Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tim Welsh out at PC

To no one's surprise, Tim Welsh will not be returning for an 11th season as Providence's head coach.

Welsh went 160-143 in his 10 years at PC but just 72-92 in Big East play. But what really sealed his fate was his postseason record: 1-9 in the Big East tournament, 0-2 in the NCAA tournament and 2-4 in the NIT.

Here's the statement released by the school:

Providence College Athletic Director Bob Driscoll announced today (March 15) that men’s basketball Head Coach Tim Welsh will not return to coach the Friars in 2008-09. Driscoll met with Welsh today to discuss the situation.

“I appreciate all the hard work and dedication that Tim has put into this program over the last 10 years,” Driscoll said. “He represented the College with dignity and class. However, I felt that it was in the best interest of the program and Providence College to make a change in leadership.”

His 2007-08 Friar squad registered a 15-16 record and a 6-12 mark in the BIG EAST. The Friars finished 12th of 16 teams in the BIG EAST this season. The Friars’ season ended on Wednesday when they were defeated by West Virginia, 58-53, in the First Round of the BIG EAST Tournament.

Welsh was named the 13th head coach of Friar men’s basketball team on April 2, 1998. In his 10 seasons as a head coach at Providence, he led the team to a 160-143 mark (.528) and a 72-92 record (.439) in BIG EAST regular-season play. In five of his 10 seasons the Friars qualified for post-season action. Providence was selected to participate in the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and 2004. The team also played in the NIT in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Driscoll plans to begin a search immediately for a new head coach.

“This is a very important decision and I will work diligently to find someone who will lead our men’s basketball program and guide our student-athletes,” Driscoll said. “Providence College has a rich tradition in men’s basketball. I have very high standards for the program and I expect that we will find the best person to move the program forward.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's My Fault

So what is Friday night at the Big East tournament like, anyway? I wouldn't know.

In four years on the Providence College beat, I saw the Friars go 1-4 in the conference tourney. This included PC's strong, John Linehan-led 2001 team that was a No. 3 seed but got bounced by Syracuse in the quarterfinals. The one win was in a Wednesday game.

Now, in my first year on the UConn beat, the No. 4-seeded Huskies get knocked off by No. 5 West Virginia in the quarters. Maybe I'll change UConn's luck in the Big Dance (don't forget, the Red Sox won their first World Series ini 86 years in my first year on that beat).

O.K., enough about me. Here are some notes & quotes from UConn's 78-72 loss to the Mountaineers:

UConn coach Jim Calhoun:

"Some games you mull over, why you won or why you lost, and it's difficult. This one's very easy. They came out and kicked our butt and they outworked us and won the game."

(on Joe Alexander's career-high 34-point game)

"He is a terrific player. He'd (not) be a lot better player if he didn't touch the ball as many times. Our kids feel after he gets it, they were going to stop him. And when he got somewhere around 27 or 28, I thought it would be a good idea if we realized he was a good basketball player. The way to play him is not to allow him to get the ball. One guy did, that was No. 11 (Jerome Dyson). But after a while, he got oversized."

(on what UConn can improve upon)


West Virginia coach Bob Huggins:

(on Joe Alexander's emergence over the last five games, during which he's averaged 29.8 points)

"I wanted him to do it the whole year. I couldn't get him to cooperate. He's such a hard matchup."

(on whether this has been an enjoyable year coaching)

"I thought it was pretty fun being No. 1 in the country a couple of times (with Cincinnati). I kind of enjoyed that."

(on the quick turnaround of possibly playing four games in four nights this week)

"We packed for the week. This is a four-game tournament, we knew that coming in. I feel pretty fresh."

(on his team getting outrebounded by WVU, 42-26)

"I'll accept that Alexander is just terrific, but I will not accept not getting defensive rebounds. If we could have got that ball back six more times … we had them in pretty good position. West Virginia should not outrebound Connecticut 46-22. That should not happen. Between Stanley, Jeff and Hasheem, we've got three of the top 18 rebounders in the league. Yet we got outrebounded badly, and really killed down the stretch."

