Sunday, January 31, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Here's how I decided to vote this week:

1. North Carolina
2. Oklahoma
3. Maryland
4. Xavier
5. Iowa
6. Kansas
7. Providence
8. Villanova
9. SMU
10. Texas A&M
11. Virginia
12. Purdue
13. Michigan State
14. Baylor
15. Oregon
16. Kentucky
17. Arizona
18. West Virginia
19. Saint Mary's
20. Indiana
21. Dayton
22. Louisville
23. Iowa State
24. Miami
25. Wichita State

Boo Willingham, religion, snowball fights, Black Dadda and everything in between: Zach Brown's journey lands in Connecticut

Wasn't able to make the trip to Orlando on Sunday. It should be the last UConn road trip I miss this season. Great win, though. Seems like the Huskies got back to doing what they need to do ... and it certainly helps to have Amida Brimah back, as well.

Anyway, did a feature on Zach Brown after talking to his guardian, Boo Willingham, his Putnam coach and others, then seeing him in his Putnam debut Saturday night. It's a pretty fascinating story, and he's a real nice kid that's easy to root for. Hope you enjoy.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Zach Brown looks good in Putnam Science debut

Went to check out Zach Brown in his debut with Putnam Science Academy. There's a lot to like here, but certainly room to improve, as well.

Brown didn't start (he did just enroll at the school less than two weeks ago) but came off the bench 4 minutes, 43 seconds into the game and made his presence felt. He wound up with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting, with four rebounds and three blocks. He also had his shot blocked twice in a row by a smaller player early on, when some rust was evident.

There's no doubt, he's skilled -- more so than other recent UConn big men (Hasheem Thabeet, Amida Brimah, maybe Steve Enoch). He's a little ungainly, maybe needs to get a little stronger, but has some impressive low-post moves, keeps the ball high and has a nice lefty jump hook that's got to be hard to guard -- especially from a 7-footer.

Brown helped PSA crush a Lee Academy team that has some talent and size but is a middle-of-the-pack team in the league.

Meanwhile, Mamadou Diarra struggled a bit, with 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting from both the field and the foul line. He did hit a 3-pointer and grabbed 10 boards to go with four blocks, some of them rafter-shaking.

And Hamidou Diallo? Wow, he's special. Finished with 20 points, five boards and five assists, as well as an incredible dunk through the lane, in traffic. Incredible talent, though a bit yappy with the refs and the opposing team.

Unfortunately, I missed his dunk on video, but did get this stickback late in the game:

Former UConn player Boo Willingham, who was Brown's AAU coach and mentor down in Miami, was at the game (he still lives in Hartford) and had some nice things to say about the big man. We'll have that and more in a feature story on Monday.

For now, here's what Brown and Putnam coach Tom Espinosa had to say about his debut:


"I was nervous at first, but I got it together. An elite player should never be nervous to play any competition."

"It's a lot better. It's competitive. I can't just go out and get easy dunks, I have to work hard for it. Down in Miami, I'm not trying to talk bad, but it was a little easy. Up here, it's really competitive. I was really working and stepping my game up."

(on Putnam Science Academy)

"At first, I was like, 'Oh my God, why am I here? They sent me away just for this?' But now, I like it. My teammates love me, I love my teammates, I love my coach. I just love it here. It just feels right."

(on what parts of his game are his strengths, and what he needs to work on)

"Playing defense, blocking shots rebounding, my left-hand jump hook, layups. But I have to work on my right hand. I've been working on it a little bit so I can get that up-and-under ready."

"I wanted to get out of Miami, because I had a lot of distractions with suspensions and crazy stuff. Miami is like a party city, so I wasn't focused mentally, so I had to come up here if I wanted to be successful. So, that's what I did."

(on re-classifying)

"It depends on the schoolwork. If I can get it down pat and get these grades up, it'll happen. If not, I have to stay one more year. So, we'll have to see."

Would he prefer to move up to the Class of 2016?



"We have a pretty good relationship with UConn, we have Mamadou here. The bottom line is, UConn's staff wanted to get Zach out of Miami and get him into a prep school. It wasn't just us, it was other prep schools. It just worked out with us."

"I think UConn's pretty happy he's here. We're 30 minutes away from UConn."

"He's extremely quick for a 7-footer. He moves extremely well. Defensively, he's got to work on. He closes, no space, and he fouls constantly. He blocked maybe one or two shots, but he's gotta be a better shot-blocker. Defensively, he's kind of way behind, I believe. But offensively, he's very quick, he keeps the ball high, he's got great up-and-under moves. The last two days of practice, he's dominated."

