Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blogging away the Saturday with BIAH

- A couple more games to get you caught up on:

  • Dayton 70, Temple 65: Dayton bounces back from a loss to Rhode Island at the buzzer to stay within a game of Xavier while Temple loses their second in a row to fall two games off the pace in the A-10. Chris Wright led the Flyers with 20.
  • Purdue 75, Ohio State 50: Purdue got 17 from Robbie Hummel and shot 64% in the second half as they dropped the Buckeyes to 8-8 in the Big Ten. OSU is talented this year, but they have now lost four of five and is in danger of missing the tournament again.
  • VCU 69, Georgia State 41: VCU go 14 from Larry Sanders as they stayed a game up on George Mason and Northeastern in the CAA.
- LSU is for real. After a 33-12 Kentucky run put the Wildcats up 54-44 with ten minutes to go, the Tigers came back on the strength of 15 points from Marcus Thornton (he finished with 23 points, 9 boards, and 4 assists). Tasmin Mitchell also added 21 and 8 for the Tigers. Patrick Patterson had 28 and for the Wildcats while Jodie Meeks had 24. Meeks struggled, however, going just 1-9 from deep.

This game also had the best finish of the day. With UK down 70-67, Darius Miller knocked down a three to tie it up with 27 seconds left, but Tasmin Mitchell responded at the other end with a three of his own with ten seconds to go. UK called a timeout and Jodie Meeks got a decent look from the top of the key, but he airballed it and LSU escaped with the win.

The big reason people gave for questioning LSU this year was their lack of impressive wins on the road. Does coming back from 10 down in Rupp quantify as impressive?

- Oklahoma got 22 and 18 from Blake Griffin as the Sooners were able to hang on against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders cut the lead to 50-49 with about eight minutes left, but the Sooners would outscore Tech 28-14 the rest of the way.

After going for 17 in the first half, Gerald Henderson was held to just four points in the second half, but Kyle Singler had 19 points in the second half as the Devils held off a furious rally from Tech to win 72-65. AD Vassallo finished with 26 points, scoring 21 in the second half. Tech tied the game up twice, but could never get the lead.

- Washington has clinched a tie for the Pac-10 title by beating Arizona at home 83-78. Jon Brockman had 19 points and 11 boards, and Isaiah Thomas added 19 for the Huskies. Jordan Hill turned an ankle, but managed to finish with 27 and 10. The biggest difference in this one was offensive rebounding. Jon Brockman had 7 of U-Dub's 19 offensive boards. Even with the loss, Arizona has the look of a tourney team, but only if Hill is ok (which it looks like he is).

- AD Vassallo has scored 10 straight points as the Blue Devils have had their lead cut to 56-53. Vassallo has 19 and 8.

- Halftime scores:
  • Purdue 32, Ohio State 26: JaJuan Johnson leads to Boilermakers with 10 points.
  • Dayton 36, Temple 26: Christ Wright has 8 points as the Flyers lead the battle for second in the A-10.
  • LSU 36, Kentucky 28: Tasmin Mitchell has 14 and 5 to lead the Tigers. Patrick Patterson has 14 and 7 and Jodie Meeks has 9 for the Cats.
- Hill is back in the game with a fresh tape job. Hill is clearly in pain as he is wincing going up and down the court. But the guy has some heart - he just took a charge. Washington has come back to take the lead 71-70. Chase Budinger and Nic Wise both have four fouls. UPDATE: Budinger is gone with 2:38 left. He had 20 and 8 boards.

- Jordan Hill just injured his left ankle. He took a turn around jumper over Matthew Bryan-Amaning and landed on the defender's foot, rolling his ankle over. Not sure how bad the injury is, but the side of his foot hit the ground and Hill immediately went down screaming. This is a huge loss of the Wildcats, because Hill is one of their big three and has been one on the best big men in the country this season. If he doesn't return and Arizona loses this game, the Cats are going to have a tough time reaching the tournament.

- Oklahoma has taken a 35-28 lead into halftime. Two weeks after putting up 40 and 23 on the Red Raiders, Blake Griffin had 14 and 10 in his first game back from a concussion.

Duke has gotten 17 points from Gerald Henderson and 11 from Jon Scheyer as they have opened up a 36-25 halftime lead against Va Tech.

- Two o'clock games have ended:
  • UConn 72, Notre Dame 65: Jeff Adrien had 25 and 9 boards and Hasheem Thabeet added 16, 11, and 8 blocks as UConn dominated the Irish inside. Harangody finished with 14 and 5 on 7-18 shooting.
  • Wake Forest 70, Virginia 60: Aminu, Teague, and McFarland all had 12 in the Wake win.
  • Florida State 73, Clemson 66: Toney Douglas had 23 points as the Seminoles moved into a tie with Wake Forest for third in the ACC.
  • Creighton 74, Illinois State 70: P'Allen Stinnett and Booker Woodfox both went for 20 as the Bluejays stayed in first in the MVC.
  • Davidson 99, Georgia Southern 56: Curry had 34 and 6 dimes.
  • Arizona is up 47-41 on Washington right now on the strength of 19 and 7 from Jordan Hill. If Washington wins out, they will be the outright Pac-10 champs.
- Good god. This is the first time I have seen LSU play when Chris Johnson isn't wearing a T-shirt under his jersey, and he is unbelievably skinny. He can't weigh more than 200 lb.

- Clemson is on a 27-12 run and has cut the FSU lead to 63-60.

- Texas A&M is making a serious push to be invited to the NCAA tournament. Today, they got 29 points out of Josh Carter as they beat Iowa State 87-69 at home. They are now 21-8, 7-7 in the Big XII. They are 35 in the RPI (before today's game) with a 4-5 record against the top 50 and wins over LSU, Arizona and Texas. Their SOS is 33, but they are just 3-6 on the road. I think the Aggies are in.

- Blake Griffin will be playing today. Nolan Smith won't.

- The biggest thing Thabeet needs to improve before he is a legitimate NBA prospect is keeping the ball high. The reason he didn't get an and-1 on that play was that he brought the ball down to his waste. He also has a terrible tendency to dribble the ball before he goes up to the rim.

- Of note - Tyler Hansbrough broke the career free throw record today in the Tar Heel's win against Georgia Tech.

- Some scores to get you updated on:
  • Memphis 58, Southern Miss 42: Robert Dozier had 18 points to lead the Tigers.
  • UConn 32, Notre Dame 30: Thabeet and Adrien have beeen tough to stop inside, but Notre Dame has been on fire from deep (6-15) to keep the game close.
  • Florida State 39, Clemson 27: The Seminoles got 10 points from Toney Douglas as they used a 31-12 run to open up the double digit lead.
  • Creighton 45, Illinois State 38: P'Allen Stinnett has 13 to lead the Bluejays.
  • Wake Forest 30, Virginia 24: Al-Farouq Aminu leads the Demon Deacons with 7 points.
  • Davidson 50, Georgia Southern 22: Curry has 20 as the Wildcats are putting it on GSU with less than a minute left in the half.
- Clemson scored the first six points, but FSU has gone on a 21-12 run since then to take a 29-18 lead. Toney Douglas leads the 'Noles with 8 points.

- UConn is up 27-20 on Notre Dame, and it is because of the great play of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. Combined, they have 20 points, 11 boards, 7 blocks, and are 9-9 from the floor. I really hope that some NBA scouts are watching this game, because Thabeet's offensive arsenal is really on display. Three shots inparticular stand out: he knocked down a 16 foot jumper; he was posting up Luke Harangody, and from about eight feet out on the wing, he quickly faced the rim and hit a little jumper; and then he got the ball about 12 feet from the basket on the right side of the floor, waited while he let the defense clear, then took two dribbles backing down Luke Zeller before faking a drop-step (over his right shoulder, towards the baseline) and went to the middle with a right-handed hook. I know that ND is a small team inside, but that was an NBA move.

- The noon games are done:
  • Georgetown 56, Villanova 54: This game was terrible to watch. A DaJuan Summers free throw put Georgetown up 50-42 with 10 minutes left in the game. The Hoyas then proceeded to score just two points over the next nine minutes. The win means that G'Town is back in the conversation as a bubble team despite being just 6-10 in the league. Their next two are against St. John's and DePaul, and if the Hoyas can avoid losing one of them, they will be 17-12 on the season with a top 50 RPI (maybe top 40 after beating 'Nova) and the toughest schedule in the country. With wins against top 10 teams Memphis, UConn, and Villanova, the Hoyas are going to be a difficult team to leave out. Are they any different than Arizona last year? For the Wildcats, this loss is pretty devastating to their hopes of landing a top four seed in the Big East tournament. They are now two games back of Pitt and Marquette (although, Pitt plays Marquette and UConn, and Nova holds the tie breaker between the two).
  • North Carolina 104, Georgia Tech 74: Tyler Hansbrough ended up with 28 and 10, Danny Green had 23, and Ty Lawson added 11 dimes.
  • Butler 58, Cleveland State 56: Ronald Nored hit a layup with 53 second left as Butler hung on the beat Cleveland State. Willie Veasley led the Bulldogs with a career high 16 points.
- Does either team want to win this game? Villanova turns the ball over with under a minute left down three, but then Jason Clark gives it right back.

