Monday Tidbits

By Josh Herwitt - December 10, 2007


This week's Top 25 just got released earlier today, and while it may be a surprise to some to see Saint Mary's holding down the No. 24 spot, it's the first time that the Gaels have cracked the field since the 1988-89 season.

But the Moraga, Calif., school has certainly been worthy of the national pub, as the Gaels have run out to a 7-0 start after securing a big 99-87 victory over Oregon on Nov. 20, a 85-70 decision over Seton Hall on Dec. 1 and another quality win over San Diego State last Saturday in Anaheim at the Wooden Classic.

So with Gonzaga sitting at No. 19 and Saint Mary's coming in at No. 24, it's the first time two teams in the West Coast Conference are ranked since the beginning of the 1973-74 season. At that time, it was San Francisco and former conference member UNLV who dominated the league, as the Dons came into the season at No. 11 while the Rebels followed at No. 19.

"That's the last time two of them were ranked?" Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett jokingly asked. "That's unbelievable. That's surprising. That's great for our league. It's nice. It's good for our program, good for our league. It's a positive reward for a month in the season. It doesn't matter for the long-term, but at this point in the season it shows our guys are playing well."

Saint Mary's was the only newcomer in this week's poll, and things can stay that way for the Gaels, there's no telling what could happen in the WCC this season. After all, Gonzaga does have seven straight conference titles to boast, and with Josh Heytvelt looking to return to the team for conference play, Bennett's team will have a tough task ahead of them when it welcomes the Bulldogs to McKeon Pavilion on Feb. 4.

"We knew coming into it if we were capable of doing what we're doing, this was just part of the plan and it would take care of itself," forward Todd Golden said. "This is definitely not the ultimate goal but it's nice in the meantime."

Meanwhile, in other news Monday, Louisville forward Derrick Caracter managed to mess up a solid 16-point, seven-rebound performance in Saturday's loss to Dayton by violating the team's curfew policy a few hours later.

The 6-foot-9 Fanwood, N.J., native, who was suspended multiple times and missed 16 games last year as a freshman for breaking other team rules, has now been suspended indefinitely by the team after averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in four starts this season.

In the meantime, Caracter will not be allowed to practice with the team, as the sophomore continues to be placed on dormitory arrest and will participate in individual workouts with supervision from one of Pitino's assistants.

And at his press conference on Monday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino explicitly said that Caracter's return to the team is uncertain but looks to be a "long time."

"It's really not by me," Pitino said during a press conference Monday. "It's by the team. It's been two years of very difficult times trying to change this young man. And the reason we've taken so much effort in trying to change him is, we love his mom."

Um, huh?

Wait there's more.

"If he didn't change, he had no chance in making it in life, never mind basketball," Pitino continued. "It's a fight. It's a fight all the way to get him to change his ways."

And ultimately it's been a fight that Pitino nor his teammates can seem to win with Caracter, who managed to break his curfew twice late Saturday after signing a contract earlier in the day.

"The sad thing about it all is that he knows how much the team went to bat for him, and he also knows how much he's needed [with our team] already being short-handed," Pitino said sincerely. "He needs to make dramatic changes in his life. He has improved, but I've never seen anyone so far behind the game of life."

Yet after all the hype the Cardinals received in the preseason and after being paired with Georgetown as Big East title contenders, it's Pitino team who has spiraled out of control and lost its identity with the suspension of Caracter, injury to David Padgett (broken right kneecap) and ineligibility of freshman George Goode.

"We got the fight of our lives ahead of us," he confessed.

No one, and I mean no one, would have thought that one month ago.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 06:48 PM on December 10, 2007
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