The Daily Word: Feb. 7-Feb. 11

Originally Published: February 14, 2005
By Andy Katz | Special to ESPN Insider
More Daily Words: Jan. 31-Feb. 4

Last month will be critical

Friday, February 11
The NCAA Tournament selection committee met for two days this week in Indianapolis and came away with a consensus:

It's way too early to mock the bracket because the field is too balanced and there is too much changing on a daily basis.

Just when the committee might have slotted North Carolina as a No. 1 seed, the Tar Heels lost at Duke. Louisville's seeding took a hit when Memphis clocked the Cardinals at home.

The committee couldn't even put a number on how many teams are still in contention for No. 1 seeds. The word out of the committee was the next four weeks could impact the members' decisions more than any last month of the season has in recent memory.

If there were at least a few constants out of the meeting, they were:

  • Illinois would have to fall flat to lose a top spot. Expect the Illini in Indianapolis in the first two rounds as a potential top seed in the Chicago region (but this is obvious to everyone that is even looking at a bracket).

  • The RPI is just now starting to take shape. Looking at the power ratings before February was pointless because of how much change took place.

  • Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina have to be in three separate regions, barring a collapse by any one of the three. That means that likely only two of the three would be in Charlotte for the first and second round.

  • Other potential "home" situations could arise with Boston College in Worcester, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City. Arizona can't play in Tucson but Arizona State could, although the Sun Devils probably wouldn't be a high enough seed if they make the field (that's our take). Kentucky, Louisville and Cincinnati could all be in Indianapolis if they are seeded in the right way. Louisville and Cincinnati would be in different regions, but like two of the three ACC teams, they could be in the same first- and second-round site that feeds into one of the four regional final sites: Chicago, Austin, Albuquerque and Syracuse.

  • Teams that have suffered injuries or have illnesses will be evaluated from this point forward. Texas (15-7, 4-5 Big 12) is now a team without P.J. Tucker and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Longhorns are 1-4 since Tucker was ruled ineligible, 2-4 without Aldridge (hip). Georgia Tech will be looked at with B.J. Elder and without him in the lineup, though a number of committee members feel as though the team shouldn't be given special dispensation if a player is hurt since that is "a part of the game and someone has to play." The Yellow Jackets are 10-2 with Elder, 4-5 without him.

  • Bracket Buster Saturday on Feb. 19 will have some value this season. The committee will be looking closely at three specific games: UTEP at Pacific; Vermont at Nevada; Wichita State at Miami (Ohio). All six of these schools are possible at-large candidates and need another quality win, especially Vermont. Southern Illinois, which is at Kent State, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which plays at Hawaii, are also candidates for at-large berths, but not their opponents. Western Michigan, which is at Northern Iowa, has played its way out of an at-large berth with five losses in the last seven games.

  • The main purpose of the meeting was for the three new committee members  SEC commissioner Mike Slive, George Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor and Utah athletic director Chris Hill  to understand the bracket and seeding process. The other seven members are: chair Bob Bowlsby (Iowa athletic director); WAC commissioner Karl Benson; Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage; Princeton athletic director Gary Walters; Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone; Southern athletic director Floyd Kerr; and Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers.


    Williams pleads with fans to behave
    Maryland coach Gary Williams will address the Comcast Center fans Saturday morning before ESPN's College GameDay show in the hope that they will refrain from any vulgar chants.

    The Maryland fans were widely criticized for a vulgar chant that was heard on-air during last season's Duke game. The Duke game usually brings out the most intense behavior from the Maryland fans.

    Williams wrote a letter to the student newspaper, the Diamondback, in which he asked the students to behave.

    Here's what Williams wrote:
    We want to have the largest student crowd of the year for GameDay. ESPN has already been to Kansas, Connecticut and Syracuse for the show. It is an honor for our school and basketball program to be one of the schools involved.

    The shows will all be televised nationwide on ESPN, as will the Duke game. As you know, we received a tremendous amount of adverse publicity because of an obscene chant picked up on live TV last year and heard nationally. As usual, a few people distorted other people's opinions of our student body and our university from the one obscene chant.

    We do not need anything like that to help us win games. What we need is for our students to go crazy in Comcast in a creative manner.

    We would like to thank you in advance for your efforts on our team's behalf. See you at the game.

    Gary Williams
    Head coach
    Men's basketball

    Marvin Williams has options

    Thursday, February 10
    One Williams might be supplanting another in North Carolina's quest to win a national title.

    And the Williams with the decision power could have an interesting call to make here soon.

    Senior Jawad Williams is heading south, at least production-wise in the last three games. Freshman Marvin Williams is on a tear, and it is going to be tough to keep him off the court.

    Jawad scored six points against NC State, he scored only one at Florida State and was a combined 2-of-7 from the field in the two games.

