RTC Aftermath: Providence 81, Pittsburgh 73

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2009

Normally, I would assume that most of you have seen the #1 team in the country getting knocked off, but thanks to some horrible TV scheduling only 2% (all numbers are estimates) of college basketball fans ended up seeing Providence beat Pittsburgh at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center (DDC) on Senior Night. While the 11,187 in attendance and a few fortunate television viewers were able to witness what makes college basketball our favorite sport, we know that many of you were less fortunate. That’s where RTC Aftermath comes in. As part of our RTC Live coverage we answer questions from fans and also bring those questions to the players and coaches to answer. Last night, we were at the DDC for the fourth installment of RTC Live. Our first three games (Wake Forest at Boston College, Miami at UNC, and Clemson at Boston College) were all solid games, but I don’t think any of them would qualify as memorable games from a pure basketball standpoint. Being in the Dean Smith Center for an ESPN GameDay was a fun experience, but nothing like last night.

Site of the game of the night
Site of the game of the night

Pre-Game: The Friar fans (at least the ones in the student section) got there pretty early. The Friar fans were a lot more intense than I expected, but looking back on it I seem to remember some PC grads telling me that their student section was pretty crazy. I think they were even more amped up than usual though because they were facing the #1 team in the country (even if the SportsTicker fax at the game still had them at #4) and it was Senior Night (something I wasn’t aware of until they started the ceremony). After the ceremony, which went on for quite a long time (8 seniors), the Friars and their fans made it clear pretty early that they weren’t going to go quietly on Senior Night.

McDermott introduction
McDermott introduction

First Half: As I mentioned in last night’s After the Buzzer, the Friars got out to a quick start jumping out to a 15-4 lead after the first 5 minutes. The primary reason that they were able to do this was  a strong opening 5 minutes by Jonathan Kale, who scored 6 points on 3/3 FG to open the game, and their ability to force Pitt into 5 turnovers that they converted into 9 points during that stretch. The Panthers were able to cut the lead to 6 with 5:01 left in the first half thanks to Ashton Gibbs who hit two 3-pointers, but the Friars then proceeded to blow the game open with 13-1 run to close the first half. At that point, the crowd and Rush the Court (who had thought that it might have been a mistake to travel over an hour down to Providence as opposed to 15 minutes down Commonwealth Avenue to the FSU-Boston College game) began to sense that something special might be happening at the “Dunk”.

GameCast
GameCast

Second Half: Pitt was able to cut into the Providence lead (up to 20 just 17 seconds into the 2nd half) getting it down to a 10-point game with 13:50 left in the game. The Panthers were able recover from the awful ball-handing (at the 15:26 mark of the 2nd half they have 5 assists and 12 turnovers compared to Providence with 14 assists and 3 turnovers) and seemed to have the momentum, but that quickly changed with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game when DeJuan Blair picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls in a 17-second span that sent the Friar fans into a frenzy. With the low-post player that they couldn’t match-up with out of the game, Providence was able to get the lead back to 17 with 6:30 remaining. The Panthers were able to mount a furious comeback that nearly silenced the rabid Friar fans after Blair tipped in an Ashton Gibbs miss to make it a 5-point game with 50 seconds remaining. The Friars managed to hold them off despite not making a field goal in the last 4:21 of the game thanks to a lot of trips to the free throw line (18-of-25 in the 2nd half).

Blair heads to the bench after picking up his 4th foul
Blair heads to the bench after picking up his 4th foul

Rushing the Court
When you name your blog “Rush the Court”, you are expected to stay there (and possibly join in) when the fans rush the court. We managed to do just that (the only media entity to not run in fear, much less join in). Some of the better pictures are below (try rushing the court with a laptop in your hands sometime). If you have some pics, send them into rushthecourt@gmail.com.

