8:18 pm EST: Haven’t done a live blog in a while. Watching ESPN3 at work while updating the blog. espn3.com, by the way, is man’s best friend: any Big East game available to watch online live as well as an archive of the last few night’s games.
8:20 pm EST: The clock just stopped. How is this a regular occurrence? It’s a freaking clock. Not rocket science here. I bet it’s human error.
8:24 pm EST: Question — when was the last time UConn had a white, american-born guard? Seriously. I think it was the 1980s. Niels Giffey is from Germany, FYI.
8:27 pm EST: Kemba Walker fouled again at the 3-point line.
8:34 pm EST: The problem with watching games at work is that sometimes people want to talk to you about work stuff.
8:37 pm EST: My personal opinion: Marquette is the school that has most well-integrated itself into the “old” Big East. Perhaps it’s because of its name: Marquette doesn’t evoke any geographic locations.
8:39 pm EST: Buycks has unbelievable hands. And apparently his name is pronounced Bikes. Yuycks.
8:47 pm EST: UConn’s offense: let Kemba dribble aimlessly and then send everybody to the offensive boards.
8:50 pm EST: Most common surname in the Big East. Perhaps Butler? Jimmy Butler. Caron Butler. DeSean Butler. Any other Butlers?
8:51 pm EST: Same UConn offense. See item two bullets above. This time Giffey with the putback.
8:57 pm EST: Kemba Walker has taken the last four first-shot-attempts. Ridiculous. Who does he think he is…Kobe Bryant?
8:58 pm EST: This time, nobody touched the ball except Kemba Walker. #gettingridiculous
9:00 pm EST: Marquette: take the ball strong. No jump shots. This game is totally winnable for the Golden Eagles.
9:02 pm EST: You can’t make this shit up. Walker double-teamed…dribbles around. Picks up his dribble. Instead of passing, he calls a timeout.
9:04 pm EST: Now we’re tied, going into overtime. I don’t believe a single UConn player has dribbled the ball in the last five possessions other than Kemba Walker. And I can’t believe any of the commentators aren’t pointing this out. Props to Marquette: totally winnable game.
9:12 pm EST: Nasty crossover from Buycks. Crowder with a nice tip. Johnson-Odom with a lefty jumper. Marquette plays like a team.
9:14 pm EST: Awful shot by Walker. Johnson-Odom with a nice left jumper. Walker travels.
9:19 pm EST: Marquette 74, UConn 65. 25.4 seconds left in overtime. People in the stands leaving. Great win by Marquette. Johnson-Odom is the man.
Jeremy Lamb was named Big East Rookie of the Week today. In the past week, he’s averaged 22.5 points per game — scoring 24 in a win over Marquette and 21 in a double-overtime loss to Louisville. Besides having a decent three-point shot and a good mid-range game, he possesses one of the most effective floaters I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the reasons he’s an efficient scorer.
Basketball’s been around since 1891 and there have been a bunch of “innovations” in individual offensive moves: the layup, set shot, jump shot, hook shot, spin-move, dunk, cross-over and the turnaround-fadeaway. In the past 10 years, though, I’ve noticed a couple of new, highly-effective offensive moves being used by ball-handlers:
1. The floater
2. The eurostep
3. “Pushing” the ball through to split a double
Some may say that that I’m full of it — these moves have been around for ages. I disagree (but want your feedback) — these are moves that are gaining popularity and are extremely effective. Most players in the past didn’t have these and were worse offensive players for it (although they probably had better jump shots).
I believe the popularity of the floater can be traced to Tony Parker and the eurostep to Manu Ginobli (and people wonder why the Spurs have won 4 championships!). What I mean by “pushing the ball through to split a double team” probably isn’t clear, but there’s a video below. I don’t know who to trace the popularity of this move back to, although I may begrudgingly have to say Kobe Bryant.
The floater is a great shot that allows offensive players to get a quick shot off with little space (often a jump shot or going into a full shot allows a defender to block it):
The eurostep is Manu Ginobli’s signature move (and Dwyane Wade does a pretty good job of it, too). In the following video, he also shows the double-team split. It’s a beautiful video and you really see Manu’s beautiful sense of the game coming out:
So am I full of it (or do I just have a really bad memory)? Were basketball players in the 70s-90s doing these same moves? Or are they actual “innovations”?
