Geno Auriemma

Geno Auriemma sounds off on realignment


It was only a matter of time until Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the UConn women’s team, let loose on conference realignment.

He’s a fiery guy and unafraid to voice his opinion on any matter, which is only magnified by the fact that he is, undoubtedly, the absolute best in his profession.

“I hope they all leave tomorrow,” Auriemma told John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant. “But they can’t, because we have to play out the [2012-13] schedule. But as soon as it’s over, let them go and do what they need to do, just like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia did. West Virginia did it the right way. They said they didn’t want to be in the Big East any more and said, ‘See you later, I’m out of here.’ I hope they all take that approach.”

I can understand his frustration.

Men’s basketball, the second most popular collegiate sport and the reason that the NCAA is able to generate three-quarters of their annual revenue thanks to the roughly $700 million Turner and CBS forked over to broadcast the NCAA tournament, had absolutely no say in realignment until the Catholic 7 pulled out of the Big East. Auriemma’s sport doesn’t even qualify as an afterthought.

It’s a non-entity.

His team is at the mercy of TV contracts and hurt feelings. And while it won’t matter what conference UConn is a part of — Auriemma will steamroll any league that he is in — it must be frustrating to be utterly clueless when it comes to who your league foes will be a year from now and to have no say in the matter.

There’s more:

“Everyone has their own ideas and theories. Everyone wants to live in a nostalgic world where, as Garrison Keillor said, all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.

“Everyone wants to live in the place where the nine original schools of the Big East are all together and will play against each other forever. Then football became the driving vehicle. You are either at the table with the big boys or you are not.

“The Catholic schools did a really good thing. They stayed at the table for as long as it took them to make as much money as they could. And once they saw all the money running out, they decided to go play somewhere else. Had some of them managed to vote appropriately over the last 10 years [as Big East conference members with a say on rights’ fees], we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.

“They did what was best for them, just like a lot of Catholic schools do. They like to say the state schools are the big bad guys. I’ve heard my share of that in my time in the conference [28 years].”

At this point, it’s better to just save your breath, Geno.

Realignment is a freight train. Nothing can slow it down, especially not a women’s basketball coach. To the decision maker, your opinion simply does not matter.

All that rant did was give me fodder for a blog post.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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.