Thursday, March 09, 2006

Round 2: Uconn vs. Syracuse

8. Cincinnati1. UConnSyracuse
UConn
'Nova
9. Syracuse9. Syracuse
5. Georgetown4. MarquetteGeorgetown
12. Notre Dame5. Georgetown
6. Pitt3. West VirginiaWVU
'Nova
11. Louisville6. Pitt
7. Seton Hall2. VillanovaVillanova
10. Rutgers10. Rutgers

Predictions in italics. Wrong picks in bold

It's all Syracuse in the early goings, as they race out to a 7-0 lead. Oh, and in case you missed it (which would be rather difficult, since it was played roughly 1.8 x 104 times yesterday), Jim Boeheim's rhetoric regarding G-Money may have been the greatest comments ever made by a coach at a press conference. Ever.

This is seriously one of the best games I've seen in quite a while. As such, the game log is rather long, so I've spared the main page. Just click on that [MORE] link for the full post.

[MORE]

ESPN just flashed the graphic showing that UConn is 0-7 from the field. This is promising for the Huskies. They have to start falling some time, right? They did for G-Town yesterday.

Last year, while closely following the Big East during my senior year at Rutgers, I developed a dislike for UConn's Josh Boone, mainly because the Scarlet Knights had zero people who could guard him. With Charlie Villanueva garnering much of the defensive attention, Boone was left to run wild. His prolific and emphatic dunks pissed me off to no end, so it was quite a delight to see him stripped on a fast break. It was equally as delightful to see a subsequent 3-point attempt blocked. Yeah, I may have picked UConn in this one, but I'm certainly hoping they lose.

The equilibrium was restored for a bit, as UConn started sinking some buckets, but it looks like SU is rolling again, up 10 with eight minutes left in the first. Alas, the back-and-forthness continues, with UConn slicing the lead to four with over three minutes left in the first. SU's early run may prove pivotal in the waning minutes of this one.

That brings me to a point about SU vs. UC yesterday. Right as the first half was about to expire, G-Money stripped Jihad Muhammed and splashed a tre as time expired. The game was decided by a single point. So while G-Money's three with .5 seconds left was the game decider, his half-ending tre was nearly as pivotal and went mostly unnoticed. Folks, that's why I love sports; all the little things that come together to form the bigger picture.

And there's Rudy Gay, proving his worth as the No. 2 pick with a stupendous putback slam. But SU answers right back with a backdoor cut, leading to a return slam. Ouch. A bucket and a foul mucked up SY's lead, which is down to four. And there goes that bum Watkins, traveling on a play where he should have been sent to the foul line. These are the kinds of mistakes a championship team doesn't make. They also don't make mistakes like the one Roberts just made, completely mistiming an easy rebound-putback combo.

Another interesting graphic - points in the paint favor Syracuse 22-8. That's 22 of 34 points in the paint. And while I pointed out things Syracuse did that aren't characteristic of a championship team, scoring 22 of 34 (now 37 thanks to a tre from the "other white guy") certainly is what champions do.

Long three missed by Uconn, shutting off the shot clock for SU, who should hold for a final shot. Yep, that's what they're doing, with "other white guy" almost muffing a pass to G-Money. Thankfully, G holds on, feeding a teammate right under the basket for SU's 24th point in the paint and a 39-29 halftime lead.

Five points each to start the second half, but that's not the interesting story here. Hilton Armstrong, obviously taking the mantra to "protect the ball at all costs" too seriously, just elbowed "other white guy" in the nuts. Seeing OWG had no reaction, I think it's safe to say he's neutered.

And now SU is up 14, leaving me with a feeling of impending doom. We've all seen this before: a No. 1 team down big, only to make a huge run in the last 10 minutes to win the game they should have been winning all along. It's an ageless story, and this game just reeks of it. Here's to hoping I'm wrong.

