Thursday, February 5, 2009

A week in review -- Did Jessie Sapp really hit two three-pointers in the same game?

Just back from a week in Florida visiting the in-laws. The blog has, sadly, suffered for the trip because the room in which we stayed at the Courtyard Boynton Beach did not have internet access.

It did, however, have cable. And between that and a review of the scores of the past six days, I have a few thoughts:

*The Hoyas won a game! Sure, they lost one too -- at Marquette on Saturday, to extend the losing streak to five games before a lackluster bounce-back against Rutgers on Tuesday night. But we here at RCR prefer to think positive, and it's good that they beat Rutgers. Very good. Still looking shaky -- with four tough games and four "easy" ones left they'll need to pull an upset or two in order to finish with a .500 conference record. But it had been so long since the last win that we're just going to focus on the fact that Georgetown scored more points than Rutgers, enjoy it and (for now) leave it at that.

*Notre Dame did NOT win a game. The Irish lost to Pitt and Cincinnati, have dumped six games in a row and now sit at 3-7 in the conference, in 12th place, and 12-9 overall. Their next game is Saturday at UCLA, a likely loss. Assuming they lose that game, their home game against Louisville and road games at West Virginia and UConn, they'd have to win all of the rest of their remaining games just to finish 17-13 overall and 8-10 in conference. That would mean beating Villanova at home and Providence on the road, neither a sure thing. I sort of called this a month ago, pegging Notre Dame as the "Top Nine" team most likely to slip into the conference's bottom tier, but I had no idea it would be this bad. (And sadly, I also had no idea the Hoyas would join them.) Luke Harangody remains one of the best players in the nation -- probably the best offensive player in the nation -- but the rest of the team is a mess, the shooting is unreliable and the defense just doesn't exist. We could be seeing a complete collapse.

*Marquette hosts Connecticut on Feb. 25. By that time, there's a real chance that Marquette will have a 14-0 conference record and UConn's will be 14-1. Both teams have potential trouble spots between now and then, but the only game in which either might not be favored is Marquette's road game at Villanova. Right now, you get the sense that UConn is the conference's best team, if not the country's. They crushed Louisville, which had been crushing everybody for weeks. Their only loss in conference came in their first game, against Georgetown -- a game after which Jim Calhoun, by all accounts, tore them to shreds in the locker room because he felt they hadn't played as hard or as well as they could. What's happened since (a 10-0 record by the Huskies and a 3-7 record for the Hoyas) bears that out, though Marquette will get its chance to prove its guards are the class of the conference on Feb. 25.

*If the Big East tournament were held today, the first-round matchups would be as follows:
(9) West Virginia vs. (16) DePaul
(10) Georgetown vs. (15) Rutgers
(11) St. John's. vs. (14) South Florida
(12) Notre Dame vs. (13) Seton Hall
with Villanova, Providence, Syracuse and Cincinnati waiting to take on the winners on Day Two. In my opinion, not enough has been written about the format of this year's Big East tournament, and the possibility that one or two NCAA tournament teams could be playing on its first day, needing to win five games in five days to be conference champs. Teams like Georgetown, West Virginia and Notre Dame should be incredibly motivated over the next few weeks to find a way out of that bottom eight and into that middle tier, from which they'd "only" have to win four games in four days to win the tournament (something that's only been done twice). This tournament is always a knock-down, drag-out, but this year's could be the toughest and roughest of all time.

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