Catching up with Mike Slive

January, 30, 2009

Quick hitters for Friday:

• SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who is the current chair of the NCAA tournament selection committee, said he has been to countless games and is planning on an ACC swing next weekend. But his favorite thing to do this season is what he's doing on Saturday: park himself in front of his big-screen television in his office in Birmingham, Ala., and watch a slate of games.

"If I go to one game, I feel like I miss too many on a Saturday,'' Slive said.

Slive, as is the case with all committee members, can't discuss specific teams. But he knows that the topic of sub-.500 conference records will come up, likely from the Big East. That's why it's important to remember that each team is treated individually -- regardless of conference affiliation -- and the team's results will be sliced apart to see "who they played, how they played and when they played.''

"There are no conference limits and no rule that a team has to have a winning record in the league," Slive said.

That's a point to file away if Notre Dame or Georgetown can't get above .500 in the Big East. Both teams are 3-5 heading into this weekend.

Slive said the strength of schedule of the Big East teams will be paramount in the decision. That means which teams a school played twice will factor into a selection.

"One of the things that is clear: We're trying to figure out who the best 34 at-large teams are,'' Slive said. "There are no arbitrary constraints. There are no disqualification factors.''

• The Pac-10 is a muddled mess -- below UCLA. The standings show the Bruins and Washington tied at 6-2, but the Bruins look like the favorite because of how they bounce back from losses and the high level of confidence they play with in every game.

UCLA also has another shot at a quality nonconference win over Notre Dame next weekend, even if the Irish are sliding a bit (remember that they are losing games, but for the most part it's to NCAA teams in the Big East, save St. John's).

Washington played a wild game against Arizona on Thursday night, losing 106-97. UW's defense was controlled chaos and kept the Huskies within a few possessions. Meanwhile, Arizona State's surprising 10-point loss to Washington State at home means the Huskies and Sun Devils will be playing a showdown game to keep pace with UCLA on Saturday. Both teams gave the Bruins a loss.

If ASU loses, though, the Sun Devils will be two games behind UCLA in the loss column. The Huskies would drop one below with a trip to Pauley next month still pending. That would also mean Washington was swept on the Arizona swing with another road trip to the Bay Area on deck next week.

Cal once looked like the team to beat in the Pac-10 after defeating Washington in triple-overtime in Seattle. But the Bears lost at home to Oregon State and now convincingly to UCLA at Pauley.

Keep an eye on USC (14-6, 5-3) and Washington State (12-8, 4-4) as possible NCAA teams if both can keep winning. Washington State had a golden opportunity to beat UCLA, but lost on a final possession at home last week.

• Quick: Name the only two teams with 20 victories through Thursday? Oklahoma (20-1) and, yes, you guessed it, Utah State (20-1), which beat second-place WAC rival Nevada by 11 Thursday night.

• The Syracuse Post-Standard reported Friday that Orange coach Jim Boeheim expects injured starters Arinze Onuaku (right knee) and Andy Rautins (right ankle) to play next Wednesday against West Virginia. That would be a must-win since the Orange have lost three straight games.

• Cornell (12-6, 2-0 in Ivy League) is expected to get senior guard Adam Gore back from a knee injury for Friday night's game against Brown. Gore's shooting will help the Ivy leaders, especially with a showdown coming against co-leader Yale (7-9, 2-0) Saturday night at home.

• Pitt coach Jamie Dixon admitted late Thursday night that there is a difference in being ranked No. 1. He said the Panthers have been ranked No. 2 before, but once they got to No. 1, it simply felt different, "like you're not supposed to lose.'' Pitt did -- by Louisville -- within the first week of getting the top ranking. That loss is nothing to be ashamed of considering the Cardinals are a potential Big East title and Detroit contender. Connecticut could find out how tough it is to be No. 1 if it earns the tag with a win over Providence on Saturday. UConn goes to Louisville for a Big Monday showdown.

• Conference USA officials said Tulane and Rice will address internally the actions of coaches Dave Dickerson and Ben Braun, respectively, after they had to be separated following Tulane's last-possession victory at Rice on Wednesday. C-USA spokesperson Courtney Morrison-Archer said the video of the two coaches exchanging words and needing to be separated during the handshake line was reviewed by both athletic directors. Game officials also ejected the Rice Owl mascot during the game. That issue, according to Morrison-Archer, will be addressed by Rice as well.

• Terrific performances were turned in Thursday night by Washington State freshman Klay Thompson (28 points, including eight 3s) in a win at Arizona State and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney, who scored a career-high 37 points in a losing effort to Clemson.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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