Hey, Buffalo. Meet your new favorite college basketball coach.
He’s Jay Wright from Villanova, and he loves you.
Wright reminisced about his first time in Buffalo, where his 14th-seeded Hofstra squad faced third-seeded Oklahoma State in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
“We got hammered,” Wright said. “We were happy to be here. We got hammered, and we got hammered after the game.
“We were so happy to be here.”
Hofstra returned to the NCAA Tournament again in 2001, helping Wright get the Villanova job that spring.
Villanova has gone to the tourney nine of the past 10 years, but Buffalo will always hold a special place in Wright’s heart.
“My wife and I were riding over on the bus yesterday, and it was the exact same snowy, lake-effect day,” Wright said. “It was St. Patrick’s Day.
“I think Bobby Knight played his last game with Indiana here, too, that same night. It was amazing.”
Sometimes, a team needs to learn how to win the close ones.
The Dayton Flyers have done that this season. In games decided by a single-digit margin, the Flyers have won six of their past seven, including Thursday’s heart-stopping 60-59 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in First Niagara Center.
The Flyers likely need to keep it close if they want to score another upset. They’ll play the Syracuse Orange in the NCAA Tournament at 7:10 tonight downtown.
“You know, it’s funny,” Dayton forward Devin Oliver said Friday. “Last year, we lost about eight or nine games ... by, like, a total of 10 points or something crazy like that.
“So we went through it last year. We just happened to come out on the losing end of it.”
Dayton was in six games decided by one or two points last season and lost all of them, once in overtime.
This season, Dayton went 2-2 in games decided by one point or two points, 1-1 in overtime (both games by three points) and 10-7 in games decided by single digits.
But the Flyers have been clutch since February. In the span of seven games – all against Atlantic 10 foes – they won five by seven points or fewer. Their only single-digit loss in over two months was to the St. Joe’s Hawks in the conference championship game.
Dayton guard Vee Sanford banked in a runner from 5 feet away with 3.8 seconds left to beat Ohio State on Thursday.
“It was a very big shot personally, but I’m kind of just getting that out of the way,” Sanford said. “It was a good win, but now it’s Syracuse we’ve got to focus on.”
Syracuse went 12-4 this season in games decided by a single-digit margin, but it lost four of its past five, a turbulent stretch that dates back to Feb. 19.
During a conversation with Jim Calhoun the other day, the retired Connecticut coaching legend made it sound like he was ready to come back to the sidelines after two seasons away. On Friday, ESPN linked him to the opening at Boston College.
The Huskies wouldn’t be surprised if Calhoun left his job as a university special assistant to return to coaching.
“He has so much to give,” UConn guard Shabazz Napier said. “If he feels like he wants to get back in coaching, then so be it. If he does, wherever he goes, I’m going to be a fan of that team. Hopefully, when I’m done with my career, he’ll give me a job.”
Calhoun has a history of putting friends in high places. He hired Kevin Ollie as an assistant, and his former player is now the Huskies’ coach. Ollie could see himself challenging his mentor for victories.
“If that’s what he wants to do, I’m going to be supporting him,” said Ollie, who playfully suggested Calhoun doesn’t really want to come back. “I know he’s enjoying his vacations he’s taking in January playing golf. I don’t know if he wants to pass up on those.
“But if he wants to get back in the game, more power to him. He earns that right. He earns that respect.”
In his 38 years as Syracuse’s coach, Jim Boeheim has had his share of heartbreaking and stunning defeats.
He could relate with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke lost to unheralded Mercer on Friday.
“I didn’t think this was like Duke playing bad or anything like that,” Boeheim said. “Whoever is playing Mercer is in trouble. Inside guard play, big guys. I just think they’re just a really good team.
“In this tournament, when you lose to a really good team, it can happen any time, and that’s just the way it is. It can happen any time to any team. It’s as simple as that.
“You watch those games last night, and it was just a thread as to who was going to be playing and who was going to be going home. That’s what makes the tournament great.”
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