Rushed Reactions: #5 Georgetown 61, #17 Syracuse 39

Posted by IRenko on March 9th, 2013


I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday’s game between Georgetown and Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  • “Kiss Syracuse Goodbye” — Georgetown vs. Syracuse is always a high-intensity battle, but this last Big East regular season game between the two carried an unusual amount of emotional weight. The game has captivated D.C.’s attention all week, and today’s crowd of 20,972 was the largest in the history of college basketball in the D.C. metropolitan area. The building was electric from start to finish, never moreso than when the Hoyas’ sealed the 22-point beatdown. The win undoubtedly propelled Hoyas’ fans into a state of mass euphoria, perhaps unlike anything they’ve ever felt after a regular season win. They not only secured a share of the Big East title but completed an epic season sweep of their hated rival, giving them a swift kick in the butt as they head out the Big East door to the ACC. This storied rivalry began in earnest 35 years ago when John Thompson, Jr. famously declared that “Manley Fieldhouse is officially closed,” after snapping Syracuse’s 57-game home winning streak in their last contest before moving to the Carrier Dome. Today, Thompson, Jr., bookended that moment after the game, offering one final quip from the back of his son’s press conference: “Kiss Syracuse goodbye.”
Otto Porter Led the Hoyas to a Special Win (

Otto Porter Led the Hoyas to a Special Win (

  • You Can’t Stop Him, You Can Only Hope to Contain Him — Coming into the game, all eyes were on Otto Porter. The Hoyas’ star has leaped into contention for National Player of the Year honors after carrying the Hoyas to 11 straight victories, a stretch that included an epic 33-point performance in a win at Syracuse. In the first half, the Orange gave Porter little room in their zone and doubled him when he got the ball, as he often did, near the elbow. As a result, Porter scored just two first-half points. But demonstrating his high basketball IQ and versatility, he was happy to pass the scoring load — literally — as he notched seven assists, tying his career high, including four in the first half. Syracuse’s grip on him loosened a bit in the second half, and Porter was able to finish with a total of 10 points. His quarterbacking of the offense from the center of Syracuse’s zone, including textbook free throw line jumpers, high-low feeds, and more, showed just why he has become such a strong candidate for NPOY honors.
  • Georgetown’s Defense Won The Game — Porter gets the well-deserved headlines, but what has made this Georgetown team a Big East champion is its lockdown team defense, which stifles opponents with a mix of zone and man looks. The Hoyas completely shut down the Orange’s three leading scorers — Brandon Triche, James Southerland, and C.J. Fair — holding them to 12 total points on a combined 4-of-27 field goal shooting. And although Michael Carter-Williams scored 17 points, the Hoyas harassed him into five turnovers. Almost every one of the 39 points that Syracuse did manage to score was hard-fought and contested. The Orange got some offensive traction when they pounded it down low to Rakeem Christmas, but it was not enough to overcome an otherwise stifling defensive effort from the Hoyas.

Star(s) of the Game: It would be cliché to use this space to note that Porter was the most important player on the floor for his leadership on both ends, so let’s talk instead about the outstanding play of Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The diminutive guards picked up the slack for Porter’s reduced scoring output, powering the Hoyas with 19 and 15 points apiece on a combined 13-of-26 field goal shooting, including 8-of-16 from three-point range. They also added five assists apiece and wreaked havoc on the defensive end, with each of them grabbing three steals and helping to force Syracuse into a turnover on more than 24 percent of its possessions.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 8th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With the first tickets to the Big Dance being given out this weekend and regular season titles still up for grabs in the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and A-10, it should be one amazing weekend of college hoops. It’s the most amazing time of the year, so sit back and enjoy. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#17 Syracuse at #6 Georgetown – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

Better Make It a Double.

Boeheim is looking for answers at Syracuse.

  • Syracuse broke a three-game losing streak this week against DePaul while Georgetown lost for the first time in 11 games against Villanova. With the loss, the Hoyas dropped into a three-team tie for first place in the Big East with Marquette and Louisville. The Orange have struggled recently and had a tough time against the Hoyas defense two weeks ago at the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim’s team only went 4-20 from downtown and could not get anything going from their guards. The Hoyas struggled on offense as well but were able to rely on Otto Porter once again who put in 33 points. In order for Syracuse to snap out of this funk, they need to get more production from guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams. If both players can take better shots by driving the ball to the hoop, we will see a completely different Syracuse team. Georgetown put Villanova on the foul line 42 times earlier this week. Given the size of Triche and Carter-Williams, both players should be going straight to the basket in an attempt to draw fouls or get lay-ups. Keep a close on both players, as they are the keys to this game. If they are settling for jumpers, Syracuse is going to struggle again.

