Saturday, January 24, 2009

UConn 69, Notre Dame 61

Trying to figure out which commercials make me feel more out of touch -- the Winter X Games ones or the ones where Howie Long makes fun of people because their trucks aren't manly enough. Seriously -- what's so wrong with a heated steering wheel? Sounds like a pretty good idea to me...

Anyway, couple of thoughts on the game that just ended Notre Dame's 45-game home winning streak:

-Given everything that's happened since, the Georgetown victory at Connecticut is one of the biggest upsets of the season in college basketball. Huskies are 7-0 since then, including wins at West Virginia and Notre Dame. Hoyas are 2-4.

-There are few more effective or intimidating forces in the game right now than Jeff Adrien in the second half. The guy is so big, strong, tough and mean that he refuses to wear down while everybody else is, and the result is that there comes a point, late in the game, where he's getting every rebound there is. UConn is absolutely loaded -- the guards, Price and Dyson, are studs, and so is Kemba Walker coming off the bench. But Adrien may be their "glue guy," to borrow a phrase.

-I'm sorry, but the Harangody-Thabeet matchup goes to Harangody. I know Thabeet will yap about having won the game, and he'll be right (though a loudmouth thug). But Harangody dominated him in their one-on-one matchup. There's nobody in the nation who can score the ball in more different ways than Harangody can. Hook shots, three-pointers, reverse layups, mid-range jumpers...he's an animal, unstoppable with the ball even by a guy who's 7-foot-3 and lives for defense. Thugbeet is a monster on defense, but he's absolutely maddening to watch at the other end of the floor. If Harangody knows 50 ways to score, Thugbeet knows maybe two. It's as if he doesn't care. If he became a real offensive force, at 7-foot-3, UConn would be the best team in the country. Of course, they may be already.

-This may be the best defensive game I've seen Notre Dame play this year (which isn't saying much, since in most games they don't play defense at all). Their problem was that McAlarney went cold from the outside, enabling UConn to collapse on Harangody and render him merely great instead of otherworldly. The Irish kept jacking up threes in spite of their inability to hit them, and that offensive strategy let Connecticut put the game away in the second half.

-A lot can still happen (obviously -- it's not even February yet), but the Big East standings are starting to get a little definition to them. Marquette, Louisville, UConn and Pitt look like a clear Top Four right now, in whatever order you want to rank them. That matters because the top four teams in the conference all will get two-round byes in the Big East tournament. After that, you'd have to say Syracuse, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Villanova make up that Next Five. (Yeah, I know Providence is ahead of some of those teams, but a lot of that is schedule, and the Friars have yet to pick up a win against one of the Power Nine in spite of opportunities against Marquette and Georgetown, so we'll keep them out of the top group for now). Providence and Cincinnati remain the teams most likely to sneak into that top group from the bottom one, and then you have the quintet of South Florida, St. John's, Rutgers, Seton Hall and DePaul, who are completely horrendous. To this point, the only loss by a Top Nine team to one of the Bottom Seven remains Notre Dame's Jan. 3 loss at St. John's. Really, it's amazing that nobody else has slipped up, and I think it speaks to how great the conference is at the top than how rotten it is at the bottom.

-Just switched over to Texas-Texas A&M on ESPNU, and the color analyst is Dickey Simpkins! Former Providence big man. Love it. Where's Constanin Popa?

Okay, back to the commercials. I don't know, and I'm not a pickup truck guy, but that fold-down step on the back looks like a good idea too. Howie apparently thinks it's for wussies...

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