Big East Hoops

Archive for March, 2012

Big East Final

March 10, 2012 7:32 am by Coach O

This will not go down in history as a tourney with the greatest contests. Too many one sided games. More than I can ever remember. Only a couple competitive games. And so a few final thoughts.

Goodbye West Virginia. We will miss you. You have given us many memorable moments from Jerome Lane through Da’Sean Butler. But it was your choice to leave us. Good Luck

Too many suspensions, scandals etc. UConn, Syracuse, Cincinnati. More news off the court this year than onn it.

Welcome Temple. You were in….you were out…. you are in again. Hope you stay this time.

Preparing to say goodbye to Syacuse and Pitt too. So sad!

Go with Louisville toniight.

Big East Tourney – Semifinals

March 9, 2012 8:25 am by Coach O

Now that was what the Big East Tournament should be. Four games, three of them nailbiters. Not the prettiest basketball you ever saw but in the world of the Big East it never is. Everyone knew UConn had a chance to send Syracuse home. They almost did. The difference between UConn last year and this year is the fact that when the game was on the line Kemba Walker wanted the ball in his hands. This year Jeremy Lamb decided to become invisible. No movement. No attempt to take over the game. That’s why SU plays tonight and UConn is back in Storrs. Not many thought Cincinnati could derail the Georgetown express. They did, even after being down by double digits in the second half. Forcing an overtime, forcing a second overtime, Yancy to the rescue. The Hoyas are back in D.C. The Bearcats are next in line to try to stop the Orange tonight. And who thought that Louisville, the team that struggled to hit 50 on Wednesday would do it in a half against 2 seed Marquette. Not I. But they did, leading from the opening bell to the finish line and never letting the favored Golden Eagles get close enough to make a run. The nightcap was played at a turtle pace. Neither team could score consistently. But even after being down by 3 with seconds to go in regulation the Irish forced OT and then Eric Atkins hit his first three of the night to secure an exciting win over the USF Bulls. Finally, a day of typical Big East Tourney hoops. Overtimes, lock down defenses, play to the final buzzer. It was classic. Tonight we have the two Semis. Should be good games. Let’s take a quick look.

Syracuse – Cincinnati 7PM

Everyone seemed surprised when the seeds showed Cincinnati in the 4 slot. The question was…Shouldn’t Georgetown have been the 4 seed? The math said no, it was Cincy. Well yesterday they met. And the Bearcats came out on top after 2 OT’s. Now they get the prize of playing Syracuse in the early game. Cincy proved yesterday they belong in the Semis. They played SU tough in January losing by 7 at home. I’m sure they would rather be facing UConn who they beat on the road. But no, they draw the Orange. This is a great task for the Bearcats. I see SU to be too much for Cincy to deal with. Down low Gates is more skilled than Melo but the Syracuse guards are a level above UC’s. Triche, Jardine, Waiters and Southerland can all fill it up. They showed yesterday they can also lock down opposing stars. I see the posibility of a big win here for the Orange unless foul trouble intervenes. Waiters sat out a good portion of the first half yesterday but still almost scored 20 and Southerland found his touch with the long ball late when the game was in question. Look for the Orange to get by Cincinnati and move to the Finals Saturday night.

Notre Dame - Louisville 9:30PM

The Irish nipped Louisville 67-65  at the Yum Center in double overtime back on January 7th. That was light years ago. Louisville has taken care of Seton Hall in a low scoring game where they couldn’t get to 25 points at the half and then dispatched #2 seed Marquette last night when they just couldn’t miss. Their defense is smothering and they will lock down on ND’s outsdie scorers. Cooley had a tough time last night with only 1 rebound against USF. Gorgui Dieng will make life miserable for him down low. Unless Notre Dame regains their outside shooting touch they had earlier this year they may find it tougher to score tonight then they did last night. Kuric, Behanan and Siva look to be, on paper, so much better than Grant, Atkins and Connaughton. But everyone in the Big East is better than the Irish on paper. Mike Brey will struggle to keep this one close but I don’t think he will be successful. Unless Cooley can get Dieng in foul trouble very early it will be a long night for ND. Syracuse beat Louisville twice this year and ND is the only team to defeat the Orange. I see Louisville winning this one fairly easily and creating an interesting Final match vs. Syracuse.