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Big East M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 6th, 2013


  1. Syracuse’s senior game tonight against DePaul features two members of the Orange making their definite final appearances at the Carrier Dome as players: Brandon Triche and James Southerland. However, few would bet that these are the only two scholarship players who will move on after this season. The best bet is that Michael Carter-Williams will join them despite his recent bouts of poor play. Some Syracuse fans argue that he could use more seasoning in college, and they’re not wrong, but many forget that despite being a true sophomore, MCW is already 21 years old now and will be 22 before next season. MCW would be the eighth Syracuse player in six seasons to leave school early, with four of those players — Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, and Dion Waiters — picked in the first round of the NBA Draft.  Waiters, who played with Carter-Williams last season, weighed in: “Michael’s a 6’6″ point guard. You can’t teach height. If he comes here, he’ll get nothing but better.” In his piece on the subject, Bud Poliquin also mentions C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas as possible early departures, but those seem like stretches from this observer.
  2. In the classy moves by coaches department, Rick Pitino announced that junior Gorgui Dieng will be allowed to participate in Senior Day festivities in anticipation that the center will make the jump to the NBA after this season. “He has given us more than we have asked for. It is in his best interest to come out, and I think he is ready… He has been great for us. I have enjoyed coaching him so much. It is going to be a very difficult Senior Night. I have had some difficult ones, but this may be the most difficult.” There is definitely an argument to be made for keeping senior days for those who finish out their four years of eligibility, but I have no issue with exceptions being made for people like Dieng who were both great players and, by all accounts, students in addition to players during their time in college.
  3. This is the point of the season where teams look to ramp it up and start playing their best ball as they head into postseason play. Pitt’s Talib Zanna had been in an extended slump, averaging just 5.5 points per game for an extended period after averaging 13+ PPG for the first two months of the year. Recently, however, it seems like Zanna has started to find his rhythm again, and that doesn’t bode well for teams at the Garden next week. In Pitt’s last home game against Villanova, Zanna went off for 14 points and 19 rebounds in an overtime victory. Pitt closes the season at DePaul on Saturday before preparing for their final Big East Tournament.
  4. Cincinnati basketball hasn’t been the most beautiful version of the game this season, and things have only been worse in that regard with the constant injury issues that have befallen Cashmere Wright. He popped his shoulder out of the joint for the sixth time in Monday’s loss to Louisville, according to Mick Cronin. In the last few games, it seemed like Wright had been getting closer to 100 percent, which he clearly hasn’t been since a mid-January injury against DePaul. If Wright can’t find his shot and the lion’s share of the Bearcats’ scoring falls on Sean Kilpatrick’s shoulders in the postseason, Cincinnati will continue to struggle to score in the season’s most important games.
  5. Scott Martin’s career has been plagued by injuries, so if the Notre Dame forward can’t maintain a long career overseas, he has a fallback plan in coaching. Mike Brey believes that Martin is well-suited for the sideline: “I think he’s going to be a hell of a coach.” In a Chicago Tribune article, Martin discusses how he’s begun to watch the game through an analytical lens and former Irish teammate Ben Hansbrough admitted that he and Martin discussed coaching after their careers had wrapped. Martin’s constant injuries may have derailed a promising career, but it is good to hear that he has a strong plan for after basketball…well, after playing basketball, anyway.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on March 1st, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

This weekend has several important conference re-matches and as well as first time clashes between conference leaders. It should be an action packed weekend. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#10 Louisville at #11 Syracuse – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****) 

  • Syracuse has lost two straight and five of their last nine. They have been inconsistent on offensive, particularly from the outside. They go up against a Louisville squad that is no stranger to struggles this season either. The Cardinals hit a three-game slide at the end of January that had a few folks questioning where this team was headed. Since that time though, they are 7-1 and only one game back in the Big East. Syracuse beat Louisville 70-68 in January in a close contest that came down to the final possession. The Cardinals have clearly struggled against long, athletic teams. Asking 6’0″ Russ Smith and 6’0″ Peyton Siva to guard 6″6″ Michael Carter-Williams and 6’4″ Brandon Triche is a tall order to say the least. Look for the Orange to exploit the mismatch at guard all night. Rick Pitino must game plan to help his guards, otherwise it could be another tough one for Louisville. The Cardinals also need Gorgui Dieng to contribute more on the offensive end. His size will help free up Smith and Siva on the outside. Expect another close battle at the Carrier Dome as these two teams battle for conference and tournament seeding.

