Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 2, Big East, Big 12, and more

Round 5

There was a late game tonight as Washington St. faced Oregon in the Pac-10 tournament opener. And Oregon's Ernie Kent may be fired, but he now holds the record for the most wins in Pac-10 tournament history with 11. Oregon's E.J. (Don't call me Kyle) Singler made a tip in as time expired to send the game in overtime where Oregon picked up the close win.

But it seemed to be a case of bad strategy that got the game to overtime in the first place. Leading by three, Washington St. did not want Oregon to get off a three point attempt to tie the game. But Washington St. fouled with 8 seconds left in the game which allowed Oregon to cut the lead to 1. Then, after Washington St. missed 1 of 2 free throws, Oregon still had 7 seconds to win or tie in regulation. Oregon chose to go for the tie, and even had time for a put-back tip-in by Singler. Certainly there are situations where you can foul when leading by three, but 8 seconds is way too early.

Round 4

Poor Edgar Sosa. Like Adrian Peterson with “the fumbling”, Sosa is never going to be able to shake his reputation as a late-game failure. Again it was the missed free throws, the unnecessary foul with 57 seconds left, the unnecessary three with 37 seconds left, and the turnover at the end. Edgar Sosa was without a shadow of a doubt the best player on the floor in Louisville’s loss to Cincinnati. But he’s still the goat.

(Speaking of not living things down, can Weber St. ever forget blowing a 20 point home lead with an NCAA berth on the line. Uggh.)

Cincinnati survives to play another day where they almost certainly must beat West Virginia to keep their slim NCAA tournament hopes alive. I’m not sure what went wrong with Cincinnati’s offense this year, but I find it truly depressing that so many talented players simply lacked confidence late in the year. Deonta Vaughn has been broken down from an 1800 point scoring star to a pouting senior. Vaughn was so close to tears at his limited minutes today that when he got put in the game in the final minute, his head wasn’t in it. He turned it over once in the final minute, and I think the replay was pretty clear that he traveled with 5 seconds left in the game too. The referees simply didn’t have the heart to make him the goat in that situation. I think Mick Cronin has done some nice things at Cincinnati, but he needs to make it clear that a benching isn’t personal. Sure a senior shouldn’t be pouting in that situation, but a large part of the coach’s job is to keep everyone buying in. The losing streak at the end of the season broke that “buy-in” factor, but maybe a two game winning streak in the Big East tournament will help rebuild it.

-Iowa St. made it close right before halftime which led to this discussion. “Doesn’t it seem like Texas should be up by more right now?” That’s been the story of the entire Texas season. But Texas still had enough to beat struggling Iowa St.

Round 3

Notre Dame ended Seton Hall's NCAA tournament hopes thanks to Luke Harangody's valiant renaissance. Is it wrong of me to say that Luke Harangody’s parents both look like him?

Where is this Notre Dame defense coming from? At one point in the second half, Seton Hall was shooting 27% in the game.

-“If Oklahoma didn’t have any talent, you’d just accept the losing season. We’re in a knife-fight and all we’ve got is spoons. But that’s not the case.”

Oklahoma vs Oklahoma St. was oddly similar to Nebraska vs Missouri from earlier in the day. Oklahoma St. jumped out to a 20-2 lead and had 45 points with 1:20 to go in the first half. But then Oklahoma St. went 8 minutes and 4 seconds without scoring a point. But Oklahoma St. still had enough to hold on and win by 14.

We gained a little insight into Oklahoma St.’s fantastic one-on-one shooting. Apparently head coach Travis Ford is a fantastic H-O-R-S-E player and loves beating his players on a regular basis. Keiton Page is the only player who has been able to beat him, and Page showed his shooting prowess making all 7 of his first half shots including 5 three pointers in the victory.

Round 2

Marquette continued its goal to have every game be decided in the final minute or overtime with a 2 point win over St. John’s. I love that Marquette’s David Cubillan hit the deciding three pointer and instead of raving about Cubillan’s clutch shot, the announcers spent all the time crediting Lazar Hayward with the game-deciding screen.

Marquette must have decided before the game that the only way St. John’s could win was by getting fast-break baskets. I say this because Marquette made a concerted effort not to crash the offensive boards and to send everyone back on each shot. The box score I’m staring at shows Marquette with an offensive rebounding percentage of only 8%. That worked in the first half, when Marquette was shooting lights out, but in the second half, the lack of second chance points dramatically hurt Marquette’s offensive efficiency.

St. John’s rode a wave of ridiculous buckets, (several of which were prayer shots where the player thought he was fouled), and some great inside passing in scramble situations to take a 4 point lead. But Marquette’s been in these situations before. (As in every game.) And the Golden Eagles calmly retook the lead and finished the game.

-How poorly did defending Big 12 tournament champion Missouri play against the Big 12’s last place team today? Even after Nebraska had a 6 minute 18 second scoring drought in the second half, Missouri was still down by 10 points. At that point Brandon Richardson made a three pointer and was fouled, and that was it. From the game announcer. “It’s like Missouri has been running on a treadmill with the incline set to 9.0.”

The 12-5 upset was only the second time in Big 12 tournament history that the 12 seed won a Big 12 tournament game. You can blame the loss on Nebraska’s incredible shooting, particularly in the last 5 seconds of the shot clock. You can blame the loss on Missouri’s inability to adapt to Justin Safford’s injury. You can point to the fact that Missouri couldn’t set up its full-court pressure because they weren’t making any baskets. But for a rare time this year, Nebraska was simply the better team.

Round 1

Last night in the Big East we saw the nation’s fastest paced BCS team in Providence. Today the Big 12 features the 5th fastest paced BCS team in Texas Tech. But this game didn’t get to 100 points. I’d like to blame Colorado for slowing it down, but the truth is Colorado had one of the biggest increases in pace of any team in the nation this year. Colorado’s adjusted tempo ranked 305th last year, but is up to 125th this year. Texas Tech ran at times today, but with Colorado struggling to score in this one, Texas Tech was content to save their energy for Kansas tomorrow.

Elsewhere Georgetown crushed South Florida. I view today’s win by the Hoyas as answering three questions:

1. Are the Hoyas collapsing again? No, a two game winning streak might not mean much, but after the way 2008-09 ended, it matters.

2. Can the Hoyas win without Austin Freeman scoring in bunches? Yes, Jason Clark and Chris Wright can play smart and compensate if Freeman isn’t feeling his jump shot.

3. Can the Hoyas win with their front line in foul trouble? Yes, John Thompson was reluctant to bring in Henry Sims, but he proved competent defensively. An aggressive Sims may be better than a reluctant Greg Monroe or Julian Vaughn who has to give ground due to foul trouble.

Of course all this happened against a South Florida team that flat out could not make jumpers in this tournament. South Florida made only one three-pointer in the last two games. And it came from a late minute, garbage-time sub. But you can’t underestimate how important confidence is to a college team, and the last two games have restored some of that for Georgetown.

On the other hand, people talk about teams passing the “eye-test”. I’ve never understood that, but I think today's game showed some of it. If South Florida can’t make any threes, how can they beat any good teams? Realistically, the reason South Florida beat Georgetown the first time is that they got Georgetown in foul trouble, and took away the Hoyas defensive intensity. But with Georgetown looking for revenge for the earlier loss, the lack of outside shooting was a fatal flaw today.


Somewhere Air Force held Wyoming to 40 points in the MWC opening round. And no one noticed. CUSA's Southern Miss, Houston, Tulsa, and UCF also advanced and still no one cared. Tommorrow those leagues will start to get interesting.