|ESPN's Championship Week starts March Madness|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 07 March 2008 09:00|
It's Championship Week.
This year's edition is so good it lasts 11 days and features 81 men's and women's college basketball conference tournament games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN360.com, ESPN Mobile TV and ESPN International. Oh yeah, Championship Week is the creation of ESPN.
And this year, in addition to the coverage of games that will decide some leagues' only representative in the NCAA tournament and others' fifth, sixth and maybe even seventh bids, ESPN will have a new studio analyst, Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight.
Championship Week began Thursday night with the Big South's men's semifinals and it will conclude March 16 with six men's and women's tournament championship games.
CHASING HISTORY: VMI senior Reggie Williams won't be able to help himself anymore this season as he chases a place in NCAA history.
Williams led the nation in scoring last season with a 28.1 average. He is trying to become the ninth player to repeat as the Division I scoring champion, but the Keydets' season ended Monday with a 103-88 loss to Liberty in the first round of the Big South tournament.
Williams had 30 points in that game to finish with a 27.8 average, which is the same as Niagara senior Charron Fisher, who has at least one more game to play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
Lurking just behind them is Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley, who had 33 points in the 78-72 win over Colorado on Monday night to raise his average to 26.9. Beasley has one regular-season game left - at Iowa State on Saturday - and at least the Big 12 tournament.
The last player to repeat as scoring champion was Keydren Clark of Saint Peter's in 2005. Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati (1958-60) and Pete Maravich of LSU (1968-70) are the only players to win the title three straight years.
The only freshman to lead the nation in scoring was Jason Conley of VMI in 2001-02 (29.3).
SUTTON'S INFLUENCE: Vince Polakovic's friends back home in Slovakia constantly ask what it's like to be coached by a legend like Eddie Sutton. Polakovic cherished every minute of the rare opportunity after Sutton took over as interim head coach at San Francisco on Dec. 26, replacing Jessie Evans and going on to earn his 800th career victory.
Polakovic, a senior forward and the team's second-leading scorer, missed the first 24 games of the season because of a suspension by the NCAA for circumstances stemming from his participation with a German national team in 2004.
USF said that several members from the German national team received stipends deemed by the NCAA ``above actual and necessary expenses.'' San Francisco unsuccessfully appealed, contending Polakovic wasn't among those players who received payments.
Polakovic still learned plenty from Sutton upon his return even if their time together was even shorter than the rest of the Dons.
``Not many European players are able to be coached by a legend like this,'' Polakovic said after his final home game at Memorial Gym on Monday night, an 88-63 victory over Pepperdine. ``People back home were asking me what it was like to be coached by him. It's great that I had this chance, though I'm sad it was for such a short time.''
Sutton pointed to the improvements by his two seniors: Polakovic and Danny Cavic. Sutton, too, wishes he had been able to coach Polakovic for a longer period, knowing USF also would have won more games.
``The NCAA has its reasons, but in my opinion it was a great injustice,'' Sutton said of the suspension.
SPARTAN NUMBERS: Don't like the way Michigan State's offense is going? Wait a couple of days.
Last Thursday, the Spartans lost 57-42 at Wisconsin. Two days later, they beat Indiana 103-74. It's not often you get to see the old 61-point swing on the scoreboard.
Michigan State had a 59-31 halftime lead over Indiana, 17 more points than the Spartans managed in 40 minutes against Wisconsin.
How different were the numbers?
The Spartans shot 34.5 percent (19-for-55) against Wisconsin, including going 1-for-10 from 3-point range. Against the Hoosiers, they shot 60.7 percent (37-for-61) and were 13-for-24 from beyond the arc. Even the free throws were remarkably different: 3-for-5 against the Badgers, 16-for-20 against Indiana.
The loss to Wisconsin ended the Spartans' hopes of a Big Ten regular-season title.
``I think a few of our guys kind of had their dreams shattered when we had an opportunity to win the league and didn't,'' Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, ``but it's really a mark of some special guys to get back up.
KNIGHT TALES: When Bob and Pat Knight get together to talk about their coaching days at Texas Tech they have one thing in common - they both got their worst loss at the hands of Kansas.
The Red Raiders lost 109-51 to Kansas on Monday, easily the worst loss in Pat Knight's nine-game tenure since he succeeded his father as head man at Texas Tech.
Bob Knight's worst loss in his seven-plus seasons in Lubbock was a 90-50 loss to the Jayhawks in the semifinals of the 2002 Big 12 tournament.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report