Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said he wasn’t going to lobby the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for his team. But he did make it a point to tell reporters why Connecticut (20-13) is worthy of tournament inclusion.
“Well, let’s see: 22 out of our games [were] played against top 100 competition, that’s not a very good schedule,” he joked following a 58-55 loss to Syracuse in a Big East quarterfinal Wednesday. “But they say it’s the number one [schedule] in the country.”
Calhoun wasn’t finished. In fact, the coach took a veiled shot at Iona coach Tim Cluess, who said the NCAA Selection Committee shouldn’t take the eighth or ninth Big East team over the Gaels.
“If you’re going to pick 8 or 9 teams out of the Big East, that’s nonsense. Those teams aren’t as good as we are,” Cluess said following his team’s loss to Fairfield in the MAAC semifinal.
A lot of coaches like to say they don’t read the newspapers or pay attention what is said about them or their teams. That clearly wasn’t the case for Calhoun, who had a rebuttal for Cluess.
Added Calhoun: “So I heard the coach of Iona saying don’t put one of these Big East teams in? I’m sure he’s a great coach and I have a lot of respect for what he’s done certainly. But you’ve got to kind of tighten those laces up…22 times? This team we just saw, Syracuse, three times. Okay, Notre Dame twice. I can keep on going.”
Connecticut's last two losses to Syracuse were by a total of five points.
No matter how you slice it, both Connecticut and Iona have made a strong case for an at-large bid. Unfortunately for the Gaels, if it came down to a decision between them and the Huskies, the selection committee is likely to lean Connecticut's way.
It's hard to ignore a team that has so many wins against the top 100 teams and got 20 wins playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
The case for UConn
Record (20-12, 8-10 Big East)
Quality wins: Harvard, Florida State, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, South Florida, West Virginia (2)
Bad losses: Central Florida, Rutgers, Providence
The case for Iona
Record: (25-7, 15-3 MAAC)
Quality wins: LIU, Loyola, St. Joseph’s
Bad losses: Hofstra, Fairfield (MAAC semifinal)