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Saturday / July 21.
  • Calhoun Opposed to 18-Game Big East Slate; Big East Quotes & Notes

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    The big news on today’s Big East conference call was that UConn coach Jim Calhoun said the 18-game Big East schedule was unnecessary and could prevent a couple of teams from making the NCAA Tournament. Calhoun, whose team is 24-2 and could get a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, said the league should return to a 16-game slate.

    “The only way is to cut the number of games back,” Calhoun said. “I’m looking at this from an overview of a guy who’s been in the league for 23 years. I want to see our teams and coaches succeed.”

    Calhoun pointed specifically to the cases of Providence, Notre Dame and Georgetown, and said they were hurt by the league schedule.

    “I really like the Providence team and I’m sure they’re on the bubble [because of the scheduling],” Calhoun said. “Providence is the third team after Notre Dame and Georgetown who I believe is NCAA quality.”

    ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi recently said that the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament included Georgetown, Providence and Cincinnati.

    Calhoun also wondered whether the league’s elite teams might be hurt down the road by the long schedule.

    No Big East team has made the Final Four since the league expanded to 16 teams three years ago.

    “Have we paid too great a price in the regular season?” Calhoun asked. “Are we going to be fit, is Louisville and Pittsburgh going to be fit and able to win (in March)?'”

    Several of Calhoun’s colleagues, including Rick Pitino of Louisville and Freddie Hill of Rutgers, concurred that a 16-game slate would be preferred.

    “I think if you were in Conference USA 18 games would be fine,” Pitino said. “I’m sure that Memphis enjoys that…But in the Big East 18 games is overpowering. I think every coach would agree with Jim [Calhoun]. [The Big East] signed a contract with ESPN to play 18 games. It’s all money-driven. It is very difficult on the players and the coaches;  all we are is beating each other up.”

    Hill said his team was slated to play North Carolina, Florida and N.C. State next year and would also play “two BCS-type” teams in the Legends Classic at the Prudential Center.  All of that, plus an 18-game Big East slate, makes for a tough year.

    “Next year we’re playing North Carolina, Florida and North Carolina State,” said Hill, whose club visits Villanova tonight. “If you have a 16-game schedule, that’s not bad. Not to mention we’re playing in an exempt tournament where we will have to play two other BCS-type teams. Then when you have to play an 18-game Big East schedule, it makes it very tough.

    “By playing 16 games in the league, you can play three really good non-conference type games and still have a respectable schedule.

    “This league is very, very deep. There’s not a bad team in the league.”

    HERE ARE SOME OTHER QUOTES FROM THE CALL

    BUZZ WILLIAMS, MARQUETTE

    ON THE STRETCH AHEAD

    “I think every position is monumental whether you’re at home or on the road…

    “I think every game has critical impact on postseason, on your seed, on all those things, good and bad…I think if you don’t take care of your business today, none of that matters.”

    ON THE SETON HALL WIN TUESDAY NIGHT

    “I think Seton Hall’s very potent offensively. They scored nine baskets in the second half but they scored five of those in the last 3 minutes, 48 seconds when our core players weren’t in.”

    MIKE BREY, NOTRE DAME

    ON WEST VIRGINIA

    “I think [West Virginia guard Alex] Ruoff is playing about as well as anybody in the league right now. He’s playing with such confidence.”

    ON HOW IMPORTANT THE UPCOMING STRETCH IS

    “Every league game now there’s a lot riding on it when you’re in the position we’re in. There’s no question about it. It’s not lost on us.”

    ON TRYING TO FINISH .500

    “I don’t think anybody would argue that a .500 record in the Big East this year is a very respectable record…I think 9-9 is pretty good in our league this year.”

    ON BIG EAST FRONTCOURTS

    “The bodies and the physicality, there are NBA front lines in this league, so it just changes the dynamic.”

    ON THE EXPERIENCE RETURNING

    “We have an old league. We have 17 of the 20 all-league players back. When you have that kind of power coming back with your star players it’s going to set itself up to be a gauntlet. You get blindsided at times with just how talented teams are.”

    ON FINISHING STRONG

    “You’re 5-8 in the league  you can still finish with some momentum. that’s really how we look at it…Can we be better on Saturday [at Providence]?”

    JERRY WAINWRIGHT, DEPAUL

    ON LOUISVILLE

    “They’re one of the better teams not only in our league, but in the country.”

    ON PITT

    Sam Young has had a lot of the pressure taken off of him, and I don’t know that everybody expected this from DeJuan Blair’s play….We have to use two blockers on DeJuan Blair to keep him off our quarterback.

    “They’ve built a depth and a confidence off the bench that is really unbelievable.

