Ryan Arcidiacono and Villanova had it going tonight — the Wildcats are headed to the Elite Eight. (Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
Three key takeaways:
Villanova’s blistering three-point shooting continued to carry them. Ryan Arcidiacono drilled a three less than two minutes into the game, Jalen Brunson sank another a minute later, and it was off to the races. Nova shot a mind-boggling 10 of 15 from beyond the arc for the game (75%), and Miami coach Jim Larrañaga was absolutely right when he said afterwards that it felt like they shot 30 of them. What came as a surprise was the fact that Miami kept pace, hitting 10 of 17, themselves. But the outcome remained the same for the hot-shooting Wildcats.
Once deprived of free throws, Miami’s offense suffocated. The Canes entered the Sweet Sixteen having made 42 free throws through two games — more than their opponents had attempted. But against a stifling and densely packed zone defense that Villanova coach Jay Wright switched to early on, Miami struggled to get to the rim and consequently struggled to get to the free throw line. Villanova flipped the script tonight, hitting 18 of 19 free-throw attempts while the Canes only made nine of their 13 chances at the stripe.
Daniel Ochefu proved he can shoulder the load down low while his guards fire away from deep. Miami began doubling Ochefu after he scored inside with ease on back-to-back possessions in the first half, but seemed to later abandon that strategy to avoid a blowout courtesy of three-point land. It was an encouraging sign against Miami’s physical interior, and perhaps a warm-up for an even bigger test against the Kansas frontcourt.
Yesterday, the eyes of the college basketball world were fixated on a hypothetical operating room in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshallunderwent surgery to repair a fractured scaphoid. Right now information on the procedure and the outcome is limited outside of the usual useless PR information we always get. For right now we are getting conflicting reports with some people saying that Marshall hopes to play while others are saying it is unlikely he will play. In reality, the only people who are capable of making that prediction are Marshall and the orthopedic surgeon who operated on him. Over the next four days you will hear plenty of “experts” speculate on Marshall’s potential to play take it with a grain of salt because without looking at the imaging of Marshall’s wrist, examining it, or being in the operating room everything is just conjecture. That goes for all of these anonymous orthopedic surgeons that everybody is citing.
After a solid, but unspectacular Kyle Cain appears to have decided that he will be transferring from Arizona State. Cain, who is originally from Illinois, becomes the 11th scholarship player to transfer from Arizona State in the last four years.We are not sure how much Cain’s suspension earlier this season factored into his decision to leave, but something does not seem to be working in Herb Sendek‘s program and we imagine that the school’s boosters are going to be making a lot of calls.
After he took time off earlier this season for an unspecified medical condition, which he never came back from, we suspected that we might not be seeing Bobby Cremins for much longer and yesterday he confirmed our suspicions when he announced his retirement. While Cremins was fairly successful during his six years at College of Charleston, he is best known for his time at Georgia Tech where he made it to five Sweet Sixteens including an Elite Eight in 1985 and a Final Four in 1990. Cremins finishes his career with 579 wins, which ranks him 46th all-time among Division I coaches.
With all of the focus in the state on whether or not Shaka Smart will head to Illinois to take over as head coach, the team’s former head coach, Bruce Weber, may be in line to get his old job back at Southern Illinois. According to a source, Weber is expected to interview for the job although the school has reportedly refused multiple attempt at confirmation. Weber went 103-56 in his first stint at the school including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2002.
While Weber may be taking over at Southern Illinois, another well-known coach is looking at Eastern Illinois. According to a report, Dick Versace has expressed interest in coaching at the school. Versace, who will turn 72 in less than four weeks, is most well-known for his time at Bradley where he was named National Coach of the Year in 1986 and for his time in the NBA where he coached the Indiana Pacers before becoming an analyst for TNT then working with the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies. Versace says he got developed the desire to coach again while helping out Rollie Massimino and feels that he can do the work necessary to compete at a high level. While we would not discount Versace for his age as he is not much older than two very notable Big East coaches, we do have our reservations about someone who has not coached since 1998 and at that point he was serving as an assistant. For their part, Eastern Illinois is yet to respond publicly to Versace’s interest in their position.