(could he be ready to play at UConn next season)

"This fall, at UConn? I think he could, but I think he would benefit a lot more coming back. He's got a lot of work to do. In Miami, he put up big numbers, but he wasn't playing against the highest competition that he's gonna play here, at a prep school in New England."

"He would love to go next year. He's a true junior, he's right on track. His plan is to maybe take some summer classes, graduate early and get to UConn in the fall. But, it's a very slim chance. I don't think it's gonna happen. I think he'll be back here next year."

Because Brown transferred to PSA past deadline, he won't be able to play in the national prep tournament.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Susan Herbst, Mike Aresco on Warde Manuel's departure from UConn

Here's what UConn president Susan Herbst sent out this morning re: Warde Manuel's departure to Michigan:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The only downside to hiring fine leaders for key positions at UConn is that their experience and skills are sought after by other institutions across the nation, who also want to hire strong leaders.

When Warde Manuel, our Athletic Director since 2012, told me he was interested in the AD position at the University of Michigan, I was not at all surprised; Michigan is his alma mater where he spent years of his life as a student-athlete, playing football for Bo Schembechler, participating in track and field, and earning his degrees, later becoming assistant and associate AD there.

I was also not surprised when he was recently named to the position; Warde is a terrific AD and any university would be lucky to have him.

While we are sorry to lose him at UConn, we also understand how much the position at Michigan means to him and we wish him all the best.

Warde is expected to begin at Michigan in March. Rachel Rubin, who began her career at UConn as an Associate Athletic Director and is currently Chief of Staff in my office, will serve as interim AD.

We will begin a national search for a permanent successor immediately. I have appointed a committee to lead this search. They will serve in a critically important advisory capacity as we move through the process and I ultimately appoint our next AD. The members of the committee are:

Ø Andrew Bessette (’75) UConn Board of Trustees

Ø Scott Brown, UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology, NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative

Ø Andrea Dennis-LaVigne (’03), UConn Board of Trustees (Committee Chair)

Ø Doug Elliot (’82), President of The Hartford

Ø Thomas Ritter (Law ’77) UConn Board of Trustees

Ø Rachel Rubin (’77), Chief of Staff to the President & Executive Secretary to the Board of Trustees

Ø Nancy Stevens, Head Coach, UConn Field Hockey

I look forward to a thorough and efficient search process.

Please join me in thanking Warde for his outstanding service to UConn and in wishing him all the best.


Susan Herbst

And here's what AAC commissioner Mike Aresco had to say:

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Warde Manuel on being named the new Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan and to thank and recognize him for the many and significant contributions he has made to the University of Connecticut and to the American Athletic Conference.

Warde has assumed important Conference leadership positions, serving with distinction as our NCAA Council representative and as Chair of our Athletic Directors Finance Committee. I have valued his counsel and friendship, as have his colleagues at our institutions and in the conference office. Warde was instrumental in helping to establish the strong foundation of the American Athletic Conference and has compiled a distinguished record at the University of Connecticut in support of the academic and athletic needs and accomplishments of UConn's student-athletes, coaches and administrators.

Please join me in thanking Warde and wishing him great success as he returns to his alma mater.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Zach Brown transfers to Putnam Science Academy

Zach Brown is back in Connecticut.

The 7-foot Husky commit from Miami was scheduled to have landed at Bradley Airport on Tuesday night and begin his career at Putnam Science Academy the next morning -- as a student, anyway. PSA has a game on Wednesday, but Brown won't play in that one. He'll go through individual drills with the team on Wednesday, practice on Thursday and Friday and may play this weekend for Tom Espinosa's crew.

“His legal guardian and mentor has been trying to send him to a prep school in the past year or so," Espinosa said. "They’ve been trying to get Zach into a prep school. We have a relationship with UConn, and that’s kinda how it all started.”
Brown visited PSA on Monday, Jan. 18, in the midst of his visit to UConn, did interviews with the school's headmaster and guidance counselor and filled out the necessary paperwork to transfer to the school. After taking in UConn's win over Tulane on Jan. 19 and committing to the Huskies the following morning, Espinosa figured the big center would be transferring to PSA.