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ATB: #1 is the Pitts

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

When Rush the Court rushed the court. Providence 81, Pittsburgh 73. We’ll have a more thorough review of Providence’s huge upset of Pittsburgh in our recap of RTC IV early tomorrow morning, but we’ll talk about it here as well because it was the story of the night. Obviously we covered the action quite extensively in our RTC Live post of the game, but we have to say it’s a pretty amazing thing to be standing between a group of rabid fans and the court that they are about rush.  We’d also like to point out that we were the only media members to stay there for the buzzer and the fans’ RTC.  In fact, we ended up out there on the court to celebrate the moment with them (pictures to follow tomorrow).  Whether it was the “Curse of #1″ (teams are now just 8-5 as the #1 team since UNC lost to Boston College) or the fact that the Friars and their fans were pumped up for Senior Night, but Providence dominated this game from the opening tip. (Ok, maybe not the tip, which DeJuan Blair won, but everything afterwards) The Friars jumped out to a 15-4 lead just 5 minutes into the game thanks to some hot shooting and some poor ball-handling by the Panthers. Providence led by double digits for most of the game as they were able to force the issue getting to the FT line 29 times compared to 15 for the Panthers, but Pitt showed some of their mettle by cutting the lead to 5 with 50 seconds left on a layup (and push-off) by Blair. The Friars hung tough though shrugging off their tendency to give away big leads this year and held on by hitting their free throws down the stretch. I’m not sure what the loss means for Pitt at this point except that the #1 overall seed is officially up for grabs, but it probably would have been anyway on March 7th when UConn travels to western Pennsylvania. Jamie Dixon’s squad was killed by turnovers and the free throw disparity. The Panthers had 18 turnovers overall with 5 coming from Blair, who had a better stat line (17 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes) than we thought from just watching the game.  He even managed to play 30 minutes despite fouling out as he picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls in a 13-second stretch midway through the 2nd half. Pitt got a strong performance from Ashton Gibbs (15 points) off the bench and a solid one from Sam Young (16 points and 8 rebounds), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the turnovers and free throw disparity. For Providence, this game was huge. The win, which was their first over a #1 since they beat Michigan in 1976, puts them at 9-7 in the Big East with a strong chance at a 10-8 conference record (PC is at Rutgers and Villanova to finish the season). None of the Friars had an exceptional game but everyone on the team played well (Weyinmi Efejuku with 16, Sharaud Curry with 15, Jonathan Kale with 13, Geoff McDermott with 11, and Randall Hanke with 10). They also did a great job handling the ball (18 assists with just 9 turnovers) as well as pressuring Pittsburgh (forcing 18 turnovers while allowing just 12 assists) and holding their own on the glass against the #1 rebounding team in the country (-6 rebounding margin). For more on this game and the aftermath, check back in the morning for a complete post.

We Have a BCS Conference Regular Season Champ. LSU 81, Florida 75.   Possibly the biggest question-mark team going into the NCAA Tournament is going to be this LSU Tiger team of Trent Johnson’s.  Last season with largely the same group of players but a vastly inferior coach, LSU went 13-18.  Currently LSU is 24-4 and 12-1 in the SEC, which makes them the regular season champions.  The problem is that the SEC is so incredibly weak this season that it’s difficult to discern how good LSU actually might be.  Their OOC schedule was pitiful, and they lost to every good team they played, but in watching this team this evening, they “looked” like a typically talented and athletic SEC team of any other year.  But can they get past their weak conference to make a run in the NCAAs – that’s the difficult question to answer.  Marcus Thornton had 32/5/5 assts in the winning effort.  What about the Gators, now 8-5 in the SEC with an RPI still in the 40s?  Nothing really impresses us about this team.

A Bubble Team You Probably Haven’t Considered. Texas A&M 57, Nebraska 55.  At first glance, a game between two middling Big 12 teams wouldn’t arouse much interest, but a little closer analysis shows that this buzzer-beating shot by A&M’s Josh Carter to cap a huge comeback from down 18 pts may have put the Aggies back onto the bubble.  Consider that A&M is now 6-7 in the Big 12, has two games against bottom-feeders Colorado and Iowa St. (+ Missouri) and has an RPI at #40.  Their SOS is 33d, and they boast wins over LSU (looking better and better) as well as Arizona (also looking better and better).  It says here that an 8-8 TAMU team gets in, which is why this shot was enormous.  Nebraska, incidentally, is also 6-7, but their RPI and overall profile are significantly worse than A&M’s.

