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Bracket 101: Oh, how the mighty have fallen 02.15.10 at 1:04 pm ET
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Bracket 101 examines the week that was in college basketball and gives you a list of 16 teams that are poised to dance their way into the Round of 16 in the 2010 NCAA tournament.

Rapid Rewind

‘€œI’m embarrassed.’€ ‘€“ Jim Calhoun

UConn postgame press conferences can be filled with emotion from 67-year-old, two-time national championship winner and Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun. However, they rarely are somber and apologetic. Calhoun, who returned to the sidelines this past Saturday after a 3½-week medical leave of absence, watched his team give what he described as ‘€œone of the worst performances I’ve had here at UConn in 24 years.” UConn suffered a controversial loss to Syracuse earlier in the week, but the 60-48 home loss to Cincinnati on Saturday may be the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Huskies.

UConn is not alone. North Carolina, Oklahoma, UCLA and Indiana all have struggled this season. UCLA is the only one in the bunch to even manage a conference record over .500 (6-5 in the Pac-10), but the Bruins have a losing record overall (11-12). Each year, it seems that the mid-majors seem to improve enough to increase parity across the national scene. That being said, don’€™t expect these historic programs to dwell near the bottom of their respective conferences for long. UConn and UNC simply will reload like they do every signing period, Tom Crean still is rebuilding an Indiana program that Kelvin Sampson brought down, and UCLA is, well, UCLA.

Even if some of Calhoun’s players have written this year off, their coach certainly has not. Calhoun made that crystal clear after the game on Saturday by saying, “I came back because I had a job to finish.”

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Three-Pointer: Eagles’ inconsistency strikes again at 12:23 pm ET
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Coming out of the half tied at 30, Boston College needed a spark.

It never got one.

Instead, Florida State rode a juiced, full-capacity crowd to a runaway 62-47 victory over the Eagles.

It’€™s becoming increasingly clear what the issue is for BC ‘€” consistency. At times, the Eagles look like a team that could very well compete for an NCAA tournament spot. And there are even times where they look like a squad that could do some damage if they made it.

But then there are times where they simply look lost on the court. The second half of Sunday night’€™s game was one of those times, as turnover after turnover and fumbled dribble after fumbled dribble led to a Florida State explosion, leaving the Eagles in the dust as they dropped to 12-13 on the season (3-8 ACC).

It looked good early on for the Eagles ‘€” a team that was only one week removed from a game in which it took Duke to the brink. Junior Joe Trapani led the charge for BC, notching 14 of the team’€™s 30 first half points, drilling two 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes of play.

But in the second half, the game got away from BC, as the Seminoles exposed the Eagles’ weak interior defense, one that was essentially without 6-foot-10 center Josh Southern, who found himself rendered nearly useless thanks to a bruised shoulder he suffered in the early going.

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BC beats BU, 4-3, in ‘classic’ Beanpot final 02.08.10 at 10:37 pm ET
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Boston College erased a 1-0 deficit with a flurry of three second-period goals on its way to a 4-3 win over the Boston University Terriers in 58th Beanpot championship game Monday night at TD Garden.

Kevin Shattenkirk gave BU a 1-0 lead with his even strength goal at 13:36 of the first. But BC responded with three in the second, sparked by Steven Whitney’s power play goal 61 seconds in. Carl Sneep and Chris Kreider added goals to put BC in command.

BC claimed its 15th Beanpot title in school history and its second in three years when it withstood a late, furious rally by the Terriers, including a wraparound on the doorstep with 19.8 seconds remaining that was turned away by tournament MVP John Muse.

“If there was a classic Beanpot, that would be one of them,” BC coach Jerry York said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of really good matchups here. This particular one was quick, it was fast. Even at 4-1, none of us thought it was finished yet.”

BU lost in the title game for the first time since losing to BC 2-1 in overtime in 2004. The game also marked the 250th meeting between the archrivals, with BU still leading the series, 125-108 and 17 ties.