- This is some terrible basketball to watch. Corey Stokes just hit a free throw to make the score 52-51 with a minute left - the first point in four minutes. Dante Cunningham did have a sensational block, however.

- And as I wrote that, Georgetown committed two turnovers against the Villanova press. They now have 22 for the game.

- DaJuan Summers has finally woken up. He has 16 points, scoring the Hoya's last six points, as Georgetown has opened up a 50-44 lead. As good as Summers is playing right now, it is the Georgetown defense that has been the difference. 'Nova is shooting just 34% from the floor.

- How about this for a stat: Georgetown has 18 baskets and 16 turnovers; Villanova has 11 baskets and 12 turnovers.

- Georgetown had opened up an eight point lead early in the second half, but Scottie Reynolds has led the Wildcats back. He scored six quick points and had an assist for a Corey Fisher three, which cut the lead 42-39. Turnovers are killing Georgetown. They are shooting 59% from the field, but have 15 turnovers. Two back-to-back led to run out lay-ups for 'Nova, which also caused Austin Freeman to pick up two quick fouls - his third and fourth.

- Some scores for you: G'Town is up 32-27 on Villanova, UNC is beating Georgia Tech 46-33, and Butler is up 38-32 against Cleveland State.

- The Hoyas are starting to heat up. They have hit six straight shots and opened up a 30-27 lead. Now if they can just stop fouling and turning the ball over. 'Nova has hit 13 of 16 free throws and G'Town has 11 turnovers already.

- Just flipped over to the UNC-Georgia Tech game, and the Heels are in the midst of a 13-0 run that blew open a two point game. Tyler Hansbrough, who has been far from the Psycho T we have come to know, already has 18 points and 6 boards with four minutes left in the first half.

- This is not a pretty basketball game. 9 total turnovers. G'Town is shooting 27%, Villanova is shooting 23%. Both teams look like they have come out of the gates a bit tight.

- Thanks for joining us on this Saturday!! We're starting out the day watching Villanova-Georgetown. Big game for both teams, as Georgetown is trying to keep their slim NCAA tourney hopes alive. Villanova, on the other hand, is trying to get into the top four of the Big East, thus giving themselves a bye for the first two rounds of the Big East tournament.
Continue reading...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Lay-up Lines: Siena Takes On Niagara

Only one interesting game tonight happens in Canada Niagara as the two best teams in the MAAC, Siena (22-6, 15-1) and Niagara (22-7, 12-4), go head-to-head. It is on ESPN U at 7:00 PM, so if the whole Happy Hour thing doesn't do it for you, be sure to tune in.

Nothing else on tonight, so I'll give you this: Blake Lively.

My future wife. Jealous?

We'll be back here on Saturday to spend the day blogging away.
Continue reading...

Friday Morning Shootaround: Washington Knocks Off Arizona State in OT

Justin Dentmon hit a three to tie the game at 59 with 1:53 left in the game, then hit a runner on the Huskies next possession to take the lead. But after grabbing a defensive rebound with under 30 seconds left, Dentmon was stripped by James Harden in the backcourt, and Harden went in for a dunk that sent the game to OT. In OT, Jon Brockman was too much, scoring on the Huskies first two possessions. James Harden fouled out on the next possession, and U-Dub rolled to a win and a 1 1/2 game lead in the Pac-10.

The Huskies can control their own destiny in regards to winning an outright Pac-10 title. They have two games left - at home to Arizona and Washington State - and if they win them both, they win the Pac-10 regular season title.

Brockman had 21 points and 11 boards, but was out played by Jeff Pendergraph (24 and 13). Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas both struggled in the win, combining to go 7-27, 2 -13 from deep, for just 27 points.

The rest of Thursday's games:

  • Michigan 87, Purdue 78: DeShawn Sims scored 29 points and Manny Harris added 27 and 8 boards as the Wolverines kept their tournament hopes alive. They have two games left, at Wisconsin and at Minnesota before the Big Ten tournament, and may very well need to win both to get in. But the important part is that they are still alive. Robbie Hummel's back looks to be feeling better as he went for 24 points, but Purdue drops to two games back of Michigan State.
  • Illinois 52, Minnesota 41: Illinois, who may very well be the toughest defensive team in the country, held Minnesota to 8-28 shooting in the second half and didn't allow the Gophers to score over the final 6:21 as they moved into second place in the Big Ten. For the game, Minnesota shot 32%, just 1-14 from deep, and had 20 turnovers (they also only got to the line three times). Mike Davis led three guys in double figures with 14 points and 11 boards.
  • Cincinnati 65, West Virginia 61: Freshman Yancy Gates had his second career double-double, going for 22 and 11 which included the clinching free throw with 3.1 seconds left, as Cinci spoiled Bob Huggins return to Cincinnati. It was a huge win for the Bearcats tournament hopes, as West Virginia is a team ranked very high (15) in the RPI. With three games left, including one at Syracuse, Cinci probably needs to go 2-1 to get in, which is very possible. The Bearcat win left a log jam in the middle of the league standings. Providence is sixth at 9-7 while WVU, Syracuse, and Cinci are tied for seventh at 8-7, with Notre Dame sitting in tenth at 7-8. In the BET this year, fifth-eighth get a first round bye.
  • Miami 62, Virginia 55: Jack McClinton scored just 11, but he hit a big three with 47 seconds left to give Miami a five point lead as the Hurricanes kept their tourney hopes alive.
  • Butler 78, Youngstown State 57: Matt Howard had 25 points and 10 boards as Butler clinched at least a share of the Horizon League title.
  • Xavier 68, St. Joe's 54: Derrick Brown and BJ Raymond both scored 18 points, and Brown also added 10 boards, as the Musketeers ended a three game losing streak on the road.
  • Memphis 71, UAB 60: Memphis was down 50-49 late in the game before going on a 22-10 run to close it out and keep their C-USA winning streak alive. Oh, and Tyreke Evans did this:

  • Wake Forest 85, NC State 78: Wake nearly blew a 15 point lead, but James Johnson saved the Demon Deacons by going for career-highs of 28 points and 18 boards.
  • Cal 81, USC 78 OT: Cal managed to stay tied for second in the Pac-10 on the strength on 29 points from Patrick Christopher. 8 of those came in OT. Cal blew a 61-51 lead in the last 6:56 of regulation.
  • UCLA 76, Stanford 71: Josh Shipp went for 24 points, hitting 9-12 from the field, as UCLA overcame a 14 points first half deficit to remain tied for second place in the Pac-10.
  • Gonzaga 81, Santa Clara 73: The 'Zags got 29 points for Josh Heytvelt, who outplayed SC's big man John Bryant, to help Gonzaga stay undefeated in the WCC. Gonzaga was helped out by two late tech's because fans were throwing trash onto the court.
  • La Salle 70, Temple 63: The Owls dropped a game back of Xavier in the A-10.
  • Washington State 69, Arizona 53: Taylor Rochestie led Wazzu with 17 points as Arizona lost their second straight game.
  • Utah State 82, Hawaii 62
  • St. Mary's 62, Pepperdine 49
Continue reading...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Which Point Guard Would You Take To Lead Your Team In The NCAA Tournament: Gary Parrish Got It ... Right?

Yesterday, we wrote a column critiquing the decision of Gary Parrish to select Steph Curry as the point guard he would want to lead his team through the NCAA tournament.

Well, he caught wind of the post and was kind enough to email me a response:

First, thanks for the note and the kind words. I've got your blog bookmarked, and somebody had actually already sent this to me.

As for your post, I don't completely disagree with your points, but I think you're coming at the question differently than it was presented (or at least differently than I did). I wasn't asked who would I take as my guard. Or shooting guard. Or who I'd want to play beside Stephen Curry. I was asked a very simple and specific question, and that question was who would I want starting at point guard for me from the list provided by the reader.

I guess I could've explained that I don't want to consider Curry a point guard, that I would take Ty Lawson and then put Curry beside him, but that seemed like a lot of trouble. Thus, I decided that if I could only pick one guy off the list, and if Curry was labeled a point guard for these purposes, then there's no way I was passing on Curry, not after what I watched him do in last season's NCAA tournament.