Some Other Games For Your Fat Tuesday.

  • Iowa St. 71, Baylor 62.  How does a top-25 caliber team lose eight of its last nine games without any significant injury?  The Bears really had almost no chance of an NCAA bid prior to tonight, but this loss to a bad ISU team was the coffin nailer.
  • Boston College 72, Florida St. 67.  RTC considered going live at this bubbly game instead of Providence-Pitt.  Glad we went with the game in Rhody, but BC probably guaranteed itself a bid with a minimum .500 record in the ACC after tonight.  Tyrese Rice hit the dagger three with 20 seconds remaining to lock up the game for the Eagles.
  • Ohio St. 73, Penn St. 59.  Jeremie Simmons came off the bench to hit four threes as OSU moved into a four-way tie for fourth in the Big Ten at 8-7.
  • Syracuse 87, St. John’s 58.  Cuse dominated from start to finish, shooting 65% behind Jonny Flynn’s 21/8 assts.
  • Northern Iowa 69, Illinois St. 67 (2OT).  UNI got an unlikely tip-in to keep the pace in the MVC with Creighton, who…
  • Creighton 65, Missouri St. 59.  …rallied from a double-figure second-half deficit behind Casey Harriman’s three triples in that half.
  • BYU 69, San Diego St. 59.  BYU’s Jimmer Fredette dropped twenty of his 28 pts in the second half as the Cougars made a huge comeback (theme of the night) to get a key road win to stay one game off the Mountain West pace behind Utah.
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Set Your Tivos: 02.04.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 4th, 2009

Set Your Tivos
After last night’s relatively weak slate of games, we’re back to normal tonight with a great set of games.

Game of the Day
#3 Duke at #10 Clemson at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Our second top 10 match-up of the week. Once again the road team is the higher ranked team, but I feel like this time they are also the favorites coming in to the game. All of you know about Duke by now thanks to their frequent appearances on national TV so I will keep it brief. Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson have emerged as their two most consistent players. Usually that is enough to get them by most teams even if they only get minimal support from the rest of the team. However, when that happens against quality teams the result isn’t always that good (even if they come really really close). The key for the Blue Devils in this game and for the rest of the season will be the play of Brian Zoubek (go ahead and snicker Duke haters) and Nolan Smith. Zoubek merely needs to be a mediocre 7-footer and Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devils staff will be happy. Smith, who replaced Greg Paulus in the starting lineup, has to improve his decision-making. He must have one of the worst assist-to-turnover ratios (1.03 to 1) of any starting PG on a top team in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Clemson may be the most under-appreciated team in the country. I’m not sure if it is the Tigers’ recent history of falling apart down the stretch, but I never hear anybody mentioning them as a team that could make a run in March despite the fact that they probably have the most reasonable losses of any team in the country (Wake Forest and at UNC). The key for Oliver Purnell‘s team will be to have Trevor Booker dominate on the inside. I doubt that Duke will let him play against Zoubek so he will probably have to do it against Singler, which could make for an interesting match-up. If Booker can win that match-up, Clemson will have a shot. After that they will need a strong game out of K.C. Rivers and hope to contain Duke’s outside shooters (particularly Jon Scheyer). I think Clemson will keep it close until midway through the 2nd half when Duke will go on a run and pull away to win by about a dozen.

