College Basketball Nation: Dayton

Since 2001, when the NCAA men's basketball committee formally included the play-in games as part of the NCAA tournament, a lot has changed. The NCAA has expanded the tournament, adding would-be No. 12-seeds to the mix. It has attempted a best-of-all-bad-options rebrand, calling the play-in games the first round despite the fact that a staggering majority of the teams in the tournament don't participate in said "first round."

(This bit of semantics wouldn't be a big deal were it not so routinely confusing. Thursday and Friday are the first round, but the NCAA wants us to call them the second round. When you have to reference these rounds 12 months a year, things get frustrating in a hurry.)

The play-ins still feel like play-ins, but the success of teams in the First Four since its inception in 2011 -- VCU went to the Final Four that March; La Salle streaked to the 2013 Sweet 16 -- have raised its profile, or at least made it a less undesirable bracket destination. And the event is still evolving, even if the tournament format is done expanding for some time.

For 12 years, one constant has remained: Dayton's role as play-in host.

And rightfully so. Not only is the event a point of pride for the city in and of itself, but it feels genuinely loved. Ticket sales are always close to sellout level -- in 2013, they surpassed it -- as Dayton residents have flocked to watch teams in which they have little or no rooting interest. That's love.

In other words, it's hard to imagine finding a place that would take to the event the way Dayton has ... but it seems the NCAA is at least going to look. From the Dayton Business Journal:
The NCAA confirmed Friday it will wait until at least next year to select sites for the event in 2016 and beyond. Local officials had been lobbying the NCAA to secure an earlier commitment for the First Four — which is being held here in 2014 and 2015 — for as much as a decade.

“Dayton is still a favorable site, and the end result could be that the First Four is played in Dayton for many years to come,” said David Worlock, an NCAA spokesperson, in a statement to the DBJ. “This is simply a byproduct of the changing landscape of college athletics and due to this ever-changing landscape, the Men’s Basketball Committee is reluctant to enter into a long-term agreement -- for any round(s) of the tournament."

That, of course, makes sense for the NCAA. As SI's Andy Glockner notes, the considerations that led to the original selection and continuation of Dayton have changed. More teams participating in play-in games means more travel issues to balance, and the NCAA continues to double-down on the importance of geographic considerations in its bracketing. Plus, with all due respect to Dayton, it is not exactly the warmest place in the world in March. Dayton might not have as much to offer as another city. Maybe not, but who knows? That's why you keep the bidding open. It's not like Dayton couldn't win the thing back.

And with all that said ... it would be a bit of a shame to see the event move. The pride Daytonians feel about the opening round is palpable. You don't even have to look that hard: Spend five minutes talking to any of the on-site volunteers at UD Arena, and not only will you get a detailed history of the city's obsession with hoops, you'll also hear local pride bubbling over. Dayton packs the play-in games not only because it loves basketball, but because the city feels ownership over the event and its own image as it is reflected nationally on the eve of one of the biggest sports competitions in the world. Residents there are invested. They're all-in.

The NCAA has to make decisions based on its own best interests, of course, and there may be another site out there with more to offer. But it will be hard, if not outright impossible, to replace what Dayton has brought to the event. Where else is the play-in -- excuse me, the "first round" -- going to sell out?

TMA: Transitional edition

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
10:11
AM ET
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. Before we jump into today's insanity, here's an abbreviated look back on Tuesday night's almost-quiet affair. Oh, yeah: Try not to make it awkward. Catchphrase!

Seton Hall 109, Providence 106: Note to self: Don't turn off games that feature Seton Hall and Providence, even if one of the teams is up 76-47 with 13:36 left to play. Yes, Seton Hall led the Friars by 29 points with the final quarter or so of the game left, and it didn't really matter: Providence came back anyway, cutting the lead to three on Vincent Council's pull-up jumper with eight seconds remaining. The Pirates then missed two free throws, giving Providence a chance to tie; freshman Duke Mondy launched a bad three that hit the bottom of the rim as time expired. Seton Hall survived. Good thing, too, as the Friars are in desperate need of at least one more win -- tonight vs. Notre Dame could do the trick -- to get themselves off the bad side of the bubble and back, finally, into NCAA tournament consideration.

