Sunday, 04/02/06

Methodical UCLA Style Tames Tigers

I was stunned by the result of Saturday’s second semifinal. I thought LSU would win in a close game and I was dead wrong.

UCLA was much better than I thought. I admit I hadn’t seen them play much — a little but against Michigan and the Memphis game. I thought that the Tigers would win on the strength of their great athleticism, but they’re not as skilled as they need to be, they don’t pass and catch and shoot well enough. It was no secret even before this game that they’re a terrible three-point shooting team.

I think UCLA’s guards — Farmar and Afflalo — are the best pair of guards in the country that I’ve seen. Their slow deliberate style really frustrated Tigers.

The Bruins kept Big Baby away from the basket. If you’re LSU, you’ve got to keep him in the post a little more. UCLA played phenomenal half-court defense that was very well-choreographed. They play a slow, methodical style that sometimes can frustrate teams — as it did Saturday.

respond to post >

Posted by Pete Gillen at 02:53 PM | Comments (1)

Sunday, 04/02/06

Gators Too Much For Cinderella

In the opening game, I thought Florida was just too athletic and big for George Mason. Lee Humphrey shot the ball great. I was surprised their team shot it so well — 12-for-25, almost 50 percent from three-point range. In a big dome stadium, it’s tough to shoot threes that way. Mason had been shooting so great from long range during this tournament, so it was an equal surprise that the Patriots shot so poorly (2-for-7).

Florida might have been more used to the dome, having won the Minneapolis Regional at the Metrodome. I’ve experienced how difficult it can be to shoot in domes. I coached in the RCA Dome back when it was the Hoosier Dome. I coached in the Metrodome. Sometimes the depth perception can give trouble to both teams or one team, like we saw last night.

I think George Mason got frustrated. They missed some easy shots — not easy shots, but makeable shots like drives in traffic and a couple lay-ups. All they had to do was get the lead and the crowd would have gone crazy and the game would have been very interesting. I thought that the one possession when they were trailing 25-24 was huge. If they got the lead the crowd goes nuts and maybe they get a little more adrenaline and confidence.

Another big key was the first five minutes of the second half when Mason was down five. In every game this period is a big key. The Patriots went from down five at half to down 13 and all of a sudden it had spun out of control. Mason is not a great comeback team.

The big thing is you can’t let Humphrey get those open looks. Corey Brewer’s going to get his points — he carried them early, and Humphrey carried them late. They did a good job on Noah, who didn’t too much. Al Horford was OK. But I thought it was Brewer who carried them early, and Humphrey who put in the dagger during the first five minutes of the second half.

respond to post >

Posted by Pete Gillen at 11:46 AM | Comment

Wednesday, 03/29/06

"Unbelievable Ride" Continues For Pats

It’s been an unbelievable ride for George Mason. It’s the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Division I Tournament — I don’t think there’s been a bigger one. Connecticut was the No. 1 team in the country for a couple weeks during the season. I thought they were the most talented team in the country this year, and they’ve got a great Hall of Fame coach in Jim Calhoun. To beat them was just unbelievable. I know they were in the D.C. area but it was just magnificent.

I think the biggest upset of all-time might have been Chaminade, the little school in the Pacific, beating the No. 1-ranked Virginia team with 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson. But I think this was the biggest one I can recall happening in the tournament — just mind-boggling. I think the difference was Jai Lewis in the post.

George Mason plays with passion. Connecticut played pretty hard, the Patriots played that much harder. They were so desperate to win, and it was a great credit to coach Jim Larranaga and his staff.

I’d love to see them win because I’m always for the underdog, but I’m going to have to take Florida with their athleticism and their tremendous talent. I think it’s going to be a great game and it’s going to be close, but I’m going to have to go with the Gators. But I’m wrong more than I’m right so hopefully I’m jinxing them.

As for the other semifinal, I think that’s going to be a real defensive struggle. Both are magnificent defensive teams. UCLA has held everybody but Gonzaga to under 60 points, they’re unbelievable on defense. I think they’ve got the best set of guards in the tournament. But I’m going to have to go with LSU in this game because I think they have superior athleticism. They were the most athletic team in the SEC this year, which usually has some pretty athletic teams. I’m picking LSU in a real dogfight, a defensive battle, and Big Baby Davis will be the difference-maker.