    Peyton Siva orchestrated Louisville's offense with 10 points and 10 assists

    Peyton Siva has a lot to prove in the second go around with the Orange.

#20 Butler at Virginia Commonwealth – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN2 (****) 

  • While Butler has amazing wins against Indiana and Gonzaga, they have struggled against the top Atlantic 10 teams. They are 0-3 against Saint Louis and LaSalle and now face VCU for the first time this season. VCU is also winless against Saint Louis and LaSalle, so Butler is not alone in their struggles. The key to this match-up will be turnovers. VCU creates turnovers on 27.3% of an opponents possessions. Butler turns the ball over on 20% of its offensive possessions. The Bulldogs cannot afford to empty possession in this game, otherwise they will lose. They must get into the half-court offense and establish 6’11” Andrew Smith early. Smith’s match-up against VCU’s Juvante Reddic will be critical. Butler needs Smith’s offense to win this game. 

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Ten Tuesday (or Wednesday!) Scribbles: On Scoring, Rule Changes, Syracuse and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 27th, 2013


Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Much has been made about the decline in scoring in college basketball over the last decade. These days, it is very common to see games played in the 60s, 50s or even 40s in some instances. It is true that scoring has decreased substantially over the last 10 years and the numbers bear it out. In the 2002-03 season, 172 teams averaged at least 70.0 PPG. That number has steadily declined, falling to 145 five seasons ago and 111 this year. With the advent of advanced statistics, one in particular stands out. Ten years ago, 123 teams averaged an adjusted tempo of 70.0 possessions per game. That was cut in half by 2007-08 (62 teams) and the number has continued to decline even since then. This season, only 28 of America’s 347 Division I teams play at that pace or greater. Why is this happening? Pace is certainly a factor but there are other issues at play here. With the proliferation of television coverage and video based scouting programs such as Synergy Sports Technology, scouting and video material is more available than ever. Head coaches and their staffs know everything about an opponent and that makes a huge difference for a lot of teams on the defensive end. A lot of teams run the same sets and it’s simply easier to prepare when you see the same thing over and over again. The elephant in the room, however, is the talent level in college basketball. Most of us probably wouldn’t like to admit it but the talent level has noticeably dipped in our sport over the last decade. I’m not talking about a once in 20 years type of player like Kevin Durant but the overall depth of talent in the game. There’s a reason a lot of people are saying this year’s NBA Draft class could be the weakest ever. That’s because it is. Until college basketball gets a much-needed infusion of talent, low scoring games will remain the norm.
  2. A lot of people would like to see the so-called “one-and-done” rule fade to black and that got me thinking about some much-needed rule changes in college basketball. I’m not going to discuss the one-and-done here, I’m talking about changes that need to be made during the actual games. If I had the power, the first thing I’d do is shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds. Five seconds may not sound like a lot but since there are roughly 66 to 67 possessions in an average Division I game, that would translate into another 10 possessions per game. Immediately you’d see an increase in scoring which makes the game more attractive to fans. One thing that annoys me is the amount of timeouts and stoppages in the game. There are already four mandated media timeouts every half and each team gets a total of five timeouts per game. In an era when coaches rarely leave timeouts on the table, there are 18 different timeouts in a typical college game, an average of one every two minutes and 13 seconds. It hurts the flow of a game in a big way and my proposal would be to reduce the number of timeouts to three per team and no extras in overtime. The end of every college basketball game these days seems to include a multitude of timeouts, fouls and official reviews. Officials reviewing plays has helped many sports get calls right, including college basketball. However, officials are abusing the monitor more than ever before. A big reason why is the NCAA rule change a few years ago regarding flagrant fouls and elbows thrown. I get why this rule was implemented (player safety) but there is no evidence this rule acts as a deterrent. Players have been taught from a young age to clear space with your elbows when being pressured by a defender. Now, a loose elbow can be deemed a flagrant foul even if there was no intent to injure by the offending player. This has to change. I have absolutely no problem with calling a flagrant foul for a malicious elbow or other physical contact. But calling a flagrant for an innocent or accidental elbow is wrong and is another thing that contributes to college games that lack an entertaining flow. A couple other changes I’d make include not resetting the 10-second count in the backcourt after a timeout, not being able to inbound the ball into the backcourt (it’s a bailout move for a team without a quality inbounds play) and starting the 1-and-1 bonus at nine fouls instead of seven. What are your thoughts on some of these proposals?

