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March 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



The Morning Dish – Wednesday, March 5th, 2003

by Michael Ermitage

Trouble just seems to follow Jim Harrick. First at UCLA, then at Rhode Island and now at Georgia. If the guy was a cartoon character, he’d have one of those dark rain clouds following him around everywhere. The latest accusations against Harrick were levied against him by former player Tony Coles. Coles has cited all sorts of violations ranging from a television Coles bought with Harrick’s credit card to receiving an “A” in a class taught by Harrick’s son. Meanwhile, the University of Rhode Island, Harrick’s previous employer, is investigating all sorts of potential violations. Those range from illegal recruiting phone calls to doctoring meal plans for basketball players. Harrick appeared on ESPN in an interview with Dick Vitale. He admitted that an investigation may unearth some “minor” violations, but he vehemently denied any major wrongdoing, and called Coles a “vindictive young man.” Of course, Coles is no angel himself. He was enrolled in as many as five different high school and junior colleges before signing with Georgia. He recently was dismissed of sexual assault charges.

However all of this resolves itself, I think it is safe to say that Harrick is a thorn in the side of college basketball. My guess is that Georgia will be placed on some sort of probation, possibly involving lost scholarships and no postseason. At that time, there will be a contingent of fans and media that will cry out that it is an injustice that the University and particularly the current players have to pay the price for past transgressions. While I agree that it would make more sense to just ban Harrick from coaching, if these violations prove true, I also believe that you’d have to be quite obtuse to not know what you were getting into if you accepted a scholarship to play for Harrick. Any high school player that commits to Harrick now, should easily see the writing on the wall. And if he doesn’t, I would suspect that another coach recruiting the same player would make him well aware of the situation. Hiring Harrick after his UCLA debacle and his shady tenure at Rhode Island has caught up with Georgia. This year may be the last year, for quite some time, that the Bulldogs will be serious contenders. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what they are. Lost in all the name-calling and backstabbing was Georgia’s awesome 82-81 victory against Florida, Hoopville’s 3rd-ranked team. Jarvis Hayes banked in a 12-footer with 14 seconds remaining and the Bulldog faithful stormed the court. The loss for the Gators hurts its chances for a top seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, however, they have a chance to redeem themselves with a huge matchup with Kentucky Saturday.

Side Dishes

Bonnies refuse to play: Upon learning that their team was ruled ineligible to play in the postseason, the St. Bonaventure players voted to boycott the last two games on the schedule. Those games were scheduled against Massachusetts and Dayton.

“There was anger at the university, anger at the conference, anger in general as to what was happening to them,” said St. Bonaventure spokesperson Dave Ferguson. “They were looking forward to finishing high in the Atlantic 10 tournament. They had realistic expectations that they would win the conference tournament. Everyone is disheartened. This has been a heartbreaking week for all of these guys — coaches and players.”

I think that it is absolutely disgraceful that the players would vote to boycott the final two games. There is an unspoken bond between conference-mates and the Bonnies owed it to Massachusetts and Dayton to play out the schedule. Instead, those two schools are barred the opportunity of notching important victories. Furthermore, regardless of the situation, you are only allowed so many opportunities to play basketball at such a high level. To throw two of those opportunities away is mind-boggling to me.

Big Ten bubble: The Indiana Hoosiers topped the Minnesota Golden Gophers Tuesday night, 74-70, to simultaneously boost the Hoosiers’ chances of making the tournament while hurting the Gophers. The win put Indiana just one win away from a winning conference record with just a road game at woeful Penn State left. The Gophers are also just one win away from a winning conference record, but must travel to face the red-hot Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday.

Texas focused: As the final seconds of Texas’ 74-60 victory over Kansas State ticked off, the crowd began chanting “Beat OU! Beat OU!” The Longhorns win set up a huge game with the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday. The winner of that game earns a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament, and potentially sets itself up to share a portion of the regular-season title. The Kansas Jayhawks currently leads the conference by one game over both Texas and Oklahoma, but travels to play Missouri on Saturday.

Syracuse hangs on: The Syracuse Orangemen started the season with the usually doubts about its preseason schedule. Jim Boeheim’s club played the majority of its pre-conference schedule at home, raising doubts about both the quality of the team and its ability to win on the road. Well, the Orangemen’s 92-88 win at Notre Dame Tuesday night was the team’s third consecutive huge road win. Syracuse had previously beaten Michigan State and Georgetown before traveling to South Bend. The Orangemen have now won 10 of 11 and remain a dark horse for a top NCAA tournament seed.

Tonight’s Menu:

• Preseason prognosticators had Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan State as the favorites for the Big Ten regular season title. Then, early in the season, it looked as though Purdue or Michigan would be the surprise conference winner. But as the roller-coaster Big Ten season comes to a close, it turns out that Wisconsin and Illinois will be playing for the title tonight in Madison. Both clubs remained consistent throughout the conference season, and if the Badgers can remain undefeated at home in the Bo Ryan era, they will secure back-to-back Big Ten championships.

• The Xavier Musketeers continue to fly under the nation’s radar. With a win at St. Josephs tonight, Xavier will complete an undefeated road conference record and secure the outright Atlantic-10 championship. The Musketeers have won 13 consecutive games but still remain 11th in the Hoopville poll. If Xavier can win its final two regular season games and win the A-10 conference tournament, its NCAA seeding will allow it to make a serious run at the Final Four.

• If the Wake Forest Demon Deacons can defend its home court tonight against North Carolina, they will guarantee themselves at least a share of the ACC regular-season championship. With the win and a Sunday loss by Maryland at Virginia, and the Deacons win the title outright.

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