Clearing up confusion around Calhoun, Pearl; more notes (cont.)
Tim Floyd is an excellent coach, but he put on a reprehensible display last week when he got ejected in a loss at ECU and needed to be escorted off the court by a police officer. Coaches' sideline behavior seems to get worse every season, and this was one of the worst examples I've seen in a while.
Here's another reason why this George Mason team is different than the one that made the Final Four in 2006. If you recall, the '06 squad was a bubble team that ended up as an 11 seed. This year's team has played itself way past the bubble and is looking at a 7 or 8 seed at worst. Not sayin' this team is going to the Final Four. Just sayin'.
If George Mason does make the Final Four, Ryan Pearson's beard is going to become a part of tournament lore. That thing is borderline rabbinical.
San Diego State point guard D.J. Gay recently went through a stretch where he committed exactly one turnover in seven games, but it's disconcerting that Gay had his two worst games of the season against BYU. After failing to score a field goal in the teams' first meeting in Provo, Gay had just two field goals and attempted zero free throws on Saturday. I'd rather see him commit a few more turnovers if it means he's attacking the rim more aggressively.
I'm a big fan of Ken Pomeroy's efficiency ratings, and I check his website often to look up all sorts of cool stats (even though I only understand about half of them). I also have no problem with members of the selection committee consulting those efficiency ratings to inform their decisions. But this notion that the efficiency ratings should replace the RPI as the primary organizational tool is totally ridiculous. The only thing that truly matters on a team's résumé is wins and losses, not a particular statistic, and that's all the RPI takes into account. I mean, look at Pomeroy's ratings: Washington is ranked 10th, Maryland is 16th, Utah State is 17th and Belmont is 21st. Is anyone really going to argue that those ratings serve the committee's purposes better than the RPI?
How intent is Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg on preventing his players from being distracted by all the injuries the team has suffered? He doesn't even like to have his injured players in the gym during practice. The team has lost four players to season-ending injuries and ailments, and during practice they are somewhere else doing rehab work and getting treatment. The Hokies have shown remarkable resilience in the face of all those injuries, and it obviously paid off Saturday night against Duke.
I love that UCLA coach Ben Howland is still bringing his freshman center, Josh Smith, off the bench. It's a great example of a coach figuring out what makes a kid comfortable and sticking with it. Smith had 17 points (and just three fouls) in 20 minutes during Saturday's thrashing of Arizona. I still don't think any of the Pac-10 teams are making the second weekend of the tournament, but UCLA is the most likely do to it.
I understand guards are going to have shooting slumps from time to time, but there is no excuse for continuing to jack up shots without getting to the foul line. Case in point: Villanova's Corey Fisher shot a combined 4-for-26 (including 0-for-16 from three) in home losses last week to Syracuse and St. John's. He also attempted two free throws against the Orange and none against the Red Storm. If Fisher is not going to drive himself, he can at least do a better job dumping the ball inside and letting the team's bigs do the dirty work. As I've said before, a good player knows how to play well when he's not playing well, and right now Fisher is not playing well.
I'm continually amazed how many box scores I read where only one non-starter played double-figure minutes. Stop saying this or that team has no depth. Most teams have no depth.
I have enormous respect for the way Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen has gotten his game together. Pullen had a hard time finding the basket early in the season, but in Big 12 games he is ranked first in the league in scoring (21.8), sixth in field-goal percentage (42.0), ninth in assists (3.43) and 10th in free-throw percentage (79.1). Besides warranting consideration as Big 12 player of the year, Pullen has shown great maturity and toughness. Bravo, son.
Teams that play poorly on the road usually don't advance far in the NCAA tournament. That's a huge concern for Missouri and Kentucky, who are both 1-6 on the road in their respective conferences.
If the end of the season is approaching, that must mean it's time to fire up all the Tubby Smith rumors. Smith will be mentioned with every prominent job opening, and while I have long believed he would leave Minnesota for the right offer, people need to realize that that right offer will have to be upwards of $3 million. That's a lotta Benjamins to be throwing around, especially if you have to throw around a lot more to buy out the coach you have.
Props also go to Brad Stevens for righting the ship at Butler. The Bulldogs went into their game at Cleveland State on February 5 having lost four of their last five, but they haven't lost since. If this team gets into the tournament, it will not only derive confidence from its strong finish but also from last year's success.
It's always interesting when teams that weren't on anyone's radar screen all of a sudden play themselves into the bubble picture during the last week of February. This year's examples are Michigan, which got a big win at Minnesota to improve to 8-9 in the Big Ten, and USC, which swept the Arizona schools at home last week to move up to fourth place in the Pac-10. Remember, USC beat Texas at home and Tennessee on the road -- if the Trojans keep winning they'll have a pretty strong case. And the Wolverines' regular season finale at home against Michigan State on Saturday is gonna be huuuuuge.
One more USC thought: I found it pretty interesting that Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill complained that the refs were protecting Arizona forward Derrick Williams, and then Williams only shot two free throws when the teams played last Thursday. I'm sure that's a total coincidence.
With all the attention showered on Jared Sullinger, I hope people still appreciate how valuable senior forward David Lighty is to the Buckeyes. Lighty, who was my All-Glue captain last season, put in one of the best defensive performances of the season when he pilfered six steals in Ohio State's win over Illinois. Bruce Weber couldn't say enough about the kid after the game. It didn't take a sleuth to discern that Lighty is exactly the kind of player Weber wishes he had right now.
One under-the-radar reason why Louisville is such a pleasant surprise is the unexpected contribution the team is getting from freshman Gorgui Dieng. A 6-foot-10 center from Senegal, Dieng is not like many African kids who have great ability and potential but not much feel for the game. He actually looks like a basketball player out there. Dieng missed five games because of a bad concussion, but he returned on February 16. Two days later he turned in his best performance of the season when he had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the win over UConn. He added six rebounds in just 16 minutes off the bench in Sunday's overtime win over Pitt.
Incidentally, I freely admit that I was rooting for Pitt to make a desperation heave at the end of overtime following the technical foul that was called on the Louisville male cheerleader, just because it would have been so epic. You know you were doing the same.
Did you see Michigan State senior forward Durrell Summers try a fancy reverse dunk when he had a breakaway opportunity in the second half at Minnesota? You could see how ticked off Tom Izzo was considering what a disappointing season Summers has had. Just put the ball in the basket, man.
Very few people outside of geeks like us are hip to Boston College junior guard Reggie Jackson, but the dude has had an All-ACC season. He is averaging 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 49.5 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three-point range and 80.5 percent from the foul line. Those percentages are especially impressive given all the attention Jackson gets from opposing defenses because he plays on a mediocre team.
I don't believe the specter of an NBA lockout will have any impact on the decisions of college players to enter the draft. Remember, the collective bargaining agreement doesn't expire until July 1, which would be after the draft. Players will make their decisions based on their projected draft position. That's all.
I love it when leagues allow the team that finished first during the regular season to host the postseason tournament. Really gives the regular season a lot more meaning.
Anybody else out there thinking Xavier is ready to extend its streak of three straight Sweet Sixteens? Tu Holloway deserves consideration for first team All-America -- he's that good -- and sophomore forward Jeff Robinson scored a career-high 22 points last week in a win over La Salle. In other words, this very good team is still getting better.
Finally, a few of you sent e-mails in response to my column about Utah State superfan Wild Bill Sproat asking how you can help him with his $200,000 debt from medical bills. If you'd like to help or want to read more about him, you can go to wildbillsproat.com.