Conference Tournament Daily Diaries – WednesdayPosted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011
RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site. Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week. Today’s coverage: Big East and Big 12.
Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster
- Georgetown cannot win without Chris Wright. Simply put, they are a different team without him in the lineup. The offensive creativity is not there, obviously, but the Hoyas seems to lack leadership, composure, and intensity. UConn didn’t just outplay the Hoyas tonight. They outworked them. They beat them up in the paint. They got to the offensive glass. They got all the loose balls. That, as much as anything, is why Georgetown lost this game by halftime.
- In the press conference after the game, Jim Calhoun was asked about why Kemba Walker wasn’t a unanimous first team all-Big East selection, and he responded “I think someone took a five month vacation and forgot to tell us.” I can get on board with Kemba Walker not being the player of the year. I thought Ben Hansbrough deserved it. But to say that this kid wasn’t one of the six best players (yes, the Big East has a six-person first team) is just ludicrous.
- The referees did a piss-poor job at the end of the Rutgers-St. John’s game. They missed an over the back that allowed DJ Kennedy to get another shot at shooting free throws with five seconds left. They missed a foul on the inbounds pass to Gil Biruta at mid court. And they missed a travel and an out of bounds call on Justin Brownlee before the game was actually over. That said, the refs didn’t cost Rutgers the game. They cost the Scarlett Knights a shot at a prayer to win the game. Its still inexcusable, but there is a big difference.
- Seeing St. John’s, a team that beat Georgetown, Pitt, Notre Dame, Duke, and UConn at the Garden, struggle with Rutgers was worrisome. The Johnnies played terrific basketball in the month of February, winning seven of their last eight games. What people forget is that this team also lost five of six right before that. Today, at least, it appeared as if the Johnnies were regressing to the mean.
- Yancy Gates was a top 25 recruit coming out of high school. He hasn’t put up the numbers that you generally expect from a 6’10, 260-lb kid that is a top 25 recruit. That is more an issue of effort than of talent. When Gates plays like he did tonight — scoring 25 points against a good front line of Jarrid Famous and Gus Gilchrist, he is as good as any big man in the Big East.
- I will freely admit that this game struggled to hold my attention. It was not pretty. It was over before the half was over. The South Florida and Cincinnati cheerleaders were quite attractive, and the internet at MSG is strong enough this season that I can stream games online, which means that I spent quite a bit of time watching the exciting LIU-Robert Morris NEC title game. That said, I did look up for long enough to see a Cincinnati male cheerleader drop one of the female cheerleaders during one of their maneuvers. She was fine. I laughed.
- Marquette locked up a tournament bid with this win tonight, if they hadn’t already done so. And I, for one, am glad. This is a fun team to watch. They play hard, they run the floor, they get out and defend, and they have a number of versatile options offensively.
- Darius Johnson-Odom will get the credit for this win, as he hit two enormous threes down the stretch to win the game. But Junior Cadougan was the hero, finishing with 15 points, five assists and just one turnover. His stats don’t represent his influence, either. Every play that was made, he seemed to be a part of, whether it was the defense forcing a steal, the offense getting a rebound, or the Golden Eagles coming up with a loose ball.
- I cannot figure West Virginia out. This is team is just too inconsistent, and I get the feeling that there are internal issues. Casey Mitchell and Deniz Kilicli played just 29 minutes tonight, combined, despite the Mountaineers playing like garbage on the offensive end in the second half. Just a game removed from Kevin Jones getting 11 offensive rebounds on his own, WVU managed just nine as a team. Pick them at your own risk next week.
Big 12 Tournament – by Brian Goodman
- Kansas City loves its college basketball. There are three major programs within a three-hour drive, and others not much farther away. It was recently announced that the Big 12 Tournament would stay in the City of Fountains through 2014, and a variety of other factors make KC a hub for the college game. Between playing host to the annual CBE Classic, the Big 12 Tournament, and the NCAA College Basketball Hall of Fame, college basketball is thriving in the heartland.
- Colorado kept its season alive with a two-point victory over Iowa State. Wednesday’s win alone won’t propel Colorado to “lock” status, but it makes the next step, a win over Kansas State on Thursday, possible. Colorado was stagnant in the first half, but the Buffs shot 57% in the second stanza, mostly because…
- Alec Burks knows how to turn it on. After scoring just four points and committing five turnovers in the first half of Colorado‘s first-round win over Iowa State, the sophomore exploded for 25 points, six rebounds, and helped facilitate with five assists and zero turnovers in the second half. He put the team on his back, but he won’t be able to rest for long with Kansas State in store on Thursday. If Colorado beats the Wildcats, it can feel much better about its tournament chances, and Burks is the type of player who can put on a show all week with his playmaking ability and versatility. But how far can he carry the Buffaloes?
- Iowa State’s fans deserve a tournament-caliber team. Jake Anderson and Diante Garrett were outstanding in their afternoon game, but Anderson is graduating and Garrett will be a senior next season. There’s no one who wants ISU to succeed more than head coach Fred Hoiberg, an Iowa State lifer, but even “The Mayor” took his tumbles as a first-year head coach. The Cyclones had the most vocal contingency of the first session crowds, and for most of the game, it looked like they brought Hilton Magic with them. In his better days, Larry Eustachy showed that it’s possible to build a winner in Ames, and fans are eager to see their hometown hero turn the ship around in the coming seasons.
- What little chance Nebraska had of cracking this year’s tourney field likely went away with a tough 53-52 loss to Oklahoma State. Down one in the waning seconds, Lance Jeter tried to find a hole, but instead dribbled into a crowded lane and lost the ball. Jeter lay emotional on the floor momentarily before being helped up by his teammates. It was easy to see he wanted the season to go on, but as it is, the Cornhuskers almost certainly facing some extra home games in the NIT.
- Oklahoma‘s wire-to-wire drubbing of Baylor looks to be the final nail in the coffin of the Bears’ tournament aspirations. The suspension of Perry Jones due to impermissible benefits (reportedly a series of small cash loans from one of Jones’ high school coaches to his’ mother) came at the worst possible moment, as the report was made public just a few hours before tipoff. The timing of the news was clearly devastating blow to Baylor’s tournament aspirations, and we could go on about the NCAA’s handling of the situation forever, but it was far from guaranteed that with Jones in the lineup that Baylor would be playing on Thursday. Scott Drew‘s team has struggled with inconsistency all season long, and even lost to Oklahoma with Jones available in the regular season. Alas, the Bears’ race for a tourney bid is over, and there is no better proof than Drew’s postgame press conference, when he acknowledged his team’s impending standing as an NIT team.
- Pat Knight may be on his way out, but the effort his Texas Tech squad put forth Wednesday night against Missouri was an admirable display of solidarity. The Tigers, despite their well-chronicled road struggles, remain a tournament team, and the Red Raiders hung with them all game long.
- The Tigers have some kinks to work out, especially on the defensive side of things. Mike Anderson‘s pressure-centric coaching philosophy may wreak havoc on unprepared teams, but it also makes Anderson’s players liable to foul calls by the bunch, depending on how liberal an officiating crew is with its whistles. Three Missouri starters finished the game with four personals; Laurence Bowers spent much of the first half on the bench, and the Red Raiders attempted a staggering 36 foul shots, making 31. Missouri escaped, but playing smarter defense should at or near the top of Anderson’s list of areas for improvement between now and Selection Sunday.