One Day at the Big East Tournament
Day Three of the 2012 Big East Tournament is now complete, and I had the privilege of taking in all of Thursday's action.
For any college basketball fan with a bucket list, sitting in on a full day of tournament action needs to be on it. Whether it is a conference tournament or the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the experience of several teams' fans, bands and cheerleaders in one arena at the same time is incomparable.
The third day of the Big East Tournament, which contains the quarterfinals, is often the most exciting day of the tournament. It has four back-to-back games that include the top four seeds in the conference, offering many opportunities for upsets.
This year's tournament included some negatives. The games consistently displayed poor shooting, even poor free throw sheeting. It was also apparent that the top four seeds, who received a "double bye," came out sluggish and out of sync compared to the teams that already had a game or two under their belt. With teams having complained about it before, the Big East may look to restructure the tournament with the new alignments coming in the near future.
Another negative to look at is the officiating, which was horrid throughout much of the day. There were several timing issues at the end of overtime in the Notre Dame/South Florida game that cannot happen in tournament play. The officials also allowed the Louisville-Marquette game to get out of hand physically.
But the day included two overtime games and a third game that went down to the wire. Madison Square Garden was littered with excitement and suspense all day long. Here are some observations about the individual quarterfinal matchups, with each team's Big East Tournament seeding.
No. 1 Syracuse 58, No. 9 Connecticut 55
The day's first game resulted in UConn's streak of 13 consecutive postseason wins finally being snapped. But the Huskies gave the Orange all they could handle.
Syracuse has little to play for in the Big East Tournament, as they will almost certainly be a one seed regardless of their performance in their conference tournament. But 'Cuse demonstrated today the one thing that will haunt them throughout the NCAA Tournament: three-point shooting.
Syracuse shot just 10 percent (2-20) from three, and needed a late run to finish off UConn after being dominated for much of the game. Kris Joseph, who is the only real scoring option for the team when they are struggling, was a nonfactor for much of the game. Without Dion Waiters' 18 points off the bench, 'Cuse would not have walked out with the win. Syracuse can compete with anyone athletically, but shooting remains a problem for them.
For UConn, the loss hurt, but there is a lot to be inspired by. If you do not know the name Shabazz Napier, get to know it before next week. Jeremy Lamb has earned a lot of attention for his abilities, but Napier single handedly won their game on Wednesday against West Virginia, and was critical in keeping the team in the game Thursday against Syracuse.
It is said that guards win in March, and with Napier, Lamb and budding freshman Ryan Boatwright, the Huskies could surprise some people.
No. 4 Cincinnati 72, No. 5 Georgetown 70 (2OT)
This game was absolutely painful to watch at times. How many double overtime games barely make it to 70 points? Both teams missed countless opportunities, and the game was only extended at the free throw line. The game was dramatic by default, but neither team showed anything that would impress someone looking for a sleeper in March.
The three-point shot was nonexistent in the game, to the point where a three-point lead was essentially a two possession lead. The game's big men, Cincinnati's Yancy Gates and Georgetown's Henry Sims, were the only bright spots in the game, despite Gates' lack of interest on the defensive end of the floor.
The Bearcats' main issue was trying to play an uptempo game against the controlling style of methodical basketball the Hoyas prefer to play. With the right matchup, Cincinnati may be able to put up points at a better rate with a four guard lineup.
No. 7 Louisville 84, No. 2 Marquette 71
The most entertaining game of the day was the only one that showed some life on offense. But even this game fell apart offensively in the second half: Louisville took a 50-40 lead into halftime, after which both teams struggled at times.
Marquette, the ninth-ranked team in the country, was the biggest disappointment of the day. They simply did not seem ready to play, and Louisville jumped on them early. Every time Marquette appeared ready to crawl back into the game, the Cardinals would extend their lead yet again.
I am not ready to give up on Marquette, as they undoubtedly have one of the most athletic squads in the country. But they ran into problems with Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder had to sit out with foul trouble in the second half. Darius Johnson-Odom picked up some slack on his way to a 23-point game, but without Crowder and Johnson-Odom on the floor at the same time, Marquette will always have problems.
Louisville point guard Peyton Siva is another guard making a name for himself this week in New York. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. The Cardinals were able to force 26 turnovers against a guard-oriented team. They may not be the biggest team, but their scrappiness in the full court press will cause teams problems.
No. 3 Notre Dame 57, No. 6 South Florida 53 (OT)
Every now and then you get a game that seems to set basketball back a decade, and this was one of those games.
It's astounding that South Florida can be so dominant on defense while looking so inept on offense. Notre Dame was able to take point guard Anthony Collins, the only offensive threat on USF, out of the game, making the Bulls look lost.
Notre Dame, however, is known for their scoring, especially when shooting from beyond the arc. But South Florida's defense was able to limit open looks for the Fighting Irish.
Both teams also displayed ineptitude at the free throw line. South Florida blew opportunities in the last seconds of regulation that ended up costing them the game.
There is really not much else to say, as teams will know what they are getting in games against these teams. Strong defensive teams will put them in a lot of trouble.
Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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