch the Globetrotters on “Wide World of Sports” as a kid?:
Another day, another investment scam impacting sports. This time NEWSDAY reports that two former New York Islanders executives have been arrested and charged with “with misappropriating more than $500 million in client investments, including tens of millions allegedly taken for things like expensive stallions and pricey Teddy bears.”
More news in the slow, inevitable slog towards Manny Ramirez finally signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers: the LA TIMES reports that the team has made him a two-year, $45 million offer that he could respond to as early as today.
The PALM BEACH POST reports that Michael Jordan and his 30-year-old paramour, Cuban model Yvette Prieto, are moving in together in a house in suburban Miami. Michael: if you find Charlie Sheen coming out of your house at odd hours of the night, you have bigger things to worry about than your underwear.
So Travis the chimp isn’t the only one in Connecticut going apesh*t this week. On the heels of career win no. 799, Jim Calhoun had to deal with an itinerant political activist and freelance journalist (in that order), and man did Jim shut him down.
Ken Krayeske, a local personality best known for being arrested for breach of peace at the governor’s inaugural parade, tried to take Calhoun to task for his $1.6 million salary at a time when Connecticut’s budget deficit is soaring. Jim, as you’ll see, was having none of it.
UConn freshman basketball player Nate Miles spent nearly two years trying to get into the school, and now his college basketball career has been derailed before it ever got started. Miles lasted only 70 days at the school before getting expelled for alleged sexual abuse of a female student.
Jim Calhoun has brought in some questionable characters in the past, but Miles will go down as one of his biggest busts since he never even saw the court. Miles bounced around five different high schools and most programs wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole despite his tremendous talent.