Saturday, December 20, 2008

8 Thoughts on a Great Saturday of Basketball

1) My wife’s call of UConn’s AJ Price taking the shot at the end of regulation against Gonzaga, “Bad shot, bad shot. Oh it went in.” Look, I’m done ragging on Jerome Dyson. Dyson is a fabulous defender and a fantastic full-court player. But against a tough half-court defense, if you want someone to make a play to win the game, you want the ball in AJ Price’s hands.

2) Is Steven Gray the best 6th man in the country? Gray’s best two games came against ranked teams (Tennessee and UConn). Gonzaga might fall out of the top 10, but this is clearly at least a 2 seed at the end of the year. And if they go undefeated in WCC play, I’d give them a 1 seed. They had no shot in OT once Austin Daye, Micah Downs, and Matt Bouldin fouled out.

3) With about two minutes to go in the Michigan St. vs Texas game, Durrell Summers was starting to take over. He had just knocked down a big three to pull Michigan St. within a point, and he had found Kalin Lucas at the top of the key to give Michigan St. the lead. And after Gary Johnson had taken the lead back for Texas, it was a no brainer. “Get the ball to Summers!” Of course, he immediately drove into the lane, lost control of the ball and turned it over to Connor Atchley. Rats. But wait. There was another chance at glory. After Atchley missed a three, Summers was once again standing in the corner when Raymar Morgan found him for the game winner. Yep, that’s why I watch this stuff.

4) Rick Pitino has forgotten more about coaching than I’ll ever know about coaching, but what was he doing yelling at his team to play full court pressure with 4 minutes to go in the Louisville vs Minnesota game? Louisville had just cut the Minnesota lead to 4 points, and I think he should have played it straight up and saved his player’s energy for the offensive end of the court. Minnesota was starting to look tentative, and I’m not sure the Gophers would have been able to make a basket against a half-court defense. But we’re never going to know. Because Louisville kept fouling Minnesota and allowed the Gophers to score their final 14 points from the free throw line.

To me, the key problem with this strategy is that Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, and Samardo Samuels weren’t buying it. They kept giving Pitino looks like, “Are you serious?” Minnesota had been playing a rotation of 11 players, and while Louisville had also been rotating 12 players, the three key Louisville players had played virtually the entire game. Plus those key Louisville players had just played a game on Thursday, while Minnesota had been off for 10 days. There was no way Louisville was going to wear down Minnesota at that point in the game. I could understand using full-court pressure when they were down 10 or 12, but down 4 with 4 minutes to go? All Pitino did was foul out Samuels and piss off his best three players.

5) During the Memphis vs Syracuse game, Tyreke Evans had the ball on a 3 on 1 break. Rather than pass the ball to his open teammates, he drew a charge. Dick Vitale commented: “I wouldn’t say he was selfish, I’d just say that was bad freshman decision making.” OK, sure.

6) Seton Hall, which holds wins over USC and Virginia Tech, lost to IUPUI.

7) Alex Legion debuted for Illinois. He made his first two shots, both three pointers, before missing his next 4 shots. I think Illini fans are under-estimating how much time it will take for Legion to fit into the offense and defense, but there was still reason to be excited.

8) Last year Chris Kramer was 18th nationally in steal rate and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year. All I remember was that he was really irritating. Stephen Curry knocked my Georgetown team out of the NCAA tournament last year. Stephen Curry meet Chris Kramer. Meet 5 of 26 shooting.