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March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Thursday, March 11th

Louisville escapes with a win: The first round of the Conference USA tournament was relatively without surprise, but it wasn’t without drama. Francisco Garcia played on an injured ankle, and provided the spark in the second half that was necessary for the not-quite celebrated Louisville victory over the East Carolina Pirates. Garcia finished with 22 points, but was one of only two Louisville players in double figures, a plaque that he and Larry O’Bannon will never hang on the wall. The Pirates came into the game with a 13-13 record, and played tough defense, holding the Cardinals to 40 percent shooting. However, the Cardinal defense was better, holding the Pirates to 33 percent from the field. Mike Cook led the Pirates with 14 points.

Charlotte wins easily over Tulane: Being the one 12-4 team in conference play that has to play in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament had to be a bit of a slap in the face. Charlotte proved it was out for blood, as it beat lowly Tulane by 30 points, 78-48. Five Charlotte players were in double figures as the 49ers held Tulane to a season worst 27 percent from the field. Curtis Withers played a monster game, grabbing 12 rebounds as well as scoring 10 points. Whether they win or lose, Charlotte has a great chance of making the tournament, with out-of-conference wins over Southern Illinois and Syracuse.

Boston College looking to impress: Boston College is one of many teams looking to improve its standing for the NCAA Tournament, and winning its 9th game in 10 tries is a good start. With its final game a victory over Providence, the Eagles continued to build on that momentum by handing the Hoyas of Georgetown an 11-point loss, 68-57. The loss leaves Georgetown in unfamiliar territory, out of the post-season, something that it hasn’t experienced in over 29 years. After losing Troy Bell to the NBA, and then losing would-be team leader Ryan Sidney, the Eagles were not picked by many to have 20 wins, but then again, here they are Craig Smith continues to build on his amazing rookie season, and he chipped in 16 points and 14 rebounds for good measure.

Eastern Washington headed to first NCAA tournament: With such big wins over Denver, Northwest College, Santa Clara and…Santa Clara, Eastern Washington has earned a birth in the NCAA Tournament. It is the first time the Eagles will have earned a birth in the tournament, and they will most likely be a 16th seed. The Eagles put to rest old demons as they won the Big Sky tournament championship game71-59, after having lost the very same game the three previous seasons. They will join, most likely, their Spokane, Washington cohort Gonzaga in the tournament, giving the region a chance to have three teams in the tournament if Pac-10 giant-killer Washington were to receive a slot.

Monmouth arrives: This would be the second time in four years that Monmouth makes the NCAA Tournament. They won their game against Central Connecticut State 67-55 to become the second regular season champion of the day to have won their conference tournament. Sophomore Tyler Azzarelli scored a career high 19 points in the victory, and the top-seeded Hawks held the Blue Devils to 32 percent shooting on the night. The Northeastern Conference has only won one of twenty four tournament games in the past, and Monmouth will be looking to break with tradition.

Farmer fired as Loyola of Chicago’s basketball coach: Former UCLA player Larry Farmer was fired as head basketball coach at Loyola of Chicago. Farmer had been an assistant at Rhode Island before joining the ailing Rambler program in 1998. He had accumulated a 73-102 record since arriving, and finished the season 9-20 overall.

ACC tournament to be without Sherrill: North Carolina State guard Scooter Sherrill, whose name alone strikes fear into the hearts of opponents, will likely be out of the ACC tournament, arguably the most highly anticipated conference tournament of the season. Sherrill injured his ankle in the game against North Carolina on February 29th. He has not played or practiced since. North Carolina State will face Florida State in the conference’s opening round.

Former LeBron James coach gets new job, no new LeBron though: Keith Dambrot, who has assisted at Akron for the past three years and previously coached LeBron James, was named the school’s new head basketball coach. He signed a five year $550,000 contract, replacing Dan Hipsher, who had spent nine seasons at the school. Hipsher posted a 112-137 record, including 72-90 in the Mid-American Conference.

Aggies coach to resign unless a national championship is won: Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins announced that he would resign as coach of the Aggies baring the unlikely circumstance that they win the NCAA championship. Their season has been a painful one, as they lost every single game in the Big 12, two to hard up for wins Baylor. They will be playing Missouri in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Watkins has amassed a 60-111 record at Texas A&M, and has never won a conference tournament game. The school last made the tournament in 1987, and has only one NIT appearance since then.

Kentucky AD sorry that fans love team so much: Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart apologized to the University of Florida for the behavior of certain Wildcat fans during the Florida versus Kentucky game. In a letter to Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, Barnhart said the school did not condone such behavior. Florida coach Billy Donovan called to thank Barnhart for the letter after receiving it.

Tonight’s Menu:

Virginia Tech faces Pittsburgh, Xavier will be at St. Joseph’s, Charlotte will be at UAB, Boston College will be at Syracuse, Washington State will be at Stanford, Colorado State will be at Air Force, USC will be at Arizona (even though all Pac-10 tournament games are played in Los Angeles at the Staple Center), Saint Louis will be at Memphis, Louisville will be at Cincinnati, TCU will be at DePaul, Notre Dame will be at Connecticut, and Villanova will be at Providence. Phew…talk about a busy day!

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