    Tubby Smith, Minnesota

    Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed in the right direction

  3. This time of year, bubble talk dominates the discussion. My way of looking at bubble teams is simple: Did you beat quality opponents and what have you done away from home? This approach is one Jay Bilas mentions on television every year, something I wholeheartedly agree with. I remember years ago when Bilas went on ESPN and said something like, “Bubble teams have all proven they can lose. The question is, who did you beat and where did you beat them?” Truer words have never been spoken. You can’t dismiss all losses but when we’re talking about bubble teams, we’re usually looking at teams that have lost anywhere from 9 to 12 games, sometimes more. When I look at this year’s group of bubble teams, a few stand out. Minnesota is only 7-8 in Big Ten play but has multiple quality wins over Memphis (neutral), Illinois (away), Wisconsin (home), Michigan State (home) and last night’s massive upset of Indiana at the Barn on its resume. All of that trumps Minnesota’s loss to Northwestern and should get the Golden Gophers into the Big Dance.  Staying in the Big Ten, Illinois is in the same boat and I believe the Illini have done enough to warrant a bid at this point. Villanova is an interesting team. The Wildcats have a high number of losses (11) but wins at Connecticut and home versus Louisville and Syracuse have them in the NCAA discussion. I think Villanova is an NCAA-worthy team but the Wildcats need to do more to earn a bid because a pair of bad losses on their resume hurt the cause. Teams like St. Mary’s are harder to quantify. The Gaels have just one top 50 win (home vs. Creighton) on their resume and a pair of bad losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech. When a team wins a number of games against poor competition as St. Mary’s has, it’s very hard to determine if they’re NCAA-worthy. I think the Gaels are, but their resume leaves a lot to be desired. Beating Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament would prove to everyone that they deserve a spot. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 11th, 2013


  1. So, Mike Brey might be a bit prescient. Before Notre Dame’s epic five-overtime win over Louisville this weekend, the Irish coach showed his team film from great boxing matches as motivation, and made comments comparing the upcoming game to a 15-round bout. Brey may have intended his analogy to allude to Louisville’s frantic, fast-paced style of play that often wears out opponents, but as fate would have it, the game played out in a much more literal fashion. I expect that Brey will discuss first-round knockouts before this Wednesday’s game against DePaul.
  2. Steve Lavin missed St. John’s Sunday loss to Syracuse due to the passing of his father Albert “Cap” Lavin. Lavin and his father were reportedly very close, and Cap had played a part in this St. John’s season earlier this year, when the Red Storm traveled west to take on his alma mater, San Francisco. According to St. John’s assistant Rico Hines, who stepped in for Lavin during his absence in Syracuse, the players took the loss hard, as they had been able to spend time with the elder Lavin this season: “They were sad. They were really sad… Cap was one of those guys that watched every game or listened to it on the radio, and those guys knew that. … They all said they’d say a prayer for him, and we’ll try to play as hard as we can.”
  3. Syracuse’s long national nightmare is (probably) over. Shortly before tip-off against St. John’s Sunday, word leaked out that James Southerland had won his Friday appeal to a university academic panel, and that he’d be ready to play in the game. The re-introduction of Southerland to the team gives the Syracuse offense more potency from three-point range and vastly improves the Orange’s spacing on the floor, allowing guards Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche more room to operate.  Southerland played 26 minutes off the bench against the Red Storm, scoring 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field.
  4. The adjustment to Division I basketball for Pitt’s Steven Adams has been a tough one, and it has apparently had a negative impact on the seven-footer’s NBA Draft stock. Adams’ play has been improving of late, and with his newfound ability, Pitt has been playing inspired basketball. The Panthers have won four of their last five contests, and during that stretch the freshman has averaged a very solid nine points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game.
  5. Cincinnati hasn’t been a pretty offensive team at all this year – without a significant low post threat like former Bearcat Yancy Gates manning the middle, it is almost entirely up to guards Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright to score in bunches from the outside.  Unfortunately for UC, that two-guard punch has been significantly hampered by a sprain to Wright’s right knee, which he sustained in a January 15 game against DePaul. Since returning from the injury, Wright has only scored in double-figures once, and as a team Cincinnati has averaged under 60 points per game during that stretch.  For a squad without many reliable offensive options, Wright needs to return to form as soon as possible or the Bearcats risk falling further down the Big East standings.
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Can Syracuse Still Win the Big East Without James Southerland?