But anyway, to review: 109-106 after 76-47. Providence's Jamine Peterson scored 38 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Seton Hall's Herb Pope had 27 and 11. Every starter on both teams scored at least 12 points. I want to play pickup basketball with Seton Hall and Providence. That looks like a lot of fun.

Everywhere else, quickly: Butler handled business in the Horizon League final, walloping Wright State 70-45 and completing the ever-rare perfect conference-plus-conference-tournament season. At 20 wins, the Bulldogs also retained the country's longest winning streak ... You've by now read all about UConn's ugly loss yesterday; Matt Norlander summed up the Huskies' season pretty well at The Dagger last night: "Anybody got a theory as to what this team was for the past five months?" I'm still stumped ... The College Basketball Nation blog (say it five times fast) warmly welcomes two more teams to the NCAA tournament: the Oakland Golden Grizzles and the North Texas Mean Green, two tremendous mid-majors with two tremendous mascot names ... In the A-10, Dayton and Rhode Island both preserved their fading tournament hopes with first round wins; Charlotte did not ... and Cincinnati barely squeaked past Rutgers to advance to the second day of the tournament, a day I'm greatly looking forward to.

Saturday's winners and losers

March, 7, 2010
3/07/10
1:57
AM ET
Winners from Saturday

Notre Dame: The Irish gave the selection committee another reason to put them in the dance with yet another road win, this time with Luke Harangody and at Marquette -- a team in the tournament field. The Irish are earning their way into the field.

Duke: The Blue Devils likely earned the fourth No. 1 seed with a hammering of North Carolina on Saturday night. Duke also clinched a share of the ACC regular-season title. The Blue Devils passed the eye test of a team that could get to Indy.

Saint Louis: The Billikens won at Dayton, completing a season sweep of the Flyers and finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic 10. Rick Majerus has done an outstanding job with a club that is void of upperclassmen. The Billikens could be a sleeper to win the A-10 in Atlantic City next week.

Baylor: If you’re looking for a sleeper in the Big 12 tournament, it could be Baylor. The Bears ran away from Texas and looked like a team ready to get busy in the postseason.

Kansas: The Jayhawks may have locked up the No. 1 overall seed after winning at Missouri on Saturday. Kansas got inspired play from its key contributors and once again heads into the conference tournament on a high.

Louisville: The Cardinals had to win two of there games this week and did. Louisville beat Connecticut, then lost at Marquette before beating Syracuse on Saturday. That gave the Cardinals a sweep of Syracuse and a likely bid to the Dance in the final game at Freedom Hall.

Tennessee: The Vols did something Lane Kiffin couldn’t do, taking a 17-0 lead on the road in the SEC. Tennessee lit up Mississippi State and had the look of a team that could be a major factor in an SEC tournament that they'll play in their home state just a few hours away in Nashville.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies didn’t have their second-leading scorer in Dorenzo Hudson, survived a nasty moving screen by Gani Lawal on Malcolm Delaney and gutted out a win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Hokies dismissed any doubt about their candidacy with a win.

Washington: The Huskies kept alive their chances of an at-large berth by winning at Oregon State. That win doesn’t get them in the dance, but a loss would have been crushing.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils are in Joe Lunardi’s bracket and they had to beat UCLA to stay in the field. They did, sweeping the L.A. schools this week. But here’s the deal: ASU and Washington are heading for a showdown in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney. Loser is out, winner has a pulse.

Memphis: The Tigers had a great week, winning at UAB and crushing Tulsa at home. The Tigers get the sweep of the Blazers. If you’re looking for a second C-USA team to go along with league champ UTEP, it could be the Tigers. They may get a third shot at UAB in the semifinals.

Maryland: The Terps won at Virginia. Yes, UVA was playing without Sylven Landesberg, who has been suspended for the season due to academics, but the Terps still won a road game. That means Maryland gets a share of the ACC title. That’s an outstanding accomplishment for this squad.

