Thursday, February 17, 2005

This One Didn't Exactly Need Four Overtimes, Not That Anyone Could Have Stomached Them

Most of the Big East games Notre Dame has been involved in are high-energy, back-and-forth shootouts with players hitting big shots the entire second half. Colin Falls had miracle threes against Georgetown and Seton Hall, although Georgetown immediately responded with a dunk in the game in DC. Chris Thomas hit a bit three to lift us to a win over St. Johns, and a crazy jumper from the baseline to seal the deal against ‘Nova. Hakim Warrick threw down crazy dunks, Gerry McNamara hit a deep three and Carl Krauser came through with a slick little floater to fall the Irish. All highlight reel material, all the time kinda games.

Wednesday night, on an ESPN Classic night, we got throwback announcers and a throwback score, as it looked like the score could have been 14-12 at halftime. The game was not pretty, the score at the end was inflated due to some free throws, but most importantly, the Irish avenged an early season loss and got a win they had to have at home.

Why was this Georgetown game so important? I don’t think the Irish are on the bubble, but should they falter and end up as one of the fringe teams come Selection Sunday, having been swept by another one of the bubble teams – the Hoyas – would not be a good thing. Plus, this win helps our RPI and helps us move up in the Big East rankings, so it was worth watching the sluggish play from the front line and the disappearance of one Dennis Latimore in order to make another notch in the ol’ bedpost.

When you look at the numbers, it’s amazing we put the game out of reach and kept it there for the last 30 minutes. We knew our halftime lead wouldn’t hold up, but the two times Georgetown cut it down to six (before the final minute, when the game was a free-throw shooting contest), the two veteran guards responded, with Chris Quinn knocking down a three and then Thomas getting to the rim, getting fouled and knocking down his free throws. Thomas and Quinn both played spectacularly for the second straight game – 39 points on 9 for 17 shooting – while Torin Francis sucked for a second straight game. I’m worried about writing for The Observer, simply because I’m afraid that if I’m given extended column space it’ll turn into a diatribe on why my granitey hands may be better than Torin’s, at which point he will hunt me down and kill me. However, Andy MacKrell noted in the dining hall the other afternoon that Torin is indeed not that tall, and with his newfound fencing skills, he believed he could take the junior forward.

The main number you see when browsing the box score is that we only shot 39%, while Georgetown was over 50% on the night, but the Irish made up the difference from fifteen feet (26 for 29 free throws), behind the arc (10 for 20, with a perfect 4 for 4 night from Chris Quinn) and in the Hoya passing lanes (forcing 17 turnovers). It’s nice to win a game where things don’t necessarily go well, however you’d be more impressed to see it on the road, despite the fact the Joyce Center crowd was less than energized on this evening. Probably had something to do with the fact there was no way anyone was going to be able to get up for Georgetown after the big UConn and BC wins, and the fact that everyone is already mentally on spring break.

The problems with tonight? Let me count the ways. Dennis Latimore contributed nothing in the first half, so Brey didn’t play him the second half. Problem is, Ric Cornett can’t have the offense ran through him like Latimore can, and Jordan Cornette is more comfortable outside, so if Francis gets in foul trouble, the offense bogs down. The entire bench is becoming an issue, because Russell Carter hasn’t given any sort of consistency (despite consistently turning the ball over), Ric Cornett is playing himself out of any sort of crunch-time minutes and Omari “No Man Is An Island, But I Am A Country” Israel disappeared a month ago. I’m not sure what happens if Quinn or Thomas get into foul trouble, as we’ll just cross that bridge when we get there.

Torin Francis is actually regressing as a player, as the instinct to attack the basket he developed in the UConn and Villanova games has disappeared pretty quickly. His hesitation anytime he has the ball would make him a good fit for the West Shamokin offense, or to act with the always-uncomfortable Mischa Barton, but it doesn’t work well when you have Thomas and Quinn spoon-feeding you lay-ups and dunks, only you can’t convert. That’s going to kill us come tournament time more than anything else, and if someone from one of our rivals doesn’t make a “The Torin Francis Totally and Completely Confused Face” mask, I’ll be really disappointed in their missing a golden chance to mock the intelligence of Our Lady’s University.

The moral of tonight’s story? You have to win your home games, you have to win ugly sometimes and you have to stop playing people if they aren’t producing. The next game is a must-win on the road against a Providence team that played really, really well on Monday night against the Huskies. We cannot afford to lose to a team that has one win in league play. Win that game, then avoid embarrassing ourselves the rest of the way out and we’ll be fine as far as getting into the tournament is concerned, but we’ll need to find one or two more quality subs along with some consistency in the post if we’re going to go anywhere once we’re in.


The extended college basketball blowout (I think I’ll entitle it ”So You Want To Fill Out A Tournament Bracket?: The Blog Guide for Dummies/Pitt fans”) is coming this weekend, as soon as I finish up my seminar paper due Tuesday and clear out a little free time. I’m going to go over some of the top teams in the country, hopefully attaining the help of a few outside advisors, and let you know how much I believe in them come tourney time. Here’s a big sneak peak, with the question being “How many teams do I believe have the consistency, heart, defense and play-making ability - right now - to win six straight games?”

The answer? One, of course, and that’s the Fighting Illini. And it’s not just because Illinois is undefeated, but it’s because they’re the only team who hasn’t shown their weaknesses can beat them yet. They shot terrible against Iowa, yet made the plays needed to win. They had a 12-minute field goal drought against Michigan, yet made the plays to win. Kansas is close to being at that level, Oklahoma State is getting there and Syracuse may or may not have what it takes, but this is all for a later post.

For those of you who don’t care about college hoops, I apologize, and you can look forward to some OC love after Thursday night, when I hope Kirsten lays the wood to Sandy for being absolutely-freaking-retarded.

Happy OC Thursday, where even people who verbally abuse you lay off for a bit.

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