Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Thursday Afternoon EditionPosted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2013
Brian Otskey attended the Thursday afternoon session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey
- Georgetown is suffocating. The Hoyas limited Cincinnati to just 38 shots in a 40-minute game, in some ways due to Cincinnati’s turnovers but mostly due to Georgetown’s style of play. They grind and wear opponents out, especially one that struggles to score like the Bearcats. The Hoyas aren’t the flashiest of teams but they make big plays in big moments (Nate Lubick’s three field goals came at opportune times) and always seem to have an answer on both ends of the floor. This isn’t an overly talented team but it’s one of the nation’s best-coached. Georgetown runs a disciplined offense and is ultra-physical defensively, a bad combination for a Cincinnati team that needs to play defense for the full shot clock and then can’t get points off its defense on the other end. The Bearcats couldn’t get anything going today and give most of that credit to Georgetown.
- Mick Cronin understands the big picture. His team didn’t play well today and he was clearly disappointed in that, but Mick Cronin spent the majority of his postgame press conference discussing conference realignment and, essentially, his reasons for being a college basketball coach. It was a great listen and refreshing to hear a coach who understands the true meaning of college sports. Cronin blasted realignment (his school is currently left out in the cold so that’s understandable), but his larger point rang true. Everyone, whether it’s schools, conferences or the NCAA, needs to do more to promote the welfare of student-athletes. “These guys aren’t just jerseys” was a quote that stood out to me. Cronin discussed everything from how money is the sole factor in most of this to getting his players degrees and good jobs after graduation. This isn’t the first time Cronin has said what is truly on his mind. He has my respect for what he does. I only wish more coaches were as serious about all of this as he is.
- It was obvious coming into the week but it still needs to be noted: This tournament won’t be the same without Syracuse. No team in this league comes close to bringing to the Garden the passion of Syracuse fans. When the Garden is Orange from top to bottom and side to side, the Big East Tournament is better for it. The atmosphere was incredible for today’s Syracuse/Pittsburgh quarterfinal game and just imagine what it is going to be like tomorrow night when Syracuse meets Georgetown in the semifinals! Syracuse fans are loud and yes, sometimes too full of themselves, but this tournament simply won’t be the same without them.
- Syracuse has found its offensive touch. The Orange were much more efficient in the half-court in yesterday’s win over Seton Hall and again today in the victory over Pittsburgh. Syracuse didn’t play as well in the second half as Pittsburgh turned up its defense and rebounding but the Orange shot 53% before halftime and that proved to be the difference in the game. James Southerland was a big reason why. The senior forward went 6-of-9 from deep yesterday and followed that up with a 6-of-6 performance this afternoon, setting a Big East Tournament record for three-pointers made without a miss. Southerland only scored three points in the second half but he had 17 before the break, carrying the ‘Cuse to a big early lead which served as a buffer to Pittsburgh’s second half comeback. With Southerland opening up gaps and Michael Carter-Williams playing more under control, Syracuse has seemingly found something that could carry them a bit further than some might expect. Is this team a national championship contender or even a Final Four contender? I wouldn’t say that. But Syracuse has the talent to advance pretty deep in the NCAA Tournament if it keeps playing like this.
- Today was classic Pittsburgh. The Panthers aren’t as talented as their Orange counterparts, but Jamie Dixon, with the exception of last year, has always gotten the most out of his club. Syracuse looked like it would pull away multiple times in this game but Pitt always had an answer. Tray Woodall in particular stripped Syracuse on more than one occasion while the Orange were out in transition, saving at least four to six points at big moments in the game. This was Pittsburgh’s final Big East game and the Panthers went out the way they always have: physical, tough and gritty. It’s a staple of the program that will serve them well in the ACC. Pitt will have to get used to a whole new group of teams (well, not all of them) but those other teams will have to get used to the bruising style of play Dixon employs. That will be worth a few extra wins as Pitt transitions into its new league.