Injured Abromaitis, Strickland watch teams play on

Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis and North Carolina’s Dexter

Strickland watch games and wish they could help their teammates.

Things will only get worse now that the Fighting Irish and Tar

Heels are in the NCAA tournament.

Both players are recovering from torn knee ligaments that ended

their seasons, leaving them as spectators for Thursday’s practices

at the Greensboro Coliseum.

”At this point, it’s more the mental pain of not playing, I

guess you could call it, and knowing the season is coming to an

end,” said Abromaitis, a fifth-year graduate student. ”At the

same time, it’s been fulfilling to be a part of this team and

experience the success with them.”

Abromaitis was a preseason all-Big East pick who was hurt in a

November practice. Strickland was a starting guard for UNC, the

team’s best perimeter defender and the backup point guard before he

was hurt in a win at Virginia Tech in January. He’s recovering from

reconstructive surgery last month.

”I’ve felt like I could’ve helped my team out in so many

different ways,” Strickland said. ”But I think it’s a good thing

for me also, just sitting down and getting a better sense of what

coach (Roy Williams) wants and actually see what he’s talking


MENTOR’S APPROVAL: Murray State coach Steve Prohm’s nervousness

Thursday had nothing to do with his first NCAA tournament


Instead, his old boss and mentor, Billy Kennedy, was watching in

person for the first time. Kennedy coached the Racers for five

seasons before departing to lead Texas A&M this season.

”I was a little nervous,” Prohm said. ”Man, if he comes and

we lose, it’s going to be really disappointing.”

Instead, the sixth-seeded Racers topped Colorado State 58-41 in

Louisville, Ky., and will face third-seeded Marquette in the West

Regional on Saturday.

Kennedy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease earlier this year

and the players often talk about their former coach’s presence in

their lives even after he left.

”For him to come down and watch us compete in the NCAA

tournament is a great feeling. I’m sure he’s proud of us,” point

guard Isaiah Canaan said. ”We’re just going to go out and just try

to play and finish the legacy that he started at Murray


HAPPY FOR A HAIRCUT: Mike Scott and Jontel Evans are sporting

new hairdos in Omaha, Neb., after making good on their promises to

cut their hair if Virginia made it to the NCAA tournament.

Scott and Evans showed up at a team party on Selection Sunday

with poofed-out hair, though the clippers were out an hour after

the Cavaliers’ West Regional game against Florida was


Scott vowed late last season to not get his hair cut until

Virginia made the NCAAs.

”I don’t know how the women, how you guys can do your hair,”

he said. ”I was getting my hair done once a week, trying to get a

new `do’ every game. I’m glad it’s over.”

Coach Tony Bennett said he likes the way Scott and Evans


”They’re a little more aerodynamic,” he said.

RECRUITING GIMMICK: Forget the posh locker room or beautiful

basketball court. St. Bonaventure’s biggest edge in convincing

Andrew Nicholson to play for the Bonnies was a new science

building. Really.

”It was just a perfect match,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark

Schmidt said.

The 6-foot-9 Nicholson is averaging 18.4 points per game, a key

reason why the 14th-seeded Bonnies will meet No. 3 seed Florida

State on Friday in the East Regional in Nashville, Tenn. And the

Atlantic 10 player of the year who started as a chemistry major

will be finishing with a degree in physics, a change made only

because Nicholson faced three-hour chemistry labs this year.

”He has three more classes to graduate with a physics degree so

he can be a physicist, whatever that does,” Schmidt said.

PRESIDENTIAL PICKS: North Carolina State is seeded 11th in the

Midwest Regional, but coach Mark Gottfried is feeling the heat

because his team has become a popular choice by some

bracketologists – including President Barack Obama.

Obama selected the Wolfpack to beat San Diego State on Friday in

Columbus, Ohio, and make it all the way to the round of 16.

Gottfried, who worked as a TV analyst before taking over at N.C.

State, said he sent a text to an ESPN reporter about Obama’s


”I actually sent Andy Katz a text this morning and I told him

that the President’s trying to get votes; I’m trying to get wins,”

he cracked. ”It’s a little different. We respect his opinion. But

we also understand this game will be decided once the ball goes up

in the air.”

BIG BROTHER: The NCAA tournament really is a family affair for

two Alabama players.

Trevor Releford’s older brother Travis plays for Kansas while

Andrew Steele’s older brother Ronald previously played for the

Crimson Tide. Both sought and received advice from their big

brothers on their upcoming Midwest Regional game Friday against


”I talked to him a lot about it and he told me that it’s one of

the most exciting things you can go through, but you have to

remember that at the end of the of the day it’s still basketball,”

Steele said. ”And you got to have the right mindset coming in to


Releford said he got similar advice.

”My brother told me there’s no better feeling than winning and

advancing, because it gets better and better,” Releford said.

”And I just want to see how it goes from there.”