Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Afternoon Linkage: Cousins vs. Alabama
By Eamonn Brennan
First, a few leftover Texas-Kansas notes: Mike DeCourcy writes that Kansas is making Big 12 dominance look easy. That causes Rush The Court to make a pretty trenchant observation: "Often you hear the media say that it’s a “wide-open field” as we’re heading up to the Tournament, only to say afterwards that Team X (as in UNC’s case last year) was “clearly the best team” after they win it all in April. I have a feeling that we’re going to by hearing the same contrasting platitudes this year, except that Kansas will be this year’s UNC." North Carolina occasionally stumbled during the regular season in 2009-10, only to roll through the tournament with nary a challenger. Kansas looks primed to do the exact same thing, only the Jayhawks already look dominant enough (and relatively stumble-free, at least so far) to win at all.
DeMarcus Cousins is an Alabaman, but that doesn't mean he has any love for his homestate school. Quite the contrary, in fact -- in this video by the Lexington Herald-Leader's John Clay, Cousins says he didn't attend Alabama because it was a "bad situation." When asked to elaborate on his coy response, the big man says he "doesn't really want to talk about it." Mobile Press-Register reporter Gentry Estes, who has an awesome name, says Cousins is probably referring to some hurt feelings over former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried's -- and then new coach Anthony Grant's -- decisions not to recruit Cousins due to concerns about his attitude. Whether Cousins would have attended Alabama seems unlikely anyway (why go to a transitional program when you can play for John Calipari at Memphis ne้ Kentucky?) but athletes still like to know they're wanted in their own backyard. Apparently, Cousins wasn't. So, yeah. If I were Alabama, I'd start devising ways to keep Cousins off the glass. A doubly motivated DeMarcus -- who has morphed into the most important and productive player in Calipari's lineup these last few weeks -- will be fearsome to behold.
You know what's confusing? Why Pierre Henderson-Niles would leave Memphis at this point in the season. Is the frustration with Josh Pastner -- or maybe it's the other way around -- so great that the two can't stick it out a while longer for the good of Memphis' tournament chances? Apparently so.
"The A-10 currently has six teams -- Rhode Island, Temple, Xavier, Charlotte, Richmond and Dayton -- in the top 43 of the RPI. That means when those teams start facing each other, which they will five times in the next 10 days alone, those games will be RPI helpers. Much like the Missouri Valley Conference in 2006, if results break the right way, all of these teams are going to have very strong computer profiles at season's end, with a series of league wins that should be very valuable in at-large consideration. This year, the A-10, literally and figuratively, could get a major at-large haul." That's SI's Andy Glockner on the A-10, which has a plethora of teams worthy of tournament consideration in 2009-10. It probably helps that the Missouri Valley isn't as good as it usually is, and of course it doesn't hurt that the Pac-10 is a one-bid league. Is this the year of the A-10? It's certainly looking that way.
Athens Banner-Herald columnist David Ching makes the case for Georgia's Mark Fox as SEC coach of the year. It's no secret Fox has done a fantastic job in his first year in Athens; it's also no secret that coaches with his league record (2-6 in the SEC), no matter how hard their team plays, probably aren't going to win any awards.
It's Tuesday, so here are your Tuesday Truths. Mr. Gasaway is especially good on why West Virginia looks better on paper than they do in person: "Take West Virginia last night. Please! (Har!) The Mountaineers have a really nice EM because they've been able to pummel teams like Rutgers, South Florida, St. John's, DePaul, and, yes, Pitt. Pummeling teams, even non-NCAA tournament teams, is a good marker of quality and I don't minimize that. Still, it's also true that Bob Huggins' team has seen its two main rivals, Syracuse and Villanova, come to Morgantown, and in those games the Mountaineers are 0-2, having been outscored by 0.06 points per trip. Looking ahead, West Virginia closes the season by hosting Georgetown and then going to Villanova. If they're smart they'll seize the opportunity to show what they can do against top-quality opponents."
Mike Brey isn't taking his foot off the pedal as Notre Dame hits the stretch run of the Big East. Brey wants to make the tournament. To ensure his players' complicity, he's started running two-a-day practices. Maybe a big deal, maybe not, but it's easy to see how that strategy would backfire, yes? Your players get mad at you and don't play hard, or, failing that, your players play as hard as possible but don't have the energy to compete late in games. It's a risky gambit, but like I said: Brey wants to make the tournament. He's putting his chips on the table. That's one way to do it.