Boeheim turns in another epic press conference


New rule. Every Jim Boeheim press conference should be streamed live on the Internet.

Less than a week after letting loose regarding the Syracuse media coverage – video is here, text exchanges are here – the Orange coach was refreshingly candid following Monday’s 69-64 win at Villanova.

To be blunt, he could give a fig about playing “tough” games, whether they’re during the non-conference schedule or during Big East play.

Jonathan Tannewald from Soft Pretzel Logic got the good stuff down:

Reporter: You came up with an overtime win at home [against Rutgers on Saturday], and then a tough, tough game on the road here. Do games like this help you at this stage of the conference season?

Boeheim: I think that’s all [cow-based fertilizer], you know. All that stuff, it’s all [cow-based fertilizer]. We could play next week and get in the same game next week and lose. We could have ten of these in a row and win them, then get in a tournament and have one and you lose it. It’s all [cow-based fertilizer].

But that’s just for starters. The next exchange really made me laugh.

Reporter: Does this league toughen a team up or beat a team up?

Boeheim: I don’t know. That’s like that other question. You can’t – it’s not that it’s bad. It’s just that the whole thing about toughening a team up, I don’t think it hurts you. They see they can make a play. But it’s like schedules.

They say, play a tough non-league schedule and it will help you for the league. Georgetown had the toughest non-league schedule in our conference and what did they start out in our league? 1-4. We had a fairly easy one and we were 5-0.

Does that mean our schedule wasn’t tough enough? Or it took a little bit longer to kick in that it wasn’t tough enough? That’s all nonsense. It’s what kind of team you have. You play a fairly decent schedule, whatever it is. You could play 14 easy games and a couple tough ones just to see, and then you can start playing.

I mean, what happens the year you start out with a tough game? You didn’t have anything to get ready for. All that stuff is just, you know – it used to be that it wasn’t so bad because we just had you guys. Now you’ve got all these people doing this all the time. Now you’ve got eight million answers to one question that only needs one answer.

We’ve got a talk show guy in Syracuse who never comes to press conferences, and he says, “They don’t ever ever ask Boeheim the tough questions.” So I called him. On the air. I said, “Okay, ask me a tough one.”

[He said] “Well, what do you mean?” I said, “No, ask me a tough question. You know”

He said one week I took [Brandon] Triche out when he hit two shots. I said, “Well his back was bothering him, and he said he had to come out for a minute.”

[And the talk show host said] “Oh. I didn’t know that.”

[To which Boeheim replied] “No [fertilizer].”

[The talk show host then said] “But you know, I’m not a journalist.”

I said, “You didn’t have to tell me that. I already knew that.”

Questioner: I just thought I’d ask.

Was Boeheim over the top? Maybe. But give the guy credit for speaking his mind. The last thing the world needs is more boring coachspeak.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.