McCollum proof recruiting an imperfect science

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Every year a productive player seems to emerge on the NCAA tournament stage from a small school, leaving coaches and fans to wonder, ''Why didn't we recruit him?''

This year it's Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, who scored 30 points in an upset win over Duke.

Among the interested suitors in McCollum were Bowling Green, Kent State and Akron - although they didn't offer scholarships - but none of the major schools. Few figured at the time that McCollum, just 5-foot-6 as a junior in high school, would sprout to 6-foot-3 and become the nation's fifth-leading scorer.

''As to why we didn't recruit him, well, recruiting is a crap shoot,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said of McCollum, whom he'll face Sunday in Greensboro in a 10 vs. 15 seed matchup. ''If we all had crystal balls and we could figure out who that kid would be walking out the door of Xavier versus who he was walking in the door, there would be a lot more winning records in college basketball and a lot happier coaches.''


RULES ARE RULES: There were critical lane-violation calls by officials late in the UNC Asheville-Syracuse and Xavier-Notre Dame games, both involving players who ran in from behind the 3-point arc too early.

The rule requires that any player lined up behind the arc must wait for the ball to hit the rim before sprinting in for a rebound.

''Obviously when you're in that situation in a game, you're trying to get that little extra jump to get there a little quicker should the free throw be missed, so I certainly understand the thinking of the player that violated it,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. ''But I think the rule book needs to be called as it's written. And if we as coaches form like a rules committee that set the rules and we don't like the rules, then we need to change it. But the referee's responsibility in my opinion is to call it as they're written, and they shouldn't be criticized if they do that.''


LONG-TERM MEMORY: Georgetown coach John Thompson III was patiently taking questions on Saturday about his third-seeded Hoyas team that meets 11 seed North Carolina State in an NCAA Midwestern Regional on Sunday.

An enterprising writer from Carolina had a question about a lingering grudge from when the teams met in the NCAA tournament's Eastern regional semifinals.

''I'm not sure what your memories are of the 1989 game between Georgetown and N.C. State,'' the reporter began, ''but there's a significant portion of the people in Raleigh who think Alonzo Mourning fouled Chris Corchiani at the end of that game instead of the travel that was called. Do you remember any of that?''

Thompson laughed.

His father, John Thompson Jr., was the coach of the Hoyas when they edged the Wolfpack 69-61 before falling to Duke 85-77 two days later in the round of eight. The younger Thompson was just a year out of Princeton at the time.

Just two games before the Hoyas-Wolfpack game in 1989, the Hoyas almost became the first and only No. 1 seed to lose to a 16th seed when Georgetown held off Princeton 50-49. In that game, Princeton had two chances to win in the final seconds, but Mourning blocked two shots. Many thought then - and some still do - that the Hoyas center had fouled the shooter.

''I do not remember that game specifically,'' JT3 said of the N.C. State-Georgetown game. ''When you were asking that question, the first thing that went through my head was that there are a lot of people in Princeton, N.J., that think Alonzo Mourning fouled Bobby Scrabis on the last shot of that game. So that must have been the theme that year.''

From the other side of a nearby curtain came a booming voice: ''Both of them were wrong!''

It was John Thompson Jr.


ENJOYING THE MOMENT - AGAIN: No. 15 seed Norfolk State decided to make the most of its first trip to the NCAA tournament when it upended No. 2 seed Missouri on Friday.

Two of the Spartans figure this is more like a second chance.

Senior forwards Chris McEachin and Marcos Tamares are actually making their second trip to the tournament. McEachin helped Radford win the Big South tournament title in 2009 and Tamares was redshirting when UMBC won the America East championship in 2008.

Both transferred to Norfolk State shortly afterward.

''We were a No. 15 and we played Georgetown. It didn't go as well as yesterday,'' Tamares said after practicing Saturday in Omaha, Neb., where the Spartans will try to extend their surprising NCAA tournament against No. 7 seed Florida on Sunday.

The Retrievers lost to the Hoyas 66-47, though even that was a better showing than McEachin's team the following year. No. 16 seed Radford lost to mighty North Carolina 101-58.

McEachin said the Spartans have more experience than those Highlanders.

