NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Final Four

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 5th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

Two games to get to Monday night… here are our breakdowns.

#1 Louisville vs. #9 Wichita State – National Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 6:09 PM ET on CBS

Pitino is Inching Closer to His Second Title (AP)

Pitino is Inching Closer to His Second Title (AP)

Let’s get this out of the way right off the top – Louisville is the heavy favorite. Vegas calls them a 10-point favorite and KenPom.com agrees. They’re on a 14-game winning streak and have won those games by an average of 18 points. In a season where for the most part there has been no clear-cut favorite all year long, we certainly have a clear-cut favorite now. If some team other than the Cardinals are cutting down the nets on Monday night, it will be a surprise. So, with that said, let’s ask how Wichita State can keep this game close? First, it begins with playing the type of defense it has played in the tournament so far (0.94 PPP allowed in their four games). In particular, the Shockers have caused trouble for some big-time guards, limiting Tray Woodall of Pitt to what he called his worst game ever, harassing Kevin Pangos into 6-of-17 shooting, holding La Salle’s perimeter players to a combined 14-of-47 shooting, and making Aaron Craft a non-factor offensively. If guys like Malcolm Armstead, Tekele Cotton, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker can turn in a similar performance and limit potentially erratic guards like Russ Smith and Peyton Siva (who, for instance, in Louisville’s last loss, combined to shoot just 5-of-25 from the field in a five-overtime loss) to poor shooting nights, that is step one for the Shockers.

Step two is having the Shocker “big” guys, Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall (both just 6’8”), stay out of foul trouble and stay effective against the likes of Gorgui Dieng inside. Hall and Early have both been foul prone this season, but on a team without a ton of skilled depth up front, Gregg Marshall will need the services of those two for the bulk of the game. But not only are the Cardinals a potent offensive team, they are the nation’s best defensive team – by a long shot. In the KenPom era (dating back to 2003), they’re the only team with an adjusted defensive rating below 82.0, essentially equivalent to allowing less than 0.82 points per possession. And while Wichita has had good success offensively in this tournament (1.09 PPP), they are about to face a whole different animal. The good news is, they just got done withstanding the pressure defense of Craft, one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders. The bad news is, Smith is even better. And he’s paired with Siva who is also one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders. And should Wichita escape the perimeter pressure and get the ball inside, either on the bounce or on the pass, there’s Dieng waiting for them as a potent shot-blocker. For Wichita to have success against that defense, they’ll need to have guards like Baker, Armstead and VanVleet to connect from deep, and they’ll need Early to be able to bring his man out of the middle and knock down some perimeter shots as well, essentially softening up the Cardinal interior for exploitation later in the game.

One bit of good news for the Shockers, with Dieng attempting to block almost every shot in the paint, the Cards don’t do a great job cleaning the defensive glass, while the Shockers are among the best in the nation at getting on the offensive boards; that trend will also have to continue for the Shockers to have a chance. So, those are a whole lot of ifs and buts. And we haven’t even mentioned potent Louisville weapons like Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear. The fact is, it is going to take a major confluence of events for the Shockers to stick around in this game. They’ve shown that they not only get great coaching, but they take that coaching well. And, as always, they’re going to play angry, so if you look up at the final media timeout and see the Shockers in the ball game, don’t be, well, shocked. But more likely the talent advantage that the Cardinals have slowly but surely wears Wichita down and Rick Pitino advances to his third national championship game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Final Four Previews In-Depth: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 5th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

It would have been easy to lose faith in Syracuse near the end of the regular season. The Orange sputtered to a 5-7 finish over their last 12 games, which in itself was enough point-blank evidence to jump off the bandwagon. The swirling rumors of NCAA impropriety and looming specter of coach Jim Boeheim’s retirement added to the general malaise that fell over this program as it hobbled into the final Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. What’s happened since? This In-Depth Final Four preview, the last installment of our four-part series, should give you a pretty good idea. The Orange are to be feared, and this, in long form, is my explanation why.

(Revisit previous entries Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville)

Smart and controlled point guard play from MCW has pushed Syracuse into the Final Four (Getty Images).

Smart and controlled point guard play from MCW has pushed Syracuse into the Final Four (Getty Images).

