As mentioned in earlier posts, it's been a tough week to keep up with the blog because I've spent it in Florida, covering spring training baseball. (Hearkening back to the days when I had a real job.)
But I have been watching what's been going on in the conference, and I'm here with some of the conclusions I've drawn from this week:
1. Marquette is toast without Dominic James. NO way they can absorb this loss the way UConn can (and sort of has) absorbed Jerome Dyson's. UConn is considerably deeper than Marquette is, with massive talent at every position and coming off the bench. All of Marquette's success this year depended on the brilliance of the "big four" -- James, McNeal, Matthews and Heyward. They don't have enough to cover what they lose with James out. Their perimeter game is their life, and it's irretrievably weakened. Which is too bad. I liked that team a lot.
2. Jim Calhoun is a jerk and a bully, but so are a lot of college coaches (football and basketball), and that doesn't mean he should have to give back any of his money if he doesn't want to. Would we all like wealthy people to show a little sensitivity in these times -- to at least act as if they care that people other than themselves and their neighbors are suffering? Sure. Would we like professionals to treat other professionals as professionals in professional settings -- i.e., not telling a fellow adult to "shut up" when asked a question in a news conference? Of course. But Calhoun, as great a coach as he is, has never been known as an especially effervescent human being. You wish the greats would all be good guys, but when you cover sports, you learn quickly that it's just not that way.
3. Villanova is in a really good spot to be the sleeper pick to win the Big East tournament and score a very nice seed in the Big Dance. Sure, they got scared by DePaul the other night, but they did win the game, and they're still moving in on Marquette and Pitt as they try to crack that top four and get the double-by at the Garden. With James and Dyson out, and Pitt having looked bad in a loss to Providence, red-hot Nova has every reason to think it can be conference champ with a good week in NYC.
4. I believe that DePaul will be 0-17 on the morning of March 7 but will fend off historic ignominy by defeating Georgetown in the final game of its regular season. I believe this with all of my heart, and it's a belief based on nothing but the way I feel this Hoya season is going. Call me a pessimist if you like, but what have we seen from the Hoyas to make me anything else?