Saturday, March 26, 2016
What an awful start for the Orange. Gonzaga is made to attack the zone. They have good big men who can pass, and good outside shooters. And in the case of Wiltjer, both. SU getting their hands on everything but can't grab a loose ball. It's such a joke that SU's defense is so good and that teams can't figure it out. It's not that revolutionary, and it's not like no one else plays it. And you know exactly what you're getting. It's not that hard to figure out, you just have to have the right personnel to attack it. And Gonzaga does. SU weathered the early storm, but they're not just at a disadvantage on defense, on offense they're also having trouble with Gonzaga's size, every inside shot is contested. After that early barrage by Gonzaga, Syracuse has to be pleased only trailing by 1 at the half. Combined halftime points in Syracuse's 3 tournament games: 58 (30-28), 58 (31-27) and now 57 (29-28). Frank Howard is playing the game of his life. He made a 3-pointer. Only his second all season.
Friday, March 25, 2016
#1 Virginia vs. #4 Iowa State So many games in this tournament have just been huge blowouts right from the very start and never really had much suspense. Virginia scored 29 points in the first ten minutes. That used to be a nice total for them for the entire first half. One way to close a big lead is to start bombing 3s and make a few. That's what Iowa State did mostly thanks to Niang. Malcolm Brogdan is a fine player but I would take Niang over him any day. That fourth foul on Niang was total bullshit. Just a tiny bump. He wasn't even denying him the spot, he was total in retreat. An Iowa State cheerleader got drilled in the face by a kicked ball. She went down on her side and they had to stop the game and escort her to the locker room. She seemed ok, poor thing was even trying to shake her pom-poms as she walked off. But tears were coming down her cheeks. Huge win for Virginia. Two straight disappointing second round exits in a row and now they are in the Elite 8 with a great chance to make the Final Four. #6 Notre Dame vs. #7 Wisconsin If we're looking for a team to suffer a letdown or keep the momentum going after a dramatic win, I'm not such which team to pick. Both teams used dramatic in the last round to win at the last second. These two teams scored fewer points combined that Virginia did in the first half. Ethan Happ is the cousins of Blue Jays pitcher JA Happ. Let's remember that the Badgers started this season with Bo Ryan as their head coach before he abruptly resigned in December. Ryan says he wanted to resign in June, but assistant coach Greg Gard, whom he wanted to bequeath the job, was not able to take over because his father was gravely ill. Gard's father died in October and Gard was promoted to head coach after Ryan's resignation. But a lot of people are now suggesting Ryan was forced out, or chose to quit as word of his extra-marital affair became public. Both teams really turned it up in the second half, making some shots and scoring some points. What a finish! The Irish looked dead after Vitto Brown nailed that 3. But Nigel Hayes got stripped, so did Bronson Koenig and that's how it ends. Amazing, two steals in 20 seconds by Demetrius Jackson. #1 North Carolina vs. #5 Indiana They did a pregame feature on Yogi Ferrell's sisters. I guess those t-shirts paid off. I've said it before, and many others have as well: if Marcus Paige makes his 3s, North Carolina wins the whole thing. His fourth one tied him with Michael Jordan for 12th on North Carolina's all-time scoring list. Carolina just has too much size and too much talent. I expect them to win it all.
While most of the Syracuse University community is thrilled, rightfully so, with the surprising run of the men's team to the Sweet 16, we shouldn't forget about the women. The women's team is continuing to set new high-water marks in program history. This year it was most wins (27 and counting) and highest tournament seed (#4) which entitled them to host the first two rounds at the Carrier Dome. They dominated #13 Army in the first round and then dispatched #12 Albany in round 2. Unfortunately in the Sweet 16 Syracuse will face one of the best teams in college, 1-seeded South Carolina, led by Coach Dawn Staley and 6'5" sophomore star A'Ja Wilson. The Gamecocks beat the Orange twice last year, once in a close game at a preseason tournament in the Bahamas, and again in the NCAA Tournament's second round, this time by 29 points. But this year the Orange are healthy (several key players missed that game last season) and improved. I don't have high hopes for them winning this game, but one of the most exciting developments around the athletic department in recent years has been the improvement in other sports, besides just men's basketball and men's lacrosse. The ascension of the women's basketball team has been a key part of SU's emergence as an intercollegiate athletics power. And these young ladies deserve our support. Their game will be on ESPN tonight at 7, before the men's game. Especially point guard Alexis Peterson who is one of the most fun players to watch.