In news I’m sure all of you are aware of now, John Calipari, formerly coach of the Memphis Tigers, has left to take an 8-year, $35 million coaching gig at the University of Kentucky. Kentucky is among the premier programs in college basketball historically, up there with Duke, Kansas, UCLA, and North Carolina.
The decision he made — leaving Memphis — could not have been more wrong.
Coaches get famous not for moving between programs, but making programs. Wooden made UCLA, Dean Smith made UNC, Bob Knight made Indiana, and Krzyzewski made Duke. In the Big East, Calhoun made UConn, Boeheim made Syracuse, and Thompson made Georgetown. Those names are synonymous with their programs, and furthermore, their universities will continue to be powerhouses in college basketball even after they’ve left. Coaches establish these programs as a brand and ensure control of the program stays “within the family” by passing the throne to some longtime assistant.
Calipari had the shot at making a program twice in his lifetime and gave up both. He first left UMass, having brought that program from insignificance to national prominence under stars like Lou Roe and Marcus Camby. UMass was a perfect place to make a program — a large state school in a wealthy, recognizable state with history (Dr. J played there), and with a natural rival — UConn. Yet he left for the NBA and the New Jersey Nets at the peak of the program –having just reached a Final Four. Fast forward a dozen years or so and Calipari has done the same thing — left a program he could have left his mark on. Memphis is already a brand — it stands for amazing athletes, great recruiting, and a coach/program that doesn’t at all mind players coming in a year and leaving for the NBA. Memphis stood for demolishing the competition yet always being able to play the “respect card” because of Conference USA. Personally, I was excited to see him take Memphis further along — perhaps do such crazy things as recruit five stellar freshman every year to try to win a national championship each year and then happily move them along to the NBA, and essentially make Memphis a program designed for the one-and-done NCAA/NBA rule.
And yet now he’s moving to “greener pastures”. Truth is, the grass was already perfect in Memphis.
By now, it’s pretty clear that the Big East has won this argument; the Big East has 5 teams amongst the Sweet Sixteen, the ACC has two. But I thought you all might be interested in how an ACC fan saw it before the tournament. Yes, even us Big East bloggers are friends with people from the ACC.
My friend Matt and I ranked the teams in the ACC and Big East respectively and wrote what we thought would happen between the ones that made the NCAAs. Here’s how he saw the matchups:
Louisville vs UNC – Before I start, I’m going to sound like Lou Holtz. Carolina will not win the national championship. Furthermore, I would not be surprised if they don’t make it to the final four. I’ve watched this team probably more than any other (due to my location) and they never really looked unstoppable at any time this season like they did at times last year.
Okay, with that out of the way, this would be a classic match-up because the teams match up very well (evidenced by their game in elite eight last year). Both teams have tremendous athletes, both teams like to run, both have explosive guards, both have big guys who can bang around and both have coaches who have won it all. But in the end, my edge goes to Louisville for one simple reason: defense. Carolina doesn’t play any, they just try to outscore you. Louisville won’t play the physical defense like a UCONN or a Pitt, they defend you with speed and pressing. While Ty Lawson negates a lot of that on his own, he’s asked to do much for UNC to win. Louisville’s athleticism won’t shine on offense like it might in a Big East game, because UNC can match them. Instead Louisville shines on defense. In a revenge of last year’s elite eight, Louisville beats UNC in a close game that comes down to the last minute.