Pre-Tournament Capsule. Non-conference schedules in Syracuse, New York, are unfailingly bland subjects. The Orange hardly ever leave the state of New York, and when they do – as was the case this season when they opened the season by traveling across the country to play San Diego State on top of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, as well as an SEC-Big East challenge game at Arkansas – it’s extremely rare and/or typically not of their own volition. The Orange “ventured” to Madison Square Garden three days before Christmas and took their only loss before Big East play, a four-point defeat to Temple. They buzzed through the early part of conference play looking like one of the four or five best teams in the country, with wins at Louisville and home Notre Dame sprinkled therein. Things got ugly in the portion of the hoops calendar we like to call the “dog days” – the mid-to-late February stretch of conference play where teams start running on fumes at the tail end of a long league schedule. The Orange dropped four of five to close the regular season, then got off the mat and played their way into the Big East Tournament championship game, an emotional conference sendoff that ended with fellow ACC-bound member Louisville tearing the lid off MSG in a pristine second-half effort. Syracuse may have fallen in the finals, but that ugly stretch at the end of conference play was officially a figment of the past. The Orange were ready for the Big Dance.

How They Got Here. There was nothing circuitous or fluky about Syracuse’s path to Atlanta. They drubbed Montana in a game many thought could give the Orange real problems (HA!), pulled away from Cal in a hard-fought second half, put the nation’s then-No. 1 efficiency offense (Indiana) in the 2-3 blender and dropped Big East foe Marquette in the Elite Eight. Looking back, astonishing as it may seem, that round-of-32 bout with Cal was, I’d argue, the most trying game Syracuse has played in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Final Four History. Only one of Syracuse’s Final Four appearances came before Boeheim inherited the head coaching job in 1976, and Boeheim was very much a part of that one too, only in a different capacity. When Syracuse reached the national semifinals in 1975, Boeheim had been an assistant for six seasons. Little did he know the head coaching job would open up one year later, and the rest – the four Final Four appearances, the 900 wins and counting, the national championship – became part of the legendary coaching monolith we know invariably associate with Syracuse basketball. Boeheim’s last Final Four trip with the Orange was led by one of the most dominant freshman stars in the modern hoops era and ended with a title. That would be Carmelo Anthony circa 2003.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Initial Questions About Michigan vs. Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 31st, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Take a deep breath Big Ten basketball fans; Michigan‘s win over Florida might have avoided a full week of  coverage from the hoops media about the conference being “overrated.” The Gators were surprisingly a great match-up for the Wolverines because they were run out of the building (79-59), but the Final Four match-up against Syracuse will undoubtedly pose a tough challenge for John Beilein. Jim Boeheim already dismantled Tom Crean with his defensive game plan and Beilein may not get much sleep over the next week because the 2-3 zone can befuddle his team without an effective game plan that can be executed with his personnel. The following are three key questions about the Wolverines’ game against the Orange:

Can Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

  • Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams from getting into the paint? Williams had his way against Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and used his length (6’6″) to consistently attack the basket to finish with 24 points. Beilein has a tough decision to make on this defensive match-up because Trey Burke gives up at least five inches and not to mention could pick up some a quick foul or two if he tries to strip the ball away from Williams. In order to match Williams’ length, Beilein may have to go with  Nik Stauskas or Tim Hardaway Jr. which could be trouble because neither of the Wolverines wings are known for their defense. Stauksas enjoyed a great game (22 points) against the Gators but may not be effective on the offensive end if he is assigned to check Williams throughout the game. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

After starting the season 18-1, Syracuse looked to be poised for another run at a Big East title and a top seed in March. However, the Orange struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing seven of their last 12 contests in Big East play. With their hot early start and a few big wins — including one at then top-ranked Louisville — the NCAA Tournament was never really in question, but their seeding looked to be in real jeopardy as the losses piled up. Jim Boeheim was able to right the ship in his last Big East Tournament, and with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown before a tough championship game loss to Louisville, Syracuse seems to have regained a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.

syracuse-arkansas

Has Syracuse Regained Its Midseason Momentum; Or Is This a Mirage?

