Big East Notebook: Men

DeJuan Blair wears his dual bicep arm-bands like a tribute, but even he doesn't realize how much he embodies the man whose fashion he is replicating. The Ultimate Warrior — a former WWF wrestling champion known for his unrivaled ferocity and flamboyant dress sense — seems to be reincarnated in Blair's bullish 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame.

The same uncaged-animal routine The Warrior displayed in the ring is now being duplicated by the Pittsburgh big man on the court. And not to be outdone by The Warrior's 1990 body slam that sent Hulk Hogan into oblivion, Blair delivered a first quarter smack-down on Hasheem Thabeet in Pittsburgh's Feb. 16 victory that will be giving the Connecticut center nightmares until season's end.

Blair's game isn't highlighted by flash, glitter or even talent. It's about punishing whomever he's playing until they beg for mercy.

The undersized center that grew up down the street from where he now patrols the paint is a complete aberration in a time when playing basketball is as much about looking good as it is about delivering results. Blair is built like an armored car and plays like the opposing team stole his lunch money.

But despite the bruiser's lack of polish, his productivity is undeniable. Blair is averaging 15.6 points and 12.7 rebounds a game for the 27-3 Panthers. The clincher is how good Blair has been against the top-flight competition of the Big East. He racked up 20 points and 17 boards against Greg Monroe and Georgetown, 23 and 22 against Luke Harangody and the Fighting Irish, and then dropped 22 and 23 on Thabeet and the No. 1 Huskies.

Most players have tried to go over or around the towering presences of Monroe, Harangody and Thabeet. Blair opted to go through them.

"I tried to get into Thabeet's chest," Blair said in an interview with Sports Illustrated, "and I did a good job of it."

His physicality and toughness have begun to transcend the bounds of what normal human beings can do — and incidentally, he has finally begun to draw the attention he rightfully deserves. Blair had been written off countless times because of his unorthodox stature at the center position. People today are so blinded by height and length that they can't see greatness even when it's right in front of them. Blair isn't an underdog or a Cinderella story, he just had the misfortune of being born in the wrong time period. He's a Detroit Piston "Bad Boy" playing in the 21st century.

Blair has been a wrecking ball in a sea of bowling pins. Foolish opponents keep coming at him and dismissing him for his flaws — he's too short, too slow, too raw — but like the warrior he is, Blair keeps knocking them down. All season he has taken on bigger foes and destroyed them. Just ask Thabeet, he may never be the same again.

Player of the week

In the 2007 movie "No Country for Old Men" there was a character with an unpronounceable name, Anton Chigurh, who terrorized the countryside.

Over the last week another gunslinger with an unpronounceable name has taken pleasure in torching his foes. Weyinmi Efejuku of Providence posted the best three-game stretch of his career that was jump-started by a career-best 31 points in a loss to Notre Dame. Efejuku dropped a team-high 16 points in an improbable upset over Pittsburgh and then rounded off the trio of games with 28 more points in a win over Rutgers.

The senior forward has pushed Providence into an ideal spot for claiming an NCAA Tournament bid.

Game of the Week

Connecticut at Pittsburgh, March 7, 11 a.m.

Lock the door and hide the children, this game might get ugly.

There is certainly some bad blood between these two teams after the slugfest that ensued a couple weeks ago, and Connecticut has to be chomping at the bit to claim revenge on its worst loss of the year.

On top of that, the Blair versus Thabeet matchup has the makings of an epic heavyweight bout. If Pittsburgh can pull off another win against No. 1 Connecticut, it should cement a spot as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A Connecticut win on the road would only further establish the Huskies as the best team in the country.