"UConn wanted him out of Miami and into more structured setting," Espinosa said. "I give the kid a lot of credit. He’s really mature. Bottom line is, at the end of the day, it’s his decision. It’s tough for the kid to say, 'I’m gonna pack up north and head to New England.' He was nervous, but he decided to do it. He’s determined, and bottom line is, it’s a good situation for him to get where he wants to go.”

Espinosa should have Brown as a player for 1 1/2 seasons. Brown wanted to try to graduate early and head to UConn in the fall of 2016, but that isn't feasible, and he'll stay Class of 2017.

He'll be the teammate of another Husky commit, power forward Mamadou Diarra, this season, as well as coveted UConn target Hamidou Diallo. Brown and Diallo should be teammates again next season, too, as Espinosa noted it's "99.9 percent" sure that Diallo won't reclassify to '16 and will remain a '17 grad.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

I defy anyone to put together a Top 25 that makes sense after this week's carnage, in which seven of the top eight teams from last week's rankings lost once. Pretty sure I didn't.

Here's how I see it: North Carolina vaults to No. 1 after beating Wake Forest and Virginia Tech while Oklahoma only drops a spot after losing at Iowa State and beating Baylor. You could make a case for the Sooners staying No. 1, and I'm sure they'll get some votes. I was tempted.

After that, it's a real mishmash, but I had to do one thing: vault Providence back into the top 10. And, really, after the Friars beat Villanova, on the road, in overtime on Sunday, how can you not have them ranked above the Wildcats? Both teams are 17-3, with PC owning the one head-to-head showdown. On the road.

Elsewhere, we've ousted Duke, Butler, South Carolina and Arkansas-Little Rock and welcomed Oregon, St. Mary's, Charlotte and Dayton. UConn was among a group of teams, along with Michigan, Wichita State and UAB, that we strongly considered. But we don't have any five-loss teams on this week's ballot. And, well, while the Huskies took care of business at home against Tulane and Georgetown, that wasn't quite enough to put them back in the rankings.

Beat Cincinnati on Thursday, hold serve at UCF next Sunday, and I can pretty much guarantee the Huskies will be back on my ballot.

1. North Carolina
2. Oklahoma
3. Iowa
4. Kansas
5. Maryland
6. Texas A&M
7. Providence
8. Villanova
9. SMU
10. Xavier
11. Virginia
12. Arizona
13. Purdue
14. West Virginia
15. Kentucky
16. Michigan State
17. Louisville
18. Baylor
19. Indiana
20. Iowa State
21. Miami
22. Oregon
23. St. Mary's
24. Chattanooga
25. Dayton

Friday, January 22, 2016

Kevin Ollie, John Thompson III, Omar Calhoun, Sterling Gibbs, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera talk UConn-Georgetown

You know all about the great history of UConn-Georgetown. Funny how Kevin Ollie and John Thompson III have different takes on how much they like the idea of playing the game on Saturday. Some of the main characters talked about it over the past couple of days:






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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Zach Brown commits to UConn

Stepping off a plane from Miami to be greeted by windy, 20-degree temperatures in Connecticut on Tuesday wasn’t enough to hinder Zach Brown’s fondness for all things UConn.

“I love UConn and I love Connecticut,” Brown, a 7-foot, 260-pound center, said while sporting a UConn knit hat and sitting behind the bench at the Huskies’ game against Tulane on Tuesday night at the XL Center.

He proved that love even more on Wednesday morning by committing to the Huskies. He’s the first Class of 2017 player to pledge to Kevin Ollie.

“It’s a brotherhood, and they’re also on a mission that you’re good at academics, not just basketball,” Brown said of UConn.

It was pretty obvious that Brown was going to commit to UConn on Tuesday night, when he had to think for a moment about the other programs he was considering:

Obviously, it was UConn all the way. Brown has made a prior unofficial visit to Storrs back in September.

Brown, who is a national top 25 recruit for the Class of 2017, continues Ollie’s recent trend of landing top prospects. UConn’s Class of 2016 roundup is considered one of the best in the nation by various recruiting outlets, headed by McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert, a point guard out of Georgia. Joining Gilbert in the ‘16 class are Vance Jackson, a 6-8 small forward out of California’s Prolific Prep; Mamadou Diarra, a 6-8 power forward from Putnam Science Academy; and Juwan Durham, a 6-11 center out of Tampa, Florida.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Zach Brown very close to decision -- and UConn looks good

Zach Brown said he is close to making his college decision. Real close.

"It's coming," he said on Tuesday night.

