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Shabazz Napier leads UConn past Kentucky for NCAA title

04.08.14 at 6:27 am ET
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Point guard Shabazz Napier scored 22 points as UConn posted a 60-54 victory over Kentucky in the NCAA championship game Monday night in Arlington, Texas, to give the Huskies their second title in four seasons.

Napier, a Roxbury product, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Seventh-seeded UConn (32-8), which never trailed, took a 15-point lead in the first half. Kentucky (29-11) rallied to get within a point with 8:13 remaining, but the Huskies responded, pulling back ahead by a comfortable margin and not missing from the free throw line (10-for-10) to ice it.

It marked a quick return to power by UConn, which was banned from participating in last year’s tournament due to its poor academic rating.

“You’re looking at the hungry Huskies,” Napier said in a postgame interview on the court. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when you banned us.”

For more on the game, click here.

 

Jim Calhoun on D&C: UConn ‘will be victorious’ in NCAA title game

04.07.14 at 11:42 am ET
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Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Huskies’ trip to the NCAA title game. For the full interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

UConn will play Kentucky for the national championship Monday evening.

“The Huskies will be victorious tonight,” Calhoun said. “There are no guarantees in life, but I’€™ll tell you that’€™s what I believe. I believe, I don’€™t think, but I believe.”

Although Calhoun has not coached the team for two seasons, he remains involved with the program and understands what it needs to do to defeat Kentucky.

“My wife tells me I’€™m a bad fan when I sit in the stands because when I watch the game, I don’€™t stand up and cheer all the time. The reason being, [Bill] Parcells said once, ‘I see too much.’ Very simply, as I’€™m watching the game, I’€™m seeing, ‘Are we forcing them outside, are we protecting the paint?’

“In this particular game, we can kind of take some of the blueprint that we used against Michigan State and Florida, who has some big guys. Obviously Kentucky has a slew of big guys. [Julius] Randle … watching him up close and personal the last couple of games, he’€™s a big, physical man who goes to the rim.

“We’ve got to protect the paint — first thing I would like to have us do and I think we’€™re going to have to do is protect the paint. Secondly, if we’€™re keeping the ball at 30 feet as much as we’ve done the past couple of games against two teams with powerful centers, we’€™re in really good shape. If we then can get the rim against a big team and not have our shots deterred in our box, we’€™re in great, great shape. Once again, we cannot lose the battle of the paint.”

Calhoun, who recruited many of UConn’s current players, added: “I think we’ve utilized our talent as well as anybody — better than anybody in this tournament, certainly — as well as anybody in the country in the last couple of years.”

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Shabazz Napier, UConn stun No. 1 Florida, get Kentucky in title game Monday night

04.05.14 at 9:07 pm ET
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The pride of Boston’s Mission Hill has led his team to the ultimate game of the college basketball season.

Shabazz Napier had six assists and four steals while DeAndre Daniels scored a team-high 20 points to lead UConn to a 63-53 win over top-ranked Florida on Saturday night in the first of two national semifinal games at the Final Four at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Huskies will try for their fourth NCAA championship Monday night against another team that has found late-season rhythm, the Kentucky Wildcats, a 74-73 winner over Wisconsin in the other national semifinal Saturday night. Aaron Harrison’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds was the difference for John Calipari‘s team.

Napier, a Boston product who was recruited by Jim Calhoun, leads a team that is advancing to the national title game Monday night against the winner of the Kentucky-Wisconsin national semifinal.

The win provided a bitter bookend for the Gators, whose last lost was on Dec. 2 to the Huskies. Since then, the Gators won a school-record 30 straight games.

The Gators raced out to a 16-4 lead and contained Napier for most of the first half. But the Huskies used an 11-0 run to help wipe out the deficit. A 21-6 run to end the first half gave them a 25-22 lead at the break. The Huskies never relinquished the lead in the second half, en route to their 31st win of the season. Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

The Huskies are advancing to their fourth national title game since winning their first national championship in 1999. They are 3-0 in their previous three trips to the Monday night game. UConn was beaten by Michigan State in the national semifinal in 2009.

The improbable run for the No. 7 seed in the East began with an overtime win over Saint Joseph’s in the second round. UConn then stunned No. 2 Villanova before dispatching Iowa State and then Michigan State in the East Regional final at Madison Square Garden last weekend.