UConn junior point guard A.J. Price:

(on how WVU's active 2-3 zone bothered the Huskies)

"The guys on the side weren't really asking for the ball the way they should have been. That makes things more difficult. Some guys got discouraged, but you've got to play through that. It's part of the game."

(on whether he thought UConn could get outrebounded by WVU, 42-26)

"With the monsters we have inside, I didn't think it could happen. But they found a way tonight."

(on how the Huskies must put this loss in their rear-view mirror, with the Big Dance coming up)

"We tell the fellas it's a brand-new ballgame, a new season ahead of us. We still have a chance at a national championship. That's what we're playing for. A lot of other teams don't have that opportunity, so we have to keep our heads high. It's a wake-up call for us. We have to be ready come tournament time. You've got to have a short memory, especially the way we lost, we don't want to remember this one. It's done, and we have to move on."

Also ...

Alexander is the 27th player in Big East tourney history to score at least 30 in a game. Cincy's Deonta Vaughn netted 30 in a loss last night.

Alexander's 34 points are the most in a Big East tourney game since Vontego Cummings of Pitt dropped 37 on Villanova on March 4, 1998. It's also the highest total by a WVU player in Big East tourney history.

Alexander the Great

Too much Joe Alexander (career-high 34 points). Too many WVU offensive rebounds down the stretch. Virtually no Hasheem Thabeet, no transition offense, very little halfcourt offense.

Result: West Virginia 78, UConn 72. Huskies become first higher-seeded team to lose in Big East tourney.

Halftime update

UConn trails West Virginia 42-36 at the half, and the Huskies have to consider themselves a bit lucky to be down just six. The Mountaineers are shooting 53 percent from the floor, have buried five 3-pointers and have caused some problems switching back and forth from a match-up zone to man-to-man, forcing 9 UConn turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Huskies can't stop Joe Alexander (7-for-12, 15 points), no matter what they do: Jeff Adrien, Gavin Edwards, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson took turns guarding him, and UConn even switched to a 2-3 zone briefly. Nothing really worked.

Adrien started on him, and Alexander burned him for 9 points in the first 11 minutes. Dyson took over and did a respectable job, but got called for a blocking foul with 5:38 left and went to the bench. Robinson took over and quickly gave up a 12-footer. Alexander also burned UConn's zone with a tough bank jumper.

The Huskies have been kept in the game offensively by A.J. Price (13 points), Adrien (9) and Robinson (8). Hasheem Thabeet has five points but picked up his second foul with 0.1 seconds left. Craig Austrie, Doug Wiggins and Jerome Dyson have bombined for exactly one shot attempt and one point.

UConn has to tighten up on its perimer 'D' and/or find a way to limit Alexander. Otherwise, it'll be a quick visit to Manhattan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Average Joe

You might say UConn dodged a bullet when Providence lost to West Virginia in today's opening-round Big East tournament game. Providence, after all, is a nightmare matchup for the Huskies, having beaten them three straight times, twice this season.

But the Mountaineers boast a nightmare matchup of their own for UConn in the form of Joe Alexander. The 6-foot-8 jumping-jack forward torched UConn for a career-high 32 points in their prior matchup just 12 days ago at the XL Center.

The Huskies tried 6-9 Stanley Robinson, their best athlete, on Alexander, and that didn't work. They switched to 6-7 power forward Jeff Adrien late in the first half to equally ineffective results, as Alexander helped engineer WVU's impressive comeback in a 17-4 run that cut what was once a 17-point UConn lead down to three. UConn wound up holding on for a 79-71 win.

When asked on Wednesday if he was a particularly tough matchup for the Huskies, Alexander said: "I think I am. They've got such a big front line that are true big men. I don't think I'm a true big man, so that's a tough matchup."

"I'm a little bigger than Robinson, he's young," he added. "Jeff's a great post player, but he's a little bit less perimeter-oriented than I am."

While UConn has spent a lot of time talking about getting revenge on Providence, the Huskies will now have to deal with a team looking for revenge on that 79-71 loss in Hartford on March 1.