Region: East
Seed: No. 4
Record: 26-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Montana in San Jose

Key Player: Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s most talented player, and C.J. Fair is certainly the most consistent player on the squad, but no individual may be more important to Syracuse’s Final Four aspirations than senior forward James Southerland. Southerland put on a clinic from long range in the Garden last week, hitting 19 of his 33 three-point attempts in Syracuse’s four games. When he is on, he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and his mere presence really spreads the floor for the Orange, opening things up for Carter-Williams to penetrate opposing defenses and Fair to get good looks on his dangerous mid-range jumpers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

March Madness Serves as an NBA Showcase for Big East Stars

Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013

It’s hard not to feel like performances in the NCAA Tournament tend to artificially inflate players’ draft stock. It’s true that the increased weight of the games and pressure on players can help bring out the best in some prospects, but sometimes it seems like scribes and scouts tend to erroneously overdo it and conflate NCAA Tournament success with NBA success. That said, there will be plenty of NBA eyeballs on the NCAA Tournament this year, and there are a number of Big East prospects with NBA potential hoping to use the Big Dance to boost their stocks. Picking guys like Otto Porter and Michael Carter-Williams is too easy, as they have relatively assured NBA futures. We are more concerned here with the Big East players who truly have something to gain from their performances this March.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

Gorgui Dieng (Louisville): Dieng is already a surefire pro prospect thanks to his NBA-ready defensive abilities, but those who think the junior is a defense-only big man haven’t been watching the Senegal native play this season. Dieng’s progression on offense was slowed somewhat this season by a hand injury, but he is an improved passer, a reasonable free throw shooter, and shows impressive touch from inside 15 feet. Dieng will potentially get an early chance to prove his ability against an old foe if the Cardinals advance to play Missouri and Alex Oriakhi, and there are potential match-ups looming with Mason Plumlee or Adreian Payne down the road. If Dieng helps lead Louisville to the Final Four and plays well in those marquee games, he could slip into the back end of the lottery.

Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati): Kilpatrick is another player who could leave early for the NBA Draft if he thinks he has nothing left to accomplish with the Bearcats, but he may be on the outside looking in as the NCAA Tournament gets under way. There is no doubting his scoring and shooting ability, but his size and length give scouts pause so he will need to work on his ball-handling if he wants to make it at the next level. Kilpatrick has the type of gutsy attitude and moxie that are perfect for the NCAA Tournament, and he has a chance to go toe-to-toe with another NBA prospect in the first round when the Bearcats play Creighton and Doug McDermott. If Kilpatrick can lead the Bearcats past the Bluejays and then play well when matched against another NBA hopeful guard in Duke’s Seth Curry, he may impress enough scouts to earn some looks in the second round for his scoring ability and mature game. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: Louisville 78, Syracuse 61

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 17th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Louisville’s second consecutive Big East championship game victory on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Pitino Was All Smiles After Notching Back-to-Back Big East Titles

Pitino Was All Smiles After Notching Back-to-Back Big East Titles

  1. Two words: Pressure defense. Louisville turned a 45-29 deficit into a 78-61 victory over the last 16 minutes of the game. The 49-16 run to close the contest was one of the more impressive feats I’ve seen in my years watching college basketball. After a few turnovers, it was clear Syracuse was rattled by the relentless Louisville pressure. It’s Rick Pitino’s calling card and it came through when the Cards needed it most. Louisville was awful defensively in the first half and that continued out of halftime as Syracuse hit four of its first five shots out of the locker room. That’s when everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) changed. Syracuse made just one field goal over the next 14 minutes as Louisville ran away with the game. People talk about VCU’s havoc defense but there is no team in the country that pressures the ball as hard and as efficiently as Louisville.
  2. Syracuse got flustered. Even while playing in front of a decidedly pro-Orange crowd (75-80%), Syracuse let the suffocating pressure get to them in the worst way. Nobody was more affected that Michael Carter-Williams, who until midway through the second half had played one of the finest games of his young career. Carter-Williams’ body language went south and his play suffered, culminating in a flagrant one foul call that was likely the result of pent-up frustration. The Orange were never able to regroup despite the partisan Madison Square Garden crowd and Louisville simply took it to them over the balance of the game.
  3. Louisville adjusted its offense and Syracuse failed to do the same defensively. Pitino’s team shot a robust 53% overall in the second half, including an impressive 12-of-19 shooting mark from inside the arc. Louisville worked the ball inside all second half against a Syracuse zone that had been extended out what seemed to be a good five to eight feet away from the basket all night. Louisville probed the high post and dumped it down low successfully with Montrezl Harrell turning out to be the main beneficiary of those sets. Syracuse never adjusted its defense, never more so exemplified by Kevin Ware’s baseline cruise and dunk with 8:24 to play that put Louisville up by nine points.