Read More: Connecticut Huskies, Final Four, Florida Gators,

Jim Christian ‘tremendously excited and humbled’ to take over as Boston College coach

04.04.14 at 9:02 am ET
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Boston College announced Thursday that Jim Christian would be the school’s new basketball coach, and the 49-year-old expressed an eagerness to begin rebuilding the program.

“I am obviously tremendously excited and humbled to be able to take over a program with the tradition and history of Boston College,” Christian said in a conference call. “If you look at the great coaches and success that they have had before me, it is a situation where you wake up every day and you just can’t wait to get to work.

“I can’t wait to get up there, meet our players and spend as much time getting to know them as I possibly can; and just go attack the things that we want. Again, I am just truly excited and grateful for the opportunity that Brad Bates and Father [William] Leahy have given me and I am going to make them proud.”

After spending the last two seasons at Ohio University and 12 years as a head coach, Christian makes his return to the city in which he began his college playing career. Christian played two seasons at Boston University (1983-85) before transferring to Rhode Island and helping the Rams reach the Sweet 16 of the 1988 NCAA tournament. He takes over a team that struggled to break through the past four seasons under Steve Donahue.

“I always look at programs historically and not just where they’re at right now,” Christian said. “I think if you look at Boston College historically and the things they have accomplished, it excites you. Any coach wants to have his chance to compete against the very best. Obviously the ACC is the very best. For me, growing up in New York, going to school in Boston and graduating from Rhode Island, it is just kind of in my roots. These things come down to fits and you have to find a job that you think is just a great fit for you. There is no doubt in my mind that Boston College is a tremendous fit.”

BC has received some criticism for a lack of a high-profile candidate during its coaching search, but Bates, who became BC’s athletic director in 2012 after 10 years at Miami (Ohio), is confident he has the right leader.

“I had the benefit of watching Jim when we both worked in the MAC, so he has always been on my list as someone that I had a high regard for,” Bates said. “During the process, he not only validated my impressions of him but he far surpassed them.

“In terms of characteristics, this sport is about recruiting and coaching. You have to get talented athletes that fit your institution and you have to develop them and coach them. Boston College has core values that you need in your coaches. We are about integrity. There has to be a development of our intellectual young men. You need a coach and a staff that can flat-out recruit and develop those kids with their coaching. Beyond that, we want to win. We wanted someone with championships and postseason appearances. Someone with New England roots was important. Someone with energy and passion and at the end of the day someone who is in this for the right reasons and who genuinely cares about his students. He was obviously right up there in the first round of interviews and after the second round he shot right up to the top.”

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Reports: BC tabs Ohio’s Jim Christian as basketball coach

04.03.14 at 2:01 pm ET
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Boston College has hired Jim Christian as basketball coach, according to multiple reports.

The 49-year-old Christian, who reportedly interviewed earlier in the week and returned to Chestnut Hill on Wednesday, has a 236-152 career record in 12 seasons at Ohio (2012-14), TCU (2008-12) and Kent State (2002-08).

A native of Bethpage, N.Y., Christian played at St. Dominic High School under Ralph Willard (who went on to coach at Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross and now is a Louisville assistant). Christian started his college playing career at Boston University in 1983 — recruited by Rick Pitino, although Pitino exited as coach before Christian’s first season — and transferred to Rhode Island for his final two seasons, helping the Tom Penders-coached Rams to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 as a senior in 1988.

After a year playing with the Sydney City Comets of the Australian Basketball Association, Christian served as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky (1990-92, ’94-95), Saint Francis (’92-94), Miami (’95-96), Pittsburgh (’96-99) before joining Kent State in 2001.

After one year as an assistant with the Golden Flashes, Christian was promoted to head coach to replace Stan Heath, who left for Arkansas. Christian proceeded to win at least 20 games in six straight seasons, making NCAA tournament appearances and winning MAC Coach of the Year honors in 2006 and ’08. He also made three NIT appearances, although Kent State lost its opener each of the five times it reached the postseason.

He parlayed that success into the head coaching job at TCU, where he went just 56-73 in four seasons. In his fourth season with the Horned Frogs, Christian guided the team to its first winning record (18-15) in seven years and a berth in the College Basketball Invitational.

Christian resigned at TCU and returned to the MAC in 2012 as coach at Ohio. In his first season, the Bobcats won a share of the league’s regular-season title for the first time since 1994 and played in the NIT. This season, Ohio went 25-11 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament with wins over Cleveland State and Wright State before losing to VMI.