And all signs point to that decision being UConn. Brown said he loved his visit to UConn (his second), and that the program is "a brotherhood, and they're also on a mission that you're good at academics, not just basketball."

When asked what other schools he is considering, he had to think for a minute, before noting Miami, NC State and Georgia.

Brown is a 7-foot, 260-pound Class of 2017 center out of Miami Beach Senior High. He sat behind the Huskies' bench on Tuesday night, sporting a UConn knit hat.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Oklahoma's the obvious No. 1, and I assume most other voters will agree come tomorrow afternoon. A lot of other changes, as numerous losses dotted much of last week's Top 25. Makes figuring out a ballot a lot more difficult -- and a lot more fun.

As for No. 25, always like to reserve a space for one of the little guys. And Little Rock has won at San Diego State and at Tulsa (which, as UConn learned last week, isn't easy). It's only loss has been to a pretty good Texas Tech team, also on the road. So there.

1. Oklahoma
2. Kansas
3. North Carolina
4. Villanova
5. Maryland
6. Xavier
7. Iowa
8. SMU
9. Texas A&M
10. West Virginia
11. Arizona
12. Michigan State
13. Purdue
14. Virginia
15. Kentucky
16. Providence
17. Baylor
18. Louisville
19. Indiana
20. Duke
21. Butler
22. Iowa State
23. Miami
24. South Carolina
25. Arkansas-Little Rock

Cameron Reddish, Mohammed Bamba talk UConn

Couldn't make the trip to Houston today, but terrific win for UConn. Any conference road win is good, and to do it against a good Houston team (that's beat the Huskies at Hofheinz Pavilion the past two seasons) gives it extra value.

Instead, made the trip up 91 to Springfield College for the Spalding Hoophall Classic, where a few UConn targets (and one commit) played on Sunday.

There were two on Westtown School from Pennsylvania -- Cameron Reddish, a 6-foot-7 Class of 2018 guard, and Mohammed Bamba, a 7-foot Class of 2017 center.

Kevin Ollie offered Reddish recently, and Bamba holds an offer from the Huskies as well. Reddish struggled a bit on Sunday, with some of the biggest coaching names in college basketball (Roy Williams, John Calipari, etc.) on-hand. He scored eight points on just 1-for-7 shooting and nabbed seven boards in Westtown's 53-35 win over Potters House Christian.

Bamba was better, with 13 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocks. All signs seem to point to him going to Duke or Kentucky, but he did have some nice words for Kevin Ollie.

Here's what the two had to say:


(On who's been recruiting him the most, and what he thinks about UConn)

(on his strengths as a player)

"I feel like I'm a really good shooter, which I didn't quite show today. I can dribble very well, I have a very high IQ, and I rebound the ball really well. I have to stay mentally strong."

(on how he'll handle the recruiting process the next couple of years)

"I'm just gonna take it slow, let my parents and coaches take care of that."

Reddish's father, Robert, played at VCU.


(on whether UConn is on his radar)

"Definitely. Coach Ollie was in the gym a couple of weeks back when he offered Cam. He stopped by to stay hello. He's a great guy."

"Coach Ollie has a different approach. It seems like the approach of he's a father of a recruit. He knows how to talk to players very well. He's a people person."

(on what questions he's asking coaches who are recruiting him)

"Who else are they recruiting from my class, to see if there's anyone I'd enjoy playing with. I'm also looking for a veteran point guard, so I'm looking at the point guards from the Class of 2016, like Frank (Jackson, a Duke commit)."

It sounds like Bamba is Duke-bound, though of course, it's still very early.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Kevin Ollie: "I need to do a better job of coaching this group"

Too many 3-pointers. An unimaginative offense. Continued poor play from Daniel Hamilton. The end of Rodney Purvis's double-figures streak. We could go on and on ...

Just a horrible loss for UConn on Thursday in Tulsa. Asked Kevin Ollie about the Huskies' over-reliance on 3-pointers (they took 29), and here was his response:

Ollie also called out Hamilton and Purvis -- as well as himself, to a degree.

All this on a night where recruiting target D.J. Harvey, who UConn had planned to go see on Monday at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, revealed a list of 15 schools that didn't include the Huskies.


