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Now, on with the 'Book . . .
Bring the NCAA Final Four to Louisville
ESPN's Andy Katz reports that the NCAA is considering a brief respite from playing the men's basketball Final Fours in football venues to make a stop in an actual basketball arena.
"It's something we would want to explore," new NCAA executive vice president Mark Lewis told ESPN. "What's the best place to play a basketball game? Is it harder to play in a dome? We've got to do what's right for the game of basketball."
Should this happen, The 'Book wants to be ready with the first nomination.
The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, and there should really be no other choice. It is the nicest college basketball-first facility in the nation. And Louisville is the market that leads the Final Four television ratings every year, regardless of who plays in it.
If the NCAA wants to reward a city for commitment to college basketball, none is more deserving than Louisville. Arena critics and NBA proponents -- and they're not wrong -- point repeatedly to the difficulty of running such a venue with college sports teams as main tenants.
It also should be noted, however, that the U of L men's and women's basketball teams -- in the last year without an NBA lockout -- put enough people through the turnstiles in 38 basketball dates to rank 20th in the NBA in total regular-season attendance.
So the people of Louisville are supporting college basketball at an impressive level.
And the arena itself might be the best equipped regular-sized basketball facility in the country to handle such an event, with the proper locker room and meeting space, as well as areas for media and tournament officials.
Louisville knows how to put on a show. We put on a little horse race every May to some critical acclaim. But little stirs this city the way March Madness does. If the Final Four visits any non-domed venue, Louisville should lead the list of contenders.
TWill: A Man Without A Team
For several years, coaches, teammates and friends have advised former University of Louisville star Terrence Williams that he wouldn't always be able to get by with his phenomenal athletic talent. You need to have a coach and general manager on your side.
This appears to be that time.
We're less than a month from the start of NBA training camps, and TWill remains a man without a team. He clashed with New Jersey coach Avery Johnson, which resulted in a visit to the NBA Developmental League and then a flight out of town, even though the Nets burned a first-round draft pick on Williams in 2009.
Things didn't go much better in Houston where Rockets coach Kevin McHale never seemed thrilled to play Williams. Last winter TWill made his way to Sacramento, the arm pit of the NBA. Things went better there. Williams averaged nearly 21 minutes and 9 points per game. Maybe Williams had found his spot.
Or maybe not. TWill has not been offered a contract for this season.
"He doesn't know what's going to happen," said Andre McGee, Williams' former teammate at U of L. "He's trying to work it out."
TWill has NBA ability. The Notebook has no doubts about that. None. But an NBA attitude? Williams better hope somebody gives him a chance to prove he has that.
Crean Speaks – And IU Fans Start Speculating
Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean made his annual visit to the IU Auditorium to speak to the student body last week, and his message ignited a ferocious round of speculation within the IU fan base.
Crean said that he expected one freshman to start this season on his team, which has been ranked in the Top Five in every pre-season poll. Didn't say which freshman. And didn't say which returning starter would become a reserve.
Yogi Ferrell at point guard for Jordan Hulls? Jeremy Hollowell at forward for Will Sheehey? Peter Jurkin at center for Cody Zeller? Hey, Crean didn't rule anything out – although he did say that Zeller and Sheehey were the team's two most improved players.
"I probably wouldn't put it in a Sharpie pen just yet," Crean said, according to Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald-Times. "I would probably use a fountain pen, but we're probably gonna start a freshman. That's probably what's gonna happen."
Why? Crean could start two seniors (Christian Watford, Hulls), two juniors (Sheehey, Victor Oladipo) and a sophomore (Zeller) if he wanted.
"Because I really don't want to look at it and say, ‘These four freshmen are here, well let's just put these guys all in together,' " Crean said. "They're gonna be new, too. The point I'm making is, the battles are on. The battles are on right now. I don't know if all of our players realize it yet. but a good portion of them do. You've gotta bring it. You've gotta bring it every day."
Time For A (Coaching) Change At UConn?
Don't look for Connecticut in the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Huskies aren't eligible, a victim of the school's ugly academic performance. In fact, the Huskies won't be allowed to play in the Big East Tournament either.
A season of silence might be more than Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun can take in lovely Storrs. In an interview with Mark Blaudschun that was published on SI.com, Calhoun certainly sounded like a guy who is strongly considering retirement rather than returning for another season.
It's not surprising.
Calhoun suffered a severe hip injury after he had a bicycle accident last summer. He missed several games last season with other health issues. He's 70, has coached at UConn for 26 seasons and won three NCAA titles.
There's been speculation that Calhoun is angling to pull a Dean Smith – delaying his decision until practice is about to begin so he can name his successor. That's what happened at North Carolina in the fall of 1997 when Smith retired and his friend Bill Guthridge took over. Calhoun reportedly wants former UConn star Kevin Ollie to succeed him. Ollie is a member of the Huskies' coaching staff.
Are you leaving, coach?
"Depends on how I feel sometimes," Calhoun told Blaudschun. "But I'm very close to knowing. I'm just going to wake up one morning and I will know what is the right thing to do. I always said if I ever come here and say, 'Jeez I'm not sure, I will know it's time.'''
Duke's could face questions over Thomas' jewelry purchases
It's not unusual for high-profile athletes to purchase a lot of jewelry. But a Manhattan jeweler is pursuing former Duke Blue Devil Lance Thomas for failing to pay off a $97,800 jewelry bill he ran up while still playing for Duke University's 2010 NCAA championship basketball team.
Thomas made an initial $30,000 payment on a black diamond necklace, diamond encrusted watch, diamond cross and a black diamond pendant in the shape of Jesus' head. The bill called for him to pay the rest within 15 days, but he did not.
The Associated Press reported those details on Friday as part of a suit against Thomas by Rafaello & Co. Jeweler in Manhattan.
Obviously, the questions over how Thomas was able to afford even the initial payment are going to be a matter of interest to the NCAA -- or should be. The whole matter could test the enforcement mettle of the NCAA, which would face the prospect of vacating a national championship if Thomas were found to have been receiving extra benefits.
No doubt, Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski will be found not to have known about the purchase. But whether they know does not really matter when it comes to the NCAA legality of receiving extra benefits.
Duke, without question, is college basketball royalty. Now we'll get to see how hotly the NCAA pursues allegations against a program often held up as a model.
Louisville-based Clark Francis of The Hoop Scoop provided his list of the 10 best high school players (regardless of class) to Basketball Times.
Cliff Alexander, 6-10, power forward, junior, Chicago. Julius Randle, 6-9, power forward, senior, Plano, Texas Jabari Parker, 6-7, wing, senior, Chicago Andrew Wiggins, 6-7, wing, junior, Huntington, W.Va. Tyus Jones, 6-1, point guard, junior, Apple Valley, Minn.
Jahlil Okafor, 6-10, center, junior Chicago Aaron Gordon, 6-9, power forward, senior, San Jose, Calif. James Young, 6-7, wing, senior, Troy, Mich. Aaron Harrison, 6-5, guard, Richmond, Texas Andrew Harrison, 6-5, guard, Richmond, Texas