Posted on: March 21, 2009 6:14 pm

Miami Regional by the numbers

Here are some interesting stats and facts I've found on the four teams remaining at the Miami Regional of the NCAA tournament

-Since the NCAA tournament field was expanded to 16 seeds per region in 1985, there have been only seven matchups between teams seeded No. 12 and No. 13. It happened twice last year: Western Kentucky played San Diego and Villanova played Siena, both games taking place in Tampa. It will happen again Sunday between No. 12 Arizona and No. 13 Cleveland State.

-Syracuse is 49-31 in the NCAA tournament.

-Syracuse and Arizona State have met just once in before. It was 1968 in the Far West Classic, and Arizona State won 93-77. Herb Sendek is 1-1 against the Orange with N.C. State.

-Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim needs two wins to reach 800.

-Arizona State is 10-5 against the NCAA tournament field: 3-0 vs. Arizona, 2-0 vs. UCLA, 1-1 against Cal, 1-2 against Wasington, 1-2 against USC, 1-0 against BYU and 1-0 against Temple.

-Cleveland State is 3-2 vs. ranked opponents this year, with the three victories against Wake Forest, Syracuse and Butler.

Posted on: March 20, 2009 7:09 pm

Syracuse sick

The Orange could use some oranges. Anything that can help cure this cold in the NCAA tournament.

Jonny Flynn and Jim Boeheim were both coughing at the podium Friday following Syracuse's win against Stephen F. Austin in the first round. Boeheim said several members of the team's travel party are sick, and top reserve Kristof Ongenaet was out with the flu.

It didn't bother the Orange against the Lumberjacks in a 59-44 victory, but it could be an issue Sunday against Arizona State in the second round. Ongenaet's status is unknown.

With all the overtime games, travel and pressure of the NCAA tournament, Syracuse can use some rest Saturday before facing the Sun Devils. Still, the Orange looked good early against Stephen F. Austin and held on late to win.

Because of the victory, Boeheim said "I don't feel that bad" when asked about his health.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 19, 2009 12:05 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2009 7:04 pm

Miami Regional


Cleveland State isn't going to be distracted by being in Miami. The Vikings were here earlier this season for a tournament in November, so the South Beach experience isn't a factor.

Cleveland State isn't going to be intimidated by facing Wake Forest. The Vikings played at Washington, at West Virginia and at Syracuse -- a game where Cedric Jackson's 60-foot heave at the buzzer helped CSU pull off the upset.

Cleveland State also isn't worried about tournament play. After all, the Vikings just beat Butler on its home court to win the Horizon League Championship.

So what is Cleveland State concerned about since the Vikings haven't been in the NCAA Tournament since 1986, when Jackson was 9 days old?

"I would say we're not nervous because we've been prepared to play teams like this all season long," Jackson said. "We've played against big teams. It prepared us for Friday."

The Vikings seem confident for a No. 13 seed. They don't seem worried even though Wake Forest was ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season.

Senior center Chris Moore, who is from Madison, OH, is hoping this year's Vikings can duplicate what the 1986 team did by knocking off Indiana and coach Bob Knight.

"That's something that's still talked about in the city all the time," Moore said. "It's definitely an honor to be compared to those guys. But we're trying to create our own legacy and step out of that shadow and be something else that's remembered in the city of Cleveland."

Can Cleveland State do it again and knock off another giant? The Vikings are ready to give it a try. 



First, Arizona wasn't supposed to be in the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Wildcats are favored to pull the upset as the No. 12 seed against No. 5 seed Utah.

What gives?

"Utah is a very good team," Arizona junior forward Chase Budinger said. "They've got the No. 5 seed for a reason. They had a great year, and they're a good team. And even though people are saying that this is an upset-type game, we're not letting that get to us at all because we know that Utah is a very good team. We're not going to overlook them at all. Like I said, they got that No. 5 seed for a reason."