    Meanwhile, Marvin scored 20 points against NC State and 13 in the win at Florida State. Marvin was a combined 8-of-16 from the field. He also had a total of 13 rebounds, compared with Jawad's seven.

    Now compare that to Wednesday night.

    Marvin Williams was a difference maker against Duke. Jawad Williams wasn't.

    Marvin scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He grabbed five boards, had one block (the one on DeMarcus Nelson that set up the final 18 seconds for the Tar Heels), one turnover and one assist in 25 minutes.

    Jawad was 1-of-6 from the field for two points, grabbed three boards and had two assists, two turnovers and a block in 21 minutes in the 71-70 loss to Duke.

    "When people ask me if Marvin is improved, I say he's the same player but he's just more comfortable," North Carolina junior Sean May said. "He has the freedom to do what he wants. He's that talented and that good. He can use his skill to play inside and outside and he brings a lot of passion to the game. He has been a spark for us."

    Forget about Marvin Williams coming off the bench if he comes back next season for his sophomore year. There is already a buzz within the NBA that if he chose to declare, he would go high in the lottery -- possibly as high as the top three. Marvin Williams has shown no public indication what he intends to do in the spring, but clearly he will have options.

    More important, the Tar Heels will likely need him on the court even more down the stretch.

    "I'm getting more and more comfortable," Marvin Williams said. "I'm getting the same minutes I had early in the season, but I'm fitting in with the team."


    BC going to chill for a few days
    Boston College doesn't play again until hosting Rutgers on Feb. 16. That's why the Eagles staff gave the team off until Friday after losing at Notre Dame Tuesday night. The hope is that the time off will allow reserve guard Steve Hailey time to get back to practice after sitting out with a high ankle sprain.

    The Eagles don't expect a swoon in the polls after suffering their first loss and don't feel like any pressure was relieved with the first loss of the season 21 games into the campaign.

    "The undefeated thing hadn't gotten to that point yet," said Boston College associate head coach Bill Coen.

    BC head coach Al Skinner, one of the best at maintaining his composure regardless of the situation, kept the Eagles calm during the heightened attention.

    "Al always put it in perspective," Coen said. "If we had run the table and went undefeated, great, but the chances are so difficult to do that. You shouldn't be disappointed when [a loss] happens. The goal is the Big East championship, and after 10 games we have established ourselves as one of the better teams in the league and we've got the lead."

    Illinois has a shot to go undefeated in a watered-down Big Ten, much as Saint Joseph's did last season in the Atlantic 10. Stanford was undefeated in the Pac-10 a year ago down to the final weekend when the Cardinal lost at Washington.

    What does it take for a team to go undefeated?

    "In order to do it, you have to have an older group," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said on the ACC conference call Monday. "If you're depending on freshmen and sophomores, there is a good chance you're going to have lulls. What those two teams (Illinois and BC) have done so far is unbelievable. You can't have any interruptions like injuries. It also depends on what league you're in, and both teams are in outstanding leagues."


    Brey assuming committee will look at his schedule
    As our esteemed Midwest columnist Jeff Shelman wrote Wednesday, Notre Dame's schedule should benefit the Irish down the stretch. The Irish are the only team in the Big East that plays all but one of the potential NCAA teams twice.

    Notre Dame plays Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgetown and Villanova in home-and-homes. Boston College is the only NCAA team the Irish play once. And the Irish still have a home game against UCLA later this month.

    The selection committee will look at the Irish schedule closely, but what they will do is put the power ratings of all the teams on their schedule, regardless of conference affiliation, on a grid.

    When the committee sees the Irish schedule littered with NCAA teams, assuming they continue to win their share, then they should get a bid. That's why a 9-7 or 8-8 Irish, based on their schedule, would have a better chance of getting a bid than a Villanova team with a similar record in the Big East.


    Dizziness not uncommon

    Wednesday, February 9
    Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's dizziness episode after jumping up during Saturday's first half against Georgia Tech apparently isn't uncommon for coaches. But Krzyzewski's fall to the floor was a bit unusual.

    A number of coaches say they have felt the same way Krzyzewski did Saturday, but have regained their balance before falling to the court.

    "It happens to me all the time in practice," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

    Said Wyoming coach Steve McClain: "It happens to me in practice when I crouch down and then jump up. But I haven't fallen down like that. But that sort of thing happens a lot."

    Coaches say the adrenaline from jumping up quickly can give them a head rush that disrupts their equilibrium for a second. Krzyzewski continued to coach during the game without incident. He downplayed the incident during a Monday ACC teleconference.

    While the public nature of the fall is unique to these situations, the feeling of needing to sit or lie down for a moment isn't, according to a number of coaches.

    No love lost between McKay and McClain
    Before the New Mexico-Wyoming game in Laramie on Monday night, New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay asked the officials to measure the baskets.

