March 2, 2007

I don’t know. A big game tomorrow night. At least a share of the Big East Regular Season Championship on the line, and yet there’s a disjointed and odd feel to the coverage and attention.

The first thing I thought of when I read this:

Pitt starting forward Levon Kendall did not go through a full practice yesterday because of a nagging turf toe injury…

was, “He should have hurt it sooner.” Kendall’s shooting has been pretty good the last week or so. Still, with Sam Young’s tendonitis in the knees flaring again, this is troubling. It means serious minutes for Tyrell Biggs is a possibility. Biggs keeps showing flashes, especially in the last game, on offense. It’s inconsistent, though. He’s still not much of a rebounder or defensive presence — and has often been quite foul-prone. It’s good that he’s got a positive attitude.

“I know it’s going to happen,” Biggs said of his improvement. “All I have to do is step up.”

Senior guard Antonio Graves said Biggs’ mental outlook is his most important trait.

“The key thing is that he kept cheering (in the WVU game),” Graves said. “His spirit was up. That kept him in a positive spirit, so when his chance came, he was ready and he wasn’t down on himself.”

Biggs doesn’t know any other way.

“You just got to hold your head high,” Biggs said. “Sometimes we find ourselves slouching on the bench. I’m going to try to do whatever I can do to get us going.”

Marquette’s had a week to stew over their road loss to ND. They raced out to a big lead, but by halfway through the first half ND was taking over and just ran away with the game.

The ND game, again exposed their poor post and inside play. Add in their guards having a horrible night, and you’ve got the simple answer for how Marquette lost that game by 12.

Pitt’s free throw issues have been frustrating, but they have paled compared to UConn’s. I just have to go to this as Calhoun essentially lost it after the Villanova game when the team went 24-44.

“It is inexcusable that we can’t make foul shots,” Calhoun said. “Thank God those glass backboards are pretty sturdy because otherwise we would have broken them. … Deplorable.”

Calhoun went on to criticize his team unlike he has all season. He said they were embarrassed on national television. He questioned their work ethic. Asked what he told players, he said, “That I’m not going to accept it and maybe you don’t belong here, a couple of you, if you can’t step up and make a foul shot.”

“He just wants everybody who is missing free throws to take extra shots,” Jeff Adrien said.

Asked what he thinks Calhoun means when he says a few players might not belong at UConn, Adrien said, “I don’t really know.”

UConn is the worst free-throw shooting team in the Big East at 62.9 percent (498-for-792). In conference play, the Huskies are also last and even worse (61.3 percent). It has baffled Calhoun since the Huskies began to struggle in January.

“We are not a bad basketball team,” Calhoun said. “We’re a bad foul shooting team, for sure.”

The Huskies, who close the regular season Saturday at Georgetown and could be the 12th seed in the conference tournament next week, have shown small signs of growth lately. They have scored at least 63 points in each of the last five games. Dyson has become a go-to player. A.J. Price is showing signs of life at point guard (seven assists Wednesday). In general, ball movement has improved and prolonged scoring droughts are not as much a signature.

Missed free throws are negating progress. UConn achieves desirable offensive position and does not cash in when fouled. The numbers suggest the Huskies are inaccurate throughout, not just down the stretch. With the score differential in single digits, UConn is shooting 65.3 percent in the final five minutes of games, 68.8 percent in the final two minutes.

UConn players shoot free throws every day and sometimes are forced to stay long after practice until they make 10 in a row. So is there an answer?

“I really don’t know,” said Price, 2-for-5 Wednesday and 69.5 percent on the season. “Guys who are missing free throws are not bad shooters at all because we see them make them in practice every day. That’s the most difficult part.”

Sounds familiar only without the openly caustic coach.

As for seeding in the NCAA tourney, how I see it right now:

UCLA, Kansas, OSU, Memphis.

Florida, UNC, S Illinois, BE Winner.

Texas AM, Wisc, Wash State, BE 2.

