Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

Vegas Baby Vegas

I'll be in Las Vegas for the first weekend of the tourney..i'll be back monday for a recap of the first weekend
 

Tom Brennan Speaks

Just heard Vermont coach Tom Brennan on Mike and the Mad Dog in NEw York. Couple of interesting tidbits

- He can't believ that an RPI of 21 gets you a 13 seed and that Syracuse won 27 games and the Big East Tournament and gets only a 4 seed.

- TJ Sorrentine wont guard Gerry McNamara, David Hehn will. Brennan says Hehn is his best defender. That should mean easy shots for Josh Pace. Pace stands at 6'5" , while Sorrentine is a generous 5'11". Look for Pace to have a big game friday.

- They will try to double team Warrick. Brennan doesnt think Coppenrath can handle Warrick by himself. He doesnt think anyone in the country can handle Warrick one on one.

- Forget about a Vermont home crowd. Vermont was only able to get 550 tickets for the Worcester pod. Syracuse and UConn fans bought all the tickets in hoping their team would be put there. Vermont will have to buy tickets from any BC fans that thought their team would be there. The Worcester pod is sold out.

Monday, March 14, 2005

 

What's a Catamount?

Hear that squeaking? It's the Syracuse bandwagon breaking from all of the weight. The latest passenger? Bill Raftery says Syracuse has the "onions" even though they dont play the "manaman" to get out of the Austin Regional.

I've shown you the brackets and I've given you the teams in the Austin Regional, but I haven't broken down Syracuse's first round game against Vermont. So here goes.

Vermont 24-6
America East Champions
The Sports Network breaks down the Catamounts before the season started.

Common Opponents
Syracuse- Beat Albany 72-55, Beat Binghamton 86-56, Beat Siena 78-56
Vermont- Beat Albany (2) 62-45, 71-63, Beat Binghamton (2) 83-53, 71-44, Beat Siena 77-52

Background
Vermont is a school out of the America East Conference. That conference has never sent an at-large team to the tournament. Prior to 2003 they had never been to the NCAA tournament, but have been there every year since. The story on Vermont is that this is Coach Tom Brennan's last year at the school after 19 years at the school. Brennan is a very likable guy evidence by his radio show that he hosts in the state. Yes thats right, Brennan hosts a morning radio show that regularly beats Imus in the Morning and the Howard Stern Show. Brennan has said he will continue doing the show after his retirement from coaching.

The Players
The Catamounts run their offense between the two players who have won the last 4 America East Player of the Year Awards. Taylor Coppenrath (2003-05) and TJ Sorrentine (2002) have the highest scoring average of any duo in the country. Coppenrath (25.7) and Sorrentine (18.4) also have the highest percentage of team points as any duo in the country at 61 percent. By Comparison the SU duo of Warrick and McNamara combine for 49.5 percent of the Orange's points. Sorrentine is the marksman for the team. At 5-11 Sorrentine is a little small but can stroke the 3. He shot 40 percent from 3 this season and made 105 3s. Vermont will go 8 deep on the court. The reason there is so much focus on Coppenrath and Sorrentine is that no one else on the team averages more than 6 points a game. Coppenrath averages 8.9 rebounds a game but he does get some help on the boards from Germain Mopa Njila.

Height
Vermont has decent height. Coppenrath and Martin Klimes, a sophomore forward, are both 6'8". Vermont's other forward spot is occupied by Njila who only stands at 6'4". For one of the few times all year McNamara will have a height advantage on his counterpart, Sorrentine. The other guard spot, though, is played by 6'5" David Hehn. So across the board Vermont could matchup with SU's height.

Style of Play
Thanks to the great Ken Pomeroy here are some pretty good stats on how Vermont likes to play. Vermont games average about 67 possessions for each team per game. They like to slow the pace and let Coppenrath and Sorrentine work in the half court. They'll get that opportunity against the Syracuse zone defense. Vermont is also very good at making their possesions count as they score a point per possesion. So every two possessions the Catamounts make a field goal which is very efficient, but Syracuse is just as efficient with 1.4 points per possession. Vermont will try to slow the game down to allow Coppenrath and Sorrentine to take over in the half court. The other Catamount players will try to just fill their roles as they are not expected to score and contribute a lot. The Catamounts do hit a lot of 3 pointers out side of Sorrentine. they average nearly 9 3 pointers a game and if left open can hit the shot. 4 Vermont players have at least 20 3 pointers this season. Compared to SU who only has one (GMac).

Defense
Vermont will play straight up man to man. The like to take their chances with the matchups they have on the defensive end. The problem in this game will be the footspeed of Coppenrath against the quickness of Warrick and the size of Njila (6'4) against the size of Terrence Roberts (6'8"). I would not be at all surprised to see Vermont try to sprinkle in some zone as the Orange has struggled against the zone at times. The question is whether or not the Catamounts can play it well enough to disrupt the Orange.

Intangibles
Vermont will try as hard as they can to win this game for Brennan. Brennan has been a fixture in Vermont for the last 19 years and they would love to send him out with the school's first ever win in the Tournament. The Catamounts also have 5 seniors so if you think you will rattle them, think again. The core group of guys has played in two NCAA tournament games and played eventual champion UConn in last year's tourney.

Bottom Line
Syracuse is much much more athletic than Vermont. While Coppenrath is a very good post player, he will struggle defensively against quicker opponents. In two of the three games this year where Vermont played athletic teams, they were manhandled on the boards. Kansas out rebounded them 48-36 and UNC ourebounded them 40-31. Wayne Simien had a field day for Kansas with 25 points and 14 rebounds and Nick Fazekas of Nevada went ballistic with 31 points and 14 rebounds. Coppenrath will get his points one way or the other. The key is to shut down the other players. In Vermont's other 3 losses (except Maine, when Coppenrath and Sorrentine didnt play) they only averaged 61 points and the players out side of Sorrentine and Coppenrath only scored 49 points COMBINED in those 3 games. This may be the worst match up for the Catamaounts as their two best players play the same position as SU's two best players and the Orange's supporting cast is much better than the one the Catamounts will trot out there. That being said all you need is two great players to step up and one bounce of the ball and you could be this years "cinderella". I think Syracuse is too hungry and too good to get tripped up by Vermont on Friday.