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Maurice Watson Jr. to transfer from Boston University basketball team

04.03.14 at 8:53 am ET
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Just a few weeks after a disappointing end to the team’€™s season, the Boston University men’€™s basketball team will lose one of its most important players.

BU coach Joe Jones confirmed Wednesday that Maurice Watson Jr. will transfer from the school.

In his second season with the Terriers, Watson was named to the All-Patriot League first team. Watson led the team offensively with 13.3 points and 7.1 assists per game. According to Jones, Watson, who will need to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer regulations, wanted to play at a higher level.

“I think the big thing is we love Mo,” Jones said. “He had a tremendous impact on the program. We loved him. We just want the best for him. I think it would be great to have him stay. We would love for him to stay. But we also want what is best for him.”

Jones added that junior forwards James Kennedy and Malik Thomas also will transfer. Thomas, who averaged 5.8 points and four rebounds per game, will graduate this year but has a year of eligibility left and consequently can play immediately next season for whichever school to which he transfers. Jones said that Kennedy, who did not play during the 2013-14 season because of injury, was looking to transfer to a school where he would get more playing time.

Read More: James Kennedy, Malik Thomas, Maurice Watson Jr.,

BC basketball coaching search: Mark Schmidt no longer in running, Mike Hopkins reportedly out as well

04.02.14 at 10:42 am ET
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The Boston College basketball coaching search appears to be nearing a conclusion, as St. Bonaventure announced that Mark Schmidt would be staying at the upstate New York school, and multiple reports indicated that Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins no longer is a candidate.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that BC informed Hopkins on Tuesday that the Eagles were moving in a different direction with their coaching search. Hopkins reportedly interviewed at BC over the weekend.

Schmidt’s decision to remain at St. Bonaventure for his eighth season was announced by the school Tuesday afternoon.

“We are thrilled that Mark has decided to continue as the head coach of our men’s basketball program,’€ St. Bonaventure athletic director Steve Watson said in a statement. “He has done a remarkable job of building the program. We hope Mark will be our coach for a long time, and to that end, we have started discussions about an extension of our commitment to him.”

Said Schmidt: “It is an honor to be the head coach at St. Bonaventure. This is a fantastic university with passionate fans in a community my family and I are proud to call home.”

That leaves Ohio’s Jim Christian as the leading candidate, at least based on what’s surfaced in the media over the past week. Christian, who previously held head coaching positions at TCU and Kent State, is a New York native played at Boston University and Rhode Island in the 1980s.

Joe Dooley, a former Kansas assistant who just completed his first season at Florida Gulf Coast, has seen his name associated with the BC opening in the last 24 hours, but he said Tuesday that it was news to him, as he’s had no contact with the Eagles.

BC basketball coaching search: Mike Hopkins, Mark Schmidt, Jim Christian reportedly on list of candidates

04.01.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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While other jobs get filled, Boston College continues its basketball coaching search.

The latest reports are that longtime Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski will be the next coach at Marquette, and former Oregon coach Ernie Kent is taking the Washington State job. That leaves BC and Wake Forest (said be pursuing Tulsa’s Danny Manning) with the two most high-profile openings.

National reports have BC kicking the tires on Saint Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt (a BC alumnus) and Ohio head coach Jim Christian (played at Boston University and then Rhode Island in the 1980s). Towson head coach Pat Skerry (from Medford and Tufts, and a former assistant at Northeastern, Rhode Island and Providence) also has attracted attention, along with Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore (BU alum who was a longtime assistant at UConn).

The Eagles also are said be interested in longtime Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, which would indicate a willingness to consider someone without head coaching experience. Hopkins, who played for the Orange from 1989-93, has served on Jim Boeheim‘s staff since 1995. He reportedly was on campus Saturday for an interview.

On that note, here are some other highly regarded assistants who might be worth a look from BC.

Chris Caputo, Miami – A New York native, Caputo is a 2002 graduate of Westfield State, where he was a reserve guard who captained the team his senior season. Caputo worked his way up from an unpaid administrative assistant to a valuable member of Jim Larranaga‘s staff first at George Mason and now at Miami (12 years in total). The 32-year-old has never been a head coach, but he has a reputation as a strong recruiter, especially in the Washington area.