Big East Tourney – Day 3

March 8, 2012 8:02 am by Coach O

Well Day 2 is in the books, only one good game thus far out of 8. West Virginia is now gone forever, losers of a tremendous overtime baattle with the UConn Huskies. Of the eight teams left, all should be in the NCAA tournament with no question. Add the Mountaineers to that list and we should have nine teams in the Big Dance. I got the first three picks right yesterday bring my record to 5-3. Now onto today’s games.

Syracuse – UConn Noon

The Orange have it all. Only one loss this year and still on a roll losing only to Notre Dame. The Huskies are also on a roll. Down 11 with 11 minutes left and being manhandled by WVU yesterday, Shabazz Napier put the team on his shoulders and led them to the OT win. UConn can give the Orange a battle today but the post players must assert themselves early and let Napier, Lamb and Boatright go to work on the SU guards. The Orange would like to dominate early, put UConn’s bigs on the foul line and then ward off any run UConn might make. In a close game I like the Huskies because as strange as it may seem, SU doesn’t really have a go-to guy when the game is on the line. But the truth is that maybe SU has 4 or 5 go to guys with the game on the line. Melo will make it tough for the Huskies to score down low which will put more pressure on the guards to make good shot selections. UConn has traditionally had big problems against zone defenses and Syracuse’s is the best. I said I like the Huskies in a close game and they do have a chance to pull this off. However, I don’t think it will be that close at the end. UConn has shot well and defended tremendously in their two games but they haven’t played a team with the talent of the Orange. Syracuse will win this one by about 10 and move on to the Semifinals Friday night.

Cincinnati – Georgetown  2PM

The Hoyas are a hot team right now. Their defense is smothering and Otto Porter has joined Henry Sims to dominate down low. Yancy Gates is a very good player but the Hoyas have him outnumbered on the low blocks. Cincy beat Georgetown by 4 in D.C. onJanuary 9th. That was a different Hoya team than we’re seeing right now. Although the Bearcats have won 5 of their last 6, they have been sitting around while the Hoyas are playing their best ball of the season. Georgetown will be right in the face of the Cincinnati guards and make it hard to get good looks at the hoop. Although I think Cincy will battle the Hoyas I can’t see them coming out with a win. Georgetown will take this game and set up a rematch of the overtime thriller they lost to Syracuse in the Dome in early February.

Marquette – Louisville 7PM

After watching the trouble Louisville had last night shooting the basketball, I can’t see them beating the Eagles here. Marquette won the match by 11 when these two teams played in January and I think they will repeat that feat tonight. The tandem of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom is just too much for the Cards to handle. Gorgui Dieng should dominate down low but the Golden Eagles just have too many weapons to defend. Louisville’s defense was great against Seton Hall and they will be hard pressed to repeat that performance again. If Kuric can find his shot the Cardinals will have a chance and make this a down to the wire contest. If UL shoots like they did last night this one may be over early. Take Marquette to edge Louisville and move on to Friday night.

Notre Dame – USF 9PM

The Irish have exceeded all expectations this year. Jack Cooley has become a force down low and the guards have been pistol-hot for most of the season. Mike Brey will try to show why he and not Stan Heath should have been named Coach of the Year. USF played great defense against Villanova last night, shutting down Wayns, Cheek and the rest of the Wildcats. ND won the battle 60-49 when these two met in South Bend in early January. But this game is in MSG, not South Bend. The Irish have been downright miserable at the Garden in recent history. USF has a win under their belt. The Irish have not played in a while. With the USF slow down and the Irish slow down offenses, this game may end in the 30′s. But I always say that a team that relies on shooting 3′s will have a cold night and lose a game they shouldn’t. This has been the Irish’s downfall in recent tourney history. However, if Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins can find the range the Irish should be able to survive the USF pressure. It will be a slow-paced game and maybe downright boring. Look for ND to get Cooley involved early and if they can open up the jump shots they will win a close one. I’ll take ND to break their MSG jinx and nip the Bulls to advance into the Semis against Marquette.