Posted by Patrick Prendergast on February 22nd, 2012
With all due respect to the legions of legendary players the Big East has produced in its storied history, the Big East has always been a coach’s league. This makes perfect sense given that the conference was conceived by, and molded through the eyes of a coach. It was the vision of that coach which propelled the Big East and college basketball to new heights beginning in the early 1980s. The Mount Rushmore of the Big East resides in its foundation and backbone. In many ways these are the four fathers of the conference. They all made long-term and lasting contributions to the league, and their statures grew in-kind with that of the conference as a result. These four men are your pillars.
Dave Gavitt: It is impossible to conceive any reference to the success or history of the Big East without Dave Gavitt at the forefront. A true visionary who gave life to the Big East Conference when he founded it in 1979, Gavitt relinquished a successful coaching career at Providence where he led the Friars to the 1973 NCAA Final Four to devote his attention to building the league as its first commissioner. It is hard to imagine where smaller Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence , Boston College and Villanova would be today without Gavitt’s influence. He believed that there was an audience for college basketball, a belief that probably saved the relevance of college basketball in the northeast and one that transcended his league, leading to the national television attention and marketing of the sport as we currently know it.
Jim Calhoun: The long time Connecticut head coach epitomizes the tenets of the Big East. A New England-born no-nonsense guy and tireless worker who always appears ready for a challenge, Calhoun was hired by Connecticut in 1986. He has led the Huskies to three National Championships, including last season’s historic double where Connecticut came out of nowhere from a ninth-place regular season conference finish to win both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. The Huskies have made 22 NCAA tournament appearances and four Final Fours under Calhoun’s watch. Further, in this age where football and football money are deemed king, it is important to note that Connecticut has major Division I college football today as a result of the success Calhoun and Connecticut had on the basketball court and not vice versa.
If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.
Wake Up And It’s A New Conference: “It is official. Pitt and Syracuse are moving to the ACC […] The exact timeline is unclear. Big East rules call for a 27 month notice period — and the ACC stressed that they would abide the Big East bylaws. This may mean, a lot like what went down in the Big 12 last year that Pitt and Syracuse are going to have to surrender some extra money to the Big East to make it happen by next year. We shall see on that front.” (Pitt Blather)
Syracuse University Is An ACC School, Officially: “I went to sleep Friday night safe and secure in the knowledge that the Syracuse Orange had a home in the Big East for as long as they wanted. I woke up Sunday morning confused and yet even more secure in the knowledge that Syracuse now has a home in the ACC for as long as they both shall live.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
Realignment is real, and UConn searches for a life raft in the ACC: A look at Connecticut’s options. (The UConn Blog)
It’s Official: Syracuse and Pitt Join the ACC. What Are Georgetown’s Options?: A look at Georgetown’s next potential move(s). (Casual Hoya)
Pitt, Syracuse elope with the ACC; why St. John’s should worry: “A number of other schools have reportedly expressed interest in becoming members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, who also raised their exit fee to $20 million to assure their members won’t be poached by the Southeastern Conference (or anyone else). Texas is rumored to have inquired about the ACC, and the ACC reports that a total of ten teams have reached out with inquiries. I have been hoping to not have to write about conference expansion, but it’s at the Red Storm’s door. This is bad news for the monster that is Big East basketball, for St. John’s, and possibly even for the Red Storm’s resurgence.” (Rumble in the Garden)
The Big East Coast Conference?: Thoughts on the expansion from a current ACC member perspective. (Tar Heel Fan)
Why Maryland and Pittsburgh Should be Rivals: Looking at one potential new rivalry that could come from the ACC’s expansion. (Testudo Times)
Texas to the Pac-12 Reportedly Gaining Steam: “While Texas to the ACC was the rumor du jour last week, that all seemed to change over the weekend with the Pac-12 once again looking like a legitimate option. At issue for Larry Scott and the Pac-12 has been the league’s desire for equal revenue sharing and ownership of each school’s third-tier rights, exactly the rights that ESPN owns with the Longhorn Network. So what has changed?” (Burnt Orange Nation)
Let it begin. Isiah Thomas is so terrible as a coach/GM that… [insert your favorite Knicks joke here.]
