Writer: George Dorhmann
Post time: Thursday, 2:27 p.m.
Joe Alexander, West Virginia’s star forward, was born in Taiwan. He also lived in Beijing and Hong Kong. As he talked about his upbringing Wednesday, one reporter posed an intriguing question: Would Alexander be interested in playing for Taiwan in the Olympics? The usually loquacious Alexander was momentarily stumped. “I don’t’ know,” he finally said. “I am a U.S. citizen, so I don’t know if I could.” Told that he might still be able eligible, Alexander nodded and said: “It would be cool to know the rule on that.”
Writer: Andy Staples
Post time: 5:15 PM, Wednesday
CHARLOTTE -- Apparently, the Tennessee medical staff didn’t learn anything from the Tom Brady fiasco. Otherwise, sharpshooting guard Chris Lofton wouldn’t have been wearing a walking boot Monday to protect his injured ankle.
You know what happened next. TMZ.com caught Lofton wearing the boot while delivering flowers to his supermodel girlfriend’s Knoxville home, and Vols officials had to downplay the injury lest the Big Orange faithful begin wondering if Tennessee would have the firepower to beat Louisville in Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup. OK, I was kidding about the TMZ.com thing -- and the supermodel thing (sorry, Chris) -- but a few eagle-eyed folks did see Lofton in the boot, and alarm bells sounded when the news hit the Internet.
Lofton sat out of Tennessee’s practice Tuesday, but Wednesday, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said the injury shouldn’t hamper Lofton too much. “According to our trainers, if Chris had to play in a game Tuesday, he would have played Tuesday,” Pearl said. “Instead, we chose to keep him in a boot at practice. He got on a bike and got his cardio workout. He watched what we were looking to try to do to defend Louisville.”
Wednesday, Lofton looked fine as he worked out during the Vols’ public practice. He didn’t appear to be wearing any additional protective devices, and he didn’t appear to limp.
Writer: Richard Deitsch
Post Time: 10:37 p.m., Tuesday
BRIDGEPORT, CT. - There is truth and there is hype, and sometimes there is truth in hype. UConn freshman Maya Moore is the truth. She just finished the first half against Texas with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. Her team leads by 18. Enjoy the flight to Greensboro, Husky fan.
There are few moments more artful in the women's game than when Moore pulls up for a three-pointer. She was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the opening half including three consecutive three-pointers. Two days ago UConn coach Geno Auriemma said the bar for Moore has been set so high that "it's going to be impossible for her to play the kind of game when all of us will go: ‘Yeah, that's it right there.'" Well, Moore came pretty close in the first half. (So did UConn, which shot 67.7 percent as a team). She had five rebounds and three blocked shots, including a full-length sprint from the other side of the court to take a layup away from Texas senior guard Erneisha Bailey. When Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer calls Moore the best player of the next decade, you may want to believe the hype.
Post Time: 8:37 p.m., Sunday
BRIDGEPORT, CT. -- There are no glass slippers in southern Connecticut. Cinderella doesn't live here. The first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament -- especially when it comes to the top seeds -- is an exercise in imbalance. UConn is leading 68-32 with 13:26 left -- thanks to a 22-2 first-half run-- and coach Geno Auriemma's toughest decision tonight will be linguini versus rigatoni for a late supper.
If Texas ends up being UConn's next opponent, it's a team that offers unique credentials for a No. 8 seed. The Longhorns have won five-of-six games and have a coach (Gale Goestenkors) with a tournament win over Connecticut in Bridgeport. (It came in 2006 while Goestenkors was at Duke).
The most dramatic moment tonight, at least for those with a sense of humor, came with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. The cheeky folks at the Arena at Harbor Yard played a highlight reel of last year's championship game between Tennessee and Rutgers. When Tennessee coach Pat Summitt's face appeared on the screen high above them, UConn fans booed with lusty delight. They did the same with Lady Vols star Candace Parker, a little less so with Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer. Yeah, it's going to be a fun month in women's basketball...
Writer: Lars Anderson
Post Time: 8:03 p.m., Sunday
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Overtime between Tennessee and Butler was three minutes away from tipping off, and I bolted out of my courtside seat to make a phone call from the relative quiet of an interior hallway at the BJCC in Birmingham. But as I turned a corner into the corridor that leads to the locker rooms here, I was nearly flattened by Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was pacing back and forth with his head down like an expectant father. If there had been a referee there, I'm certain Pitino would have been whistled for a charge.
But Pitino shouldn't have been anxious about his upcoming second-round game against Oklahoma, because right from the opening minutes, it was clear that the Cardinals were the vastly superior team. Louisville sped to a 35-16 lead, held a 44-22 halftime advantage, and won 78-48 in playing their most complete game of the season. The Cardinals, a No. 3 seed, are a dangerous team. Even though they entered the tournament on a two-game losing streak, they're playing as well as any team in the country right now. Their pressure defense appears to be second to none, and it's the big reason why over the last two games Louisville is shooting 57.5 percent from the field while its opponents (Boise State and Oklahoma) have shot only a combined 40.6 percent.
But the Cardinals road to the Final Four won't be easy. In Charlotte on Thursday they'll face Tennessee, the No. 2 seed in the East region. If the Vols can get anything out of guard Chris Lofton, a consensus preseason All-America candidate who stunk it up in Tennessee's two wins in Birmingham (he was a combined 4-for-18 from the field), it'll add a dimension that UT has been lacking so far in the tournament. Then, awaiting the winner of the Tennessee-Louisville game, will likely be North Carolina, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Since I'm off to NASCAR duty next week, I'll make my East Regional pick now. And so, the team that will emerge from what I think is the toughest section of the bracket and reach San Antonio will be:
Tennessee, because after spending a lot time talking one-on-one with Lofton over the past few days, I think he's going to come up big next weekend. Check out Grant Wahl's story in the magazine this week for more on Lofton.