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What they said… Welcome back Coach Calhoun 03.20.09 at 4:56 pm ET
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One of the early storylines of this NCAA Tournament has revolved around one of the No. 1 seeds. Not the on-the-court performance of the Connecticut Huskies but rather their ferocious coach. Jim Calhoun spent Thursday in a Philadelphia hospital getting treated for dehydration and spent the night there for observation.

He re-joined his team on Friday in Philadelphia after they blew out Chattanooga in the first round, 103-47. On Friday, he addressed the media in Philadelphia.

COACH CALHOUN:
First thing I want to say how proud I was of our kids yesterday, the way they just played, quite frankly, terrific basketball, kept their composure early. It was a 19 17 game, 12 to go.
We had been there before a little bit, especially Jeff and Craig, when we played Albany four years ago. Instead of trying to make it all happen at once, they in turn just piece mailed some things together.
Had a big halftime lead and went onto an impressive win. Couldn’t be happier for them and more proud of my good friend of 40 years George Blaney. So it was a terrific win for us. We’ve had a great deal of success, particularly over the past couple decades in NCAA post season play, but we needed to kind of reestablish ourselves. At least for a game we certainly did that. I was very, very proud of them.

As far as me personally, I fully expected to coach the game yesterday early in the morning, 10, 11 o’clock. I mentioned to Jeff Anderson, our doctor, that I wasn’t feeling particularly well, had felt weak for a couple days, but no problem. He said, Let’s go down and have you checked out. So we went down. I was checked out. Next thing I know, this hour or so turned into being admitted so they could do a full and thorough examination.

They looked at virtually everything, it seems, and came out with the fact that I probably was totally dehydrated. They could find that out.
I left early this morning. I bribed my way out of there as quick as I could. Quite frankly, I feel good now.

I probably feel good because, once again, I got a full physical examination. I will say one thing. The full exam, which got high ratings, did not include a psychiatrist. Read the rest of this entry »

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What they said… USC coach Tim Floyd 03.20.09 at 12:46 pm ET
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Tim Floyd coached the Chicago Bulls in the NBA after Michael Jordan left in the late 90s. He has had a more successful and certainly more enjoyable time coaching the USC Trojans. This season his team caught fire at the right time, winning its last five games, including a run to a Pac-10 title that earned them a berth against Boston College tonight in Minneapolis.

Here’s how Floyd summed up his opponent on Thursday night.

Q. Hi, Coach. What do you know about B.C. by now? And what concerns you most about them?

COACH FLOYD:
Well, from the coaching standpoint I think he is the best coach that nobody ever talks about. The job he’s done there with seven NCAA tournaments in 12 years. A young team this year that obviously believes in what they’re doing. Great shot selection, great conviction to what they run offensively. Play with a physicality, terrific offensive rebounding team. And great role definition with their players in terms of knowing what they should do and when they should do it.

And they have a star caliber with Rice. You know, a developmental big guy in Southern who is getting better and better. The 2 guard is outstanding, maybe could have been an All ACC player with a little bit more attention paid to him because he has been terrific the last five games. Just very good basketball team. Read the rest of this entry »

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What they said… USC players 03.20.09 at 12:33 pm ET
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Just so you know what they’re thinking heading into tonight’s showdown with the BC Eagles, here are three of the stars from the USC squad. DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis and Taj Gibson took to the podium, otherwise referred to as the dais, on Thursday. Here’s how they answered the questions from the media.

Q. Guys, coming in here, you know, what you’ve done these last five games. I mean, do you feel like you’re a pretty dangerous team just coming in on the right note?

TAJ GIBSON: I feel we’re coming in with a lot of confidence. Guys that are healthy this time of year, throughout the years, guys have been really banged up and injuries played a key role in a lot of our games, losing one point at Oklahoma, a lot of tough road games in the Pac 10.

DANIEL HACKETT: We feel good about ourselves. But we learned a hard lesson last year. Losing to Kansas State in the first round, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high. Stay humble and keep playing our basketball.

Q. Hey, Taj, how does last year’s experience and the previous years help you guys, with you, Daniel and Dwight and Keith Wilkinson all being here before?

TAJ GIBSON: It has its ups and its downs. My freshman year we went pretty far, then the mishap last year we lost to a tough Kansas State team.

