UConn's Jim Calhoun Against NCAA Tourney Expansion
"Since the basketball tournament takes 98 percent of all the money the NCAA makes, it's another way in which they can use basketball to take money," Calhoun said on Thursday's Big East Conference call. "If I thought it benefited the student-athletes and, most importantly, benefited basketball ... I've always been for a playoff system for football ... so we all share in the revenue giving to the NCAA and the other institutions.
"I'm opposed to it only in the sense that it means that we'll make 99 percent of the money. That's the only reason I'd be necessarily opposed to it because I just don't think everything should be on our back. We play at odd times. We play any time. We played a Friday night game this year. We played a 9 o'clock game this year. All that being said I just think that basketball sometimes is used. I love our game and I don't think our game should be treated sometimes the way it is."
Calhoun said he believes the push to expand the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams is -- surprise -- driven by money.
"I know that's a funny, different answer," Calhoun said. "But I think it's the reason they want to go to 96 because it's so many more games being televised which means advertising spots during those times. If I thought legitimately that 96 was still a manageable number out of  schools we have and not weaken it [then Calhoun would be in favor of it].
"Watching our league this year, maybe there are 96 really good teams. I would like to see other contributions besides basketball to the NCAA."
UConn's Hall of Fame coach said he is not for opening the tournament to every team "nor will I be" and joked that perhaps this year with his Huskies scrambling to get an NCAA Tournament berth that he "should really be speaking about [expansion]."
"I really thought it's an honor and a privilege to be one of those 65 teams," Calhoun said. "If [expansion] is better for the game and someone can show me why it is, I'd say yes. If it's just to make additional money, I'd say no."
Big East NCAA bubble trouble
Five Big East teams (Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Georgetown and Pittsburgh) are locks for the NCAA Tournament. Two others (Louisville and Marquette) are in pretty good position, barring a complete collapse in the next three weeks. The next few teams in the league standings (Cincinnati, South Florida, Seton Hall, Notre Dame and UConn) are battling to get an NCAA at-large berth.
The question is: how many will make it?
"The bottom line: this is the best conference in America and the most competitive in 24 years from top to bottom," Calhoun said. "The best it's ever been? I can't say that. Is it as strong at the top as last year? I don't know if we have three No. 1 seeds [like last season]. I do know this much, every team in the league can beat you."
Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said if the Big East doesn't receive eight bids "the NCAA is making a mistake."
And if Seton Hall isn't in the conversation, then a bigger mistake is being made.
"If people say Notre Dame, Louisville -- all these teams we've beaten -- then we need to be in the [NCAA] conversation," Gonzalez said. "Everywhere I look, read and see, our strength of schedule was 16th. We've played one of the [nation's] top schedules. If other teams are in the conversation, then we're in the conversation."
Providence plummet continues
Back on Jan. 27, Providence rebounded from a devastating overtime loss to South Florida by thumping UConn 81-66. Since that victory, however, the Friars have lost six consecutive games -- and the future doesn't look any better.
Providence (12-14, 4-10 Big East) is in the midst of a four-game stretch against top-seven ranked teams. PC already has lost to Georgetown, Villanova and West Virginia and plays host to No. 5 Syracuse on Tuesday. The Friars already lost to Syracuse on Feb. 2.
"We've already played Syracuse so we know what to expect, that's the good news," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "The bad news is we know what to expect."
Rutgers was in the midst of a nine-game losing streak and a former player had blasted (to put it kindly) coach Fred Hill on the ex-player's Facebook page. Put a knife in the Scarlet Knights' season, right? Not quite.
Rutgers has responded by winning five of its last six, including a Valentine's Day home upset of No. 7 Georgetown and Tuesday's 68-64 victory at DePaul in which the Scarlet Knights rallied from a 17-point deficit.
"We couldn't have won that DePaul game five weeks ago," Hill told the New York Daily News.
Despite their recent success, the Scarlet Knights (14-12, 4-9 Big East) are still buried near the bottom of the league in a three-way tie for 13th place with St. John's and Providence.
The Scarlet Knights aren't in contention for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, but they do have a shot at their first winning record since the 2005-06 season which would be a good accomplishment considering where they were last month.
"I give them a great deal of credit for what they're doing," Calhoun said.
Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell, who suffered a cut hand in Wednesday's win at St. John's, may have to see a hand specialist, Gonzalez said. Hazell, the Pirates' leading scorer, is doubtful for Saturday's game at West Virginia. However, point guard Eugene Harvey, who missed the St. John's game with a sprained wrist, is expected to play. ... On Sunday, Villanova visits Pittsburgh. "Playing them in the Pete [Petersen Center], we haven't had much success there," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ... Calhoun doesn't believe his Huskies (15-11, 5-8) need to win their final five games to earn an NCAA Tournament at large berth. "If someone said we had to win 20 games and have 10 league wins, that's absolutely foolish," Calhoun said. The Huskies have played the nation's toughest schedule, including non-conference games against Kentucky, Duke and Texas.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at email@example.com