“I thought it was a fabulous game to watch as a college hockey game,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “It’s the 250th time we’ve played each other and where better to play each other than the Beanpot final. And other than the outcome, I thought it was a fabulous game. We won seven Beanpots in the decade of the 2000s and eight Beanpot in the decade of the 90s and now they won the first one of this decade so they’re one up up on us. So we’ve got a ways to go.”

Already on the power play, BU pulled goalie Kieran Millan and had a 6-on-4 advantage. Colby Cohen capitalized by scoring with 2:46 remaining to cut the Eagles’ lead to one, 4-3.

Read More: Beanpot, Boston College, Boston University,
Huge 2nd has BC leading BU, 3-1, after 2 at 9:58 pm ET
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BC started the second period with a 5-on-3 power play and with BU on the verge of killing off both penalties, Steven Whitney scored 61 seconds into the period – and with 15 seconds left on the power play – to knot the game, 1-1.

Carl Sneep fired a shot from the right point that beat Kieran Millan to the far side at 12:33 and BC had the lead.

BC capped its domination in the period with a spectacular Chris Kreider goal at 15:48. He took a pass from Jimmy Hayes in the neutral zone and rushed up the left wing. He put a Gretzky-like move on Terriers blue liner Max Nicasatro and slipped the puck past a helpless – and stunned – Millan for a 3-1 Eagles’ lead.

Eagles are 14-1-1 this season when leading after two. BU is just 1-7-2 this year when trailing after two.

Read More: Beanpot, Boston College, Boston University,
BU leads BC, 1-0, after 1 at 8:50 pm ET
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Boston University’s Kevin Shattenkirk capitalized on a bad clearing pass by BC defenseman Philip Samuelsson to score the first goal of the game at 13:36 of the first period.

And the first period ends with BU leading, 1-0. BU’s Sean Escobedo and Colby Cohen take penalties in the final 90 seconds of the period so BC will be on a two-man PP for the first 39 seconds of the second period.

BU is outshooting BC, 9-8, in the first 20 minutes.

Read More: Beanpot, Boston College, Boston University,
Welcome to Bracket 101 at 12:34 pm ET
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There was some disappointment when Punxsutawney Phil/Polamalu saw his shadow roughly a week ago. The furry rodent sentenced the superstitious to six more weeks of winter. However, the news wasn’€™t all that bad to some, because Groundhog Day also means that it’s only six weeks until Selection Sunday.

As the calendar turns to February, the NFL gives way to spring training and a robust college basketball scene. Sure there are NHL and NBA games, but the sports world starts to gravitate toward the excitement that college basketball thrives on and that Gus Johnson personifies. The NCAA and TV networks have crafted Saturdays to emulate what Sundays are to the NFL: wall-to-wall action to indulge the sports-starved fan that attempts to gradually come down off their fix of football.

With roughly five weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, Bracket 101 will examine the week that was in college basketball and give you a list of 16 teams that are poised to dance their way into the sweetest of company. A lot of sites focus on who will get in, but this blog spot will tell you who the actual contenders are in addition to a weekly roundup of the college hoops scene.

Rapid Rewind

One of the major story lines over the past few weeks has been Texas. Since reaching the top spot in the polls, the Longhorns have simply fallen apart as if they were the 2007 Mets. Rick Barnes’€™ club has lost 4-of-6 with a matchup against No. 1 Kansas to tip off this week. Villanova and Michigan State will join Texas as top-10 teams that will undoubtedly fall a few spots due to recent losses.

Stock Up: West Virginia

West Virginia has won six in a row since its only home loss of the season vs. Syracuse Orange back on Jan. 16. Last week, the blue and gold handled Pittsburgh in the backyard brawl, but some fans took the rivalry too literally, as West Virginia fans showered the court with objects at different points of the second half. Bob Huggins had to get on the mic and address the crowd. Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion was hit with what appeared to be a coin under his right eye and had a visible bruise under the eye after the game. Unfortunately, some Mountaineers fans did not respect their guests and represent their school with class. Huggins’ team is one of the hottest in the land right now after it disposed of St. John’s Saturday after being down by as many as 16.