In other words, I interpreted the question this way: Who is the one guy on this list you want in March?

The answer to that question is Stephen Curry.

But if you want to take it deeper, what I'd really like to do (if it's all up to me) is use Ty Lawson as my point guard, Stephen Curry as my shooting guard and James Harden on the wing. Then I'd put Hasheem Thabeet in the middle and place Blake Griffin beside him, and I think I'd be ready to march to the Final Four, barring a concussion to a key player, of course.
I can't really argue with that.

Anyway, a big thanks to Gary Parrish for getting back to one of us little guys so quickly. Continue reading...

Thursday Lay-up Lines: Battle atop the Pac-10, again

Last week, it was Washington playing UCLA on a Thursday. UCLA won, but went on the lose to Wazzu, meaning that tonight's game between Washington (20-7, 11-4) and Arizona State (21-5, 10-4) would be for first place in the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is as muddled as any league in the country. There are four teams within a game (in the loss column) of first place. Washington has three home games, and if they win out they will be the outright Pac-10 regular season champs. Arizona State lost to Washington at home in their first meeting 84-71, but hasn't lost since, winning five straight.

Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon combined for 55 points in the first meeting, so if the Sun Devils want to steal this one on the road, they are going to need slow down the Huskies backcourt.

There are a lot of other key games on tonight as well:

  • 7:00 PM: Minnesota (20-7, 8-7) @ Illinois (22-6, 10-5): Minnesota is probably in the tournament right now, but a win here would likely lock up a bid. Illinois is not only playing for seeding in the NCAA tournament, but the Big Ten tourney as well. A loss would put them just a game up on the four teams vying for the fourth and fifth spots.
  • 7:00 PM: Youngstown State (11-16, 7-9) @ Butler (23-4, 13-3): The Bulldogs avoided dropping out of the top 25 with a convincing win at Davidson. Prior to that, they had lost three of five.
  • 7:00 PM: Xavier (22-5, 10-3) @ St. Joe's (14-12, 7-5): St. Joe's was alone in first place in the A-10 before a recent four game losing streak. The Hawks could give X trouble inside, as Ahmad Nivins might be the best big man you haven't seen play.
  • 7:00 PM: La Salle (14-12, 5-7) @ Temple (17-9, 9-3): Temple looks to keep pace with Xavier atop the A-10 (in the loss column). Both teams are now a game up on Rhode Island and Dayton.
  • 7:00 PM: West Virginia (19-8, 8-6) @ Cincinnati (17-10, 7-7): This is a huge game for Cincinnati. Not only is it a homecoming for Bob Huggins, but it is a game they almost need to win to get into the dance. Winning at Syracuse will be tough, and beating Seton Hall and South Florida to get to .500 in the Big East probably won't cut it, so tonight is probably their best opportunity to play their way in. WVU is a good match-up for them as well. Both teams play a very physical, defensive style of ball where they get a lot of their offensive off of forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive glass.
  • 8:00 PM: NC State (15-10, 5-7) @ Wake Forest (20-5, 7-5): Wake Forest has a bad habit of losing to the bottom of the ACC.
  • 8:00 PM: Miami FL (16-10, 5-8) @ Virginia (9-14, 3-9): Miami needs to win out to have a chance at an at-large.
  • 9:00 PM: Memphis (24-3, 12-0) @ UAB (19-8, 9-3): Remember what happened last time Memphis played at UAB? Chris Douglas-Roberts hit a buzzer beater, and the UAB fans got into it with the Memphis players (video montage here - lyrics very NSFW).
  • 9:00 PM: Purdue (21-6, 10-4) @ Michigan (17-11, 7-8): Purdue is looking to stay within a game of Michigan State atop the Pac-10, while Michigan is simply trying to stay on the bubble.
  • 9:00 PM: Arizona (18-9, 8-6) @ Washington State (14-13, 6-9): Arizona snapped a seven game losing streak when they lost to Arizona State on Sunday. If they can split this weekend, they may have played their way into the tournament, which would be an impressive feat for Russ Pennell's team.
  • 9:05 PM: Hawaii (13-13, 5-8) @ Utah State (25-3, 12-1): The Aggies probably need to win their conference tourney to get into the dance at this point.
  • 10:30 PM: USC (16-10, 7-7) @ Cal (20-7, 9-5): USC might need to win out to earn a bid at this point. Cal, on the other hand, is more than likely in (as long as they avoid a collapse) but with the west seeming very weak this season, winning out for them could earn a top four or five seed.
  • 10:30 PM: UCLA (20-7, 9-5) @ Stanford (15-10, 4-10): UCLA=Cal.
  • 10:30 PM: St. Mary's (22-5, 8-4) @ Pepperdine (8-20, 5-7): What is more disappointing - seeing Patty Mills break his hand, meaning that there is a good chance the Gaels don't make the tourney; or seeing Dom James break his foot and knowing that Marquette probably won't be making a deep run this year?
  • 11:00 PM: Gonzaga (21-5, 12-0) @ Santa Clara (14-15, 6-6): Gonzaga has already locked up the WCC crown, but SC is still playing for tournament seeding. If you are up, be sure to tune in to see SC big man John Bryant, who is another excellent big man that flies under the radar.
Continue reading...

Blake Griffin: Still Not Ready To Play

Concussions are no laughing matter. Too many can end a career.

Which is why Oklahoma is being extra cautious with their talented big man. During Monday's game, Tommy Griffin (Blake and Taylor's father) told the Oklahoman that while his son was getting better, he was still far from being ready to play.

And if you watched that game, it is easy to believe. Griffin was into it and enthusiastic on the sidelines as OU made their comeback, but there were also times when he clearly was being affected by the lights in the gym. He looked very woozy at times as well.

Now this from Jeff Capel. Asked about whether Griffin will play on Saturday against Texas Tech:

Right now we still have no clue. It takes time, and we're not going to do anything to rush it. We want him to be OK before he plays again or before we even put him in a position to practice with us again. He's getting better. But it's a slow process, and we don't want to speed it up.
To be honest, I think the Sooners are going about this the right way. The game against Texas Tech doesn't matter (hell, they should win that game without the big fella). After that, OU plays Missouri and Oklahoma State, two much tougher games (although at this point in the season, any loss will essentially end OU's chances of winning the Big XII outright). Continue reading...

Clemson's Raymond Sykes: 60 Times More Powerful Than An Earthquake

Some guys at Clemson University have come up with this nifty little gadget (pictured) that can measure how powerful a dunk is. How does it work?:

The device uses a combination of two accelerometers, which measure acceleration, and the principles of basic physics to allow students to calculate within 15 seconds of the dunk how much energy was imparted to the basketball goal. Measurements appear on the video board almost immediately.
That's actually pretty cool, and I think these guys are going to earn themselves quite a bit of money with that toy. Don't you think it would be perfect for an NBA game? NBA Arenas are essentially entertainment venues at this point. Would it not fire up the fans if you saw a Dwight Howard dunk, then looked up to the scoreboard to see that it broke 100 g's?

Their biggest issue right now is how to make these numbers relevant. 100 g's? That does not mean anything to me. It gets even more confusing:
"Ray Sykes had a nasty dunk at the East Carolina University game," said Jonathan Cox, one of the students working on the project. "It peaked at a little over 30 g's, one of the highest recorded so far. That's awesome when you consider an earthquake's ground motion produces accelerations around point five and one g."
Right, so Ray Sykes can dunk 60 times more powerfully than an earth quake.

I think they forgot to carry the two.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thursday Morning Shootaround: Dominc James Breaks His Foot, Jerel McNeal Breaks His Ankle

Jim Calhoun became just the seventh coach in college basketball history to record 800 wins as the Huskies knocked off Marquette 93-82 in Wisconsin. The most important news coming from this game, however, was that Dominic James, the Golden Eagles senior starting point guard, is done for the season after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. It is a huge blow for to Marquette's season as they were already terribly thin. Maurice Acker, a high school teammate of Jerel McNeal's, will be stepping in at the point.

UConn had control for much of the game, but Marquette put a couple runs on them. Early in the first half, the Golden Eagles went on a 16-3 run to open up a six point lead, but UConn immediately responded by scoring the next 16 points to go up 38-28. UConn eventually led 43-37 at the half. UConn would again go up double digits in the second half, taking a 59-48 lead after AJ Price scored eight straight points, but Marquette had an answer. They scored 12 straight to take the lead, and the two teams would spend the next six minutes trading baskets before a Kemba Walker and-1 lay-up sparked an 11-0 run that put Marquette away.

AJ Price played the best game of his UConn career in this one. He finished the game with a career-high 36 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists, while knocking down a career high eight three's. He also was responsible for Jerel McNeal's broken ankles.

