Digging into the Calhoun/Calipari rivalry

Connecticut Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun gestures as his team plays the San Diego Aztecs during their NCAA West Regional college basketball game in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

ESPN’s Andy Katz outlines what has been something of a heated rivalry between Jim Calhoun and John Calipari.

The perceived breaking point between the two schools — and coaches — occurred during the recruitment of Hartford-area center Marcus Camby in 1993.

“I was responsible for recruiting Marcus and I did everything I possibly could,” Dickenman said. “I tried and I tried, and the bottom line is I was talking to a wall. We weren’t going to get him. We did have him on a visit with Kirk King and Ray Allen. We had this feeling that we weren’t in it and we never really were.”

“At the time John was an up-and-comer, a hot-shot name, and Jim doesn’t like to lose to anyone,” Dickenman said. “John has tremendous charisma and he’s a little brash. Jim had taken some things personal, but I don’t think they were necessarily directed at Jim.

Calhoun doesn’t like to lose at all, but he really doesn’t like to lose to hot-shot coaches like Calipari, so there will be a little extra juice to the UConn/Kentucky tilt on Saturday night.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

VCU silences critics with amazing run to Final Four

Virginia Commonwealth Rams guard Joey Rodriguez (C) holds up the NCAA Southwest Regional Champion trophy next to head coach Shaka Smart after defeating Kansas Jayhawks in their NCAA Southwest Regional college basketball game in San Antonio, Texas, March 27, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

This moment of madness brought to you by Muscle MilkĀ®. It’s powerful protein. Drink. Evolveā„¢

When Virginia Commonwealth’s name was called on Selection Sunday, there were more than a few eyebrows raised across the country. ESPN’s Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps and Hubert Davis even spent a few minutes railing on the inclusion of VCU (and UAB). In fairness, they weren’t arguing that the Rams weren’t a solid team, or even that they weren’t capable of making a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, just that their resume wasn’t as good as those of Virginia Tech or Colorado.

But that didn’t stop VCU head coach Shaka Smart from using their words to motivate his team. The Rams had an especially tough road to the Final Four, and were underdogs in each and every game they played. It’s not like this was some underachieving team from the Big East. The Rams finished fourth (fourth!) in the Colonial Athletic Association, so their run to the Final Four truly came out of nowhere. Along the way, they’ve beaten five power conferences: USC (Pac-10), Georgetown (Big East), Purdue (Big Ten), Florida St. (ACC) and yesterday’s monumental upset of #1-seeded Kansas (Big 12).

And it’s not like these wins were nailbiters, either. Sure, the FSU game went into overtime, but they upended USC by 13, Georgetown and Purdue by 18 and Kansas by 10. They didn’t just beat these teams. They pounded them.

How did VCU do it? Despite being outrebounded on average by more than seven boards, the Rams combined stingy defense with the great tournament equalizer, the three-pointer. Try this stat on for size: In five games, VCU has shot better from three-point range (44%) than their opponents have shot from the field (39%). What’s amazing about the Rams’ hot shooting is that on the season, they made just 36% from long range.

America loves an underdog story and with VCU set to square off against Butler in the Final Four, we’re guaranteed that a mid-major will play in the title game for the second straight season.

That’s the great thing about a sudden-death tournament. And Muscle Milk would like to remind us that on any given day, the little guy can win.

Bracket Update: Saturday

He’s dead, Jim.

Even though I had lost two Final Four picks (Pitt and Duke) earlier in the tournament, my bracket still had monetary potential — all I needed was Ohio State to beat Kansas in the title game and I would have finished second in my pool of 20. Thanks to the Buckeyes, that deal’s dead, and so is my bracket.

My bread and butter, Sagarin and Pomeroy ratings, did not perform well in the Sweet 16. Teams with at least a 2-point Sagarin advantage were just 2-6, while 65% Pomeroy favorites were just 2-4. Both Sagarin and Pomeroy were 39-13 (75%) in predicting winners heading into the Sweet 16.

It’s all right if you lose a couple of Final Four teams early in the tournament, but if you go with the #1 seeds and lose your overall winner, there will be blood in the water.

It appears that anyone who has the Jayhawks is sitting pretty.

How did Arizona beat Duke?

Arizona Wildcats players celebrate during their NCAA West Regional college basketball game against the Duke Blue Devils in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Derrick Williams played a nearly perfect first half, and then his supporting cast played a nearly perfect second half.

It’s really that simple.

If not for Williams, Duke might have blown Arizona out in the first 20 minutes. The sophomore forward went 8-for-11 from the field (5-of-6 from 3PT) for 25 points to go along with six rebounds, three steals and a block. That’s all in a half, people. Not a game. A half. His deep three as time expired cut the Duke lead from nine to six, and gave Arizona some momentum heading into intermission.

One category that coaches and statheads both look at is offensive efficiency, which is the number of points per possession that an offense scores in any given game. Since each offensive rebound starts a new possession, one stat I like to look at is the number of points per trip. In the second half, the Wildcats scored 55 points on 35 trips, or 1.57 points per trip. The sign of a good offense is generally 1.0 point per trip, so Arizona’s work in the half was nothing short of outstanding.

Arizona missed just 16 shots in the second half (making 21), but gathered 12 (twelve!) offensive rebounds, so along with three turnovers, the Wildcats only had eight scoreless trips in the second half. That means that they scored on 27 of their 35 (77%) trips in the final 20 minutes. That’s a truly an amazing half of basketball.

Arizona made nearly all its open shots and hit several tough leaners and fadeaways that aren’t typically high percentage shots. They took care of the ball — remember the aforementioned three turnovers — and made every correct decision when Duke’s defense came over to help or trap.

That said, Duke still had a chance to make a run with about six minutes to play. The Blue Devils cut the lead from 14 to 11 and forced an Arizona miss, but Nolan Smith couldn’t convert a semi-tough layup to get the lead under 10. Had that shot gone in, the pressure would have been back on the Wildcats, and the game might have been tighter at the end. But it didn’t fall and Arizona went on a 5-0 run to push the lead back to 16. Wheels off. Game over.

Tweeting the West Region

My buddy LaRusso got us tickets to the West Region Sweet 16 games, and I’ll be tweeting throughout the SDSU/UConn and Duke/Arizona games (@FantasyShrink). Join the conversation!

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