- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

Welcome back to BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for all your offbeat NCAA tournament needs. In today’s edition, we make the rounds at a Memphis hospital, look in on ‘The Most Prevaricating Man in the World,” check Bill Belichick’s basketball pulse and find out if Jim Calhoun has had a change of heart. Without further ado:



After what she went through the other night, 81-year-old Memphis resident Colleen Beck isn’t going to let three broken ribs and a collapsed lung keep her from watching her beloved Tigers play Virginia on Sunday night.

“She’s a tough old bird,” Bob Beck, her son, told The Commercial Appeal. “They did a CT scan and found out the lung was collapsed. They had to put a needle between the ribs, insert it into the lung and fill it up with air.”

But first, Colleen Beck asked the emergency room doctors at Methodist Hospital, “Could we wait until we see how this ends?”

By “this,” she meant the basketball game on the overhead TV. The one that was showing Memphis battling George Washington on Friday for a spot in the second round.

“Honestly,” Colleen Beck said, “it didn’t take much persuading. Everyone wanted to watch.”

Beck suffered the injuries after falling at home Wednesday, but couldn’t get an appointment until Friday. Referred to the emergency room, she drove herself to Methodist instead. As soon as the Tigers had the game locked up, the doctors ordered the room cleared and went to work on Beck.

Uncomfortable after the surgery, but otherwise fine, she plans to watch Sunday night’s game in her hospital room.

“I don’t want to jinx ‘em. I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut on that one. But it would just be wonderful if they could do it,” Beck said finally, “it really would.”



BracketRacket has often wondered how NCAA president Mark Emmert gazes into the mirror every morning without cracking up.

He’s a tone-deaf monarch whose organization is being sued left and right, mostly by former college players seeking a few crumbs from the ever-expanding NCAA revenue pie they helped bake. Making money - and keeping plenty - might be the only thing the NCAA has done right since he showed up in 2010.

Small wonder, then, that during a contentious question-and-answer session following last year’s “State of the NCAA” address, Emmert described his tenure this way: “If you’re not getting sued today, you’re not doing anything,”

So naturally, he doubled down this year with yet another self-serving commercial mythologizing the “student-athlete” - an increasingly rare specimen in big-time college basketball and football, which provide nearly every penny of the NCAA’s $6 billion annual budget, not to mention Emmert’s nearly $2 million compensation package. And just as naturally, the commercial mostly features distance runners, soccer players, gymnasts and rowers.

We see them fail at first and then finally succeed. A solemn voice-over calls them “the provoked, the determined, the unified.” But just like basketball and football players, you could also accurately call them as “the unpaid.”

There’s not time nor space to litigate the “pay-for-play” issue here; that’s why we have courts. But if you’re up early before Sunday’s games with nothing to do, catch Emmert defending his version of shamateurism on “Meet the Press.”

Especially if you happen to be a lawyer.



You know this guy: https://bit.ly/1h7AbDz

He was watching Florida overpower Pitt, but he’s really a football guy and besides, his B.A. in economics is from Wesleyan University and not Florida, despite the “Gators” logo on his visor.

OK, so maybe he’s just a huge fan of “Swamp Brothers.”

But even that may not explain what New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was doing Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

“Well, he put the scouting report in today,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said after the game.

“Coach has been great to me,” Donovan continued, once the laughter died down. “I don’t know how many years it’s been, I went to Boston and met with him maybe after their third Super Bowl and have developed a very, very good relationship with him and got a great respect for him.

“He was in Gainesville, I guess. It may have been a pro day or watching practice, and he called me and said he wanted to come down for the game. I left him a couple tickets.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Florida’s Patric Young stands 6-foot-9, weighs 240 pounds and is such a good athlete that he’s often described - in sporting parlance - as a “beast.” The senior center is projected as a second-round NBA pick, but last year Young showed up at Florida football practice and looked good enough catching passes to touch off speculation he could play tight end in the NFL.

New England’s incumbent at that position, perpetual party animal Rob Gronkowski, hasn’t been healthy enough to count on recently and is up to his usual offseason antics (video courtesy of TMZ here: https://tmz.me/OJ2nG9 ). Another of Belichick’s once-outstanding (and now former) tight ends, Aaron Hernandez, is in jail facing murder charges.

Donovan said he didn’t get the chance to sit down with Belichick during the visit, but added, “I always appreciate the amount of time over the years he’s given me.”

No doubt, Billy.

But it might not have been about you at all.