That was dirty. Jerel McNeal might be the best on ball defender in the Big East and Price made him fall, looked down at him, then buried a jumper. I guarantee that gets replayed in Marquette's film session.

Thabeet, as you would expect, controlled the paint on both ends, especially in the second half, as he finished with 14 points, 15 boards, and 5 blocks. But the real x-factor in this game was the play of Stanley Robinson. Sticks has had a bit of an up-and-down season as he has been trying to figure out where exactly he fits in this UConn line-up. Marquette had no answer for him as he was a match-up nightmare, more so that Thabeet or Jeff Adrien (who didn't show up in this one). Sticks finished the game with 19 points, 10 boards (4 offensive), and seemingly every loose ball. When he plays like he did tonight (energy going to the glass, aggressiveness attacking the rim off the bounce) he provides this UConn team with an element that not many teams in the country have.

One thing to keep an eye on. If Sticks continues to play this way, it will help to ease the loss of Jerome Dyson. The guy getting minutes in Dyson's place is Scottie Haralson, a freshman known for his deadly jumper - something UConn hasn't had since Rashad Anderson (he finished 2-5 from deep in this one, with an airball...).

Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews finished with a combined 46 points, 9 boards, and 9 assists for Marquette. The loss of James is really going to hurt the Eagles. He is their senior point guard who has started since day one. As much as losing his leadership will effect this team, it is going to hurt even more when it comes to their depth. Marquette already had a very shallow bench, and now looks like they will be forced to go with a six man rotation. That is going to be a huge factor during the postseason tournaments (can McNeal, Matthews, and Lazar Hayward 40 minutes three straight nights?).

The rest of the night's games:

  • Virginia Tech 80, Clemson 77: Malcolm Delaney scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half as the Hokies got a huge win on the road. The win allowed Tech revenge for a game last month in Blacksburg in which the Hokies blew a 15 point second half lead. The Hokies took control in the second half by knocking down 7-11 three's (they were 11-19 on the game). AD Vassallo, who finished with 21 points, hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to put Tech up three. Trevor Booker had 21 and 13 for Clemson, but he was held to just six second half points. Terrence Oglesby had 22 for the Tigers. With the win, the Hokies get that much closer to cementing a NCAA bid.
  • Duke 78, Maryland 67: Gerald Henderson scored 19 points as Duke was able to hang on against a scrappy Maryland team. Freshman Elliot Williams, starting his fourth straight game, finished with 15 points and 6 boards. The game was blown open at around the three minute mark when Duke went on a 12-3 run that gave them a 72-63 lead. Maryland was lucky to be around as long as they were. Greivis Vazquez sat the majority of the second half after picking up his fourth foul early and fouling out right as Duke started their run. The loss doesn't ice the Terps yet, but they still probably need to win two of their last three down the stretch if they hope to be dancing.

    Nolan Smith got lit up by a Dave Neal screen and did not return to the game. In the telecast, they said that Smith was taken to the locker room experiencing nausea. No word yet on how badly he is hurt.
  • South Carolina 77, Kentucky 59: UK never led and never trailed by less than 18 in the second half. Devan Downey led the Gamecocks with 21, 5 and 5 while Patrick Patterson had 28 and 12 boards in the loss. This loss could really hurt the Wildcats, who still have LSU and Florida on their schedule. USC now owns sole possession of first in the league.
  • Rhode Island 93, Dayton 91 OT: Rhode Island put a serious crimp into the tourney hopes of Dayton thanks to this:

  • Villanova 74, DePaul 72: Villanova barely hung on against a scrappy DePaul team. Dante Cunningham had 14 of his 18 points in the second half. Villanova opened up a 52-44 lead midway through the second frame, but a three-point barrage from Will Walker down the stretch kept DePaul close.
  • Missouri 94, Kansas State 74: Denis Clemente had 33, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Tigers, who jumped out to a 55-32 lead at the half. DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 21 and 14. The Wildcats missed on an opportunity to stamp their ticket to the dance.
  • Utah 70, UNLV 60: The Utes got 19 and 13 from Luke Nevill as they managed to stay two games up on BYU in the loss column.
  • Tennessee 81, Mississippi State 76: Scottie Hopson led four guys in double figures as Tennessee stayed a game back of South Carolina in the SEC East.
  • Texas 87, Texas Tech 81: Damion James had 20 and 11 and AJ Abrams added 24 points as Texas turned it on in the second half against the Pat Knight-less Red Raiders.
  • Michigan State 62, Iowa 54: Delvon Roe scored 16 points and Korie Lucious had 12 as the Spartans opened up a game and a half lead in the Big Ten.
  • Notre Dame 70, Rutgers 65: Luke Harangody had 20 and 15 as the Irish kept their name in the tourney hunt with a less-than-convincing win over Rutgers.
  • Davidson 70, UNC-Greensboro 49: Steph Curry had 20, 10 and 5 dimes.
  • Northeastern 47, Drexel 46: Baptiste Bataille tipped in the game winner for NEU with 1.2 seconds left.
Continue reading...

Dominic James Fractures Bone In His Left Foot

We will update this story as more comes out, but the ESPN guys at the UConn-Marquette game are reporting that Dominic James has fractured the fifth-metatarsal bone in his left foot. He is probably done for the season.

This is one of those injuries that just breaks your heart. James is a senior that has really adapted his game to better his team, and Marquette is having fantastic season with him running the point. You hate seeing anyone get hurt, but to see a senior lose the rest of his college career in a season where he has a chance to win a Big East regular season title ...

I feel for the kid. Here's to hoping they got the original diagnosis wrong.

UPDATE: They didn't. He's out for the year. Continue reading...

Maryland Fans Sure Are The Best: Operation Scheyerface 2.0

When watching the game, look behind the basket in the second half. The plan? Each student is to print out one of the following pictures and hold it up while Duke is shooting free throws.

What are the pictures of? Have a look after the jump.

That isn't the funniest part of what Terps fans did in preparation for the Duke game. Over at the Terpcenter message boards, Maryland fans posted the address and phone number for the hotel that Duke was staying at. While the following transcript cannot be verified, it has been confirmed that Duke players were in fact getting called. Damn journalistic integrity, I'm posting this because it is pretty funny:

"Hello, this is ****** with the Washington Times, sorry to bother you at this hour Mr. Paulus, but we are running a small piece tomorrow and I was hoping to take 2 minutes and ask you a question?"

Him: "Uhhh, sure"

"If you had to choose between Deron Washington, Danny Green, and Dwayne Collins, who's nuts would you say tasted the best?"

I really hope it is true. Jason Davis, the moderator over at Duke Basketball Report, also gave the hotel a call:
Holy %!%!%, it is true. I figured there was no way it was true so I called the hotel and asked for Chris Collins' room. The hotel operator connected me right away-- no questions asked. I was shocked. I told Coach Collins that I was a Duke fan and that a Maryland fan bulletin board had gotten info about their hotel. I warned him that many fans were planning to call their rooms late tonight. I suggested that he call the front desk and tell them to not put through calls to the Duke rooms. He said, "thanks man," though I am not sure he really cared. Maybe what I did was really uncool, but I think it is worth warning the team as I bet they would have gotten a few late night calls when they were sleeping.

And some pictures from two years ago, also known as Operation Scheyerface 1.0:

Continue reading...

Which Point Guard Would You Take To Lead Your Team In The NCAA Tournament: Gary Parrish Got It Wrong

I like Gary Parrish.

In fact, he is probably the college basketball writer that I read the most. Why? Because he and I have very similar viewpoints on most things college hoops.

Well, usually that is.

If you're not familiar with Parrish's blog, he runs this segment called "Dear Gary", where he answers questions emailed in by readers. On Tuesday, a reader asked him what point guard he would take to lead his team in the NCAA tournament.

Parrish said Steph Curry.

I disagree for one, simple reason: the point is not Curry's best position.

Curry can take over a tournament, but can he do it as a point guard?
(photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Yes, he can play the point and if this season is any indication, he can have success playing that role. But why would you want to take a guy to run the point when it is not his best position on the floor?

Think about it like this. Who would Curry be more effective with when paired in the back court: Ty Lawson or Wayne Ellington? Levance Fields or Jerel McNeal? Nick Calathes or James Harden?

The answer to each is the point guard.

Just look at his numbers from last year to this year: his points and assists are up, but so are his turnovers while his shooting percentage from deep has dropped. Granted, much of this statistical change is because Curry is the main, and a lot of times the only, offensive threat on the floor for Davidson and thus the main, and a lot of times the only, defensive focus for opponent's (crazy stat of the day: The Citadel lost to Davidson at home by 15 when the Wildcats had Curry, but beat Davidson at Davidson by 18 without Curry).

