Tag Archives: dwight hardy

Tourney Time!

The Buckeyes are the team to beat on the road to Houston.

With all due respect to the Colorado Buffaloes being 21-13, losing to Harvard, and San Francisco and beating such power houses like Maryland Eastern Shore and the Citadel don’t make you a tournament team. Even if you did beat Texas, Missouri and Kansas State three times.

 

I know you thought you should’ve been in but your yawn of a start didn’t make up for a flurry of a finish. I mean where do you think you are, the Big Ten?

 

As with every year the selection of the field of now 68 is not without some controversy. USC, Clemson and Penn State in, St. Mary’s, Missouri State and Virginia Tech out.

 

However, you must deal with it. The best part is now we can watch it all unfold in the way that a national champion should be rewarded, in a playoff. Hi BCS.

 

This year the field expanded to 68 teams, which essentially allowed three more crappy teams to make the field and create two more “Play-in” games to feed our growing appetites for basketball.

 

The field is pretty interesting. For the second straight year the number 1 seed overall gets the toughest bracket (Ohio State would love to trade with Pittsburgh right now) and Duke is a #2 disguised as a #1 (going to Anaheim 4 hours away from #2 San Diego State).

 

But this year there are 11 Big East teams, shattering the record of 8, a larger amount of mid-majors that could be primed for big runs (Oakland and Belmont), and about 9 teams that can win it all.

It would've been fun to watch St. mary's, but oh well.

As much as I like Ohio State their depth concerns me. As much as I like Duke location concerns. As much as I like Kansas their expectations concern me (I learned a long time ago that when everyone picks Kansas, pick against them). And as much as I like Pittsburgh I don’t think one Big East team can win this tournament…

 

But I think they’ll make it interesting.

 

I don’t expect much from the Big East except to kill a bunch of brackets and then fall. St. john’s, Marquette, West Virginia and Cincinnati could make someone’s life miserable and then fall the next game. The last thing I want to see being a top seed is a mid-level big east team waiting for them because disaster might ensue.

 

So what’s going to happen? Well before that, lets take a look at who should have and shouldn’t have made it.

 

ST. MARY’S 25-8

They won their conference, were ranked for last half of the season, played in a relatively decent conference and have a great history in the tournament and they played tough games versus St. John’s and BYU. Plus they had 25 wins (more on this later.).

 

MISSOURI STATE 25-8

They took Tennessee to the limit and won their regular season conference in the Missouri Valley, which year in and out is very competitive.

 

THE BIG TEN FOUR: PENN STATE (19-14), MICHIGAN STATE (19-14), ILLINOIS (19-13), MICHIGAN (20-13)

Here is my biggest problem with the tournament committee. It’s this thing called overvaluing a conference. The Big Ten was heralded as the best conference in the country and didn’t live up to it.

 

It was a top-heavy conference that featured three really good teams (Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin) and the rest of the conference was mediocre.

 

These four teams only got in because of their namesake. Critics will tell you that they played tough schedules and should be rewarded for how they played. Ok, I understand you play a tough schedule… BUT YOU LOST 13 GAMES, THAT MEANS YOU’RE NOT THAT GOOD!

 

Two weeks ago Penn State was 15-13 including losses to Maine, Maryland and Ole Miss.

What do 14 losses, 3 20 point losses and no consistency all year get you.. a ticket to the dance of course.

Illinois was 6-9 in their last 15 and lost to UIC by 3.

 

Michigan lost every game they played versus a top 25 team and went 0-6 against the top 3 in their own conference.

 

And Michigan State lost by double digits to the following teams: Syracuse, Purdue, Iowa by 20, Wisconsin by 24, Ohio State, Purdue by 20 and Penn State.

 

And these four teams were worthy of not only making the tournament, but also avoiding the play-in games?

 

Why not include Northwestern?

 

I guess having Gene Smith at the head of the committee does wonders for your conference.

 

And now, the field (not covering the play-in games because those are the only game s that those teams are winning).

 

EAST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: OHIO STATE

BEST PLAYER: JARED SULLINGER

DARKHORSE: NORTH CAROLINA

UPSET SPECIALS: MARQUETTE OVER XAVIER

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND- WASHINGTON-GEORGIA. DOWN THE ROAD: OHIO STATE-KENTUCKY

I thought as the number one seed in any playoff that you were supposed to have the least challenging field to deal with as reward for your regular season. Guess I was wrong.

 

OSU has to potentially play Kentucky and Syracuse or North Carolina on their way to the final four and all three teams are peaking right now and have an equal share of claim as the top team to contend for a trip to Houston.