Posted by mlemaire on February 6th, 2013

We won’t know for sure whether James Southerland‘s season is done or not until Friday but there are some who feel that allegations that Southerland had a tutor write his term papers will be too much for the university to overlook and Southerland’s Syracuse career will come to an ignominious end. At first the Orange didn’t seem to be affected by Southerland’s absence, continuing their winning streak and rising to the top of the conference standings. But in the last two weeks Syracuse has looked vulnerable and back-to-back losses to Villanova and Pittsburgh have left the Orange just a half-game ahead of Marquette, causing some fans to wonder whether the lack of Southerland’s scoring punch and defense are finally catching up to Jim Boeheim‘s club.


Jim Boeheim Knows The Importance Of James Southerland On His Team’s NCAA Tournament Chances

The team got back to its winning ways with an easy home rout of Notre Dame on Monday but in the long-term the question remains — can Syracuse win what is sure to be a hotly contested Big East title race without the services of their senior sixth-man? The team obviously remains in excellent position as the schedule heads into the home stretch but the team also has four games against ranked opponents left on the schedule and can ill-afford a regression to mediocrity at this point. But is Southerland’s absence really the difference-maker for the Orange, or are the team’s struggles rooted in something else?

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Set Your DVR: Week of 02.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 5th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With only a month to go in the regular season, the conference pictures are still not 100% clear. Let’s take a look at six match-ups this week that will continue to clear things up as we head towards March. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#12 Ohio State at #3 Michigan – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • If you break games up into ten minute segments as KenPom does in his box scores, Michigan has only played two poor ten minute segments this season. The first ten minutes against Ohio State and the first ten minutes against Indiana. Both games were on the road in very hostile environments. In their last game in Columbus, Ohio State punched the Wolverines in the mouth in those first ten minutes with tenacious defense. Michigan recovered by limiting mistakes and forcing the Buckeyes to execute their half-court offense, which is virtually nonexistent  Don’t expect Michigan to be rattled like they were in Columbus but they still need to be careful with the basketball. If Ohio State wants to win in Ann Arbor, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are going to need to be even more disruptive on defense. Also, keep a close eye on Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III for the Wolverines. Stauskas had zero points against the Buckeyes and GRIII was virtually nonexistent in both of Michigan’s losses. If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten and make a deep run in the tournament, these two need to be at their best every night. The addition of those two as scoring threats is what makes Michigan so tough to beat. If the scoring sits squarely on the shoulders of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan becomes much easier to beat.
Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

Round Two of OSU-Michigan Will Be Another War

#21 Minnesota at #6 Michigan State – 7:00 PM EST, Wednesday on BTN (****)

  • After four straight losses, the Gophers have steadied a bit with wins against Nebraska and Iowa. They have avoided an Illinois-like tailspin, which is keeping them in the hunt in the Big Ten. Michigan State is sitting one game back of Indiana and is looking to avenge their New Year’s Eve loss to Minnesota. The difference in that game was offensive rebounding, free throws, and 60% two-point shooting from the Gophers. The Spartans are still having a tough time defending the two, so keep a close eye on the interior defense they get from Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Denzel Valentine. These three players need to lead the way for Michigan State, if they want to win this game. In the last meeting, Nix went 5-15, Payne had 4 points, and Valentine had 5 points. All three players need to be more productive for Michigan State to keep pace not only in this game but the rest of the Big Ten season. For Minnesota, they need to stop turning the ball over and play better defense without fouling. Keep a close eye on turnovers and free throws for the Gophers throughout the game. If they can limit both, they can beat Sparty again.

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Big East Monday Primer: Post-Super Bowl Edition

Posted by mlemaire on February 4th, 2013

The season is entering the home stretch and the games are getting more important by the day. To reflect that, we are putting together a Monday Primer which will basically recap important things from the weekend and then look ahead at important games during the week. Hope you enjoy!

What Happened This Weekend

1. Villanova undid all of the hard work they did in back-to-back wins over Louisville and Syracuse by losing at home to lowly Providence. The Friars had only nine players available and the Wildcats still couldn’t capitalize, shooting 27 percent from the field and making just 2-of-15 three-pointers. They had a chance down the stretch when they tied the game up with less than a minute to play but Bryce Cotton hit a big three to seal the win for the Friars. The Wildcats are young, so inconsistency isn’t unexpected, but it seems pretty clear this is not an NCAA Tournament team.