Those changes become even more drastic when you look at Curry's numbers against tournament teams. In five games against Oklahoma, West Virginia, Purdue, Duke, and Butler, Curry put up these stats: 26.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 6.2 t/o's, 33% FG and 23% from deep.

Again, a lot of that is because he is the one and only offensive threat on his Davidson team. But are you really going to rest your tournament hopes on a kid that has not proven the ability to run the point efficiently against top caliber competition?

I'm not.

If I had to choose a point guard, it would be either Ty Lawson (most talented offensive PG) or Sherron Collins (as good as anyone, but is a proven winner). Right now, I think I take Collins.

This is not supposed to bash Curry. In fact, out of anyone in college basketball right now, if I were picking a player for a tournament run, Curry would be my second choice, right behind (a healthy) Blake Griffin and right before Jerel McNeal.

Parrish is right about one thing. Curry has proven the ability to take over a game, the ability to hit tough shots in the clutch, and the ability to create for himself while still being able to find the open man.

Which is why he is my second choice for a player to lead my tournament team.

Just not at the point. Continue reading...

Wednesday Lay-up Lines: UConn-Marquette Highlights A Night Full Of Games With Bubble Implications

UConn (25-2, 13-2) will travel to Marquette (23-4, 12-2) in a showdown for first place in the Big East. Marquette is currently a half-game behind UConn and Louisville in the Big East standings (and a half game up on Pitt), but the Golden Eagles will play each of those three teams in the next ten days. This is going to be a very interesting match-up to watch. Marquette has no big men. At all. But they have one of the best backcourts in the country (especially when you add in Lazar Hayward to the mix). UConn, on the other hand, has a big front line, but is hurting for depth at the guard position with Jerome Dyson out for the season. This game is going to come down to one simple thing - who can take advantage of the mismatch. Will UConn beat Marquette on the interior, or will the Marquette's guards be too much for UConn to handle defensively? I think the latter will be true, as Marquette will almost assuredly go small, forcing Thabeet to come out and guard a perimeter player (or forcing Calhoun to go zone, which he never wants to do). For all you NBA scouts out there, be ready to watch Thabeet go against a pick-and-roll.

While a battle atop the Big East is almost common place at this point, there is a ton of other good basketball on the schedule for tonight:

  • 7:00 PM: Rutgers (10-17, 1-13) @ Notre Dame (15-11, 6-8): The Irish absolutely cannot lose this one.
  • 7:00 PM: Dayton (23-4, 9-3) @ Rhode Island (20-8, 9-4): Rhode Island is in fourth in the A-10, but just a game out of first place behind Xavier.
  • 7:00 PM: Kentucky (19-8, 8-4) @ South Carolina (19-6, 8-4): The top of the SEC plays each other quite a bit over the last two weeks of the season. With no team really asserting themselves as a lock (aside from LSU), look for someone to drop out of the bubble picture.
  • 7:30 PM: Virginia Tech (16-10, 6-6) @ Clemson (22-4, 8-4): Virginia Tech might be playing their way off of the bubble after losing three in a row and five of seven. They do get some chances at statement games as they have Duke, UNC, and Florida State after Clemson, although at this point in the season, wins may be more important for Va Tech than game against the top of the ACC.
  • 8:00 PM: Villanova (22-5, 10-4) @ DePaul (8-19, 0-14): Will DePaul get a win in the Big East?
  • 8:30 PM: Iowa (14-13, 4-10) @ Michigan State (21-5, 11-3): The Spartans are clinging to a one game lead in the Big Ten.
  • 9:00 PM: Duke (22-5, 8-4) @ Maryland (17-9, 6-6): Maryland may have played their way into the tournament, but a win tonight against Duke or next week Clemson could help ensure their standing on the right side of the bubble.
  • 9:00 PM: Mississippi State (17-10, 7-5) @ Tennessee (16-10, 7-5): Even with a mediocre record playing in a mediocre conference, most pundits have Tennessee easily in the tourney because of the difficulty of their schedule. The story will be different if they keep losing.
  • 9:00 PM: Kansas State (19-8, 7-5) @ Missouri (23-4, 10-2): Missouri will win the Big XII if they win out. That will be tough, as they still play Kansas and Oklahoma after KSU, but the Tigers hold their destiny in their hands. Kansas State, on the other hand, has won seven of eight in the Big XII. They have two excellent scoring guards in Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen, but those two have a tendency to turn to ball over. They cannot afford to against Missouri's press.
  • 9:30 PM: Texas Tech (12-15, 2-10) @ Texas (18-8, 7-5): The Longhorns still have some work to do to ensure a berth in the tourney, although playing the Pat Knight-less Red Raiders shouldn't pose too much of a challenge.
  • 10:00 PM: UNLV (20-7, 8-5) @ Utah (19-7, 10-2): Big game out in the MWC, especially for UNLV, who needs a couple wins to improve their tournament stock.
  • 10:30 PM: Oklahoma State (17-9, 6-6) @ Colorado (9-17, 1-11): The Cowboys can not afford to lose this one.
There is also some good mid-major action tonight:
  • 7:00 PM: UNC Greensboro (4-23, 3-15) @ Davidson (22-6, 15-2): Davidson probably needs to win the SoCon tourney at this point, so it is a moot point saying that this is a must win game.
  • 7:00 PM: VCU (19-9, 12-4) @ James Madison (18-11, 9-7); William & Mary (9-18, 4-12) @ Old Dominion (18-9, 10-6); 7:00 PM: George Mason (18-9, 11-5) @ UNC Wilmington (7-23, 3-13); Northeastern (17-10, 11-5) @ Drexel (15-11, 10-6); 7:30 PM: Hofstra (19-9, 10-6), Georgia State (10-18, 7-9): The CAA winner is going to come from one of the team's playing here.
  • 8:00 PM: Navy (18-9, 7-5) @ American (19-7, 11-1)
Continue reading...

Can Oklahoma or North Carolina Stop A Talented Two-Guard?

Tyler Hansbrough of '08-'09 is not the same Psycho T that won player of the year in '07-'08. UNC has a ton of injuries and suspensions that have cut into their depth. Deon Thompson is not the same player that was he three months ago.

The Heels have a multitude of worries right now, but none of them should be Roy Williams' most pressing concern.

Blake Griffin is out with a concussion, and he may be out for a while longer. The Sooners offense is reduced the Willie Warren without the big fella roaming the paint. Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker are rendered almost useless without Griffin's interior presence to play off of.

But like the Heels, none of those should be Jeff Capel's biggest worry.

There is no arguing that these two teams are supremely talented. One is leading the ACC with four guys that could end up all-league, including possibly the player of the year in Ty Lawson. The other was leading the Big XII until the Griffin injury and has the favorite for national player of the year and a candidate for national freshman of the year. Both are considered near locks for a #1 seed come Selection Sunday.

But both teams face a serious obstacle in their quest to make a trip to Detroit for the Final Four: stopping a scoring point guard.

Take a look at some of these performances.

Jeff Teague torched Wayne Ellington and the Heels for 34 points
back in January.
(photo credit: Bruce Chapman/Winston-Salem Journal)
Against Oklahoma:

- Steph Curry had 44 in a 72-68 Oklahoma win (but if you remember Curry single-handedly brought Davidson back from 20 down in the last ten minutes).

- AJ Abrams scored 23 points, but more importantly had 18 of the 'Horn's last 20 as they came back to beat the Sooners 73-68.

- Sherron Collins had 26, including three huge three's down the stretch to help hold off a furious OU comeback.

- While he didn't put up the scoring numbers, Courtney Fortson had 12 points, 10 assists, and 8 boards as Arkansas upset the Sooners 96-88.

Against UNC:

- Jeff Teague went for 34 points in 92-89 Wake Forest win.

- Jack McClinton went for 35 in a 69-65 UNC win.

- Tyrese Rice went for 25 and 8 dimes in a 85-78 BC win.

- Toney Douglas went for 32 in a 80-77 UNC win.

- The most impressive of them all, Greivis Vazquez had 35, 10 boards, 11 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in an 88-85 Maryland win in OT.

The question becomes why?

Why can't the Sooners or the Tar Heels stop a talented lead guard?

The answer is simple - neither team has a defensive stopper in their back court. Danny Green and Tony Crocker are both good defensively, but you can't put them on the opposing team's point guard when it would mean Warren/Johnson would have to match-up with the likes of Damion James, or Lawson/Ellington would have to guard a James Johnson.

So what is the answer? Personally, I would face guard the opposing player for 94 feet, doing everything I could to keep the ball out of his hands.

But that's just me.

