Last night was spent studying for finals, so no blogging. I taped the Villanova/Louisville game, because I knew I wouldn't get to watch it live, since the game ran during the dinner/playtime/bath/bed hours here at Chez Mike's.
That meant I had to avoid all stations that might report on sports, which for a sports junkie such as myself, isn't so easy.
It also meant I couldn't watch Syracuse/West Virginia until I'd seen the Villanova game.
Wanting to do both, I ended up watching Villanova on fast forward. Which, by the way, I recommend. You get all the action, and in a fraction of the time. Besides, making the players run around like ants on crack is kind of funny.
So, the first half, Villanova was the better team. Even in fast forward. Made me a little uneasy the number of open looks from beyond the arc Louisville got, but Cunningham was dominating inside, defensively turnovers were being forced and capitalized on, and the Wildcats went into the locker room up 8. Pitino was frustrated. Looked good.
Then the second half started. Louisville cut the lead to 2 in about 3 seconds. That's real time, not fast forward time. Then they took a 7 point lead. Villanova clawed, stayed in the game, and eventually tied the score at 50; to which the Cardinals responded by going on a 19-4 run to close out the game. 69-54 Cardinals.
Once that ended I tuned into the Syracuse game. Just in time to see it go to OT. Poor Syracuse. They must have been wasted in OT; it certainly showed as they walked the ball up the court possession after possession. I'm sure no one from this team who returns next season will complain about the conditioning work Boeheim puts them through. Syracuse found the will power to win that OT game, too, defying my fearless prediction from Friday that West Virginia would win.
Syracuse also reached their 14th Big East final, a league record. They've played in almost half of the championship games contested.
I didn't see most of the title game, or any of the first half, but it looked like a repeat of Friday. Syracuse took an 8 point lead into the half, Louisville ended up winning by 10. First Conference championship, er, Big East Tournament championship, for Louisville. Seeing as how they went through the Big East (including the tournament) 19-2, I believe they're a lock for a #1 seed. Memphis will be a #1 as well. The other two will probably be UNC (despite their loss today), and Michigan State. Pitt and UCONN should be no lower than #2's.
Some other items. I don't think Nova will get beyond the sweet 16. I've believed all year they're a soft top 10 team. Look at their record. Lost to Texas and Louisville on a neutral court. Lost to UCONN, West Virginia, and Marquette on the road; lost to Louisville and Georgetown at home. All their notable wins are at home (Marquette, Syracuse, Pittsburgh). Their best road win is at Syracuse. I don't think they're good enough to go deep into the tournament. And, they were exposed by a taller, more athletic team in that shutting down Scottie Reynolds really hamstrings this team.
The media also began (at least, the AP report) to say Villanova's exit Friday night 'continued a run of disappointing Big East Tournament performances.' I don't necessarily agree. They've won at least one game in the Tourney every year since 2004. This year they came in as the #4 seed and lost when they were supposed to, in the semis to the #1 seed. How exactly is that disappointing? 2005, the year they finished second in the league and didn't make the finals, that could be considered disappointing, but not this year.
I won't say this isn't frustrating for Jay Wright, however. Rollie Massimino went to 3 Tourney Finals; Steve Lappas went to two, including Villanova's lone win (1995). Wright hasn't made a final yet. I'm sure that weighs on him a little. They will be better next year; we'll see how they do then.
However, Villanova has made the NCAA tournament 4 years in a row, their longest streak since going 7 straight years under Massimino; won the regular season title in 2006, the fourth such Big East title (1982, 1983, and 1997 were the other years they did it); reached the Sweet Sixteen in 3 of the last 4 years, matching their previous best effort; and are now ranked in the top 25 consistently. All the last weekend angst, anxiety, and hope that characterized my undergraduate time there are gone for the current students. Villanova always goes to the NCAA tournament; it's just a question of what their seed will be and how deep they will go. So Jay Wright has been pretty successful. I doubt he loses much sleep over not winning the Conference Tournament.
I expect Nova will be a #4 seed. For their Sweet Sixteen chances to blossom, I hope they're a #3 playing in Philly. We'll know tomorrow night.
Cardinal blogging returns next week.
Update 3/15/09 1655: Villanova is indeed a #3 seed, playing in Philadelphia next weekend. GO CATS!
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