    Wyoming coach Steve McClain said McKay, a long-standing rival over the years when McKay was at Colorado State prior to his stint at Oregon State and New Mexico, wanted to see if the baskets were 10 feet high.

    "We thought the goals looked like they were slanted up," McKay said. "But it had nothing to do with the game."

    Wyoming won 81-71, but the two coaches had to be separated at one point and were assessed technical fouls. Both protest that the other was at fault for the verbal barrage. Regardless, neither coach is a fan of the other.

    The two teams split the season series, and a potential MWC tournament rematch certainly would create a bit of a stir.

    The Lobos are hoping to creep back up onto the NCAA Tournament bubble if they can win the next three home games  against Air Force, BYU and Utah. If that occurs, the Lobos would be 20-6, 20-3 in games in which Danny Granger played. Granger was out with a knee injury when the Lobos lost three. He had the knee drained again Tuesday but isn't expected to miss another game.

    It gets worse at Providence
    The Friars lost guard Dwight Brewington for the season when he suffered ligament damage to his left ankle in practice Monday. The Friars didn't take him on the trip to West Virginia for Wednesday night's game and were hoping to keep the incident quiet up until tip time.

    Regardless, the loss of Brewington is a blow to the Friars' postseason hopes. Providence was still a threat to cause some damage despite being winless in the Big East heading into Wednesday's game. And the Friars certainly were talented enough to get in the NIT and win the postseason event. But Brewington's absence puts even more of a scoring load on Ryan Gomes and Donnie McGrath.

    Changes in ASU's lineup
    Arizona State will start Kevin Krueger over Steve Moore at guard in the hopes of finding some consistency as the Sun Devils head to UCLA on Thursday for a critical bubble game.

    The Sun Devils' staff isn't thrilled with the defensive effort or help from Ike Diogu on the perimeter. They're hoping that a change will ignite the team a bit as ASU heads toward an important road swing to the L.A. schools. The Sun Devils' inconsistency was evident last weekend when they beat Stanford for the second time this season, but then lost to Cal at home two days later.

    Greenberg still bitter at officials, Duke
    Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg still doesn't think the security at Cameron Indoor Stadium is tight enough after he thought a fan was going to poke him in the eye when he was ejected from a game last week.

    "My head was down, I was walking off the court and I saw someone reaching out real fast," Greenberg said. "I thought they were swinging and then pulled back. The security there is a joke."

    Duke officials had looked into the matter and deemed that they had enough security.

    Meanwhile, Greenberg has been given three technicals this season and all by the same official  Steve Gordon. Greenberg was given a technical against NC State and two in the Duke game. No word on whether he'll see the same official the rest of the season.

    Connecticut finally feeling good?
    Connecticut assistant George Blaney said the Huskies were ready to turn the corner and were close to making the jump to an elite team.

    That was right before the Pittsburgh game on Jan. 22. The Huskies blew a big lead and lost.

    "We felt since the BC game that we were close," Connecticut assistant Tom Moore said. "We took a few punches in January (BC, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh) and it took our guys a few games to realize how difficult it is to play at this level. Sometimes our guys would think we should be in St. Louis because we won it last year."

    Sophomore Charlie Villanueva could have been one of those players who felt that way. The enigmatic Villanueva could be the difference for this squad when he wants to be on the court.

    "When we get the good, tough Charlie, we'll be pretty good," Moore said. "When Charlie gets the ball and catches it and powers up and is physical, it allows Josh (Boone) to be the secondary offensive guy. That's where he seems to be most comfortable."

    Villanueva went through a five-game stretch  Georgetown, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh  where he averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds and 3.8 blocks. The Huskies went 3-2 in that stretch.

    Then, Villanueva went on a four-game stretch  West Virginia, Notre Dame, Villanova and St. John's  averaging 7 points, five rebounds and 0.8 blocks a game. The Huskies went 3-1 in those four games.

    Villanueva then went out and looked like the best player on the court against Syracuse with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

    The Huskies, who could be without Rashad Anderson for Sunday's game against North Carolina because of an abscess on his right leg, feel as though they have nothing to lose against the Tar Heels.

    "It will be emotionally charged, so we don't have to worry about our guys being up," Moore said.


    Vermont not waiting to move forward

    Tuesday, February 8
    Vermont is having another magical season in the America East, but the administration isn't waiting for the Catamounts to make the NCAAs before moving on Tom Brennan's replacement.

    In an odd move, the Catamounts are starting to bring in candidates to replace retiring Brennan.

    Brennan had been pushing assistant Jesse Agel, but sources say that the administration might be cooling on the idea of promoting Agel. Agel has been interviewed for the job.

    Maryland assistant and former Catholic University head coach Mike Lonergan is interviewing Sunday in Burlington, according to multiple sources.

    At least one source in the administration told ESPN.com that the athletic department wants to limit the distraction for the team, yet it is bringing in candidates during the season.

