Monday, January 31, 2005

WARNING: Explicit Irish Hoops content to follow, and it’s not even that good. I would have liked to have waited, edited this up and made it slightly more coherent during my breaks tomorrow, but someone – who may or may not be my favorite at this rate – left me a demanding message at 1:15 in the morning, so here you go, un-proof read and at it’s rambling best. Sorry for the lack of updates, but don’t worry, you’ll be getting your fill with the Super Bowl, college hoops and Oscar/Grammy season.

Welcome back, Chris Thomas, and welcome to the national stage, Irish.

You’re a solid showing at Syracuse in six days from the bevy of “BC Needs To Watch Out For Notre Dame” articles and columns concerning next Tuesday’s game, which should pit an undefeated Boston College Eagles team, supposing there’s no collapses against West Virginia or at Seton Hall, against an Irish team that took some big steps today.

On one hand, you’ve got to look at it that UConn pretty much shot themselves in the foot with Rashad Anderson’s missed open three and Marcus Williams blowing a lay-up that I could have made. The only guy back near him was Chris Thomas, who was most definitely not going to be doing anything that could remotely resemble a foul and probably couldn’t get up to block it off the glass, so Williams just had to lay it in. But as many mistakes as UConn made, as many good things the Irish did, despite the play-calling in the final two minutes.

I said on Thursday Thomas was going to have to dominate the UConn point guard position, split by Williams and Antonio Kellogg, because I assumed we would get destroyed in the paint by the three-headed monster of Charlie Villanueva (who looks like a monster), Josh Boone (ugly enough to be a monster) and Edmund Nelson (who may have made a monster of a mistake transferring from Georgia Tech after his freshman season). Little did I know that if I bashed Torin Francis enough he could simply flip a switch that has caused him to average 19 points and 10 rebounds a game over his last two efforts. Nor did I realize pointing out Dennis Lattimore’s four turnovers in eleven minutes would be enough to spark him to twelve points, 9 rebounds and no turnovers in a very well-played 25 minutes this afternoon.

This win looks better and better when you realize we did it shooting 6 of 23 from the arc, our usual stand-by. There’s no doubt in my mind that had we shot that poorly earlier in the season, the game would have been blown open by the middle of the second half. But this time, we kept pounding it inside, and if the post was covered, we were driving to the rim. Sure, Thomas got blocked one or twice, Lattimore only has a 50% chance of finishing every time he’s at the rim and there were some wild shots thrown up by all involved, but anytime you’re getting to the rim, usually good things are going to happen, and good things did happen.

Again, guarded optimism after this victory, especially considering UConn hasn’t beaten anybody this season. Their potential marquee wins against Boston College, Pitt and Oklahoma have all been losses, with a defeat at the hands of the Massachusetts Minutemen thrown in for good measure. This is not, at least if you ranked the tournament seeds today, the 16th or 17th seed in the country, and for anybody that stormed the floor today, you should probably be ashamed of yourself. I understand it was nice to finally get that big W on national TV, but come on, if you expect to be competing with the big boys you can’t celebrate like that, even after the players had already left, when you knock off a team that isn’t even in the top ten.

What would be grounds for celebration? I don’t know, maybe knocking off a top-five, undefeated Boston College team next Tuesday night on ESPN2. Boston College is benefiting from the “Crappy Big East Weighted Schedule Advantage” in it’s last year in the league, because the usual contenders like Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame and Connecticut all have to play each other twice and generally knock each other around. The team that got this advantage last year was Providence, who turned it into an 11-5 conference record and first round exit in the tournament. The Eagles only have to face the previously-mentioned foursome once each, and get the Orange and Panthers at home. They already won at UConn, so the lone road hurdle left in their Big East schedule is that game in the Joyce Center with a team that now appears to have the inside muscle to take on Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, especially if the Cornett(e) Bros, Francis and Lattimore all play like they did today. If Colin Falls starts playing within himself again and stops taking the threes when he’s on the move, the Irish have a very good chance of winning that game Tuesday and solidifying their NCAA bid.

I’m probably overlooking the Syracuse game, and that’s because it really doesn’t concern me. We’re not expected to win it, especially with over 30,000 cramming the Carrier, so a win is fantastic while anything outside a blow-out loss isn’t too tragic. Notre Dame isn’t in some crappy conference where they have to avoid every loss to keep their bid. They’re in the Big East, the best top to bottom conference in the nation, and they get another game against UConn, two against Pitt and the aforementioned game against Boston College, so it’s not going to kill them to get swept by the ‘Cuse as long as they grab another big win in there.

So how do I feel after today’s game? A world of better. So much better about this team. That was the Chris Thomas we needed, that was the heady play by Jordan Cornette we needed, that was the sheer physicality of Torin Francis we needed and that was the slashing from Chris Quinn we needed. The new Bracketology will come out tomorrow, and I’m pinning us in the 6-seed area right now. That’s not a bad draw, and with a couple more wins in the Big East, we’ll going to be making like the Jeffersons and moving on up.

Most Important Observation From Today’s Game, By Your Leprechaun Legion:

Myself: How Brey managed the substitutions, which were handled great, and how freaking good Rudy Gay is going to be. Kid’s got mad elevation on that jumper.

Danny: Torin finally having the confidence to make a quick move.

Patrick: Lattimore stepping up his game with 10 minutes to play...and Quinn's ball-handling was better than I thought.

Matt: That Jim Calhoun is a monster of a man.


Cailan: Francis dunking for the "and one".

Andy Mack: T-money can actually dunk.

Jeff: Colin Falls needs to stop shooting that much.

(I’ll edit in other Legion responses tomorrow, as this was patched together rather quickly. As you can see, the majority of us are amazed with how much Torin Francis has improved in two games.)

Box score from the game.
Wondering About Torin's Dunking Ability
Game recap

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