The Wildcats are trying to say all the right things after finishing 19-13 and sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. Arizona lost four of its past six games, which took the luster off quality wins against Kansas, Gonzaga, Washington, USC and UCLA during the year.

The best statement Arizona can make about deserving to be here is winning and proving the upset can happen.

"We're grateful and thankful to be in the NCAA Tournament," Wildcats coach Russ Pennell said. "Our journey was a little bit different than some of these teams. We kind of had to sweat it out, I think, on Selection Sunday, and actually the last couple of weeks did not win as many games as we would have liked to have."

Pennell was asked his thoughts on taking a spot away from Creighton or Saint Mary's.

"Well, first of all, I think that deserving to be here is probably left up to other people to debate," Pennell said. "We certainly felt like we deserved to be here, and we make no apologies for getting in.

"As far as that underdog thing, I think that the important thing right now for everyone in this tournament to understand is that everyone is 0-0. The seedings mean absolutely nothing right now because it's one-game seasons. If you win, you stay. If you lose, you go home. Really that's our motivation, we would like to stay in the tournament, and in order to do that, we have to defeat a very good Utah team."

In the brackets on CBSSports.com, 58.1 percent of people chose Utah to win with 41.9 percent going with Arizona. On Friday, we'll find out who got it right and which team can advance.



Wake Forest junior guard Ishmael Smith and his teammates had no idea about Cleveland State's history. That is, until Smith ran into a campus police officer earlier this week.

Smith said the officer told him about Cleveland State's last appearance to the NCAA Tournament in 1986 when the Vikings upset Indiana and Bob Knight. CSU was a No. 14 seed then and played the role of Cinderella. The Vikings are a No. 13 seed now and looking to make similar noise.

Smith said the officer told him "Don't let that happen to you guys."

It will be a tough test for Wake Forest, especially since Maryland laid the blueprint for how to beat the Deacons. In the ACC Tournament, Maryland forced Wake Forest to shoot outside, and the Deacons shot 30 percent from the field and went 3-of-25 from the three-point line.

CSU might take a similar approach, and Smith is ready.

"We know we're not a great three-point shooting team," Smith said. "As coach said, 10-to-12 threes, that's a good sizeable amount for us, and it doesn't have to be more than that. We've worked all week on that, and hopefully we won't make the same mistake when we see it again."

Added senior guard Harvey Hale: "Guys are really working hard, and we're really moving the ball. I think that's going to separate us from being good to great."

Coach Dino Gaudio said this is "a danger game." He said for the Deacons not to get upset and execute, they need to come ready to play.

"I think we've just got to try to narrow our focus," Gaudio said. "I told them, don't make the moment bigger than it is. There's a tendency to do that as they watch the games and we come into the arena, and all of a sudden the game gets to be a little bigger than -- like I said, we're just talking about let's try to win the next possession."

They're also trying not to make 1986 happen all over again. 



Luke Nevill, the 7-foot-2 senior center for Utah, is from Perth, Australia. He said Thursday his mom has been visiting him from home and plans to stay through the Final Four.

Maybe he can give her a tutorial on the NCAA Tournament.

Nevill said the tournament isn't it big in his country. According to Nevill, Australians might know more about Lleyton Hewitt than they do about Mike Krzyzewski.

"You know, last time I was back in Australia before I went to college, no, we didn't see any coverage," Nevill said. "You'd see the highlights, but besides that, we don't see any tournament games. So it's not a huge deal over there."

Nevill, who coach Jim Boylen said "is a lottery pick" in the NBA, got a new haircut for the tournament. He went from shaggy blond locks to a cleaner cut.

He wanted to keep a promise he made after the Utes won the Mountain West Conference.

"I kind of told my team that I would get a haircut when we won the conference, so it was going to happen since I was pretty confident that we were," said Nevill, who averages 16.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. "I just went and got it done. Plus it's hotter here, humid, so it's more streamlined."

That comment drew laughter from the media in attendance. But the Utes are focused on not being a No. 5 seed to fall to No. 12 Arizona. Many people around the country believe Arizona will knock off Utah, and that has the Utes focused.

