Welcome to this week's Dean's List, where life just won't be the same without Johnny Cakes. Somewhere out there, Vito is crying.
• Yes, I know North Carolina lost to West Virginia 31-30 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. And I know that Pat White had a ridiculous game, completing 26-32 passes for 332 yards to become the first quarterback ever to start and win four bowl games. But we've got to talk about North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks, who took full advantage of the national exposure to show off his God-given talents. Nicks caught eight passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the first half. But more memorable than the numbers was the way Nicks caught the ball. He snagged one touchdown pass after the ball went through the outstretched hands of a defender. And he caught another pass, which was thrown behind him, with his left hand and then flipped it around his back to his right hand. The behind-the-back catch was so nasty it completely faked out the West Virginia defender, who assumed the play was dead and allowed Nicks to gain ten yards after the reception. It was easily the sickest single display of athleticism I've seen all season. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.
• Howard Schnellenberger's mustache commands respect. So does his baritone voice. And the length of his name. But nothing is as extraordinary as Schnellenberger's 6-0 record in bowl games. On Friday, the Florida Atlantic coach led the Owls to a 24-21 victory over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl. FAU quarterback Rusty Smith outplayed his Chippewa counterpart, highly-touted Dan LeFevour, by throwing for 307 yards. The victory is Schnellenberger's second in a row at FAU. It makes you realize why, way back in 1999, when he was director of football operations for the Owls in charge of hiring a new football coach, Schnellenberger selected himself. There are many things that Schnellenberger might lack -- a razor, hair pigmentation, the respect of Oklahoma fans -- but confidence is not one of them.
• Don't worry about Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet. His future is in good hands. Last spring, when Thabeet's mother, Rukia, needed advice on whether her son should turn pro, she asked former Georgetown star Dikembe Mutombo for advice. Not a bad guy to turn to for counsel. Mutombo came to Georgetown barely able to speak English. He graduated in 1991 with a B.A. in linguistics and diplomacy after serving as a summer intern for both the United States Congress and the World Bank. He has now mastered English and can also speak French, Spanish, Portuguese and five African languages. Plus, he has to be the only NBA player to ever be mentioned in a State of the Union Address. (In 2007, President George W. Bush referred to him as a "son of the Congo.") So when Mutombo told Thabeet's mother that her son should go back to school, Thabeet returned to school.
Honorable mention:Jai Lucas for transferring from Florida to Texas, where he'll be able to play his coveted point guard position; Louisiana Tech for capturing its first bowl victory in 31 years; Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy for leading the Cowboys to their third consecutive bowl appearance and receiving a $400K bonus in return.
• What a tough couple of weeks for the Ohio State men's basketball team. First, captain David Lighty breaks a bone in his foot and has to sit out for six to 12 weeks. Then, the Buckeyes get blown out at home by West Virginia 76-48, suffering their first defeat of the season and worst home loss in a decade. Finally, to add insult to injury (and defeat) on Sunday, backup point guard Anthony Crater, who has played in all 10 games so far for OSU, was granted a release from his scholarship. Crater was apparently unhappy with his role as backup to junior college transfer Jeremie Simmons. According to Crater's former AAU coach, Ohio State coach Thad Matta lied during the recruiting process by telling Crater he would be the starting point guard when Mike Conley Jr. left, which hasn't been the case. You've got to question Crater's character when, as a freshman, he's unwilling to sacrifice playing time for the betterment of a team that's 9-1. Plus, it's never good when your former AAU coach is your spokesman and he's calling one of the best basketball coaches in the country a liar.
• Offensive lineman Danny Villa might be the best offensive lineman to ever come out of Arizona State. He captained the '86 Sun Devils football team, which won the program's first Pac-10 Conference championship and the '87 Rose Bowl. He played so well that season he was named a consensus All-America pick and voted the Pac-10 Offensive Lineman of the Year by the conference's defensive linemen. In '02, ASU inducted its star lineman into the school's Hall of Fame. But Villa's legacy took a turn for the worst on Friday when he was charged with raping a student-athlete at the Massachusetts high school where he was both the athletic director and football coach. Police allege that the crimes occurred over the last three months, just as Villa was leading Walpole High to a state football championship. Villa turned himself in on Sunday and faces three counts of rape of a child over 14 and three counts of enticing a minor.
• So much for school pride. Two Michigan State football players have been charged for beating up a Spartan hockey player during a brawl at an off-campus party back in October. Freshman running back Glenn Winston will face three counts of misdemeanor aggravated assault and freshman defensive back Mitchell White will face a misdemeanor assault and battery charge. The two football players roughed up sophomore hockey player A.J. Sturges so bad, the defenseman suffered brain trauma and had to withdraw from some classes and sit out the hockey season. According to the police report, Sturges was simply a bystander during the fight, which started over "a discussion about a female." She better have been beautiful because a year in jail is a hefty punishment for defending the honor of your buddy's unsightly sister.
Honorable mention:Eric Devendorf for performing his 40 hours of community service in a hair net; Miami football for playing with five suspended players in the Emerald Bowl and losing; The Indiana men's basketball team for blowing a 21-point lead and losing to Lipscomb.