By the way a Catamount is a short-tailed wildcat with usually tufted ears. Who knew?
 

All Aboard

First things First. Syracuse/Vermont will start the night session on Day 2 with a 7:10 tip in Worcester, Mass.

The Syracuse Bandwagon is filling up. Who will be left off? Andy Katz, Jay Bilas and Steve Lavin of ESPN and Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis of CBS all picked Syracuse to go the Final Four minutes after the bracket was announced. Today they have some company. The Newark Star Ledger, Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, Jim O'Connell of the Associated Press ,J.A. Adande of the LA Times, and Dennis Dodd of CBSSportsline all have Syracuse winning the Austin Regional.

Who Do I think will win Austin? Lets break down the Region and give one reason why each team will win the region and one reason they won't.

1. Duke 25-5
ACC Tournament Champions
Best Win - North Carolina
Why they'll win - Because JJ Redick will play out of his mind for 4 games and Sheldon Williams wont get in foul trouble.
Why they won't - No Depth. If Sheldon Williams and Shavlik Randolph both get in foul trouble at the same time, Duke is going home.

2. Kentucky 25-5
SEC Regular Season Champions
Best Win- at Louisville
Why they'll win - Chuck Hayes will be dominant in the region and Patrick Sparks lights it up.
Why they won't - Youth. This is a younger Kentucky team than got bounced last year against UAB. If they going gets tough the Wildcats have no senior leader to look towards.

3. Oklahoma 24-7
Co- Big 12 Regular Season Champions
Best win- Kansas
Why they'll win - Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray domnate the paint. Oklahoma may have the best frontline in the region. they'll have to play like it to advance to St. Louis
Why they wont- Someone zones them. Oklahoma is notorious for not playing well against the zone. I dont think the Oklahaoma guards can shoot them to the Final Four.

4. Syracuse 27-6
Big East Tournament Champions
Best Win - UConn
Why they'll win - The zone defense and Hakim Warrick. Warrick can make the case for best player in the region and the SU zone will give teams fits.
Why They Won't - No one steps up to help Gerry McNamara and Warrick. Those two tried to do it alon last year and it got them bounced by Alabama. They need some help this year.

5. Michigan State 22-6
13-3 in the Big 10
Best Win - Wisconsin
Why They'll Win - They finally put it together. They have a very good big man in Paul Davis and good outside shooter in Chris Hill. They've been inconsistent but could make a run here if everything falls right.
Why they won't - The same reason they will. Inconsistency. You cant have an off night in the Tourney and MSU has had too many this year

6. Utah 25-5
Mountain West Conference Regular Season Champions
Best Win - LSU
Why They'll Win - Andrew Bogut. Bogut is the best big man in the country. The "Awesome Aussie" averages a scary 20 points and 12 rebounds a game for the Utes. He needs to pull a Danny Manning for Utah to win this region
Why they won't - No Help. Bogut can't do everything himself and UTah has struggled down the stretch to find another option. They need Marc Jackson and Bryant Markeson to pick up some slack.

7. Cincinnati 24-7
12-4 in Conference USA
Best Win - Charlotte
Why They'll Win - Bob Huggins figures out how to motivate this team. He has a very talented group of players here, but they need to play cohesively. Huggins teams have fizzled in Tourneys before so he needs to take some respnsibilty.
Why They Wont - Fall in love with the 3. Jason Maxiel is one of the better post players in the country, but the Bearcats tend to forget that. You never know what Cincy team you'll get on what night and thats why they wont be in St.Louis

8. Stanford 18-12
11-7 in PAC-10
Best Win - Washington
Why they'll win - Chris Hernandez. Hernandez needs to be th best point guard in this bracket for Stanford to advance. With no Dan Grunfeld, Hernandez will need to outplay Daniel Ewing and Gerry McNamara to get to a regional final.
Why they won't - No Dan Grunfeld. Grunfeld was their leading scorer before going down with a season ending injury. Stanford doesnt have enough in the middle to get by the big boys without him.

9. Mississippi State 22-10
9-7 in SEC
Best Win - Florida
Why they'll win - Lawrence Roberts and Winsome Frazier play like they can. These two guys have been altrenately hurt through the season and now they need to put it together. MSU is a tough draw if that happens, but they havent done it all season.
Why they wont - No belief. MSU was a preseason top 20 pick and after a few losses dont seem to have any confidence in themselves. No Belief. No NCAA tournament win.

10. Iowa 21-11
7-9 in Big 10
Best Win- Louisville (with Pierre Pierce), Michigan State (without)
Why they'll win - The magic of Steve Alford. No one thinks Alford is a good coach, but he did get Southwest Missouri State to a sweet sixteen as a 12 seed so he has some good creadentials. He's rounding these guys back into shape after losing Pierce.
Why they won't - Talent. Iowa is scrappy, but you need that one player that can take over a game if your team is struggling and the Hawkeyes dont have that right now.