"We more look at it as just motivation to just keep proving people wrong," senior forward Shaun Green said. "We were picked fourth in our conference, and we ended up being tied for first. I don't think anybody picked us to win the conference tournament and we ended up winning that. Now we're underdogs it seems like again for the NCAA Tournament, and that's fine. I mean, we've been that all year, and we're just going to keep playing the way we've been playing and just keep trying to prove people wrong."

Added senior guard Tyler Kepkay: "I think it's been a trend all year that we've been the underdog, so we're pretty used to it. We are just going to handle it, prepare and take care of business tomorrow."

For Nevill's sake, hopefully everyone in Australia will be watching.



Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said Thursday that Pac-10 Player of the Year James Harden is dealing with a bruised Achilles' tendon. He's expected to be fine, but hopefully he'll be 100 percent against Temple in the first round.

Harden averaged 20.8 points and 5.5 rebounds this season. Temple coach Fran Dunphy said Harden is a lottery pick in the NBA once he leaves college.

"For us as we look at Harden, we know how good a basketball player he is, and unless we pay attention to every detail defensively, he's going to take advantage of that," Dunphy said. "I think he's a terrific basketball player. The guys that I sit and listen to, the prognosticators, the pro guys who talk about him, they liken his game to a Paul Pierce. Everybody likes to say, "Who does he remind you of?" and they're mentioning his name with a guy like Paul Pierce. That's pretty lofty company."

The matchup with Harden and Temple's Dionte Christmas should be fun to watch. Sendek is also 5-1 in first-round games in the NCAA Tournament.

But for the Sun Devils to avoid the upset, Harden has to play well, something he didn't do in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship against USC. Harden was held to 10 points, which could have been due to the Achilles' injury.

"You know, that was the third game in three days for James," Sendek said. "He played a lot of minutes. Once again, in defense of him, he was doing the best he could with a bruised Achilles' tendon. We had to take him out a couple times in that game just to see if we could rejuvenate him a little bit. Hopefully that's calmed down and he's feeling a little bit better going into this week's game."

Harden's teammates aren't worried about him having a bad game against Temple.

"Him being an all-star player, it's always important for him to have a big game," senior Jeff Pendergraph said. "But I'm not too worried about James. He's a big-time player, big-time guy when the lights are on."



The last time Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn said he faced a 5-foot-3 player was in the seventh grade. He'll have to remember what that's like when he goes against Stephen F. Austin junior guard Eric Bell.

Bell, at 5-foot-3, is the shortest player in Miami.

"You've got to watch out for guys like that, real scrappy, quick, can be a pest on the defensive end," Flynn said. "Watching him on the film, he's a guy that really gets especially up and down the court and really is going to get after it defensively. I've got a tough match-up right there, but my big guy, I'm going to have him come up and set some screens for me and get me open, so hopefully everything is going to be the best."

Flynn is going to need to be moving, and he hopes to have the legs to do it. Flynn said his legs are still tired after playing in seven overtimes -- six against UCONN -- in the Big East Tournament last week.

Flynn played 67 minutes against the Huskies in the quarterfinals and then 45 minutes against West Virginia in an overtime game in the semifinals. After the UCONN game, Syracuse got back to the hotel at 2:30 a.m., but Flynn couldn't sleep.

"I was just so hyped after a win like that, beating UCONN," Flynn said. "It was a perfect story line - got two Hall of Fame coaches in Jim Boeheim and (Jim) Calhoun, you've got the Syracuse-Connecticut rivalry and you're on the biggest stage in the world, New York City, Madison Square Garden. There was just a lot of adrenaline running through my body, and I actually didn't go to sleep until around 7:00, 7:30. It was fun to play in a game like that and it was something to share that moment with my teammates."

Now it's time for Flynn and the Orangemen to refocus for the NCAA Tournament. They get the Lumberjacks in the first round, and Syracuse needs to be ready.

