Friday, March 13, 2009

Big East Tournament Update #3

A "ho-hum"-er, an upset, a buzzer beater, and an epic.

Just your typical day in the Big East Tournament.

After eight mostly pedestrian games, the top fourth of the conference got into the action yesterday. And things were definitely more interesting.

Providence came into their game with Louisville needing a win (IMHO). Didn't happen. The Friars led 3-2, then committed a Big East Tournament Record 26 turnovers, and lost by 18. Which was the expected result. I'm sure this game will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the selection committee. Although I hope Providence finds themselves in the NCAA field come Sunday, I don't think they will.

West Virginia/Pittsburgh. It is very difficult to beat a team three times in a single season. The Mountaineers proved that against the Panthers. WVA pretty much handled Pitt in this one. The Panthers led early, and then led again with about 4 minutes left in the first half, but that was it. WVA led by double digits for most of the second half, winning 74-60. Even with Beilein gone to coach the University of Michigan, this squad remains a difficult tournament matchup. And "Huggy Bear" is a battle tested coach from his salad days at Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh will probably not be a #1 seed based on this result. The Big East is the best conference in the land this year, no question; however losing in the tournament quarters, after having the first two days off, to an unranked team you beat twice in the regular season will take them off the #1 line. I see them as a #2. This will also free up a slot for someone like Michigan St or (gulp) Duke to slide on the #1 line (assuming the other 3 #1 seeds are Louisville, Memphis, and UNC).

I thought this next game was the best finish. I hadn't seen anything yet. Villanova blew a 17 point lead to Marquette, and were down one, 75-74, with Marquette dribbling in the half court and 40 seconds left in the game. Marquette missed the shot with 10 seconds left.

Villanova is out of timeouts.

Up comes the ball.

Scottie Reynolds is blanketed.

Reggie Redding drives the lane.

Dwayne Anderson cuts to the basket, and the man guarding him steps up to guard the ball.

Bounce pass.



Wow. After trying to give the game away, they pulled off a great finish to advance. As was pointed out on's game recap today, Villanova hasn't won two games in this tournament since 2004. Obviously they'd like to end that trend tonight against Louisville. This will be a rematch of the 61-60 game Louisville won in Philadelphia.

I'll make the bold prediction that the winner of Louisville/Villanova will win the tournament.

The reason for that I'll state at the bottom.

Then the Epic. I didn't start really watching this game until there were two minutes left in regulation. I thought the referees did an outstanding job adjudicating Devendorf's last second shot in regulation, and got the call right. Did you know Syracuse led 71-69 with 1:13 left in regulation, and DIDN'T LEAD AGAIN until 113-110 in the sixth overtime? Just an unbelieveably gritty performance.

I also couldn't believe the number of calls in overtime where the referees put their whistles in their pockets, the fact that Thabeet didn't foul out until the 4th OT, and a multitude of other things. Syracuse wanted it more. Pure and simple. When they hit that 3-pointer to take the 113-110 lead, you could visibly see UCONN deflate. And that was it.

Having played past midnight EDT, Syracuse catches a break in that their semi final tonight is the late game (starting at 6pm EDT). But you gotta think they've got no legs left after playing 70 minutes last night. Even with guys getting additional rest after fouling out. That more than levels the field with WVA, who've played one more game.

I think WVA wins this one, just based on the Syracuse fatigue factor. The Orange(men) will fight, don't worry about that, but I think in the second half, after adrenalin has run its course, their legs will feel like rocks, they'll be running through jello, and WVA will win the game.

Why do I think Louisville or Villanova will win this thing? Because Louisville is the best team in the Big East. If Villanova somehow finds a way to beat the Cardinals, and they will be motivated by that one-point loss earlier in the season, then they get a WVA team that's playing its 4th game in 4 days. Not to mention WVA embarassed Nova at Morgantown during the regular season.

So I'll crown the winner of Louisville/Villanova as the Big East champ. My heart's with the Wildcats, but my money's on Louisville.

Enjoy your weekend.

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