A few notes and observations after the first day of the Big East Tourmanent and the first game of day 2:
– What’s happened to Villanova? Is this the same team that sliced and diced Louisville two months ago in Philadelphia??? After losing yesterday to lowly South Florida in the opening round, Nova has now lost an unthinkable 5 straight games. If you go by NCAA Tournament selection history, it’s almost unheard of for a team to still make the cut after stumbling so bad to close the season. That said, the selection committee also said this year that they will no longer look at when a team lost its games, but rather solely take into consideration the entire body of work from November-March. If that holds true, the Wildcats should still get in with their 22-11 record. Their best wins were on the road against Syracuse and at home against Louisville. Their bad losses include @ Providence, @ Rutgers, and yesterday’s loss against USF.
– Rutgers gets a win in OT over lowly Seton Hall in the early game yesterday…..and though they probably won’t last too much longer (they face St. John’s today), I really like what Mike Rice is building there in Piscataway. Rutgers has a top-15 recruiting class coming in next year, according to most scouting services, and the RAC is already a tough place to play. Rice turned around a fledgling Robert Morris program over the last three years and was a Pitt assistant before that. He knows how to win.
– The late game last night between Marquette and Providence proved to be the one most Louisville fans had an interest in watching. After all, the winner would take on West Virginia tonight. The Golden Eagles came out on fire and poured gasoline on the burning season of Keno Davis and the Friars. Jimmy Butler led Marquette with a double-double (19 pts and 10 rebs) and they cruised to an easy win, 87-66. To me, Buzz Williams and his team have a whole lot left to fight for at this point. They stand 19-13 and are clearly right on the NCAA Tournament bubble. One more win tonight against the Mountaineers, and they’re probably in. It would get them to the all-important 20-win mark and provide another quality RPI win for their resume. If they do win, they would most likely solidify the 11th spot for the Big East in the big dance. A number unfathomable in years past and yet another reason why there is no argument about who the most powerful league is in college basketball. But, maybe more importantly, it could set up a rematch of the crazy January game in which Louisville rallied from 19 points down to win in the final seconds on a Kyle Kuric lay-up. But, really, it’s a win-win situation for Cards fans. Either they get a worn down Marquette team that had to play two tough games in two nights while they sat at home resting, or West Virginia wins and it sets the stage for a rematch of the controversial game from last Saturday. Either way, I don’t see Lousiville losing.
– Uconn looks good so far….while, they too, seemed to stumble a bit to the regular season finish line, they have reeled off back-to-back wins now in the Big East Tournament against Depaul and Georgetown. Kemba Walker just finished up with 28 points as the Huskies dispatched the Hoyas, 79-62. And while we’re on the subject of stumbling teams, let’s make sure we include Georgetown in the discussion. Since losing starting point guard Chris Wright to a broken wrist injury 16 days ago, they’ve now lost 5 out of their last 6 games and are trending in the wrong direction. The Hoyas are still 21-10 on the season and safely in the NCAA Tournament, but the odds of them making any noise next week are slim to none.
More updates to come…..