College Basketball Nation: Scottie Reynolds

Mario Chalmers did not like Jay Wright

September, 16, 2011
Yesterday, Yahoo! college hoops reporter Jason King (along with Lawrence Journal-World reporter Jesse Newell) announced that he would soon be releasing his book, "Beyond the Phog," a tell-all look into the last decade of Kansas basketball as told by the program's notable players and coaches. Just to tease us, the Journal-World published an excerpt, and it is really quite enjoyable.

The moral of this story? Former Kansas guard Mario Chalmers wanted to play for Team USA in the Pam Am Games in 2007. Villanova coach Jay Wright was the head coach for the Pam Am Games team. When it came time to choose his backcourt, Wright went with his own player, Scottie Reynolds, and cut both Chalmers and fellow guard Sherron Collins. According to Chalmers, Reynolds had "clearly been the worst player at the entire camp."

That might be subjective, and no one ever did their most reflective thinking after being cut from a team, but it almost doesn't matter if Chalmers is right or wrong. What comes next is hilarious:
So when it came to the Villanova game, Coach Self called Sherron and me into his office and said, “How do you feel about this Villanova game?” I said, “Coach, this is personal to me. I don’t like Jay Wright.” He was like, “I understand that, but keep it out of the media.” So when the media asked if it was a personal game, we’d say, “No, it’s not personal. It’s just another game.” But during the game we were talking all kinds of s--- to Jay Wright. We’d run by him and tell him, “Sit your a-- down! We got this!” Another time we said to him, “This is what you get for cutting us. We’re about to dog you!” Anytime we were throwing the ball in from the sideline, when he was standing up trying to call a play, we’d tell him to shut his mouth and sit down. There was one play where I threw a lob to Shady on an inbounds pass and he dunked over Scottie Reynolds. Right before I threw it I looked at Jay Wright and said, “Watch this!” That game was definitely personal for Sherron and me.

This is probably not the best way to handle your basketball-related grievances. Yelling at the opposing coach while you're bludgeoning his team in the NCAA tournament -- that game was 72-57, by the way -- makes you seem petty and dumb. Be the bigger person, right? Show how much better you are than the player he picked without screaming in the coach's ear about it on every sideline out of bounds play. Sheesh.

Of course, I say that, but really I'd be lying if I didn't thoroughly laugh at this quote. That's swagger, folks. Sometimes a team needs a chip on its shoulder. You wouldn't think the buzzsaw that was the 2008 Jayhawks would need that sort of motivation. But hey, whatever works.

Summer Buzz: Villanova Wildcats

August, 4, 2010
For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject? Villanova Insider. Up next? Tennessee.

Throughout former All-American Scottie Reynolds' tenure at Villanova, the Wildcats had a familiar defensive tendency. They fouled. Correction: They fouled a lot.

[+] EnlargeJay Wright
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesVillanova's 2010-11 team might be Jay Wright's most balanced team ever.
The thing is, for the first three years of Reynolds' tenure, it didn't seem to matter. In 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09, Villanova always ranked below the Division I average -- including two seasons far below it -- in opponent free throw rate. But those same three years saw the Wildcats post adjusted defensive efficiency rankings of Nos. 18, 34, and 15, respectively. How? By taking care of the other three defensive factors (opponents' offensive rebounding percentage, effective field goal percentage, and turnover percentage) well enough that a few free throws here and there didn't make much difference.

Then, in 2009-10, the wheels came off. Villanova's defense wasn't abysmal, but in allowing 94.0 points per 100 possessions it ranked No. 62 in the country. For much of the season, we assumed Villanova would compete for a Final Four spot. Even during a late-season swoon, most assumed 'Nova was better than they were playing. In the end, though, maybe they weren't. Maybe their defensive deficiencies were just too much to overcome. The offense, after all, was pretty darn good.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying this much: Scottie Reynolds might be gone, and the Wildcats will usher in a new wave of talented players, but the foul woes that plagued Villanova are likely to remain.

After all, the Wildcats were fouling long before Reynolds arrived. (And Reynolds, to his credit, had the lowest fouls committed per 40 minutes mark of anyone on 2009-10's team.) Only once since 2004-05 has a Jay Wright-coached team ranked in the top 200 in opponents' free throw rate. That year was 2005-06; Villanova ranked No. 198. There may be something systematic at work here.