Pitt: The Panthers lost to Indiana early in the year without Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown. Pitt could have lost to Providence at home, but when it mattered most the Panthers have come up huge. They beat Rutgers as expected Saturday but that meant Pitt got the No. 2 seed after beating West Virginia and Villanova at home in February. Jamie Dixon has done a phenomenal job with the Panthers. There is no reason Pitt should be No. 2 in the Big East with what it lost.

Losers from Saturday

Rhode Island: Had a shot to convince the selection committee that it was worthy, but lost at UMass a week after losing at St. Bonaventure. The Rams didn’t beat the top three teams in the A-10 (Xavier, Temple or Richmond). URI must win the conference tournament.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs started a must-win game down 17-0. Mississippi State has blown two chances to win a key home game – to Kentucky and now Tennessee. The Bulldogs didn’t do anything Saturday to convince the selection committee.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets may still get into the field. But they gave the selection committee a reason to pause after losing at home to Virginia Tech, sans Dorenzo Hudson, who was hurt. The Yellow Jackets finished seventh in the ACC and had only one conference road win.

Connecticut: The Huskies had an awful week, losing at Notre Dame and then losing at South Florida on Saturday. The Huskies now probably have to get to the Big East semifinals to crawl back into the conversation.

Dayton: The Flyers were teetering on the bubble before the Billikens bulldozed the Flyers late and stole a win. Dayton now probably has to win the A-10 tournament to get a bid.

Villanova: The ‘Cats may have played themselves out of a No. 2 seed by losing at home to West Virginia. Villanova also fell to the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament. ‘Nova can still make a magnificent run, but it made the journey more difficult.

Kansas State: The Wildcats lost their third home game in the Big 12 by falling to lower-level Iowa State (also lost to Kansas and Oklahoma State). The Wildcats blew a No. 2 seed with the home loss Saturday.

LaSalle: The Explorers were supposed to be a sleeper in the A-10. They won’t even make the tournament in Atlantic City. The Explorers will join winless Fordham in sitting out the conference tourney.

Oklahoma: The disaster season came to a conclusion with a sad effort against Texas A&M. The atmosphere was awful and the Sooners sunk.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels were handed the second-worst loss under Roy Williams. The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Duke and limp into the ACC tournament. It was just awful.

UAB: The Blazers had a huge week with games against UTEP and Memphis. They lost them both and pushed themselves onto the wrong side of the bubble.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane got hammered by Memphis and limp into hosting the conference tournament next week. Tulsa was the preseason favorite to win Conference USA.

A few nuggets:
  • Georgetown coach John Thompson III said late Saturday night that Austin Freeman felt fine after the game, his first since being diagnosed with diabetes. Freeman scored 24 points in the win over Cincinnati. Freeman missed the West Virginia game last Monday. Thompson told me that the Hoyas will continue to monitor Freeman’s blood-sugar level and don’t anticipate any problems going forward this season.
  • Notre Dame got Luke Harangody back for the win at Marquette. Harangody played 11 minutes off the bench. Irish coach Mike Brey told me late Saturday night that Harangody will continue to come off the bench this season. He said ‘Gody told him to use him however he wants to ensure the team wins. Brey said the Irish have become mentally tougher in the past few weeks. The Irish were 4-2 without Harangody, beating Pitt and Connecticut at home and winning at Georgetown.
  • KVAL-TV reported that Oregon coach Ernie Kent has been fired and that he was told on Feb. 22 by Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti. No one will be surprised if this does occur, but Kent told me in a text late Saturday night that this is the same story he has heard the past four years. Meanwhile, Bellottti sent this statement out late Saturday night after Oregon’s win over Washington State: "Ernie and I have talked, and we will continue to talk through the Pac-10 Tournament."

TMA: Wave goodbye

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
10:16
AM ET
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's hoops. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 3 Purdue 59, Minnesota 58: We'll get to the implications of Robbie Hummel's injury -- the extent of which is still unknown -- and the effect it will have on the Boilermakers' tournament hopes, later. For now, there is one main consequence of last night's one-point Purdue win in Minneapolis: the Gophers, as an at-large team, are effectively done. This is unfortunate for Minnesota fans, of course. It's also kind of a bummer for anyone convinced that Minnesota has played better than their record in 2009-10 -- they have. Roster issues have crippled Tubby Smith's lineup for much of the year and turned what could have been a Big Ten contender into what is now a near-lock for the NIT. Robbie Hummel will be the thing we remember from last night's thriller; the death of Minnesota's season, however, is its most immediate consequence.

