Freeman, Hoyas ready to adjust

March, 4, 2010
Georgetown coach John Thompson III reiterated late Thursday night that Austin Freeman will play again this season.

Freeman has been diagnosed with diabetes. Whether it's Type 1 or Type 2 is still to be determined.

"He will absolutely play again this season," Thompson said. "He's learning about his body, how his blood-sugar levels fluctuate. He may play Saturday [against Cincinnati]. It will be a doctor's decision at this point."

Thompson said that if Freeman, who is Georgetown's leading scorer, doesn't play against the Bearcats, he likely will return in the Big East tournament next week.

Thompson also said Freeman practiced well Thursday and that he fully expects Freeman's scoring numbers to be back to normal.

"It's a change of lifestyle," Thompson said. "He's had a tough week. We've had a rough week healthwise, and he was the most pressing."

Freeman was complaining of a stomach virus before being diagnosed. He had blood work done, and his sugar levels were shown to be "incredibly high," Thompson said.

"We now know how to manage it," Thompson said. "We will have an endocrinologist from Georgetown with our team for the rest of the season. He was at the last few practices monitoring Austin and will be with us the rest of the season, watching Austin's levels continuously."

Freeman, who is averaging 17 points a game, scored 29 points in a win at Louisville on Feb. 23 but clearly wasn't himself in a loss at Notre Dame four days later. He played 23 minutes and scored just five points on 2-of-5 shooting. Freeman had been on a tear, scoring 20 in a win over Duke in late January, 33 in a win over UConn earlier that month and 25 in a home win against Villanova in early February.

"He looks like himself again," Thompson said. "It's good to see, because he had been sluggish for a while."

Thompson said part of the reason for the Hoyas' inconsistency -- they've lost four of their past five games -- has been a flu bug that affected much of the team.

"We've been healthy now for a few days," Thompson said. "It's the first time in a few weeks."

Thompson said the decision on when Freeman will play will be up to the doctor.

"It's just a question of him learning his body," Thompson said.

Thompson said there is no question the Hoyas, who will have to lean even more on Greg Monroe, Jason Clark and Chris Wright, can return to being a more consistent team. That means being a possible conference tournament title contender in the Big East.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we will," Thompson said.

• What would Florida's at-large profile look like without a win over Michigan State?

Not good.

That's why the decision by the Gazelle Group, organizers of the Legends Classic in New Jersey, to have Michigan State and Florida play in a semifinal has turned out to be one of the most important factors concerning the Gators' postseason hopes. The decision seemed odd at the time. The other prearranged semifinal matchup was UMass and Rutgers. When the bracket was announced, it looked bizarre that the two best teams would play before the final.

But the organizers wanted to ensure the Spartans and Gators played. Florida won the game, and that result stands out as the Gators' best nonconference win.

There were doubts by Florida and Michigan State about playing in a semifinal, but ultimately they agreed.

"We knew guaranteeing the Florida versus Michigan State matchup would generate the most publicity for the event -- driving ticket sales and television appeal," said Rick Giles, owner of the Princeton-based Gazelle Group. "We were also worried that we might not get it, having experienced numerous semifinal upsets over the years and not getting the championship match that everyone anticipated."

The other reason Giles went to MSU's Tom Izzo and Florida's Billy Donovan was to give the game its biggest pop on a Friday night during Thanksgiving weekend, opposite the NIT final. The feeling was that if the game was played on Saturday, it would get lost amid college football games.

"We paired them in the semifinal so we could knowingly promote it," Giles said. "Our semifinal ticket sales were 50 percent higher than our championship."

Florida won its annual game against Florida State, lost to Richmond in Sunrise, Fla., hosted Xavier and lost, lost to Syracuse in the SEC-Big East Invitational in Tampa, Fla., won at NC State and had a bad nonconference loss at home to South Alabama. That's why playing Michigan State in the semifinals will turn out to be the best decision the Gators made in the offseason.

Florida assistant coach Larry Shyatt said playing the game ended up being a blessing for the Gators.

"We wanted to play this game, and Tommy [Izzo] was kind enough to do it," Shyatt said.

The Gators are glad he was. Imagine if Florida went to New Jersey and played UMass in the semifinals and then, if MSU lost, played Rutgers in the final? Ensuring a Michigan State game -- and getting the win -- could ultimately be the reason the Gators get a bid.

• Conference USA is on the offensive after UAB lost at home to Memphis on Wednesday night.

The loss, a league official says, shouldn't affect C-USA receiving multiple bids.

But there seems to be some angst. For four straight years, Conference USA has had one bid. Memphis, when it was led by current Kentucky coach John Calipari, dominated the conference. The perception was the league couldn't deliver on getting an at-large bid. The image was of a one-bid league, no different than a host of other conferences that receive only one bid.

If C-USA doesn't receive multiple bids this season, when the bubble appears incredibly soft, it will have a hard time building credibility. The opportunity is clearly there for UAB and Memphis to join UTEP in the Big Dance.

"Our teams have played themselves into position to be considered as at-large teams," C-USA assistant commissioner Chris Woolard said. "Since the realignment, this is the best the top of the league has been in the last five years."

As the regular season concludes, five of the 12 teams have double-figure wins in league play. Tulsa has been a bit of a disappointment, finishing with a 10-5 mark after being a preseason favorite. The Golden Hurricane will host the tournament next week. Marshall has been the surprise team with a 10-5 league record. UAB has won games it wasn't supposed to, beating Cincinnati and Butler at home. UTEP and Memphis entered as preseason favorites and have lived up to that hype. Memphis has a shot to knock off Tulsa on Saturday to enhance its résumé. Obviously, reaching the C-USA final in Tulsa, Okla., would do wonders to get the Tigers back to the Big Dance, which would be quite an accomplishment for first-year coach Josh Pastner in his quest to live up to the massive shadow left by Calipari.

But the ongoing debate with conferences outside of the power six, especially in C-USA, the MWC and A-10, is whether losses to top teams are a detriment.

"We don't think [losing to Memphis] should impact UAB's chances," Woolard said. "UAB has done everything. Both UTEP and UAB have done everything needed to get considered for an at-large bid. Look at the numbers. Look at the records. Look at the strength of schedule. We keep hearing about the eye test. It's hard to argue that they're not two of the best teams in the country."

We shall see. The problem for C-USA is that a conference is judged by how many teams it gets into the field and then how far they can advance.

C-USA is recognized much more as a basketball conference than a football conference. Earning multiple bids into the field is paramount to its national reputation. If the league fails to do that this season, it will be difficult to give it the benefit of the doubt going forward. There's an opportunity for the league to differentiate itself. Losing that chance will be costly.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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