Thursday, January 29, 2009

Please Stay With Us

Please stay with us during this temporary break in the action. The site is currently under reconstruction. We will back shortly, better than ever. Thank you

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 Recap

12 and a half days into 2009 and it's time for a happy recap. A quick what have we learned about the Big East so far in this new year.

Connecticut- Stanley Robinson changes this team greatly. Having a 6'9" athletic freak defending other team's guards and small forwards makes scoring against the Huskies extremely difficult. If Hasheem Thabeet can show consistency, this team is dangerous like no other in the country.
West Virginia- An extremely well coached team. I haven't seen a better team of covering pick and rolls and switching than they did against Marquette. But they need to find consistent scoring.
Villanova- Scottie Reynolds is going to have a whole lot more of those nights he had against Seton Hall. When he scores big, the Cats prosper.
Seton Hall- What happened to the team that beat USC? Jeremy Hazell is becoming a prolific scorer but to win in the Big East they'll need great team performance nightly.
South Florida- at least they got Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater to join Stan Heath's team.
Marquette- This squad depends so heavily on their big four of McNeal, Matthews, James and Haywood that if two of them have off-nights then...well it won't be pretty.
Cincinnati- Deonta Vaughn what happened?
Syracuse- Without Jonny Flynn dishing and swishing prolifically, this team is middle of the pack. But wow has Paul Harris improved.
Pittsburgh- A number one ranking is great but the question to me about this team is still the same: Can this team play in March like it does in January?
Rutgers- Mike Rosario needs to learn the difference between a good shot and a chuck. Where was the improvement promised from Hamady N'diaye? Give Corey Chandler the rock and let him create.
Louisville- Were those early season swoons or are the Cards not that good? And who takes their crunch time shots?
DePaul- At least Mac Koshwal is quietly becoming a beast.
Georgetown- This team is so much better without Roy Hibbert. Now if they could just get consistency from DeJuan Summers.
Notre Dame- Can the Irish win a big game on the road?
Providence- Watch out for Keno Davis' team, they're a sleeper.
St. John's- Great win over ND but this team just seems cursed.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

35 Second Shot Clock

Another Rutgers Big East loss, this one was close for about a half but then Jonny Flynn made his presence known and that was the difference.
  • Pre and postgame it sounded like Carrier Dome South. The Orange fans got there early and when Rutgers came onto the court for pre-game drills, they were greeted with a cacophony of boos. To finish the game the Syracuse fans chanted "Let's go Orange" as Rutgers fans were leaving and the game was put into the books.
  • After Arinze Onuaka put his shoulder down, drove it into Hamady N'diaye's chest and made a strong move to the basket to score and bring 'Cuse within 31-30, N'diaye was rubbing his chest going back up the court.
  • A small stretch in the last minute of the first half that perfectly explains the enigma that is Corey Chandler: Chandler gets offensive board, misses both free throws, literally takes ball away from Rick Johnson on the boards on the other end, and then dribbles ball off his knee near the basket on offense.
  • Two Rutgers luminaries at the game. Greg Schiano sitting courtside, with family. Todd Frazier recieved an ovation during of the timeouts.
  • Rutgers went four minutes and eight seconds before their first field goal of the second half.
Flynn about his dunk: "Whenever somebody makes a play like that, whether it be me or another teammate, the crowd gets into it, we’ve got a lot of fans here, and your team automatically gets into it. So I’d say it was a game-changer."

Mike Rosario about his 1-11 FG, 1-8 3PT second half: "I didn’t want to take a forced shot to put my team in a position where we would have to come back even more. They put us in a position where we had to rely on the other players on my team to make shots."