UConn will be playing in Houston on Sunday when several targets are playing in Springfield, including Westown School's Mohamed Bamba, who plays Sunday at 4 p.m., as well as commit Mamadou Diarra and target Hamidou Diallo of Putnam Science Academy, which plays Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Karl Hobbs did stay back to check out Diarra and Diallo on Wednesday night. Diallo had 14 points, three assists and three rebounds and Diarra added nine points and 10 boards to lead PSA to a 71-67 victory over Cushing Academy. Cushing is led by Makai Ashton-Langford, another prime UConn target. The Huskies are expected to watch a player on Friday in Houston, as well.

UConn continues to keep an eye on its other commits, as well, recently seeing Alterique Gilbert play in Georgia. The Huskies are encouraged with Juwan Durham's progress, as well, and feel he'll be ready to go by next November -- even if he has to start off slowly.

And it certainly appears Vance Jackson is excited about becoming a Husky this summer.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Mamadou Diarra, Hamidou Diallo, Chuba Ohams among many at Hoophall Classic this weekend

The 2016 Spalding Hoophall Classic will be held at Springfield College's Blake Arena from Thursday-Monday, Jan. 14-18. Several UConn targets will be playing, as well as commit Mamdou Diarra, who leads Putnam Science Academy into action on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

UConn's coaching staff will be in Tulsa and Houston during the tournament, so the only day they'd be able to get to Springfield will be Monday. Diarra and his PSA teammates, Hamidou Diallo and Chuba Ohams, were at the Huskies' win over Memphis on Saturday night at Gampel.

Diarra noted that he feels he can step in next year and help UConn with rebounding and defense next season, and said he's been working on his defensive footwork, among other things, this season. He also said that being nominated as a McDonald's All-American was "an honor."

Here's a little of what Diallo and Ohams had to say:


"Right now I'm just wide open, enjoying the process, seeing what schools I'm going to fit in with the best. Just enjoying the process as much as possible, knowing that I have to make a big decision coming up soon."

(on whether he'll re-classify from Class of 2017 to 2016)

"Right now, I'm not totally sure. I'm leaning toward 2017, but I'm just worried about finishing this year, academically, and having a great season. Then, I'll work on that stuff in the off-season."

He's being recruited by too many programs to count, but specifically mentioned Kentucky, Alabama, Maryland and Syracuse. As for UConn:

"It's a program I'm definitely interested in. I'm interested in a lot of programs recruiting me. They're just one of those that's on my list."


The 6-foot-8, Class of 2016 small forward said he's still wide open in his recruiting process as well. He hopes to make some visits towards the end of the winter season.

"Right now, I'm not really letting the process overwhelm me."

Ohams mentioned Providence, DePaul, Rutgers and Boston College as prime suitors. As for UConn:

"UConn's a good school. It's really close to my school, so they come a lot to watch us. I love the style of play."

Ohams was born and raised in the Bronx and has known both Diallo and Diarra since they were young.

Here's the Hoophall schedule:

14-JanThursdayBoys4:00 PMPope Francis High School, MASabis Charter School, MA
14-JanThursdayBoys5:30 PMLongmeadow High School, MAEast Longmeadow High School, MA
14-JanThursdayBoys7:00 PMChicopee High School, MAAmherst High School, MA
14-JanThursdayBoys8:30 PMPutnam High School, MASpringfield Central High School, MA

DateDayGenderTimeTeam 1Team 2
16-JanSaturdayBoys11:00 AMCatholic Memorial High School, MASt. Joseph High School, IL
16-JanSaturdayBoys12:30 PMSt. Francis High School, GALone Peak High School, UT
16-JanSaturdayBoys2:00 PMRoman Catholic High School, PAMontverde Academy, FL
16-JanSaturdayBoys4:00 PMPaul VI High School, VASt. Joseph High School, NJ
16-JanSaturdayBoys6:00 PMAthlete Institute, CANFindlay College Prep, NV
16-JanSaturdayBoys7:45 PMSacred Heart High School, CTFoothills Christian, CA
16-JanSaturdayBoys9:30 PMWeaver High School, CTSt. Raymond High School, NY

DateDayGenderTimeTeam 1Team 2
17-JanSundayBoys9:00 AMSuffield Academy, CTWilliston - Northampton School, MA
17-JanSundayBoys10:45 AMMacDuffie School, MAWilbraham and Monson, MA
17-JanSundayBoys12:30 PMVermont Academy, VTBrewster Academy, NH
17-JanSundayBoys2:15 PMSt. Benedict's Prep, NJFindlay College Prep, NV
17-JanSundayBoys4:00 PMWesttown School, PAPotters House Christian, FL
17-JanSundayBoys5:45 PMThe Patrick School, NJLaLumiere School, IN
17-JanSundayBoys7:30 PMCommonwealth Academy, MAPutnam Science Academy, CT
17-JanSundayBoys9:15 PMMontverde Prep, FLOrangeville Prep, CAN