"I don't think we played too well tonight, I think we'll play a lot better tomorrow," WVU guard Alex Ruoff said after the Mountaineers' 58-53 win over Providence. "(UConn is) a good team, though. We're really looking for that revenge."


Curtis Kelly has practiced with UConn each of the past two days at Columbia University and will dress for tomorrow's game. Kelly dislocated his left elbow against Villanova on Feb. 23 and hasn't played since. He's averaging just 2.0 points and 7.6 minutes per game this season.


Unlike a year ago, when he was sure his team would earn an NCAA tourney berth after its quarterfinal-round Big East tournament loss, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is resigned to the fact that his Orange (19-13 overall) are NIT-bound following their 82-63 loss to Villanova.

"We needed to win a lot of games," he said. "After last year, we probably needed to win two or three games to even get close to where we were last year. But that wasn't the thought. We knew we needed to win."

Boeheim won't even bother watching Selection Sunday.

"Even if we had won, I still wasn't going to watch it because of what happened last year. I watched it, and I thought we were going to be in, so I told myself no matter what, I'm not going to watch it."

Added forward Arinze Onuaku: "I'm on the same schedule as him."


Remember Dwain Williams, the PC guard who hit 3-pointers from all over the court in the Friars' Jan. 17 win in Hartford? He missed the Friars last six games with a high ankle sprain and hasn't been at any practices or games. A source close to the program said he went back to his San Diego home to get a second opinion on his ankle in hopes of avoiding surgery. He's been back on campus since but is solely concentrating on his schoolwork.


The chant of "Fire Welsh!" went up in the waning seconds of PC's loss to West Virginia. It's a strong possiblity, as the Friars are now just 1-10 in Big East tourney games and 0-2 in NCAA tourney games over Welsh's 10 years at the school. Who'd replace him? Phil Martelli, Jim O'Brien and Jim Larranaga have been mentioned as possibilities, but don't overlook Craig Robinson, the dynamo coach just a few miles across town from PC at Brown. (Robinson, by the way, is Barack Obama's brother-in-law).


Seen sitting behind the Providence bench: Ex-NFLers Warren Moon and Cris Carter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thabeet, Calhoun, Price feted

Poor wireless connection from the Hyatt Regency, where the Big East awards banquet was held, prevented this from being sent sooner. Anyway, as most of you probably know by now ...

Hasheem Thabeet was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

"I'd like to thank the guards for letting guys go by so I can block shots," Thabeet said with a smile.

Thabeet, a 7-3 sophomore from Dar Es Salaam , Tanzania , set a BIG EAST record by blocking 94 shots in conference play. He is first in the league in blocked shots in all games (4.6) and in BIG EAST play (5.2). In two seasons of conference competition, Thabeet’s blocked shot average of 4.5 is the highest in the history of the BIG EAST. This season, he is averaging 8.0 rebounds.

Other awards winners were Notre Dame sophomore forward Luke Harangody, Player of the Year; Mike Brey, Harangody’s head coach, Coach of the Year for a second straight year; ittsburgh freshman center DeJuan Blair and Syracuse freshman guard Jonny Flynn will share BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors; Pitt’s Sam Young, a junior forward, is the BIG EAST Most Improved Player; Georgetown ’s Patrick Ewing, Jr. has been named the first winner of the new Sixth Man Award; a pair of senior guards, Ronald Ramon of Pittsburgh and Darris Nichols of West Virginia, will share the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.

ALSO ...

Jim Calhoun was named USBWA District 1 Coach of the Year, and A.J. Price was named USBWA District 1 Player of the Year. Price and Jeff Adrien were named to the District 1 first team.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Master Luke

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey may have spilled the beans during a conference call on Monday when he seemed to confirm that Luke Harangody was the Big East's Player of the Year.

Brey was asked to comment about the All-Big East First Team selections of Harangody and Kyle McAlarney and said he was proud that the former had won Player of the Year honors. When asked if he had let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, Brey backtracked and continued to compliment Harangody's game.

