t.j. mcconnell

Embiid, Sixers already talking NCAA Tournament trash

Embiid, Sixers already talking NCAA Tournament trash

NEW YORK — Just hours after the Selection Sunday show revealed the NCAA Tournament matchups, the trash talking was well underway in the Sixers locker room. Those whose schools are tournament-bound are geared up for March Madness.

"Kansas … " Joel Embiid began.

A loud laugh emanated near him.


The exclamation came from Justin Anderson.

“They won the Big 12 Tournament …” Embiid continued.

“Trash!” Anderson retorted.

Embiid (Kansas), Anderson (Virginia), T.J. McConnell (Arizona), Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) and JJ Redick (Duke) will be watching their alma maters closely as the schools vie for NCAA Tournament glory. The players made their case for their universities to win it all:

Embiid (Kansas, No. 1): “They’ve got a pretty good chance of winning the national championship, unlike Virginia. All they care about is shooting threes. Sometimes it’s going to go in, sometimes it’s not. Just kidding. I’m a big fan of Virginia. Obviously Justin's over there talking trash. But I’m hopeful that we’ve got a pretty good chance of winning the national championship.”

Anderson (Virginia, No. 1): “It's an honor, it's a blessing. Those guys have earned it. They're just coming off the ACC championship. I think we have a really good chance to win it. These guys are bought in. These guys are humble. These guys are in a position to hopefully put themselves in the forefront, hopefully hoist the trophy up in the end.”

McConnell (Arizona, No. 4): “I think they could make a real run at this thing. With Coach Miller coaching them, that always gives them a chance. Especially with Deandre (Ayton), probably one of the most dominant players in college basketball. There's a bunch of guys, I could go on and on forever, Dusan (Ristic), with the experience of Parker (Jackson-Cartwright), Allonzo (Trier) and their bench guys have to step up. It's about making a run at the right time and that's what they've got to do.”

There is a chance Virginia and Arizona could meet in the Sweet 16. The same goes for Kansas and Duke in the Elite Eight. Of course things would get really amped up if any of these teams faced off in the Final Four or, better yet, the title game.

"Whoever comes out on top has bragging rights," McConnell said. "Especially with Jo, there will be a lot of trash talk."

T.J. McConnell defends embattled Sean Miller

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T.J. McConnell defends embattled Sean Miller

Arizona men's basketball head coach Sean Miller has come under intense scrutiny this last week over reports of widespread NCAA corruption.

On Friday, ESPN reported that FBI wiretaps have Miller and Christian Dawkins (a former associate of agent Andy Miller) discussing a $100,000 payment to land stud prospect Deandre Ayton.

Arizona decided to not have Miller coach Saturday in its loss to Oregon, and the school has already lost a top commit in Shareef O'Neal, Shaq's son.

On Monday morning, former Arizona Wildcat T.J. McConnell defended his former coach on Instagram.

McConnell played his final two seasons under Miller at Arizona after starting his college career at Duquesne. In those two seasons, Arizona went a combined 67-9 and lost in the Elite 8 both years.

There's no 'I' in Sixers team win

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There's no 'I' in Sixers team win


The Sixers’ 116-105 victory over the Magic (see observations) was just that: a complete “Sixers” victory.

This wasn’t about one player taking over or the starting five carrying the weight. From players one through 10 who stepped on the court, everyone contributed. 

“It doesn’t matter who scores all the points as long as we win,” Ben Simmons said. “We all know that to get to the next level, that’s what it’s going to take.”

Enhancing the bench is a priority for the Sixers as they look to the playoffs. They are going to need depth in a postseason series, having different weapons as they face the same opponent night in and night out. 

Brett Brown was committed to counting on the second unit. The Sixers held a 22-point lead halfway through the fourth, an opportunity for starters to get a significant period of rest ahead of Sunday’s back-to-back on the road against the Wizards. 

So as the Magic chipped away at the differential and got within nine, the reserves stayed on the court. Even when Mario Hezonja attempted a trey that would have cut the lead to six with 1:21 remaining, Brown had decided the starters would remain on the sidelines.

“I wasn’t going to do it," Brown said of subbing in the starters. "I was going to go with those guys. Some of it’s just gut feel, maybe some of it’s stubbornness. But we have to grow our bench. We have to give those guys confidence that they can close out games and they did. My intention was to going to be to let them see it through.”

In total, the reserves combined for 32 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists. The bench stepped up in different ways. Marco Belinelli provided a boost on the scoreboard with 15 points. T.J. McConnell absorbed extra playing time and clocked a team-high 31 minutes. (None of the starters played more than 29 minutes.) 

Brown determined before the game he would give Richaun Holmes the nod to back up Embiid instead of Amir Johnson. He wanted Holmes, who has played in only three of his last 10 games, to get the opportunity for time on the court (see video). Holmes grabbed eight rebounds with four points in 21 minutes. 

“It shows (the bench) can hold it down,” Simmons said. “We have guys who are capable of doing that, it doesn’t have to be the starting five.”

The bench's production in this win over the Magic is only a small glimpse into what the Sixers believe they will need to succeed in the postseason. 

"Our objective is, in general, playoffs, but I want home-court advantage," Joel Embiid said. "To know that going into the playoffs you have a bench that can come in and keep the lead or keep building the lead, it's great. In the playoffs you need that, you need a bench to come in and keep it up for the starters, and finish it."