Keep this in mind when you are filling out your brackets. If Oklahoma draws, say, Boston College in the second round, you may want to be on upset alert. Continue reading...

Jim Calhoun Criticized By CT Governor Jodi Rell

Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell criticized Jim Calhoun for his outburst at a reporter after Saturday's win over South Florida, his 799th.

If you haven't seen the clip yet, here it is:

Governor Rell is correct that Calhoun probably was a little bit harsh on an overzealous freelance reporter that was clearly just trying to drive traffic to his blog. The situation is pretty bad in CT. From the Hartford Courant:

the state's growing budget deficit is projected by the legislature's nonpartisan fiscal office at $1.35 billion for the current fiscal year and $8.7 billion over the next two fiscal years. State employees are being asked for furlough days and other concessions as the legislature tries to wrestle with the worst fiscal crisis in decades.
Calhoun is, in fact, the highest paid state employee, and while it was not the place or the time for the question (it actually was the first question asked at the post-game news conference), it is one that deserves to be asked.

In the video, you can hear Calhoun say "come back with some facts." Well, here are the facts. The $12 million a year that Calhoun mentions is revenue only, not profit. A Boston Globe article claims that it is only $7.3 million that Calhoun's team generates, which is partially true. The athletic department also claims about $20 million in corporate sponsorship contracts, which are not generally assigned to a specific team (but to the department as a whole), but according to the Courant, the men's basketball team can fairly claim $5 million of that, bringing the total to over $12 million dollars.

That does not even factor in the money that a high-profile basketball team brings in via alumni and booster donations.

With reported expenditures of $6.1 million in 2007-2008, it is fairly obvious the school and the athletic department are both pocketing some good money.

What is that money used for? To help pay for non-revenue generating sports. To help pay coaches salaries. Honestly, it does not matter to me where the money goes, just that it is being brought into the University.

Calhoun is clearly good at his job. But it is more than just the money he is bringing in. He has won 799 career games and two national titles, and he already is a hall of famer.

When it comes down to it, Calhoun may actually be underpaid. Billy Donovan, who won back-to-back titles with UF in '06 and '07, makes $3.5 million. Coach K makes $2.2 million. Bill Self, who won the title last year, makes $30 million over ten years. Billy Gillispie, who has done absolutely nothing yet, is making $2.3 million. Rick Barnes is making $1.8 million. Thad Matta $1.75 million.

And you're complaining about the $1.6 million a living legend is making?

The bottom line is that while Calhoun may have reacted poorly to a sensitive line of questioning at the wrong time, it is not fair to criticize someone for their salary. Especially when that someone worked their tail to turn the UConn basketball program into a national power.

The reporter shall remain nameless and linkless here. If you want to read what he writes, find it on google. Continue reading...

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.
Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Lay-up Lines: LSU hosting Florida highlights an interesting night

LSU (23-4, 11-1) hosts Florida (21-6, 8-4) in one of the more intriguing match-ups this week. LSU remains largely a mystery to everyone outside of Baton Rouge. Playing in a joke of a weak SEC West, the Tigers best wins are against Washington State, South Carolina, and at Tennessee, all of which (except probably the win in Knoxville) are highly debatable as "quality" wins. But facts are facts, and the Tigers are, in fact, sitting at 23-4 with a three game lead over the pack in a power conference. This should be a fun one to watch. Florida likes to get out and run the floor, while LSU has a number of athletes capable of becoming youtube legends. I think LSU's size and athleticism will be too much for the Gators.

The rest of the tonight's hoops:

  • 7:00 PM: Penn State (19-8, 8-6) @ Ohio State (17-8, 7-7): This game has huge implications both for the two team's bubble prospects and for rankings in the Big Ten tournament. Right now, PSU is in fourth and OSU is in seventh, but a Buckeye win would create a four-way tie for fourth in the Big Ten. Why is that interesting? Because the top five teams get a bye in the first round.
  • 7:00 PM: Pitt (25-2, 12-2) @ Providence (16-11, 8-7): This may be the last chance for Providence, who has dropped five of seven after starting out the year 6-2 in the Big East. Tough match-up here, as the Friars, who are a jump shooting team don't play much defense, will be going against one of the toughest defensive teams in the country.
  • 7:30 PM: Syracuse (19-8, 7-7) @ St. John's (13-14, 4-10): The Orange could really use this win after losing seven of their last ten. Right now, they are tied with Cincinnati for the eighth in the Big East. For those that don't know, the top eight get a bye in the Big East tourney.
  • 8:05 PM: Northern Iowa (18-10, 12-4) @ Illinois State (22-6, 11-5); Creighton (23-6, 12-4) @ Missouri State (11-17, 3-13): First place in the MVC is on the line.
  • 9:00 PM: Florida State (21-8, 8-4) @ Boston College (19-9, 7-6): Florida State might have all but locked up a NCAA tourney bid, but BC still needs to pick up a couple of wins to feel comfortable. Should be fun to watch Toney Douglas go up against Tyrese Rice.
  • 10:30 PM: BYU (20-6, 8-4) @ SDSU (18-7, 8-4): These two teams are right on the bubble, and also tied for second place in the MWC.
Continue reading...

Renardo Sidney Commits to USC

Renardo Sidney is one of the best high school players in the country.

There is not arguing that.

Rivals has him as the #10 recruit in the country. Scout and ESPN rank him as #5. Think Greg Monroe plus a few pounds.

It has long been speculated that Sidney would be headed to UCLA (Jeff Goodman even says he had a press conference scheduled to commit there). It would make sense. UCLA desperately needs a big man. Alfred Aboya will be graduating this summer, and unless J'Mison Morgan suddenly turns into a star, the Bruins are going to have a void to fill in the middle.

Which is why I don't understand the Bruins reasoning for dropping their recruitment of Sidney.

On Sunday, Sidney announced his intentions to play for Tim Floyd and USC next season.

Yes, the same USC that OJ Mayo, Reggie Bush, Demar Derozon/Lil' Romeo, and now Daniel Hackett have played at.

So, again I ask, why did UCLA back off its recruitment of Sidney? If you believe one blog, is it because UCLA couldn't meet Sidney's price?

Personally, I am jaded enough to believe that everyone in the college basketball purchasing recruiting process is dirty. That is just the way it is these days. There is always an AAU coach or an uncle or a "handler" that is looking to make a little money or get a job off of knowing these kids.

Now I'm not saying that USC is doing anything illegal. Sidney hasn't taken his SAT's yet, and according to the Jeff Goodman article the UCLA administration was worried about whether they could allow him into the school (there are even reports he could end up in Europe). If he went from UCLA to USC, then it is safe to assume that he wanted to stay in Southern California (he goes to Fairfax High in LA). Solomon Hill, his current Fairfax High teammate, will also be attending USC in the fall.

So what does it all mean? I don't know. And I doubt I ever will. Let's just say that I am jaded enough to believe that this decision, and the decision of just about every other big time college hoops recruit, is not as clean as it would seem.

That's just the way you play the game.
Continue reading...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tuesday Morning Shootaround: Kansas hangs on to beat Oklahoma 87-78

Despite Blake Griffin sitting out the game with a concussion, Oklahoma went on a 20-2 run early in the first half to open up a 22-8 lead over Kansas. Willie Warren, who finished with 23 points on the game, had 10 in the opening run. Kansas would respond with a run powered by their own freshman guard, scoring 16 straight points, 11 of which came from Tyshawn Taylor. It didn't stop there, as Kansas would eventually go on to out score Oklahoma 50-16 over a 20 minute stretch spanning the first and second halves.

That run opened up a 58-38 lead, but the Sooners would come back. Using a tough press while knocking down a number of three's, OU was able to get the lead down to three on two different occasions. But everytime the Sooners got close, Sherron Collins knocked down a big three. He hit three big three's in the second off, two of which came in a very exciting stretch: OU hit a three to cut the lead to three; Collins responded by knocking down a triple; on the next possession Warren hit a pull-up three from about 26 feet only to see Collins hit one from just as deep when Kansas had the ball.

Sherron Collins knocked down a number of big shots Monday.
(photo credit: Jack Dempsey/AP)

Collins did hit some big shots in this game, but I still have a bit of an issue with his decision making. He had a couple turnovers late against the Oklahoma pressure when he got out of control attacking the press. What you can't question is his heart. I don't think the three's he hit down the stretch were necessarily the shots Bill Self was looking for (all three were when Collins was isolated at the top of the key at the end of the shot clock, pulling up from well beyond the college arc off the dribble), but what matters is that Collins stepped up when his team needed it (and make no mistake, this is his team to lead). The fact that he was able to knock down a tough shot(s) in a clutch situation should say a lot to you about this kid as a leader.

