Day 2 continued on with some drama to be sure. The end of the St. John’s – Rutgers game has sparked debate amongst all the talking heads of college basketball. In case you’ve been living under a rock like the guy in the Geico commercial, veteran officials Tim Higgins and Jim Burr blatantly missed two foul calls against St. John’s that should have put Rutgers on the free-throw line with a chance to tie the game. As it turned out, they weren’t done blowing calls. With about 5 seconds left in regulation Rutgers tried a halfcourt heave that was intercepted by St. John’s guard, Justin Brownlee. But instead of dribbling the ball until time expired or passing the ball, he took one dribble towards the sideline, clearly stepped out of bounds and then threw the ball towards the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Nothing was called, and the officials ran off the floor and the game was over. Huh? After watching the replays, there should have been at LEAST 1.5 seconds left on the clock and Rutgers would have had the ball at half court. Instead, the game ended and the Big East commissioner John Marinatto issued a statement a few hours later saying, “The Big East Conference acknowledges that two separate officiating errors occurred at the conclusion of the St. John’s vs. Rutgers game,” (referring to the travel and stepping out of bounds.)….both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur prior to the end of the game. Neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA rules.” Too bad there’s not instant replay in college basketball in these situations – Rutgers got screwed. St. John’s, meanwhile, moves on to play Syracuse today at 2:00 in the quarterfinals.
– The 7:00 game was also full of drama and intrigue. Oh wait, Cincinnati came out and absolutely crushed South Florida. Yancy Gates led the Bearcats with 25 pts on 10-11 shooting as they routed the Bulls, 87-61. Guard Dion Dixon also added 21 pts and Sean Kilpatrick had 12 and suddenly Cincinnati looks like a very scary team. There’s been some turmoil around the program as most fans were calling for head coach Mick Cronin’s head for most of the season, but as they methodically kept winning games, the complaining predictably stopped. Gates himself has also been a figure of frustration for Bearcat fans as his attitude and work ethic were called into question earlier this year by Cronin and he was suspended for 3 games. Upon his return he was booed by the hometown fans and he’s had to completely change his mind-set and re-dedicate himself to playing hard and winning back the fans. Winning cures everythng, so if he keeps playing ike this, the fans of Cincinnati will embrace him soon enough. Gates’ team will play Notre Dame tonight at 7:00 p.m. I’m going to go ahead and make a small prediction and say the Bearcats get the upset and the Irish end up a 2 seed next week in the Big Dance. Cincy is too big and powerful on the defensive side of the ball and they’re the best team in the Big East at slamming you off of screens and pressuring the three-point line. I think they suffocate Notre Dame and move on the semifinals tomorrow.
– In the nightcap, Marquette defeated West Virginia, 67-61. As I predicted yesterday, the Golden Eagles (now 20-13, 9-9, 2-0) had to have this win. They, quite frankly, just had more to play for that West Virginia. Now, I’m not saying the Mountaineers mailed it in or anything like that, because I thought they played very hard and fought the entire game. But in the end, Marquette’s penetration and size wore them down. This was a win Marquette HAD to have if they wanted to firmly secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Darius Johnson-Odom hit a pair of late game three’s to seal it for Marquette, and Junior Cadougan led the way with 15 pts and 5 assists. West Virginia took a 7 point lead to the locker room at half time after going 7-11 from the three-point line, but they cooled off in the second half going only 3-11 from long range. This marks the third traight year in which the defending Tournament Champion has lost its first game the following season.
– Well, the Marquette win means Louisville has its opponent for tonight, at 9:30 p.m. In their first meeting, Louisville stormed back from 19 points down late in the second half and capped an incredible comeback that will go in the vault with some of the other classic games played between these two teams. Here’s a few notes from the first meeting:
Final score was 71-70, Louisville…..the game was played in front of 21,485 fans at the KFC Yum! Center…..Jimmy Butler led Marquette with 15 pts and 9 rebs and Darius Johnson-Odom had 16 and 7…..Preston Knowles led Louisville with 17 pts and 4 rebs and Kyle Kuric and Stephan Van Treese each added 10 pts…..
In all, I think Marquette is one of the worst match-up’s for Louisville in the entire Big East. They have quick guards that attack the rim perhaps more efficiently than any other team in the league. In the last meeting they got both Gorgui Dieng and George Goode into quick foul trouble and their guards spent half the afternoon at the free-throw line. I’ve said all year long that teams that constantly attack the rim like Cincinnati and Marquette, give Louisville the biggest problems. The Cardinals play an aggressive style of defense, but it often leads to foul trouble. The one thing Marquette doesn’t do as well as Cincinnati is extend their defense to the three-point line. Louisville was 7-21 in the first meeting (33%) but they also missed many open looks. How they shoot from long range tonight should be a major factor in the outcome of the game.
In the end I think Louisville wins a tight one as Marquette runs out of gas in the second half. Lousiville is too deep right now and they’ll constantly be pushing the Golden Eagles.