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
- At 10:54 PM on Saturday night, with Louisville up comfortably over Notre Dame late in the second half, I tweeted the following: “This might be the worst Saturday prime time game ever.” Alas, college basketball found another way to make me look stupid. Jerian Grant’s insane final minute lit a fire underneath what was until then quite a boring game. We know what happened in the end. It was one of the more bizarre games I’ve ever seen and turned into an edge of your seat thriller in the blink of an eye. The longest regular season game in Big East history, in addition to being supreme entertainment, taught us some important things about both teams. The most important takeaway for me was how bad Louisville is in late game one possession situations. I wasn’t stunned by Russ Smith’s antics but the fact that Rick Pitino refused to call a timeout not once, not twice but three times when his team could have won the game with a basket absolutely shocked me. This is not the first time Louisville has played poorly down the stretch of a close game. Against Syracuse, the Cardinals folded in the final minute and the Orange took advantage in a big way. Even in a win against Pittsburgh, Louisville didn’t exactly put on a clinic on how to close out a game. This is a pattern of sloppy play and could come back to bite Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. As for Notre Dame, the fight it showed in overtime was sensational. The Irish never quit despite being out-manned up front after foul trouble forced Jack Cooley and reserve big man Tom Knight out of the game. Garrick Sherman made his case for more minutes and could be a valuable player off the bench down the stretch for Mike Brey’s team. Notre Dame isn’t a great team but the Irish proved in the overtime periods that they can hang around the top 25 and win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.
- The Notre Dame/Louisville game was just one of many fantastic finishes this week. It all got started last Tuesday night with a high level thriller between Ohio State and Michigan that went to overtime. Wisconsin had two crazy finishes, the first a double OT win over Iowa and the second was a fantastic game against Michigan on Saturday highlighted by Ben Brust’s half court heave to force overtime. Oklahoma State and Baylor went to an entertaining OT session while Indiana and Washington lost on buzzer beaters. Illinois had no business winning that game but it just proves how wacky college hoops is this year. I believe Indiana is the best team in the nation but the Hoosiers aren’t head and shoulders ahead of anybody. They’re simply the best of a large group of very good teams. Parity in this sport is at an all time high. I shake my head when I hear someone say the regular season doesn’t matter or they don’t even watch college basketball because the level of play isn’t great. Those people will never get it, although they will get to see a nutty NCAA Tournament if the regular season is any indication. I have never seen such a wide open year than this one. You know who might have had the best week? NCAA referee John Gaffney. He worked Michigan/Ohio State, Illinois/Indiana and then did two games on Saturday, one of which was Notre Dame/Louisville. That’s one heck of a week.
- You would be hard pressed to find a team that had a better week than Illinois. The Fighting Illini began the week at 2-7 in Big Ten play, losers in six of their last seven games with games against Indiana and Minnesota coming up. John Groce’s team turned it on at the right time and came away with two huge wins for their NCAA Tournament chances. Even at 4-7 in conference play, Illinois looks to be in the tournament as of now thanks to the two wins last week along with victories over Butler, Gonzaga and Ohio State. It was the D.J. Richardson show against Indiana as he almost singlehandedly brought them back late in the game. Illinois was able to make shots against the Hoosiers and turn them over, resulting in extra possessions. It was a different recipe against Minnesota as Illinois used strong three point shooting and solid defense, the two primary reasons for their January meltdown, to knock off the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. That was in was arguably just as big as Indiana because Illinois needed to get a quality road win in conference. It remains to be seen where the Illini will go from here but they have a great chance to get back to .500 in league play with games against Purdue, Northwestern and Penn State upcoming before a big time showdown with Michigan on February 24. Four of Illinois last six games are on the road so it would be well advised to take care of business over this softer stretch. Read the rest of this entry »