I am really taking a liking to this Kansas squad. Collins is a leader and a playmaker. Cole Aldrich is as tough as anyone in the country on the block (he had 15 points, 20 boards, and 4 blocks in this one). Tyshawn Taylor provides a spark along side Collins, as he is more of a playmaker and distributor than Collins (although neither is a pure point, both are "combo" guards). The Morris twins provide some great size, athleticism, and hustle. Tyrell Reed and Brady Morningstar are both good defenders that can hit big shots and don't make mistakes offensively. But the biggest reason I like them is that the freshman are really starting to mature.

The question with this team in the preseason was how quickly can a team with one returner (two if you consider Aldrich's eight minutes of fame in the Final Four) develop the toughness and maturity that it takes to perform at this level. The answer has been, well, not too long. As long as Kansas relies on the leadership of Collins and the strength of Aldrich inside, the newcomers have enough talent to make the Jayhawks a threat come March.

One more thing about Kansas. This is the second game I have watched them play where they collapsed against pressure down the stretch. Remember Mizzou? While they were able to hang on in this one, they did lose to the Tigers. If I'm Bill Self, I'm figuring out a way to beat that pressure when Mizzou heads to Lawrence on March 4th.

As far as Oklahoma is concerned, I would not be too worried. For starters, they made a valiant comeback against a talented team without their best player (and the best player in the country). But I think in the long run this is going to be good for OU. It is a good possibility that Blake Griffin will have a game in the tournament where he gets in foul trouble. But now the Sooners know that they can hang with just about anyone in the country even if Blake Griffin is on the bench. Cade Davis and Juan Patillo played great, while Willie Warren picked up where he left off against Texas.

Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker both had subpar games. But more than anything, it is because those guys feed off of the ball going to Blake Griffin. Everyone marvels at Griffin's rebounding numbers and his soaring dunks, but no one realizes is how good of a passer he is. Oklahoma is able to run their offense through him because he is willing to kick to ball out to guys like Crocker and Johnson. In turn, those two either knock down jumpers or put the ball on the floor and blow past defenders closing out. But since neither is a phenomenal 1-on-1 player, they are much less successful when forced to square some one up and beat them off the dribble.

Georgetown's tournament chances are all but done after they lost to Louisville 76-58. The difference in this game was pretty obvious - Louisville hit open shots while Georgetown didn't. There is a lot that goes into this - the Hoyas stopped going inside-out with the ball, they couldn't stay in front of T-Will or Earl Clark on the perimeter, Louisville's outstanding ball pressure forced G'Town into difficult possessions - but the bottom line is that the Hoyas just didn't make shots when they had open looks and Louisville did (especially from deep, where they were 6-6 in the first half and 8-12 for the game).

Once again, Terrence Williams stuffed the stat sheet.
(photo credit: Nick Wass/AP)

Terrence Williams once again turned in a good all-around performance. It is weird watching him play. It didn't seem like he was into the game at all tonight, but when you look at the box score, he finished with 10 points, 12 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals, and a block. I think the reason is that he doesn't play a position where it is usual to be able to have a big effect on a game without scoring a point. PG's can do it, managing a game, doling out assists, and not turning the ball over. Big guys can do it, controlling the glass and changing shots. It isn't often you see a player doing both at the same time, but that is kind of what T-Will does.

Earl Clark also had a great game for the Cardinals, finishing with 22 points, 8 boards, 4 steals, and 3 assists. When the two forwards for the 'Ville are playing like they did tonight, it is going to be so difficult to beat them.

Louisville's pressure was a treat to watch in person. They are just so good in it. The four-headed combo of Andre McGee, Jerry Smith, Edgar Sosa, and Preston Knowles is going to wreak havoc on everyone come March. Combine that with a front line that is as big and rangy as Louisville's, and you have yourself a potent defensive team. Continue reading...

BIAH Live: Louisville @ Georgetown

Tonight, I will be in attendance for the Louisville-Georgetown game at the Verizon Center in DC. The CoverItLive software that I use allows you to live-blog from a cell phone. Since I am going to need to know how to effectively use this program during the postseason, I figure tonight is as good of a chance as any to give it a test run.

So come by tonight and leave a comment, or just follow along.

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Monday Lay-up Lines: Big XII Showdown, but is Blake Griffin Playing?

Just two games of interest tonight. The first takes place in DC as Louisville (21-5, 12-2) takes on Georgetown (14-11, 5-9). This is a must win for the Hoyas. They have used up all of their margin for error, and essentially need to win out if they want to avoid an NIT trip. Louisville, on the other hand, is playing for seeding in both the Big East and the NCAA tournaments. The guy to watch in this game is Terrence Williams. I don't think anyone on Georgetown is a good match-up defensively for T-Will. Guys like Jason Clark and Jessie Sapp don't have the size or strength that Williams does, but I don't think Austin Freeman is quick enough to stay in front of him. Williams is the guy that Louisville runs their offense through, and I think that the Hoyas need to go zone tonight to slow him down.

I think the Hoyas match-up well with Louisville offensively, however. The Cardinals play a lot of zone, and Georgetown has a team that is built to beat a zone. Greg Monroe is a great passer and the Hoyas have a bunch of shooters around him.

The other game on tonight is in Norman as Oklahoma (25-2, 11-1) hosts Kansas (22-5, 11-1). The big question in this one is whether or not Blake Griffin will be suiting up. The big fella suffered a concussion on Saturday night against Texas, and while his MRI yesterday came back clean, it looks like it is going to be a game-time decision whether or not he will play (UPDATE: Blake Griffin is out for tonight). Oklahoma proved that they were still a good team without Griffin against Texas. Willie Warren had 27 points and carried the Sooners as they came back from 12 down early in the second half to take a five point lead. If AJ Abrams hadn't gone crazy down the stretch, OU would have won this thing.

Kansas is a much better team than they were getting credit for early in the season. Their 22-5 record and spot atop the Big XII standings prove that. They have a number of quality wins (Tennessee, Siena, Kansas State twice, Washington), but they are just now starting to reach their potential. You know about Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, but the biggest difference right now is the emergence of the Morris twins. Neither twin is an incredible scorer, but they are long and athletic, and when they are playing with energy can really make a difference defensively and on the glass.

Clearly, the biggest x-factor in this game will be whether or not Griffin plays, but if he doesn't, OU is going to need another big performance out of Willie Warren is they hope to hold on to first in the Big XII.
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College Hoops BlogPoll Week Three

Here is my ballot for week three of the CBS Sports College Hoops BlogPoll. Thoughts?:

1 Pittsburgh 3
2 Oklahoma
3 Connecticut 2
4 North Carolina 1
5 Memphis 1
6 Louisville 1
7 Michigan St. 2
8 Kansas 1
9 Villanova 1
10 Duke 1
11 Wake Forest 3
12 Marquette
13 Missouri 1
14 West Virginia 1
15 Washington 4
16 Clemson 3
17 Arizona St. 3
18 Purdue
19 Illinois 3
20 Utah 3
21 Florida St.
22 Xavier 4
23 Gonzaga
24 Louisiana St.
25 UCLA 8
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Dayton (#21), Butler (#22), Arizona (#25).

Some quick notes on my thought process. Pitt has to be #1. They are the only one of the top four that won didn't lose this week, and they knocked off former #1 UConn in the process. I put Oklahoma at #2 because their lss coincided with Blake Griffin's concussion. With UConn and UNC, despite the issues that are obvious for the Huskies, UNC's performance worried me a lot more. No one other than Lawson was effective in the second half or OT, they finished with five assists on the game as a team, and they gave up a 16 point second half lead to an inferior opponent. But more than anything (including Hansbrough's disappearance this year) I am turned off by the fact they cannot stop a good scoring guard - see Tyrese Rice, Jeff Teague, and now Greivis Vazquez.

The rest is fairly straight forward - a bit down on Big Ten teams this week and a bit high on Big XII teams.