11. UTEP 27-7
WAC tournament Champions
Best Win - Nevada
Why They'll win - They score the basketball. UTEP averages nearly 75 points a game and will run you up and down the court. The Miners will be able to keep up with most teams on the scoreboard.
Why they Won't - They play no defense. UTEP likes to run but they forget that they need to stop the other team. Combine that with a lack of post presence makes this tough for UTEP

12. Old Dominion 28-5
CAA Regular Season and Tournament Champions
Best Win - Kent State
Why They'll Win - Alex Loughton. Australia rules thi bracket as Loughton also comes from donw under. Loughton was the CAA's player of the year and could give teams fits on the inside.
Why they won't - Backcourt. Loughton carries the team at times and he is going to need someone to get him the ball and hit a long range shot. ODU has to get that form their guards.

13. Vermont 24-6
America East Regular Season and Tournament Champions
Best Win - Northeastern (3)
Why the'll win - They may have the third best inside outside combo in this region with Taylor Coppenrath and TJ Sorrentine. Those two are the highest scoring duo this year in all of NCAA basketball. If the Catamounts get hot they could be this years bracket breaker
Why They won't - Not enough athleticism. Vermont is a good basketball team but lack the athletes to compete outside of Sorrentine and Coppenrath. Athletic teams give Vermont toruble and thats all they see in this bracket.

14. Niagara 20-9
MAAC Regular Season and Tournament Champions
Best Win - Rider
Why They'll win - We said UTEP can score the ball well not like Niagara. Niagar is the highest scoring team in this bracket and 4th in the country in Points per game. They will run the ball right down your throat
Why they won't - They dont do anything else well. They turn it over a lot and are putrid on defense.

15. Eastern Kentucky 22-8
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions
Best Win - Murray State
Why they'll win - Travis Ford actually suits up for the Colonels. Ford guided Kentucy to the 1993 Final Four and still holds many Kentucky records. E. Kentucky's first round opponent? Kentucky
Why they won't - Everything else.

16. Delware State
MEAC Regular Season and Tournament champions
Best win - Hampton (3)
Why thy'll win - Everyone else forgets the tournament starts this week.
Why they won't - The tournament actually does start this week.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

 

First Impressions

Here's the bracket The Chicago Winner plays Albuquerque in the final four and Syracuse winner vs Austin..

Chicago Regional
1) Illinois vs 16) FDU
8) Texas vs 9) Nevada
5) Alabama vs 12) Wisconsin-Milwaukee
4) BC vs 13)Penn
6) LSU vs 11) UAB
3) Arizona vs 14)Utah St.
7) Southern Illinois vs 10) St Mary's (CA)
2) Oklahoma State vs 15) Southeast Louisiana

Albuquerque Regional
1) Washington vs 16) Montana
8) Pacific vs 9) Pittsburgh
5) Georgia Tech vs 12) George Washington
4) Louisville vs 13) Louisiana- Lafayette
6) Texas Tech vs 11) UCLA
3) Gonzaga vs 14)Winthrop
7) West Virginia vs 10) Creighton
2) Wake Forest vs 15)Chattanooga

Syracuse Regional
1) North Carolina vs 16) Oakland/ Alabama A&M
8)Minnesota vs 9) Iowa State
5) Villanova vs 12) New Mexico
4) Florida vs 13) Ohio
6) Wisconsin vs 11) Northern Iowa
3) Kansas vs 14) Bucknell
7) Charlotte vs 10) NC State
2) UConn vs 15) Central Florida

Austin Regional
1) Duke ve 16) Delaware St.
8) Stanford vs 9) Mississippi State
5) Michigan State vs 12) Old Dominion
4) Syracuse vs 13) Vermont
6) Utah vs 11) UTEP
3) Oklahoma vs 14) Niagara
7) Cincinnatti vs 10) Iowa
2) Kentucky vs 15) Eastern Kentucky

Also I did the S curve which is what the NCAA committee uses to place the teams (1 vs 64, 2 vs 63,etc). The problemis that the committee moves teams around and is not set to the numbers so this is not the official S curve. For example Georgia Tech may have been slotted as a a 6 seed and 21 on the S curve but may have been switched with Texas Tech because of rematches and conference matchups. We'll never know the official S curve, but here is what it looks like as this bracket played out.

1.Illinois
2.UNC
3.Duke
4.Washington
5.Wake Forest
6.Kentucky
7.UConn
8.Oklahoma St.
9.Arizona
10.Kansas
11.Oklahoma
12.Gonzaga
13.Lousiville
14.Syracuse
15.Florida
16.BC
17.Alabama
18.Nova
19.Michigan State
20.Georgia Tech
21.Texas Tech
22.Utah
23.Wiconsin
24.LSU
25.Southern Illinois
26.Charlotte
27.Cincy
28.West Virginia
29.Pacific
30.Stanford
31.Minnesota
32.Texas
33.Nevada
34.Iowa State
35.Miss. St.
36.Pitt
37.Creighton
38.Iowa
39.NC State
40.St Mary's
41.UAB
42.Northern Iowa
43.UTEP
44.UCLA
45.GW
46.Old Dominion
47.New Mexico
48.UW Milwaukee
49.Penn
50.Ohio
51.Vermont
52.UL Lafayette
53.Winthrop
54.Niagara
55.Bucknell
56.Utah St.
57.SE Louisiana
58.UCF
59.E.Kentucky
60.Chatanooga
61.Montana
62.Delaware St.
63.FDU
64.Oakland
65.Alabama A &M


A couple quick notes on the S curve.
(These are just observations that may be true based on a glimpse of the rankings)

Oklahoma State would have been in the UNC bracket but couldnt play Kansas so they get flipped to the Illinois regional with UConn going to Syracuse.

Louisville is the strongest 4 seed which means they could have been flipped from a 3 seed because of matchups. Georgia Tech is the weakest 5 which also means the could have been flipped from a 6 because of matchups.

Its not a big difference between Washington being a one seed or Wake Forest. They both get placed in the same region and I dont think either team would have an advantage with a one seed. You can make the argument that Wake has an easier path as the 2 seed than Washington has as the one seed.