More pertinent, though, is the increased visibility of a suite of Villanova players who committed their share of fouls last season. There's Corey Fisher (3.7 fouls committed per 40 minutes) Antonio Pena (4.9), Maalik Wayns (4.9), Mouphtaou Yarou (6.3) and Maurice Sutton (7.8 [!]). Isiah Armwood gets a pass for his limited usage last season, but even he committed 6.6 fouls per 40. Read together, those tallies look less like foul averages and more like the collective GPAs of valedictorian candidates at one of those high schools that gives extra GPA credit for A+ grades and advanced placement classes. ("What was your high school GPA?" "7.4!" Uh, what?)

The point is, there are still plenty of foul-prone players on this team. Some of them have major roles already. Some of them will be expected to step in. Either way, they're likely to keep committing fouls.

Naturally, that doesn't doom Villanova's season. Quite the contrary: If Villanova has shown one ability in Wright's tenure, it's that his teams are often able to overcome their willingness to send opponents to the line so frequently.

There is plenty of good news about this Villanova team, too. With a glut of big men ready to step in and take on larger roles -- especially senior forward Pena -- the Wildcats could be as balanced as any team Wright has ever coached. They might not need to rely on stellar guard play. They might not need the individual brilliance of a player like Reynolds.

And perhaps most importantly, a bigger and more balanced Villanova lineup -- one that can score without playing three or four guards -- could help the Wildcats cut down on those fouls. The Big East is a big conference; being bigger can only help. That goes for shoring up the defensive glass, too.

Whatever the improvements, though, it's hard to imagine a young team that commits as many fouls as the 2009-10 Wildcats did getting anywhere near the Final Four. Villanova remains talented. They might be more balanced than ever. But unless they morph into the nation's best offense (unlikely given Reynolds' offensive efficiency) or figure out a way to create more turnovers (possible, I guess), or learn to keep opponents of the glass (doable, especially with more size and depth), they're on track to suffer through the same issues as 2009-10's impressive but ultimately disappointing team.

Scottie Reynolds lands in Italy

August, 2, 2010
We've discussed the strange draft gap -- whether real or imagined -- ad nauseum this offseason. Yeah, we get it, Eamonn: The NBA doesn't draft solely on college production, as baffling as that concept might be to your pea-sized brain. Get over it, loser. (You guys usually aren't that mean in the comments, but, well, sometimes ...)

Other than Luke Harangody, who did manage to find his way into the second round of the 2010 NBA draft, perhaps this year's greatest example of such a gap is Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds was an All-American at Villanova, a star for all four of his considerable years at the school, but when draft time rolled around, Reynolds was left out. He played a few weeks for the Phoenix Suns' summer-league team in the hopes of securing an NBA contract, but no cigar. The NBA doesn't want Scottie Reynolds. No matter how many times you see the same formula materialize, it's always a little jarring.

Guess who does want Reynolds, though: Italy. Which is why the guard signed an apparently lucrative guaranteed one-year contract to play for Prima Veroli, a second division team in Italy.

Reynolds may never make it to the NBA, but there are worse fates than this. The point guard will be getting paid to play professional basketball in a beautiful European country. However temporary -- and hopefully Reynolds will get another shot next summer -- I think that counts as a happy ending.
Yes, The Associated Press has released its 2009-10 All-American teams, and there are few surprises on the lists. But that doesn't mean everyone is going to agree.

Anyway, since it's easier to just chew on a list, here's the first, second and third All-America squads:

First team

Second team

Third team

It's worth noting that the All-American teams aren't lineup specific, even though that first-team starting five looks pretty well apportioned. Positions don't really matter, which is why the third team would probably beat the second team thanks to sheer size.