Worth Watching
West Virginia at #20 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Mountaineers are a a perfect example of why it is so hard to read Big East teams. They are only 4-4 in the conference, but all 4 of those losses were to top 10 teams (UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Marquette). Likewise, Syracuse comes in having lost 3 straight and 4 of 5, but 3 of those losses have been on the road (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Providence) and the other to one of the hottest teams (Louisville) in the country. The Orangemen should be able to break their recent skid if they can contain Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but a lot of that will have to do with whether or not they will have their full compliment of players available. Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury, but someone will have to step up as Jim Boeheim can’t expect to get 62 points from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf every game (and even that didn’t work in their last game).

#19 Minnesota at #14 Michigan State at 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: What is going on with the Spartans? Tom Izzo‘s team has lost back-to-back games at the Breslin Center to pretty weak competition (Northwestern and Penn State). Just two weeks ago everyone was talking about this team as a potential Final 4 contender with the return of Goran Suton. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan, who is out with “walking pneumonia”. To turn things around, the Spartans will need improved play out of Kalin Lucas, who still boasts an impressive 3.09 to 1 assist to TO ratio, but most of that is from his early season play. They will have to do it against a Gopher team that held Illinois to a ridiculous 36 points in their last game. Keep an eye on Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III in this one for the Gophers as they will be matched up against Lucas and Suton respectively.

#6 Wake Forest at Miami (FL) at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Wake needs to develop some consistency if they want to be a national championship contender. We know that they can beat the big boys as they knocked off UNC, Clemson, and Duke in a three week stretch. The question is why they can’t maintain that level of play when they go up against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both losses). Dino Gaudio will need to figure this out if he wants to get this team up to the level of Duke and UNC at the end of the season. Maybe it’s just a focus thing, which hopefully shouldn’t be an issue in March. Either way, this trip to Miami should be a nice challenge for the Demon Deacons. Jeff Teague will be matched up against Jack McClinton and Al-Farouq Aminu will be up against Dwayne Collins. I think Miami may be able to hold its own in those match-ups. Unfortunately for Frank Haith, the Hurricanes run into depth problems after their top 2 while the Demon Deacons run much deeper. Perhaps Haith should look into giving more PT to his ridiculously athletic freshman DeQuan Jones.

#16 Villanova at Providence at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Villanova finally got the signature win we were asking for by beating Pittsburgh last week in the last college basketball game at the Spectrum. This time they will have to do it on the road against a Friar team that was playing well before they ran into the UConn buzzsaw. Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds will need to have solid games if Jay Wright‘s crew is going to pull out a rare Big East road win against a Providence team that is actually above them in the Big East standings. Providence will need a solid effort out of its 8-deep rotation including Weyinmi Efejuku and Jonathan Kale to defend its home court tonight.

Keep an Eye On
Notre Dame at Cincinnati at 7:30 PM on ESPN360.com: Mike Brey
needs  Kyle McAlarney to snap out of his funk and start helping Luke Harangody out or the Fighting Irish might be looking at trip to the NIT this year. This is a game Notre Dame needs to win if they expect to make the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee at Arkansas at 8 PM on Raycom, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Can freshman Scotty Hopson be the one to reenergize the Vols who have struggled to play up their pre-season #8 ranking? Bruce Pearl might want to give him some more PT against the confusing Arkansas team that beat Texas and Oklahoma (the Sooners only loss), but is just 1-5 in the SEC.

Texas A&M at #2 Oklahoma at 9 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Watch this one for Blake Griffin, who will be your national Player of the Year barring some freak injury or sketchy voting. I guess the Aggies played Oklahoma close at College Station so this could be a decent game, but since it is in Norman I doubt it will be that close after the half unless the Sooners are already looking ahead to Texas and Kansas two weeks from now.

USC at #12 UCLA at 10:30 PM on Fox Sports: Ben Howland‘s will be going for a sweep of the California Pac-10 teams at Pauley Pavilion against their cross-town rivals. The Trojans are my pick for secretly good team that nobody is talking about, but could make a run in March. Watch this one for the battle of the freshmen: DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. They won’t be matched up against each other, but it should be fun to see Josh Shipp guard DeRozan. As an added bonus, you might get to see Lil’ Romeo (ok, maybe not).

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