Orange Crush RU

For a half Rutgers managed to keep it a game last night with No. 11 Syracuse. But when the second half started, the Scarlet Knights became another act in the Jonny Flynn Show as the Orange point guard made the RAC his personal stage in a 82-66 Syracuse victory.
Flynn made highlight play after highlight play, enough to fill his own Top-10 in the nightly recap. There was the behind the back, no-look touch pass in transition that set up a Paul Harris dunk. Or the spin-move at the top of the key that led to a finish at the basket and the foul. But the very best was a dunk over Mike Rosario that will most likely be seen on a poster at the nearest Syracuse fan shop near you. It all added up to Flynn finishing one assist and three rebounds short of a triple-double with 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Of all his eye-pleasing plays, the dunk was what changed the dynamic of the game, causing a momentous momentum shift. At that point the Orange were up 52-48 and could not pull away from the Scarlet Knights despite holding Rutgers to just three field goals in the first seven minutes of the second half. The dunk started a 7-2 run that swung the game for Syracuse.
“Whenever somebody makes a play like that, whether it be me or another teammate, the crowd gets into it, we’ve got a lot of fans here, and your team automatically gets into it. So I’d say it was a game-changer,” said Flynn of his play.
It seemed like an emotional dagger to the heart of the Knights. They were down only one at halftime but had come out flat in the second half. Still they managed to keep the game close despite not hitting their first field goal till 4:08 into half, a jump shot by Earl Pettis. But after Flynn threw it down, the momentum swung for Syracuse.
Rutgers head coach Fred Hill was assessed a technical after the play for arguing that Flynn should have been hit with a charging foul. Eric Devendorf hit one of the two ensuing free throws and Syracuse was on their way. While the Knights could only shoot 28.6 percent for the half, the Orange made 12 straight shots at one point, finishing the half shooting better than 69 percent.
Rutgers’ defense in the second half was not an anomaly as the Orange shot 61 percent on the evening, and committed just eight turnovers. Their biggest problems on the defensive end came from their inability to stop Syracuse from scoring in the paint. Paul Harris’ and Arinze Onuaku’s success were emblematic of RU’s troubles inside.
The Orange scored 50 points in the paint and 18 of Harris’ game high 26 points came on dunks and lay-ups. Onuaka had similar success in the lane, scoring 12 of his 19 points there.
“Their three point shooting was outstanding and we were able to stop that, but they’re still a really tough match-up for us,” said Hill of his team’s defensive woes. “Trying to guard Paul Harris, who is a beast of a wing-forward with a post player in Gregory [Echenique] and another post player in JR Inman. They did a good job of getting the ball inside and they were able to score and that’s why they shot such a good percentage.”
While Flynn’s superlative play won the attention of most, Corey Chandler’s had an electric night of his own. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks that gave Rutgers fans some bragging rights over Flynn. The first one came in the first half as he caught up to Flynn from behind and swatted away a lay-up attempt. The second came as Chandler once again caught up to the guard and tipped away a dunk,
Anthony Farmer was another bright spot for Rutgers, as he finished with a team high 17 points. Leading scorer Mike Rosario struggled once again, shooting 6-22 from the floor, and hitting only three of 15 from beyond the arc.
“I didn’t want to take a forced shot to put my team in a position where we would have to come back even more,” said Rosario of his second half play when he hit 1-11 shots. “They put us in a position where we had to rely on the other players on my team to make shots.”
As if having to deal with another top-15 team and one of the best players in the country wasn’t enough for Rutgers, the sellout crowd at the RAC was approximately half Syracuse fans. They let their presence be known throughout the game, capping it off with a “Let’s go Orange” chant to drown out the arena as the seconds trickled down in another Rutgers loss.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Eagles Fly RAC Coup with Close Win

