Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Wednesday Afternoon EditonPosted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2013
Brian Otskey attended the afternoon session of the Big East Tournament and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey
- Cincinnati proved it was NCAA Tournament worthy in the first game of the day, easily dispatching Providence by 17 points. The Bearcats, who had lost six of their last nine games to put their NCAA hopes in some jeopardy, left no doubt this afternoon. Cincinnati brought it on the defensive end and limited Providence to 28% shooting. The Bearcats were well prepared for what they would encounter from what had been a hot Friars team. Coach Mick Cronin said he wanted to make Kadeem Batts uncomfortable and that they did. Cincinnati also held Bryce Cotton, the Big East’s leading scorer, to 12 points on just 5-of-15 shooting. Cincinnati was at its best this season when it defended well. We saw that today and that’s the reason why the Bearcats will hear their name called this Sunday regardless of what happens the rest of the way at Madison Square Garden.
- Providence couldn’t get the big wins it needed down the stretch in losing its regular season finale to Connecticut on Saturday and following that up this afternoon with a dismal performance against Cincinnati. Providence was a long shot to make the NCAA Tournament but its late season surge had put the Friars in position to sneak into the field with a solid ending to the season and a run at the Garden. Most people have felt Providence is a year away and that’s what we saw today and last Saturday. The Friars needed to beat UConn, Cincinnati and probably Georgetown tomorrow in order to have a chance. They lost to the Huskies and Bearcats and as a result won’t have a chance to play the Hoyas. Providence is NIT-bound but this has been a successful season for Ed Cooley’s group. It’s one to build upon as the Friars transition into the “new” Big East next season.
- Syracuse re-discovered its offense in a 75-63 win over Seton Hall to cap the afternoon session, shooting 56% for the game against the Pirates. James Southerland poured in 20 points and Brandon Triche got his shot back for the Orange, who will advance to face Pittsburgh in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Syracuse’s ability to hit the three was particularly encouraging in this game because the Orange were connecting only 30% of the time from deep in conference play coming into the day. Another huge positive was Michael Carter-Williams, who tied a Big East Tournament record with 14 assists. MCW also committed just one turnover. Syracuse is at its best when Carter-Williams is creating rather than shooting. He did that today and the Orange were better for it. Syracuse still has problems offensively but this group can still fill it up when it gets it going. A truer test of whether this is sustainable will come tomorrow against the physical Panthers, who held Syracuse to 55 points in their prior meeting this season.
- Seton Hall didn’t pack it in and actually showed a lot of fight. It has been a terrible season for Kevin Willard’s Pirates, a team that posted the program’s worst Big East record since the 1985-86 season (3-15). Seton Hall didn’t look like a 3-15 team today, at least in the first half. The Pirates came out with a purpose and played perhaps their best half of the season. They made six first half threes and connected on 50% of their shots overall. Turnovers have been a bugaboo for the Hall all year long but it committed just 10 for the game today, allowing them to stay in the game with the Orange for the better part of 40 minutes. Eventually Syracuse’s superior talent wore the beleaguered Pirates down but this was a team that had nothing to lose and played like it. It’s something for Willard to build upon in what will be a long offseason for the Pirates.
- Jim Boeheim is soaking it all in this week. The Syracuse coach wasn’t “emotional” per se but he spent the majority of his postgame press conference reflecting on the great memories he’s had over his 34 years in the Big East, saying he was thinking of many great memories as he sat in the locker room before today’s game. You can tell Boeheim doesn’t want this to end but he kept harping one point — that it’s a minor miracle the Big East lasted as long as it did. Boeheim said the split was inevitable and credited the late Dave Gavitt for holding a league full of diverse schools and interests together for so long. Boeheim said the question people should be asking is not why the Big East broke up but why it took so long to do so. It’s hard to argue with him on that point given what we’ve seen over the last few years.