You won’t be able to look at Creighton the same way, not after reading this: When the Bluejays face Baylor, they’ll trot out not only the nation’s top scorer, but apparently two of the best-looking players in the game as well.

Teeny-bopper website Seventeen.com said so, naming scoring machine Doug McDermott and his bearded wingman, Ethan Wragge, as Nos. 6 and 7 on its “guy candy” tournament list. Decide for yourself here: https://bit.ly/1kTSiBt

While McDermott’s selection barely raised a ripple, Wragge’s loosed a tidal wave of boos. AP’s Jim Vertuno tracked the fallout:

“Wildest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” teammate Grant Gibbs said.

“The bearded bomber is … what he actually looks like,” added Jahenns Manigat.

To which Wragge replied: “Sounds like a lot of jealousy. But I noticed they both read it, so they must be following me a little bit. I’ll just leave it at that.”

If nothing else, you’d think Wragge’s teammates would be resigned to this kind of thing by now. Last year, Cosmo magazine put him on its “Hottest Guys of March Madness” list, prompting this classic response from Creighton coach Greg McDermott:

“There are a lot of things in life that maybe aren’t accurate,” he said, “but that has to be close to the top.”



Connecticut was sluggish and down by a handful midway through the first half when CBS went into the stands to interview Jim Calhoun.

“I feel a little shift,” said the man who won three national titles in 26 seasons there and single-mindedly transformed the sleepy state school into a national powerhouse.

And shift UConn did.

The Huskies went on to beat Villanova, giving former player and current coach Kevin Ollie - Calhoun’s hand-picked successor - a trip to the Sweet 16 in only his second season running the program.

Now 71, Calhoun still casts a long shadow over the program. He stepped down two years ago to deal with health issues, but looking rested and ready again, he told AP’s John Wawrow earlier in the week that he hasn’t talked to anyone about getting back in the business.

But he didn’t exactly rule it out, either.

“Nothing’s changed. I’ve said in general that I didn’t think I’m going back to coaching. I’ll never say never,” Calhoun said, “but nothing’s changed over the past week.”

Small wonder that became a topic of conversation.

“It would be great. If that’s what he wants to do, more power to him,” Ollie said. “I know he’s enjoying his vacations he’s taking in January playing golf. I don’t know if he wants to pass up on those.”

Added senior guard Shabazz Napier, one of Calhoun’s recruits: “If he feels like he wants to get back in coaching, then so be it. If he does, wherever he goes, I’m going to be a fan of that team.”

The only thing Calhoun is sure of is that it’s tough watching games from the stands.

“Sure it is,” he said. “I feel great, so you stand on the sideline and you say, ‘Hmmm.’”

Exactly what we were thinking.



Stats LLC knows why the first day of games in the Round of 32 seemed ho-hum. For the first time since 2005, seven of the eight contests played were decided by seven points or more; the lone exception was also the day’s biggest surprise, as No. 11 Dayton scored its second straight nail-biting win, a 55-53 upset over No. 3 Syracuse. One reason for the lack of drama could have been fatigue. Four of the 16 teams that played Saturday had to survive overtime thrillers Thursday to advance.



“When I saw him raise up, I didn’t feel good about it. But Buffalo’s been good to us these last couple of days on the buzzer shots.” - Dayton coach Archie Miller, whose Flyers beat Ohio State with a last-second shot two days ago, after Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis’ top-of-the-key jumper clanged off the rim as time expired.



Third Round


At Buffalo, N.Y.

UConn 77, Villanova 65

At Spokane, Wash.

Michigan State 80, Harvard 73


At Buffalo, N.Y.

Dayton 55, Syracuse 53

At Orlando, Fla.

Florida 61, Pittsburgh 45


At Orlando, Fla.

Louisville 66, Saint Louis 51

At Milwaukee

Michigan 79, Texas 65


At Milwaukee

Wisconsin 85, Oregon 77

At Spokane, Wash.

San Diego State 63, North Dakota State 44


Third Round


At Raleigh, N.C.

Virginia vs. Memphis, 8:40 p.m.

At San Antonio

Iowa State vs. North Carolina, 5:15 p.m.


At St. Louis

Kansas vs. Stanford, 12:15 p.m.

At San Diego

UCLA vs. Stephen F. Austin, 7:10 p.m.


At Raleigh, N.C.

Mercer vs. Tennessee, 6:10 p.m.

At St. Louis

Wichita State vs. Kentucky, 2:45 p.m.


At San Antonio

Creighton vs. Baylor, 7:40 p.m.

At San Diego

Arizona vs. Gonzaga, 9:40 p.m.

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