''That's the biggest difference,'' he said. ''We're old. We're an old group. We have a couple fifth-year seniors, fourth-year juniors, and that's where it comes from. Want to do something special.''


NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: Norfolk State star center Kyle O'Quinn said he knows there are a lot of eyes back home watching everything he and his Spartans do in the tournament.

O'Quinn is among eight players from New York City on the roster. Head coach Anthony Evans and assistant Robert Jones also are from the Big Apple.

The 15th-seeded Spartans (26-9) opened Friday's day of upsets with an 86-84 win over No. 2 seed Missouri, and Sunday they'll try to knock off Florida (24-10) to advance to the regional semifinals.

Lots of TV sets in Queens will be tuned in.

''Being a New Yorker, you have to have the personality and attitude to not back down,'' O'Quinn said. ''The city is so big and yet so small that you have a lot of people to answer to when you don't do good. You might as well be good, you might as well be great. Cover yourself at all times. You'll be a hero or goat. They either love you or hate you. You always love the city to love you.''


TORN ALLEGIANCE: Kevin Cassese was faced with an emotional dilemma as 15th-seeded Lehigh's chances of knocking off No. 2 Duke grew increasingly more probable in the waning moments of the second half Friday night.

Should he root for his alma mater Duke, where he was a two-time team captain and three-time All-America lacrosse player and later the interim head coach, or cheer for Lehigh, where he's currently the head coach of the Mountain Hawks' nationally ranked lacrosse team?

''It was a tough one,'' Cassese said with a laugh. ''You talk about torn allegiances. I mean going in I was hoping for an eight-overtime game that ended in a tie.''

Cassese and his wife, Katie, who played tennis at Duke, watched the game from the Goosy Gander, a bar/restaurant near the Lehigh campus along with members of the Lehigh men's lacrosse team and the women's basketball team. Their newborn son, Drew, was dressed in contrasting attire - brown colored pants for Lehigh and a blue shirt for Duke.

In the back of his mind Cassese was thinking about his days at Duke and his long-lasting friendships with Blue Devils assistant basketball coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski.

On the other hand he was thinking about his co-workers and how much a Lehigh victory would mean to his school.

Back and forth Cassese wrestled with his allegiances, like a father asked to choose between two children.

''I was driving my wife crazy - absolutely crazy,'' he said.

Eventually Cassese got caught up in the emotion of the game, with Lehigh students were screaming with every basket by C.J. McCollum.

It reminded him of his days with the Cameron Crazies.

''At the end of the day I'm a sucker for the underdog,'' Cassese admitted, turning his loyalty to Lehigh. ''I got to thinking, you know, Duke has been successful for so many years, maybe just this once - just this once - they could let the little guys have their day.''

Lehigh won the game 75-70, sending shock waves across the country and the Goosy Gander into pandemonium.


DON'T CALL IT AN UPSET: Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton wants everyone to call these ''upset'' games for what they are: just good basketball.

Hamilton doesn't buy into the notion that better seeds mean better teams, so victories like Lehigh over Duke or Norfolk State over Missouri shouldn't come as such a surprise.

''I said prior to coming to the tournament that they need to eliminate the word `upset' from the vocabulary,'' Hamilton said Saturday. ''The process we go by evaluating teams and putting them in positions and whether or not they're 16, three, four, five - I think it's very difficult to be accurate with that.''


SMOTHERED AND COVERED: It's the simple things that make Darius Johnson-Odom happy. With Marquette assigned to Louisville for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the Golden Eagles guard made a beeline for Waffle House on Thursday night.

''I'm from North Carolina. There's not too many Waffle Houses in Wisconsin. Actually, none at all,'' said Johnson-Odom, who grew up in Raleigh, N.C. ''I enjoyed that.''


AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard, Beth Rucker, Eric Olson, Dave Skretta, Rusty Miller, Nancy Armour and Steve Reed contributed to this report.

Tagged: Marquette, North Carolina, Duke, Cal State Fullerton, Florida, Princeton, Lehigh, Norfolk State, Xavier, Georgetown, Missouri, Kyle O'Quinn, C.J. McCollum, Marcos Tamares, Chris McEachin, Chris Collins

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