Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013
- The NCAA Tournament officially got under way last night with North Carolina A&T and St. Mary’s notching the first two victories of the Big Dance. Meanwhile, in the middle of Pennsylvania, Kentucky lost to might Robert Morris in the NIT, likely bringing delight to fans of their intrastate rivals, Louisville. The Cardinals are the No. 1 overall seed and the presumptive favorite to win the national championship according to plenty of pundits and bracketheads on ESPN.com. C.L. Brown of the Louisville Courier-Journal made the astute observation that the 2013 team bears plenty of resemblance, at least in terms of its resume, to the team Rick Pitino coached to a No. 1 seed in 2009. Brown breaks down the match-up between the two Cardinal teams and gives this year’s squad a slight edge for consistency reasons. What’s most interesting to us is that the player who would have the most sway on who wins that match-up will also be the most influential player in Louisville’s success this March — point guard Peyton Siva. Brown gives Siva the edge over Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee but that would assume that the good Siva shows up. It will be the same “if” in this year’s NCAA Tournament. If Siva is focused, consistent, and perhaps even dynamic, the Cardinals will likely be the best team in the field; but if he struggles to lead the offense and starts turning the ball over, it may end up as another disappointing season for Pitino’s club.
- At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Montana would stand much of a chance against Syracuse. The Grizzlies don’t have a real “good” win (unless you count an overtime loss to Davidson, which is still a loss, so you shouldn’t count it) and the Orange looked good (at least until the second half) of the Big East championship game. Jim Boeheim’s team also has a distinct size, length, and athleticism advantage. Yet, despite all of that, a deeper review of the numbers supports the fact that Montana has a good chance to pull of the upset. Those numbers are usually decent indicators of upset potential, but the Grizzlies’ chances of pulling it off really depends on whether Syracuse will come out motivated to play in San Jose. They have the cross-country trip and they are a team that, until the Big East Tournament began, looked listless and defeated. If that’s the team that shows up on Thursday in California, then the veteran team from Montana will have a puncher’s chance. But if the focused and intense Syracuse team that gutted out an overtime victory over Georgetown in the Big East semifinals returns, then the Grizzlies will have trouble dealing with the length of Syracuse’s zone defense and they will have even more trouble keeping them off the glass.
- It’s out in the open now — the secret weapon that Villanova will use to beat a hot North Carolina team that looks like a tough match-up for the Wildcats. Jay Wright will just rely on transfer point guard Tony Chennault, who knows everything there is to know about the Tar Heels because he spent two years in the ACC at Wake Forest. Er….well okay, so that’s not exactly a foolproof plan and Chennault didn’t have a whole lot of “inside” information to share with reporters and his teammates, but I guess he will know some of the players better anyway. Chennault at least understands that stopping the Tar Heels will involve some serious transition defense and a commitment to stepping out on the shooters, especially ones behind the three-point arc. In fact, the arc may be where this entire game is won and lost. The Tar Heels’ smaller lineup is built for attacking from the perimeter with P.J. Hairston at power forward, and the Wildcats have had a well-documented problem stopping the deep threat this season. If the Wildcats can slow down Hairston and use their size to their advantage, they will probably have a better shot to win.
- Taking a quick break from Tournament Talk, the sure-to-depress chatter of conference realignment has reared its ugly head again in the form of a story about how the Conference Formerly Known As The Big East could be in danger of losing its lucrative media rights deal. Basically, if Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston, or Temple decide to leave the conference, the media rights deal with ESPN could be terminated. Those four schools are considered the Tier-1 schools by the television executives and if the Big East can’t hold on to them, the networks will have the option to renegotiate the deal with the league. Commissioner Mike Aresco continues to say all of the right things about the future of his league, but despite all of the maneuvering and jockeying among different teams, it seems like the conference constantly remains on the brink of dissolution, especially if schools like Connecticut and Cincinnati (both of whom are likely trying to find a new home as soon as possible) take off.
- Say what you want about the homer-ish tinge to this article about Cashmere Wright, but once you toss aside the paragraphs about why you should root for him, the overall point about Wright’s importance to the Bearcats is a good one. It’s no coincidence that the Bearcats’ sudden struggles during the regular season started right around the same time Wright suffered his shoulder injury. Wright has played much better down the stretch, which is good news for the Bearcats, because they will need him to score against a Creighton team that is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. Cincinnati will undoubtedly play tougher, more physical defense than the Bluejays are used to, but the Bearcats don’t exactly score easily and they rely heavily on Wright and backcourt mate Sean Kilpatrick to spark the offense. So yeah, I guess Cincinnati fans should be rooting for Wright.