Category Archives: Big East Basketball

Michigan State over UConn

MSU Over UConnraymar-morgan

I must give credit where credit is due.  First, to Raymar Morgan who played the type of game the Spartans needed to get by UConn.  Morgan played a total of thirty minutes and had 18 points, 9 rebounds and five steals.  He was able to contribute because he was aggressive, but managed to stay out of foul trouble.

Second, to Tom Izzo who did it again.  I don’t think be people are going to over look or underestimate him any more.  He always has his team prepared and playing their best basketball when the games count the most.

Michigan was aggressive on both ends of the court and UConn was not able to get many easy shots.  The Huskies back court players shot 8-for-29 from the field and struggle to get any offensive going until the last minutes of the game.

Three key stats tat tell the whole story.

  • Assist totals for the game. UConn: 8, MSU: 18.
  • Steal totals for the game.  UConn 5, MSU: 11.
  • While UConn went to the foul-line 33 times (13 more times then MSU), they only managed to shot 63.6%

It seemed as though UConn had forgot that they had a massive height advantage on the post and was content to force one-on-one action that rarely lead to a made field goal.kalin-lucas

Michigan State did not shot a great deal better, they did get most of their shots in half court sets or fast breaks.  The latter seemed to be surprising for Jim Calhoun’s team, I guess the expected a half court grind-fest instead of a track meet.

Even with Goran Suton not playing a great game, it was the type of game the Spartans needed to play to win the game, tough defense, strong rebounding, and Raymar Morgan finally played with a purpose.

I forgot to mention that Kalin Lucas is the man.

Moment of  Self Promotion:  My predited score was off only with the MSU score, and by only 4 points.  I was on target with UConn.

Final Four Preview – UNC vs. ‘Nova

Both Final Four games offer great match-ups.  In the UNC vs. Villanova game, however, the game boils down to two specific match-ups.  Let’s take a little look-see.ty

1.  The ‘Nova backcourt vs. Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson is one of the best point guards in the country.  Good toe or bad, he runs the transition game at an extremely efficient level.  He’s one of those guys who is able to run just as fast dribbling the ball as he does without it.  He’s also a pretty solid offensive threat himself, he’s been averaging about 20 points to go along with his 7 assists in the tourney so far.  People can say all they want about Hansbrough, but Lawson is the key to them winning.

However, if there is one team who can slow him down, it’s Villanova.  In their athletic backcourt you will see:  Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding, and Corey Stokes.  They’ve already slowed down some of the best guards and shooters they’ve faced in the tourney so far (Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Levance Fields, Jrue Holiday).  The game will be decided in the backcourt.

2.  Tyler Hansbrough vs. Dante Cunninghamdante

I’m hoping they’ll defend each other, because this is an interesting match-up.  Cunningham is certainly the more athletic of the two, but he may have trouble with the bigger Hansbrough.  Cunningham is averaging 19 points and 8 boards in the tourney, and is really the leader of the team.  If Psycho T is defending Dante, I suggest ‘Nova employ a similar tactic to Oklahoma, give Cunningham the ball early and try to get Hansbrough on the bench with foul trouble.

Though it’s clear that Lawson is the best player for the Heels and is the floor leader, Hansbrough is the emotional leader.  When he gets going and starts banging his chest, it makes their fans go crazy, the TV commentators usually start drooling over him, and the Tar Heels are tough to stop.  But, if ‘Nova and Cunningham and neutralize him with foul trouble like Oklahoma did, and make some outside shots, unlike Oklahoma, it could be a very good game.

Interesting Side Story: Lawson and Cunningham used to play together as kids.

I’m picking with my heart on this one.  In my opinion, the Big East has proved to be better than the ACC, and ‘Nova has played tough teams all year.

Prediction:  ‘Nova 82, UNC 76

Sweet 16 – Day 2 Preview

Well day 1 of the sweet 16 brought some surprises.  Apparently Missouri has a good basketball team.  And Duke seemed to forget that the round, orange thing is supposed to go into the round metal thing placed 10-feet above the floor with a net hanging from it.  But let’s talk about tonight.

Game 1: Arizona vs. Louisville

Louisville hasn’t exactly walked through their first two games, similar to Pitt.  However, their defense causes just enough chaos to get by, and I’m sure that will be the case tonight.  While Arizona has a future lottery pick in Jordan Hill, the ride for the 12-seeded Wildcats is over.  They weren’t supposed to get past the first round (or make the tourney, for that matter), so kudos to them on wearing this year’s glass slipper.  The only thingblake2 that could get in the way of Louisville’s advancing is their free-throw shooting.  Their best player, Terrence Williams, shoots an embarrassing 57% from the charity stripe. 