Raphael Chillious, Washington – Chillious was an assistant to Jay Wright at Villanova in 2012-13 before rejoining Lorenzo Romar at Washington, where he had been an assistant from 2009-12. He was head coach at South Kent School in Connecticut from 2003-08 and is known for his ability to recruit New England prep schools. A native of Olney, Md., Chillious played at Lafayette, serving as captain as a senior in 1995-96.

Martin Ingelsby, Notre Dame So you want a coach with experience at an institution with academics similar to BC? How about Ingelsby, who has spent 11 seasons on Mike Brey‘s staff (the last five as an assistant coach after six as coordinator of basketball operations). Ingelsby, a point guard at Notre Dame from 1997-2001, works with the Irish guards and helps with national recruiting. A native of Berwyn, Pa., Ingelsby is the son of Tom Ingelsby, a guard on the Villanova team that lost to UCLA in the 1971 NCAA title game who went on to play briefly in the NBA and ABA.

Michael Lewis, Butler – Hired by current Celtics coach Brad Stevens in 2011, Lewis previously spent six seasons as an assistant at Eastern Illinois and one at Loyola (Ill.). A point guard for Bobby Knight at Indiana from 1997-2000, Lewis started his coaching career as a graduate assistant for Knight at Texas Tech after a couple of years playing minor league and European professional basketball. A native of Jasper, Ind., Lewis might be better suited for a position in the Midwest.

Read More: Jim Christian, Mark Schmidt, Mike Hopkins, Pat Skerry

BC earns thrilling win over UMass-Lowell to advance to 7th Frozen Four in 11 years

03.30.14 at 7:41 pm ET
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WORCESTER — The Boston College hockey team is full of stars, and Teddy Doherty is not one of them. Yet it was the sophomore defenseman from Hopkinton who made the play that sent the Eagles to their seventh Frozen Four in the last 11 years.

With under nine minutes to go in a tied game, Doherty, who has been a healthy scratch at times this season, pinched from the right point and walked toward the net before making a beautiful pass over to defensive partner Ian McCoshen at the top of the left circle. McCoshen then snapped a shot past UMass-Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck to give the Eagles a 4-3 lead, one they held onto for the remainder of the game, despite a flurry of chances from the River Hawks in the final minute.

“I’ve been trying to help the team win all year long, whatever my role was on the team,” Doherty said. “That’s something coach [Jerry] York talks about — ‘Whatever your role is, excel at it.’ Earlier in the year, my role was to cheer on teammates and push them in practice. Now that I’ve gotten in, it’s to help the team on the ice.”

The teams entered the third tied 2-2, and then all heck broke loose. The River Hawks took the lead just 43 seconds into the period when Evan Campbell threw a backhander to the front that went in off defenseman Scott Savage‘€™s skate. But the Eagles answered just 21 seconds later when freshman forward (and Bruins prospect) Ryan Fitzgerald split the defense and beat Hellebuyck with a nifty forehand-backhand move. Read the rest of this entry »

Connor Hellebuyck stays hot, UMass-Lowell advances to regional final with win over Minnesota State

03.29.14 at 10:06 pm ET
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WORCESTER — The Connor Hellebuyck show keeps on rolling. After winning his second straight Hockey East tournament MVP award following back-to-back shutouts at TD Garden, the sophomore netminder stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced Saturday to lead UMass-Lowell to a 2-1 win over Minnesota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Unlike last weekend, the River Hawks needed Hellebuyck to be perfect — or very close to it — Saturday. That’€™s not to say they didn’€™t appreciate his performance at the Garden (they did), or that he wasn’€™t the best player there (he was), but when the offense scores eight goals in two games, it’€™s probably safe to assume the team would’€™ve been just fine if Hellebuyck had made a mistake or two.

But against Minnesota State, there was no margin for error. For most of the game, the lone goal on the scoreboard was a shorthanded breakaway tally from Joe Pendenza midway through the first period, but this wasn’€™t one of those boring low-scoring games that features a ton of neutral-zone play.

The teams went up and down the ice quite a bit, and there were plenty of great chances at both ends, especially in the second period. But both goalies were outstanding (Minnesota State’s Cole Huggins made 33 saves), as fans witnessed a thrilling goaltending duel.

“The fans definitely didn’t get cheated tonight,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “They were treated to an exceptional hockey game. Chances for both sides. I thought both goalies were very, very strong from the onset.” Read the rest of this entry »

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