Big East Tourney – Day 2

March 7, 2012 8:39 am by Coach O

Ok, so following the afternoon session I thought I finally had it. Regained the touch. Found the formula. UConn wins, Pitt puts St. John’s away. Said tomyself, “I think I know what I’m doing  here.” As Lee Corso always says….”Not so fast my friend!” Then came the evening session. PC over Seton Hall?  No Way. Rutgers edges Nova? Not even close. So now it’s back to the drawing board. Forget about talent levels. Don’t consider hot teams over struggling teams. Maybe it’s time to look at coaches. Calhoun over Purnell? Good pick. Dixon to beat Dunlap? Check. Wright tramples Rice? Yep. Willard over Cooley? Well, Ralph Willard maybe. That might be it. Or could it be that certain programs start to shine when they come to the Big Apple. UConn…. been there, won that. Pitt…. always tough in the Garden, Villanova…. Always put on a great show at MSG. So now I’m so confused I just might go back to looking at the teams involved and use logic (sounds like another losing formula) to figure out what might happen. Let’s take a look at Day 2. Not a competitive game on Day 1, very unlike the history of the Big East.

West Virginia – UConn Noon

This should be a good one. UConn edged WVU in Hartford earlier this year and has the talent to do it again. Don’t forget that the Huskies were shooting almost 60 % yesterday and couldn’t pull away from lowly DePaul. If the Mountaineers can concentrate on Putting Oriahki and Drummond on the line this one could end up in the blowout category. We all know that Kevin Jones is probably the best player in the league despite not getting that award. But I think that UConn bigs can handle Kilicli down low and if Napier can get himself under control he at least is the equal of Bryant. The Huskies played outstanding defense yesterday for 30 minutes and if they do that again they will win this game. We have spent the last two months scatching our heads over the inability of UConn to play as a team. Maybe their time has come. Both teams have had their problems scoring points and I have a feeling this will be a low scoring affair. Plus UConn has one game under it’s belt and WVU has been sitting around. Go with UConn to nip the Mountaineers and move on to lose to Syracuse on Thursday.

Georgetown – Pitt 2:30PM

Can Pitt beat Georgetown? Definitely, they won by 12 in D.C. back in January. Will Pitt beat Georgetown today? No. After watching the Hoyas destroy Notre Dame with a stifling defense I think the Hoyas will lock down on Ashton Gibbs and Trey Woodall and make it hard for either of them to get off shots. Pitt has to have a monster game from the post players to win this one. Robinson can do it, but the Panthers have gotten inconsistent efforts from Zanna and Taylor all season long. Patterson was outstanding yesterday and if he can step up today he gives Pitt a good chance. Henry Sims is the best big man passer since Ewing at Georgetown and Otto Porter has become a force down low. This one should be tight throughout but I feel that Pitt’s porous defense will lead to their demise. Don’t rule out an assault from the 3 point line by Gibbs and Woodall but the Hoyas should be able to force bad or hurried shots and nip the Panthers. Georgetown by a few points will lead to a Hoya – Cincy match on Thursday.

Louisville – Seton Hall  7PM

Louisville ended the season losing 4 of their last 6. But they did win  at Seton Hall by 9 at the end of January. Seton Hall looked good last night in the win over Providence. Louisville is not Providence. And getting a bye in this tournament has been a detriment over the past few years. Kuric and Russ Smith need to get on track today for the Cards to advance. I think they will succeed. Gorgui Dieng and Herb Pope create an interesting battle on the blocks. UL is just better overall. Jordan Theodore must make good decisions to keep this close. I don’t see it as being a hold-your-breath down to the wire contest. The Cards will press the Pirates and wear down Theodore, making it tough on him from beginning to end.  Louisville will advance fairly easily to meet Marquette in a great matchup Thursday evening.

USF – Villanova 9:30PM

USF has beaten Villanova twice this year. It is hard to beat a team three times in a season. Nova played a great game last night against Rutgers. I feel they will be good enough to do it again and knock USF out of the  Big Dance. The wins in the regular season by 17 and 14 points lead one to believe that this one will be a blowout for USF. The Bulls have never done well in the Big East tourney and after a day off their task becomes that much more difficult. The main question here is…. Has Nova finally started to come around or can they just beat Rutgers? The Cats only two wins in the last seven games have both been against the Scarlet Knights. Right now South Florida is the better team. But Villanova has always been good in this tournament and using my crazy logic above I think they will ride Malik Wayns and Jayvaughn Pinkston to victory here tonight. This may be a barn burner and if USF can’t hold Nova in the low 50′s I see Villanova meeting Notre Dame on Thursday night.

