College Basketball Notebook
The college basketball notebook …NORMAN, Okla. ó Coach Jeff Capel checked in with Coach K early Thursday, seeking perspective on his Oklahoma team’s sudden struggles.
Mike Krzyzewski’s take: Good for you.
Well, good for the Sooners. Seriously.
In typical fashion, the Duke coach and Capel’s former mentor made some sense that Capel could cling to, in spite of the three losses in four games and all the drama that has contributed to Oklahoma’s roughest stretch of this season.
“One of the things he told me was he thought it was good what we’re going through,” Capel said, “because you need adversity to toughen you up before the tournament.”
Krzyzewski reminded Capel of some trying times at Duke, when the Blue Devils won a national title in 2001 and even when they went back-to-back for championships in 1991 and ’92.
Capel carried the message to practice Thursday, along with a more recent reminder of how Florida scuffled through a similar stretch in 2006, losing three straight in late February, before winning out and earning its first national title.
“For me, and our team, we’re not going to panic,” Capel said.
No. 1 vs. No. 3
No opposing center pushed and shoved, tossed and intimidated UConn’s 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet like Pittsburgh’s massive DeJuan Blair did last month.
Blair’s ability to physically manhandle one of college basketball’s premier big men altered that Feb. 16 game, led to Pitt’s first victory in 14 tries against a No. 1 team, sharpened Blair’s image and briefly pushed the Panthers into the top ranking themselves.
Less than three weeks later, whether Blair can again be the dominating force that he was in that 76-68 win may decide which team wins Saturday’s rematch in Pittsburgh ó and which team goes into next week’s Big East tournament ranked No. 1.
“We want UConn. It’s going to be just like it was the last time ó it’s going to be a celebrity death match,” Blair said, laughing, invoking some pro wrestling terminology.
HALL OF FAME
Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Gary McCann of The Herald of Rock Hill, S.C., and the late Pete Axthelm of Newsweek and ESPN have been selected as the newest members of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.
McCann is in his 38th year as a sports writer. Since 1998, he has been sports editor of The Herald. He started his career at the Burlington Times-News in 1971 and moved to the Greensboro News & Record in 1981 before leaving to replace the legendary Bob Hammel as sports editor at the Bloomington, Ind., Herald-Times in 1996.
Patty Mills will return to Saint Mary’s lineup for the West Coast Conference tournament on Sunday, hoping to lead the Gaels’ late push for another NCAA tournament berth.
Mills, a sophomore point guard who played for the Australian Olympic team, was the leading scorer for the Gaels when he broke two bones in his right hand during a loss at Gonzaga on Jan. 29. He missed the rest of the regular season.
Saint Mary’s (24-5), which was in the Top 25 and 18-1 with a 15-game winning streak when Mills went down, lost three of its next four games before finishing with five straight victories to earn the No. 2 seed in the West Coast tournament, which began Friday in Las Vegas.