#2 Villanova vs. #3 Miami Villanova was probably the most dominant team throughout the first two rounds, and they came out like a house of fire in this game, taking a 29-14 lead. But Miami scored the next 12 points, and we do have a ballgame. I'm sure everyone knows it by now but since I point out every other son of well-known offspring, I should mention that Jalen Brunson is the son of former Knicks guard and Temple star Rick Brunson. They have a complicated history though. Miami shot the lights out but didn't play a lick of defense and Villanova buried them, never letting them get close in the second half. So the expected Villanova collapse hasn't happened. And they look pretty damn good. #2 Oklahoma vs 3 Texas A&M These games tonight are in the side of the bracket that held to form. It's tomorrow night when things get funky. I'm not as convinced as everyone else about the pro potential of Buddy Hield but I certainly like him as a college player. I soured on Oklahoma before the tournament after reading that they rely on 3-pointers for an unusually large portion of their points. History has said teams like that are often unable to 4 or 6 games against tough competition without going through one cold night. Well, they've made it through three games so far. Funny how people talk about shit like momentum and destiny, and yet they never say that shit when Northern Iowa hits a miracle shot and loses the next game. And Texas A&M has the most ridiculous comeback ever, and loses the next game. Shame on Ryan Spangler's parents for not naming him Egon. #1 Oregon vs. #4 Duke Oregon has a clear plan to attack Duke inside where they are thin. Speaking of thin, I love Brandon Ingram, and apparently so do many NBA scouts, but he needs to get bigger and stronger. He's like paper on defense. Is it just me or are foul shooters 100% after a lane violation? I love Allie LaForce, because she's hot and I like to think I helped discover her by writing about her in this space more than 3 years. But she asks the dumbest, most trite questions. She asked every single player she interviewed "what makes this group so special?" The same problem that has undone Duke in years when they have been knocked out early, cost them again in this game. They just don't have guys that can play and are willing to play tough physical defense. I actually picked Duke as my surprise Final Four team so all my brackets are officially busted. But at least know I can go back to hating these whiny little bitches again. #1 Kansas vs. #5 Maryland I know everyone says how important guard play is, if so I do not like Kansas's Frank Mason III. He makes some stupid mistakes, and isn't the distributor a point guard needs to be. Also we're very angry at the Ellises for naming their kid Perry Ellis. But I'm not sure if Perry Ellis was a famous designer back when their son was born 35 years ago. I do like Ellis as a player though. He has a jump shot for a big man. He plays good disciplined defense. Another blowout win for the Jayhawks. But Villanova's been killing people too. Should be a good match-up. Not a single good game this evening. Let's hope for better tomorrow. Though I wouldn't mind if Syracuse beat Gonzaga by 25.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Monday, March 21, 2016
With all I've written over the past four days, what else could there to be say? Well... The Pac-12 was clearly overrated. Ok, so sample sizes are a thing and anything can happen in just a few games in one tournament, but... Here's what we thought before the tournament: #2 rated conference, all but 1 team in the top 102, 7 tournament teams, all rated 51 or higher Here's what we know now, six of their teams are out, 5 lost in the first round and only Oregon holds the flag. On the other hand, you have the ACC, which started with 10% of the teams, and now has 38% of the teams remaining. 12-1 record so far, with only Pitt losing. And the ACC was 3rd rated conference during the regular season. But at this point the ACC is still alive to have 4 teams in the Final Four and with UNC & Notre Dame as well as Virginia and Syracuse sharing a bracket, it could have 2 teams locked up by Friday. I didn't comment on the poor Dayton fan who was crying during his team's loss to Syracuse. But if I had, I would have said "sorry. Not sorry." And it's unlike me to let a good smartass remark pass without acknowledgement, but Taurean Prince's snarky response to a reporter's question came from a place of anger and hurt, making it less funny that had he been obnoxious just for sport. I usually get annoyed during the tournaments, because watching 48 games over 4 days (saw at least part of 46, significant parts of 30+) you can get fed up with the commercials that are played repeatedly. But I really like the Charles Barkley, Spike Lee, Sam Jackson road trip. I'm actually surprised Charles is willing to play such a fool in these spots, as last year with "In the Annapolis." I also like this BMW commercial about superstitions. "Rabbit's foot? I've got four." But instead of a cute live bunny, it looks like he is holding a dead rabbit.