And on Sunday, we’ll start talking about our All-SEC final.

respond to post >

Posted by Pete Gillen at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

Wednesday, 03/29/06

"Unbelievable Ride" Continues For Pats

It’s been an unbelievable ride for George Mason. It’s the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Division I Tournament — I don’t think there’s been a bigger one. Connecticut was the No. 1 team in the country for a couple weeks during the season. I thought they were the most talented team in the country this year, and they’ve got a great Hall of Fame coach in Jim Calhoun. To beat them was just unbelievable. I know they were in the D.C. area but it was just magnificent.

I think the biggest upset of all-time might have been Chaminade, the little school in the Pacific, beating the No. 1-ranked Virginia team with 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson. But I think this was the biggest one I can recall happening in the tournament — just mind-boggling. I think the difference was Jai Lewis in the post.

George Mason plays with passion. Connecticut played pretty hard, the Patriots played that much harder. They were so desperate to win, and it was a great credit to coach Jim Larranaga and his staff.

I’d love to see them win because I’m always for the underdog, but I’m going to have to take Florida with their athleticism and their tremendous talent. I think it’s going to be a great game and it’s going to be close, but I’m going to have to go with the Gators. But I’m wrong more than I’m right so hopefully I’m jinxing them.

As for the other semifinal, I think that’s going to be a real defensive struggle. Both are magnificent defensive teams. UCLA has held everybody but Gonzaga to under 60 points, they’re unbelievable on defense. I think they’ve got the best set of guards in the tournament. But I’m going to have to go with LSU in this game because I think they have superior athleticism. They were the most athletic team in the SEC this year, which usually has some pretty athletic teams. I’m picking LSU in a real dogfight, a defensive battle, and Big Baby Davis will be the difference-maker.

And on Sunday, we’ll start talking about our All-SEC final.

respond to post >

Posted by Pete Gillen at 05:09 PM | Comment

Wednesday, 03/29/06

Patriot Games

Biggest upset ever.

I was an assistant at Villanova when we beat Georgetown for the national championship in 1985 as a No. 8 seed — which is often cited as the greatest upset in the history of the tournament — and I can tell you that it’s not even close. When we played the Hoyas we were both in the Big East. We had played them twice during the regular season — they beat us by two one time, and by seven the other time. We had even beaten them the year before.

George Mason’s unlikely run is a much bigger upset. So how has it happened?

The Patriots have played tremendous defensively so far. They’re holding their opponents to something like 30 percent shooting from the field. They’ve shot the ball unbelievably well, especially from three. Their numbers from beyond the arc are around 45 percent as a team through four games.

I think the big thing during their run through the Washington Regional is that they were able to get their ball inside to the big guys and their big guys are such good passers that they were able to kick it out — they just size everything up from the low post. They do a great job of kicking the ball out of the paint and finding open people. When you’ve got guys like Lamar Butler, Folarin Campbell and Tony Skinn shooting as well as they are, good things are going to result — two of those three guys are shooting 50 percent from three.

They might be able to keep it going against Florida. I’m picking Florida, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mason was playing for the national championship on Monday night.

As for the other game between LSU and UCLA, I think that’s going to become a defensive battle. I think that LSU has a tremendous frontcourt defensive team, and I think UCLA has a better backcourt defensive team. I think UCLA is going to be able to control the tempo and make it a slow, ugly game — and they’re really good at those.

respond to post >

Posted by Steve Lappas at 02:25 PM | Comment

Thursday, 03/23/06

Duke Is Dunzo

What a result in Atlanta!

J.J. Redick was guarded like he hadn’t been guarded all year, finishing with 11 points which tied his season low. When you look at it, Duke made all the mistakes at the end: Look at those two offensive rebounds LSU grabbed off their missed foul shots in the end. The Blue Devils were in trouble in at that point anyway but, still, for those kinds of mental lapses to occur at that point is very uncharacteristic of Duke.

The fact that LSU’s Tyrus Thomas and Glen “Big Baby” Davis were sidelined with foul trouble the first half — and Duke couldn’t make hay when those guys were out of the game — was critical. The redshirt freshman Thomas dominated the game defensively, but Duke’s inability to capitalize when those players were sitting on the bench might have cost its team an Elite Eight berth.

respond to post >

Posted by Steve Lappas at 10:03 PM | Comment

Thursday, 03/23/06

Esherick Fresh Pick: And In Atlanta...

With the games closing in, its time to get to the picks. In my Atlanta Fresh Pick (Watch The Video), I explain why I think Duke will topple surprising West Virginia to advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

respond to post >

Posted by Craig Esherick at 11:20 AM | Comment

Wednesday, 03/22/06

Home Court Disadvantage?

