NCAA Tourney Tidbits
- The building is freezing! The St. Pete Times Forum is also a pro hockey facility and the basketball floor sits on top of ice. It’s a heck of a note when you come to Florida colder than the place you left. Actually, if you add the football team’s trip to the Champs Sports Bowl when temperatures in Orlando were at record lows, I’m 2 for 2 in the frigid department.
Outside it’s not too bad - about 75 with partly cloudy skies - from what I’m told.
- The St. Pete Times Forum is another first-class hockey facility that has been transformed into a basketball arena – there doesn’t appear to be a bad seat in the house. Finding a restroom is another matter. It was like that at Buffalo’s arena last year as well.
People who follow hockey must not have to use the bathroom that much.
- The work area seems to be pretty spacious with plenty of room for everyone to move around. In fact, the only logjam is near the buffet line - which is typical for the working press anyway. There always seems to be lot of pocket stuffing going on over there.
I also see a lot of brown belts being matched up with black shoes – but no white belts or paid pants, yet.
- A schedule change was made to accommodate Clemson, which played UAB last night in Dayton before traveling to Tampa where the Tigers will face West Virginia in Thursday’s first game at 12:15.
Originally Clemson was scheduled to practice this morning and then have its press conference right afterward. Now the Tigers will have the last public workout at 6:40 to 7:20 p.m., following Michigan State.
Other teams at this site include Princeton, UC Santa Barbara, Kentucky, Florida and UCLA.
- Clemson is in a situation very similar to what West Virginia went through two years ago when travel problems kept the Mountaineers from arriving in Minneapolis until the wee hours of the morning a day before they were to play Dayton.
If you recall, West Virginia played poorly in a first round loss to the Flyers.
However, West Virginia coaches fully expect Clemson to rally around their difficult circumstances tomorrow.
- The word I’m getting is the West Virginia coaches were very impressed with what they saw of Clemson last night against UAB.
- Two of the best shot blockers in the country will go up against each other Thursday afternoon. Clemson’s Jerai Grant is 23rd this week in blocks per game while West Virginia’s John Flowers is 25th.
The two teams also play outstanding defense, Clemson is 20th in the nation in scoring defense allowing 60.9 points per game while West Virginia is sixth in the country in 3-point field goal defense permitting opponents to shoot just 29.1% from behind the arc.
One onlooker pointed out that points could be tough to come by on Thursday. The first one to 60 might win this one.
- There has been a lot of discussion about this year’s NCAA tournament lacking great teams and players. ESPN commentator Jay Bilas, who is hands down the best in the business, very eloquently blamed this on one-and-done players moving on to the NBA. According to Bilas, there are some 60 players in the NBA right now who could still be playing college basketball.
John Calipari, who has already had a number of one-and-done players during his short stint at Kentucky, was asked if he thought the lack of great teams makes this a wide-open tournament.
“Great, that word is overused,” he said. “But what I would tell you is there’s four or five teams that have separated from the rest of us. And maybe there’s 10 that are all pretty close. And then there’s another 30 or 40. At the end of the day this is going to be a crazy tournament.”
Calipari says he is not a big fan of players leaving early for the NBA, and he believes the college and pro games have suffered because of it.
“I don’t like the rule,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good for college and I don’t think it’s good for the NBA. But it’s a rule that we have to live with. I recruit the best players I can recruit, and I don’t try to hold them back.
“We’ve lost some players after a year and we’ve survived,” Calipari said. “I tell kids … early on I would say if you want to do what’s right for you and your family, you probably should put your name in the draft. If you want to do what’s right for me and my family, why don’t you stay a couple more years so we can win a whole lot more games?”
- West Virginia was mentioned during Calipari’s news conference previewing the Princeton game, which is a good indication that Wildcat fans are already looking forward to a possible rematch against the Mountaineers on Saturday.
West Virginia knocked Kentucky out of last year’s NCAA tournament in Syracuse, N.Y., to reach the Final Four.
- UCLA coach Ben Howland talking at the podium has about the same effect as downing a couple of swigs of Nyquil. Even Ferris Bueller's teacher has more pep than this guy!
- Princeton coach Sydney Johnson admitted earlier today the buzz surrounding his team returning to the NCAA tournament has been somewhat overwhelming.
“I’ve done more phone interviews maybe in three days than I have the entire season,” Johnson said. “Right before they pulled me out of the locker room, I was trying to sneak in some film that we taped from practice. So I hope I’m not offending anybody, but it kind of has my head spinning a bit.”
More to come …
Harrison Musgrave strikes out 14 in TCU victory
Around the Horn with Randy Mazey
TCU Postgame: Randy Mazey
TCU Postgame: Randy Mazey
Around the Horn With Randy Mazey
Randy Mazey Teleconference