Saturday, February 28, 2004

Q&A, Tipoff notebook

Enquirer staff

Q, From Danielle in Hyde Park: What is the tiebreaker scenario like for the A-10 Tournament? Can Xavier get a No. 1 or 2 seed?

A: Right now Xavier is a No. 3 seed in the West. To move up to a No. 2 seed (and receive a first-round bye), Xavier would have win its final three games and hope for Richmond to beat George Washington today. That would leave Xavier and George Washington both tied at 11-5 in the league with four losses in the West Division. Xavier would win the tiebreaker because XU has split with Richmond, while GW would have lost to Richmond twice. The only way for Xavier to overtake Dayton is for the Flyers to lose their last three games and finish 10-6. Dayton holds the tiebreaker against Xavier because of UD's two wins against Richmond.

Q, From Jim, UC Class of '73: Why is Bob Huggins so hung up on junior college reclamation projects and not willing to recruit high school players he can develop into his system?

His track record for JC transfers leaves a lot to be desired (Ruben Patterson, Art Long etc.). Go back to the local schools and build a rapport with the coaches like he did in the beginning. How many area or for that matter Ohio players are on the UC roster? It's good to win 20 games each year but we still don't have a NCAA banner for the efforts.A: I wouldn't say that Huggins is "hung up" on junior college reclamation projects. In fact, UC has had some very good junior college players under Huggins. Remember Corie Blount, Nick Van Exel, Erik Martin, Terry Nelson, Pete Mickeal and Immanuel McElroy, to name a few? It's true that they don't all work out, but neither does every high school recruit.

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C-USA: Mooooooooo of L's

Some teams fade in February because of injuries. Others get worn down because they lack depth. At Louisville, the Cardinals have had their share of injuries to key players such as Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean, but they're really struggling because of cow races. Louisville coach Rick Pitinoafter losing to Cincinnati last week, explains: . "Freedom Hall is not our facility," Pitino said. "It's state-owned. We have tracking pulls and farming pulls and cow races. They're very important because they sell out, but they prohibit us from getting in there in February.

"We get all our home games early, then we have to go at Charlotte, at Memphis, at Cincinnati, at Marquette, at Saint Louis. We have that gypsy attitude."

• Memphis' 11-game conference winning streak is the third-longest in the league's history. UC's 16-game winning streak in 1999-00 ranks first, followed by Marquette's 12-game streak in 2001-02.

• The best backcourt in the league may belong to Saint Louis. The Billikens' duo of Reggie Bryant and Josh Fisher account for 40.3 points per game.

Bill Koch


Atlantic- 10: Nelson's home finale

Jameer Nelson's final home game at Saint Joseph's is drawing quite a bit of media interest. Credential applications for Tuesday's game against St.Bonaventure were due Feb.26 and it's expected to outdraw last season's Saint Joseph's-Xavier game, which included more than 200 media members at Alumni Fieldhouse to watch Nelson and David West. Today, at Rhode Island, Saint Joseph's (25-0) will attempt to tie the 1995-96 Massachusetts team for the best start to a season by an A-10 team. That UMass team started 26-0 before finishing 35-2 with a Final Four appearance.

• Saint Joseph's ended a streak last Saturday by holding Temple's David Hawkins to 13 points. Hawkins had entered the game with a 17-game streak of scoring 20 or more points.

• Richmond's NCAA Tournament chances may have evaporated with Wednesday's loss at Rhode Island. Coach Jerry Wainwright told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "I can't tell you how many balls bounced out of our inside kids' hands."

Dustin Dow


MAC: Back in a Flash

Kent State has three games left in the regular season, but second-year coach Jim Christian should already have clinched Coach of the Year honors. Christian is a former Miami assistant.

Granted, the Golden Flashes and Western Michigan both are leading their divisions despite being picked in the preseason media poll to finish third, but first-year Broncos coach Steve Hawkins got a boost with the return to form of electrifying junior guard Ben Reed. Christian lost 6-foot-9 junior Nate Gerwig to a season-ending injury before the first game, but guided the Golden Flashes to a sixth consecutive 20-win season.

• Ball State lost 6-9 sophomore Kevin Cates early in the season when he decided to quit the team because of an unspecified medical condition, but the Cardinals found a replacement when 6-10 sophomore Charles Bass transferred from Ohio State in mid-season. Bass will be eligible to play at the end of the next fall semester.

• Hawkins has set the WMU record for wins by a first-year coach. He sailed past the previous record of 17, set by Herbert Read in the 1922-1923 season.

Mark Schmetzer


Must-see TV

Saint Joseph at Rhode Island, noon today (ESPN2): Last real threat to Hawks' perfect regular season.

Cincinnati at Charlotte, 5 p.m. today (ESPN): Big game in ultra-tight C-USA race.

Kentucky at LSU, 4 p.m. Sunday (Ch. 12, 7): Tigers will be revved up. Wisconsin at Michigan State, 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN): Spartans have nine losses but lead Big Ten. Weird.

Georgia Tech at Duke, 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN): Yeah, Duke's on TV a lot. But this one's worth watching.


Thumbs up

Virginia: It's probably too little, too late, but former Xavier coach Pete Gillen's club has won three of its last four games.

Memphis: The surprise of C-USA has won 11 straight.

Buffalo: The Bulls posted one of the downtrodden program's biggest wins Wednesday by upsetting Kent State.

Austin Peay: One win away from a perfect season in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Thumbs down

Mark Few: Gonzaga's coach has a good team, which is why campaigning for an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed looks childish.

Indiana: Two years after playing for a national title, the Hoosiers have fallen below .500 and will probably miss the NCAA Tournament.

LSU: A three-game losing streak has the Tigers sweating a little bit.

Oklahoma: A three-game losing streak of their own might have the Sooners sitting out the NCAAs this year.


Best late-season turnarounds

Lionel Chalmers, Xavier: Took plenty of criticism early, but has led Xavier in scoring during the seven-game winning streak.

Josh Childress, Stanford: Out with an injury until January, Childress leads the Cardinal in scoring and rebounding.

Paul Davis, Michigan State: The sophomore center struggled with consistency in December, but is a big reason for MSU's Big Ten success.

Chris Paul, Wake Forest: The freshman point guard has settled down in February to get the Demon Deacons ready for an NCAA run.

Chris Thomas, Notre Dame: More consistent shooting in February from Thomas has kept Notre Dame's season from turning sour.

Tipoff Sweet Sixteen

1Stanford 3 games to perfection, but finale at Wash. will be tough.
2Saint Joseph's Will be tested on the boards today against Rhode Island.
3Duke Dangerous game at Florida State Sunday.
4Gonzaga Can finish unbeaten in West Coast Conference today.
5Pittsburgh Plays three Big East games from Sunday to Saturday.
6Oklahoma State Should have little trouble vs. Baylor.
7Mississippi State Locked up SEC West, but needs to win at Vandy.
8Kentucky Won six of seven to keep pace with Mississippi State.
9N.C. State Needs three wins this week to stay close to Duke.
10Texas Hosts rivalry game against Texas Tech today.
11Connecticut4 players averaging double figures points; fifth at 9.8.
12Providence Showdown against Pittsburgh looms Tuesday.
13Memphis Either a really easy or really tough game at Louisville today.
14Southern Illinois Potential upset against Northern Iowa Monday.
15Illinois Players finally playing for Bruce Weber.
16Wake Forest Recovered from slump to regain third spot in ACC.

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