Pitt vs Duke – Unlike past years where Duke was overrated in their NCAA seeding, this Duke team is a legit #2 seed. After Coach K benched Greg Paulus about ¾ through the season and started freshman Elliot Williams at the shooting guard, there was a marked improvement in this team. Williams gives Duke a longer, more athletic defender (which the Devils clearly needed since Paulus was getting burned constantly), and offensively it allowed Jon Scheyer to shift to the point guard and shoot over a typically smaller opponent (he was the ACC tournament MVP). While Duke is also the best defensive team in the ACC, they lose this game given their lack of inside presence. Kyle Singer has become a very good player, but his strength is his outside game, not his inside. DeJuan Blair would have a field day inside and would force Duke to collapse. Against teams with big inside presence, (UNC, FSU) Duke has struggled. The only way Duke wins this game is if they get hot from the 3 point line. They have shooters in Singler and Scheyer, but Duke has to have a better than average shooting night from 3 in order to win. But to be sure, Duke’s ability keeps them in this game and it’s a close one all the way to the end. But if they played this game 10 times, Pitt wins eight of them, all close.
Uconn vs Wake – Very early in the season, I told some writers on this board that I thought Wake was the team to watch in the ACC and perhaps the Country. I looked like a genius in early January when they beat UNC and were ranked #1. But then I looked like Steve Carrell on “The Office” when they lost at home to Virginia Tech…then to NC State (who didn’t even make the NIT)…and then to Maryland in the ACC tournament (a team that doesn’t start anyone over 6’7”).
I’m convinced that Wake is one of the most athletic teams in the Country. The problem is that they are all freshman and sophomores. The talent on this team is just sick with NBA Lottery picks in big man James Johnson and the only guard yet to make Ty Lawson look confused: Jeff Teague (sophomores). Al Farouq-Aminu and Ish Smith (freshmen) make up another dynamic duo that can wreck havoc on both ends of the floor with their respective size and speed. But, again, they’re all freshman and sophomores and they play like it. Wake looks unstoppable at times and completely lost at others, sometimes all in the same possession!
UCONN wins this one easily because of their versatility, tenacious defense, but mostly better basketball IQ. Though I’m not a fan of his, Jim Calhoun definitely has the coaching edge over Dino Gaudio which helps and UCONN wins this game by a comfortable 10-15 points if not more.
Villanova vs FSU – Tony Douglas is the best guard in this tournament that you’ve never heard of. He can do it all, including matching Scottie Reynolds, shot for shot. FSU wins this game because of their inside game through Soloman Alabi. He’s a freshman 7 footer with athleticism and big upside (Big East fans – picture a younger, faster, Hasheem Thabeet with one or two offensive moves). Past that, you couldn’t pick out any of FSU’s players, but Leonard Hamilton finally has a good mix of players who are playing like a team. They have adequate size at their power forward in Uche Echefu, and a good backup scorer in Derwin Kitchen.
Yes, Nova has that 4 guard lineup, yes Scottie Reynolds can play with the best of them, but FSU has Tony Douglas and a balanced inside-outside game and they can play defense. FSU wins this one by 5-10 points.
West Virginia vs. Boston College – Oddly enough, this is the hardest game for me to call. Which BC team shows up? Play absolutely unreal and beat UNC at Chapel Hill and Duke at Duke? – Done. Follow it up with a loss at home to Harvard, and a bad loss to NC State? – Done. I think of BC like a 4 year old. They don’t seem to care about anything at times, they have outbursts, they have temper tantrums, they do things that excite you and make you proud, then they do the worst thing at the worst time and make an unbelievable mess. Tyrese Rice is the engine that makes this team go and his play matches the description above.
Now contrast that against WVU. They don’t have any “bad” losses on their schedule, but they don’t have any “good” wins. They mostly win the games they should, and lose the games they should. I guess with Bob Huggins, the players do whatever it takes to make sure they never have to face a practice after a “bad” loss. Da’Sean Butler is the main force for WVU.
This one is a total crapshoot. I’m not convinced that West Virginia is that good, but then again, I can definitely say the same for BC. I’ll take BC purely on the fact that Rice can get hot and BC knows how to win big games. I can’t say the same for WVU.
Marquette vs Clemson – obviously the X-factor is Marquette losing Dominic James. Though Clemson looks like they are slumping coming into the NCAAs, they do have some talent. Early on, I thought they could be a dark horse to make a real run in the tournament, but I don’t see that happening the way they are playing now. Marquette is much like Villanova playing small ball.