While Syracuse played in the toughest conference in college basketball this season in the Big East, the Orangemen can't overlook a small school from a lesser conference. And if they need a reminder, they just need to look at Cleveland State.

In December, Cedric Jackson's 60-foot heave in Syracuse helped Cleveland State pull the upset, 72-69. CSU is at AmericanAirlines Arena to take on Wake Forest, and Syracuse knows any team can win at any time.

Even Lumberjacks coach Danny Kaspar admitted it's probably going to take a last-second shot for his team to win.

"In college basketball you can't take no team lightly," Syracuse junior Paul Harris said. "I think Cleveland State was a great team, and it was just a last-second shot that was a miracle, and in the NCAA Tournament there will be a lot of those kind of shots happen. You just never want to get yourself in that type of position, and you want to keep on the other team if you can and keep the pressure on. Hopefully it don't come down to a shot like that."

Harris' teammate, Arinze Onuaku, didn't seem worried. He was asked about going out on South Beach, and he already knows when that's going to happen.

"We know what we came here to do," Onuaku said. "We're focused but after we get our win tomorrow, we can walk around, have a little bit of time and get back to game plan."

Onuaku walked past coach Jim Boeheim after saying that. Syracuse hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament in two years, and Boeheim said he's not about to let his team get "sidetracked" by being in Miami.

It doesn't sound like there will be time to walk around South Beach at all.

"We'll play just as well here as we would in Boise or Minneapolis or anyplace else, I guarantee you that," Boeheim said.



I'm looking forward to seeing Dionte Christmas play. The Temple senior, who has scored 30 or more points 10 times in his career, is ready to go against Arizona State.

"He's a terrific shooter," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He doesn't need a lot of time, nor space, to get shots. He has very good range. He's had an interesting year. I think he's made more big shots this year for us but not -- he hasn't shot the best percentage this year. He's had some struggling games that teams have really concentrated their defenses greatly on him, and other times where he's had open looks.

"We've become so spoiled watching him play that we think that every time he shoots it, it's going to go in the basket."

Christmas averages 19.9 points and will likely want to make his presence known against ASU star James Harden, the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

"I think Dionte has been a catalyst for us these last couple years now," Temple senior guard Semaj Inge said. "I don't think we're going to win a lot of big games if Dionte doesn't have a great game."

Christmas is going to have figure out the ASU matchup zone. It's frustrating to play against, and Christmas compared it to the defense the Owls used to play under former coach John Chaney.

"It's very similar," Christmas said. "Those guys are very long on the defensive end. I think it's going to be tough to get shots against that defense. But I think as long as we move the ball and keep cutting and using each other, I think we're going to do a great job against them."

Only one problem with Temple: The cover of their media guide says "Five Months of Christmas" with his picture on the cover and standing next to the Atlantic 10 trophy with a Santa Claus hat on it. That's a little too much.



I'm here at the Miami Regional for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and I'll be bringing you notes all day.

So far, Stephen F. Austin has had their media appearance with players and the head coach. They have a great story.

Their nickname is the Lumberjacks. This is their first NCAA Tournament appearance. And after winning the Southland Conference Tournament title last weekend, they returned home to an empty campus.

The joys of spring break. All the kids were gone.

Sophomore guard Eddie Williams said friends have congratulated him through Facebook. But some of the Lumberjacks faithful are making the drive from Nacogdoches, TX to see Friday's game against Syracuse.

In fact, junior guard Eric Bell's parents have never missed a game, no matter where they've played. On Thursday, Bell said they were still on the way to make the 12:15 p.m. start Friday.

As for the matchup, SFA coach Danny Kaspar knows his team "needs a last-minute shot" to beat the Orangemen. Kaspar said he was preparing for a game in the Southland Tournament with an assistant coach when the Syracuse-UCONN game was going on. Kaspar said "we just kept glancing up at the TV" during the six overtimes.

And now he gets to see Syracuse in person.



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com