Boston College goes from a possible one seed to the worst 4 seed in the span of 8 games.

Quick Syracuse notes

Already Seth Davis and Clark Kellogg of CBS and Jay Bilas, Steve Lavin, and Andy Katz of ESPN have picked SU for the final four. Interesting.

The Austin Regional has the most coaches with a national championship. 4. Tubby Smith, Jim Boeheim, Coach K, and Tom Izzo.




Deepest Regional
Albuquerque
People keep saying its the Syracuse Regional, but I think its the Albuquerque region. Washington, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, Louisville are the top 4 seeds. Louisville and Wake Forest could have made a case for a one seed. Georgia Tech, last years runner- up looms as the 5 seed. And Pitt is a 9 seed. This is the toughest bracket for whoever wins it. This wont be a cake walk for anyone in that region.

Most Wide Open Region
Austin
This is definitely Austin. You can make a case for any of the seeds between 1 through 6 to win this region. Each team has a flaw that will make people pick against them. I love this region as an SU fan

Biggest Snub
No one
I dont think anyone has a gripe on why they should be in the tournament. Notre Dame should have beat Rutgers. DePaul should have beaten UAB at least once. Buffalo had an 18 point lead on Ohio and blew it. Miami (OH) fizzled down the stretch. No one has any right to complain. They all had numerous chances to get in and none of them did it.

Biggest Seed Gripe
Louisville
The Cardinals won their conference regular season and tourney, lost 4 games and for their troubles got a 4 seed out west. To make it worse they have a potential matchup with Georgia Tech in round 2. Ouch, babe.

Upset specials
Villanova vs New Mexico
Syracuse vs Vermont

Two Big East teams are looking at difficult first round matches. Villanova gets a hot New Mexico team with one of the best player in college basketball in Danny Granger. Syracuse plays Vermont in round 1 in Worcester. If there is a team seeded low in the tourney that will give the SU zone trouble its Vermont. Taylor Coppenrath could give SU fits in the middle of the zone. Combine that with the game being close in proximity to Vermont, it could be a sleeper pick.

Best possible 2nd round matchup
Louisville vs Georgia Tech and Washington vs Pittsburgh.
The Louisville/Tech game may be the best game of the first weekend. Both teams rely heavily on guard play. Larry O'Bannon and Francisco Garciz vs Jarrett Jack, Will Bynum, and BJ Elder. Washington vs Pitt is intriguing. Washington hasnt played a team as physical as Pitt all season. Pitt will try to pound the Huskies into submission and the Huskies will try to up tempo the Panthers. Would be a fantastic clashing of styles

Best possible Sweet Sixteen Matchups
Arizona vs Oklahoma State and Syracuse vs Duke
Can Salim Stoudamire outplay John Lucas? Will Joey Graham handle Channing Frye? What an entertaining game that would be. And once and for all we can settle Gerry McNamara vs JJ Reddick. The SU zone against the Duke sharpshooters.

Best possible Elite 8 matchups
Illinois vs Oklahoma State and UNC vs Kansas
The knock on Illinois is that they are heavy on guard play and not a lot in the middle. Well Ivan McFarlin and Joey Graham will test that theory. And Roy Williams faces the team he left after the 2003 Final Four. Do I need to say more?

Best Possible Final Four
Illinois, Washington, UNC, Duke
All four number one seeds and not because they are the best teams. Duke/UNC would be a great semifinal game just based on the rivalry. Illinois/ Washington would be great because the scoreboard might break with how many points will be scored.

Best possible Championship Game
Illinois vs UNC
Now we can settle who the best team in the country is.
 

Syracuse Grabs a 4 seed..Again

Syracuse has been the NCAA tournament 8 times since 1996..Of those 8 times Syracuse has grabbed a 4 or 5 seed 6 times. Today marks the 3rd time since 1996 that they've gotten the 4 seed. The Orange will take on Vermont in round 1 in Worcester, Massachusetts. If form holds in the Tournament, Syracuse would play Michigan State in round 2 and the hated Duke Blue Devils in the sweet sixteen. The good news for Syracuse. They have never lost before the sweet sixteen when seeded as a four or five seed going a stellar 12-0 in those games. In fact Syracuse has only lost two opening round games since the field expanded. Richmond in 1991 and Oklahoma State in 1999. So pretty daunting numbers. In the days to come we'll break down the Austin Bracket and give scouting reports on each of the teams in SU's bracket.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

Finally!! Syracuse wins the Big East Tournament

I remember the game. Well some of it. It was 1992. I was 11. Syracuse couldnt go to the NCAA tournament, but they could ruin the Big East tournament said the announcers. I asked my Dad why. He said Syracuse did some bad things and they were being punished. I didnt care. I didnt like Alonzo Mourning. I thought he was a mean player that showed off too much. I liked this one player. His name was Lawrence Moten. He wasnt the fastest and he didnt jump the highest on his jump shots but he looked smooth. I dont remember the game particulars, but I remember going out into my driveway at half time on a hoop my parents had just put up that January and pretending I was "Poetry in" Moten. In my game Moten hit a game winning 3 pointer over Mourning. I wish I could tell you how the real game ended, but I have no idea. All I know is that Syracuse won and beat Georgetown. On that March day I fell in love with Syracuse basketball and grew to dislike the Hoyas. For the next 5 years I would pretend to to make the game winning shot for SU in the Big East Tournament championship game. And for 5 years thats what it was..pretend. I didnt know 1992 would be the last time I would see a title before tonight, but that makes it all the sweeter.