Anyway, those are three pretty good lists, if you ask me. Reynolds faded down the stretch and turned in an uncharacteristically quiet NCAA tournament performance, but he carried his team for much of the season, and I have no real problem with his inclusion. Others have already criticized DeMarcus Cousins' place on the first team thanks to Cousins' 23.5 minutes per game average, but so what? Cousins was so good that he didn't need to play more than that to change the face of every game he entered. He still averaged a double-double, and while it would have been nice to see what he could do with Wall's 35 minutes a game, Cousins was never that player. But he was still that good. (And assuming it was always Cousins' fault he wasn't on the floor more seems a little silly. Sure, Cousins had his share of foul issues, and there were plenty of times when he needed to put his temper back in the box. But Kentucky coach John Calipari also had Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton on his front line, and you're not going to bench Patterson or ignore Orton no matter how good Cousins is. There are other, long-term considerations -- the NBA draft, how the program looks to recruits, etc. -- to be made there.)

Other than that, some might complain that Harangody was included on the third team. Harangody was injured for the most successful patch of Notre Dame's season after all, and he returned just in time to play a key role in his team's first-round tournament loss to Old Dominion. But at the risk of getting too sappy, Harangody deserved some recognition for his outstanding career, and if that means a slightly suspect inclusion on the third-string All-American team, so be it.

What about you, commenters? Any issues with your 2010 All-Americans?
BUFFALO – He is the gift that keeps on giving, to everyone but the schools that once employed him, that is.

Kelvin Sampson’s handprint is all over this NCAA Tournament, the players left in the wake of his implosion at Oklahoma and Indiana racking up minutes for teams while the Sooners and Hoosiers watch from afar.

Don’t think that’s not killing Jeff Capel and Tom Crean, either.

Six guys who either played for or were recruited by Sampson all made the field in different uniforms and five of them were still playing when the second round tipped off.

“I hadn’t thought about that, but I guess there are a lot of us,’’ said West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks, a top five recruit who decommitted after Sampson was booted at IU.

Damion James, ousted in the first round when Texas lost to Wake Forest, was supposed to play at Oklahoma but he was released from his scholarship after Sampson left OU for Indiana, leaving a trail of NCAA stink behind and no players for Jeff Capel.

Scottie Reynolds could have been James’ teammate. Instead Capel let him out of his commitment, too. On Saturday he and Villanova lost to St. Mary’s in the second round.

Armon Bassett, angry at the university’s decision to force Sampson out, was reportedly part of a pack of players that threatened not to play after Sampson left. He was dismissed by interim head coach Dan Dakich, reinstated by Crean and then booted again. On Thursday night, Bassett led Ohio University to one of the more stunning first-round upsets, scoring 32 in a win against Georgetown.

With players leaving left and right, Jordan Crawford told Crean in June 2008 that he, too, would be leaving Bloomington. He transferred to Xavier. The Musketeers will play Pitt in the second-round on Sunday.

And finally there is Ebanks.

He asked for and received an out-clause in his letter of intent, one that would allow him to be released from his scholarship if Sampson was no longer the Indiana coach. He exercised the out-clause not long after Sampson left.

“I think about it all a lot,’’ Ebanks said. “I wish it could have worked out at Indiana, but I’m glad it worked out for me. I was looking for a school that could make a Final Four run and I think I found that. I guess it kind of worked out for all of us.’’
Villanova WildcatsElsa/Getty ImagesVillanova came together to overcame a slow start and the benching of starters Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher to begin the game and beat a determined Robert Morris team in overtime.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Villanova isn’t completely right.

The Wildcats can point to the benching of starters Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher -- for not handling their business as starters in game preparation Wednesday night (that’s about as detailed as anyone would say) or the reinclusion of Taylor King back to the active roster. Or they can point to the lack of pregame shooting for Reynolds as a reason for his erratic play.

But know this: Villanova coach Jay Wright said the Wildcats haven’t played a full 40 minutes of good basketball since winning at West Virginia Feb. 8.

“That’s a long time ago,’’ Wright said after the No. 2-seeded Wildcats escaped with a 73-70 overtime win over No. 15 Robert Morris in the NCAA tournament South Regional first-round game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Thursday.

But can Villanova play like that again? Since that win over the Mountaineers, the Cats had lost four of seven games prior to the win Thursday. Getting 10 blocked shots was a huge key in the win over the Colonials, including four from Maurice Sutton and three from Mouphtaou Yarou.

“We can keep getting better,’’ Wright said. “If we can win this next game and get more practice, we can. I don’t know if we’re ready to win this next game.’’