DateDayGenderTimeTeam 1Team 2
18-JanMondayBoys9:00 AMSt. Anthony High School, NJBentonville High School, AR
18-JanMondayBoys11:00 AMDeMatha Catholic High School, MDChaminade College Prep, MO
18-JanMondayBoys1:00 PMOak Hill Academy, VAMater Dei High School, CA
18-JanMondayBoys3:00 PMMontverde Academy, FLSierra Canyon High School, CA
18-JanMondayBoys5:00 PMHigh Point Christian, NCChino Hills High School, CA
18-JanMondayBoys7:00 PMPutnam High School, MAAbraham Lincoln High School, NY

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UConn gets no votes in AP poll

Unless there was a mistake made -- and I've inquired about it -- UConn didn't receive a single vote in this week's AP Top 25 poll.

1. Kansas (63)           14-1  1,621   1
2. Oklahoma (1)          13-1  1,551   2
3. Maryland              15-1  1,472   3
4. Michigan St. (1)      16-1  1,446   5
5. North Carolina        15-2  1,371   6
6. Villanova             14-2  1,246  11
7. Xavier                14-1  1,200  10
8. Miami                 13-1  1,139  12
9. Duke                  14-2  1,100  14
10. SMU                   15-0  1,040  15
11. West Virginia         14-1    867  17
12. Providence            14-2    862   8
13. Virginia              12-3    818   4
14. Kentucky              12-3    698   9
15. Texas A&M             13-2    668  21
16. Iowa                  12-3    656  19
17. Iowa St.              12-3    555  13
18. Arizona               13-3    537   7
19. South Carolina        15-0    527  22
20. Pittsburgh            14-1    334  24
21. Louisville            13-3    330  16
22. Baylor                12-3    325   _
23. Butler                12-4    302  18
24. Purdue                14-3    145  20
25. Gonzaga               13-3    101   _
Others receiving votes: Southern Cal 79, Indiana 59, UCLA 21, Texas Tech 10, Utah 10, Saint Mary's (Cal) 8, Wichita St. 7, Oregon 6, Valparaiso 6, Hawaii 4, Akron 1, Dayton 1, Oregon St. 1, St. Bonaventure 1.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Three new teams on my AP Top 25 ballot this week, which means three teams out. One of them is UConn. Despite a nice home win over Memphis on Saturday night, it wasn't quite enough to overcome a home loss to Temple four nights earlier. I say "wasn't quite" because I strongly considered the Huskies at No. 25, but ultimately, Indiana's resume is simply better.

1. Kansas
2. Maryland
3. Oklahoma
4. North Carolina
5. Michigan State
6. Villanova
7. Duke
8. Xavier
9. SMU
10. Kentucky
11. Providence
12. Virginia
13. Iowa
14. Miami
15. Texas A&M
16. Arizona
17. Purdue
18. Baylor
19. Iowa State
20. West Virginia
21. South Carolina
22. Gonzaga
23. Butler
24. Pittsburgh
25. Indiana

Friday, January 8, 2016

Huskies hark back to Temple once more before looking ahead to Memphis

UConn looks to get back to its winning ways on Saturday against a Memphis team that appears better than maybe we originally thought this season.

But first, Kevin Ollie and Daniel Hamilton talked a bit about the failings of Tuesday night's loss to Temple.

Here's Hamilton explaining his verbal sparring with Rodney Purvis at one point during the game:

Meanwhile, Ollie talked a little more about the loss to Temple on Friday afternoon, as well.

And here's Ollie talking about Memphis:

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

UConn returns to my AP Top 25 ballot after a pair of road wins over Texas and Tulane. Is Texas that good without Cam Ridley? Probably not. Was squandering a 19-point lead early in the second half a positive thing for the Huskies. Not at all. But UConn won two road games, improved to 10-3, and now boast impressive wins over improving Michigan and Ohio State teams, to go with the road win at Texas.

Along with the Huskies, I've added Iowa, West Virginia and Dayton and booted out Utah, Baylor, Texas and Monmouth. I'll probably vote for Louisville and Pitt when they finally beat somebody.