Stock Down: Texas

Why are the Longhorns sliding? Two things stick out like Lady Gaga at ‘€¦ well, wherever she is. 1) Bad free throw shooting. Barnes’€™ club made just 10-of-27 in their most recent loss to the Oklahoma Sooners – a game that they lost by 9 points.  Texas is shooting 61 percent from the charity stripe, which is good for dead last in the Big 12 and near the bottom nationally. 2) Barnes isn’€™t helping, either, as the former Providence coach continues to meddle with his rotation. There seems to be no consistency in the Texas lineup, especially with big man Dexter Pittman, who many thought had the potential to control the paint for the Longhorns with double-doubles every night.

Heat Check: Dominique Jones

46-28-37-29 ‘€” Those are the last four point totals for South Florida guard Dominique Jones before Sunday. Jones has shouldered the load for the Bulls, and his team has not lost since Jan. 20. During that span, the Bulls have beaten Georgetown and Pitt, two ranked teams, and have their sights set on a tournament bid after pulling themselves to 5-5 in the brutal Big East. The table is set for Jones and the Bulls as they only play one more ranked opponent, Villanova on the road, the rest of the way. If Jones continues to fill up the tin like a Big East Player of the Year candidate, the Bulls have a shot to be dancing come Selection Sunday.

The Dean’€™s 16

These 16 teams are the ones that have proved they have the talent to win two games in the NCAA tournament. Check out a complete look at the national polls by clicking here.

The contenders
Kansas (22-1)

Kentucky (22-1)

Syracuse (23-1)

Michigan State (19-5)


The Rest of the Elite Eight

Villanova (20-2)

Purdue (19-3)

West Virginia (19-3)

Georgetown (17-5)


We’€™re good, but not bound for Indy

Kansas State (19-4)

Duke (19-4)

Wisconsin (18-5)

Ohio State (18-6)


Sweet for now

Texas (19-4)

Gonzaga (19-4)

Butler (20-4)

New Mexico (21-3)


Eagles Watch

Unfortunately for local fans, hometown Boston College (12-11) is not equipped to take advantage of a down year for the ACC.  Coach Al Skinner doesn’€™t have that diamond in the rough this season that has historically carried program. Troy Bell, Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and even Tyrese Rice are not walking through that door. This BC team simply does not have that go-to guy. On Saturday, the Eagles made a nice run to put a scare into Duke at Conte Forum, but a desperation 3-pointer from Joe Trapani that would have tied the game at the buzzer clanked off the front iron. It doesn’€™t look like the Eagles will be a part of the field of 64 this season unless they make a run through the ACC tournament. We did say the ACC is down this year, BC just played Duke down to the last possession and Doug Flutie did hit Gerard Phelan in the end zone. So anything is possible ‘€” just not likely.


Couch Potato Fixings (Nationally televised games to watch this week)

Monday
9:00 PM ET (1) Kansas at (10) Texas (ESPN)
7:00 PM ET (2) Villanova at (6) West Virginia (ESPN)

Tuesday
9:00 PM ET (7) Purdue at (5) Michigan State (ESPN)
7:00 PM ET (14) Tennessee at (20) Vanderbilt (ESPN)

Wednesday
9:00 PM ET (9) Duke at North Carolina (ESPN)
7:00 PM ET Connecticut at (4) Syracuse (ESPN)

Thursday
11:00 PM ET Saint Mary’s at (13) Gonzaga (ESPN2)

Friday
9:00 PM ET (6) West Virginia at (21) Pittsburgh (ESPN)

Saturday
9:00 PM ET (14) Tennessee at (3) Kentucky (ESPN)
1:00 PM ET Maryland at (9) Duke (CBS)

Sunday
1:00 PM ET (18) Ohio State at Illinois (CBS)

Back-Door Cuts (recommended reading for hoopsters)
Student-section conduct conducive to epic blow-up by Gary Parrish
The Ten will live in OSU hearts forever by Doug Gottlieb
Bouldin, Fredette top best non-BCS conference players by Seth Davis

Poll

If Kentucky & Kansas met before the Tournament, who would win?