Either way, it's not exactly a surprise. Harangody, a 6-8 sophomore, led the conference in scoring (21 ppg) and was second in rebounds (10.3). In conference play, Harangody was even better, averaging 23.3 points and 11.3 boards. Both led the league.

He's got A.J. Price's vote.

"I've got to give my vote to Harangody," Price said. "I think he deserves it. He's been putting up numbers all year, and helping his team win."

Price, Adrien, Thabeet earn Big East honors

A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien have been named to the All-Big East First Team. Hasheem Thabeet has earned All-Big East Second Team honors.

Here's the entire list:
First Team
Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati, Soph. G
Jeff Adrien, Connecticut, Jr. F
* A.J. Price, Connecticut, Jr. G
* David Padgett, Louisville, Sr. C
* Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, Soph. C
Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame, Jr. G
Sam Young, Pittsburgh, Jr. F
Brian Laing, Seton Hall, Sr. G
Kentrell Gransberry, South Florida, Sr. C
Joe Alexander, West Virginia, Jr. F

Second Team
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut, Soph. C
Jonathan Wallace, Georgetown, Sr. G
Draelon Burns, DePaul, Sr. G
Terrence Williams, Louisville, Jr. F
Lazar Hayward, Marquette, Soph. F
Dominic James, Marquette, Jr. G
Jerel McNeal, Marquette, Jr. G
Donte Greene, Syracuse, Fr. F
Paul Harris, Syracuse, Soph. G/F
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova, Soph. G

Honorable Mention
DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, Fr. F
Geoff McDermott, Providence, Jr. G/F
Anthony Mason, Jr., St. John's, Jr. F
Dominique Jones, South Florida, Fr. G
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, Fr. G

All-Rookie Team
Mac Koshwal, DePaul, C
Dar Tucker, DePaul, G
Austin Freeman, Georgetown, G
* DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, F
Corey Chandler, Rutgers, G
Justin Burrell, St. John's, F
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G
* Dominique Jones, South Florida, G
* Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, G
* Donte Greene, Syracuse, F
Corey Fisher, Villanova, G

* -- Denotes unanimous selection

Sunday, March 09, 2008

An African Connection at UConn?

Could UConn have an African connection on its front line for the next year ... or two? A couple of interesting hints that it could happen popped up this evening. Consider:

Ater Majok's original plan was to watch UConn's game with Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon on an unofficial visit, then head down to Kentucky to watch the Wildcats play Florida in an SEC battle today. That changed when the UConn-Cincy game was postponed on Saturday until this evening.

"He thought his priority was to see UConn play," said Ed Smith, Majok's coach at the American International School in Carlington, Australia.

So there was Majok, along his 17-year-old cousin, Majok Majok, and Smith behind the Huskies' bench today. From all appearances, Majok's visit to Storrs went very well.

"From what we've seen here, the kid has a real good feel for the place," Smith said.

Smith added that Majok, an intriguing, 6-foot-9 forward from Sudan via Australia, has narrowed his list of schools down to UConn, Kentucky, Kansas and Baylor. He has yet to visit Kentucky or Kansas. Majok will return to Australia on Saturday but return to the U.S. in mid-April, when he may make an official to UConn and also may visit Kentucky and Kansas. He'd like to make his decision by mid-April.


As for the Huskies' current player of African descent, Hasheem Thabeet, it's possible the NBA riches may be put off for another year -- or two -- by the 7-foot-3 Tanzanian.

When asked tonight if he had just played his final game at Gampel, Thabeet – a sophomore who could be a first-round NBA draft pick in June – pointed out with just a hint a wry smile: "No, it's the last game this season. There's a couple more seasons to come. I'm only a sophomore, so …"

Said UConn coach Jim Calhoun: "Big picture-wise, he needs another year of college, offensively. Defensively he doesn't, he really doesn't … I would love to see him be able to play in the NBA for 12, 15 years. One of the ways to do that is to make sure you're ready when you go in, so that after your second year, it's $14 (million) for six years or something, and you can set up your family for years and years."