I love being on vacation when everyone else is at work.
It's like De Ja Vue all over again. Cincinnati vs Rutgers had almost the exact same ending as Cincnnati vs Connecticut at the start of the Big East season. In the UConn game, Kemba Walker hit a three to tie before Lance Stephenson was fouled in the final second. And today Mike Rosario hit a three to tie before Lance Stephenson was fouled in the final second. In both games, Stephenson hit the game winning free throw.
There's just something special about Madison Square Garden. Special players make special plays. (I still can't believe Rosario's leaning three went in to tie the game.)
But this is exactly why the Marquette - Cincinnati game puzzled me. Even if Lance Stephenson was having a bad game, sometimes you have to let your stars work through it. In this game, Stephenson was allowed to stay on the floor in crunch time despite a terrible first half. Against Marquette, he wasn't and Cincinnati lost in OT. Win the Marquette game, and Cincinnati is legitimately in the NCAA tournament discussion right now. As is, I don't even think a victory against Louisville is enough.
A few years ago, the Atlantic 10 got sick of a lack of respect from ESPN and decided to go their own way. And now that the Atlantic 10 tournament final is on CBS, I don't think ESPN and the A-10 are going to end their feud anytime soon. Sadly, this means no A-10 tournament games online on ESPN360. Checking the ticker, while Dayton and Rhode Island kept their faint tournament hopes alive, Charlotte ended all questions.
"Hey committee, I know we might have been on your list, but really it is OK if you take us off the board. Thanks." - Signed Charlotte and UConn.
The lack of A10 tournament converage also meant I kept the TV on Providence vs Seton Hall, long after I should have abandoned this game. By now you've probably seen what happened. Providence came back from 29 and missed a game tying three at the end of regulation.
ESPN Chatter Point: Is Providence's lack of defense a problem? I'd like to give you a statistical answer here. On average, changes in defense are gradual. Most bad defensive teams don't get better over time. (See Notre Dame.) But there are rare exceptions. A good defensive coach will sometimes bounce back from a bad year. If you look at my surprises and flops post, you'll see that Virginia Tech's defense made a shocking jump up in quality this year. So it can happen.
And I'd like to give Keno Davis the benefit of the doubt. He's early in the rebuilding process and he seems to have a plan. Build an exciting program, upgrade the talent, then figure it out. And what recruit doesn't see Jamine Peterson and say, "That could be me scoring 38 points and getting 16 rebounds." So everything seems to be going according to plan. We'll know in a couple years whether the bad defense is a fatal flaw for Keno Davis.
St. John's crushed UConn, but the final margin does not reflect the entertainment value of this game. Both teams started out crashing the boards. Both rebounded over half their misses in the first half. And in the second half, it became a full court frenzy. That would seem to favor UConn, but it was St. John's that was beating UConn at their own game with above the rim dunks and crazy steals for fast-break baskets.
UConn's Jerome Dyson was benched in the second half and he was visibly angry. But one second half possession showed why he's become such a frustrating player this year. Dyson jumped in the air, didn't have a shot, threw the ball towards the back-court which seemed to lead to a St. John's lay-up chance. But then Dyson ran down the St. John's player and stole the ball back. But then Dyson's attempted to pass it back up-court and turned it over again. For all his hustle and energy, Dyson just has not been playing smart basketball this year.
ESPN Chatter Topic #1: Should Norm Roberts keep his job? I think St. John's either needs to make a two year committment to Roberts or get rid of him this year. The team is going to have 9 seniors next year, and the next recruiting class is vital. You can't afford to fire your coach at exactly the moment you try to replace 9 players. That's what happened to Norm Roberts in the first place. He inherited a disaster, and it has taken him this long to rebuild. So either St. John's makes a change now and gives the new coach a decent chance to win and recruit next year, or St. John's has to make a commitment to Roberts and stick with him for a couple more years.
ESPN Chatter Topic #2: Jim Boeheim doesn't like the double byes in the Big East tournament. He has proposed having Tuesday include games such as 1 vs 16 and 2 vs 15 instead of 9 vs 16 and 10 vs 15. I can see pros and cons here. The nice thing about double byes is that it rewards the regular season. That's why I love the byes in the NFL and always use byes in my fantasy football league. But NCAA seeding already rewards regular season success so maybe the double bye isn't necessary.
South Florida faced DePaul, and on paper this was not a compelling matchup. But that's why they play the ga.... No wait. It wasn't very compelling. DePaul and South Florida started the game a combined 0-18 from three point range. But South Florida won because they were better able to score in the paint and get transtion baskets. Dominic Jones is phenomenally strong and a fantastic college scorer. But as Fran Fraschilla emphasized, if he doesn't have a consistent jump shot, he is not going to be able to play guard in the NBA. Just to be clear, South Florida won despite never heating up from the outside. At the end of the game the ESPN graphic showed South Florida was 0-16 on perimeter shots.
Chatter Topic: DePaul needs a coach who knows how to recruit.
An ESPN graphic showed the Chicago area guards that didn't go to DePaul:
Evan Turner - Ohio St.
Jacob Pullen - Kansas St.
Jerome Randle - California
Sheron Collins - Kansas
Demetri McCamey - Illinois
But, DePaul does have a walk-on that played at St. Joe's with Turner and McCamey. Yeah, that's not a good sign.