The amazing game between Texas A&M and Northern Iowa was so memorable it deserves its own post. Oh my God What a finish. Some huge mistakes by UNI. Let's break it all down: 69-57, 44 seconds left: Gilder gets a putback to cut the lead to ten. 69-59, 30 seconds left: After a steal of a wild pass, Texas A&M gets a layup. 69-61, 25 seconds: Jesperson falling out of bounds spikes it into the ground, A&M grabs it easy layup. 69-63, 21 seconds: Lohaus nowhere to inbound throws it right out of bounds. A&M inbounds, House catches, nails a 3. 69-66, 19 seconds: Jesperson long pass to Carlson for a dunk. Why didn't he pull it out, time is more important than points. 71-66, 17 seconds: Caruso drives all the way for the scoop and the foul. Jesperson the hero on Friday maybe the goat. Why foul a guy with a 5 point lead and 12 seconds. Don't even defend, just get away. Caruso makes the free throw. 71-69, 11 seconds: Washpun gets stuck in the corner, trapped, but instead of just flinging it somewhere he spikes it right off the floor, right to Gilder who grabs it and lays it in to tie the game. 71-71, 1.9 seconds: The same girls from A&M who were crying tears of sadness, are now crying tears of joy. Here's what they looked like with 30 seconds left:
The Isle of Wight Zoo in the UK is opening up a National Poo Museum. A spokeswoman says “It’s stinky, unpleasant and sometimes dangerous stuff — but it’s all around us and inside us too — and perhaps surprisingly our planet would be a much poorer place without it.” The museum "is set to be the place to immerse oneself in the wonder of excrement while finding out lots of extraordinary nuggets of information about all things poo-y, kids will love it!” the spokeswoman said.
#2 Villanova vs. #7 Iowa Total domination. Villanova just could not miss. There was one point in the first half where Iowa was shooting 50% from the field, and still down by 10, because Villanova was making 60% and getting many more shots because of steals and rebounds. Impressive performance. Maybe this wasn't the year to keep picking against those heretofore underachieving high seeds, Villanova and Virginia. But this is what I don't like about spread out the start times are. You have a blowout in the early game and then the next games doesn't start til 3pm. They need to stagger them a little better so there are at least two games on all the time, instead of 3 running concurrently at night. #6 Notre Dame vs. #14 Stephen F. Austin Thomas Walkup is this year's Harold "The Show" Arceneaux, the guy on an underdog whom everyone falls in love with. He really plays the game the right way. Make his free throws, distributes the ball, hustles. Good player.
Posted by Paul at 12:38 AM
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Let's Go Orange! Michael Gbinije drinks pickle juice? And grape pedialyte? I actually read something about the company marketing pedialyte to adults as a hangover cure. I liked Reggie Upshaw more when he had the Kid N Play haircut.
#3 Miami vs. #11 Wichita State Wichita State's stifling defense doesn't have a chance to set up when they can't hit a shot and keep turning it over. Is it less shocking that Wichita State only had 6 points in 12 minutes or that they had given up 27? First half shooting percentages, 23% for Wichita State and 60% for Miami. Angel Rodriguez is out-VanVleeting VanVleet. When you hear the name Shaq Morris do you think of Jack Morris or Zack Morris? I think your answer to this question says a lot about you as a person. There are 3 stages to a comeback this big: 1) cut the lead in half, you need to go on a run at some point to make it at least seem possible, and mentally put it in your head that you can win and theirs that they can lose. 2) you have to get it down to one possession, give yourself some chances to make a shot or get a steal and be within striking distance. And then the hardest part often times 3) you need to take the lead at some point otherwise the other team is still dictating how the game will be played, especially in the final possessions of a game, the team with the lead has a huge advantage, even if it's only one point. Baker did briefly give them the lead at 43-42 but Miami immediately took it back and held it, forcing Wichita State into at times frantic offense. One of my least favorite things in basketball is when a player on a fast break tries to take it himself instead of passing to an open teammate. But Miami was able to hang out and knock out a very popular pick to go to the Sweet 16 and perhaps beyond. #4 Duke vs. #12 Yale If seeds were based on highest tuition, these to schools would have been #1 seeds, along with Notre Dame and USC. All above $65,000 per year. My hatred of Duke is not based on class or race like most people's, mine is mostly due to the couple assholes they have, and their success. Since the team is having a down year, and because Syracuse beat them, and because I was able to choose them for the Final Four as a sleeper, I am rooting for them. I also like their style of play. Lots of guys who can dribble and shoot. They look for teammates and they knock down shots. Fun to watch. Amazing comeback by Yale. They did the same thing every time and attacked the basket. Either got baskets or got offensive rebounds. Plumlee is the only guy Duke can rely on for interior defense. And their Yale's disrupted Duke's offense. They stopped driving and dishing and played too much 1-on-1. But Duke was able to pull it off and advance to the Sweet 16. #4 Kentucky vs. #5 Indiana This is probably one of the games people were most looking forward to in the first weekend. Two of basketballs bluebloods. Yogi Ferrell's sisters changed their shirts. Today the say "Yogi's a bear to have as a brother" and "I can beat Yogi in 1-on-1."