Last night Rutgers learned that you can’t fall asleep in the Big East. Sleep-walking through the first 27:52 of the game, the Scarlet Knights fell behind 57-36 against visiting No. 18 Marquette and by the time they woke up, even a frantic save-face run was not enough to give them their first conference win of the season as Marquette escaped 81-76.
The Knights whittled the lead down to 64-53, and then went on a 18-9 run keyed by Mike Rosario to make the laugher into a serious game. Rosario scored 10 of his team-high 22 points during the stretch and his floater in the lane, falling down, brought Rutgers within two, 73-71, with 37 seconds remaining. But that’s as close as they would come.
“It’s just very difficult to dig yourself a hole like that. It takes so much energy and there’s no margin for error,” said Hill of the failed comeback. “I’m very, very proud of the kids and the way they battled and the way they kept coming and the things that they did. But it’s very difficult to put yourself in a 21-point hole and think you’re going to come back and ultimately overtake a really good team to win the game.”
Rosario was a microcosm of his team. He started out cold, extending his poor shooting from the Connecticut game, hitting just three of his first 14 shots. But when Rutgers started making its run, Rosario was right in the middle of it. Scoring in a variety of ways: in transition, from beyond the arc, and filling the lane; he scored all but two of his 16 second-half points in the last seven minutes, putting the team on his back, and finishing 9-24 from the field.
But his efforts turned into overzealousness down the stretch. After Lazar Haywood hit two free throws to double the lead for Marquette, the freshman got trigger happy. Looking for a quick shot on the other end Rosario let go of a three-point shot from about 30 feet out, his foot still on the paint of the block ‘R’ that didn’t fall and helped Eagles walk out of the RAC winners, barely.
"I thought that I had a lot of time but as you can see my teammates live and die with the shots that I take,” said Rosario about the long three-pointer. “Those are shots I work on everyday in practice. If I have an opportunity to shoot it and coach wants me to, so I pulled it and it didn't go."
As good as Rosario was down the stretch, Marquette relied on its quartet of stars to win the game for them. Wesley Matthews was the go-to-guy versus Rutgers, putting up a game-high 23 points, hitting all 10 of his shots. He had plenty of help though. Jerel McNeal had 16 points, Dominic James added 15, and Haywood chipped in 10 points and five rebounds. The foursome combined for all but four of the Eagles’ 44 second-half points.
Buzz Williams’ squad was able to turn a 39-28 halftime lead into a 21-point lead by getting out and running. Marquette scored nine points in transition, seven of them by James. For the game, they outscored Rutgers 21-9 on the break.
James’ dunk to cap the lead seemed to be the breaking point for Rutgers. They went on a 10-0 run to bring the score to 57-46 with nine minutes remaining. After Marquette responded, trying to put the game away, the Knights showed they wouldn’t lay down.
JR Inman scored all nine of his points in the second half, and grabbed six of his eight rebounds, to provide a spark off the bench for RU. Corey Chandler added 19 points and was the lone hot hand for Rutgers in the first half.
Both contributed heavily to the Knights’ comeback, with Rutgers’ big run coming after Chandler subbed back into the game. But it was not to be for RU, as Marquette iced clutch free throws down the stretch to preserve their win.
“They made a great run, we had a hard time controlling it. .. It was just a fight the rest of the way,” said Williams. “They were an aggressor, we struggled to calm them down, but we were fortunate to pull it out.”

35 Second Shot Clock

A new segment debuting in the new year. Following Rutgers games and other Big East games, we'll give you a quick rundown of things you may have seen during the game, seen but not noticed, or just missed. It should also take you about the length of one possession to read. Unless you've been watching North Carolina games, then don't quote us on that.
  • At the 2:17 mark of the first half Mike Rosario tries to save a loose ball on the sideline next to special, high spender seats and ends up jumping into the third row. Maybe the track team needs a hurdler.
  • Deposed Athletic Director Bob Mulcahy was sitting next to new interim AD Carl Kirschner, center court, three rows up.
  • JR Inman had a pass from Earl Pettis, that was threaded between two guys, go off his hands and out of bounds instead of what could have been an easy dunk in transition.
  • After Rutgers had made a run to bring it within seven, 70-63, Fred Hill sat down Corey Chandler and left Rosario as the only threat on the court for a 1:15 stretch.
  • Rosario started putting up shots from everywhere when the game got close (or "chucking" as the kids call it). His Pièce de résistance was a 30-footer from the edge of the block 'R'. In the post game press-conference, he admitted as such, saying : "I thought that I had a lot of time but as you can see my teammates live and die with the shots that I take. Those are shots I work on everyday in practice. If I have an opportunity to shoot it and coach wants me to, so I pulled it and it didn't go."
Stats to mull over:
RU's assist to turnover ratio for the game: 9-17
Both teams were ugly from beyond the arc. Marquette shot 2-13 and Rutgers was 6-20.
Mike Rosario is now 12-38 in his last two games
RU won the battle of the boards, 39-28
Wesley Matthews was perfect, 10-10, from the field.
Haywood, Matthews, James and McNeal scored 40 of Marquette's 44 second half points
Marquette outscored RU 21-9 on the break.
Rutgers had 18 second half points, off of 14 offensive rebounds. Marquette had just 2 points on 8 offensive boards.