 

The region is stacked as West Virginia is a potential roadblock for Kentucky and Washington could do damage to UNC or Syracuse. Also George Mason could pose a little bit of a threat to OSU in the second round with Cam Long looking to take advantage of freshman Aaron Craft.

 

This bracket is also the lottery showcase with UK’s Terrance Jones and Brandon Knight, OSU’s Jared Sullinger and UNC’s Harrison Barnes looking to make statements before they potentially put their names into the for June’s draft.

Looking for a lottery pick this June? Then this regional is for you.

You’ll also want to get a peak at UW’s Isaiah Thomas, Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Princeton’s Kareem Maddox. Thomas is a guard in the same vein of Nate Robinson while Tu Holloway is flashy point guard who can shoot the lights of any opponent and Maddox is a post up player who can score in buckets.

 

I like Ohio State to win the region but two things concern me, the lack of depth and lack of killer instinct. If Sullinger or Dallas Lauderdale gets into foul trouble then its slim pickings on that bench that runs seven deep at best.

 

The good news is Kentucky only rolls six deep and Syracuse and UNC flip flop between lots of bench production and dead weight.

 

FINAL 4: OHIO STATE

WEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: DUKE

BEST PLAYER: DERRICK WILLIAMS

DARKHORSE: SAN DIEGO STATE

UPSET SPECIALS: OAKLAND OVER TEXAS AND MEMPHIS OVER ARIZONA

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: MEMPHIS-ARIZONA. DOWN THE ROAD: SDSU-UCONN

I really want to pick UCONN but playing 5 games in 5 days will catch up to them like playing 4 in 4 caught up to Syracuse years ago. UCONN matches up well with Arizona, Duke and SDSU potentially, but the wear and tear of the Big East season and tourney will affect them after the Bucknell game.

 

How does Mizzou feel about playing a Cincinnati team that’s playing it’s best ball of the year while they’re playing their worst? Mike Anderson’s team has had a miserable second half and should be a quick exit.

 

Oakland scares me as a dark horse sweet 16 team. They played a tough non-conference schedule, which included a win at Tennessee. Texas, Arizona or Memphis doesn’t have an answer for Keith Benson in the middle and he should put up big numbers.

 

This bracket has San Diego State’s name written all over it. Their athleticism should get them through the 2nd and 3rd rounds easily and they have the bodies to match up with UCONN in the sweet 16.

Don't be shocked if the Aztecs make a run.

If they play Duke though how will they respond? Duke’s defense and rotation of about 9 players will frustrate the Aztecs and the Devils experience outweighs their athleticism. Also with the way Nolan Smith has played all year I don’t see a guard in this tourney stopping him. Even Kemba Walker.

 

FINAL 4: DUKE

SOUTHWEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: KANSAS

BEST PLAYERS: BEN HANSBROUGH, MARKIEFF AND MARCUS MORRIS

DARKHORSE: LOUISVILLE

UPSET SPECIAL: RICHMOND OVER VANDERBILT

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: VANDY0RICHMOND. DOWN THE ROAD: KANSAS-LOUISVILLE, NOTRE DAME-PURDUE, NOTRE DAME-LOUISVILLE, PUDRDUE-KANSAS

At first I thought that the Southeast region was the lightest. Then I looked at this region and though, “are there any good teams besides Kansas, Louisville or Notre Dame?” no.

 

This region has all the excitement of the Wisconsin-Penn State game on Friday.

 

Vanderbilt wont handle Justin Harper or Kevin Anderson and the inside out game that Richmond plays. Georgetown doesn’t know if Chris Wright will even contribute once he returns from his hand injury. And vastly superior competition next round will roast TAMU, FSU and UNLV.

 

Purdue however intrigues me. Etwan Moore and JaJuan Johnson pose a sizeable threat to the bracket with their experience but they lost to Richmond on neutral soil by 11 back in November and they were 0-3 on the road versus ranked teams this year. Plus they just lost by 18 to Michigan State in Indianapolis and they scares me more than any other stat.

If this man keeps his head, then the Irish can go far.

I like Louisville because they can score and defend and they get clutch performances from Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles when needed. Also there aren’t better guards in this region than Knowles and Peyton Siva. They can take over a game and cause headaches for whoever plays them.

 

Kansas is Kansas. Arguably the most complete team in the nation, as they are athletic at all positions and deep. The Morris Twins are absolute monsters in the paint or on the wing and the team as a whole is an offensive juggernaut.

 

The problem with them is their consistency at all positions. I don’t trust Tyshawn Taylor at all and Josh Selby is still trying to fit into the offense. Plus in their two losses their lack of focus and execution murdered them and almost cost them against Nebraska, Iowa State and Michigan.

