|Yes, this is what it was like for more than two hours. (US Presswire)|
By Matt Norlander
NEW YORK — Thanks to South Florida and Notre Dame torturing us with free basketball, 2012 matches 1998 and 2011 for the most overtime games in a Big East tournament (three). Let’s get to the night session, with reaction from coaches mixed in from both games.
Notre Dame 57, South Florida 53.
After barfing all over itself on the way to a 56-47 win Wednesday night, South Florida was involved in an armless fist fight with Notre Dame, ultimately falling short due in large part to a missed breakaway layup by Jawanza Poland with 32 seconds left in regulation when South Florida had a 45-44 lead.
And now we have a 20-13 South Florida team with a resume that isn’t terrible. It waits in limbo with other teams until Selection Sunday, only South Florida isn’t the underachiever that Mississippi State, Northwestern and Washington are. And we want to keep it out? The urge is there because the basketball looks so ugly, but teams aren’t initiated into the field based on how pretty or hideously they win their games.
“I’m real proud of my guys,” Heath said.
Heath was really composed at the presser. He didn’t politick. He didn’t get loud or start to campaign by tossing out a list of teams beaten (that list lacks impressiveness, to be fair).
Here’s more of Heath. I compiled a few responses from questions and molded it into one big quote. Take from it what you will. I’d say this is a man whose truly proud of his team and content with its accomplishments.
“Any time you have a team that’s giving that kind of effort on the defensive end. Coaches in our league, they really appreciate when you have teams that sacrifice themselves on the defensive end. And that’s why I think most coaches really like the way we play. People on the outside, the casual observer that don’t really know how difficult that is, I don’t think they understand that. Teams like us not only get in the tournament, win and advance. You see Butler over the years, the way they guard and how hard they play. Tonight, I think you saw a more complete team. Yesterday, we had some guys who were a little bit tight. We played a much better all-around game of basketball tonight. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I love the way we play. It’s almost like I have to come up here and apologize for the way we play. I don’t understand that at all. It baffles me.”
Again, the perspective of a coach and the reality of a team’s cosmetic appeal are irrelevant to selection, though. The loss doesn’t look bad because USF wasn’t competitive; the Bulls just looked like a team incapable of playing its best basketball when the Selection Committee is looking for the newest evidence to attach to the numbers they’re lurching over in a Westin Hotel room in Indianapolis.
Now the wait comes for Heath. He’s anxious. The Bulls haven’t been in the NCAAs since 1992 and only have two Dance trips in program history. All things considered, this is one of the most critical decisions — for stature of the program, for perception, for recruiting benefits — of any the Selection Committee will make in less than 72 hours.
“I won’t sleep,” Heath said. “You want to hear your name called Sunday at six. I think we’ve done a great job. I think our team is worthy.”
Louisville 84, Marquette 71.
“I’m not sure they’ve had a better meal all year long than what we served them tonight,” Buzz Williams said of his team’s uncompetitive loss to Louisville Thursday.
Louisville scores 84 after not cracking 62 in its past five games? An oddity, considering the opponent, which is No. 19 in the nation in defensive efficiency and lets up .91 points per possession. The Cardinals also forced 26 turnovers, which was a season-high for MU, the highest giveaway total in Buzz Williams’ tenure and one shy of the Big East tournament record.
“I did a really bad job. If your team has 26 turnovers, and allows 26 offensive rebounds, which is the most since I’ve been here, it’s on the head coach,” Williams said. “Every player that played more than three minutes had a turnover.”
And yet, the game didn’t mean that much for the Golden Eagles. Marquette was waxed last season against Louisville in the quarters. It followed that up with a Sweet 16 appearance. How teams finish in the conference tournaments — last year notwithstanding — don’t have a correlation to NCAA tournament performance. Syracuse has run the table before and lost in its first game. Others have bowed out in their first game and made Final Fours. Williams’ team will be a three or a four seed on Selection Sunday, and they’ll win at least a game, no problem, next week. The coach isn’t fretting. This was a bad game, but it’s not indicative of the team’s season, and really, what was the urgency for Marquette here?
“I don’t think we’ll make any adjustments. It’s groundhog day every day from what we do,” Williams said of his team’s preparation. “We’re fortunate that our body of work lets us play another game. … If you study our 31 games prior to now, we’re probably just as good playing against teams that are like us. This is an aberration to how we play.”
Absolutely. No matter how far they go, the Golden Eagles won’t have another game with more than 25 turnovers and 25 offensive rebounds relented.
As for Louisville — great win. The Cardinals played themselves into at least a six seed, maybe even a five, and offered up a game unlike any other they’d played this season. The Cardinals pressed, and pressed again, winning games the way Rick Pitino loves to: with speed, aggressiveness and out-huffing the other guy.
“I think we had an idea that they were going to pressure us; I didn’t think it was going to be a that a high level like that,” Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom said.
The Cardinals had 20 from Kyle Kuric (that’s a really good sign), but the 19 turnovers are still a concern. Starting point guard Peyton Siva had more than 25 percent of those turnovers. Against Notre Dame Friday night, the pace will be much slower. Pitino admitted as much in the postgame; he knows his team is helpless to get more than 65 possessions a game against this team — and so the turnovers won’t be as much of an issue.
Let's hope the Cardinals' pace and Irish's normally reliable ball-handling give us something worth cheering about. Or at least something that isn't stomach-churning.