What's the Matter Rick?

Something is awry in the state of Kentucky and its not the Wildcats. The Louisville Cardinals have had their problems as of late. They've lost two of their last four and do not seem like the juggernaut they are expected to be.
One could easily argue that it's nothing to worry about. The Cards started out slow last year and made an Elite Eight run. But those Cards they are not. The 08-09 version looks lost on offense, lethargic at times, and most troublesome of all unorganized.
The first problem seems to be the loss of David Padgett. He may not have been superstar but he was their glue guy. When Padgett came back from injury last year, the team began to click. The Cards have to realize he has graduated and there is no return.
The second problem is the inconsistency of Samardo Samuels. Or rather the regression. The freshman from St. Benedicts is averaging 13.8 ppg and 6.5 rpg on the year but as Louisville has gone 2-2 in their last four, he accumulated just 17 points and 10 rebounds in the two losses. His team became entirely too dependent on him early in the season and can't seem to find their flow when he is taken out of the game.
Thirdly, these are some bad losses for Louisville. Losing to Minnesota in a neutral site game in Pheonix is unexcusable. The Gophers may be ranked but this is not a good team and will get exposed come tourney time. And a loss to UNLV, at home, without the Rebels' best player also does not look good on the resume.
Rick Pitino better get it straightened out, and quick. Because the Big East is tough enough, and it only gets worse when you can't bring an 'A' game. But I won't count out Louisville. This could be another one of those season where Pitino gets his team to peak at the right time and make another deep run into March.
Still, if it's not, then count this as your "I told you so."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Formula for Success

Georgetown, woe is you. Only a week after being college basketball darlings following their victory over then No. 2 UConn and putting themselves, arguably, in the driver's seat of the Big East conferece race, the Hoyas are now conference
OK, not really. But the Hoyas are a prime example of what to expect the rest of the year in the Big East. Winning their season opener against the Huskies in Hartford put them in a prime spot to win the conference, even though it was only a game in. But then dropping two straight games, one at home, against No. 1 Pitt and No. 13 ND shows how tough this league will be and how temporary any status a team attains will be.
Now, after a hectic first week of league play with every school except for Louisville starting Big East play, here is a how-to guide on winning the best conference in the country. Take note Big East coaches, you'll thank me when you're holding up the trophy in March.

1. Protect home court. This is most important to winning the conference. Protect home court and a team has nine wins on the year. Forecasting how the Big East plays out, 13 wins could very well win the conference. A big advantage in this category goes to Notre Dame. The Irish have won 44 straight in the Joyce Center and 19 straight conference home games. If ND can continue the streak for the entire conference season or just drop even one, that gives them a big leg up.
2. Ice the cupcakes. There are nine teams who can beat anyone on a given night. That means when you're playing any of the other six teams, you better take care of business. Each title contender plays eight games against the "dregs" of the league but Syracuse gets the advantage here as their first four games in-conference are Seton Hall, USF, DePaul and Rutgers. Make it 4-0 to start the schedule and that could give the Orange momentum to take into the tough part of their schedule.
3. Pull off an upset. My old track coach always used to say that to win anything you're going to have to pull off an upset along the way. It seems Iron Hills conference high school track and Big East basketball aren't that different. Although a victory by any of the nine ranked teams shouldn't really be seen as that big of an upset, it would be at least somewhat unexpected. If West Virginia wants to take the league, its going to have to win at Louisville or in the Carrier Dome. The team that can pull off the most upsets will probably end up on top.
4. Keep healthy. This is really self explanatory. The Orange without Johnny Flynn will end up with SU getting crushed. No Greg Monroe and Georgetown could be all bark and no bite. You get the point. This means that the teams with the most depth are the ones with the advantage in case of injury, i.e. Connecticut or Louisville.
5. Get a little help from the schedule makers. Winning is a lot easier when you're not playing the top three teams in the country in a week. So Syracuse having to go to Georgetown, home against ND, then at Pitt is at a disadvantage. Or...actually nevermind. This is the Big East 2009, with nine top 25 teams. There are no easy schedules.