So I’m taking Notre Dame. Why? The fight in this team runs from top to bottom. They back down from no one in any situation. Look at the UCONN game two weeks ago when Ben Hansbrough fouled out of the game with 8 minutes left. They weathered the Kemba Walker hurricane and a raucous crowd to pull themselves together and pull out a huge win.

 

They can shoot anyone’s lights out and can overcome their lack of athleticism with their experience and hustle.

 

(Side note: this is all pending on whether or not Hansbrough can keep is head in check. He almost cost them the UCONN game and did cost them against Louisville at the Garden. When he’s on he’s the best shooter in the country, when he’s off his volatile nature becomes a huge detriment to the team. )

 

FINAL 4: NOTRE DAME

SOUTHEAST REGION

BEST TEAM: PITTSBURGH

BEST PLAYERS: JIMMER FREDETTE, JACOB PULLEN AND DWIGHT HARDY

DARKHORSE: ST. JOHN’S

UPSET SPECIALS: UTAH STATE OVER KANSAS STATE, BELMONT OVER WISCONSIN, GONZAGA OVER ST. JOHN’S AND WOFFORD OVER BYU

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS GONZAGA. DOWN THE ROAD: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS KANSAS STATE, PITTSBURGH VERSUS ST. JOHN’S, KANSAS STATE VERSUS BYU

Um… yeah… this region is a cluster****.

 

The committee must’ve wanted to play head games with everyone with this region.

 

It’s technically a bunch of guard dependent teams who wouldn’t make the sweet 16 in any other region.

 

The top 4 seeds could either maker final four runs or be done before week 2. By the way, how in the blue hell did Florida get a 2 seed? Did the committee realize that they lost to UCF, Jacksonville, South Carolina, Mississippi State and got drilled by Kentucky on Sunday? Just saying.

 

The bottom line is that this will be he most fun region of the four. You’ll see Jimmer drop 40. Belmont rain three’s and Pitt bludgeon their teams to death.

 

However, I’m beyond interested to see how St. john’s does. Before D.J. Kennedy went down with a torn ACL I thought that they were a real final 4 contender. Then that happened and I backtracked. Now? I don’t know.

How far can the Johnnies go? This man holds the key.

I know that they depend on Dwight Hardy just as much as BYU depends on Jimmer, and that they struggle to find offense in some areas at times. But looking at this region I feel that it’s theirs for the taking. Except for their opening game against a peaking Gonzaga, the Johnnies can beat anyone in the bottom half of their bracket and for one game they can take out Pitt, K-State or Wisconsin.

 

But I’m taking K-State because Jacob Pullen pulled himself together and brought this team back from the dead. A month ago the Wildcats were NIT bound when Pullen stopped caring about the NBA and put the team on his back. Even with Wally Judge gone the Wildcats rallied behind Pullen and the inside tandem of Curtis Kelly and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and ran through Kansas, Missouri, and Texas on their way to this 5 seed.  Why stop now? Besides, Colorado aint playing so they don’t have to worry about playing a team they cant beat.

 

FINAL 4: KANSAS STATE

Yeah I know my final 4 is the same as the beginning of the year (except for Syracuse, stupid East regional.) but why turn away now? OSU, K-State and Duke are playing their best ball of the year and Notre Dame fulfills my Big East obligation. So you know that means that I’m sticking with the Buckeyes to win it all.

 

Ok enough talking, Thursday get here already (Tuesday for those interested in the “first round.”), let the games begin!

 

 

 


The Johnnies Are Back!!!

St. John's has climbed its way back to relevance in the NCAA.

How do u remember St. John’s basketball?

Do you remember the 80’s final four run? Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson and Lou Carnesecca and the magic at the Garden?

The basketball power in the mecca of basketball that was a power in the nations best conference?

What about the 90’s? The inner city tough guys like Ron Artest, Erick Barkley and Lavar Postell that took it to Duke at the Garden, made a run at the final four and were national championship favorites?

Those were my guys, the tough defensive minded ballers that did things “Queens Style” as Artest once uttered and couldn’t be out muscled.

Six months after moving to Maryland there was a Sweet 16 matchup between the Johnnies and the Terps that had Maryland fans over-confident. The locals were ACC snobs that looked at the Red Storm like they were pushovers. Hell my teacher, a NC State grad, laughed when I told him Ron Ron and company were gonna beat up the Terps. His response? Who’s Ron Artest?

6 blocks, 4 steals later (not to mention Barkley absolutely owning Steve Francis) everyone knew who he was as well as the Storm.

