Even though we’re all fixated on the huge best-of-three series against the Washington State Cougars, let’s spend a short time looking at the four remaining Big East teams in the BIG Dance - Syracuse, Marquette, Louisville and Cincinnati. I’m not going to lay out a preview for you, because there are much smarter and more important people to handle that. But I’d like to offer up where my rooting interest lies over these next few weeks.
Rankings are in order of most tolerable to least tolerable:
- Marquette - I mean, how can you not love Buzz? Happy go-lucky, decent dancer, scratchy voice and the antithesis to Boeheim. Buzz’s teams have always given Pitt fits, with their up-tempo style and great guard play. Speaking of guards, we all remember the D-Wade NCAA tournament game, which was really coached by Wade, just with Tom Crean standing on the sidelines, his second grader hair flopping all around. Bottom line: You can’t really hate Marquette, other than they are in Milwaukee, home of the Brewers, and home to the team that waxes the Pirates every year.
- Cincinnati - Yeah, yeah they got in a fight, hurt some people and did some bad things. The brawl even benefited us; we didn’t have to face Yancy Gates in our New Years’ Day matchup. But, yeah, we still lost. You have to respect what Mick Cronin has done to bring the team back from the brink. We couldn’t recover from a freshman transfer and a groin strain around the same time. Good for the Bearcats and I hope they beat their in-state rival, Ohio State.
- Louisville - Rick Pitino, still spouting off on our departure to the ACC, has always struck me as arrogant and self-serving. Any man in such a power position will be like this, but he’s just too weasel-ish for me. The white suits, the paid abortion scandal, the delusional move back to the state of Kentucky and having Ralph Willard on your bench, leave me with nothing else to say but, “Go Spartans!”
- Syracuse - The Grimacer. The Whiner. In contrast to Buzz Williams, how can you not dislike Jim Boeheim? Seriously, unless you are a fan of Syracuse, nobody can truly enjoy listening to a press conference with this guy. Just as it is with Hines Ward, everyone outside of Pittsburgh really despises this guy. He gives the Black and Gold a bad name. And, Boeheim, through the whole Bernie Fine scandal, dug himself a hole with every ignorant and condescending remark. While they probably have that most talent and best chance at winning it all and repping the Big East, I’d be delighted to see Bucky the Badger advance tonight.
Here are observations from the atrocity that was last night’s game. Also, posted over at Cardiac Hill.
- Turnovers are one thing, but I have never seen a point guard make the kind of lazy passes that Tray Woodall does. Cross-court passes that simply shouldn’t be made. His calculated, almost methodical style of running the point, helps him make those nifty backdoor passes and quick dump-offs on the break. But, my goodness, some of these attempted passes looks like he doesn’t care. I take that back. The kid wants to win, but you have to be smarter and more self-aware that EVERY team in the Big East has players that defend the passing lanes well. Here’s a quote from Tray after the game:
- In the second half, John Johnson made, quite possibly, the worst bounce pass I have ever seen as he got near the paint. We all know he has a good shot, but he scares me in an Ashton Gibbs-type of way - meaning he’ll never develop true comfort around the basket. Just a gross pass.
- J.J. Moore shot better last night. We all know he can elevate around the rim, but if he can step out 15 to 20 feet, he’ll keep defenders honest and open up the driving lanes.
They were denying every pass. We didn’t do a good enough job getting open. They were taking advantage of some of our short cuts, getting out on the passing lanes, and had a bunch of steals.
- There are certain post-moves of Kilicli’s that are impossible to defend. Even when Zanna and Taylor had pretty good position, they couldn’t stop the towering hook shots at their 6-9 size.
- However, there was defensive possession in the second half where you had to seriously question Dante Taylor’s basketball IQ. Everyone in the arena knows, probably even the cheerleaders, that Kilicli likes to go left. So, when you see Kilicli post up on the left block you absolutely have to force the guy middle. But no, Taylor defended him on his left side, allowing him to get the ball exactly where he wanted and convert on the ‘and one’ dunk. Kilicli’s facial expression post-dunk frightened me. Now, It’s one thing to get beat physically, but when you lack that type of court awareness, it raises serious questions about Dante’s mental game and the coaching he’s getting from Dixon’s staff.
- Bob Knight made a comment late in the second half that seemed really stupid at the time, but rings so true today, “I would tell my players, don’t pass to the wrong color.” Are you listening Tray?
- Cameron Wright’s horrendous travel with Kilicli defending him might be the ultimate antithesis to Kemba vs. McGhee last season. Dixon just doesn’t find guys that can beat their man off the dribble. It was Kilicli, too. Come on, man.
- Have you ever seen us come up short on so many shots? Tray, Ashton and Nas could not get the ball to the rim.
- Tray Woodall’s ESPN bio picture makes him look really high and sleepy, even more so than Dante Taylor.
- When the ESPN telecast came on last night, Bob Knight looked absolutely miserable. I mean, at his age, who would want to be calling a game with such mediocre teams? How long does ESPN hang on to the Knights, Vitales and Munsburgers of the world. Raftery is the ultimate exception. He gets younger as we grow older.
- The student section chant “Here We Go Panthers, Here We Go,” does not work. This should only be reserved for the Steelers. Something about it doesn’t sound right. There’s not enough yinzer in it. Maybe because the Heinz Field one sounds like, “Heeeeerrrrre Weeees Gowwwwww Stilllllerrsss, Heeeeerrrre Weeee Gowwwwwwwww.”
- Forget this year. Next year could be worse.