BGTD: Thursday Afternoon Tourney Sessions

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.

  • Kemba’s Childress Moment.  He may not win the NPOY award due to a bit of a slump in the middle of the season, but there is no other player in America who we’d rather have with the ball in his hands and the clock winding down.  Like the former Wake Forest assassin, Randolph Childress, Kemba Walker has built a reputation this season for making the big shot down the stretch, and his double-crossover move into a step-back jumper that found the bottom of the net was a thing of beauty.  Somewhere Pitt’s Gary McGhee is still trying to figure out how to untangle his legs after getting twisted and turned into a spinning mess of fall-down — Fran Fraschilla’s call that Walker “has a mismatch” is comedic in just how prophetic he was.  UConn has now won three in a row in the Big East Tournament so you start to wonder about fatigue, but if anybody has the stones and wherewithal to do something crazy like win five games in five days, it would be Walker.

  • Pitt’s Presumptive #1 Seed.  The great thing about the Big East Tournament is that there are so many good teams beyond the first round that when a top team loses, as Pitt did today, it’s considered a “good” loss and will only marginally impact that team’s NCAA seeding.  As the regular season champions of the toughest and deepest conference in America, Jamie Dixon’s Panthers probably could have lost to South Florida or DePaul and still been a strong favorite for a #1 seed, but it says here that the Selection Committee is unlikely to hold a loss to UConn, a name program with a NPOY candidate, against it.  Pitt will still be a top seed come Sunday evening.
  • Miami’s Absurd Comeback. It was overlooked because the game involves two teams that are going nowhere this postseason, but the Miami comeback against Virginia this afternoon was one of the best we’ve ever seen.  With 42.5 seconds remaining, the Canes were down 53-43 before hitting a Durand Scott three-pointer.  Two missed Wahoo FTs led to another Miami three, which was followed up by two consecutive steals and layups to tie the game at 53-all with 13.9 seconds left.  To those of you at home, that’s a 10-0 run in a mere 28.6 seconds, a remarkable achievement.  UM actually stole the ball again with under a second to go and had a shot at the buzzer to win, but it was off.  Capitalizing on their momentum, though, they took care of the Cavaliers in overtime and will move on to face UNC on Friday.
  • Fabulous Melo.  Has Jim Boeheim been holding his freshman center back all season so as to unleash him on an unsuspecting Big East Tournament in March?  Doubtful, of course, but there’s no question that Boeheim’s usage of the big man is now paying dividends.  After a ten-point game against DePaul on Wednesday, Melo came back with a 12-pointer today, including two gigantic layups down the stretch that effectively won the game for his team.  His point total and minutes (22) are both career highs, and he’s yet to miss a field goal attempt in two games in the postseason (10-10).  This is a big if, as freshman bigs are notoriously inconsistent, but if Melo can continue to play substantial minutes and make these kinds of contributions, Syracuse suddenly vaults from a top twenty team to a top ten caliber team.  Let’s see how he handles UConn on Friday.
  • Kansas Sleepwalks But Escapes.  Speaking of presumptive #1 seeds, KU acted like they were already settled in for Selection Sunday today, as they sleepwalked through a game that they probably should have lost this afternoon in Kansas City.  Had Marcus Morris’ long three at the end of the shot clock not found the bottom, we think the Jayhawks would have been upset today.  Travis Ford agreed, saying that the shot was the biggest of the game, even bigger than the terrible 30-footer that his team attempted to win the game at the buzzer (rather than driving the ball to the hole).  For KU fans intent on getting back to the Final Four and winning another title, though, today had to have been reminiscent of last year’s Northern Iowa debacle; a game where for all intents and purposes it appeared that the Jayhawks simply weren’t mentally into it.  Bill Self better get his team’s attention or another meltdown might be imminent.
  • BYU Appears Shaky.Against a team that in TCU that only won a single Mountain West regular season game this year, we’d have liked to see BYU shake off some of the residual tentativeness from losing its big man, Brandon Davies, to the Mormon code.  Didn’t happen.  In fact, TCU hung around until the final few minutes as The Jimmer had trouble finding his shot, going only 7-21 from the field.  Maybe it was some of the same first-game doldrums that Kansas experienced today against an inferior opponent, or maybe this is a serious signal that the Cougars are not going to be able to recover from the loss of Davies.  We know this much — BYU will need to bring  a much better game to play tomorrow against New Mexico or Colorado State.
  • Minnesota’s Train Wreck of a Season.  With today’s Gopher loss to Northwestern, Minnesota’s train wreck of a second half of the season mercifully came to an end.  The team that had beaten UNC, West Virginia and Purdue earlier this season finished up by losing ten of its last eleven games, essentially becoming a shell of its former self when point guard Al Nolen went down with a broken foot in late January.  With Tubby Smith’s seemingly endless cattle call of injuries, suspensions and transfers over the last few years, we’re starting to wonder if he’ll ever put together the kind of sustained success that the Golden Gopher program expected when they hired him out of Kentucky a few years ago.  How bad is it?  This year is only the third in eighteen seasons that a Smith-coached team did not win at least one conference tournament game.  Ouch.
  • DJ Kennedy’s Knee.  Hate, hate, hate to see this.  In a play somewhat reminiscent of Da’Sean Butler’s injury against Duke in the Final Four last season, St. John’s guard DJ Kennedy crumpled down in pain after twisting his knee on an early drive in today’s game against Syracuse.  At this point, the injury is described as a “serious knee injury,” but the lingering sense surrounding this is that Kennedy might be out for the rest of his senior season.  If so, Steve Lavin would be without one of his best players and team leaders in the NCAA Tournament, a real shame considering how far he and his team have come this year.
  • And Then There’s This.  From the Big East Tournament…
  • Bubbling Up.  Memphis, after hanging on against Southern Miss…  Colorado, after knocking out Kansas State… USC, after ripping apart Cal… BC, by virtue of taking care of business against Wake Forest…  Georgia, ditto against Auburn…  Michigan State, outlasting Iowa (anyone surprised?)…
  • Bubble Popping.  UAB, after dropping a terrible overtime game against East Carolina…
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