ATB: Another Longhorn Collapse In Progress…Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2011
The Lede. The last Big Monday of the 2010-11 season was short on games, but heavy on lessons learned. So what did we learn, exactly? That one team left for dead in the Big 12 race at midseason is completely back behind a guy playing with a giant chip on his shoulder; that another team who looked like a #1 seed lock two weeks ago is dangerously close to another epic collapse; that a Big East team whom nobody had much faith in (ourselves included) is turning heads on its way to a top two seed in the NCAA Tournament; and that another Big East team that looked Final Four-caliber in January is limping into the postseason with a couple of bloody appendages. In other words, what we thought we knew we didn’t actually know, and what we think we now know probably isn’t what we know either — all of this is just a convoluted way of saying that, once again, it’s March.
Your Watercooler Moment. The Longhorn Collapse Came Later Than Usual This Year. We got concerned when the Horns gave up 70 points at Nebraska a little over a week ago; we tried to ignore it when they gave up a 58-point half over the weekend at Colorado. But to drop a game at home against a team that couldn’t beat anybody a few weeks ago proves that we need to stand up and take notice. Rick Barnes’ team is going through another one of his patented collapses — it just took longer this year for it to manifest itself. With its third loss in four games, Texas is beginning to resemble the Horns of the last two vintages, both of whom looked great at midseason only to fall apart as the days grew longer and the calendar turned to March. In tonight’s game against surging Kansas State, it was once again the Longhorn defense, so spectacular for most of the season, that failed. The Horns gave up 50% shooting to the Wildcats, the first time all season that a team has reached that mark for the game, and K-State’s 1.15 points per possession is the second-best against UT all season (Colorado’s 1.17 PPP two days ago was the best). Much has been written already about how Jordan Hamilton cannot hit a shot right now, and that much is true (25.9% in the last three losses), but Rick Barnes knows that it’s his defense that is abandoning him. Whether that’s a function of players like Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph looking forward to pay-for-play, it’s difficult to say, but without question the tight chemistry that this team showed in dominating the Big 12 defensively during January and most of February is now gone. As for K-State, Frank Martin has done an excellent job in getting his Wildcats back into the hunt in both the Big 12 and the postseason conversation. Having now won eight of ten Big 12 games after a miserable 1-4 start, K-State is trending quickly as one of the teams nobody will want to see opposite them as a #4/#5 seed in two weeks.
Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. II. Irish Eyes Smile to the Tune of Twenty Threes. If you predicted that the top four teams in the 2010-11 Big East regular season would be Pitt (ok), Notre Dame (what?), Louisville (huh?) and St. John’s (no way!), give yourself a one-way ticket to Vegas because you are clearly some kind of expert soothsayer. Yet that’s where we stand on the last Big Monday of the season after Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish nailed a school-record twenty threes in an explosive performance to dominate Villanova tonight, 93-72. Notre Dame star Ben Hansbrough hit for 30/10 assts on 7-10 shooting from deep, while Tim Abromaitis went for 30/4/4 assts while shooting 9-13 from deep. For the pair of seniors who have led Notre Dame to a surprisingly exceptional season causing Irish fans to think Final Four, it was a capstone performance for a season that has wildly exceeded all reasonable expectations. The question is whether the Irish are in fact a serious threat to make a run to Houston, and we still hesitate to place this team on the top tier because of its sometimes-questionable defense. But with shooters like Mike Brey has at his disposal (both Hansbrough and Abromaitis are 40%+ guys) and an ability to dictate pace with less disciplined teams, the Irish are going to be a very tough out both in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments later this month.
Tweet of the Night. Well, when you back it up…
RTC Live. Just one game on the slate tonight, but wow was it an impressive performance…
Notre Dame 93, Villanova 72. Notre Dame senior guard Ben Hansbrough probably always knew that his senior night was going to memorable, but I do not think he ever thought it was going to go as well as did on Monday night versus Villanova. Hansbrough scored 30 points and added 10 assists as the Irish completed their undefeated home schedule by thrashing Villanova, 93-72. In the victory, Hansbrough and his teammates set a new school record for three-pointers in a game by converting twenty bombs. Forward Tim Abromaitis matched Hansbrough’s point total and hit nine of thirteen threes himself. Senior forward Tyrone Nash contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds. With the victory, Mike Brey’s squad ensured that they will have a double bye in what will be an ultra-competitive Big East Tournament. Villanova struggled mightily on offense throughout the first half and even though they picked it up in the second half, their defense did them no favors throughout the course of the game. The Wildcats were led by senior guard Corey Fisher’s 22 points. Notre Dame will finish their regular season schedule when they visit UConn on Saturday, whereas Villanova’s regular season comes to an end when they travel to Pittsburgh that same day.