Notre Dame 68, No. 16 Pittsburgh 53; No. 8 Villanova 74, South Florida 49: Last night was a night for fringe bubble teams to make their respective cases in simultaneous fashion, and perhaps no two teams were more similar than Notre Dame and South Florida. How'd that end up? Notre Dame blew out Pittsburgh on in South Bend without Luke Harangody. With Dominique Jones, the Bulls went to Philadelphia and were handed a 25-point beatdown. Perhaps most ignominious is South Florida's offensive output against Villanova's usually soft defense -- the Bulls scored .74 points per possession and committed a turnover on 35 percent of their trips; this is not a tournament-worthy output. Meanwhile, Notre Dame still has work to do to get back on the bubble, but a convincing win over Pittsburgh is an awfully good place to start.

No. 18 Temple 49, Dayton 41: Speaking of not scoring any points and thus dooming your ever-dwindling tournament hopes -- ladies and gentlemen, Dayton! The Flyers didn't just fail to score last night. They must have put some sort of plastic top over the rim, like the ones at big sporting goods stores that take all the fun out of shooting the basketball in aisle 42. Dayton scored 13 points in the first half -- 13! -- which might not seem so bad except that Temple was likewise afflicted with shooting woes and scored only 19 points in the first half. Dayton merely needed to play mediocre offense to take what would likely have been a blowout victory over conference a conference rival and a top 25 team. Instead, the Flyers' 28-point second half explosion wasn't enough, and Dayton is looking more and more like one of the few teams in the top half of the A-10 that's not going to be making the NCAA tournament. I mean, really. 13 points?

Everywhere else: A 20-point loss at Boston College is not the best thing in the world for a Virginia Tech team still trying to overcome that horrific nonconference schedule ... North Carolina's silver jerseys didn't add much, as the Tar Heels fell to Florida State in Chapel Hill last night ... Maryland came back from an early deficit to Clemson, exploding for 88 points in the win ... At least for a night, Texas figured things out, topping Oklahoma State by 10 in Austin ... Jimmer Fredette led with 26 as BYU beat up on tourney hopeful San Diego State ... LaceDarius Dunn keyed Baylor to a tough win over Texas A&M ... and a typically brilliant Evan Turner (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks; try to control your saliva, fantasy basketball players) helped Ohio State avoid an ugly collapse in Happy Valley.

Saddle Up: Life on the bubble

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
3:40
PM ET
Saddle Up is our daily preview of the hoops your TV wants you to watch. Here's Wednesday night's rundown.

Don't let anyone tell you the college basketball regular season doesn't matter. It does. Wednesday night doesn't boast a single match up between top 25 teams, but it does have at least four games featuring bubble (or barely bubble) teams with a chance to immediately boost their at-large chances. A quick gander:

No. 3 Purdue at Minnesota, 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: Don't look now, but Minnesota has a chance to make the NCAA tournament. I know, I know -- it's a distant chance. But it's a chance. After a 16-point win over Wisconsin on Feb. 18 and a subsequent blowout at Indiana, Tubby Smith's team is at 16-10 and 7-7 in the Big Ten with four games to play. A win tonight would be the Gophers' third in a row, and would give them a much-needed quality win for the résumé. Then, with a win over the No. 3 team in the country in their pocket, the Gophers would have three winnable games -- at Illinois, at Michigan, and at Iowa -- to play. Win out, and that gets Minnesota to 20 wins, an 11-7 conference mark, and serious at-large consideration. Easy, right?

OK, not so much: Purdue is playing its best basketball of the season right now, and the Boilermakers are in the thick of a Big Ten title race with Ohio State and Michigan State. There will be no letdowns. If Minnesota wants to sneak into the tournament, it will be earned.

