Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Are the Cardiac Hoyas the New Evil Empire?

What a year to be a season ticket holder!

You know the video - the one where they montage Hoosiers and Rudy and all these other dramatic movies together to pump up the crowd. Twice the Hoyas have played this video this year and both times the Hoyas have come out of the timeout with Austin Freeman taking a three pointer and missing that three pointer. As far as I’m concerned, the video has to go.

But what a difference it makes being in the arena vs watching the game on TV. In the arena, I thought my team, which had lost 6 straight home games to Villanova, had finally achieved redemption. I thought my team had played fabulous defense, that Corey Stokes had committed a stupid foul, and that my team had won in dramatic fashion. But then I went home to watch the highlights on ESPN and I learned how my team stole a victory for the second time this year. (See Georgetown-West Virginia).

Look, officiating is a forbidden topic for blogging. John Gasaway made that rule and it’s a good rule. But I think it is worth noting that officials were crazy whistle happy in this game. The players were called for 48 total fouls, 4 players fouled out, and 7 others had foul trouble. For whatever reason the officials seemed to think that any contact in the game was unacceptable and the final whistle was perfectly consistent with how the rest of the game was called. The 51 combined fouls shots also helped Villanova stay in the game because Villanova is a much better free throw shooting team than Georgetown.

That said, I agree that the final call was unfortunate. And this certainly adds fuel to the fire of those who want to say the Hoyas are overrated. I think the interesting question is how the committee interprets close wins. For example, if Gasaway’s rankings say that Louisville is better than Georgetown, and if Louisville is now playing at full strength after being devastated by injuries early, should Louisville be seeded higher than Georgetown?

I think the answer is two sided. First, teams don’t generally get punished for winning close. (Does anyone in the committee room say ‘Maryland won at North Carolina, but they didn’t blow them out.’) But the committee does try to prevent teams that are playing exceptionally well from being seeded too low since this punishes other teams. So my guess is that Georgetown won’t take too much of a hit for its close wins, but Louisville will get quite a bit of credit for playing dominating basketball lately.

Numbers matter a lot, but public perception matters a lot at the top lines of the bracket, and that’s why I’m so bummed to see so many people dumping on Georgetown after a fun win. Perhaps I should just take the advice of John Thompson Jr who once said, “I’d rather win ugly than lose and play well.”

But there were plenty of other amazing stats in the Georgetown-Villanova game. I have so much respect for Jay Wright who consistently shuts down Roy Hibbert despite having not a single player who can match up with him one-on-one. The smaller Wildcats outhustled the Hoyas earning 6 more rebounds (season long theme) and forced Georgetown into 17 turnovers. But Villanova shot just 25% on the game, and players not named Scottie Reynolds, shot a combined 18% for Villanova. I’m not sure whether to praise Georgetown’s suffocating defense, or praise Villanova for playing so well in the other facets of the game to overcome that poor shooting. Villanova may not be a tournament team this year, but there’s no doubt that they are a quality win.

Well, like I said at the top, I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth as a season ticket holder this year. I’ve seen Hibbert hit a 3 to beat UConn, Rivers defending Flynn to hold off Syracuse in overtime, Sapp’s three pointer and Ewing’s block to beat West Virginia, and Wallace calmly making two free throws to defeat Villanova. (Come on Summers and Freeman, let’s make your moment too!) And as a fan you just have to enjoy these moments, even if the rest of the Big East is starting to despise us.