Just a lot of experience. I hope we can use it to our advantage.
But, once again, we have a lot of young guys coming around at the right part of the season, so the sky’s the limit. But I know Boston College is a really skilled team, a lot of veterans on that team, so just looking forward to getting back out there and playing. Read the rest of this entry »

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What they said… BC coach Al Skinner 03.19.09 at 10:29 pm ET
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After Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders had their moment on the dais, it was Al Skinner’s turn.
Q. Coach, talk about just the fact that, like you mentioned before, that you haven’t necessarily gone on a winning streak per se, but the tournament is going to require you do that. Where do you feel like the team is as far as putting those together?

COACH SKINNER: Can you repeat it?

Q. You talked about not necessarily going on a winning streak per se in the ACC, whatever, but being in a tournament kind of requires you do that, to kind of put wins together. Does the team need to have that experience beforehand or do you trust that they have that ability?

COACH SKINNER: They definitely have the ability, it’s just a matter of doing it. But as you’ve already indicated, you’re in a situation where it requires that. But then saying that is different. This is very different because it is one and done. It doesn’t afford you to look beyond the first game. I think that’s clearly a mistake for anyone to do that, regardless of who you may be. So that situation is very different.

I think the most you should do is look at it as a two game situation, because that’s all you have to do. And you have plenty of time the following week to prepare. But, you really do have to take it one game at a time, otherwise you are doing yourself and your team a disservice.

Q. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams seem to be playing some of their best basketball of the year around the same time? Like USC won five straight. You don’t have a winning streak but you are meshing and the chemistry is coming together. Does it make it kind of dangerous when two teams are playing their best basketball at the same time?

COACH SKINNER: What it does, hopefully it will create a great basketball game. And I think that’s what the tournament’s all about.

But you’re not going to be playing any bad teams this time of year.
It’s just not going to happen. So you’ve got to get yourself prepared for get yourself prepared for a great basketball game. And I think we’ve done that.

But again, there are just no bad teams. There are talented guys out there. Outstanding coaches. And so, you know, you have got to put your best foot forward, otherwise obviously you are going to be heading home. Read the rest of this entry »

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What they said… BC ready for USC 03.19.09 at 10:23 pm ET
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The student-athletes of Boston College headed for the comforts of their hotel rooms but not before sharing their thoughts about facing Southern California on Friday night in Minneapolis.

Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders took questions from the media on Thursday. Here’s what they said:

Q. I was going to ask, do you guys feel like you’re playing your best brand of basketball right now? And also, even though you haven’t gone on a long, winning stretch, this tournament kind of requires it.
Do you feel like that makes a difference?

TYRESE RICE:
I don’t think we are playing our best basketball right now, but we are definitely improving. And we have to be ready for tomorrow.

As far as the winning streak, a lot of the No. 1 seeds have had big winning streaks. Really the only big winning streak right now is Louisville. So you can’t really say much about winning streaks; it is who is going to get hot at the right time or who is not.

RAKIM SANDERS:
What he said, we’re improving as a team. I mean, we haven’t like our last game we haven’t won, but we are learning from each game and getting better. So I think yeah.

Q. For both players, guys, talk to me about the national perception. The ESPN talking heads are both predicting Southern California, a fine ball club, to beat you guys rather easily. Despite the fact you are a higher seed, USA Today has you as an underdog in the paper. Nothing is really talking about your team or about the game. How do you guys feel about that kind of lack of respect that you’re getting by the national media?

TYRESE RICE: That’s nothing new when it comes to us. I mean even my freshman year we were No. 10 team in the country and still didn’t get any respect. So it doesn’t mean anything to me. I mean, everybody will always have us as the underdog regardless when we are playing Southern Cal or whoever else.

So we have been playing the underdog roles our whole life. Most of the people on our team have been playing the underdog roles, and we’re fine with that.

RAKIM SANDERS: Really don’t matter to me. At the end of the day, I mean, we’re going to leave it on the court anyway. So it really don’t matter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sounds of the game… Celtics 112, Heat 108 OT 03.18.09 at 11:52 pm ET
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Everyone assumed Wednesday’s game between the short-handed Celtics and Miami Heat at the Garden would be a showcase of an NBA MVP candidate. And it was.