Prediction:  Louisville 68, Arizona 59

Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Syracuse

This is tonight’s best game in my opinion.  We get to see player of the year Blake Griffin take on a very tough team in Syracuse.  I will be cheering for Oklahoma as I really like how Griffin plays the game, but I don’t think they can handle Jonny Flynn and the Orange.  The Big East has been impressive thus far, and Syracuse is as good as their conference peers.  Something to keep in mind, however, is that Griffin is averaging 30.5 ppg so far in the tourney, and Syracuse won’t have an answer if he starts taking over.

Prediction:  Syracuse 76, Oklahoma 72

Game 3: Kansas vs. Michigan St.

It will be fun to watch Sherron Collins vs. Kalin Lucas.  Both are very quick point guards, although Collins could easily pound Lucas in a fight. Michigan St. won the teams’ first meeting on Jan 10 by a convincing 13-points, but I think that will change tonight.  Cole Aldrich has turned into a serious beast in the paint (remember colehim handling Hansbrough last year?), and he will be the difference after he posts a solid 20 & 12 tonight.

Prediction:  Kansas 63, Michigan St. 56

Game 4: Gonzaga vs. North Carolina

Can Gonzaga take advantage of UNC’s achilles heel?  Or, in this case, Ty Lawson’s toe?  While Psycho-T gets a lot of attention, it’s clear that Lawson is the one that makes this team tick.  I’m cheering for the Zags, but the Tar Heels will advance.

Prediction:  UNC 81, Gonzaga 68

In future Division I basketball news, the Hopkins boys team won their semi-final game last night despite their opponent, undefeated St. Cloud Tech, employing a complete stall of the game (no shot clock in MN).  Hopkins led at halftime 16-15.  They went on to win by about 20.  

Sweet 16 – Day 1 Preview

Big night of basketball ahead of us.  Some very nice match-ups and potential for…what’s the word….yes, madness

Game 1:  UConn vs. Purdue

The Big East can be defined by superior athletes, the Big 10 can be defined by half-court offense and a lot of white guys (maybe half-court offense and white guys are synonymous).  Purdue has had a nice tourney so far, but I don’t see it going any further than tonight.  I really like JaJuan Johnson and their coach, but they can’t handle UConn’s power.  Although…it will be interesting to see how UConn handles the latest recruiting allegations.  levance

Prediction:  UConn 84, Purdue 71

Game 2:  Pitt vs. Xavier

Pitt has had close calls in both of the early rounds and I think this has a chance to be a great game.  Xavier is actually taller than Pitt at just about every position, and they’ve got a big-time stud in B.J. Raymond.  Although my heart wants to pick Xavier, I’m gonna take Pitt for my bracket’s sake.  I don’t think the Muskateers have an answer for Pitt’s poing guard Levance Fields

Prediction:  Pitt 74, Xavier 72

Game 3:  Memphis vs. Missouri

I think Memphis is going to the final four.  I think they’ll win by 15 tonight. 

Prediction:  Memphis 79, Missouri 64

Game 4:  Duke vs. VillanovaGerald Henderson

This should be the game of the night.  It has the biggest upset potential (even though it’s a 2 vs. 3 game), and has some great athletes on display.  Duke has a 3-headed scoring machine in Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler.  ‘Nova has a stud in Daunte Cunningham that could really give Duke some problems inside with his athleticism.  In recent history, Duke has had trouble with teams who are filled with athletes, and that certainly qualifies with ‘Nova’s roster.  But even though ‘Nova may have a more athletic squad as a whole, the best athlete in the tourney not named Blake Griffin happens to be Gerald Henderson

Prediction:  Duke 71, Villanova 65

High School Update:  For those of you who don’t know, I live in Hopkins, MN, which is home to one of the top-5 (ranked #4) high school boys basketball teams in the country.  Yesterday they won their first round game of the state tourney by 42 points.  Their entire starting line-up is going D-1, as well as a couple of reserves.  People are claiming (and legitimately so) that this Hopkins team has the best starting 5 in Minnesota high school basketball history.  I’m already planning on attending their state championship game this Saturday.