1. Kansas
2. Maryland
3. Oklahoma
4. Virginia
5. North Carolina
6. Michigan State
7. Kentucky
8. Providence
9. Arizona
10. Duke
11. Villanova
12. Xavier
13. SMU
14. Iowa
15. Purdue
16. Iowa State
17. Miami
18. Texas A&M
19. Butler
20. South Carolina
21. West Virginia
22. Gonzaga
23. UConn
24. Dayton
25. George Washington


Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Sterling performance in a nearly embarrassing collapse by UConn

Sterling Gibbs came up big on Saturday night, as UConn squandered a 19-point second-half lead but wound up pulling off a 75-67 win at Tulane.

Here's some of what Kevin Ollie had to say afterwards, as well.

Here's my column off the game, highlighting Gibbs' big night, and here are some game notes.

Also, it was nice to see DeAndre Daniels on Saturday night. He's in town visiting his grandmother and stepmom for the holidays, and was inside the locker room afterwards. Daniels played in Australia last year but broke his foot about four months ago and has been rehabbing mostly in Toronto with the Raptors, who still hold his rights after selecting him in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft.

He said he probably needs about another month or two of rehabbing before he’s ready to play again. He’s not under contract with the Raptors, who will relinquish his rights after this season.

Daniels enjoyed his time in Australia last year.

“It was good,” he said. “I loved it. To be far away and be out there by myself was tough at first, but it was good to grow up and play a new position (small forward). It was a good league, and I enjoyed my time out there.”

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Really, Rick Pitino? Really?

I suppose I appreciate the relative candor of Rick Pitino at a press conference with local media yesterday. He denies he flipped the bird to Kentucky fans, explains why he blew off the postgame presser after the loss to UK and then goes into a rambling discourse about the allegations that a woman supplied strippers and prostitutes to Louisville recruits from 2010-14.

Unfortunately for Pitino, so much of what he says can be deconstructed. It's strange. I thought Pitino was rather accountable after the Karen Sypher controversy erupted a few years ago, showing up to Big East Media Day and answering questions.

This year, he blew off ACC Media Day, and subsequently the postgame press conference after the loss to Kentucky, because it was an "emotional" game for him.

So much here to go over. Let's go:


OK, let's start here, with how the question was actually phrased.

"Coach, I apologize in advance, I was told to ask this but -- very important question -- did you flip off UK fans?"

You're apologizing before you ask the question? You're blaming your editors for asking the question? You're sarcastically portraying as a "very important question"?

Imagine if this guy had to interview, say, Peyton Manning. "Peyton, I'm sorry I even have to ask this, but ... well, my editors want me to ask you if you ever took HGH. Y'know what, don't even answer it. We all know it's not true. Stupid question to begin with. Sorry."

I'll cut the guy some slack if he worked for the college paper. Otherwise, totally unprofessional.

We move on:

PITINO: I did not. It wasn’t fans, per se, I was in the tunnel, and it’s really not important.

So you didn't flip them off? Or you didn't flip off fans, just, I don't know ... security guards? Cheerleaders? And because you were in the tunnel, it made it OK -- even though you did not do it? I'm confused.

What bothers me about you (turning to Rick Bozich) is you say, I know everybody’s body fat, you must know about this (events in the dorm). That pisses me off, beyond your wildest dreams.

I don't know, Rick. It's kind of a fair point, if you ask me. You're telling me not the slightest whisper of anything even a little bit untoward ever made it to your office. I find that VERY hard to believe.

PITINO: Because that took place in Billy Minardi Hall, and we didn’t get one recruit.

I don't know what this means. Were the strippers not good enough to lure any of the potential recruits to Louisville? I'm honestly confused.

PITINO: The NCAA is upset at me because if I say, I can’t find one person, not one, that knew anything about it, the NCAA says you’re intimidating the witnesses. That wasn’t my intent to say that. So that’s why I didn’t go to media day. They’re telling me I’m intimidating. Well, soon as this happened, I went ballistic on everybody. Wait a second. You didn’t know one, single thing? The security person. You never saw a thing in four years and you worked for four years around the clock? No. Well the answer’s obvious isn’t it, Rick, isn’t the answer obvious? The reason that nobody saw anything, they knew that all hell would break loose if I found out that one, single thing was going on. That would be the obvious thing to me.

Again, I'm not saying Pitino knew the full extent of what allegedly was going on. But I can't believe he didn't know at least something.