The Syracuse Orange(men) are the Big East Tournament champions. I've waited 13 years to say that line. They did it tonight to end the frustration. Hakim Warrick played like the Big East player of the Year, Gerry McNamara played like the best guard in the Big East, and Josh Pace played like, well, Josh Pace. Terrence Roberts dominated the glass and Daryl Watkins made his prescence known. A lost soul named Demetris Nichols contributed and Craig Forth played his role. West Virginia played valiantly. They didnt just give it to Syracuse. They played hard. They didnt give in when they were down 18. For that they should be proud, but these last 3 days were about Syracuse. A group of seniors that had only one more thing to accomplish.

Josh Pace, Craig Forth and Hakim Warrick have achieved more than any other Senior Class in SU history. Most wins by a Senior Class, Big East regular season champs, Big East Tournament champs, and of course National Champs. Hakim Warrick becomes the first Syracuse player ever to win Big East Player of the Year and Big East Tournament MVP. I think Hakim is happy he came back.

There's still one more tournament to take care of, but for now we can enjoy this. This time SU can do something it couldnt do in 1992, go to the NCAA Tournament as Big Est Tournament champions. Maybe tomorrow I'll go shoot some hoops in the driveway. I wont have to pretend SU will win the Big East Tournament. Jim Boeheim's boys already took care of that for me.
 

Country Road, Take Me Home

FIrst, Stewart Mandel does a story on how much Hakim Warrick means to Syracuse's chances to win the tournament. One point Mandel gets totally wrong is proclaiming SU as the unofficial home team of New York City. First of all I wonder if he's heard a program called St. John's. I'll give him a pass because the Johnnies arent there this year, but here are the distances from each Big East school(except St John's) to New York City.

Seton Hall 14 miles
Rutgers 36 miles
Villanova 94 miles
UConn 141 miles
Providence 179 miles
BC 214 miles
Georgetown 225 miles
Syracuse 247 miles
Pittsburgh 370 miles
West Virginia 378 miles
Notre Dame 701 miles

Mandel has to do a better job than that. Syracuse is 8th closest team to MSG in terms of distance. He has to know that just because Syracuse is in New York State doesnt mean that NYC is around the corner. Thats a popular misconception among so called "experts". Thats like saying Missouri would be the home team when they play Kansas in Kansas City, Missouri. No they wouldnt. Columbia, Mo (the campus of Missouri) is much further than Lawrence, Kansas. He needs to do some homework before publishing something like that.

Now on to the game tonight. Throw the only meeting between WVU and SU out the window. Both teams are using totally different rotations and WVU was struggling coming into the Dome and now they're white hot. Kevin Pittsnogle only played 11 minutes at the Dome and Billy Edelin scored 12 points and had 7 assists that meeting. Both of those players have gone in opposite directions since then. Edelin doesnt even play and Pittsnogle has become WVU's most valuable player. Lets look at some interesting things about West Virginia in this tournament.

Rebounding- WVU was 11th in the Big East in rebounding margin during the season and actually giving up 3.1 more rebounds than they got. Rutgers was the only team worse than them. They destroyed Villanova on the glass in the semis grabbing 30 to Nova's 18. The Orange should have an advantage on them tonight. Pittsnogle will play around the 3 point arc and it will leave D'or Fischer as the only rebounding threat if he's even on the floor. The one thing SU needs to look out for is the "tap back". WVU will tap it out to players and run their offense again. If SU brings the same intensity they did last night they shold dominate tonight.

Scoring and 3 point shooting- WVU is shooting a sizzling 48 prercent (35/74) from behind the Arc in the BET. WVU shot almost 150 more 3s than the next closest team in the BE and its just continued at the Garden. WVU only scored 78 or more points 3 times during the regular year but has done it in all 3 games they've played in the tournament. They are filling it up and SU is going to need to keep them to one shot tonight.

Mike Gansey- I named Gansey my midseason MVP for the Mountaineers (I also called WVU the team most likely to struggle the rest of the year, but thats not important)and he's played like it this tourney. He can slash, he's a good passer and he can finish at the rim. He will be the guy that breaks down the SU zone with his skills. He tends to get lost in games, but theres no need to think that will happen tonight.

What SU needs to do tonight

Make WVU shoot two point shot- If SU can extend the zone to take out the shooters it should be a good night for the Orange. Of course thats easier said than done. Everyone for WVU can shoot the three outside of Fischer. WVU was very reliant on the 3 during the regular season, but has shown they can slash to the basket in this tournament. If SU can force WVU to make two point shots they'll be in good shape.

Force WVU turnovers - West Virginia has the best assist/turnover ratio in the Big East and tend not to turn it over. That stat is a little inflated because of the type of offense West Virginia usually runs and everyone usually touching the ball at least once. If SU can speed up the game a little it will benefit them because West Virginia does not play well in transition.

Avoid the "Tap Back" - This is the West Virginia way of getting rebounds. SU cant be suckered into crashing the boards because guys like Fischer, Gansey and Jon Herber will just tap the ball back to the 3 point line on the offensive glass. When Gerry McNamara and Josh Pace start moving towards the basket on the defense end is the time the "tap back" will get them. SU must be careful not to let WVU get two and three looks at the basket per possession.

Dont get fooled- John Beilein is known for changing defenses. He'll throw out the customary WVU 1-3-1 defense but he might run out a triangle and two or box and one and he'll definetely mix in a 2-3 zone and man defense. Syracuse must realize what defense the Mounytaineers are in because if they dont they'll be turning it over for no reason.