Star of the Game: Freshman Montrezl Harrell scored 14 of his career-high 20 points in the second half. It was a coming-out party for one of the better freshmen in the nation, someone who will make plenty of breakout player lists in 2013-14. Harrell, a former Virginia Tech commitment, had his way operating along the baseline and attacked the rim at will as the Syracuse back line defenders were helpless to stop him. This kid has the skill, athleticism and motor needed to excel at this level and will be a star in the years to come for Louisville and likely at the next level as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: Syracuse 58, Georgetown 55 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Syracuse’s overtime victory over rival Georgetown in Friday night’s Big East semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

  1. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney opened up Syracuse’s offense. Syracuse did most of its damage in the first half of this game thanks to Southerland’s continued hot shooting and Cooney’s surprising contribution off the bench. Southerland scored all 13 of his points in the first 24 minutes of the game (more on that next), not an unexpected performance from a guy who has been on fire all week. His four triples gave him 16 for the week, tying Gerry McNamara’s record from 2006. But it was Cooney who really energized the Orange in the first half. The seldom-used sophomore out of Delaware came off the bench and poured in 10 points, all before halftime. The outside success of these two players opened up a lot inside for Syracuse, a team that doesn’t look there all too often. Baye Keita had arguably his best game of the season with a lot of his production coming via the offensive glass. With Georgetown having to respect the Orange on the perimeter, it gave Keita more space to get in position for rebounds and scores. Even though Southerland and Cooney almost didn’t score at all in the second half and overtime, their success in the first half enabled Syracuse to hang on.
  2. Jabril Trawick’s defense on Southerland allowed Georgetown to come back. Trawick, known as Georgetown’s best defender, completely locked up the hot-shooting Southerland for the final 16 minutes of regulation and the five minute overtime, holding the Syracuse senior sharpshooter to just two field goal attempts over the final 21 minutes of action. As a team, Georgetown held Syracuse to just 28% shooting in the second frame, allowing the Hoyas to slowly chip away at the lead as regulation winded down. Georgetown made some clutch shots and free throws but team defense (and Trawick specifically) was the main reason why the Hoyas were able to force overtime.
  3. It was a fitting end to a classic Big East old guard rivalry. It’s sad that this all had to come to an end. These two teams put on a show for the 20,000+ fans gathered in Madison Square Garden on this semifinal Friday night and it seemed that nobody wanted this game to end. There will be a lot written about this in the days and weeks to come but this game will be a treasured memory for everyone in attendance, one that nobody will soon forget. We were all incredibly lucky to witness one final classic between two founding members of the original Big East.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted 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

  1. 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.

    Gto

    Georgetown Wore Down the Bearcats Today

  2. 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.
  3. 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. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big East Tournament Day Three: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 14th, 2013

The quarterfinals are here, which means the Big East tournament is in full swing, and the top four seeds will get their chance at the league as-we-know-it’s final crown.  Georgetown and Cincinnati open today’s festivities at Noon, followed by a 21st century ACC donnybrook between Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

#9 Cincinnati

Cincy

The Bearcats knocked off Providence 61-44 yesterday afternoon.

No. 9 seed Cincinnati had a strong showing against Providence yesterday afternoon, defeating the Friars 61-44 behind 17 points from Sean Kilpatrick and 15 points and 10 rebounds from JaQuon Parker.

Next game: Cincinnati will look to upset top seeded Georgetown at Noon.

  • Best Case: Cincinnati nearly took down Georgetown at Fifth Third Arena in February, losing a tight one, 62-55.  Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright were a combined 3-of-15 from three point range in that one; if Cincinnati’s guards can knock down some shots from the outside they should not have much of an issue keeping up with Georgetown’s scoring.  Consistent guard play is the key for the Bearcats; if Kilpatrick keeps up his solid play and Wright finally returns to the level that he was playing at before he missed time due to injury, Cincinnati can make a run in this tournament.
  • Worst Case: The Bearcats get frustrated against Georgetown’s probing Princeton offense and Otto Porter flashes his normal brilliance, and the Hoyas run away with a double-digit victory.  Cincinnati’s next conference tournament game is played in front of 4,000 fans at the Izod Center against Tulane.