Obviously this could change due to Kansas/Texas, OSU/Wisc rematch (if badgers make it that far without Butch). Or if some team goes lame, and that is totally unpredictible.

I think if Pitt beats MU, and rolls through the tourney, we have a shot at a 2 seed still. If we play GU before the finals game, and win, but don’t win the tourney, we may have an outside shot at a 2 seed, but I think that all but guarantees a 3 seed. And then a 4 seed for GU. If we lose early in the tourney, a 3 seed will be great, but won’t be suprised at a 4 seed.

I don’t know why Bracketology has 2 Big 11 teams on the top line – I didn’t check, but when is the last time the committee put 2 teams from the same conference on the top line? I think there is about 0% chance of that happening.

Right now bracketology has us as a 3 seed, playing Florida to make it to the elite 8. Who would anyone prefer us play of the top 3 seeds to make it to the elite 8? I’d prefer S. Illinois or Wash St. if i had a say.

Comment by Stuart 03.03.07 @ 12:11 am

But I am getting ahead of myself… Guess I should be worrying about BE tourney seeding instead. Honestly, I don’t want Uconn to beat GU, a noon game for us in the BE tourney would be a killer. I’d be very happy to beat MU tomorrow so we don’t have to play them in the Quarters of the tourney, and split the regular season title with GU, and go into it as a 2 seed. Hopefully good shooting continues, and D James stinks the joint out. I’ll be pissed if they turn it around against pitt…

Comment by Stuart 03.03.07 @ 12:23 am

i don’t necessarily disagree with your seedings, but I must say memphis does not really deserve a 1 seed nor does S Ill deserve a 2 seed. i think once the conference tournaments are over both will drop down one seeding from your projections. Look for NC, Florida or Wisc to be the other 1 seed. If we win out we will be a 2 seed.

Comment by TMGPanther 03.03.07 @ 10:16 am

If I am not mistaken, NC and Duke regularly in the past have both gotten #1 seeds, so it would not be out of the question for OSU and wisconsin to get #1 seeds. The committee has stated on a number of occasions that they do not look at which conference a teams is in.

Comment by crackbaldo 03.03.07 @ 11:23 am

Absolutely agree, noon games are killer for this team. We’ll be pounded by the media if we lose tonight and finish third, but the resulting game time will be to our benefit. Not saying that particularly matters vs. a good team (such as tonight) but playing at noon vs. a bottomfeeder is a bad mix.

Comment by geeman2001 03.03.07 @ 11:36 am

TMG – I agree, memphis shouldn’t be a 1 seed, and s Ill a 2 seed – I was just going with what i think the committee is most likely to do. I’m almost sure about Memphis as a 1 seed, I believe they are exactly the same as last year record-wise when they got the 1 seed.

crackbaldo – i believe the committee is talking about “number of teams from a conference” when they say they don’t look at conferences. I know for a fact they dropped pitt from a 2 to a 3 seed when uconn beat us 2 out of 3 the other year, because they didn’t want us on the same line as our conference mate uconn.

I also don’t think its possible for both wisc and osu to win out – i think the one that blinks first will be a 2 seed. To bad fcukin wisc scraped out that win today against MSU. Screaming at the tv again…

Comment by Stuart 03.03.07 @ 2:44 pm

Well, it seems if we don’t beat MU tonight we’ll be playing them again in the Quarters of the tourney (assuming they take care of St Johns). We’re going to have to beat them once this season, or our seasons is going to be very short.

If we win, we’ll be playing either WVU, Nova, Depaul, Providence, or even MU again. I’m not even going to try to figure out the tie breaker from the 9-7 pool of BE teams. We’ll get one of them.

Hopefully we play better than UCLA did today.

Comment by Stuart 03.03.07 @ 6:23 pm

Did anyone read the Rick Reilly article about the kid with Cerebral Palsy who is only used to shoot free throws and doesn’t miss?? At the end he says he is looking to do the same thing in college and looking for a school to take him….Is it wrong to forward it to Coach Dixon?

Comment by Tdemps 03.03.07 @ 6:23 pm

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