Bottom Line

West Virginia is hot. Very Hot. They know they can win this game tonight. The only two Big East teams to play 4 games in 4 nights got absolutely blasted. Pittsburgh in 2001 lost by 22 and UConn in 2000 lost by 10 in a game that wasnt that close. Both teams got very tired in those games. I'm not sure this will be a factor tonight because in WVU's game against BC only Gansey (37 min) and Herber (32 min) played more than 30 minutes. Last night Gansey (33min), Herber (36min) and J.D. Collins (35 min) played the most minutes and for SU Warrick (33 min), GMac (36 min) and Josh Pace (40 min) played the most for SU. I think its pretty even. We'll see how it shakes out as far as endurance goes. Syracuse needs to start this game like they started the other two games. They need to put some doubt in West Virginia. In SU's two first halves in this tournament they've outcored their opponents 79-41, but WVU is just as good outscoring their 3 opponents 111-77. It should be a good matchup. West Virginia wont be able to run their motion offense against the SU zone so I think Syracuse has a little advantage there. This game is closer than some SU fans think. Syracuse has waited 13 years. Is this the year? Tune in tonight at 8.

Friday, March 11, 2005

 

Sweet Redemption

IF I had told you that Syracuse would shoot 35 percent from the field, Gerry McNamara would shoot 4 of 15 from the field (again), and Hakim Warrick would sit for seven minutes in the second half with 4 fouls, you would have said, "How much did SU lose by?" But tonight was about effort and tonight Syracuse got their revenge. After being embarrassed one week ago against UConn, Syracuse came out tonight and outworked, outhustled and outplayed the Huskies and hung on for a 67-63 victory. This was one of the guttiest performances I have seen by an SU team. Until the last two minutes of the game SU was out rebounding the Huskies by 10 rebounds and totally dominating on the offensive glass. There is so much to talk about that I'll break down each half.

1st Half
The Orange came out with an intensity I've never seen in the first 3 minutes. They went after every ball on the glass and on the first two offenive possessions, they corralled 4 offfensive rebounds. At that point right there was a sign that this game was going to be a little different than the one at Gampel. The scoring was slow, but you could see that Gerry McNamara was going to take the ball to the basket and not settle for the 3. GMAc didnt have a great shooting game but he did just enough. There were two turning points in the half. One of the turning points of the half was when Daryl Watkins entered the game. Watkins got after every loose ball on the glass and joined by Terrence Roberts helped SU get two and three looks at the basket every offensive possesion. The second was Hakim Warrick expanding his game. Warrick was being doubled on the block every time he posted up so he took his game to the outside and nailed two huge 3s. But this half was all about the effort on the defensive end by the Orange. They held UConn to 19 first half points and made every Husky shot a difficult one. UConn scored 6 points the last 11 minutes of the half and SU finished the half on a 17-6 run.

2nd Half
After the debacle last week in Gampel, SU was determined not to let that happen. The Orange scored 10 of the first 13 points out of the lockerroom to balloon their lead to 20 and everything was going right for SU. GMac hit a runner and a 3. A Warrick dunk made it a 21 point lead with 11 minutes to go, but then Warrick picked up his 4th foul and went to the bench. This is the point Syracuse tried to milk the clock using almost the whole shot clock on every possession. It was something they had to do. There was no other option. During the seven minutes Warrick was on the bench the Orange scored 4 points all by Roberts. The Huskies cut the lead to 12 but as soon as Warrrick stepped back on the floor he hit a hug turnaround to stem the tide a little to get the lead to 14. The Orange would only make two field goals in the last 9 minutes but it ws enough as UConn just ran out of time. The Huskies made a valiant run but never got the lead to 6 until 2 minutes left and by then it was too late. SU hit their FTs down the stretch to adavance to tomorrow's title game.

End Game notes
-Hakim Warrick's last 5 games- 29 points, 9 rebounds, 53% from the field and 77% from the line..I think he put any debate for Big East Player of the Year to rest.

-The Huskies only made 7 of 18 FTs with the biggest culprit being Charlie Villaneuva who went 2 of 8 from the line

- UConn's 19 points were the least in a half all season for the Huskies

-West Virginia is trying to make history by winning tonight. If they win they'll become the first Big East team to win 4 games in 4 days for the title, but they've already etched their name into Big East lore. West Virginia lost to BC by a total of 30 points in two regular seaon games and lost to Villanova by 30 in one game and avenged all 3 losses. WVU is the only team in Big East history to avenge a 30 point regular season loss. they are also the only 8 seed to ever rech the final of the tournament.

-Daryl Watkins played 31 minutes and grabbed 9 rebounds. His two highest totals since he played 33 minutes against Drexel and grabbed 13 boards on December 18th.

- Syracuse fell two rebounds short of becoming only the 3rd team all season to outrebound the Huskies. The other two? Pittsburgh and St Johns.
 

7 years in the making

Imagine if a team that has been one of the faces of its conference has only been to one conference tournament final in the last 12 years. Hasnt won the tournament in 13. Imagine if a team like Duke or North Carolina waited that long to win a conference tournamen. Well that scenario exists.
It exists in Syracuse. Jim Boeheim help start the Big East as a power. He's won a national title, but Jim Calhoun and the Huskies have passed him and the Orange as the superior national power. They've won two national titles. They've been to 7 Big East tournament finals since the last time Syracuse won. They've won 4 titles since the last time SU went to the BE tournament final, a game which UConn won. They've dominated SU in recent years. They are the new face of Big East basketball and theres only one way to stop it.
Tonight's the night at the Garden. Tonight is the night that all of SU's nightmares in recent years at the Garden need to come to an end. It's worked out for the Orange. Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick played their least minutes of the year in last night's trouncing of Rutgers, playing only 32 and 33 minutes respectively. UConn had a hard fought win over Georgetown. SU should be fresher. SU should be hungrier. The SU seniors should want this to cement themselves as not only the only class with a national championship, but as a class that broke the long Big East Tournament drought.
They need to keep the Huskies from playing volleyball with the ball down low. They need GMac to play like he did last night. No more excuses for this bunch. They were picked as the Preseason team to beat and tonight they must play that way. This team has the talent to do it. They have the talent to make this night as memorable as the night Ryan Blackwell hit a buzzer beating jumper to beat St. John's. The Sophomores have played well and they need to keep it up. No hanging heads tonight. Its not every day you get a chance to atone for an embarassing performance. Tonight is that night. Tonight Syracuse University can show that they have something left and that the Big East is rightfully theirs.
 

