Five Thoughts on the Big East Tournament: Thursday Evening EditionPosted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2013
Brian Otskey attended the Thursday evening session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey
- Louisville is clearly a team that can win it all. Personally, I think Louisville is the nation’s No. 2 team right now behind Indiana. If the Cardinals keep this level of play up, however, they’ll move to the top spot in my mind. Louisville’s defensive efficiency numbers have been on a historic pace this season and it was never more evident than tonight. The Cards swarmed, trapped and turned Villanova over all night long. The Wildcats committed 25 turnovers for the game, including a stunning 18 in the first half alone. After the game, head coach Rick Pitino said his team recorded 58 deflections, a record for them. Louisville’s game plan was to guard the three-point line, keep Villanova off the free throw line and create havoc. Check, check, check. Mission accomplished. Louisville had 19 turnovers of its own but that didn’t really hurt the team because of the +6 margin. When Louisville plays defense like this, the sky is the limit, as they say.
- If Louisville hits threes like it did tonight, nobody is beating the Cards. The Cardinals were 10-of-24 from three point land (42%) with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith doing most of the damage. This team is already dangerous as constituted but when it adds this other dimension, it’s almost unbeatable. Louisville came into the game hitting only 31% of its threes in Big East play and ranks 246th in the country in three-point percentage. That has been a huge weak spot for Louisville all season and one of the reasons why some feel the team can’t go all the way. If this is a sign of things to come, I’m not sure anybody can beat Louisville.
- I actually like Notre Dame’s uniforms but that’s not the point. The idea isn’t for the Fighting Irish to make people like them (or hate them), it’s to sell jerseys and grab the attention of recruits. It’s a great marketing strategy, especially during postseason play when more people (and recruits) are watching than at any point during the regular season. While a lot of these uniforms may be ugly (Cincinnati and Louisville’s gear comes to mind), the Adidas-sponsored schools are doing what they should be doing: bringing attention to their programs.
- Marquette’s turnovers were the difference in the Notre Dame game. The Golden Eagles committed 16 turnovers, allowing Notre Dame to take more shots than it probably should have. It was the difference because Marquette had the upper hand in most statistical categories for the better part of the evening. However, Notre Dame did a great job exploiting Marquette’s weaknesses. The Irish turned the Golden Eagles over, grabbed timely offensive rebounds and kept MU off the free throw line. Buzz Williams’ team had been #2 in free throw rate during the Big East regular season but only managed 12 attempts from the line tonight, converting on just seven. It was a great game plan by Mike Brey, maximizing his team’s strengths and attacking Marquette’s soft spots.
- Three of the four teams in the semifinals tomorrow night will be future ACC schools. That said, it promises to be a dynamite Friday evening at the Garden. Syracuse and Georgetown speaks for itself as the Big East’s old guard will battle it out one final time in their storied history. In the second semifinal, two of the league’s relative newcomers, Notre Dame (1995) and Louisville (2005), will also meet for a third time this season. Of course, those two teams were responsible for the most thrilling Big East game of the year back on February 9. Louisville took the second match-up in the regular season finale last week at the YUM! Center but now the rubber match has much bigger implications. The quarterfinal round was good at times but generally didn’t live up to the hype. Here’s to hoping the semifinals offer a change of pace.