Time just can't move fast enough. And now G-Money is sitting on the bench, making me wonder if this is where UConn stages their comeback. But two botched threes will throw a monkey wrench in those plans. But a missed SU shot and a Rashad Anderson tre later, and we're at a five point game, with no sign of McNamara at the scorer's table.

Seriously, UConn is getting way too many second chance opportunities. Thankfully, Boeheim is smart enough to take a break, which hopefully means the return of McNamara. After watching them for the past two days, I have to conclude that whoever thought G-Money is overrated obviously does not have an eye for talent. This kid carries the team, both with his sweet shot and his impeccable feeds to teammates. Sweet, there's No. 3.

I know possessions with 12 minutes left aren't critical, but SU needs to score here. YES! A miss by McNamara is slammed home by Roberts, putting the lead back at seven. Armstrong to the line when they come back from a timeout.

McNamara to Roberts is beginning to look like Stockton to Malone. Those two are feeding off each other in a major way. This could be a key for SU down the stretch. As will second chance opportunities, like the one they just created.

Dammit. Absolutely gorgeous drive by G-Money, followed by an impeccable pass to Watkins, but his made shot is waved off for a foul on the floor. Disappointment, but that puts UConn one step closer to the penalty, at least. Perfect possession by SU, eating clock and feeding Wright for an open three. The lead is back to 11.

Ugh, and there's that Rudy Gay. I can't bring myself to dislike him because he's just so good. And now McCrosky is a little hasty, driving and getting his shot blocked, followed by Wright committing a sloppy turnover.

This is why G-Money is the man. He gets the ball off a missed shot, feigns a fast break, and then kicks it out to slow things down and keep the clock moving. Would have been a great possession had McCrosky not been called for a charge.

Now UConn looks alive, with a quick steal off an inbounds pass, followed by a trip to the foul line. Marcus "I stole lap tops, but I'm an athlete so just got a slap on the wrist" Williams hits both, cutting the lead to six. Another pivotal possession for SU here. Wright misses a tre late in the shot clock, but a Syracuse rebound gives them a fresh 35. G-MONEY! For threeeeeeee! Back up to nine.

Marcus Williams answers, and we're down to six minutes. Sloppy pass, easy UConn bucket, we're down to a four point SU lead. Timeout. Can you smell the doom?

Roberts just picked up his fourth, giving UConn and 1 and 1, of which they sink the first...and the second to slice the lead to two. And bye bye Roberts, who gets called for his fifth fighting for a rebound. That might just seal Syracuse's fate. And there's the two free throws to tie it.

Wright misses a wide open three on the ensuing possession, but thankfully there's a foul on UConn during the rebound. I still think SU needs to be eating clock. But they don't. Watkins misses horribly after a perfect pass from McNamara, and then SU blows the rebound chance. Doom yet, anyone?

Sweet, foul on Josh Boone, but somehow that's only his first. One more until the Orange are shooting one and one, but I'm more concerned about them posting two points on this possession. And can McNamara be any better? He continues these ridiculous no look passes (this one to Nichols) that are leading to buckets or at least open looks. Stupid media timeout. SU up by a mere two points with 3:25 left.

More G-Money. Feed by McNamara to Other White Guy, and with a steal on the next possession, SU has a two point lead and the ball with 2:30 left. Ouch. Turn around three by G-Money doesn't fall, and we're down to two minutes with a two point SU lead -- which is immediately erased.

Should be close to a minute left after this possession -- and McNamara misses a shot earlier in the shot clock. This does not bode well. Tie game, minute left, No. 1 team in the nation has the ball. Block by Other White Guy! And Other White Guy scores! Absolutely sensational.

Uh oh. A missed three by Gay is followed by a G-Money rebound, but not only is he called for traveling, he's limping. Doesn't look overly serious. NO! Anderson hits a three to give UConn their first lead. The good news: the shot clock is gone, and Syracuse has a chance to win with a two. I'm giving the ball to McNamara at this point and letting him do his thing. If he gets open, he shoots. If he's doubled, he's had great success finding the open man. That should be Boeheim's timeout speech: "Gerry, this is your game. If you want to shoot, shoot. If you want to pass, pass."

