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Steve Lavin Knows: Blogs are Watching

I was watching the Purdue/Illinois game on Saturday on ESPN with Dave O’Brien and Steve Lavin providing the commentary. Lavin was talking about UCONN and how he expects them to go on a run now that Jim Calhoun is back. The production team then brought up a graphic regarding tournament regulars in danger of missing The Big Dance. Those teams included Arizona (13-12, on the verge of missing the tourney for the first time in 26 years), UCONN (5-9 in conference), North Carolina (3-9 in the ACC), Oklahoma (13-12 overall), and UCLA (12-13 overall). It’s pretty well known that UCLA has been horrendous this year, especially by their standard. Lavin, as a former Bruins coach who generally speaks positively about his former school, played it safely in his commentary:

Lavin: And Ben Howland still in the mix in terms of the conference race but has struggled overall. He’s done a nice job adjusting in Pac-10 play going to a zone defense (cut off by O’Brien)

O’Brien: Struggling? Yeah, you’re being kind there. It’s been an awful year for UCLA.

Lavin: Of course Dave, if I said that, I’d be getting lit up on the blogs tonight so I tread carefully.

Well Steve, just wanted to let you know that the blogs indeed are watching and they appreciate your careful treading. Matter of conjecture, both announcers were right; as O’Brien said, it has been an awful year for UCLA. Regardless of how many studs they lose to the pros, they shouldn’t be below .500 this late in the year. Losing to Cal-State Fullerton, Long Beach St, and getting blown out by Portland is pretty much unacceptable. As Lavin pointed out (and it may have taken a six-game losing streak), Howland has adjusted and done the unthinkable by incorporating a zone defense in conference play. Yes the Pac-10 is down this year because several players have been drafted recently but at least the Bruins have reached the point of respectability in the conference. Also, let it be known that Lavin is almost always complimentary of UCLA and Ben Howland. For a guy who got fired by the school and replaced with Howland, it probably isn’t easy to speak as positively about UCLA as he does and I respect Lavin a lot for not holding hard feelings.

Pac-10 Should Add Utah and BYU

There’s no doubt that the Pac-10 has the talent and programs to compete with any conference in America across all sports in any given year. The one area where the Pac-10 can’t match other conferences however is TV deals. The Big Ten and Mountain West have their own TV networks. Most other BCS conferences get good TV exposure during the season and the ACC, SEC, and Big 12 already have conference title games. The Pac-10 doesn’t have the money-making game and worse, their games sometimes get lost on Versus, TBS (in the past), or local FSN affiliates where they’re even tape delayed! The Pac-10 is one of the elite conferences in America and needs to start acting like it. That’s exactly why they’ve announced their contemplating expansion.

I think it’s a fine idea to expand and I would make the suggestion for the conference to approach Mountain West powers Utah and BYU to join. The fit would be natural for several reasons. For one, both schools consistently field competitive basketball and football teams while BYU particularly has a strong football tradition. Secondly, the schools are natural rivals as are every other regional couple in the conference. Thirdly, both schools would fit well with the travel model the conference has already established; along with the Norcal, Socal, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington trips, schools would now add in a Utah trip. Lastly, the conference would then have divisions — the Washington, Oregon, and Norcal schools in the Pac-10 North and the Socal, Arizona, and Utah schools in the Pac-10 South. To me, this alignment would be perfect and it would add some nice juice to the conference.

I’ve read that the conference is targeting Utah and Colorado. I prefer BYU over Colorado for several reasons. BYU has been much more competitive in basketball and football recently. BYU and Utah also are natural rivals while Utah and Colorado aren’t; the Pac-10 is based on rivalries. I understand the appeal of Colorado because of the Denver TV market but BYU makes much more sense. That would be my vote for expansion. If the Pac-10 decides to let in the likes of Fresno State, San Diego State, or Boise State, then they will have ignored everything the conference is predicated upon and they will be expanding for the sake of expansion. Let’s hope they do it the right way and in the spirit of the conference.