Reflections from a huge basketball day

For the first time I watched every minute of quarterfinal day in the Big East tournament and I'm glad I did.

- Not only are Sean McDonough,Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery great announcers, but they make it seem like you're watching the game with friends.
- The most dominate half of the tournament would have been WVU's first half against BC, but the display SU put on against Rutgers may have been the best half in the Big East by one team this season.
- Boston College is being exposed as a team that can't shoot from the outside and as a bunch of complainers. A lot of people aroud the country took note of Sean Marshall staring down Jon Herber for no reason. BC has gone from a likable underdog team to a team no one will root for.
- BC better hope they're not in the Syracuse Regional. Those fans will be relentlessy rooting against them.
- WVU needs to hit outside shots to win, but if they get hot they can play with anyone in the country. Most impressive win in the conference this year because they played the whole game without Tyrone Sally.
- Someone should tell Pitt that their game started at 2 yesterday. They looked sluggish and uninterested. Whenever Chris Taft has the most intensity on your team, you are in trouble.
- Villanova can spread you out on offense and plays high intensity D. Watch out. They are primed for a deep tourney run. Teams are going to be surprised by how good Randy Foye is.
- If I had one question for one player today it would be this. Why did you not kick the ball out to Jeff Green, Ashanti Cook?
- I give Georgetown credit for coming back, but you saw what is going to kill UConn in the tourney. Marcus Williams tries to do too much down the stretch and it almost came back to bite the Huskies. He needs to realize how to play at the end of games because its not going to get any easier in the Tourney.
- The day couldnt get any better for an SU fan. BC goes down, Pitt goes down and SU comes out and stomps on Rutgers. A perfect capper to a great day at the Mecca.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

 

Diary of an afternoon at the Mecca

I wont be blogging the night games as I will be enjoying them with friends. SU tips 20 minutes after the UConn game.

Final- Nova 67 Pitt 58 Randy Foye was incredible with 23 points and Allan Ray and Curtis Sumpter were their usual selves. Pitt didnt get enough from Troutman and Krauser's baskets were in garbage time. If there's one thing to take form this game , its Nova's defensive intensity. Thats the key to a deep Nova run in the tourney.

40 sec- Nova 65 Pitt 52 Pitt waits 20 seconds to foul and this one is in the bank for Nova. Pitt will be waiting to see if they could grab a 5 seed in the tourney, while I still believe Nova can get a 2 if they win this tourney.

1:19- Nova 61 Pitt 52- Nova keeps taking the ball to the basket instead of pulling it out and running clock. Graves hits a 3 to get it to 9. Pitt needs to hope Nova misses some FTs, but they're the best FT shooting team in the BE.

2:16- Nova 59 Pitt 49- Pitt gets 6 straight points to cut it to ten. I think its a little too little too late. One constant in these two games this afternoon is that the team that complained the most to the Refs are the ones on the wrong side of the score.

3:17 Nova 59 Pitt 43- Unbelievable sequence for Pitt. Benjamin commits a foul and Krauser proceeds to toss the ball into the rafters in protest. No technical called. After two FTs Pitt comes down and Troutman committs a moving screen. Sumpter comes down and hits another jumper. This one's over.

4:59- Taft gets a technical for touching the ball across the end line. That could be all she wrote for Pitt. Nova up 12 with the ball.

4:59- Nova 54 Pitt 43- Sumpter has taken over scoring 7 straight points at one point and then feeding Fraser inside and he got fouled. Ramon and Troutman are playing with 4 fouls. Pitt needs to make a huge move right now. The Nova defense has totally flustered Pitt and their getting to every loose ball. Im not sure Pitt can stop Nova from scoring to pull this out.7:20 Remaining- Nova 49 Pitt 39- Pitt is making their run right now with two huge 3s from Krauser and Graves, but Sumpter answers with two FTs and a 3 of his own. Everytime Pitt has made a run to get it under single figures Nova has answered. Pitt needs to step it up on the defensive end to pull this out.

11:27- Krauser trying to show off, misses a lay-up. The two most irritated times I’ve heard Bilas all afternoon is after the Krauser play and the Marshall staredown in the BC game. Once Carl Krauser realizes the point is to try to win the game and not show off for his friends and family maybe then people around the country will pay attention to him. Ronald Ramon had two open 3s and missed both. Pitt needs someone to hit an open jumpshot to get them back in it.

12:50 remaining- Nova 42 Pitt 27- Randy Foye has been impressive this afternoon. He can take any Pitt player off the dribble. Pit continues to build a new MSG with all the bricks. Keith Benjamin trying to provide a spark.

15:00 remaining Nova 40 Pitt 23- Nova has blown the lead out to 17. Pitt cant do anything right. The Nova defense has been stellar. Only 23 points for Pitt in 25 minutes.

17:00 remaining Nova 37 Pitt 23- Krauser should put away the X..Its getting annoying and the refs are about to “T” him up. Nova continues to break down Pitt off the dribble and dish for easy shots. Pitt has to pick it up or this will be a blow out

Half Time- Nova 31 Pitt 19- Pitt doesn’t score from the field the last 6 minutes. Nova is getting a huge game from Foye as Sumpter hasn’t been much of a factor. Nova’s Forwards have matched Pitt’s intensity. Pitt needs a big half from Troutman and Krauser to get back in this game. Pitt made more FTs than FGs that half. Mark McCarroll probably wishes he could have this season over again. It’s been a rough one for him. Lets see if Pitt can get some buckets in this half. Nova’s defense has been scrappy.