But Clemson has the ability to play inside with Trevor Booker and Raymond Sykes and you can bet in this game, they will. While no one would mistake Booker and Sykes for Shaq and Garnett, they are serviceable inside guys who can get it done. Clemson also matches up favorably on the perimeter with Devonte Stitt and Terence Oglesby (a player I’ve come to hate because he always hits backbreaking shots). The only thing against Clemson is that they’re not a real deep team, and yes they’re slumping right now. Without Dominic James and a great game from its “forwards by committee” I don’t see Marquette winning this game.
Syracuse vs Maryland – I’ll confess my bias right up front that I’m a Maryland alum. But I’ll also admit that, Gary Williams has pulled the ultimate smoke and mirrors trick this year and somehow snuck his team into the NCAAs. This team looked miserable early in the season and yet managed to finish 7-9 in the ACC. All this with no significant minutes coming from a player bigger than 6’7” and a lot of players who wouldn’t start for other ACC teams.
I could go on for pages about how unbelievable it was that Maryland came on late, how Gary Williams should be coach of the year for the job he did with the talent he had, but frankly – there’s no way they win this game. Syracuse has talent (Johnny Flynn, Devendorf, Harris) and the 2-3 zone has given Maryland’s offense problems this year. While Maryland’s guards Greivas Vazquez and Eric Hayes have come on strong lately, their season stats reveal that they’re not great 3 point shooters. Given Syracuse’s length, they give Maryland fits. The only way Maryland wins is if this game goes to 8 overtimes and Syracuse players submit to dehydration.
The Quad has an awesome Q&A with Mike Tranghese, the commissioner of the Big East for the last nineteen years. Some wonderful tidbits here about how he grew the league, its history, and his favorite moments. Here are my favorite excerpts.
Q: How old were you when you became the first employee. A: I’m 65 now, so when I started with the Big East when I was 35.
Q: When you tell people that you worked for the Big East… A: They would say, ‘What’s the Big East?’ And I would have to explain it to them. That’s what the common question was. Dealing with newspapers was difficult. It was difficult getting agate in.
Q: There’s obviously turning points to get where we are today. A: Patrick Ewing. Plain and simple. Patrick Ewing announced he was going to Georgetown and we jumped on the bangwagon and marketed to death and we took our tournament to New York. I think that was the thing that did it. Patrick turned out to be such a great player. And we had Chris and The Pearl. It just all happened.
Pretty remarkable to think of the day when people would say “What’s the Big East?” Also, if there was a logo for the Big East with a player on it, it would be a silhouette of Patrick Ewing (with kneepads and all).
I think when you get older, you look back at the players. I don’t know that anything will ever match Patrick and Chris and Pearl. It was so magical and so exciting. Have we had better guards that Pearl? Yes. We’ve had Ray Allen and Allen Iverson and great players. But I don’t know that there’s been a more electrifying and dynamic person that’s ever played in Madison Square Garden than Pearl Washington when he was at Syracuse. There’s never been a better shooter in this league than Chris Mullin. And Patrick has been the most influential player to ever play in this league. But those were the days when people stayed for four years. It doesn’t happen now. Someone asked me the other day to pick the five best players, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Interesting. I know all about Patrick Ewing, but never got to see Pearl Washington play — I would have loved to, and this brings me to the next quote…
Q: Was the 1985 Georgetown team the best that you’ve seen in the Big East? A: I thought the Georgetown 1984 and ‘85 teams were good. The Georgetown 1989 team was unbelievable. They won the Big East tournament in 1989, and we were a really good league. You’d have to look up the scores, but they won by an average of about 20-plus points. They destroyed everyone in that tournament. That was with Dikembe and Alonzo and Charles Smith was on that team. They left that year and I was convinced that Georgetown was going to win the national championship. I didn’t think that there was anyone that could beat them, that’s how confident I was. So what happens? They play their first-round game against Princeton and Pete Carril. They take the air out of the ball. Georgetown is lucky to escape and they’re never the same and Duke beats them.
If anybody has that Georgetown-Princeton game on videotape, I would love to see it. Best game I never saw. Glad I saw Kentucky-Duke live in 1992 — one of those games you never forget where you are.