South Florida at Villanova, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN360: South Florida, much like Minnesota, is nowhere to be found in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket. At 16-10, the Bulls share much the same burden as the Gophers, which is not how the animal kingdom works at all, but that's OK, because we're actually talking about college basketball. Anyway, stay focused: South Florida very much needs a win at Villanova -- not an impossible feat, given Nova's prodigious fouling habit and overall defensive vulnerability -- to stay in the bubble picture. At the very least, fire up your laptop to watch Dominique Jones take on the porous Wildcats. Bubble talk or no, that ought to be a treat.

San Diego State at BYU, 9 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports: San Diego State has had two prior chances to prove itself worthy of an at-large bid. The first was Jan. 23's 71-69 loss to BYU at home. The second was an 88-86 loss at New Mexico. Swap either one of those incredibly close and no doubt disappointing results, and SDSU isn't sitting there wallowing among the first four out. So here you go, Aztecs. Last chance. You get BYU and Jimmer Fredette in Provo with a tournament at-large on the line. You've proven you can play with the best teams in your league. Now you must, thanks to the selection committee's totally unfair and not cool at all focus on "wins," win.

No. 21 Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: You already know the story here: Right now, Notre Dame shares two things with the aforementioned South Florida Bulls: a 6-8 Big East record and a fringe chance of making the NCAA tournament. How to remedy that? The Bulls have the better of the opportunities tonight, but Notre Dame has the more winnable. The only problem? Luke Harangody is expected to sit out again for the Irish, a knee injury that's come at the worst possible time for the perennially bubble-bound team.

Everywhere else: Both of these teams are already in the tournament, so they get shoved all the way down here to the flotsam, but tonight's best game is no doubt Oklahoma State at Texas, where Texas will experience life without Dogus Balbay for the first time ... There's also Texas A&M at Baylor, a match up of two very capable and tourney-ready Big 12 teams ... Dayton didn't fit up top, but it too needs a bubble win over Temple to make a late case for tournament inclusion ... UTEP will try to continue its conference dominance at Southern Miss ... Virginia Tech can't afford to lose to Boston College ... Florida State at North Carolina will be on your television whether you like it or not ... Xavier will go to St. Louis in tonight's other big A-10 match up ... And Clemson will play at Maryland as the Terps try to keep edging toward that elusive bracketology respect.
Saddle Up is our daily look at the hoops your TV wants you to watch tonight. Here's Wednesday night's rundown. Special programming note: I'll be flying to Indianapolis tomorrow to participate in the NCAA's mock selection committee, so my blogging may be a little light these next couple of days. I'm sure you'll find a way to persevere.

No. 7 Duke at North Carolina, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Given the average college basketball fan's general fatigue with Duke-North Carolina -- everyone likes to complain about the attention these two teams always receive, and not without reason -- you might be struggling to find a reason to care about tonight's game. After all, if North Carolina (13-10, 2-6 in the ACC) is this bad, what's the point? Won't Duke just roll?

Maybe. Maybe not. Duke is certainly a more complete and more polished team than the Tar Heels. Veterans Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler and the rest of Duke's formidable lineup constitute a major advantage over UNC's talented but inexperienced bunch. But it's not that cut and dry. Duke has major flaws, and one of them is that it's just not very good on the road. Let's not forget the Devils' trouncing at Georgetown two weeks ago. Nor should we ignore Duke's loss at NC State two weeks before that. Duke played very few nonconference road games, and it's been punished for it since, going 2-4 on the road in six tries overall. For a team with national title aspirations, Coach K's bunch has a way of looking decidedly average away from Cameron Indoor.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is in a horrific tailspin. What better way to turn the season around after losing six of your last seven than by getting a win at home over your hated rival? What better way to build confidence in your young players than by them proving to themselves they can play with an elite group like Duke? Or maybe the inverse happens: Duke dominates UNC at home in front of a disgusted crowd, and Roy Williams has to figure out how to get his team to recover from its latest disaster -- and how to talk to the media without sounding depressed and apoplectic after the game. The outcome will be high drama, in its own marginal way.

This might not be vintage UNC-Duke. You won't confuse tonight's lineups with anything you'll see on ESPN Classic. But sleep on it at your own peril. For reasons different than the past, this rivalry might surprise you yet.