While Paul Pierce is almost certainly not going to beat out guys named Kobe or LeBron or even the Heat’s Dwayne Wade, who was a late scratch Wednesday with a right hip flexor, the Celtics captain showed exactly why he is still one of the most feared players in the league.

He scored 36 points and hauled in 11 rebounds and, with the help of Rajon Rondo’s 27 points and 10 assists, led the Green to a gutsy 112-108 OT win against Miami.

“It almost came down to that we had Paul and they didn’t have Wade,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “When Paul was making all the shots, I thought that last shot he took was in too so, it’s a good win for us, right now even when you get what we’re going through is good. I thought a lot of guys, obviously Paul and Rajon, was terrific.”

Pierce looked like the Pierce of 2006-07 when he HAD to be the guy taking all the big shots at the end of games. Like his three-pointer with 2:27 left in regulation to give the Celtics a 96-95 lead. Like his jumper with 1:49 remaining to give the Celtics a 98-97 lead. Like his jumper with 1:23 remaining to give the Celtics a 100-99 lead. Pierce was 6-for-8 in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of his team’s 25 points

“When he does that, it’s unbelievable,” Kendrick Perkins said in wonder. “He’s hitting shots, crazy shots. I knew they were in trouble how he came out. When he comes out like that, he’s in attack mode. I was like, ‘Somebody is in trouble tonight.’ He came out just feeling it. He carried us tonight, he and Rondo.”

Pierce was more humble.

“We just needed a win any way we can get it, right now at this point, it seems like bodies are going down left and right, to get our spirits back up,” Pierce said. “We know that we are injured, we know that we are losing guys every other day, but just to get back on the winning mindframe, is big for us, especially when you are going into San Antonio in a couple of days later.  So, this was a big game for us, hopefully on this road trip, we get a couple of bodies back, if not we continue to grind these games out until these guys get better.”

And the captain isn’t about to let his team’s spirits get down, even after losing Ray Allen to a bum elbow and Leon Powe for two weeks with a banged up right knee.

“They’re up,” Pierce said. “That’s the one great thing about this team.  We’ve never been down, we’ve never look at one another, point the finger at one another, and we understand that we just have to keep working.  We’re a team that doesn’t make excuses, that doesn’t cry over spilled milk.  The situation is what it is and we have to go out there and put our hard hats on and our work boots on and continue to work regardless of who’s out there.”

Jermaine O’Neal has seen this all before. He wasn’t surprised by the show Pierce put on against his Heat on Wednesday.

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Skinner: It’s not a track meet, it’s basketball 03.18.09 at 11:12 am ET
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As they wing their way westward toward Minneapolis and a Friday night date with USC, the Boston College Eagles will be thinking about their first round opponent and how to go about beating them.

Those with concerns about BC’s chances point to the fact that Southern Cal is on a hot streak, winning the Pac-10 tournament just to get a ticket to the dance.

They also point out that USC is an athletic team that loves to get up and down the court and DeMar DeRozan will be a handful for the Eagles.

But BC coach Al Skinner isn’t looking at it that way.

“I’m not overly concerned about athleticism because when I last checked it’s not a track meet, it’s still a game of basketball,” Skinner said. “It’s about skills, you’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket, dribble, pass. So, we concentrate on those areas. Athleticism can help but it’s still a game of skill.

“They like to get a little bit in transition. They have a lot of quick hitters. They have some individuals that are physically talented. We’re going to have to deal with that. They really like to attack the basket. They’re pretty athletic. They get around the rim and they do some good things.”

DeRozan, who scored 25 in the Pac-10 title game, is a quick hitter, as are Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett. The Trojans feature a three-guard set under coach Tim Floyd, which points to Skinner’s belief that they will try to out-manuever the Eagles, who will try to run the flex offense.

This Trojans team erased a 15-point halftime deficit in the Pac-10 championship against Arizona State and won, 66-63. In other words, BC must bring it all game long and not let up.

“You just see what a little urgency does for a team,” Eagles point man Tyrese Rice said. “They realized they had to win a tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament and they went out and made it happen. We’re going to have to be aware of how hard they’re playing right now.”

Then there’s someone like Tyler Roche. He is a junior now, two years removed from advancing to the second round in 2007, when BC lost to Georgetown.

“It’s a big excitement,” Roche said. “I haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since my freshman year and I’m just really excited to be back this year, and hopefully we’ll make some noise.”

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