The reason for that may be the focus of this group. Wright said it’s hard to argue with an outside perspective that the Wildcats look like a team that has gone adrift with multiple disciplinary actions of late for unexplained reasons. Wright said these are issues that are dealt with in-house and the team moves on.

He maintained there aren’t issues in the program, but “I do understand what it looks like. I can’t argue that. If anybody says something, I told our guys you can’t argue with them. It happened.’’

Wright emphasized that there are expectations for starters that weren’t met by Reynolds and Fisher. He said that both would start Saturday in the second round and that the issue was over. Still, something was amiss since Reynolds shot 2 of 15 from the field, 1 of 8 on 3s. His only 3-pointer came with one minute left in overtime. Reynolds did get to the line to make 15 of 16 free throws to still finish with an odd 20. Fisher was a moderate contributor with six points.

Wright said that not getting Reynolds his pregame shots up with assistant Doug West hurt Reynolds’ preparation. He said that the early tip time of 12:25 p.m. disrupted the game plan and that Saturday the Wildcats would find a gym for Reynolds to work out in prior to the game.

The decision to discipline his best player was made Friday night, Wright said, to send a message that the starters have to do their job in prepping for the game.

Reynolds said he heard it loud and clear and wouldn’t let it happen again, whatever “it” is.

“It’s not a big deal, it was coach’s decision,’’ Reynolds said. “I’m the leader and as the leader I’ve got to be that rock. I can’t have no chips on that rock. [Thursday] there was a chip in the rock.’’

Reynolds said he didn’t know the benching was coming. But he wasn’t shocked. Reynolds sat the first four minutes. He played 34.

He said he didn’t blame the benching for his poor shooting. He said he didn’t have his legs.

“As both a leader and a captain and a starter I’ve got to be solid and excellent all the time,’’ Reynolds said. “Robert Morris played a heckuva game. I think they did a great job on us and that had something to do with our shooting.’’

Lost among the Reynolds’ benching talk was an unbelievable effort by Robert Morris freshman Karon Abraham who scored 23 points and made five 3s. But that will be a blip on the record as Reynolds goes forward in the tournament.

“I’m a starter and if coach is punishing me, my choice is either sulk and let everybody know it and give other guys a reason to do the same thing,’’ Reynolds said. “He made an example out of me and I knew what he was doing. It didn’t affect me at all. Everybody learns from it and we’ll be better from it.’’
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Quick postgame thoughts after Villanova’s 73-70 overtime win over Robert Morris Thursday at the Dunk:
Mike Rice Jr
Stew Milne/US PresswireColonials coach Mike Rice had some questionable calls go against his team in the second half.

  • Villanova couldn’t have played worse and won an overtime first-round game. Couldn’t have played worse and still won.
  • Villanova seemed out of sync until overtime. Not sure if it was the benching of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher or the re-emergence of Taylor King but the Wildcats never could get in a groove.
  • Reynolds didn’t make a 3-pointer until the final 70 seconds of overtime. The 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a six-point lead and it came with one second left on the shot clock.
  • Villanova couldn’t find Robert Morris’ Karon Abraham for most of the game as he continued to keep the Colonials either out front or in the game. But they did a great job of hiding him on the final possession and preventing him from getting off a potential game-tying shot.
  • Abraham is the star of this game, a real find as a freshman for RMU coach Mike Rice. Abraham made deep 3s, got to the line and found a way to the hole. Another gem was the defense turned in by Dallas Green. He had a few blocks and defensive stops that were key in putting RMU in position to possibly win.
  • Rice had a right to be a bit upset over some of the calls. This is a once in a lifetime kind of deal for a 15 seed to pull off an upset like this over a 2 and a major power like Villanova. The Colonials were so close but couldn’t win it overtime. You could sense it was going to go against RMU in overtime. Villanova flipped the switch to win the game.
  • The crowd had a nice moment giving both teams a standing ovation, especially the Villanova fans. It was a class act. Rice also went over to the crowd to clap for the RMU fans giving a great effort themselves.
  • Villanova may have found its inside game with Mouphtaou Yarou. But it’s still not a strength.
  • I still don’t understand why Reggie Reading didn’t just score the ball and put Nova up five instead of trying to dribble out the clock. He gave RMU another possession and a chance to tie the game.
  • Stats to remember: Reynolds was 2-of-15 shooting and just 1-of-8 on 3s. But he was 15-of-16 at the line. Very strange numbers.

