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Another Top Ten List From The Big Apple

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Greetings from the Bolt Bus - my preferred mode of transportation when traveling between Boston and New York City.  Cheap + abundant leg room + wireless internet is a winning combo.  Especially the cheap part when I turn in the receipt to Dave "Yid" Armbruster at WLW.

 

Unfortunately, I'm on the bus two days too soon after Thursday's kick-to-the-onions loss to West Virginia in the Big East Tournament.  Oh well, at least I'll be home in time to watch Letterman tonight (hint, hint!).

 

For the 2nd straight day, here's a Letterman-inspired Top 10 list from New York.

 

1.  The Big East Tournament

 

When a former US President and one of the 5 coolest people on the planet attend the quarterfinal round of a conference tournament, you know it's a big deal.

 

Seeing Bill Clinton and Denzel Washington at Madison Square Garden last night was a reminder that we ain't in Conference USA anymore (didn't run into either of them in Hattiesburg or Birmingham).

 

A lengthy stay in New York is painfully expensive, but if you have the dough and the time, attending the Big East Tourney is as good as it gets for a college basketball fanatic.

 

2.  The future of the Big East

 

I hope the schools the schools that are being courted by the Big 10, consider the prestige of the Big East Tourney before bolting and destroying the league as we know it.  Of course, the fate of the 16-team Big East will obviously come down to one thing - money.  Doesn't everything?

 

Here's the obvious fix - do whatever is financially necessary to get Notre Dame to join the league for football - even if it's a ridiculously one-sided deal.

 

Notre Dame wants to remain an independent in football, but probably doesn't want its other athletic teams to get stuck in a Big East that no longer includes the likes of Pitt, Rutgers, or Syracuse.

 

The Fighting Irish could join the Big 10, but there's no way they would get a sweetheart deal from Ohio State, Michigan, etc.

 

If the Irish join the Big East for football, the league's problems are solved.  It would forever guarantee a spot in the BCS, and give the Big East leverage with the TV networks (or help the league to form its own).  It would give the league a 9th football member to make scheduling easier, without forcing the league to add to its already hefty number of 16 basketball schools.

 

So do whatever it takes:  Allow the Irish to keep a bigger chunk of the TV money and all of its bowl money (they already do anyway) . . . move the league offices to South Bend . . . make Catholicism the official religion of the Big East . . . you get the picture. 

 

I don't care how you do it - just save the league.

 

3.  Dion Dixon

 

I feel really, really badly for the kid, but in my opinion he probably shouldn't have handled the ball.

 

I know what Mick was trying to do.  Since West Virginia wasn't guarding the player throwing the ball inbounds, he put Deonta Vaughn in that spot to pass it in and then get it right back while racing toward the basket.  It's a concept that worked to perfection last year against Eastern Kentucky, when Deonta sprinted up the court and threw an alley-oop to Yancy Gates for a dunk that forced OT with 0.1 left in regulation.  Vaughn was wide open last night and waiting for the pass when Dixon had a brain-cramp and decided to dribble.

 

Associate head coach Larry Davis told us after the game that Dixon was put in because they trusted his ability to get open and catch the ball.  The coaches know which of their players can do that better than I do.  Still, if at all possible, I would have liked to see the 'Cats draw something up to get it to Lance Stephenson.  If he can't get open (and he was double-teamed), one of the point guards would be my next choice in case they were forced to handle the ball.

 

Not for nothing, but Rashad Bishop would have probably been the inbounder if he hadn't been suspended.  WVU wouldn't have been able to double-team both Vaughn and Stephenson.

 

4.  Darnell Wilks

 

If you've listened to our radio broadcasts, I've probably been more critical of Darnell than any other player this year.  But he was terrific in all three games in New York, and I'll give Mick credit for sticking with him.  Wilks proved he can be a valuable piece to the puzzle if he's willing to attack the offensive and defensive boards.

 

"The most important thing was that his defensive was pretty solid," Coach Cronin told me.  "He has always struggled on the defensive end.  He's made shots for us when open all year, but his rebounding was what I was proud of the most."

 

5.  Mick Cronin

 

One of the most frequent criticisms leveled at Mick is that his players don't always play hard enough.  Nobody could say that in New York.  If wasn't always pretty, but the 'Cats laid it on the line for 40 minutes every night.  It's an encouraging sign moving forward.

 

"It was tremendously gratifying," Mick told me.  "My biggest challenge all year was to impress upon the guys to play with heart, passion, and toughness.  We had a team meeting before we came up here and basically talked about exorcizing the demons of our season.  We've lost a lot of close games to some tough teams and we tried to wipe the slate clean.  It's been liberating to just worry about effort and fight.  Never stop fighting until the bell rings - that's been our M.O."

 

6.  The NIT

 

It's not what we hoped for going into the season, but I enjoyed the NIT games during Andy Kennedy's season as head coach, and if the 'Cats are picked for that tournament this year, I'm looking forward to seeing if they can continue to play like they did in New York.  If so, they could be back at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, March 30th.

 

7.  Bob Huggins

 

Thursday's win was the 664th of his career, pulling Huggs even with John Wooden for 21st on the all-time list in Division I.  I hated losing last night, but with UC and Syracuse out, I'll be rooting for the Mountaineers to win their 1st Big East Tournament title in 15 tries.

 

8.    Rich Chvotkin

 

The legendary radio voice of the Georgetown Hoyas is a hoot.  If you think my man Chuck is excitable, he's Garrison Keillor in comparison to Chvotkin.  Rich is famous for screaming "Hoyas win" multiple times whenever Georgetown pulls out a big game.  When the clock was winding down on the Hoyas upset over Syracuse yesterday, several media members stopped watching the court and turned toward Chvotkin to observe his hysterics.  He yelled "Hoyas win" nine times.  I'm setting the over/under at 10 for tonight's game against Marquette.

 

9.  Sean Kilpatrick

 

When the Bearcats took the floor last night, six players walked out to the center of the court - the five starters and redshirting freshman Sean Kilpatrick who enthusiastically tried to pump up his teammates.

 

It's too soon to say if he's going to be a great college player, but SK is one of the most likeable kids I've seen in 15 years of covering Bearcat basketball.  His personality reminds me a bit of my all-time favorite Bearcat Melvin Levett.  I think he's destined to become a fan favorite.

 

10.  The Late Show With David Letterman

 

Tonight's the night.  Since Dave's P.R. person confirmed a few details for the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Kiesewetter, I guess I can share a few more.

 

On Monday, I attended the taping of tonight's episode of the Letterman show.  Before each taping begins, Dave takes a question or two from the audience.  I was picked and asked Dave is he would like to join me as a guest color commentator on 700 WLW during the Big East Tournament.  When he laughed, I informed him that I was serious because my partner Chuck Machock was kicked out of a game for yelling at the refs once and I might need help if it happened again.

 

A running gag quickly developed.  You can see for yourself tonight.   

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

 

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