St. Johns was the school N.Y. ballers wanted to go to. We as fans were proud of the Johnnies, in a city that bleeds basketball we had a machine where the best wanted to play at. The citys best point guards stayed there, the games at the Garden were just as big as Knicks games.

Ron Artest and Mike Jarvis led the last great St. John's run in the late 90's.

Then it died.

The talent started leaving. Jamie Dixon and Jim Calhoun and others invaded the deep talent pool and took them to all corners of the states. Mike Jarvis’ style of play and coaching stopped resonating with the team. Yeah there was a Marcus Hatten here, an NIT title there but nothing was sustainable.

The Garden became Duke’s second home, the John Wall showcase, Gerry McNamera arena and St. Johns was slowly becoming like DePaul University was to Chicago; a once great city power that’s now a relic.

Coming into this season St. John’s hadn’t made the tournament since 2002 and the Norm Roberts era was the fail of fails. The school needed to make a splash and did so by hiring former UCLA coach Steve Lavin.

Lavin was a great recruiter that couldn’t live up to the glory days expectations in Los Angeles. Upon his arrival in Queens you could feel a shift in the program immediately. He inherited the most esperienced team in the Big East and his way of coaching, matched with their talent level, paid dividends. They jumped out to a 9-4 start with wins over Arizona State and Northwestern and a hard fought loss to Saint Mary’s.

However, where Lavin and company have truly made their mark is in the monster that is the Big East.

St. John’s does not lead the conference, but it owns it. Top teams that have played the Johnnies have all been buried under a fury of defense and a hungry team aching to bring the once storied power back to prominence.

They have delivered and then some.

Dwight Hardy is the man to beat for Big East player of the year thanks to his performances in the Johnnies big games.

Their list of wins is a laundry list of triumphs made for a top tier program sitting at its peak instead of a program trying to regain its mojo. Georgetown, Notre Dame, UCONN, Pitt and Duke have all been slain by the Red Storm in a one month span that has shook up the nation and eyes all eyes on New York.

The star has been senior point guard Dwight Hardy. While much has been made of Kemba Walkers heroics, Hardy has been just as clutch if not more for the Red Storm. He’s been the unstoppable force that has carried them to each victory and has them sitting pretty in the conference.

He dropped 33 against UCONN, 26 versus Georgetown and 19 yesterday against Pitt. Each time he answered the bell when the Johnnies needed an a play late in games or in yesterdays case a shot to win the game. Hardy is pouring his soul out in the first meaningful games of his career and his fellow seniors are following suit.

Justin Brownlee has been a beast on the inside housing Duke last month and putting up steady numbers in Big East play. D.J. Kennedy as been a excellent secondary score finding his touch when necessary and Justin Burrell has stepped up in key situations like yesterday with 15 points off the bench to aid Hardy.

But this is Hardy’s team. Despite Walkers dominant start to the season, and Ben Hansbrough’s revelation of a senior year it is Hardy who should walk away with the player of the year award. Not since Barkley in 2000 has a St. Johns player gotten this much attention and lived up to it. Without Hardy’s heart and will St. Johns wouldn’t be this revived. They might be an N.I.T. squad instead of a team that not one single team would have a delight in playing next month on the tournament.

But more than the players, the excitement is back for the program. Madison Square Garden is rocking on Saturday afternoons again. Basketball matters in Queens like it did during the Artest years and in the early 90’s before that.

Look at yesterdays game and the Duke game. I haven’t seen that place that nuts in a long time for a St. Johns game and it felt great. Basketball matters again to a school that bases its athletic legacy on one sport and to the best basketball school in a basketball city. Call me crazy but this may be the start of something big. Maybe the New York City point guard can return to prominence, maybe the next Lance Stephenson or Stephon Marbury will stay in state instead of bolt for other colleges, maybe St. John’s can return to being the power it was when Mullin and Jackson ran wild at Carnesecca Hall. The thought of it has me going crazy with anticipation.

Its well warranted anticipation. Watching yesterday’s thriller and the last month of upsets might be a heaping appetizer of things to cone. Lavin’s recruiting skills were on display this past year as St. John’s obtained the number 2 recruiting class in the country for 2011. Even after the heavily senior laden class leaves school this year it looks like the school is in good shape for a few years and might become a yearly contender in the Big East.

You can say their a one year wonder, that they got lucky with everyone getting road games against them. However, me being the crazed New York fan that I am, I see this as a preview. A preview of the return to glory the Artest era, the Mullin days, the return to the final four and the toughest team in the Big East. Look out world The St. Johns Red Storm are back!!