    Abraham scored 23 points and made five 3s.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- First-half impressions from Robert Morris’ stunning 28-22 halftime lead over Villanova:

  • Villanova coach Jay Wright benched starters Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher for a “teaching moment.” The teaching issue didn’t last more than four minutes but there was clearly an effect.
Wright was making a statement to his players and the team, and the flow of the squad was clearly affected. Remember, Villanova was also integrating Taylor King, who had been disciplined last week.

Reynolds committed two turnovers, including an offensive foul, when he came into the game. He finished the half missing all five shots, including four 3s. Fisher wasn’t any better, getting to the free throw line twice and missing both. The Wildcats were a meager 2-of-12 on 3s and got hammered on the boards 21-10.

  • I’ve had countless coaches tell me that going to the NCAA tournament one time for the low- to mid-majors is a big deal for that experience the second time around. Cornell is hoping that will be the case the third time. Well, RMU sure is making the argument for it to be a trendy theme. RMU was the aggressor from the start and showed no fear.
  • To pull off an upset like this, you need a big-time scorer to go off. It’s a must. RMU has one in the shortest player on the floor. Karon Abraham, a 5-foot-9 guard, unloaded three 3s in a quick stretch to give the Colonials the advantage.
  • While Nova’s Maurice Sutton is the one who is being the most active for the Wildcats, it’s the continued aggressive play by Dallas Green and Russell Johnson, showing no fear in going right back at the Cats, that is helping RMU stay out front.
  • You know there has to be a run in Nova. There has to be.
  • There’s a reason Nova lost five of its last seven games and limped into the NCAAs. The Cats were struggling and weren’t in rhythm.
  • Nova’s lifeless attitude can’t continue in the second half for it to win.
  • Villanova never should have been a No. 2 seed in this region. West Virginia should be the 2. But that’s an old debate.
  • If Fordham and Seton Hall athletic directors weren’t watching this game, they should be now. RMU’s Mike Rice, a Fordham grad, should be atop their list.
NEW YORK – Buzz Williams didn’t want to take any chances.

The Marquette coach is stubbornly set in his ways. What he believes he believes and what he believes his teams will believe.

Or else.

[+] EnlargeDarius Johnson-Odom
Tony Spinelli/ESPN.comDarius Johnson-Odom scored 24 points in Marquette's win over Villanova.
On the chance that the Golden Eagles might forget, Williams had his motto stitched right on the players’ shorts.


Translation: Where do you live?

Translation: “Old people live in the past, always talking about how they did this and that,’’ Williams explained. “Young people love to talk about the future. Every one of these guys thinks they’re going to the league. Wise people live in the present.’’

The past said the Golden Eagles lost three 1,000-point scorers. The future, at least in the eyes of the Big East coaches in the preseason, said Marquette would finish no better than 12th in the 16-team league.

The present?

The present looks pretty darned good.

The Golden Eagles won their sixth game in seven tries, upsetting Villanova, 80-76 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals. And they did it the way they always do: by the wisp of a baby’s hair.

Marquette staved off a furious Villanova rally, sealing their victory with a Lazar Hayward 3-pointer and holding on down the stretch. Of the Golden Eagles’ 32 games, 15 have been decided by four or fewer points, 13 by a single possession.

Marquette’s worst loss? By nine to Wisconsin.

“Their poise in the last eight to 10 minutes of a game is great because they know the deal,’’ Williams said. “We’re not going to blow anybody out. We have to keep it tight and hope it turns into a fight.’’

This one surely did. A physical, scrappy game the Eagles won doing what they do best: shooting 3s. They drained 11 of them.

Conversely Villanova lost doing what it does worst: playing defense. The Cats finally found another scorer – Corey Stokes finished with 22 points – but that wasn’t enough for the worst Big East team against the 3-point line to get over its Achilles heel.

It all added up to the Wildcats fifth loss in their past seven games, a skid that has sent them from 22-2 to 24-7, tumbling down the rankings and now down the NCAA tournament seed line.

