While both the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams reached the Final Four, the word “improbable” in the title should make it clear which one I’m referring to. After sitting out the postseason last year because of an academics-related ban, the men’s squad finished third in the American Athletic Conference this season, three games behind the co-leaders. They were placed in the NCAA Tournament’s East Region as the 7 seed and needed a late comeback and overtime to beat St. Joe’s in Round One.
Two days later they upset Villanova to reach the Sweet 16 in Madison Square Garden. Once there, the Huskies fed off a pro-UConn crowd—and a defense now ranked 10th in the country according to KenPom.com—to beat Iowa State and Michigan State to advance to the Final Four. They will face top overall seed Florida on Saturday in Dallas.
For those who don’t follow me on the Twitters or regularly check the Freelance page on the site, I wanted to update you on some of my writing. I continue to profile a Rising Star for CBS Local each week. My last two featured players are Iona’s A.J. English and Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff.
I wrote about the most entertaining broadcast duo in college basketball, ESPN’s Dave Pasch and Bill Walton, for the Arizona Daily Star. If you can’t get your hands on today’s Star, it is available online. My phone conversation with Walton is not something I will soon forget.
Lastly, about a month ago I wrote about Bria Hartley, a starting guard for Connecticut’s undefeated women’s team, for Newsday. Her work ethic and freakish endurance have made her a star.
I’m in the process of writing stories for several other publications and will keep you all updated. Thanks for reading!
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher does not script what he’ll say to his players in the huddle. But at the end of close games, if he senses any doubt or worry, he tells them to capture a positive thought. “Take a deep breath,” he’ll say, “and envision running off the floor with the victory.” Or, as he said earlier this month at Kansas, as an 11-point second half lead shrunk to one: “Imagine you just played the best 30 minutes of basketball of your life.” The Aztecs made four straight free throws to seal the win. They have won 108 games in a row when leading with five minutes to play.
Why is the Heisman Trophy essentially reserved for quarterbacks and running backs? My latest college football column attempts to answer that. I attended the press conference for the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame class, which included 1996 Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel, Orlando Pace, and Tedy Bruschi (pictured above), among others, and I spoke to them about the Heisman’s skill position bias.
I’ve been doing a lot of college basketball reporting as well, covering several games at Madison Square Garden for Newsday. I’ve also started a weekly column for CBS Local in which I profile a “Rising Star” in the sport (I’ve written the two from this season). Remember, this blog is home to most all of my freelance work. If you have any suggestions for my next “Rising Star,” or any other story ideas, send them my way. Even if it’s a local story that received little attention, I’d love to give it a bigger audience. Thanks for reading. Happy holidays.