Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Morning Shootaround: Providence Upsets Top-Seeded Pitt

On their senior night, the Providence Friars may have punched their ticket to the dance with an upset win over the Pitt Panthers 81-73. PC opened up a 20 point lead, and was up by double digits for most of the second half. It really was a great team effort by the Friars, who put five guys into double figures, led by Weyinmi Efejuku's 16. The key to this one was turnover's. Pitt is normally a good team taking care of the ball, but Providence was able to get their hands on a lot of balls and force Pitt to turn it over (the Panthers had 18 turnovers, and PC had 11 steals). This was as poor of a performance as I have seen out of DeJuan Blair this season. Granted, he finished with 17 points and 8 boards, but he also had 5 turnovers and, most importantly, 5 fouls.

If I am a Panthers fan, I don't get too worried about this game. They lost because they didn't dominate the glass like they usually do (the Panthers won the battle of the boards 31-24, mostly because of some late offensive rebounds), they turned the ball over, and they allowed Providence to penetrate whenever they wanted. That isn't Pitt basketball, and don't expect the Panthers to have too many performances like that. The bigger issue is DeJuan Blair. The big fella was once again in foul trouble. To win the Big East or NCAA tournaments, Pitt is going to need to win a number of games in a row, but I'm not convinced that Blair can stay out of foul trouble for that long. Here's why:

Go to the :40 second mark and watch the post up by Blair. You see how he moves Adrien up the lane? That isn't going to get called in the Big East, but when whistles start getting tighter in the postseason, that may become a foul. While it is a great seal, one thing coaches have complained about all year long is that Blair dislodges a defender and moves them, which technically could be called an offensive foul.

How good is Pitt without their big man? Not as good as with him, that's for sure. I think Blair should be ok as long as he can avoid the "nickel-dimers".

A lot of other good basketball was played last night:

  • LSU 81, Florida 75: The Tigers used a late 14-2 run to hold off the Gators at home. Marcus Thornton had 32 points, including putting on a show midway through the first half as he knocked down five straight three's, and Garrett Temple added a season-high 21. I'll tell you what, the Tigers have the look of a team that can make some noise in the NCAA's. They are big and athletic at every spot on the floor, and are pretty good at getting out and defending (although not great, but it is hard to judge against a transition team like Florida). Marcus Thornton is a helluva scorer. They have a couple big shot blockers on the front line, and guys like Tasmin Mitchell, Garrett Temple, and Bo Spencer are solid players that can do a number of things for you.

    The biggest issue I have with the Tigers right now is that they are a team that seems like they feed off the energy of the crowd. Yes, they are 24-4, but 19 of those wins have come at home and 3 of their losses on the road (including a 30 point blow out when they had to go across the country to Utah). So my question is, how good is this team going to be when they go to a half-to-three-quarter filled NBA Arena in the NCAA tournament where they don't have their rabid home crowd behind them (and if you saw that game last night, then you know that LSU's fans really get into it)?

    One last note - Marcus Thornton looks like an NBA player to me. He can score, he has range, he is a good athlete, he isn't a great defensive player yet (but they don't play D in the league anyway), and he is an excellent passer.
  • Ohio State 73, Penn State 59: OSU jumped out to a 19-2 lead before PSU went on a huge run to tie it back up. It went back and forth for a while, but the Buckeyes closed the game on a 25-10 run. Jeremie Simmons, the Buckeyes freshman PG who was coming off the bench for the first time all season, finished with a career-high 14 points. PJ Hill, getting his first start of the year, scored a career-high 13 points (maybe you stay with that, Thad). Quick: define clusterfuck - the middle of the Big Ten. There are four teams tied for fourth place (remember, fourth and fifth get a first round by in the Big Ten tourney) and a team one game back of those four. Of those five teams, I'm saying only three make the dance.
  • Syracuse 87, St. John's 58: The Orange jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back. Jonny Flynn had 21 and 8 dimes.
  • Creighton 65, Missouri state 59: The Bluejays remained tied atop the MVC with NIU because...
  • Northern Iowa 69, Illinois State 67 2OT: Adam Koch had 25 points, including a tip-in with a second left in the second OT to win the game. Illinois State missed shots at the buzzer of regulation and the first OT that would have won the game.
  • Boston College 72, Florida State 67: Chalk up BC as one of the nation's greatest conundrums. Win at UNC, then lose to Harvard and three more in a row after that. Beat Duke, lost to Miami. Now, they beat Florida State, in a game where star point guard Tyrese Rice was held to 11 points, scoreless in the first half. Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 19, and he and Rice hit some big shots down the stretch, the biggest a three by Rice with BC up one and under a minute left. With games left against Georgia Tech and NC State, BC might have just sealed up a trip to the Dance.
  • BYU 69, SDSU 59: The Cougars got 20 of Jimmer Fredette's 28 in the second half as they overcame a 14 point deficit. Fredette keyed a 15-0 run late that turned a 55-49 deficit with seven minutes left into a 64-55 lead. BYU moved a game up on SDSU in the rugged MWC.
  • New Mexico 76, TCU 62: New Mexico kept pace with BYU for second in the MWC.

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