#5 Syracuse

C.J. Fair continues to act as a steadying presence for Syracuse.

Syracuse struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but a strong second half propelled them to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall. The Orange dropped their game at The Pete earlier this year, but were without forward James Southerland. Will an Orange-friendly crowd and Southerland’s three-point prowess make the difference for Jim Boeheim’s squad?

Next game: Syracuse faces No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in the 2:00 PM slot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East M5: 03.14.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. C.L. Brown at the Courier-Journal (KY) took a tour of Russ Smith Sr.’s barbershop in Harlem, and the short video is worth a watch. The elder Smith, known simply as “Big Russ,” has appointed his shop from wall to wall with memorabilia, photos and mementos spanning the Louisville junior’s career. He tells Brown that his favorite souvenir is a framed photograph of him with his son following Louisville’s Big East 2012 championship –– in his own high school playing days, Big Russ says, his teams always lost before they could reach a Madison Square Garden tournament. The father’s pride in that particular accomplishment; the way it resonated with a personal and cultural icon of his own youth, is a somber reminder of what made the Big East Tournament such a special institution.
  2. Speculation that Jamie Dixon is USC’s top choice to replace Kevin O’Neill ramped up on Tuesday when The Big Lead reported that Pittsburgh resident and Dixon acquaintance Jed Hughes is the consultant taking point at USC’s search firm. It seems like the kind of attenuated connection that has spawned many a premature proclamation of “done deal” during coaching searches (has Dixon bought a house in LA yet?), but it’s certainly plausible. Dixon is a California native, a Ben Howland protégé, and probably anxious that Pitt’s move to the ACC could jeopardize the recruiting pipelines Dixon has built in Big East country. As Cardiac Hill points out, the coach’s vague statement after the USC job opened up “generally amounts to a ‘no comment.’”
  3. Notre Dame outlasted a persistent challenge from Rutgers in last night’s Big East Tournament nightcap, carried by Pat Connaughton’s 21 points and six three-pointers. This ran counter to Notre Dame’s game plan, which Brian Hamilton points out had emphasized getting Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley going. But the 39 combined points from Connaughton and former reserve Tom Knight were all separated the Irish from a second-round loss, as Grant and Cooley went 4-of-16 from the field. With their first game jitters behind them and some reassurance that they can win without prolific scoring from their stars, Notre Dame can bring some newfound confidence to its third-round game with Marquette tomorrow night, as they strive to avenge an early March loss in Milwaukee.
  4. Seniors James Southerland and Brandon Triche found their offense yesterday, and lifted Syracuse in explosive spurts over Seton Hall, 75-63, to advance to face No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in today’s BET semifinals. After shooting 15-of-52 over his last five games, Triche scored 17 on an efficient 6-of-9 field goal attempts against the Pirates, while Southerland led the way with 20 points and six threes. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams didn’t turn the ball over once and tied a Big East Tournament record with 14 assists. This comes just days after Boeheim said his seniors would have to play better if they had any chance at becoming a good NCAA Tournament team.
  5. USF blog Voodoo Five described the Bulls’ overtime loss to Seton Hall in the first round as “a horrid, unwatchable mess that would be hard to distinguish from the dozens of other horrid, unwatchable messes USF basketball presented us for most of the last eight seasons. Except that this time they wore Mello Yello uniforms.” Ouch. Yes, Tuesday night’s loss concluded a season of thorough regression. More importantly, the author questioned whether USF basketball has made any appreciable advances in their time in the Big East, or if the culture of the Big East had any positive impact on the neglected Tampa basketball program. It has struggled to capture the interest of its community even after last year’s Cinderella season and a beautiful Sun Dome renovation, which begs the question: “When are [students and locals] ever going to buy in again? When they’re playing Tulane and East Carolina and Memphis and Houston all over again?” It’s a bleak prospect right now.
Share this story

Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Wednesday Afternoon Editon

Posted 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

  1. 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.

    Cincy

    Cincy

  2. 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. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

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

Posted by IRenko on March 9th, 2013

rushedreactions

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 (TheDaily.com)

Otto Porter Led the Hoyas to a Special Win (TheDaily.com)

  • 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story