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Jack Parker: Beanpot ‘losing luster’ 02.02.10 at 12:33 am ET
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Even though his team just dispatched Northeastern, 2-1, in a hard-fought Beanpot semifinal at TD Garden Monday night, Boston University coach Jack Parker was very honest about playing Boston College next Monday night in yet another BU-BC showdown for the 58th Beanpot championship game.

“The Beanpot is losing its luster a little bit if it’s constantly going to be BU or BC winning this tournament. We dodged a bullet tonight. These teams are real good hockey programs, Harvard and Northeastern. It’s not good overall, people are going to get tired of it. People are tired of it in some ways.”

[Click here to hear Parker’s analysis of the BU-BC tradition that is growing old in the eyes of some.]

BU has won a record 29 Beanpot titles, and has reached the title game in 25 of the last 27 years. In the first game, Boston College hammered Harvard, 6-0, to reach its 30th Beanpot title game.

The two schools have combined to win the last 16 Beanpots, dating to Harvard’s title in 1993. The two programs have met in the Beanpot title game in eight of those 16.

Read More: Beanpot, Boston College, Boston University, Jack Parker
Skinner: Change takes time 01.18.10 at 11:56 am ET
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Boston College coach Al Skinner participated in the ACC basketball coaches conference call Monday and talked about his team’s attempts to rebound from its three-game losing streak. In the most recent loss, an embarrassing 73-57 rout vs. visiting Maryland Saturday, Skinner lamented his team’s lack of effort, particularly at the defensive end.

“We’re just not defending as well as we need to,” Skinner said Monday. “That’s, I guess, a little surprising, but that’s the bottom line. We’re not defending as well as we should be defending and offensively probably not shooting quite as well. Unfortunately, a lot of times guys’ offense dictate their defense, and I think that’s what’s happened here.

“I think that’s one of the most difficult things to overcome in this game when you’re not shooting the ball well is to go back on the other end and defend well,” Skinner added. “We’ve got to somehow be able to bounce back and do that because we haven’t shot the ball particularly well, or at least consistently well. And so, at times, the energy hasn’t been there on the defensive end. That has to change.”

Skinner said he has talked to his team about having a better approach on the court, but he warns that it may take time for the Eagles to toughen up mentally to the level he wants.

“We’ve discussed some things, and hopefully those things will come to light,” Skinner said. “Anytime you’re looking to change characteristics, that always takes time and it’s difficult, but I think we’ve attempted to address it and hopefully we’ll see some results from it.”

Asked if there were any players he would rely on to take a leadership role, Skinner said any such player would have to present himself on his own.

“I never believed that a coach can appoint a leader,” he said. “I think a leader always has to emerge, and when you have difficult times, that’s the time that true leadership starts to show its head. I’m hoping that that will occur. But collectively I think everybody’s got to take some responsibility. At times, I wish it was one or two guys, but I think it’s collectively. I think everybody needs to pull together and rely on each other and help each other, and I’m not sure we’ve been doing enough of that.”

The Eagles return to action Tuesday night at Miami, which is tied with BC (and NC State) for last in the conference at 1-3. BC (10-8 overall) beat Miami last month at Conte Forum, but Skinner warns that that game will have little impact on the rematch.

“It’s such a long time ago, we’re probably at two different places than we were then,” Skinner said. “So, I’m not sure if it has much meaning other than the fact that we got the win. Obviously, [it was] a closely played contest. But we’re in a different place now. It’s almost like a new season in comparison to where we were a month ago. The only advantage is that we got the win. But like I said, it’s a new day.”

Miami coach Frank Haith’s team is coming off a pair of double-digit losses in ACC play and is looking for a faster start Tuesday night. He wants his team to work harder on offense, which should create for an interesting matchup as Skinner focuses on his team toughening up on defense.

“We need to compete a little bit better, particularly at the beginning of games,” Haith said. “I think we’ve done some things to shore up some things execution-wise offensively. … We need to execute better on the offensive end ‘€” that’s screening harder, that’s cutting harder. Particularly on the road, sometimes we’ve had a tendency to not move as quickly and screen as quickly as we need to to execute.”