Conference Tournaments

Mission Possible

It was hard watching the North Dakota State game last night’s game against Oakland for the Summit League tourney championship.  The first half was like watching players I had never seen before in the Bison uniform, they were lazy, lacking the energy and confidence we have been used to here in Fargo.Ben Woodside

In the second half, Saul Phillip’s team finally found their confidence and came back from 16 points down to take the lead on a Ben Woodside jumper with 3.3 seconds left in the game.  The win gives the Bison it’s first NCAA birth in the school’s first year eligible.  NDSU’s win is the first of it’s kind since 1972 when Louisiana – Lafayette made the jump to D1 tourney bid.

Congratulations to the Bison and I know former Bison coach Tim Miles is has to be beaming today.  Miles, currently coaching at Colorado State, was the architect behind the Bison vision to red-shirt this year’s senior when they were freshmen, ultimately planning for last nights game five years ago.

Now, I am not sure Woodside and the Bison can be this year’s Steph Curry and Davidson, but I do expect them to competitive as a 12 or 13 seed.  I would expect them to push whom ever they meet in the opening round.

Remember a couple seasons ago?  The Bison, lead by this years starters, beat an Alando Tucker lead Wisconsin team and a Marquette team with the same three guard combo that the Golden Eagles this season.  Both teams were ranked when they lost to the Bison.  They also pushed a talented, but under achieving, USC team before losing by 4 points this season in a game the Woodside did not play well.

All of Fargo is happy that Woodside is getting more publicity, this kid is as fearless as he is talented and should be given a chance at the next level.

For the second time in less than, ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote a blog post on the Bison.

Big Ten

I have no expectations for the Big-Ten tournament, because I have no clue which versions of teams will show up.  As I write this, West Virgina is rolling over Notre Dame in the Big east tourney by 15 points.

Each Big-Ten has a “not so subtle” Jekyll and Hyde issue, with the Michigan State Spartans doing the best job at control the ugly and disgusting side of their teams play.  That being said, they were embarrassed by Northwestern at MSU.

Every team had horrible loses and impressive wins and could go all the way, but I do expect MSU or Purdue to win the whole thing.

Minnesota and Michigan need to win two games to be considered a “tourney quality team”.  Both had great starts to the season, and both let a great opportunity to cement a return to Big-Ten “top level” competition – I expect them to be there soon.

Penn State and Northwestern are both one win away from the tourney.  Both have beaten top tier Big-Ten teams and really should be given a look if they win one or not.

Big East

PITT, UConn, Louisville, Marquette, West Virginia or Villanova?

I am hoping for another UConn/PITT clash, but this is the Big East tourney, so the legend of Gerry McNamara looms heavy over the Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse has played well strong down the stretch, Notre Dame has not.  PITT is almost unbeatable.  Unless you are Providence – who should be a given for selection Sunday.

UConn is a first round lose away from a No. 1 seed, and Louisville needs to win the Big-East tourney to seriously be considered a No. 1 seed.

I have no idea on WVU.  They are not very deep – actually, no team has a lot of quality depth in the Big East – I could be easily persuaded by good argument from a PITT or UConn expert. The Mountaineers do have stud junior De’Sean Butler who is a legit NBA prospect.

My dream is for Notre Dame to win the whole tourney, Luke Harongody deserves better than the NIT.  Without the tourney Championship, I am not sure they will hear their name called on CBS this Sunday.

ACC Tourney

Just like the Big-Ten, the ACC has a quality through out the conference.  You can call UNC and Duke “heavy favorites”, but they have been beaten by lesser teams this season – aka Boston College – aka Tyrese Rice and Headband Bunch.

Clemson is experienced and should be tough,  Wake Forrest is young, talented and capable of winning whole tourney, and then you have Floria State who came out of nowhere.

Every game will be close and I would not be surprised to see any of the top seeded teams lose in their first game or see them all advance.  I know, bold prediction, but I really don’t know what to expect – see Big-Ten Jekyll and Hyde effect.

UNC needs to find PG help while Ty Lawson recovers, Duke needs Kyle Singler to learn how to shot again, if WF is going to go deep Jeff Teague must play all tourney long like he did against UNC, or James Johnson needs to live up to the hype.

Clemson is very balanced, Boston College is not, and Miami is the most frustrating team in the conference, but still could get hot and ride James McClinton for a couple wins.  North Carolina state should be better, Virginia Tech always gives Duke problems, and Virginia went “Wee, Wee, Wee all the way home“.

Side Note- If any of the Memphis Tigers games are remotely close- the C-USA tourney is on their home court –  John Calipari should have to go the rest of March without hair product.

