Friday, March 13, 2009

Cup O' Jones : It's Madness Baby!!

If you didn't stay up last night, I'm very sorry and I hope you learned your lesson. You missed one of the best college basketball games in recent memory as UCONN and Syracuse went to a BIG EAST-record 6 overtimes with the Orange prevailing 127-117. An incredible game that is proof that March Madness is the best part of the year in sports. Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn scored 34 points with 11 assists in an amazing 67 minutes. His teammate Paul Harris had 29 points and 22 boards. The Huskies were led by AJ Price with 33 and 10 assists in 61 minutes. It was like a heavyweight fight in the 15th round where both competitors were taking every ounce of energy just to throw a punch. The play was getting sloppy toward the end, but Flynn proved why he's one of the best points in the land by sinking clutch free-throw after clutch free-throw on his way to 15-15 from the line. Just a ridiculously awesome game that I hope you got to enjoy.

- How does this affect us? Well, I forgot to mention that our boy Huggins and his Mountaineers also knocked off those pesky Pitt Panthers earlier in the night. I debated over who I'd rather play if we made it to the title game and said it would be "wishful thinking" to say neither Pitt nor UCONN. Turns out it wasn't. The Cards have defeated every remaining team in NYC and don't have to worry about what UCONN did to them or losing to PITT for the 4th straight year. Now the Cards can focus on getting that double title (regular and postseason) and leaving zero doubt in the committee and media's mind who the class of the best conference in the country.

- The three teams besides the Cards left (Nova, WVU, Syracuse) have what Pitino likes to refer as a "hungry dog" attitude. Louisville loses and the worst that can happen is a #2 seed, so not much is changing. The other 3 teams have the opportunity to improve their seeding drastically. They will continue to scratch and claw. For example, West Virginia is currently a #7 seed in ESPN's Bracketology. A win would get them at least a #4, possibly a #3. Nova is a #3 and could get a #2. A title could also be dependent on how close to home they play and - of course - what type of competition they will have. That is why the Cards have to continue to play hard and not get complacent. They are going to get everyone's best shot.

- Oh yeah, the Cards beat Providence yesterday 73-55 in what was a very strange game to say the least. I don't know if it was boring or I just knew the outcome 5 minutes in, but it seemed like the Cards were just cruising along for the victory. They played very hard from buzzer to buzzer, yet it just seemed like they were going through the motions. Which actually could be a good thing. It's like when someone watches a great player or musician and says "He looks like he's not even trying" when in fact he/they is so well-prepared that it just looks that way.

- The play got very sloppy at time and the Cards committed 20 turnovers against a Providence team that is not known for it's defense. I think it could've been a byproduct of the game being in-hand, but against a team that was playing better it could have determined the outcome. If the Cards don't take care of the ball better against Villanova the result won't be as pretty. Here are a few more thought from the Providence game...
  1. Like Crash said yesterday, Is this going to be the Earl Clark we get for the rest of the year? He's played like he did in the tourney last year in two of the last three games. Grabbing tough rebounds, staying inside the three-point line and taking what the defense gives him. 24 points, 10 rebounds on 10-15 shooting. Not too shabby.
  2. I was almost at a point where I felt sorry for the Providence guards having to bring the ball up the court against McGee, Smith and Knowles aka the rabid dogs. Every time Sherad Curry or Jeff Xavier had the ball, one of those three were inside their jersey. That pressure will be crucial from here on out with the tension being higher and mistakes ready to be made.
  3. Even though most of his attempts were dunks, Samardo Samuels reappeared as a force in the lane. He had 7-8 dunks, but a few times he showcased some moves. Once he even took his man off the dribble for a bucket. 22 points 7 boards and a season-high 5 assists for Mardo. Against smaller teams like Providence and Villanova tonight, Samuels needs to come up big.
  4. T-Will and Jerry didn't have bad games, but they didn't play good games either. T-Will just seemed off and probably could have turned it up if it were closer. Jerry was wide open multiple times and couldn't knock it down. Williams did have a nice baseline dunk where his head was even with the rim and Jerry hit a big 3 in the second half when the Friars cut the lead to five.
  5. Besides improving foul-shooting, ball movement should be the key for the Cards moving forward. When they get the ball moving around and through the big man, the offense looks like a well-oiled machine and open shots are created. When someone decides to go one-on-one is when mistakes and bad shots happen. If they keep moving the ball, good things happen.
- Villanova's Jay Wright was expectantly very complimentary towards the Cards after his Wildcats beat Marquette at the last second (another great game). He said the Cards were the best team in the BIG EAST and have proven that. His team gave up a 16-point halftime lead against Marquette only to retake the lead on a Dwayne Anderson lay-in as the buzzer sounded. In the previous meeting in Philly this year, the Cards were taken to the brink by Wright's squad and if it weren't for an amazing T-Will lay-up and 3 missed lay-ups, they would have lost. This time it's on a neutral floor with more at stake.

- My gameplan for the Nova game would be the same as it was for Providence. Disrupt their guard with intense pressure, let T-Will create with the basketball and force feed Clark and Samuels down low. I mean feed them like Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut eating hot dogs. Villanova, like Providence, has no inside presence besides Dante Cunnigham who is almost a small-forward. They do a great job of using all means necessary to guard the post, but both Earl and Mardo should be able to do work if given the ball. If they get started early, the Nova guard will have to cheat down - creating open three-pointers.

No starting 5 today - You need to be focused on the task at hand. Show Me My Opponent - Villanova coming up soon....

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