Jeff Eisenberg

  • Revenge awaits Arizona after gritty Sweet 16 win over Xavier

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 hr ago

     

    LOS ANGELES — They admit they've replayed last year's Elite Eight loss in their minds over and over. They admit that setback fueled them during offseason workouts. They admit they crowded around the TV in their locker room before their game to see who their potential Elite Eight opponent would be.

    There's only one thing Arizona players would not concede Thursday night after their come-from-behind 68-60 victory over Xavier in the Sweet 16: That they're happy the last obstacle between them and the Final Four is a rematch with the Wisconsin team that ousted them last March.

    "We're going to take it like we would any other game," point guard T.J. McConnell insisted.

    "We're just happy to be in the Elite Eight regardless of who we were playing," forward Brandon Ashley protested.

    "We're just lucky that we have the opportunity to still be playing," center Kaleb Tarczewski contended.

    Both Arizona and Wisconsin returned many of last year's key players and both are probably even better than they were a year ago.

    That's as close as any Arizona player would come to admitting the obvious.

     

  • Sam Dekker shows Wisconsin is more than just POY candidate Frank Kaminsky

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 4 hrs ago

    LOS ANGELES — As everyone else in the Wisconsin locker room showered Sam Dekker with praise after the top-seeded Badgers' 79-72 victory over North Carolina, assistant coach Greg Gard took a more measured approach.

    Gard was thrilled Dekker delivered 23 points and 10 rebounds in a high-stakes Sweet 16 game, but he views the junior forward's career-best performance as a tantalizing hint of what he's capable of rather than as a sign he is ready to put the Badgers on his back for the rest of March.

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    "I think it's still in flashes," Gard said. "The sky's the limit for him, but I don't think he's anywhere near where he can be. He has to continue to get stronger, continue to mature and get more consistent as a ball handler and perimeter shooter. He has unlimited potential, but he has a ways to go to fully tap into that."

    "We're not defined by one player," Gasser said. "Tonight just showed the balance and depth of our team. Different guys can step up at different moments."

  • Predicting Thursday's four Sweet 16 winners

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 11 hrs ago

    The Sweet 16 begins Thursday with the West Regional in Los Angeles and the Midwest Regional in Cleveland. Below is a preview and prediction for all four games.

    MIDWEST REGION:

    No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia: Even though Kentucky is a heavy favorite to advance to the Final Four and win the national championship, this game is compelling if only because West Virginia will throw a different look at the Wildcats. Kentucky will have to avoid turning the ball over against a physical full-court press that forces 19.6 turnovers per game. The Wildcats will also have to emphasize rebounding against a Mountaineers team that makes up for errant outside shooting by leading the nation in offensive boards per game. Adding to the intrigue is that Bob Huggins is 8-2 all-time against John Calipari including a stunning upset in 2010 when West Virginia toppled the John Wall-DeMarcus Cousins Kentucky team in the Elite Eight. A 1-3-1 zone got the best of the cold-shooting Wildcats that day, but this Kentucky team is better equipped to handle a pressing team than that one was a packed-in zone. Predicted winner: Kentucky.

    WEST REGION:

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  • Dean Smith left $200 to all his ex-players for 'a dinner out'

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 14 hrs ago

    Michael Jordan's next dinner out will be the rare time when someone else picks up the check.  

    North Carolina basketball's wealthiest alum received the same gift from Dean Smith as every other former varsity letterman who played for the legendary Tar Heels coach from 1961-1997.

    Tim Breedlove, the Charlotte-based trustee of Smith's trust, told Yahoo Sports that Jordan was one of the roughly 180 ex-North Carolina players who received a $200 check in the mail this week along with a note that read "enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith." Former North Carolina forward Dante Calabria tweeted out a picture of the letter he receivedon Thursday. 

    "It was Dean's idea and it was Dean's decision," Breedlove said. "It's a gesture of appreciation from him to his former lettermen."

    Smith died Feb. 7 at age 83. He led North Carolina to 11 Final Fours and two national championships in 1982 and 1993.

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  • Archie Miller and Dayton agree to a contract extension

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 16 hrs ago

    Before any power conference programs with job openings could swoop in and lure Archie Miller away this spring, Dayton has signed its coach to a contract extension.

    The Flyers announced the agreement Thursday morning. It runs through the 2021-22 season, though all the extension really means is that Miller is likely off the market this year.

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    Only once in recent years has a coach agreed to an extension only to take another job days later. UCLA was able to woo Steve Alford away from New Mexico two years ago even though the Lobos coach had agreed to a new contract less than two weeks earlier. 

    Miller is a coveted name among athletic directors with coaching vacancies because of what he has done at Dayton the past two years.