1:17 remaining Nova 31 Pitt 18- Never mind. Nova gets a drive from Lowry and 3 from Allan Ray and this game goes from a 3 point deficit for Pitt to a 11 point hole. Krauser has to step up here or Pitt’s going to be in a big hole.

2:40 remaing- Nova 26 Pitt 17- Randy Foye ahs shown up- 13 points. Pitt games are the hardest to officiate. You cant call everything and you can let everything go. This game is U-G-L-Y- and Pitt has no alibi. Pitt has to be careful or they’ll be down double digits at half

3:55 remaining- Nova21 Pitt16 - Pitt has missed its last 5 shots. Very very Sloppy game. Bad passes, stupid shots. The officials arent helping the flow calling touchy fouls. Sheridan and Fraser are matching Pitt's frontline. Pitt is hanging in. If Krauser or Troutman gets hot they could catch up and grab a lead and put some pressure on Nova.

6:30 remaining- Nova 19 Pitt 16- Officials calling the game really tight as both teams are in the penalty already. Pitt hanging in without getting anything from Troutman yet. Jay Wright is the best dressed man in the Garden today.

8:00 remaining- Nova 19 Pitt 14- Taft is keeping Pitt in this game. You can see the problems that Nova causes. They can spread you out offensively and on defense they are tenacious. I dont know how many more times I can hear that Zutons song "Cant get this pressure out of my head". We get it. There's pressure.

Pitt/Nova 10:00 remaining- I'm impressed with Nova's defense. Chris Taft has showed up today. Nova is hitting from 3 right now. Nova is matching Pitt's intensity, but Pitt is making a run. Nova 17 Pitt12

End of WVU/BC- WVU 78- BC72.. Well this diary thing doesnt seem to be working. (Thanks Blogger). But WVU held off a furious BC rally to upset the Eagles at the Garden. Im sure its a humbling loss for Dudley and Smith who wanted to prove they arent flukes. Many a tournament bracket will have BC getting bounced in the 1st or second round. I penned my feelings on BC on Yoni Cohen's site. WVU punched their ticket to the dance with a huge win. When BC got the game down to 5, JD Collins and Kevin Pittsnogle stepped up. Good bye BC, you wont be missed.

Half Time- WVU44 BC22 Thats not a misprint. WVU is on fire and BC looks horrible right now. Dudley is on the bench with 3 fouls. Bad move by Skinner leaving him in with 2 fouls. Smith can get whatever he wants in the inside but the BC guards keep turning it over. Tyrone Salley isnt playing for WVU but everyone has stepped up for the Mountaineers and Pittsnogle has been held in check. Frank Young (who) has 13 points (career high) and is making NBA 3's. Lets see if WVU can hold on for a shocking upset. WVU shoots 68 percent from the floor and 8-11 from 3. BC shoots 41 perecent form the floor and Smith is a prefect 4/4 in the 1st half. sidenote- I love the Bilas/ Raftery/ McDonough team announcing the game.

-I know I'm starting late but I'll be updating my blog during the second half of BC/WVU and entire Pitt/ Nova..hope you enjoy
 

Surprise!! Rutgers still alive

I apparently have as much an idea how the Big East tourney will turn out as a someone who didn’t watch College Basketball all season. I was surprised how WVU just ran over Providence, stunned that Georgetown couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean from the beach, and not at all shocked at what happened to Notre Dame. Chas breaks down Pitt/Villanova on Pitt Sports Blather in the game of the day. Syracuse gets Rutgers tonight at the Mecca and let’s take a look at how to break it down.

Syracuse vs. Rutgers 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Anyone that thinks tonight’s game will be a rout didn’t watch last nights game between the Scarlet Knights and Notre Dame. There was no fluky play that Rutgers won on last night. They out hustled, out shot and totally outplayed the Irish. Chris Thomas was bad and Ricky Shields shut down Colin Falls. Losing Chris Quinn hurt the Irish but I’m not sure he would have made a difference last night. There are several things SU needs to do to shut down any hope Rutgers may have.

1.) Keep the 3 point shooting in check- They must close out on Shields, Douby, and Marquis Webb. They can all stroke the 3 and if they get confident it’s going to make it hard on SU and may force Boeheim to come out of the zone. The one positive is that if Rutgers struggles with the 3 they will keep chucking it up anyway and may shoot themselves out of the game.
2.) Don’t get bodied- Rutgers trots out some big boys on the frontline and they will bang Warrick, Roberts and Forth around. SU has to stand tall against them. They bumped Warrick in the game at the RAC and helped hold him in check for a half. The Rutgers big men are slow however and the quickness match up will favor the BE player of the Year.
3.) Take out their Heart- This is the key for the Orange. If they come out and build a ten point lead on the Knights, they will take away some of their will and desire. If RU comes out and keeps it close or is even leading, that’s all they’ll need to take the game away. Conference Tournaments are about belief and desire. SU can’t come out flat because they won’t be coming back form 20 points down tonight.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

Hakim gets his Dream

Hakim Warrick was named Big East player of the year as I broke down last week. Josh Pace took home the Sportsmanship award. Here's how it broke down for the other awards.

Big East Awards

Player of the Year
Hakim Warrick, Syracuse

Coach of the Year
Al Skinner, Boston College

Rookie of the Year

Rudy Gay, Connecticut
Jeff Green, Georgetown

Defensive Player of the Year
Josh Boone, Connecticut

Most Improved Player
Jared Dudley, Boston College
Marcus Williams, Connecticut

Sportsmanship Award
Josh Pace, Syracuse

Craig Forth took home the Scholar-Athlete Award, so all 3 SU seniors tooks home some hardware. This just furthur shows how this is the best Senior Class at SU ever.

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