    “I do believe they have as good a chance to get as far as anybody in the country. I really do believe that.”

    ON HOW TEAMS PLAY DEPAUL

    “Everybody comes at us like they would at a first-division team.”

    JIM CALHOUN, UCONN

    ON DEJUAN BLAIR

    “Blair proved to me that there aren’t many of him out there. I know Kevin Love got a great deal of publicity in college but Blair is just a heck of a basketball player.”

    ON THE LOSS OF JEROME DYSON

    “I think when you’re 24-2, to complain is stupid No. 1. …I admit to myself just how good Jerome Dyson is. Someone else — Craig Austrie, Scottie Haralson, Donnell Beverly — has to emerge from our bench. They’re Division I college basketball players and we have to find a way to get a little more from Stanley Robinson, Craig Austrie and our bench to improve.”

    ON PROVIDENCE

    “I really like the Providence team and I’m sure they’re on the bubble.”

    “Providence is the third team after Notre Dame and Georgetown who I believe is NCAA quality.”

    ON BOB HUGGINS AT WEST VIRGINIA

    “The addition of Bobby to  West Virginia[helps]  from a recruiting standpoint. And they’re very young and they’re good.”

    JAMIE DIXON, PITT

    ON NOTRE DAME AND GEORGETOWN POSSIBLY MISSING THE NCAAs

    “[The league] is very deep and it’s pretty predictable. …Everybody knows how good Notre Dame and Georgetown are. You look at the teams they’ve lost to, they’re NCAA Tournament teams.

    “It just has to be taken into consideration by all involved. It seems pretty simple to me, but I don’t know if everybody is grasping it.”

    ON HOW GOOD PITT IS

    “I’ve said all along, this team could be as good as any team we’ve ever had.”

    ON SEEDING FOR THE NCAAs

    “I think where you are seeded is always important. Often times teams who get the 1 are home or close to home, even in their own city…I think there’s a lot of different factors that come with where you’re put in the tournament.”

    FREDDIE HILL, RUTGERS

    ON THE PROVIDENCE GAME

    “Up at Providence, we played very, very well in the second half. In the first half we dug ourselves a hole, which is something we’ve had a propensity to do this year.”

    ON VILLANOVA TONIGHT

    “Tonight we go down to Villanova.. They’ve got great guard play, they’ve got veteran leadership. I just really think that Dante Cunningham has turned into an outstanding player. Might be the most improved player in the Big East.”

    ON HOW GOOD PITT IS

    “I do think that DeJuan Blair is playing at an exceptional  level right now. I  think that Levance Fields might be one of the most underrated players in the country….Certainly a guy like Sam Young can really, really score. They’ve got a very good team. I was extremely impressed with them when we played them.”

    ON JIM CALHOUN SAYING THE 18-GAME SCHEDULE SHOULD BE REDUCED TO 16

    “Jim’s been around for a long, long time and he’s got a helluva program. I think what he said, people should listen to. It’s a big league. We’re in the deepest and best league in the country. To play 18 games, it maybe takes away from some of the inter-sectional rivalries.

    “Next year we’re playing North Carolina, Florida and North Carolina State. If you have a 16-game schedule, that’s not bad. Not to mention we’re playing in an exempt tournament where we will have to play two other BCS-type teams. Then when you have to play an 18-game Big East schedule, it makes it very tough.

    “By playing 16 games in the league, you can play three really good non-conference type games and still have a respectable schedule.

    “This league is very, very deep. There’s not a bad team in the league.

    “You’re talking about eight teams in the middle that are all really beating each other up.”

    RICK PITINO, LOUISVILLE

    ON BEATING PROVIDENCE LAST NIGHT

    “It was a great basketball game, great offensive display by both teams…Providence was brilliant in the first half.”

    ON PLAYING NOTRE DAME NEXT

    “Obviously we’re fighting for a Big East championship and they’re fighting for a shot in the NCAA Tournament.”

    “Notre Dame is one of the premier offensvie basketball teams in the country… but they’re not going to out-defend you on a given night. That’s their MO…You have to talent on both ends of the floor.”

    ON WHETHER THE IRISH MAKE THE TOURNAMENT

    “If you don’t have a winning record in your conference, you’re not getting an NCAA berth. So it doesn’t matter what I think.”

    ON THE 18-GAME SCHEDULE

    “I think if you were in Conference USA 18 games would be fine. I’m sure that Memphis enjoys that…But in the Big East 18 games is overpowering. I think every coach would agree with Jim [Calhoun]. They signed a contract with ESPN to play 18 games. It’s all money-driven. It is very difficult on the players and the coaches, all we are is beating up each other.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.