PITINO: So I don’t want to put myself out on a press conference like that, not for you, not for you, you’ve already asked your questions. But for other people who are going ask that question that you just had to ask — you wouldn’t ask it, but you’re working for people.

Lots of journalists actually would ask the question, and not blame their bosses for asking it.

PITINO: None of it makes sense to me. So I believe, and I have to thank Eric publicly because he’s the only guy that said, I’m going to show you that this, I know one thing, that guy’s the cheapest guy I’ve ever been around in my life, I know those numbers, and Eric did it, said follow the money trail, and showed it wasn’t that money. He proved it. He proved the inaccuracies in the book.

This sounds an awful lot like, "See, one part of the woman's story doesn't quite add up, so it all must be nonsense."

PITINO: When we went up there, and I’ll leave it with this, and 2016 is hopefully going to be a better year, when Kenny Klein and John Carns went up there (to Indianapolis) to this book company to find out what’s going on, what can we investigate, what can we do? They made a statement that was interesting. I don’t know if it was a racist statement, I don’t know. Correct me if I’m wrong on this. The statement was made, ‘You mean to tell me this person kept a four-year log of everything that was going on? Wrote a journal about this?’ (Answer) No, no, we wrote it. She can’t complete two sentences the right way to write a book.

Some dangerous territory he's skating here, but the bottom line: Yes, people get help writing books. Jose Canseco "wrote" a best-seller. The list goes on and on. It happens.

PITINO: And then 11 people are suing her saying it’s not the truth. Is it 11? Whatever the number is out there. So I don’t know what’s going on with all this, but I know that everybody gave a forum to this person who may have committed criminal acts. But nobody went after her.

I could be wrong, but haven't several recruits corroborated the woman's story to the NCAA that these things actually did occur?

PITINO: Eric's point is let's follow the money. Is that what you said, Eric? Let's follow the money? Let's understand this: Back in the old days when a coach was making $17,000, $19,000, he may have turned his eyes a little bit to certain things that were going on. When someone's making the incomes that we're making today as well as the assistant coaches, you are not risking one single thing. Not one, single thing you're not risking. With that amount of income that's going on.

Actually, there's so much money and income at risk that coaches might be far more prone to bury bad things and try to make sure they never go public. Or at least turn a blind eye to it. Like Joe Paterno (more on him soon). Unfortunately, many fantastically-wealthy, insanely-driven head coaches aren't going to go to the NCAA or the media and offer up the fact that their recruits are getting lap dances and sex from hookers.

PITINO: I think this university has as much integrity — I said it on of my blogs. The man I've met ... the one man in my life ... I'll say two and some people question John Wooden with Sam Gilbert. But the one person I would never question who I have ever encountered in my life as a young basketball coach is Joe Paterno

He would be the one guy that I would hold above reproach at everything. What did they do? They took a statue away. They probably killed him.

Yeah, Joe Paterno is about the last name you want to bring up right now.

PITINO: But you know sometimes he didn't know about it. And it was scurrilous what that assistant coach was doing.

Jerry Sandusky having sex with young boys for years was just "scurrilous"? Depraved, sick and one of the worst crimes one can commit, yes. But the best word he can come up with is "scurrilous?"

PITINO: And I believe in the way we do things, and I believe we have been wronged. We have been wronged. Now, did one person do some scurrilous things? I believe so. From what I know now, I believe so.

There's that word again. This time, it's in fair context. But if paying for strippers is "scurrilous," raping young boys is a bit more severe.

Growing up in Rhode Island, that 1987 PC Final Four team is one of the most enjoyable teams I ever watched. It was a masterful job by Pitino -- perhaps his best. He remains, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest basketball mind in the sport.

But I've lost some respect for him over the past few months. And this rambling, sometimes Calhoun-like (not in the blatant lies, just in the incomplete thoughts and subject-jumping) discourse doesn't help him, in my opinion.

And yes, that's my opinion. And I don't apologize in advance, and no one told me to write this.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

UConn's Amida Brimah talks about his injury for the first time

Amida Brimah spoke for the first time since breaking the middle finger on his right hand about 10 days ago. He has yet to start any basketball activities -- or, really, any type of conditioning activities. He'll see a doctor next week to determine his next step.

Meanwhile, UConn kicks off its AAC schedule on Saturday night at Tulane. The Huskies have yet to truly dominate in league play since the conference began three seasons ago, so maybe this is the year they do that.

In fact, the Huskies have yet to win an AAC season-opener. Perhaps that changes on Saturday night, as well.