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College Basketball Week In Review: It is going to be a fun stretch run

The end of this season is going to be really exciting as each of the big six conferences and packed at the top. Take a look:

  • ACC: UNC (10-3) has a game and a half lead over three teams in second place (Duke, Florida State, and Clemson at 8-4) with Wake Forest (7-5) just a game behind them. Below that, there are five more teams with a realistic shot at making a run to the NCAA's if they can get hot in the season's final weeks.
  • Big East: There are four teams tied for first in the loss column: UConn (13-2), Pitt (12-2), Louisville (12-2), and Marquette (12-2).
  • Big Ten: Michigan State (11-3) is in first, but both Purdue (10-4) and Illinois (10-5) are within striking distance. There are also five teams within a game and a half battling for the fourth and fifth spots (first round bye in the Big Ten tourney).
  • Big XII: Oklahoma and Kansas (11-1) play tonight to settle the tie atop the league, with Missouri (10-2) sitting just a game behind them.
  • Pac-10: In perhaps the craziest of the four power conferences, Washington (11-4) is, once again, sitting all alone atop the conference at 11-4, but Arizona State (10-4), Cal (9-5), UCLA (9-6), and Arizona (8-6) are all in the mix.
  • SEC: LSU has already clinched the SEC West, but the SEC East is far from decided. Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky (8-4) are all tied atop the division, while Tennessee (7-5) is just a game back.
  • Atlantic 10: Xavier (10-3) has a half game lead over Dayton and Temple (9-3), but Rhode Island (9-4) is in the mix as well. St. Joe's, who was leading the conference a week and a half ago, is now is sixth place (7-5).
  • Mountain West: Utah has taken control of the league (10-2), but San Diego State, New Mexico, and BYU (8-4) all could make a run at the Utes, while UNLV (8-5) is just a half game behind that group.
It is going to be a lot of fun this next month and a half. Right now, most people have UConn, Pitt, Oklahoma, and UNC penciled in as the four #1 seeds, but what if UConn loses another game while Pitt, Louisville, and Marquette win out? Can you really give the Huskies a #1 seed if they finish fourth in their conference?

DeJuan Blair, Pitt
As tough as it was to ignore what was arguably the most dominant performance of the season (Greivis Vazquez going for 35 points, 11 boards, 10 dimes, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in an OT win against UNC), the Terps got blown out on Wednesday against Clemson, which, to me, nullified the amazing performance. But Blair was fantastic all week. On Monday, he dominated UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, going for 22 points and 23 boards while holding him to just 5 points and 4 boards. Thabeet is turning into one of the most fearsome defensive presences in the league, and Blair scored on him pretty much every time he touched the ball. If it wasn't for an elbow that caught Blair on the eye, sending him to the bench for about five minutes, we could be talking about a 25 and 25 game.

Blair followed up that performance with another impressive game against DePaul. In the first half alone, he had 16 points and 16 boards. He finished the game with 20 and 18 (kind of disappointing, no?) with 10 of those boards coming on the offensive end. The craziest stat of all from this week? With the amount of banging Blair did in the post, he only went to the line six times all week.

Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue went 2-0 last week, with their big win coming on Tuesday against Michigan State (by 18!). The Boilermakers were expected to contend for the Big Ten title, but a series of injuries (Robbie Hummmel's back, Chris Kramer's nose/ankle) have kept them from playing at 100% most of the season. But it seems as if both players are back and, while they may not be 100% just yet, are playing at a high enough level for Purdue to win big games. It has always been about defense for the Boilermakers, and they got back to that in recent games, holding their three opponents before Indiana to 54 points or less. Maybe more important than all of that is that E'Twaun Moore seems to have found his jump shot. Moore was 5-6 from three against Indiana after going just 4-23 in his previous six games.

2/23 - Kansas @ Oklahoma: A battle for first in the Big XII, but will Griffin be playing?

2/24 - Florida @ LSU: There is a lot at stake every time two of the five NCAA teams in the SEC play each other.

2/25 - UConn @ Marquette: Believe it or not, this is Marquette's first game against one of the top three in the Big East.

2/26 - Arizona State @ Washington: First place in the Pac-10 will be on the line in this one.

2/28 - Clemson @ Florida State: A important game for ACC tournament seeding. Both teams are in a three-way tie for second, and no one wants to come in fifth place and have to play a first round game.

2/28 - LSU @ Kentucky: We will really find out if LSU is for real this week.

Once again we get a great Sunday line-up of games: Michigan State @ Illinois, Marquette @ Louisville, and Missouri @ Kansas. Continue reading...

Monday Morning Shootaround: Duke Outlasts Wake Forest

On a Sunday that saw a lot of important basketball get played, the biggest game of the day was a top 10 battle in the ACC. Freshman Elliot Williams, starting his second game of the season, set the tone early as he picked up three steals in the opening minutes of the game. It would continue for the rest of the first half, as Duke went on a 26-4 run fueled by Wake Forest turnovers to open a 41-19 lead midway through the opening frame. Gerald Henderson scored 14 straight at one point during that stretch. All told, the Demon Deacons finished with 16 turnovers in the first half which led to 25 Duke points.

Down 22, Wake really started to turn things around, mainly because they stopped giving the ball away. Jeff Teague is the guy that woke them up. He still hadn't attempted a field goal when Duke pushed their lead to 22, but he scored 14 of Wake's next 21 points as they widdled the lead down to 11 at the break.

Wake would make a couple pushes in the second half, twice getting the lead down to just two. Wake was playing some extremely efficient basketball down the stretch on the offensive end, scoring just about everytime they had the ball (for the game, they were 36-59, or 61%, from the field and grabbed 11 offensive boards) and not committing a turnover until there were under five minutes left. The issue was one the defensive end, where they were just unable to get stops. Both Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were on fire (career highs of 30 and 35, respectively), but even when those two missed, Duke was cleaning up the offensive glass. There must have been six or seven tip-ins by Duke players in the final 20 minutes.

Elliot Williams is going to be an excellent player for Duke. He is a tremendous athlete that loves to defend, and while he isn't quite there offensively yet (right now, his offense consists of putting the ball on the floor, going left, and trying to get to the rim), when he does he is going to be scary.

The Blue Devils eventually won 101-91. In addition to the 65 Duke got from Scheyer and Henderson, Williams and Kyle Singler added 11 apiece. Wake was led by 28 from Jeff Teague and 26 and 11 from James Johnson.

The rest of Sunday's games:

  • Clemson 81, Wake Forest 73: Trevor Booker's 21 and 12 helped to lead the Tigers back from a early 15 point deficit. The win allowed Clemson to stay tied for second in the ACC, just a game back from UNC in the loss column.
  • Villanova 89, Syracuse 86: Dwayne Anderson had 22 to lead six Wildcats in double figures as 'Nova was able to knock off the sputtering Orange. Dante Cunningham had 12, 12, and 6 dimes while Reggie Redding finished with 11, 7 assists, and 6 steals. For Syracuse, the issue was turnovers early. But as the game progressed, the Orange just got no production from Rick Jackson or Arinze Onuaku (combined, the two went for six points and ten boards). They were forced to go with Kristoff Ongenaet and Paul Harris quite a bit, and while those two are good players and had good games (11 boards for Ongenaet, 21 and 6 boards for Harris), the Orange lost all the scoring advantages they had inside. As a result, the Orange ended up shooting 39 three's on the game. It also didn't help that Jonny Flynn was suffering from a flu bug, but Villanova is a lot better than they are currently getting credit for. Banged up or not, the Wildcats were in control of this one for most of the game. They did turn the ball over a number of times late, which allowed the 'Cuse to make a run. But Flynn missed a great look at a three as the buzzer sounded.
  • Arizona State 70, Arizona 68: A combination of hot shooting (10-16 from three in the first half) and forcing turnovers allowed ASU to build up a 17 points lead midway through the second half. But Arizona was able to make a comeback, going on a 25-6 run to take a 62-60 lead. Things would go back and forth from there, but with 25 seconds left, Jeff Pendergraph stepped to the line and hit two free throws for a 70-68 lead. Jordan Hill would miss a tough leaner off the glass, but it looked as if Zane Johnson was going to force OT. Unfortunately, Johnson missed the wide-open tip-in, and ASU would go on to win. James Harden had 18 points, 9 boards, and 5 assists while Jeff Pendergraph added 16 points and 12 boards. One thing about the Sun Devils in this game was that they were able to get just about any shot they wanted against the Arizona zone. The Wildcats were terrible on their rotations and left so many gaps open. They got lucky that ASU went cold for a stretch in the second half, because the Sun Devils got a lot of very good looks from three.
  • Illinois 70, Ohio State 68: The Illini got 22 points from Mike Davis, while looking much better offensively than they did in their 38-33 loss to Penn State earlier in the week. Trent Meachem added 17 for Illinois, who moved into sole possession of third place in the league.
  • Iowa 70, Michigan 60 OT: Jake Kelly had 23 points and 9 assists as the Hawkeyes knocked off Michigan, who all of a sudden look destined for the NIT. The Wolverines are now 7-8 in the Big Ten, good for eighth.
  • Xavier 71, George Washington 53: CJ Anderson led five players in double figures with 14 points as the Musketeers moved a game up in the A-10.
  • Temple 70, St. Bonaventure 56: Don't look now, but the Owls are tied for second, just a half game back of Xavier, in the A-10.
  • Minnesota 72, Northwestern 45: Lawrence Westbrook had 17 to lead the Gophers to a much needed win in their quest for the dance.
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