    Marquette assistant Jeff Strohm, Wisconsin assistant Gary Close and former Ohio State assistant and William & Mary head coach Rick Boyages are all expected to be in the mix, as well. So, too, could Boston College assistant Bill Coen. Lonergan, Strohm, Close and Boyages have or will be interviewed by the end of the month. Strohm is a strong candidate for this position.

    The Catamounts want to name a successor before the coaching carousel turns into high gear in March.

    Replacing Brennan will be next to impossible with his infectious personality and charm. But more important, finding players as high caliber as Vermont's own Taylor Coppenrath and Rhode Island native T.J. Sorrentine will be extremely difficult.

    The Catamounts (17-3, 12-0 in the America East) will play at Nevada in Bracket Buster on ESPN2.

    Selection committee meeting
    The NCAA Tournament selection committee is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Indianapolis to do a mock bracket and refresh everyone with the process.

    Three of the 10 members are new (Utah AD Chris Hill, George Mason AD Tom O'Connor and SEC commissioner Mike Slive), meaning they have to learn how to seed teams and deal with all of the intricacies of putting together a bracket.

    At least one committee member, WAC commissioner Karl Benson, wants to get out and see a potential bubble team while he's in the area. He's heading to the Miami (Ohio)-Ball State game in Muncie, Ind., Wednesday night. The RedHawks (14-5, 9-2 in the MAC) could make a strong case for an at-large berth if they don't win the conference tournament. Miami won at Xavier and beat Purdue for its signature nonconference wins. But according to coaches in the league, the RedHawks have the look of an NCAA team.

    No change from BC
    Boston College coach Al Skinner could be winless or undefeated and he remains the same, according to his assistants.

    Skinner hasn't been unnerved by the attention of being one of the two undefeated teams in the country. His assistants said he's not watching any more tape than usual, not demanding any more of their time than in the past and certainly not showing any more anxiety than he normally would during the season.

    He's as even as Skinner always is at BC.

    Meanwhile, sophomore Jared Dudley is nursing a sprained ankle that has been bothering him since he injured it against West Virginia Feb. 1.

    .500 for an NCAA bid?
    Miami and Virginia Tech aren't about to start outwardly politicking, but it's going on behind the scenes.

    Both schools feel as if they would deserve an NCAA bid if they can get to .500 in the ACC.

    Virginia Tech is 5-4 going into Tuesday night's game at Maryland; Miami is 5-5. Neither team will have an easy time staying at .500.

    The Hokies still have road games at Virginia, N.C. State and Clemson with home games against Duke, Miami and Maryland before the ACC tournament.

    Miami goes to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Duke, with home games against Wake Forest and Georgia Tech also still remaining.

    This reporter's biggest misstep this season was when it was assumed that Virginia Tech was the only school after its nonconference showing that had played its way out of the NCAA Tournament chase. The beauty of the ACC is that there are so many chances to earn back a bid -- even if a team loses to VMI in a nonconference game.

    No complaints about Hawaii trip
    Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl isn't fretting the Bracket Buster game at Hawaii on Feb. 19. The Panthers don't play until the following Saturday at Cleveland State.

    "What's the difference between seven hours on a bus to Wright State or eight hours flying to Hawaii?" Pearl said. "This will be a tough matchup, and that's exactly what we need."

    The game will be on ESPN2. Pearl said the Panthers should be considered as a bubble team if they don't win the Horizon League tournament. UWM is 17-5, 10-2 in the league.

    "Nobody has us as a bubble team, nowhere on the Web, and I don't understand it," Pearl said.

    Lunardi? Pearl would like to speak with you.

    Movement out West?
    New San Jose State athletic director Tom Bowen has let those in the WAC know that he wants to make changes, according to a high-level source. So far he hasn't moved on men's coach Phil Johnson. If he does, then expect Johnson to land with good friend Tim Floyd at USC. Johnson was an assistant to Floyd with the Chicago Bulls.


    Irish keep chins up

    Monday, February 7

    Notre Dame gave away the Syracuse game Saturday night after blowing an 11-point lead in the final six minutes. But the Irish weren't down. How could they be, with Boston College on deck Tuesday night?

    Irish coach Mike Brey didn't have to give a rah-rah speech about the undefeated Eagles coming into the Joyce Center (Tuesday, 7 ET, ESPN2). The players knew right away what was ahead.

    That's why there was no pouting by the Irish, save a request to leave Chris Thomas alone. Thomas, who entered the game shooting 28 percent in six previous national TV games, shot an abysmal 2-of-12 overall (1-of-6 from 3) against the Orange and had nearly as many turnovers (four) as assists (five) and steals (three).

    Thomas blew past reporters with a bit of a scowl. But the rest of the crew was focused on the next task  beating BC.


    To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

    Andy Katz | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com