Pass it is, and Wright misses an easy looking shot. Sure, add in the pressure of the situation it's not as easy, but now SU has to pray for a missed free throw. One of two sunk...two of two. Three point lead, and there is no doubt that Gerry will be taking the final shot now.

Oh...my...God. I want to bear Gerry McNamara's children. Second clutch three in two days sends this game to OVERTIME, baby! And it was an NBA three, to boot. I don't know what Big East assistant coach called him overrated, but he should be immediately fired. However, SU will now have to endure an entire overtime period sans Roberts. Watkins, I know you're a freakin' bum, but it's time to step up.

Speaking of Watkins, he quickly picks up his fourth within the first minute of OT, meaning UConn is going to get real aggressive down low. Missed three by G-Money, and UConn now has a two point lead and the ball. Boone is hovering near the paint, and I fully expect him to get the ball this possession. But I'm an idiot, and ended up with a missed three.

Ensuing possession...ball moving around nicely...FOUL AND THE BUCKET! McCrosky finished strong and puts SU in a position to take the lead. And they do. HAHA! Armstrong just doinked a dunk attempt. The hilarity is kind of ruined, as G-Mac gets caught up, resulting in a jump ball. Syracuse has the arrow, and they've got it with a chance to go up three...or four.

Ouch. Missed runner, missed putback, but miraculously, SU is still able to recover the loose ball. Just over two minutes left, and Other White Guy misses a runner.

You can tell how tired these players are by the rainbow-esque arc on thier shots. A missed three by UConn results in a foul on the rebound, sending McCrosky to the line for one and one, which he inevitably doinks.

Here's UConn trying to beat Syracuse's zone with some quick passes along the perimeter, but that just results in another missed field goal, of which UConn has made none in OT. And here's another foul, giving SU a chance to open the lead to three. Minute fifteen left, and I think I need to sweep up the pile of fingernail bits next to me.

Nichols comes through were McCrosky failed, twice even. Three point lead for SU, UConn ball. Holy crap! Just as expected, UConn goes with some quick passes to beat the zone, and feeds Gay, who is covered by four-foul Watkins. But Watkins holds his ground, doesn't commit a foul, and now it's SU ball. AND THEY FOULED G-MONEY! Five point lead. Boone to Brown...missed three! Brown up again down low...BLOCKED BY WATKINS!

Thirty five left, and UConn is just launching threes now. And when you go with that strategy, one is bound to fall. Brown has the touch, and now it's a two point game with 28.5 left. Quite a conundrum here, since G-Money will be touching the ball as soon as they get over half court.

Great quip by a commentator: "Syracuse obviously wants to win." No shit, Sherlock.

Why did it take UConn two and a half seconds to foul Watkins? That may be the biggest break UConn gets in OT, and they nearly blew it (right after the foul was committed, the ball was in McNamara's hands). Clutch by Watkins, but the true test is this free throw to make it a two possession game. CLUTCH!

OTHER WHITE GUY! Qhat a steal off the inbounds, but he botches the layup, followed by a quick three on UConn's end. Seventeen and a half seconds left, Syracuse up one. Seriously, this team has made so many mistakes, and they're still in prime position to win this thing.

Thankfully for them, McNamara is at the line, sinking one, but misses the second. Will they go for a three at the end? Nope. Runner missed, followed by a scramble and a jump ball in favor of UConn. I can't believe how close Marcus Williams was to making that one. Five and a half seconds left. No timeouts for UConn.

WILLIAMS MISSES! SYRACUSE WINS! Holy God, I can't believe that just happened. Honestly, if you couldn't tell from my voracious typing, this is one of the best games I've watched since last year. This is just what I needed to take my mind off the NBA. March Madness, baby! I can feel it already!