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The Three-Pointer: BC turtles vs. Terps 01.16.10 at 8:38 pm ET
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For the second straight weekend, a team from Maryland came up the coast and walloped a New England team. In a game eerily similar to the Patriots’ playoff debacle vs. the Baltimore Ravens, the Maryland Terrapins hit the BC Eagles in the mouth early and ran away with a 73-57 win.

The Eagles came out flat, and midway through the game their body language made it appear that they would rather be anywhere else but on the court on this Saturday afternoon. Eagles coach Al Skinner spent a little extra time talking to his guys after the game, and said his squad needs to start playing harder to get back to the winning ways.

‘€œIt goes back to lack of effort,’€ said Skinner, who’€™s Eagles fell to 10-8 on the season. ‘€œIt’€™s disturbing. The focus, whatever you want to call it, it has to improve.’€

The Eagles clearly are struggling, losing three straight games by double-digit points, and Skinner couldn’€™t remember a time when a team he coached just didn’€™t show up to play.

‘€œI’€™ve had some teams that have lacked talent but didn’€™t lack a certain toughness, and this team, they are playing that way,’€ he said.

Here are three things we learned from a forgettable day in Chestnut Hill.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

The Eagles sit at 1-3 in the ACC and find themselves looking up at the field. Luckily for BC, nobody in the league is making a move to separate from the pack.

Heading into Saturday night’s action, Virginia (2-0) was the only team undefeated in the league, and the Eagles still have 12 regular-season games left against ACC competition, starting with two tough road tests this week against Miami and Virginia Tech.

Skinner said there is plenty of time for a turnaround.

‘€œThe water is muddy in the league right now, meaning there is no clear-cut favorite,’€ he said. ‘€œEverybody’€™s got a tarnish. I think that’€™s why I’€™m feeling as strongly as I do. There’€™s still some light at the end of the tunnel. There’€™s still some hope, so we’ve just got to come out and have an improved focus.’€

SHOULD JACKSON START?

Sophomore guard Reggie Jackson came off the bench for the second straight game and provided one of the only sparks in the lackluster defeat. Jackson scored 11 points and dished out five assists, and he got to the line four times because he was trying to push the ball to the basket.

In Wedneday night’s loss to Duke, Jackson came off the bench and tied a career-high with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and one might wonder if more minutes will be coming his way.

CELEBRATING IN STYLE

Greivis Vasquez didn’€™t score 20 points or more for the eighth straight game, but he did enough to punish the Eagles on his 23rd birthday. Vasquez scored a game-high 17 points, dished out nine assists and seemed to be all over the court.

‘€œHe just reads the game as he goes along,’€ Terrapins coach Gary Williams said. ‘€œAll the great point guards do that, but Greivis has that extra edge I think at that 6-5, 6-6 size that he gets a few more angles to make plays in there.”

Vasquez seemed to be enjoying himself out there, as he gestured to Maryland fans in the crowd a number of times late in the second half.

‘€œThat’s my personality,’€ he said. ‘€œThat’s who I am. Just trying to make this game fun.’€

Read More: al skinner, Boston College, Garry Williams, Greivis Vasquez
Skinner ‘very disturbed’ by his team’s effort at 7:30 pm ET
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CHESTNUT HILL  —  When your team lays a gigantic egg on its home floor, that’s humiliating. When your team does it without showing much fight, that’s something altogether more serious.

That was the message Al Skinner had for his team following a disheartening 73-57 stinker at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins Saturday at Conte Forum.

“Yeah, in very gentle terms,” Skinner said, tongue-in-cheek, when asked if he made his feelings known to his team.

What led to the general malaise? Was it the 18 turnovers? Was it a hangover from the nightmare second half against Duke just three days earlier? Was it just senior Greivis Vasquez’s lucky day on his 23rd birthday and an inspired Maryland team?

“I’m not exactly sure what it is,” said Skinner, who didn’t address the media for nearly a full hour afterward. “That’s what took me so long to get down here.”

“Usually, I can walk down here and feel satisfied and comfortable with out effort, and I’m not. For me it’s a terrible place to be because very rarely have I felt lack of effort. Everyone thinks I’m laid back but this is the one part of the game that’s very disturbing to me.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: ACC basketball, al skinner, Boston College, Maryland
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