Strangely there was no panic in the Villanova locker room. Jay Wright has contended that the 20-1 mark they held entering February was fool’s gold, that his team was winning games but the films showed critical mistakes and problem spots.

It sounds like a really good spin, but if it is, it’s one Wright is selling hard and well.

“We won some games we probably shouldn’t have,’’ Scottie Reynolds said. “Now a lot of people are making a big deal about this losing streak, but win or lose we do the same thing. We want to get better and I think we are. We’re playing a lot better now than we were No. 2 in the country.’’

If that’s the case, how good is Marquette playing? The Golden Eagles rode Hayward’s 20 points and Darius Johnson-Odom’s 24 to victory, coming back time and time again in a game that was tight from the opening tip.

“In every single practice, Coach really gears it up and it’s wild,’’ Hayward said. “It’s like a football practice the way we practice. And I think that’s why when we get in those games and we get in the guys of the game, we’re all calm because we do that every single day. We’re able to say, ‘Ok, we’ve been here before. We know what we’re supposed to do.’’’

What the Golden Eagles weren’t supposed to do, though, was be this good.

Clearly it all depends on where you live.

Marquette 80, Villanova 76

March, 11, 2010
NEW YORK -- Buzz Williams' pulse rate continues to rise, but so do the abilities of his Marquette team.

Expected to fall apart after losing three 1,000-point scorers, the Golden Eagles instead have soared into the Big East Tournament semifinals. And the heart attack kids did it the only way they know how -- in a close game. Marquette is now 8-8 in games decided by six points or fewer, but none of the close ones have been bigger than this one. Once on the bubble, the Golden Eagles are steadily playing their way up the seed rankings, proving to be a team that thrives on drama.

The Golden Eagles will face fellow upset maker Georgetown in the semis tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Villanova, once in line for a top seed instead will skid into the NCAA tournament, having lost six of their last 10 games after a 20-1 start. The Wildcats finally found another scorer not named Scottie Reynolds or Corey Fisher. Corey Stokes had a career high 22, but Villanova's defense was a killer. The worst team at defending the arc lived up to its billing, allowing a hot-shooting Marquette team to drain 9-of-16 3-pointers.
NEW YORK -- Bubble talk is almost over here at the Big East tournament. Of the remaining eight teams playing today, only one -- Cincinnati -- isn’t guaranteed to see its name on the board come Selection Sunday. And the Bearcats, frankly, have a lot more work to do before they can enjoy the view from the Barcaloungers.

So what’s left to play for? Nothing but being the top dog in the top conference in the country. And if you don’t think that matters, you haven’t been paying attention. Winning the Big East is akin to earning the medal of honor. It means you’ve done something darn difficult and borderline courageous.

Here’s a quick look at today’s slate:

Georgetown vs. Syracuse

The good news: This game will finish on the same day it started. A year ago today, the Orange tipped off against Connecticut on Thursday. The final buzzer sounded on a Friday morning after the marathon six-overtime game finally ran out of gas.

For the Hoyas: Georgetown dug itself a 23-point hole when it played Syracuse in the regular season. It absolutely cannot do that again. The Orange is too good defensively to come back against.

For the Orange: The regular-season loss ought to have an asterisk -- played in an emotionally fervent Freedom Hall. Syracuse remains the team to beat in this conference, but will need its big man combo of Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku to contain Greg Monroe today.

Marquette vs. Villanova

The good news: For Villanova, Taylor King is back in the lineup. Suspended by Jay Wright for "personal issues" he has been reinstated and gives the Cats another scoring threat.

For the Golden Eagles: Maurice Acker and Lazar Hayward are key. Acker needs to get by the deep and talented Villanova backcourt and get the ball to Hayward, who ought to have an edge on the Wildcats’ slim frontcourt.

For the Wildcats: Once 20-1, Villanova enters the Big East tournament on a 2-5 skid. Its biggest issue has been finding another reliable scorer to go alongside Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher.

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

The good news: Luke Harangody looks not just healthy; he looks like the one time league Player of the Year. He provided a huge spark for the Irish off the bench against Seton Hall and posted a double-double.

For the Irish: Notre Dame’s game change to a slower, ball-controlling tempo has worked well. The Irish have won five games in a row and are the hottest team in the Big East right now.