Look, it’s completely unfair to expect that Isiah Thomas would be able to come into a college environment like Florida International and ever immediately turn it into a winner. But we expected that he could manage to craft together some highly-rated JuCos and a smattering of returnees to beat an NAIA team in an early-season exhibition game.
Isiah Thomas lost his coaching debut at Florida International on Wednesday night when Northwood, an NAIA school coached By Rollie Massimino, beat the Panthers 71-61 in an exhibition game.
A Rollie Massimino sighting! Hopefully they’re partying in the bars along the Main Line tonight to honor their championship coach’s sticking it to Thomas, even in a game that doesn’t officially count (ok, unlikely).
As for Northwood, it’s an odd amalgam of higher learning, with campuses in Michigan, Texas, Florida and SWITZERLAND. The Michigan Northwood school is in NCAA D2 and has a mascot of Timberwolf, while the Texas (Knights) and Florida (Seahawks) schools are NAIA. Irrespective of where their campuses are, Massimino may have just given the school its greatest rush of media attention in its 38-year history. Enjoy it, fellas.
After nearly 10 days of college basketball critics bemoaning the lack of excitement in this year’s edition of March Madness, two of the Big East’s best teams answered all of those critics by submitting an all-time classic. After one of the strangest 10 seconds you will ever see, Scottie Reynolds made an end-to-end run that might replace the Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney versions on NCAA Tournament highlight reels from now on as this was on a much bigger stage with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Even with Reynolds miracle, Pittsburgh still had its shot, but a 75-foot desperation heave by Levance Fields was off-target and the Villanova fans which filled TD BankNorth had their biggest moment since 1985 when Rollie Massimino, who attended the games in Boston, guided the Wildcats to their only national championship.
It was a game that showed off everything that the Big East was this year: tough, physical, surprisingly high-scoring, and always entertaining. The Wildcats came out of the gates strong and held a 22-12 lead with 9:27 left before the #1 seeded Panthers joined the fight. Relying on its three stars (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Fields), Jamie Dixon‘s squad cut the lead to 2 with an 8-0 spurt in 1:09. From that point forward, the two team traded punches like world-class heavyweights (back when being a heavyweight actually meant something) as neither team was able to stretch their lead beyond 5 points. Villanova relied on a balanced attack (Dwayne Anderson with 17 points, Reynolds with 15 points, Dante Cunningham with 14 points, and Shane Clark with 11 points) while Pittsburgh relied heavily on its two 1st team All-Big East performers (Young with 28 points and 7 rebounds and Blair with 20 points ant 10 rebounds) to keep it in the game.
A tight game throughout. . .
After trading haymakers for nearly 37 minutes without either team achieving any separation, Pittsburgh appeared to have a chance to do so coming out of a Villanova timeout with a 4-point lead and the ball out of bounds with 3:05 left. Instead, that’s just when the madness started. Jermaine Dixon, who had hit a tough jumper just moments earlier (with a shot that was reminiscent of one that his brother Maryland star Juan Dixon used to hit not too many years ago) to give the Panthers the lead, had the ball stolen from him and in an attempt to recover fouled Dwyane Anderson for the conventional 3-point play. A Sam Young turnover and a Corey Fisher lay-up later, the Wildcats had the lead with 2:16 left, but Fields hit a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the lead back. The Wildcats showed their mettle by scoring the next 5 points to take a 4-point lead with 47 seconds left. As he has done all night long, Young provided the answer for the Panthers with a clutch 3-pointer (“Onions!” as Bill Raftery would say) with 40 seconds left to cut the lead back to 1. A pair of Fisher free throws and a Reggie Redding free throw allowed the Wildcats to stretch the lead back to 4 with 20 seconds left.