Everybody’s talking about this home court advantage George Mason is going to enjoy in the Washington Regional when they face Wichita State on Thursday at the MCI Center, 18 miles from its Fairfax, Va., campus.

It could be a positive, but it could be a big distraction, too. When you’re playing so close to home, people are worrying about tickets and grandparents and AAU coaches and cousins and nephews. I think in a perfect world, it might have been better to be somewhere else. For obvious reasons, it could be a plus but it could be a minus. With everybody calling the players, the last thing you’re thinking about is basketball. They might think they’ll have an easier time winning because they’re at home. What’s more, they already beat Wichita State in BracketBusters, so that might add to the overconfidence.

If I’m a coach in the NCAA Tournament, I would rather be father away because I’d be worried about the distractions like girlfriends, aunts, uncles, students, buddies, people in fraternities if they’re in fraternities. As a coach, I was a worrier, and I’d be worried it was a distraction. If I’m Jim Larranaga, I’m most worried about the possibility of distractions.

respond to post >

Posted by Pete Gillen at 10:08 AM | Comments (2)

Tuesday, 03/21/06

Esherick: Strong Shelden The Key

When LSU watches film on their opponent in the Atlanta regional, they will not be surprised at what they see of Duke’s JJ Redick. Over the last few years, Redick has been the most talked-about player in college basketball. The LSU players have seen Duke play many times on TV and know how well Redick can shoot.

But when the coaches from LSU analyze how Duke wins, they will find out that Shelden Williams will be every bit as big a problem as Redick. As a son of a coach, it is no surprise that Williams is a master of the little things on a basketball court.

When Redick pops open - look who set the screen to get him open.

When Duke pushes the ball up the floor - look who is running hard down the middle of the floor - EVERY possession.

When an opponent drives to the basket, look at whom from Duke is coming over to block the shot.

If Duke needs a big basket during the flow of the game-don’t be surprised if Coach K calls a play for Williams, not Redick. Have you ever seen Shelden take a bad shot? He rarely turns the ball over and for a shot-blocker, he does a great job of staying out of foul trouble. For a big man, he is surprisingly light on his feet. When Glen Davis pops out on the perimeter, don’t be surprised to see Williams right with him, step for step.

In Duke’s second-round game against George Washington, the Colonials were staying in the game, trailing by only four at 22-18. Over the next five minutes of the game, the LSU staff will see that they will have to contend with two great players, not one.

As Duke extended their lead to double figures over GW, Williams was involved in almost every play - he drew a foul and made two free throws, he ran the floor and dunked, he blocked a shot, he grabbed a rebound to start a break, he freed up Redick for a shot-all the little things that cause your team to win.

respond to post >

Posted by Craig Esherick at 12:12 PM | Comments (1)

Monday, 03/20/06

How Sweet It Is

I think that the Missouri Valley advanced two teams to the Sweet 16 is showing that it was a terrific conference. Because they weren’t on television nationally that much, people didn’t know about them. They do now.

Certainly Bradley getting two big upsets over Kansas and Pittsburgh shows how good they are — what a gigantic story. The big guy, Patrick O’Bryant, showed that he’s a rising star as a sophomore. I thought he was just tremendous.

Then there was George Mason knocking off Michigan State and North Carolina coming out of the Colonial Athletic Association. It shows that there’s a very fine line between these good mid-majors and the high majors. It’s not a big difference. Some of these kids on the mid-major schools are seniors or fifth-year seniors — they’re older. Then some of the teams from the so-called power conferences have guys that are younger. If a team like Mason is hitting their shots, they can beat them. Bradley, Wichita State and Mason have shown that they can play with the big guys. Take this guy Jai Lewis from George Mason — he’s just a mountain, a tough guy to handle. He’s 6-7 and more than 275 pounds — he looks like he’s about 295. Just a big body and a tough guy to guard.

I think an interesting matchup will be LSU-Duke. Duke doesn’t have many problems, but it’s struggled against real physical and athletic teams like a Florida State or like a Georgetown. I think the key to the game will be point guard play — if LSU gets good production from that position, it could manage to engineer the upset.

One more interesting matchup is Villanova-Boston College. You’ve got a tremendous front line with BC, with Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and Williams off the bench — and on the other side you’ve got the best guards in the tournament: Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, Mike Nardi and Allan Ray.

respond to post >

Posted by Pete Gillen at 02:19 PM | Comment

The Sloggers... CSTV.com Links Archives...