For the Panthers: Pitt has a chance to right one of last season’s wrongs. The Panthers were stunned and crushed in this round a year ago, the No. 2 seed going down at the hands of rival West Virginia. To do it, Pitt will have to use its scrappy and disruptive defense to take the Irish out of their new slow-down mode.

Cincinnati vs. West Virginia

The good news: The Bearcats are still alive. Winless in the tournament since joining four years ago, Cincinnati now has two W's in the books. Plus, every night the Bearcats are here adds another breath of life to their slim NCAA tournament hopes.

For the Bearcats: Mick Cronin minced no words after his team beat Louisville on Wednesday night: “If we get beat on the boards, we lose.’’ Cincinnati need to bring the same gusto and fervor to its rebounding effort tonight as it did against the Cardinals. The Bearcats aren’t likely to match the numbers. West Virginia is a much better rebounding team than Louisville, but they need the same dedication and effort in order to prevent the athletic and long Mountaineers from dominating.

For the Mountaineers: West Virginia looked like the team with Final Four talent by year’s end. The Mountaineers won five of their last six in dominant fashion, riding the coattails and talent of Da'Sean Butler.
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Cousy Award discovers Evan Turner

March, 5, 2010
When the people who run the Cousy Award named their 11 finalists last month, a press release was issued saying that they would eventually narrow the field to five.

Today, they announced six candidates since, um, Ohio State's Evan Turner, wasn't on the list of 11.

The nation's top point guard will now be selected a group that includes Turner, Sherron Collins, Scottie Reynolds, Jon Scheyer, Greivis Vasquez and John Wall.

Syracuse dominates Villanova

February, 27, 2010
SYRACUSE -- Here's hoping the bartenders downtown are at the ready because they're about to get inundated with some very happy people.

And with good reason. Syracuse's domination of Villanova not only put the Orange in position to secure the Big East regular-season title but it showcased exactly how Syracuse is going to be an awfully tough out here in the next couple of weeks.

A few observations:

-- Pick your poison, name your player. The Orange can score inside, outside, with their starters and off the bench. Against Villanova, Syracuse took turns figuring out ways to dominate: Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph with the punch to start the game; Andy Rautins raining threes early in the second half and then Arinze Onuaku taking it inside late. It's why the Orange will be so hard to beat come March. They can mold their offensive game to beat whatever sort of team they face.

-- Villanova is going to need to fix a few problems as it goes forward. For starters, the Wildcats can't rely on Scottie Reynolds all the time. The senior can put the Cats on his back and has, but the rest of his team can't passively wait for him to do it. Villanova also has to find a way to get inside. The Cats just don't have enough reliable shooters to expect to beat people from the outside. Villanova also has to shore up its defense. This Cat team is never going to be great defensively but they have to find a way to get a little better in a hurry.

-- 34,616 people in a dome, smushed around a basketball court can be really loud. The expected record crowd didn't disappoint in intensity, noise and Orange-ness. My ears will be ringing until April.

Halftime: Syracuse 46, Villanova 36

February, 27, 2010
SYRACUSE -- A few thoughts as the deafening noise takes a little time off here in Orange County.

-- Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph ought to split any sixth man of the year award given out this year. The two, who have been sensational the entire season, have injected energy and aggressiveness to the Orange. Jardine has pushed the tempo and has 12 points. Joseph has attacked the rim and has added nine plus seven boards.

-- Red-hot from the arc to start the game, Villanova has become too reliant on its 3-point shot. The Wildcats, who opened 4-of-5, finished 5 of 18. That's way too many 3s. They need to get back to penetrating the zone as Corey Fisher did to start the game and they also need to push the ball again. Villanova doesn't really run much of a half-court offense and struggles when forced into one. The Cats managed just two field goals in the final 11:31, surrendering a 9-point lead.

-- Syracuse can't afford to get complacent here to start the second half. Villanova almost assuredly is going to mount some sort of charge and the Orange -- which has been known to let a lead or two slide -- needs to be ready for it. The Orange also would do well to get its two best players involved. Wes Johnson, maybe still bothered by his hand, hasn't been a dominant presence at all and Andy Rautins, swarmed the entire half, hasn't been able to contribute either. The two have taken four shots apiece and have a quiet eight points.