Notre Dame has pulled back with in single digits.  So you are saying there is a chance?  No, I’m not.

Tuesday Night Hoopla: Recap of Last Night’s College Basketball Action

Ugly Until the End

In the first game of the Jimmy V Classic,  No. 20 Davidson defeated West Virginia 68-65 at the Madison Square Garden.  All the publicity leading up to this game was on Stephen Curry and his ability to score.  He did score 27 points but it took 27 shots to get there.  Davidsons’ whole team played poorly, to put it nicely, and this game was West Virginia’s to win – but they did not.

Stephen Curry

Let me paint you a picture of the ugliness that was this game.  Both teams shot 26% from three and 59% from the foul line.  West Virginia shot 33% from the floor, while Davidson shot 43%.  Ugliness all over.

Curry shoot 9 for 27, matching Texas’ A.J. Abrams for the most shots in a single game – I am not sure if that stat is true, but that is a lot of freakin’ shots.

And with all that mess, what puts Curry in a class by himself is that he is the most clutch player I have seen in my life time.  West Virginia throw many different players at Curry, sometimes matching him up with forwards six inches taller and that seemed to make him rush.

Curry missed shots he usually makes and forced passes when there were easier options.  Curry did finish with 10 assists, but he had did have eight turnovers.  Still Curry finished the game scoring 13 of Davidson’s last 14 points, hitting his last three shots.

The injured Mountaineers were lacking guards and the offense struggles.  But West Virginia did have two bright spots  who each finished with double-doubles.  6’9″ freshmen Devin Ebanks had 13 points and 17 rebounds and was always around the rim.  De’Sean Butler, a 6’7″ junior forward, scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and had to create the majority of his offense.

Davidson’s Andrew Lovedale and Ben Allison held the game close until Curry took over, scoring 15 and 10 respectively.

Dynamic Duo

A.J. Abrams

Every Batman needs a Robin – except when Batman is Christian Bale, then all he needs is Alfred and Morgan Freeman. 

For the No. 8 Texas Longhorns two things had to happen against the No. 16 Villinova Wildcats:  First,  Texas’ “Caped Crusader” A.J. Abrams, needed scoring support and it would help if it was a post player to force defenses to sag into the lane.  Second, someone had to step out and play point guard, not “lead guard”, but a pass-first point guard. 

Texas did beat ‘Nova 67 – 58 and both problems were taken care of.

First off, Damion James broke out the “Boy Wonder” cape and stepped up with 16 points and six rebounds, which was solid.  His efficiency is what was really impressive.  James shoot 7 for 11 from the floor and 2 for 3 from behind the arc and lead the Longhorns frontcourt in a physical battle against ‘Nova’s frountcourt lead by Dante Cunningham.

Secondly, in last nights game, Justin Mason only scored three points.  But that is not really important.  What is important?  Six assists and zero turnovers. Mason is a confident ball handler who does not hesitate to move the ball.  Ultimately, having Mason on the ball allows Abrams to run off picks and get to open areas for good looks.

Damion Jeams

‘Nova’s Cunningham continues to improve this season and for much of Tuesday night’s game, he was the best player on the court.  Like James, he made it look easy.  Cunningham shot 9 for 14 and was 5 for 7 for the charity stripe for 23 points.  He also had 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.

For Texas, this game was proof that Texas is very good.  Having already beaten UCLA , and now Villinova, and losing a close game to Notre Dame, we may not have seen the best of the Longhorns yet.  The defense is ready, the offense will get there.  Then watch-out.

Shortly after the game at the Madison Square Garden, Villanova coach Jay Wright had the NYPD issue a restraining order that will not allow ESPN’s Dick Vitale to speak about how good looking he is or how well he dresses for more than a combined 5.7 minutes a game.

Seriously, it was a bit awkward – Sean McDonough was uncomfortable.

Quick Hits

- In the match-up of teams from major conferences who will be playing in the NIT come March, A.D Vassallo scored 23 points shooting 4 for 6 from distance in Virginia Tech’s 66-67 lose to the balanced attack of Georgia.

-Following back-to-back loses to Oklahoma and Duke, The Purdue Boilermakers played the second game of the “Lick Our Wounds” tour by going to Ball State and winning 68-39 before they Davidson at home on Dec. 20th.  Purdue will not play a road until Jan. 6th when they head to Penn State to start conference play.