Now just a few words about the Big East awards.

Player of the Year – First, with no disrespect to Jae Crowder who had a tremendous season, I think Kevin Jones became a victim of his team’s late season woes. He led the league in just about everything and played well to the end. But when WVU started losing late his stock dropped and that shouldn’t have happened. Crowder is very good. Jones had a better season.

Coach of the Year – Stan Heath did a wonderful job with the Bulls. But this was Mike Brey’s best coaching job ever. He had a team with the least amount of talent and lost his 1st team all league player after  only two games. He did without a doubt the best job coaching. Forget Jim Boeheim, that team coould have won without a coach. I guess after winning the award three times, Brey was not considered. Heath is not a bad choice, just the wrong one this year.

No problem with all the other awards. Melo was the defensive player of the year, Cooley most improved, Harkless rookie of the year, Abromaitis scholar-athlete and Waiters sixth man award.

Big East Tourney – Day 1

March 5, 2012 9:05 am by Coach O

As we saw last year, anything can and will happen at MSG during the Big East. With that in mind and the fact that I have been less than prophetic with my picks this year I’m taking a quick look at the day 1 matchups.

UConn – DePaul Noon

The Huskies have been a bit better of late. The return of Coach Calhoun will keep them on track and they should have no problem defeating DePaul. The Huskies scored an 80-54 win hosting the Blue Demons on Feb 14th and if they can find a way to get scoring from their guards they should repeat that verdict. Lamb, Napier, Drummond and Boatright give UConn  a very talented foursome that DePaul cannot compare with. Also, UConn might need a win or two at MSG to secure their bid in the Big Dance. DePaul is not going anywhere after this game and will depend on Melvin and Young to provide outstanding efforts to compete with the Huskies. Rebounding will be a major factor here. The UConn – West Virginia matchup will be a very interesting one on Wednesday. Go with the Huskies to advance fairly easily.

St. John’s – Pittsburgh 2PM

Pitt drubbed St. John’s by 20 on Feb 29th. But that was at Petersen and this is on the Johnnies home court. That should make this a tighter contest. The Panthers are the most underachieving team this year in the league. If the threesome of Gibbs, Woodall and Robinson play up to their potential they should be able to handle the Red Storm again. St. John’s is very young and very thin. But the youth on this squad is also very talented. They have been good at home winning their last three including a big win over #3 seed Notre Dame. Expect St. John’s to be spirited and give the Panthers a game here but in the end they just don’t have the depth to stay with Pitt for 40 minutes. I wouldn’t be shocked by a St. John’s victory in a last minute surge but don’t think it will be close enough with 60 seconds left to make this happen. Pitt should take this in a close one and move on to face Georgetown Wednesday.

Providence – Seton Hall 7PM

Seton Hall won at PC 66-57 back on Jan 7th. That was in the middle of a four game winning streak, before their 6 game losing streak and a 3 game winning streak. Now the Hall is on a two game losing streak…. Get the picture? The Pirates have been UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN…. Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore have been outstanding and then downright invisible. Young Edwin has been erratic. The Hall should cruise here but wait a minute…. What team will show up here? PC had won two in a row over DePaul and UConn before falling at ND. As bad as they have been they are improving. Council, Cotton and Henton could spur an upset here. The blowout over Louisville aside, the Friars are better than they have been all season and this may be their highlight of the year. And if the Pirates bring the team that has been playing recently, they will be in trouble. PC edges Seton Hall in a close game and will meet Louisville again on Wednesday.

Rutgers – Villanova 9PM

Nova nipped Rutgers by 6 just five days ago. That game was at the RAC where RU is much better than on the road. But can they do it again? The Scarlet Knights have won two of their last three but that was preceded by a six game losing streak. The thing about the losing streak is that five of those opponents were ramked higher in the standings than Rutgers. Villanova is not. Can the Cats keep Carter, Mack, Miller and Biruta down? Don’t think so. All would agree that Nova is the more talented team here but they have dropped eight of ten and Wayns and Cheek have to carry the load every night. This one is a toss up with the team making the fewest mistakes coming out on top. I see Rutgers prevailing and moving on to meet USF on Wednesday evening.