After last week went great, this week it was back to a lot of this for Jay Wright (Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo).

After last week, this week it was back to a lot of this for Jay Wright (Photo credit: H. Rumph Jr/AP Photo).

2. Pittsburgh scored the big upset of the weekend and added a good win to its resume by pulling away from No. 6 Syracuse in the second half. This really doesn’t even count as much of an upset considering Pitt has no business being unranked given their efficiency on both ends of the floor, but it is still an important win for the Panthers. Pitt is basically 10-deep, talented, and coach Jamie Dixon has the team rolling as they are winners of five of their last six. If they take care of business tonight against Seton Hall, they should be in great position for the home stretch.

3. It was the same old story this weekend for DePaul, which nearly staged a tough second-half comeback against Notre Dame only to lose by eight points in overtime. The Blue Demons have lost six straight and have just one conference win. Its still just his third season but given the lack of overall improvement in the league standings, the seat under coach Oliver Purnell might be getting a little warm. His team may need to show some signs of life if the program is going to give him another year to right the ship.

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Big East M5: 01.22.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 22nd, 2013


  1. Rick Pitino was pretty upset after Louisville’s loss to Syracuse on Saturday, but the Cardinals players seem ready to move past the game and prepare for tonight’s showdown with Villanova: “This team is not devastated by the loss, I was devastated for them… They came back the next day. They were the same old group, it didn’t bother them one bit.” It makes sense. Louisville’s a veteran squad coming off of a Final Four run last season; they’ve been through the wars and have just about reached the peak of the college basketball mountain. A longer stretch with the #1 ranking would have been cool, but luckily for college basketball fans, it really doesn’t mean much come Tournament time.
  2. As for Syracuse, the starting backcourt of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche has emerged as the key to the Orange’s success. Against Louisville, an 18-point first half outburst by Triche kept Syracuse in the game during an awful stretch by his young running mate, but it was MCW who made the clutch plays in the last five minutes to clinch the victory. In a second straight close win against Cincinnati, Carter-Williams was a steady presence throughout, finishing with 16 points and seven assists, and he and Triche again combined to make the game’s most crucial plays. Triche’s veteran presence and newfound consistency has really made him a nice counter-punch to Carter-Williams’ brilliant though frequently frenetic play.
  3. Lenn Robbins’ has taken notice of the parity in the Big East this season, and contends that it is making for a great “final” season for the league as we know it. Following close games between Notre Dame and Rutgers, Syracuse and Louisville, and Marquette and Georgetown, Robbins spoke with a few different Big East coaches, and the resounding theme is that teams shouldn’t take any wins for granted: “‘You can’t blink in this league this year,’ Rutgers coach Mike Rice said, ‘or you’re going to lose two, three games in a row and you’re going to fall down in the standings.’’’ While the league seems to be breaking up into a few tiers, its not all that easy to define them yet (after Louisville and Syracuse at least), and with pretty much every team still involved and jockeying for position heading into the meat of the schedule.
  4. Because UConn hasn’t had enough bad things happen to it yet this season, Shabazz Napier is currently dealing with a shoulder injury as the Huskies have dropped two straight games. Napier sustained the injury against Louisville, and although he played and ‘was 100-percent’ against Pittsburgh, according to Kevin Ollie, it was apparent to those who watched that Napier wasn’t himself.  While the UConn faithful can add this injury to the long list of excuses for poor play from the Huskies, Ollie isn’t having any of it: “We’re banned from the NCAA Tournament but we’re never banned from heart. We’re never banned from having determination. We’re never banned for excelling. We got a lot of things to play for, and we got the pride of UC on our chest. UConn is a special place and we’re never banned from that. We’re never banned from going out here and showing our family and our friends what we’re made out of.”
  5. Pittsburgh’s Dante Taylor has never really lived up to expectations; the senior was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, but he has only started 20 total games in his four years with the Panthers. However, to his credit, he has stuck with the program and is currently a key contributor to a team that seems to have bounced back from a rough 2011-12 season. His stat lines may not blow many people away, but Taylor is able to make the key little plays that end up going a long way towards Pitt victories. In the Panthers’ recent win over UConn, Taylor was huge down the stretch: “In the final four minutes — after UConn had rallied to tie the score at 58 — he dished out the game‘s biggest assist, grabbed his fifth offensive rebound and hit two free throws and a basket to ensure Pitt‘s third victory in the past four outings.”
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