-The four teams of Iowa played last night to gain the crown of the Corn Palace State.  In the first game, Iowa beat out a less talented Northern Iowa team 65-46 lead by Jake Kelly’s 19 points and Jeff Peterson’s 18.

- Second game showcased Iowa State’s Lucca Staiger shooting 7 for 8 from distance, scoring 21 points in the first.  He then made one more basket and finished with 24 points.  Drake came back from 13 down to win 66-63.  The Bulldogs made 17 out of 25 free throws and the Cyclones only shot six.

- And now for the “write-in candidate for Player of the Year” portion of the show – North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside is sitting fifth in the country averaging 7.2 assists a game.  Woodside is also averaging 21 points a game and 53% from beyond the arc.

Tuesday Night Hoopla: College Basketball Recap

Basketball on the Beach with An Umbrella in Your Drink

When it comes to deciding what preseason tournament to play in, I wonder how difficult that choice must be.  You could play in locations you probably already know, scenery that is nothing too exciting, maybe even a little cold.  Or you can go to Hawaii.  Not much of a choice if you ask me.

Every year the Maui Invitational continues to gives us one really good match—if we are lucky, two.  Last night’s marquee matchup featured two highly ranked teams in No. 7 Texas losing to No. 8 Notre Dame 80-81.  Each team has its All-American players, but only one school played like a team.

lh
Luke Harangody

Luke Harangody is a beast on the block who finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds.  Texas did not have a player on their roster that could match him.  The Longhorns started with 6’10”, 299-pound center Dexter Pittman on Harangody.  Pittman’s sorry stat line for the game: five minutes, four points, three rebounds, and four fouls.

Now this is why Notre Dame is such a good team.  After getting run over by Harangody, you now have Kyle McAlarney and the rest of the Fighting Irish shooting 46 percent from distance.

From the tip-off, Notre Dame looked more comfortable in their offense.  When they needed a bucket, the team knew who needed the ball in what position on the court.  Meanwhile, Texas looked sloppy and very unorganized in their efforts.

Their defense has been top-notch, but the major problem spot for the Longhorns is their offense, more specifically at point guard.  A.J. Abrams is supposed to be the man for the job, but he finished with zero assists while Justin Mason led the team with seven. I think Mason is the single most important player in a Longhorn uniform.

Abrams shot 9-27 from the field.  27 shots, are you serious?  But with all the struggles Abrams and the Longhorns are going through, they were only six inches from winning the game when Abrams’ last-second shot hit the front of the iron.

OrangeMAN

Jonny Flynn has arrived.  Flynn endured a rough freshman year, when Syracuse asked a little too much of the 6’0″ point guard, but now he has led Syracuse to wins over two ranked teams in two days.

Jonny Flynn
Jonny Flynn

After beating No. 18 Florida on Monday, Syracuse needed overtime to drive the point home against the defending champion and 23rd-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 89-81 in the Championship game of the CBE Classic.

To further the theme of team, if you were to compare the Orange from last season to this season, you would see a bunch of individuals who turned into a team.  Granted, injuries and inexperience were a big part of the chaos that was the 2007-08 season.

Even losing freshman Donte Greene was a blessing in disguise.  Greene was never able to buy into the college game and was only looking to create a highlight reel for draft day.

Syracuse showed a handful of things in the CBE Classic.  First, the Big East is by far the deepest conference in the country.  Second, the Orange are a solid team with only a few weak spots that can be improved on.  Third, they will be in the top 25 come Monday.  Last, Flynn has taken over the leadership role for Jim Boeheim.

Flynn looked in control of the offense, and he affects every aspect of this team.  He is scoring 21 points per game, dishing out five assists, two rebounds, two steals, and shooting 46 percent from three-point range.  He has climbed my All-American list from not appearing on any team in the preseason to my second team.

And he still rocks the headband!

Quick Hits

Texas Tech pulled back the offense and only scored 74 in beating Southeastern Louisiana after scoring 167 against East Central.  Apparently they only play teams with two directions in the school name.

North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside scored 29 against Northern Arizona in a game where the Phoenix Suns had a scout drive two hours to look at Woodside.

Finally Sam Young decided to play and scored 33 points, shooting 12-17 and grabbing seven rebounds in No. 4 Pitt’s win over powerhouse Belmont.

Stephen Curry scored 0 points and Davidson beat Loyola (MD) 78-48!  Yes, you are not going insane—it actually happened.  Loyola ran the triangle and two, and Curry sat in the corner, letting the rest of his team play four against three.