Connecticut at No. 3 Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of intrigue, or a lack thereof ... ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present UConn-Cuse 2010! These two teams have taken opposite trajectories to end up where they are today. Syracuse was seen as a marginal Top 25 team at the beginning of the season; the Orange has morphed into one of the few viable challengers to Kansas' putative crown. UConn was a top 15 team to begin the year, and has morphed into a Jim Calhoun-less shell of its former self -- dominant shot-blockers on the defensive end (where the Huskies are No. 1 in the country for the ninth year in a row) and barely average at almost everything else. Jim Calhoun is being mentioned for coach of the year awards. Jim Calhoun is still on a leave of absence with no return date imminent.

It's hard to spin those conditions into something positive, even for me, and I'm positive (to a fault, admittedly) about any and all college basketball on my television. It's college hoops! It's awesome in and of itself! We get to watch basketball! Hooray for basketball! But it's hard not to feel the same sinking feeling many will have about Duke-UNC, and that many had about Kansas-Texas -- this game should be so much better. It's up to UConn to prove us wrong. (In the Carrier Dome. Against a dominant 2-3 zone. With a team that can't shoot. Um, good luck, I guess?)

No. 19 New Mexico at No. 25 UNLV, 11 p.m. ET: It would be criminal to focus on the above games and not give what could be tonight's best, most important matchup some love. New Mexico at UNLV is tonight's only game featuring two top 25 teams, and that's not the only reason to watch. Whoever wins tonight takes over first place in the Mountain West, where three teams (these two, plus BYU) are vying for NCAA tournament bids. Plus it features a matchup between the conference's two best wing players, New Mexico's Darington Hobson and UNLV's Tre'Von Willis. New Mexico rarely turns the ball over; UNLV thrives on forcing steals. New Mexico loves to get to the free throw line; UNLV never allows its opponents that luxury. Stay up past your bedtime, East Coasters. You don't want to miss the game of the night.

Everywhere else: Ohio State will visit Bloomington, where the Hoosiers have been a tough out all year. But tough enough to keep Evan Turner Line Watch from showing up in the morning? Doubtful. ... Northern Iowa will go on the road to play a pesky Drake squad, which wants this win forever, man (sorry). ... Georgia Tech has lost its last two games on the road and will try to avoid a third at Miami. ... Florida goes to Columbia, where a banged-up Devan Downey should be in the lineup. ... Northwestern's game at Iowa is a must-win for the Wildcats' tournament chances. ... and a pair of important A-10 battles -- Charlotte at Dayton; Richmond at Rhode Island ... will go down.
  • 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.
  • Yes, Bill Self has Twitter, and yes, he's using it to poke fun at Brady Morningstar: "Just got back to lawrence. Guys feel pretty good abt themselves. Different guys stepping up. Fun nite.how abt bradys ft. Never seen that."
  • In case you needed another look at that Texas-themed design on the back of the Longhorns' new Nike HyperElite uniforms, here you go. There's a star and some rays of light and a building, I think. It's actually kind of Art Deco, and I have a major soft spot for all things Art Deco. (Including Bioshock 2, which, yay, comes out today.) All it needs is an old-school train rolling through an idealized city and we'd be right there.
  • 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 neé 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.
  • Here's the story: Purdue blog Hammer And Rails runs a semi-joking post saying Syracuse is overrated because of the Orange's exhibition loss to LeMoyne. After Syracuse fans raid his house and threaten his family -- just kidding; they actually wrote very reasonable, well-received responses in defense of their club-- BoilerT does something people who spend their time arguing on the Internet never do: apologizes. It's a small victory, but this is what John Lennon was talking about, guys.
  • 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.
  • Seth Davis says Georgetown learned from last year's letdown.
  • 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.
  • Dan Hanner smartly explains the impact of RPI and how it relates to Northwestern's tourney chances.
  • Pete Thamel writes a brief vignette on Rhode Island 17-year-old high school player Andre Drummond, who Thamel says might be U.S. basketball's next great big man prospect.
As always, follow me on Twitter to send me your links and tips. Happy Tuesday, people. Try to stay out of the snow.

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