    Last season, he led a deep Flyers team to the Elite Eight, knocking off Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford in the process. This year, Dayton went 27-9 and won two more NCAA tournament games even though the Flyers had only six scholarship players and nobody taller than 6-foot-6 for the final three months of the season.

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  • Laughter has been the soundtrack to Wisconsin's March success

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 21 hrs ago

    LOS ANGELES — As he scrolled through Instagram on Wednesday morning, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker discovered a message that made him chuckle.

    A well-meaning fan had written on one of his photos expressing sympathy for how anxious the Badgers must be in advance of two season-defining games that will determine whether or not they make it back to the Final Four.

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    "She said, 'I bet you guys are nervous and stressed out, but just know that we believe in you,'" Dekker said. "We're not though. By no means are we stressed out or worried because that just makes us play worse. We really stay loose and be ourselves."

    In the Lakers Locker Room for practice..... Just pee'd in the urinal my idol @kobebryant goes in!!!! #Blessed

    Whatever Wisconsin is doing, the Badgers should stick with it.

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  • The Crying Game: Looking back at the UCLA-Gonzaga Sweet 16 classic

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    Gonzaga had just finished shredding Iowa to secure a spot in the Sweet 16 on Sunday night when former Zags big man David Pendergraft took out his phone and tapped out a text message to one of Mark Few's assistant coaches.

    "Congrats," he wrote. "Now please go get some revenge."

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    Watching Gonzaga eliminate UCLA on Friday would be cathartic for Pendergraft because the Bruins are responsible for by far the most agonizing loss he has ever endured. On March 24, 2006, UCLA scored the final 11 points of its Sweet 16 showdown with the Zags to emerge with a 73-71 victory in a game it trailed by 17 in the first half and never led until the final 8.6 seconds.

    The 2006 regional semifinal between Gonzaga and UCLA is one of the most memorable NCAA tournament games in recent memory. What follows is an oral history of that game featuring many key participants or witnesses, each of whom are listed by their 2006 title.

    • • • • •

    One of the consequences of Gonzaga's blown lead against UCLA is we tend to overlook how good the 2006 Zags really were.

  • Traevon Jackson says he's '100 percent playing' against North Carolina

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 1 day ago

    LOS ANGELES — Even though doctors cleared Traevon Jackson before the start of the NCAA tournament, the senior point guard chose not to play in the opening two rounds.

    He wasn't willing to play on his broken right foot before he felt confident in it even if it meant risking his team's season ending without him. 

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    Jackson's gamble paid off because Wisconsin thumped 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina and thwarted eighth-seeded Oregon's spirited upset bid. Now Jackson says he's "100 percent playing" when the top-seeded Badgers meet fourth-seeded North Carolina on Thursday in a West Regional semifinal.

    "Just to be able to play aggressive and play free, that's what I'm looking forward to," Jackson said. "I'm here to help. I'm here to be an addition to the team. That's all I can do. I think I can help out a lot."

    Jackson averaged 9.4 points and 2.6 assists prior to his injury. His ability to create off the dribble and play strong on-ball defense can be an asset to the Badgers.

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  • Mick Cronin thanks Ashley Judd, slyly lets her know he's single

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    In addition to thanking Kentucky superfan Ashley Judd for her support of junior forward Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin couldn't resist taking his shot with the actress while he had her attention Tuesday afternoon. 

    Cronin slyly let Judd know he's single in case they ever meet in person someday.

    Thank U to @ashleyjudd for her kind words for Octavius. Te' is a "Great"young man to those of us that actually know him.

    My advice to Ms Judd..Ignore ignorance...And I'm divorced as well (just sayin)

    Cronin's tweets came one day after Judd took to Facebook to apologize to Ellis for comments made about him on social media by other Kentucky fans. Ellis drew the ire of Big Blue Nation for his physical play against the Wildcats just two days after he was ejected from Cincinnati's opening-round win against Purdue for an elbow to the throat of Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons.

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  • Herb Sendek could never sustain momentum at Arizona State

    Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger 2 days ago

    The nature of sports is such that most coaches are labeled an unequivocal success or an indisputable failure as soon as their tenure at one job is over.

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    Herb Sendek is the rare exception.

    Arizona State's decision to fire Sendek on Tuesday after nine years at the school will probably evoke mixed feelings among most Sun Devils fans. Sendek elevated the program from where it was when he took over in 2006 by taking Arizona State to two NCAA tournaments and four NITs, but he never achieved the sustained success school administrators craved.

    The pinnacle of Sendek's time at Arizona State was the James Harden-Jeff Pendergraph era when the Sun Devils narrowly missed the NCAA tournament in a historically strong Pac-10 in 2008 and reached the round of 32 in 2009. Arizona State achieved relevance again with star point guard Jahii Carson, making the 2013 NIT and nearly upsetting Texas last March in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.  

    Whoever the new coach is, he'll inherit a program in better shape than the one Sendek took over.