Announcer Mark Adams Flips Out During Backyard Brawl

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Bob Huggins had to address the West Virginia fans in attendance for throwing crap on the court, things got worse later in the game. A brief altercation amongst the players was broken up pretty quickly by the refs but then they had another issue on their hands: Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion was hit in the cheek by a coin. While chucking a coin at an opposing team’s coach is pretty low, nothing compares to the outrage expressed by announcer Mark Adams. It’s priceless:

Here are some of the highlights: “That’s crap. That is simply not acceptable in college basketball … or any place else! That is not acceptable. You should be able to come to a place and play basketball and not be fearful of your personal safety!”

It’s no surprise to find out that Mark Adams is a motivational speaker whose website boasts, “Mark is Prepared, Entertaining, Educational and always Passionate during his broadcasts and presentations.” While I can’t speak for adjectives one and three, he definitely nailed the entertaining and passionate parts. There’s no doubt that if I ever needed a motivational speaker, I’d book with EnthusiAdams!

Bob Huggins Has a Message for You Stupid West Virginia Fans

Man, this is the second time in a week that we saw a basketball version of a rivalry take a turn for the worst. First it was the Holy War on the hardwood, now it’s the Backyard Brawl. With a packed house of 15,419 — third most ever at the Coliseum — things got rowdy in Morgantown. West Virginia went wire-to-wire for the easy 70-51 win but there were two notable moments of tension. One was when the fans started throwing stuff on the court and the other was when a mini-brawl broke out. Check out Bob Huggins addressing the crowd after they started throwing crap on the court:

In case you can’t watch the video, here’s what Huggy-bear said:

“Hey, don’t throw anything on the floor. You could hurt someone. You could hurt one of the players. That’s stupid. If you see someone throw something on the floor point them out. Throw ‘em out.”

I’m glad Huggins set a good example and tried to diffuse the problem. That’s probably much easier to do when your team is winning the game — by a comfortable margin no less. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, things got worse when later in the game, one of Pitt’s assistants was pelted in the face by a coin.

Basketball Holy War Turns into a Fight

Max Hall famously ripped into Utah following the Holy War during football season, calling them classless and saying he hated everything about them. That sort of venom seemed to pour over into the basketball matchup on Saturday in Provo, a game that was won by BYU 82-69. The Cougars had the win in the bag in the final minute but that’s when some drama broke out. Utah freshman Marshall Henderson was trying to save a ball from going out of bounds and he threw it into Jonathan Tavernari’s face. Tavernari was upset with how hard the ball was thrown so he began to have words with Henderson. Henderson then flailed his arm in a get away from me type of motion and his hand landed on the face of Jackson Emery who did a nice flop. Check out this video from the crowd around the 1:00 mark:

The refs got things under control pretty quickly as you saw, and Henderson wound up being ejected. It’s unclear whether his motive was to strike Emery but it doesn’t matter — raising his arm like that endangered another player and he has to suffer the consequence. With another meeting between the teams coming up on March 3rd, you know there will be plenty of bad blood to go around.

Purdue: The Best Defense in the Big Ten

The Rex Grossman getting boned by a Packers player picture now has some serious competition. Jimmy Traina, who presides over SI’s entertaining Extra Mustard section, revealed this hilarious photo of Purdue guard E’Twaun Moore playing some “on the ball” defense on Demetri McCamey of Illinois. No further explanation is needed:

Any wonder why McCamey wound up screaming? When it comes down to it, I suppose an accidental nut grab is much better than an intentional nut grab.

Jacob Pullen and His Beard Beat Texas

Kansas State handed Texas its first loss of the season, a 71-62 defeat in Manhattan. K-State got up by 10 at the half and held on for the win despite struggling from the outside, going just 1-12 on three pointers. Star Jacob Pullen went 0-6 on his long distance attempts and only 2-15 overall but he still was number one in the fan’s hearts. The junior guard has electrified the fans by averaging 19 points a game and sporting a thin Abe Lincoln-style beard. The look has become so popular in Manhattan that 1,000 Pullen mock beards were passed out to the fans prior to the game. The fan motto has even become “Fear the Beard.” Nobody ever accused the Kansas State fans of originality. The beard has also become a good luck symbol for the team and the squad has responded. At 16-2, Kansas State is rolling.