RTC asked its legion of correspondents, charlatans, sycophants, toadies and other hangers-on to send us their very favorite March Madness memory, something that had a visceral effect on who they are as a person and college basketball fan today. Not surprisingly, many of the submissions were excellent and if you’re not fired up reading them, then you need to head back over to PerezHilton for the rest of this month. We’ve chosen the sixteen best, and we’ll be counting them down over the next two weeks as we approach the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
If You’re Reading This, You Can Relate (submitted by Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6)
I turn 33 years old in less than a month and if there one’s constant in my life, it’s been sports. And if there’s one event each year that I look forward to more than any other, it’s the PBA Tour Finals. Okay, that’s a lie. It’s really the NCAA Tournament. My fondest sports memories as a kid, as a high school student, as a college student and as an “adult” are of the Big Dance. I have no one to thank for getting me hooked on the tournament but my father.
A 1959 Villanova graduate, my dad has rooted for the “Big V” as long as I can remember. In 1985, it finally paid off. Rollie and the ‘Cats miracle run to the title was the hook, line and sinker for me when it came to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, my mom made me go to bed that Monday night and I didn’t know of the ‘Cats win until the next morning. I still, to this day, have newspaper clippings and such from that game. From that moment, I became a Villanova fan for life.
I can’t fill out a bracket without somehow convincing myself that Villanova can make the Final Four. Example, you ask?
1995. ‘Nova had one of their best regular seasons in a long, long time led by the one-sock-up-wonder, Kerry Kittles. The were finally back in the tournament for the first time in a few years and the ‘Cats are a 3-seed and get Old Dominion in the first round. I naturally pick Villanova in the Final Four. It’s my freshman year of college and I’m a videographer for the Ohio University women’s basketball team and we are flying to Seattle for the NCAA Tournament. While in the air, ‘Nova is playing ODU. I thought the flight attendant was going to throw me out of the plane. I had one of those old-school walkmans with an AM/FM radio. As we crossed over Minnesota and the great northwest of the United States, I kept tuning in broadcasts of the game. I would catch a few minutes here, a few minutes there. The flight attendant must have told me 15 times to turn off the walkman! I refused. I didn’t care that I was putting the flight in jeopardy. Villanova was playing and they were going to overtime with OD-Who? As you may have guessed (or remembered), the ‘Cats lost, all but ruining my trip to the Emerald City. Luckily I was not arrested upon exit from the plane.
That’s just one of many Villanova heartbreak stories I’ve had following the ‘Cats all these years. But if nothing else, it always gives my dad and I something we can talk, bond, argue, second-guess and complain about come March.
I remember on my 12th birthday, Villanova upset Rex Chapman and UK on their way to an Elite Eight loss to the great Stacey King/Mookie Blaylock-led Oklahoma Sooners.
After the ’95 disaster, I’m convinced they’ll bounce back in ’96 & 97 only to watch them get upset in the second round by Louisville and Cal (led by Tony Gonzalez)
Finally, after another lenghty lay-off from the Dance, ‘Nova gets back in with these youngsters (Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Mike Nardi and Curtis Sumpter, who tore his ACL and didn’t get to play) Once again, I think they’re Final Four bound (when will I learn?!?!) But this year they actually give me hope. A win over New Mexico. A win over Florida. For the first time since 1988, they’re back in the Sweet Sixteen! A showdown with Carolina in the Carrier Dome. Do I need to remind you all of the phantom walk on Allen Ray in the final seconds? (1:05 mark) Enough said. Another heartbreaking end to the season.
2006. This might finally be the year. A #1 seed. They get the play-in winner for crying out loud! Oops. Monmouth gave the ‘Cats a war and ‘Nova barely got out alive. Not one of their proudest moments. But they did regroup to make it to the Elite Eight thanks to a memorable comeback against Boston College in the Sweet Sixteen. The headline in the Philly Daily News read “Villa-Thrilla!” Will Sheridan’s goaltend bucket will live in Main Line infamy and it gave me a memorable 30th birthday. Unfortunately, what happened after that was something I wish I could forget. A poor-shooting night ended the ‘Cats run (and a pretty good Florida team. How did they finish?).
Then came last year’s improbable march to the round of 16 as a #12 seed. Just a great coaching job by Jay Wright and a gutty effort by guys like Scottie Reynolds. I never thought they had a chance against Kansas, but for once, just getting there was enough for me.
Don’t think I can say the same for this year. This team is capable of big things. And again, I will talk myself into putting Villanova in my Final Four. Only this time I hope I’m right. And this time I won’t have to go to bed early!